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Pittsburgh priest rescinds dispensation from Advent Mass obligation

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 2:15 PM

Pittsburgh, Pa., Dec 1, 2017 / 12:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A parish priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh has rescinded a dispensation he claimed would excuse his parishioners from the Sunday Mass obligation on the weekend of Christmas this year, the diocese has confirmed.

Because Christmas falls on a Monday, Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on two consecutive days - one for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and one for Christmas.

In October, the Diocese of Pittsburgh sent out an e-mail to all of its priests, reminding them of this obligation and reiterating the importance of keeping the Mass schedules in accordance with guidance from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

However, in a parish bulletin announcement on Sunday, Nov. 26, Fr. Lou Vallone, pastor of St. Catherine’s parish in Crescent, Pa. attempted to offer a dispensation from Mass obligations to his parishioners.

Vallone wrote that he would dispense anyone of the Sunday Mass obligation if they met the following three requirements: They read the dispensation announcement in the parish bulletin, they were a parishioner of the parish either by “geography or registration,” and finally, that all giving envelopes for both celebrations be placed in the collection basket of the Mass of their choosing that weekend.

Fr. Nick Vaskov, the executive director of communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA that the diocese was made aware of the broad dispensation and “saw a flaw in it, because while a pastor can dispense an individual, he can’t generally offer a dispensation for the individual to apply to himself.”

Canon law allows for individual dispensations from Mass obligations in the cases of a just cause, such as “in case of a natural disaster like a blizzard or something like that,” Fr. Vaskov said, but dispensations can not be given generally or without just cause.

“In light of this we followed up with (Vallone)...just reiterating the importance of educating the faithful as to the importance of the Advent season, the beauty of the liturgy in that sense and the anticipation of Christmas, and that the schedule for that weekend shouldn’t change,” Vaskov told CNA.

In a Nov. 30 letter to priests and deacons of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Fr. Lawrence DiNardo, diocesan vicar general, wrote "it has been the consistent practice in the diocese that a dispensation from the obligation of attendance at Mass only is considered in a time of some natural disaster or other major cause that might exist which requires a dispensation. Such does not exist in this case. The celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Advent is an important part of the liturgical year and should be celebrated as such. To do otherwise, minimizes the importance of this final Sunday before the celebration of Christmas." 

"I would inform you that you may not grant a dispensation from the obligation of participation at Mass on the Fourth Sunday of Advent," DiNardo wrote.

The letter also encouraged clergy to "instruct your parishioners regarding the importance of the celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas and the need to participate in these sacred days in the Church."

Vaskov confirmed to CNA that Vallone had rescinded his dispensation as of Thursday evening.


Salvadoran charged with killing 5 Jesuits to be imprisoned in Spain

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 1:38 PM

Madrid, Spain, Dec 1, 2017 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A former colonel of the Salvadoran military, Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, has been ordered to be imprisoned in Spain, as he awaits trial for his alleged participation in the murder of five Jesuit priests in 1989.

Montano, was extradited to Spain from the United States on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. He had been in US custody for six years, after being arrested for charges of immigration fraud.  

The former colonel was El Salvador’s vice-minister for public security during the brutal civil war that divided El Salvador in the 1980s. He will be tried for terrorist murder, and crimes against humanity, in the killing of five Spanish priests. Another priest, their cook, and her daughter were also killed. Montano maintains his innocence.

Photo: Inocente Orlando Montano Morales. Credit: US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement

The Jesuits in El Salvador were active proponents of peace talks and a negotiation between the government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an organization of left-wing guerillas. The priests were targeted because of one of them, Father Ignacio Ellecuria, SJ, was an outspoken critic of El Salvador’s government, according to Reuters.

The killings took place on Nov. 16, 1989, during a battle being waged across the city of San Salvador. Ellecuria served as rector of the Central American University, which was occupied by an elite battalion of the Salvadoran army. The Spanish government alleges that Montano ordered that the priests be executed because of their apparent support for “subversive movements” critical of the government.   

The government was supported by the United States during the twelve year conflict, which killed 75,000 people, and during which 8,000 people disappeared. The United Nations has estimated that 85% of civilians killed during the conflict died at the hands of government forces.

Although widely regarded to have ordered the killing of the Jesuits, Montano, 74, was not charged by Salvadoran authorities. He will be required to testify in Madrid next week as his trial begins, according to the Associated Press.

With plea for forgiveness, Pope embraces Rohingya in Bangladesh

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:12 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 1, 2017 / 08:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After meeting several Rohingya Muslims and hearing their stories in Bangladesh, Pope Francis uttered a moving prayer from the heart, affirming their dignity and asking forgiveness on behalf of all who persecute the Burmese minority.

He also broke the protocol he has maintained so far during his visit to Burma and Bangladesh by publicly calling members of the persecuted minority the “Rohingya” – a controversial term in Burma that until now he has avoided.

“In the name of all who have persecuted you and persecute you, that have done you harm, above all, the world's indifference, I ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness,” the Pope said Dec. 1.

Speaking in a spontaneous prayer alongside some 18 Rohingya after greeting them individually and hearing brief explanations of their stories, Pope Francis told them that “we are very close to you.”

Although there's “little we can do because your tragedy is very hard and great,” he told them “we give you space in the heart.”

He explained that according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created man in his image and likeness. “All of us are in this image, also these brothers and sisters, they too are in the image of God,” he said.

Noting how in the Muslim tradition, it is said that God has took a bit of salt and mixed it with water to create man, Francis said “we all have a little bit of this salt. These brothers and sisters contain the salt of God.”

“We’ll continue to help them, we’ll continue to help them so their rights are recognized.”

“We’ll not close our hearts, not look at the darker side,” he said, because “today the presence of God is also called the Rohingya. Each and everyone of us is his bride.”

Pope Francis spoke at the end of an interreligious encounter in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The event was part of a broader Nov. 27-Dec. 2 visit to south Asia, which included a three-day stop in Burma, and will conclude tomorrow after two days in the Bangladeshi capital.

During the event, the Pope heard testimonies from five leaders representing different religious communities in Bangladesh, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Anglicans and Catholics. Among the Catholics who spoke were a layman and Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario CSC, Archbishop of Dhaka, who is the first Bangladeshi cardinal, appointed by Francis in 2016.

Also present were 18 members of the Rohingya Muslim community, including a 5-year-old child, who fled persecution in their homeland and are now living in Bangladesh.

Francis greeted them individually at the end of the gathering, listening as they each briefly explained their stories through an interpreter. He offered his brief prayer once he had met and spoken with all of them.

Once the Pope had finished, one of the Rohingya also said a prayer, after which the rest of the interreligious leaders present came up on stage and greeted them one-by-one.

According to sources on the ground, several of the Rohingya were weeping, and Cardinal D'Rozario himself was visibly moved as he embraced them.

The Pope's meeting with the Rohingya is significant, as their plight has been an underlying theme throughout his visit to both Burma and Bangladesh.

A largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, the Rohingya have faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in their homeland, recently reaching staggering levels that have led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, and are living in refugee camps.

Though the Vatican has said the crisis was not the original motive of the visit, the situation has been a constant focal point, with particular attention paid to whether or not the Pope would use the term “Rohingya” on the ground.

Despite widespread use of the word Rohingya in the international community, the term is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since Burma gained independence in 1948.

Because of the touchy nature of the term, Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, suggested to the Pope that he refrain from using the word in Burma, arguing that extremists in the area are trying to rouse the population by using the term, making the risk of a new interreligious conflict ever-more present, with Christians in the crossfire.

According to Bo, the correct term to use is “Muslims of the Rakhine State,” which the Pope has chosen to use until today.

Speaking to journalists present at the interreligious encounter before meeting the Pope, Mohammed Ayub, 32, a Rohingya Muslim whose 3-year-old son was killed by the Burmese military, said, “the Pope should say Rohingya. He is the leader of the world. He should say the word, as we are Rohingya.”

Similarly, Abdul Fyez, 35, who had a brother killed by the Burmese army, agreed that Francis ought to use the word, saying “we have been Rohingya for generations, my father and my grandfather.”

Though the Pope's reasons for choosing to say the word today are unknown, it may have been in part the result of meeting the Rohingya personally and hearing their stories.

It's also not the first time he's chosen to say a controversial term. During his 2015 visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, Francis called the 1915 massacre of some 1.5 million Armenian Christians a “genocide,” despite the risk of political throwback from Turkey, who has argued that the numbers are exaggerated.

Interfaith unity is more than tolerance – it needs trust, Pope says

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 7:34 AM

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an encounter with interfaith leaders in Bangladesh, Pope Francis stressed the need to join together in promoting mutual respect and combating religiously-justified violence, saying this cannot be achieved through mere tolerance, but requires real knowledge and trust of the other.

