Dec 16 2019The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, speaks about his upcoming visit to the Holy See, and his appreciation of Pope Francis, in this interview conducted in collaboration with Italy's "La Stampa" newspaper.
Dec 15 2019Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, has made a plea for peace at a meeting organised by “Religions for Peace.”
Dec 15 2019The longest United Nations climate summit on record has failed to reach a consensus on what several delegates view as a global warming emergency. Instead, participants postponed a critical decision on how to regulate global carbon markets until next year. But the U.N. gathering in Madrid concluded with some hope for countries impacted by climate change.
Dec 15 2019Pope Francis on Sunday celebrates Mass in St Peter’s Basilica for Rome’s Filipino Community, telling them they have a special mission to share their faith.
Dec 15 2019As the Filipino community in Rome gathers in St Peter’s Basilica for Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, a nun from the Philippines speaks about the faith of the community living in the city.
Dec 15 2019
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- On Gaudete Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a Filipino Christmas tradition in St. Peter’s Basilica -- the Simbang Gabi Christmas novena.
“In the Philippines, for centuries, there has been a novena in preparation for Christmas called Simbang Gabi, 'Mass of the night'. During nine days the Filipino faithful gather at dawn in their parishes for a special Eucharistic celebration,” Pope Francis said Dec. 15.
“Through this celebration we want to prepare ourselves for Christmas according to the spirit of the Word of God that we have listened to, remaining constant until the Lord's definitive coming,” he said in his homily for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Francis invited Rome’s Filipino community to celebrate Gaudete Sunday Mass at the Vatican in honor of the first day of the traditional novena. It is the first time that a pope has celebrated Simbang Gabi at the Vatican.
The Simbang Gabi tradition in the Philippines dates back to the 17th century. Filipinos hang a star outside their homes, and attend early morning Masses on each of the nine days before Christmas.
“In recent decades, thanks to Filipino migrants, this devotion has crossed national borders and has arrived in many other countries. Simbang-Gabi has also been celebrated in the diocese of Rome for years, and today we celebrate it together here, in St. Peter's Basilica,” Pope Francis said.
The pope told the Filipino community gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica that they are called to be “leaven” in their parish communities in Italy, and encouraged them to share their “cultural and spiritual wealth.”
There are over 167,000 Filipinos residing in Italy, according to the Italian Ministry of Labor. Fr. Ricky Gente, chaplain for the Filipino community in Rome, address Pope Francis following the Mass:
“Almost 500 years ago, European missionaries planted the seed of faith in our beloved Philippines. We are happy and blessed because after five centuries we are here in Europe and throughout the world transmitting the joy and beauty of the Gospel,” Fr. Gente said.
“Before the celebration of the last World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Holy Father shared with me that Filipino women are ‘smugglers of the faith,’” the priest said.
“Yes, it is true, we carry with us everywhere we go the torch of faith and of the Gospel in the world, the same faith and Gospel that have been transmitted to us. This is why today, here in front of you, you find a happy and smiling people because the flame of faith continues to burn intensely in our hearts," he added.
The Filipino community gave Pope Francis a traditional Marian statue as an early birthday gift. The pope will celebrate his 83rd birthday on Dec. 17. Pope Francis responded after receiving the gift: “Be smugglers of the faith.”
“We are all invited to build together that communion in diversity that constitutes a distinctive trait of the Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, Son of God made man,” the pope said in his homily. “We are all called to proclaim the Gospel together, the Good News of salvation, in all languages, so as to reach as many people as possible.”
“To adequately prepare ourselves for this new outpouring of grace, the Church offers us the time of Advent, in which we are called to reawaken in our hearts the expectation and to intensify our prayer,” Francis said.
“May the Holy Child that we are preparing to worship, wrapped in poor swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, bless you and give you the strength to carry on your testimony with joy,” Pope Francis said.
Dec 15 2019
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2019 / 05:30 am (CNA).- As Pope Francis blessed children's nativity scene figurines Sunday, the pope said that the Advent season is a time of conversion to make space in one’s heart for Christ to come and fill it with joy.
“Advent, a time of grace, tells us that it is not enough to believe in God: it is necessary to purify our faith every day,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Dec. 15.
“It is a matter of preparing to welcome -- not a fairy-tale character -- but the God who calls us, involves us, and before whom a choice is imposed,” he said in St. Peter’s Square.
Italian children gathered in St. Peter’s Square before the Angelus prayer, shouted and cheered as they awaited the papal blessing of their Nativity scene figurines of the infant Jesus, called “Bambinelli” in Italian.
This 50 year-old Vatican tradition of the blessing the infant Jesus figurines on Gaudete Sunday began in 1969 with St. Pope Paul VI at the iniative of the Roman Oratori Center. The tradition has since spread throughout the world each year on the third Sunday of Advent.
“I greet you, dear children, who have come with the statues of the child Jesus for your nativity scenes. I cordially bless you,” Francis said.
