Catholic News Headlines

Pope Francis Ordains 16 New Priests

Zenit News - English - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 9:16 AM

Pope Francis on April 22, 2018, ordained 16 men to the priesthood in St. Peter’s Basilica, 11 for the Diocese of Rome. The 16 were from Italy, India, Croatia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, El Salvador, Madagascar, Romania, and Peru.

The event marked the 55th Anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is described on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website:

The purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publically fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). As a climax to a prayer that is continually offered throughout the Church, it affirms the primacy of faith and grace in all that concerns vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.  While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries(priesthood and diaconate), to the Religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic), to societies of apostolic life, to secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life, in the particular sense of mission “ad gentes”.

“May your teaching be nourishment to the People of God,” the Pope was quoted in Vatican News. “and the perfume of your life be joy and support to the faithful of Christ. May your word and example edify the House of God which is the Church.”

The three aspects of vocation – “listening, discerning, living” – were present for Jesus and continue today for young people, according to Pope Francis in his December 3, 2017, Message for 2018 World Day of Vocations.

“After his time of prayer and struggle in the desert, he visited his synagogue of Nazareth,” the Pope recalled. “There, he listened to the word, discerned the content of the mission entrusted to him by the Father, and proclaimed that he came to accomplish it…

“In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern and live this word that calls to us from on high and, while enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness.”

Pope Francis noted that the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2018, will focus on the relationship between young people, faith, and vocation. He continued: “There we will have a chance to consider more deeply how, at the center of our life, is the call to joy that God addresses to us and how this is ‘God’s plan for men and women in every age’.”

 

 

 

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From clean water to gang violence, Salvadoran archbishop focuses on poor

Crux Now - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 8:56 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Few church leaders face having to fill the shoes of a predecessor who’s about to become an official saint of the Catholic Church.

But it’s hardly on the mind of the seventh leader of Archdiocese of San Salvador, Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas, whose list of worries simply doesn’t allow him time to think about it. He carried that long list with him on a recent trip to Washington, where he was advocating for immigrants from his native El Salvador.

Along the way, the 59-year-old archbishop fielded questions about El Salvador’s mounting woes: environmental problems that include a contaminated and dwindling water supply in the country, relentless gang violence, and growing inequality and corruption that does not let his country of roughly 6 million — about half of them Catholic — find respite from its endless crises. During interviews with Catholic News Service April 11 and 13, he discussed what troubles him the most about those problems, which he’s been dealing with since his 2009 elevation as archbishop.

“You know what’s the saddest part about it?” he asked. “They affect the same set of people the most. Yes, they affect everyone, all of us, but in principle they affect primarily the poor the most and that hurts a lot.”

Though Escobar initially comes across as bookish and shy, his passion shines through when he speaks about the population his predecessor Blessed Oscar Romero focused on the most during his three years in the post, from 1977 until his assassination in 1980.

“As a Church, we’re with the poor. We’re in solidarity with them and our battles are for them, that’s why we lift up our voices, for just laws for everyone but, above all, for the poor because as Blessed Oscar Romero used to say, the laws in our country are like a snake, and like a serpent, they bite the one who is barefoot.”

Last year, the archbishop spearheaded a battle backed by the Salvadoran Catholic Church that effectively led the country to become the first nation in the world to ban metal mining. Wearing a Roman collar and gray clerical shirt, he marched along with environmentalists and activists, through the streets of the capital of San Salvador toward the country’s legislative assembly, the equivalent of Congress, to speak about mining as a process detrimental to the country’s dwindling water supply.

Just before leaving for his U.S. trip, he was checking in on his archdiocese’s efforts to collect signatures around the country’s Catholic parishes calling for a clean water act. The archbishop worries about a possible reversal of the mining law as international companies seem intent on finding a way to extract gold and other metals in the northern part of the country.

“And that just can’t happen,” he said. “Why is that? Because mining doesn’t just contaminate water but it also poisons it.”

The Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs says up to 90 percent of the country’s water is contaminated by sewage and industrial chemicals. To the archbishop, it is an issue the Church must respond to because without clean water, it is the poor who become ill and ultimately die. And it is heartbreaking to visit rural and poor areas and see the faces of children suffering the consequences, he said.

“They are the protagonists of this situation,” he said. “We have many homes that don’t even have access to water. It’s a sad situation to see children sick (because of it) and how can that be? In the 21st century, how can that possibly happen?”

When Pope Francis spoke in 2017 about the universal right to access clean water, “he was thinking of countries like El Salvador,” the archbishop said.

“Water is a right, an undeniable right, (in El Salvador) and around the world,” he said. “We want to form consciences because there are still people who don’t understand the gravity of the problem.”

But if clean water is a major problem affecting the lives of so many Salvadorans, so is the relentless violence, which arrived at the doorstep of El Salvador’s clergy during Holy Week this year.

On Holy Thursday, a 36-year-old priest from the Diocese of Santiago de Maria in eastern El Salvador was shot and killed en route to celebrate Mass, hours after renewing his vows on the day the Church celebrates the institution of the priesthood. Authorities suspect it was a gang killing but have failed to apprehend suspects in the case.

On Easter, under a blazing sun, the archbishop marched behind the coffin carrying Father Walter Vasquez Jimenez in Lolotique, El Salvador. At his funeral Mass, he called for justice for those who took his life but also those who daily take the lives of the country’s innocent citizens.

On Capitol Hill, he said El Salvador’s problems go back centuries and have been historically caused by the idolatry of money, impunity, corruption, social injustice and inequality, and individualism. They began centuries ago, when the indigenous people of the country had to face the conquistadors who answered uprisings with massacres, stripping the native people of their lives and lands, and the best survivors could hope for were unjust salaries and inhumane treatment, he said.

The causes and effects trickled into history and toward conditions that led to El Salvador’s 12-year armed conflict, from 1980 to 1992, that left more than 70,000 civilians dead — among them two of the country’s bishops, one of them was Romero, said Escobar. But it also led to the death of more than 500 Catholic laity as well 24 “consecrated lives,” whom the archbishop wants the Vatican to consider as martyrs.