In a Dec. 1 meeting with interreligious leaders in Bangladesh, Pope Francis praised them for their commitment to live together in “mutual respect and goodwill” in the country, “where the right to religious freedom is a founding principle.”

The fact that they are all meeting together, he said, “stands as a subtle yet firm rebuke to those who would seek to foment division, hatred and violence in the name of religion.”

Pointing to the commitment of interfaith leaders in Bangladesh to building a culture of encounter, Francis said this goal “entails more than mere tolerance.”

“It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth,” he said, adding that it also serves as a challenge to “cultivate an openness of heart that views others as an avenue, not a barrier.”

Pope Francis met with the interreligious leaders on his second day in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which is the second phase of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 tour of Asia. He was in Burma Nov. 27-30.

So far, the Pope has been outspoken on the need for peace and healing, specifically in Burma, and has stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue, praising the strides Bangladesh has made in this area.

The theme of interreligious unity has been a major talking point of the Pope's visit to both countries, as Burma is a majority Buddhist nation and Bangladesh is majority Muslim. In Bangladesh, 86 percent of the population practices Islam. The 375,000 Catholics there represent less than 0.2 percent of the total population.

Pope Francis arrived to the interreligious encounter in a rickshaw. He listened to testimonies from five leaders representing different religious communities in Bangladesh, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Anglicans and Catholics. Among the Catholics who spoke were a layman and Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario CSC, Archbishop of Dhaka, who is the first Bangladeshi cardinal, appointed by Francis in 2016.

Around 18 members of the Rohingya Muslim community were also present, including a 5-year-old child. The Pope greeted them individually at the end of the event, listening as they each briefly explained their stories through an interpreter.

A largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, the Rohingya have recently faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in their homeland, leading the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, and are living in refugee camps. The crisis, which boiled over ahead of the Pope's trip, has been a focal point of the visit.  

In his speech to the interfaith leaders, Francis said there are three essential elements of the “openness of heart” that allow us to really encounter others: a door, a ladder and a path.

The door, he said, “is not an abstract theory but a lived experience” which enables one to have real dialogue, “not a mere exchange of ideas.” And going through this door requires “good will and acceptance,” he said, but stressed that this attitude is “not to be confused with indifference or reticence in expressing our most deeply held convictions.”

Pope Francis then turned to the image of the ladder, saying it is one “that reaches up to the Absolute.” By looking to this transcendent aspect of interreligious activity, he said, “we realize the need for our hearts to be purified, so that we can see all things in their truest perspective.”

Finally, he said the path they must take is one that leads “to the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity.”

“It leads to seeking the good of our neighbors,” he said, explaining that when religious concern for the good of others comes from an open heart, it “flows outward like a vast river, to quench the dry and parched wastelands of hatred, corruption, poverty and violence that so damage human lives, tear families apart, and disfigure the gift of creation.”

This spirit of openness, acceptance and cooperation among believers doesn't just contribute to a culture of harmony and peace, but is “its beating heart.”

The world desperately needs this heart to beat strongly, he said, in order “to counter the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies, and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities, and those who are most vulnerable.”

“How much, too, is such openness needed in order to reach out to the many people in our world, especially the young, who at times feel alone and bewildered as they search for meaning in life!”

Pope Francis closed his speech thanking the leaders for their efforts to promote a culture of encounter among the different religions in Bangladesh, and prayed that they would help all believers “to grow in wisdom and holiness, and to cooperate in building an ever more humane, united and peaceful world.”

In his greeting to the Pope, Cardinal D'Rozario said the religious harmony that exists in Bangladesh “is rooted in our cultural identity.” The fact that they live peacefully in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic context, he said, is a heritage “we proudly enshrine in our hearts and we feel so much pain when this sacrosanct heritage is attacked and harmony is disturbed.”

He said Bangladesh continues to “march forward” with the hope of building up humanity through integral development and care of the planet, and voiced the Church's commitment to “cherish harmony and love peace” in the nation.

Francis was also greeted by five leaders of the different religious communities in Bangladesh, including Grand Imam and Mufti of Bangladesh, Farid Uddin Masud, on behalf of the country's Muslim community; Swami Dhruveshananda Adhyaksha on behalf of the Hindu community, and Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero on behalf of the Buddhist community, among others.

In his greeting, Imam Masud said the world today needs compassion and love more than anything else.

“The only remedy and solution to the problem of malice, envy and fighting among nations, races and creeds lies in the compassionate love preached and practiced by the great men and women of the world,” he said, and praised Pope Francis for his “tireless efforts” on behalf of the oppressed, regardless of religion, caste or nationality.

“This is a great inspiration for all of us,” he said, and pointed specifically to the Pope's support of the Rohingya Muslims from Burma, saying the Pope's concern for them “will bring a positive result in regard to the attempts to ensure their human rights.”

The Muslim community in Bangladesh, he said, “pay our tribute and show respect” to Pope Francis for his attention not only to the Rohingya, but to people of all faiths, adding that the Pope's role in promoting world peace “deserves our wholehearted respect.”

On his part, Swami Dhruveshananda Adhyaksha, representing the Hindu community, said that while the religions of those gathered may be different, “the objective is the same.”

“Just as all the rivers which originate from different sources blend into the same ocean, so all religions, though different, lead to the same beatitude,” he said, adding that “we have the duty to remain firm in the ideals we believe in, showing due respect for others.”

Likewise, Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero, Chief Patriarch of the Buddhists of Bangladesh and President of Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha, said the Pope's visit has “ushered a new horizon of interreligious harmony among all faiths” in Bangladesh.

He said he has been moved by Francis' “deep sense of kindness and compassion” toward the marginalized, and that the image of Pope Francis washing the feet of young African refugees is something that constantly stays in his mind.

“The Holy Father has achieved greatness,” he said, explaining that Bangladesh is committed to religious cooperation.

Affirming the sentiments of Bangladeshi president Abdul Harmid, who in yesterday's speech to the Pope said the country has a “zero tolerance” policy on violent interreligious conflict, the Buddhist leader said “we gather here to invoke with one voice the blessings of peace and fraternity in our country.”

After the testimonies, the encounter closed with a prayer recited by Anglican Bishop Philip Sarkar, who asked for strength to fight together against the evils of discrimination, division and corruption in Bangladesh.

“There are many people today in our world who are the victims of terrorism, conflicts, oppression and exploitation,” he said, noting that religious and ethnic minorities all over the world are suffering hatred and discrimination, and pointing to the Rohingya crisis in neighboring Burma as an example.

He prayed that world leaders and those who have authority would be guided by “wisdom and kindness” so as to wield their power in service to their people with love and attentive care.

Sarkar then pointed to the “hypocrisy and pride” each of the religions present at times display, saying “we misunderstand and hate people of other faiths and create suspicion with each other. We don't know how to respect other religions and people of other faiths.”

He asked forgiveness for this, and prayed that God would help them to realize the depth of his love in order to “love others and live in service for others, but not judge others because of their faith or creed.”

The bishop closes his prayer asking that the interfaith leaders would be led by a spirit “of love and wisdom” in order to “show the path of true light and true life in this confused and dark world.”

Pope tells Bangladesh bishops to make laity a priority, especially youth

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 6:01 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 1, 2017 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis met with the bishops of Bangladesh, urging them to be close to the laity, especially young people and families, and to encourage them to serve the Church according to their particular gifts.

“I would ask you to show ever greater pastoral closeness to the lay faithful,” the Pope said Dec. 1. “Recognize and value the charisms of lay men and women, and encourage them to put their gifts at the service of the Church and of society as a whole.”

According to prepared remarks, he also noted how the months leading up to the next Synod of Bishops, which will take place next Oct. 3-28, challenge bishops to “think about how best to share with our young people the joy, the truth and the beauty of our faith.”

Pope Francis also praised the Bangladeshi Church’s outreach to families, and especially their work for the advancement of women.

“The people of this country are known for their love of family, their sense of hospitality, the respect they show to parents and grandparents, and the care they give to the aged, the infirm and the vulnerable,” he said.

“These values are confirmed and elevated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A special word of gratitude is due to all those who work quietly to support Christian families in their mission of bearing daily witness to the Lord’s reconciling love and in making known its redemptive power.”

Pope Francis met with the 12 Bangladeshi bishops at a home for elderly priests in the afternoon of his second day in the south Asian country. It was part of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 pastoral visit to the countries of Burma, also known as Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

In the morning Dec. 1, the Pope celebrated Mass in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, ordaining 16 men to the priesthood.

Catholics are a small minority in Bangladesh, numbering only 375,000 – just 0.2 percent – out of a total population of almost 156 million people. In the country there are just 12 Catholic bishops and 372 total priests, both religious and diocesan, and eight dioceses.

