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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.
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Archbishop to UN: Christians are critical to Iraq’s future

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:01 PM

New York City, N.Y., Dec 4, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A UN panel met last week to discuss the aftermath of the Islamic State’s occupation in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, saying that the region’s future depends upon the preservation of the practices of pluralism and diversity.

“During ISIS’ occupation of Nineveh, even as it sought to eliminate the religious minorities completely, many from the majority population were also victimized as their rights evaporated,” stated Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus at the event.

“Without minorities, rights often vanish for everyone,” Anderson continued, according to a press release.

The panel was hosted in a joint effort by the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations and the Knights of Columbus, as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The event took place at UN headquarters on Nov. 30 and was titled “Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region.” It was also part of the USCCB’s overarching initiative called “Solidarity in Suffering: A Week of Awareness and Education for Persecuted Christians.”

Some of the panelists included Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Edward Clancy, the director of outreach and evangelization for Aid to the Church in Need, USA, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN, and Fr. Salar Kajo, a parish priest from the Nineveh region.

The panelists emphasized that pluralism and the flourishing of diversity are crucial players for the successful future of Iraq, with a particular emphasis on the local minorities.

Archbishop Warda noted that Christians in particular are a “key partner for the future of pluralism in Iraq,” and should be considered “part of the solution, not part of the problem, in terms of bringing peace and humans rights” to the country.

The Nineveh Plain, a territory between the city of Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan, was overtaken by the Islamic State in 2014, forcing tens of thousands of people into exile and displacement. Two years later, Iraqi forces liberated the region, which was known to have a large Christian population.

The situation in the Nineveh Plain still remains uncertain, as many families, religious groups and minorities are questioning the return to their homes. During this delicate time, the UN panel voiced that respect and collaboration with minorities is critically important.

To that end, the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee has been created, in which the region’s three major Christian communities are collaborating to work more effectively. These communities include the Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Catholic and Syrian Orthodox churches.

Archbishop Auza noted that the Holy See would put forth committed efforts to make sure that Christians “can return to their places of origin and live in dignity and safety with the basic social, political and economic frameworks necessary to ensure community cohesion.”

“Daesh sought to eliminate pluralism and diversity from the Nineveh Plain,” Auza said.

“Therefore, the only way to make sure Daesh cannot claim victory is to restore, and restore urgently, pluralism and diversity to the region.”

Pence meets with Iraqi archbishop ahead of Middle East trip

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:16 PM

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2017 / 05:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil on Monday for a “substantial discussion” on the needs of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

“I updated him on the situation facing our people and expressed our hope that peace would soon come to Nineveh,” Warda said in a statement about the Dec. 4 meeting.

Since 2014, the Islamic State has forced thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes after telling them they must convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant tax, or be killed. Many of these Christians have resettled in or around Erbil.

Warda has often spoken out on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and was in the United States for “Solidarity in Suffering,” a Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians, an event that began on Nov. 26 and was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a tweet, Pence said his meeting with Warda was an “(i)mportant dialogue...about (President Trump’s) commitment to directly assist persecuted Christians & religious minorities in Iraq. I’m heading to the Middle East this month to discuss U.S. plans to accelerate funding those impacted in the region.”

Warda said that “On behalf of our people, I expressed our gratitude for his promise of swift assistance to our communities who suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS.”

“I also mentioned to the Vice President the importance of the aid and support we have received from the Knights of Columbus in the United States, and Aid to the Church in Need in Europe,” he added.

Pence’s coming trip to the Middle East is part of a series of conferences he has attended regarding the plight of Christians in the region. In October, Pence addressed In Defense of Christians’ annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East. The vice president said groups such as the Islamic State have singled out Christians for persecution and noted that Christianity could disappear from some parts of the Middle East.

“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are – vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ,” Pence said at the time.

Warda said that during their meeting, he gave Pence a crucifix from Karemlesh, a town near Mosul which was “targeted and badly damaged when ISIS invaded.”

“I also assured him of our prayers and told him that if he ever visits Iraq, he is most welcome in Erbil.” 

Bishops: Congress can still address "fundamental flaws" in tax law

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:00 PM

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Senate tax reform bill passed Dec. 2, like its counterpart passed earlier by the House of Representatives, has “fundamental flaws,” according to a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  

The bill-reconciliation process, begun in Washington today, offers an opportunity for legislators to address the bills’ shortfalls, the bishops say.
 
“Congress must act now to fix the fundamental flaws found in both bills, and choose the policy approaches that help individuals and families struggling within our society,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a statement released Saturday.

Dewane added that the bishops are reviewing the Senate’s final version of tax reform legislation. They will provide analysis and comments on key improvements they think are necessary to include in the bill’s final version.

Two separate versions of the tax reform bill were passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The versions differ on the specifics of some deductions and credits, and these differences will need to be reconciled before the legislature approves a final bill.

The bishops cautioned that the reconciled version should prioritize poor and struggling families and individuals.  “For the sake of all people—but especially those we ought, in justice, to prioritize—Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral considerations outlined in our previous letters,”  Dewane stated.

One proposed provision intended to aid struggling families was Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) amendment expanding child tax credit, which did not receive enough support in the Senate to pass.

While the Senate version of the bill raised the child tax credit from the $1,600 proposed by the House to $2,000 for qualifying families, Rubio’s proposal would have expanded the tax credit to payroll taxes, meaning that even the poorest families would benefit from the provision. The plan proposed offsetting the costs of the expanded credit by reducing the typical corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 22 percent, instead of 20 percent, as the bill called originally called for.

David Cloutier, Associate Professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that proposals like Rubio’s tax credit highlight the moral issues at play in the tax bill.  Tax relief for families is intended to recognize “that families do important work for the common good, and so government should help them do that work,” he said.

While a high corporate tax rate can have “detrimental effects on the common good because it drives businesses out of the United States,” Cloutier said, Catholics need to carefully consider the needs of those who are struggling the most when making judgements on how to serve the common good.

He said that, in his opinion, “there's a really strong argument” for extending a $2,000 credit to parents in the most pressing financial situations. “It can go a long way.”

Cloutier said that while “some kind of corporate tax cut,” might also benefit the common good, that “quibbling over 2 percent” is a much harder argument when the child tax credit, or similar proposals aimed at promoting the common good and helping those who are struggling most in society, hang in the balance.

In a Nov. 22 letter, the US bishops emphasized the principles of just tax reform. “A change in the tax code should not place families in a worse situation because they have welcomed the gift of life,” they said.

“Congress must take adequate time to analyze the complexities of these proposed reforms, and make certain that the nation does not further enshrine indifference toward the poor into law,” the bishops added.

Pro-life student assaulted outside Planned Parenthood

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:53 PM

Roanoke, Va., Dec 4, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A 15-year-old student was taken to the hospital after a woman punched her in the face outside of a Planned Parenthood in Roanoke, Virginia on Saturday morning.

The student, Purity Thomas, is a high school leader with Students for Life of America and was “peacefully sidewalk counseling” with a small group of other leaders outside of Planned Parenthood on Saturday morning when a woman sparked the altercation, the group said in a statement.

During sidewalk counseling, Students for Life leaders offer women support, encouragement and resources for pregnancy care instead of abortion.

On Saturday, the students had congregated in a grassy area outside of the abortion clinic where volunteers typically meet. Because that Planned Parenthood location performs abortions on Saturday, pro-life leaders usually offer counseling, prayer and peaceful protest outside of that location on a weekly basis.

The group of student leaders were standing away from the entrance of the Planned Parenthood when a woman reportedly threatened the group and said she would beat them up and “[expletive] them up,” the group said.

The woman reportedly approached the students and stole a sign that read “All people are made in the image of God.” At this point one of the students began filming, and the woman approached the group a second time, attempting to steal another sign before punching Thomas in the face.

The incident was caught on video.

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“This act of violence against a group of peaceful pro-life students who were outside a Planned Parenthood offering love and support to pregnant women serves as a sad reflection on the state of debate today,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement.

“It’s horrific that a minor expressing love for pregnant women was targeted for violence.”

After the incident, one of the student leaders called the police, and Thomas was taken to the hospital for her injuries. She was examined and released Saturday.

Hawkins added that this ”is not an isolated incident. Across the country we are witnessing a rise in the number of incidents of vandalism and violence against peaceful pro-life speech,” she said. “We pray that the assailant from today’s attack is brought to justice swiftly. But we also pray for the protection of those who volunteer their time to speak for the innocent, preborn infants and their mothers.”

 

The perfect Christmas gift: a wedding dress for a poor bride

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:00 PM

Quito, Ecuador, Dec 4, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic wedding planner has encouraged married women in Ecuador to “put a smile on the face of a poor bride” by donating their wedding dresses this Christmas.

“The goal is to have women give up their wedding dresses, since they don't have a real use for them  anymore. What's better than keeping them is to give them to someone who needs one,” Maria Alejandra Guerra told ACI Prensa.

Guerra explained that the idea came to her Nov. 26, when she went with a group of missionaries from the Bonds of Marian Love Movement to St. Arnoldo Janssen Parish, located in a poor section of Guayaquil, to coordinate a Christmas campaign for the children there.

She said that the pastor, Fr. John Codjoe, told them that one of the parish's ministries was marriage preparation, and that because “most of these women don't have wedding gowns,” that he was looking for  dresses to be donated.

“So that little light went on, because that was something I wanted to do for some time, and so I said to him 'Father, I'm a wedding planner, I'm going to help you and I'm going to promote this for your parish,” Guerra related.

Fr. Codjoe “was thrilled” with the proposal and told her about 19 couples who would soon be getting married in the parish.

