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Pope praises 'beautiful, complex' diversity of Catholic Churches in India

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 23:24

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday said the variety of Catholic Churches and rites in India is a richness for the country that ought to be strengthened, and as a means of doing so, he expanded the reach of one of the country's indigenous Churches.

The decision moves toward a greater allowance for several bishops from distinct Catholic Churches in India having a presence in the same territory.

“In a world where large numbers of Christians are forced to migrate, overlapping jurisdictions have become customary and are increasingly effective tools for ensuring the pastoral care of the faithful while also ensuring full respect for their ecclesial traditions,” Pope Francis wrote in an Oct. 10 letter addressed to India's bishops.

He said the diversity of ecclesial life in the country “shines with great splendor throughout lands and nations.”

Two Catholic Churches based in India's Kerala state trace their origins to the preaching of the Apostle Thomas: the Syro-Malabar Church, which follows the East Syrian or Chaldean rite; and the Syro-Malankara Church, of the West Syrian or Antiochian rite.

The Latin rite Catholic Church also has a large presence throughout India, having been introduced to the country by missionaries in the 16th century.

The various Catholic rites in India, Pope Francis said, constitute a historic Christian presence in India “that is both rich and beautiful, complex and unique.”

“It is essential for the Catholic Church to reveal her face in all its beauty to the world, in the richness of her various traditions,” he said, and noted how the Second Vatican Council sought to “protect and preserve the treasure of the particular traditions of each Church,” an ongoing mission today.

His letter accompanied an announcement on the establishment of two new eparchies (the equivalent of a diocese in the Latin Church) for the Syro-Malabar Church.

The establishment of the eparchies of Shamshabad (in Uttar Pradesh) and Hosur (in Tamil Nadu) was announced along with the name of their first respective bishops: Bishop Raphael Thattil, until now Auxiliary Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Trichur, and Fr. Sebastian Pozholiparampil, a priest of the Syro-Malabar Diocee of Irinjalakuda. The Shamshabad eparchy will include the entire country of India not already included in existing Syro-Malabar eparchies.

Pope Francis also extended the boundaries of the eparchies of Ramanathapuram and Thuckalay, both of which are located in Tamil Nadu state.

In addition to his role as bishop, Thattil also serves as apostolic visitor for Syro-Malabar faithful in India who live outside of their own territory, reporting his observations to Rome.

Pope Francis' decision to establish new eparchies for the Syro-Malabar Church and widen its jurisdiction to essentially all of India mirrors a similar decision he made in August with the Syro-Malankara Church, when he reinforced their own presence with the establishment of a new eparchy and an apostolic visitor to the Syro-Malankara Church in Europe and Oceania.

The establishment of the eparchies also takes place as the Congregation for the Oriental Churches celebrates its centenary with a variety of activities in Rome, culminating in Mass with Pope Francis at the Basilica of St. Mary Major Oct. 12.

In his letter, Pope Francis noted that “In India, even after many centuries, Christians are only a small proportion of the population and, consequently, there is a particular need to demonstrate unity and to avoid any semblance of division.”

He stated that when the Syro-Malabar Church expanded with missionary eparchies to parts of northern and central India, “it was generally thought by the Latin Bishops that there should be just one jurisdiction, that is, one bishop in a particular territory. These eparchies, created from Latin dioceses, today have exclusive jurisdiction over those territories, both of the Latin and Syro-Malabar faithful.”

“However, both in the traditional territories of the Eastern Churches, as well as in the vast area of the so-called diaspora (where these faithful have long been established), a fruitful and harmonious cooperation between Catholic bishops of the different sui iuris Churches within the same territory has taken place.”

Overlapping jurisdictions in India “should not longer be problematic,” the Pope wrote, noting that they have already existed in Kerala for some time, and his own expansion of the Syro-Malankara Church in recent years.

“These developments show that, albeit not without problems, the presence of a number of bishops in the same area does not compromise the mission of the Church. On the contrary, these steps have given greater impetus to the local Churches for their pastoral and missionary efforts.”

He voiced hope that his decision to broaden the reach of the Syro-Malabar Church would be “welcomed with a generous and peaceful spirit, although it may be a source of apprehension for some, since many Syro-Malabars, deprived of pastoral care in their own rite, are at present fully involved in the life of the Latin Church

Francis stressed his conviction that “there is no need for concern: the Church’s life should not be disrupted by such a provision.”

“Indeed it must not be negatively interpreted as imposing upon the faithful a requirement to leave the communities which have welcomed them, sometimes for many generations, and to which they have contributed in various ways. It should rather be seen as an invitation as well as an opportunity for growth in faith and communion with their sui iuris Church, in order to preserve the precious heritage of their rite and to pass it on to future generations.”

“The path of the Catholic Church in India cannot be that of isolation and separation, but rather of respect and cooperation,” he said, adding that the presence of several bishops of various rites “will surely offer an eloquent witness to a vibrant and marvelous communion.”

Francis closed his letter urging the Catholic Churches in India “to be generous and courageous as they witness to the Gospel in the spirit of fraternity and mutual love.”

“For the Syro-Malabar Church, this continues the valued work of their priests and religious in the Latin context, and sustains their availability for those Syro-Malabar faithful who, although choosing to attend Latin parishes, may request some assistance from their Church of origin. The Latin rite Church can continue to generously offer hospitality to members of the Syro-Malabar communities who do not have church buildings of their own.”

He said that “with the growth of spiritual friendship and mutual assistance, any tension or apprehension should be swiftly overcome. May this extension of the pastoral area of the Syro-Malabar Church in no way be perceived as a growth in power and domination, but as a call to deeper communion, which should never be perceived as uniformity.”

Pope Francis to call astronauts aboard the Space Station

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 23:07

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2017 / 11:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- From the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has gained a reputation for his phone calls to people around the world – including a priest with cancer, a Jesuit doorman, and a mother who had just lost her son.

But the Vatican announced on Monday that the next call on Pope Francis’ list is going to be out of this world… literally.

Pope Francis will contact NASA’s International Space Station via a satellite call on Oct. 26 at 5 P.M., according to the Vatican.

Aboard the International Space Station are a total of six astronauts, including three Americans, two Russians and one Italian who have been orbiting the earth, about 220 miles away.  

Pope Francis’ call will mark the second time a Pope has contacted astronauts in space. Pope Benedict XVI called the International Space Station in 2011 via satellite link and spoke with 12 astronauts for about 20 minutes.



Migration, Reformation center of Pope's meeting with German president

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 21:05

Vatican City, Oct 9, 2017 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Vatican for a conversation focused largely on migration and ecumenical dialogue in the country in light of the Reformation anniversary.

According to an Oct. 9 Vatican communique, discussion between the Pope and Steinmeier, elected in February, touched on the “good relations and fruitful collaboration” between Germany and the Holy See, and emphasis was placed on the “positive interreligious and ecumenical dialogue” in the country.

Special mention was made of the relationship between Catholics and Protestants in light of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which Pope Francis marked at the end of October 2016 with a trip to Sweden for a joint-commemoration of the event with Lutheran Church leaders in the country.

Discussion also turned to the topics of both the economic and religious status of Europe, and the world as a whole. Particular emphasis was placed on the issue of migration and “the promotion of a culture of acceptance and solidarity.”

Migration has been a hot topic in Germany recently, which is among the most popular migration destination in the world after the U.S.

In 2015, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel opted to allow more than one million asylum seekers into the country, as migration reached a fever pitch due to war in Syria and surrounding countries.

However, with most of those asylum seekers ending up in Bavaria, Merkel met backlash from her Bavarian allies in the Christian Social Union.

In response, on Sunday – two weeks after a federal election in which her party received the lowest level of  support since 1949 – she and members of her Christian Democratic Union party met with CSU reps on Sunday to reach an agreement over the migration issue.

Both sides agreed to cap the number of incoming refugees at 200,000 per year, with a few small exceptions.

The deal was likely part of the 55-minute long discussion between Pope Francis and President Steinmeier, who subsequently met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Vatican Secretary for Relations with the States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

At the beginning of the meeting, Pope Francis, who lived in Bavaria for a brief period of time as a Jesuit, greeted the president in German, and the meeting concluded with an exchange of gifts: the president giving the Pope an antique print from the 1600s by Dutch painter Johannes David, and an emblematic book with various designs and drawings, which the president said was for the Pope's “private library.”

For his part, Pope Francis gave the president his usual gift to heads of state: a copy of his 2014 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si, and his 2016 post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, as well as a medal of St Martin.

For global 'peripheries,' poverty can lead to online exploitation

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 23:52

Vatican City, Oct 8, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the challenge of protecting children online is one faced throughout the world, Church leaders from Asia and Africa said that the developing world faces the compounding problem of poverty.

“Online sexual income is one of the many faces and one of the many consequences of poverty,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said in an Oct. 5 keynote speech at a conference on protecting children online.

“Dehumanizing poverty, addressing the problem of dehumanizing poverty in a humanizing way, deserves the attention of all sectors of each country in Asia,” he said, explaining that in some cases, parents from poor families choose to exploit their children online “to earn money,” believing, whether out of ignorance or willful denial, that there is no harm done.

“What a shame, what a scandal, to see the poor dehumanized many times over, now turning to dehumanizing ways to gain a bit of humanity,” he said.

Businesses and industries ought “to be disturbed by economic growth or wealth generation that excludes the greater part of the population of the world,” he said, noting that “while business enterprises increase their profits though online shopping and online transactions, the lives of poor children are destroyed by online exploitation. Can we please think about that?”

Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, Cardinal Tagle was a keynote speaker during an Oct. 3-6 conference titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” focusing on protecting children in an increasingly global and connected world.

The conference is organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection (CCP) in collaboration with the UK-based global alliance WePROTECT and the organization “Telefono Azzurro,” which is the first Italian helpline for children at risk.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the conference on day one, and other participants include social scientists, civic leaders, and religious representatives. Discussion points include prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

Beside Cardinal Tagle on the panel Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop Nairobi, Kenya, both of whom spoke on safeguarding minors in the developing world, offering the specific perspectives of Asia and Africa, respectively.


In his speech, Tagle began by noting that while the conference focuses on the digital world, in Asia child exploitation “does not happen only online,” and pointed to the various forms of exploitation that children, who are “the most vulnerable,” endure due to ethnic and religious conflicts, poverty and migration.

Citing information gathered on the Philippines from the International Justice Mission in Manila, Tagle said “it is wise not to equate online sexual exploitation of children with other forms of trafficking in human persons.”

While the two were at one time included under the same general heading, there was a slow realization that “online sexual exploitation of children deserves its own heading, because it has its unique configuration.”

In the Philippines specifically, he said, the main perpetrators of online child exploitation are sadly the parents, or other adults who know them, such as family members or neighbors.

Generally speaking, Tagle said the main victims of online sexual exploitation in the Philippines are younger than those of human trafficking, ranging in age from 10 months to 15-years old, with more boys being victimized online than in physical human trafficking.

He also pointed to the cooperation of other parties, including Western Union and PayPal, which he said both collect international payments for exploitation.

Complicating the situation, he said, is increasing access to the internet and anonymity of contacts, as well as a basic lack of knowledge about the lasting effects of this type of abuse on the victims.

While some laws do exist regarding such crimes, Cardinal Tagle said that more work must be done in educating the public about these laws and enforcing them, as well as to coordinate efforts of police, local government, families, schools, and faith-based groups.

Offering some points for reflection, Tagle said he believes there is a need in Asia specifically, and likely other regions, for “a serious anthropological, philosophical and, for us, theological study on the humanity of the child.”

He explained that in some cultures, “a child is considered a possession of the adults, therefore an object that can be disposed of by the adults according to their whims and desires.”

“Of course this is camouflaged by some acceptable cultural norms like obedience to elders, elders just exercising their responsibility over the children, the responsibility of children to augment the income of their family,” and so forth, he said, so a “holistic view of the child” is needed.

In comments to CNA after his talk, Tagle said he has a “nagging feeling” that while people throughout the world speak about “the dignity of the child,” many might still have a misunderstood vision of the child that is deeply rooted in cultural practices and norms.

“There might be a conflict between the slogans. I don't want the dignity of children to be just a slogan,” he said. “So can we unearth, can we be honest, especially in our different cultures and in our different religious traditions: What is a child? … Can we be frank? What is our compelling vision?”

There is no universally accepted standard for what constitutes abuse, he said, so in order to eventually arrive at a consensus, “you have to go through cultures,” which is why an anthropological and philosophical study might be necessary.

There might be some cultures that justify abuse through accepted norms, “so how do you confront that culture?” he asked, adding that beyond legislation, “there is a deeper law that people have been following for centuries which is their culture, so you have to address that.”

In his talk, Tagle further reflected on this point. “We need an auto-critique: how does my culture affect my view of children and my behavior toward them?” he said, noting that in some cultures it is accepted that a young girl may be raped in order to restore honor to her family.

The cardinal said he was “aghast” to hear about this, but “it is embedded in the culture,” and this shows the need for dialogue and self-critique, not only for government officials and academics, but for parents, educators, and families as well.  

He also said, based on his personal experience in the Philippines, that there is a need for a “serious study on the relation between the virtual, the digital and the real.”

This, he said, is because “some parents say they allow their children to be used online since 'it is only virtual.' There is no 'real' contact.” This could easily be an excuse, he said, but noted that it could also come from a genuine lack of knowledge “about what the virtual reality is.”

“So we need to hear the stories of children who have been asked to do sexual acts before cameras for viewing, for them to be able to bring across the reality of what is happening through virtual reality.”


Offering the perspective on the safeguarding of minors in Africa was Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, which Pope Francis visited in 2015 as part of his first tour of the African continent.

In his speech, Njue painted a general picture of a continent that in many ways is still digitally illiterate, and where issues related to sex are largely taboo, but which also falls prey to the same sorts of abuses and exploitation experienced in other parts of the world, including online.

“The digital world, being a new phenomenon, has found a gray ground of abuse in Africa, where the majority of older generations expected to protect minors are not computer literate, leaving their children exposed to cyber-abuse of all kinds,” he said.

Naming just a few of the online dangers that have affected African youth, Njue cited cyber-bullying, 'sexting,' online grooming and gambling for money, as well as a number of suicides that have taken place as a result of the online “Blue Whale Challenge,” in which youth are encouraged to join the game and carry out a number of different challenges, the final one being suicide.

Njue said that according to statistics from communications representatives in Kenya, mobile access among citizens increased to 88.1 percent in 2016, with 37.8 million subscribers to online mobile services.

Other gains were seen in the general internet data market, which spiked to 31.9 million people going digital. However, “telecommunications offices remain largely unregulated, and children remain vulnerable,” he said. 

Generally speaking, Njue said that as far as Africa goes, “safeguarding of minors has been neglected in our society.”

In many ways it is a “culture of silence,” he said, explaining that even for parents to bring up human sexuality with their children “is a taboo subject in most of our communities in Kenya, and Africa at large.”

Needed infrastructure is also lacking in many African countries, he said, explaining that law enforcement officers “are not adequately trained and equipped” to deal with cyber-abuse, while the majority of adults “are not computer literate, and therefore are at a disadvantage in knowing what their children are doing with their computers and mobile phones.”

Some have taken advantage of this lack of awareness to promote inappropriate sexual content even through cartoons, with children watching the shows in front of their parents, who are often unconcerned “out of ignorance.”

Poverty, he said, is also a key cause of exploitation, and children are often left alone, as parents are frequently out of the house all day for work.

“This exposes the vulnerable children to all kinds of abuses with no one to protect them from the perpetrators,” Njue said, adding that political strife on the African continent such as the conflicts in Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic compound the problem, leaving women and children “in danger of all forms of abuse.”

There is also a lack of advocacy and a lack of funds for awareness-raising, he said, because many people are afraid to speak out in a society “which views issues of sexual abuse as taboo, not to be discussed in the open.”

As far as what can be done, Njue echoed Pope Francis' frequent call for greater training of Church personnel and the enactment of laws “to ensure that these sins have no place in their Church. This is why we are here.”

Laws ought to be more stringent, he said, and the faithful, particularly in schools and educational institutes, must also be educated on the dangers involved in internet activities to so that children do not fall victim to abuse or bullying online.

When in 2011 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requested that all bishops' conferences issue guidelines for safeguarding minors, Kenya responded by issuing a document titled “Safeguarding children, policies and procedures,” Njue said.

However, he said that due to “a lack of data and expertise,” the Kenyan bishops’ conference, as well as others in Africa, “are not able to do much in safeguarding children from cyber-bullying. This is where the conference needs help.”

In terms of action points that could be implemented, Njue said governments must set up a “singular body” that monitors the internet, as was done in the UK, and which takes down websites found to publish and disseminate child pornography.

Parents must also be more pro-active in monitoring what their children do online, he said. And laws must be implemented to handle cases where the child is both the “victim and the perpetrator of cyber-crime” by 'sexting' lewd images of themselves on apps like WhatsApp or Snapchat, he said, and again pointed to models already existing in the UK.

Elders, chiefs and local administration in various villages also ought to be informed of digital risks, and educational institutions ought to push media channels to ensure that television companies are offering appropriate content at times when families might be watching, he said.

As far as the Church goes, Njue said she must first of all accompany children by giving them a solid education in Christian values, “thus empowering and creating a good foundation of morals in them.”

The Church should also take advantage of the various groups, associations, movements and educational institutions she runs in order to educate children on cyber-bullying and sexual abuse to ensure their protection. Similarly, clergy and religious should also be given adequate information on risks and prevention.

Njue also called for heavy investment for counseling and rescue services for victims, and for greater cooperation with the state and with law enforcement to ensure proper training and that all cases “are followed to the end.”

“The safeguarding of minors is a multi-faceted social problem that requires the synergy of all disciplines to bring about prevention,” Njue said, stressing that regional and international collaboration are necessary throughout Africa “if we are to respond to the challenges of child online abuse in a digitally, culturally diverse world.”

Sexual abuse is a problem “across all borders,” he said. “From the poorest remote village in Africa, Asia and Latin America, to the richest countries in the developed world, there is no exclusion.”

Because of this, “it is our cardinal duty and obligation to see to it that children are protected from all forms of sexual abuses, including cyber-bullying and pornographic movies, and to fully implement the laws and regulations to the letter,” Njue said.

He insisted that the Church, and society as a whole, “should advertise zero-tolerance to any form of abuse of minors,” and voiced his hope that the conference would “be the beginning of a new journey.”

Australian bishops meet in Rome as Church reels from recent crisis

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:17

Vatican City, Oct 8, 2017 / 09:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week, Church leaders from Australia traveled to Rome to meet with Vatican authorities to discuss the various crises Catholics in the country are currently undergoing, largely tied to a history of clerical sex abuse.