The country has, on the other hand, 1,427 catechists and 1,210 lay missionaries.

In his encounter with the bishops, Pope Francis praised the important work done by the laity in the Catholic Church in Bangladesh, stating that the apostolate of the “many dedicated catechists…is essential for the growth of the faith and for the Christian formation of the next generation.”

“They are true missionaries and leaders of prayer, especially in the more remote areas. Be concerned for their spiritual needs and for their continuing education in the faith,” he urged.

Francis also noted the blessings of the country to have received many vocations to the priesthood and religious life, emphasizing the need for candidates of these vocations to be well-formed and well-prepared to share the beauty and richness of their faith with others, especially their peers.

“In a spirit of communion that bridges the generations, help them to take up with joy and enthusiasm the work others have begun,” he said, “knowing that they themselves will one day be called to pass it on in turn.”

The Pope also commended the “farsighted” 1985 “Pastoral Plan for the Church in Bangladesh,” which he said, “laid out the evangelical principles and priorities that have guided the life and mission of the ecclesial community in this young nation.”

The heart of the pastoral plan, he continued, was the “reality of communion,” which continues to help inspire the missionary zeal of the Church in Bangladesh. Another of its goals was a preferential option for the poor, which has shown to be prophetic of the country’s history of service to the poor, especially in remote areas and tribal communities.

But, he emphasized, “in light of the present refugee crisis, we see how much more needs to be done!”

“The inspiration for your works of assistance to the needy must always be that pastoral charity which is quick to recognize human woundedness and to respond with generosity, one person at a time,” Francis said.

Urging the bishops to work “unremittingly” to foster dialogue and to speak out against violence, especially that which “parades as religion,” the Pope stated that they should seek to replace the “culture of conflict with the culture of encounter.”

Peru to withdraw controversial “gender ideology” curriculum

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 2:00 AM

Lima, Peru, Dec 1, 2017 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Peruvian government will withdraw a 2016 national school curriculum that has been widely criticized for its “gender ideology.”

In a Nov. 24 statement, Peru’s Department of Education announced that a 2009 version of the National Curriculum will be reimplemented in Peruvian schools. The former curriculum does not include the gender ideology concepts addressed in the 2016 version.

The announcement  was celebrated as a “new victory for parents” by a group using the hashtag #ConMisHijosNoTeMetas, which translates as “don’t you mess with my children.” In March 2017, the group organized marches in Peru, drawing more than 1.5 million people to demonstrate against a progressive gender ideology.

The 2017 National Curriculum for Basic Education was approved by the Department of Education in late 2016, despite criticism from parents, teachers, the Catholic Church, and several Christian groups in the country.

The Peruvian bishops’ conference had criticized the Department of Education for including in the new curriculum “concepts which do not proceed from the Constitution, but rather are taken from so-called gender ideology.”

“Pope Francis has warned that gender ideology denies the difference and the natural reciprocity of man and woman,” the bishops stated.

In August, Peru’s Superior Court of Justice ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed against the Department of Education, arguing that the curriculum was an attempt to indoctrinate schoolchildren.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, Sergio Burga, a researcher with the Population Research Institute’s Latin American office, described the measure taken by the Department of Education as “a great victory for the thousands of parents represented by #ConMisHijosNoTeMetas.”

Burga said that by removing the 2016 curriculum from schools, “pernicious expressions have been eliminated, such as ‘construct your identity,’ ‘gender identity’ and even ‘what is masculine or feminine is constructed day-by-day.’”

Burga said that although it was less offensive to parents’ groups, some similar concerns have been raised about the earlier curriculum, which will now be reviewed by advocates and parents.

For Burga “the fight” in the defense of the family “goes on.”

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

Pope Francis ordains 16 priests in Bangladesh

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:17 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov 30, 2017 / 10:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Celebrating Mass in the Bangladeshi capital on Friday, Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood.

“Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons … are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised,” he exhorted the crowd in his homily, which is that provided in the Roman Pontifical.

The Dec. 1 Mass was said at Suhrawardy Udyan, a park and national memorial in Dhaka.

“Our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church … priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God,” the Pope preached.

“After mature deliberation, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate, so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.”

He reflected that the newly ordained would be consecrated “to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.”

Turning to the ordinandi, he said: “For your part, you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach.”

“Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God’s Church,” he added.

“Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.”

Referring to their duties in the sacraments and in the recitation of the Divine Office, he called them to remember “that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ.”

“Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.”

Having finished the exemplar homily from the Pontifical, Pope Francis then addressed extemporaneously the crowd attending the Mass.

“Thank you for your generosity,” he told them. “This shows the love you have for the Church. This shows the love you have for Jesus Christ. Thank you all. Thank you all for your generosity. Thank you for your faithfulness.”

“Today I ask you in a special way always to pray for these new priests … the People of God sustain their priests with prayer. Your responsibility is to sustain your priests.”

“Don't get tired of sustaining your priests with prayer. I know you will do this.”

LA Archdiocese creates website to take action for DACA youth

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 7:00 PM

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 30, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, CA has encouraged Catholics in the U.S. to advocate for an extension to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before the spring deadline.

“As you know, the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will expire on March 5, 2018 unless Congress acts to make the DACA protections permanent,” stated Archbishop Gomez.

“Now is the time for you to contact your Representative in the House… urge your representatives right now to tell the House Leadership – Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy – to do the right thing and make the DACA protections permanent,” Gomez continued.

In Sept. 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it would be phasing out the DACA program.

Showing its support for the DACA program, the Archdiocese of LA created a website to make it easier for individuals to contact their legislators, encouraging Congress to make the DACA protections permanent.

The website links users with their representatives, and prompts them to email or call with a message to make DACA protections permanent by the end of the year.

More than 800,000 people rely on the DACA program, a U.S. immigration policy that makes allowances for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a work permit and deferred action from deportation.

Most of the people who are part of the DACA program have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and were brought into the country by their parents.

“These are the people that live next door. They go to work and we sit next to them at church on Sunday,” Gomez said.

There are 12 business days left for Congress to take action in 2017, but the official deadline is March 5, 2018.

“This is an urgent moment. If we do not reach out to our House members, nobody else is going to,” Gomez said.

“May God bless you for your concern for these DACA recipients and their families.

Archbishop says #staywoke this Christmas season

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 5:00 PM

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 30, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In preparation for the first Sunday of Advent, the Archbishop of Los Angeles has said the season is a time to spiritually “stay woke,” shaking off apathy and becoming more aware of God’s presence.

“My prayer for us this year is that we will make this Advent a spiritual adventure of living with a new awareness of the presence of God,” said Archbishop José Gomez in a Nov. 28 column.

“Advent is the time for us to wake from our sleep! When we are ‘awake’ to who God is, then we are ‘awake’ to who we are – and how precious every life is.”

The archbishop explained that Advent is a time of waiting for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but it is also an opportunity for God to draw closer to his people in relationship, noting this desire of God to be close to creation is a unique aspect of Christianity.

“And we believe that our God comes to be with us, that he loves us so much that he makes himself one of us – sharing in the whole experience of our humanity, beginning as a little child in a mother’s womb.”

“This is the beautiful truth we anticipate in these short weeks that lead to Christmas,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez warned Christians of becoming “numb” to the presence of God. He referred to the examples in New Testament, citing the Apostles who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and servants who did not stay awake for the master’s return.

Reflecting on the social media #staywoke, the archbishop said that “remaining awake” means more than just awareness of social and political issues. Instead, he said that Advent is an opportunity to be “‘awake’ to who God is,” and “awake’ to who we are — and how precious every life is.”

“So, we can make a new effort during this holy season – to slow down a little in our lives; to turn down the volume a little; to take some time and make some room in our lives just to be quiet with God.”

This takes practice, he said and cited the example of the recently beatified Blessed Solanus Casey. The archbishop said that although many miracles have been attributed to the Capuchin priest, they weren’t what made him holy. Rather, it was his desire to serve God constantly, and to find God in the present.

“This is our purpose in life – to be faithful to the present moment. When we are ‘awake’ to God’s presence, our hearts are open to doing his will and living according to his loving plan for us. And he has created us to do great things,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez called on Catholics to pray to be made more aware of God’s unlimited love and to understand that the person is most alive in this love.

“We need to talk to God and tell him: ‘Lord, I know that you are near me. I know that, in your love, you come to walk with me.’”