“That's why I decided to launch this campaign on my social media. I didn't think I was going to get a good reception because some time ago I did a poll and most women told me they preferred to sell their wedding dresses. But it turned out just the opposite and now seven women have offered to give me their dresses,” she said.

“I'm going to go pick up the dresses and I'll bring them over to St. Arnoldo Janssen parish. I even told Fr. Codjoe that I wanted to attend the couples' weddings,” she commented.

On her Instagram account where she launched the campaign, Maria Alejandra Guerra said  that Christmas is a “joy, it's giving something to someone you don't know but who needs it more...'giving without remembering and receiving without forgetting,' because that bride you give the dress to will be immensely grateful.”

She hopes that “we can put smiles on the faces of the brides most in need.”

Guerra said that “if I succeed in coming up with the dresses that Fr. Codjoe needs for next year and I continue to get more dresses, then I'll be looking for other parishes that will want to receive them as  donations.”

She also invited married women from other Latin American countries to look for churches where they could give their wedding dresses to low-income couples who are preparing for marriage.

For women who live in Mexico, Guerra suggested they give their gowns to the charitable initiative called “Brides with a Cause”  which collects dresses throughout the country to give them to needy young women.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Pope Francis: God is calling you. Don’t make excuses.

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:59 PM

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2017 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Do not wait to begin living out your vocation, Pope Francis said on Monday, encouraging people to stop making excuses for not answering God’s call to share in his mission in a particular way.

“The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth,” the Pope said in a message released Dec. 4.

“It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now!”

Pope Francis’ message was sent ahead of the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will take place on April 22, 2018, the fourth Sunday of Easter, with the theme of: “Listening, discerning, and living the call of the Lord.”

“Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now,” Francis said.

The Lord continues to call us to follow him, and we shouldn’t wait to be perfect in order to answer with our “generous ‘yes,’” he continued. We don’t have to be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead, should open our hearts to the voice of the Lord.

We are each called “to listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us.”

Quoting from a pre-Synod meeting of bishops, the Pope explained that spiritual discernment is the process “by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one’s state in life.”

But today it is becoming more and more difficult to listen to the voice of the Spirit in our lives, he noted, especially as “immersed as we are in a society full of noise, overstimulated and bombarded by information.”

Often, this outer noise is accompanied by an interior confusion as well. “This prevents us from pausing and enjoying the taste of contemplation, reflecting serenely on the events of our lives, going about our work with confidence in God’s loving plan, and making a fruitful discernment,” he said.

The Pope also warned about being closed off, or too concerned with ourselves to be open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

“We will never discover the special, personal calling that God has in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world,” he said.

“We would lose the chance to dream big and to play our part in the unique and original story that God wants to write with us.”

Every Christian should grow in the ability to “read within” his or her life, he stressed, in order to understand how and in what way they are being called to share in the Lord’s mission.

The Pope offered reassurance, saying if God “lets us realize that he is calling us to consecrate ourselves totally to his kingdom, then we should have no fear! It is beautiful – and a grace – to be completely and forever consecrated to God and the service of our brothers and sisters.”

 

Pope Francis is praying for grandparents this December

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:14 PM

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2017 / 10:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his prayer video for the month of December, Pope Francis prays for grandparents and the elderly, urging people to respect and support them, that their wisdom may continue to be passed down to new generations.

“A people that does not take care of grandparents, that does not treat them well, has no future!” the Pope said in the video. “The elderly have wisdom.”

He also noted that the elderly have a great responsibility to pass on to others their life experiences, and the histories of their family, community and culture.

“Let us keep in mind our elders, so that sustained by families and institutions, (they) may with their wisdom and experience collaborate in the education of new generations,” he concluded.

Released Dec. 4, the video takes a more light-hearted approach than past prayer intention videos, first depicting a young man who ignores several elderly people he passes on the street.

Soon after the young man hears lively jazz music coming from a building, and upon entering, discovers the three he passed earlier all playing music together. They then invite him to join them.

The importance of the relationship between the elderly and the younger generation, particularly between grandparents and their grandkids, is one of Pope Francis’ favorite topics.

Last year in Rome he held an audience with around 7,000 grandparents, urging them to talk with their grandkids about the faith.

“And talk to your grandchildren, talk. Let them ask you questions,” he said. They may be different from you, they may have other hobbies, “they like other music... but they need the elderly, this ongoing dialogue.”

“You are an important presence, because your experience is a precious treasure, essential to looking to the future with hope and responsibility,” the Pope said at that encounter, Oct. 15, 2016.

At a special Mass in June he said that the older generation is called to be spiritual “grandparents” to young people, sharing their experiences, especially of the faith.

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

“I ask the Lord for all of us that he give us this grace.”  

 

Mexican-born priest appointed auxiliary bishop of Brownsville

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:01 AM

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2017 / 05:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Oratorian Fr. Mario Alberto Aviles as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville.

He joins Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who has served as the sixth bishop of Brownsville since February 2010.

Aviles, who has served as Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri since 2012, has also been appointed the titular bishop of the See of Cataquas in modern-day Algeria.

The Oratory of St. Philip Neri is a pontifical society of apostolic life made up of Catholic priests and lay-brothers. There are 86 congregations around the world, including several in the United States.

The Procurator General acts as the representative of the congregations to the Holy See, usually residing in Rome.

Aviles, 48, was born in Mexico City on Sept. 16, 1969. In 1986 he entered the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Mexico City, two years later moving to the Pharr Oratory in the Diocese of Brownsville.

He first attended the Catholic Panamerican University in Mexico City, then transferred to Rome to study philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum University.

He received a master's of divinity at the Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. in 2000. He also has a master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix.

On July 21, 1998 he was ordained a priest for the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.

From his ordination he was Parochial Vicar of the parish of St. Jude Thaddeus in Pharr, Texas until 2002, he then served as parish priest of Sacred Heart parish in Hidalgo.

He was Dean of the Oratory Academy and Oratory Athenaeum in Pharr from 2005-2012 and a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council at Brownsville since 2011.

He has been Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri since 2012 and speaks Spanish, English and Italian.

The Diocese of Brownsville, formed in 1965, encompasses the counties of Willacy, Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr at the southern border of Texas. Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr also border the Rio Grande River, which divides the Diocese of Brownsville from the dioceses of Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico.

The diocese is 4,226 square miles in area with a population of approximately 978,369 inhabitants, of which 831,613 are Catholic.

What does it really mean to observe Advent?

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:04 AM

Denver, Colo., Dec 4, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA).- With the first Sunday of Advent behind us, the liturgical season of preparing for Christmas is well underway.    But what does it actually mean to “observe Advent?” The observation of other liturgical seasons may be more readily apparent – Lent is clearly a time for prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, while Christmas and Easter are clearly times for celebration.    Search Pinterest for “how to celebrate Advent” and everything from ideas for a do-it-yourself Jesse Tree, to instructions for a handmade Advent calendar bunting, to a tutorial on “how to make your own wreath from foraged materials” appears.   The penitential time of preparation before Christmas seems to have taken on a crafty life of its own over the last few years, thanks to websites such as Pinterest and Instructables. Add in a few glowing shots of your friend’s handcrafted nativity set on her Instagram feed and you’ve got a recipe for some serious Advent-envy. 
While all of these crafts and activities can help one better celebrate Christmas, it’s important not to let them distract from the true purpose of the season: preparation for the Incarnation, said Fr. Mike Schmitz, chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.   Fr. Schmitz told CNA that one of the things that gets easily overlooked about Advent is “that it’s actually a season of penance” and as such, the Church asks us to practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.    “That’s kind of like the buzzkill of Advent because it’s like, ‘OK, don’t have too much fun because, remember, this is a penitential season’,” he said.    However, just because it’s a season of penance doesn’t mean we need to be somber.    “I think there’s some great ways that a person or a family can make that – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – a part of the celebration of preparation for Christmas. It doesn’t have to be a dour kind of experience,” he said.   The simplest way Catholics can prepare for Christmas, Fr. Schmitz suggested, is by going to confession during Advent.    “During Advent the faithful are asked not only to prepare themselves to celebrate Christmas, but we’re called to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus at the end of time,” he said.    “There’s a lot of good ways to do that, but I think one of the best ways a person could possibly do that is to go to confession.”   For Kathryn Whitaker of the blog, “Team Whitaker,” observing Advent is all about knowing what works best for your family.    “There are lots and lots of beautiful ideas on Pinterest and other places, but I think you have to find what suits your family and then not apologize or feel badly because someone else is doing it differently,” she said.    In an attempt to dial back the frenzy of Christmas morning, she said her family began look for ways to serve others and be grateful for what they already have in the weeks leading up to it.   “I think for us, it’s just been about pouring a little bit more love, particularly in these next four weeks, in everything that we do.”   The Whitakers pick a local family in need to “adopt” each year by providing gifts and food, or they donate presents to Brown Santa – a tradition named for the brown uniforms members of the Travis County, Texas Sheriff’s Office wear that provides assistance to underprivileged residents, particularly during the Christmas season.   That, plus “lighting” her kindergartner’s Advent wreath – made from tissue paper and toilet paper rolls – and having a Jesse Tree, an ancient tradition of decorating a tree with ornaments that represent the story of salvation, will make up their Advent, which also includes Mass and confession.    Over the years, Whitaker and her family have adapted their Advent season to their “family season.” The year that she and her husband brought their premature son home from the hospital, for example, all they could do was put up the Christmas tree with some ornaments.   “And that was OK,” she said. “And then knowing next Advent, or the next liturgical season that comes up, you can do more. Or you can do less.”   Much like Whitaker, Bonnie Engstrom of the blog “A Knotted Life” said that the best way for a family to observe Advent is by “looking through the options and seeing what will work for them, what will help them create meaningful lessons and memories during that season of their family's life.”   “Then you just gotta walk away from the rest, appreciating that it works for some but confident that you're doing a good job.”   In recent years, the Engstroms have “scaled back our Advent activities by a ton” by just focusing on the Advent wreath and a few saints’ feast days. Festivities that many Americans typically do in the time before Christmas – such as looking at light displays, drinking cocoa and watching Christmas movies – are all saved for the actual Christmas season.    “It has greatly bolstered Christmas beyond December 25th and has brought a lot more peace and joy to our home, while greatly reducing the stress,” she said, which is a definite “win-win.”   Gradually filling the nativity scene, adding ornaments to their Jesse Tree and celebrating St. Nicholas’ feast day with her kids are all fun ways that Engstrom said she can “trick them into learning about her faith.”   While engaging her kids in celebrating Advent is important, she said observing this season has also helped her grow in her relationship with God.   “The silence, the simple beauty, the focus on preparation,” she said, “those things have really helped me create the still in my interior and exterior life for God to speak to me.”    Essentially, there’s not just one way to do Advent, and that’s fine.

