Catholic News Headlines

Pro-life pregnancy centers hopeful after arguing before Supreme Court

CNA General News - 52 min 38 sec ago

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2018 / 02:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys for a pro-life pregnancy center resource group are optimistic following Tuesday’s oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court, in the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.

In the pouring rain, the attorneys spoke to a crowd of supporters outside of the court, and said that they were pleased with the day’s events and remained hopeful that a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information about free or low-cost abortions would be struck down.

“We hit a home run today in the court,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. “In fact, [Alliance Defending Freedom CEO] Michael Farris hit a grand slam home run.”

Glessner added that he was “very optimistic” that the court would rule against California.

According to Farris, the Supreme Court justices were especially concerned about the provision in the law that mandated unlicensed, non-medical pregnancy centers to post a lengthy disclaimer in 13 languages on its advertisements.

“If you have just an ad that says ‘life counts’ with the name of your facility and a phone number, then you have to – in the same size as the ad itself, the main words – put a 29-word disclaimer in multiple languages. That crowds out the message,” said Farris.

“They’re not trying to inform anyone about anything, they’re trying to delude a message so that nobody ever comes to one of these facilities.”

According to Farris, multiple justices – including members of the court’s more liberal wing – were concerned that that this law was too far-reaching.

Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of ADF, agreed with Farris, and added that the government’s “last resort” should be to compel speech. Waggoner said she was hopeful that the court would agree that no one should be forced to promote something that violates their beliefs.

“We are hopeful, based on the comments of the court today, that they recognize that important principle. And we are hopeful that they will rule on the behalf of life.”

The attorneys told the crowd that they presented their argument to the court as one primarily based on free speech, not necessarily about abortion.

The First Amendment applies to all, NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor said, and the specific targeting of pro-life pregnancy centers by the Reproductive FACT Act should be troubling for everyone, regardless of political beliefs or feelings about abortion.

“Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice or whatever on the line, we should all be concerned about when a government can compel anybody to say something that violates what they believe,” said O’Connor.

Her sentiment was echoed by Josh McClure, the executive director of a California pregnancy clinic.

“No American should be forced to preach a message or speak a message that they don’t agree with. That’s the basis of why we’re here,” said McClure.

O’Connor also said that while the justices posed “challenging” questions, she believed that at least eight would rule in favor of NIFLA.

“But 9-0 is what we’re praying for.”

Pro-life advocates braved the freezing temperatures and rain to show their support for pregnancy centers.

Kelly Picardi, a non-denominational Christian, told CNA that she and her husband are in the process of adopting a child conceived in rape, due to be born next month.

“The conception of our daughter’s life came about through a difficult and unfortunate situation, but the decision of the birth mom not only choose life but to choose adoption is the most respectable thing I can think of,” Picardi says.

“That kind of decision is our inspiration, and an example to [my family] of what love looks like. Even though she’s had a really hard life, [the birth mother] is still making the kind of decision that will benefit someone else. That example of love is what we’ll live by every day.”

Picardi says she hopes that her family’s decision to adopt can serve as an example for others, ultimately helping to normalize the practice of adoption in society. “As hard as the adoption journey is, it’s really been affirmed by the people in our community,” she said. “Good can always come from broken situations.”

Rosemary Geraghty, a new media coordinator for Rehumanize International, said her beliefs as a self-identified feminist put her at odds with the pro-choice side of the argument.

“It’s hard for me to understand why someone who would call themselves pro-choice would be against the groups that give women more options than just abortion,” she told CNA. “To attack these pregnancy centers that are giving direct aid and resources to low-income women and pregnant’s just anti-’pro-life people.’ It’s viewpoint discrimination.”  

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stressed the important work that pregnancy care centers offer to serve women in need.  

“The bottom line is that abortion hurts women; it doesn’t do a service for women, and these centers can provide women what they need in a very stressful moment,” she said. “Things like diapers, but also more complex things like housing, education...these things are critically important.”


Jonah McKeown contributed to this report.


Polish bishops applaud bill to ban abortions based on disability

CNA General News - 2 hours 39 min ago

Krakow, Poland, Mar 20, 2018 / 12:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As pro-life legislation moves forward in Poland, the nation’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference applauded the measure, stressing that every human person has the right to life.

On Monday, a civic draft law called “Halt Abortion” received committee approval from the parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights, by a vote of 16-9. This measure, if passed, would prohibit the practice of eugenic abortions – those chosen due to a congenital disorder or genetic deformity in the unborn child.

“Every conceived child has the right to birth and to life, regardless of innate diseases and genetic defects. The role of the state is to provide protection for every citizen, also in its first stage of life,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Pozan, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The right to life is a fundamental human right, there is no doubt in this matter,” Archbishop Gadecki continued in a recent statement.

He voiced gratitude for the committee’s favorable ruling on the draft law, saying, “I would like to thank the parliamentarian Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which, giving a positive recommendation to the civic draft law ‘Halt Abortion’ signed by over 830,000 Poles, confirmed this right.”

Abortion in Poland is currently legal only in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life or health is threatened, or if the baby has received a prenatal diagnosis of a disorder or deformity.

According to Reuters, the majority of abortions performed within Poland are due to a prenatal diagnosis of a disability or disorder in the unborn baby. In 2016, 1,042 of the nation’s 1,100 legal abortions were reportedly performed for this reason.

During parliamentary discussion on the “Halt Abortion” bill, MPs quotes article 38 of the country’s Constitution, which states: “The Republic of Poland guarantees to everyone the legal protection of life.”

The “Halt Abortion” bill was introduced by the Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been in power since 2015. The party has sponsored multiple pro-life measures over the years, and has cut off public funding for in-vitro fertilization. They also enacted restrictions on the morning-after pill, which now requires a prescription.

Archbishop Gadecki thanked “many nuns and priests as well as lay people in Poland” for their prayers on the legislation. He said the Church must be “the voice of those who do not yet have a voice.”

“Legal protection of human life is not a question of religion or worldview, but above all a question of science, which clearly shows that human life begins at the moment of conception,” Gadecki said.

“Modern biology, especially genetics, leaves no doubt as to the humanity of the human embryo and its distinctiveness from the moment its genome was conceived.”

The “Halt Abortion” bill will now move forward to the Committee of Social Politics and Family on March 21, and from there will go on to Parliament.


Judge temporarily blocks Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

CNA General News - 3 hours 38 sec ago

Jackson, Miss., Mar 20, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday against a Mississippi law which bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy.