Pope Francis reminded the children of the meaning of the nativity scene by quoting a passage of his apostolic letter, Admirabile Signum, published on the first day of Advent this year:
“The nativity scene is like a living Gospel,” he said. “As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.”
The pope said that the child Jesus in the nativity scene has “the face of our most needy brothers and sisters.”
“The poor are a privileged part of this mystery; often they are the first to recognize God’s presence in our midst,” he said.
The time of Advent reminds us that joy and doubt are both experiences that are a part of life, the pope said.
“But the man of God looks beyond, because the Holy Spirit makes his heart feel the power of his promise, and he announces salvation: ‘Courage, do not fear! Behold your God ... He comes to save you,’” Pope Francis said.
“And then everything is transformed: the desert blooms, consolation and joy take possession of fearful hearts, the lame, the blind, the mute are healed. This is what is accomplished with Jesus: ‘the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are purified, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the Gospel is announced to the poor,’” he said quoting the Gospel of Matthew.
This description from Matthew’s Gospel shows that “salvation envelops the whole man and regenerates him,” the pope said. “But this new birth, with the joy that accompanies it, always presupposes a dying to ourselves and to the sin that is in us.”
“Hence the call to conversion, which is the basis of the preaching of both the Baptist and Jesus; in particular, it is a question of converting the idea we have of God. And the time of Advent encourages us to do so,” he said.
Pope Francis reminded the crowd that the Christmas novena will begin Dec. 16. He also asked for prayers for the fruitfulness of the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Budapest, Hungary in September 2020.
“May the Virgin Mary help us as we approach Christmas, not to allow ourselves to be distracted by external things, but make space in our heart for Him who has already come and wants to come again to heal our illnesses and give us his joy,” Pope Francis said.
Dec 15 2019
San José, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2019 / 03:22 am (CNA).- Costa Rica's president on Dec. 12 issued a technical decree that defines the conditions under which a doctor may perform an abortion when doctors consider it necessary to preserve the life of the mother.
President Carlos Alvarado on Thursday signed the decree that, while not changing any laws, lays out how a woman may legally choose abortion in some circumstances.
Bishop José Manuel Garita Herrera of Ciudad Quesada spoke out against the decree and urged respect for both lives— that of the mother and of the child in her womb.
“To doctors, my call is also that, faithful to the principle and vocation to which they have consecrated themselves, allow them to place their gifts at the service of the mother and her son,” Bishop Herrera said, as reported by CNA’s Spanish-language news partner ACI Prensa.
“The text presented by the government authorities must not ignore the life of the human being that has developed in the womb...God protect and enlighten Costa Rica so that all those responsible for this policy always seek the good of both lives.”
The government had announced in early 2019 that the technical norm was being drafted by a team from the Department of Health and was going to be signed by the president during this year.
“Far from making our country progress in true respect for human rights, [the decree] would make it disrespect the most absolute of those rights in the unborn person,” Archbishop José Rafael Quirós of San José said in an Oct. 11 letter to the president.
Health Minister Daniel Salas said in a statement that abortions can be performed if there is no other medical alternative; if the woman gives consent; and after mandatory evaluation by three medical professionals, Reuters reports.
Pro-life advocates argue that abortion is never medically necessary, and that, although a woman may sometimes need to undergo a procedure that will lead to the child’s death in order to alleviate a medical condition, this is not the same as directly and intentionally killing the baby.
Abortion was decriminalized in Costa Rica in 1971 through Article 121 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that an abortion performed with the consent of a woman by a doctor is not punishable when done to save the mother’s life, and in the absence of other options. However, many doctors have been unwilling to perform abortions, citing the lack of a protocol clarifying the exact conditions in which it is permitted and procedures to follow, Tico Times reports.
In August, thousands participated in the March for Life in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, urging that the president not sign the technical regulation.
Days prior to the march, the Costa Rican bishops' conference invited all citizens to participate, and thanked the secular organizations that “with great dedication and zeal for promoting the culture of life, have organized this event.”
The country’s social security system has six months to enact the new norms, Tico Times reports.
Dec 14 2019
Beirut, Lebanon, Dec 14, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- As Lebanon’s economic crisis worsens, a Lebanese priest is asking for people to spiritually and charitably adopt a persecuted Christian refugee family this Christmas season.
“Imagine that for the last 4-6 years there were more than 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a nation that is only about 4 million people,” Fr. Andre Sebastian Mahanna told CNA.
On Dec. 14, Fr. Mahanna’s apostolate, St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy, will provide a Christmas dinner and concert for 4,500 families of refugees from Syria and Iraq at which 2,500 children will receive Christmas gifts.
The Christmas gift and good drive will be hosted by Chaldean Archbishop Michael Kassargi of Beirut. The mission will also provide 100 families with emergency medical insurance coverage through the Center of Our Lady of Hope Medical Center in Beirut.