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 5, 2015.  

Advent is a time to prioritize God, overcome indifference, Pope says

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 6:30 AM

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2017 / 04:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis kicked off the Church's Advent season saying it is a time to let go of the worldly distractions that take us away from God, and focus on growing closer to him through prayer and concern for others.  

Referring to the day's readings, which stress the importance of being vigilant, the Pope said “the watchful person is one who, in the noise of the world, does not let themselves be overwhelmed by distraction or superficiality, but lives in a full and conscious way, with a concern above all for others.”

With this attitude, we quickly become aware “of the tears and necessity of our neighbor and we can also welcome the human and spiritual qualities and capacities,” he said, adding that an attentive person, “also turns to the world, trying to counteract indifference and the cruelty of it, rejoicing in the treasures of beauty that also exist and must be preserved.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Angelus address, which took place on the first Sunday of Advent.

He focused his address on the day's Gospel reading from Mark, in which Jesus tells his disciples to “Be watchful! Be alert!,” because “you do not know when the time will come.”

Advent, he said, is a time given to us “to welcome the Lord who comes to meet us, to verify our desire for God, to look ahead and prepare ourselves for the return of Christ.”

Christ will return again at Christmas, when we remember how he came to us “in the humility of the human condition.” However, Christ also comes to each of us “every time we are disposed to receive him,” Francis said, and “he will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.”

“Because of this, we must always be watchful and attentive to the Lord with the hope of meeting him.”

Turning to the Gospel, when Jesus urges his disciples, and each of us, to “be watchful and alert,” Francis said the person who is vigilant and alert is the one “who welcomes the invitation to watch, that is, not to let themselves be overwhelmed by the sleep of discouragement, the lack of hope, or by delusions.”

At the same time, this person also rejects “the solicitation of the vanities of which the world overflows and behind which, at times, personal and familiar serenity are sacrificed.”

Pope Francis then turned to the day's first reading from the Book of Isaiah, in which the prophet described how for the people of Israel, it seemed that God had left them alone to wander on paths that were far from his own.

However, “this was an effect of the infidelity of the people themselves,” he said, explaining that we often find ourselves in the same state of infidelity to God's call: “he shows us the good path, the path of faith and love, but we look for our happiness somewhere else.”

So to be watchful and alert, then, “are the presuppositions” to stop wandering on paths that are far from God, “lost in our sins and in our infidelity.”

“They are the conditions that allow God to interrupt our existence, to restore meaning to it and to value his presence, full of goodness and tenderness,” he said, and closed his address praying that Mary, the model and icon of vigilant expectation, would guide us to an encounter with her son Jesus, “reviving our love for him.”

After reciting the traditional Angelus prayer, Francis noted how just yesterday he returned from a six-day visit to Burma – also called Myanmar – and Bangladesh, and voiced his gratitude for being able to meet the people in both countries, especially the small Catholic populations of each.

The Pope said he was “edified” by their witness, and the many faces “tried by life,” but who were still “noble and smiling,” made a big impression.  

He also voiced concern and prayer for Honduras, praying that the country would be able to “peacefully overcome” a recent escalation of political unrest and violent protests surrounding the country's elections after a key candidate was accused of voter fraud.

Full text of Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference from Bangladesh

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 8:15 PM

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2017 / 06:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a 58-minute conversation with journalists on his return flight from Bangladesh to Rome on Saturday, Pope Francis discussed the Rohingya people of Burma, evangelization, nuclear warfare, and plans for future travel, among other topics.  

Here is CNA's full transcript of the Pope's in-flight press conference:


Greg Burke: Thank you, Holy Father. First of all, thanks. You have chosen two interesting countries to visit. Two very different countries but with something in common, that is, in each of these countries is a small but very active Church, full of joy, full of young people and full of the spirit of service for all of society. We certainly have seen a lot, we have learned a lot, but we’re interested also in what you have seen and what you have learned.

Pope Francis: Good evening, if we think of here, or good afternoon if we think of Rome, and thank you so much for your work… as Greg said, two very interesting countries, with very traditional, deep, rich cultures. For this, I think that your work has been very intense. Thank you so much.

Greg Burke: The first question is from Sagrario Ruiz de Apodarca, from Spanish National Radio.

Sagrario Ruiz (Radio Nacional Espanola): Good evening, Holy Father. Thank you. I’m asking the question in Spanish with the permission of my Italian colleagues because I don’t yet trust my Italian, but if you would answer in Italian, that would be perfect. The crisis of the Rohingya has tempered a large part of this trip. Yesterday, they were called by name finally in Bangladesh. Do you wish you would have done the same in Burma, named them with this word, Rohingya? And, what did you feel yesterday when you asked forgiveness?

Pope Francis: It’s not the first time. I had said it publicly already in St. Peter’s Square, in an Angelus, in an Audience… and it was already known what I thought about this thing and what I had said. Your question is interesting because it brings me to reflect on how I seek to communicate. For me, the most important thing is that the message arrives and for this I seek to say the things, step by step, and listen to the answers so that the message may arrive. An example in daily life: a boy, a girl in the crisis of adolescence can say what they think but throwing the door in the face of the other… and the message doesn’t arrive. It closes. I was interested that this message would arrive, for this I saw that if in the official speech I would have said that word, I would have thrown the door in a face. But I described it, the situations, the rights, no one excluded, the citizenship, to allow myself in the private conversations to go beyond. I was very, very satisfied with the talks that I was able to have, because it is true that I haven’t, let’s say it this way, had the pleasure throwing the door in a face, publicly, a denouncement, but I did have the satisfaction of dialoguing and letting the other speak and to say my part and in that way the message arrived and to such a point did it arrive that it continued and continued and finished yesterday with that, no? And this is very important in communicating, the concern is that the message arrives. Often, denouncements, also in the media, but I don’t want to offend, with some aggressive (tactics) close the dialogue, close the door and the message doesn’t arrive. And you who are specialists in making messages arrive, also to me, understand this well.

Then, something I heard yesterday… This wasn’t planned like this. I knew that I would meet the Rohingya. I didn’t know where or how, but this was the condition of the trip and they were preparing the ways, and after so much management also from the government, with Caritas… the government allowed this trip, of these who came yesterday. Because the problem for the government who protects them and gives them hospitality - and this is big. What Bangladesh does for them is big, an example of welcoming. A small, poor country that has received 700,000. I think of the countries that close the doors. We must be grateful for the example that they’ve given us - The government must move through the international relations with Burma, with permits, dialogue, because they are in a refugee camp with a special status. But in the end they come scared, they didn’t know. Someone there had told them, “You greet the Pope, don’t say anything,” someone who wasn’t from the government of Bangladesh, people who were working on it. At a certain point after the inter-religious dialogue, the inter-religious prayer, this prepared the hearts of us all. We were very open religiously. I at least felt that way. The moment arrived that they were coming to greet me, in a straight line, and I didn’t like that. One, the other... but then they immediately wanted to send them away from the scene and there I got mad and a chewed them out a bit. I’m a sinner. I told them so many times the word “respect, respect. Stay here.” And they stayed there. Then, having heard them one by one with an interpreter who spoke their language, I began to feel things inside, but (I said to myself) “I cannot let them go without saying a word.” I asked for the microphone. And I began to speak. I don’t remember what I said. I know that at a certain point I asked forgiveness, twice. I don’t remember. Your question is what did I feel. In that moment I cried. I tried not to let it be seen. They cried, too. And then I thought the we were in an inter-religious meeting and the leaders of the other religious traditions were there. “Why don’t you come too?” These were all of our Rohingya. They greeted the Rohingya and I didn’t know what more to say. I watched them. I greeted them. And I thought, all of us have spoken, the religious leaders, but one of you must make a prayer and one who I believe was an Imam or let’s say a “cleric” of their religion, made that prayer. They also prayed there with us, and seeing all that happened and the whole path, I felt that the message had arrived. I don’t know if I satisfied your question but part was planned, but the majority came out spontaneously. Then, I was told that today a program was made by one of you, I don’t know if they’re here or… from the TG1, a really long program, who did it…

Greg Burke: TG1 is still there in Bangladesh.

Pope Francis: Because it was replayed by TG4 and - I don’t know. I haven’t seen it, but some who are here have seen it - it’s a reflection that the message had arrived not only here. You have seen the front pages of the newspapers today. All have received the message and I haven’t heard any criticism. Maybe they are there but I haven’t heard them.
 
Ruiz: Thank you.

Greg Burke: The next question is from George Kallivayalil, an Indian who has made the trip for the Deepika Daily.

George Kallivayalil (Deepika Daily): Holy Father, your trip to South Asia was huge success, we know that you wish to go to India, too, in this trip. What exactly was the reason not to visit India in this trip? Indians in India, millions of the faithful still hope that Holy Father visit India next year. Can we expect you to be in India in 2018?