Even after peace accords were signed in 1992, “peace never arrived,” the archbishop said at the U.S. Capitol April 13. Through the years, many of the country’s Catholic bishops, including his predecessors, denounced the conditions, “but there wasn’t a response,” he said.

“Promises were made during the peace accords, but they went unfulfilled. There wasn’t justice. Impunity continued. There was an amnesty law that sought to cover up crimes against humanity,” he said.

That has made it difficult for El Salvador to move forward.

“This has led to the situation we find ourselves in today because the causes continue,” he said. “We face a collective resentment because of a lack of social justice in the peripheries, where there are no opportunities to advance.”

Though the government has made an effort to tamp down the violence, it isn’t working. With sadness in his voice, he told the story of a woman who couldn’t send her child to school past fourth grade because gangs threatened him not to go past his home’s front stoop. A gang leader threatened the boy with death if he went into a competing gang’s territory.

The country’s youth watch as their parents struggle to provide for them in a country with a scarcity of employment, much less work with dignity, or even the chance to lead healthy lives, he said.

“This is the broth which the gangs cultivate,” he said.

Seemingly aware that it’s now his time to denounce injustice and call for change, he often tells others to keep working for a better day and to keep praying, because in heaven Romero and other Salvadoran martyrs intercede for them, so that one day El Salvador will be free from its woes.

Regina Coeli Address: Good Shepherd Sunday and the Healing of a Cripple (Full Text)

Zenit News - English - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 8:35 AM

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave April 22, 2018,  before and after praying the midday Regina Coeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Before the Regina Coeli:

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Liturgy of this fourth Sunday of Easter continues with the intent to help us rediscover our identity as disciples of the Risen Lord. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter declares openly that the healing of a cripple, carried out by him, of which the whole of Jerusalem was talking, happened in the name of Jesus, because “there is salvation in no one else” (4:12). Each one of us is in that healed man – that man is a figure of us: we are all there –, our communities are there: each one can be healed from the many forms of spiritual infirmity that he has – ambition, sloth, pride – if we accept, with trust, to put our existence in the hands of the Risen Lord. “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . . this man is standing before you well,” (v. 10) affirms Peter. However, who is Christ who heals? In what does being healed by Him consist? From what are we healed and through what attitudes?

We find the answer to all these questions in today’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for His sheep (John 10:11). This self-presentation of Jesus can’t be reduced to an emotive suggestion, without any concrete effect! Jesus heals through being a Shepherd that gives life. Giving His life for us, Jesus says to each one: “your life is worth so much to Me, that to save it I give the whole of myself.” It’s precisely this offering of His life that makes Him the Good Shepherd par excellence, He who heals, He who enables us to live a beautiful and fruitful life.

The second part of the same evangelical page tells us under what conditions Jesus can heal us and can make our life joyful and fruitful: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (vv. 14-15), says Jesus. Jesus doesn’t speak of an intellective knowledge, no, but of a personal relationship, of predilection, of mutual tenderness, reflection of the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father. This is the attitude through which a living relationship with Jesus is realized; to let oneself be known by Him. Not to shut oneself in oneself <but> to open oneself to the Lord, so that He can know me. He is attentive to each one of us, He knows our heart in depth; He knows our good points and our bad points, the projects we have realized and the hopes that were disappointed.  However, He accepts us as we are, also with our sins, to heal us, to forgive us. He guides us with love so that we can also go through rough paths without losing the way. He accompanies us.

In turn, we are called to know Jesus. This implies an encounter with Him, an encounter that arouses the desire to follow Him, abandoning self-referential attitudes to set out on new roads, indicated by Christ Himself and opened on vast horizons. When the desire cools down in our communities to live the relationship with Jesus, to listen to His voice and to follow Him faithfully, it’s inevitable that other ways of thinking and living will prevail, which aren’t coherent with the Gospel. May Mary, our Mother, help us to mature an ever- stronger relationship with Jesus. To open ourselves to Jesus, so that He enters inside us. A stronger relationship: He is risen, so we can follow Him our whole life. In this Day of Prayer for Vocations, may Mary intercede, so that many will respond with generosity and perseverance to the Lord, who calls to leave everything for His Kingdom.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

  

After the Regina Coeli

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m concerned about what’s happening these days in Nicaragua, where clashes broke out following a social protest, which also caused some victims. I express my closeness in prayer to that country, and I join the Bishops in asking that the violence cease, the useless shedding of blood be avoided and the questions opened be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility.

As I mentioned a short while ago, in this fourth Sunday of Easter, the whole Church celebrates the Day of Prayer for Vocations. The theme is: “Listen, Discern, Live the Call of the Lord.” I thank the Lord because He continues to arouse in the Church stories of love for Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glory and at the service of brothers. Today, in particular, we thank Him for the new priests I ordained a short while ago in St. Peter’s Basilica.  And we ask the Lord to send many good laborers to work in His field, as well as multiply the vocations to the consecrated life and to Christian marriage. As I was saying, today I ordained sixteen priests. Of these sixteen, four came here to greet you and to give the Blessing with me.

[Four new priests appeared at the window next to the Pope]

 My heartfelt greeting to you all, Romans and pilgrims from Italy and from many countries, in particular, those from Setubal, Lisbon, Krakow, and the Sisters, Pious Disciples of the Divine Master that have come from Korea.

I greet the pilgrims of Castiglione d’Adda, Torralba, Modica, Cremona and Brescia <and> he parish choir of Ugovizza; the Confirmation youngsters of Gazzaniga, Pollenza and Cisano sul Neva.

I wish you all a happy Sunday and, please, don’t forget to pray for me.

Have a good lunch and goodbye!

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

The post Regina Coeli Address: Good Shepherd Sunday and the Healing of a Cripple (Full Text) appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Catholic, other groups voice misgivings over 2018 farm bill

Crux Now - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 8:32 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the 2018 version of the farm bill having been voted out of committee for consideration by the full House, Catholic groups and other rural advocates are voicing their misgivings about many of its provisions.

Conservation programs that reward farmers and ranchers were zeroed out of the bill passed April 18 by the House Agriculture Committee. “Safety net” programs were boosted only marginally to aid farmers who have been getting dwindling prices for their crops and who could be the first victims of a trade war as tariffs are imposed on their produce.

