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Sunday May 31 is a National Day of Prayer for an end to COVID-19 in South Africa

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 3:56 PM

When we are still busy preparing ourselves to return to our different Religious Services, all the people in South Africa, from different walks of life, with different faith beliefs, are requested to honor Sunday 31st May by reserving some time aside, with one unified intention of praying for an end to Coronavirus.

Make sure you remind your brother, sister, friend, relative, colleague, and every person of goodwill not to forget this moment of prayer.

United in Action and Prayer we can defeat Coronavirus. Let’s unite to make sure we save our nation from this monster. Make sure you continue to take necessary precautions against the spread of Coronavirus.

Remember our Catholic Bishops and SACC members have said if you are not ready with all necessary safety precautions to go back to the church don’t commit suicide. Leave the church close until that time when you are able to be safe from the virus, probably where there is a full guarantee for safety.

Please remind all your Priests, Pastors, PPCs that compliance is the priority for the safety of our people. If you can’t guarantee it please leave the churches closed. Going to church is your personal choice. Nobody should be blamed for your choice. President Cyril Ramaphosa said safety is up to you.

Please discourage the elderly to avoid going back to church gatherings. They are more vulnerable than the young but remember with Coronavirus no one is safe. No one is written on the forehead that is COVID-19 negative or positive, except those who have been diagnosed.

Let us continue to pray for your brothers and sisters who are infected and affected. Let us continue to pray for those who are selflessly at the frontline to address the challenges facing us amid COVID-19.

Rember during COVID-19 that the freedom you claim may be a choice that leads to the end of your life. Keep your mask on in the public, wash your hands with soap, sanitize your hands now and then and make sure social distancing is ruled to abide with.

I wish you a very safe weekend.

God loves you and May God continue to bless and protect you.

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New Rector for St Mary’s College, Oscott

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 3:46 PM

Archbishop Bernard Longley announced that Fr Giles Goward has been appointed the new Rector of St Mary’s College, Oscott.

Fr Giles, a priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and currently Pastoral Director at Oscott, will take up his appointment on Sunday June 28, 2020

He will be responsible for the formation of students for the priesthood from more than twenty dioceses and Religious Orders from across the UK.

St Mary’s College, Oscott is the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and serves the Catholic Church in England, Wales, and Scotland. It currently has 43 seminarians training for the priesthood and 32 candidates for the permanent diaconate.

Fr Giles takes over from Acting Rector Fr Paul Keane, who took the helm when the former Rector, Canon David Oakley, became the Bishop of Northampton earlier this year.

Fr Giles admits he never thought he would be asked to join the list of Presidents and Rectors stretching back over Oscott’s 226-year history.

“If I am honest I consider myself very unworthy to do so and I am humbled to join a line of succession which includes the names of men marked by holiness, vision, and apostolic zeal,” said Fr Giles.

“However, Archbishop Bernard Longley has asked me to do so, and I only hope that I can repay the confidence he has placed in me.

“My first hope and prayer is that this dreadful pandemic, which is keeping us all apart and has caused so much suffering and misery, will be beaten. Then we can come together once again as a physical community rather than a virtual one.

“Please do pray for me that I will become all those things the seminarians have been asking God to give us in a new Rector.

“The work of forming men for the priesthood and diaconate has changed in so many ways since the first Church Students arrived at the College in May 1794. We are called to exercise our ministry in a world they would not recognize. Though many things have changed, some things remain constant, chiefest amongst them being the unchangeable God who calls us to share in this great work of formation.”

Statement from Archbishop Bernard Longley

“I am very grateful to Fr Giles for accepting this appointment with the enthusiasm and generosity of spirit which will be familiar to all those who already know him. Fr Giles brings considerable experience as a pastor and formator to his new role. I know that his colleagues on the staff and all the seminarians at Oscott will welcome him warmly.

“I wish to thank Fr Paul Keane for his leadership within the Seminary community over recent months as Acting Rector. I thank the Seminary community at Oscott, all the members of staff together with the seminarians, for the dedicated and imaginative ways in which they have continued the work of formation in all its dimensions during the recent coronavirus pandemic.

“I know what a great joy it will be when the Seminary can at last re-assemble at St Mary’s College with its new Rector. Please keep Fr Giles in your prayers as he prepares to take up his new responsibilities over the coming weeks.”

Fr Giles received his formation at two different colleges – the College of the Resurrection in West Yorkshire (Anglican theological college) and St Mary’s College, Oscott.

He was at the College of the Resurrection from 1988 to 1991; then became a Deacon at Lichfield Cathedral in 1991 and a Priest at Lichfield Cathedral the following year.

He was received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church on 24 May 1993 by Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville.

Fr Giles was ordained Deacon at Oscott in June 1995 and ordained a priest at St Chad’s Cathedral in July 1995.

During his time within the Archdiocese, he has served as Assistant Priest in Newcastle-under-Lyme; as the Archbishop’s Secretary; Parish Priest in Worcester, and also in Caversham.

He has held the roles of Pastoral Director, Formation Tutor, and Director for the Permanent Deacon Programme at Oscott since 2013.

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Help for Poorest of Poor in Pakistan

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 3:37 PM

More than 5,000 of the poorest families in Pakistan are to receive food and other COVID-19 emergency aid, with help from a leading Catholic charity.

Orphans, widows and unemployed people are among those who will benefit from a grant approved May 28, 2020, by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The ACN emergency aid package targets the most vulnerable people in the capital, Islamabad, as well as in Rawalpindi, and the dioceses of Lahore and Faisalabad.

Stressing that Pakistan’s Christians are among the poorest and hardest hit by the lockdown, Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN International executive president, said: “The coronavirus and the lockdown have deprived them of their already meager livelihoods and forced them to live through the crisis in extremely cramped and overcrowded conditions with a minimum of resources.”

Noting that many Christians earn the lowest wages, working as day laborers, domestic servants, cleaners or kitchen staff, Dr. Heine-Geldern said: “All these areas of employment are precisely the ones that have been most impacted by the economic shutdown.

“Many Christian employees have been dismissed without notice by families for whom they have worked for years since these families are afraid that the poor may bring infection into their homes.”

Amid reports that some NGOs in Pakistan have denied COVID-19 aid to Christians and other minorities, Dr. Heine-Geldern said: “Religious discrimination is sadly nothing new in Pakistan.

“What is deeply concerning, however, is that, even during this global crisis, such minorities are being clearly disadvantaged.”

In Faisalabad, the ACN emergency aid program includes using radio and social media to raise awareness of the risks of coronavirus and ways to protect against it.

ACN described a plan to distribute face masks for the faithful in churches and equip priests, Sisters, catechists, diocesan staff and volunteers with personal protection equipment.

According to the latest reports, Pakistan has 64,028 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 1,317 deaths.

The densely populated Punjab Province and Sindh Province, in the south-east, are worst affected.

As part of its COVID-19 program for Pakistan, ACN is providing Mass stipends for 70 priests in the Archdiocese of Lahore, four priests at the Redemptoris Mater Major Seminary, Karachi, and another four priests at St Francis Xavier Seminary, Lahore.

ACN announced at €5 million (£4.49m) COVID-19 emergency fund last month (April) and last week approved grants providing emergency aid to more than 20,000 families in Syria.

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Pentecost Message of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB, Archbishop Of Yangon, Myanmar

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 3:20 PM

By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB   – Archbishop Of Yangon, Myanmar

 A JOYOUS, HEALTHY AND HAPPY PENTECOST!

To all the brothers and sisters gathered in your houses,  Happy Feast.  This is a significant day. The birthday of the  Mother Church.   After the 50th day of Easter,  the light of Pentecost penetrates all darkness, the grip of Covid.  Let this be the starting of the healing of the world from that pandemic.

May the power of the Holy Spirit pervade every nerve and every cell in your body and bring total healing to every one of you my brother and sister.   This is a great day of deliverance.

Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your wisdom.

Holy Spirit is not in regular conversation in our circles.   You may go to church very often, you may hear about the Father,  you may hear about Jesus the Savior but not many sermons are preached about the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was taken up to the heaven after ‘mission accomplished’ he promised the Holy Spirit to all his followers.       In life, we need the Holy Spirit but we struggle through life because we have limited interaction with the Holy Spirit.  Holy  Spirit is the third person, not a spirit but a person, the Bible refers to as “He”.   He interacts with all humanity every moment, every second.  Each one of us, St Paul points out, is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Yet we seldom seek his Wisdom. We are like the blind beggar begging with the golden plate.

A blind beggar used to sit in front of a temple and beg.  People used to throw coins.  Once a generous was about to throw a coin but suddenly felt the plate held out by the beggar looked different. He checked the plate.  It was a gold plate.  He exclaimed to the beggar:  You are richer than anyone else.  The blind beggar pleaded:  Do not make fun of a blind beggar.  I am a poor man.  The other man replied: yes you are blind and begging but you are begging with a golden plate.

Many Catholics are like that blind beggar.  Begging for wisdom and consolation, without knowing we have the golden presence of the Holy Spirit in us.     He is not only present as an enabler and a spirit of empowerment but with seven generous gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  Like seven sacraments, our spiritual life is fortified by these seven gifts.

Not only these seven gifts, but the Holy Spirit also accompanies us in seven different ways – building us in God.  The Bible calls the Holy Spirit with various names.

  • He is the PARACLETE, the comforter in our times of sorrow
  • He is the Counselor who helps us to choose the good from evil,
  • He is the Teacher who opens our eyes to the mysteries of the Bible
  • He is the Accompanier in our life’s journey, guiding us to our destiny
  • He is the Strengthener who stand by us in our times of brokenness and despair and loneliness
  • He is the Intercessor with the Father in all our needs
  • He is the Healer who heals with his soothing presence in us.

As we sail through the lockdown as families,  we need to draw from the seven gifts of the Spirit and his seven attributes we just now referred to.

Holy Spirit is an integral part of the act of creation,  redemption, and establishment of the salvation history.   Before the creation of the world, he was hovering over the chaos; in the immaculate conception of the incarnate God the Spirit pays a role.    When Jesus’ mission was accomplished,  the promise of the Holy Spirit brought about Christ’s church. God’s active presence in the world is signified by the role of the Holy Spirit.