Pope Francis: The first plan was to go to India and Bangladesh, but then the process to go to India was delayed and the time was pushing so I chose these two countries: Bangladesh and next door Myanmar. And it was providential because to visit India, you need one single trip, because you’ve got to go to the south, the center, the east, the northeast, to the north for the different cultures of India. I hope to do it in 2018 if I’m alive! But the idea was India and Bangladesh, then the time forced us to make this choice. Thanks.

Greg Burke: And now from the French group, Etienne Loraillere of KTO, the French Catholic Television.

Etienne Loraillere (KTO): Holiness, there is a question from the group of journalists from France. Some are opposed to inter-religious dialogue and evangelization. During this trip you have spoken of dialogue for building peace. But, what is the priority? Evangelizing or dialoguing for peace? Because to evangelize means bringing about conversions that provoke tension and sometimes provoke conflicts between believers. So, what is the priority, evangelizing or dialoguing? Thanks.

Pope Francis: First distinction: evangelizing is not making proselytism. The Church grows not for proselytism but for attraction, that is for testimony, this was said by Pope Benedict XVI. What is evangelization like? Living the Gospel and bearing witness to how one lives the Gospel, witnessing to the Beatitudes, giving testimony to Matthew 25, the Good Samaritan, forgiving 70 times 7 and in this witness the Holy Spirit works and there are conversions, but we are not very enthusiastic to make conversions immediately. If they come, they wait, you speak, your tradition… seeking that a conversion be the answer to something that the Holy Spirit has moved in my heart before the witness of the Christians.

During the lunch I had with the young people at World Youth Day in Krakow, 15 or so young people from the entire world, one of them asked me this question: what do I Have to say to a classmate at the university, a friend, good, but he is atheist… what do I have to say to change him, to convert him? The answer was this: the last thing you have to do is say something. You live your Gospel and if he asks you why you do this, you can explain why you do it. And let the Holy Spirit activate him. This is the strength and the meekness of the Holy Spirit in the conversion. It is not a mental convincing, with apologetics, with reasons, it is the Spirit that makes the vocation. We are witnesses, witnesses of the Gospel. 'Testimony' is a Greek word that means martyr. Every day martyrdom, martyrdom also of blood, when it arrives. And your question: what is the priority, peace or conversion? But when you live with testimony and respect, you make peace. Peace starts to break down in this field when proselytism begins and there are so many ways of proselytism and this is not the Gospel. I don’t know if I answered.

Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness. And now the Anglophone group. Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter.

Joshua McElwee (National Catholic Reporter) : Thanks so much, Holiness. A change of theme. During the Cold War, Pope Saint John Paul II said that the world policy of nuclear deterrence was judged as morally acceptable. Last month, you said to a conference on disarmament that the very possession of nuclear arms was to be condemned. What has changed in the world that led you to make this change? What role have the episodes and the threats between President Trump and Kim Jong Un had on your decision? What would you say to politicians that do not want to renounce their nuclear arsenals nor decrease them?

Pope Francis: I would prefer if the questions on the trip were done first, I say this to everyone, but I'll make an exception because you asked a question. Now we'll do the questions on the trip, then I'll say something about the trip, and then the other questions will come. What has changed? Irrationality has changed (has increased). The encyclical Laudato Si comes to mind, the care of the created, of creation, from the time of John Paul II to all this many years have passed. How many? Do you have the date? (82)  82, 92, 2002, 2012...34 years. In the nuclear field, in 34 years it has gone beyond, beyond, beyond, beyond, and today we are at the limit. This can be a matter for discussion, it's my opinion, but I am convinced of my opinion: we are at the limit of liceity to have and use nuclear arms. Because today, with the nuclear arsenal so sophisticated, we risk the destruction of humanity or at least a great part (of it). This with Laudato Si.

What has changed? This: the growth in nuclear armament, it has also changed in that they are sophisticated and even cruel, they are also capable of destroying people, leaving...without touching structures, but we are at the limit, and because we are at the limit I ask myself this question: and this not as a pontifical magisterium, but it is the question a Pope makes. Today is it licit to maintain the arsenal of nuclear weapons as they are, or today, to save creation, to save humanity, is it not necessary to go backward? I go back to something I had said from Guarini, it's not mine, (but) there are two forms of culture:

First, the inculturation that God has given us, to create the culture through work, through investigation. We think of medical science, so much progress, so much culture, so many mechanical things. And man has the mission to create the culture received by the inculturation, but we arrive at a point where man has in hand with this culture the capacity to make another "inculturation," we think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This 60/70 years ago, the destruction and also this happened when also atomic energy can not have all the control. Think of the incidents in Ukraine. For this returning to arms, that are to conquer and destroy, I say we are at the limit of liceity.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness. Now they have given me the signal that the questions that we have about the trip are others. So, if you’d like to say something about the trip…

Pope Francis: I would like some more about the trip, because (otherwise) it would seem that the trip wasn’t that interesting.

Greg Burke: (Come, come) We’ve found another about the trip. Come now, Delia Gallagher of CNN.

Delia Gallagher (CNN): Holiness, I don’t know how much you’d like to respond, but I’m very curious about your meeting with General Haling because I’ve learned a lot about this situation being here and I’ve understood that, well, apart from Aung San Suu Kyi, there is also this military man that is very important in the crisis and you have met him in person. What type of meeting was it? How are you able to speak with him? Thanks.

Pope Francis: Clever the question… eh.. good, good. But I would distinguish between the two meetings, two types of meetings. Those meetings during which I went to meet people and those in which I received people. This general asked me to speak. And I received him. I never close the door. You ask to speak and enter. Speaking you never lose anything, you always win. It was a beautiful conversation. I couldn’t say because it was private, but I didn’t negotiate the truth. But I did it in a way that he understood a bit that the path as it was during the nasty times renewed again today isn’t viable. It was a good meeting, civilized and also there the message arrived.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness. I think that Gerard O’Connell.

Gerard O’Connell (America Magazine): Mine is a bit of a development of the questions from Delia. You met Aung San Suu Kyi, the president, the military, the monk who makes a bit of difficulty and then in Bangladesh you met the prime minister, the president, the Islamic leaders there and the Buddhist leaders in Myanmar. My question: what do you take away from all of these meetings? What prospects are there for the future of a better development in these two countries, in the situation also of the Rohingya?

Pope Francis: It won’t be easy to move ahead in a constructive development and it will not be easy for someone who wishes to go back. We are at a point where they have to study things. Someone - I don’t know if this is true - has said that the Rakhine state is one of the richest in precious stones and that possibly there are interests, being a land a little without people to work… but I don’t know if it’s true. These are just hypotheses that are said, also about Africa they say so many… but I believe that we are at a point where it won’t be easy to go ahead in the positive sense and it won’t be easy to go back, because of the awareness of humanity today… the fact of the return of the Rohingya, which the United Nations have said that the Rohingya are the most persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the world today. Well, this is a point that whomever has to go back must do so quickly. We are at a point there… that that dialogue… beginning with a step, another step, maybe a half step back and two ahead, but as human things are done, with benevolence, dialogue, never with violation, never with war. It isn’t easy. But is a turning-point. Is this turning-point being done for the good? Or is this a turning-point to go back? But yes, I don’t lose hope! But why? Sincerely, if the Lord has allowed this that we’ve seen yesterday, that we’ve experienced in a very reserved way, except for two speeches… the Lord promises something to promise another. I have Christian hope. And it’s known….

Greg Burke: Something yet about the trip? Valentina.

Valentina Alazraki (Televisa): On the trip, a question that we wished to asked before and then it didn’t go. We would like to know: a Pope that speaks about asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants every day… did you want to go to a Rohingya refugee camp? And why didn’t you go?

Pope Francis: I would have liked to go. I would have liked to go, but it wasn’t possible. The things are studied and it wasn’t possible for various factors, also the timing and the distance… but other factors as well. The refugee camp came with a representation, but I would have liked to, that is true. But it wasn’t possible.

Greg Burke: Enzo?

Enzo Romeo (TG2) : Holiness, thank you. I would like to ask you two things quickly. One is on globalization: we’ve seen especially in Bangladesh, and it is a reason for the question tied to the trip, that the nation is trying to get out of poverty but with systems that seem for us quite tough. We saw the Rana Square, the place where the building that was used for industrial textiles fell. 1100 people dead. 5,000 wounded. For 60 Euros per day they worked and in our restaurant to eat a plat of pasta and a pizza cost 50 Euro. No this seems incredible, right? In your opinion, from what you have seen and what you have heard, is it possible to get out of this mechanism? And then another thing is this that we’ve all thought: on the issue of the Rohingya, it seemed that there was also the will to intervene by jihadist groups (Al Qaida, ISIS) who right away, it appears, tried to make themselves the tutors of this people, of the freedom of this people. It’s interesting that the head of Christendom has shown himself more a friend in some way than these extremist groups. Is this sensation right?

Pope Francis: I’ll go from the second. There were groups of terrorists there who sought to take advantage of the situation of the Rohingya, who are a people of peace. This is like all the ethnicities, in all the religions there is always a fundamentalist group. We Catholics also have them. The military justify their intervention because of these groups. I try not to speak with these people. I try to speak with the victims, because the victims were the Rohingya people who on the one hand suffered that discrimination and on the other were defended by terrorists - and the government of Bangladesh has a very strong campaign, this is what I was told by ministers, of zero tolerance for terrorism not only for this, but to avoid other points - But these who are enrolled in ISIS are not Rohingya, but a fundamentalist, extremist, little group. But these make the ministers justify the intervention that has destroyed the good and the bad.

