Various Catholic News

This Canadian pro-life activist's talk at Google headquarters was a hit

Catholic Register Canada - News - 2 hours 22 min ago

MOUNTAIN VIEW – A pro-life activist walks into Google’s headquarters and delivers a speech so compelling that within 24 hours, the online video of it surpassed a similar speech given by the head of Planned Parenthood.

It may sound like the start to a far-fetched joke, but on April 20th, pro-life speaker and activist Stephanie Gray did just that.

Gray was the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and served as its executive director for several year before starting the ministry which she now runs, Love Unleashes Life.

She spoke in April as a part of the Talks at Google series, a program that brings a variety of speakers to the company’s headquarters to discuss their work. Gray has participated in more than 800 talks and debates on abortion.

Gray’s talk centred around the idea that there are three qualities that lead us to call someone “inspiring:” They place others ahead of themselves, have “perspective” on their sufferings and situation in life, and do the right thing even in difficult situations. She linked these criteria to the process of dialoguing with others about abortion, emphasizing question asking.

She began by contrasting two stories, that of the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy in 2012 and the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing in 2009. In the first story, she explained, the captain had jumped ship along with the rest of the crew. In the second, the pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, had been the last off the flooding vessel, ensuring his passengers all exited safely.

In comparing the two stories, she noted that Sullenberger was lauded as a hero, and the captain of the Concordia internationally shamed.

“If you agree that it was correct for the pilot to put the passengers ahead of himself, to prioritize the needs of his dependents,” she said, “then wouldn’t it follow, that when it comes to the topic of abortion and an unplanned pregnancy, that a pregnant woman ought to prioritize the needs of her dependent?”

However, she noted that the comparison was only valid “depending on, indeed, whether embryos and fetuses are human beings, like the passengers on the airplane.”

To determine whether or not a fetus is a human being, Gray displayed an image of a human fetus and posed the question, “What are her parents?” It would logically follow that two human parents’ offspring must be the same species, she said.

Despite the ambiguity around the origin point of human life when it comes to abortion, she said, in discussing other topics “we have great clarity.” For example, an IVF specialist or dog breeder would agree that the life they attempt to create begins at fertilization.

Taking a look at what qualifies as “personhood,” Gray considered the terms used by pro-infanticide philosopher Peter Singer, that a person is a being which is “rational, conscious, and self-aware.” She contrasted a human embryo with an amoeba: the embryo lacks these qualities “because of how old she is,” where the amoeba lacks them “because of what it is.”

“Should personhood be grounded in how old we are, or should personhood be grounded in what we are?” she asked.

“The quality of age shouldn’t be the basis for which someone has personhood status,” she answered, noting that the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the rights of “all members of the human family.”

She then addressed the question of the fetus’ dependence, arguing that the fetus’ greater dependent status as a weaker entity than a baby entitles it to greater, not less, protection. She related this to the story of a friend’s husband who, faced with the choice between rescuing a mother or her baby first from the roof of a sinking car, made the “obvious” choice to take the baby.

“Since you believe that we should prioritize weaker and more vulnerable people ahead of stronger people, then shouldn’t we actually prioritize the needs of the pre-born child?” she said.

She recalled meeting a Rwandan genocide survivor who, seeing a picture of a child killed in the conflict next to an aborted fetus, pointed to the image of the fetus and said, “That’s worse, because at least my family could try to run away.”

Considering the concept of perspective, she posed another question: “How can we change our perspective in an unplanned, crisis situation?” She recalled dialoguing with a college student whose stepmother had an abortion upon learning her baby was expected to die at birth. Responding with a thought experiment involving a terminal cancer diagnosis, she answered the student, “Why would we cut short the already short time we have left? Instead, wouldn’t we want to savor every moment of every day of the next 20 weeks (of the pregnancy)?”

Moving to her final criterion for what makes a person inspirational – “do the right thing” – she listed a number of circumstances that make pregnancy hard and often lead to abortion, including poverty or rape. But when we look at parents raising an already-born child in the same circumstances, she said, we can see that we ought to have the same attitude towards carrying an unborn child as towards parenting a child in the same situation.

Gray closed with a number of stories from people she knows personally, including a woman who was raped and had a child at age 12, a woman who cared for her baby daughter with respiratory issues, and a woman who regretted her own abortion and ended up counselling another woman to carry her baby to term.

“They’re inspiring because they put others ahead of themselves, because they had perspective, and because they did the right thing, even when it was hard,” she said of all the stories she had told throughout the talk. “And that’s the challenge that I leave all of you with today.”

In a question-and-answer session after her talk, she recommended that audience members seek to start dialogue on the difficult topic of abortion with open-ended questions, and to “seek to understand where (another) person is coming from.” She also used the analogy of a person choosing rape to address the thought that pro-life views cannot be “forced on” pregnant women, saying that just as it is illegal to make the choice to rape someone, it ought to be illegal to choose to end the life of a fetus.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards also gave a Talk at Google, in a video published March 7. Gray’s talk, published June 19, had surpassed Richards in views within 24 hours of being uploaded.

(Catholic News Agency)

Pope Francis salutes Lithuania’s first Soviet-era martyr

Vatican Today (VIS) - 2 hours 36 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent special greetings to Lithuanian Catholics on Sunday as he recalled the Beatification, in Vilnius, of the nation’s first Soviet-era martyr. “Today in Vilnius, Bishop Teofilius Matulionis , who was murdered because of hatred towards the faith in 1962 when he was almost 90-years-old, will be Beatified” the  Pope said to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus. “Let us give thanks to the Lord for the witness of this courageous defender of the faith and of human dignity. Let us pay our respects to him and to the entire Lithuanian people with applause” he said. Bishop Matulionis was a priest and bishop who continually defied communist rule and spent much of his ministry in prison. He was declared a martyr by Pope Francis on December 16, clearing the way for his beatification.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope prays for victims of landslide tragedy in China

Vatican Today (VIS) - 3 hours 11 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his closeness and grief for the victims of a landslide that engulfed a village in Sichuan province in south-western China . Speaking on Sunday after the recitation of the Angelus in St. Peters’ Square, the Pope said “I am close to the population of the Chinese village of Xinmo that was struck yesterday morning by a landslide caused by heavy rains”. “I pray for the dead and for the injured, he said, and for those who have lost their homes. May God comfort affected families and sustain rescuers.” Meanwhile almost 100 people remain missing after the huge landslide buried homes in Xinmo and hopes of finding survivors are fading. The bodies of fifteen people have so far been recovered, but many more are feared trapped beneath the rubble. Thousands of rescuers were deployed after some 40 homes were destroyed in Xinmo village in Maoxian county. Emergency workers have been digging through earth and rocks for a second day, with rescue dogs scouring the debris for some 93 people who remain unaccounted for. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope says persecution is the risk of being a missionary

Crux Now - 4 hours 16 min ago

Pope Francis once again spoke about anti-Christian persecution on Sunday, both active and passive, defining it as the risk of being missionaries.

“We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, and praise God because, despite this, they continue to testify to their faith with their courage and fidelity,” Francis said to thousands who gathered in Rome’s St. Peters Square for the weekly Sunday Angelus address.

Francis also recalled a specific example of martyrdom at the end of his remarks, Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis of Lithuania, who was imprisoned three times during his life by the Soviets and eventually killed in 1962 at the age of 90. He was beatified on Sunday in his native country.