The  Holy Spirit is the wonder worker.   When we become aware of his power in us, we are empowered to work wonders.  For a moment, bring the scene of Peter preaching to more than three thousand people.  Just a few weeks ago, he was not ashamed of betraying Jesus Christ, not once, not twice but three times.    Cowardice gripped his soul.  The other disciples ran away, leaving Jesus to trod the anguish of the Way of the Cross.

But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, there was a great wonder:  every apostle’s mind was clarified.  They understood the mission of  Jesus candidly.  They were filled with the desire for evangelization.  The mutilating fear gave way to fearless proclamation.  The cloud of confusion was melted and the truth of Christ’s mission illumined in their hearts.  They were not afraid of martyrdom. Fired by the Holy Spirit, the unlettered-  fishermen of Galilee would challenge the mighty Roman empire, travel to various nations to proclaim.  When the Spirit took over they went out, turned the world upside down, and established a church that has survived two millennium years, inspiring billions of people to follow the way of Christ.  This did not come through money or massive building but by the sheer power of the Spirit that worked in those simple men and women.    They fulfilled Jesus prophesy in Acts 1:8   “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Catholic Church needs to regain the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He dwells in each one of us: through our baptism, through our confirmation. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 6:19).  He is the voice that guides us through good times and bad times.

Let me dwell a while on Prosperity Gospel:

Prosperity Gospel saw its birth in the capitalistic  American dream. The core message is life is about enjoying material benefits in this world.  Poverty is a curse and lack of blessing from God. Righteous people are always wealthy.

Prosperity Gospel is the teaching of the Bible packaged as a sweet promise of prosperity.  Prosperity  Gospel makes a bold claim:  God will give you your heart’s desires: money in the bank, a healthy body, a thriving family, and boundless happiness.   God wants to make every believer a rich man.  A strong intangible faith leads to tangible wealth, earthly reward.

The believer will experience luxuries of life as a reward for good behavior. The prosperity gospel looks at the world as it is and promises a solution. It guarantees that faith will always make a way. If you believe, and you leap, you will land on your feet. If you believe, you will be healed.

Its preachers are called “Mega pastors” preaching to “mega-churches”.  They preach to thousands in the stadiums and telecast to millions.   They preach a ‘seed’ theology. “If you send 100 dollars (seed) to the ministry, God will give you a thousand dollars. (harvest)”   Most of the mega pastors are millionaires.

The prosperity gospel encourages people — especially its leaders and preachers — to revel in private jets and multimillion-dollar homes as evidence of God’s love.

The pastors understand the condition of the people of today :

Believers wanted an escape: from poverty, failing health, and the feeling that their lives were leaky buckets.  What they wanted was reassurance: that if they prayed, and believed, and lived righteously, they would be rewarded with some measure of comfort.

So the pastors preach a ‘Prosperity Gospel’  – if you believe and give generously to the church, you will reap a hundredfold in wealth and good health.

Most of these pastors belong to the Pentecostal churches.  They also target-rich Christians.   This movement has become a global phenomenon as inequality rises in many countries.   Instead of looking into the root causes of human suffering, the structural causes of poverty ( huge wealth in the hands of a few rich people)  prosperity gospel make everything fruit of the “individual effort”.

Because of the attractiveness of the message thousands get ‘anointed in the prosperity Churches’ with the Holy Spirit.

This is almost a sin against the Holy Spirit.  Because soon after the Holy Spirit  came upon Mary,  her Magnificat was a succinct summary of the   mandate of the Holy Spirit :  (Luke 1: 53-53)

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

And Jesus saying:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  Mk 10:25

Prosperity Gospel is against the present Pope since he insists on Christianity should be concerned about the distribution of wealth and uplifting of the poor. Often they term him as “Red Pope” (communist).

This prosperity Gospel is a very big obstacle for the spread of Christianity in the East.  The religious traditions of the East like Hinduism, Buddhism insist on giving up luxuries and live a life of simplicity.   To many people in the East Christianity seen from the prosperity Gospel view is another model of the market economy of the  West.  It has nothing to contribute towards the wisdom and simplicity of the eastern religions.

Prosperity Gospel preachers abuse the Holy Spirit since they often indulge in prophecies and speaking in tongues etc.  Most of them claim to have been empowered by the Holy Spirit.

On the Pentecostal day the Holy Spirit came on the community of disciples and enriched them to proclaim the Good News of human oneness.  They could go out and say Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  (Acts 3:6)

        Holy Spirit has received bad press from those who claim to be ‘anointed churches’.   Having Holy Spirit is not running out and speaking in tongues and making noisy and hysterical exhibitions of healing, unending prophesy often attacking other religious people, creating divisions among people.  That kind of Christianity has brought disrepute to the message of Christ.

When the Spirit comes, the Apostle Paul unequivocally states, purifies one’s life and live an ethical life.  ‘Walk by the Spirit; not by the urgings of the lust’ ( Gal 5:16).   There is a life change, a witnessing life that attracts others.    On the Pentecostal day, there was an earth-shattering change in the hearts of the Disciples which provoked the change in the hearts of the 3000 people who heard them.  Life changes and a Christian animated by spirit ‘ walks by the Spirit.”

Walking by Spirit implies we live by three principles :

  • Present as the great Present: Live every moment, not to be distractions and the pains of the past, or the dreams of the future, but live every moment as the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • In Dependency: Living life in total dependence on God who is the provider, God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field is always a providential Abba the Father.
  • Guided by the Spirit:   The Holy Spirit guides us through the jungle of life’s various confusions.  Life is a constant struggle to choose.  The Holy Spirit helps us to live of constant discernment.

These are pillars of an anointed person, a true follower of the Holy Spirit.

Once again the world is filled with false prophets who are too willing to misguide gullible faithful. These men claim to be “prophets”  who claim to have a hotline to heaven and make frequent trips to heaven,  peddle dubious predictions purported at the urging of the Holy Spirit, made Christianity a laughing stock and have diluted the message of Christ.  The noise and hysteria supposed to the expressions of the Holy Spirit have scared thousands in reaching out to the salvific message of Christ.   Christianity is not an emotional roller coaster.   One of the reasons the East avoids Christianity is the noise and the din associated with the so-called Christian missions.

These obnoxious aberrations should not deter true Christians to seek the real gifts of the Holy Spirit.  St Paul indicates every true Christian should seek the life-giving gifts from the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor. 12: 4-8)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

            Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same      Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to other gifts of healing by that one Spirit 

We pray that as Catholics we become aware of the wonderful empowering gifts that is available to us. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the empowering of the Christian soul.   Today we have come to celebrate the establishment of the Church through the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

More than ever we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit to cleanse every infected cell, to strengthen every wounded nerve.  Only the  Holy Spirit can destroy this virus.  The Holy Spirit who hovered over the earth before creation, need to hover over each one of us, over each one of our families, over our cities and nations.    We do hope all of us can return to churches after this feast.

We need to raise our hands and on our knees pleading with the Trinity. St Paul says true prayer comes at the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  ( Rom 8:26)

We have sailed through the Lent season and Paschal seasons through heart-wrenching pain of the suffocating darkness.  We are people of faith believing in a living, loving, and liberating God. Let the penetrating light of the Holy Spirit breaks through the darkness of pandemic to cleanse this world.  Let each household that is listening to this filled with the Holy Spirit.

 Let your Family be blessed with

Good health, peace, and presence of the Spirit.

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Holy Father Makes Two Appointments in Colombia

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 2:49 PM

Resignation of bishop of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, and appointment of successor

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, presented by Bishop Camilo Fernando Castrellón Pizano, S.D.B.

The Holy Father has appointed as bishop of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, the Reverend Ovidio Giraldo Velásquez, of the clergy of the diocese of La Dorada – Guaduas, Colombia, currently national director of the Network for New Evangelisation (SINE).

Reverend Ovidio Giraldo Velásquez

The Reverend Ovidio Giraldo Velásquez was born in Montebonito, diocese of La Dorada – Guaduas, on January 27, 1963. He carried out his studies in philosophy and theology in the major seminary of Manizales. He obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He received priestly ordination on February 18, 1989, and was incardinated in the diocese of La Dorada – Guaduas.

He has served as parish vicar of the parishes of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and San Antonio, parish priest of the parish of San José Obrero, formater of the Cristo Buen Pastor Seminary, parish priest of the Nuestra Señora del Carmen Seminary, diocesan delegate for social pastoral care, diocesan vicar for pastoral ministry, and since 2013, national director for the Network for New Evangelisation (SINE).

Appointment of metropolitan archbishop of Ibagué, Colombia

The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Orlando Roa Barbosa of Espinal, Colombia, as metropolitan archbishop of the archdiocese of Ibagué, Colombia.

Archbishop-elect Orlando Roa Barbosa

Archbishop-elect Orlando Roa Barbosa was born in Cali on July 4, 1958. He carried out his ecclesiastical studies in philosophy in the major seminary of Garzón, and in theology in the major seminary of Ibagué. He obtained a licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome and a licentiate in philosophy and religious sciences from the Universidad Católica de Oriente in Rionegro, Colombia.

He received episcopal ordination on December 6, 1984, for the metropolitan archdiocese of Ibagué.

As a priest, he has held the following offices: prefect for discipline in the minor seminary of Ibagué, archdiocesan delegate for youth and vocational pastoral care, parish priest of Santa Isabel de Hungría in Santa Isabel, parish priest of Santa Gertrudis in Rovira, parish priest of El Perpetuo Socorro of the María Inmaculada archdiocesan major seminary.

On May 12, 2012, he was appointed as titular bishop of Nasbinca and auxiliary of Ibagué. He received episcopal consecration the following July 28. On May 20, 2015, he was appointed as bishop of Espinal.

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Join Pope in Rosary on Saturday, May 30

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 2:36 PM

Pope Francis on Saturday, May 30, will lead the world in praying the Rosary to end the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The Pope will lead the recitation of the Rosary from the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens, starting at 5:30 p.m. Rome time.

