CNA General News

Syndicate content CNA
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: 9 min 42 sec ago

Commentary: Tolerance, wedding cakes, and a free society

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 1:11 PM

Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2017 / 11:11 am (CNA).- This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The result of the case, which is expected to be delivered this summer, is likely to have considerable impact on the future of free speech, religious liberty, and free enterprise in the United States.

The case concerns a Christian baker, living and working in Colorado, who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple who planned to marry in Massachusetts. He offered them any other service his bakery provided, but would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. He says that to custom create and bake their cake, a kind of creative expression, would be participation in something he finds morally objectionable.

The state of Colorado prohibits discrimination or denial of service based on sexual orientation, even though, at the time, gay marriage was not legal there.

The legal arguments of the case seem to hinge on whether cake-baking is a sufficiently artistic activity to qualify as protected speech. Nevertheless, the basic point which the Supreme Court will settle, one way or another, is whether “I can” also means “you must”  

If, as we so often tell ourselves, we live in a tolerant and pluralistic society, it goes without saying that there will always be people whose ideas or actions we are obliged to tolerate, even as we are unwilling to celebrate them. Justice Kennedy acknowledged this in the decision of Obergefell vs. Hodges.

In this case, the bakery was not refusing to tolerate the couple’s wedding, it simply did not wish to participate. The baker did not try to stop the wedding from happening, or condemn it, he just declined to lend his talents to the celebration.

During Tuesday’s arguments, Justice Sotomayor raised a line of thought that would be disastrous to the idea of a mutually tolerant society, if it were to become the basis for the Court’s decision.

She observed that many US military bases are in relatively isolated parts of the country, many of which are predominantly Christian. This, she said, could mean that homosexual servicemen and women might be subjected to real hardship if they wish to get married and no local bakeries are willing serve their needs. Such an argument reveals the potential implications of a verdict against Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Suppose that rather, than a gay wedding, a servicewoman wants an abortion and there are only Christian doctors in the area. Could a doctor be coerced into aborting the child? Could a doctor be compelled to end a patient’s life if voluntary euthanasia becomes a legal right?  Could Christian doctors be compelled to act against their conscience, and barred from practice if they refuse?

Chief Justice Roberts asked if, should the court find against Masterpiece Cakeshop, Catholic adoption agencies could be compelled to place children with same-sex couples. That question was answered in the affirmative ten years ago in the UK;  every Catholic adoption agency in the country closed as a result.

The fact that the baker’s case is being heard at all, and that the bakery was sanctioned in the first place, demonstrates the extent to which some civil authorities are prepared employ the coercive power of the state to force a social consensus where none exists, or even needs to exist.

On Tuesday, Justice Sotomayor observed that while “we can’t legislate civility and rudeness,” we can legislate behavior. This seems to bespeak a view of the law in which ordinary social interaction is fair game for policing.

The argument that the state can, or even should, force individuals to act against conscience so as not to offend the “dignity” of others reflects a sad social outlook. It presupposes that two people with conflicting views cannot possibly coexist, that one must be subjugated to the other, and that it is the state’s function to pick the winner.

The state compelling an unwilling baker to make a wedding cake is akin to an adult forcing two children to play together. It is the very essence of overreaching state paternalism.

A free society presumes that people will disagree. But a community thrives when its members learn to freely accommodate each other, and to progress towards true consensus, ideally reflecting truth. Forcing a consensus where none exists only entrenches divisions, and it makes all of us answerable to the state, not each other, for the simple human task of getting along.

Ed Condon is a canon lawyer and legal commentator working in the UK and the United States. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

Pope names new archbishops for Paris, Mexico City dioceses

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 12:37 PM

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2017 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday named the next archbishops of two major metropolitan sees – Archbishop Michel Aupetit to Paris and Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes to Mexico City, the world’s largest diocese.

The appointments were announced in a press release from the Vatican Dec. 7. Both prelates are replacing bishops who have retired upon reaching the age of 75, the normal retirement age for clergy.

Cardinal Aguiar, 67, has held top roles in both the Mexican bishops’ conference and the Latin American bishops’ conference and is a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Cardinal Aguiar has been archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico since 2009. He replaces Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis after reaching the age of 75.

Aguiar was born on Jan. 9, 1950 in Tepic, Mexico. He studied at the Seminary of Tepic, followed by the seminaries of Montezuma in the United States and of Tula. On April 22, 1973 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Tepic.

He received a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1977.

As a priest he served as a parochial vicar, as well as rector of the Seminary of Tepic. At the same time, he was President of the Organization of Mexican Seminaries (OSMEX) and a member of the board of directors of Latin American Seminaries.

He was later rector of the John XXIII Residence for priests of the Pontifical University of Mexico in Mexico City, where he was also a professor of Sacred Scripture. In 1997 he received a doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In June 1997 he was consecrated bishop for the Diocese of Texcoco and in February 2009 he was made Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Tlalnepantla.

From 2004-2006 he was secretary general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, and then from 2006-2012, president of the conference. He also held various positions in the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) from 2000-2015, including secretary general, vice-president and president.

He participated in both assemblies of the Synod of Bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015 and was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in the November 2016 consistory. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City covers 551 square miles and, as of 2013, contained more than 7 million Catholics. There are nearly 600 diocesan priests and over 1,000 religious priests. There are also more than 7,000 consecrated men and women.

Archbishop Aupetit, 66, a former doctor, is an expert in bioethics. He has been archbishop of Nanterre, France since May 2014.

He replaces Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis after reaching the age of 75.

Archbishop Aupetit was born in Versailles on March 23, 1951. He graduated with a medical degree in 1978, and worked as a medical professional in the northern suburbs of Paris for 12 years.

His specialty was in medical bioethics, which he taught at the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil. In 1990 he entered the seminary and in June 1995 he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Paris.

He served as a parish priest and a high school chaplain for a number of years, as well as vicar general of the archdiocese and a member of the presbyteral council from 2006-2013.

On February 2, 2013 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Paris. He was consecrated on April 19, 2013. Aupetit was appointed bishop of Nanterre on April 4, 2014.

He is president of the “Family and Society” council of the French bishops’ conference and is also a member of the conference’s bioethics working group.

The Archdiocese of Paris is 40 square miles and has approximately 1.3 million Catholics, as of 2013. There are over 800 diocesan priests and over 500 religious priests and approximately 2,700 consecrated men and women.

Narni: Italy's inspiration for the magical realm of C. S. Lewis

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 5:04 AM

Narni, Italy, Dec 7, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The magical realm of Narnia is the setting of C. S. Lewis’ beloved children’s book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There, four children discover a land of talking animals, mythological creatures, the White Witch, and “the Great Lion:” Aslan.

This Narnia is fictional, but more than 2,000 years ago, when Romans ruled the civilized world, Narnia was a real-life city on the Italian peninsula – and it still exists today.

The ancient hill-town of Narnia, now called Narni, lies in the central Italian region of Umbria, about 50 miles north of Rome. In the city, you can see remnants of the town’s extensive history, from its pre-Roman identity as Nequinum, to antique and medieval Narnia, to the present Narni.

Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, never visited Narni, but he likely knew about the ancient Narnia from reading Roman history, where it is named by such famous writers as Tacitus, Livy, and Pliny the Elder.

In 2009, the town received confirmation of Lewis’ knowledge of the place when the Christian author’s biographer and former personal secretary, Walter Hooper, gifted Narni’s local historian, Giuseppe Fortunati, a copy of a Latin atlas owned by Lewis, on which the Belfast-born author had underlined the town named “Narnia.”

Hooper also relayed that Lewis had told him the name on the atlas had inspired him in the writing of his Chronicles. And while the two places aren’t the same – it very rarely snows in Narni, for example – there are connections between the imaginary realm and the real-life city that can still be seen today.