Pope Francis visits with first Burmese Jesuit priest

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 3:00 PM

Yangon, Burma, Nov 30, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Pope Francis travels around the world, he often makes time to visit with local Jesuit communities.  This week Fr. Wilbert Mireh, SJ, took part in the Pope’s visit with the Jesuits of Burma. Mireh’s role in the visit was unique: he is the first Burmese Jesuit to be ordained a priest.
A Burmese Jesuit “is a gift of God to the Society of Jesus, which has been invited back to the country after its previous expulsion by the country’s military regime in 1960s,” Fr. Mireh told Catholic News Agency.
Fr. Mireh entered the Society of Jesus in 2000, and was ordained a priest in May 2013, becoming the first Jesuit priest from Burma in more than 470 years of Jesuit history. He is director of Burma’s Campion Institute, and works in a parish in Loikaw. He is one of 32 Jesuits who work and operate in Burma.
Fr. Mireh explained that “the priority of the Society of Jesus for the past decade has been the formation of local Jesuits.”
He added that “the Society is also committed to other apostolic ministries, including, educational, social, spiritual and pastoral apostolates, although these are still in the beginning stages.”
Fr. Mireh underscored that “with the immense needs of the country, but with limited manpower and resources in a developing country where the Catholics make up just one percent of the total population, the challenge is to prioritize ministries in a realistic way.”
It is a “time of great challenges and sorrows”, Fr. Mireh noted, and the Jesuits “share the joy of the people in heartily welcoming Pope Francis’ visit,” which “signifies the Lord’s call to the Jesuits in Burma.”
Jesuits have been missionaries in Burma since the early years of the Society of Jesus. St. Francis Xavier, a companion of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola, asked Ignatius to send Jesuits as missionaries in the kingdom of Pegu, a territory now a part of Burma.
Jesuits missionaries also worked in the Burmese city of Mandalay.
In the 1950s and 1960s, American Jesuits were asked to lead a new Catholic seminary in the country. Because of the socialist dictatorship, the Jesuits had to flee Burma again in the middle of 1960s, after the military regime forbid contact with foreigners.
During the 1990s, Burmese bishops, who had been formed in the Jesuit-run seminary, personally asked Fr. Hans Kolvenbach, then General of the Society of Jesus, to send more Jesuits to the country. A group of Jesuits came back to the Burmese territory in 1998.
The Jesuits opened a novitiate, which Fr. Mireh attended, and began other apostolic projects.
Fr. Mireh is among the many fruits of 500 years of evangelization in the territory and 400 years of Jesuit apostolate in Burma.
Fr. Mireh lives his vocation and exceptionality in a very serene way.
“Despite my unworthiness – he said – I believe that it is also my personal response to the call of the Eternal King and I have been trying to integrate it faithfully as part of my daily life.”

New tests have confirmed the age of the Holy Sepulchre

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:33 PM

Jerusalem, Nov 30, 2017 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the recent restoration of the Holy Sepulchre, archaeologists have confirmed the construction dates of the structure surrounding what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus.

Having undergone renovations in 2016, the tomb was opened for first time in centuries last October. Archeologists were able to test samples of the mortar near the cave’s southern wall and the entrance, according to National Geographic. The sediment in the samples was was measured for its most recent exposure to light using a process called optically stimulated luminescence.

They found that the mortar and marble slab covering the original burial bed dated back to about 345 AD. This coincides with the time period that Constantine was believed to have built the shrine around the tomb, and refutes claims by many researchers that the shrine was built only 1,000 years ago, during the Crusades.  

Veneration of Christ's burial place dates back to the fourth century, when St. Helena is believed to have discovered and identified the tomb. St. Helena’s son, Emperor Constantine, is believed to have built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 326 and enshrined the tomb.

The shelf on which Christ's body was laid is the central point of veneration, which has been encapsulated by a 3-by-5 foot marble structure - the Edicule - since at least 1555.

Since its construction, the church has been built and rebuilt several times, repairing destruction caused by fires, earthquakes, and religious conflicts.

A year-long restoration of the site was recently completed, and scientists are looking into additional restoration work on the foundation.

Scientists also found that in between the burial bed and the most recent marble covering was a broken slab marked by a cross and words “burial tomb,” belonging to the original shrine.

The tests performed on the tomb samples also provided evidence for the historical restorations of the Crusades and the 16th century Franciscans.

Pope kicks off Bangladesh visit with call to action on Rohingya crisis

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 7:44 AM

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2017 / 05:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis arrived in Bangladesh with words of praise for the humanitarian assistance the nation has given to Rohingya Muslim refugees, and urged greater action on their behalf from the international community.

Speaking to Bangladeshi president Abdul Harmid and the nation's authorities and diplomatic corps, the Pope said that in recent months “the spirit of generosity and solidarity” the country is known for “has been seen most vividly in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State.”

He noted how Bangladesh “at no little sacrifice” has provided shelter and basic necessities for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims at their border.

With the eyes of the world watching the crisis unfold, no one “can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in the refugee camps,” he said.

It is therefore “imperative” that the international community “take decisive measures to address this grave crisis.”

Resolution, he said, means not only working to resolve the political problems that led to the mass displacement of people in recent months, “but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs.”

Pope Francis spoke hours after arriving in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for the second phase of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 tour of Asia. He was in Burma Nov. 27-30, and will stay in Bangladesh for two days before returning to Rome.

His visit comes amid boiling tensions over the mass exodus of the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, from their homeland amid increasing state-sponsored violence that has led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, where millions are in refugee camps.

Though the Vatican has said the crisis was not the original reason behind the Pope's visit to the two nations, it has largely overshadowed the trip, with many keeping a watchful eye on how the Pope would respond, specifically when it comes to use of the term “Rohingya.”

Despite widespread use of the word in the international community, it is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. At the request of local Church leaders in Burma, Pope Francis refrained from using the word, and he has also done so in Bangladesh.

In his speech to authorities, the Pope praised the natural beauty in Bangladesh, which is seen in its vast network of rivers and waterways, saying the vision is symbolic of the nation's identity as a people made up of various languages and backgrounds.

Pope Francis then pointed to the nation's first leaders, whom he said “envisioned a modern, pluralistic and inclusive society in which every person and community could live in freedom, peace and security, with respect for the innate dignity and equal rights of all.”

Bangladesh gained independence from West Pakistan in 1971 after a bloody nine-month war that began when Pakistani military attacked their eastern state in a bid to eliminate Bengali nationalists from the region. West Pakistan began their assault in March 1971, and surrendered in December of the same year, resulting in the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

The future of democracy in the young nation and the health of its political life, then, are “essentially linked” to fidelity to the original vision of the founding fathers, Pope Francis said.

“Only through sincere dialogue and respect for legitimate diversity can a people reconcile divisions, overcome unilateral perspectives, and recognize the validity of differing viewpoints,” Francis said, adding that true dialogue looks to the future and builds unity in the service of the common good.

This dialogue, he said, is also concerned for the needs of “all citizens, especially the poor, the underprivileged and those who have no voice.”

These words are especially relevant for Bangladesh, which is among the most populated countries in the world, but is also one of the poorest, with nearly 30 percent of the population living under the poverty line.

Francis said that while he came primarily to support the tiny Catholic community in the country, he is looking forward to meeting with interreligious leaders, as he did in Burma.

Interfaith dialogue has been a major theme of the Pope's visit, as Burma is a majority Buddhist nation and Bangladesh is majority Muslim. In Bangladesh, 86 percent of the population practices Islam. The 375,000 Catholics there represent less than 0.2 of the total population.

In his speech, Pope Francis noted that Bangladesh is known for the sense of harmony that exists between followers of different religions, saying this atmosphere of mutual respect and interreligious dialogue “enables believers to express freely their deepest convictions about the meaning and purpose of life.”

By doing this, religions are able to better promote the spiritual values which form the basis for a just and peaceful society. And in a world “where religion is often – scandalously – misused to foment division, such a witness to its reconciling and unifying power is all the more necessary.”

Francis said this witness was seen in an “eloquent way” after a brutal terrorist attack at a bakery in Dhaka last year left 29 people dead, prompting the country's leaders to make a firm statement that God's name “can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against our fellow human beings.”

Speaking of the role Catholics play in the country, Pope Francis said they have an essential contribution, specifically through the schools, clinics and medical centers run by the Church.

The Church, he said, “appreciates the freedom to practice her faith and to pursue her charitable works, which benefit the entire nation, not least by providing young people, who represent the future of society.”

He noted how many of the students and teachers in Church-run schools are not Catholic, and voiced his confidence that in keeping with the Bangladeshi constitution, the Church “will continue to enjoy the freedom to carry out these good works as an expression of its commitment to the common good.”

The Pope closed his speech assuring his of his prayers “that in your lofty responsibilities, you will always be inspired by the high ideals of justice and service to your fellow citizens.”

In his greeting to Pope Francis, Bangladesh President Abdul Harmid thanked the Pope for his visit and stressed the importance the nation places on religious freedom and development.