“We give praise to God for the witness of this strenuous defender of the faith and of the dignity of man,” the pope said. He then asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square for a round of applause for Matulionis and the Lithuanian people.

The example of those who’re being persecuted, the pope said, “helps us not to hesitate in taking position in favor of Christ,” being witnesses in every situation, “even in seemingly peaceful contexts.”

This absence of hostility and tribulation, Francis continued, can be a “test:” being “sheep in the midst of wolves.”

Being missionaries amidst people who don’t want to be awaken from their “worldly stupor,” preaching the Gospel against “ephemeral truths,” can make Christians seem “annoying” and “not good.”

But even in these situations, Francis continued, God says “Do not be afraid!”

“Always, when we have some tribulation, some persecution, something that makes us suffer, we hear the voice of Jesus in our heart: ‘Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid, go forth! I am with you!’”

Francis went on to call on Christians not to be afraid of mockery and mistreatment, nor afraid of being ignored.

There are so many, he said, who when “’face-to-face’ honor you but ‘from behind’ fight the Gospel.”

“We all know them,” Francis said.

The pope was reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, in which Jesus calls on his disciples to be missionaries, preparing them to face “tribulations and persecutions.”

Being missionaries, the pope said, is not “doing tourism,” and the disciples didn’t have their success guaranteed: “They had to consider the possibility of being rejected, and of being persecuted. This is frightening, but it’s the truth.”

Yet these challenges, Francis continued, are part of the missionary work, as they are a way to verify the authenticity of one’s faith.

Though he gave no examples, Christians today represent the most persecuted religious group in the world, with an estimated 200 million people facing active persecution on a daily basis.

Though it’s often associated with countries where persecution has been ongoing for decades, such as several countries in the Middle East, North Korea or China, examples of anti-Christian violence are easily found elsewhere.

For instance, on the early hours of Friday someone tried to burn down the chapel of Madrid’s Autonomous University, throwing a Molotov bomb into it. Three windows were broken, an image of St. Joseph which was inside broken and several benches burned.

Outside of the building, with red painting, an unknown person wrote “The only church that illuminates is one that burns.” The church had already been attacked in June 2016, when people burst into it and left anti-Catholic remarks.

Pope uses common veneration of relics to foster relations with Orthodox

Catholic Register Canada - News - 8 hours 22 min ago

VATICAN CITY – Common veneration of relics is one of the tools Pope Francis is using to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In May, relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, respectively. They have been exposed for the veneration of the Orthodox faithful from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.

The transportation of the relics of St. Nicholas from the Italian city of Bari to Moscow is particularly noteworthy. It is the first time in 930 years that a part of the body of St. Nicholas has left Bari for veneration abroad.

The novel action comes after a specific request Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow made to Pope Francis when they met in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.

Pope Francis consented to Patriarch Kirill’s request and forwarded the request to Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. The archbishop then started the procedures to move the relics.

In the end, it was possible to detach a small particle of St. Nicholas’ left rib, which the archbishop noted was “close to the saint’s heart.”

Archbishop Cacucci discussed the letter Pope Francis had sent him to about the Patriarch’s request. The archbishop explained that, for Pope Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints help us to look at the ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.

St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087.

Those sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where St. Nicholas had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.

This year, St. Nicholas’ relics arrived in Moscow May 22. They were placed in a container specially crafted for the occasion. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill himself celebrated a divine liturgy to welcome them.

St. Nicholas' relics will be in Moscow until July 12. They will then move to St. Petersburg for several weeks before returning to Bari July 28.

While the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate received St. Nicholas’ relics from the Church of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on May 8 welcomed relics of St. Philip in the Turkish city of Izmir, better known by its ancient Greek name: Smyrna.

St. Philip evangelized that land and was martyred there.

His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century. Last year, the relics were taken out and submitted to an examination. Then, they were exposed for a while for the veneration of the faithful.

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople strongly advocated sharing the relics for veneration, as he is particularly devoted to St. Philip. The Catholic community joined the Patriarch in this request, and so one of St. Philip’s relic could return home. The Catholic Archbishop of Izmir Lorenzo Piretto personally forwarded the request to bring the relics to the Turkish city.

The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is performed today.

It echoes Pope Francis’ idea of “walking ecumenism,” which he described in an Oct. 12 meeting with members of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions.

In his remarks, the Pope said that “it is important that theologians study, that they find agreement and identify disagreements.”

But, he added, “ecumenism is done by walking and by walking with Jesus.” It is “a simple path, traveled with prayer and through helping one another.”

Another reflection came while the Pope presided at Vespers Jan. 25, 2016 at St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica, a time that by tradition closes the week of prayer for Christian unity. Pope Francis said that “while we journey together toward full communion, we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favor the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”

This “walking ecumenism” is also emphasized through the veneration of the same saints. Patriarch Kirill seems to think the same.

Bari’s Archbishop Cacucci, having returned from Russia where he accompanied St. Nicholas’ relic, reflected on the phenomenon.

“In fact, the translation of the relic is already an ecumenical dialogue, and this Patriarch Kirill said more and more times. When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of Churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”

(Catholic News Agency)

Circle of Protection mobilizes to change nation’s budget priorities

Crux Now - 10 hours 59 min ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Christian faith leaders pledged anew to build a “circle of protection” around vital social programs identified for deep spending cuts under President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget, saying their action is consistent with biblical principles.

Coming together during a news conference at the National Press Club June 21, more than a dozen leaders, including representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in a unified front to defend a broad array of domestic and international aid programs that, they argued, sustain life.

They used strong language in criticizing planned cuts in food and nutrition, education, elderly services, health care, air and water protection, employment training and more. They said they feared that people will be harmed or even die if the budget as proposed is adopted.

“There is a troubling momentum at this time in Washington, D.C., for creating a serious imbalance in overall spending priorities, one that will place those who struggle on the margins of society, on the peripheries, in grave danger,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Dewane and the others repeated a simple message: A budget is a moral document that reflects the values and priorities of a country and they are concerned that the priorities being eyed by Washington have gone askew.

What particularly concerns the Circle of Protection group is how the budget assembled by Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, slices $52 billion from programs that help Americans cope with sickness, unemployment and homelessness to pay for a corresponding increase in the Pentagon budget.

The Rev. Carlos Malave, executive director of Christian Churches Together in the USA, charged that “the few” at the top end of the U.S. economy “are denying the masses a future” in the pursuit of power and riches.

“We’re here because we believe in a different world. We’re here because we believe all can have life and life in abundance,” he said, saying a massive increase in military spending does not uphold human dignity.

Dewane called it “scary” when the defense budget is contrasted with cuts in social services. While he said defense spending is needed, he suggested that some shaving there would be in order.

“One part of the budget (defense) is about defending killing, if you want to put it that way,” he told Catholic News Service. “But the other (reduced social service spending) kills also.”

There has been little appetite in Congress for the stringent Trump budget. Democrats, as expected, have voiced strong opposition to any change in spending priorities. Republicans have described the Trump budget plan simply as a starting point.

The budget that will emerge later this summer is expected to limit the size of the cuts while boosting military spending in some fashion. And there’s likely to be changes in how programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps, function.

With those expectations looming, the Circle of Protection umbrella group of faith leaders is preparing to up its game to stop what these leaders see as an unfair targeting of poor people.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, an ecumenical advocacy organization, said the group wanted members of Congress to stand up for the Christian values they hold and “speak as people of faith.” He called for a mobilization of religious congregations to tell Congress that programs that promote human life must become a priority for the country.