Another part of the bill rewrites the eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which could kick out 2 million Americans from the program, according to six Catholic leaders.

“Eighty percent of the farm bill is around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s significant when we hear it’s going to include some dramatic cuts,” said James Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life.

About $1 billion would be cut from the Conservation Stewardship Program, according to Ennis. “Farmers need incentives,” he said. “They have a safety net, but they need incentives to protect soil and environmental resources. … It ultimately discourages conservation efforts. We’re really concerned about that.”

“It is sneaky in the sense that they’ve crafted this bill that you make it sound positive at face value: Why couldn’t people who get food assistance work 20 hours a week, or they can do workforce development or skills training instead of working 20 hours? What could be the problem? As always, the devil is in the details,” said Dominican Sister Quincy Howard, a government relations fellow at Network, the nun-run Catholic social justice lobby.

“More than 90 percent of SNAP benefits goes to actual nutrition assistance. It’s known of being highly functional. What the bill is doing is pulling $23 billion out of what it does best and they propose investing $15 billion into workforce development programs,” Howard said. “The problem is $15 billion going toward a program like this is woefully inadequate to provide any kind of adequate workforce training. I think it comes out to $30 per person per month. And they have problems beyond a skills gap.”

Moreover, Howard said, the 2014 farm bill allocated money for a series of experimental workforce training programs, and a report on their effectiveness is not due until next year. “So they won’t know what will work for the money they’re spending,” she added.

Other nonfarm aspects of the farm bill — long considered a necessity to get Congress’ urban and suburban members on board — include international food aid.

Here, “things have fared a lot better than on the domestic side,” said Eric Garduno, Catholic Relief Services’ Washington-based senior policy and legislative specialist.

Congress has “come out in strong support for food programs: the McGovern bill, Food for Progress, both authorized through the farm bill,” Garduno told Catholic News Service. “It’s important in this environment because this administration for the last couple of years … in the annual budget releases has called for zeroing out these programs. I think the farm bill is a clear indication that they continue to support these programs even if the administration doesn’t.”

CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, and Mercy Corps were two of 25 international relief agencies that signed on to an April 17 statement on the farm bill.

The House version of the farm bill “advances key reforms that our community supports, such as removing the requirement to monetize commodities in Title II of the Food for Peace Program and recognizing the role of the Community Development Fund in Title II Development Food Security Activities,” the statement said. “These are important changes that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Food for Peace Program.”

Other signers included Bread for the World, CARE, Church World Service, Feed the Children, Food for the Hungry, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision.

Six top Catholic clergy, religious and lay leaders sent an April 18 letter to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Michael K. Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minnesota, the ranking member.

In it, they lauded a set-aside to benefit beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers, the reauthorization of funds for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Rural Business Investment Program, and a funding increase for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.

“The bill makes modest improvements to SNAP by updating its asset and vehicle limits and fixing the adjusted limits to inflation over time. Continued improvements to the asset limits should provide working families both the incentive and the ability to build savings,” the letter said.

But “the bill could cause as many as 2 million individuals to lose their benefits, and potentially remove state flexibility in 42 states. These changes particularly hurt working families making between 130 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty line. State options for broad-based categorical eligibility should be maintained,” it added.

And while penalties exist for SNAP recipients not complying with work requirements, “the new bill, however, would increase the penalty for the first violation to one full year, and to three full years for the second violation,” the letter said. “Rural communities may find compliance especially challenging given that job training programs are often located far away, and there is insufficient access to transportation.”

Signing the letter were Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, who is chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; CRS president Sean Callahan; Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Catholic Rural Life’s Ennis; and Ralph Middlecamp, president of the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Farmers and ranchers have the highest suicide rate of any U.S. occupation, said Matt Perdue, a lobbyist for the National Farmers Union, which came out April 18 against the bill. Counselors and therapists are hard to come by in sparsely populated rural areas, he added.

Perdue pointed to the Farmers First Act, introduced April 19 in the Senate, which would authorize $50 million over the next five years for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which hasn’t been funded since it was established in the 2008 farm bill.

“It doesn’t guarantee that this program will be funded in the long term,” Perdue said, since the House farm bill allocates no money for it. He added, “We are cognizant that we are setting up a long-term campaign on this issue.”

Catholics likely to outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland by 2021

Crux Now - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 8:16 AM

BELFAST, Northern Ireland – What would have been unthinkable 100 years ago in Northern Ireland will likely soon become a reality – Catholics will outnumber Protestants.

Historically in Ireland, Catholics have desired independence for Ireland, while Protestants, who congregated in Northern Ireland, have wanted to maintain political ties to the United Kingdom.

This is still generally the case, though not without some significant exceptions on both sides. Still, the fact that Catholics may outnumber Protestants in the country by 2021 – 100 years after the country was founded – is remarkable.

Dr. Paul Nolan, who studies the social trends of Northern Ireland, told BBC News: “Three years from now we will end up, I think, in the ironic situation on the centenary of the state where we actually have a state that has a Catholic majority.”

According to the last census in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent. More recent numbers show a Catholic majority in every age group of the population, except for those over 60. Among school-aged children, Catholics outnumber Protestants by a wide margin – 51 percent to 37 percent.

Nolan said that unionism – the political ideology of those in Northern Ireland who wish to maintain their political ties with the U.K. – is still possible, though unionists should be aware of this demographic shift.

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, notably “the Troubles,” which included violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants that lasted from the late ‘60s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Last year, threats against Catholics in Northern Ireland have forced several families to flee their homes.

Mary Lou McDonald is president of the Sinn Féin party, which strongly supports nationalism, or an independent, united Ireland.

McDonald said she welcomed the discussion about what this shift in religious demographics could mean for Ireland.

“Of course unionists have to be at home in a new Ireland,” McDonald told the BBC. “So, yes, let’s have the discussion.”

Pope Francis to new priests: Be like Jesus the Good Shepherd

CNA General News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 7:29 AM

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood, reminding them to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd in the way they serve the members of their spiritual flock and minister to those who are lost and searching for God.

“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost,” the pope said in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22.

“Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” he continued, “solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.”