“People are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely and without fear,” he said, adding that in Bangladesh they “cherish” religious liberty and therefore stand with the Pope in defending it, “knowing that people everywhere must be able to live with their faith, free from fear and intimidation.”

Harmid also pointed to Francis' message on mercy, which he said Bangladesh has put into practice with their welcome of the Rohingya Muslims.

“It is our shared responsibility to ensure for them a safe, sustainable and dignified return to their own home and integration with the social, economic and political life of Myanmar,” he said, adding that the Pope's “passionate” condemnation of the brutality they face brings hope for a resolution.

“Your closeness to them, your call for helping them and to ensure their full rights gives moral responsibility to the international community to act with promptness and sincerity.”

The president also pointed to the problem of radical terrorist violence, saying “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

The Bangladesh government, he said, is therefore pursuing a “zero tolerance” policy committed to eradicating the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism.

“We denounce terrorism and violent extremism, in all its forms and manifestations,” Harmid said, yet at the same time, like other Muslim majority countries, Bangladesh is also concerned about “the rise of Islamophobia and hate crimes in many western societies, which is adversely affecting lives of millions of peaceful people of faith.”

“We believe that inter-faith dialogue, at all levels of the society, is important to combat such extremist trends,” he said. He closed his speech with an appeal to protect the natural environment, and said the Pope's visit “renews our resolve towards building a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous world.”

Pope lands in Bangladesh, visits two national landmarks

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 7:21 AM

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov 30, 2017 / 05:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After landing in Bangladesh Thursday afternoon, Pope Francis made visits to two of the country’s important landmarks – the National Martyr’s Memorial in Savar and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

Arriving at the airport around 3:00 pm local time, Pope Francis was greeted by the President of the Republic of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Two children in traditional dress then brought flowers and a jar of earth to the Pope, who blessed them.

Also present at the airport were political and civil authorities, 10 Bangladeshi bishops, a group of faithful and 40 children, who performed traditional dances for Francis.

From there, he traveled to the National Martyr’s Memorial in Savar, which is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.

At the memorial the Pope placed a wreath of flowers, and then signed the Book of Honor. He also planted a tree in the memorial’s adjoining Garden of Peace.

Afterward, Francis stopped at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dkaha City, which honors former Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated, alongside most of his family, in August 1975.

“Father of the Nation” is an honorific title given to the person instrumental in obtaining a country's independence. The museum, created in 1994, preserves the former home of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the place he was killed.

Two of his daughters were away from the country at the time of his assassination, and thus spared. His oldest daughter is Sheikh Hasina, who is a prominent politician and has been prime minister of Bangladesh since January 2009.

Pope Francis was welcomed to the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum by some family members of the Father of the Nation. He then placed a flower wreath at the museum, making a silent prayer. He also signed the Book of Honor at the museum.

From there he traveled to the presidential palace for a private visit with Bangladesh’s president Abdul Hamid. Afterward he will meet with authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps, where he will give a speech.

Pope Francis arrived in Bangladesh at midday Nov. 30. He came from the neighboring country of Burma, also called Myanmar, where he spent three days in meetings with military and government officials and with religious leaders.

He will spend two and a half days in Bangladesh before returning to Rome late on the night of Dec. 2nd.

The population of Bangladesh, almost 156 million, is 90 percent Muslim. Catholics make up just 0.2 percent, at a total of 375,000 in number. In the country there are 12 Catholic bishops and 372 total priests, both religious and diocesan.



Your faith and enthusiasm are a welcome sight, Pope tells Burmese youth

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:46 PM

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 09:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic young people of Burma are “a welcome sound” of encouragement, Pope Francis told them Thursday at a Mass said at St. Mary's Cathedral in Yangon.

“Dear young people of Myanmar … you are a beautiful and encouraging sight, for you bring us ‘good news’, the good news of your youth, your faith and your enthusiasm. Indeed, you are good news, because you are concrete signs of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ, who brings us a joy and a hope that will never die,” Francis said Nov. 30 in the largest city of Burma (also known as Myanmar).

The Pope's Mass with Burmese youth comes at the conclusion of his visit to the country, where he arrived Nov. 27. He also met with government officials, religious leaders, Buddhist monks, and the country's bishops. The previous day, he said Mass in Yangon's Kyaikkasan Ground, attended by much of the country's Catholic population. From Burma, he will continue on to Bangladesh before returning to Rome.

“As my visit to your beautiful country draws to a close, I join you in thanking God for the many graces we have received in these days,” he stated.

“Some people ask how it is possible to speak of good news when so many people around us are suffering? Where is the good news when so much injustice, poverty and misery cast a shadow over us and our world?”

In the face of this suffering, he said it is important that the Burmese youth “are not afraid to believe in the good news of God’s mercy, because it has a name and a face: Jesus Christ. As messengers of this good news, you are ready to bring a word of hope to the Church, to your own country, and to the wider world.”

“You are ready to bring good news for your suffering brothers and sisters who need your prayers and your solidarity, but also your enthusiasm for human rights, for justice,” and for Christ's love and peace.

The Pope's words about solidarity, human rights, and justice come as international attention on Burma is focused on the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who have been denied citizenship and who face general persecution in the Buddhist-majority country. In recent months, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled the country for Bangladesh amid state-sponsored violence against them.

At the same time, Pope Francis challenged his listeners with three conditions of salvation given in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans which was proclaimed at the Mass, and which ask us “to think about our place in God’s plan.”

“In effect, Paul asks three questions, and I want to put them to each of you personally,” he said. “First, how are people to believe in the Lord unless they have heard about him? Second, how are people to hear about the Lord unless they have a messenger, someone to bring the good news? And third, how can they have a messenger unless one is sent?”

While wanting all of his listeners “to think deeply about these questions,” the Pope offered guidance to “help you to discern what it is that the Lord is asking of you.”

First, he said, it is important to listen for God's voice: “Our world is full of many sounds, so many distractions, that can drown out God’s voice. If others are to hear and believe in him, they need to find him in people who are authentic. People who know how to listen … But only the Lord can help you to be genuine, so talk to him in prayer. Learn to hear his voice, quietly speaking in the depths of your heart.”

“But talk also to the saints,” he added, pointing to Saint Andrew, whose feast was celebrated at the Mass. “Andrew was a humble fisherman who became a great martyr … But before he became a martyr, he made his share of mistakes, and he needed to be patient, and to learn gradually how to be a true disciple of Christ. So do not be afraid to learn from your own mistakes!”

Pope Francis urged Burma's youth to “let the saints lead you to Jesus and teach you to put your lives in his hands. You know that Jesus is full of mercy. So share with him all that you hold in your hearts: your fears and your worries, as well as your dreams and your hopes. Cultivate your interior life, as you would tend a garden or a field. This takes time; it takes patience. But like a farmer who waits for the crops to grow, if you wait the Lord will make you bear much fruit, a fruit you can then share with others.”

The Pope then turned to young people's need to be “messengers of the good news of Jesus, above all to your contemporaries and friends. Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think!”

“Don’t worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between,” he told them, in consideration of the fact that Catholics make up only about one percent of Burma's population. “The Gospel always grows from small beginnings. So make yourselves heard.”


#Pope to young people in Yangon: “Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think!... Make yourselves heard. I want you to shout! But not with your voices. No! I want you to shout with your lives, with your hearts, & in this way to be signs of hope...”

— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) November 30, 2017


“I want you to shout … with your lives, with your hearts, and in this way to be signs of hope to those who need encouragement, a helping hand to the sick, a welcome smile to the stranger, a kindly support to the lonely.”

Finally, Pope Francis discussed being sent forth at the conclusion of Mass “to take with us the gifts we have received and to share them with others. This can be a little daunting, since we don’t always know where Jesus may be sending us. But he never sends us out without also walking at our side, and always just a little in front, leading us into new and wonderful parts of his kingdom.”

To be sent by Christ is to follow him, the Pope added. “The Lord will invite some of you to follow him as priests … Others he will call to become religious or consecrated men and women. And yet others he will call to the married life, to be loving fathers and mothers. Whatever your vocation, I urge you: be brave, be generous and, above all, be joyful!”

Francis concluded by given Burma's young people the example of Mary, who though young, “had the courage to trust in the 'good news' she had heard, and to express it in a life of faithful dedication to her vocation, total self-giving, and complete trust in God’s loving care. Like Mary, may all of you be gentle but courageous in bringing Jesus and his love to others.”

“Dear young people, with great affection I commend all of you, and your families, to her maternal intercession. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me. God bless Myanmar!”

The royal engagement: What Catholics should know

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:52 PM

London, England, Nov 29, 2017 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In 1936, when British King Edward VIII declared that he intended to marry Wallis Simpson, he abdicated the throne.

