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Jesus not only sows the seed, he’ll pull the thorns, Pope Francis says

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 17:58

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2017 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis said that in the parable of the seed and the sower Jesus invites us to reclaim the ‘soil’ of our hearts by bringing to him, in prayer and Confession, the stones and thorns in need of healing.

"Jesus invites us today to look inward: to give thanks for our good ground and to work on the ground not yet good,” he said July 16.

"Let us ask ourselves if our heart is open to welcome with faith the seed of the Word of God. Let us ask ourselves if the rocks of laziness are still large and numerous within us; we identify and we call by name the brambles of our vices."

"We find the courage to make a beautiful reclamation of the land, bringing to the Lord in Confession and in prayer our stones and our stumps. In doing so, Jesus, a good sower, will be happy to do an extra work: to purify our hearts, removing the stones and thorns that stifle his Word.”

Pope Francis addressed the crowds in St. Peter's Square before leading the Angelus Sunday, reflecting on the day's Gospel of the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds.

When Jesus used parables, he noted, as in today's Gospel, he uses simple language and imagery from everyday life to help explain the mystery of the Kingdom of God in terms that can "easily be understood by everyone."

"That's why they listened willingly and appreciated his message that came straight to their heart."

In the parable, we know that Jesus is the sower, and in this image he doesn't impose, but proposes, the Pope said. He throws the seed, attracting us not by conquering us, but by giving himself to us.

And this seed, "how can it bear fruit?" he asked. "If we welcome him."

"Therefore the parable concerns above all us: it speaks, in fact, of the soil rather than of the sower. Jesus performs, so to speak, a 'spiritual radiography' of our heart, which is the ground upon which the seed of the Word falls.”

“Our heart, like soil, can be good and then the Word brings so much fruit, but it can also be hard, impermeable. This happens when we hear the Word, but it bounces off of us just like on a road: it does not enter,” he said.

He pointed out that between the good soil and the road of asphalt or 'sanpietrini' – the name of the rounded cobblestones that can be found in St. Peter's Square and around Rome – there are two intermediate terrains: the stony and the thorny.

In the stony ground the seed germinates, but doesn't put down deep roots, the Pope said.

"So is the superficial heart that welcomes the Lord, wants to pray, love and testify, but does not persevere, tends to wear and never "takes off". It is a thick heart, where the rocks of laziness prevail over the good land, where love is inconsistent and passable."

What do the thorns in the thorny ground represent? "'The world's concern and the seduction of wealth', so Jesus says explicitly," he said.

We all have these brambles in our hearts, such as making idols out of worldly wealth or power, or only living for ourselves. "You need to tear them away, otherwise the Word will not bear fruit, Francis emphasized.

July 16 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Pope concluded his message by saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "unsurpassed in welcoming the Word of God and putting it into practice."

May she help you "to purify your heart and preserve the presence of the Lord."

Pope: Caring for creation means caring for your brother and sister

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 19:06

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2017 / 07:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Friday sent a message to an international congress on care for our common home in the context of large cities, reminding participants that caring for the environment ultimately means having responsibility for our fellow man.

“We see an indifference to our common home and, unfortunately, to so many tragedies and needs that hit our brothers and sisters. This passivity demonstrates the ‘loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow-men on which all civil society is founded’ (‘Laudato Si’ 25).”

“Each territory and government should encourage responsible ways of acting in its citizens so that, with inventiveness, they can interact and favor the creation of a more habitable and healthier house,” the Pope said.

“Placing on each one the little that corresponds to him in his responsibility, much will be achieved.”

Pope Francis sent his letter, dated June 12, to participants in an international congress about his 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” and the challenges of those dwelling in large cities.

The July 13-15 congress, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was organized by the foundation "Antoni Gaudi for Great Cities" of Barcelona in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

In the message, Pope Francis pointed to references made in “Laudato Si” about the particular needs of people who live in large cities. These needs, he explained, need to be met with “three 'Rs:’” respect, responsibility and relationship.

“Respect is the fundamental attitude that man must have with creation. We have received it as a precious gift and we must strive for future generations to continue to admire and enjoy it,” he said.

Moreover, we must teach the next generation to have this care and respect for creation as well.

In St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of the Creatures" the saint wrote: "Praised be my Lord, for the sister of water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste."

“These adjectives,” the Pope explained, “express the beauty and importance of this element, which is indispensable for life.”

Just like other elements of our earth, clean and drinkable points to God’s love of his creatures, he continued, and societies have an obligation to guarantee safe water for everyone, because when water is not given the respect and attention it requires, it becomes a source of disease and a danger to society.

“It is a duty of all to create in society an awareness of respect for our environment; this benefits us and future generations,” Francis said.

“We cannot sit idly by when we notice a serious decrease in air quality or an increase in the production of waste that is not properly treated. These realities are the result of an irresponsible way of manipulating creation and call us to exercise an active responsibility for the good of all.”
The Pope noted that in both rural areas and large cities there is a growing lack of relationship. You see this in cities especially, he said, where you have a busy flow of people in and out.

Regardless of the causes, this can help to create a more multicultural society, fostering wealth and social and personal growth. But it can also make the society more closed and suspicious of each other.

“The lack of roots and the isolation of some people are forms of poverty, which can degenerate into ghettos and lead to violence and injustice. Instead, man is called to love and to be loved, establishing bonds of belonging and bonds of unity among all his fellow men,” he urged.

Some practical ways to do this is through the formation of groups in schools or parishes – communities that help build communion, a sense of belonging, and a network of support.

“It is important for society to work together in a political, educational and religious context to create warmer human relationships, to break the walls that isolate and marginalize,” he concluded.

“Please, I ask you to pray for me; and I beg the Lord to bless you.”

Jesuit publication slams perceived evangelical-Catholic coalition in US

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 23:56

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2017 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An analysis piece published Thursday in La Civilta Cattolica, discusses what it calls a “surprising” and unfortunate alliance between conservative Catholics and evangelicals in the U.S. on issues such as immigration – suggesting the two are in direct opposition to Pope Francis' message of mercy.

The article, published online July 13, is co-authored by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of the Jesuit publication, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor in chief of the Argentine edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper.

Both men are regarded as confidantes of Pope Francis. La Civilta Cattolica is also seen as a mouthpiece of sorts for the Holy See, as its text is revised and approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State before it is published.

Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa start from the US motto, In God We Trust, saying that for some this “is a simple declaration of faith,” but for others it is “the synthesis of a problematic fusion between religion and state, faith and politics, religious values and economy.”

The authors hold that in recent decades American politics have been shaped by “religion, political Manichaeism and a cult of the apocalypse.”

They cite President George W. Bush's speaking of the “axis of evil” and the US' duty to “free the world from evil” as an example of what they call “a Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil.”

Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa trace these to the evangelical-fundamentalist movement which becan in the early 20th century, and tie them to the consideration of the US as “a nation blessed by God.”

“They do not hesitate to base the economic growth of the country on a literal adherence to the Bible,” they write. “Over more recent years this current of thought has been fed by the stigmatization of enemies who are often 'demonized.'”

Fundamentalism has developed an exegesis which decontextualizes the Old Testament without being “guided by the incisive look, full of love, of Jesus in the Gospels,” they write, adding that “within this narrative, whatever pushes toward conflict is not off limits.”

“Another interesting aspect is the relationship with creation of these religious groups that are composed mainly of whites from the deep American South,” Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa state. “There is a sort of 'anesthetic' with regard to ecological disasters and problems generated by climate change. They profess 'dominionism' and consider ecologists as people who are against the Christian faith.”