The priestly ordination coincided with “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The new priests, who have been studying for the priesthood at different seminaries in the diocese of Rome, come from countries around the world, including Madagascar, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, and San Salvador.

As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own thoughts to the text.

Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance in particular, Francis urged the men about to be ordained to “not get tired of being merciful. Think of your sins, your miseries that Jesus forgives. Be merciful.”

It is “through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect,” he noted, “because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which for your hands, in the name of the whole Church, is offered bloodlessly on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.”

He pointed out to the 16 men that in their priestly ministries they will be participants “in the mission of Christ, the only Master,” and advised them to read and meditate tirelessly on the Word of God “to teach what you have learned in faith, to live what you have taught.”

“[May] your teaching, joy and support to the faithful of Christ be the fragrance of your life,” he continued, “that with word and example you can build the House of God which is the Church.”

Following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional prayer for Easter.

In his message after the prayer, the pope drew attention to the current situation in Nicaragua, where there have been violent clashes between police and people participating in anti-government protests, resulting in at least 25 deaths, according to the Guardian.

“I express my closeness in prayer to that beloved country, and I join the Bishops in asking that all violence cease, [that they] avoid useless bloodshed and [that] open questions be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility,” he said.

Francis also reflected briefly on the day’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” stating that the words of Jesus in this passage cannot be reduced to an emotional suggestion.

They have a concrete effect, he said: “Jesus heals through his being a shepherd who gives life. Jesus says to each one: ‘your life is so valuable to me, that to save it I offer all of myself.’”

Noting that Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” the pope said shows us that Jesus desires a personal relationship with each person, one which reflects “the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father.”

“He is attentive to each of us, knows our heart deeply: he knows our strengths and our faults, the projects we have achieved and the hopes that have been disappointed. But he accepts us as we are, he leads us with love,” he said, and in turn, “we are called to know Jesus.”

Catholics likely to outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland by 2021

CNA General News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 6:27 AM

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr 22, 2018 / 04:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- What would have been unthinkable 100 years ago in Northern Ireland will likely soon become a reality - Catholics will outnumber Protestants.  

Historically in Ireland, Catholics have desired independence for Ireland, while Protestants, who congregated in Northern Ireland, have wanted to maintain political ties to the United Kingdom.

This is still generally the case, though not without some significant exceptions on both sides. Still, the fact that Catholics may outnumber Protestants in the country by 2021 - 100 years after the country was founded - is remarkable.

Dr. Paul Nolan, who studies the social trends of Northern Ireland, told BBC News: "Three years from now we will end up, I think, in the ironic situation on the centenary of the state where we actually have a state that has a Catholic majority."

According to the last census in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent. More recent numbers show a Catholic majority in every age group of the population, except for those over 60. Among school-aged children, Catholics outnumber Protestants by a wide margin - 51 percent to 37 percent.

Nolan said that unionism - the political ideology of those in Northern Ireland who wish to maintain their political ties with the U.K. - is still possible, though unionists should be aware of this demographic shift.

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants that lasted from the late ‘60s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Last year, threats against Catholics in Northern Ireland have forced several families to flee their homes.

Mary Lou McDonald is president of the Sinn Féin party, which strongly supports nationalism, or an independent, united Ireland.

McDonald said she welcomed the discussion about what this shift in religious demographics could mean for Ireland.

“Of course unionists have to be at home in a new Ireland,” McDonald told the BBC. “So, yes, let's have the discussion.”

News at 4.30pm

Vatican Radio Morning News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 6:01 AM
Vatican & World News at 4.30pm

Pope Francis tells seminarians fear is one of the great obstacles to ministry

Crux Now - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 4:25 AM

Pope Francis told English seminarians to overcome fear with “love, prayer and a good sense of humor.”

He was speaking on Saturday to students and staff of the Venerable English College, the seminary in Rome for future priests serving the Church in England and Wales.

The college was founded in Rome in 1579, and over 40 of its alumni were martyred during the persecution of the Catholic Church at the time of the English Reformation.

“It is good to see young people preparing to make a firm and life-long commitment to the Lord. But this is harder for you than it was for me, because of today’s culture of the temporary.  To overcome this challenge, and to help you make an authentic promise to God, it is vital, in these years in seminary, to nurture your interior life, learning to close the door of your inner cell from within,” Francis told the seminarians.

The pope said missionary discipleship is never offered in isolation, but always in cooperation with other priests, religious and lay men and women.

He told the seminarians that since “at times, loving our neighbor is difficult,” their ministry needs to be firmly grounded in God.

“This inner strength – this fidelity of love – characterized the lives of your college martyrs, and it is essential for us who seek to follow Jesus, who calls us in our poverty to serve his majesty, and who reveals his majesty in the midst of the poor,” the pontiff said.

He said fear is a considerable obstacle to the Christian life, but it can be overcome with “love, prayer, and a good sense of humor.”

“So, I hope you will not be afraid of difficulties and trials, and the continuous battle against sin.  I also encourage you not to be afraid of yourselves,” Francis said.

“By following the example of your heavenly patron, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, who did not allow his past sinfulness or human limitations to stop him from serving God to the very end, not only will you be able to overcome your own fear, you will also help others overcome theirs.”

Laywomen among new appointees to Vatican’s doctrine office

Crux Now - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 4:03 AM

ROME – On Saturday, Pope Francis named five new consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including three female academics and two priests.

The women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Michelina Tenance, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, lecturer of theology at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

The other two new consultors are Father Sergio Paolo Bonanni, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Claretian Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, dean of the Institutum Utriusque Iuris at the Pontifical Lateran University.

While a Vatican spokesman was unable to confirm whether laywomen have previously served as consultors, he did confirm for CNA that women have served as staff members at the dicastery.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican department responsible for protecting and promulgating the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is headed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, and consultors include cardinals, bishops, priests, canon lawyers, and lay theologians.

Ghisoni has held a position within the Vatican since November 2017, when Francis appointed her a sub-secretary and the head of the section on laity for the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome. In addition to teaching canon law at the Gregorian, she is a professor of law at Roma Tre University.

She is from the town of Cortemaggiore in the north of Italy and studied philosophy and theology at the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany.

