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Pope Francis on why he gives interviews

2 hours 36 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2017 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a preface to a new book of interviews, Pope Francis outlined his approach to speaking with journalists, explaining that he thinks interviews should be like a conversation and this is why he doesn’t prepare answers in advance.

“For me interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson,” the Pope wrote.

“I do not prepare for this,” he said, stating that he usually declines to read the questions when they are sent in advance, instead opting to answer organically, as he would in an actual conversation.

“Yes, I am still afraid of being interpreted badly,” he clarified, while adding that as a pastor, it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

“Everything that I do has pastoral value, in one way or in another,” he said. “If I did not trust this, I would not allow interviews: for me it is clear. It's a manner of communicating my ministry.”

Pope Francis gave his thoughts on interviews, and why and how he gives them, in a preface written for a book called Now Ask Your Questions.

The book, a a collection of both new and old interviews with Pope Francis, was compiled by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica. It will be presented Oct. 21.

In the preface, Francis explained that for him, giving an interview is not like ascending “a pulpit” to preach, but is a meeting between him and the journalist: “I need to meet the people and look them in the eyes,” he wrote.

He said he likes to speak with people from both small magazines and popular newspapers, because he feels “even more comfortable.”

“In fact, in those cases I really listen to the questions and concerns of ordinary people,” trying to answer “spontaneously” and in a “simple, popular language,” he explained.

He takes the same approach in press conferences aboard the papal plane when returning from apostolic visits, he said, though he sometimes imagines beforehand what questions journalists may ask.

He knows he must be prudent, he said, and he always prays to the Holy Spirit before listening to the questions and responding.

Historically however, Francis wasn’t fond of giving interviews. I may be “tough,” the Pope said, but I'm also shy, stating that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was a little afraid of journalists, though one eventually persuaded him.

“I've always been worried about bad interpretations of what I say,” he wrote. As with interviews in the past, he said he was hesitant to accept Spadaro’s request, though eventually he did and gave two long interviews, both which make up part of the book.

The compilation also includes various conversations with fellow Jesuits, which Francis said are the moments he usually feels the most comfortable and free to speak.

“I'm glad they've been included in this collection,” he said, since he feels like he is speaking among family members, and thus doesn’t fear being misunderstood.

Included in the book “are also two conversations with the superior generals of religious groups. I have always requested a real dialogue for them. I never wanted to give speeches and not have to listen to them,” he said.

“To me, to converse always felt the best way for us to really meet each other.”

In his meeting with Polish Jesuits, for example, the Pope said he spoke about discernment, strongly underlining the specific mission of the Society of Jesus today, “that is also a very important mission of the Church for our times.”

“I have a real need of this direct communication with people,” he said.

These conversations, which take place in meetings and interviews, are united in form to how he delivers his daily homilies at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta every morning, what is sort of his “parish,” he pointed out.

“I need this communication with people. There, four days a week, they go to find me, 25 people of a Roman parish, together with others.”

“I want a Church that knows how to get involved in people's conversations, that knows how to dialogue,” he said.

“It is the Church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples who are walking, discouraged. For me, an interview is part of this conversation of the Church with the people of today.”

A modern horror: global persecution of Christians at historic peak, report says

3 hours 23 min ago

New York City, N.Y., Oct 17, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Anti-Christian persecution is “worse than at any time in history” and in many cases genocide and other crimes against humanity “now mean that the Church in core countries and regions faces the possibility of imminent wipe-out,” says a new report from Aid to the Church in Need.

The report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, covers the years 2015-2017. Its contents are bleak, describing Christianity as “the world’s most oppressed faith community.” Anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak” and its impact is “only now beginning to be felt in all its horror.”

“In 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015–17 than within the preceding two years,” said the report’s executive summary, released Oct. 12.  

John Pontifex, the report's editor, commented that “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”

The report’s ratings draw from analyses like the Pew Forum’s Social Hostilities Index and Open Door’s World Watch List, in addition to other factors and sources, including fact-finding trips.   

In some countries the state is the principal persecutor, while in other countries social groups are culpable, while in still others a combination of both are responsible.

Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity, provides emergency and pastoral relief in 140 countries. Its U.S. affiliate published the report.

The report’s foreword was written by Archbishop Issam John Darwish of the Melkite Archdiocese of Zahlé and Furzo, a Lebanese archdiocese near the Syrian border. He recounted the stories of Christian refugees fleeing the six-year-old Syrian civil war.

“Many refugees have told terrible stories of persecution: like the man whose brother, a priest, was kidnapped – and despite the family paying the ransom they killed the priest. They sent his family a box containing his severed wrist, tattooed with a cross, to show he was dead,” the archbishop said.

The Middle East is a major focus for the report.

“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

However, the departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.

Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence.

The Islamic State group and other militants have committed genocide in Syria and Iraq. While Islamic State and other groups have been defeated in their major strongholds, many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would not survive another attack.

In northern Nigeria, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has engaged in genocide against Christians.

There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.

In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.

In January 2017 the U.S. put a six-month waiver on human rights sanctions against Sudan, on condition that the country improve its human rights and religious freedom record.

In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

In India, persecution has increased since 2014, with the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Like-minded groups frequently accuse Christians of forced conversion, a charge local Christian leaders strongly deny. An India-based Catholic group reported 365 serious anti-Christian atrocities in 2016, with 10 people killed and more than 500 clergy or church leaders attacked for their faith.

Some Christians have faced pressure to convert under threat of force, while others have been forced to take part in Hindu rituals and deny their faith.

In China, church communities face increased hostility. Authorities in some provinces have removed crosses from some churches and destroyed church buildings. In some regions, Christmas trees and greeting cards have been banned.

President Xi Jinping has depicted Christianity as a means of “foreign infiltration” into China and has advocated more state control and targeting of unofficial churches. There are fears that China’s 2016 announcement of categorization of citizens based on political, commercial, social and legal “credit,” will create a system that disadvantages Christians in a way similar to North Korea.

Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Saudi Arabia has come under criticism from western powers and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. However, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the country, a deal which had been held up under the Obama administration due to human rights concerns. The Aid to the Church in Need report said sources in the country are supplying arms and finances to Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State, known in the region as “Daesh.”

“Given that Islamist groups such as Daesh are likely to be heavily reliant on undeclared external sources for weapons and intelligence, there is an urgent need to step up action to stop all entities collaborating with them,” the report continued. “Persecuted Christians are among the many who stand to be beneficiaries of progress in this area.”

Archbishop Darwish said it is imperative to help persecuted Christians.