It is the most restrictive abortion law in the US.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves temporarily blocked the Gestational Age Act March 20, one day after it was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.


I was proud to sign House Bill 1510 this afternoon. I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal.

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 19, 2018


A suit was filed against the law within hours of its signing by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The center argues that a “state may not ban abortion before viability.” Viability is currently typically placed at around 24 weeks.

Dr. Sacheen Carr-Ellis of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion clinic, saying a woman at least 15 weeks pregnant was scheduled to have an abortion Tuesday afternoon.

The state argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health.

The law was passed by the state legislature earlier in the month. It permits abortion past 15 weeks when the mother's life or major bodily function is in danger or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality which is incompatible with life outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Under the law, physicians knowingly in violation can lose their state medical licenses, and receive a civil penalty of up to $500 if they falsify records about the circumstances of the procedure.

State records indicate about 200 abortions a year are performed on women 15 to 20 weeks pregnant; according to the suit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Jackson Women's Health Organization performed 78 abortions past 15 weeks in 2017.

Prior to the passage of the new law, Mississippi barred abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy. It also requires that those performing abortions be board-certified or -eligible obstetrician-gynecologists, and that a woman receive in-person counseling and wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion.

Signing the bill, Bryant said that “We are saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do? We'll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that'll be fine with me. It'll be worth fighting over.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It’s a great day in Mississippi as we move to make our state the safest place in the nation for an unborn child. I was proud to stand with members of the pro-life community as Gov. <a href="">@PhilBryantMS</a> signed the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) <a href="">March 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said at the signing that the state would be prepared for pay to defend the law in court: “I don’t know if you can put any value on human life. We are all about fighting to protect the unborn. Whatever challenges we have to take on to do that, is something we’re willing to do.”

Motion to remove value attestation in Canada Summer Jobs application fails

Catholic Register Canada - News - 3 hours 34 min ago

OTTAWA – Liberal MP Scott Simms defied his party and voted against the government as a Conservative motion to drop the Canada Summer Jobs attestation requirement was defeated March 19 in a packed House of Commons.

“I thought the attestation was an insensitive measure to those who felt strongly about this, whether they were pro-life or pro-choice,” Simms said after the vote. “I thought it could have been handled better.”

The motion put forward by Conservative MP Karen Vecchio failed by a count of 93 to 207. The vote was held as news reports based on figures from Employment Minister Patty Hadju’s department suggested more than 1,400 summer jobs grant applications had been rejected following implementation of the attestation, compared with only 126 last year. 

Hundreds of applicants have refused to sign the attestation on principle and the government has refused to back down from its insistence that every applicant support the government’s abortion ideology in order to qualify for grants which fund student summer employment.

Simms said “it remains to be seen” if he will face any consequences for his vote. 

The Newfoundland MP said he acted on principle. Describing himself believing in “reproductive rights,” Simms said he represented people, both pro-life and pro-choice, who were “very uncomfortable with this attestation.”

Before the vote, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said it was important “to send a message now that Canadians will not put up with this kind of attack on our Charter rights.”

“I am very concerned this could be taking us down a very dark path of violating peoples’ rights to hold different views or different beliefs,” he said. “It’s a logical concern to think charitable status in general may be next."

The Opposition leader also warned that new public service employees could be required to “sign an attestation they have the same beliefs as the Liberal Party, eliminating anyone who holds different views from working in the public service.”

“It’s the fundamental principle the State has no place in the conscience of the nation,” he said. It’s the principle the State has no right “to peer into your mind and make you believe what they believe or force you to violate your conscience.”

“I think anyone that believes in the proper limits of government should be alarmed by this,” he said.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis noted at least one MP from every party voted for the motion, including one NDP member (David Christopherson), two Bloc Quebecois and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

“Don’t let anybody tell you they didn’t have a choice,” said Genuis. “They had a choice. Every member of Parliament always has a choice, and they chose to vote in favour of the values test, against this motion.”

One charity that refused to check the box and is waiting for its final reply from the government is Waupoos Farm, which offers inexpensive vacations for low income families in the Ottawa area. Waupoos board treasurer Patrick Brown said his organization sent a two-page explanation to Service Canada stating why it could not sign the attestation.

“Chief among these was our inability to attest to a statement that violates our moral and religious beliefs and identity,” said Brown in an e-mail. “This document also respectfully requested accommodation of Waupoos' rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

Canadian Federal Government House of Commons Question period, March 19, 2018. 

Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, watched the vote from the gallery of the House of Commons. “I couldn’t help but be disappointed,” Bussey said. He described the vote as surprisingly “nonchalant.”

“Don’t they really see the seriousness of this issue?” he asked.

I am very proud that fellow Newfoundlander Scott Simms MP for Coast of Bays-Central Notre Dame, voted for his conscience and against compelled speech. #CanadaSummerJobs

— Barry W. Bussey (@barrywbussey) March 20, 2018

The Canada Summer Jobs program provides $223 million in grants to help pay students for jobs at charities, non-profits and small businesses. Though the number of applications has risen to 42,647 this year from 41,961 in 2017, last year the government rejected only 126 files while 199 were later withdrawn by the employer. This year, the government has rejected 1,561 applications while 55 were withdrawn, leading to the estimate of more than 1,400 being rejected for failing to tick the attestation box.

These figures do not take into account charities and parishes such as those in the Vancouver and London dioceses that did not apply this year because of the attestation.

A Decalogue of Chapels in a Vatican Lagoon?

Zenit News - English - 3 hours 47 min ago

The Vatican will get 10 new chapels, an exhibit uniting Church, architecture and the world.  It is all part of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale: Vatican Chapels. The exhibit runs May 26 – November 25, 2018.

“The Holy See, which represents the Catholic Church in its entirety, makes its first entrance to the arena of the Biennale di Architettura di Venezia. It does so landing in the lagoon on the splendid island of San Giorgio, penetrating a woodland oasis not with graphic representations or models but with a veritable sequence of chapels,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and commissioner of the Holy See Pavilion, at a March 20, 2018 press conference. “These are true and proper temples in Christian worship, even if in a minor form compared with cathedrals, basilicas, and churches. Each chapel contains two fundamental liturgical elements: the ambo (pulpit or lectern) and the altar. These are the expression of the Holy Word that is proclaimed and the Eucharistic Supper that is celebrated by the assembly of believers.”

The Cardinal explained that the number of chapels expresses a “sort of decalogue of presences. Visiting the chapels will be a pilgrimage that is both religious and secular.