In 1999 she received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and in 2002 she received the diploma of Rotal Advocate at the Studium rotale of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

Since 1997 Ghisoni has held various positions at the Tribunals of First Instance and Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome, including Notary, Defender of the Bond, Auditor and Judge.

She has also served as Judicial Counselor at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota from 2002-2009, and Commissioner of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments for the Defense of the marital bond in causes for the dissolution of the marriage “ratum sed non consummatum” (ratified but not consummated).

Since November 2011, she has also worked at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. From 2013-2016, she collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity in the field of specialist laity studies in the Church. She is married and has two daughters.

Dr. Michelina Tenace, 63, is from San Marco, Italy, and a consecrated woman. After studying philosophy in France, she received a degree in foreign literature from Sapienza University in Rome and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University with a dissertation on Vladimir Soloviev.

She now teaches theology at the Gregorian University, including classes on spiritual theology, theological anthropology, the Council of Nicea, and Eastern Churches. She is also a staff member of the Ezio Aletti Study and Research Center, which supports Christian scholars and artists from Eastern Europe.

Tenace’s publications include numerous articles, as well as ten books, which have been translated into various languages. She was also named a member of the commission to study the female diaconate by Pope Francis in 2016.

Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, 42, was born in Brussels in 1975 and became a consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Paris on June 23, 2013. She has worked as a palliative care nurse, a retreat organizer for youth, and a Catholic religion teacher, among other ministries.

Calmeyn received a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2002 from the Institute of Theological Studies in Brussels and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome. Her dissertation was on theological principles and foundations of morality according to the work of Jesuit Father Albert Chapelle.

Since 2009 she has been a theology lecturer at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

Christians must help others meet Jesus, Pope Francis says

Crux Now - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 3:51 AM

ROME – On Saturday, Pope Francis said that Christians are called to a mission of leading others to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in order that every person might grow in his or her individual call to holiness.

“The men and women of our time need to meet Jesus Christ: He is the path that leads to the Father; He is the Gospel of hope and love that enables us to go as far as giving ourselves,” the pope said April 21.

“It is a matter of carrying out an itinerary of holiness to respond courageously to the call of Jesus, each according to his own particular charism.”

Quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Francis said: “For a Christian it is not possible to think of his mission on earth without understanding it as a path of holiness, because ‘this is in fact the will of God, your sanctification.’”

This is our mission, he continued. It requires responsibility and joy, generous availability, self-denial, and “trustful abandonment to the divine will.”

Francis spoke about holiness during an encounter with pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Bologna and Cesena-Sarsina in St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrimage to Rome followed Francis’ own visit to Bologna and Cesena in October 2017.

Quoting from his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, the pope also spoke about the important role of the Eucharist in helping to transform Catholics “into a holy and missionary community.”

The Eucharist, he said, means “thanksgiving” and makes us feel the need for thanksgiving.

“It makes us understand that ‘we are more blessed in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35), educates us to give primacy to love, and practice justice in its complete form, which is mercy; to know to give thanks always, even when we receive what is due to us.”

The pope encouraged Christians to proclaim the call to holiness in their communities, since it concerns “every baptized person and every condition of life.”

“In holiness consists the full realization of every aspiration of the human heart. It is a journey that starts from the baptismal font and leads up to Heaven and is carried out day by day by accepting the Gospel in concrete life,” he said.

Apr. 22 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Sunday

Catholicculture.org - Liturgical year - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 12:00 AM
I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep (Jn 10:11-15).

Catholic Voices succeeds by reframing arguments rather than retorting

Crux Now - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 11:37 PM

ROME – While there are undoubtedly many ways to measure the greatness of an idea, here’s one: When it outlives its original application, and becomes a permanent part of a much larger reality.

That, in short, is the story of Catholic Voices, which is undoubtedly the most successful Catholic communications initiative of the last decade – and a nominee, at least, for being one of the most effective of all time.

Catholic Voices was born in 2010, in the run-up to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s trip to the United Kingdom. That outing was projected to be one of the most difficult any pontiff had ever faced, in part because of a secularized and sometimes openly anti-Catholic culture in the UK, in part because of the clerical sexual abuse scandals washing across Europe at the time, and in part because of the Darth Vader-esque caricature that often defined (and, of course, badly distorted) Benedict’s public image.

Two smart and entrepreneurial Catholics in the UK, Jack Valero of Opus Dei and Austen Ivereigh, a former editor for the Tablet, saw the train wreck coming and decided to do something about it. They formed a cadre of 24 smart, articulate lay Catholics and one priest, and gave them a six-month crash course in both media literacy and the hot-button issues expected to set the agenda for media coverage of Benedict’s visit.

The project was independent of officialdom, though it’s never been hostile to the Church’s official leadership. For the most part, actually, those leaders have embraced it heartily.

After that basic Catholic “boot camp,” Ivereigh and Valero turned their charges loose, making them available more or less around the clock to any and all media outlets that needed commentary on the visit. The results were electric: Catholic Voices members became the soundtrack of the trip, shaping a narrative through more than 100 media appearances that was compelling, honest, and incredibly human.

In so doing, the group almost single-handedly debunked a whole series of myths and prejudices about people of faith in the UK’s popular culture.

After Benedict was safely back in Rome, Valero and Ivereigh realized they’d set something special in motion. If they hadn’t gotten the point on their own, the scores of bishops, clergy, lay experts, media professionals, and people from several other circles begging them to keep Catholic Voices going would have brought it home.

Today, there are more than 20 Catholic Voices groups in Europe, North and South America and Australia. The group’s philosophy, and its secret to success, can be simply stated: In the face of incomprehension and even hostility from the media, don’t get angry, reframe the conversation. The idea is to avoid defensiveness, and to identify with the values underlying the hostility (which often, even in distorted form, ultimately stem from Christianity.)

There’s also a related Catholic Voices instinct – which is rarely made explicit in their official literature, but it’s absolutely real operationally – to bridge the usual partisan divides in the Church not only through conscious policy choices, but more importantly, through friendship.

Valero and Ivereigh, the co-founders, are the proof of the point: Valero and Opus Dei are typically seen as fairly conservative, while Ivereigh is viewed (especially in the Pope Francis era) as a strong progressive voice. Yet you’ll almost never find better friends than those two, and their spirit is contagious throughout the Catholic Voice network.