Greg Burke: Globalization, the first question…

Enzo Romeo: Bangladesh is seeking to go out from globalization, but at a very high price with the people exploited for little money.

Pope Francis: It’s one of the most serious problems. I’ve spoken about this in the private meetings. They are conscious of this. They are also conscious that liberty up until a certain point is conditioned, not only by the military, but also by the big international trusts and they have put focus on education and I believe that it has been a wise choice. And there are plans for education. They’ve shown me the percentages for the last years of how illiteracy has decreased. Quite a bit. And this is their choice, and I hope it goes well. The believe that with education the nation will go ahead.

Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness. Jean Marie Guenois from Le Figaro.

Jean Marie Guenois (Le Figaro): So, today Burma is the nation from which you come… before this you went to Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka. It gives the impression that you are going around China. So, two questions on China: is a trip to China being prepared? And, second question, what have you learned from this trip of the Asian mentality and also in light of this project from China? What is the Asian lesson for you?

Pope Francis: Today, the lady chancellor of the State of Burma has gone to Beijing. It can be seen that they are in dialogue there. Beijing has a great influence on the region, it is natural. I don’t know how many kilometers of border Burma has with (China)... also at the Masses there were Chinese who had come and I believe that these countries that surround it, China, also Laos, Cambodia, have a need for good relations. They are close and I see as wise, politically constructive, it can move ahead. It is true that China today is a world power. If we see it from this side it can change the picture, but it will be the political experts to explain it. I can’t and I don’t know. It seems natural that they would have good relations.

The trip to China is not being prepared. Be calm. For the moment, it is not being prepared. But, returning from Korea, when they told me that we were flying over Chinese territory, I wanted to say something: I would so much like to visit China. I would like to. It is not a hidden thing. The negotiations with China are at a high level, cultural. Today, for example, in these days there’s an exhibition of the Vatican Museums there. Then, there will be one or there has been one, I don’t know, of the Chinese museums in the Vatican. There are cultural, scientific relations, professors, priests who teach in Chinese state universities. Then, it’s mostly political dialogue for the Chinese Church, with that issue of the Patriotic Church, the underground church, which must go step by step delicately, as it is doing, slowly… I believe that in these days, today, tomorrow a sitting will start in Beijing of the mixed commission. Patience is needed. But the doors of the heart are open. And I believe that a trip to China will do well. I would like to do it.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness. Now a question more or less about the trip, if we remain on the trip. ABC News.

James Longman (ABC): My apologies, I don’t speak any Italian. Thank you very much for having me on your--  I just want to ask if you have seen how much criticism Aung San Suu Kyi, and if you think that she received not having spoken enough about the Rohingya is fair.

Pope Francis: I heard all that, I heard the critics, also I heard the criticism of not being brought to the province of Rakhine, then you went a half day, more or less. But in Myanmar it is difficult to evaluate a criticism without asking, was it possible to do this? Or how will be possible to do this? In this I don’t want to say that it was a mistake to go or not to go. But in Myanmar the political situation… is a growing nation, politically in growth, and a nation in transition, (made up) of so many cultural values, in history, but politically it is in transition and because of this the possibilities should be evaluated also from this view. In this moment of transition would it have been possible or not to do this or that other (thing)? And to see if it was a mistake or it was not possible? Not only for the State’s Chancellor, but also for the president, for the deputies, the parliament. In Myanmar, you always have to have the construction of the country in front (of you), and from there you take, as I said at the beginning, two steps forward, one back, two forward, two back…History teaches us this. I do not know how to respond in another way, (this is) the little knowledge that I have on this place and I would not want to fall into what that Argentinian philosopher did who was invited to give conferences to countries in Asia one week and when he returned he wrote a book on the reality of that country. This is presumptuous.

Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness! On the trip, Pullella.

Phil Pullella (Reuters): Yes, I would like to return to the trip if it’s possible. The meeting with the general was originally scheduled for Thursday morning. Instead you had to first meet Aung San Suu Kyi. When the general asked to see you first, the day of your arrival, it was a way of saying: I am in charge here, you have to see me first...in that moment did you feel that he or they wanted to manipulate you?

Pope Francis: The request was because he had to travel to China. If these things happen in every case, if I can move an appointment I do it...I don’t know the intentions, but I was interested in dialogue. A dialogue asked for by them and which they came to, it wasn’t scheduled in my visit. And I think that the most important thing...it’s clear that the suspicion is exactly what you said: we are in charge here, we are the first.

Pullella: Can I ask if -- you said that you cannot tell what is said in private encounters, but can I ask you if during that encounter you used the word Rohingya, with the general?

Pope Francis: I used the words to get to the message and when I saw that the message was accepted, I dared to say everything I wanted to say. ‘Intelligenti pauca’ (Editors note: this refers to a Latin phrase meaning “few words are enough for the one who understands”).

Greg Burke: Thank you, Your Holiness.

Pope Francis: The lady asked me first. It’s the last.

Alicia Romay (Gestiona Radio): Good evening Holiness! For my part I have a question because yesterday when we were with the priests who were ordained, I thought about whether they are afraid to be Catholic priests at this time because of the Catholic life in the country, and whether they had asked you, Your Holiness, what can they do when fear arrives and they don’t know what to do?

Pope Francis: It’s your first trip, eh, you are the friend of Valentina. I always have the habit that five minutes before the ordination, I speak with them in private. And to me they seemed calm, serene, aware. They were aware of their mission. Normal, normal. A question that I asked them: do you play soccer? Yes, all of them. It’s important. A theological question. But I didn’t perceive that fear. They know that they must be close, close to their people, that yes, they feel attached to the people and I liked this. Then I spoke with the formators. Some bishops told me, before entering the seminary, that they make the presbytery so that they learn many things, and they also learn perfect English, to say something practical. They know English and they start seminary. I learned that ordination doesn’t happen at 23-24, but at 28-29...they seem like children, because they all seem so young, all of them, even the older ones...but I saw them secure. What they had...close to their people. And they care a lot. Because each one of them comes from an ethnicity and this...

I thank you, because they tell me that it’s past time. I thank you for the questions and for all that you have done. And what does the Pope think about the trip: to me the trip does me well when I am able to meet the people of the country, the People of God, when I am able to speak, to meet with them and greet them, the encounters with the people. We have spoken about the encounters with the politicians. Yes, it’s true, it must be done, with the priests, with the bishops...but with the people, this...the people, the people who are truly the depth of a country. When I find this, when I am able to find it I am happy. I thank you for your help. And thanks also for the questions and the things that I learned from your questions.

Thanks, and have a good dinner.

Pope Francis: We’ve reached an ethical limit to nuclear weapons

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 6:30 PM

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2017 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Aboard his flight from Bangladesh to Rome on Saturday, Pope Francis said that the destructive potential of nuclear weapons is so great that humanity has reached the limit of morally possessing them or using them as deterrents.

“In the nuclear field…today we are at the limit,” the Pope said Dec. 2. “This can be a matter for discussion, it's my opinion, but I am convinced of my opinion: we are at the limit of liceity to have and use nuclear arms.”

The Pope’s comments were made during an in-flight press conference during his return flight from an apostolic trip to Burma, also known as Myanmar, and Bangladesh from Nov. 27-Dec. 2.

Asked if something has changed since the time of the Cold War, when many world leaders considered nuclear weapons a useful and ethically acceptable deterrent to war, Francis stated that he thinks the rationality of the claim has changed.

He also noted that the number of nuclear arms continues to grow, becoming more sophisticated and more powerful, and those factors change the consideration.

“I ask myself this question,” he said, “Today, is it licit to maintain the arsenal of nuclear weapons as they are? Or today, to save creation, to save humanity, is it not necessary to go backward?”

The Pope’s words aboard the papal flight echoed a statement made in a message to United Nations members last March, when he said that while eliminating nuclear weapons may be a challenge, there is still a “moral and humanitarian imperative” to do so.

He also expressed skepticism that nuclear deterrence is “an effective response” to the world's security challenges, echoing decades of previous statements by the Holy See on the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.

Francis most recently spoke on the topic during an address to participants in a Vatican symposium on nuclear disarmament Nov. 10, stating his hope for the elimination of nuclear arms, and pointing to an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which was passed by the UN in July, as a positive step.

The Holy See actively took part in the treaty negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty.

The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the UN, although with “enhanced powers.” That means that the Holy See can take part in the negotiations of treaties, but does not usually have the right to vote.

For the July 7 vote on the nuclear treaty, the Holy See was allowed to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty, showing the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.

This was the first time the Holy See has been afforded such a status at the UN, which Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” described as a milestone during the treaty ratification ceremony Sep. 20.

 

Pope: What I don't say in public, I say behind closed doors

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 6:24 PM

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2017 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On his return flight from Bangladesh to Rome, Pope Francis offered journalists an insight into his communication strategy, saying that when it comes to a sensitive topic, at times he prefers to hold his tongue publicly so that his message gets across, but is more open in private conversations.

“For me, the most important thing is that the message arrives and in order to do this I try to say things, step by step, and listen to the answers, so that the message may arrive,” the Pope said on his Dec. 2 flight from Dhaka to Rome.

He was returning from a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 visit to south Asia, which took him to both Burma and Bangladesh.

A major underlying theme of the trip was crisis surrounding the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, who have faced levels of state-sanctioned violence so drastic that the United Nations has called their plight “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Of particular concern was whether or not Pope Francis would use the term “Rohingya” in his public speeches, because despite widespread use of the word in the international community, the term is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since a controversial law was enacted in 1982.

Given the delicate political situation, Pope Francis had been advised by local Church leaders in Burma to avoid using the word during official speeches, which he did. However, after meeting with a group of 18 Rohingya Muslims at an interreligious encounter in Bangladesh, he decided to drop the phrase publicly, breaking with his previous protocol.