“The project … is based on a precise model, the ‘woodland chapel’ built in 1920 by the famous architect Gunnar Asplund in the Cemetery of Stockholm,” explained Professor Francesco Dal Co, curator of the Holy See Pavilion. “To help visitors understand the reasoning behind this choice, an exhibit space will be set up as the first episode encountered at the entrance of the Pavilion of the Holy See, displaying the drawings and model of Asplund’s chapel.”

The theme of the chapel as a place of orientation, encounter, mediation, and salutation – as Asplund put it – was suggested to ten architects who were invited to design and build ten chapels in a wooded area at one end of the Venetian island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Therefore this will be a composite, distributed pavilion, visited in stages along an itinerary that is also a spiritual pilgrimage.

The chapels created by the architects, thanks to the indispensable support of important contractors and contributors, will be arranged in “an utterly abstract natural setting, marked only by its presence on the lagoon, its openness to the water,” as Dal Co explains, emphasizing the unique, original character of the initiative that has granted the architects complete freedom to design “without any reference to commonly recognized canons.” Inside the chapels, the shared fulcrum and identifying, unifying feature is represented by the presence of the altar and the lectern. The choice of the invited architects was based on the decision to focus on designers capable of applying different expressive languages, all strong characters from the standpoint of constructive experimentation, belonging to different generations and hailing from Europe, Australia, Japan, the United States and South America, in order to reflect the universal – indeed “catholic” – nature of the Church.

The architects who have designed the ten chapels and the exhibition space of Vatican chapels are: Andrew Berman (USA), Francesco Cellini (Italy), Javier Corvalàn (Paraguay), Eva Prats and Ricardo Flores (Spain), Norman Foster (UK), Terunobu Fujimori (Japan), Sean Godsell (Australia), Carla Juaçaba (Brazil), Smiljan Radic (Chile), Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portugal), while Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzel are the designers of the pavilion that will contain the exhibition of the drawings of Gunnar Asplund for the “Skogskapellet,” the “Woodland Chapel” in Stockholm.


The following are the interventions by Cardinal Ravasi and Professor Dal Co:


Intervention of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi


The Holy See, which represents the Catholic Church in its entirety, makes its first entrance to the arena of the Biennale di Architettura di Venezia. It does so landing in the lagoon on the splendid island of San Giorgio, penetrating a woodland oasis not with graphic representations or models but with a veritable sequence of chapels. These are true and proper temples in Christian worship, even if in a minor form compared with cathedrals, basilicas, and churches. Each chapel contains two fundamental liturgical elements: the ambo (pulpit or lectern) and the altar. These are the expression of the Holy Word that is proclaimed and the Eucharistic Supper that is celebrated by the assembly of believers.

The number of chapels is also symbolic as it expresses a sort of decalogue of presences fitted within the space: they are similar to voices that have been transformed into architecture and resound with their spiritual harmony in the drama of daily life. A visit to the ten Vatican Chapels, then, is a sort of pilgrimage that is not only religious but also secular. It is a path for all who wish to rediscover beauty, silence, the interior and transcendent voice, the human fraternity of being together in the assembly of people, and the loneliness of the woodland where one can experience the rustle of nature which is like a cosmic temple. Preceding this procession is an emblem: the “Woodland Chapel” by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund who, nearly a century ago (1920) and from a different region, evoked with his project the constant quest of humanity for the sacred within the spatial horizon of nature in which we live.

Architects from different backgrounds and diverse experiences have come to the island of San Giorgio to represent this “incarnation” of the temple in history, the dialogue with the plurality of cultures and of society, and to confirm the “catholicity” which is the universality of the Church. They come from nearby Europe with its complex historical configuration and from distant Japan with its unique religious roots, from the vivacious spirituality of Latin America and the seemingly secularized USA, as well as remote Australia that actually reflects contemporary concerns.

There was a precedent for this entrance of the Holy See into the Biennale Architettura. In 2013 and then in 2015, the Holy See entered two editions of the Biennale Arte with its own pavilions, offering a primordial message on the theme “In the Beginning” from the Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures. In the first edition, the artists took into their hands, as had been done for centuries, the biblical book of Genesis with its opening line, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is also the start of being and of existing. Contemporary art saw the return of this thematic subject of the creation of the universe and of humanity, the de-creation (the Flood and Babel), and the re-creation with the beginning of the history of redemption in Abraham. During its second presence at the Biennale Arte, there was instead the ideal incipit of the New Testament. This proposes another completely new beginning that descended from divine eternity and became bound up with human historical and contingent fleshliness: “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh”, as we read in the famous hymn that is used as the prologue to John’s Gospel.

The choice was clear and explicit and meant a change of direction compared to the recent past. For the last century, in fact, a lacerating divorce had opened up between art and faith. They have actually always been sisters, to the point that Marc Chagall had no hesitation in saying that “for centuries the painters have dipped their brushes in the colored alphabet that was the Bible”, the “Great Code” of western culture, as defined by the artist William Blake. Then, however, the roads divided.

On one side, art had left the temple; the artist had placed the Bible on a dusty shelf to pursue instead the secular road of modernity, often fleeing the use of figures, symbols, narrations and sacred words. Indeed, artists often considered the message as an ideological gallows and instead dedicated themselves to stylistic exercises that were more and more elaborate and self-referential or even sometimes desecrating provocations. Art was entrusted to an esoteric criticism that was incomprehensible to most people and became enslaved by the ways and means of a market that was often artificial and even excessive.

On the other side, theology looked almost exclusively to systematic speculation that believes it has no need of signs or metaphors; it too had put into storage the great repertoire of Christian symbols. In the ecclesial sphere, there was a return to copying the modules, styles, and genres of the past, or alternatively the use of a simpler amateurism, or worse, we adapted to the ugliness that pervades the new urban suburbs and the aggressive building schemes, raising modest sacred buildings that are devoid of spirituality, beauty or an encounter with the new artistic and architectural languages that were meanwhile being elaborated.

From this situation, a desire emerged for a new encounter between art and faith, two worlds that in earlier times intertwined but that had then become mutual strangers. It is a path of encounter that is certainly hard and complex and that feeds on reciprocal suspicion and hesitation and even fear of making things worse. It is a dialogue that in architecture has already registered significant steps and that began halfway through the last century, not just through the work of theologians and pastors who were sensitive to the issue, but also in the official magisterium beginning with Paul VI and his 1964 meeting in the Sistine Chapel with the artists. John Paul II’s 1999 Letter to Artists followed and then the new encounter of Benedict XVI in the same Sistine Chapel in 2009.