On Friday night, Crux’s team in Rome this week — which normally consists of Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín and faith and culture correspondent Claire Giangravè, buoyed this week by me and national correspondent Chris White – had the chance to drop in on a gathering of Catholic Voices personnel from more than 15 countries, taking place in the Eternal City.

In essence, I made a simple point: You people are doing amazing work in projecting a credible and attractive voice for the Church in the public square, and that’s no easy feat. In particular, I gave a shout-voice to the delegation from Catholic Voices in Chile – because if there’s anywhere on the planet right now where speaking rationally and sympathetically about the Catholic Church is a tough sell, it’s Chile, in the wake of that country’s ongoing sexual abuse scandals.

I also told the Catholic Voices crowd that in many ways, there’s a genetic link between their group and Crux. That’s not just because I’m old friends of both Valero and Ivereigh, and was there at the beginning eight years ago, and it’s not just because White, our stellar national correspondent, is a former staffer for Catholic Voices USA.

It’s also because Catholic Voices and Crux, in their own ways, are both in the same business – promoting smart, wired and independent conversation about the Catholic Church, either on one side of the fence as informal spokespersons, or on the other as journalists.

In any event, I told them I’m as much an admirer of Catholic Voices today as eight years ago. If you don’t know Catholic Voices, check them out, because there really is much to admire.

Nigerian author warns of neocolonialism in Africa: This time it’s ideological

Crux Now - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 11:36 PM

Over the past several weeks, North America has been graced by the unrelenting book tour of Obianuju “Uju” Ekeocha. The Nigerian-native, London-based scientist and filmmaker recently saw her book, Target Africa: Ideological Neocolonialism in the Twenty-First Century, published by Ignatius Press. The book raises some pressing questions about enculturation, national autonomy, and the moral identity of a people.

In order for the book’s argument to be appreciated, the context of the historical colonization of Africa has to be understood. Many Westerners may not be aware of the imposed colonization of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The colonization was formalized at the Berlin Conference of 1884. At the meeting, the European powers literally cut up Africa with generic borders. Rather than an exploration into the boundaries of existing tribes and language groups, the borders were externally imposed and the tribal, self-determination of the African peoples was subjugated to them.

This imposition of resource-based borders introduced a completely foreign concept to the local peoples of Africa. It was a concept that was totally at odds with their understanding of themselves, their tribal identity, their care for the earth, and their commitment to one another.

(Credit: Ignatius Press.)

Ekeocha is using this historical colonization to argue her point, namely, there is a new colonization in Africa. This colonization is one of ideology and it has new masters, who call themselves “donors.” The donors are once again foreign countries, but also international organizations and private foundations.

Rather than military occupation, this colonization is an invasion of culture and the moral worldview of local peoples. It seeks to force Western liberal values and their consequences, such as contraception and abortion, upon different peoples whose entire lives are defined by different and time-honored values.

Some might argue: Aren’t these resources needed in Africa? Look at the overpopulation and starvation of the continent. Doesn’t something have to be done?

These questions point us to the heart of Ekeocha’s book. No one wants a person to starve and no one wants a family to be overwhelmed by children it cannot support. But in teaching family planning and in laboring to end hunger, efforts must engage, dialogue, and respect the sacred and moral principles of the people that are being helped. Otherwise, it ceases to be help and becomes “ideological colonization.”

In other words, there is a downward spiral of doing something with a people, to doing something for a people, to doing something to a people. In the end, the people are mere recipients of someone else’s worldview and moral identity. Its own richness and perspective have been stripped and laid bare.

Does this mean that no new ideas can be introduced into a culture?

Of course not. Ekeocha gives due praise to the Christian evangelization of Africa. But what’s the difference? Isn’t this a double standard?

The possibility of a double standard is always there. However, the radical difference pertains to shared moral values. For example, the difference between the historical Scottish missionaries in Nigeria and the contemporary medical specialists of the International Planned Parenthood Federation is their concept of the human person and the centrality of human dignity based on that understanding.

The peoples of Africa, however diverse they may be in their 54 countries, thousands of tribes and local languages, nevertheless, share the unifying common thread of a profound sensitivity to life and family. This is enriched by a broad concept of the fluidity of eternity, the personal contribution of each person to the human narrative, and a profound love for children and the elders of their people.

And so, if new ideas or concepts are going to be introduced, they must respect and build from within this moral worldview. Ekeocha shows how this can be done. She gives the example of polygamy. The practice was widely accepted until the Christian missionaries introduced monogamy. The presentation of marriage in such a way built upon the African love of children and tribe and showed the peoples how this expression of marriage made their values stronger.

Another positive example can be seen in the creative introduction of Natural Family Planning (based on the weather of the different seasons) and its gracious acceptance throughout the various peoples of Africa. This is the difference between enculturation and colonization.

As a comparison, Ekeocha observes: Africa speaks of security, donors talk of safe sex. Africa speaks about education and computers, donors speak of sex education and condoms. Africa speaks about family life, donors talk about family planning via contraception. Africa speaks about clean water and healthcare, donors talk about birth control and abortion.

New ideas in any culture, therefore, must be a leaven to it, and not a poison. Such ideas should not lead to confusion, self-hatred, and a manipulation of people or their principles by an imbalance of power.

Cultures reflect the hearts of their people, and the heart of any people – its conscience and lifeblood – calls for respect and deference. Africa is no different. If Western donors are to avoid becoming new colonial masters, then they must understand and abide by this principle and honor the values of the Africa of the African peoples.

Kenyan bishops urge government to tackle unemployment crisis

Crux Now - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 11:36 PM

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Catholic Bishops in Kenya are concerned about the high rate of unemployment in the country, saying it poses a serious security threat to the nation.

In a statement issued April 13 at the end of their plenary assembly, the bishops said that “out of desperation many young people end up joining gangs, militias and terror groups while others are caught up in drugs, substance abuse and alcoholism, as they waste their lives.”

Kenya has experienced years of economic growth, and in 2016 the country saw a growth rate of 5.8 percent – well above regional and global averages – but that success has not improved job prospects.