“When the Christian families who have turned to us need the very basics for daily life – food, shelter and medical care – how can we refuse to help?” he asked, lamenting a lack of aid from the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations.

He praised Aid to the Church in Need’s efforts to report anti-Christian persecution and aid those persecuted.

What is Pope Francis' approach to appointing new bishops?

3 hours 51 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2017 / 02:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Among the most lasting aspects of a Pope’s leadership is his appointment of bishops. To understand a Pope, it’s important to understand how he makes decisions about episcopal leadership.

With that in mind, Pope Francis’ approach to the selection and appointment of bishops is worth considering.

When diocesan and auxiliary bishops turn 75 years old, they are required to submit a letter of resignation to the Pope, which he can accept immediately or at any time going forward.

At present, there are seven key posts in the world waiting for a new bishop. While it can take more than a year before a bishop’s resignation is accepted, many analysts anticipate a flurry of significant episcopal appointments over the next several months.  

Bishops who recently submitted a letter of resignation to Pope Francis include Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC; Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo); Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban (South Africa); Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa (Honduras); Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City; Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris; and Archbishop Peter Okada of Tokyo.

What will Pope Francis’ criteria be in appointing new bishops to these significant dioceses?

Some recent appointments may shed light on his priorities.  

Pope Francis recently appointed Mario Delpini, 66, to serve as Archbishop of Milan, succeeding Cardinal Angelo Scola. Delpini served as Milan’s auxiliary bishop for a decade before being appointed archbishop.

Archbishop Delpini had been a collaborator with the three previous archbishops of Milan, Cardinals Martini, Tettamanzi and Scola. Unlike his predecessors, however, all of his priestly life took place in the Archdiocese of Milan.

Pope Francis also recently appointed a Vicar of Rome, the title used for the functional head of the Diocese of Rome. To replace Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope picked Bishop Angelo De Donatis, 63, who preached the 2014 Lenten spiritual exercises to the Roman Curia, and was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Rome in 2015.

Archbishops Delpini and De Donatis have several things in common. They both have extensive pastoral experience, both are considered ideologically moderate, and both were already connected to the dioceses they’d been appointed to lead. These are said to be key criteria in the episcopal appointments of Pope Francis.

In fact, the Pope’s apparent criteria were a factor in many of his other notable appointments.

In 2014, the Pope chose Cardinal Reinhard Woelki as Archbishop of Cologne, moving him from his post in Berlin. Cardinal Woelki’s move to Cologne was a return to his hometown. When he was appointed, he was noted for his human touch, his pastoral work and simple style of life – television news pieces featured him washing his clothes personally and cooking at his home.

The same year, the Pope picked Carlos Osoro Sierra as the Archbishop of Madrid, and later named him a cardinal. Cardinal Osoro Sierra is known as the “little Francis” in Spain, largely because of his pastoral gifts and his missionary impulse, which have been a transformational factor for the Church in Spain.

Given these four examples, what is the Pope going to do with the Church in the U.S.?

Over the past year, Pope Francis has appointed 16 U.S. bishops, most of them in smaller dioceses or as auxiliaries. The major pending question is that of the successor of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Cardinal Wuerl is already 76 years old, more than a year beyond the normal retirement age.

The post in Washington, D.C. is a key post, as it involves both pastoral care and institutional relations with the U.S. political establishment. What will Pope Francis do?

An insistent rumor says that Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego might be at the top of the list.

Bishop McElroy recently grabbed headlines for jumping into the discussion on LGBT issues that followed Fr. James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge.” Bishop McElroy has defended the book, and Martin, in the face of criticisms of his work.  

He also recently took part in a Boston College conference on Amoris Laetitia, hosted by Cardinal Blase Cupich and Father James Keenan, SJ. During the conference, Bishop McElroy reported on the diocesan synod he launched on Amoris Laetitia, and said that Catholic teaching must take seriously the complexity of adult moral life.

Among observers, he is considered a figure similar to Cardinal Blase Cupich, who was personally chosen by Pope Francis in 2014 to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago. This seems to suggest that he is a fit for Pope Francis’ model of episcopal leadership.

Of course, his appointment is simply a rumor, just as another rumor in Rome says that the Pope will soon call Cardinal Cupich to lead an important Vatican office in Rome.

There are no confirmation of rumors, and sometimes gossip is just a way to test possible reactions to an appointment. Such rumors are typical in such a moment of transition.

It’s worth noting that Pope Francis might also be reconsidering the selection process for bishops.

During the June 12-14 meeting of the Council of Cardinals, a new procedure for the appointment of bishops was discussed. It was not the first time the cardinals who advise Pope Francis have addressed this issue.

In particular, the Holy See Press Office explained that the consultation before the appointment of a new bishop might involve more local priests and laity. In the end, a bishop’s appointment is always a Pope’s appointment. However, the Pope receives suggestions – usually in the form of a set of three – from the local nuncios of each country, who consult broadly, and “interview” a number of people before suggesting any name to the Pope.

The idea being suggested is to emphasize the local level, rather than the nuncio’s suggestions. One of the issues apparently of concern is the way that nuncios gather information, as the standard questionnaire they deliver is said to be too dated.

 

 

Benedict XVI's secretary denies rumors that he is close to death

6 hours 33 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, has rejected reports that the former pontiff is nearing death.

Rumors of Benedict XVI being close to death circulated on social media following a quote attributed to Ganswein, which reads, “Pope Benedict is like a candle that fades slowly. He is serene, at peace with God, with himself and the world. He can no longer walk without help and can no longer celebrate Mass.”

However, Archbishop Ganswein called this quote “pure invention.”

“It is false and wrong! I would like to know who the author of this is,” he said, according to German media outlet kath.net.

 “I have received in the last two days many messages that refer to this phrase, and people are worried,” he said.

Last week, Ratzinger’s brother was at the Vatican to visit, and he has now returned home, Ganswein confirmed, adding, “Both had a good time.”

 

US bishops call for health care protection for the most vulnerable

12 hours 21 min ago

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of an executive order issued by the Trump administration halting federal assistance for certain insurance plans, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that helping to protect low-income persons and the vulnerable is of the utmost importance.

“This is of grave concern. The Affordable Care Act is, by no means, perfect, but as leaders attempt to address impending challenges to insurance market stability and affordability, they must not use people’s health care as leverage or as a bargaining chip,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the U.S. bishops’  Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in a statement.

“To do so would be to strike at the heart of human dignity and the fundamental right to health care. The poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt of such an approach.”

Trump's decision will end a series of subsidies for lower-income enrollees in Affordable Care Act plans, which help those people reduce their cost share. The subsidies were expected to total more than $9 billion in 2018, and Congress has never appropriated the money for these cost-sharing subsidies in particular.