This first entrance of the Catholic Church to the Biennale Architettura occurs during the pontificate of Pope Francis. In the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – a sort of programmatic manifesto he authored at the beginning of his Petrine ministry (24 November 2013) – he wanted to renew a classic trajectory of Christianity, the so-called via pulchritudinis, that is, beauty as a religious path, aware of St. Augustine’s assertion that “we do not love, except what is beautiful” (De Musica VI, 13, 38). Concretely, the pope exalted “the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new language of parables”.

It is striking that the following declaration appears in the Statutes of Art from the 14th-century artists of Siena: “We are those who show the illiterate people the marvelous works carried out by virtue of the faith”. And St. John Damascene, the great defender of art in the 8th century against the iconoclasm that was being pushed by the emperor and large sections of the Church at that time, suggested: “If a pagan comes to you and says: ‘Show me your faith!’ You must take him to a church and show him the decorations and explain the series of sacred paintings”.

Pope Francis concludes as follows: “We must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty which may mean little to the evangelizers, yet prove particularly attractive for others”.


Intervention of Professor Francesco Dal Co

Vatican chapels

Vatican chapels is composed of 10 chapels and of the Asplund Pavilion.

The project for the Pavilion of the Holy See at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is based on a precise model, the “woodland chapel” built in 1920 by the famous architect Gunnar Asplund in the Cemetery of Stockholm. To help visitors understand the reasoning behind this choice, an exhibit space will be set up as the first episode encountered at the entrance of the Pavilion of the Holy See, displaying the drawings and model of Asplund’s chapel.

With this small masterpiece, Asplund defined the chapel as a place of orientation, encounter, and meditation, seemingly formed by chance or natural forces inside a vast forest, seen as the physical suggestion of the labyrinthine progress of life, the wandering of humankind as a prelude to the encounter.

This theme has been proposed to the ten architects invited to build ten chapels, gathered in the densely wooded area at the end of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, to form the Pavilion of the Holy See, together with the space set aside for Asplund’s drawings.

In our culture, we are accustomed to seeing the chapel as a space created for different reasons and aims inside a larger and often already existing religious space. The practice behind this perception has produced many models that share the factor of taking form in and belonging to an “other” space, a space of worship, a cathedral, a church, or more simply a place identified for having hosted an unusual occurrence, selected as being a recognized destination. In the modern era, these models have given rise to the consolidation of a canon.

The request addressed to the architects invited to construct the Pavilion of the Holy See thus implies an unusual challenge, since the designers have been asked to come to terms with a building type that has no precedents or models. The chapels designed by the architects, in fact, will be isolated and inserted in an utterly abstract natural setting, characterized only by its way of emerging from the lagoon, its openness to the water. In the forest where the “Asplund pavilion” and the chapels will be located there are no destinations, and the environment is simply a metaphor of the wandering of life. This metaphor, in the case of the Pavilion of the Holy See, is even more radical than the one configured by Asplund, who built his chapel amidst the trees, but inside a cemetery. For these reasons, the architects of the Pavilion of the Holy See have worked without any reference to generally recognized canons, and without being able to rely on any model from a typological viewpoint, as is demonstrated by the only apparently surprising variety of the projects they have developed.


Catechumens at the Easter Vigil

Zenit News - English - 4 hours 36 min ago

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

 Q: I am looking for some guidelines in the sacramentary that tell us how to guide catechumens during the Easter vigil Mass, especially the first part (the Service of Light), but there are none. Does it mean catechumens do the same as the faithful during the paschal candle procession? — D.Z., Beijing


 A: Effectively, there are no precise instructions regarding catechumens in the missal or in the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults for this part of the Easter vigil. All the instructions are for the Rite of Baptism.

 There are, however, some sensible annotations in diocesan norms which, while not binding, could be applied elsewhere.

 For example, one diocesan liturgy office at the rubric, “All light their candles from the flame of the paschal candle and continue in procession” adds the following note:

 “While not explicitly mentioned, catechumens would not use candles at this point. The candles are a sign of Christ indwelling the baptized; the catechumens will receive their candles after their own baptism.”

 This would appear to be a logical point and would underline better the reception of the lighted candle during the baptismal rite.

 After the Service of Light, the catechumens would have no particular role until the baptismal liturgy begins.

 With respect to this liturgy, the U.S. bishops’ conference has an explanation of some of the novelties found in the most recent edition of the Roman Missal. We offer some extracts:

 “The Service of Light

 “The Paschal Candle is brought forward. This candle should be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size that it may convey the truth that Christ is the light of the world. This description is developed in no. 94 of Built of Living Stones which reminds us that the Paschal Candle is the symbol of the ‘light of Christ, rising in glory,’ scattering the ‘darkness of our hearts and minds.’ ‘Above all, the Paschal Candle should be a genuine candle, the pre-eminent symbol of the light of Christ. Choice of size, design, and color should be made in relationship to the sanctuary in which it will be placed …’ (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts [1988], no 82).

 “The candle is then prepared in rites which are no longer optional. The celebrant cuts a cross into the candle with a stylus. Then he makes the Greek letter Alpha above the cross, the letter Omega below it, and the four numerals of the current year between the arms of the cross, saying the words indicated. After these rites, the priest lights the candle from the new fire and says: May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds. (Easter Vigil, no.14)

 “The organization of the procession is more clearly described in the new Missale Romanum. One of the ministers takes burning coals from the fire and places them in a censer (thurible) and the priest, in the usual way, places incense into it. The deacon, or in his absence another appropriate minister accepts the Easter candle from the celebrant and a procession is formed. The order of procession is the thurifer with smoking thurible, preceding the minister holding the candle, followed by the ministers and the priest and the people. All hold unlit candles (EV, no.15). Just as the children of Israel were guided at night by the pillar of fire, so Christians follow the risen Christ.

 “The places at which the proclamation, Light of Christ, are sung now differ from what was in the previous Missale.

 “The new places are: at the door of the Church (after which the priest lights his candle), in the middle of the Church (after which all light their candles), and before the altar, facing the people. The Missale instructs the deacon to place the candle in a large candle stand prepared either next to the ambo or in the middle of the sanctuary (EV, no. 17). The lights of the Church are then lit with the exception of the altar candles which are lit just before the intonation of the Gloria (EV, nos. 17 and 31).