The jobs created were low-paying and informal jobs and growing at a pace economists said was too slow to offset the high rate of unemployment in the country – a situation the bishops now describe as “a time bomb that can explode at any time.”

According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate stood at 11 percent in 2016. That figure was double for those aged 15-24. This is coupled with a poverty rate that UNICEF estimates is 42 percent.

“There are many people who feel marginalized and isolated from the mainstream economic gains in the country,” the bishops said.

They said the gap between the rich and the poor must be bridged, otherwise “we shall always have tensions and unending conflicts.”

“We have to tackle poverty which in most cases is the by-product of corruption and looting of the resources we have in this country. We are therefore appealing to both the national and county governments to work for a strong economic base that will provide livelihoods to the poor people and generate revenue for sustainable development,” the bishops said.

They said job creation should top the government’s agenda, and for that to happen, the bishops argued “more resources should be allocated to farmers to work the land and produce food. It is very sad to see farmers frustrated because of the low prices for their produce.”

They also complained that cartels are allowed to import produce from outside Kenya, instead of buying from local farmers, “thus killing the efforts of our own people.”

The bishops called on the government to “protect the Kenyan farmers.”

A new political era for Kenya?

The bishops also welcomed the rapprochement between Kenya’s two main political rivals: President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The latest confrontation between the two leaders came during and after the contentious 2017 presidential election in which Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner, although Raila declared himself as “the people’s president,” and even held a symbolic “inauguration” ceremony in January which the government said was illegal.

The electoral dispute polarized the country and further exposed the deep tribal and ethnic rifts that have long characterized its politics.

At least 90 people were killed in the ensuing political violence, although that figure pales in comparison to what happened in 2007 when the two men were engaged in yet another contentious election.

At least 1,300 people died and tens of thousands were displaced as the dispute of the election results snowballed into weeks of ethnic score settling after the poll.

In a major about face on March 9, the two men came to an agreement in what they said was the greater interest of the country.

“Throughout our independence history, we have had doubts on how we have conducted our affairs in the face of a growing divide along ethnic, religious and political lines. Regrettably, we have responded to our challenges by mostly running away from them,” Odinga said following that meeting.

“We have moved from year to year, election to election, never pausing to deal with the challenges that our diversity was always going to pose to our efforts to create a prosperous and united nation. Consequently, the ties that bind us are today under the severest stress. Our diversity appears destined to be a curse to ourselves today and to our children tomorrow,” he said.

Kenyatta added that Kenya was larger than both Odinga and him, and it was absolutely necessary to dissolve the political tensions for the interest of the country.

The bishops welcomed this development, coming in the wake of what they described as “an uncertain and tough electioneering period that almost divided the nation, with a shattered economy and a section of the population left wounded during political violence.”

They said the Uhuru-Raila meeting was, and will continue to be good for the country, but insisted that substance must be put into the handshake.

“We see this as a step forward in the right direction and we call upon them to speed up the process of real, meaningful and lasting reconciliation,” they said.

The bishops underscored the need for the two leaders to work together to build a more united and peaceful country, “where every person’s dignity is respected and where all have equal opportunities irrespective of where they come from. It is our hope and that of all Kenyans that this meeting will herald a new era of reconciliation, dialogue, peace, stability and prosperity.”

Moving forward, the bishops called for the establishment of “an all-inclusive round-table Conference that will iron out all the differences that have been separating Kenyans.”

They also called for a review of Kenya’s constitution “in light of the contentious issues that emerged during the recent elections, and other shortcomings that have been noted.”

“Similarly, such a conference should look at how the presidency can be structured so that it is above political parties, so that it is not a position of power struggle, that is bitterly contested as it has happened in the 2007 and the 2017 presidential elections,” the bishops said.

Encouragement a strong factor in priesthood discernment, study finds

CNA General News - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 6:09 PM

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A strong majority of the 430 men who are about to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in the United States come from families where both parents were Catholic, and had several friends encouraging them in their vocation.


The findings were from the annual survey of new ordinands by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate out of Georgetown University. Out of the 430 men to be ordained to the priesthood, 334 responded to the survey, including 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

While this year’s priesthood ordination class is slightly smaller than last year’s class of 590, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said the report provides “reasons for hope and areas for growth.”

"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said in a statement.

“It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assist them in the discernment process."

Encouragement from priests, parishioners and friends was a key factor in considering the priesthood for many of this year’s ordination class.

According to the survey, nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life - usually by a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner. On average, respondents said about four different people in their lives encouraged them to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

Father Ralph O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat for the USCCB, said that this was “one of the most encouraging statistics” from the report and that it should be a call to all the faithful to encourage vocations.

“This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response," he said in a statement.

The survey also found that most of the men being ordained this year were baptized Catholic as infants (90 percent) and that most also grew up in families where both parents were Catholic (83 percent). Slightly more than one-third of the respondents are also related to priests, the survey found.

This year’s class also included slightly more respondents who were born in the United States. In previous years, the average amount of foreign-born ordinands was around 30 percent, while only 25 percent of the 2018 ordination class is foreign-born. Of that 25 percent, the majority come from Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia.

Many of the ordinands also had prior undergraduate school or work experiences before entering the seminary. The survey found that nearly half of all of this year’s class had completed an undergraduate degree before entering the seminary, with the most common areas of study being social science, theology, philosophy, business, or liberal arts. Two-thirds of the men also reported previous full-time work experience before entering the seminary.

Also included in the report were the ordinands’ answers to the prompt - “People might be surprised to know…”

Edgar Elamparo, of the Diocese of San Jose, responded with a story about going off to seminary.

“Before my family sent me off to the seminary, I saw my uncle in front of our house with tears in his eyes. I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ He replied, ‘When you were young, I asked you what would you want to become when you grow up? and you said, I want to become a priest, and now here, you are on your way to your dream.’”

Brett Garland of the Diocese of Columbus said he “preached at my twin brother's wedding just two months after I was ordained a deacon, and I will be the celebrant of my older brother's wedding this summer, just a month after I am ordained a priest.  By living out their particular vocations, both of my brothers have encouraged me in my own vocation.”