Ecological problems are regarded by fundamentalists as signs of the apocalypse, they write, which “confirm their non-allegorical understanding of the final figures of the Book of Revelation and their apocalyptic hope in a 'new heaven and a new earth.'”

The authors find a prophetic formula to this worldview, characterizing it as charged to “fight the threats to American Christian values and prepare for the imminent justice of an Armageddon, a final showdown between Good and Evil, between God and Satan.”

They also cite Rousas Rushdoony, a 20th century Protestant pastor, in this regard, and note his influence on Steve Bannon, who is chief strategist in the Trump administration.

Rushdoony supports, they say, the subjection of public norms to religious morals and a “theocratic necessity” which “submit(s) the state to the Bible with a logic that is no different from the one that inspires Islamic fundamentalism.”

Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa then treat of the prosperity gospel and the rhetoric of religious liberty, first citing Norman Vincent Peale, another 20th century Protestant pastor. Peale authored The Power of Positive Thinking and was close to President Donald Trump, as well as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

In the section treating of the prosperity gospel, they also speak about “a particular form of proclamation of the defense of 'religious liberty.'”

“The erosion of religious liberty is clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism,” they write. “But we must avoid its defense coming in the fundamentalist terms of a 'religion in total freedom,' perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.”

Next, the authors describe what they call a “fundamentalist ecumenism” developing between evangelical fundamentalists and “Catholic Integralists”, who they say are “brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.”

They note that some Catholics “express themselves in ways that until recently were unknown in their tradition and using tones much closer to Evangelicals … Both Evangelical and Catholic Integralists condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.”

For Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa “the most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.”

They describe this as a paradoxical “ecumenism of hate” which contrasts with Pope Francis' “ecumenism that moves under the urge of inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges. This presence of opposing ecumenisms – and their contrasting perceptions of the faith and visions of the world where religions have irreconcilable roles – is perhaps the least known and most dramatic aspect of the spread of Integralist fundamentalism.”

“Here we can understand why the pontiff is so committed to working against 'walls' and any kind of 'war of religion.'”

In the article, Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa argue that “(t)he religious element should never be confused with the political one.”

“Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other…There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends,” they say.

As an example, they point to the “shocking rhetoric” of Church Militant, a website formerly known as Real Catholic TV, which changed its name to in 2012 after being told by the Archdiocese of Detroit that it did not have permission to describe itself as “Catholic.”

Church Militant and its founder Michael Vorris are known for their controversial positions. Vorris has claimed on one of his programs that only faithful Catholics should be allowed to vote. In 2011, Vorris was banned from speaking at any facility owned by the Diocese of Scranton, Penn.

Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa noted that the group portrayed the U.S. elections as a “spiritual war,” creating “a close analogy between Donald Trump and Emperor Constantine, and between Hilary Clinton and Diocletian.” By suggesting that Trump’s victory could be attributed to the prayers of Americans, Church Militant portrayed “a divine election,” they said.

“This warlike and militant approach seems most attractive and evocative to a certain public, especially given that the victory of Constantine – it was presumed impossible for him to beat Maxentius and the Roman establishment.”

A truly Christian theopolitical plan would be eschatological, they said.

“And this is why the diplomacy of the Holy See wants to establish direct and fluid relations with the superpowers, without entering into pre-constituted networks of alliances and influence.”

In contrast, Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa say, Pope Francis “radically rejects the idea of activating a Kingdom of God on earth as was at the basis of the Holy Roman Empire and similar political and institutional forms, including at the level of a ‘party’.”

They also warn that fear of chaos and a breakdown of order is what “underlies the persuasive temptation for a spurious alliance between politics and religious fundamentalism.”

Political success becomes assured by “exaggerating disorder” and “agitating the souls of the people by painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism,” they say. At this point, religion becomes “a guarantor of order.”

Pope Francis, however, is fighting against “the manipulation of this season of anxiety and insecurity,” they say. The Pope “gives no theological-political legitimacy to terrorists, avoiding any reduction of Islam to Islamic terrorism. Nor does he give it to those who postulate and want a ‘holy war’ or to build barrier-fences crowned with barbed wire.”

“(T)he Christian roots of a people are never to be understood in an ethnic way,” Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa say. “Triumphalist, arrogant and vindictive ethnicism is actually the opposite of Christianity.”


Former president, treasurer of Pope’s hospital charged with misuse of funds

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 18:22

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2017 / 06:22 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Thursday that an investigation involving the former president and treasurer of the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome will proceed to trial before the Vatican court.

The former president, Giuseppe Profiti, and former treasurer, Massimo Spina, have been charged with the illicit use of hospital funds in the amount of 422,005.16 euros ($480,600.58) for the refurbishment of the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone lives.

The crime is said to have been carried out during the period of November 2013-May 28, 2014 and to have benefited the construction firm of Italian businessman Gianantonio Bandera, which was carrying out the renovations on the apartment.

Profiti and Spina were summoned to appear before the court by a June 16, 2017 decree from the president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Dalla Torre. The first hearing will take place July 18.

The Vatican reported it was conducting an investigation into this matter in 2016 after documents were published implicating that there may have been the illicit transfer of funds from the hospital’s foundation.

Just over one week ago, the Vatican held a press conference on the hospital to confirm that though it has had problems in the past, the Vatican has worked to resolve them.

The operations of the Bambino Gesù Hospital had come under scrutiny after a report by the Associated Press, which examined the hospital’s operations under its previous 2008-2015 administration, finding among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had some subpar standards of care.  

In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery and risk of infection due to overcrowding.

After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved.

“For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said at the July 4 press conference.

The hospital Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the “Pope's Hospital.” While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.

Art experts solve Renaissance mystery in papal palace

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 04:58

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2017 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two works painted by Renaissance master Raphael have been newly identified after art experts restored famous frescoes in the Apostolic Palace of Vatican City.

Arnold Nesselrath, an art historian who heads technical and scientific research at the Vatican Museums, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that 16th century sources had offered clues. These sources said that Raphael had indeed painted two figures in the Apostolic Palace’s Hall of Constantine as tests of his oil technique.

In Nesselrath’s words, these figures were described as being “of a much higher quality than the ones around them.”

The exact identity of these figures was forgotten until the 21st century.

In an art restoration process that began in 2015, experts cleaned the works and removed the effects of centuries of previous restoration work.

They discovered that Raphael himself had painted two figures of women who serve as allegories for the virtues of Friendship and Justice. Only the art restoration made apparent Raphael’s oil technique.

The Hall of Constantine was intended to serve as a reception room in the Apostolic Palace of Vatican City. It depicts the life of the Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to seek baptism. The four frescoes depict The Vision of the Cross, the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, the Baptism of Constantine, and the Donation of Constantine.

The Vision of the Cross fresco depicts a key event said to have been a step towards Constantine’s conversion to Christianity during his battles to become emperor. The fresco depicts the emperor in a military camp looking towards giant cross in the sky that is surrounded by Greek words saying, “In this sign, conquer.”

At one side of this fresco, a woman labeled as Friendship wears a blue gown. She is seated to the left of St. Clement I, a first century Pope, the art blog Hyperallergic reports.

Another figure believed to be painted by Raphael is on the far right side of the fresco depicting Constantine’s battle at the Milvian bridge with his brother-in-law Maxentius, a rival imperial claimant. This woman’s image is labeled as Justice and bears a set of scales, at which she is staring.

Raphael, working under a commission from Julius II, had sketched plans for the Hall of Constantine before his death in 1520. The frescos’ completion was left to his students.

“They continued in the traditional method and have left only these two figures, autographs of the master,” Nesselrath told La Stampa.

Three other rooms in the Apostolic Palace feature Raphael’s work, including his famous depiction of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle in his work “School of Athens.”

Pope calls catechists to be joyful, creative witnesses of Christ

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 02:18

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2017 / 02:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message sent to catechists from all over the world, Pope Francis stressed the need to not only make Christ the center of their lives, but to be creative and adaptable in finding ways to reach the people in their area.

“The catechist is creative; they search for different means and forms of announcing Christ,” the Pope said in his July 12 message.

Believing in Jesus is “beautiful,” he said, because Jesus is the way, truth and life “who fills our existence with joy and gladness.”

“This quest to make Jesus known as supreme beauty leads us to find new signs and ways of transmitting the faith,” he said, noting that while the means might be different, what's important is to imitate “the style of Jesus, who adapted to the people he had before him in order to make them close to the love of God.”

To change and adapt oneself in order to make the message closer to the people is necessary, he said, but stressed that at the same time, the message being transmitted is “always the same, because God doesn't change, but renews all things in him.”

Pope Francis said that in the quest of making Jesus known to the world, “we must not be afraid because he precedes us in this task. He is already in the man of today, and there awaits us.”

The Pope sent his message to participants in the First International Symposium on Catechesis, which is taking place July 11-14 in Buenos Aires.

The event is being offered through the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), and is organized by the Episcopal Commission for Catechesis and Biblical Pastoral Care.

Pope Francis opened his message, sent in Spanish, by referencing a quote from his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

He noted that at a certain point, when one of St. Francis' followers asked to be taught how to preach, the saint responded by saying: “Brother, when we visit the sick, help children and give to the poor, we are already preaching.”

“In this beautiful lesson is enclosed the vocation and task of the catechist,” he said, explaining that catechesis is not simply a job or a task external to the person of the catechist.

Rather, “their whole life revolves around this mission,” he said, noting that to be a catechist is “a vocation of service in the Church, which is received as a gift on the part of the Lord and must in turn be transmitted.”

To do this, one must return to the first encounter with Christ that changed their life. This moment, Francis said, is “the fundamental announcement that must resonate again and again in the life of the Christian, and even more in the one who is called to announce and teach the faith.”

The Pope then pointed to the importance of respecting popular piety in the people, saying it's important to “care for the potential of piety and love that popular religiosity holds so that they transmit not only the contents off the faith, but a true school of faith is created which cultivates the gift of the faith that has been received.”

A catechist is also someone who journeys both from and with Christ, he said. “They are not a person who starts from their own ideas and preferences, but who allows themselves to look to him, to this gaze that makes their heart burn.”

The more that Jesus is the center of our lives, the more he teaches us to go out of ourselves, Francis said, adding that we are then “decentralized” and able to be close to others.

“This dynamism of love is like the movement of the heart,” and Jesus himself gives us an example of how to live this when he retreats to pray, and then “immediately goes to the encounter of those who are hungry and thirsty for God in order to heal and save them.”

“From here arises the importance of the 'mystagogical' catechesis, which is the constant encounter with the Word and with the sacraments, and not something merely occasional prior to the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation,” he said.

Pope Francis closes his speech by thanking catechists for their work, “above all because you walk with the People of God,” and encouraged them “to be joyful messengers, guardians of the good and the beauty that shines forth in the faithful life of the missionary disciple.”


Cardinal Müller refutes claims about conversation with Pope

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 21:01

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2017 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Gerhard Müller has strenuously denied media reports alleging Pope Francis asked the German prelate five pointed questions before informing him that his term as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not being renewed.

The claims have been widely reported on social media.

Citing an unnamed German source, who in turn claims to have received the information from another person, the US-based news site One Peter Five and Italian Vaticanista Marco Tosatti have reported that Pope Francis, when meeting Cardinal Müller June 30, allegedly asked the then-prefect five questions about his views on a range of topics, including the introduction of a female diaconate and priesthood, the abolition of clerical continence, his stance regarding Amoris laetitia, and his stance on Francis sacking three members of staff in the congregation.

According to these reports, after hearing the German cardinal's answers, Francis then informed him his mandate was ending and left the room, leaving behind a patiently waiting Cardinal Müller, who was expecting the Holy Father to be retrieving a token of gratitude, until an embarrassed Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Papal Household, told the stumped cardinal that the meeting was in fact over.

Now Cardinal Müller has told Vaticanista Guido Horst that none of these claims are true. Writing in a guest editorial published at CNA Deutsch, Horst describes personally meeting the German clergyman the morning of July 11 in Rome.

The journalist, chief correspondent of the "Tagespost" newspaper, describes showing a surprised cardinal a printout of the reports: Müller himself had not seen the reporting on the Internet (his secretary, who provides the 69-year-old with online access, is on leave).

The cardinal was "flabbergasted to read this description of his meeting with the Pope", Horst writes, quoting Cardinal Müller as stating: "This is incorrect".

In fact, the whole meeting had run very differently Cardinal Müller asserted, and the claims made by the "anonymous German source" were quite false.

The comments echo a brief email sent by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, to both One Peter Five and Marco Tosatti yesterday. In it, Burke states that the claimed "reconstruction is totally false" and requests that the story be updated.

Cleveland, Juneau dioceses receive new bishops

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 23:25

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2017 / 11:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis appointed Fr. Andrew Bellisario, C.M., as Bishop of Juneau, and Auxiliary Bishop Nelson Perez as Bishop of Cleveland.

Bishop Perez, 56, has been Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre since 2012. He succeeds Bishop Richard Lennon, who resigned in December 2016 at the age of 69 due to health reasons.

Fr. Bellisario, 60, a member of the Congregation of the Mission and rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage, succeeds Bishop Edward Burns, who was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas in February.

Bishop Perez said July 11 that he goes to Cleveland “with a deep love for the Lord, His Church, and a profound love for the priesthood that I received as a wonderful gift twenty-eight years ago.”

“I am filled with excitement and enthusiasm to get to know my brother priests, deacons, religious, and faithful of this great diocese and learn all I can possibly learn to serve you, with the grace of God, to the very best of my ability.”

Bishop Perez was born June 16, 1961 in Miami to Cuban parents, and grew up in New Jersey.

He received a Bachelor of Arts from Montclair State University in New Jersey in 1984, followed by ecclesiastical studies at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania. He received a master's degree in theology, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia May 20, 1989.

In addition to his service in parishes, he was also vice director of the Archdiocesan Office for Hispanics from 1990-1993 and founding director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization from 1993-2002.

From 2003-2005 he was a member of the Presbyteral Council of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He also worked in education, including teaching courses in psychology and religious studies at LaSalle University from 1994-2008 and developmental psychology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in 2011.

He was given the title of Monsignor by St. John Paul II in 1998.

Bishop Perez was named an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre June 8, 2012, and was ordained a bishop that July.

As auxiliary bishop he was episcopal vicar of the eastern vicariate and the Hispanic apostolate. He also served on the U.S. bishops’ conference as president of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs and as a member of the committees on Cultural Diversity in the Church and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

He also chaired the diocesan planning committee V National Encuentro meeting for the pastoral care of Hispanic Catholics.

Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre said, “Bishop Perez’ great strength, pastoral insight and support of the People of God in our parishes was drawn from his years as a dedicated pastor of parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

“He experienced every joy, sorrow and challenge a parish pastor experiences and our priests understood that he knew them and supported them,” he continued.

“With his background in counseling, the depth of his prayer life and liturgical life, and his joyful and charismatic personality, Bishop Perez brings both the Joy and Laughter of the Gospel into every room he enters.”

He will be installed as the eleventh Bishop of Cleveland Sept. 5.

Fr. Bellisario is a priest of the Congregation of the Mission, commonly known as the Vincentian Fathers.

“I am humbled and grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for appointing me as the next Bishop of Juneau,” Fr. Bellisario said.  “It is with humility, respect and great joy that I look forward to serving the people of the Diocese of Juneau.”  

He was born near Los Angeles Dec. 19. 1956. He attended Saint Vincent Minor Seminary in Montebello from 1971-1975 before entering the Congregation of the Mission Aug. 14, 1975.

Fr. Bellisario studied philosophy at Saint Mary's of the Barrens Seminary College in Perryville, Missouri from 1976-1980, and received his masters of divinity after studying at De Andreis Institute of Theology in Illinois from 1980-1984.

He was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Mission June 16, 1984. He served as Dean of Students at Saint Vincent for two years before serving as a priest at various parishes in Los Angeles County.

Fr. Bellisario was also director of the DePaul Evangelization Center and a superior, and then provincial, of the DePaul Residence Center in California.

From 2003-2015 he served as director of the Daughters of Charity in Los Altos, before becoming Rector of the Co-Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Anchorage in 2014.

From 2015 he has been the superior of the International Missions in Alaska.

He will be ordained and installed as Bishop of Juneau Oct. 10.

Pope Francis creates new path to beatification under ‘offering of life’

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 18:22

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2017 / 06:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis declared a new category of Christian life suitable for consideration of beatification called “offering of life” – in which a person has died prematurely through an offering of their life for love of God and neighbor.

Though similar to martyrdom, this definition fits those Servants of God who have in some way given up their life prematurely for charity, though the circumstances may fall outside the strict definition of martyrdom, which requires the presence of a persecutor.

The changes were issued in a Motu proprio July 11, which formally added the particular case to the paths by which a person under investigation for beatification may be discerned to be worthy, in addition to the traditional three paths: martyrdom, a life of heroic virtue and the very rare “exceptional cases.”

The change in norms was made with the support of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which studied the matter during a plenary session Sept. 27, 2016.

In the apostolic letter, Pope Francis wrote that “They are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

“It is certain that the heroic offering of life, suggested and supported by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ, and therefore deserves the admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised in a heroic degree the Christian virtues,” the Pope continued.

The document is titled “maiorem hac dilectionem,” or “greater love than this,” after the verse from the Gospel of John which says: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”

There are six new articles, including the first making “the offering of life” a new particular case in the beatification and canonization process, as distinguished from the particular cases of martyrdom and heroic virtue.

There are four criteria this case must meet in order to be “valid and efficacious” for the beatification of a Servant of God.

The first, that it is a “free and voluntary offer of life and heroic acceptance” – for the sake of charity – of a certain and non-lengthy death, showing “a connection between the offering of life and premature death.”

There also must have been the exercise, at least of an ordinary level, of the Christian virtues before the offering of life and up until the moment of death, as well as the existence of signs of and a reputation of holiness, at least after death.

And finally, the usual requirement of a confirmed miracle springing from the intercession of the Servant of God for beatification, after his or her death, must be in place.

The burden of responsibility for showing that an offering of life took place is on the diocese or eparchy submitting the positio – the collection of documents which give the evidence supporting the cause for sainthood – to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The remaining changes are largely an amendment of the pertinent norms from the 1983 documents "Divinus perfectionis Magister," Official Acts of the Holy See Vol. LXXV, and “New Laws for Causes of Saints,” to include the term “offering of life” alongside that of “martyrdom” and “virtues.”

Gluten and Communion: What's a celiac to do?

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 15:01

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The norms regarding gluten and Communion hosts that went viral this weekend are nothing new in the Catholic Church.

On Saturday morning, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a circular letter to bishops reiterating existing norms regarding the matter of the Eucharist, including the norm that Communion hosts must contain some amount of gluten to be valid matter for consecration.

By Saturday night, the (misconstrued) news had spread like wildfire: “Catholic Church bans celiacs from Communion!” many media outlets declared. It was such a hot topic that Twitter declared it a “moment” in world news.

But these were existing norms - there was no change, no announcement of new norms, nor banning of celiacs from the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Gluten-free hosts have always been invalid matter for the sacrifice of the Mass, meaning that Catholics with celiac disease have already grappled with other options for Communion.

Usually, such “reminder” letters are issued when someone, generally a bishop, has raised a question or has been alerted of a possible abuse of the norm.

Still, the letter left lingering questions regarding people with celiac disease (or those with other serious allergies to wheat) and Communion. Here’s what the Church, and Catholics with celiac disease, have to say about going gluten free for Communion.

Why must a Communion host contain at least some gluten?

Wheat bread and wine of the grape are the matter of the sacrament of the Eucharist because Christ instituted the sacrament under these species. Moreover, Christ compared himself to a grain of wheat, and to the vine.

At some point along the line the question of gluten came arose, and whether the bread used for Holy Communion necessitated at least some gluten (and its accompanying protein gliadin) to be considered wheat bread that was valid matter for the sacrament.

A July 2003 circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noting documents from the 1980s and '90s, recalled that “Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.”

It added that “Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.”

And in 2004 the Congregation for Divine Worship wrote in its instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum that “The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.”

That said, the Church recognizes that it mustn't exclude from receiving Communion Catholics with celiac disease, and has made accommodation for those who are unable to consume normal bread.

Options celiacs have for Communion: Advice from a priest with celiac disease

A layperson affected by celiac disease who is unable to receive even a low-gluten host may receive Communion under the species of wine only.

A priest in a similar situation, when taking part in a concelebration, may with permission of the Ordinary receive Communion under the species of wine only. But such a priest may not celebrate the Eucharist individually, nor may he preside at a concelebration.

Father Joseph Faulkner, a priest of the diocese of Lincoln, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008.

Already a priest, he had to receive special permission from his diocese to use low-gluten hosts in order to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Fr. Faulkner told CNA he was surprised that the letter regarding communion norms exploded so quickly on Twitter, but he saw it as a teachable moment.

The problem of gluten is especially pressing for priests, who must consume Communion under both species at a Mass which they celebrate individually.

For Father Faulkner, he has found that the best low-gluten hosts are made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. The sister’s website includes a page about proper storage and distribution of low-gluten hosts so as to avoid cross-contamination.

While the hosts are not low-gluten enough to be considered gluten free (which is understood to be less than 20 parts per million), they are low enough to be approved by the Celiac Support Association, which has some of the most stringent guidelines available on what celiacs can safely consume, Father said.

“I throw up if I eat bread, but I consume 8-9 large, low gluten hosts per week, and have done that for 9 years, and I don’t get sick from them,” he told CNA.

Father Faulkner said he recommended that any celiac wary of the low-gluten hosts obtain a few of them, unconsecrated, and try tiny particles to see if they are able to safely consume them.

For celiacs who are unable to receive these low-gluten hosts, Fr. Faulkner said “the safest and most certain thing a person could do would be to ask to receive (the Precious Blood) from a chalice other than the chalice that the priest uses.”

That’s because the chalice of wine that the priest uses contains the frumentum - the little bit of Host dropped in during the Angus Dei. To avoid any cross-contamination, a separate chalice is necessary.

“That’s the most certain way, and when you receive the Precious Blood, you receive Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, so you don’t have to worry” about only receiving part of the sacrifice, he said.

For those who are able to receive the low gluten hosts, travelling with a sleeve of unconsecrated hosts can be a way to ensure that they can receive Communion in different parishes, Fr. Faulkner said.

“Just go up to the pastor and explain, ‘Hi, I’m a celiac, can I have one of these hosts consecrated on a separate paten?’” he said. “Because parishes want to be accommodating, but if they don’t have a celiac in their parish they’re probably not going to stock (low-gluten hosts) in their fridge.”

The lay Catholic experience: What it’s like finding gluten-free Communion

Michelle De Groot is a layperson with celiac disease in the Diocese of Arlington. She said that for a long time, she would approach priests in the sacristy before Mass to ask them to consecrate a separate chalice of wine, so that she could safely receive without cross-contamination.

“That was always kind of stressful because sometimes the priest would understand what I was talking about and sometimes not. And they didn't always have a second chalice handy,” De Groot told CNA.

“So sometimes I'd just receive anyway from the cup with (the frumentum) and sometimes I'd make a spiritual communion instead,” she said. A spiritual communion is a uniting of oneself to the Sacrifice of the Mass through prayer, and can be made whether one is able to receive Communion or not.

Then, De Groot found out about the low-gluten altar breads made by the Benedictine Sisters. After doing her research, she decided to try these hosts, since they are approved as celiac-safe.

“I've never had any symptoms,” she said. De Groot says she also travels with her own supply of low-gluten hosts and a pyx (a small, round container for hosts) that allow her to receive Communion at parishes that may otherwise be unprepared.

She said while her celiac diagnosis was an emotional one for her at first, it has allowed her to establish relationships with priests and Eucharistic ministers at her parish and other churches she frequents.

“At my home (parish), it's even not the end of the world if i'm running a few minutes late because they know me and my needs - whereas when I was first diagnosed, I had to get to church 15 minutes ahead to give time for the awkward explanations,” she said.

“If anything, celiac has been good for me in terms of my relationship to my parishes - I'm not an isolated stranger there, I'm known!”

Molly O’Connor is also a Catholic with celiac disease, who expressed similar frustrations with trying to make sure the Communion she received was both valid and safe. Having lived in six local Churches throughout the country, she said experiences varied widely from parish to parish.

“I typically just receive the cup at Communion, and I try both to sit in a part of the church where Communion is distributed by a priest so I may receive a blessing and near a cup that doesn't have part of the host in it. If that sounds complicated, it is!” she said.

Travelling can be difficult, she said, as it can be hard to know whom to approach about receiving Communion. Parishes also often don’t announce whether they have low-gluten hosts, or how low-gluten they are, and not all parishes are conscious about cross-contamination, she said.

The U.S. Bishops issued a letter in 2012, updated in April 2016, regarding low-gluten and gluten-free communion options, as well as guidelines to avoid cross-contamination that can be found here.

O’Connor said the best situations have been when priests consecrate a separate chalice for her, and when parishes announce specifics about low-gluten or gluten-free options.

“As the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith, I think making Communion accessible to celiac and gluten-sensitive Catholics, in a manner consistent with Vatican and the U.S. Bishop’s norms, is paramount,” she said.

“How diminished is our faith life if we are unable to share in the paschal mystery with our fellow Catholics?”

Are you grateful for the work of sailors? You should be, the Vatican says

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 22:34

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2017 / 10:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, the Catholic Church held a special day to remember the hard work and challenges surrounding the occupation of sailors and other maritime workers, who are responsible for transporting roughly 90 percent of the world’s goods.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, sent a message for “Sea Sunday” July 9, urging people to remember in prayer sailors and their families, who work under challenging conditions in order to make our lives better.

“In our daily lives, we are surrounded by and use many objects and products that at some stage of their journey towards us have been transported on vessels. It is difficult for us to imagine behind these objects the faces of the many seafarers who have secured a smooth sailing for the vessel to deliver these commodities to the port safely,” Cardinal Turkson wrote.

“On Sea Sunday we are invited to recognize and express our gratitude to this force of more than 1.5 million seafarers, (the majority of them coming from developing countries), who with their hard work and sacrifices are making our life more comfortable…”

Though sailors are indispensable to the transportation of the world's goods, there are often many challenges to their dignity, alongside the many difficulties in their lives and the lives of their families, the cardinal pointed out.

He drew attention to five of these difficulties in particular, including the long periods away from their families and the increased risk of isolation and loneliness.

“In spite of the great progress in technology, which has improved communication between seafarers and their loved ones, the long months away from the family are still a huge sacrifice that often reflects negatively on family life,” he said.

“Mothers are left alone, forced to play multiple roles with children growing up with an absent father. It is important that in our pastoral ministry, we pay special attention to the families of seafarers by initiating and supporting the creation of seafarer’s wives groups to provide mutual care and assistance.”

Though social media and technology may give seafarers a greater connection to people around the world, he pointed out, on the other hand it may also create a greater distance from their fellow crew members.

This can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression, which is a common ailment in this profession, illustrated by the sobering rates of suicide, the foremost cause of death among seafarers.

For those who work in maritime ministry, “our function especially during visits on board is to try to create a ‘human connection’ and strengthen the ‘human communication,’” Cardinal Turkson said.

Another challenge is the increase in security at ports, brought about by the rise in terrorism. This increase may restrict seafarers’ access to the port, keeping them from disembarking. It may also restrict the access of welfare visitors, preventing them from coming on board.

We understand the need for security for the protection of people and goods, Cardinal Turkson noted, but “on the other hand, we must make sure that no one will be discriminated against and prevented to go ashore because of nationality, race or religion.”

We must also “advocate for the fundamental right of the crews to ‘have access to shore-based facilities and services to secure their health and well-being,’” as per Maritime Labor Convention regulations.

Despite the minimum international requirements of the human and labor right of seafarers, crews may still be cheated out of their salary, exploited, abused in their work, unjustly criminalized for maritime accidents and even abandoned in foreign ports, Cardinal Turkson continued, calling on the maritime authorities to be vigilant in preventing these abuses.

And lastly, though the threat of piracy has decreased in recent years, the “danger of armed attacks and hijackings is still very high in some geographical areas.”

“We would like to invite the maritime community not to let down the guard and to implement all the necessary measures that will guarantee the safety and the protection not only of the cargo but most of all, of the crew.”

Apostleship of the Sea, or Stella Maris, is a Catholic organization which provides pastoral care for seafarers and their families. Their next World Congress, held every five years, will take place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in October of this year.

The focus of the congress this year is fishermen and fishing, Cardinal Turkson said. Like seafarers, fishermen also spend a long time at sea. And despite being considered one of the most dangerous professions in the world, they still receive low wages and benefits.

The congress, with qualified speakers and presenters, will increase awareness of and attention to this issue and the issues of human trafficking and forced labor in fishing, as well as Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“We will strengthen our network with the objective to increase cooperation between the Apostleship of the Sea of the different nations; we will share resources and best practices to develop specific skills, particularly in the fishing sector,” he concluded.

“Let us ask Mary, Star of the Sea, to sustain our service and dedication to seafarers, fishermen and their families and to protect all the people of the sea until they reach the ‘safe port’ of heaven.”



Friends, colleagues remember the 'gentleman' Joaquin Navarro-Valls

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 21:16

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2017 / 09:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his 22 years as spokesman for St. John Paul II, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls became somewhat of a legend in the Vatican – not only for his keen professional abilities and insight into the Pope's mind, but also for his genuine kindness and deep spiritual life.

In a word, most who knew the late Spanish layman, who died earlier this week, have referred to him as a “gentleman” who was elegant, professional, kind and incredibly savvy.

Fr. John Wauck, a longtime friend of Navarro-Valls, described him as “an old-school gentleman and a consummate professional – capable, discreet, committed, loyal.”

Likewise, Greg Burke, current Director of the Holy See Press Office, said after announcing news of Navarro's passing on Twitter that “Joaquin Navarro embodied what Ernest Hemingway defined as courage: grace under pressure.”

Burke said that he had met Navarro-Valls while working as a correspondent for Time Magazine the same year that the publication had named St. John Paul II “Man of the Year.”

In dealing with the Pope's spokesman, Burke said “I expected to find a man of faith, but I found a man of faith who was also a first class professional” that was already well known and respected by his peers in the communications world.

“I didn't always agree with Navarro, but he always behaved like a Christian gentlemen – and those can be hard to find these days,” Burke said.

Navarro-Valls was born in Cartagena, Spain in 1936. He studied medicine at the Universities in Granada and Barcelona, and worked as a professional psychiatrist and teaching medicine before obtaining degrees in journalism and communications.

He joined Opus Dei after meeting its founder St. Josemaria Escriva, continuing to collaborate with the founder in Rome, where he moved in 1970.

In Rome he was a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper ABC and was twice elected president of the Rome-based Foreign Press Association in Italy.

He was the first lay journalist to hold the position of Director of the Vatican Press Office, which he was appointed to by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984. He served through the Pope’s death and two years into the pontificate of Benedict XVI before retiring in 2006.

After, he served as president of the advisory board of the Opus Dei-affiliated Campus Biomedical University in Rome until his death.

In his tenure at the Vatican Press Office spanning more than two decades, Navarro-Valls helped to modernize Vatican communications, especially as technology advanced. As Burke said, “he lived through the fax to the age of the internet.”

In 1992, he used $2 million to equip the press office with up-to-date technology and to modernize the facilities. He also streamlined the distribution of materials by making archives, documents and the Pope's activities accessible online.

He died in Rome July 5 surrounded by fellow members of Opus Dei after battling terminal cancer. His funeral was held Thursday, July 6 at 11a.m. at the basilica of Sant'Eugenio, and was celebrated by the Vicar General of Opus Dei, Bishop Mariano Fazio.

Mario Biasetti, a journalist under the last five popes and a friend and colleague of Navarro-Valls, said  he was a professional journalist, and it showed in everything he did.

Even when a colleague or a journalist would ask him a tough question, “it didn’t faze him,” Biasetti said. “He would tell you exactly what happened, but he would do it with a smile.”

“Joachin Navarro was a very well thought of man all-around. He had no difficulty to speak with anybody, whether officially or not officially.”

Biasetti traveled on many papal trips with John Paul II, and Navarro was always there and always by his side, he said. He was also always willing to pitch in and “always came through” for journalists with whatever they needed.

For Burke, one of the key things that stood out about Navarro-Valls is that he was someone who would work “shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us,” who “knew the world” and was good with languages.

Burke noted that before coming to the Vatican, Navarro worked as a correspondent, “and his colleagues from around the globe clearly recognized his merits, electing him President of the Stampa Estera in Rome.”

“I remember watching Navarro closely during the U.N. Population Conference in Cairo – one of the best examples of what Pope Francis calls ideological colonization. It was fascinating to see someone who was defending the faith, but he wasn’t on the defensive. He was leading the fight.”

Asked about what, if any, advice he had given Burke on doing the job, the spokesman said the advice he got “was more personal than professional, such as ‘don't neglect your interior life, and make sure you pray – you'll need it in this job.’”

This attention to the spiritual life is something that was also obvious to others who worked with Navarro. In Biasetti's words, the Spaniard “was a journalist, yes, but he was also a churchman.”

Fr. Wauck, a professor of the Institutional Church Communications faculty at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome and a fellow member of Opus Dei, recalled that this spiritual dynamic was evident even in Navarro's work.

The priest said that when he thinks of Navarro, the first thing that comes to mind is “the conversion of the Time magazine reporter Wilton Wynn,” a well-known old-time reporter in the Middle East and Rome during John Paul II's pontificate.

“Naturally, it was the vibrant Christian example of the Pope that attracted Wilton to the faith, but his long friendship with Navarro-Valls played a key part as well,” Wauck said, adding that Navarro-Valls “maintained an affectionate concern for Wilton’s spiritual well-being for the rest of his life.”

Another memory the priest recalled is “a small act of kindness” that took place over the summer some 15 years ago.

Fr. Wauck said that he had mentioned, in passing, in front of Navarro, that he had broken his swimming goggles. “The next day, I found a new pair on my desk, and they were much better than the ones I’d broken.”

Fr. Federico Lombardi, Navarro-Valls' immediate successor as Director of the Holy See Press Office, also reflected on his relationship with his late predecessor, calling to mind Navarro's character and impact on Vatican communications.

Lombardi recalled meeting Navarro after coming to Rome in 1991 to take on the role as Director of Programming for Vatican Radio.

After meeting and working alongside the Spaniard, particularly when the Pope traveled abroad, it immediately became clear that he was “a stable and important component” of the papal entourage, “but also likeable, friendly and cordial,” Lombardi said.

“Naturally I already knew him for his fame as a brilliant and competent 'spokesman' for the Pope,” he said, noting that the official title for someone in Navarro's position is “Director of the Holy See Press Office.”

However, in the case of Navarro-Valls, spokesman “was an entirely appropriate name.”

Even if this wasn't the official description of his duty - which was rather "Director of the Press Office" - it must be said that in his case it was an entirely appropriate name given the close relationship he had with John Paul II.

According to Lombardi, it was Navarro himself who often stressed that it was “absolutely necessary to have – and to indeed have – a direct relationship with the Pope, in order to know his thinking and line of thought with surety and clarity, and to be able to present himself to the world, to the Press Office and to public opinion as an authoritative interpreter of that thought, and not just hearsay.”

Throughout Navarro's lengthy tenure working in the Vatican, there was absolutely “no doubt” that “he was very close to the Pope, so close that he must be considered one of the most important figures of that extraordinary pontificate.”

This, Lombardi said, is “not only because of his evident public visibility, but also for his role as intervention and advice. Certainly John Paul II had great confidence in him and held his service in high esteem.”

Burke, who is Lombardi's successor as Director of the Holy See Press Office, referred to this relationship when he announced Navarro’s passing, posting a photo of him standing next to John Paul II with a big smile.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Joaquin Navarro, 1936-2017.<br>Keep Smiling. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Greg Burke (@GregBurkeRome) <a href="">July 5, 2017</a></blockquote>
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“I tweeted out a photo of Navarro-Valls and John Paul II smiling together, saying ‘Navarro, keep smiling.’ But I actually took that quote from John Paul II,” he said.

It was after a meeting between the Pope and the editors of Time Magazine, Burke explained. Navarro was standing off to the side a little, but smiling, happy with how things had gone and Pope St. John Paul II, noticing, said to him in English: “keep smiling.”

“You could tell that they had a very, very good relationship,” he said.

When it came to Navarro's professional abilities, Lombardi said that at U.N. conferences the Spaniard would end up playing a primary and even diplomatic role, thanks to his “experience and communicative ability.”

“His intelligence, elegance and relational abilities were prominent. To that is added a great knowledge of languages and a true genius in presenting news and information content in a brilliant, attractive and concise way,” Lombardi said.

These are all gifts that made Navarro “an ideal person as a point of reference in the Vatican for the international information providers, but also for relations” with people in the public, communications and political spheres.

As both a layman and a consecrated member of Opus Dei, Navarro could be counted on as a competent and respected professional, but also as someone “whose dedication and faithful love of the Church could really be counted on, for the effective availability of both time and heart.”

For Lombardi, the lengthy duration of Navarro's service as Director of the Press Office, his authoritativeness, efficiency and the quality of his work make his tenure “an age that will likely remain unique in the history of the Press Office and of Vatican communications.”

“Certainly, the dimension of communications and public relations in the immense pontificate of John Paul II cannot in any way be independent of Dr. Navarro's work and personality,” he said. “It was an invaluable service to the Church.”

Lombardi voiced his gratitude to Navarro, specifically for the “courtesy and attention” he showed during the time they worked together.

“I always considered him a teacher in the way of carrying out his service and I never would have imagined to be called to succeed him,” Lombardi said, adding that his predecessor was “totally inimitable.”

“In the context of a different pontificate I tried to interpret and carry out the task assigned to me as best as I knew how, but preserving, for what was possible, his precious legacy,” he said.

Lombardi and Navarro remained friends even after the latter stepped down. For Lombardi, his predecessor was always “an example of a discreet, true and deep spiritual life, fully integrated with his work, a model of dedication to the service of the Pope and the Church, a teacher in communications.”

“Even for me – as I already said, but I willingly repeat – he was inimitable.”

When times are tough, turn to Jesus, Pope says

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 19:08

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2017 / 07:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When life gets hard, Jesus especially invites us to turn to him, Pope Francis said.

"Jesus knows how hard life can be," Pope Francis said.

But at those moments, his invitation is: "Come."

The Pope made his remarks to the audience gathered in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address. He based his reflections on the day's Gospel passage in Matthew: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

It can be easy to be tempted to turn in on ourselves when things are going badly, Pope Francis said. But Jesus wants to pull us out of this despairing "quicksand" through a loving relationship.

We might be tempted to find our rest in other things of this world, the Pope said, but those things are like fireworks, which burn out quickly.

We must learn to turn outside of ourselves during our times of need, but even this is not enough - we have to know where to go, he said, which must be to Jesus, who says "Come to me."

However, if we go to Jesus expecting that he will instantly fix all of our problems, we are looking for the wrong thing, he said.

"Jesus does not take the Cross away from us," the Pope said. "Rather, he carries it with us."

He helps us bear our burdens and gives us peace of heart even in the most difficult moments of life, the Holy Father said.

We know this because Jesus himself repeats it in the Gospel reading today: "Learn from me…and you will find rest for your life."

He never says that the burden goes away, but that "my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

"Let us learn to go to Jesus," Pope Francis said. "And while, in these summer months, we seek some respite from those things that weary the body, let us not forget to find true rest in the Lord."

Vatican calls on Bishops to prevent Eucharistic abuse in their dioceses

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 17:51

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2017 / 05:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new letter to bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments denounced abuses against the Eucharist and "lack of respect in the sacred sphere," and reiterated existing norms regarding the Eucharist at Mass.

The letter, issued at the request of Pope Francis, reminds bishops of the norms concerning the Eucharist matter indicated in the Code of Canon Law and the Roman Missal, and explained in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum of this Congregation of March 25, 2004.

According to those norms, "the bread used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist must be unleavened, of only wheat and made recently, so that there is no danger of it being corrupted." Therefore, "bread made with other substances" can not constitute the valid matter for the realization of the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.

In addition, they emphasized that "it is a serious abuse to introduce other substances such as fruit, sugar or honey in the manufacture of bread for the Eucharist."

As for wine, it states that it "must be natural, from the fruit of the vine, pure and without corrupting, without mixing of foreign substances," and insists that no other drinks “of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter.”

The letter also addressed norms regarding gluten-free hosts.

“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.  Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread,” the letter states.

The Congregation also issued a norm regarding GMOs, saying that “Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified organisms can be considered valid matter.”

In the letter, the Congregation emphasized that it is primarily the responsibility of diocesan bishops to ensure that these norms are being followed and that abuse is not occurring in their parishes.

Finally, it suggests that bishops work together to carry out out “the necessary checks on production, conservation and sale of the Eucharistic bread and wine in a given country and for other countries to which they are exported.  It is recommended that the bread and wine to be used in the Eucharist be treated accordingly in the places where they are sold.”


Pope to maintenance staff: We are all sinners, but Jesus heals us

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 16:00

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2017 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis said that just like the biblical tax collectors, despite our sinfulness, Jesus seeks us out to be near us and to heal us, as long as we have the humility to recognize that we need him.

"First of all we must recognize this: none of us, none of us here, can say, 'I am not a sinner.' The Pharisees said this. And Jesus condemns them," the Pope said July 7.

"They were proud, vain, they believed themselves to be superior to others. Instead, we are all sinners. It is our title and it is also the opportunity to attract Jesus to us. Jesus comes to us, comes to me, comes to me because I am a sinner."

Francis spoke at a private Mass Friday morning for the maintenance staff of Vatican City. In his homily, he reflected on the day's Gospel from St. Matthew, which tells how Jesus called St. Matthew to follow him, dining with him and with other "tax collectors and sinners."

This scene from the Gospel is also depicted in a famous painting by Caravaggio called "The Calling of Saint Matthew," which Pope Francis said he used to go and see in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, when he would visit Rome back before he was Pope.

"This consoles me so much," the Pope said, "because I think Jesus came for me. Because we are all sinners. All."

This is our consolation and our faith, he continued. That Jesus always forgives us, healing our soul. Even if you think you are weak, that you will just fall into sin again, Jesus will raise you, "heal you always," he said.

“Jesus came for sinners, not for the righteous. They do not need it. Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, go to find out what it means I want mercy and not sacrifices. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

“When I read these words,” he said, “I feel called by Jesus, and we can all say the same: Jesus came for me. Each of us.”

Even in the bad times, when we slip up or feel the weight of the many things we have done wrong, Jesus loves you regardless. “Do not be afraid,” Francis said.

The Pope explained how it makes him think of a step in the spiritual life of St. Jerome. The saint was praying and working for the Lord, but still something was missing. The Lord wanted him to give him his sins, the Pope said.

“Today, on this first Friday,” he concluded, “we think of the heart of Jesus, who helps us understand this beautiful thing, with a merciful heart, who only says to us: ‘Give me your weaknesses, give me your sins, I will forgive all.’ Jesus forgives everything, forgives always. May this be our joy.”


The art Pope Francis loves

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 08:23

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2017 / 08:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- What is Pope Francis’ idea of art?

A new documentary titled ‘Pope Francis – My idea of art,’ delves into the Roman Pontiff’s artistic side and explore what art personally means to the Pope through a series of his favorite works.

“The art of mercy is truly Pope Francis’ idea of art,” stated Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, according to Vatican Radio.

“It is the art that is directed toward the humble. And the Vatican Museums correspond directly to the Pope’s message on art,” Jatta continued.

The documentary was produced by the Vatican Museums and Imago Film and is based on the 2015 book written by the Holy Father and journalist Tiziana Lupi with the same title. While the book is currently only published in Italian, the new documentary will be made available in 6 languages through subtitles.

The film highlights eleven works of both classical and contemporary art from the Vatican’s collection that embody Pope Francis’ ideal message of art, which is “evangelizing and contrasting a throwaway culture.”

The documentary features drone shots and unique cinematography of St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Gardens. The film is narrated by Pope Francis himself and also features excerpts from Sandro Barbagallo, curator at the Vatican Museums, and from the author of the book, Tiziana Lupi.

Among the Pope’s chosen works of art are the Belvedere Torso, the Sistine Chapel, a 1984 Renault, a scrap metal statue of Our Lady of Luján by Argentine sculptor Alejandro Marmo, and The Deposition by Caravaggio.

According to the Holy Father, these featured works of art contrast the current culture of waste and point toward a way of evangelization.

“The artist is a witness of the invisible and works of art are the clearest proof that the incarnation is possible,” Pope Francis narrates in the documentary.

The previous two pontificates have also been vocal about their appreciation for art, and both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have written about the importance of beauty. However, this is the first time that a pope has been featured in a film for his vision on art.

The 45-minute documentary will be released worldwide over the next few months and will also be featured in various theaters across the globe, although there is no official release date. The Vatican also has plans to submit the film for the 2018 Academy Awards.

Twentieth century Polish nurse among causes advancing toward sainthood

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 18:14

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2017 / 06:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Friday approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Hanna Chrzanowska, a Polish nurse and nursing instructor who died from cancer in 1973, paving the way for her beatification.

The Pope met July 7 with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, giving his approval for the cause to move forward, along with the causes of five persons recognized for their heroic virtue.

He also recognized the martyrdom of two persons killed in hatred of the faith, Bishop Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca, killed near Fortul, Colombia in 1989 and diocesan priest Fr. Pietro Maria Ramírez Ramos, killed on April 10, 1948 in Armero, Colombia.

Venerable Hanna Chrzanowska was born in Warsaw on October 7, 1902 to a family known for their charitable work. She finished high school at a school run by Ursuline sisters in Krakow and after graduating in 1922 attended nursing school in Warsaw.

She became an Oblate with the Ursuline Sisters of St. Benedict.

From 1926-1929 she worked as an instructor at the University School of Nurses and Hygienists in Krakow. For 10 years she held the position of editor of the monthly "Piel?gniarka Polska" (“Nurse Poland”), also publishing her own work in the field of nursing.

During this period, she also grew closer to God, joining in the work of the Catholic Association of Polish Nurses in 1937.

Poland saw the outbreak of World War II in 1939. After the war and after the opening of a university school of maternity and nursing in Krakow, she worked as the head of the department dedicated to home nursing.

She was especially dedicated to the proper formation and preparation of her students, including offering advice and assistance while accompanying her students on visits to patients confined at home.

In 1966 she contracted cancer. Despite operations, the disease spread and eventually led to her death on April 29, 1973 in Krakow.

With approval of the miracle, a date can be set for her beatification, likely to take place in Poland.

Another cause moving forward is that of Sister Maria Elisabetta Mazza. Born in 1886 in Martinengo, Italy, she was an elementary school teacher from 1911 onward and was a leading figure in the Catholic Teachers' Association, called "Niccolò Tommaseo," which helped to revive Catholic education after the war.

She also founded a religious institution of teachers, called the Congregation of the Little Apostles of the Christian School, which focused on working for the good of society, particularly in the area of education of young people.

After the Second World War, she supported the revival of the "Niccolò Tommaseo" organization, under the new name of the "Italian Association of Catholic Teachers."

She died on Aug. 29, 1950 in Bergamo, Italy.

The other persons now declared 'Venerable' are: Archbishop Ismaele Perdomo of Bogota (1872-1950); Sister Paola of Jesus Gil Cano, foundress of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Most Pure Conception (1849-1913); Luigi Kosiba (Pietro), layman professed in the Order of Friars Minor (1855-1939); Sister Maria Crocifissa dell'Amore Divino (Maria Gargani), foundress of the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart (1892-1973).

Pope St. John Paul II’s Former Spokesman Navarro-Valls Dies at 80

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 20:23

Vatican City, Jul 6, 2017 / 08:23 am (National Catholic Register).- Pope St. John Paul II’s former spokesman, Dr. Joaquìn Navarro-Valls, has died at the age of 80.

A numerary of Opus Dei and a trained doctor, the Spanish journalist had been diagnosed with terminal cancer some weeks ago.

He passed away at 8:41 this evening at home after being discharged from the Opus Dei-run Campus Biomedico hospital in Rome.

His current successor, Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke, announced the news yesterday with the following tweets:

Joaquin Navarro. RIP. Grace under pressure.

— Greg Burke (@GregBurkeRome) July 5, 2017 The Vatican's chief spokesman from 1984 to 2006, Navarro-Valls had an influential role during John Paul II’s pontificate, helping the late Pontiff to communicate effectively and bringing the papacy into the modern age of social communications.

He resigned as spokesman on July 11, 2006 and was replaced by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

Joaquin Navarro, 1936-2017.
Keep Smiling.

— Greg Burke (@GregBurkeRome) July 5, 2017

Vatican says it has worked to resolve past issues at Pope's hospital

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 03:30

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2017 / 03:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican official confirmed yesterday that Bambino Gesu hospital has had past problems that the Vatican has worked to resolve.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said at a Vatican press conference July 4 that a recently-released report on the hospital from the Associated Press contained some things that were “clearly unfounded” but also highlighted valid issues that the hospital has had in the past.
The AP report, which examined the hospital’s operations under its previous 2008-2015 administration, found among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had some subpar standards of care.  
“For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Cardinal Parolin said.
In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery and risk of infection due to overcrowding.
After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved.
The Hospital Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the "Pope's Hospital". While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.
Bambino Gesu fell under scrutiny again in 2016, when the Vatican reported that it was investigating whether former hospital president Giuseppe Profiti had allocated some $200,000 of hospital funds to refurbish the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone lives.
In September 2016, Pope Francis warned the hospital’s new president and administration not to fall into corruption, which he called “the worst cancer” a hospital could have.
At the press conference yesterday, Cardinal Parolin and current hospital president Mariella Enoc also presented the hospital’s annual report for 2016.
Among other things, the report highlighted that the hospital had an increase of organ transplants and research projects that have identified 10 new “rare” diseases.
The Hospital Bambino Gesù is the only European pediatric hospital where all types of transplants are performed. In 2016, 339 organ and tissue transplants were performed, a four percent increase from the previous year.
In addition, 242 research projects and 423 clinical trials involving 5,300 patients were undertaken in the past year. In all, 750 physicians, biologists and other health professionals have been involved in hospital-driven scientific research projects. Bambino Gesù also reported a reduction in hospital infections from 7.6 percent in 2006 to 1.8 percent in 2016, or 76 percent less in 10 years.
Enoc said that while the problems in the AP report occurred before she was in charge, she urged anyone at the hospital who had issues in the future to come forward.
"I can say that the climate today is more serene, and I urge everyone when there is a problem ... that we talk and talk and not keep it inside and then have it explode," she said.

Pope dedicates July to praying for those distant from the faith

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 03:13

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2017 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- In his prayer video for the month of July, Pope Francis has asked Christians to join him in praying for those who have strayed from the faith, providing hope to them through the witness of our joy and actions.

“Let us never forget that our joy is Jesus Christ – his faithful and inexhaustible love,” the Pope says at the opening of the video, depicting a man in dark-colored clothing sitting on steps outside of a Church.

“When a Christian becomes sad, it means that he has distanced himself from Jesus,” he says, stressing that “we must not leave him alone!”

Rather, “we should offer him Christian hope – with our words, yes, but more with our testimony, with our freedom, with our joy,” Francis says, as a second man, dressed in white, then walks out of the church and sits next to the man on the steps.

The video then shows several images of happy people, including a group smiling while receiving catechesis, youth dancing during World Youth Day and hands praying the rosary.

At the close of the video, the Pope makes his appeal, saying “let us pray that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the beauty of the Christian life.”

While Pope Francis is known for reaching out to those of other faiths, his intention this month hits closer to home, focusing on the need to pray not only for Christian unity, but for those who struggle with the faith or who have perhaps left the Church for one reason or another.

His prayer videos first launched during the Jubilee of Mercy and are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer. They are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center 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.

Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on 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, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted and youth.