Trump’s decision has been met with criticism from both the Democratic party and some members of the Republican party, while other members of the president’s party, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), praised the move.

Bishop Dewane explained that in addition to cutting federal funds for insurance subsidies for low-income buyers, Trump also issued a directive whichallow the sale of insurance plans across state lines and expand options for certain kinds of plans that are lower-cost, but contain fewer benefits.

There is also concern among healthcare policy experts that if enough healthy people leave their current plans for such high-deductible plans, those remaining in other Affordable Care Act plans would be, on the whole, sicker, and eventually face higher premiums. These costs would eventually impact the economy at large.

Dewane said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will monitor how the order is implemented, and its impact on vulnerable persons.

“In general, robust options for people to obtain health coverage, as well as flexibility and approaches aimed at increased affordability, are important strategies in health care,” he said of the other elements of the executive order. “However, in implementing this executive order, great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act.”

In addition to opening up new areas of concern, the executive order “ignores” other severe problems in the health care system, Dewane said.

“Congress must still act on comprehensive reform in order to provide a sustainable framework for health care, providing lasting solutions for the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability, and underlying affordability problems that remain unaddressed.”

Pope invites prisoners to lunch, they break free instead

15 hours 24 min ago

Bologna, Italy, Oct 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- They were supposed to be having lunch with Pope Francis.

During his Oct. 1 trip to Bologna, the Holy Father was scheduled to dine with 20 prisoners from a local drug rehabilitation facility, along with refugees and the poor of the area, during a “Lunch of Solidarity” at San Petronio Basilica.

Instead, two of the Italian prisoners shirked their invitation for what they saw as a prime opportunity for escape.

According to Bologna newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, the prisoners escaped sometime during the hour, though it is unclear whether they first ate lunch.

They have yet to be found.

Pope Francis regularly includes prisoners in his trips and events, including washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday and holding a Jubilee Mass for prisoners at the Vatican last year.

'Clarity and charity' – the keys to defending marriage in Australia

18 hours 16 min ago

Sydney, Australia, Oct 17, 2017 / 12:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Australians return their ballots for a poll that could aid the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages, the Archbishop of Sydney called for Christian charity in clearly explaining the importance of marriage as the union of man and woman.

“However the marriage debate pans out, I pray people will be able to say of us that we maintained clarity about real marriage while demonstrating charity towards all. God bless our country and its voters with such clarity and charity,” said Archbishop Anthony Fisher in his Sunday homily Oct. 15.

Australia is currently conducting a voluntary postal survey as a plebiscite, a non-binding process to gauge public opinion. The survey closes Nov. 7. Results will be announced Nov. 15.

Only the federal government has the power to change Australian marriage law, the Australian high court has ruled. A “yes” vote would allow a bill to be introduced into Parliament, but would not guarantee its passage.

According to Archbishop Fisher, clarity had been lacking in the discussion.

“Sadly our marriage ‘debate’ has rarely touched on what marriage is, what it’s for,” he said. “We’ve had slogans like ‘love is love’ but not every kind of love is marriage. Nor, if we are honest, is every marriage especially loving, at least all of the time.”

The archbishop stressed the uniqueness of marriage as an institution that joins man and woman and that has the unique potential for the begetting of children.

Unlike normal elections, the current Australia survey is voluntary. The country often has legal penalties for non-voters. However, the survey costs about $96 million.

At least 10 million survey forms have been returned, the Australian website News.com.au reports.

Various surveys indicate over 60 percent of Australians favor the legal recognition of “gay marriage.”

Archbishop Fisher also voiced concerns about threats to religious freedom that the redefinition of civil marriage could pose.

“If overseas experience is anything to go by, if marriage is redefined it will be very hard to speak up for real marriage anymore – in schools, at work, socially,” he said, citing discrimination and “other kinds of bullying” against those who cannot accept the new definition.

“Some may lose their jobs, promotions, businesses, political careers,” said Fisher.

Heterosexual marriage is the only kind of friendship properly recognized by the state because it leads to new citizens, namely children, and gives them “the best start in life,” he added.

At the same time, the archbishop noted the difficulty of presenting the gospel in a changing culture that increasingly sees Christian views on many things, including sexuality, marriage, and reverence for life, as “arcane, even harmful.”

“In a culture which for all its putative open-mindedness is less and less tolerant of Christianity, how will we ensure in the years ahead that people in parishes, schools and other institutions are free to speak and practice their beliefs?” he asked. “How will we maintain a sense of who we are and what matters most to us when some others barely tolerate us or even vilify and bully us?”

Fisher cited the example of the protagonist in the movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” where pacifist Desmond Doss supports soldiers on the battlefield as a medic even though he himself refuses to kill.

“Desmond Doss had to make some hard choices, between worldly regard and godliness, between sticking to his principles and selling out to go with the flow,” the archbishop said. “He found a way to be true to his beliefs without being bigoted or bitter; indeed, being true to his ideals drove him to heroic compassion towards others and self-sacrifice on their behalf.”

 

Department of Justice announces settlement in HHS mandate suits

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 11:45 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 09:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A week after issuing new religious freedom guidelines to all administrative agencies in the federal government, the U.S. Department of Justice has settled with more than 70 plaintiffs who had challenged the controversial HHS contraceptive mandate.

The Oct. 13 agreement was reached between the government and the law firm Jones Day, which represented more than 70 clients fighting the mandate. Made public Oct. 16, the agreement states that the plaintiffs would not be forced to provide health insurance coverage for “morally unacceptable” products and procedures, including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

“This settlement brings to a conclusion our litigation challenging the Health and Human Services’ mandate obliging our institutions to provide support for morally objectionable activities, as well as a level of assurance as we move into the future,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. in an Oct. 16 letter to priests of the archdiocese.

The mandate originated with the Obama administration. Issued through the Department of Health and Human Services, it required employers – even those with deeply-held religious objections – to provide and pay for contraceptive, abortifacient and sterilization coverage in their health insurance plans.

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., was one of more than 300 plaintiffs who had challenged the mandate, arguing “that the practice of our faith was inextricably tied to the ministries that put that faith into action,” and that as such, they should not be forced to violate their faith to continue their ministries, Wuerl recalled.

The archdiocese and six other plaintiffs had argued their position before the Supreme Court in the case Zubik v. Burwell. In 2016, the high court ruled against the government’s requirement that certain employers provide and pay for the morally objectionable services.

“While the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty and new guidelines and regulations are extremely helpful, the settlement of the Zubik litigation adds a leavening of certainty moving forward,” the cardinal added.