The event will be broadcast live throughout the world on a host of Vatican channels, with English-language commentary provided.

–          Via the Vatican News portal: click here

–          Via the Vatican News English YouTube channel: click here

–          Live-streamed on our Facebook page: click here

The event will also be live-streamed in the original language (Italian) accompanied by Sign Language used in Italy : click here

The event was announced in a statement by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and published May 26, 2020, by the Holy See Press Office.

“The Holy Father will put at Mary’s feet the many anxieties and sorrows of humanity, further aggravated by the spread of COVID-19,” the statement underscored.

“The appointment for the end of the Marian month,” it continued, “is a further sign of closeness and consolation for all those that, in different ways, have been affected by the coronavirus, in the certainty that the Heavenly Mother will not disregard the requests for protection.”

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INTERVIEW: New York COVID Task Force–in ‘Mission of Faith’– Sets Out to Annihilate Virus, Starting From Diocese of Brooklyn

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 11:02 AM

A mission of faith…

This is how Vincent Levien describes the one-of-a-kind Emergency Task Force he founded to combat coronavirus for New York, the epicenter of COVID deaths in the US. New York’s COVID-related deaths number more than 20,000 of the country’s now more than 100,000.

Vinny and his family being honored in Time Square (Vinny is in black)

Vinny, a husband and father, has been Director of External Affairs for DeSales Media Group, based in Brooklyn, where for decades, he worked closely with government, diplomatic and external affairs, as board member of the Pave the Way Foundation. He especially worked closely with government officials, and even presidents, at Ground Zero. He played an important role during Pope Francis’ visit to New York in September 2015.

Vinny’s work was enabled in part by the blessings and financial support of Bishop of the the Diocese of Brooklyn, Nicolas DiMarzio and Msgr Kieran Harrington of the Desales Media Group.

Bishop DiMarzio’s support for such an effort has further distinguished himself during this pandemic internationally. Pope Francis during the pandemic called Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, where he expressed his closeness to New Yorkers, and also specifically to Bishop DiMarzio who had lost priests in his Diocese.

The Emergency Task Force has acquired and distributed thousands of masks, sanitizers, gloves, face shields, and other vital protective equipment. The team is also responsible for facilitating the delivery of over 50,000 pizzas to over 40 hospitals and medical centers, as well as to NYPD police precincts, FDNY stationhouses, food banks, and community organizations throughout the city.

It has been coordinating logistics and the procurement of personal protective equipment and other essential medical supplies for NYS Office of Emergency Management, Governor Cuomo’s NYS Troopers Protective Detail, New York City Police Department, Fire Department of the City of New York, FDNY Emergency Medical Services, NYC Office of Emergency Management, and other first responders and medical professionals who are fighting the pandemic on the frontlines.

Moreover, the Task Force has coordinated with the Catholic Telemedia Network (CTN) and the Schools Office for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to deliver iPads to schools where many of the families do not have the financial resources to purchase equipment that can be used for remote instruction from teachers.

While some of the supplies that have been distributed were the result of donations, much of the personal protective equipment was purchased by DeSales Media Group, who also funded the Emergency Task Force through payroll, rental vehicles, and other expenses that have proven to be critical to their ability to help those who need it most.

Here is our interview with Director and Founder of the Emergency Task Force, Vinny Levien:

***

ZENIT: How did the task force and your role in the task force come to fruition? 

Vincent LeVien: When it became clear that schools and businesses would be closed, I went to Monsignor Harrington and Bishop DiMarzio with my idea of creating the COVID-19 Emergency Task Force. They said I had their full support. Then I reached out to long-time friends who I knew had the right experience to make it a success who I worked with down at Ground Zero after 911 on another Emergency Task Force, of which I was the director of. Nineteen years later, we are back helping to save lives.

ZENIT: What moments during all your work have affected you personally? 

Vincent LeVien: The death of Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay hit me hard. He was only 49 years old and was someone I worked with for 8 years. He deserved better. So, when I heard that the family was having a hard time getting him home to Mexico, I did everything I could to make it happen. I contacted everyone I knew from Senator Schumer, Mayor, Governor, White House. I took Father Jorge to the airport and had the PAPD police give me access so that I could personally load his coffin into the plane.

It was important to me that we could take care of one of our own and make sure Father Jorge could go home to his final resting place. Father Jorge was the first COVID 19 body allowed into Mexico. We couldn’t have a funeral in New York, but this way I could say goodbye.

ZENIT: Could you share some anecdotes of what initiatives have been especially meaningful or helpful? 

Vincent LeVien: When I heard that Catholic Charities would be hosting food distribution popup events in impoverished neighborhoods, I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there, I saw people who looked hungry. So, for the next popup, I came back with thousands of masks to distribute to those waiting in line, and chocolate for the kids. I hadn’t expected to see kids waiting in line for food. To date I have donated over 20,000 masks and two pallets in chocolate, gloves and sanitizer.

ZENIT: What do you expect going forward? What more are you working on? 

Vincent LeVien: The longer this drags on, the worse off people will be financially. While there’s a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, there’s no order against hunger. As money runs out, there will be more and more people in need of food to keep their families from starving. That’s what I want to do.. Help people in need for food and make sure they have food for their families.

ZENIT: How has your faith helped you to keep going as you work without breaks/without sleep….

Vincent LeVien: Even though I am out every day going to hospitals, food pantries, and distribution sites for equipment, I always stop at my office at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph. I know that it’s just a building that’s mostly empty but it’s comforting to see it’s always there. I pray every day that I get to go back home to my family and that we stay healthy and safe. This truly has been a mission of faith..

ZENIT: What can other cities learn from what you have done in New York, and how is New York doing currently? 

Vincent LeVien: As this spreads to other areas of the country and parts of the world, act before it’s too late to make a difference. Shut everything down immediately. Shelter in place. Bring in the military to handle this as a war zone and make sure you use all resources. I can’t say you will make it better, but I will say, you won’t save everyone, and you can make it less bad than it would have been otherwise. New York seems to have stabilized in terms of new infections and hospitalizations, but people are broke and hungry. Just because the daily number of deaths have gone down, that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods. Until there’s a vaccine or treatment, keep wearing your masks and be kind to one another.

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INTERVIEW: New York COVID Task Force–in ‘Mission of Faith’– Sets Out to Annihilate Virus, Starting From Diocese of Brooklyn

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 10:34 AM

A mission of faith…

This is how Vincent Levien describes the one-of-a-kind Emergency Task Force he founded to combat coronavirus for New York, the epicenter of COVID deaths in the US. New York’s COVID-related deaths number more than 20,000 of the country’s now more than 100,000.

Vinny and his family being honored in Time Square (Vinny is in black)

Vinny, a husband and father, has been Director of External Affairs for DeSales Media Group, based in Brooklyn, where for decades, he worked closely with government, diplomatic and external affairs, as board member of the Pave the Way Foundation. He especially worked closely with government officials, and even presidents, at Ground Zero. He played an important role during Pope Francis’ visit to New York in September 2015.

Vinny’s work was enabled in part by the blessings and financial support of Bishop of the the Diocese of Brooklyn, Nicolas DiMarzio and Msgr Kieran Harrington of the Desales Media Group.

Bishop DiMarzio’s support for such an effort has further distinguished himself during this pandemic internationally. Pope Francis during the pandemic called Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New Yorker, where he expressed his closeness to New Yorkers, and also specifically to Bishop DiMarzio who had lost priests in his Diocese.

The Emergency Task Force has acquired and distributed thousands of masks, sanitizers, gloves, face shields, and other vital protective equipment. The team is also responsible for facilitating the delivery of over 10,000 pizzas to over 40 hospitals and medical centers, as well as to NYPD police precincts, FDNY stationhouses, food banks, and community organizations throughout the city.

It has been coordinating logistics and the procurement of personal protective equipment and other essential medical supplies for NYS Office of Emergency Management, Governor Cuomo’s NYS Troopers Protective Detail, New York City Police Department, Fire Department of the City of New York, FDNY Emergency Medical Services, NYC Office of Emergency Management, and other first responders and medical professionals who are fighting the pandemic on the frontlines.

Moreover, the Task Force has coordinated with the Catholic Telemedia Network (CTN) and the Schools Office for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to deliver iPads to schools where many of the families do not have the financial resources to purchase equipment that can be used for remote instruction from teachers.

While some of the supplies that have been distributed were the result of donations, much of the personal protective equipment was purchased by DeSales Media Group, who also funded the Emergency Task Force through payroll, rental vehicles, and other expenses that have proven to be critical to their ability to help those who need it most.

Here is our interview with Director and Founder of the Emergency Task Force, Vinny Levien:

***

ZENIT: How did the task force and you role in the task force come to fruition? 

Vincent LeVien: When it became clear that schools and businesses would be closed, I went to Monsignor Harrington and Bishop DiMarzio with my idea of creating the COVID-19 Emergency Task Force. They said I had their full support. Then I reached out to long-time friends who I knew had the right experience to make it a success who I worked with down at Ground Zero after 911 on another Emergency Task Force, of which I was the director of. Nineteen years later, we are back helping to save lives.

ZENIT: What moments during all your work have affected you personally? 

Vincent LeVien: The death of Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay hit me hard. He was only 49 years old and was someone I worked with for 8 years. He deserved better. So, when I heard that the family was having a hard time getting him home to Mexico, I did everything I could to make it happen. I contacted everyone I knew from Senator Schumer, Mayor, Governor, White House. I took Father Jorge to the airport and had the PAPD police give me access so that I could personally load his coffin into the plane.

It was important to me that we could take care of one of our own and make sure Father Jorge could go home to his final resting place. Father Jorge was the first COVID 19 body allowed into Mexico. We couldn’t have a funeral in New York, but this way I could say goodbye.

ZENIT: Could you share some anecdotes of what initiatives have been especially meaningful or helpful? 