“Underneath the headlines in Washington, there are moral choices we make,” Wallis told CNS. “We want to make those moral choices clear. For us, this is not a matter of politics or partisan loyalty.

“What if a legislator can say, ‘I’m hearing from my Christian constituents that we have to form a circle of protection because people are in jeopardy?’ That circle has to be broadened. We’re lifting that up,” he said.

The Circle of Protection coalition released a two-page statement during the news briefing. In it, the leaders stressed that the country must address the national debt, but also called on Congress to “approve a budget that weighs the importance of providing for critical needs and that responsibly manages the country’s fiscal issues; but the most vulnerable should not carry the burden of solving this challenge.”

The statement cited how the recently House-passed American Health Care Act would cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade and end health insurance under the Affordable Care Act for 23 million people, including 14 million poor individuals. On top of that, the administration’s budget would cut another $600 billion from Medicaid in the same period.

Such cuts would place people’s lives at risk, the statement said. Released June 22, the Senate’s health care reform bill, called Better Care Reconciliation Act, proposes similar cuts in Medicaid.

Dewane said the challenge ahead requires the Circle of Protection members to help lawmakers in Congress see the faces behind the numbers of the federal budget.

“There’s where you make connections if you’re looking at a budget,” he explained to CNS. “Behind every number, there’s human faces. And that’s what I think they’re not seeing. They’re caught up in that number, but behind it are human faces and that’s who we need to look to.”

The leaders acknowledged they face a tremendous challenge in advocating for America’s poor and vulnerable because powerful special interests carry great influence in Congress.

Still, they say they hope their message, rooted in the Bible will sway Congress to act on behalf of vulnerable Americans.

“Wouldn’t that be a great cable news story to see legislators,” Wallis said, “who expressed their Christian faith, to come together apart from party and say, ‘We are together as Christians going to protect the poor. It’s very simple. It’s very clear. It’s very unified and … it’s very biblical.”

Note: The full Circle of Protection statement can be read online at:


Under the radar: South Sudan needs media attention, immediate action

Crux Now - 11 hours 3 min ago

ROME — Pope Francis is first of all a shepherd who makes seeking out the lost and forgotten his top priority. But he also knows that wherever he goes, the cameras and news coverage will follow.

He leveraged his pull on the media spotlight early in his papacy when he went to Lampedusa for his very first trip as pope, tossing a funeral wreath onto the vast, unmarked cemetery known as the Mediterranean Sea — where thousands of migrants die each year escaping from economic distress, political crises or persecution.

His visits to the Central African Republic, refugee centers, prisons, homes for the elderly and ill have all been key stops in his mission to reach out to the neglected peripheries, encourage those who are suffering and the hidden heroes helping them, and wake up the world to their presence and plight.

South Sudan was meant to be next on that list, to red-flag the disastrous effects of civil war — millions of people facing violence, displacement, chronic hunger and mass starvation — and to nudge conflicting parties toward peace.

However, mounting doubts over security and how ready those parties may be for negotiation have put a boots-on-the-ground papal visit on hold. And now some Catholic aid and development agencies are wondering, with no pope, how does this tragedy get on the world radar now?

“With Donald Trump, Brexit and terrorist attacks happening in the news,” outlets that are usually very receptive to covering humanitarian crises and efforts “don’t have the space to cover them,” Patrick Nicholson, director of communications at Caritas Internationalis, told Catholic News Service.

Despite the immensity of the tragedy, “it’s really off the radar in terms of the world caring,” he said, which is why “the pope raising awareness is absolutely crucial.” Everybody’s efforts to get the word out is still key, and Nicholson and his Caritas colleagues created after a recent visit to South Sudan to better show the human stories and lives at stake.

Sister Yudith Pereira-Rico, associate executive director of Solidarity with South Sudan, told CNS in Rome that her organization is promoting the hashtag #SouthSudanWeCare on social media to show the South Sudanese people that they will not be overlooked.

“The people there feel they are forgotten. There is no media attention and they always tell us, ‘Please, don’t forget to speak about us.'”

A member of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Pereira-Rico said she has spent the past two decades working in the poorest parts of West Africa “and yet I’ve never seen the poverty like there is in South Sudan.

“My first time in South Sudan, in Malakal, I wasn’t able to sing ‘Hallelujah’ in church” having seen the situation of the people. “Now, more and more, I can see that God is here.”

Sometimes she and her colleagues feel so powerless when faced with so many people in need, “but just being there” can offer comfort, she said. “A challenge we have as Christians is believing in the resurrection in these situations, knowing that there is a good end for human history.”

Solidarity with South Sudan is an international network of religious congregations that was formed to train primary school teachers, health care workers, pastoral agents and sustainable farmers from all ethnic groups, learning tolerance and reconciliation along the way.

The NGOs do the emergency relief, “and we do development, teach values,” Pereira-Rico said.

The 28 nuns, priests and brothers from 20 different congregations and 20 nations living and working together in four different communities across South Sudan are a living witness of what harmony in diversity and collaboration look like, she said.

“We’re like the United Nations,” she smiled, and “we show people a new model of living.”

The local church also provides the credibility, networks and infrastructure that relief agencies need to reach the most vulnerable, said Jerry Farrell, country representative in South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services.

“The church has an incredible reputation. It is battered and weary,” like its people, but it never shuts down, it always sticks by its people, which is partly why it’s so respected, he told CNS by Skype from Juba.

By working directly with parishes and religious orders, like the Comboni sisters, CRS can get food to 5,000 to 6,000 families in places where no one else has access, he said.

No matter how bad things get, the Catholic Church still is operating its schools, hospitals, clinics and programs all over South Sudan; the facilities may not look as nice as those in the West, “but they work.

“Peacebuilding is quiet, but relentless,” he said, and it often does not make for an exciting or visual story.

Media often like to cover things such as the highly complex emergency airdrops to those who are stranded, but Farrell said reporters should be looking at the Catholic schools, like the ones run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

“It’s not visually catchy, but that’s the real story. That’s where the future of South Sudan lies” as these schools provide basic care, nutrition and even vegetable gardens for the mothers to grow healthy food.

The other real story that should get coverage, he said, are the survivors. “The people here are incredibly resilient and one of the main reasons for that is they go to church” and are deeply spiritual people.

With aid from partner agencies, the church becomes a place people go to find basic supplies, safety, sanctuary and “spiritual nourishment because without that, aid is just a pat on the back,” Farrell said.

“Things will be better. It will just take time because peacebuilding is meant to help South Sudan heal itself,” he said.

As the Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches work for peace from the bottom up and the role of political leaders is to help from the top down, he added, someday they will all meet in the middle.

Judge blocks deportation of Chaldeans and other Iraqis

Crux Now - 11 hours 7 min ago

DETROIT – A federal judge has ruled that 114 Iraqi immigrants facing deportation can stay in the U.S. for at least two more weeks as he sorts out whether the court has jurisdiction. Supporters say the immigrants would face persecution in Iraq since many of them are Christians.

The judge’s decision Thursday (June 22) was cheered by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and attorneys for the immigrants.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said in a written opinion released Thursday: “The stay shall expire 14 days from today, unless otherwise ordered by the Court.”

Goldsmith did not make a final determination in the lawsuit, which was filed against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by attorneys on behalf of Iraqi nationals arrested June 11.