According to an Oct. 7 communique from the Vatican, the leadership of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference traveled to Rome last week to meet with officials from the Vatican's Secretariat of State and other relevant offices of the Holy See “for a wide-ranging discussion concerning the situation of the Catholic Church in Australia at this time.”

Topics covered in the discussions included the ongoing investigations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which recently suggested that the Catholic Church be legally bound to break the seal of Confession when sexual abuse has been disclosed within the Sacrament.

They also recently carried out a third investigation into Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, who is currently facing multiple charges of past sexual abuse in Australia.

Other topics covered, according to the communique, included the relationship between the Church and society as a whole, the re-establishment of trust following the abuse crisis and a call for greater participation of laypersons in decision-making roles in the Church in Australia.

Members of the Australian delegation were Archbishop Denis James Hart of Melbourne, President of the bishops’ conference; Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Brisbane, Vice-President of the conference, and Justice Neville John Owen of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council in Australia.

The main discussion took place Thursday, Oct. 5, while a conference on Child Dignity in the Digital World was taking place simultaneously at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.

Key participants from the Vatican side were the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher; the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S.; and the Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.

The meeting fell just two months after the Royal Commission, established in 2013, released 85 proposed changes to the country's criminal justice system.

In addition to suggestions tightening the law on sentencing standards in cases of historical sexual abuse, the use of evidence and grooming, the commission recommended that the failure to report sexual abuse, even in religious confessions, be made “a criminal offense.”

The suggestion was met with harsh opposition by Church leaders, who called the decision a “government intrusion” into the spiritual realm, which until now has been respected and upheld.

A day after the meeting took place, news broke that Cardinal Pell, who returned to Australia from the Vatican in June to face several charges of historical sexual abuse, will return to court in March for a hearing in which he will defend himself against witness testimonies.

Police in Victoria, Australia announced at the end of June that they would be charging Pell, 76, after several witnesses had come forward with accusations in 2016.

As the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2013 and a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, Pell is the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

With the permission of Pope Francis, Pell took leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican in order to return to Australia for the court proceedings. At a brief, preliminary hearing in July shortly after returning, Pell told the court he would be pleading “not guilty” to all charges, and will maintain his innocence, as he has from the beginning.

According to BBC News, the committal hearing will be held March 5, with up to 50 possible witnesses available to give testimony. The hearing is expected to last four weeks, after which the magistrate will decide if there is enough evidence to take the case to trial.


Pope Francis dedicates October to praying for the unemployed

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 18:50

Vatican City, Oct 8, 2017 / 06:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Having dignified work is a topic Pope Francis has continuously returned to since his election, and it surfaced again in his latest prayer video, which urges viewers to spend October praying that employees have just working conditions, and for the unemployed.

The video, published Oct. 3, opens showing a young woman in an office searching through files and, when she can't find the one she is looking for, an older colleague comes over and helps her.

As the scene plays out, Francis speaks in his native Spanish, saying “we should always remember the dignity and rights of those who work, condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and help to ensure authentic progress by man and society.”

The video depicts various scenes of people working in inhumane conditions, before switching to show an unemployed man walking around the city handing out resumes. As he stands on the corner, a pizza delivery man he bumps into sees the folder of resumes and writes down the phone number of his company.

In the next frame, the formerly-unemployed man is shown delivering a pizza to the woman who helped her younger colleague in the first scene, drawing a smiley face on her napkin when he sees that she is stressed out about her work.

Francis closes the video making an appeal to viewers, asking them to “pray that all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.”

Launched as a special project for the Jubilee of Mercy, the videos are part of a larger initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer, and are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center (CTV) and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.

The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.

Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.

However, as of January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis decided to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – adding a second intention for an urgent or immediate need if one arises.

The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, parishes, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted and youth.

Work is something that is especially important for Francis, and has been since his election. Not only has he highlighted the dignity of work and the need for humane working conditions regularly in his speeches, but in nearly every trip he's taken within Italy he has met with the local working force.

In his speeches, he typically advocates for a more just society with equal opportunity, for managers to be honest and to steer away from temptations of corruption, and for everyone to have the right to a fare wage.

He has also spoken out frequently on common problems in the working world that impact Italy specifically, condemning businesses that pay employees “under the table” with no set contract or benefits, or employers who only hire workers for 10-month contracts that don't include the summer months, so as to avoid paying them a full year's wage.

In his latest trip within Italy, which he made to the dioceses of Cesena and Bologna, the Pope again met with workers, unemployed persons and union representatives, telling them that to seek a more just society “is not a dream of the past but a commitment, a job that everyone needs today.”

We cannot grow accustomed to the number of unemployed people in our communities as if they are a mere number or a statistic, he said, but instead, we must help the poor and needy around us to find work, thus restoring their dignity.

He said we must also dethrone the profit-mentality that often governs our intentions, instead placing the human person and the common good at the heart of what we do. But for this to happen, “it is necessary to increase the opportunities for decent work.”

“This is a task that belongs to the whole society,” he said. “At this stage in particular, the whole social body, in its various components, is called upon to make every effort, because work, which is the primary factor of dignity, is a central concern.”

The 'novelty' of Christianity is love, not revenge, Pope Francis says

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 16:39

Vatican City, Oct 8, 2017 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said the new and unique perspective offered by Christianity is an attitude of love, rather than revenge, which God continues to adopt even in the face of our sins and errors.

“Here is the great novelty of Christianity: a God who, though disappointed by our sins and our errors, does not go back on his word, he does not stop and above all does not take revenge!” the Pope said Oct. 8.

“God loves, he doesn't take revenge! He loves, and waits to forgive us,” Francis said, explaining that like the Israelites in salvation history, God calls each of us to form a relationship, and alliance, with him.

And “the urgency of responding with good fruits to the call of the Lord, who calls us to become his vineyard, helps us to understand what is new and unique in Christianity,” he said.

“This is not so much the sum of prescripts and moral norms, but it is first of all a proposal of love that God, through Jesus, made and continues to make through humanity,” he said. “It's an invitation to enter this story of love, becoming a living and open vine, rich in fruit and hope for all.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which he centered on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew that recounts how the master of a vineyard hires tenants to oversee it.

However, the tenants mistreat and kill his servants when the master sends them to collect the fruits. The tenants, Francis said, “assume a possessive attitude: they don't consider themselves simple managers, but owners,” and refuse to hand over the crop. Even when the master sends his son, the tenants kill him in hopes of taking the son's inheritance.

In his speech, the Pope noted that this parable offered by Jesus illustrates in “an allegorical way” the warnings and rebukes given by the prophets in the history of Israel.

This is also a story that belongs to us, he said, because it speaks of the alliance God wanted to establish with humanity, and which he also calls each of us to participate in. However, like any “love story,” this history of alliance with God “has its positive moments, but it is also marked by betrayals and refusals.”

To understand how God responds to the refusals opposed to his love and his proposed alliance, the Gospel passage puts forth the question on the lips of the master: “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

Both this question and Jesus' response about the stone rejected by the builders becoming the “cornerstone” of a new foundation, Francis said, highlight “that God's disappointment for the wicked behavior mankind is not the last word!”

“Through the 'discarded stones' – and Christ is the first stone that the builders rejected – through situations of weakness and sin, God continues to circulate the 'new wine' of his vineyard, which is mercy,” he said.

And the only thing that can impede the “tenacious and tender” will of God, he said, is “arrogance and presumption, which at times even become violence!”

Faced with these attitudes, rather than going back on his promise, God “retains all his power to rebuke and admonish,” telling the arrogant and presumptuous that “the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and it will be given to a people that will bear fruit.”

We too are invited to become part of God's vineyard and to bear good fruit, Pope Francis said, but stressed that in order to do so, we must be open.

“A vine that is closed can become wild and produce wild grapes,” he said. “We are called to go out of the vineyard and put ourselves at the service of our brothers who are not with us, to shake up and encourage each other, to remind each other that we must be the vine of the Lord in every environment, even the  most distant and uncomfortable.”

The Pope closed his address asking for Mary's intercession in helping each of us “to be everywhere, especially on the peripheries of society, the vine that the Lord has planted for the good of all.”

One hundred years later, Fatima still offers a potent message

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 00:19

Vatican City, Oct 7, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Although the Fatima apparitions occurred 100 years ago, the Vatican’s resident Fatima expert has said they contain a message that is both relevant and needed in the world today.

“The apparitions of Fatima are a historical event with an extraordinary significance, and they have a meaning that’s not only religious, but also socio-political,” Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins told CNA in an interview.  

What Our Lady offered during her apparitions is a message “that deals with mankind as mankind, not only Christians or believers,” and because of this, it “has an extraordinary authority” in the world today.

Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Martins is himself from Portugal, and has written extensively on the apparitions.

On May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children – Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta – in a field while they were tending their family’s sheep.

In her message to the children during the months that followed, Mary brought with her requests for conversion, prayer (particularly the recitation of the rosary), sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a three-part secret regarding the fate of the world.

As word of the apparitions spread, Mary promised a sign from heaven, which took place Oct. 13, 1917. Known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” accounts from the day report that the sun began to spin, twirling in the sky, and at one point appeared to veer toward earth before jumping back to its place in the sky, with a crowd of some 70,000 watching.

Although there are many different elements to the requests made by Our Lady, Cardinal Martins said her appeals can be summed up in four key themes.

“I always say there are four key chapters, four points of extreme authority,” he said. “So what are these four points?”


“The first point, the first appeal of the Madonna, is an appeal to faith,” Cardinal Martins said.