 “Before the Easter Proclamation, the priest gives his candle to one of the ministers and blesses incense as at the Gospel during Mass. Having asked for and received the blessing, the deacon announces the Easter proclamation from the ambo or at a lectern. This poetic text captures the whole Easter mystery placed within the context of the economy of salvation. In the absence of a deacon the priest himself or another concelebrating priest may announce the Easter proclamation. If, however, a lay cantor announces the proclamation, the words, My dearest friends, up to the end of the invitation are omitted, along with the greeting, The Lord be with you (nos. 18-19). The reference to the Conference of Bishops adapting the text by inserting acclamations is no longer mentioned.

 “Liturgy of the Word

 “One of the unique aspects of the Easter Vigil is the recounting of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation. These deeds are related in seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the law and the prophets and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the apostles and from the gospel. Thus, the Lord ‘beginning with Moses and all the prophets’ (Lk 24.27, 44-45) meets us once again on our journey and, opening up our minds and hearts, prepares us to share in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup. The faithful are encouraged to meditate on these readings by the singing of a responsorial psalm, followed by a silent pause, and then by the celebrant’s prayer. The Missale adds a sentence about the nine readings proposed, saying that ‘all of these must be read whenever it can be done, so that the character of a Vigil which takes place over some duration of time can be observed’ (EV, no. 20).

 “The new Missale recognizes that ‘nevertheless, where grave pastoral circumstances demand it, the number of readings from the Old Testament may be reduced’ (EV, no 21). At least three readings from the Old Testament should be read always including Exodus 14 (EV, no. 21). The reference found previously in the Missale to the possibility of having only two Old Testament readings in extreme necessity is omitted.

 “The Missale is very specific about the priest singing the Alleluia before the Gospel: ‘After the Epistle has been read, all rise, and the priest solemnly intones the Alleluia three times, raising his voice a step each time. All repeat the Alleluia each time. If necessary, the psalmist intones the Alleluia. Mention is then made of the psalmist or cantor singing Psalm 117 and the people responding, “Alleluia” (EV, no. 34). This psalm is often recited by the apostles in their Easter preaching’ (Acts 4.11-12; Mt 21.42; Mk 12.10; Lk 20.17).

 “The Missale directs explicitly that the homily, even if it is brief, is not to be omitted (EV, no. 36). This requires that the homilist carefully prepare and craft the homily so that it captures the tremendous mysteries being celebrated on this most holy of nights.

 Liturgy of Baptism

 “The Missale has reorganized the rubrics for this entire section of the Vigil (nos. 37-58). Nevertheless, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults should always be consulted in conjunction with the rubrics mentioned here in the Missale. This is especially true when Baptisms are taking place by means of immersion.

 “Christ’s Passover and ours are given full expression when baptismal water is blessed in the font and when the Christian initiation of adults, or, at least the baptism of infants, takes place at the Easter Vigil. Even if there are no candidates for baptism, the blessing of baptismal water should take place in parish churches. At the very least, baptism should be commemorated by the blessing of water intended for sprinkling upon the people.

 “The rubrics describe two instances of Baptism at the Vigil. If there is a procession to the baptistery or the font, the catechumens are called forward and presented by their godparents. If there are children, they are carried by their parents and godparents to the front of the assembly. Those who are to be baptized, along with their godparents, are led first by a minister with the Easter candle; the other ministers, deacons and priest follow after them. This procession is accompanied by the singing of the Litany of the Saints. The priest then gives the introductory statement.

 “If the Baptisms take place in the sanctuary, the priest makes the introductory statement and this is followed by the singing of the Litany of the Saints.

 “The Missale reminds the celebrant that during the blessing of the water his hands are outstretched (EV, no. 44).

 “Numbers 48 to 53 of the rubrics for the Easter Vigil of the Missale Romanum describe the initiation process. As was mentioned before, it is important to closely consult theRite of Christian Initiation of Adults on this matter. Number 48 of the rubrics for the Easter Vigil mentions that after the renunciation and profession of faith ‘if the anointing with the Oil of Catechumens did not take place beforehand, as part of the immediate preparatory rites, it takes place at this moment.’ Of course no. 33 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults points out: ‘The National Conference of Catholic Bishops approves the omission of the anointing with the oil of catechumens both in the celebration of baptism and in the optional preparation rites for Holy Saturday. Thus, anointing with the oil of catechumens is reserved for use in the period of the catechumenate and in the period of purification and enlightenment, and is not to be included in the purification rites on Holy Saturday or in the celebration of initiation at the Easter Vigil or at another time.’

 “Number 49 of the rubrics for the Easter Vigil notes that when there are many to be baptized, the priest may ask for the renewal of baptismal promises of all present immediately after the profession of faith made by those to be baptized, along with the godparents and parents.

 “The celebration of Confirmation is to take place in the sanctuary as indicated in the Pontifical or the Roman Ritual.

 Liturgy of the Eucharist

 “Care should be taken that, particularly in regard to this night’s celebration of the Eucharist, the liturgy is not done in haste and that all the rites and words should be given their full force.

 “The Missale has incorporated into itself rubrics found in nos. 241-243 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. These allow for a commemoration of the baptized and their godparents to be made in the Eucharistic Prayer. Proper formulas are found in the Roman Missal for each of the Eucharistic prayers (EV, no.63). The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults indicates that these formulas are found in the section for ritual Masses, ‘Christian Initiation: Baptism.’

 “The Missale reminds the priest that before he says, This is the Lamb of God, he may make a brief remark to the neophytes about their first Communion and ‘about the preciousness of so great a mystery, which is the climax of initiation and the center of the Christian life’ (EV, no. 64). In no. 65 the rubrics for the Easter Vigil indicate the desirability for the neophytes as well as all the faithful, if the diocesan Bishop consents, to receive Communion under both kinds.”

 An example of such remarks could be the words of Pope Benedict XVI during the 2011 Easter Vigil:

 “Dearest sons and daughters, I turn to you who in this glorious night, reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, receive for the first time the bread of life and the cup of salvation. May the Body and Blood of Christ the Lord always make you grow in his friendship and in communion with the whole Church, may it be the constant food for the journey of your life, and a pledge of the eternal banquet of heaven.”

 Finally, some diocesan norms recall that if there are candidates for reception, that is, candidates who are already baptized Christians desiring to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, then the Celebration of Reception begins after the rite of sprinkling the people and before the Prayer of the Faithful.