Vincent LeVien: When I heard that Catholic Charities would be hosting food distribution popup events in impoverished neighborhoods, I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there, I saw people who looked hungry. So, for the next popup, I came back with thousands of masks to distribute to those waiting in line, and chocolate for the kids. I hadn’t expected to see kids waiting in line for food. To date I have donated over 20,000 masks and two pallets in chocolate, gloves and sanitizer.

ZENIT: What do you expect going forward? What more are you working on? 

Vincent LeVien: The longer this drags on, the worse off people will be financially. While there’s a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, there’s no order against hunger. As money runs out, there will be more and more people in need of food to keep their families from starving. That’s what I want to do.. Help people in need for food and make sure they have food for their families.

ZENIT: You How has your faith helped you to keep going as you work without breaks/without sleep….

Vincent LeVien: Even though I am out every day going to hospitals, food pantries, and distribution sites for equipment, I always stop at my office at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph. I know that it’s just a building that’s mostly empty but it’s comforting to see it’s always there. I pray every day that I get to go back home to my family and that we stay healthy and safe. This truly has been a mission of faith..

ZENIT: What can other cities learn from what you have done in New York, and how is New York doing currently? 

Vincent LeVien: As this spreads to other areas of the country and parts of the world, act before it’s too late to make a difference. Shut everything down immediately. Shelter in place. Bring in the military to handle this has a war zone and make sure you use all resources. I can’t say you will make it better, but I will day you won’t save everyone, and you can make it less bad than it would have been otherwise. New York seems to have stabilized in terms of new infections and hospitalizations, but people are broke and hungry. Just because the daily number of deaths have gone down, that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods.

Until there’s a vaccine or treatment, keep wearing your masks and be kind to one another.

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PMS Confirms October Campaign in Brazil

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 6:21 AM

The Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) of Brazil have confirmed the missionary campaign for the month of October, even if the world is experiencing a difficult time, due to the pandemic that has changed our relationships. The Missionary Campaign this year wants to be a sign of hope for many lives given in a spirit of solidarity. The chosen theme “Life is mission” and the motto “Here I am, send me” (Is 6,8) intend to contribute to the growth of missionary awareness.

Fr. Maurício da Silva Jardim, National Director of the PMS in Brazil, explains the new reality experienced in the context of a pandemic in the note sent to Fides News Agency: “In difficult times, times of social isolation, cancellation of many pastoral and missionary programs, activities, meetings, and formation, mission has not been canceled, it continues, because mission is permanent”.

The animation material for the missionary month will be sent to all dioceses next July. The new reality of social isolation requires each community to find its own way of living the missionary month according to the local situation. The missionary novena, for example, can be celebrated in families, in their homes.

As the PMS press release explains, the symbolic image that distinguishes the 2020 Missionary Campaign presents the mission as an open window on life. The image of the window represents the human being’s ability to interact with the world around him and thus reawaken his real and generous interest in his fellow men. In this moment of social isolation in which we live, the window is the means to maintain our relationships with the world and with those we love. The open window represents the welcoming attitude towards the world, a bridge that puts us in dialogue with the challenges of life beyond our personal borders. At the center of this window is the figure of Pope Francis, who embodied the mission in his life, depicted in the attitude of those who welcome and take care, giving us the example of a life in which the mission is intertwined with the more simple situations of everyday, in line with the teachings of Jesus.

This image is on a white background, like a pictorial canvas, which intends to show the centrality of a life that acquires meaning and color only to the extent that it is lived as a mission, as a donation and delivery to the brothers. Our unique way of dealing with situations, our talents, and skills at the service of the Kingdom of God, makes the difference and can color life with extraordinary and unexpected tones.

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Bose Monastic Community: Founder Enzo Bianchi and Three Brothers Are Exiled from the Community

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 12:21 AM

Enzo Bianchi, Founder of the Bose Monastic Community, and Brothers Goffredo Boselli, Lino Breda and Antonella Casiraghi were ordered to leave the Bose Monastic Community in Italy and cease all their functions., according to a Decree signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, approved specifically by the Pope.

Bose Community published a press release on its Webpage on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, announcing the Vatican’s decision, which comes after “prolonged and careful discernment, following the Apostolic Visit decided by the Holy Father and carried out last January.

Singular Decree of May 13, 2020

 “After a prolonged and careful discernment and prayer, the Holy See has come to a conclusion in the form of a singular Decree of May 13, 2020, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, His Holiness’ Secretary of State and approved specifically by the Pope, “ reads the note.

The decisions were communicated in the last few days to those concerned, by Father Amedeo Cencini. Appointed Pontifical Delegate with full powers ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, Father Cencini was accompanied by the Secretary of the Congregation for Religious, Monsignor Jose Rodriguez Carballo, and the Archbishop of Vercelli, Monsignor Marco Arnolfo.

The Community informed that the said decision was communicated “with the greatest respect possible of the right of confidentiality of those concerned.” However, since the notification of the Decree, the refusal by some to abide by the directive has created “a situation of confusion and further unpleasantness.”

Apostolic Visit

Therefore, it has been considered necessary to specify that the “directives concern Brother Enzo Bianchi, Brother Goffredo Boselli, Brother Lino Breda, and Sister Antonella Casiraghi,” who “must separate themselves from the Bose Monastic Community and go elsewhere, renouncing all the posts they occupy at present.”

The Visit took place given the “serious concerns” that reached different parts of the Holy See, regarding the “tense situation of problems concerning the exercise of authority of the Founder, governance issues and the fraternal climate in the Community.” The Visit was entrusted to Father Guillermo Leon Arboleda Tamayo, Abbot President of the Sublacense-Casinense Benedictine Congregation; Father Amedeo Cencini, Consultor of the Congregation for Religious, and Mother Anne-Emmanuelle Deveche, Abbess of Blauvac.

Mixed and Ecumenical Community

The Bose Community was born on December 8, 1965, on the same day as the closing of Vatican Council II, when Enzo Bianchi began to live alone, in a rented house, in the section of the town of Magnano called Bose. The first Brothers arrived three years later, among them a woman and a Reformed Pastor.

Since then, in the morning, at midday and in the afternoon, the Brothers sing the Liturgy of the Hours, work, welcome guests, study the Scriptures and the monastic tradition, and live in a monastic and ecumenical way. With an ecumenical character, the Community has welcome Catholic men and women, and the professed of other religions, such as Protestants. “Without that initial pretention but with a gift of the Spirit, since the beginning, they belong to the community of Christians of various Confessions,” states their Webpage. In this connection, they have attempted to transform this gift into a commitment for Christian unity in fidelity to the word of Christ: ”That they may all be one” (John 17:21).

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PMS Covid-19 Fund Aids Poor Clares of Casablanca

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:39 PM

The Covid-19 Emergency Fund established by the Pontifical Mission Societies guarantees the necessary support for the maintenance of the Poor Clares community of the monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Casablanca (archdiocese of Rabat), whose existence has been placed in serious difficulty due to the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. This is what Father Simeon Stachera ofm, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Morocco, reports to Agenzia Fides.

The community of five Poor Clares of Casablanca, of Mexican origin, has long supported itself thanks to the production of hosts for the Eucharistic celebrations and food products (jams, savory pies, tortillas) placed on the market in the restaurant network. The quarantine due to the pandemic led to the suspension of these small initiatives aimed at guaranteeing the monastery’s economic self-sufficiency: the Eucharistic liturgies coram populo are suspended (so there is no consumption of hosts) and restaurants are also closed. A salaried factotum employee also works at the monastery, and ordinary community living expenses, such as those related to electricity consumption, must be sustained.

The amount requested from the Emergency-Covid Fund of the Pontifical Mission Societies is three times the monthly income guaranteed by the monastery’s small economic activities before the pandemic crisis and will contribute to the livelihood of the Poor Clare community in these difficult times.

In the letter requesting economic support for the monastery of Casablanca, the Cardinal, Cristóbal López Romero, Archbishop of Rabat, points out that he has urged priests and religious communities of his archdiocese to generously join the donation campaign for the Covid emergency Fund established at the Pontifical Mission Societies, and reports that the fruit of this campaign was the payment of a donation of approximately 13 thousand euros by the Catholic communities of the archdiocese of Rabat and Tangier.

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Archbishop Follo: Filled with the Holy Spirit and Amazed

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:38 PM

Pentecost – Year A- May 31st, 2020

Roman Rite

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3-7.12-13; Jn 20:19-23

Ambrosian Rite

Acts 2:1-11; Ps 103; 1 Cor 12:1- 11; Jn 14:15-20

1) Pentecost: amazement for a great gift.

“The day of Pentecost, when the disciples ‘were filled with the Holy Spirit’ , was the baptism of the Church, which was born ‘outgoing ‘ and ’ready to go’ to announce the Good News to all” (Pope Francis).

This Good News is awaited, welcomed and understood by our brothers in humanity who, today as then, are amazed and ask themselves: “Are not these people who are speaking all Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? ” (Acts 2, 7-9).

Faced with the event that today we celebrate, man’s first spiritual reaction is wonder. At Pentecost what happened that was so new, unexpected, unpredictable to arouse such an amazement in those who witnessed it so that they were as if out of their mind? Men began to understand each other while continuing to speak their own language. The event that fills a man with amazement is that he suddenly no longer feels alien to others: communion between people has happened. Any cause of extraneousness due to the different culture (“Jews or Greeks”) or to the different social condition (“slaves or free”) is removed. This event, which is the exact opposite of what happened during the construction of the tower of Babel, fills with amazement because man finally finds an answer to his deepest desire for a life in communion.

If this happened, it was not by accident or necessity. The fact that men began to understand each other again is the consequence of another event that has occurred in our history. What has happened? On the day of Pentecost, the divine person of the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the human heart, within human history.

Who is this divine person? He is the Love that unites the Father and the Son and comes to each of us to do the work of Christ.

Furthermore, coming to dwell in each of us, the Holy Spirit, who is Love, gives us the experience of the same love with which the Father loves and forgives us (This is the first effect of the gift of Love: the remission of sins).