Goldsmith said “the Court is unsure whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction.”

The ruling was hailed as a victory by Clarence Dass, an attorney representing more than 20 of the Iraqis detained.

“We are ecstatic,” Dass said. “When your life is on the line, each day is a victory. And in this case, 14 days. We now have the breathing room to ensure that every individual detained has the proper motions filed and, ultimately, a chance to be heard. The work continues.”

The June 11 arrests by ICE sparked protests in Detroit by supporters who say the Iraqis would face persecution in Iraq since many of them are Christians. Almost 200 Iraqi nationals with criminal records have been arrested recently nationwide by federal immigration agents.

ICE has defended the arrests, saying the Iraqis arrested all had criminal backgrounds and final orders of deportation from an immigration judge.

Attorneys for the Iraqis have been filing appeals for the detainees in immigration and local county courts.

“We are thankful and relieved that our clients will not be immediately sent to Iraq, where they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan. “It would be unconstitutional and unconscionable to deport these individuals without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the harm that awaits them in Iraq.”

Warikoo writes for the Detroit Free Press. 

A doctor prescribed a procedure, but insurance offered death

Crux Now - 11 hours 11 min ago

Dr. T. Brian Callister chose to become a physician for the reason many choose to go into the medical field – to make a difference in people’s lives.

But that difference has recently been cut short by assisted suicide legislation.

An internal medicine specialist and the National Medical Director at The LifeCare Family of Hospitals based in Reno, Nevada, Callister sees many patients from out of state, since the Reno-Tahoe area is a vacation destination.

Recently, he had two patients within two months who both needed life-saving procedures.

In both cases, he requested a hospital transfer to their home state: one in California and one in Oregon, both of which have legalized assisted suicide.

Both patients were denied the requested transfer and requested life-saving procedure by their insurance companies, who instead asked Callister if he had offered his patients assisted suicide.

“I was just floored. The best I could muster was ‘uh, that’s not legal here yet.’ And they said if you get them back home we can take care of it,” Callister told CNA.

He said he had not at any point indicated that he or his patients would be interested in assisted suicide. It was offered simply because it was the cheapest option.

HIPPA laws, which govern the privacy of patient information, limit the specifics that Callister can go into on these cases.

However, he said one of these patients ended up going to a lower level of care but did not get the lifesaving procedure, and the other got so frustrated that they left the hospital.

Neither received the care recommended by their doctor.

Callister said in both cases, the recommended care was a standard medical procedure and not an experimental therapy, which are often not covered by insurance companies for other reasons.

“Most people look at (assisted suicide) as a freedom and autonomy thing, and it really is the opposite when you look at my cases, since access to care and choices are being limited by this law,” Callister said.

“It’s cutting your choice, not adding to it.”

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in a handful of states, gaining momentum ever since the high profile suicide of cancer patient Brittany Maynard in 2014.

Many prominent Catholic leaders, such as Pope Francis, have spoken out against assisted suicide, calling it “false compassion.” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has said assisted suicide “represents a failure of solidarity” and abandons the most vulnerable in society.

Callister’s cases are not the first time patients have been denied care and offered death instead.

Stephanie Packer, a terminally ill wife and mother, was recently denied chemotherapy, but was offered assisted suicide by her insurance for just $1.20.

Packer said it was the ultimate slap in the face: Her insurance company denied the coverage of critical chemotherapy treatment that her doctors recommended for her condition.

Particularly concerning is that the insurance company had initially suggested that they would cover the chemotherapy drugs. It was one week after assisted suicide was legalized in 2016 that they sent Packer a letter saying they were denying coverage. Despite multiple appeals, they continued to refuse.

Often, proponents of assisted suicide will argue it is necessary for people to avoid unending pain or unbearable suffering at the end of their life.

This argument ignores the advances made in palliative and hospice care which can control pain and symptoms at the end of life, Callister noted.

“In this day and age, we have outstanding palliative care, hospice care, we have the education, the skill and the drugs to keep you comfortable,” he said.

Opponents of assisted suicide say there are not enough legal safeguards possible to guard against coercion and abuse, whether by insurance companies or by family members who may benefit financially from the death of a family member.

“It’s illegal for a family to coerce the patient. How are they going to regulate that? The coercion police are going to go to your house? It all sounds good on paper, but none of it is practically enforceable; it really isn’t,” Callister said.

Another argument used by proponents of assisted suicide is that they follow the same guidelines as do doctors for referring patients to hospice and palliative care – they only suggest assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis with six or fewer months to live.

But the problem with that, Callister said, is that doctors are often wrong when it comes to terminal diagnoses: the margin for error is 50-70 percent. Some patients die sooner than expected, while many also go on to outlive their prognoses, sometimes by years.

“My take on it is: if we’re not sure how much quality time you have left, why would you throw that away? And the second part of that is once it becomes clear that you are dying, you’re in your last weeks, we have the ability to keep you comfortable. So why do we need this law?”

He added that as a physician for 30 years, he has seen the end of life be some of the most important times in a family for healing, for reconciliation, for self-giving love.

“I see more self-giving love for other people, I see more families healed and brought together, and bad rifts healed and reconciled at the end of life than any other time.”

Bishop: ‘Fundamental defects’ persist in Senate’s version of health bill

Crux Now - 11 hours 13 min ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act contains “many of the fundamental defects” that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act “and even further compounds them,” said the bishop who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The Senate released its health care reform bill in “discussion draft” form June 22.

“As is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a statement released late June 22. “It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.”

Dewane criticized the “per-capita cap” on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, “would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.

“An acceptable health care system provides access to all, regardless of their means, and at all stages of life,” Dewane said. “Such a health care system must protect conscience rights, as well as extend to immigrant families.”

He indicated the Better Care Reconciliation Act at least partially succeeds on conscience rights by “fully applying the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”

However, the bishops “also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal,” Dewane said. “It fails, as well, to put in place conscience protections for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are needed more than ever in our country’s health policy.”

Other first-day reaction to the bill was negative.

The Senate’s 142-page draft “is not the faithful way forward,” said a June 22 statement from Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service who heads the Network Catholic social justice lobby.

“My faith challenges me to heal the sick and care for the widow and the orphan. This Republican bill does the opposite,” she said, adding, “We urge a no vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act.”

“Learning about the proposed deep cuts in Medicaid passed by the House of Representatives, the American people looked to the Senate. Sadly, the Senate plan proposes even deeper cuts in Medicaid,” said a statement from Larry Couch, director of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd’s National Advocacy Center.

“This wanton disregard for human life must be stopped. Millions of children living in poverty, people with disabilities, and older people in nursing homes will be denied life-saving medicine and care,” Couch added. “Stop this vicious attack on the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

Campbell criticized the Republican-only drafting of the bill, and the announced intent of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to have a vote on the bill before the Fourth of July recess, which could severely limit debate on the bill or any amendments.

“This bill is a crass political calculation carried out by 13 white, male senators who are out of touch with the realities of millions of ordinary families in every state,” she said. “Democracy works best when there are hearings, debate, and discussion to craft a bill that works for everyone, not just a few senators.”

“Ending the Medicaid expansion at a slower rate still means that millions of Americans will have their health care coverage taken away. Senators who support this bill will be voting to take away health insurance from the elderly, the disabled, and children,” said a June 22 statement from the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister who is president of Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger lobby.

“Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty,” Beckmann added. “Instead of making our health care system worse, Congress should strive to improve the system so that all Americans have the health care coverage they need.”