Opposition to the union was strong - Simpson was doubly-divorced, and many thought she was only after Edward for his money.

Besides general disapproval from the elite, a more definite obstacle stood in the couple’s way - as King, Edward VIII was the head of the Church of England, which at the time did not allow divorced persons to remarry if their first spouse was still alive. In order to marry Simpson in a civil ceremony, he abdicated the throne in December, and was succeeded by his brother, George VI.

Earlier this week, another royal engagement was announced. On Monday, Kensington Palace announced that Prince Harry, who is fifth in line for the throne, is engaged to Meghan Markle. Like Simpson, Markle is an American and divorced. Furthermore, Markle has Catholic ties in her family, and is possibly a baptized Catholic herself.

Obstacles which just a few years ago might have disqualified the couple from ascending to the crown - divorce, Catholic ties - no longer require the Prince to abdicate his place in the line of succession to the British throne.

What has changed?

Father James Bradley, a Catholic priest in the U.K. and a former Anglican, told CNA that because of the previous rules of the Anglican Church, Edward was essentially obligated to abdicate because “he would have been in a relationship which the Church of which he was Supreme Governor did not approve,” he said.

In 2002, a synod of Anglican bishops officially changed Anglican doctrine regarding divorce, declaring that while “marriage should always be undertaken as a ‘solemn, public and lifelong covenant between a man and a woman’...some marriages regrettably do fail and that the Church’s care for couples in that situation should be of paramount importance...there are exceptional circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.”

The Anglican Church does not define exactly what qualifies as exceptional circumstances; this is primarily left up to the presiding minister to determine whether a second church wedding can be allowed.

One instance in which the Anglican Church forbids a second church wedding for divorced persons is if the new relationship contributed to the breakdown of the first marriage, Ed Condon, a Catholic canon lawyer in the U.K., told CNA. This was what prevented a church wedding for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.

“If there’s been no openly scandalous reasons or contributing factors, that would allow the Anglican authorities to say well, you can have a church wedding,” Condon said. Harry and Markle are expected to be married at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

But accepting attitudes about divorced monarchs is indicative of a broader breakdown of marriage that can be seen, particularly in the West, Bradley noted.

“The opposition to Edward VIII was, first of all, that society didn’t recognize divorce as something that was good at the time, and now it does, unfortunately,” he said.

Currently, “(the) new head of the [British] Supreme Court is pushing for no-fault divorce. We’ve gone from a situation where divorce was such a social issue that you couldn’t remain monarch and be married to a divorced person, and now we’re in a situation where the Supreme Court is pushing for no-fault divorce,” he said. “So it’s the complete collapse of marriage as we see in America and the rest of the West.”

Royals marrying Catholics

While Markle attended an all-girls Catholic school in L.A., it is unclear whether she was baptized as a Catholic, and she told Vanity Fair earlier this year that she was not raised as one.

Numerous British sources report that Markle has identified as a Protestant for some time before the engagement, and plans to be baptized and confirmed in the Church of England before marrying Harry.

However, if she were a Catholic, this too would have been an obstacle to her marrying into the royal family until very recently. Opposition to Catholics ascending to the throne dates back to King Henry VIII, who broke from the Catholic Church in the 1500s in order to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry another, because he blamed Catherine for failing to produce a son who could succeed to the throne.

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 allowed heirs to the throne to marry Catholics, among other changes. However, the law still stipulates that the acting British sovereign mustn't be a Catholic.

Catholics and the indissolubility of marriage

The Catholic Church teaches “that marriage is indissoluble, it is literally black and white,” Bradley noted.

“It’s a bond that cannot be broken, because God respects the promises that the husband and wife make to each other, and he does what’s asked. He binds together these two people who are asking to be bound together, it's a respecting of the free will of the individuals,” he added.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 1614, states that: “In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

The Catholic Church recognizes as sacramental the marriages between two baptized persons of any Christian community, Bradley noted.

“If there are two baptized Anglicans marrying, the Catholic Church would recognize that as a sacramental marriage,” he said, because the Catholic Church recognizes all Christian baptisms as valid.

“If both parties are baptized it’s a sacramental marriage, and non-Catholics are not bound by canonical form, so they’re quite at liberty to be married in the Church of England, and we recognize that they’re being married according to the rights of their ecclesial communities.”

However, if Markle’s first-marriage were valid, she would not be free to validly marry Harry.  An annulment, or declaration of nullity, of her first marriage, would establish that her previous marriage was invalid, Bradley said.

Condon noted that the Catholic Church also presumes the indissolubility of all marriages, whether those be marriages of Catholics, Christians, believers, or nonbelievers.

“The life-long partnership of one man and one woman is part of the natural law and God's plan for all humanity. The Church's presumption of validity pertains to all marriages, including Ms. Markle's,” he said.

“That having been said, we don't know any of the details of that union, or if a canonical process is underway regarding it. Catholics should, I would suggest, understand the royal engagement the same way they would the marriage of any two people they don't know personally: be happy for them."

Bradley added that the fact that royal engagements are always met with a resounding reaction of “joy and happiness,” which “shows that even when, in some sense, the marriage isn’t everything we would want it to be, society as a whole has a natural inclination towards the good and towards what marriage represents.”

“So people see the goodness of marriage, even people who are opposed to the institution of marriage will cheer when a couple like this get married, or get engaged, because it takes a very hardened heart not to be happy that two people are seeking this good.”

The difficult life of a Catholic missionary in Burma

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:31 PM

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 03:31 pm (ACI Prensa).- As Pope Francis continues his visit to Burma – also known as Myanmar – this week, he is encountering a country where life for Catholics can be difficult.

Just 1.3 percent of the population in Burma is Catholic, and while freedom of religion exists on paper, evangelizing in the majority Buddhist country is met with obstacles.

In an interview published by the Pontifical Missionary Works, a Spanish missionary who has been in Burma for seven years described life in the country. He spoke anonymously, to avoid jeopardizing his mission.

“The presence of foreign missionaries is not allowed. They’re afraid you’ll proselytize,” he said. “In fact, the brothers from native Burmese communities, even though they are recognized as such, officially they cannot evangelize. There are almost no conversions here; the growth of Christianity is mostly from births.”

But those who are Catholic are enthusiastic about their faith. The missionary said they expect some 300,000 people to attend the papal events with Pope Francis, out of about 700,000 Catholics in the country.

“Since the people are poor and it’s very expensive to travel to the capital, the Church is making a major effort so the faithful can attend the events,” he explained, adding that Bishop Charles Bo of Rangoon wrote to all the parishes, dioceses, congregations and bishops asking them to facilitate getting the people to the events.

“We all collaborated financially to be able to support transportation,” and even “Buddhist monks offered their facilities to take in the pilgrims,” he said.

With 87.9% of the population identifying as Buddhist, members of minority religions do not always find equal treatment in their day-to-day lives.

While minority religious services are permitted, non-Buddhists have fewer opportunities to get good jobs, including jobs in government.

However, the missionary said, the situation in the country has improved somewhat. “Before December 2016 we had to leave the country every 70 days. Currently they’re giving permits for longer stays.”

Still, he is not able to identify himself as a missionary. When he meets people, he tells them that he is a teacher and a translator. He is not registered as a religious, but instead has a business visa.

Currently, there are more than nine different congregations with a missionary presence in Burma, he said.

“We have been getting together to share difficulties, experiences, and mutually encourage one another through reflection and formation, especially on inculturation.” They also discuss goals, including creativity in evangelizing and how to best reach rural areas.

A few days after the missionary arrived in the country, he was asked by Bishop Bo to live in a poor neighborhood where the majority of people were Indian Muslims or Hindus.

“We began visiting poor families, old people living alone. We prayed with them and brought Communion to the Catholics. In addition for a year we had a house to welcome young people who came to the capital thanks to scholarships from the Jesuits,” the missionary recalled.

He also said that some of those young men wanted to follow their charism, and so they had to begin an intensive formation program for them.

“It’s very important that when a new house is opened up and native vocations are coming forth, that they are well trained, so they can be the ones who can work with more freedom of movement and knowledge of their own society,” he said.

The missionaries are currently offering English classes to the children in the neighborhood who are all Buddhists. “They’re normal families with few resources. We want to offer them the possibility of their children learning English and Korean, because they all dream of going to South Korea.”

The missionary said that the Catholic Church is a “witness to peace, unity, and encounter” within Burmese society and pointed to their initiative in the city of Mandalay, the cradle of Buddhism, where they have an ecumenical group that brings together Muslims, Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics.

Ultimately, he remains hopeful about the future of the Catholic Church in Burma.