One of these connections is the presence of a large stone table, which recalls the stone table in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, upon which the lion Aslan, a representation of Christ in the book, sacrifices himself to save Edmund, one of the four children in the story.

Found near the Via Flaminia, an ancient road which leads from Rome to the Adriatic Sea, and which also passes by Narni, stands an ancient stone table believed to date from pre-Roman times, and to have been a place of animal, and possibly even human, sacrifice.

The town was founded around 1,000 years before Christ by the Osco-Umbrian people as Nequinum. It was conquered by the Roman Republic in the 4th century BC, and its name was changed to Narnia, after the nearby Nar River.

“Nar,” Fortunati told EWTN, “means ‘water that flows,’” noting that this may also be a reason why Lewis chose the name for his imaginary land, since “water is the source of life.”

The Diocese of Narni was established in the 4th century; in the 20th, it was united with a nearby diocese, and is now part of the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia.

Around 1930, during repair work on a road, workers discovered a statue of a lion dating from the Roman era, when it was common for the emperor always to have a statue of a lion “guarding” his tent at camp, Fortunati said.

The figure of a lion had also been adopted by the Jewish religion. The Lion of Judah became a symbol of the Hebrew tribe of Judah, the first association found in the Book of Genesis, chapter 49, where Jacob blesses his son Judah, calling him “a lion’s cub.”

In Christianity, the Lion of Judah represents Christ, as in the Book of Revelation it says, “Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…”

Fortunati pointed out how it is difficult not to make the connection between the lion statue and other lion symbols found in Narni, and Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis himself confirmed the connection in a letter he wrote to a child reader in 1961. He said he was inspired to make the figure of Christ a lion in the stories for two reasons: because the lion is supposed to be the king of the beasts, and because Christ is called “the Lion of Judah” in the Bible.

Another link between the real and fictional towns can be found in the real-life Lucia of Narnia. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Lucy Pevensie is the youngest child of four siblings, and she is the one who first sees the fantastical land and believes.

Bl. Lucy Brocadelli of Narni was a mystic who lived from the end of the 15th to the mid-16th century and who was born in the city. She was known as a very pious child, and from a young age is said to have seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Child Jesus, and other saints, particularly St. Dominic.

Her first vision was at the age of 5, and at 12 years old she made a private vow of virginity, deciding to join the Dominicans. As a young teen she was married off by her uncle to a family friend, Pietro, the count of Milan, though they lived as brother and sister at her request.

She continued to experience visions throughout her life, and was particularly dedicated to the poor, including making them bread with the help of saints who visited her. By the age of 18 she had separated from her husband, then becoming a Dominican tertiary. Her husband eventually joined the Franciscans.

She became the prioress of a convent and is one of only a few female saints to have ever received the stigmata. Shunned and mistreated by other sisters for her strange experiences, she spent the last forty years of her life locked up in isolation by a successor prioress.

She died in 1544, and her body was discovered to be incorrupt a few years after that. She was beatified in 1710 by Clement XI. In 1935 her remains were returned to her home town of Narni and interred in the cathedral.

Today around 20,000 people live in Narni; if you visit you will find the town’s Romanesque cathedral, a late-medieval fortress called the Rocca, the old town square, and a plaque marking the “Center of Italy,” among other sites.

Also scattered around the city you’ll find images of lions and of Bl. Lucia of Narnia, reminders of its connection to the mythical land of C.S. Lewis’ imagination and his beloved stories.

Pope Francis prays for Honduras as election crisis turns deadly

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 2:09 AM

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec 7, 2017 / 12:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A contested national election in Honduras has enflamed a civil crisis, leading Pope Francis to pray on Sunday for Hondurans to “peacefully overcome the current difficult moment.”

Juan Orlando Hernández, the incumbent president, faced opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla in the Nov. 26 presidential election.

Early returns from the election, with nearly 58 percent of votes counted, showed a five-point lead for Nasralla, a popular television star. The count slowed and his lead disappeared, amid claims from Nasralla supporters that the election was being stolen by Hernandez, the British newspaper The Guardian reports.

Nasralla has claimed victory, saying, “I am the president-elect of Honduras, the president chosen by the people.”

Early Dec. 4, the Supreme Electoral Commission said Hernandez led Nasralla by 42.98 percent to 41.39 percent, based on a recount of suspicious votes from over 1,000 polling stations. However, the commission refrained from declaring a winner and a wider recount may still be possible.

The Organization of American States’ mission in Honduras was among the international observers calling for the recount. The mission cited irregularities, errors and systematic problems.

Allegations of voter fraud have triggered major protests and violence that has killed at least 11 people. There have been confrontations between protesters and security forces in riot gear using water cannons and tear gas. A curfew has lessened some of the protests, but not put an end to the violence.

The conflict may be the country’s greatest political crisis since a 2009 coup.

The Society of Jesus’ Central American province was outspoken, backing the protesters and criticizing the electoral commission for “lack of professionalism and ethics” due to its alleged systematic failure to track and report election results, the Jesuit-run America Magazine reports. They charged that its actions “hide an unexpected victory by the opposition over the current president who did everything that he could, legal and illegal, to be re-elected.”

Released Dec. 3, the statement was signed by Central American provincial Alvarado Lopez, S.J. and the province’s social apostolate coordinator Francisco Iznardo Almiñana, S.J.

The Jesuits denounced “the crude manipulation of this situation by the magistrates, influenced by the real and shadowy power from the state and other places in an attempt to disregard the popular will expressed in the polls.”

They charged that agents of the state are engaged in “the repression of the Honduran people.” The Honduran people are teaching “a lesson about civic duty, dignity and the peaceful defense of the rights of citizens,” they said.

Honduran national police have said they will not obey orders from the current president until the crisis is resolved. National police in the capital have said they will refuse to enforce a curfew.

Hernández is a close U.S. ally, The Guardian reports. He has worked closely with the U.S. on border security, anti-drug operations and migration.

The U.S. State Department has certified Honduras as a supporter of human rights and opponent of corruption. The certification allows the U.S. to provide Hernandez’s government millions of dollars in security assistance. In 2017 such aid totaled about $17.3 million dollars.

 

LA convent sale controversy ends in favor of archdiocese, Katy Perry

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 2:51 PM

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 6, 2017 / 12:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and singer Katy Perry were awarded a joint $10 million sum for punitive damages over a church-owned hilltop property which was illegally sold to a developer in 2015 after the archdiocese had accepted an initial offer from Perry.

The property, a former convent belonging to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, is a church-owned estate under the care of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. The archdiocese also has a current lease on one of the buildings on the property, which is used as a priests’ house of prayer. This lease has an additional 77 years left.

“I would like to reiterate my continued commitment to all of the Immaculate Heart sisters that the archdiocese will take care of them and ensure their well-being now and in the future,” said Archbishop Gomez when the controversy began in 2015.

Two of the nuns who previously lived on the property, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, made the invalid transaction with Dana Hollister, a restaurateur and developer who had plans to turn the property into a boutique hotel.

However, Hollister’s offer came after an initial $14.5 million offer from singer Katy Perry, which the archdiocese had accepted. Their deal additionally protected the house of prayer on the property, which was to be owned by the sisters.

After the sale to Hollister, of which the sisters received $44,000 and were promised an additional $9.9 million after three years, Hollister took possession of the property.

The archdiocese officially took action against the transaction June 19, 2015 with the claim that the sisters were not authorized to act as sellers of the property, since it is under the care of Archbishop Gomez. Additionally, any church sale of more than $7.5 million would require approval from the Vatican.

A jury found Hollister guilty last month of intentionally interfering with Perry’s first offer.

On Monday, the court sided with the local Church and with Perry, ordering Hollister to pay $3.47 million to the archdiocese and an additional $1.57 million to Perry for legal fees. Hollister was also charged with paying $10 million in punitive damages, which will be split between Archbishop Gomez and Perry.