Network, Bread for the World and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd are part of the Interfaith Healthcare Coalition, which also includes as members the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness; the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism; the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries; and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

The American Psychological Association also came out in opposition to the bill, citing the Medicaid cuts and permission to states to waive certain health benefits.

“This so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act is actually worse than the bill passed by the House, because it would undermine Medicaid even more severely, if a little more slowly,” said a June 2 statement by Antonio E. Puente, APA president. “Medicaid is a critical backstop of coverage for mental health treatment, and for millions of older Americans, children and individuals with disabilities. If the goal is to cover more people, why slash Medicaid when it is already much more cost-effective than private sector plans?”

One part of the bill cuts the federal government’s share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

The bill would reduce tax credits to help people buy insurance and would defund Planned Parenthood for one year under the bill. It is expected the Senate will take up the measure on the floor during the week of June 26.

According to an Associated Press analysis, the Republicans’ health bill “cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families in America.”

The Better Care Reconciliation Act which would repeal taxes in the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — and structure subsidies for insurance policy-holders based on their incomes. It also would continue for at least two years to offer reimbursements to health insurance companies for subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income customers of Obamacare plans.

The bill would allow children to stay on their parents’ health plans to age 26. It also would fund $62 billion over eight years to a state innovation fund, which can be used for coverage of high-risk patients, reinsurance and other expenses.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to issue its “score” of the Senate bill before the end of June.

The CBO’s score of the first House GOP-led Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill, which never came to a vote, estimated that 24 million Americans would lose health insurance over the next decade. Its score on the second bill, which squeaked to a 217-213 victory, estimated that 23 million Americans would lose their health care.

“America deserves better than its failing status quo,” McConnell said June 22 on the Senate floor when introducing the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

But calling it “mean and heartless legislation,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said the bill is “going to gut Medicaid. It’s going to take away care for our seniors” and “from millions of people across the country,” to “give another massive tax cut for the wealthy and well-connected.”


As Catholic leaders convene, St. Joseph’s College forms the faithful

Crux Now - 11 hours 29 min ago

In one week, Catholic bishops and diocesan delegates from around the country will convene in Orlando, Florida, for a historic Convocation of Catholic Leaders. Motivated by Pope Francis’s call to missionary discipleship in Evangelii Gaudium, the gathering aims to assess the landscape of the Church in the United States and hold a collaborative brainstorm for new means of evangelization in the Church today. Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program will be there to offer dioceses educational support and opportunities to form the faithful as they embark on this new adventure.

The Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program develops beneficial relationships with a variety of organizations to meet the educational needs of their employees and associates. This online program partners with Catholic dioceses and institutions, offering doctrinal and pastoral formation that is both accessible and affordable. Partners receive discounted tuition and application fee waivers, ongoing assessment of educational needs and assistance in addressing institutional challenges, and development of customized educational programs to meet the specific needs of the diocese. An educational partnership with the Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program is non-exclusive, allowing dioceses to maintain already established relationships with other institutions.

Saint Joseph’s College has intentionally created online programs that address the ministerial needs of the Church today, from catechist formation through post-graduate continuing formation, and is excited to collaborate with participants of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders on new ways to empower those in ministry. All faculty receive the mandatum from the local bishop of the Diocese of Portland, as Saint Joseph’s College is committed to offering programs that are faithful to the Magisterium. Optional on-campus opportunities during the summer and study-away programs satisfy the need for online students to have face-to-face connections.

The Catechism for Catechists is an online, non-credit course that provides intellectual formation for catechists and ideally serves as the doctrinal component for any diocesan catechist certification program. Created for those serving as parish catechists or teaching the Catholic faith in the Catholic school system, as well as those interested in general adult faith formation, the curriculum is derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theological Studies with an allowance of up to 95 transfer credits, making it the perfect completer program. At the graduate level, the Master of Arts can be taken in Pastoral Theology or Sacred Theology. Permanent deacons also have the option of a third specialization in Advanced Diaconal Studies. Saint Joseph’s College is also home to the only completely online Catholic Master of Divinity program, with an accelerated track for those who already have the Master of Arts.

Realizing that some may not be able to commit to a full degree program, the College has developed a number of online certificates that can serve as stepping-stones to a degree. The Certificate in Catholic Catechesis is ideal for the parish catechetical leader, director of religious education, and the advanced catechist. Consisting of six courses of one-credit each, it covers the same topics as the non-credit course, but in more depth and with stronger assessments. With each course carrying one undergraduate credit, courses may be applied toward a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Certificates in Theology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels count toward the online Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts degrees. The Bachelor of Arts degree also has a Fast-Track to M.A. Option, which allows the undergraduate student to begin working on the Master of Arts while earning the B.A.

Other online certificate programs include Ministry to Black Catholics and Ministry to Latino Catholics, which prepare the faithful for pastoral ministry and religious education among Black Catholics (including the African-American community and more recent African immigrant communities) and Latino Catholics. In the area of interfaith relations, a graduate certificate in Jewish-Christian Studies is offered jointly with Gratz College in Elkins Park, PA.

The Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program also works one-on-one with diocesan diaconal formation programs to provide intellectual formation that awards permanent deacons a Master of Arts degree or undergraduate certificate at the end of their formation.

For ministry professionals looking for robust continuing education, the Post-Graduate Certificate in Theology and Ministry, consisting of six courses of one credit each in specialized areas, is challenging yet manageable. The Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study is an innovative post-graduate certificate that allows students to take courses inside or outside of their profession and degree area.

With such a vast array of programming, the Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program has much to offer to the New Evangelization. To learn more, visit

Mysterious exit of Vatican auditor begs question: Is reform even possible?

Crux Now - 11 hours 30 min ago

This past Monday, phone lines across Rome began to heat up with rumors that something had happened with Libero Milone, a veteran Italian businessman and expert in auditing and tax services who had been hired in June 2015 as the Vatican’s first-ever Auditor General, billed as the final piece of the puzzle in terms of building a culture of accountability and transparency.

On Tuesday, the other shoe dropped: The Vatican released a terse, four-line statement saying that Milone had submitted his resignation, Pope Francis had accepted it, and, by “common agreement,” his relationship with the Vatican was over.

The statement wished Milone well, and said that a search will soon be launched to find his successor.

What the statement didn’t offer was any explanation of why Milone was walking away, two years into what was supposed to be a five-year term, and well before anything like an actual audit of Vatican finances had been brought to completion.

Given that the only force on the planet that abhors a vacuum more than nature is the Italian press, speculation immediately ensued about the backstory.

RAI, the Italian state broadcasting service, reported on the basis of “multiple sources” that a raid had been conducted on Milone’s office Monday by the Vatican’s Gendarmes, obviously creating the impression that he was suspected of misconduct and resigned to avoid prosecution. One anonymous Italian cardinal was quoted in Corriere della Sera as saying, “He must have gotten fat,” meaning enriching himself.

Others, however, found hard to swallow the idea that a former executive of such corporate giants as Deloitte, Fiat and Wind, with a previous reputation for integrity, would engage in such behavior. According to this view, Milone likely fell victim to internal Vatican power struggles, perhaps for standing too close to Australian Cardinal George Pell – the man brought in by Francis in 2014 to head a powerful new Secretariat for the Economy, but who’s subsequently seen his wings clipped several times.