The Department of Justice’s new settlement “removes doubt” and closes these cases challenging the mandate, the cardinal continued. “The settlement adds additional assurances that we will not be subject to enforcement or imposition of similar regulations imposing such morally unacceptable mandates moving forward,” he stated.

On Oct. 6, the Department of Justice revised its guidelines for all government agencies in light of existing religious freedom laws, releasing a set of principles which stated clearly that the government cannot substantially burden religious practices, unless there is a compelling state interest in doing so and those burdens use the least-restrictive means possible.

Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college in California and another plaintiff against the HHS mandate also celebrated the protection the settlement brings.

“While we welcomed the broadening of the exemption from the HHS mandate last week by the Trump administration, we have under our agreement today something even better: a permanent exemption from an onerous federal directive – and any similar future directive – that would require us to compromise our fundamental beliefs,” said Thomas Aquinas College president Dr. Michael F. McLean in an Oct. 16 statement.

“This is an extraordinary outcome for Thomas Aquinas College and for the cause of religious freedom.”

In addition to settling the case, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury have also decided to provide partial coverage of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs of the lawsuits.

“This financial concession by the government only reinforces its admission of the burdensome nature of the HHS contraceptive mandate and its violation of the College's free exercise of religion,” stated Thomas Aquinas College General Counsel, Quincy Masteller.

South Africa needs a better anti-corruption system, bishops say

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 11:36 PM

Cape Town, South Africa, Oct 16, 2017 / 09:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- South Africa’s Conference of Catholic Bishops has pushed for the development of an anti-corruption court, citing the damage to the country’s morale after a long standing corruption case against President Jacob Zuma.

“We urge constitutional experts and the Law Reform Commission to guide the nation on the feasibility of establishing an anti-corruption court,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, chairman of the conference’s Justice and Peace Commission.

“When allegations of corruption hang over the head of a sitting president for this long‚ something gives way. In our case‚ the moral fiber of our nation has suffered massive damage as a result of people losing confidence in the office of the president.”

On Friday, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a 2016 ruling by the Pretoria High Court that 783 accounts of corruption could be reinstated against President Zuma.

The ruling stated that the charges should never have been dropped by the then-National Prosecutor Mokotedi Mphse. Known as the Spy Tapes case, the charges were revoked in 2009 after the phone-intercepted recordings were condemned as a political plot against Zuma’s presidential platform.

Zuma had been associated with an over $2 billion arms deal after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, had been charged with corruption and fraud in 2005.

“The court battle on the Spygate and corresponding corruption allegations against the President have been going on for more than eight years. If the National Prosecuting Authority decides to reinstate corruption charges against the President‚ the matter will probably continue for another four years,” Bishop Gabuza said in an October 16 statement.

South Africa’s bishops expressed concern that an extended case would affect the public’s confidence in the presidential office and “its ability to fight corruption at all levels of government.”

The bishops’ conference urged the nation to form an anti-corruption court “that would ensure speedy and efficient addressing and disposal of corruption cases and financial crimes.”

The conference said that Zuma has not shown himself to be a president who is overly concerned with the fight against corruption and challenged future presidential candidates to push for a specialized anti-corruption system.

 

 

Callista Gingrich confirmed as US Ambassador to the Vatican

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 6:46 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. The vote was 70-23.

In a July 18 hearing, Gingrich had voiced her commitment to fight human trafficking and promote human rights and religious freedom. She had said that immigration and protecting the environment are both issues that the Trump administration is taking seriously, although taking a different approach from the previous administration.

Callista Gingrich is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.

She is also a long-time member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.

He noted that he had attended Masses at the National Shrine where Callista sang in the choir, and she “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”

At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2011, he also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to the U.S. as a “moment of confirmation” for him. At vespers with the Pope, where Callista sang in the Shrine choir, Newt recalled thinking that “here is where I belong.”

The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.

The documentary explained how the Pope invigorated the faith of the Polish people in Jesus Christ during his pilgrimage there, and how the visit precipitated the fall of Communism.

In an Easter message posted on the website of Gingrich Productions, the couple noted that “we should remember the many threats facing Christians today,” including “a growing secularism, which seeks to place human desires ahead of God and His will,” and “radical Islamism” that “seeks to destroy Christianity across the globe.”

“But in the face of this evil, we remember the words of Saint John Paul II, who throughout his papacy urged us to, ‘Be not afraid’,” the statement continued.

As ambassador, Gingrich will follow Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services who served during President Obama’s second term as president.

In a January interview with CNA, Hackett opined that there would be areas of difference and of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See under the Trump administration.

One of the possible areas of tension might be on immigration and refugees, he said, as Trump criticized Pope Francis on the campaign trail in 2016 after the Pope celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border and urged everyone to pray for conversion of hearts over the suffering of forced migration.

Trump, who repeatedly promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it, said last February that the Pope was a “pawn” of the Mexican government and “is a very political person, I think he doesn't understand the problems our country has.”

He also issued an executive order shutting down refugee admissions for four months at a time when Pope Francis has taken in refugees and U.S. bishops have called for the country to continue accepting refugees fleeing violence.

Meanwhile, there are other possible areas of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See, Hackett said in January, including on human trafficking, peace in the Middle East, a solution to the worsening crisis in Venezuela, and efforts to alleviate global poverty.

Pope Francis and President Trump met at the Vatican in May. According to a Vatican communique, they expressed satisfaction “for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

During the “cordial discussions,” the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be “engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the Vatican statement said.

The two leaders also exchanged views “on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.”

 

 

Despair would worsen the situation, bishop says in wake of Somalia attack

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 5:01 PM

Djibouti, Djibouti, Oct 16, 2017 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After Somalia suffered its deadliest terrorist attack on Saturday, the Bishop of Djibouti reflected on the need for hope and unity among Somalis lest it become “a double attack.”

A truck packed with explosives exploded in front of a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu Oct. 14, killing at least 276 people. Many more were wounded.

“I would say that even though what has happened its a catastrophe, we mustn't despair. It would be a double attack if we despaired,” Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibouti told Vatican Radio.

Bishop Bertin also serves as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu, which has been vacant since the assassination of its last bishop in 1989.

The bombing has yet to have been claimed by any group. Some Somalis have reacted to the attack by condemning al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group associated with al-Qaeda.

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called it a “heinous act” targeting “civilians who were going about their business.”

Bishop Bertin commented that “when one goes [to Somalia] the situation seems normal; I could spend five days in Baidoa, two days in Mogadishu. Obviously I was accompanied by an armed escort, but the Somalis seemed to be living normally. It seems like normal life.”