Her appeal in this regard “is very current because, unfortunately, we live in a world in which the faith is falling. Unbelief is growing, and the Catholic faith, the faith of the Gospels, is increasingly decreasing.”

“We are walking toward a pagan world,” the cardinal continued, explaining that in many ways man no longer believes in the Gospel. People have an “abstract faith,” he said, but the Gospel is not a part of their concrete lives.

Thus Mary’s call to faith, even after 100 years, “has an extraordinary authority,” he said.

“Man today needs faith, to believe in something; to believe in God, who is our common father, to believe in our brothers, we are all children of the same Father, we are all brothers.”

Understanding the link between these two aspects is fundamental for the world today, not just for Christians, but for all mankind, he said, adding that man needs to recognize that “one’s origin is from God, it is not autonomous.”

“There is no world war, (but) there are small wars, as the Pope says, and they are worse than a world war, because a world war has a beginning and an end and then it finishes.”

“These small wars, on the other hand, are worse than the world wars because they don’t end.”


Cardinal Martins said there is a second key appeal made by Mary “which is very important, and that is conversion.”

“The Madonna spoke many times to the shepherds about the need for man to convert … to increasingly draw nearer to God, and so to always draw nearer to our brothers and sisters,” he said, explaining that “the second appeal depends on the first.”

Throughout her six appearances Mary encouraged them to pray the rosary daily and to offer sacrifices in reparation for sins.

In her third appearance to the shepherds, Mary told them: “Sacrifice yourself for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: 'O my Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary'.”

Conversion is something still missing from in the world, Cardinal Martins said, noting that in all of her apparitions Mary consistently insisted “on the need for man, especially today, to increasingly draw nearer to his origin, to God.”


The third “chapter” of Our Lady of Fatima’s message is an appeal for peace, Cardinal Martins said.

Mary spoke to the children about peace often and urged them to pray for peace, he said, noting that her request came as the global armies were embroiled in World War I.

Our Lady’s message was to “do penance, ask for peace, because otherwise man will disappear,” he said, as is evidenced in the vision the children had of hell and the souls who anguishing there.

Perhaps one of the most impressionable aspects of the apparitions, he said, is Mary’s insistence “on the absolute, urgent need to have peace, to fight for peace, to ask God for peace.”

He stressed the need to continue to pray for peace today, because “man today needs many things, but especially peace, with himself and others.”

He referenced the many conflicts raging throughout the world, saying “one of the most painful wounds today is this fighting one with the other; the lack of peace between Muslims and Christians, the inhabitants of this country and the inhabitants of that country, etc.”


“Many people today lack many things, but lack one above all: hope.”

Hope is the fourth and final chapter of Mary’s message, Cardinal Martins said, explaining that “man today doesn’t have hope, he lives a life without a future, without the hope of a future.”

And if a person doesn’t have hope in the future – whether in his own life or in his relationships with others – “then what life is this?” the cardinal asked, noting that sadly, “it’s a life that many times, unfortunately, many times ends in suicide.”

Pointing to the high suicide rate among teens, he said many youth end up killing themselves “because they live a life that has no meaning for them. They lack hope, they lack a vision for the future.”

Hope, he said, “is fundamental for man,” so it’s natural for those who lose hope to turn to suicide in their despair, because they feel that “there is no sense to my life if it doesn’t have a destination that it must reach.”

So what Mary asks for from the men of today, and “what God demands of men today, (is) a deep faith, a hope, brotherhood among us – which is greatly lacking – so we will have peace, which we need to live a dignified life,” he said.

Cardinal Martins said this synthesis of the message of Fatima is not only relevant for the world today, but “it’s an obligation for the Church.”

The message of Fatima ought to be lived not just individually, but “as a human community,” he said, explaining that the three children were able to respond to Our Lady’s appeals with “an extraordinarily unique, unrepeatable mission.”

Even though they were young children, they were able to communicate and spread Mary’s message to the entire world with their sacrifices and prayers, he said, adding that the centenary of the apparitions, coupled with the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta, “does nothing but underline this importance.”


This article was originally published on CNA May 9, 2017.

Pope Francis: 'painful' failures help Church lead in protecting minors

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 16:41

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2017 / 04:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis told a group of religious and secular experts from around the world that protecting minors against increasing online threats is a serious new concern, and one in which the Church can be a leading voice given the experience gleaned from past mistakes.

“As all of us know, in recent years the Church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children,” the Pope said Oct. 6. “Extremely grave facts have come to light, for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion.”

Because of this, “as a result of these painful experiences and the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the Church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world.”

The Church can't even attempt to “do this alone – for that is clearly not enough,” he said, but she stands ready by “offering her own effective and ready cooperation to all those individuals and groups in society that are committed to the same end.”

In this sense, he said, the Church adheres fully to the goal of putting an end to “the abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children” that was set by the United Nations in the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda.

Pope Francis spoke to participants in the global “Child Dignity in the Digital World” conference being held in Rome Oct. 3-6, who had an audience with him the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection in collaboration with the UK-based global alliance WePROTECT and the organization “Telefono Azzurro,” the first Italian helpline for children at risk, the conference brings together people from all sectors of society, including social scientists, civic leaders, and religious representatives.

Key points of discussion included updates on the situation, the prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

In their audience with the Pope, participates presented him with a common declaration outlining several action-points for each area and field to develop moving forward.

In his speech, Pope Francis thanked attendees for gathering to address such “a grave new problem” which, until this week's conference, had not yet been studied in-depth by experts from various fields.

“The acknowledgment and defense of the dignity of the human person is the origin and basis of every right social and political order,” he said, noting that children “are among those most in need of care and protection.”

This is why the Holy See received the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959, and participated in the 1990 U.N. convention on the same subject, he said, adding that “the dignity and rights of children must be protected by legal systems as priceless goods for the entire human family.”

While we are living in a world “we could hardly have imagined” only a few years ago, Francis said this world is the fruit of “extraordinary achievements of science and technology” that are in many ways changing “our very way of thinking and of being.”

However, while admirable these rapid advancements also bring a certain concern and apprehension with them, he said, explaining that questions naturally arise as to whether “we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp, and whether we are doing enough to keep them in check.”

As representatives of various fields in digital communications and organizations, conference participants “with great foresight” have put a spotlight on “what is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family: the protection of young people’s dignity.”

Citing various statistics, the Pope noted that currently more than a quarter of the over 3 billion internet users are minors, meaning there are more than 800 million young people navigating the internet throughout the world. In India alone, he said, more than 500 million people will have access to the internet in the coming years, and that half of them will be minors.

“What do they find on the net? And how are they regarded by those who exercise various kinds of influence over the net?” he asked, stressing that when it comes to protecting them, “we have to keep our eyes open and not hide from an unpleasant truth that we would rather not see.”

“For that matter, surely we have realized sufficiently in recent years that concealing the reality of sexual abuse is a grave error and the source of many other evils,” he said, and urged people to “face reality” in this regard.

On this point, he referred to the “extremely troubling” yet increasingly frequent diffusion of problematic activities for youth, such as the spread of extreme pornography online; “sexting” on social media; online bullying; the “sextortion” of young people on the internet; human trafficking and prostitution, as well as a rise in the commissioning of live viewings of rape and violence against minors in other parts of the world.

He also referred to what has been described as the “dark net,” in which traffickers and pedophiles use secure and anonymous channels to exchange photos and information about minors, as well as for human and drug trafficking.

These are the places “where evil finds ever new, effective and pervasive ways to act and to expand,” the Pope said, explaining that the spread of printed pornography in the past “was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net.”

And unfortunately, many people are still bewildered by the fact that these things happen, he said, noting that what makes the internet so distinct “is precisely that it is worldwide.”

“It covers the planet, breaking down every barrier, becoming ever more pervasive, reaching everywhere and to every kind of user, including children, due to mobile devices that are becoming smaller and easier to use,” he said.

As a result, no one in the world today, no single nation or authority, “feels capable of monitoring and adequately controlling the extent and the growth of these phenomena,” since many are themselves linked to other serious problems involving the internet such human and drug trafficking, financial crimes and international terrorism.

From an educational standpoint, the Church is also surprised, he said, because the speed of online growth “has left the older generation on the sidelines, rendering extremely difficult, if not impossible, intergenerational dialogue and a serene transmission of rules and wisdom acquired by years of life and experience.”

However, he told the that despite the ominous and widespread nature of the threats, “we must not let ourselves be overcome by fear,” nor allow ourselves “be paralyzed” by a sense of powerlessness.

Instead, a global network must be formed to “limit and direct technology,” putting it at the service of a true human and integral progress.

In this regard, he cautioned attendees not to “underestimate” the harm done to minors by various forms of online abuse and exploitation. “These problems will surely have a serious and life-long effect on today’s children,” has has been proven many times over by fields such as neurobiology, psychology and psychiatry.

And while these crimes are especially problematic for minors, the Pope said it's also necessary to recognize the harm done to adults, including addictions, distorted views of love and various other disorders.

“We would be seriously deluding ourselves,” he said, “were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.”

Francis also cautioned against another “mistaken approach” to the problem, which he said would be to think that “automatic technical solutions,” such as filters and algorithms, are enough to deal with the problem.

While such measures are necessary and large tech companies ought  to invest in speedy and effective protective software, “there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technological growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.”

He also emphasized the need to not give into the mistaken “ideological and mythical” belief that the internet is “a realm of unlimited freedom.”

“The net has opened a vast new forum for free expression and the exchange of ideas and information,” yet it has also opened the door to new ways of engaging “in heinous illicit activities,” including the abuse of minors.