“In 1962, the government expropriated all the Church’s schools and centers, leaving only state-run education,” he said. “But now it looks like they just gave approval to the possibility of setting up kindergartens. I know that some congregations are getting ready to open official kindergartens in different areas of the country.”


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

Burmese bishops say despite pressure, Suu Kyi has their support

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 12:56 PM

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 10:56 am (CNA).- As international criticism mounts for Burmese leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi over perceived inaction on the nation's Rohingya refugee crisis, Catholic bishops say they support her, fearing too much pressure could lead to a collapse of their newly-formed democracy, which is still struggling to take root.

“We need to really rebuild our nation,” said Fr Mariano Soe Naing, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Burma. He noted that even two years ago, it would not have been possible for the bishops to be vocal about their stand given the tumultuous political climate.

“We are only here (because of) the lives that have been shed on the streets, so we have gone through such a struggle in this country and we cannot compromise the lives, the blood, that this country has given,” he said. “We need to go on with our democratic reform of this nation.”

Fr. Soe Naing spoke to journalists at a press briefing on the second full day of Pope Francis' Nov. 27-30 visit to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The Pope will next travel to Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2 before returning to Rome.

The visit comes at a precarious time for Burma as it continues to struggle in transitioning to democracy. Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms began taking root in 2011. In November 2015, Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, were elected by an overwhelming majority, putting an end to a five-decade military dictatorship.

Suu Kyi and her party had also won the election in 1990, but the results were not recognized by the military government, and she was put under house arrest. However, despite her success in 2015, she is still barred from officially becoming president, and holds the title of “State Counselor” and Foreign Minister, while a close associate is acting as president.

Despite emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, the transition has been rocky. The military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.

Compounding the issue, the Pope's visit also takes place amid a sharp increase in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, prompting the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh in recent months.

However, despite widespread use of the term “Rohingya” in the international community, the term is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since Burma gained independence in 1948.

In many ways this crisis has overshadowed the Pope Francis' trip, the first-ever visit from a Pope to the Asian nation. Specific attention has been paid to whether or not Francis will use the term “Rohingya” while on Burmese soil. So far, he has refrained, upon the request of the country's Catholic leaders.

In the Nov. 29 news briefing, Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke said while the topic of migrants and refugees is a major concern for Pope Francis, the plight of the Rohingya “was not the original intention for making the trip.”

Differing from the Pope's 2016 daytrip to the Greek island of Lesbos, which Burke described as a “refugee trip,” the visit to Burma was made as an official visit to a country with whom the Holy See has just established diplomatic relations, and the refugee crisis happened to escalate at the same time.

The decision to officially form diplomatic ties was made in March, and relations were further cemented in May when Suu Kyi visited Pope Francis at the Vatican, with both leaders agreeing to send ambassadors to each other’s countries.

With Catholic bishops in Burma backing Suu Kyi and her government, the decision to establish ties and schedule a papal visit so soon after was likely made in a bid to support democracy in the country amid fears it could crumble under too much pressure from both inside and outside of the country.

In his first speech of the trip, given to Burmese authorities and diplomats Nov. 28, the Pope said healing and peace in the nation can only be achieved through the pursuit of justice and the promotion of human rights.

He also advocated for “the consolidation of democracy and the growth of unity and peace at every level of society.” He further advanced the cause of democracy in his speech to bishops earlier today, during which he told them to spread the Gospel through charity and the “support for democratic rule.”

In the lead-up to Francis' visit, the heat has been turned up on Suu Kyi, with many claiming the leader isn't doing enough to defend the Rohingya.

On Monday the Oxford City Council voted to strip Suu Kyi of her “Freedom of Oxford” award over what they said was a failure to speak out on abuses committed against the Rohingya. She was initially given the award in 1997 and collected it personally in 2012 after 15 years of house arrest.

However, the bishops have continued to support Suu Kyi. In a September statement, they called for an end to persecution of the Rohingya, while also emphasizing the complicated nature of the political, military, and humanitarian situation in the country, and saying that lasting reform will take time and that placing sole blame on Suu Kyi is counterproductive.

“Thousands of citizens went on the street against the socialist government and gave their lives on the streets of Yangon,” Fr. Soe Naing said at the press conference. “So we cannot just forget all these struggles to have a democratic transition in this country.”

And this democracy is now in danger again, the priest said, explaining that when Suu Kyi is criticized, the pressure comes in two ways: “the international community and the people in the country.”

He argued that the leader, and therefore democracy, is suffering as some criticize her on the Rohingya front, while others use her weakened public standing as an opportunity question the benefits of democracy for Burmese society.

Soe Naing said “we have to come up with a clear stand that we are for development of the country. We have just 18 months of her rule and then we met this crisis, and she is under pressure from all sides,” so the Church is eager to provide support.

Also present at the press conference was Bishop Hsane Hgyi, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burma (CBCM); Bishop Felix Liankhenthang, President of the CBCM; and Bishop John Saw Yaw Han, auxiliary bishop of Yangon.

In comments to journalists, Bishop Hgyi stressed the importance of both knowing and focusing on the truth on the political situation.

“We know Aung Sun Suu Kyi has been sacrificing and suffering for many years, not for herself and not for her family, but for her country,” he said, and cautioned against believing everything that's read in the papers.

People ought to look for authoritative sources, he said, and suggested that critics “go into the field to study the reality and study the history well” before speaking, because “just hearing from other people won't be enough.”

When asked whether there is fear that the Rohingya might be disappointed that Pope Francis has decided not to use the term during his visit to Burma, Burke said “Vatican diplomacy is not infallible,” and that everyone is entitled to form their own opinion on the matter.

“That's part of what diplomatic work is about,” he said, explaining that the main goal of the Holy See is “building bridges” in a nation with which they are just starting to form diplomatic relations.

“We're in the start of a relationship. The Holy See only recently began full diplomatic relations here, it's a very tiny Church,” Burke said, adding while the Pope “is very persuasive” and enjoys great moral authority, “he doesn't parachute” into regions to solve problems immediately, but takes things one step at a time.



Pope to Burmese bishops: Healing must be a pastoral priority

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:39 AM

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with the bishops leading Burma's small Catholic community, Pope Francis stressed the need to prioritize healing and pastoral accompaniment as the nation continues to reel from both past and present conflicts.

In a Nov. 29 meeting with Burma's bishops, Pope Francis said the Gospel they preach “is above all a message of healing, reconciliation and peace.” This message, he said, is especially potent in Burma, which is still working “to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and to build national unity.”

Many Catholic faithful in the country “bear the scars of this conflict and have borne valiant witness to their faith and their ancient traditions,” he said, explaining that the preaching of the Gospel “must not only be a source of consolation and strength, but also a summons to foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation.”

Echoing his words to interreligious leaders on his first full day in the country, Francis said this unity “is born of diversity. It values people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth (and) invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity.”

He prayed that the Lord would guide the bishops in their efforts to promote healing and communion at all levels in the Church, so that “God’s holy people can be salt and light for hearts longing for that peace the world cannot give.”

Pope Francis met with the bishops during his Nov. 27-30 visit to the country - also known as Myanmar - after which he will travel to neighboring Bangladesh from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 before returning to Rome.

He arrived Nov. 27 and has so far met with both religious and civil leaders. The meetings were politically charged on various levels, stemming from the fact that Christians are a small minority in Burma, as well as the fact that the nation is still working to transition to a democratic government after more than 50 years of military rule.

In his speech to the bishops, Pope Francis offered three words for reflection: healing, accompaniment and prophecy.

He praised efforts made by the local Church to care for the poor and the displaced, many of whom are members of the Rohingya Muslim minority who have been forced to flee their home in Burma's Rakhine State as a result of what the United Nations has called “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing” in the area.

The Pope voiced his thanks to those who “bring the balm of healing to these, their neighbors in need, without regard for religion or ethnicity.”

This healing, he said, is also relevant when it comes to inter-religious dialogue, and prayed that the bishops would continue building bridges of dialogue and join followers of other religions “in weaving peaceful relations will bear rich fruit for reconciliation in the life of the nation.”

Francis then stressed the importance of pastoral accompaniment, saying a good shepherd is always at his flock's side, and must constantly “bear the smell of the sheep.”

He emphasized the need to go out to the peripheries, telling the prelates that in their role as bishops, “your lives and ministry are called to model this spirit of missionary outreach,” which is primarily carried out by regular visits to the parishes and communities in their local Churches.

In the spirit of the first missionaries who evangelized the country, bishops, as pastors, must “continue to imbue the laity with a spirit of true missionary discipleship and seek a wise inculturation of the Gospel message in the daily life and traditions of your local communities.”

To this end, the role of catechists is essential, he said, adding that “their formation and enrichment must remain among your chief priorities.”