Still others wondered if Milone simply despaired of trying to reform a system that didn’t seem interested in reforming, and decided to walk away. (That seems a bit unlikely, however, given that just a month ago in an interview with Corriere, Milone was asked if he regretted taking the job, and said, “No, on the contrary, I’m in this all the way to the end.”)

One final theory is that Pope Francis realized that he’d appointed the wrong man for the job, and decided to pull the trigger on replacing him before further time is lost. Under that theory, the lack of explanation for the move was actually an act of mercy.

No matter which scenario proves to be closest to the truth, the optics are not encouraging in terms of the current state of Francis’s reform. Coupled with other apparent gaps, such as the fact that while more than 40 cases of alleged impropriety have been flagged by the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority for investigation, not a single prosecution has been pushed through by the Vatican’s justice system, Milone’s downfall prompted many to begin writing obituaries for the whole idea of reform.

We may never get a full explanation, but in the meantime, here are three thoughts about where things stand after Milone’s exit.

First, one of the cornerstones of the reform effort launched shortly after Francis was elected to the papacy in March 2013 was supposed to be transparency. It would be clear how much money the Vatican has, where it comes from, how it’s being used, and who has access to it. There would be no more occult maneuvers, no more shady deals, and no hidden powers pulling strings behind the scenes, on the idea that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Much remains unclear about the Milone affair, but one can at least say this with confidence: When the supposed lynchpin of a reform walks away with no explanation offered, that’s not exactly a model of “best practices” vis-à-vis transparency, no matter how unpleasant the reality turns out to be.

Second, however discouraging the latest developments, hope is not yet lost.

Among other factors, the Vatican faces a deadline later this year for submitting a response to Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, as a key element of its bid to be accepted as a virtuous player by global financial systems. In its 2015 evaluation, Moneyval praised new legal norms to combat money laundering and the possible financing of terrorism adopted under Pope Francis, but insisted on seeing those norms applied in practice.

By late December, if there still hasn’t been a single successful prosecution for financial crimes and the position of Auditor General is either vacant or occupied by someone perceived as not up to the job, Moneyval’s interim judgment is unlikely to be positive. In theory, the Vatican could see transactions frozen by other states, or find itself paying extra transaction fees to cover the presumed risk of doing business with it – presumably, an outcome no one wants.

Perhaps, in other words, if the Vatican can’t summon the internal will to reform, external forces will help push it along.

Third, the perceived unfinished business in Francis’s reform, if left unresolved, may eventually raise the question of whether “reform” is even possible – that is, whether the Vatican, as we currently know it, is essentially irreformable.

Pope John Paul II attempted an ambitious overhaul of the Roman Curia in 1998 with the document Pastor Bonus. But in the eyes of most observers, it left several underlying administrative problems largely intact.

When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, many hoped that, as an old Vatican hand, he would know where the bodies are buried and bring a long-overdue ‘purification.’ Benedict took some important steps, including the creation of the Financial Information Authority, but in the end his efforts too stalled amid the first round of the “Vatileaks” affair.

Francis came into office promising a root-and-branch reform. He created a whole series of new structures, often bringing in outsiders with reputations for both expertise and clean hands to staff and advise them. Yet four years later, the most common verdict one hears in Rome is that so far, it’s been una riforma gattopardesca – a reference to an Italian novel whose most famous line is, “Everything must change, so that everything can remain the same.”

If that’s still the assessment at the end of Francis’s papacy, one wonders what a future pope might make of all these disappointments.

One possibility would be to decide that attempts at reform of the Vatican are simply a waste of time and there are bigger fish to fry, so why bother? Another, however, is to conclude that a strategy of incremental reform gives too much time to entrenched interests to mobilize resistance – only burning the place down all at once, metaphorically speaking, and then rebuilding it from the ground up, will work.

On this view of things, Vatican reform would remain a priority, on the theory that the Church’s moral credibility is at stake. The question isn’t whether, but how, and this approach would seem to call for the equivalent of “shock therapy.”

After the conclave that elected Francis, Pell reported that one motto among the cardinals had been “no more Calvis,” a reference to a key figure in the Vatican bank scandals of the 1970s and 80s. Depending on how things unfold from here, the cry of “no more Milones” may be in the air next time – as a warning not just about corruption, but also the right way to fight it in an institution with a long history of simply waiting popes out.

Jun. 25 Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday

Jesus said to the Twelve: "Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna" (Matt 10:26-28).

Procession permit requests on the rise in 2017 as parishes mark milestones

Catholic Register Canada - News - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 7:00 PM

Catholic communities around the world have been publicly proclaiming their faith with processions for centuries, but this year in the Archdiocese of Toronto they are proving particularly popular.

The archdiocese’s Spiritual Affairs Office has helped process 56 permits with municipalities for church processions on city streets this year, which already exceeds the permit requests for all of 2016. On June 18 alone, about 20 parishes in the archdiocese held processions marking the feast day of Corpus Christi. That, of course, doesn’t include the processions parishes hold on their own property where permits are not required.

“There is a particular interest in processions this year as the faithful commemorate” and celebrate the anniversaries, said Neil MacCarthy, a spokesperson for the archdiocese.

Processions are most popular around the Easter season and Corpus Christi, but this year, however, there are noteworthy milestones, which include the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition of Fatima celebrated on May 13, the 175th year of the Archdiocese of Toronto and July 1, Canada’s 150th birthday. Over the past decade the archdiocese’s Spiritual Affairs Office has helped process between 50 and 70 permits a year for church processions.

“Some parishes have also organized pilgrimages in association with a milestone anniversary of their parish,” MacCarthy added.

But processions aren’t just for marking milestones. In fact, they serve a much more important role in the ongoing life of the Catholic Church, said MacCarthy.

“Processions are an important part of both our liturgical and spiritual journey,” he said. “They unify our community in prayer and are a public expression of our commitment to our faith, gratitude for our many blessings and illustrate the joy that faith brings to our lives.”

Sheila Dunn, a parishioner of St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church in Brampton, Ont., always looks forward to her parish’s feast day procession. In the past the procession had been held on the Sunday closest to the St. Anne’s Feast Day, July 26, but this year the hour and a half event will take place on Oct. 1.

“It has been changed to try to include more children and families that are away in the summer months,” she said, noting that previous years attracted about 150 participants from the parish. “It is still in the planning stage, but will be a bit smaller than in previous years. Most likely there will be singing and praying because (this year) there will be no band included.”

But that doesn’t take away from the importance of the procession, which has a history from the Old Testament processions of the Ark of the Covenant, to Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem, to today’s annual marches commemorating Church figures and pivotal moments.

“The purpose of having a religious procession is to give public witness to our faith,” Dunn said. “The first few years had specific prayer stops along the way .... (and) we had very colourful costumes (of) saints and angels, flags, a huge banner and a large statue of St. Anne ... carried by four men. Each ministry within our parish was represented by a smaller banner and parishioners from that ministry walking together.”

Fr. Martin Hilbert, pastor of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, agreed with Dunn about the importance of processions, not just for the parish, but for the community.

“The procession is an important public display of our faith,” he said. “And it gets parishioners a chance to get to know one another better.”

Since 1987, parishioners of the Oratory have processed into the streets surrounding the parish on Mother’s Day in the name of Mary and “in honour of our mother in the order of grace.”

The annual tradition, which takes about 45 minutes, brings together not only the faithful parishioners but also members of the surrounding community.

“There are many people who come out on their balconies to watch us,” he said. “All sorts of people take pictures (and) sometimes bystanders join the procession. So it is also a tool of evangelization.”