“You might have the impression that they are rather habituated to seeing, undergoing these momentary attacks, but they never seem to change life there.”

The bishop added that he thinks “we should continue to seek greater unity within Somalia and the international community to face this problem.”

Turkey is taking 40 of those injured in the attack for medical treatment, and the African Union has said it will continue its support of Somalia as it works “to achieve sustainable peace and security.”

The US Mission to Somalia stated that it “lauds the heroic response of the Somali security forces and first responders and Somali citizens who rushed to the aid of their brothers and sisters. Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism to promote stability and prosperity for the Somali people and their regional neighbors.”

Somalia has been in a state of turmoil since the early 1990s, and was long regarded as a failed state. It has relatively stabilized in recent years, and has been called a fragile state.

The federal government has consolidated control over much of the southern part of the country, though Islamists still control several swathes of territory. Somalia's northern areas are effectively governed as the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland.

Italian Catholic priest kidnapped in Nigeria

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 3:44 PM

Abuja, Nigeria, Oct 16, 2017 / 01:44 pm (ACI Prensa).- An Italian Catholic priest, who is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, was kidnapped on Thursday by armed men in Benin City, Nigeria, according to media reports.

Fr. Maurizio Pallu had been a missionary in Nigeria for three years.

According to the Italian bishops' publication, Avvenire, the kidnappers may be local criminals whose aim would be to obtain a ransom in exchange for the priest.

While the Islamist terror group Boko Haram is active in Nigeria’s northern region, the priest was kidnapped from the south.

Authorities are investigating the incident.

Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, posted on Twitter that “Pope Francis has been informed about the Italian priest kidnapped in Nigeria, Fr. Maurizio Pallu, and is praying for him.”

Fr. Pallu is 63 and a native of Florence. As a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, he was a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries. In 1998, he entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.

After serving as a chaplain in two parishes in Rome, he was sent to Holland, where he was a pastor in the diocese of Haarlem. From there, he was sent to the Nigerian archdiocese of Abuja.

Several other priests have recently been kidnapped from the Nigerian state of Edo, where Benin City is located, and one has been killed.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

In Diwali message to Hindus, Vatican officials call for mutual respect

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 1:00 PM

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2017 / 11:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With tensions between Christians and Hindu nationalists in India increasingly on the rise, the Vatican sent a message marking the Hindu feast of Diwali, urging members of both religions to go beyond mere tolerance of one another, and to foster a genuine mutual respect.

Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights, and is being celebrated this year on Oct. 19.

“May this festival of lights illumine your minds and lives, bring joy to your hearts and homes, and strengthen your families and communities,” read a greeting to Hindus sent Oct. 16 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligous Dialogue. The message was signed by the council's president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and its secretary, Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot.

In their message, titled “Christians and Hindus: Beyond Tolerance,” Tauron and  Ayuso acknowledged that there are many good things happening in the world for which to be grateful, but said there are also difficulties that “deeply concern us.”

They said, “the growth of intolerance, spawning violence in many parts of the world,” is one of these challenges.

In India this intolerance has been acutely felt with an increase in violence against minorities in the country, including Christians and Muslims. While there is no state religion in India, nearly 80 percent of its population is Hindu.

“On this occasion,” the Vatican officials wrote, “we wish to reflect on how Christians and Hindus can together foster mutual respect among people – and go beyond tolerance, in order to usher in a more peaceful and harmonious era for every society.”

“Tolerance certainly means being open and patient with others, recognizing their presence in our midst. If we are to work for lasting peace and true harmony, however, tolerance is not enough. What is also needed is genuine respect and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and customs within our communities, which in turn contribute to the health and unity of society as a whole,” the letter read.

They wrote that “to see pluralism and diversity as a threat to unity leads tragically to intolerance and violence.”

“Respect for others is an important antidote to intolerance since it entails authentic appreciation for the human person, and his or her inherent dignity.”

This respect encourages mutual esteem for different social, cultural and religious practices, while at the same time recognizing the inalienable rights of others, “such as the right to life and the right to profess and practice the religion of one’s choice,” they said.

In order for diverse communities to move forward, then, the path must be one “marked by respect,” they said: “While tolerance merely protects the other, respect goes further: it favors peaceful coexistence and harmony for all.”

“Respect creates space for every person, and nurtures within us a sense of 'feeling at home' with others,” and rather than dividing and isolating, “respect allows us to see our differences as a sign of the diversity and richness of the one human family.”

The Vatican officials then urged members of different religious traditions to “go beyond the confines of tolerance by showing respect to all individuals and communities, for everyone desires and deserves to be valued according to his or her innate dignity. This calls for the building of a true culture of respect, one capable of promoting conflict resolution, peace-making and harmonious living.”

“Grounded in our own spiritual traditions and in our shared concern for the unity and welfare of all people, may we Christians and Hindus, together with other believers and people of good will, encourage, in our families and communities, and through our religious teachings and communication media, respect for every person, especially for those in our midst whose cultures and beliefs are different from our own.”

Thus, they concluded, “we will move beyond tolerance to build a society that is harmonious and peaceful, where all are respected and encouraged to contribute to the unity of the human family by making their own unique contribution.”

Hunger must be fought by actively going to the roots, Pope Francis says

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 7:26 AM

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2017 / 05:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, Pope Francis issued a lengthy appeal to address the problem of world hunger not only through talk, but concrete action by going to the root of the problem and introducing a new global mentality aimed at love rather than profit.

With the risk of indifference rising as deaths due to hunger, abandonment or war are reported on a daily basis, “we urgently need to find new ways to transform the possibilities we have into a guarantee that will allow each person to face the future with established confidence, and not only with some illusion,” the Pope said Oct. 16.

In light of the vast portions of the global population who continue to suffer from malnutrition, war, climate change, forced migration and various forms of exploitation, “we can and must change course,” he said.

Noting how some would say simply “reducing the number of mouths to feed” would be enough to solve the problem of food shortage and global inequality, Francis said this is “a false solution” given current patterns of waste and consumption in some areas of the world.

Rather, he proposed “sharing” as a more effective strategy, which “implies conversion, and this is demanding.”

Francis spoke during his annual address to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimates that across the board, a third of food produced in the world each year is wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tons.

He suggested a change in language used on the international scene which is focused on “the category of love, conjugated as gratuitousness, equal treatment, solidarity, a culture of gift, brotherhood and mercy.”

“These words express, effectively, the practical content of the term 'humanism,' often used in international activity,” he said.

Francis also highlighted the relationship between hunger and forced migration, saying the problem can only be solved “ if we go to the root of the problem,” rather that coming up with superficial solutions.