Hollister has around $4 million in assets and will not be able to pay the fees in full, although her lawyer Michael Geibelson said Hollister could appeal the ruling.

Perry intends to move forward with the initial agreement of sale with the archdiocese.

Truth will lead to African peace, Nigerian bishops say

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 1:23 PM

Abuja, Nigeria, Dec 6, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church’s intellectual and moral truth is the key to a peaceful, free, and developing nation, Nigerian bishops have said at a conference attended by the country's political and spiritual leaders.

Their remarks came a conference on “Peace and National Development,” hosted Nov. 19-22 by Veritas University, the Catholic university of Nigeria.

“The leaders of our future must be formed with a mentality that only the truth sets a people free,”  said Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, during remarks at the conference.

“Corruption will be eradicated if the students begin to learn that only money that accrues to a person as a result of hard work can be enjoyed.”

“The dream of the CBCN [Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria]… must always be the search for truth,” Akubeze, Vice President of CBCN, said, according to the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.

Marking the university’s 10th anniversary, the event was held at the Chelsea Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, and included addresses from Archbishop Akubeze, Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, and the school’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mike Kwanashie.

The conference was also attended by Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; and John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja and the university’s chancellor.

While speaking about Nigeria’s future development, Bishop Kukah lamented that Nigeria has “remained permanently on top of the league of most vile and corruption in the international reports of the world institutions.”

The bishop asked on whether Nigeria could really be considered a “developing country,” because it lacks advancements in health, security, human rights, and the rule of law.
    
Archbishop Akubeze also mentioned that corruption exacerbated other severe challenges faced by Nigeria, pointing to events of terrorism, kidnappings, robberies, political violence, and tensions between religious and ethnic groups.

“These can result in disunity, instability, and if not curtailed, disintegration,” he said. “[Truth is] that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.”

The archbishop encouraged the university to form future leaders to search for truth and contribute to the common good, noting that some of the university’s students would likely become senators, governors, and maybe even Nigeria’s president.

He drew attention to the importance of the university’s name, “Veritas,” which is Latin for truth. He said the school, and every educational institution, should make the pursuit of truth their top priority.

He emphasized the need for human, spiritual, and moral formation at the university.
“As you know, education is not just about academic certificate. It also involves human formation. It involves character formation. In the process of your education in this institution, I want to encourage you, the staff, to help the students to have a wider horizon of life.”

Biahop Kukah stressed the importance of developing a strong moral compass among Africa’s political leaders, especially through the Catholic formation of university students.  

“I want to focus on the Catholic Church and argue that perhaps, with some level of robustness, it could provide this moral compass drawing extensively from its rich history and culture,” he said.

He pointed to the richness of Catholic social teaching, which, he said, is rooted in the mission of Christ, namely the proclamation of salvation.

The Church’s social encyclicals have identified concrete challenges and proffered solutions in the past, he said, noting that the documents would be a powerful resource developing political solutions to Nigerian and African issues.

Although the school welcomes students from all faiths, Veritas University has a strong ecclesiastical identity and has a particular focus Catholic social teaching.

Archbishop Akubeze applauded the success of Veritas University in forming its students, but challenged the school to strive further, until it becomes a reference point for other educational institutions.

The university was founded by the bishops of Nigeria in 2002. It was officially accredited by the Nigerian government in 2007, and began admitting students thereafter.  Its mission is to “provide its students with an integral and holistic formation that combines academic and professional training with physical, moral, spiritual, social and cultural formation together with formation of Christian religious principles and the social teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Nigeria, a country of 170 million people, has a Catholic population of nearly 23 million, according to the Pew Research Center.

Pope Francis: It's good for young people to study Latin

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 12:08 PM

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 / 10:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to the Pontifical Academies on Tuesday, Pope Francis praised the study of Latin, especially for young people, and encouraged scholars and teachers to promote its study as a positive guide for students as they navigate life.

Addressing academics and Latin teachers, the Pope said Dec. 5 that they should “know how to speak to the hearts of the young, know how to treasure the very rich heritage of the Latin tradition to educate them in the path of life, and accompany them along paths rich in hope and confidence…”

Pope Francis’ message was read at the 22nd Solemn Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, which had as its theme, “In interiore homine: Research paths in the Latin tradition.”

The Pope praised “the theme of interiority, of the heart, of consciousness and self-awareness” which he said is found “in every culture as well as in the different religious traditions.”

“Significantly,” he continued, this theme is “presented with great urgency and strength even in our time, often characterized by concern with appearance, superficiality, the division between heart and mind, interiority and exteriority, consciousness and behavior.”

Moments of change, crisis, or transformation, whether in relationships or in a person’s identity, require reflection “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being.”

Francis also noted the many important figures, both in the classical and the Christian traditions, who have reflected on the dynamism of man, pointing especially to the Fathers of the Church and the Latin writers of the first millennium.

Highlighting St. Augustine in particular, the Pope quoted from his Tractates on the Gospel of St. John, which say, “Return to your heart; see there what, it may be, you can perceive of God, for in it is the image of God. In the inner man dwells Christ, in the inner man are you renewed after the image of God, in His own image recognize its Author.”

This is relevant also for our time, he stressed, and worthy of our reflection and of sharing with others, especially young people, who are just starting on the journey of life.

A journey where they may be caught up, he explained, in the “labyrinths of superficiality and banality, of the external success that conceals an inner emptiness, of the hypocrisy that masks the split between appearances and the heart, between the beautiful and cared-for body and the soul, empty and arid.”

At the meeting, the winners of the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies were also awarded. This year's prize winners are Dr. Pierre Chambert-Protat for his doctoral thesis on Florus of Lyon, and Dr. Francesco Lubian for her critical publication of the Disticha attributed to St. Ambrose.

The winners of the Medal of the Pontificate were Dr. Shari Broodts for a critical edition of the Sermones of St. Augustine and the Latin Teaching Group of the University of Toulouse, for the publication of a Latin manual for university students.

The 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Academy for Latin, or Pontificia Acadamia Latinitatis, which was founded by Benedict XVI in 2012 through the motu proprio Latina Lingua.

Organized every year by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies was on two themes: methodological proposals for teaching Latin today, and the reception of ancient Christian Latin between the medieval and modern eras.

The first topic was “reserved to institutions (academies, schools, associations, foundations, research groups etc.) that are engaged in formative activity among the youth,” the Prize’s press release stated.

The second was for scholars between the ages of 25 and 40 who have produced doctoral theses or publications on the theme in the last five years.

Kidnapped twice, missionary priest returns to Nigeria

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:42 AM

Rome, Italy, Dec 6, 2017 / 09:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After he was kidnapped in Nigeria in October, Italian missionary priest Fr. Maurizio Pallù has returned to the country, attributing his kidnapping to the work of the devil and crediting the Virgin Mary with his protection and release.

“I saw a special maternal intervention of the Virgin Mary, especially Our Lady of Fatima,” he told EWTN, “because the way that she undid the plans of the devil is very evident.”

Pallù, 63, is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has served as a missionary in Nigeria for three years. He and two companions were kidnapped in southern Nigeria Oct. 12.

According to Vatican Insider, the kidnapping was carried out by a group of armed criminals who robbed the priest and others while they were travelling from Calabar to Benin City by car. The three were released Oct. 17.

He was also kidnapped on Oct. 13, 2016 and released after just an hour and a half.

At the time of his kidnapping, Pallù said he thought about his life and he felt he was not ready to die. “I said to the Lord: I see that I don’t have enough repentance for my sins.”

“If you want me to die, give me the grace and the Holy Spirit to die as a real Christian and offer my life for these people who killed me,” he recounted, though he asked God to “save my life and I promise that I will continue to announce the Gospel with redoubled zeal.”