Loved by the Father and forgiven in our sin, we can taste the gift of peace. “Jesus said to them again: Peace be with you”. Here is the miracle that fills us with amazement: true communion between people is rebuilt. “Amazement”, wrote St. Gregory of Nyssa, “makes known and generates life while concepts create idols”. Let us live on this Sunday of Pentecost by not doing like those who abandon the amazement of children but keep its whims.

Let us live today’s amazement in the wake of the daily amazement of Mary in front of her son whom she adored. Let us make our own the amazement of the shepherds, who in the night of the birth of the Lord were watching and then contemplated the glory of God in a child. Let us be amazed like Peter, James, and John during the transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor, His face lit up like the sun and His clothes became white as light … and a bright cloud covered those who were there. Finally, let us be amazed like the pious women who went to the Sepulcher in the early morning and saw a young man dressed in a white robe and were amazed because his appearance was like lightning and his garment as white as snow.

Surprised by the love that fills us, let us keep alive the amazement that makes know and generates life.

2) The feast of the Church.

Pentecost is the mystery of donated love and lived communion, of lasting consolation and shared joy.

Joy is the constant Presence of Christ among us.

Joy is the certainty that the Master, the Lord is alive; He is with his friends of yesterday, today, and always and gives them (us) his Spirit, the Guide in the knowledge of the Truth[1] that makes us free and able to live in peace.

Let us share this joy and celebrate the great feast of Pentecost in which the liturgy makes us live again the birth of the Church. “We can say that the Church had its solemn beginning with the descent of the Holy Spirit” (Benedict XVI). Today is the feast of the Church; it is our feast; it is the feast of the Holy Spirit, the feast of God-Love. “Let us invoke Him. Let us bless Him. Let us experience Him. Let us effuse Him”(Paul VI).

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus commanded to his disciples first not do anything on his own but to stay together in community and to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so convened the nascent Church, the small group of believers together with Mary and the Apostles who in the meantime, with the choice of Matthias, were back to being twelve. And so fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended on the community of the disciples – “devoted themselves with one accord ” – gathered “with Mary, the mother of Jesus ” and the twelve Apostles ( cf. Acts 1:14 ; 2.1 ) .

Harmony is the condition of the gift of the Holy Spirit and prayer is the condition of harmony. But there is also another condition so that this gift could be received by us: to be vigilant in waiting for the Lord.

Often, we give priority to activity, to an industriousness that involves us up to the limit of our strength and beyond it. But we would be freer, happier, and more fruitful if we gave more time to the Word of God, in which our will and our actions spread.

Of course, the Lord needs our work and our dedication, but we need his presence. We must learn the courage of “inaction” and the humility of waiting for the Word and His words. To listen in silence and in communion to the word of God is better than many human words, and the time of prayer will be more fruitful than many actions.

3) The gift of the Spirit and the certainty of the heart.

During the passion of Christ, the Apostles ran away. At the first news of the Resurrection, the disciples did not believe, and it took forty days before the resurrected Jesus could bring them back to the surface of life, instilling confidence and certainty in their spirit. Pentecost marked their rebirth: the tongues of fire shook them, and, in that morning of Paradise, all became clear. Truly everything: the nature and the mission of Christ and the persecution and the martyrdom which awaited them when fulfilling their mission for the foundation of the Church. Their hearts went on fire for the certainty, the sweetness, and the irrepressible joy. The Spirit works always in this way also in our hearts, with gentle force and strong sweetness. He is first and foremost the Spirit of Truth, and truth is to see clear in things and in ourselves, to have the certainty that God loves us so that we may love Him and seek refuge in Him.

The Holy Spirit, that in an instant transformed the Apostles, continues in the Church to transform us who are hardheaded and obtuse in heart. It is enough that we open for Him the door of our heart. Then He comes with the Son and with the Father and makes us the dwelling place of God, who is the abode of all mankind.

Far from God, humanity seeks only itself, tries to get salvation in the satisfaction of everyone’s selfishness and falls into a radical contrast where no one understands his neighbor. With the end of understanding, even selfishness remains unsatisfied.

The “Holy Spirit” creates understanding because it is the love that comes from the cross, the gift of Jesus Christ. It is not necessary to mention in detail here the doctrinal and practical teachings of Pentecost. I think it may be sufficient to recall the expression with which Augustine tried to summarize the core of Pentecost. “The history of the world,” says St. Augustine, “ is a struggle between two loves: the love of self to the point of hate of God and the love of God to the point of the abandonment of the ego. This love of God is the redemption of the world and of the self.”

At the first light of the day of Resurrection, Jesus gave a name to this ego: “Mary.” It is the salvation of “man”: every human being is called by name by God. From eternity God knows us. We are not children of chance and chaos; we are the children of Love. It is in the Holy Spirit that God loves us, and it is in the Spirit that we love him. Our life is this relationship of love in which we are called and to which we respond, in which we call to Him and in which He gives an answer to each of us. We then become in the Church and with the Church the place of the encounter with the Word and the temple of the Spirit.

 4) Testimony of unity and forgiveness.

In the first reading of today’s Mass, St. Luke describes the coming of the Spirit (Acts 2:1-11) using the classic symbols that accompany the action of God: wind, earthquake, and fire. But in his narration, there is another symbol: the tongues of fire that divide and set down on each one of them so that “they began to speak in other tongues.” With this the task of unity and universality to which the Spirit calls his Church becomes clear. The sacred author dwells also in saying that the crowd was of people made of various nationalities (2.19 to 11). He adds: “Each one heard them speaking in his own language ” (2:8). It is like saying that the Spirit does not have its own language, nor it is bonded to a language or culture, but it is expressed through them all. With the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the Christian community, within humanity begins a new history inverted with respect to the history of Babel. In the narration of Genesis (11:1-9), we read that men wanted to reach God as the conquest of their own and not as a gift. It is the eternal temptation of wanting to build a city without God and seeking salvation in themselves. But outside God, man finds only confusion and dispersion. At Babel men of the same language do not understand each other anymore. Instead, at Pentecost men of different languages ​​come together and understand each other. The task that the Spirit has entrusted to his Church is to give the human history a movement of reunification in the Spirit, in freedom and in God.

The Spirit transforms a group of people, enclosed in the shelter of the Cenacle, into conscious and courageous witnesses. He opens the disciples to the world and gives them the courage to step forward in public speaking of “the mighty works of God.” It should not be forgotten, however, that the risen Jesus not only gives the Spirit for the mission but also in view of the forgiveness of sins. In fact, John the Evangelist puts in a close relationship the Spirit, the community of the disciples and forgiveness.

In the Church, the place of celebration and forgiveness (Jean Vanier), a special place is reserved to the consecrated Virgins who, though living in the world, live of prayer to praise God and intercede for his forgiveness. They testify that complete donation to God is not to trust in something but in Someone. In the faith that transforms the heart, every day they can receive God, present in them (and us) with His Spirit. “God’s love is widespread in our hearts through the Holy Spirit that God has given us.”(Romans 5:5) Their lives, lived in a spousal relationship with Christ, testify tenderness, faithfulness, and mercy. Their lives and their mission are to welcome God to give him to the world.

The condition of Bride of Christ gives to the personality of the woman a great emotional development. She shows the positive aspect of virginity because there is a renunciation only considering the fullness of a higher order. On the other hand, the virginal commitment is intended, according to the divine plan, to elicit a spiritual fruitfulness. The call is a gift of God to the person (“You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16)) who becomes a gift of the human person through the consecration in virginity. “The gift of prophetic and eschatological Virginity  acquires the status of a ministry in the service of God’s people, and places the consecrated persons in the heart of the Church and of the world” ( Preamble to the Rite of Consecration of Virgins , n. 2) .

In the virgins, who follow the path paved by Mary, the virginal love consecrated to Christ is the source of spiritual motherhood. It is surprising to note that, in order to express his spiritual fatherhood, St. Paul has used an image specifically feminine: the pain of the birth “My children” he writes to the Galatians (4:19) “for whom I am again in travail.”[2]

 

Patristic reading

Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr

From the treatise Against Heresies

(Lib. 3, 17. 1-3: SC 34, 302-306)

The sending of the Holy Spirit

When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ. Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.

[1] The word “truth” in John means both the divine reality and the knowledge of the divine reality. The traditional interpretation, especially the one by the Catholic Church, has understood “truth” especially in the second sense, the dogmatic sense. The Spirit guides the church through the Councils, the Magisterium, and Tradition. This is an important aspect of the action of the Spirit of Truth – the most important – but not the only one. There is a more personal aspect to bear in mind: The Holy Spirit leads us to the true life of Christ. St. Irenaeus defines the Holy Spirit our “communion with God”, and St. Basil says that “thanks to the Spirit we become intimate friends of God.”

[2] It can be remembered that to show the fruitfulness of suffering, Jesus himself used the comparison of the woman who gives birth: in this way he made his disciples understand the fruits that their participation in his passion can produce (cf. Jn 16:21). This means that spiritual fertility is expressed more adequately in female terms, even if it is common to men and women.

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English Bishop Hails Key Workers as ‘New Icons Of Esteem’

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:37 PM

Speaking in his May 28 homily during the latest weekly Mass for the sick, their families, care workers, and NHS staff, Bishop of Middlesbrough Terry Drainey said he believed the increasing desire to foster the common good seen in recent months will last beyond the current pandemic.

Bishop Terry welcomed the way key workers have replaced the rich and famous as “icons of esteem” in the eyes of society as the importance of their roles has become increasingly evident.

“Values seem to be changing, as do icons of esteem,” he said. “No longer the rich and famous, no longer the A-list celebs. Rather nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life; those who inspire us and uplift us and give us hope.

“The present crisis has forced people to dig deep and they have been surprised at themselves and others to find that there is a well of empathy and a desire to foster the common good in most of us.”

Bishop Terry examined the day’s Gospel reading, commonly known as “Christ’s High-Priestly Prayer” when Jesus gathered his disciples knowing that the next day he was to be crucified.

“In the face of his imminent death he offers them and us his last will and testament,” he says. “He prays for the gift of unity.

“As Christians, we believe that living out this unity, this love, solidarity, fellowship, this communion is the greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives and in our world.”