During an hour-long press conference with journalists on board the flight, which consisted of 12 questions focused primarily on the visit, Francis was asked if he regretted not using the word “Rohingya” publicly while in Burma.

In his answer, the Pope noted that he has used the term publicly several times in different audiences and speeches, so “it was already known what I thought about this thing and what I had said.”

However, he said the question made him reflect on “how I try to communicate,” and the most important goal is always to ensure that his message gets across.

Using the image of a teenager as an everyday example, he said that if they are in a crisis, they “say what they think by throwing the door in the face of the other...and the message doesn’t arrive. It closes.”

When it came to using the word “Rohingya,” Francis said he realized that if he used it in the official speeches, “I would have thrown the door in a face,” implying that the term would have prevented Burmese officials from hearing his message.

Instead, he said he chose to describe the situation and the lack of human rights, and to advocate for inclusion and citizenship in public. In private conversations, however, the Pope said he allowed himself to “go beyond.”  

While in Burma, also called Myanmar, the Pope met privately with officials, including General Min Aung Hlaing, the military’s commander-in-chief and a powerful political figure in the nation.

“I was very, very satisfied with the talks that I was able to have,” he said, explaining that while he didn't have “the pleasure of throwing the door in the face, publicly, a denouncement,” he was able to have “the satisfaction of dialoguing and letting the other speak and to say my part.”

In the end, Pope Francis said his message got across, and that “this is very important in communications, the concern that the message will arrive.”

The Pope told journalists that he didn’t know whether he would have the opportunity to meet with Rohingya representatives while in Bangladesh. He thanked the Bangladeshi government for allowing the Rohingya to join him for the Dec. 1 interreligious encounter, saying the country is a good example of what it means to welcome and to have open doors.

Many of the 18 Rohingya present at the meeting didn't know they would meet him either, Francis said, explaining that they were taken from the crowd and told to get in line to greet him, but not to say anything.

“I didn’t like that,” he said. And when the organizers tried to usher them off stage right away, “I got mad and a chewed them out a bit,” he said, confessing that “I'm a sinner.”

After hearing each of them share their stories, Francis said he was moved and wanted to say something to them spontaneously, so he offered a brief prayer in which he asked for forgiveness on behalf of all who harmed them.

“In that moment I cried. I tried not to let it be seen. They cried too,” he said, noting that the other religious leaders who came up to greet them were also moved.

By doing things in this way, Pope Francis said he felt that “the message had arrived. Part was planned, but the majority came out spontaneously.”

 

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Rohingya were denied Burmese citizenship in 1948. This was incorrect. Burmese citizenship was denied to Rohingya people in 1982.

Taxpayer-funded abortion law met with Illinois lawsuit

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 3:00 PM

Springfield, Ill., Dec 2, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new Illinois law requiring public funding of elective abortions is opposed by pro-life groups and taxpayers who have sued the state, calling the measure illegal.

“The people of Illinois totally reject taxpayer-funded abortions,” said Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, a non-profit legal group in Chicago, in a statement released Thursday..

“Even apart from the sincere moral objections that many folks have to paying for abortions, there is no money in this year’s Illinois state budget to pay for them,” Breen continued.

House Bill 40 was signed into law by Illinois governor Bruce Rauner in late September.  Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago criticized the governor, saying that he was disappointed Rauner had broken promises to veto the bill, according to the Chicago Tribune.

If it takes effect, the new law will allow taxpayer dollars to fund free abortions for individuals with Medicaid coverage, and for state employees with health insurance, throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

There would be no limit on the number of abortions covered by Medicaid and no limit on the amount of money spent on abortions. According to the Thomas More Society, this could mean that state would pay between $15-$30 million for abortions, funding as many as 30,000 abortions annually.

The taxpayer lawsuit, which was filed in the Sangamon County Circuit Court and drafted by Breen, charges that the law is illegal, because there are not adequate funds to pay for elective abortions while still fulfilling the balanced budget requirements of the Illinois Constitution.

Among the groups supporting the complain are the Diocese of Springfield, legislators, and pro-life groups, including the Pro-Life Action League, the Illinois Right to Life Action, Illinois Federation for Right to Life, and a handful of local pro-life organizations.

“Regardless of your feelings about abortion, it is incredibly fiscally irresponsible to enact a law designed to spend millions of dollars that Illinois does not have,” Breen said.

“The state legislative process has steps have must be correctly followed in order to prevent budget-busting laws like this from being ramrodded through. It is part of our civic process of checks and balances.”

The lawsuit will be heard by Associate Judge Brian T. Otwell on Dec. 7 at the Sangamon County Courthouse.

Near Texas-Mexico border, Catholics plan a community of encounter

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 6:05 AM

Brownsville, Texas, Dec 2, 2017 / 04:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A partnership among the Diocese of Brownsville, businesses, and other community partners aims to create a self-sustaining space where area residents can learn, play, find services, and meet others from different backgrounds.

“My intention is that this be a place where you can encounter and enjoy knowing other people,” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville said at a Nov. 29 dedication ceremony at the project site. “My hope, especially for the families that are here, is that this land will continue to be a land that bears fruit - fruit of hope, of joy, of laughter and learning, especially for our young people.”

The project, called Plaza Amistad, will include a health care clinic and education center, retail stores, a farming field school, a farmer’s market, a community garden, and a café.

There will also be venues for soccer, volleyball and other sports, as well as a perimeter trail, the Rio Grande Guardian reports. It takes its name from the Spanish word for friendship.

The project’s first phase, developed over a six-month period, will use 14 acres outside Donna, Texas, which is located 50 miles northwest of Brownsville, and just eight miles from the US-Mexico border.

The land was donated by the Bonham family, non-Catholics who are prominent citrus growers in the Rio Grande Valley.

It is modeled on public-private partnerships to gather support and expertise from various community partners.

“For me it is a perfect partnership and I am grateful that God opened the doors,” Bishop Flores said. “We have to take a few risks because we haven’t done this before. This is all kind of new – the church, businesses, local community organizations, the more the merrier, working together as a community of communities.”

“We want a community that helps the community,” the bishop continued. “To me that is part of the Catholic vision of life. We were not put on this earth to only help Catholics, we were put on this earth to help everyone because we are Catholics, and that means, for example through Catholic Charities, we don’t ask people what religion they are, we don’t ask them if they have papers; we ask them, 'are you hungry, are you thirsty, do you need a place to stay?'.”

For Patti Sunday, a consultant who has worked on the project, Plaza Amistad is “one of the first steps at solving our own problems,” she told CNA Nov. 30.

The project aims to host enough profitable services that it can fund vital services like health care at an “extremely affordable rate” for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them.

The effort aimed to combine both making a profit and good stewardship, taking a new path in a field that often involves the same people competing for limited grants and government funding.

The Brownsville region has developed a border culture of its own where U.S. and Mexico territory meet. Beneficiaries of the project might or might not be undocumented.

The Plaza Amistad model focuses on the “working poor,” people who take in about $40,000 per year per family of four. It is believed they have enough income to support such a community, while also benefitting from affordable community services.

The plaza is located next to entry-level housing, while the project’s farmer’s market will also bring people together across class lines. Population growth projections suggest the area near Plaza Amistad will grow.

“It’s a different vision, and I think it is something God will bless,” said the bishop. “With the hard work of a lot of people, I think it could be a model for the whole country.”

Miguel Santos, director of strategic planning for the Brownsville diocese, said Plaza Amistad is based on “the premise of human dignity, of both solidarity and subsidiarity, of not just giving them a handout but a hand up.”

There could be a Catholic church and parish in the future, second phase of the project.

“We will have a chapel,” Bishop Flores said. “It will be a place to let the Church do what I think the Church does best, which is gather people in the knowledge of the love of God, and in the love of neighbor.”

For the bishop, it is natural that the Church gathers her people and then “opens up the doors, as the Holy Father Pope Francis says, so that we can welcome.”

“For the beauty of what it is to be human is that we were meant to live in community and not isolated,” Flores added.

The diocese is the leading agent in the public-private partnership.

Santos said that while the diocese has provided an initial outlay of funding, “the idea is to partner with different entities that can bring to the table their particular expertise.”

“Our interest is to partner with different institutions who can each be responsible for the operations of their specific part of the project,” he said.

Fifteen college sophomores are helping design commercial and medical architectural portions of the plaza, according to Jim Glusing, a civil and architectural engineering professor and director of the Institute for Architectural Engineering Heritage at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Parts of their proposals could be considered for inclusion in the final design.

Kyndel Bennett, a member of the traditionally Methodist Bonham family, said he thought the project was “a win-win for all involved.”

“It is a project we are all excited about,” Bennett said.

Never lose your enthusiasm, Pope tells Bangladeshi youth

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 5:34 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 2, 2017 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to youth in Bangladesh, Pope Francis said he is always rejuvenated by young people, and encouraged them to never lose their sense of enthusiasm and adventure for life, even when things are hard.

He also stressed the importance of clinging to God and his wisdom, using it as a guide to help them avoid the world's false promises, and to go out of themselves in order to grow in faith and solidarity.

“There is something unique about young people: you are always full of enthusiasm, and I feel rejuvenated whenever I meet with you,” the Pope said Dec. 2.

In his prepared remarks, Francis said this youthful enthusiasm “is linked to a spirit of adventure,”and pointed to Bangladeshi poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who called the nation's youth “fearless.”

Young people, he said, “are always ready to move forward, to make things happen and to take risks. I encourage you to keep moving with this enthusiasm in the good times and the bad times.”

No matter what, he told them to “keep moving, especially in those moments when you feel weighed down by problems and sadness, and when you look out and God seems to be nowhere on the horizon.”