With few bishops and clergy ministering to the entirety of Burma's small Catholic population, catechesis plays a key role in the formation and education of the faithful in the country.

Burma is a majority Buddhist country. Catholics are a small minority, making up just 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million.

They are led by 22 bishops; 888 priests, both diocesan and religious; 128 non-ordained male religious and just two permanent deacons, making the ratio of Catholics to priests in the country around 742 to one. Women religious serving in Burma number just under 2,000. The country includes three archdioceses and 13 dioceses.

Given the unique challenges of being a minority, Pope Francis stressed the importance of pastoral accompaniment, specifically of the youth.

He urged the bishops to give special attention to their formation “in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world,” including the threats of “cultural and ideological colonization.”

Turning to the upcoming synod of bishops on youth in 2018, to be held at the Vatican, Francis said young people are one of the greatest blessings of the Church in Burma, and pointed to the high number of seminarians studying in both minor and major seminary in the country, numbering around 1,100 total.

In the spirit of the Synod, which will listen to the stories of young people and help them discern how best to proclaim the Gospel in their lives, Francis asked the bishops to “please engage them and support them in their journey of faith, for by their idealism and enthusiasm they are called to be joyful and convincing evangelizers of their contemporaries.”

Francis then emphasized the importance of the Church's prophetic witness in Burma, and recognized their daily efforts to bear witness to the Gospel through works of charity and education, but also through the defense of human rights and “support for democratic rule.”

He prayed that they would enable the Catholic community “to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society by making your voices heard on issues of national interest, particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.”

With a word on the importance of protecting the environment and preserving the rich natural resources in Burma, Pope Francis concluded his speech with a bit of pastoral advice for bishops themselves.

Recognizing the demands of their ministry, the Pope noted that the bishops, along with their priests, “often labor under the heat and the burden of the day.”

He urged the bishops to be balanced in caring for their spiritual and physical health, while also keeping a paternal eye on the health of the priests in their care.

Francis encouraged the bishops to spend time daily in prayer and in “the experience of God’s reconciling love,” which he said “is the basis of your priestly identity, the guarantee of the soundness of your preaching, and the source of the pastoral charity by which you guide God’s people on the path of holiness and truth.”

Prayer is the first duty of bishops, he emphasized.

In a special greeting to the Pope, Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burma, told Francis that his visit brings them “courage, joy and hope in trying to live and witness our faith, as we take part in peace and nation building process.”

“Like the dry parched land that is waiting for the first rain, we are also eagerly waiting for your visit which will be like the morning dew, a great blessing for our people and our country,” he said, adding that Pope's “timely visit” fills their hearts with love and peace as they strive to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” in their nation.

He wished the Pope “good health and peace of mind” during his visit, and assured him that they would always be “your faithful collaborators in the mission of peace and love.”



True justice and peace are for all people, Pope tells Buddhist leaders

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:34 AM

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with Buddhist monks in Burma on Wednesday, Pope Francis stressed that true and lasting justice and peace cannot be achieved unless the dignity of all people is protected.

“Authentic justice and lasting peace can only be achieved when they are guaranteed for all,” Pope Francis said Nov. 29.

He emphasized that his meeting with the Buddhist monks is an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Catholics and Buddhists as well as “affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman.”

Pope Francis met with the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a group which oversees Buddhist clergy in Burma, at the Buddhist Kaba Aye complex, which includes Kaba Aye Pagoda, just 6 miles north of Yangon.

The meeting took place during the Pope’s Nov. 27-Dec. 2 apostolic trip to Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh, which comes amid a serious uptick in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State.

In recent months, the violence has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“In every age, humanity experiences injustices, moments of conflict and inequality among peoples. In our own day these difficulties seem to be especially pronounced,” the Pope said.

Even though we’ve made great technological advancements, and people around the world are more and more aware of “their common humanity and destiny,” he said, still “the wounds of conflict, poverty and oppression persist, and create new divisions.”

“In the face of these challenges, we must never grow resigned,” he continued, because our “respective spiritual traditions” show us the way forward, “a way that leads to healing, mutual understanding and respect. A way based on compassion and loving kindness.”

Burma's religious makeup is predominately Buddhist, with 89 percent of the population practicing the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. In the encounter, Pope Francis expressed his esteem for those who follow the Buddhist tradition in Burma, saying that through their religion, the people “have been formed in the values of patience, tolerance and respect for life.”

A great challenge of today, Francis said, is to help people be open to the “transcendent,” being able to know themselves in such a way as “to realize that we cannot be isolated from one another.”

But if we are to be united, we must work to overcome “all forms of misunderstanding, intolerance, prejudice and hatred,” he said, noting that the words of Buddha and St. Francis can offer a guide for how to go about doing this.

In Dhammapada, Buddha says to “overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth,” the Pope quoted.

A similar message can be found in a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, he noted: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me bring pardon… Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there is sadness, joy.”

May the wisdom contained in these words, he said, continue to inspire patience and understanding, “to heal the wounds of conflict that through the years have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and religious convictions.”

He stressed that overcoming conflict and injustice is not only the work of religious leaders, but of the whole of society, though it is a particular responsibility of religious and civil leaders to guarantee that everyone’s voice is heard.

Francis said that for this work to bear lasting fruit, religious leaders will need to work together in even greater collaboration, stating that in this, “the Catholic Church is a willing partner,” ready to continue to walk together the path of “peace and healing, compassion and hope.”

He also praised the two-day peace meeting held by the local Catholic bishops’ conference in April – which included leaders of different religious communities as well as ambassadors and representatives of non-governmental agencies – as “essential” for deepening understanding of one another.


Spanish Planned Parenthood subsidiary stripped of government benefits

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 2:00 AM

Madrid, Spain, Nov 29, 2017 / 12:00 am (ACI Prensa).- Spain’s National Court has ruled that the Family Planning Federation, a subsidiary of Planned Parenthood International, can no longer be designated as a “public service organization” in Spain.

Under Spanish law, an organization qualified as a public service organization receives numerous tax, economic, administrative and legal benefits.  

The Spanish subsidiarity of the International Planned Parenthood Federation lost its designation in May 2016, when it was discovered the group had been illegally financed for seven years. The National Court temporarily reinstated the designation after reforms were promised.

However, on Nov. 25 the National Court definitively revoked FPF’s public service organization status, ruling in favor of an appeal issued by Minister of the Interior, and the Christian Lawyers Association which sought to have the international organization disqualified.

Christian Lawyers Association president Polonia Castellanos celebrated the decision and stated that “an organization which has systematically failed to comply with the law cannot be granted that status.”

She also asked that the FPF no longer be granted “the more than €400,000 they receive with the money coming out of our pockets.”  

Castellanos pointed out that the abortion-provider is also funded by its American counterpart, Planned Parenthood, which has been under congressional investigation in the U.S. for illegally trafficking in the organs and tissues of aborted babies.

The Christian Lawyers Association’s Complaint

The CLA initially filed a complaint with the Minister of the Interior alleging the FPFE had not declared income from ads they ran in a pharmaceutical magazine, prohibited under Spanish law, nor were they penalized for such advertising.

The Interior Ministry withdrew the public service designation from the group, alleging that “such illegal conduct is incompatible with the advancement of the public interest, in this case, protecting the public’s health.”  

The ministry also stated that “it involves betraying the confidence that society places in that entity which claims to benefit the community in exchange for receiving important advantages.”

Following the decision, the Family Planning Federation filed suit against the Interior Ministry and the Christian Lawyers Association. The National Court determined in fact that the Interior Ministry had acted properly, and dismissed the lawsuits, requiring the FPF to pay court costs for their failed litigation.

For Luis Losada Pescador, director of Spain’s CitizenGo campaigns, this is “really good news from the Spanish perspective because justice is being done.”
“An organization that hides income and dodges penalties is not serving the public interest. From the international point of view, this comes when the FBI may be starting an investigation into the largest abortion multinational in the world with great influence in Latin America through its subsidiaries,” he said.

Finally, he stated that this Spanish precedent “is very importantt because it opens the door to penalties against the American parent company.”

Qualifying for PSO status

According to Spanish law, institutions can be officially designated as “public service organizations” if their “statutory ends tend to promote the public interest and are of a civic, educational, scientific, cultural, sports or health related nature, promoting constitutional values and human rights.”

In addition the law states “associations designated as public service organizations have the following rights: they can state their PSO status on all types of documents after their name; enjoy exemptions and financial benefits recognized by law for such organizations under the terms and conditions provided by current regulations; enjoy economic benefits established by law; and free legal aid under the terms of the specific legislation.”

PSO legal status is granted by the Spanish Government’s Minister of the Interior.

As a PSO, the Spanish Family Planning Federation received around 377,000 € ($445,000) in public funding a year.

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