He said God’s love is the source of the kindness, generosity, compassion, and empathy that have uplifted us over recent months, despite the hardships, grief, and sickness many people have been experiencing.

And he said they would continue to uplift us because it was the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper that they should do so.

“They are the fruit of the love of so many people – all those nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life,” he said.

“All those individuals and organisations to whom we wish to express our thanks here at Mass and outside our homes afterward.

“But the question I ask myself is, I wonder, will all these be part of the ‘new normal’ or is it just a passing phase?

“My answer to my own question is I am certain that they will continue.”

The service took place in St Mary’s Cathedral in Middlesbrough and was streamed all over England and Wales.

The special Masses for health and social care workers, each celebrated by a bishop in his cathedral, continue each Thursday throughout June and July.

Bishop’s Homily

I’m learning and using a lot of new words these days which till a few months ago I would never have employed in my daily conversation. Like “Pandemic”, for instance – not part of my normal vocabulary. Or indeed “Coronavirus”, “Covid19”, “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “new-normal”.

Sadly, they paint a dark and unprecedented landscape to our lives.

But as if to bring some balance, some light into the picture there is a further set of words which has been introduced into conversation; “generosity”, “kindness”, “service”, “compassion”. The present crisis has forced people to dig deep and they have been surprised at themselves and others to find that there is a well of empathy and a desire to foster the common good in most of us.

Values seem to be changing as do icons of esteem. No longer the rich and famous, no longer the A-list celebs; rather nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life; those who inspire us and uplift us and give us hope.

The Gospel reading assigned for today is taken from what is commonly known as “Christ’s High-Priestly Prayer”. Jesus gathers together with his disciples knowing that the next day he is to be killed by crucifixion. In the face of his imminent death he offers them and us his last will and testament. He prays for the gift of unity:

May they all be one.

Father, may they be one in us,

as you are in me and I am in you,

so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.

At the end of this passage he adds:

I have made your name known to them

and will continue to make it known,

so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,

and so that I may be in them.

Christ’s prayer focuses on the unity brought about by the love which has its origins in God – solidarity, fellowship, communion. When you are facing death and stating your last will and testament what you have to say matters, it’s important. It’s your legacy. This is precisely what Jesus left to his apostles, his disciples, his Church. His gift to the world.

As Christians, we believe that living out this unity, this love, solidarity, fellowship, this communion is the greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives and in our world. Just as the love of God took flesh in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, so also does that same love become flesh, through Christ, in us, his followers and indeed, in the lives and loving actions of all people of good will.

Now I believe that this is the source of the kindness, the generosity, the compassion, the empathy, the service and the desire to foster the common good – all those new words, or really not so new words that I spoke of a moment ago – which bring us motivation, light and hope and which have inspired us and uplifted us so much over these last months. They are the fruit of the love of so many people – all those nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life. All those individuals and organisation to whom we wish to express our thanks here at Mass and outside our homes afterward.

But the question I ask myself is: I wonder, will all these be part of the “new normal” or is it just a passing phase?

My answer to my own question is: I am certain that they will continue. I pray that they will continue. Yes, I am pretty certain, not because of my prayers, or even yours – all of which count, of course – but because of what Jesus himself prayed at that Last Supper, the night before he died, when he proclaimed his last will and testament when he prayed for us:

Holy Father,

I pray not only for these,

but for those also

who through their words will believe in me.

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Pope Recognizes Miracle Attributed to the Intercession of Charles de Foucauld

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 12:34 PM

The Vatican has recognized a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francis Charles de Foucauld (Charles of Jesus) ((1858-1916), diocesan priest, thus opening the way to his canonization.

On receiving the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on May 26, 2020, the Catholic Church recognized five miracles in all, seven martyrs and the “heroic virtues” of a baptized faithful: in fact, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate eight Decrees that day.

A second miracle, attributed to the intercession of Charles de Foucauld took place in 2016 — year of Charles de Foucauld’s centenary — at Saumur, in the Loire region of France. It was the inexplicable survival of a workman who, working in the loft of a chapel, being “above the vault” fell on some obstacles; stones fell, he impaled himself on pieces of wood, but he got up safe and sound, said Father Vincent Artarit, priest of the Charles de Foucauld parish at Saumur to the microphone of RCF. “the workman is unscathed; he was examined by doctors in France and in Italy. They all concluded the inexplicable event of this man’s life . . . In the Charles de Foucauld parish, it is linked to the centenary, with a correlation between prayer, the spiritual life and the link between the parish and Charles de Foucauld.”

Charles de Foucauld was born at Strasbourg on September 15, 1858. He was orphaned at the age of 5 years, reads a biographical note published by Monsignor Claude Rault, Bishop of Laghouat, in Algeria.

“He began a life that was at once exciting and tormented,” writes Monsignor Rault. “During his secondary studies he lost his faith, bartering his taste for study for an easy life and happy companions. Linked to a companion, he refused to break with her when he was sent to Algeria, and he left the army. However, learning that his regiment was going to leave on an operation, he left his girlfriend and returned to Algeria! It was the year 1881.”

At 24, Charles de Foucauld left military life definitively. Between 1882 and 1884 he went on exploration to Morocco. While there, he lived important spiritual experiences. “Islam caused a profound upheaval in me. The sight of that faith, of those men living in the continual presence of God made me perceive something grater and truer than my worldly occupations,” he wrote.

At the end of October 1886, he met Abbot Huvelin in Paris. He went to Confession and Communion. It was the beginning of a new life.

After seven years of contemplative searching (in the Holy Land, as a Trappist monk in France and then in Syria. He left the monastic life and arrived at Nazareth, at the convent of the Poor Clare Sisters (1897): While there, he divided his time between manual work, long hours of Adoration and of meditation of the Scriptures. His profound vocation matured there.

He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1901 in the Diocese of Viviers. He asked to return to the Sahara and he left for Beni Abbes in Algeria, where he stayed for two years. “I want all the inhabitants to get used to me and to regard me as their brother, a universal brother,” he wrote.

“Through shadows and lights, Charles de Foucauld opened for us to the sense of universal fraternity. This dimension of every evangelical life is urgent in our times. He invites us to come out of our feebleness and our confinements and follow the path traced,” writes Monsignor Rault.

In August 1905 Father Charles established himself at Tamanrasset, in the south of Algeria. There he lived “an existence torn between prayer, study, contacts with the Tuaregs and a disputed relation with French soldiers present in the region.” He worked on Touareg poems (6000 transcribed and deciphered verses), and left a 4-volume Touareg dictionary, which” is still authoritative.”

On December 1, 1916 he was made a prisoner by a group of Senoussite warriors, he was killed by his young guard, seized by panic.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified him on November 13, 2005. In October 2005 he said: “I greet particularly the members of the General Chapter of the Little Sisters of Jesus, called to pursue the proclamation of the Gospel in the spirit of Brother Charles de Foucauld, who will soon be beatified. May he be a model of spiritual abandonment in the hands of the Lord for all the Institutes that were born of his intuition and for all Christians.”

On November 213, 2005 he said, in connection with the Beatification: “Charles de Foucauld, who has just been beatified, invites us to follow spiritually the way of Nazareth and the silence he lived in the desert. In fact, it is from there, with Mary, that we can discover the mystery of Christ, who made Himself humble a poor to save us, to make us children of the same Father and brothers in humanity. As Brother Charles, let us draw in the Eucharistic mystery and in contemplation the strength for the existence and for the testimony by which we contribute to evangelization.”

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Pope’s Emergency Fund Assisting Local Churches in Many Countries

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 11:29 AM

Through the Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) to support local churches in mission countries, contributions have already been sent to some countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, reported Fides News Agency.

In Pakistan, a subsidy was given to all dioceses for the assistance of the poorest and most vulnerable Christian communities. In fact, the majority of these people usually live below the poverty line and food is the most urgent and fundamental need.

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has a high concentration of population, including numerous migrants who come to the city in search of daily housework. With the lockdown declared by the government, the majority of these people find themselves unemployed and unable to meet basic needs, in a dramatic situation. The Archdiocese has appealed to all members of the community and has set up a fund to help families with the distribution of food through parishes.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Gaitan, Colombia, is also experiencing a particularly difficult situation following the government-decided quarantine, which is negatively and heavily reflecting in all fields, hindering the mission of the Church, which is unable to guarantee the livelihood of priests.

In Liberia, in the diocese of Cape Palmas, the subsidies sent will serve to guarantee support for pastoral workers, who following the lockdown are unable to earn a living. In the Liberian diocese of Gbarnga, two urgent pastoral needs have been identified as a result of the socio-economic crisis, to which the Fund’s subsidies will be destined: the support of parish priests and catechists and the creation of radio programs that inform about the coronavirus via diocesan radio.

In the diocese of Francistown, Botswana, an area of first evangelization, the pandemic has serious effects on the pastoral activities of Catholic communities, almost all of which are not self-sufficient. The subsidies sent will, therefore, be used to ensure the functioning of the diocesan secretariat and pastoral offices, as well as to ensure pastoral activity in 6 parishes in rural areas.

In the diocese of Umzimkulu, in South Africa, the pandemic hit the life of the population, the pastoral activity, and the economic situation of the parish and ecclesial structures, mostly located in the rural area. Support from the Fund will, therefore, help local parishes and religious communities in their basic needs.

The support of the Poor Clares community of the monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Casablanca (Archdiocese of Rabat, Morocco) will also be guaranteed through the aid of the Covid-19 Emergency Fund. The five Clarisse nuns, of Mexican origin, have long supported themselves with difficulty, thanks to the production of hosts for the Eucharistic celebrations and food products placed on the market in the restaurant network. The quarantine due to the pandemic led to the suspension of these small initiatives aimed at guaranteeing the monastery’s economic self-sufficiency.

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APPEAL: There Is No Future Without Our Elderly; No to a Selective Healthcare System

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 9:16 AM

There is no future without the elderly…  No to a selective healthcare system

This adamant appeal to re-humanize our societies comes from the Community of Sant’Egidio out of concern for the future of our societies.