This year members of the De la Salle High School Marching Band joined the procession, about 400 strong, adding an extra musical punch to the public profession of faith.

“We pray the rosary and sing hymns,” said Hilbert. “In the past we had a van with a keyboard in the back and speakers on the roof.”

Not only do processions serve as a means of celebrating the faith, saints and ministries, they are also a means of celebrating one’s ethnic origins or cultural background.

“It is mostly ethnic parishes that organize processions,” said Dunn. “It is a celebration of both faith and culture, especially when the culture is strongly influenced by faith traditions.”

At her multicultural parish, those from the Portuguese community have taken the lead on the annual procession.

“Given the propensity of the Portuguese community for processions, they were asked to take the lead,” she said.

At Cristo Rei Parish in Mississauga, the ethnically diverse demographic in the pews has generated a monthly procession schedule from Easter through November.

“We do organize a lot of processions in our church,” said Fr. Carlos Macatangga, pastor of both Cristo Rei and Ss. Salvador do Mundo Parish in Mississauga. “We have processions here almost every month.”

Along with having a strong Portuguese population in pews, Macatangga’s parishioners include members of the Indian, Filipino and Sir Lankan communities, each of which is represented by an annual feast day procession.

In places such as Asia and Europe, processions have a long history. For decades the Palm Sunday procession in Rome, which ends at the Vatican and began centuries ago, has attracted tens of thousands of parishioners from around the world.

Although lesser in size, the processions held at Macatannga’s two parishes also serve as a means of bringing people together from around the world.

“We need to recognize that popular devotions have a special place in the lives of our people who come from different countries and cultures,” said Macatangga, a priest of The Society of the Divine Word. “It is our way of celebrating the popular religiosity of the people. But more important we organize these processions to gather together our people coming from different ethnic communities.”

Since taking over as pastor of both parishes seven years ago, the fruits of these efforts have become visible within the parish community, he said.

“I have seen the results of our celebrations in the lives of our parishioners,” he said. “In any given procession you will see Portuguese-speaking people mingling and praying with English-speaking parishioners. Sometimes they could not even understand each other because of language, but they always reach out to one another because they have become familiar to each other.”

Spiritually speaking, ‘Ordinary Time’ is anything but

Crux Now - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 5:08 PM

Today in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, we go back to Ordinary Time. At first, the designation might seem a bit peculiar, since the word “ordinary” is oftentimes associated with things that are unimportant, insignificant, or just downright boring. The Church couldn’t possibly mean these types of things when speaking of the liturgy or a season of liturgies within the year.

And so, what exactly is meant by Ordinary Time?

Well, the first answer is very practical. In light of the past several high holy days – from Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity Sunday, to Corpus Christi – today and the next several Sundays are rather uneventful, meaning, without a major event or teaching associated with them. After so many powerful feast days, the Church now returns to a season of typical Sundays and to a normal pace in the liturgy.

With this observation stated clearly, someone could innocently inquire about the focus of the Ordinary Time Masses. What does the Church give to believers who attend the liturgy during this season? This question might even be asked by those who regularly attend Mass but have never paid attention to the different seasons or to the shift in the various emphases of the seasons.

During Ordinary Time, the Church’s prayers and selections of readings from the Sacred Scriptures have believers accompany the Lord Jesus in his public ministry. The Church selects healings, signs, and essential teachings from the life of Jesus Christ so that followers can be reminded, reaffirmed, consoled, and challenged in how they are living the Christian way of life. Through Ordinary Time, the community of disciples are once again told by the Lord to forgive, accept others generously, be healed and serve as instruments of healing, seek peace, live humbly, pray and trust in his care for them.

With this understanding, an awareness – beyond the practical – can quickly be grasped that Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary. The purpose and benefits of this season are rather extraordinary, indispensable, and fundamental to our following of the Lord Jesus. In fact, the season is one of the sources from which our Christian lives are fed and upon which our celebration of the high feasts is grounded.

If we don’t know the way of Jesus Christ, how we can celebrate it?  Ordinary Time, therefore, is the continuous echo of the Lord in the life of the church and in the hearts of those who love and follow him.

In approaching Ordinary Time in this way, some helpful spiritual lessons can be discerned from the season. As the Church slows its pace and returns to the public ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ, Christian believers (and people of good will) can see in this an invitation to slow the pace of their own lives, refocus attention on loved ones, evaluate personal convictions, and assess where their life is going and what changes they’d like to make.

Ordinary Time can serve as a welcome signpost along the path of our discipleship and of our lives. It can be an opportunity for us to put urgent things in check, so that they don’t dominate our existence, and a sacred time for us renew and cherish important things so that our lives can flourish and we can enrich the lives of others.

This examination of discipleship and of life, and the resolutions drawn from it, is a favorable chance to live in the present moment. Ordinary Time exemplifies the old Jesuit motto: Age quod agis, “Do what you’re doing.” Namely, we are told, don’t worry about tomorrow, or yesterday. Don’t worry about this afternoon or this morning. Live here, now. Do what you’re doing. Ordinary Time stresses God as the Eternal Now. It humbles us with the lesson that we are most with God when we are in the present moment.

This is a spiritual point frequently made by the world’s most famous Jesuit, Pope Francis, who tells us: “Today does not repeat itself: this is life. Place all your heart, your open heart, open it to the Lord, not closed, not hard, not hardened, not without faith, not perverted, not deceived by sin. We go home with these two words only: ‘How is my ‘today’?…’ But how are you, my today, in the presence of the Lord? And how is my heart? Is it open? Is it firm in the faith? Is it led by the Lord? With these two questions we ask the Lord for the grace to which each of us needs.”

As we enter the Sundays of Ordinary Time, we can take that question, “How is my today?” and let it assist us in walking with Jesus Christ, evaluating our lives, slowing our pace, and seeking God and our neighbor with greater sincerity.

Spanish martyr’s story hits close to B.C. home

Catholic Register Canada - News - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 3:00 PM

VANCOUVER – Nina Pickburn remembers basking in the sun on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea as a child in Almeria, Spain.

Decades later, her seaside hometown would become known as the birthplace of 115 martyrs. For Pickburn, a parishioner at Vancouver’s Holy Name of Jesus, there is an even more personal connection — her grandparents knew one of the martyrs.

About 80 years ago, when Pickburn’s mother was a young child, the Spanish Civil War began, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Catholics. The Church recently recognized 115 of them as martyrs for their faith and beatified them in Almeria on March 25.

“It’s heartbreaking to read all of this,” said Pickburn, going through newspapers mailed to her from family in Spain.

The blesseds, killed between 1936 and 1939 during a period known as the Red Terror, included 95 priests and 20 laypeople.

“These priests, religious and laypeople were heroic witnesses to Christ and His Gospel of peace and fraternal reconciliation,” Pope Francis said in Rome a day after the martyrs were beatified in Spain.

“May their example and their intercession sustain the Church’s involvement in building the civilization of love.”

For Pickburn, the stories are “lovely and heartbreaking,” but they are also an important part of her family history.

Fr. Gines Cespedes Gerez was only 22 years old when he was named parish priest of Fernan Perez, a small village 50 kilometres from the city of Almeria, in 1924. He moved from nearby Garrucha, his hometown, and found friends in the couple across the street.

Fr. Gines Cespedes Gerez was one of 115 martyrs beatified earlier this year.