This year’s survey was conducted between Jan. 29 - March 11 via email. The findings of the annual CARA survey are sent to the USCCB’s Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Stewardship of Creation: An Earth Day Message

Franciscan Media American Catholic Blog - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 4:39 PM

 

“Nature is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it,” Pope Francis said in 2014 at the World Day of Peace. “Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.”

Priest shot hearing confessions in Mexico; second cleric murdered in country in 3 days

Crux Now - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 4:18 PM

A priest on the outskirts of Guadalajara has been murdered, the second priest in a week killed in Mexico.

Father Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia, 33, was shot dead late Friday in Tlajomulco de Zuniga by unidentified attackers in his parish office, reportedly while hearing a confession.

“We make an urgent call to build a culture of peace and reconciliation. These lamentable events call all of us to a much deeper and sincere conversion. It is time to look honestly at our culture and society, and to ask ourselves why we have lost respect for life and for the sacred,” said Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, the Archbishop of Guadalajara.

The cardinal asked the Catholic faithful to accompany their priests with prayer and in the pastoral service to the communities entrusted to them.

“We ask those who despise and take their lives for any reason to allow themselves to be seen by the loving face of God; and to get rid of not only weapons, but hatred, resentment, revenge, and all destructive emotions,” Robles Ortega said in an April 20 statement.

The cardinal also called on the authorities to investigate the crime and not allow it – and other crimes in Mexico – to go unpunished.

According to the Catholic Multimedia Center, at least four priests have been slain in Mexico this year, and 23 have been murdered since 2012.

On Wednesday, Father Ruben Alcantara Diaz was stabbed to death in his church on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Italian bishop starts prayer campaign for Alfie Evans; parents appeal to European court to save their son

Crux Now - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 3:29 PM

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Italian Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi is calling for a worldwide prayer campaign for Alfie Evans, after the British Supreme Court cleared the way for his life support to be removed over the objections of his parents.

Cavina helped arrange a meeting between Thomas Evans, Alfie’s father, and Pope Francis on Wednesday.

Alfie has an undiagnosed brain disease, and Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool has argued that any further treatment would be futile, and not in Alfie’s interest.

Evans, 21, and his partner Kate James, 20, have fought an ongoing legal battle to allow them to take Alfie abroad for treatment.

RELATED: UK Supreme Court rules against family of Alfie Evans two days after father meets Pope Francis

The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù children’s hospital in Rome has offered to admit the child and treat him, but the British courts have not let Alfie’s parents remove him from Alder Hey.

During the pope’s general audience, which took place immediately after his meeting with Evans, Francis asked for prayers for Alfie, and said it is “our duty to do everything to preserve life.”

“I would like to reiterate and forcefully confirm that the only master of life, from the beginning to its natural conclusion, is God!” Francis said.

Francis also expressed his support for Alfie in an April 4 tweet. He also made an appeal for the child during his April 15 Sunday Angelus.

After the meeting between Francis and Evans, the pope asked Cavina to act as a go-between for the Evans family and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Cavina has started an international prayer campaign for Alfie, with the cooperation of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

“This is his last hope. Only the power of prayer can melt hearts and make the walls that now seem insurmountable crumble,” the bishop said.

“When human capabilities fail, there is still one resource: Prayer,” he said in an interview with Vatican News. “This prayer chain has only this purpose: To ensure that the Lord is able to touch the hearts of those who have the fate of this child in their hands, to give to this child the capability to enjoy the love and affection of his parents, who have been almost heroic.”

RELATED: Italian bishop says refusal to let Alfie Evans come to Vatican hospital “beyond all human logic”

On Saturday, Thomas Evans released a statement saying he has filed an appeal – the family’s second – with the European Court of Human Rights.

A previous appeal to the Strasbourg-based institution was rejected on March 28.

“This is not justice. This is a cruel, murderous bureaucracy,” Alfie’s father said.

“We will not give up. We will continue to fight, by all means available to us within the law, to save our son’s life,” he continued.

Alfie’s parents also released photos of Alfie showing what appear to be blood secretions and a burn blister, claiming the hospital has been neglectful in the treatment of their son.

Cavina told Vatican News that what is happening with Alfie is “inhumane,” and his parents have the right to determine what is in his best interest.

“Totalitarian regimes were condemned because they claimed to have the right of life and death over people,” the bishop said.

He said the fight to defend Alfie’s life is the fight to defend each of our lives, “because if the criterion of who decides the life or death of sick people passes to the state, each of us is in danger.”

The bishop warned that if this determination is made because a life is “useless” then “the life of an old, sick person runs the risk of becoming useless, according to purely materialistic or economic criteria.”

Christians must help others meet Jesus, Pope Francis says

CNA General News - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 11:35 AM

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that Christians are called to a mission of leading others to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in order that every person might grow in his or her individual call to holiness.

 

“The men and women of our time need to meet Jesus Christ: He is the path that leads to the Father; He is the Gospel of hope and love that enables us to go as far as giving ourselves,” the pope said April 21.

 

“It is a matter of carrying out an itinerary of holiness to respond courageously to the call of Jesus, each according to his own particular charism.”

 

Quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Pope Francis said: “For a Christian it is not possible to think of his mission on earth without understanding it as a path of holiness, because ‘this is in fact the will of God, your sanctification.’”

 

This is our mission, he continued. It requires responsibility and joy, generous availability, self-denial, and “trustful abandonment to the divine will.”

 

Pope Francis spoke about holiness during an encounter with pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Bologna and Cesena-Sarsina in St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrimage to Rome followed Francis’ own visit to Bologna and Cesena in October 2017.

 

Quoting from his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, the pope also spoke about the important role of the Eucharist in helping to transform Catholics “into a holy and missionary community.”

 

The Eucharist, he said, means “thanksgiving” and makes us feel the need for thanksgiving.

 

“It makes us understand that ‘we are more blessed in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35), educates us to give primacy to love, and practice justice in its complete form, which is mercy; to know to give thanks always, even when we receive what is due to us.”

 

The pope encouraged Christians to proclaim the call to holiness in their communities, since it concerns “every baptized person and every condition of life.”

 

“In holiness consists the full realization of every aspiration of the human heart. It is a journey that starts from the baptismal font and leads up to Heaven and is carried out day by day by accepting the Gospel in concrete life,” he said.

 

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