Referencing various studies, the Pope noted that the main underlying causes of hunger, which in itself prompts many to migrate, are “conflicts and climate change.”

The effects of climate change are felt on a daily basis, he said, explaining that thanks to science, the international community already knows how to face the problem.

He praised initiatives such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, and urged nations to uphold the agreement. However, he noted that “unfortunately, some are moving away from (it).”

Though Pope Francis mentioned no one specifically, his reference includes the United States, which pulled out of the agreement June 1 as President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would pursue other means of addressing the environmental issue which are more favorable to Americans.

In terms of conflict, the Pope pointed to various “martyred populations” suffering from decades of war, many of which “could have been avoided or at least stopped, and yet they spread such disastrous and cruel effects as food insecurity and the forced displacement of peoples.”

To overcome these conflicts, both “good will and dialogue” are needed, as well as firm and total commitment to a “gradual and systemic disarmament” in war zones.

“What is the point of denouncing that, because of military conflicts, millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition, if we do not act effectively in the interest of peace and disarmament?” he said.

“It is clear that wars and climate change are an occasion for hunger, so let us avoid, then, presenting it as an incurable illness.”

Human mobility, he said, can and must be managed by a coordinated and systemic action on the parts of governments that are in accord with existing international standards, and which are “impregnated with love and intelligence.”

In terms of solutions, he said it's possible to stop the use of weapons of mass destruction because the world has recognized “the destructive capacity of these weapons.” However, he asked whether “we (are) equally aware of the effects of the poverty and exclusion?”

People who are “willing to risk everything” to escape violence, hunger, poverty or climate change won't be stopped by physical, economic, legislative or ideological barriers, he said, explaining that “a coherent application of the principle of humanity” is the only thing capable of addressing the problem.

Francis urged “a broad and sincere” dialogue at all levels of society in order for “the best solutions” to be found and for new relationships to be formed which are characterized by “mutual responsibility, solidarity and communion.”

Although current initiatives in place are praiseworthy, “they are not enough,” he said, and stressed the need to promote and develop new actions and financial programs “which combat hunger and structural misery more effectively and with high hopes of success.”

In developing these new tactics, it's necessary to avoid the temptation “to act in favor of small groups of the population” or to used aid funding “inappropriately, favoring corruption, or lack of legality,” he said.

Closing his remarks, the Pope voiced the desire for the Catholic Church to directly participate in the various efforts being pursued and implemented given her mission, “which leads it to love everyone and also forces it to remind those who have national or international responsibility of the great duty to meet the needs of the poorest.”

Francis, who received a standing ovation for his speech, gifted the FAO with a marble statue commemorating Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee boy whose body washed up on the shores of Turkey in 2015 after a failed attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

'No science' behind transgender therapy for kids, doctors warn

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 5:57 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Children who struggle to match their gender identity with their biological sex should not be pushed into transgender therapies, but given treatments that help treat the underlying cause of the dysphoria, said doctors in the field.

From a medical standpoint, deciding not to offer hormonal therapy to children who experience gender dysphoria is “not a judgment” on the child, but a matter of the best medical healthcare, said Dr. Paul Hruz, associate professor of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Cell Biology and Physiology at the Washington University of Medicine.

“It’s the best outcome, because they’re not exposed to all these harms that we know they will experience if they move forward” with the hormone treatments, he said.

Dr. Hruz also voiced serious concerns about treating young people with intense and potentially dangerous off-label hormone therapy, without subjecting the regimen to rigorous scientific testing.

This falls short of the scientific standards used to evaluate other treatments, he said. “We search for the truth by testing it with experimental evidence.”

Hruz spoke at an Oct. 11 panel on Gender Dysphoria in Children at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Also speaking at the event were Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, and Dr. Allan Josephson, professor and division chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition in which a person’s experience of the psychological and cultural associations of their gender differ greatly from their biological sex. It is unclear how many children in the United States experience gender dysphoria, but the condition is relatively uncommon.

Cretella explained the health risks of putting children on puberty blockers and hormones associated with the opposite sex. The use of these drugs, she said, “is treating puberty like a disease, arresting a normal process which is critical to normal development for kids.”

She pointed out that there had never been long-term studies on hormone repression drugs, and their impact – particularly on children – is unknown. What is known, however, is the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and growth disruption associated with hormone therapies used for cross-sex treatment.

She also pushed back against the claims that affirming a patient's perceived gender leads to improved outcomes to children, saying that “those studies are extremely short term” with small study groups and poorly designed controls. Cretella pointed to former patients who change their minds “at age 28 or so and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what was done to me?’”

Emphasizing the importance of rooting medical practices in science rather than ideology, Hruz noted that no randomized controlled trial or consistent findings have shown that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are the best treatments for children with gender dysphoria.

“The reality is there is no science to back this drastic change.” He also noted that as many as 90 percent of youth outgrow gender dysphoria by the end of adolescence and realign their identity with their biological sex.

Josephson focused on the psychological element of childhood gender dysphoria, noting that at its root, the disorder is a social and psychological phenomenon.

He contested that relying on hormonal therapies leaves aside a full investigation of the root psychological causes underlying the dysphoria, which therefore halts the most effective treatment before it starts.

Josephson pointed to the treatment of one patient who came in for counseling on gender dysphoria and ended up uncovering deep wounds of childhood abuse underlying their discomfort. “When doctors see pain or distress we try to find the cause of it and map out a treatment. We don’t try to ignore it,” he urged.

And treatment does not mean avoiding all forms of stress or trial, Josephson said. “In the process of development we’re always subjected to some kind of stress or developmental crisis.”

The key is to adequately diagnose and treat the underlying causes of gender dysphoria, he said. “If we ignore pain, the bottom line is that we might miss a diagnosis and chance for developmental progress.”

Most of all, Josephson said, children going through gender dysphoria need to be affirmed and loved.

“Of course you affirm a child and love a child,” he said. “But you don’t affirm a bad idea.”

Vatican City court finds former hospital president guilty of corruption

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 3:09 PM

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2017 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Vatican City announced Saturday the conclusion of the corruption trial of the former president and treasurer of the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome.

The Oct. 14 communique announced the end of the trial and the conviction of former president, Giuseppe Profiti, on charges of abuse of office. The hospital's former treasurer, Massimo Spina, was acquitted.

The final hearing was held Saturday morning. The finding was pronounced after roughly two hours of deliberation.

Profiti was given a penalty of one year imprisonment, one year interdiction from public offices and a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,900).