“This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom,” he said. Rather, “it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.”

Pope Francis closed his speech noting that when he travels abroad, he always meets and looks into the eyes of children, both rich and poor, happy and suffering.

“To see children looking us in the eye is an experience we have all had. It touches our hearts and requires us to examine our consciences,” he said.

“What are we doing to ensure that those children can continue smiling at us, with clear eyes and faces filled with trust and hope? What are we doing to make sure that they are not robbed of this light, to ensure that those eyes will not be not darkened and corrupted by what they will find on the internet, which will soon be so integral and important a part of their daily lives?”

“Let us work together,” he said, “so that we will always have the right, the courage and the joy to be able to look into the eyes of the children of our world.”

Brothers of Charity euthanasia controversy could have far-reaching implications

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 23:01

Vatican City, Oct 5, 2017 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Vatican officials have summoned to Rome the board of directors overseeing a group of Belgian Catholic hospitals.

The group administers hospitals sponsored by the Brothers of Charity, a religious order, although the board is mostly composed of laity. The board recently decided to allow euthanasia in the Catholic hospitals it oversees.

After appeals from the religious order, board members have been asked to explain their decision to Church authorities in Rome, apparently at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

News of the summons broke after a Sept. 29 meeting between Br. René Stockman, Superior General of the Brothers of Charity, and the competent authorities at the Vatican.

Last spring, the board of directors decided to permit euthanasia, under certain conditions, in their facilities. The religious order asked the board to reverse the decision, but the board refused. Because the Brothers of Charity had no legal options in Belgium, they appealed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The response, backed by Pope Francis, directed that the board reverse the euthanasia policy, in conformity to Catholic doctrine.

The decision to allow euthanasia in Brothers of Charity hospitals came after the Belgian bishops’ conference publicly declared that no euthanasia could be allowed in Catholic institutions.

Cardinal Jozef de Kesel of Malines-Brussels, stressed to CNA that “the bishops spoke out clearly: euthanasia cannot become a right.”

In a statement released on their web site, the Brothers of Charity explained that the board reaffirmed their to allow euthanasia, under certain conditions, during a Sept. 11 meeting, despite the directives of the Belgian bishops and the Vatican. After the religious order was unable to persuade the board to reverse the decision, they appealed again to Vatican officials. The board will now be asked to explain their decision, as Church officials determine how to proceed.

The Brothers of Charity underscored that “the Vatican communicates that it will not change its initial request to have an absolute respect for life in all circumstances in accordance with the Catholic doctrine.”

The meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, “will be the last chance” for the hospital board “to set themselves in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church,” said Br. Stockman.

The Brothers of Charity sponsor 15 hospitals in Belgium, taking care of about 5,000 patients. The board of directors administers the hospitals’ civil corporation. The board has 15 members, but only three of them are Brothers of Charity.

The Brothers of Charity who serve as board members have signed a joint letter declaring their full support of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. However, to emphasize their decision, the board has published positiont reiterating their support for euthanasia.

Fernand Keuleneer, an attorney in Brussels who served as a member of the Belgian euthanasia commission from 2002 through 2012 and who is advising the Brothers of Charity on the issue, told CNA that the board’s position paper has “repeatedly stated that euthanasia is part of the ‘therapeutic liberty’ of medical doctors.”

According to Keuleneer, “such a position implies that the board of trustees consider euthanasia to be a medical act.”

Keuleneer explained that the position paper is problematic because it “denies the legal autonomy and liberty of institutions to refuse the execution of euthanasia, but moreover it does so by declaring euthanasia a medical act, which will have implication far beyond its own institution.”

The attorney explained that if euthanasia is a medical act, a claim unique to the position paper, “even if all medical doctors in a psychiatric care institution would adhere to the conditions and procedures of the position paper, nothing would prevent a patient from bringing in an outside physician. Such are the far-reaching consequences of this position paper.”

Keleuneer also noted that “the fact that an association calling itself Brothers of Charity, which is in addition explicitly confirming its Christian identity, adopts this position will receive worldwide attention and will be used on a global level.”

Kesel, who serves as president of the Belgian bishops' conference, summarized the position of the Belgian bishops on the matter.

“Euthanasia is never possible. This is, in fact, a taboo, and our society barely understands taboos,” the cardinal said. “Freedom cannot be an absolute, it has limits. But these limits do not limit freedom, they give sense to freedom."

Amid fresh unrest, all Iraqis must work for unity, Pope says

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 16:49

Vatican City, Oct 5, 2017 / 04:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Chaldean Catholic Church begins their annual synod, Pope Francis kicked the meeting off by telling leaders of the eastern rite that given the new apprehensions arising from increasing political instability, they must urgently work to promote unity at all levels of society.

“If in fact a tragic page has closed in some regions of your country, it means that there is still much to be done,” the Pope said Oct. 5, urging Chaldean Church leaders in Iraq “to work tirelessly as builders of unity.”

This unity is especially important between pastors of the Chaldean Catholic Church and leaders of other Catholic rites in the area, who should work together in “promoting dialogue and collaboration among all the actors of public life” in helping to facilitate the return of displaced persons and to heal divisions, he said.

Francis stressed that this commitment to unity “is necessary now more than ever in the current Iraqi context, faced with new uncertainties about the future.”

“There is need for a process of national reconciliation and of a joint effort of all the components of society, to reach shared solutions for the good of the whole country,” he said, and voiced his hope that the “strength of spirit, hope and industriousness” characteristic of Iraqi society would never diminish.

He told the Church leaders to “remain firm” in their intention of “not falling into discouragement before the difficulties that still remain despite what has been done in the reconstruction work on the Nineveh Plain.”

Pope Francis spoke to participants in the Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church, which is taking place from Oct. 4-8 in Rome,and comes on the tails of a recent Aid to the Church in Need conference on rebuilding towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains, during which Patriarch Luis Rafael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, was a keynote speaker.

In addition to new fears and uncertainties roused by the recent referendum vote to liberate Iraqi Kurdistan from the Iraqi central government, making it an independent state, other talking points in the Chaldean synod will include forced migration, the return of displaced persons, the rebuilding of villages on the Nineveh Plains, Chaldean Church law, liturgical topics and vocational pastoral activities.

In his speech, the Pope said that given Iraq's roots as a land of “civilization, encounter and dialogue” evangelized by St. Thomas the Apostle, it's especially important that Christians in the region are united in promoting “respectful relations and interreligious dialogue through all components of society.”

He also encouraged them for a number of new vocations to the priesthood and religious life. However, with a general decline in vocations throughout the Church, Francis also cautioned against “welcoming into seminaries people who are not called by the Lord.”

“It's necessary to examine well the vocation of youth and to verify their authenticity,” he said, explaining that formation in seminaries must be integral and “capable of including various aspects of life responding in a harmonious way to the four human, spiritual, pastoral and intellectual dimensions.”

The Pope also urged Chaldean Church leaders to work together with the Latin Church to address the diaspora of their faithful throughout the world, with an eye to the local ecclesial contexts in which they live, both from a numerical point of view, and that of religious liberty.

Special attention must be paid, he said, to the pastoral care of faithful in the territories where ancient eastern communities “have long been established,” while also promoting “communion and fraternity with the Latin rite communities in order to give the faithful a good witness without spreading divisions and disagreements.”

The Congregation for Oriental Churches will help in this task, Pope Francis said, and closed his address praying that the Chaldean Synod gathering would be “a fruitful moment of fraternal dialogue and reflection for the good of the beloved Chaldean Church.”

Pope announces pre-synod meeting with youth as participants

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 21:57

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2017 / 09:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis announced Wednesday that ahead of next year's synod of bishops on youth, a preliminary meeting will take place drawing young people from various countries and walks of life.

The gathering will give them a platform to share not only their convictions in the faith, but also their doubts and critiques.

“With this path the Church wishes to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even the doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said during his Oct. 4 General Audience.

The meeting is scheduled to take place March 19-24, 2018 – seven months before the synod – and will draw youth from countries all over the world, including non-Catholics and non-Christians.

The synod, titled “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” is scheduled to take place in a year's time, in October 2018.

According to an Oct. 4 communique from the Synod of Bishops, participants in the pre-synod meeting will represent bishops' conferences and the Eastern Churches, as well as youth who are consecrated or preparing for the priesthood.

Youth involved in various associations and ecclesial movements will also participate alongside peers from other Christian denominations, other religions, as well as those skeptical of religion.

The young people who come will also represent various fields, including those still in school, those already working, and those involved in sports, the arts, and volunteering activities. Young people from the “extreme existential peripheries” will also be invited along with experts, educators, and trainers engaged in helping youth to “discern their life choices.”

At the end of the meeting, which is being organized by the Synod of Bishops in collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, conclusions from the discussion will be compiled and given to synod participants with other documentation in order to “encourage their reflection and further examination.”

According to the Synod of Bishops, the pre-synod discussion is meant to compliment and “enrich” the consultation that has already begun with the publication of the synod's preparatory document and a questionnaire available for youth to fill out online.

The dates for the meeting were selected intentionally to coincide with the celebration of the 2018 diocesan World Youth Day event, titled “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” which is traditionally celebrated on Palm Sunday with Mass celebrated by the Pope.

In their communique, the Synod of Bishops thanked the Pope convoking the meeting, “which will allow young people to express their expectations and desires, as well as their uncertainties and concerns in the complex events of today’s world.”