“In this Christmas season, adopt a family in your prayer. Pray for a family so that a father and a mother who cannot afford food at the table, who cannot afford medicine for their children or for themselves, they cannot afford the livelihood of paying rent, pray for their concrete livelihood,” Fr. Mahanna urged.
With a $50 donation, one can “Adopt a Family” of refugees, which in turn also helps ease the burden on Lebanon’s infrastructure and helps “support the Lebanese people until the political situation and that human crisis of the refugees is settled,” Mahanna explained.
Lebanon is facing a critical moment in which it risks becoming a failed state, Mahanna said. Anti-government protests forced the former prime minister Saad Hariri to resign six weeks ago, and the government remains billions of dollars in debt.
“The crisis has now drained the entire banking system, private investors cannot withdraw their money. If I have money in the bank, you cannot find the actual dollar currency in any of the Lebanese territories. The ATM machines are not giving money out to people, and you cannot go even to your own account and withdraw money more than let's say $1,000 per month in some places $400 per month in other places,” the priest said.
“We need the help of the international community to maintain the stability, some economic foundation in Lebanon so that we protect the private investors, we protect the Lebanese citizens … in such a way that the government will not fall,” he said.
“If the government falls, you are going to have two fanatic groups, unfortunately just like what happened in Syria, just like what happened in Iraq, they will be on the rise and kill each other. As a collateral damage, Christians always pay the cost,” he explained.
Fr. Mahanna asked for prayers for Lebanon to remain a stronghold for dialogue and a model of coexistence between people from different religious groups.
The St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy’s Christmas celebrations will continue at epiphany when the mission will distribute gifts at the Bird’s News Orphanage in Byblos, Lebanon on Jan. 6, 2020.
The Syrian Civil War left an estimated 100,000 children orphaned. Gifts will also be distributed to the orphans cared for by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the Ephraimites Sisters in Harissa, Lebanon.
“I'm so proud of the churches in Lebanon,” Mahanna said. “They have doubled their attendance in the afternoon. They cook, they wrap sandwiches. We send as a Mission of Hope and Mercy on a monthly basis for the Christian refugees. We send 200 hygiene supply kits every month. We send 200 food boxes every month, and now for Christmas we send 2,500 Christmas gifts.”
“We stand in solidarity and in support with these people who really are in dire need,” he said.
Dec 14 2019
Washington D.C., Dec 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- In its 2019 roundup of the biggest lies of the year (dubbed the biggest ‘Pinocchios’), the Washington Post included a false but oft-repeated claim that “thousands” of women died while undergoing illegal abortions before the legalization of abortion in the United States.
This statistic was frequently cited this year by Dr. Leana Wen, who was fired from her position as president of Planned Parenthood in July, just eight months after accepting the job.
“We dug through the statistics and it turns out she was citing numbers from the 1930s, before the advent of antibiotics,” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post said in his 2019 Pinocchio list. “In 1972, the number of deaths in the United States from legal abortions was 24 and from illegal abortions 39, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Wen was “repeatedly” told by her staff that the statistic she was citing was false, but continued to use it anyway, the New York Times reported. Insiders at Planned Parenthood told the New York Times that Wen was ultimately let go because the organization wanted someone at the helm with a more aggressive focus on political advocacy, while Wen had worked to reframe Planned Parenthood primarily as a healthcare organization.
In May of this year, Kessler fact-checked the “thousands of women” claim that Wen had also repeated in interviews. He noted that before abortion became legal, official statistics on the number of women who died from abortions were dicey at best due to the illegality of the procedure and the shame surrounding it.
“Still, by the time Roe was issued, 17 states had liberalized their abortion laws, and the Centers for Disease Control was collecting solid data on abortion mortality,” Kessler noted.
Estimates on the number of abortions performed before Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed for legal abortion in the United States, vary widely - from 200,000 to 1,200,000 per year, according to one 1958 study examined by The Washington Post.
“That’s quite a range for the number of illegal abortions, indicating how fuzzy the numbers are,” Kessler noted in May.
Another study cited in a NARAL document from 1936 used liberal estimates from a gynecologist named Frederick Taussig who used data from just 13 states and guessed at the rest to approximate the annual number of deaths from abortion at roughly 10,000.
But by 1948, researcher Christopher Tietze noted in a paper that deaths from abortion were swiftly decreasing due to the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics, as well as improved medical practices and an increase in available contraceptive methods.
In 1959, the medical director of Planned Parenthood reported that there had only been 260 deaths in the U.S. from illegal abortion, and that the procedure could be considered as safe as any other surgical procedure at the time, Kessler reported.
In 1969, a report in Scientific American magazine by Tietze and Sarah Lewit cited in The Washington Post stated that annually, the “Total mortality from illegal abortions was undoubtedly larger than (235), but in all likelihood it was under 1,000.”
“Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, there is no evidence that in the years immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s decision, thousands of women died every year in the United States from illegal abortions,” Kessler wrote.