However, subject to the granting of general attenuating circumstances, Profiti was granted a five-year conditional suspension of the sentence. A conditional suspension means that if a new offense is committed in the five-year period he becomes immediately subject to the penalty.

The judicial board which delivered the sentence was composed of Paolo Papanti Pelletier, president, Venerando Marano, judge, Carlo Bonzano, judge, and Elisa Pacella, alternate chancellor.

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

The Vatican announced July 13 it was charging Profiti and Spina with the illicit use of hospital funds in the amount of 422,005 euros ($499,000) for the refurbishment of the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone lives.

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

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

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

Pope at canonization Mass: God never stops inviting us to the heavenly banquet

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 7:14 AM

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2017 / 05:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized 35 new saints in the Catholic Church, saying that no matter how often we reject him, the Lord will continue to love us and invite us to participate in his heavenly banquet.

“The Gospel tells us that, even before constant rejection and indifference on the part of those whom he invites, God does not cancel the wedding feast. He does not give up, but continues to invite,” the Pope said Oct. 15.

“When he hears a ‘no,’ he does not close the door, but broadens the invitation. In the face of wrongs, he responds with an even greater love.”

Francis explained that when we are hurt by others, we often harbor grudges and resentment. But God, on the other hand, while pained by our rejection of him, does not give up. He tries again and again.

“He keeps doing good even for those who do evil. Because this is what love does. Because this is the only way that evil is defeated,” the Pope said.

“Today our God, who never abandons hope, tells us to do what he does, to live in true love, to overcome resignation and the whims of our peevish and lazy selves.”

In a Mass with 35,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis canonized 35 new saints, including Cristobal, Antonio and Juan, three teenage boys from the 16th century in Mexico, who were beaten to death after converting to Catholicism.

“...we declare and define Andre de Soveral, Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, Mateo Moreira and 27 companions; Cristobal, Antonio and Juan; Faustino Miguez; and Angelo of Acri to be Saints,” Francis stated.

“And we enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.”

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel from Matthew, in which Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast to explain the Kingdom of God. In the parable, guests are invited by the king to the wedding feast of his son.

“Such is the Christian life, a love story with God,” the Pope said. “The Lord freely takes the initiative,” inviting, not a select few, but everyone to participate in his Kingdom.

“The Christian life is always born and reborn of this tender, special and privileged love,” he said.

The Pope pointed out that some people, however, ignore the invitation and instead continue to go about doing their own thing.

In the Gospel passage, each person “was concerned with his own affairs; this is the key to understanding why they refused the invitation,” he continued. The guests weren't worried about being bored or annoyed, they simply did not care.

“They were more interested in having something rather than in risking something, as love demands,” he said. In the Gospel, then, we are being asked where we stand: with God or with ourselves, Francis stated. “Because God is the opposite of selfishness, of self-absorption.”

We should ask ourselves if at least once a day we tell the Lord that we love him. Among all the things we say each day, there should also be the prayer, “Lord, I love you’ you are my life,” he said.

Because without love, and without a relationship with Christ, the Christian life becomes empty and dead; merely a collection of rules and laws with no good reason for obedience. “The God of life, however, awaits a response of life. The Lord of love awaits a response of love.”

Today’s newly canonized saints all responded to God with love, he explained. As the Gospel emphasizes, it is not enough to merely respond “yes” to God’s invitation one time, and then do nothing.

“Day by day, we have to put on the wedding garment, the 'habit' of practicing love,” he said.

The newly canonized saints, especially the many martyrs, are an example of this daily habit of choosing to love God and choosing to do his will, he pointed out.

Cristobal, Antonio and Juan lived in Mexico in the 16th century, at the start of the Christian missionary work in the country. Cristobal was educated in the Christian faith by Franciscan missionaries, asking to be baptized.

He then began to share the Gospel with his family and acquaintances in an effort to convert them, especially his father who had abusive habits and was frequently drunk.

One day, after Cristobal destroyed the pagan idols in his family's home, his father began to kick and beat him, breaking his arms and legs. The boy continued to pray, despite the intense pain, so his father threw him into a burning fire, killing him.

The boy Antonio and his young servant Juan, all born in the same town as Cristobal, helped the Dominican missionaries who were setting up a mission in a nearby town as interpreters for the other indigenous people.

The boys were warned that it was a task that could likely end in death, but still volunteered to go. One day, while entering a house to destroy the pagan idols as usual, angry townspeople approached and began beating Juan to death with sticks.

Antonio turned to the aggressors and asked, “Why do you beat my companion who has no fault? It is I who collect idols, because they are diabolical and not divine.” The people then turned to Antonio, also beating him to death.

The blood of the three boys is considered the first seed of the great growth of Catholicism in the country of Mexico.  

Martyrs Andre de Soveral and Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, diocesan priests, were killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil on July 16, 1645; Mateo Moreira, a layman, and 27 fellow martyrs, were also killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil on October 3, 1645.

Manuel Miguez Gonzalez, who took the religious name Faustino of the Incarnation, was a priest and a professed member of the Piarists (the Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools). He lived from 1831-1925 in Spain.

Angelo of Acri, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, lived in Italy from 1669-1739.

Concluding his homily, the Pope urged everyone to ask the Lord, “through the intercession of the saints, our brothers and sisters,” for the grace to make a habit of love, accepting God’s invitation to the wedding feast.

We should also ask for his help in keeping our wedding clothes “spotless.”

“How can we do this?” Francis asked. “Above all, by approaching the Lord fearlessly in order to receive his forgiveness. This is the one step that counts, for entering into the wedding hall to celebrate with him the feast of love.”

Pope announces special 2019 Synod of Bishops on South American region

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 6:32 AM

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2017 / 04:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis announced the decision to hold a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to take place in October 2019, on the state of evangelization in the Pan-Amazon region of South America.

“Accepting the desire of some Catholic bishops' conferences in Latin America, as well as the voice of various pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,” Francis said Oct. 15.

The purpose of the assembly will be to “identify new paths for the evangelization” of people in the Pan-Amazon region of South America, meaning Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Surinam, “especially the indigenous people, often forgotten,” he said.

The assembly will also address the “crisis of the Amazonian Forest, a lung of great importance to our planet.”

The Pope’s announcement was made in St. Peter’s Square before the recitation of the Angelus, and following the canonization Mass of 35 new saints.

New saints Andre de Soveral, Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, and Mateo Moreira and 27 companions were all martyred in Brazil. Three teenage boys, Cristobal, Antonio and Juan, also martyred, were from Mexico.

The other new saints are Faustino Miguez of Spain and Angelo of Acri, Italy.