Addressed to all, citizens and institutions, “for a decisive change of mentality leading to new initiatives, both health and social, towards the elderly,” it emerged recently during the coronavirus crisis.

“The elderly are in danger” in many European countries and elsewhere, in this Covid-19 pandemic, the appeal warns, recalling  their “dramatic numbers of deaths in institutions make us shudder.”

“There will be much to review in public health systems and in the good practices needed to reach and treat everyone effectively, to overcome institutionalisation,” they note.

“However,” the appeal underscores, “we are particularly concerned about the sad stories of the massacres of elderly people in institutions.”

None of this, the appeal says, would have happened if the idea that it is possible to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of others were not gaining ground.

“It is,” it acknowledges, “what Pope Francis calls the “culture of waste” which takes away the right of the elderly to be considered people, but only a number and in some cases not even that.”

In numerous countries faced with a need for care, the appeal decries, “a dangerous model is emerging that favors “selective health care”, which considers the life of the elderly as residual.”

“Their greater vulnerability, the advancing years, the possible other pathologies they carry, would justify a form of “choice” in favor of the youngest and healthiest.”

Resignation to such an outcome, the appeal states, “is humanly and juridically unacceptable.”

Though it is certainly so in a religious vision of life, the appeal underscores it is also “in human rights and in medical ethics.”

“No “state of necessity” that legitimizes or codifies exceptions to these principles,” the appeal stresses, “can be accepted. The thesis that a shorter life expectancy leads to a “legal” decrease in its value is, from a legal point of view, barbaric.”

That this is done through an imposition by the State or health authorities outside the person’s own will, it argues, “represents a further intolerable expropriation of the rights of the individual.”

The elderly’s contribution, it reminds, continues to be the subject of important reflection in all civilizations, and “is fundamental in the social fabric of solidarity between generations.”

“The generation that fought against dictatorships, struggled for reconstruction after the war and built Europe,” it says, “cannot be left to die.”

“Fruit of a utilitarian mentality, the acceptance of the “early” death of the elderly,” it stresses, “creates a hypothecation on the future, dividing society into age groups and introducing the dangerous principle of their inequality.”

“We believe,” the signatories reaffirm, “that the principles of equal treatment and the universal right to care, which have been achieved over the centuries, must be strongly reaffirmed.

“It is time,” they appeal, “to devote all necessary resources to safeguarding the greatest number of lives and humanizing access to care for all. The value of life should remain the same for all.”

“Those who depreciate the fragile and weakest life of the elderly,” the appeal recognizes, “are preparing to devalue life altogether.”

With this appeal, they express their sorrow and grave concern at the too many deaths of older people in recent months, and their “hope for a moral uprising to change the direction of care for the elderly, so that especially the most vulnerable will never be considered a burden or, worse, useless.”

Prime ministers, cardinals, organization leaders, and academics are just among the first few who have begun to sign the appeal.

The appeal has been translated into different languages and spread today at international level (see the first signatories below).

To join, please contact: eventi@santegidio.org

Below is the appeal in its entirety:

***

THERE IS NO FUTURE WITHOUT THE ELDERLY
Appeal to re-humanize our societies. No to a selective healthcare system

In the Covid-19 pandemic, in many European countries and elsewhere, the elderly are in danger. The dramatic numbers of deaths in institutions make us shudder.

There will be much to review in public health systems and in the good practices needed to reach and treat everyone effectively, to overcome institutionalisation. However, we are particularly concerned about the sad stories of the massacres of elderly people in institutions. None of this would have happened if the idea that it is possible to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of others were not gaining ground. It is what Pope Francis calls the “culture of waste” which takes away the right of the elderly to be considered people, but only a number and in some cases not even that.

In numerous countries that are faced with the need for care, a dangerous model is emerging that favors “selective health care”, which considers the life of the elderly as residual. Their greater vulnerability, the advancing years, the possible other pathologies they carry, would justify a form of “choice” in favor of the youngest and healthiest.

Resignation to such an outcome is humanly and juridically unacceptable.  It is also so in a religious vision of life but also in the human rights and in medical ethics. No “state of necessity” that legitimizes or codifies exceptions to these principles can be accepted. The thesis that a shorter life expectancy leads to a “legal” decrease in its value is, from a legal point of view, barbaric. The fact that this is done through an imposition (by the State or health authorities) outside the person’s own will represents a further intolerable expropriation of the rights of the individual.

The contribution of the elderly continues to be the subject of important reflection in all civilizations, and it is fundamental in the social fabric of solidarity between generations. The generation that fought against dictatorships, struggled for reconstruction after the war and built Europe cannot be left to die. Fruit of a utilitarian mentality, the acceptance of the “early” death of the elderly creates a hypothecation on the future, dividing society into age groups and introducing the dangerous principle of their inequality.

We believe that the principles of equal treatment and the universal right to care, which have been achieved over the centuries, must be strongly reaffirmed. It is time to devote all necessary resources to safeguarding the greatest number of lives and humanizing access to care for all. The value of life should remain the same for all. Those who depreciate the fragile and weakest life of the elderly are preparing to devalue life altogether.

With this appeal we express our sorrow and grave concern at the too many deaths of older people in recent months and we hope for a moral uprising to change the direction of care for the elderly, so that especially the most vulnerable will never be considered a burden or, worse, useless.

First signatories:

Andrea Riccardi, Historian, Founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio

Romano Prodi, Former President of the European Commission

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk, Poland

Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Writer, UK

Manuel Castells, Full Professor of Sociology, University of California Berkeley, Spain

Irina Bokova, Former Director-General of UNESCO, Member of the High Committee for Human Brotherhood, Bulgaria

Mark Eyskens, Former Prime Minister of Belgium

Hans Gert Pöttering, Former President of the European Parliament, Germany

Felipe González Márquez, Former Prime Minister, Spain

Marie De Hennezel, Psychologist, France

Jean-Pierre Denis, Director of La Vie, France

Card. Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna

Adam Michnik, Intellectual, Director of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

Michel Wieviorka, sociologo, President of International Sociological Association of Paris, France.

Giuseppe De Rita, Founder of CENSIS

Stefania Giannini, Deputy Director-General UNESCO

Maria Antónia Palla, Journalist, Portugal

Navi Pillay, Judge, President of ICDP, South Africa

Annette Schavan, Former Federal Minister for Education and Research, Germany

Jürgen Habermas, Philosopher, Germany

To join, please contact us at: eventi@santegidio.org

 

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Catholic Church of England and Wales Issues Guidelines for Catholics on Organ Donation

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 7:21 AM

On 20 May, an opt-out system for organ donation was introduced in England.

The Catholic Church has consistently encouraged its followers to consider organ donation. The act of donating organs before or after death has been considered a gift and an intrinsic good. However, a system of presumed consent risks taking away the right of the individual to exercise this decision, and therefore potentially undermines the concept of donation as a gift.

Following the change in the law, all adults in England will be considered donors in the event of death, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the following excluded groups: those under the age of 18; people who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action; visitors to England, and those not living here voluntarily; and people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death.

The Catholic Bishops’ of England and Wales have produced Guidelines for Catholics on Organ Donation, and how to record this decision online via the Organ Donation Register (ODR). The ODR also allows you to record your faith beliefs so that they may be respected in the event of death and organ donation.

Organ Donation Guidelines – Feb 2020Download

Bishop Paul Mason, the lead Bishop for Healthcare and Mental Health, said:

‘Preparing for death should not be feared. These guidelines hope to provide you with some information to help you make a well-informed decision about donating your organs after death. It is important to discuss this with your family and loved ones so that they are aware of your decision and can honor it. In turn, it is hoped that this may help to start a conversation so that you too are able to make an informed choice about loved ones when the time comes.

‘It is good to see that the Human Tissue Authority has both retained and strengthened the sections relating to faith (Paragraphs 92-102) in the final Code of Practice. The Code of Practice has also provided further clarity on the potential case of a family objecting to the donation of the deceased’s organs where consent has been deemed, as well as the role of the specialist nurses (SNs) in this scenario. We are grateful to the Human Tissue Authority for taking our consultation response into account and for providing these assurances.’

In a letter to faith groups, Professor John Forsythe, Medical Director, and Dr. Dale Gardiner, National Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, of NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

‘The essential principle we want to reinforce is that a person’s faith and beliefs will be respected in discussions with their families about donation, should the opportunity arise – whether or not they have recorded their decision in the register.’

After writing to NHS Blood and Transplant about organ donation in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Paul Mason received the following assurances:

‘Our practices in supporting families are continuing during this unprecedented time. We are continuing to approach the family of every potential organ donor, to discuss whether their loved one would have wanted to donate their organs.

‘We continue to offer families the opportunity to seek advice about organ donation from a faith leader, in this case, a Priest. Our specialist nurses would facilitate those discussions and depending on the situation in the hospital, this would be supported, either face to face or by phone.  It will come down to local hospital policies whether or not such practices can continue due to COVID-19.

‘We are conscious that it is a very difficult time for families. Hospitals are functioning as best as they can in very challenging circumstances. But rest assured, our specialist nurses remain committed to supporting donation conversations and the donation process, where it is possible to proceed, with the same care, dignity and compassion as always.’

NHS Blood and Transplant also noted that patients who have had COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, will not be considered as organ donors.

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Young Christians Create Food Bank in Pakistan

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 6:30 AM

Young Catholics in Sahiwal, a town in Pakistani Punjab, offer evening meals to a hundred destitute people every day, in a solidarity activity that will continue until the crisis linked to Covid-19 ends. Ashiknaz Khokhar, secretary of the youth group, speaking with Fides News Agency, says: “We are reaching the homeless, especially those who sleep on the streets, deprived of any possibility of sustenance, settled under the trees by the roadsides”. And he explains: “We have created a food bank in the Catholic Church of Sahiwal with the collaboration of priests in our parish, to reach those who are marginalized, the poorest of the poor. We have an active group of young Christians, but our Muslim and Hindu friends are also actively supporting us in distributing food”.

Ashiknaz informs: “Last month we distributed food to over 150 families in different areas. The idea of creating the food counter was born when we saw these people abandoned on the sides of the streets. We work to support humanity and reach the people of all faiths, not just Christians”.