Pallù, a priest of the Diocese of Rome, has been in Italy since Oct. 18. During this time, he also had an audience with Pope Francis, who asked him, “when are you going back?”

Asked about returning to the country, and whether it was foolish idea, Pallù said he is not afraid of the devil, who has already been defeated “by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“In Nigeria, now is the favorable moment,” the priest said, commenting on how the devil must be very afraid of losing souls to God if he has attacked them twice now through kidnappings. “I want to quote the words of the prophet and of the saint, John Paul II, who said Africa is the future of the Church,” he said.

In the whole situation he was able to witness the power of prayer, he said, explaining that the only instrument he had with him during his five of days in captivity was a rosary he had bought in Fatima, since his kidnappers had taken his golden cross, and he didn’t have a Bible or breviary with him.

“I had this rosary, and they saw me constantly praying the rosary because I kept it out. I told them, ‘I pray for you as well,’ so I saw the power, not only of my prayer – because I am a man with a little faith, I did what I could – but especially of the prayer of the universal Church.”

He said he was also able to start a relationship with the leader of the group that had kidnapped them. Of the eight men, he was the only one who spoke English.

“And so we could speak together, and what I could tell him is that I consider them my brothers, (that) I was praying for them… What I noticed is that he changed (his) tone and approach. He said, as I told him ‘I’m praying for you,’ he said, ‘Yes Father, pray for me,’” in an authentic voice.

Fr. Pallù is a native of Florence. As a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, he was a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries. In 1998, he entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.

After serving as a chaplain in two parishes in Rome, he was sent to the Netherlands, where he was a pastor in the Diocese of Haarlem. From there, he was sent to the Archdiocese of Abuja.

Several other priests have recently been kidnapped from the Nigerian state of Edo, where Benin City is located, and one has been killed.

Pope Francis urges world leaders to respect UN position on Jerusalem

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 5:37 AM

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 / 03:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With debate on the status of Jerusalem heating up in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis has urged international leaders to proceed with prudence and respect for current U.N. resolutions.

“My thought now goes to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot ignore my deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days,” the Pope said Dec. 6.

He issued a “heartfelt appeal” to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

The position of the U.N. on the Jerusalem issue is that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, and that the city should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall during his weekly general audience, during which he recounted the phases of his recent Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip to Burma, also called Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

His appeal for Jerusalem comes shortly after news came out that U.S. President Donald Trump would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the international community.

As part of the plan, the Trump administration is expected to eventually move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and while Israel welcomes the changes, both Palestinians and Arab leaders have voiced concern that the move could jeopardize the peace process in the Middle East, according to BBC.

Israel has traditionally always recognized Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the U.S. is the first country to do so since the state was established in 1948.

Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem will be discussed in the late stages of the talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries have embassies in Tel Aviv.

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, then, is likely to increase tension on the issue, particularly in regards to the 200,000-some settlements Israel has built in East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this stance.

On Wednesday, a group of more than a dozen Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem released a statement cautioning that the U.S. policy change “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.”

“Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm,” they warned.

“We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfill its destiny.”

In his general audience, Pope Francis noted how Jerusalem is a “unique city” that is considered holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Because of this, he said the city has “a special vocation for peace.”

“I ask the Lord that this identity be preserved and reinforced for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a global panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts,” he said.

Prior to his general audience, the Pope met with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders for a scheduled audience, urging dialogue that is respectful of everyone's rights in the Holy Land. He also voiced his hope that “peace and prosperity” would prevail for the Palestinian people.

On his trip to Burma and Bangladesh, Francis said it was “a great gift from God,” and thanked the civil authorities and bishops of each country for their welcome and for everything they did to prepare for the trip.

He noted how his Nov. 27-30 visit to Burma marked the first time a Pope has ever traveled to the country, which took place just months after the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with the nation in May.  

“I wanted, also in this case, to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered due to conflict and repression, and which now is slowly walking toward a new condition of freedom and peace,” he said.

Burma, a majority Buddhist country where minorities, including Christians, often face stigma and discrimination, is still working to transition to a democratic government after more than 50 years of military rule, while also facing harsh criticism from the international community over what the United Nations has called a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims from the country's Rakhine State.

In this context, Christians there are the “leaven of God,” he said, and called the Church in Burma a “living and fervent” community that he had the joy of meeting and affirming in faith and communion.   

Similarly, he said his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to Bangladesh was equally important, and focused largely on the need for “respect and dialogue” between Christianity and Islam, as the country is a majority Muslim nation with a small Catholic community.

Religious freedom was a major theme, and was reflected in each of his meetings, he said, and underlined the importance of “openness of the heart as the basis for the culture of encounter, harmony and peace.”

Scientists reconstructed the face of St. Nicholas – here’s what they found

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 4:43 AM

Liverpool, England, Dec 6, 2017 / 02:43 am (CNA).- Scientists at a university in Liverpool have unveiled what they say is the most realistic portrait ever created of St. Nicholas of Myra, the popular 4th century bishop best known as the inspiration for the modern-day figure of Santa Claus.

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University's Face Lab used a facial reconstruction system and 3D interactive technology to create the portrait, which was unveiled on Dec. 6, 2014 - the feast day of St. Nicholas.

It's #StNicholas day. Check out the facial depiction of St Nicholas we produced @LJMU @LSAD_2016 https://t.co/EQfjjHmRis #stnicholasday pic.twitter.com/MW1GpWhBWW

— Face Lab Liverpool (@FaceLabLJMU) December 6, 2016 University Professor Caroline Wilkinson said the reconstruction relied on “all the skeletal and historical material” available, the BBC reports. A university spokeswoman said the new image uses “the most up-to-date anatomical standards, Turkish tissue depth data and CGI techniques.”

Among the features depicted in the saint’s image is a broken nose, which Wilkinson said had “healed asymmetrically, giving him a characteristic nose and rugged facial appearance.”

St. Nicholas lived 270-343 A.D. He was the bishop of Myra, in southern Turkey.

During his years as bishop, he was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution, then later released when Constantine came to power.

He was known for his staunch defense of the faith, as well as his often anonymous generosity toward those in need.

Stories surrounding the saint abound. He is believed to have once rescued three sisters from being sold into slavery by throwing bags of gold through an open window into their house to pay their family’s debts.

Another popular story holds that he became so enraged by the heretic Arius – who claimed that Christ was not truly God – that he punched him during a heated debate at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Based on the broken nose in the saint's facial reconstruction, maybe Arius punched him back.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 11, 2016.

Correction: This article initially said the facial reconstruction was unveiled in 2016. It was unveiled in 2014.

.....

You may also like:

 

http://t.co/VK50acdOtj Is this what Saint Rose of Lima looked like?  #History #Catholic

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) August 28, 2015


 

 

Devastating cyclone kills 32 Catholic fishermen off India's coast

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 2:20 AM

Thiruvananthapuram, India, Dec 6, 2017 / 12:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At least 32 Catholic fishermen were killed when a tropical cyclone hit the southern coast of India over the weekend.

In addition, some 200 people are missing, and thousands of individuals have been displaced, after their homes were destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise.

The fishermen – who were all Catholic, according to local parish priest Fr. V. Wilfred of Vizhinjam – were not expecting stormy seas when they set out, according to UCA News. The fishermen were all from the Kerala and Tamil Nadu states.

Tropical Cyclone Ockhi began to develop near Sri Lanka last Thursday with heavy winds and rains. The hardest-hit region was the southwestern tip of India’s coast near Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram. The last major cyclone to hit that region was in 1941, making it a rare occurrence for the area.

The storm also affected thousands of locals who have relocated to relief camps that have been set up by the Kerala state government. Currently, there are 29 relief camps, which are sheltering around 3,000 people.

Local priests and Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum were said to have been visiting the affected area to help coordinate relief for the victims of the storm.