Christians must be 'missionaries of hope,' Pope Francis says

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 15:51

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2017 / 03:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said true Christians aren't sad or gloomy, but have the specific task of being bearers of hope not only with their words, but with actions as simple as a smile or an act of charity.

In his Oct. 4 general audience, the Pope said it's encouraging to know that the' disciples “are announcers of Jesus' resurrection not only in word, but with facts and with the testimony of their life!”

Jesus, he said, “doesn't want disciples capable only of repeating learned and memorized formulas. He wants witnesses: people who spread hope with their way of welcoming, smiling and loving.”

The most important part loving, he said, “because the strength of the resurrection renders Christians capable of loving even when love seems to have lost it's meaning.”

For Christians, there is a “more” to existence that can't be explained simply with the strength of spirit or a great amount of optimism. Rather, believers are people that seem to have a “piece of heaven” with them, and who are accompanied “by a presence that no one can even intuit.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square, continuing his catechesis on Christian hope. This week, he spoke of the need to have “missionaries of hope,” noting that the call for such witnesses is key in the month of October, which is traditionally dedicated to mission.

A Christian, the Pope said, not “a prophet of misfortune,” but rather, their task entails announcing Jesus, “who died out of love and who God resurrected on the morning of Easter.”

“This is the nucleus of our Christian faith,” he said, explaining that if the Gospels had stopped at the the crucifixion and tomb, “the story of this prophet would add itself to the many biographies of heroic personalities that often have spent their lives for an ideal.”

In this case, the Gospel would simply become “an edifying and consoling book,” but it would in no way “be an announcement of hope.”

However, the Gospels go beyond the tomb, Francis said, explaining that “it is precisely this last part that transforms our lives.”

Although everything seemed hopeless after Jesus' death, with some disciples already beginning to leave Jerusalem, Jesus rose. And this “unexpected fact” completely “overturns and subverts the heart of the disciples.”

Christians, then, are called to spread this news in the world and “open spaces for salvation, like regenerative cells capable of restoring vigor to those seem lost forever.”

True Christians, Pope Francis said, are “not sad and angry, but convinced by the strength of the resurrection, that no evil is infinite, no night without end, no man is definitively in wrong, no hate is invincible from love.”

But while there is joy that comes from announcing the Gospel, disciples at times have had to “pay a dear price” for their hope, Francis said, and pointed to the many Christians who “have not abandoned their people” in times of persecution.

“They have stayed there, where tomorrow isn't certain, where they couldn't have plans of any sort, (but) they stayed hoping in God.”

Referring, as he often does, to the many modern martyrs who give their lives for Christ, the Pope said their fidelity proves that “injustice does not have the final word in life.”

“In Christ Risen we can continue to hope,” he said, noting that while men and women who have a certain reason to live are able to resist more than others in times of difficulty, “those who have Christ at their side truly no longer fear anything.”

“Because of this Christians are never easy and accommodating men,” he said, stressing that “their meekness must not be confused with a sense of insecurity or of submissiveness.”

And this, he said, “is why the Christian is a missionary of hope. Not by their merit, but thanks to Jesus, the grain of wheat who, fallen to the earth, died and brought much fruit.”

At the end of the audience, just before leading pilgrims in the Our Father, Pope Francis announced that a special meeting will be held March 19-24 with youth from all over the world in order to prepare for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

Youth who will attend the conference will also include non-believers and non-Catholics, whether they come from other Christian traditions, other faiths entirely. Conclusions of the discussion will be given to synod participants to take into consideration during the discussion.

In preparing for the synod, “the Church wants to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said, which is why the March meeting will gather such a vast panorama of participants, and why, ultimately, their reflections will be taken into consideration during the synod itself.

Cardinal Parolin: When protecting kids in the digital world, don't forget the peripheries

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 03:09

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2017 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the keynote speech at a conference on protecting children in the digital world, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said child safety is one of the most urgent issues of modern times, and stressed that children on the global “peripheries” shouldn't be forgotten.

In his Oct. 3 speech, Parolin noted that technological and cultural change “is particularly fast in many countries in which social and economic progress are still very limited and unbalanced.”

Thousands of children are now growing up in the digital world in vastly underdeveloped nations, he said, which means their parents and educators “will no longer be culturally equipped to accompany them and help them grow in this world, while their governments often don't know where to begin in protecting them.”

“We are also responsible for these children, and the businesses that promote and push the development of the digital world are also responsible for them,” he said.

Given the international and interdisciplinary approach of the conference, Parolin stressed that the participants themselves “must take responsibility for those peripheries of the world of which Pope Francis continually speaks.”

The peripheries, he said, are in geographical areas of great economic poverty, but which “are also found within rich societies, where there is considerable human and spiritual poverty, loneliness and a loss of the meaning of life.”

“It is no coincidence that it is precisely minors from these peripheries that are the preferred object of global networks of exploitation and organized violence online.”

He pointed specifically to several crimes against children: trafficking, forced conscription of child soldiers, slave labor, prostitution, drugs, all of which are compounded by inadequate education, hunger and poverty.

In each of these cases, “the horrible reality of sexual abuse is practically always present, as a common aspect and consequence of a multifaceted and widespread violence,” he said, noting that sexual abuse entirely disregards “respect not only for the body, but even more so for the soul, for the profound vulnerability and dignity of every child,” regardless of nationality.

Quoting Pope Francis, Parolin said “we need the courage” to guard children from “the new Herods of our time, who devour the innocence of our children” through various forms of slavery and exploitation.

Parolin spoke on the opening night of a four-day conference on protecting children in a digitally connected and global society. Titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” the conference is being held in Rome Oct. 3-6 and is organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection (CCP).

Participants in the congress include social scientists, civic leaders, and religious representatives from around the world. Topics include prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

Notable presenters representing the global “peripheries” will be Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi in Kenya, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, who will address the issue of protecting minors from the perspectives of Africa and Asia respectively.

Parolin's focus on social peripheries echo remarks from Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, president of the CCP and a member of Pope Francis' commission for protecting minors.

In a briefing with journalists Oct. 2, the day before the conference began, Zollner said the issues of child abuse and protection, widely spoken about in Western nations, are also of major concern for developing nations.

He said the problem “is everywhere and the risks are everywhere,” he said. “It is not a Western problem, although in many parts of the world, 75% of countries in this world, issues of child sexual abuse have not reached the level of discussion in Anglo and Western- European countries.”

On the opening night of the conference, the panel of speakers was preceded by a powerful video in which minors who have been abused either online or in person shared their stories, detailing instances of online bullying, body-shaming, sexual exploitation and pornography addiction.

The stories depicted included a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide after explicit videos of her, taken by a boyfriend, were posted online. Other stories were that of a young Filipino boy who fell victim to a sex-trafficking ring, and that of a 10-year-old boy who, despite feeling shame, became addicted to pornography.

In his opening remarks, Zollner said that “stories such as these are why were are gathered here.”

“We have listened to stories of victims, and now we are here to talk about hope,” he said, explaining that he has “conflicting emotions” about the conference. While he has a “somber feeling” due to the topic of discussion, the priest said he also has a “hopeful feeling” when he looks at the faces present in the audience and the various areas they represent.

Referring to the stories shared in the video, Zollner asked “how can we stop these terror attacks on the heart of the child?”

One thing is certain in the process, he said, which is that “there is not one single medicine that will fix it all.” Rather, “it is a combination of threads that weave this safety net,” and the threads are people.

According to statistics given by the panel of speakers, in Europe alone there are currently some 30,000 websites that portray children being sexually abused.

Several experts reported that in 2013 alone, 18 million children were sexually abused, amounting to roughly 30 percent of Europe's children. Numbers given by Interpol for 2016 show that at least 5 children fall victim to sexual abuse online per day.

In his speech, Parolin also emphasized the need to form networks, reiterating concern that the sexual abuse of minors is “an immensely vast and widespread phenomenon.”

Over the past few decades, the reality of child sexual abuse within the Church has become more apparent, as “very serious facts have emerged,” he said. Parolin explained that as facts emerged, the Church became aware of the damage done to victims, and the need to provide “a new culture of child protection” which “effectively guarantees their growth in safe and secure environments.”

“This is a commitment that requires deep human attention, competence and consistency,” he said, adding that the efforts made must continue to “expand and deepen” with clarity and firm commitment.

Attention is necessary, he said, “so that the dignity and rights of minors are protected and defended with much more attention and effectiveness that has been done in the past.”

He noted that “the scourge of offenses against the dignity of minors” now “spreads and aligns itself within the new parameters of the digital world.”

“This plague meanders and infiltrates along a labyrinth of paths and through deep, hidden layers of reality,” he said, stressing that the digital world is not “a separate part of the world,” but an integral part “of a unique reality of the world.”

With old challenges manifesting themselves in new ways, the culture of protecting minors “must be sufficiently able to address today's problems.”

New energies must be channeled toward a shared commitment “to overcome the sense of disorientation and powerlessness when faced with such a markedly difficult challenge, and to help us to intervene creatively,” he said.

Furthermore, “we must work to regain control of the development of the digital world, so that it may be at the service of the dignity of minors, and thus of the whole human race of tomorrow,” he said. “For the minors of today are the entirety of tomorrow’s human race.”

While research and understanding problems are important, Parolin called for a “far-seeing, courageous endeavor” on the part of all participants, and appealed for “the cooperation of every person in a position of responsibility” in all countries and sectors of society.

Parolin said that in this regard, special attention ought to be paid to the “moral and religious” aspects of the life and development of the human person.

