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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."


Take care of those on the peripheries, Pope Francis tells mayors

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 22:08

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2017 / 10:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday told mayors that they must go to those on the margins of their communities in order to learn how to best serve the common good, including the needs of the poor, unemployed, and migrants and refugees.

“To you, mayors, let me say, as a brother: You must frequent the peripheries, those urban, those social and those existential,” the Pope said Sept. 30.

To do so is to learn from the best school, he continued, because it teaches us about the real needs of people, shows us injustice, and helps us to build better communities, where everyone is recognized as a person and citizen.

“I think about the situation in which the availability and quality of services is lacking, and new pockets of poverty and marginalization are formed,” he said.

This is where a city becomes divided, he said: on one side of the highway are the secure and well-off and on the other are the poor and unemployed – including families and migrants who have no support.

Pope Francis’ speech was made in an audience with Italian mayors, members of the National Association of Italian Towns (ANCI), in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Sept. 30.

In the audience he spoke about the specific issue of immigration, saying that he understands that many people are uncomfortable in the face of the massive arrival of migrants and refugees.

This discomfort is understandable, he said, especially when there is innate fear of the “stranger,” and the already-present wounds of economic crisis, lack of community, and inadequate response to emergencies by the government.

Francis said that these challenges can only be overcome through personal encounter, including the mutual exchange of artistic and cultural riches, as well as the knowledge of people’s places and communities of origin.

“I am delighted to hear that many of the local administrations represented here can be among the main advocates of good reception and integration practices, with encouraging results that deserve broad dissemination. I hope that many follow your example,” he said.

It is this way that politics can fulfill the “fundamental task” of helping people to see the future with hope, he noted, saying that it is “hope in tomorrow that brings out the best energies of everyone, of young people first of all.”

If a mayor is close to his or her people, directing everything toward the common good, then things will go well, he continued.

Pope Francis also spoke about the symbol of the city as it is found in Sacred Scripture.  

At the beginning of the Bible we hear the story of the history of Babel, a city "unfinished, destined to remain in the memory of humanity as a symbol of confusion and loss, presumption and division, of that inability to understand that makes any common work impossible,” he said.

The Bible also closes with the vision of a city. But unlike the city of Babel, the new Jerusalem "smells of heaven and tells of a renewed world."

It is significant, the Pope continued, that the image of the city recurs throughout Sacred Scripture. It teaches us that human society can only stand when rested on the foundation of true solidarity.

Envy, unbridled ambition and a spirit of adversity, on the other hand, condemn us to the violence of chaos. To move away from this we need a politics and economy centered on ethics, "an ethics of responsibility, relationships, community and the environment," he said.

"I would like to talk to you about a city that puts the public well-being above private interests, not allowing corruption or the privatization of public spaces, where the 'us' is 'reduced to slogans, to rhetorical artifice that masks the interests of few,'" he said.

It is this view that helps people to grow in dignity. “It promotes social justice, therefore labor, services, opportunities,” he said.

“To embrace and serve this city it takes a good and great heart, in which to preserve the passion of the common good,” he encouraged, “because what contributes to the good of everyone also contributes to the good of the individual.”

If we do this, he concluded, “then the city will advance and reflect the heavenly Jerusalem.”

“It will be a sign of God's goodness and tenderness in man's time. A mayor must have the virtue of prudence to govern, but also the virtue of courage to move forward and the virtue of tenderness to approach the weakest.”


Pope Francis re-names Cardinal Burke to Vatican's highest court

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 21:14

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2017 / 09:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Saturday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of Cardinal Raymond Burke as a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the Holy See's highest court – which he previously headed for six years.

Burke, 69, is currently patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta, which he was appointed to in 2014 by Pope Francis. An expert in canon law, he served as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 2008 to 2014.

Other members added to the tribunal were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, 77, and Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli, also 77. Vallini was prefect of the Apostolic Signatura before Burke, from 2004 to 2008. He then served as Vicar General of Rome until his retirement in May of this year.

It is Menichelli's first appointment to the Roman Curia. He retired as archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Italy in July. Other new members to the court include Msgr. Frans Daneels and Msgr. Johannes Willibrordus Maria Hendriks.

Saturday Pope Francis also named Fr. Denis Baudot, a priest of the Archdiocese of Lyon and currently an official of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, judicial vicar of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Vatican City.

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is one of three courts within the Holy See. The others are the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

The Signatura, as it’s called, functions sort of like a Supreme Court and the Apostolic Penitentiary is the court in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See.

The Rota is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage annulment cases are judged.

Burke was born on June 30, 1948 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He was ordained a priest in 1975, serving the Diocese of La Crosse until his appointment as bishop of La Crosse in 1994.

Before becoming prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in 2008, the American cardinal had served as archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri since 2003.
As the chaplain of the Knights of Malta, Burke has clashed with the Holy See over the removal of the Grand Chancellor of the Knights. He is also one of four cardinals who signed the controversial dubia, a letter asking Pope Francis to clarify parts of his apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia."

In an interview Sept. 24 Burke said that he’s been wrongly depicted as the “enemy” of Pope Francis.

Even though he believes that the current division in the Church demands an answer to requests for clarity, he noted that as faithful Catholics, those who have expressed doubt or concern over the confusion surrounding “Amoris Laetitia” love the Pope “with complete obedience to the office of Peter.”


Angels accompany us on the path to salvation, Pope says

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 02:13

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2017 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians and angels cooperate “together in God’s salvific design,” Pope Francis told Catholics in his morning homily, on the Feast of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

He elaborated, saying that angels serve God by accompanying all people on the path to salvation. Each archangel has a specific role, he explained: protection, annunciation, and guidance.  

“Michael is the one who fights against the devil,” he said. The archangel Michael aids our resistance against Satan’s temptations, and protects us when the devil tries to claim us as his own, Pope Francis said.

Gabriel is the bearer of good news, he continued. “Gabriel too accompanies us and helps us on our journey when we ‘forget’ the Gospel,” he said, noting the archangel’s message acts as a reminder that “Jesus came to save us.”

Raphael, he said, “walks with us taking care of us on our journey and helping us not take the wrong step.”

The Pope encouraged Catholics to call upon the help of the archangels, and concluded by invoking their intercession.

“Michael: help us in our battle – each of us has a battle to fight in our lives; Gabriel: bring us news, bring us the good news of salvation; Raphael: take us by the hand and lead us forward without taking the wrong turning,” the Pope prayed. “Always walking forward, but with your help!”


Pope Francis: Evangelization is about knowing the human heart

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 23:06

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2017 / 11:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis said that the work of evangelization belongs to all people, and that the richness found in a variety of traditions can be a way of opening people’s hearts to the Gospel.

“The new stage of evangelization we are called upon to follow is certainly the work of the whole Church, ‘people on the way to God,’” he said Sept. 29.

Evangelization “by its very nature belongs to the People of God.”

Referencing the Second Vatican Council document Lumen gentium, he said, “From every population to which we go, a wealth emerges which the Church is called to recognize and value to bring about the unity of 'all mankind' of which it is the 'sign' and ‘the sacrament.’”

Pope Francis’ speech was part of a meeting with around 60 members of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, at the conclusion of their plenary session Sept. 27-29.

In the audience, he told them he wanted to reflect on the “urgency” the Church feels to “renew its efforts and enthusiasm” for its mission of evangelization.  

The many good traditions that people and their cultures possess give richness to the Church and life to the action of grace, which opens hearts to accept the Gospel, he said.

These traditions are “authentic gifts” expressing the infinite creativity of the Father and fostering communion, which then acts as a “seed of salvation, a prelude to universal peace and a concrete place of dialogue.”

Pope Francis also emphasized that the call to evangelize “transcends” the availability of a single person, but is actually part of a complex design of interpersonal relationships.

“Few institutions like the Church can boast of having a knowledge of the people able to enhance that cultural, moral and religious heritage that is the identity of entire generations,” he said.

This is why, he explained, it is important that in our evangelization efforts we know how to enter people’s hearts and help them to discover the sense of God and his love that gives confidence and serenity despite difficulty and challenge.

If we look deeply, he continued, we may find a “genuine desire for God that makes restless the heart of so many fallen people…”

“The joy of evangelization can reach them and give them the strength for conversion,” he said.

Pope Francis also reflected on last year’s Jubilee Year of Mercy, which he said was a time of grace lived by the whole Church “with great faith and intense spirituality,” especially the rediscovery of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“We cannot permit that such enthusiasm be diluted or forgotten,” he said.

The Pope said that everyone who evangelizes should be committed to announcing the message of mercy, which is made concrete and visible in the lives of believers.

Furthermore, those who have the task of proclaiming the Gospel should remember the words of the Apostle Paul, who says in 1 Timothy 1:12-16: “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.”

“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus,” the Pope quoted.

“This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.”

The Church has a great responsibility to continue to be an instrument of mercy, Francis said.

“In this way, it can be easier to allow the reception of the Gospel to be perceived and lived as an event of salvation and it can bring a full and definitive meaning to personal and social life.”


Pope zeroes-in on 'fake news' for next communications day

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 18:24

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2017 / 06:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With social platforms increasingly targeting so-called “fake news,” Pope Francis has decided to weigh-in, dedicating his message for the 2018 World Day of Social Communications to eliminating the spread of false information and providing the truth.

Announced Sept. 29, the theme for the 2018 message is: “The truth will set you free: Fake news and journalism for peace.”

In a communique from the Vatican Secretariat of Communications, headed by Msgr. Dario Eduardo Vigano, it was said the Pope's message will be centered on “so-called 'fake news,'” which is namely “baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarization of opinions.”

Fake news, the communique read, “involves an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behavior.”

Since the big players among social media companies, global institutions and even politics are now confronting the issue, “the Church too wishes to offer a contribution.”

To this end, the Church wishes to put forward “a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media. Her goal is also to help in promoting “professional journalism, which always seeks the truth, and therefore a journalism of peace that promotes understanding between people.”

World Day of Social Communications was established in 1963 with the document “Inter Mirifica” on the media of social communications, and was the only global celebration to be requested by the Second Vatican Council.

The event is celebrated in countries throughout the world on the Sunday after Pentecost, which this year falls on May 13, 2018. The Pope's message for the event is typically published on the Jan. 24 feast of Saint Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

Pope Francis has often spoken out on journalism and the need to provide accurate, constructive reporting that doesn't degrade or defame others.

Journalists were the focus of Pope Francis' prayer intention for October 2016. In a video released announcing the intention, the Pope said “We need information leading to a commitment for the common good of humanity and the planet.”

Specifically, he prayed that journalists, “in carrying out their work, may always be motivated by respect for the truth and a strong sense of ethics.”

Just two months later, in December 2016, the Pope gave an interview to a Belgian magazine in which he cautioned media to avoid several major temptations, including the desire to always focus on scandal – which he compared to “coprophilia,” a mental illness in which a person has an abnormal interest in feces.

“Media I think have to be very clean, very clean and very transparent. And not fall – without offending, please – into the sickness of coprophilia,” the Pope said in the new interview.

Coprophilia, or coprophagy, is technically defined as a condition in which a person has an abnormal interest and pleasure in feces or excrement. However, for Pope Francis, his use of the word referred to an attitude in journalism that always tries to communicate scandal.  

Since people looking to the media frequently have “a tendency toward coprophilia” – meaning they take pleasure in and seek out scandalous news – and this attitude “can do a lot of damage.”

However, he said media are also “the builders of a society,” and as such are meant to foster a fraternal exchange of ideas, to educate and to make one think. Media is not inherently evil, he said, but cautioned that we are all sinners, and even media “have their temptations.”

First of all, they can be tempted to slander or defile people, above all in politics, he said, and also warned against defamation, since “every person has the right to a good name.”

To bring to light a problem from a person’s distant past and to hold them responsible, even if they have already rectified the situation, “is serious, it does damage, it nullifies a person,” Francis said.

“There is not right to this. This is a sin and it does harm,” he said, pointing to another particularly harmful attitude in the media: “misinformation.”

Described by the Pope as telling only one part of the truth but not the other, Francis said that to do this: “This is to misinform. Because you, the viewer, you give them half of the truth. And therefore they cannot make a serious judgment on the complete truth.”

Misinforming people “is probably the greatest harm that media can do. Because it directs opinion in one direction, taking away the other half of the truth,” he said, adding that if media stay away from these problematic attitudes, “they are builders of opinion and they can edify, and do an immense, immense good.”

Vatican office for evangelization of peoples gets a new undersecretary

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 22:22

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2017 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Ryszard Szmydki, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, as the new under-secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Fr. Szmydki, 66, replaces Fr. Tadeusz Wojda S.A.C., an official of the congregation since 2012 who was appointed metropolitan archbishop of Bialystok, Poland on April 12.

Originally from Poland, Fr. Szmydki has been secretary general of the Pontifical Mission Societies since 2014. He holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland, where he also taught for several years.

He is also the author numerous studies in the field of dogmatic theology and ecumenism.

Born in Tarebiski, Poland April 26, 1951, Fr. Szmydki entered the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 1970, making his perpetual vows on Jan. 21, 1977.

During formation with the Oblates he spent two years as a missionary in Cameroon before being ordained a priest July 2, 1978.

Before obtaining his doctorate, Fr. Szmydki received a licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.

In 1992 and 1998 he was elected assistant general in charge of mission in the OMI. He returned to Poland in 2005 and was appointed vicar provincial for the missions. In 2010 he was elected superior of the Oblate Province of Poland and was re-elected to the position Sept. 13, 2012.

In addition to Polish, he speaks Italian, French and English.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was established by Pope Gregory XV on June 22, 1622 with the publication of the papal bull “Inscrutabili Divinae Providnetiae,” and is currently headed by Cardinal Fernando Filoni. Until 1982, it was known as the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or “Propaganda Fide.”

According to the Vatican, the role of the congregation “has always been the transmission and dissemination of the faith throughout the whole world.” It also holds “the specific responsibility of coordinating and guiding all the Church's diverse missionary efforts and initiatives.”

In their last few rounds of meetings this year, Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals have held a discussion of the possibility of restructuring the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as well as the Congregation of Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

So far no changes to the congregation have taken place, though they could in the future as part of ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.


Pope Francis: Charity is 'the soul' of the Church's mission

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 04:13

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2017 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Pope Francis said that charity is central to the Church’s mission, and we are called to share it with the world, especially those in need.

“All of us, in truth, are called to water ourselves upon the rock that is the Lord and to quench the world's thirst with the charity that springs from Him,” the Pope said Sept. 27.

“Charity is at the heart of the Church, it is the reason for its action, the soul of its mission.”

As Benedict XVI wrote in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate: “Charity is the main path of the Church's social doctrine. Every responsibility and commitment outlined by this doctrine is attuned to charity which, according to Jesus' teaching, is the synthesis of all the Law,” he said.

Pope Francis sent the message Wednesday for the 400th anniversary of the start of the charism of the Vincentian Family, a group of organizations founded by or under the inspiration of St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast is Sept. 27.

A 17th-century French priest, St. Vincent is known as the patron of Catholic charities for his apostolic work among the poor and marginalized.

“Inflamed by the desire to make Jesus known to the poor,” St. Vincent “intensely devoted” himself to the announcement of the Gospel, especially through missionary work, charity, and the care and formation of priests, Francis said.

In his message, he compared St. Vincent to a tiny mustard seed, which sprouted and spread through his charitable works, the priests he taught, and the religious orders he founded.

Like St. Vincent, “you are called to reach the peripheries of the human condition,” Pope Francis said, “to bring not your own capacities, but the Spirit of the Lord, ‘Father of the poor.’”

“He spreads you into the world as seeds that sprout on dry land, as a consolation balm for those who are hurt, as a fire of charity to warm up many hearts choked by abandonment and hardened because they are discarded.”

St. Vincent still speaks to us and to the Church today, his testimony inviting us to be on the road, working to sow the love of God in the hearts of others, even the unpleasant, the Pope said.

“I ask for the Church and for you the grace to find the Lord Jesus in the hungry brother, the thirsty, the stranger, the one stripped of clothing and dignity, the sick and imprisoned, but also the doubtful, the ignorant, the obstinate in sin, the afflicted, the offensive, the bad-tempered and the annoying.”

He also asked that from the “glorious wounds of Jesus,” the “dying seed that gives life,” and the “wounded rock from which water flows,” members of the Vincentian Family would find the strength and joy to go out of themselves and into the world, facing challenges with creativity.

Because “as St. Vincent said, ‘love is creative even to infinity.’”

“This is the way to follow,” the Pope said, “because the Church is always more and more mother and teacher of charity, growing and overflowing in mutual love towards all.”

“We ask for smallness of heart, full availability, and docile humility. It pushes us to fraternal communion between us and our courageous mission in the world.”




Pope Francis launches campaign to encounter and welcome migrants

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 00:18

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2017 / 12:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Wednesday announced a new initiative encouraging a “culture of encounter” and efforts to warmly welcome immigrants and refugees.

Sponsored by the global Catholic charities network Caritas Internationalis, the “Share the Journey” initiative is a two-year campaign dedicated to promoting both awareness and action on behalf of migrants and refugees, and helping them build connections with local communities.

“Don’t be afraid of sharing the journey. Don’t be afraid of sharing hope,” Pope Francis said during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 27.

According to Caritas, the project was launched as a response to Pope Francis' frequent call for a “culture of encounter.”

The project also aims to shed light on both the challenges and effects of migration at every stage of the journey in order to promote a “shift in thinking” on the issue. It will have the support of the ACT Alliance, which is a network of 145 Christian agencies and a variety of other religious congregations and civil society groups worldwide.

As part of the project, Caritas will launch various action-based initiatives in the communities in which they are present throughout the world.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, said he himself is an example of what young migrants can offer if given the opportunity.

“Whenever I hear news about the restrictions or even some moves that might affect children, minors (who are) migrants, I remember my grandfather, my maternal grandfather,” Cardinal Tagle told CNA.

“He was born in China and his mother was widowed, and she in her desperation didn't know how to raise her child up into a decent life, so I suppose with a heavy heart, she decided to give away the child to an uncle, who was trying to do some trade in the Philippines.”

Cardinal Tagle explained that his grandfather never went back to China, but “thanks to people who received him, helped him, educated him, he was able to contribute to society.”

In addition to his work, “he was able to contribute a priest, a bishop, in my person,” Cardinal Tagle said. “So watch out. The children that we might be rejecting might be giving valuable contributions to society.”

The cardinal’s comments were made in reference to rising tensions surrounding the issue of migration in the U.S., where controversy has arisen over President Donald Trump’s travel ban, proposed border wall, and recent announcement of the phasing out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which has benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

In a press conference announcing the “Share the Journey” initiative, Cardinal Tagle said world leaders should remember that “we are all migrants. Nobody can claim to be a non-migrant, we are all passing in this world.”

“Nobody is a permanent resident,” and no one can claim to “own the space they occupy,” he said, voicing his hope that there would be a universal “conversion of mind” on the issue.

Acknowledging the fear that some might feel at having foreigners enter their country, the cardinal said these fears often dissipate when people take the time to sit with immigrants and listen to their stories. “You will see that they are like you and me,” he said.

Recalling how his grandfather came to the Philippines as a “poor boy from China,” he said, “who would have thought he would have a cardinal for a grandson?”

Present alongside Cardinal Tagle at the press conference was Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, along the U.S. border with Mexico, as well as the director of Caritas Ethiopia, Bekele Moges, and three young migrants from Africa.

The migrants were Yancuba Darboe from Gambia, 21; Amadou Darboe from Senegal, 20; and Berete Ibrahima from Guinea, 23. Each of them left their homes due to poverty or a lack of opportunities and endured harsh conditions, including torture at the hands of traffickers, before eventually arriving in Italy and finding a fresh start.

In comments to CNA, Sr. Pimentel stressed the importance of getting to know migrants personally.

Meeting and speaking with migrants face-to-face is “so important,” she said, “because that's what causes the transformation in us.”

Sr. Pimentel recalled the story of a woman who had come to visit one of the centers operated by Catholic Charities in Rio Grande Valley. The woman was “one hundred percent against” their work, believing that migrants shouldn't be allowed into the country.

In response, the sister gave the woman a tour, and “took her to visit the families and the children and showed her the reality, and she met them personally.”

When the visit ended, the woman's whole perspective had changed, and she encouraged Sr. Pimentel to continue the work they were doing. The woman's husband even called the center later to express his shock at the change in his wife's attitude toward the issue.

“So I believe if somebody can be transformed so fast because of the fact that they saw that mother, that infant, that child (and) we have it in our hearts to reach out to those we find suffering, we will help that person that needs our help,” she said.

Sr. Pimentel described current immigrant policy in the U.S. as “harsh.”

“All the administrations, even the previous administration, were very harsh in deporting a lot of the immigrants and making those detention centers for family units,” she said, adding that in her view, “it's so unjust and so unfair for a family with children, with infants, to be placed in detention facilities.”

“Just like the previous administration, this administration is doing the same and probably harsher,” she said, stressing that placing families in such centers is “not humane,” because they are essentially being put “into prisons.”

Whether you call it a detention center or even a “child care center,” Sr. Pimentel said, the reality is that “they really are prisons and it's very depressing, so children should not be in those conditions.”

Instead, the sister said there should be an alternative available where families are allowed to stay together with someone to help them in the immigration process while authorities “figure out whether they have a reason to be in the United States or not, but not keep them for months in facilities that are so depressing and inhumane.”

Sr. Pimentel voiced hope that the new Caritas campaign would help people to truly understand the plight of migrants and push for “laws in our countries that respect the dignity and human life of people.”

The process of breaking the stigma surrounding incoming migrants starts with individuals and the process of encounter, she reiterated.

“Find that immigrant, just one, find out who they are,” she said. “Find out why they left their country and try to understand that, try to put yourself in their shoes and see if that helps you understand better why an immigrant has to go through what they do and what should be your responsibility and response to that reality.”

When tempted to give up hope, turn to Jesus, Pope Francis says

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 15:14

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2017 / 03:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the enemies of hope that often lead us into discouragement and melancholy, and urged Christians to fight these temptations with the power of prayer.

One of these enemies, he said, is the “demon of noon,” which “wears us out with a busy life just as the sun rises,” but which “surprises us when we are least expecting it.” With this enemy, he said, “the days become dull and boring,” and nothing seems worthy of the effort of “hard work.”

"To have an empty soul is the worst hindrance to hope,” he said. “It is a risk from which no one can be said to be excluded; because to be tempted against hope can happen even when you walk the path of Christian life."

“That's why it is important to keep our hearts in opposition to the temptations of unhappiness, which certainly do not come from God,” he said. “And where our forces appear weak and the battle against anguish particularly tough, we can always turn to the name of Jesus.”

We can repeat this simple prayer, he said, found in the Gospels, and prayed by many Christians, which says: “‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner!’ A beautiful prayer.”

Speaking to those gathered for the weekly general audience Sept. 27, the Pope continued his catechesis on the theological virtue of hope.

He started by recalling the myth of Pandora's Box, which tells the story of a curious woman who opens a box she's been forbidden to open.

When she does so, all of the evils of the world are then released. But at the end of the story, there is a "glimmer of light," the Pope said, because after all of the terrible things pour out of the box, Pandora spies one last thing remaining inside: hope.

"This myth tells us why it is so important for humanity to hope. It is not true that 'as long as there is life there is hope,' as it is commonly said. But it is the opposite: it is hope that sustains life, which protects, preserves and grows it,” he said.

The Pope also evoked the words of the French poet Charles Péguy, whose poem “The Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue,” is a lengthy reflection on hope. In his poem, he says that God is not astonished so much by the faith of human beings, or by their charity, but by their hope.

Quoting from a poem of Péguy, Francis continued: "Those poor children who see how things are and who believe that it will be better in the morning."

"The image of the poet,” he said, “recalls the faces of so many people who are passing through this world – peasants, poor workers, migrants, in search of a better future...They fought for their children, they fought in hope."

Hope is not a virtue of people with full stomachs, he continued. That is why, since the beginning, the poor are the first bearers of hope. Even at Christ’s birth the poor shepherds were the first messengers, Francis said.

Sometimes, growing up with everything you could want or need in life can actually be a misfortune, he said, because then you are not taught the virtues of expectation and patience built through hard work and effort.

The person who has been given everything may look young, but actually "autumn has already fallen on his heart," he said.

Instead, hope is the “thrust in the heart” that encourages people to change, or to leave home to find a better situation in some cases. It is the push to welcome others, “the desire to meet, to know, to dialogue,” he said.

Hope also gives us the courage to share the journey of Christian life, he said, adding that“we are not afraid to share the trip! We are not afraid! We are not afraid to share hope!”

Ratzinger Foundation unveils new prize, announces American winners

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 01:58

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2017 / 01:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s Joseph Ratzinger Foundation unveiled a new prize called “Expanding Reason,” aimed at promoting dialogue between the sciences and philosophy and theology in scholarly work.

Four Americans – Darcia Narvaez from the University of Notre Dame and Michael Schuck, Nancy C. Tuchman, and Jesuit Fr. Michael J. Garanzini from Loyola University – are among this year’s winners.

“Expanding Reason,” the name of the prize, “is a central idea in the teaching and in the work of Joseph Ratzinger (who would become Pope Benedict XVI) because he's a man of intelligence, he's a man of reason, of the search for truth,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, former director of the Holy See Press Office, told EWTN Sept. 26.

President of the Ratzinger Foundation, Fr. Lombardi said the idea for the prize came about as a way to encourage work in the direction of dialogue between science and philosophy, and science and theology – “in research and also in the organization of courses in the university.”

“Confidence in human reason is the basis for a dialogue between the different fields of human knowledge. And this is necessary to find also the direction, the answer, to big questions of life, of death, of people and of the history of mankind,” he continued.

The prize has two categories: one for research-based books or works and another for professors working directly with students. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony at the Vatican Sept. 27.

Organized in collaboration with the University of Francisco de Vitoria of Madrid, the prize had more than 300 applicants, which Fr. Lombardi said is “much more than we expected,” but shows that there is space and a desire for this discussion.

Of these 300 applicants, four winners were chosen, two under each category. Two applicants were also given honorable mention.

Of the four winners, one was Darcia Narvaez, a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame since 2000. Her work, “Neurobiology and the development of human morality: evolution, culture and wisdom,” investigates the foundation and origins of human morality in child development.

The other American prize recipients are Michael Schuck, Nancy C. Tuchman and Jesuit Fr. Michael J. Garanzini from Loyola University. They won as a group under the teaching category for their work “Healing Earth,” an online manual of environmental science, ethics, spirituality and action promoting awareness of environmental problems.

The other winners were Claudia Vanney and Juan F. Franck of Buenos Aires, Argentina for their scholarly work: “Determinism or indeterminism? Big questions from the sciences to philosophy” and Dominican Sr. Laura Baritz of Hungary for “the keteg Teaching Program and mission.”

Benedict XVI insists “on the need to have a broad and open view of reason and its exercise in seeking the truth and the answer to fundamental questions about humanity and its destiny,” Fr. Lombardi said in a press conference Sept. 26.

“This idea is fundamental to the dialogue between the Church and modern culture, between sciences and philosophy and theology, and hence also a fundamental idea for the way of thinking of the university and its function.”

The Ratzinger Foundation also announced that the seventh annual Ratzinger Prize will be awarded on Nov. 18 this year.

Also an award of the Ratzinger Foundation, the Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

The foundation’s international conference, also in its seventh year, will take place in Costa Rica from Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2017. Organized in collaboration with the Catholic University of Costa Rica, this year’s theme is “Laudato si: For the ‘care of the common home’ a necessary conversion to Human Ecology.”


Love of neighbor must begin with love of God, Pope Francis says

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:12

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2017 / 09:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Monday Pope Francis spoke to benefactors of the Vatican Swiss Guard about love of neighbor, which he said must first be steeped in love of Christ and drawn from prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments.

“Love to one's neighbor corresponds to the mandate and the example of Christ if it is based on a true love of God. It is thus possible for the Christian, through his dedication, to make others feel the tenderness of the heavenly Father,” the Pope said Sept. 25.

“To give love to brothers, it is necessary to draw it from the furnace of divine charity, through prayer, listening to the Word of God, and nurturing the Holy Eucharist. With these spiritual references, it is possible to operate in the logic of gratuity and service.”

Pope Francis met Monday morning with 50 members of the Foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, an organization which offers financial, material and technical support to the Vatican’s small military force.

He thanked them for their work in support of the young Swiss men who devote some years of their lives to “serving the Church and the Holy See.”

“This is an opportune occasion for me to reiterate that their discreet, professional and generous presence is so appreciated and useful for the good performance of Vatican activities.”

The business of the foundation expresses community spirit and solidarity, the Pope said, a typical feature of the Catholic presence in society and an attitude which is rooted in the appeal of the Gospel to love one’s neighbor.

“Therefore, through your work, you are concrete witnesses of evangelical ideals and, in the Swiss social fabric, you are an example of fraternity and sharing,” he said.

Concluding, Francis wished them joy as they continue their “fruitful commitment,” and bestowed the apostolic blessing.

He also prayed for protection for them and their families through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas of Flüe, the patron of Switzerland, whose feast the Swiss celebrate on Sept. 25.

St. Nicholas of Flüe was born in 1417 near the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland. He married at the age of 30 and had 10 children. In addition to his duties as a husband and a father, Nicholas donated his talents and time selflessly to the community and always strove to give an excellent moral example to all.

The saint was also able to devote much of his private life to developing a strong relationship with the Lord.  He had a strict regime of fasting and he spent a great deal of time in contemplative prayer.

Around the year 1467, when he was 50 years old, Nicholas felt called to retire from the world and become a hermit. His wife and children gave their approval, and he left home to live in a hermitage a few miles away.

While living as a hermit, Nicholas quickly gained a wide reputation for his personal sanctity, and many people sought him out to request his prayers and spiritual advice.

Nicholas lived the quiet life of a hermit for 13 years. However in 1481, a dispute arose between the delegates of the Swiss confederates at Stans and a civil war seemed imminent. The people called on Nicholas to settle the dispute, so he drafted several proposals which everyone eventually agreed upon.

Nicholas' work prevented civil war and solidified the country of Switzerland. But, as a true hermit, he then returned to his hermitage after settling the dispute.

He died six years later on March 21, 1487 surrounded by his wife and children. The Church celebrates his feast day on March 21, though in Switzerland and Germany it is celebrated on Sept. 25.