“The new Saints will intercede for this ecclesial event, so that, in respect for the beauty of creation, all the peoples of the earth may praise God, Lord of the universe, and enlightened by him walk on the paths of justice and peace,” Francis stated.

Serving as an advisory body to the Pope, the Synod of Bishops was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965 by the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo to “strengthen (the Pope's) union” with other bishops and to “establish even closer ties” with them.

It consists of a group of bishops from around the world who meet every three years “to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel...and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world,” according to canon law.

The Synod of Bishops may meet for ordinary general assemblies, which are on a matter of importance to the Church in general and held at fixed intervals, or for special assemblies, which focus on a specific geographical area of the Church.
Extraordinary general assemblies can also be organized in the case of an urgent matter.

The last special assembly of the Synod of Bishops was held in 2010 on the situation in the Middle East.

The 50th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is set to take place in October 2018, and will discuss “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

The last Synod of Bishops was dedicated to the family and took place in two parts, the first being an Extraordinary Synod in 2014, which was followed by the Ordinary Synod in 2015 that drew 279 cardinals, bishops and representatives from all over the world to discuss the challenges and blessings of family life.

In India, schoolkids say Virgin Mary appeared amid scent of jasmine

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 6:01 PM

Kochi, India, Oct 14, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Both Hindu and Catholic schoolchildren in India claim to have witnessed an apparition of Christ and several appearances of the Virgin Mary accompanied by the scent of jasmine, the gift of contrition, and the healing of a girl’s ear problem.

The site of the alleged apparitions is St. Ambrose Church and Lower Primary School in Edavanakkad, in the far southwestern state of Kerala, 16 miles northwest of Kochi. The parish and adjacent school are under the Archdiocese of Verapoly. The Marian apparitions are said to have happened on at least two separate dates.

The church’s assistant pastor Father Merton D’Silva said archdiocesan authorities have taken a “wait-and-see” approach before intervening, the news site Matters India reports. Matters India has recounted the apparitions based on a note on the parish billboard by parish priest Father Mathew D’Cunha.

The apparition reportedly began Sept. 28 when a student at the school, a Hindu girl named Krishnaveda, went to the church to pray for her ear problem. She put some holy water on her ear. She later told her fellow students that the holy water immediately helped her ear.

When the children left the school to pray in the church, they looked up and saw in the sky a vision of Christ being scourged. They recited the name of Jesus and went into the church to thank God for healing the girl’s ear.

The only Catholic girl among them, Ambrosiya, volunteered to lead the students in praying the rosary. However she did not know the Luminous Mysteries recited on Thursday and sought a teacher’s help. The children were in prayer when the teacher reached them at about 1:45 in the afternoon.

One of the girls, named Anusree, told the teacher that the Blessed Virgin was standing under the altar. They reported the smell of jasmine flower. The alleged apparition told the children to come closer, which frightened a girl named Sivanya, who said she wanted to leave.

While the teacher was leading the children out of the church, the girls said the apparition followed them and pleaded with them not to leave. The teacher went to tell the other teachers, while some children went to the assistant pastor, Father D’Silva.

When D’Silva took the children back to the church so they could pray, the children claimed to see the Virgin Mary standing under the altar. The adults could not see anything.

According to the children, the apparition promised them help in their studies and promised to send them the Holy Spirit. The apparition also promised to take them to heaven.

When the news of the apparition spread, people began to gather at the church. Parents of the children took them home.

On Oct. 3 a large crowd prayed the rosary in the church with the reputed visionaries. After a time, everyone perceived the scent of jasmine flowers. The children said they saw the Virgin Mary again.

A priest asked the children to point out the exact spot. The congregation saw a bright light and the priest said he felt someone patting his head.

Many in the congregation said they received the gift of contrition as they prayed.

The church had planned a night vigil on Oct. 12.

Pope Francis: You can’t spread God’s love from an armchair

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 8:13 AM

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2017 / 06:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that to share God’s love with the world requires action and service – and that we can’t just sit around and wait for other people to perform our vocation.

“Love is dynamic, it goes out of itself,” the Pope said Oct. 14. The person who loves does not just sit in an armchair watching and waiting for the world to improve. Instead, he or she “with enthusiasm and simplicity gets up and goes.”

As St. Vincent de Paul said, our vocation is not merely to go to one parish or diocese, but to go throughout the earth, he continued. And what do we do? We “inflame the hearts of men, doing what the Son of God did, he who came to bring fire to the world to inflame it with his love.”

The vocation to love, Francis said, “is always valuable for everyone.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Vincentian Family during a celebration in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 14 celebrating the 400th anniversary of the start of the charism of the Vincentian Family, a group of organizations founded by or under the inspiration of St. Vincent de Paul.

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

The meeting was part of a week-long symposium in Rome which included Mass, prayer services and talks.

In their audience, Francis said he wanted to encourage the members of the Vincentian Family to continue their journey of charity.

Besides the verb “to go,” he offered two other simple words he said are of great importance for “the Vincentian spirit but also for Christian life in general:” To worship and to welcome.

For St. Vincent, worship of God, or prayer, was essential, the Pope said. There are many invitations from him in his writing encouraging us to cultivate an inner life, devoting ourselves to prayer, which "purifies and opens the heart,” he said.

St. Vincent considered prayer like the compass of every day, the “manual of life.” Only through prayer can we draw from God the love that we then pour into the world, he continued.

But the saint didn't consider prayer a set of formulas or a sterile duty, he continued. Prayer, for St. Vincent, was to stand before God, being with him and devoting yourself to him.

“This is the most pure prayer, the one that makes room for the Lord and his praise, and nothing else: adoration,” he said.

"Here is adoration: to stand before the Lord, with respect, with calm and in silence, giving him the first place," abandoning oneself with confidence.

Whatever the situation or problem, those who spend time worshiping God can't help but be "contaminated" by the living source of love, he continued. Which makes us want to treat others like we have been treated by the Lord.

Those who spend time in worship and adoration become "more merciful, more sympathetic, more available, above rigidity and open to others."

When we think of the verb “to welcome,” we often think of doing something, like performing an act of hospitality or the like, Francis said. But it actually has more to do with a way of thinking.

Welcoming is really "a slow detachment from all that is mine: my time, my rest, my rights, my plans, my agenda."

The Christian is truly welcoming who sets aside his or her own ego in favor of sowing peace and concord and communion, even when not reciprocated.

“Thank you for moving in the streets of the world, as St. Vincent would ask you today,” the Pope concluded. I hope you continue to draw God’s love from adoration, spreading it throughout the world, through the “good contagion” of charity.

“I bless all of you and the poor you meet.”