Pickburn’s grandparents, Diego Mellado Hernandez and Teodora Viruega Ruiz, were wealthy and owned several countryside homes. They immediately welcomed the young, new priest to their home.

The pair served him daily meals and Pickburn’s grandfather, who had spent a year in a seminary before marrying her grandmother, offered to help Fr. Gerez buy any items he needed for the church.

After the war began, many young neighbourhood priests were rounded up.

“It was horrendous what happened,” said Pickburn. “They took them to a field and they shot them, but many of them did not die when they were shot. They were just injured. They threw them in this area where there were dry wells. They were deep.”

Fr. Gerez was one of those victims, Pickburn said. Biographical documents obtained from the Diocese of Almeria say Fr. Gerez, who had become a well-known speaker and writer for the Catholic newspaper La Independencia, was not at home when authorities burst inside looking for him.

They threatened to harm his family if he didn’t come forward so, against the wishes of his family, Fr. Gerez turned himself in and was arrested Aug. 26, 1936.

The young priest was taken to Astoy Mendi, a floating prison where many other priests were held.

According to the diocese, his persecutors promised him freedom if he would participate in anti-religious propaganda. His reply apparently was: “If I was born 20 times, I would always become a priest. The world does not end in Spain!”

Fr. Gerez was shot Sept. 25 and thrown down a well in Cantavieja, Spain. His remains are buried in Valle de los Caidos, or Valley of the Fallen, a Catholic basilica and memorial of the Spanish Civil War near Madrid.

Pickburn makes regular trips to Spain to visit family in the province of Almeria, including the city where her grandparents fled for a few years before returning to check on their home near Fr. Gerez’s old parish.

“My grandparents always had Fr. Gerez’s photo in their home. I know exactly what he looked like,” she said. “I’m so glad that the short years he was the parish priest there, before he got killed, he had a lovely life and support from the whole community.”

(The B.C. Catholic, with files from Marita Rodriquez, Loly Sanchez, and the Diocese of Almeria, Spain.)

Pope Francis to Resurrectionists: have courage to go forth

Vatican Today (VIS) - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 1:42 PM
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Resurrection on Saturday. Listen to the report by Chris Altieri : The Congregation of the Resurrection, or “Resurrectionists” were founded in 1836 under the leadership of Polish revert to Catholicism, Bogdan Janski , who served especially the Polish faithful who had emigrated from their native country to take up new lives in France in the 19 th century, along with Peter Semenenko, and Jerome Kajsiewicz, in order to administer parishes and educate young people. In remarks to the participants, who have been spending the past two weeks exploring the theme, “Witnesses of the presence of the Risen Lord: from community to the world,” Pope Francis encouraged the General Chapter and the whole Congregation to go forward boldly in their mission of service. One Mission, past, present and future “[R]emember the past with gratitude, live the present with passion, and embrace the future with hope,” Pope Francis said. “Those who believe in the Risen One have the courage to ‘go forth’ and bring to others the Good News of the resurrection,” Pope Francis also said, “embracing the risks of testimony, even as the Apostles did.” The Holy Father went on to say, “How many people are waiting for this joyful proclamation!  It is not right for us to deprive them of it.  If the resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty and our most precious treasure, how can we not run to proclaim it to others?” The 33 rd General Chapter of the “Resurrectionists” opened in Rome on June 11 th , and concludes Sunday, June 25 th . Click below to hear our report   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to Settecolli swimmers: virtue, gratitude, stewardship

Vatican Today (VIS) - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 12:55 PM
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received athletes, organisers and sponsors of the "Settecolli" international swimming competition on Saturday. The Settecolli event is the last major competition ahead of the  World Championships in Budapest in July  In remarks to his guests, who were gathered in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace on Saturday, Pope Francis said that swimming - especially competitive swimming - is an extremely demanding form of athleticism that requires the cultivation of many virtues, and also presses us to reflect on the gift of water. "Your competitiveness, your racing, your living in contact with water, can also be a contribution to a different 'culture of water': water is life - without water there is no life - and to talk about life is to talk about God, the origin and source of life. Even our Christian life begins with the sign of water, with Baptism," Pope Francis said. More than 700 athletes from 36 countries are participating in the Settecolli competition this weekend.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope tells swimmers their sport’s anything but ‘liquid’

Crux Now - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 11:42 AM

Receiving participants in Italy’s most prestigious international swimming competition on Saturday, Pope Francis said that while we may live today in a “liquid” society, marked by a lack of points of reference, swimming is anything but a “liquid” sport, even if it takes place in the water.

“Your sport happens in the water, but it’s not ‘liquid,’” Francis told the swimmers. “On the contrary, it’s extremely ‘solid,’ requiring constant commitment and strength of spirit.”

The pope defined sports as a kind of “celebration,” one “not without content, because it transmits values that are ever more necessary in a society such as ours.”

The encounter took place early Saturday afternoon in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, and was organized by Italy’s National Swimming Federation.

Given the familiarity swimmers have with water, Francis offered them a quotation from St. Francis of Assisi’s famed Canticle of the Creatures: Laudato si’, mi Signore, per sora acqua, la quale è molto utile et umile et pretiosa et casta. (“Praise to you, my Lord, for sister water, who is very useful and humble, the prettiest and chaste.”)

That quotation is the source of the title for Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, the first papal encyclical devoted to the care of creation.

Francis told the swimmers that because of their direct contact with water, they can play a role in building a “different culture of water,” one that recognizes water as the source of life, including Christian life in the form of the sacrament of baptism.

“The water in which you swim, dive, play and race,” he said, “recalls a series of points: the value of the body, which should be taken care of and not idolized; the need for an interior life, and the search for meaning in what you do; the strength and courage to resist weariness; a clear vision of which landing to seek in life, and how to reach it; and the value of authenticity, which means transparency, clarity, and interior purity.

“Through contact with the water, you learn how to make clean again everything that’s polluted, both in sport and in life,” Francis said.

Pope Francis, an avid soccer fan, has spoken repeatedly about the value and importance of sports during the course of his papacy.

Last fall, Francis spoke at a conference on sports and faith put together by Sports at the Service of Humanity, a network sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of Culture. The gathering was also backed by the U.N. and the International Olympic Committee.

“Sport is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people’s lives; it is enjoyed by men and women of every nation, ethnic group and religious belonging,” Pope Francis said on that occasion.

“Our religious traditions share the commitment to ensure the respect for the dignity of every human being,” he said, “so it is good to know that the world’s sporting institutions have taken so courageously to heart the value of inclusion. The Paralympic movement and other sporting associations sustaining those with disabilities, such as the Special Olympics, have had a decisive role in helping the public recognize and admire the extraordinary performances of athletes with different abilities and capacities.”

As he did with the swimmers on Saturday, Francis also talked about the importance of sports remaining pure.

“It would be sad for sport and for humanity if people were unable to trust in the truth of sporting results, or if cynicism and disenchantment were to drown out enthusiasm or joyful and disinterested participation,” he said.

“In sport, as in life, competing for the result is important, but playing well and fairly is even more important!” he said.

Such is Francis’s commitment to sports, he’s enlisted major global athletes as partners in some of his most prized initiatives.

For instance, when the Scholas Occurentes effort to bring schoolchildren around the world together using technology was introduced in the Vatican in 2013, soccer stars Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon joined Francis in making the presentation.

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Vatican Radio Evening News - Sat, 06/24/2017 - 10:01 AM
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