Mufti Sohail Shaukat, one of the Muslims who is collaborating, tells Fides: “I appreciate the services of this Christian youth because they work for humanity, without any discrimination. Thanks to this good initiative, many Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs have the opportunity to collaborate and help in this service, creating good interreligious relationships and an atmosphere of mutual trust”.

The “Way of Life” youth group in the city of Karachi has also taken a similar initiative to support the poorest people. After delivering food supplies of 20 kg each to 800 Christian, Hindu, and Muslim families, in the next phase, they offer fresh vegetables to 100 families every day.

Michael Bhatti, the group leader, tells Fides: “Right now people are confined to their home, unable to earn money to take care of their daily needs. Many are day laborers or have lost their jobs. We make a daily collection of money, thanks to the generosity of people: then we go to the market, buy fresh vegetables, wash them, and put them in 3 kg bags. We invite a priest every day to pray for our works of charity, then we start the distribution. It is our desire to help the poor and needy without distinction of faith, culture, ethnicity, as the Gospel teaches us”.

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AVVENIRE Interview with Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J.

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 1:08 AM

The following interview by Lucia Capuzzi with Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J., Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is republished with permission from the May 17, 2020 issue of  AVVENIRE.

1) This Laudato si’ 5th anniversary week — 16-24 May 2020 — takes place in a dramatic moment, amidst the COVID-19. What meaning does it have in light of this situation, this ‘sign of the times’?

Five years ago Laudato si’ revealed the fault-lines of human injustice and environmental degradation. COVID-19 is amplifying and magnifying the same, in a tragically concrete, dramatic, and vivid manner. It’s the “rapidification” which Pope Francis identified (LS 18). Not only the manner and speed of the virus’s spread but also the highly accelerated digitalization underway, the millions of conventional jobs being lost, the online communication replacing meetings and changing events.

Note the parallels: the coronavirus crisis starts with damaging health, but it has terrible socio-economic consequences, especially among the most vulnerable. The ecological crisis is similar: it starts with environmental damage, but has devastating consequences on work, food, health, and other social issues, hitting the poorest hardest. Both crises require novel solutions available everywhere and at all levels, not just for and at ‘the top’.

2) Laudato si’ is five years old. It was not the first time that the Church spoke of ecology, but thanks to it a new paradigm of integral ecology was established, which also had effect on both ecclesial and common language. What processes did the encyclical get going, to paraphrase our dear Pope Francis, in these years?

Soon after it came out, Laudato si’ helped to ground, animate and orient the Paris COP21 Conference (December 2015) to produce the Paris Agreement – flawed and weak but still a first necessary step. It has also stimulated many forms of activism in parishes, other religions, secular groups and movements. I believe that this is unprecedented for an encyclical.

3) How can we reread Laudato si’ in today’s light? And how can we get the most out of this week?

It is valid to read Laudato si’ in the light of COVID-19, and a recent editorial in Aggiornamenti Sociali called “Five years with Laudato si’”[1] does so superbly. Environmental abuse and degradation probably contributed to the emergence and spread of the virus, but our understanding must go much deeper to the fundamental anti-values that fueled the competitive and consumerist civilization of yesterday. The new world after COVID-19 has to be much better.

4) There are still some Catholics who have some difficulty in considering the socio-environmental issue as a fundamental part of their faith. What can you say to them?

Before being a “socio-environmental issue”, creation is a fundamental article of faith: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”.

Human life is grounded in three fundamental and intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself, the earth being part of God’s loving creation. To distort any of those relationships is to sin. Forgiveness is to seek participation in the redemption Christ brings us, the healing of broken relationships, and the restoration of the three-fold harmony,.

St John Paul II reminds everyone, especially Christians, “that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith”.[2] So, with the Catholics you mention, let’s walk together and together face our disbelief, our fear.

5) Querida Amazonia and the whole synodal process are children of Laudato si’. In what way Querida Amazonia furthers Laudato si’ and questions us all, not only the Amazon people?

The Amazon Synod showed what it means to take Laudato si’ seriously, to aggressively and bravely address all the social and ecological sins in a given region. That’s a lesson that needs to be followed everywhere on earth.

In addition, Querida Amazonia unabashedly respects and validates the people of the Amazon – especially the indigenous ones – as the first and indispensable protagonists for preserving the Amazon to play its planetary role. This challenges all who continue to harbor (albeit unconsciously) lingering colonialist attitudes towards other cultures or a sense of entitlement over all natural resources.

6) How does Laudato Si’ may help us for a post-pandemic rebuilding?

First, let’s be clear – our objective should not be to go back to more of the same ‘business as usual’, reverting to the self-destructive, inhumane, unjust, and unsustainable syndromes which used to be ‘normal’ until early 2020.

Instead, Pope Francis says, let us regenerate new relationships, new economy, new society. Laudato si’ challenges the core drivers of unhealthy and destructive growth, proposing instead an inclusive, sustainable development that deserves the name “integral”.

As to how to go about it, Laudato si’ gave enormous attention to dialogue as the utterly necessary foundation of positive action. The only approach to post-pandemic regeneration is to dialogue, which means honestly involving all those who are concerned. This is the synodal way.

7) Young people are perhaps the ones who feel most affected by the environmental crisis. Can integral ecology work as a bridge to communicate with them, who find it more difficult to integrate with traditional parish or church structures?

Young people are right to feel totally outraged by the flagrant irresponsibility of all ‘those responsible’. These are not only decision-makers in commerce and politics but also consumers and citizens who live a lifestyle based on the unsustainable exploitation of both people and the planet.

Young people now see the planet as their essential locus of reverence and concern; as Christian movements and parishes accompany them in their quest, young people take part and indeed play leading roles. This we learned at the 2018 Synod on Young People.

8) The environmental crisis is getting worse every day. Certainly worse than it was five years ago. What commitment should a Christian make on the occasion of this week?

First, everyone, Christians and others can try to improve our relationship with nature via the path of contemplation. We cannot love what we don’t even see; contemplative seeing can launch the journey of ecological conversion.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, many are discovering that we can live on less. So we can continue consuming less, or choosing less-polluting products, or avoiding unnecessary non-recyclable packaging. Instead of shopping without thinking about the moral and environmental consequences, our Catholic parishes, schools, and centers can accept that “to buy is always a moral act, as well as an economic one” (LS 206 quoting Caritas in Veritate). They can use glass bottles and washable dishes, as many social centers and popular movements habitually do.

Finally, in our liturgy, let us commit to celebrate God’s gift of creation in a more inspiring way. Our traditional liturgies include elements of nature: water and oil in baptism, bread, and wine in the Eucharist, fire in the Easter Vigil. We need to experience nature in us spiritually and ourselves in creation in an integral manner. Otherwise, we just continue exploiting, consuming, and abusing nature, rather than accepting our responsibility as co-creators with God of our common home. The frugal, liturgical and contemplative dimensions of Christian spirituality will help motivate the necessary personal, social, and systemic changes: all radical ones!

9) Among the many impacts it generated, can you mention some initiatives particularly inspired by Laudato Si’?

The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), also celebrating its 5th anniversary, has 900+ Catholic member organizations from large international networks to local parishes, plus religious congregations, grassroots leaders, and thousands of Catholic men, women, and young people. GCCM helped to organize this wonderful Laudato si’ week we are living right now.[3]

Other examples include local organic farming in Latin America, buildings refitted ecologically in Europe, solar energy installed in Africa. A number of Catholic schools have taken Laudato si’ as their primary interdisciplinary teaching to promote ecological responsibility and to mobilize students and their families in caring for our common home.

 

[1] G. Costa S.J. e P. Foglizzo, “Cinque anni con la Laudato si’”, Aggiornamenti Sociali, maggio 2020, 357-64.

[2] John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace 1990, § 15.

[3] Pope Francis’s Invitation to Laudato si’ week, in english: https://www.instagram.com/p/CAQBz7HIGzj/?hl=en in Italian: https://youtu.be/uFQAB2vuaQw

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US: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Awards Grants

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 1:07 AM

This spring, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) awarded grants in the amount of $146,168 for eight projects that support the goals of the CCD to promote Catholic biblical literacy and Catholic biblical interpretation.

The CCD works with the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) to offer these grants, accepting applications only from the CBA, including the organization itself, its designees, and its full and associate members. In fidelity to Dei Verbum. . . , the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965, the CBA’s purpose is to promote scholarly study in Scripture and related fields by meetings of the association, publications, and support to those engaged in such studies.

Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of Saint Augustine and a member of the CCD-CBA Liaison Committee noted that “We are blessed by those scholars who dedicate the best of their talents to unfold the treasures of the Scriptures for God’s people.”

Funding for these grants comes from the royalties received from the publication of the New American Bible and its derivative works, which the CCD develops, publishes, promotes, and distributes.

The six projects sponsored by the CCD are as follows:
•   $2,500 to Martin C. Albl (Presentation College, Aberdeen, SD) for These Things Do Not Contradict the Blessed Paul: Reading James in the Ancient Greek Commentary Tradition
•   $14,668 to Joseph Atkinson (John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Washington, DC) for Water and Water Rituals in Ancient Israel and their Relationship to Baptism in the New Testament
•   $25,000 to David Bosworth (The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC) for What is the Role of the Natural World in the Divine-Human Relationship?
•   $25,000 to Sherri Brown (Creighton University, Omaha, NE) for Community, Discipleship, and the Role of Women in the Gospel of John
•   $19,000 to Andrew Davis (Boston College, Boston, MA) for Satire and Prophetic Identity in the Hebrew Bible
•   $25,000 to Todd Hanneken (Saint Mary’s University, San Antonio, TX) for La Biblia y su Tradicion; The Bible and its Tradition: Collaboration for Catholic Biblical Literacy in the Southwest
•   $10,000 to Vincent Skemp (Saint Catherine University, Minneapolis, MN) for The Acts of Paul and Thecla: Early Christian Commentary
•   $25,000 to Jamie Waters (DePaul University, Chicago, IL) for Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Jeremiah

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