Additionally, Fr. Justin Jude of Poonthura noted that many of the locals have not only lost their homes and family members due to the cyclone, but also valuable equipment such as boats and nets. Fr. Jude also said that government aid should be provided to help the victims in their time of need, according to UCA News.

Tropical Cyclone Ockhi is still active and is threatening heavy downpours with potential flooding in northwestern India, including Mumbai. However, the storm is expected to weaken significantly by Wednesday.

 

 

In LA, massive Marian procession ahead of Guadalupe feast

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 11:06 PM

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 5, 2017 / 09:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- About 30,000 Catholic faithful walked the streets of Los Angeles in a Sunday Morning procession for Our Lady of Guadalupe nine days ahead of her Dec. 12 feast day.

“We give our hearts to the Virgin of Guadalupe and we ask her to always intercede for us, to hear us and pray for us,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said in his homily at the Dec. 3 Mass concluding the procession.

He said the Virgin Mary leads the faithful to the purpose of their journey on earth: “the encounter with her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

“To find God, to find Jesus! This is the beautiful role that Our Mother plays,” Gomez said.

The procession is the oldest religious procession in Los Angeles. It was established 86 years ago by Mexican Catholics who fled persecution by the Mexican government during the Cristero war.

This year’s mile-long procession began at the corner of Cesar Chavez Avenue and Ford Street in East Los Angeles. It featured colorful floats, equestrian groups, mariachi performers and indigenous dancers. Floats were judged and awarded prizes for depicting the procession’s theme, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Encounter with Jesus.”

Catholic school students escorted an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe – an exact digital production of the original image that now hangs in Mexico’s basilica. The reproduction has been blessed and touched to the original image.

Among the participants was Rolando Portillo, a parishioner at Our Lady of Solitude Church in east Los Angeles.

Portillo was given special recognition at the celebration for his support of the community and of an orphanage in Mexico, the archdiocese reports.

“I thank her every day for watching over us, she is the True Mother, a real protector,” he said. “She brought me back to Jesus Christ when I was an addict running the streets 30 years ago.”

The procession ended at East Los Angeles College stadium, where Archbishop Gomez celebrated Mass.

He said in his homily that Our Lady of Guadalupe “guides us always into the presence of her Son, into the new encounter with Jesus Christ.

“So, today we profess our love for Our Mother. We thank her for her tender love for us – for our children and our families,” Gomez said.

Lectors at Mass included a survivor of the October Las Vegas shooting and a person who had received protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Before the Mass, actors re-enacted the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.

Many parish communities worked together for the procession. Many participants in the procession wore red and green attire – the colors of Mexico’s flag.

As a preparation for the procession, the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego visited 20 parishes in the Los Angeles archdiocese and the dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino. They visited five detention facilities in the Los Angeles archdiocese and were present for veneration at Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

Why is St. Francis Xavier's arm flying across Canada?

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 9:00 PM

Ottawa, Canada, Dec 5, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While he was alive, St. Francis Xavier never got to ride in an airplane. They would not be invented for 400 more years after his death.

But now, his severed arm will get to take a trip across Canada in its very own seat.

The relic of the Jesuit missionary, ordinarily kept in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, will be making a cross-country trip through Canada this winter, as part of an initiative from the university group Catholic Christian Outreach.



The arm of St. Francis Xavier, on display for veneration in Rome.

Angèle Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach, told CBC radio that travelling with the saint’s arm will be "like doing a road trip with a friend."

"I mean, I know it's bones, but connected to that is a living friendship with St. Francis Xavier," she said.

In the Catholic Church, relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Jesus. The arm of St. Francis Xavier is considered a first class relic, which is the body or fragments of the body of a saint. The practice of venerating relics has been a Scripture-based tradition in the Church for centuries.

Regnier will be accompanying the saint’s arm on its trip from Rome to Canada, where the relic will make a month-long tour through much of the country.

The fragility of the relic, which is encased in a gold and glass reliquary and has its own padded duffle bag, necessitated that it travel in its own seat on Air Canada.

"We can't put it underneath. We can't even put it in the overhead bins. Like, he has to have his own seat," she told CBC radio.

"You're trying to explain this to Air Canada. We need to book a seat. He is a person in a way, but it's not a person, it's an arm."

The saint’s arm is a significant relic. With that arm, it is estimated that St. Francis Xavier baptized hundreds of thousands of people during his time as a missionary in Asia. The relic is also considered to be partially incorrupt, which means that it has not decayed in an ordinary way.

Regnier said that the group wanted to bring the saint’s relic to Canada because he is one of their patron saints. While a university student, Francis Xavier was known for being athletic and the “cool guy,” Regnier said. But it was also during time that he underwent a conversion, and his roommate, St. Ignatius of Loyola, became his spiritual mentor.

St. Francis Xavier would become one of the founding members of the Jesuit order, along with St. Ignatius of Loyola and Blessed Peter Faber.

"So for us, as a university student movement, we want university students to come alive in their faith, so we find a lot in common with St. Francis Xavier's history," Regnier said.

The saint’s arm will be traveling throughout Canada from Jan. 3 - Feb. 2, during which time the faithful are invited to venerate the relic.

"It's quite a production," Regnier said. "We want to touch most of Canada with it."

The schedule for the relic tour is as follows:
* Jan. 3: Quebec City
* Jan. 5: St John's
* Jan. 7: Halifax
* Jan. 8: Antigonish, N.S.
* Jan. 10: Kingston, Ont.
* Jan. 12-14: Toronto
* Jan. 16: Winnipeg
* Jan. 18: Saskatoon
* Jan. 20: Regina
* Jan. 21-22: Calgary
* Jan. 24-25: Vancouver
* Jan. 27: Victoria
* Jan. 29-30: Montreal
* Feb. 2: Ottawa


 

 

Analysis: Argentine letter on Amoris is in the Acta. Does that change things?

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 7:19 PM

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2017 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- Despite the recent inclusion of Pope Francis' 2016 letter to the Buenos Aires bishops on Amoris laetitia in the Holy See's official text of record, neither the Church's discipline nor its doctrine have changed.

The move is the latest in the debate over the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to Communion. The Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI – as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts under them – all firmly opposed proposals to admit to eucharistic communion the divorced-and-remarried who do not observe continence.

The debate has received renewed impetus under Pope Francis. His 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia, has been met with varied reception and interpretation within the Church. Its eighth chapter, entitled “Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness,” deals with, among other things, the pastoral care of the divorced-and-remarried, those who may not be admitted to Communion unless they have committed to living in continence, eschewing the acts proper to married couples.

Yet, for many Church leaders and theologians, ambiguous language in that chapter has led to uncertainties about this practice, and about the nature and status of the apostolic exhortation itself. Some have maintained that it is incompatible with Church teaching, and others that it has not changed the Church's discipline. Still others read Amoris laetitia as opening the way to a new pastoral practice, or even as a development in continuity with St. John Paul II.

Some Church leaders have noted that Amoris laetitia has led to the disorientation and great confusion of many of the faithful, and at least one respected theologian has argued that Francis' pontificate has fostered confusion, diminished the importance of doctrine in the Church's life, and cause faithful Catholics to lose confidence in the papacy.

Pope Francis has been understood to encourage those who interpret Amoris laetitia as opening the way to a new pastoral practice – as he seemed to do in a letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, which is the subject of the latest furor.

His letter approves those bishops' pastoral response to the divorced-and-remarried, based on Amoris laetitia. The response had said that ministry to the divorced-and-remarried must never create confusion about Church teaching and the indissolubility of marriage, but may also allow access to the sacraments under specific limits. These might include specific situations when a penitent in an irregular union is under attenuated culpability, as when leaving such a union could cause harm to his children, although the circumstances envisioned are not precisely delineated, which, some theologians say, has contributed to the confusion.

The Pope's Sept. 5, 2016 letter addressed to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy of San Miguel said, “The text is very good and makes fully explicit the meaning of the eighth chapter of ‘Amoris Laetitia’. There are no other interpretations. And I am sure it will do a lot of good. May the Lord reward you for this effort of pastoral charity.”

It was reported this weekend that Pope Francis' letter, as well as the pastoral response of the Buenos Aires bishops, were promulgated in the October 2016 issue of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, a Vatican publication in which official documents of the Pope and the Roman Curia are published, and through which universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated.

Dr. Edward Peters, a professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote Dec. 4 that the Buenos Aires document contains assertions “running the gamut from obviously true, through true-but-oddly-or-incompletely phrased, to a few that, while capable of being understood in an orthodox sense, are formulated in ways that lend themselves to heterodox understandings.”

He noted that what prevents the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to eucharistic communion is canon 915 “and the universal, unanimous interpretation which that legislative text, rooted as it is in divine law, has always received.” The canon states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

In an August 2017 post anticipating the possible publication in AAS of the Buenos Aires letter or the Pope's commendation of it, Peters had written that “many, nay most, papal documents appearing in the Acta carry no canonical or disciplinary force.”

He wrote that “Unless canon 915 itself is directly revoked, gutted, or neutered, it binds ministers of holy Communion to withhold that most august sacrament from, among others, divorced-and-remarried Catholics except where such couples live as brother-sister and without scandal to the community.”

“Nothing I have seen to date, including the appearance of the pope’s and Argentine bishops’ letters in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, makes me think that Canon 915 has suffered such a fate.”

He added: “Neither the pope’s letter to the Argentines, nor the Argentine bishops’ document, nor even Amoris laetitia so much as mentions Canon 915, let alone do these documents abrogate, obrogate, or authentically interpret this norm out of the Code of Canon Law.”

While the Pope's letter and the Buenos Aires bishops' pastoral response do contain ambiguous “disciplinary assertions”, they are insufficient “to revoke, modify, or otherwise obviate” canon 915, Peters wrote.

Aside from the canonical problems with the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to eucharistic communion is the question of what it means that the Buenos Aires document and the Pope's letter in support of it are intended to be a part of the Church’s Magisterium.

A rescript from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, in the AAS notes that their promulgation was intended “as authentic Magisterium.”

The Magisterium is a part of teaching office of bishops, by which they are charged with interpreting and preserving the deposit of faith. In its 1990 declaration Donum veritatis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that the Magisterium “has the task of discerning, by means of judgments normative for the consciences of believers, those acts which in themselves conform to the demands of faith and foster their expression in life and those which, on the contrary, because intrinsically evil, are incompatible with such demands.”

Catholics are bound to assent to divinely revealed teachings with faith; to firmly embrace and retain those things which are required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the deposit of faith; and to give religious submission of intellect and will to doctrines on faith or morals given through the authentic Magisterium.  

The critical question regarding Amoris laetitia is what, precisely, it teaches with regard to faith and morals, and what it doesn’t, or even, can’t, teach.  On the latter question, especially, the Church’s existent doctrine is helpful.

Even while some bishops, such as those of the Buenos Aires region and those of Malta, have interpreted the apostolic exhortation as allowing a new pastoral practice, many others have maintained that it changes nothing of doctrine or discipline.

For example, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller said that Amoris laetitia has not eliminated Church discipline on marriage, nor has it has permitted in some cases the divorced-and-remarried “to receive the Eucharist without the need to change their way of life.”

“This is a matter of a consolidated magisterial teaching, supported by scripture and founded on a doctrinal reason: the salvific harmony of the sacrament, the heart of the 'culture of the bond' that the Church lives.”

The prefect of the CDF said that if Pope Francis' exhortation “had wanted to eliminate such a deeply rooted and significant discipline, it would have said so clearly and presented supporting reasons.”

“There is however no affirmation in this sense; nor does the Pope bring into question, at any time, the arguments presented by his predecessors, which are not based on the subjective culpability of our brothers, but rather on their visible, objective way of life, contrary to the words of Christ,” Cardinal Müller stated.

It has been the constant teaching of the Church that marriage is indissoluble, that people not married to each other may not legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy, that the Eucharist may not be received by those conscious of grave sin, and that absolution requires the purpose of amending one's life, even with a diminished or limited capacity to exercise the will.

And the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists … Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.”

St. John Paul II promulgated the Catechism in 1992 by the apostolic constitution Fidei depositum, in which he wrote that it “is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”

“The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represents a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church … of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus' disciples, as well as of strengthening the bonds of unity in the same apostolic faith. Therefore, I ask the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.”

Critical to understanding the character of the Church’s teaching on these issues is a declaration  the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts wrote in 2000 that canon 915's prohibition on admitting to Holy Communion those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin is applicable to the divorced-and-remarried.

“Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon's substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading,” it said.

This prohibition, the pontifical council continued, is “by its nature derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church.”

This declaration defines a kind of a limit on how the Magisterium can develop; by invoking divine law, the council says that no pastoral approach can transgress the norms of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. While considering questions of subjective culpability do not exceed those norms, the council’s directive explains that the Church can not, and will not, redefine the deposit of faith.  

The deposit of faith has not been changed, and nor has canon law. Despite a great deal of anxiety and media attention, truth remains unchanged, and unchanging.

While some find the Pope’s writing to be ambiguous, truth is not. Amoris laetitia must be interpreted in a way that does not contravene truth.

Even when such an interpretation is not readily apparent.

Faith, Intellect, Renewal: Thomas More College launches center to restore culture

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 6:11 PM

Manchester, N.H., Dec 5, 2017 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seeking the renewal of culture and faith in New England, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has launched a center that addresses crucial questions for Christians and aims to be a “vigorous public witness to the faith.”

“Its mission is a revival of Christian culture in New England: a region that has always been a seedbed of new ideas and ideals – a region whose the original European settlers first sought to build ‘a shining city on a hill’,” the New Hampshire college said Dec. 5.

The Thomas More Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture aims to support active involvement in the arts, in politics, in literature, in education, and especially in the life of faith.

The center aims to address “the crisis of a civilization that has drifted from the principles on which it was founded.” It will consider “the crucial questions of how mature Christians can live in freedom, and how people of faith can give new hope to a secularized society,” Thomas More College said.

The center will invite speakers, host seminars and organize conferences. It will encourage both intellectuals and civic leaders to participate in discussions and explore how to apply ideas.

Its statement of purpose says it will follow the example of St. Thomas More by protecting and encouraging healthy family life and by educating young people in the liberal arts. It will promote the active involvement of Christians in civic life, the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage, and loyal defense of Catholic teaching.

The center aims “not to mourn the decline in society, but to build an outpost of civility: a community in which reasoned discussion, animated by Christian faith, can work toward a revival.”

Founding fellows at the center are Thomas More College president Dr. William Fahey; Dr. Anthony Esolen, a translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy and author of several books; and Catholic journalist and author Philip Lawler.

Esolen said culture is “disappearing from the West – certainly from the United States and Canada.”

“We are in the midst of massive culture amnesia,” he charged.

Lawler said he believes that New England could be a place for the emergence of “a new, positive and distinctively Christian vision of America.”

The region has “always been a nursery for new ideas and new movements.” He suggested the metaphorical pendulum of opinion has swung “so very far” in New England and prevailing opinion is “so far from the truths that are inscribed on the human heart” that a reaction is “inevitable.”

Fahey commented on the other fellows at the center: “Esolen is one of America’s foremost writers and a trenchant observer of our cultural malaise, and Lawler has had years of experience commenting on the ebb and flow of Catholic leadership within America and the wider world, always with a wise sense of how we should direct our attention and renew our conversation.”