However, he also stressed the importance of making sure they are moving forward on the right path, which means “journeying” through life, rather than “wandering aimlessly.”

“Our life is not without direction, it has a purpose given to us by God. He guides and directs us with his grace,” the Pope said, explaining that this direction is like “a computer software” God has placed within us that “helps us to discern his divine program and, in freedom, to respond.”

But like all software, this too “needs constantly to be updated,” he said, and told the youths to “keep updating your program, by listening to God and accepting the challenge of doing his will.”

Pop Francis spoke to youth in Dhaka on the last day of his Nov. 27-30 visit to south Asia, which included stops in both Burma and Bangladesh.

His visit to both countries concluded with meetings with youth, which is a decision Vatican spokesman Greg Burke previously said the Pope made intentionally in order to show that they are an essential part of the Church, and that in each country, it is “a young Church with hope.”

Before arriving to Notre Dame College for his encounter with the youth of Bangladesh, the Pope visited the Missionaries of Charity's “Mother Teresa House” for orphans and disabled people, and had an audience with the country's priests and religious.

Dhaka's Notre Dame college was founded in 1949 by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and in 1954 it was opened to students from all religious confessions.

When he arrived Pope Francis was greeted by Bishop Gervas Rozario, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh. He then listened to two testimonies from young people, the first being student Upasana Ruth Gomez, who spoke about the struggle to stay hopeful in the face of oppression and injustice. The second testimony was from Anthony Toranga Nokrek, who spoke about the need to stay focused in order to be open to and welcome God's message to them.

In his speech, Pope Francis pointed to how Anthony had said that youth are now “growing up in a fragile world that cries out for wisdom.”

This word, he said, is key, because “once you move from 'journeying' to 'wandering aimlessly,' all wisdom is lost! The one thing that directs and guides us on to the right path is wisdom, the wisdom born of faith.”

Francis stressed that this “is not the false wisdom of this world,” and to attain it, “we have to look at the world, our situations, our problems, everything, with the eyes of God.”

When we look at the world with the eyes and wisdom of God, we are also able to recognize and reject the false forms of happiness the world offers, he said, adding that “a culture that makes these false promises cannot deliver.”

“It only leads to a self-centredness that fills the heart with darkness and bitterness,” whereas the wisdom of God “helps us to know how to welcome and accept those who act and think differently than ourselves.”

Pope Francis said it's sad when we start to “shut ourselves up in our little world and become inward-looking,” living by the “my way or the highway” principle.

By doing this, “we become trapped, self-enclosed,” he said, explaining that when an entire people, religion or society does this, turning into “a little world,” they lose the best part of themselves and “plunge into a self-righteous mentality of 'I am good and you are bad.'”

God's wisdom, however, “opens us up to others. It helps us to look beyond our personal comforts and the false securities which blind us to those grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile.”

The Pope then noted how the crowd wasn't just made up of Catholics, but that many Muslims and youth from other religions were also present. This fact, he said, is a visible sign of their determination “to foster an environment of harmony, of reaching out to others, regardless of your religious differences.”

He recalled an experience working with students in Buenos Aires who were building rooms for a new parish in a poor neighborhood. They all came from different backgrounds and held different beliefs, but, “they were all working for the common good.”

Despite their different backgrounds, these students “were open to social friendship and were determined to say no to anything that would detract from their ability to come together and to help one another.”

As he often does, the Pope then emphasized the importance of interacting with the elderly, who he said help us “to appreciate the continuity of generations.”

Elderly, he said, have the wisdom to help us avoid repeating past mistakes, and have the “charism of bridging the gap,” meaning they are sure to pass on the most important values to their children and grandchildren.

Francis said the elderly also help us to realize that history didn't begin with us, and that we are part of something much bigger than we are, so “keep talking to your parents and grandparents. Do not spend the whole day playing with your phone and ignoring the world around you!”

He closed his speech noting how both Anthony and Upasana had ended their testimonies with an expression of hope for the future.

The wisdom of God “reinforces the hope in us and helps us to face the future with courage,” he said, noting that Christians find this wisdom in a personal encounter with Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments, and in service to the poor, sick, suffering and abandoned.

“In Jesus we discover the solidarity of God, who constantly walks by our side,” he said, and told the youth that he is “filled with joy and hope” when he looks at their faces.

He prayed that God’s wisdom would “continue to inspire your efforts to grow in love, fraternity and goodness,” and voiced his hope that they would continue to grow in love of God and neighbor, telling them “please, do not forget to pray for me!”

Pope: the eyes of religious who serve with joy are 'indescribable'

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 1:59 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 1, 2017 / 11:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a classic off-the-cuff speech to priests and religious in Bangladesh, Pope Francis said it's sad to see unhappy consecrated people, but he loves looking into the eyes of elderly religious who have spent their lives serving in joy, which is the essence of their vocation.

In his Dec. 2 meeting with the priests and religious, the Pope told them to “have joy of heart,” and said he always feels great affection when he meets elderly priests, bishops, and nuns who have “lived a full life.”

“Their eyes are indescribable, full of joy and peace,” he said, noting that God still watches over those who haven't lived this way, “but there is that lack of sparkle in their eyes. They haven't had that joy.”

He said the spirit of joy is essential to consecrated life, and that “you cannot serve God” without it.

“I can assure you it's very painful when you meet priests, consecrated, bishops, who are really unhappy, with a sad face,” he said, adding that whenever he comes across someone like this, he wants to ask: “what did you have for breakfast today, vinegar?”

These people have “a vinegar face, a soured face,” he said, explaining that the “anxiousness and bitterness of heart” that comes when we focus on promotions or compare ourselves to others is counterproductive, and “there is no joy in that way of thinking.”

Pope Francis spoke to Bangladesh's consecrated community on the last day of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 tour of Asia, which included stops in both Burma, and the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

He arrived to Dhaka Nov. 30, and has so far met with the country's civil authorities, ordained 16 priests, spoke to the bishops and led an interreligious encounter where he met with Hindu, Buddhist, Anglican and Muslim leaders, including members of Burma's persecuted Rohingya minority. Before leaving, he'll also meet with the nation's youth, as the last encounter before returning to Rome.

In his meeting with religious, which was held at the Church of the Holy Rosary, one of the oldest churches in Bangladesh, the Pope listened to several testimonies before speaking, including Fr. Abel Rozario, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dhaka; Brother Lawrence; Fr. Franco; Sister Mary Chandra; and Marcellius, a seminarian.

After hearing their stories, Francis said he had prepared an 8-page speech for them, but tossed the remarks, jesting that “we come to listen to the Pope, and not to get bored!”

Speaking off-the-cuff in Spanish with his interpreter, Msgr. Mark Miles, offering simultaneous translation into English, the Pope said that as he was coming in, the image of a plant “sprouting from the stump of Jesse” in next Tuesday's reading from Isaiah came to mind.

The image of the plant growing in a spirit of wisdom and piety and blooming in a life of faith and service also applies to the life of a consecrated person, he said, noting that it all begins with a seed.

“The seed does not belong to you or to me, God sows the seed, and God is the one who provides for its growth,” he said, explaining that while God is the one who takes the initiative, we have to water the seed in order for it to grow.

In order to water the seed of the vocation we've been given, we have to “look after it,” as we would look after a child or someone who is sick or elderly: with tenderness.

“Vocation is looked after with human tenderness in our communities, where we live as priests, parishes,” he said, adding that “if there's no such tenderness, then the plant is very small, it doesn't grow and it can dry out.”

“Look after it with tenderness, because every brother in the presbyterate, in the episcopal conference, every religious in community, every brother seminarian, is a seed of God. And God looks at them with the tenderness of a father.”

However, Francis also noted that despite our best efforts, the enemy comes at night and plants weeds along with the good seeds that God has sown.

When these weeds come along, “there is the risk that the seed can be threatened and not grow,” he said,  saying it is “awful” and “sad” to see these weeds grow within parishes or episcopal conferences.  

In order to prevent the growth of the weeds, we need to know how to tell them apart from the good seeds, the Pope said, explaining that this process is called “discernment.”

“To look after means to discern,” he said, and urged them to pay attention to which direction their “plant” is growing in, and whether there is something – a friend or a community or family member – who is threatening the growth of the plant.

Prayer is also a key part of this discernment process, he said, adding that “to look after also means to pray, and to ask the one who planted the seed how to water that same seed.”

“If I'm having a crisis and falling asleep, we have to ask him to look after us. To pray means to ask the Lord to look after us, that he give us the tenderness that we have to then pass onto others,” he said.

Pope Francis then pointed to the various challenges that arise in parishes, seminaries, episcopal conferences and convents, saying these will always be present because each of us have defects and limitations that threaten the peace and harmony of community life.

Noting how Bangladesh is known for it's achievements in living and promoting interreligious harmony, he said the same efforts have to be made inside faith communities, and Bangladesh “has to be an example of harmony.”

Bringing up a point he often returns to, especially when speaking to religious, Francis said of the greatest “enemies” of harmony in religious life is gossip.

“The tongue, brothers and sisters, can destroy a community by speaking badly about another person,” he said, noting that “this is not my idea, but 2,000 years ago a certain St. James said that in his letter.”

To talk about the defects of others behind their backs rather than confronting the person about it creates an environment of distrust, jealousy and division, he said, and again referred to gossip as a form of “terrorism.”

It's terrorism, he said, because “when you speak badly of others, you don't say it publicly, and a terrorist doesn't say publicly 'I'm a terrorist.' A terrorist says it in a private, crude way, then throws the bomb and it explodes.”

The same thing happens in communities, and often times others pick up the bomb that has been left and they also throw it, he said, and told the religious to “hold your tongue” if they are tempted to speak badly about someone.