 * * *

 Readers may send questions to Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee Issues Statement Supporting Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers as Important Free Speech Case Begins

USCCB News - 4 hours 41 min ago

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement praising the work of pro-life pregnancy centers on the occasion of oral arguments being heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court in NIFLA v. Becerra.

Cardinal Dolan's full statement follow:  

"Pro-life pregnancy care centers embody everything that is right and good in our nation: generosity, compassion and love that is offered to support both mother and child. But rather than applauding and encouraging the selfless and life-affirming work of these centers, some governments want to force them to provide free advertising for the violent act of abortion in direct violation of their pro-life convictions and the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court cannot let this happen. We pray that the Court will do the right thing and uphold our fundamental right to free speech when it decides this case."

The USCCB and several other groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court supporting the pro-life pregnancy centers in this important free speech case. The other groups are the California Catholic Conference, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Christian Legal Society and Agudath Israel of America. The full text of the brief is available online:

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, pro-life pregnancy centers, U.S. Supreme Court, NIFLA v. Becerra, oral arguments, First Amendment, free speech, California Catholic Conference, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Christian Legal Society, Agudath Israel of America, compassion, love.


Media Contact:
Judy Keane

Praying with paint: Iconography as a conversation with God

Catholic Register Canada - News - 4 hours 50 min ago

Love and pictures go together. You can piece together who and what anybody loves by the pictures on their phone, the pictures they hang on their walls, the pictures pinned to their cubicle at work and the pictures they’ve posted to Facebook.

But the next question has to be that Bee Gees query, “How deep is your love?”

Eleven women gathered at the Sheptytsky Institute on the campus of Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College late in February to deepen their love over the course of a week spent painting a single, small icon of Christ or of Mary. 

Under the instruction of master iconographer and art restorer Roumen Kirinkov, these women learned to mix dry pigments and yolk emulsions, apply glazes, stretch canvas, mix and apply gesso, handle gold leaf, mix colours, choose and handle brushes. But first they prayed.

“Before starting work, make the sign of the cross; pray in silence and pardon your enemies,” is the first of nine traditional rules for writing an icon.

Icons are most commonly associated with the Byzantine Orthodox churches, but in fact are central to the prayer and culture of all the churches of the East. It is the oldest artistic tradition in Christianity and has become increasingly important to many Roman Catholics.

Iconographers commonly talk about writing rather than painting an icon because they want to distinguish what they are doing from entertainment. A pretty picture can be excellent, even worthy, distraction. But an icon is something akin to Scripture, emerging from and encompassing a tradition that connects the viewer both to the saint or holy figure depicted, but also to the Church.

Louise St. Germain, a graduate student in Eastern Christian theology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, was born Roman Catholic but fell in love with the Eastern tradition a few years ago. Trying her hand at icon writing was a logical next step for her.

“Art, especially this type of art, forces you to slow down. It’s almost an experience of lectio divina. Everything is so slow.”

Oriana Bertucci, director of student life at St. Michael’s College, said the week-long course was something from her “bucket list.”

“They told me you didn’t need experience. It’s more about prayer,” she said.

The week of slowly building up layers of paint on small, canvas-covered wooden plaques was intensely religious, with prayers and hymns spread throughout the day.

Kirinkov doesn’t give the course often. There isn’t that much demand. He puts his emphasis on the technical skills and craft necessary to produce a good result. It’s the intense concentration, the singular focus on the image, that produces the prayer — not the other way around. 

You can’t pray an icon into existence. You paint it. But the slow, methodical process can only happen at the meeting point of body and soul.

Kirinkov warns his students not to be so serious. A little joy helps.

“Fill my soul with joy and gladness, for Thou alone art the Lover of mankind,” reads the traditional prayer on completing an icon.

Pope Francis' Holy Thursday Mass will be at a prison

CNA General News - 5 hours 26 min ago

Rome, Italy, Mar 20, 2018 / 10:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Continuing his custom of saying Holy Thursday Mass outside a sacred place, Pope Francis this year will visit one of Rome’s most well-known prisons, the Regina Coeli, located in the historic Trastevere neighborhood.

The Pope will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper March 29. During the ceremony he will wash the feet of 12 inmates. He will also meet with prisoners and visit sick inmates in the prison’s infirmary.

Originally the site of a 17th-century convent, from which it gets its name, the Regina Coeli prison was constructed in 1881 by the Italian government after the country’s unification. A women’s prison, called the Mantellate, was later built nearby, also on the site of a former convent.

The prison has been visited by popes on three former occasions: by St. John XXIII in 1958, by Bl. Paul VI in 1964, and by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Like most prisons throughout Italy, Regina Coeli has had issues with overcrowding and inmate suicide in recent years.

For Pope Francis, this will be the fourth time during his pontificate that he has celebrated Maundy Thursday Mass at a prison. The first was in 2013, just after becoming Pope, when he visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center.

This occasion was notable for being the first time a Pope included females and non-Christians among those whose feet he washed. At the time, liturgical law permitted only men's feet to be washed in the Holy Thursday ceremony.

In January 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments modified the Roman Missal to allow for women's feet to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass, though it added that those chosen are to be “from among the People of God.”

The Roman Missal's text was modified to say that “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers,” while it had previously read: “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers.”

“People of God” is an ecclesiological term adopted by the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, to indicate the Church of Christ, which “subsists in the Catholic Church.”

Pope Francis said Holy Thursday Mass at a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a municipality just north of Rome, in 2016. There he washed the feet of refugees, among whom were Coptic Orthodox, Muslims, and Hindus.

In 2015 the Pope went to Rome’s Rebibbia prison, and in 2017 he visited Paliano prison located south of Rome.

In 2014 he visited people with disabilities, saying Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

Pope to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass in Rome prison

Catholic Register Canada - News - 5 hours 28 min ago
VATICAN – Pope Francis once again will celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper in a prison and will wash the feet of 12 inmates.

The Pope will celebrate the evening Mass on March 29 at Rome's Regina Coeli prison, the Vatican announced March 20.

Before Mass, the Pope will visit sick inmates in the prison infirmary, the Vatican said. He will celebrate the Mass and wash the feet of 12 inmates in the prison's central rotunda and, afterward, will meet some inmates in the prison's Section VIII, a protected section of the prison for inmates convicted of sexual crimes and other inmates who could be in danger in the general population.

A former convent built in the 1600s, Regina Coeli has operated as a prison since the 1890s. Although the government says the capacity is just over 600 inmates, the monthly census since March 2017 has been more than 900. More than half of the inmates are non-Italians.