Among the supporters of the center is Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute.

“The family needs defenders in all academic disciplines and from all walks of life,” Morse said. “May this Center become a focal point for a great renewal of all that is good and worthy in Christian civilization.”

Robert Royal, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Faith and Reason Institute, said the center is “one of the most promising new initiatives in decades.”

“Lots of people have written and spoken about what’s gone wrong with Catholic thought--as well as ways of life and community,” Royal added. “This is one of the few things I’ve seen that may actually do something about bringing them all together again in a faithful and viable whole.”

In Royal’s view, the regional approach of the center is important.

“Given the scope of problems we face, they can only be dealt with first at a more local level. I hope that this project not only grows rapidly, but that it is imitated and adapted to many other parts of the country, and the world,” he said.

Other backers of the project include Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute; Ignatius Press founder and editor Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.; author and former syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher; James Hitchcock, emeritus history professor at St. Louis University; Cardinal Newman Society president Patrick Reilly; Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights; and Notre Dame architecture professor Duncan Stroik.

Baker argues for cake and conscience at Supreme Court

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 5:35 PM

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2017 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Colorado baker’s right to express himself through artwork – edible artwork– lies at the center of today’s Supreme Court arguments, say lawyers for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner, Jack Phillips.

“The right of all creative professionals to speak and to live consistent with their beliefs is at stake,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who represented Phillips before the Supreme Court, told CNA.

The Court heard arguments today in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case which has garnered attention from LGBT-rights advocates and religious liberty proponents.

Waggoner said that the justices asked difficult questions of both sides, and explained that she and US Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued before the high court that forcing Phillips to “sketch, sculpt and to handpaint a message” about marriage that is contrary to his faith violates the Constitution’s protections for free speech.

“Whether you support same-sex marriage or you oppose it, you should be able to have the right to speak freely; to hold beliefs and to speak freely in the public square,” she said.

The case comes after five years of litigation involving Phillips and his Lakewood Colo. bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, which he opened in 1993. In 2012, Phillips found himself faced with a lawsuit filed by Charlie Craig of Colorado, after he declined to make a wedding cake for the same-sex wedding of Craig and David Mullins. Phillips offered to create another cake for the couple. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a state agency that represent Craig and Mullins during litigation, claimed that by declining to make the cake, the baker had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The lawsuit was decided in favor of the plaintiffs in 2013, and a Colorado judge ordered Phillips to receive anti-discrimination training and to serve same-sex weddings or stop serving weddings altogether.

Phillips lost appeals at the state level, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case. In June, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The couple was able to obtain a rainbow-themed cake from a bakery near Phillips’ cake shop.

Phillips declines to bake other kinds of cakes that promote ideas at odds with his beliefs, such as cakes that portray anti-American, atheist, or racist messages or disparage members of the LGBT community. Phillips also declines to create custom cakes for other events he is uncomfortable supporting, such as Halloween and bachelor parties.  “Though I serve everyone who comes into my shop, like many other creative professionals, I don’t create custom designs for events or messages that conflict with my conscience,” Phillips explained in a Dec. 5 press conference outside of the Supreme Court.

Since the litigation started, Phillips has said that he has lost over 40 percent of his business due to his inability to serve any weddings. As a result, he has lost nearly half of his employees, and now struggles “to pay our bills and keep the shop afloat.” In addition, Phillips has reported receiving “death threats” which resulted in police being called to the scene.

“It’s hard to believe that the government is forcing me to choose between providing for my family and employees and violating my relationship with God,” Phillips said. “That is not freedom. That is not tolerance.”

The ACLU argued before the Supreme Court, along with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, against Phillips. In statement released today, the advocacy group said that Phillips’ First Amendment rights do not allow his bakery to “choose their customers.”

“These laws ensure that everyone, including gay people, have the freedom to walk into a business and know that they will be treated the same way,” stated David Cole, legal director of the ACLU, who argued before the Supreme Court. “As we argued in court today, the justices have an obligation to defend the principle of equal dignity under the law for all Americans — including Dave and Charlie.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Phillips, voiced their support for free expression and freedom of religion.

“We pray that the Court will continue to preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation,” said Archbishops Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville and  Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln in a joint statement.  The bishops chair the U.S. Bishops’ Committees on Religious Liberty; Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, respectively.

“Artists in particular deserve to have the freedom to express ideas—or to decline to create certain messages—in accordance with their deeply held beliefs, the bishops wrote.

Citing Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which noted that people can oppose same-sex marriage for “decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises,” the bishops asked that creative professionals be allowed to “use their artistic talents in line with these decent and honorable convictions.”

Religious freedom experts also highlighted the importance of free speech and religious freedom protections. Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who also filed a friend-of-the court brief on behalf of Masterpiece, pointed to the religious importance that weddings have carried for centuries.  

“The idea that the government can force someone to participate in events like weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, or even funerals—events that are so full of cultural and religious meaning—is deeply troubling,” he said in a statement.

“Of course creating a custom wedding cake is part and parcel of celebrating a wedding. Jack Phillips should not be forced to do that any more than someone should be forced to sing at a wedding, or serve as a wedding witness, or attend the wedding with a sufficiently large smile on their face,” Baxter continued.

“As a nation, we can live and let live without taking extreme offense at others’ choices or forcing them to participate in our own.”

The Supreme Court will likely deliver its decision in late spring or early summer 2018.

 

California wildfire forces evacuation at Thomas Aquinas College

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 2:33 PM

Ventura, Calif., Dec 5, 2017 / 12:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The fast-spreading flames of a California wildfire reached the borders of the campus of Thomas Aquinas College early this week, but they did not cause serious damage, and all students are safe.

“As a precaution, all students were evacuated, first to Sacred Heart Church in Ventura, then to homes of various friends, faculty, and alumni,” the college said on its website Dec. 5.

“Although flames at one point reached the campus perimeter, there has been no serious damage to any structures. Please continue to pray for all those affected and for all first responders.”

The college has canceled its Tuesday classes. The 400 students enrolled at the Santa Paula, Calif. institution are among the thousands of people forced to evacuate.

The fire, known as the Thomas Fire, began Monday evening in Steckel Park, less than three miles from campus. It quickly burned about 45,000 acres in 13 hours and spread to several homes in the northern area of the city of Ventura, home to more than 100,000 people, CNN reports.

The fire caused an eerie orange glow in the hills.

About 150 buildings have been destroyed in the fire. Felled power lines at one point cut power from 260,000 homes, but power has been largely restored.

Strong winds, blowing 40-60 mph, have helped fan the flames. Known as the Santa Ana winds, they are strong, dry, and blow from east to west. The current winds are the strongest of the season.

Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said that the prospects for containment are “not good” and the success of firefighting efforts will be dependent on the weather, the Washington Post reports.

View from campus just before evacuation. Looking southwest from Thomas Aquinas College. #ThomasFire pic.twitter.com/D7wYwBIbR0

— Timothy de Laveaga (@tadavagagah) December 5, 2017  

Pope Francis will see a lively faith in Peru and Chile, Lima's cardinal says

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 1:40 PM

Rome, Italy, Dec 5, 2017 / 11:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of Pope Francis' trip to Chile and Peru, the Archbishop of Lima has said that the Bishop of Rome will encounter a lively faith in the countries, where there are “great expression of popular religiosity.”

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne spoke to CNA ahead of Pope Francis' trip to Chile and Peru, which he will make Jan. 15-21, 2018.

The cardinal is visiting Rome, and met with Pope Francis Monday for a conversation that largely focused on the Pope's upcoming visit to his country.

In his comments to CNA, the cardinal said Latin America, and Peru in particular, maintain a staunchly Christian culture where traditional values on marriage and family issues specifically are widely upheld.