“Maybe you'll hurt you tongue if you bite it, but you won't hurt the other person.”

If a true correction needs to be made, Francis told them, if possible, to first confront the person face to face in charity, and to also let an authority know, so they can do something about it if needed.

“Say it to the person's face, and say it to another person who can do something, but with charity. How many communities have been destroyed through the spirit of gossip,” he said, and implored them “please, hold your tongue, bite your tongue.”

Pope Francis closed his address by urging the religious to ask themselves a series of questions: “do I look after the small plant, do I water it? Do I water it in others? Am I afraid of being a terrorist, and therefore never speak badly of others? And do I have the gift of joy?”

He then voiced his hope that the “plant” of their vocation continues to grow so that “your eyes will always sparkle with that joy of the Holy Spirit,” and asked for prayer.

Go to Mass on Sunday and on Christmas, bishops say

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 7:00 PM

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a newsletter issued earlier this year, the U.S. Catholic bishops addressed questions regarding whether Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligations can be fulfilled with a “two-for-one” Mass attendance at Christmas this year.

In a “relatively rare” situation which last occurred in 2006, Christmas Day this year falls on a Monday.

Because Catholics are obliged to attend Mass for Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, some have asked whether a Sunday evening Mass on Christmas Eve would fulfill both the obligation for a Sunday Mass and the obligation for a Christmas Day Mass.

The U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Divine Worship has said the faithful should attend two Masses to fulfill their Sunday and Christmas Mass obligations.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the Church has allowed for Catholics to attend vigil, or anticipated, Masses for Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation as “a convenience for many of the faithful.”

“Most canon lawyers defer to Venerable Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution Christus Dominus (January 6, 1953), which gave 4:00 p.m. as the earliest time when anticipated Masses may be scheduled,” the bishops said in their 2017 letter.

This means that the Sunday obligation for Dec. 24 can be fulfilled on Sunday, or anytime after 4 p.m. on Dec. 23, and the Christmas Mass obligation can be fulfilled on Monday, anytime after 4 p.m. on Dec. 24.  

In the case of two consecutive days of obligation, as at Christmas this year, the “prevailing view of many canon lawyers is that each obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass,” the bishops said.

“Thus, when consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations.”

According to the bishops, the question of whether such obligations could be fulfilled in one Mass has been raised before by bishops in what is called a “dubium”, which was “answered in the negative by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1970.”

“The Church’s intention in extending the possibility of meeting Mass obligations through vigil Masses, while intended to make it easier to fulfill obligations, was never envisioned as a legal loophole, and, hence, separate obligations remain,” the bishops said.

The bishops emphasized that they hoped that Catholics “foster a love for the Sacred Liturgy and hold a desire to celebrate the holy days as fully as is reasonably possible.”

They also noted that pastors may grant dispensations to individuals or families “for a just cause and subject to any regulations laid down by the diocesan bishop.”

“At the same time, diocesan bishops may examine their regional circumstances and grant general dispensations or commutations, while permitting their pastors to make judgments in individual cases.”

A commitment to the Gospel created Spain's largest center for AIDS patients

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 6:07 PM

Madrid, Spain, Dec 1, 2017 / 04:07 pm (ACI Prensa).- December 1 is World AIDS Day and Basida, Spain’s largest home for AIDS patients, has been serving them for more than 25 years, opening its first home in 1990.

It is situated on a 30 acre compound in Aranjuez, a town 25 miles south of Madrid. Currently residing there are four families with eight children at risk of social exclusion as well as 44 other individuals.

This initiative began with a group of young people from a parish in Aranjuez who committed themselves to live the Gospel in a radical way and to help those most in need. This commitment and project has grown to include two other homes, one in Avila with 30 patients in rehabilitation, and one in Ciudad Real with 20.

Cristina Alonso, a member of the Basida board of directors and a teacher, told ACI Prensa, “the cornerstone of Basida is faith. We respect everyone’s beliefs, but those who live in this home see what our life is like, based on the Gospel, and there are those who participate in this option and adopt this Christian way of living.”

In their 27 years of service, Basida has cared for 800 patients. Their main objective is to offer a family and a home to the sick where they can be treated and physically or psychologically recover, or if it comes to it, die with dignity.

Patients suffer from a variety of conditions such as HIV, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and other illnesses associated with drug addiction and alcoholism.

This ministry is accomplished thanks to 70 volunteers, 20 of whom permanently reside at the home, and include doctors, nurses, and psychologists.

Their facilities include three houses for detox, a residence, a building for volunteers, and a chapel.

In addition, occupational training workshops are offered, as well as personalized therapies and psychological help.

Alonso said that the staff at Basida has had professional training in rehabilitation work and medical care.

“Behind this entire project we see there is something greater than ourselves that moves it forward, which is the hand of God, the providence that is clearly and constantly shown,” she told ACI Prensa.

Alonso said that during the 27 years she has been serving at Basida “there have been many very difficult moments where you saw people die.” But “even though it was so hard, those were beautiful experiences because you were sharing with them their last moments of life and accompanying them so they could make that passage in peace.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

What big companies oppose a small business' case for religious freedom?

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 5:00 PM

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A small Colorado bakery’s religious freedom lawsuit has drawn opposition from 37 large companies, including Apple, Amazon, and Citigroup, a development which the bakery’s attorney says should be a cause of concern for all Americans.

“There’s an incredible amount of power, economic and political and cultural power, opposed to the exercise of these kind of freedoms,” Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA Nov. 30.

Tedesco’s legal group is representing the Lakewood, Colo. bakery Masterpiece Cakes, owned by Jack Phillips. In July 2012, Phillips declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding on the grounds to do so would contradict his Christian beliefs. After the couple filed a legal complaint, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered him to serve same-sex weddings and undergo anti-discrimination training.

The bakery has appealed the ruling up through the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that its artistic expression is protected free speech. Oral arguments are set to begin Dec. 5.

Among the companies signing a 20-page brief opposing the bakery’s claim were Airbnb, Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, Cisco Systems, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Intel, Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Marriott, MassMutual, Paypal, Pfizer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Prudential, Uber, WeddingWire and Yelp.

“Smooth, predictable, and efficient business transactions may be disrupted if businesses decline to serve amici’s employees on either speech or religious grounds,” said the brief, whose co-signers are known by the Latin word for friends, “amici.”

The LGBT activist organization The Human Rights Campaign takes credit for the brief, which was authored by the international law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Tedesco thought the brief represented a mindset that is common among corporations.

“I think they have every right to advocate these points of view,” he said. “I just think people ought to understand, unfortunately, that these powerful corporations are largely in lockstep on this.”

“We see them exercising their influence across the board in these cases and issues,” he said of the companies. “People should be concerned because they carry a lot of weight. We need others to be an antidote to the cultural and political power that they can flex in these kinds of situations.”

The brief claimed that allowing speech or religious-based exemptions to non-discrimination laws would “substantially weaken” such laws and make the companies’ own employees more vulnerable to discrimination, both in their communities and while performing their jobs, thus interfering with business.

Tedesco said such claims are “simply not true.”

“Jack Phillips’ case deals with public accommodations law, not an employment non-discrimination law. And it deals with it under very narrow circumstances, where that public accommodations law is being used to force an artist to create art that violates his beliefs.”

“If Jack Phillips wins his case, all it does, rightly so, is affirm the constitutional rights of artists and other creative pros to create expression and promote ideas that are consistent with their beliefs, and decline to promote ideas that violate their beliefs,” said Tedesco.

While critics of Phillips’ case predict horrible consequences should he prevail, Tedesco said that victory for critics of religious freedom would have a far-reaching impact.

“This is a freedom that impacts everyone. We all have a stake in the outcome of the case,” he said. “Their view is that if you open a business and create expression as part of your business, you can be forced to create anything that violates your beliefs.”

Tedesco suggested a hypothetical case of a religious group asking an atheist painter to paint “God Exists” signs or murals. The religious group “doesn’t have the right to force him to do that under the threat of applying laws against him,” said the attorney.

The companies’ brief said they believe that non-discrimination laws “ensure all Americans are treated with dignity and respect.” They said such laws improve profitability, productivity and creativity in the workplace. Arguing that the lawsuit’s exemption claims are “broad and ill-defined,” they said such claims will “create uncertainty and impose unnecessary costs and administrative complexities on employers”

The brief outlined a particular view of business, saying “The only prerequisite to conducting business is, and should continue to be, whether the customer can meet the business’ requirements for purchase.”

For Tedesco, however, the Colorado civil rights commission’s ruling against Phillips in effect imposed a “religious test on being in the wedding industry.” Its impact could mean a different future.

“If you have a sincere religious conviction, whether you’re Muslim or Jewish or Christian, and you can’t promote that idea in the art that you create, you can’t be in that industry,” he said. “That does far more damage to the principles of a free society than anything the other side tries to claim.”

Supporters of Masterpiece Cakes, among them the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Colorado Catholic Conference, the Catholic Medical Association and other Catholic nonprofits, have also submitted amici curiae briefs.

Those briefs emphasized that religious freedom and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantee individuals the right to seek the truth in religious matters “and then adhere to that truth through private and public action.”

Some of the companies siding against the bakery have previously made similar First Amendment arguments on their own behalf.

In April 2016, Apple opposed a proposed religious freedom law in the state of Georgia. At the same time, it argued against a court order requiring it to create a backdoor to its software encryption, after the FBI said the company was blocking access to information on the iPhone of a suspect involved in the San Bernardino mass shootings.

The company argued that computer code is protected speech and the court order “amounts to compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

Some nonprofits also aim to restrict religious freedom protections, including a multi-million dollar effort being organized through groups like the Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative launched by the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund.