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Catholics skeptical over Indian court ban on use of religion in elections

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 21:03

NEW DELHI, Jan 7, 2017–India’s Supreme Court has barred the use of religion in political elections but Christian leaders say confusion exists as the court has not clarified its earlier ruling that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.

Screen grab from UCAN

The Jan. 2 ruling said political candidates, either directly or through their agents, cannot ask people to vote on grounds of their caste, race, community or religion as India is constitutionally a secular state and “necessarily implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country.”

It said an election would be void if a candidate sought votes on the basis of religion.

On the face of it, it is a welcome ruling but some confusion exists as the court has not clarified its 1995 judgment that Hinduism cannot be considered a religion but only a way of life, said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference.

“The judgment could have been more complete and global had the court pronounced that seeking votes on the basis of the Hindu religion is against the secular ideals of India,” said Bishop Mascarenhas.

Supreme Court lawyer M. P. Raju told ucanews.com that this judgment can be potentially misused. “A candidate may seek votes in the name of Hinduism and say he or she is only seeking votes in the name of Hindu culture while a Muslim or Christian seeking votes using their religion can be taken to task,” he said.

Raju clarified that a law against the use of religion already existed in India and that the court was only considering the question of whose religion — a candidate’s, his opponents or voters — should not be used in political appeals.

Father Paul Thelakat, a social analyst, said he sees the judgment as “a weak defense” of India’s secularism. “It directly affects the minority religions” because the court has refused to overturn the 1995 judgment.

“The court’s interpretation of Hinduism has today led to demands of homogenization and assimilation of minority communities into the Hindu way of life,” he said. “What remains to be seen is how will this secularism be implemented when the court itself sees Hinduism as part of secular India,” he said.

However, Surendra Jain, international general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (world Hindu council) said the judgment will help national integration, which has been “damaged because of politics based on religion, caste and creed.”

He hoped that the judgment would check politicians appeasing religious communities at the time of elections.

The judgment comes as the country is gearing towards elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. Others include Sikh-majority Punjab and Catholic stronghold Goa, as well as Uttarakhand and Manipur.

Religion and politics have always been intermingled ever since British rule ended in the Subcontinent in 1947 forming Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Political policies are interpreted in terms of favoring or rejecting a religious group.

The rise of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party that heads the federal government is directly linked to a religion-based political campaign.

When Hinduism is “seen as way of life and not a religion, it creates confusion on how the term would be used during elections,” said Father Savari Muthu, spokesperson of Delhi Archdiocese.

Right-wing Hindu parties have already been using religion-based terms over the past two decades and now the court ruling has given “vital advantage” to one ideology. “This is going to create more confusion and not going to serve the purpose of a secular and democratic country,” he said. (UCAN)

Indian priests help with building homes in Nepal

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 20:59
BANGALORE, Jan 6, 2017–Claretian priests in India have launched a program to build earthquake resistant homes and school facilities for those who continue to suffer in Nepal following a massive earthquake that killed some 9,000 two years ago.

Under the banner of Bangalore Cares for Nepal, the Claretian priests have started construction of a part of a school building and 60 permanent houses for the victims of the April 25, 2015 tragedy.

The inter-faith initiative started by four Claretian priests invites donations and support from people from different religions and even outside the country.

“Major chunk of the funds raised for relief and rehabilitation are from the Claritian mission society Proclade, in Spain,” said Father George Kannanthanam, one of the founders of the Bangalore Cares for Nepal.

The foundation stone for the construction of a floor of the school building was laid on last Dec. 6 in Nepal’s remote Madhurapatty Village in Kavre district. The project for school and houses is scheduled for completion end of this year. (UCAN)

Prosecutor drops charges against Taipei archbishop

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 20:58

TAIPEI, Jan. 3, 2017–The Prosecutor’s Office in Taipei on Jan 4 decided to drop charges against Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan in connection with alleged church encroachment on military land.

Archbishop Hung, as head of Taipei Archdiocese, was charged with transgressing into a restricted military area neighboring the Dazhi Catholic Cemetery between 2002-2016. Prosecutors had conducted a year of investigations after receiving anonymous complaints about the cemetery.

In his defense, the archbishop admitted that the cemetery had added hundreds of tombs and urn burial lots, and repaired the drainage system and other facilities without permission from the Ministry of National Defense.

However, he argued that he never once received any warning or fine notices after taking office in 2008. Also, that he had always reminded subcontractors to abide by the law while engaging in construction projects.

In his past five visits to the cemetery, he did not see any obvious demarcation or any military soldiers there, he added.

A cemetery supervisor surnamed Lam also testified that the cemetery was built with those facilities in 1950.

A handwritten note he kept also showed that the city government’s Funeral and Cemetery Office had told them in 2013 to repair the facilities. (UCAN)

Tagle to drug surrenders: Don’t waste ‘blessing’ of hope

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 19:34

Photo. Drug surrenders attend the "Mass of Hope" at the Manila Cathedral, Jan. 8, 2016. (CBCPNews)

MANILA, Jan. 8, 2016— Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila called on drug surrenders “not to waste” God’s blessing of hope.

Celebrating the “Mass of Hope” on the first Sunday of Epiphany at the Manila Cathedral, he urged them to look to Christ, for only He can bring lasting fulfilment.

“God wanted to accept us all. I hope that we will not waste the blessing He is giving us,” Cardinal Tagle said in his homily.

“God said that we all commit mistake but He has always been there will never get fed up. Don’t be afraid. Come to Him. Don’t be indifferent,” he said.

Dozens of reformed drug addicts helped by the Fazenda da Esperanca (Farms of Hope), a Catholic drug rehabilitation farm, and other surrenders who are still undergoing rehabilitation attended the liturgical event.

After recently setting up an extension program in the Diocese of Masbate, the Fazenda da Esperanca also signed a partnership with the Manila archdiocese.

The collaboration aims to further strengthen the archdiocese’s ongoing program to provide drug surrenders psycho-spiritual rehabilitation.

Launched in October last year, the “Sanlakbay Para sa Pagbabagong Buhay” program is the archdiocese’s response to the thousands of drug users who voluntary surrendered to the police authorities.

The cardinal added the Farms of Hope is a community-based approach to help drug dependents where they can slowly be integrated back into society.

“No person will be discarded by Jesus. Every person is welcome to follow the light and hope. Every life has hope,” he said. (CBCPNews)

‘Mass of Hope’

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 14:43

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Bishop Jose Bantolo of Masbate and other priests join singing former drug dependents and volunteers from the Fazenda de Esperanca drug rehabilitation center in Masbate City after the “Mass of Hope” at the Manila Cathedral, January 8, 2017. (CBCPNews)

Magi’s journey reflects people’s longing for God, pope says on Epiphany

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 12:16

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN, Jan. 6, 2017– The Magi had the courage to set out on a journey in the hope of finding something new, unlike Herod who was full of himself and unwilling to change his ways, Pope Francis said.

The Wise Men who set out from the East in search of Jesus personify all those who long for God and reflect “all those who in their lives have let their hearts be anesthetized,” the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

“The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuity,” he said.

Thousands of people were gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica as the pope entered to the sounds of the choir singing “Angels we have heard on high” in Latin. Before taking his place in front of the altar, the pope stood in front of a statue of baby Jesus, spending several minutes in veneration before kissing it.

The pope said that the Magi adoring the newborn king highlight two specific actions: seeing and worshipping.

Seeing the star of Bethlehem did not prompt them to embark on their journey but rather, “they saw the star because they had already set out,” he said.

“Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new,” the pope said.

This restlessness, he continued, awakens a longing for God that exists in the hearts of all believers who know “that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.”

It is holy longing for God “that helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom,” the pope said.

Recalling the biblical figures of Simeon, the prodigal son, and Mary Magdalene, the pope said this longing for God “draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change,” and helps us seek Christ.

However, the figure of King Herod presents a different attitude of bewilderment and fear that, when confronted with something new, “closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.”

The quest of the Magi led them first to Herod’s palace that, although it befits the birth of king, is only a sign of “power, outward appearances and superiority. Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement,” he said.

“There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us,” the pope said.

Unlike the Magi, the pope added, Herod is unable to worship the newborn king because he was unwilling to change his way of thinking and “did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.”

Christians are called to imitate the wise men who, “weary of the Herods of their own day,” set out in search of the promise of something new.

“The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable infant, the unexpected and unknown child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God,” the pope said.

After the Mass, Pope Francis greeted tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.

A colorful parade led by the sounds of trumpets and drums, people dressed in traditional and festive clothing contributed to the cheerful atmosphere despite the chilly weather.

Explaining the significance of the Wise Men who presented their gifts to Christ after adoring him, the pope gave the crowds a gift: a small booklet of reflections on mercy.

The book, entitled “Icons of Mercy,” presents “six Gospel episodes that recall the experience of people transformed by Jesus’ love: the sinful woman, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the publican, the Samaritan, the good thief and the apostle Peter. Six icons of mercy,” the papal almoner’s office said.

Together with the homeless, poor men and women and refugees, religious men and women distributed the books to the crowd. As a thank you, Pope also offered more than 300 homeless men and women sandwiches and drinks. (Junno Arocho Esteves/Catholic News Service)

New bishop installed in Tagbilaran diocese

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 10:39

Bishop Alberto Uy is greeted by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, and his predecessor Bishop Emeritus Leonardo Medroso during his installation as the new bishop of Tagbilaran at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, Jan. 6, 2016. (Sammy Navaja/CBCPNews)

Do you want to see God?

Sat, 01/07/2017 - 07:52

Do You Want To See God? A woman venerates the first-class relic of the Bl. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus that was exposed after the Thanksgiving Mass for the latter’s beatification held on Jan. 2, 2017 in the Diocese of Novaliches at the Notre Dame De Vie Retreat House in Bgy. San Agustin, Quezon City. During his life, the French priest talked about prayer and contemplation as a means of encountering God. (Photo: Minnie Agdeppa)

Wanted: ‘Ecology volunteers’ for Black Nazarene feast

Sat, 01/07/2017 - 07:27

Korean priest Ji Young Hong encourages Filipino Catholics to keep on trying to help keep surroundings clean during the upcoming Black Nazarene feast just like Catholic Koreans did during Pope Francis' visit to their country in 2014 for the Asian Youth Day. (Photo: Fr. Ji Young Hong)

MANILA, Jan. 7, 2017 – The Archdiocese of Manila, through the Ministry on Ecology, is calling for volunteers to help in its “Zero Waste” program during the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

“We need to instill among the devotees the awareness that caring and concern for God’s creation are integral to their devotion to ‘Nuestro Padre Nazareno’,” said Archdiocesan ecology program coordinator Lou Valencia Arsenio.

“One concrete objective is to set up a waste management system whereby at least 75% of trash in the Luneta and Quiapo grounds are properly collected, segregated, and processed with the assistance of volunteers and the employment – to help in their livelihood – of at least 100 jobless and homeless from the Luneta and Santa Cruz areas,” she added.

More volunteers needed

“For this, we appeal for more volunteers to help direct the devotees to responsibly manage their trash during the Quiapo fiesta as a sign of their true devotion and love for the Black Nazarene,” declared Arsenio.

People who want to volunteer for the Quiapo fiesta may contact the Archdiocesan Ministry on Ecology by replying to Arsenio’s post on her Facebook page ‘Lou Arsenio’.

“The Command post in Luneta is in front of the Kalaw side gate of H2O Hotel. Free food and water will be provided,” she disclosed.

Personal responsibility

The Archdiocesan Ministry on Ecology also reminded every devotee to be personally responsible for the cleanliness of his surroundings during the fiesta.

“As a manifestation of true devotion and love for the Black Nazarene, each one has to be an example of care [for] God’s own creation,” said Arsenio.

According to her, there will be proper places for disposing garbage as well as uniformed volunteers with IDs who will roam around with black plastic bags to collect garbage.

“There is no reason for anyone to litter in Luneta or Quiapo,” stressed Arsenio.

‘Filipinos can do it’

As a note of encouragement Korean priest Ji Young Hong, who is in the Philippines for a few days for a seminar, shared his country’s experience during Pope Francis’ visit to Korea in 2014 for the 6th Asian Youth Day and the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs.

“The papal visit represented a challenge to the Catholic Church in its role in pursuing authentic human development; for this, we were made aware by our leaders to give a good example to the rest of the people in Korea as well as in Asia,” explained the priest.

“In every gathering with the Pope, especially as he led the beatification ceremony before a crowd that filled the huge city square in central Seoul, every participant made sure to keep his own trash and to pick whatever litter was found in his sector,” recalled Hong.

“You, Filipinos, can do it! Just keep on trying,” the priest encouraged his fellow Catholics.

Up to 18 million participants are expected to take part in this year’s procession of the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas / CBCP News)

Encountering Jesus in the signs of His presence in the Church

Sat, 01/07/2017 - 06:00

Homily on the Solemnity of Epiphany (A), Matthew 2:1-12
January 8, 2017

By Msgr. Lope C. Robredillo, SThD

A NUMBER of Catholics have embraced “born-again” Christianity and Protestant Fundamentalism. Of course, there are various reasons for this phenomenon, some psychological, others sociological. But if there is anything of interest to us this Sunday, it has to do with the claim made by former Catholics that in “born-again” Christianity and Fundamentalism, they have been in the Bible truths that were not given to them in Catholicism. Some would even assert that it was only in their new found religion that they have found Jesus—with the implication, of course, sometimes wickedly intended, that Catholic Christianity does not preach Jesus or the Bible, because all it propagates is her own “traditions”. But the Gospel on the feast of the Epiphany, when God manifested himself to all peoples, can enlighten us on how Catholics should respond to this issue.

But before going into it, let us first unravel the meaning of the Gospel account in relation to the celebration. Basically, the meaning of today’s feast is that Epiphany prefigures the conversion of pagans to Christ. Thus, one may note that early in Paul’s ministry, for instance, Gentiles were already accepting the Word of the Lord (Acts 13:47-48). In the account of Matthew, the magi represent the gentiles. Though tradition, under the influence of some biblical text, portrays them as kings, they were most likely astrologers or magicians rather than astronomers. And the problem that Matthew intends to answer is this: How did the magi come to know the truth about the birth of the Messiah? Astrologers as they were, they observed the movements of the heavenly bodies and interpreted them according to their craft. Believing that there was something more to the phenomenon about the star they were witnessing, they used their knowledge to read what God wanted them to know. For, as Paul himself asserts, God’s plan can be read from creation: “invisible realities, God’s eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made” (Rom 1:20).

In other words, they believed, and acted on their belief according to their craft. And in using the resources available to them, the magi were led to Jerusalem where, through the priests, the experts of the Scriptures, whom Herod summoned to his palace, they were to identify exactly where the new-born Messiah could be. That is to say, from the revelation of God in creation, they came to the knowledge of his revelation in the Scriptures through the prophet Micah: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the princes of Judah, since from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel” (Mic 5:1; 2 Sam 5:2). Through this scriptural passage, they were able to clarify what had been vaguely revealed to them in the heavenly bodies and their movement—the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem , in the land of Judah .

The journey of the magi challenges us to ask: have we found God? How do we find him? Of course, it is truer to say that, most of the time, it is God who finds us. And even when we flee him, he still finds us, as Francis Thomson reminds us in his classic poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” Ordinarily, however, we look for him. And if the magi account has any lesson to teach us in this regard, it is that we can find him through what is ordinarily available to us. As the Bible itself points out, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen” (Wisd 13:5). God, in other words, is not always to be found in the miraculous, in the out of the ordinary. We can find him through our communities and through what is happening around us. Indeed, everywhere we go, God is there (Ps 137:9). Our task is simply to read the signs of his presence (cf Luke 12:54). And we do it with faith. And what we encounter in the community, in our environment, we should see it in the light of God’s Word, because the Scriptures, being the light (Ps 119:105), clarify it.

This brings us to the problem posed at the beginning of this homily. For us, Catholics, one lesson that the story of the magi gives us is that, to find Jesus, it is not necessary to move to other religion or embrace a sect or cult. In the Christian community, in the Church, we have enough ways by which we can encounter God, we have many signs of Christ’s presence. In our liturgical celebration, for instance, he is present in the person of the minister, in the community itself, in the word that is read from the ambo, and most especially, in the sign of the bread and wine. But as in the story of the magi, we cannot recognize his presence unless we have faith that God reveals himself through these signs.

But in addition to having faith, it is likewise necessary to act on our belief that God reveals himself through these liturgical signs. Take, for instance, his presence in the word. The “born-again” and fundamentalism mantra that “Catholicism does not preach the Bible but its human traditions” is utterly false. Everyday, the Scripture is read in the liturgy. Catholics are encouraged to own the Bible and read it. Bible study groups are available, and various forms of literature are published to help study the Word of God. But the problem is, even though we have the sign of Scriptures, many are not interested to open its treasures. It is simply pathetic to know that some “born-again” Christians would claim that they never have been taught about the Bible in the Catholic Church when in fact they never avail themselves of the ways to study the Scriptures when they were still under the Catholic fold. They failed to notice that the Bible has a prominent place in the Catholic Church. They are like the Jews in today’s Gospel from Matthew’s Infancy Narrative who had the Scriptures, but never know of the birth of the Messiah. As Jesus says in the Johannine debate with the Jews, “search the Scriptures in which you think you have eternal life; they also testify on my behalf. Yet, you are unwilling to come to me to possess that life” (John 5:39-40).

In the final result, what we really need is the faith of the Magi. Just as the magi were able to find the Messiah because they believed in the sign that God gave them, and relentlessly pursued the implication of their faith, so we Catholics need not only to possess faith in the signs of his presence that God gave to the Church, but also action to make that faith alive, meaningful to our personal life and that of the community, and to enable us to account for that faith before people, like the “born-again” Christians and fundamentalists, who need to be enlightened about what we believe in. Without that kind of performative faith, we will continue to have Catholics who, for instance, are more eager for miracles of healing and for spectacular performances than for the reception of the everyday miracle of the Eucharist in the Mass.

January 9, 2017 – MT 3:13-17

Fri, 01/06/2017 - 21:53

The Baptism of the Lord

Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Or: ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Alleluia MK 9:7

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son, listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Tagle to baptize 400 indigent kids

Fri, 01/06/2017 - 05:11

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle spends some time with former street kids who are under the care of the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation. (Photo: Nirva Delacruz)

MANILA, Jan. 6, 2017 – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, together with Fr. Matthieu Dauchez, Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation executive director and 10 other priests-beneficiaries of the Tulay Ng Kabataan (TNK) Foundation, will baptize on Jan. 14 some 400 kids from the slums of Metro Manila.

“Then it is so difficult to bring our wounded children close to God, it is, on the opposite, very easy to bring the Lord to them through the Sacraments,” said Dauchez.

According to TNK communications manager Elise Cruse, the foundation is helping poor families gain access not just to physical sustenance but to spiritual nourishment as well through the Sacraments.

“Families living in the slums and on the streets of Metro Manila are not only exposed to danger and threats, they also go without the Sacraments for long periods of time.

We observed that poor families think that they cannot get access to Sacraments because of their poverty. They often think that there is a fee, although Sacraments are for free,” she explained.

They don’t even know how and what to do, she said. TNK foundation and RCAM aim to change that by offering baptism to the most number of children possible.

Helping street kids leave a life on the streets since 1998, TNK developed 4 programs to help give them back their dignity:

  • Street children
  • Street children with special needs
  • Scavenger children
  • Children in slums

All in all, 1,300 children are welcomed in 24 centers each year and tens of thousands of children have left the street in the past 18 years.

For more information, interested parties may contact +63 9 999 577 688, email partnerships@tnkfoundation.org or visit their website www.tnkfoundation.org (CBCPNews)

A new ‘vocational culture’ is needed in the Church, Pope Francis says

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 21:16

Pope Francis hands rosaries to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his general audience May 4, 2016. (Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

VATICAN, Jan. 5, 2017– A fresh and courageous perspective is needed when it comes to helping youth discern and discover their vocation, Pope Francis said Thursday, emphasizing the importance of personal holiness and the commitment to serving others.

“(Today) there is the urgency to bring into the Christian community a new ‘vocational culture,’” the Pope said Jan. 5.

He said a vocational pastoral outreach “with broad horizons” and which comes from “the breath of communion,” is needed.

This outreach, he said, must also be capable “of reading with courage the reality as it is” with the hardships and resistance included, while at the same time “recognizing the signs of generosity and beauty in the human heart.”

Francis spoke to participants in a Jan. 3-5 convention organized by the Italian Bishops Conference’s office for vocations, titled “Rise, go and do not fear. Vocation and Holiness: I am on a mission.”

Pointing to the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” the Pope said that as it approaches, the theme must be increasingly at the forefront of their thoughts and attention.

He compared the “total and generous yes of a life given” to a spring of water hidden deep in the earth, which waits for the right moment “to gust forth and slide out, in a stream of purity and freshness.”

“Youth today need a fresh spring of water to quench their thirst and then continue their journey of discovery,” he said, explaining that the commitment to helping youth discern their vocations requires both passion and gratitude.

This passion is one of “personal involvement, in knowing how to care for the lives entrusted to you like chests that contain a precious treasure to be safeguarded,” he said.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is expressed by the “gratuity of a service and ministry in the Church that requires great respect” for those who make the journey with you, he said, noting that “it’s a commitment of seeking their happiness, and this goes well beyond your preferences and expectations.”

In order to be credible and “in tune” with today’s youth, listening has to be a priority, Francis said. He stressed the importance of knowing how to “lose time” in listening to and welcoming their questions and desires.

“Your witness will be much more persuasive if, with joy and truth, you know how to tell the beauty, the awe and the wonder of being in love with God” and of being men and women “who live with gratitude their choice of a life helping others in order to leave an unprecedented and original imprint on history.”

To do this means not being “tricked by external solicitations,” but entrusting oneself to “the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, reviving the fidelity of our choices and the freshness of the first love.”

Pope Francis said the urgency of promoting and encouraging vocations doesn’t depend on efficiency or what we do, but is rather centered on the careful attention given to “vigilance and discernment.”

“It’s having a gaze capable of seeing the positive in the human and spiritual events we encounter,” he said, focusing on the need for a heart that’s both “amazed and grateful in front of the gifts that people carry within themselves.”

This type of gaze, he said, should focus on potential more than on limits, and ought to provide a holistic view of “the present and the future in continuity with the past.”

Francis then turned to the conference theme, telling attendees to repeat frequently that “I am on a mission” and not simply that “I have a mission.”

To be on a permanent mission “requires courage, audacity, imagination and the desire to go beyond, to go even further,” he said, noting that the conference theme’s focus on responding without fear serves as a reminder of the many vocation stories they have heard or encountered.

In each of these stories, “the Lord invited those called to go out of themselves in order to be a gift for others; to these he entrusts a mission and reassures them,” the Pope said.

He closed his speech praying that those present would feel pushed by the Holy Spirit to “courageously identify new ways of announcing the Gospel of vocation.”

Like sentinels, he asked that they would be men and women who “know how to grasp the streaks of light of a new dawn, in a renewed experience of faith and passion for the Church and for the Kingdom of God.” (Elise Harris/CNA/EWTN News)

Bohol ordains new bishop

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 21:03

Newly ordained Tagbilaran Bishop Alberto Uy (center) poses for a photo with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and other bishops at the Blessed Trinity Cathedral in Talibon, Bohol, January 5, 2017.(Sammy Navaja/CBCPNews) 

Want to see God? Pray

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 19:54

Infanta Bishop Bernardino Cortez (Photo: Minnie Agdeppa)

MANILA, Jan. 5, 2017 – Where is God amid the thousands of drug-related deaths? According to a priest, a newly-beatified French Carmelite showed how prayer is a way of seeing God in even the most challenging circumstances.

“I believe he reminds us of the importance of prayer and of one’s relationship with God,” said Diocese of Novaliches Catechetical Ministry director Fr. Aldrin Lopez in Filipino, pertaining to Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, who was beatified in France on Nov. 19, 2016.

In an interview after a thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus held by the Diocese of Novaliches on Jan. 2 at Notre Dame De Vie Retreat House in Quezon City, the priest explained that this, after all, is what the beatified French Carmelite advocated while he was alive.

‘Persevere in prayer’

“He (Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus) said it is important for us to have a deep experience of God. This is why he said, ‘My vocation is to lead people to God, to journey with them towards God,’” he emphasized. “This we’ll find in his writings, especially the [book] I Want To See God.”

Infanta Bishop Bernardino Cortez similarly affirms one experiences God’s presence and mercy through prayer, particularly contemplative prayer.

“Persevere in prayer,” he urged gently during his homily during the Carmelite family’s thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of the French priest on Dec. 30, 2016 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Broadway, Quezon City. “Be open to God’s love in prayer…to experience the depth of God’s love in prayer.”

Prayer enables one to see God throughout the day, said the prelate – no matter the circumstance – to draw renewed hope and strength for challenging times.

Synthesizing Carmelite spirituality

Beatified in Parc de Expositions in Avignon, France, Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD founded the Notre-Dame de Vie Institute (NDV) in France for lay people to live out Carmelite spirituality.

Born Henri Grialou in France on 1894, he became a Carmelite priest in 1922 and established in 1954 a branch of NDV in the Philippines before founding the Mother of Life Center (MLC) for cathechists in 1967. Both NDV and MLC are located in Bgy. San Agustin, Q.C., which are under the Diocese of Novaliches.

According to Lopez, Bl. Marie-Eugene’s I Want To See God, I Am A Daughter of The Church, synthesized the entire Carmelite spirituality by explaining the teachings of St. Teresa De Jesus, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux–the former two saints being the two major reformers of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCD). (Minnie Agdeppa / CBCPNews)

Archbishop Villegas hits ‘fake news’

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 05:45

Archbishop Socrates Villegas (CBCPNews)

MANILA, Jan. 4, 2017— Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan has denied a newspaper report that he criticized President Rodrigo Duterte in his New Year homily.

The archbishop described the Manila Times report titled “Duterte no protector of Filipinos – Archbishop Villegas” as ‘fake’ and was deliberately manufactured.

“This is fake news!” Archbishop Villegas said. “Please be truthful. Do not use the Church to spread lies.”

The report claimed that in his homily at the Dagupan Cathedral on Dec. 31, the archbishop supposedly said that in pushing for the revival of the death penalty, Duterte will be killing people, especially the poor.

Although the Church is firm against the capital punishment, Villegas said the article was a “completely fabricated lie.”

“This was not the homily at the cathedral last December 31,” he clarified, as the article triggered vicious attacks against him by Duterte’s online supporters.

This is not the first time that Villegas and some other bishops have been victimized by fake news and deceptive memes that angered Duterte’s sympathizers. (CBCPNews)

French cardinal to represent Pope Francis in ‘mercy’ confab

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 05:27

Cardinal Philippe Barbari (Screen grab from KTO Catholic TV)

MANILA, Jan. 4, 2017–No less than a direct envoy of Pope Francis will visit the Philippines this month for the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (Wacom 4).

The pope has appointed French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin as his representative throughout the Congress from Jan. 16 to 20.

Fr. Prospero Tenorio, Wacom Asia Secretary General, said the the papal legate is also expected to deliver the pope’s message to the participants of the international church event.

Barbarin, 66, has been the archbishop of Lyon since 2002. He was made a cardinal in 2003 and joined the conclaves that elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and Pope Francis in 2013.

Organizers also formally invited President Rodrigo Duterte to attend the Wacom’s opening Mass to be officiated by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at the Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16.

Tenorio said they extended the invitation through a letter sent to Duterte but they are still awaiting a response from the President.

He expressed hope that Duterte would grace the occasion as an opportunity for the Church and government to further work together for the welfare of the Filipinos, especially the poor.

“This is a good opportunity… there is always room for conversion, room for the church and government to work together,” Tenorio said.

Aside from Manila, the event is set to bring delegates to three other locations: Padre Pio National Shrine in Santo Tomas, Batangas on Jan. 18: National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan on Jan. 19; and Parish of St Catherine of Alexandria, Diocese of Balanga in Bataan on Jan. 20.

The Congress also feature a wide array of speakers including Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna and president of the WACOM.

With the theme “Communion in Mercy; Mission for Mercy”, the gathering aims to accelerate the “culture of mercy” in the Church and in the world.

“We hope that this important event in the universal Church could be a moment to nurture the fruits of the Holy Year of Mercy,” Cardinal Tagle said.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, said the WACOM of “our communion and unity in mercy.”

“We are here because of the mercy of God. We are here sent by God for a mission of mercy,” he said. (CBCPNews)