The prison is just over a mile from St. Peter's Square.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has celebrated the annual Holy Thursday evening liturgy at a place of particular suffering. His immediate predecessors celebrated the Mass either in either St. Peter's Basilica or the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

In 2013, for his first papal celebration of Holy Thursday, he went to Rome's Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center, where he washed the feet of young male and female offenders. The next year, he presided over the Mass and foot-washing ritual at a rehabilitation facility for the elderly and people with disabilities on the outskirts of Rome. In 2015, he went to Rome's main prison, Rebibbia, where he celebrated the Mass with the male prisoners there and women from a nearby women's detention facility. In 2016, he celebrated with refugees at a center north of Rome. And, in 2017, he went to a prison in Paliano, some 45 miles from Rome.

Pope Offers Cure for Depression and Fatigue

Zenit News - English - 5 hours 54 min ago

Pope Francis recommended looking at the crucifix as the cure when people are depressed or tired, according to the Vatican News report of his March 20, 2018, homily at Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.

The Holy Father cited the story in Numbers 21:4-9:

The Bronze Snake

4They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,c to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

6Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived

The Pope noted how the people became frustrated by the long journey, lost hope, complained and suffered the bites of serpents.  The serpents are an external system of poisoned hearts.

But the people could be saved by gazing on the serpent Moses made and placed on a pole. And what was its power?

“It was prophetic: it was the figure of Christ on the cross,” Pope Francis said. “By looking only at their own strength, they forgot the Lord’s strength, which had liberated them from 400 years of slavery.”

The Holy Father drew the analogy: “And here is the key to our salvation, the key for having patience on the journey of life, the key to overcome our deserts: looking at the Crucifix.” Like the people in the deserve healed by looking at the serpent, we can be healed by Jesus and his wounds, “for by those wounds we have been healed.”



Catholic League - 6 hours 55 min ago
Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on a Tennessee radio sports jock's attack on a Chicago nun: Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is the well-loved chaplain at Loyola University Chicago, and a rabid sports fan. She was delighted when her school upset the University of Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament over [...]

Kentucky considers law on student prayer

Natl Catholic Reporter - 7 hours 46 min ago

The Kentucky Legislature is considering mandating an annual day of student prayer.

House Bill 40 would make the last Wednesday in September "A Day of Prayer for Kentucky's Students" and would require the state's governor to proclaim it as such every year.

The bill passed the Kentucky House last week by a broad margin and is now in the state Senate.

A biologist's epic tale from a Communist regime to the Canadian Arctic

Catholic Register Canada - News - 7 hours 47 min ago
Wine from Raisins, A Life Transformed through Communist Gulag to Canadian Arctic by Josef Svoboda (Novalis, softcover, 240 pages, $27.95)
Josef Svoboda tells the story of a life that encompassed 20th-century history and winds up facing the most important questions of the 21st century — questions about what we have learned from nature, what we have done to our environment and who we will become as we drift away from the natural world. 

“A boy from Moravia survived the Second World War. Then, as a student, he was arrested by the post-war Communist regime and spent almost nine years in various prisons and concentration camps, his life seemingly ruined in the process. But he endured, succeeded in finding freedom on a different continent and, at the end and with God’s help, became a recognized Arctic tundra scientist,” is how Svoboda summarized his life to a Czech radio station in 2010. 

Svoboda tells us this story because he wants us to understand “that nothing is ever lost in life; that it is possible to start anew, even after age 40.”

This epic tale delivers a dose of historical realism to any romantic vision of life behind the Iron Curtain. Svoboda’s life story is rich nourishment for blossoming scientists. 

Wine From Raisins will also help the mature reader fly over a mid-life crisis like an Arctic bush plane flies over half-thawed swamps before touching down on solid ground. 

Svoboda’s love of nature was planted by his Scout leader at an early age and watered by the poems and literature of Ernest Thompson Seton, Thoreau, Ruskin and Kipling.

However, his idyllic boyhood is darkened by Nazi clouds and the armies and political systems that replaced them after the Second World War. Svoboda was only in university for a short time before he was arrested at the age of 20. He would spend his 20s in the forge of the gulag, caught running a parcel for the political resistance. 

This dark section of the book is filled with raw life stories, which Svoboda tells clearly and concisely. This period of formation, in which Svoboda was formally taught courses in philosophy and theology, influenced his intellectual approach to science and religion. The bishops and prelates he lived with behind bars in Leopoldov “carried on very lively discussions about the scientific perception of creation, evolution and Darwinism.” 

His dizzying transfer between prisons and labour camps ends after more than eight years with his release in 1958. Svoboda was sent home a few months shy of his 29th birthday.

“During all those years, I had had the incredible honour of meeting the cream of our nation…. Nowhere else would I have been able to receive such a  thorough physical, moral and even professional formation — not in the army, not in university, not even in the seminary,” he writes.
Blessed with his own hard work, determination and persistence, Svoboda eventually moved forward in his professional life. He landed a research position at the Academy of Science in Brno. 

Svoboda had been pondering a flight to Canada for some time, but he only had a few days to finalize his decision once the circumstances presented themselves. He hit the ground running in Canada. After rapidly finished off his science degree at the University of Western Ontario, he completed a PhD at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and launched an independent research career in the Canadian North.

The author spent decades in the Canadian Arctic on summer research trips. He provides sufficient scientific context without being pedantic and this enables readers to see the beauty of the Arctic with the heart of Josef Svoboda.

A personal letter from Cardinal Štěpán Trochta, Bishop of Litoměřice, imparts a deeply spiritual message about approaching God through nature.

“When you are in that virgin nature... let the living God speak to your heart through nature, and experience that not-yet-deformed, mysterious language with which your intangible Father will speak to you through nature,” the bishop wrote.

Svoboda’s relationship with nature was not stunted by childhood Disney films. This mature and realistic vision is the result of study, dedication and a sense that reality is bigger and deeper than it first appears.

Svoboda’s contemplative gaze at nature spread to his students and the northern silence provided ample space for questions at the boundaries of science.

“In our conversations, we discussed fundamental questions: How did everything originate? Why are we here? What is our mission?” writes Svoboda, who lives in Burlington, Ont.

“As a biologist, I continue to be interested in origins: the beginnings of the world, of life and of future humanity,” he writes. “Philosophically, I would like to figure out where we are heading. Where is this technological civilization taking us?”

I hope this noble scientist and human being has other writing projects planned. Wine from Raisins lights a fire in the belly while also soothing the soul. 