“The minors of whom we speak and whose dignity we wish to defend and promote are human
persons, and the value of each of them is unique and unrepeatable,” he said, adding that each of them “must be taken seriously and protected in this ever more digitalized world, so that they may be able to fulfill the purpose of their life, their destiny, their coming into the world.”

Scripture itself says we are created in the “image and likeness” of God, he said, and in the New Testament it tells of how the Son of God came to the world as “a vulnerable child, and in needy circumstances, assuming both the fragility and the hope for a future that are intrinsic to an infant.”

“To disparage infancy and to abuse children is for the Christian, therefore, not only a crime, but also – as Pope Francis has stated – sacrilege, a profanation of that which is sacred, of the presence of God in every human being.”

While the driving forces behind global technical and economic development might seem “unstoppable” and are likely driven by both economic and political interests, Parolin stressed that “we must not allow ourselves to be dominated by” these interests.

“The power of sexual desire that dwells in the depth of the human mind and heart is great and wonderful when it advances the path of humanity,” he said, but can also be “corrupted and perverted,” becoming “a source of suffering and unspeakable abuse.”

Sexual desire must be “elevated and directed,” he said, adding that “the sense of moral responsibility in the sight of humanity and in the sight of God, the reflection on the correct use of freedom in the building and orientation of a new world and in learning how to live in it, are thus absolutely necessary and fundamental for our common future.”

He closed his speech calling the defense of children in the digital world “one of today’s most important and urgent issues” for humanity.”

Parolin voiced his hope that with the “living sense of the beauty and the mystery of human persons, of the greatness of their vocation to life, and thus of the duty to protect them in their dignity and their growth” in mind, this perspective would “inspire your work and bear concrete and effective fruit.”

New Tucson bishop played key role in Rother beatification cause

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 18:09

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2017 / 06:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, who was the “promoter of justice” for the beatification cause of Fr. Stanley Rother, as the next bishop of Tuscon.

Bishop Weisenburger, 56, replaces Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, 76, who has retired from the episcopate after reaching the normal age of retirement, which is 75.

Before becoming bishop of Salina, Weisenburger was the promoter of justice for the cause of beatification of Fr. Stanley Rother, who was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City after being recognized as a martyr.

Loosely speaking, the “promoter of justice” for a beatification or canonization cause is the person who, on a diocesan level, is in charge of carrying out an investigation into the candidate's qualifications for sainthood.

The promoter of justice must be a priest with a solid background in theology, canon law and knowledge of saints' causes. They are tasked largely with inspecting the documentation and testimonies gathered on the candidate's life for accuracy, and can make further inquiries or requests if necessary.

For his role in the canonization cause, Bishop Weisenburger was given a first-class relic of now-Bl. Rother for the Diocese of Salina.

Weisenburger also served as an on-site chaplain for rescue workers at the site of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people.

He was born Dec. 23, 1960, in Alton, Illinois. His father was a military officer and his mother was a homemaker. He spent two years of his childhood in Hays, Kansas, but grew up in Lawton.

The future bishop studied philosophy at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Miss. and theology at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Ordained a priest on December 19, 1987, for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, he afterward studied at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, obtaining his pontifical degree in canon law.

He has served as a parochial vicar and pastor at several parishes in Oklahoma City, and also worked in prison ministry and served on the archdiocesan tribunal for 20 years.

From 1996-2012 he was vicar general of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and was rector at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City from 2002-2012.

He was also a member of the College of Consultors of the archdiocese’s Council of Priests.

In 2009 he was given the honorific title "monsignor" by Benedict XVI and in 2012 was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Salina in Kansas. In addition to English, Weisenburger also speaks Spanish.

Vatican conference tackles new technology and medicine

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 12:43

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2017 / 12:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Technology will be at the heart of an upcoming Vatican conference on accompanying human life in the digital era, particularly with regard to the medical field.

The conference will emphasize both the benefits and limits of new technology, and what those mean for the Church.

New technology has “an increasingly relevant impact on the various aspects, the various moments of human life,” Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the Pontifical Acedemy for Life, said Oct. 2.

The Pontifical Academy for Life wishes to look at the positive aspects of technology and everything it has achieved “in the field of health, of human life, and the betterment of certain conditions and situations.”

However, while great helpful strides have certainly been made, Pegoraro said it's also important to discuss “the dangers, the risks that are linked with a technology that is increasingly invasive and powerful, which can condition many aspects of human life.”

Pegoraro spoke at a news briefing on the academy's upcoming general assembly, which is titled “Accompanying Life: new responsibilities in the technological era,” and will take place Oct. 5-7.

The conference marks the academy's first general assembly since the renewal of their statutes last year, and will draw new academic members from 37 countries around the world.

Among the members are four honorary members; 45 ordinary members appointed by the Pope; 87 corresponding members named by Board of Directors; and 13 young researchers, a request of the new statutes. All members will serve for a five-year period.

In his comments to journalists, Pegoraro said the academy wants to start the discussion from a “positive perspective,” and stressed that there is “there is no fear of technology or immediate negative judgement” of its uses.

Rather, the goal is to recognize the positive and beneficial contributions of new technologies while also drawing attention to the risks.

The great challenge, he said, is finding an answer to the question: “what is the responsibility? What ethics are at play? What methods are there of managing this power, which has been entrusted to man's responsibility?”

The program of the conference more or less follows the structure of the new charter for healthcare workers the Vatican published in February, and is divided into three main categories: issues surrounding the beginning of life, healthcare in general, and the themes relevant to the phase of the end of life.

Topics to be discussed include looming modern questions in the areas of reproduction, parenthood, illness, and death, as well as the consequences of what Pope Francis has often called a “throwaway culture.”

Discussion will also bring in elements of Pope Francis' chapter on technology in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si', raising questions such as: “Is the spread of technology is creating more justice and reducing certain inequalities? Or are inequalities growing?” Pegoraro said.

“Those who have this technology in hand, are they favoring global growth in various countries, especially in the relationship between the north and south of the world? Or do they run the risk of widening the gap between developed countries and those in the process of developing?”

He stressed the need to more clearly explore where the line should to be drawn between prolonging life and when to accept mortality, incorporating technology to reduce pain and help the person to have a “dignified death.”

Technology can help to keep a person comfortable, he said, but “it doesn't defeat death.” So the great challenge, then, is “to find the lines that are respected for every person, especially the most weak, vulnerable and suffering.”

In comments to CNA, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, said there is an urgent need to reflect on life “not as if it were an abstract idea, but in the concrete reality of people of all ages, in the different conditions in which they live, so that human life rediscovers its meaning, its vocation, and also its responsibility in the entire context of the planet.”

So while beginning of life issues such as abortion or end of life issues such as euthanasia are crucial modern talking points, they aren't the full picture, he said, explaining that the academy seeks to address “defending life in all its conditions,” including childhood, adolescence, and old age, as well as when it comes to other opics such as the death penalty.

“We interested in accompaniment at every moment, we are interested in making understood the contradiction of choices of new technologies in front of a humanistic vision,” he said, explaining that the recovery of a “humanistic” dimension is required for all “scientific areas that involve human life.”

Also present at the news briefing was Dr. Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at the Australian Catholic University.

In comments to CNA, Tobin said that “new technologies require us to think out (about) medicines, healing, ethics, and thinking out how that can be provided for people in a way that respects their dignity as human beings.”

New technologies have helped ensure that people suffering from various diseases have cures, “and can now live out what you might call a natural lifespan rather succumbing to some of these terrible diseases.”

However, the reverse side “is that people are often kept alive in circumstances in which they simply would not want that to happen, and they simply feel that they don't have a duty to accept what kind of healthcare is being offered to them,” Tobin said.

Because of this, “we need to think carefully about that, and help doctors who are looking after people at the end of their lives understand ethically and clinically what their responsibilities are because there is both over-treatement, and under-treatment, and we've really got to avoid both.”

New technologies, she said, have “augmented medicine's ability” to pursue noble objectives such as pain relief, various cures and organ transplantation.

“This is a wonderful new set of technologies,” Tobin said, while cautioning there is always a challenge in ensuring “that what's now possible is done in ways which respect both the internal ethic of medicine, and respect the dignity of the human being.”


Pope Francis' retooling of the JPII Institute shows his modus operandi

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 05:00

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The September 19 re-establishment of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Science on the Family and Marriage is a good object lesson in the modus operandi of Pope Francis. It offers observers some helpful lessons about the Roman Pontiff’s leadership style.

The John Paul II Pontifical Institute, founded by the late Polish Pope, whom Pope Francis calls the “Pope of the Family”, has developed as well-respected institution in theological circles. It is known to foster and promote theological discussions on family and marriage issues at twelve campuses around the world.

The institute’s work was mentioned in the 2014 Synod on the Family’s instrumentum laboris – its working document. It is worth noting, however, that no professors of the institute were invited to serve as theological experts to the 2014 Synod.

Fr. José Granados, however, who is one of the institute’s most prominent faculty members, was included among the participants of the 2015 Synod.

Nevertheless, some have suggested the institute seems to have been sidelined under Pope Francis.

The appointment of Archbishop Paglia as Grand Chancellor of the institute, together with the appointment of Professor Pierangelo Sequeri as its president, were interpreted as a shift away from the institute’s ordinary approach, which some speculated the Pope considered too traditional.

With the motu proprio refounding the institute, Pope Francis apparently wanted dispel any perception that he had sidelined the institute.

Speaking with journalists Sep. 20, Sequeri remarked twice that “the Pope renews an institute that was considered sidelined, and involves the same professors of the institute in this renewal.”