Peru itself is a largely Catholic nation, and while traditional forms of marriage and family life are threatened by the same secular ideologies growing throughout the U.S. and many countries in Europe, the defense of marriage is much stronger.

The country is also traditional when it comes to the abortion issue, with roughly 89 percent of the population defending life, he said.  

Because of this, Cipriani said he believes the Pope's visit is an opportunity for the world to look at Latin America and learn from their example of faith.

This faith is largely expressed in Peru through various and colorful forms of popular piety such as processions, vigils, and public prayer. Among the biggest of these are the processions on the feasts of Corpus Christi and the Lord of Miracles.

“The popular piety is going to move [Francis] a lot because he is going to see it in all corners” of the country, the cardinal said, explaining that this show of faith is part of the 'cultural DNA' in Peru, and will play a big role in the Pope's visit.

“I think that the Holy Father will meet the population with a great expressions of popular religiosity that will be very near to his heart,” he said.

The visit to Peru, which holds the theme “United by Hope,” will also be key in terms of helping the Peruvian bishops' conference become more unified, he said, noting the country is composed of a variety of backgrounds, which at times makes it difficult to be on the same page.

“The country is very diverse, geographically, ethnically, so the reality that the bishops have on the coast, in the mountains, or in the jungle is very different,” the cardinal said. With 50 bishops representing these different areas, trying to combine everything into one cohesive conference “isn't easy.”

In Peru, there are dioceses that have 100,000 inhabitants, while others, such as Lima, have 10 million. Some are areas more advanced in terms of development while in other areas people live “in absolute poverty.”

With all this in mind, Cipriani said he believes the Pope will encourage the Peruvian bishops “to say: 'in seeking holiness you have to come together in a vision that brings Christ to all'.”

Another key theme of the trip, the cardinal said, will be the role of Peruvian saints, which the Pope brought up in their meeting yesterday, and which he mentioned in a short videomessage he released for the trip in August.

“In a few words he told me that Peru has many saints and great saints, and I think that this is something that moves me and that I hope will be developed in this trip,” the cardinal said.

Among the most well-known Peruvian saints are Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, and and Toribio de Mogroviejo.

According to Cipriani, the Pope's favorite is Martin de Porres, who was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman. The saint had wanted to enter the Dominican order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a 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 friars' quarters. Eventually, he was permitted to join the order despite the law, and he worked with the sick in the infirmary.

On Martin de Porres, Francis says “he likes him more than anyone because of the broom, because he had to clean many things so that the Church was better,” Cipriani said.

Other big themes for the trip, the cardinal said, will be environmental issues, particularly related to the Amazon region, and the youth.

The highlight will be the Pope's visit to Puerto Maldonado, an area of the Amazon affected by extreme poverty and which has a wide variety of wildlife. During his visit there, Pope Francis is going to see “a lot of poverty, a lot of (the) force of nature.”

When it comes to the nation's youth, Cipriani said Francis is going to see a lot of young people “very excited for the coming of the Pope.”

Pope Francis' visit, he said, is important above all because “the Vicar of Christ is coming … it's a wonderful occasion in which God blesses the Peruvian people.”

Peru, he said, “needs the presence of a man that sows peace, unity and joy among us, and who strengthens us in the faith. Because of this we are awaiting him with enthusiasm.”

Above all, Peru will greet the Pope with “great joy, with a lot of noise, with the streets full,” he said, adding that the Pope “is going to have a great time.”

 

Alvaro de Juana contributed to this report.

Pope appoints Washington auxiliary as new bishop of Richmond

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 6:13 AM

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2017 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop Barry C. Knestout, until now one of three auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Washington, as the next bishop of the Diocese of Richmond.

He fills the vacancy left by Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo, who died Aug. 17.

In a statement made at the time of the announcement, the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said that the appointment “is good news and reason for us to rejoice with the Diocese of Richmond.”

During Knestout’s time serving the Archdiocese of Washington, “he has demonstrated his pastoral skills, his commitment to the Church and her teaching, and his devoted service to those entrusted to his care,” Wuerl said.

He has served the Archdiocese of Washington in a number of capacities, most notably as a pastor, auxiliary bishop, vicar general and moderator of the curia, Wuerl continued, voicing his gratitude to have worked in ministry alongside Knestout.

He also pointed out his influence in helping to organize the archdiocese’s first synod, his hand in working to revitalize the local Catholic educational system, and his help in opening the new Saint John Paul II Seminary.

“With great appreciation we thank Bishop Knestout as he takes on his new responsibilities and we ask God’s blessings on him.”

Knestout, 55, was born June 11, 1962, in Maryland. He studied architecture at the University of Maryland before entering Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg in 1985. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in June 1989.

He served at two parishes as parochial vicar before serving as priest-secretary to Cardinal James A. Hickey from 1994 until the cardinal's death in 2004. He also served as priest-secretary to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick in 2001 and from 2003-2004.

In 1999 he was given the title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II.

He was executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry from 2001-2003 and served as pastor of St. John Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring in 2004.

Cardinal Wuerl appointed him secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns in Oct. 2006, then in April 2007, he was made moderator of the curia and vicar for administration, a role in which he helps Wuerl to manage and oversee administrative affairs.

He is also a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Colombus, a member of the Order of Malta and of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

In 2008, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington and titular bishop of Leavenworth by Benedict XVI. His ordination as bishop took place on Dec. 29, 2008.

Catholic leadership conference in Chicago aims to ‘inspire and equip’

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 2:05 AM

Chicago, Ill., Dec 5, 2017 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands of Catholic leaders from all walks of life will ring in the new year at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) SLS Leadership Conference, which will offer five days of fellowship and evangelical instruction in the heart of Chicago, IL.

“Sometimes it can feel lonely trying to reach those in the world who seem too busy and distracted to realize God’s love for them,” said Paul DeBuff, a previous conference attendee.

“The FOCUS SLS Conference not only gave me practical tools to help me reach the world around me for Christ, but it also encouraged me that I was not alone in this effort to make disciples of all nations,” he told CNA.

SLS is a leadership conference for church leaders of all types, including religious education teachers, bishops, chaplains, missionaries, students, bible study leaders, lay ministers, and seminarians. While SLS was previously a private event, it is now open to the public to anyone who is pursing leadership in evangelization.

The organization’s website says the event hopes to allow attendees to “be inspired by world-class speakers, be renewed in the sacraments and adoration, and be ignited with zeal for the mission to make disciples of all nations.”

The conference, titled “SLS18: Inspire & Equip,” will take place from Jan. 2-6 and will host speakers including Bishop Robert Barron, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sr. Bethany Madonna, Dr. Edward Sri, and Curtis Martin, among others.

SLS will also offer three different tracks to specifically minister to each group of church leaders: a collegiate track, a lifelong mission track, and a campus ministry track.

Adoration, the sacraments, evening concerts, entertainment, educational sessions and other resources will also be available. More than 100 priests concelebrated Masses at the last SLS conference, and more than 1,000 confessions were heard.

The main goal of SLS is to equip current and aspiring church leaders of all levels to gain confidence in leading bible studies and prayer, inviting others into discipleship, and teaching the truths of the Catholic faith to others.

“At SLS, I was able to learn a concept, such as Ignatian prayer, in the morning during Training Sessions, then solidify it in my mind by teaching it to my peers in the afternoon power sessions,” recalled a previous SLS attendee, Adam Sanchez, in a statement on the SLS website.

“It inspired me to see the vibrancy of the Church among my peers and grow in hope for our future,” Sanchez continued.

Since FOCUS first held its inaugural National Conference in 1999, more than 53,000 people have attended FOCUS events over the years. The last SLS conference was held in 2016 in Dallas, TX and hosted more than 3,400 people. The SLS conference is held every other year, alternating with the SEEK conference, which is aimed at college students.

Registration is still open, with commuter and day passes available: https://sls18.com/registration/general/