(Woollard is an Associate Scientist for Structura Biotechnology Inc. in Toronto.)

Pope Francis sends condolences for death of Cardinal O’Brien

CNA General News - 7 hours 52 min ago

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis offered his condolences for the death of Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, the disgraced former archbishop of Edinburgh, who died Monday at the age of 80 in a hospital in northern England.

The Pope's March 20 message was addressed to Archbishop Leo Cushley, who was appointed to head the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in 2013 after O’Brien stepped down following his acknowledgment that he participated in inappropriate sexual conduct during his ministry.

In the brief message, Francis said he was saddened to hear of O’Brien’s death and offered his heartfelt condolences to his family and those who mourn him.

“Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our Father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote.

The funeral and burial arrangements for the cardinal are still being determined. Scottish newspaper The Herald reported March 20 that the Holy See will be a participant in the decision, as well as Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who the Pope appointed to manage the O’Brien scandal in 2013.

According to The Herald, an archdiocesan spokesperson said O’Brien’s funeral arrangements “will be decided in the days to come.”

“There will be consultation between the Holy See – the Holy Father will have an input – and Keith O’Brien’s family as to where his requiem Mass takes place and when and where he is buried.”
Born in Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1938, O'Brien was named archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh by St. John Paul II in 1985.

From 2002-2012, O’Brien served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. He was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2003 and participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

He stepped down as Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh in 2013 at the age of 74 after allegations went public that he had participated in inappropriate sexual behavior with other men in the 1980s.

After the claims surfaced that February, the cardinal's request for retirement – originally submitted to Benedict XVI in November 2012 for reasons due to age and health – was accepted immediately by Benedict, going into effect Feb. 25, 2013.

O'Brien did not participate in the March 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, and in May 2013, after speaking with the newly-elected Pope, he left Scotland for a time of prayer, penance and reflection.

Two years later, Francis accepted his resignation of the rights and privileges of cardinal – a rare circumstance which can only be approved by the pope.

Disgraced cardinal from Scotland dies at 80

Catholic Register Canada - News - 8 hours 3 min ago
VATICAN – Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who resigned five years ago as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh after admitting to sexual misconduct, died early March 19 at the age of 80.

He had been receiving care at a hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, after suffering injuries from a fall in February. His successor, Archbishop Leo Cushley, administered the last rites March 17 – the cardinal's 80th birthday.

In a telegram to Archbishop Cushley, Pope Francis said he was saddened to learn of the cardinal's death and offered his "heartfelt condolences to you, his family and all who mourn his passing."

"Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ," the Pope wrote in the telegram released by the Vatican March 20.

Archbishop Cushley said in a written statement March 19, "In life, Cardinal O'Brien may have divided opinion; in death, however, I think all can be united in praying for the repose of his soul, for comfort for his grieving family and that support and solace be given to those whom he offended, hurt and let down. May he rest in peace."

The cardinal stepped down as archbishop in February 2013, after the Observer, a British weekly newspaper, carried a story detailing complaints of three priests and one former priest who alleged Cardinal O'Brien had made sexual advances toward them more than 20 years earlier.

The cardinal initially denied the allegations but, less than a week later, he issued a public apology for his actions. He decided not to attend the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis and declared he was retiring from public life.

"I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal. To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologize. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland," he said in a statement in March 2013.

In April 2014, following a request from Pope Francis, the Vatican Congregation for Bishops appointed then-Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to go to Scotland to collect testimony for a formal investigation against Cardinal O'Brien.

Though the Vatican did not release a statement about the investigation or its outcome, the College of Cardinals announced in 2015, "The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by his eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer."

The Catholic Church in Scotland had welcomed news of the cardinal removing himself from the key duties associated with the office of cardinal, calling it "an unprecedented action."

Cardinal O'Brien had been living in Northumberland County in northeast England, near the Scottish border, in a home purchased by the archdiocese; he led a strictly private life with no participation in any public, religious or civil events.

Born March 17, 1938, in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, the cardinal's family later moved to Scotland. He was ordained a priest in 1965 and served a parish priest and chaplain of St. Columba Secondary School in Cowdenbeath, where he taught math. He was spiritual director of St. Andrew's College in Drygrange and rector of St. Mary's College, Blairs.

He was ordained archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in 1985 and served as president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland from 2002 to 2012.

He often expressed concern about the dramatic decline in the number of clergy and, in 2001, he appealed for lay Catholics to take on more administrative tasks within the church to ease the burden on overworked priests.

He was an outspoken supporter of the church and human rights in Latin America, particularly the plight of indigenous people.

Once, speaking at the Church of Scotland's general assembly, he told of his frustration at not being able to share Communion with other churches and expressed hope that closer cooperation between the churches would progress more quickly.

Before leaving for Rome to be inducted into the College of Cardinals by St. John Paul II in 2003, the cardinal made a public profession of faith and affirmed his adherence to church teaching on celibacy, homosexuality and birth control.

The profession came about a week after the then-cardinal-designate had made remarks to reporters indicating he was open to discussion and change on church disciplines regarding celibacy for Latin-rite priests, homosexuality and the use of contraceptives.

The cardinal-designate said, "There is a clear distinction between things that confront us in the church at the present time, which we can say are God's law, like murder, abortion. We can't compromise on matters like that.

"Other matters of church law – and celibacy by priests is one of those sorts of things – can be discussed," he said.

He also had said the presence of homosexuals in the priesthood is not a problem "if they are leading a celibate life."

The entire church, he said, needs "to have a full and open discussion about these issues to see where we stand and what the need is and what the implications are."

In a 2002 interview, he said that while priestly celibacy is a gift to the church he would have "no problem with celibacy withering away," and at the 1999 Synod of Bishops he said the Roman Curia "lobby" had effectively blocked discussion about a married clergy.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 214 members, including 117 cardinals who are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope.

Morning Briefing

Natl Catholic Reporter - 8 hours 19 min ago
Morning Briefing: In depth look at national ministry of FOCUS; Pre-synod meeting of youths; Confessions of an 'in-between' Catholic; History of Catholic black spiritual traditions; Court hears alleged offenses by Cardinal Pell

News at 4.30pm

Vatican Radio Morning News - 10 hours 29 min ago
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Nigeria: unexploded air force bombs found in shelled Christian village (World Watch Monitor)

Catholic World News - 11 hours 27 min ago
Villagers allege that the Nigerian military was complicit in an attack on Christians last December.
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