The institute’s new direction will not take shape until its statutes are drafted. It is possible that some faculty members will be involved in the drafting process. The Pope, however, gave clear indication of his intentions in the motu proprio.

According to Archbishop Paglia, the new institute will broaden its focus to include history, economics, and other social sciences.The social science focus will include a new endowed chair, to be named for  Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council's pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.

However, much remains uncertain about the institute’s future. Nothing is known about how the new statutes will be developed, nor if the institute’s present professors will be invited to stay on.

So how can the establishment of this new theological institute can give clues about Pope Francis' modus operandi?

First of all, it is clear that Pope Francis wants to make every reform very personal. He issued a motu proprio to renew a Pontifical Institute, an unusually involved step that might ordinarily be delegated, which seems intended to connect his desired reforms to his name and to his authority.

Likewise, this reform follows his pattern: all the others reforms he has enacted in the Curia have begun with a motu proprio or a chirograph.

In general, the Pope has left the details to be determined after announcing his intentions – discussion of the statutes of the new dicasteries has typically come after his announcements.

He has done the same with the new John Paul II Theological Institute. He issued a motu proprio, setting the direction, and he left the discussion of statutes, which govern the practical details of reform, to others.

A second characteristic of Pope Francis’ leadership style is that he likes to do reform “in the making.”

What does this mean? A response to the question can be provided by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

In the exhortation, the Pope stressed that “giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces”, and so “what we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.”

The Pope begins reforms, and then he waits for things to organically move in the direction for which he is calling.

Finally, it is an old saying in leadership that “people are policy.” Pope Francis seems to approach personnel decisions uniquely. Rather than firing people, the Roman Pontiff prefers to add new people or new groups to decision-making processes, in order to rebalance the general discussion.

At the renewed John Paul II Institute, it seems unlikely that the Pope will dismiss the full professors, who are hired into tenured positions. Instead, he will add to the faculty new chairs on different topics in order to broaden the conversation.

And then, if history is a good predictor, he will wait to see what happens next.


Pope mourns victims of 'senseless' Las Vegas shooting

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 18:34

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2017 / 06:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis offered his condolences and spiritual support to victims of a deadly shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 50 people dead and 200 more wounded when a gunman opened fire at a country music festival.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas, Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy,” read an Oct. 2 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Addressed to Las Vegas Bishop Joseph Anthony Pepe, the telegram offered the Pope's encouragement for the efforts of police and emergency service personnel. Francis also assured of his prayers “for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God.”

In what has become deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, at least 50 people died and 200 were wounded when a shooter opened fire on the last of a the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, Nev. just after 10p.m. Sunday night, according to Las Vegas Police.

According to the Las Vegas Police department, an estimated 406 people have been hospitalized after the incident.

The death toll, which police say is only preliminary, tops last year's massacre at a nightclub in Orlando, which left 49 dead. It was also reminiscent of a deadly shooting in Paris in November 2015 that killed 89 people as part of a coordinated attack by the Islamic State that left a total of 130 people dead.

The festival, which took place along the Las Vegas Strip, was sold out, and had drawn thousands of participants to see top performers such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.

Identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, the shooter opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, raining bullets on the open-air music festival happening below. Although the local sheriff department has not given an exact number of casualties, two of the at least 50 killed were off-duty officers.

Paddock was shot and killed by police at the scene. Officers believe he acted alone, but are unsure of his motive. They are also currently pursuing a female Asian companion, reported to be Paddock's roommate, as a “person of interest” in the incident.

In a tweet sent this morning, U.S. President Donald Trump offered his “warmest condolences and sympathies” to victims and families affected by “the terrible Las Vegas shooting.”

Various other global leaders have also voiced support and condolences, including representatives from the UK, Australia and Sweden.

In separate tweets, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston also offered his support to victims, their families and emergency workers, asking that “God grant strength and faith to families affected by last nights violence; Lord welcome the dead into your loving embrace.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Grant strength and faith to families affected by last nights violence; Lord welcome the dead into your loving embrace <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LasVegasShooting</a></p>&mdash; Cardinal Seán (@CardinalSean) <a href="">October 2, 2017</a></blockquote>
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He also prayed that God would bless all first responders “as they care for the victims of last nights' violence.”

Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas, Texas, also tweeted-out support, saying “Our prayers and concerns are with all those affected by the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. May God, the giver of all life, sustain us.”

You can’t change politics watching from a balcony, Pope Francis says

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 15:34

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2017 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said that we can’t improve our political landscape by observing and judging from afar, but that it involves personal involvement, which should always be done in a spirit of charity and helpfulness.

“Try to act personally instead of just looking and criticizing the work of others from the balcony,” the Pope said Oct. 1.

But make your advice constructive, he continued. “If the politician is wrong, go tell him, there are so many ways to say, ‘But I think that would be better like so, like so…’ Through the press, the radio... But say it constructively.”

“And do not look out from the balcony, look at her from the balcony waiting for her to fail.”

Pope Francis spoke to people in the Italian town of Cesena during a day trip to Cesena and Bologna Oct. 1. In Cesena he met with citizens of the town and with priests, religious and lay people at the city’s cathedral.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Cesena was the birthplace of Pope Pius VI and Pope Pius VII. Also in the 19th century Francesco Xaverio Castiglione (the future Pope Pius VIII) was bishop of Cesena, thus giving the city its nickname of the “city of the three popes.”

In Bologna the Pope’s schedule included meetings with migrants and refugees, clergy and religious, academics and students, and workers and the unemployed.

“The authentic face of politics and its reason for being,” Francis said, is “an invaluable service to the good of the whole community. And that is why the Church's social doctrine regards it as a noble form of charity.”

In order to re-establish the independence and the ability of politics to serve the public good, he continued, we must “act in such a way as to diminish inequalities, to promote the welfare of families with concrete measures, to provide a solid framework of rights-duties – balance both – and make them effective for everyone.”

Therefore, the Pope said, from the centrality of the “piazza” – the square – goes out the message that it is “essential to work together for the common good.”

“I invite you to consider the nobility of political action in the name and favor of the people,” he said. In recent years, the true aim of politics has appeared to retreat in the face of aggression and financial power.

Thus, we must “rediscover the value” of this essential part of society and give our contribution – recognizing the need for political ideas to be held up to reality and reshaped as necessary.

We shouldn’t claim an impossible perfection from those in public life, he stated, but we should still “demand” from politicians “the coherence of commitment, preparation, moral rectitude, initiative, forbearance, patience and strength of spirit in addressing today's challenges.”

This won’t fix everything quickly or easily, of course, he continued. “The magic wand doesn’t work in politics.” But if a politician does wrong: constructively tell them, he encouraged.

We all make mistakes, Francis said. And when we do, we should apologize, return to a right path and go on.

Concluding, he said that it is the right of everyone to have a voice in politics, but especially we should listen to “the young and the elderly.” To young people because they are the ones with the energy to do things, and to the elderly because they have the wisdom and authority of life.

The people expect from good politics the defense and “harmonious development” of their heritage and its best potential, he said.

“Let us pray to the Lord for the raising of good politicians who really care for society, the people and the good of the poor.”

First-of-its-kind congress leads global conversation on digital sexual child abuse

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 22:42

Rome, Italy, Sep 30, 2017 / 10:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A global congress to be held in Rome next week will focus on how to protect children in the digital age, bringing together various experts from around the world to develop concrete ways to combat the issue of online child sex abuse.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ told journalists Sept. 29 that this is an issue that is dangerous for “many, many young people in the world today.”

Head of the Center for Child Protection and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Zollner said he has spoken to many parents who do not know what to do about their children’s access to the internet: “Everyone is talking and they do not know what to do.”

With this congress, “we can propose something we believe could be useful.”

But this is just the beginning, he told CNA. “We will start now, but this is again, one step in a very long journey that needs persistence and perseverance and we try to give our contribution to that.”

The world congress, on the topic of "Child Dignity in the Digital World,” is being held in Rome Oct. 3-6. It has been organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection (CCP).

The week-long congress will include scientists, academic experts, leaders of civil society, high-level politicians, and religious representatives from around the world. It will conclude with a papal audience, where participants will present a final document – a declaration on future action – to Pope Francis.

In the congress “we will try to sort out some action points that will then be incorporated in the declaration that will be adopted by the participants of the congress at the end of Thursday's meetings,” Zollner said.

"Then that will be brought to the Holy Father, so it will be presented to him by a young person. And we hope then, that from those action points, concrete developments will take off."  

Among the speakers are Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who will give a keynote address on the Holy See and its commitment to combatting sexual abuse online.

Cardinal John Njue, archishop of Nairobi in Kenya, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, will also each present on the issue of safeguarding from the perspectives of Africa and Asia respectively.

Topics of the presentations include data and research, prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

Because the focus of the congress is children and vulnerable adults, Zollner said that including victim/survivors in the congress would not be possible.

“For the reason precisely to preserve their dignity, which is in the name of our congress, we decided against inviting declared victim/survivors of sexual abuse online,” he explained.

Instead, they have invited to observe the congress 10 university students, around the age of 20-22, who have grown up in the age of the internet.

They will have the opportunity in the plenary and working group sessions to voice “their perceptions, their concerns, and their experiences in dealing with this phenomenon,” he said.  

Another initiative of the congress is a call for scientific papers, which they put out at the conclusion of the week.

"We will invite the scientific world to engage in specific areas of concern in a scientifically valid way,” Zollner said. "We hope that this will create then a sort of avalanche of future processes and projects that can then be presented in two or three years’ time."