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Pope to bless Bethlehem icon at All Saints Anglican Church

Feb 25 2017

(Vatican Radio) The blessing of a newly commissioned icon of Christ the Saviour sets the stage for Pope Francis’ historic visit to the Anglican Church of All Saints on Sunday. It’s the first time a pope has ever visited an Anglican place of worship in his diocese of Rome and it comes as the centerpiece of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the community.

The icon, which will be blessed by the Pope, together with Anglican and Orthodox leaders attending the afternoon prayer service, is the work of English artist Ian Knowles, who heads a school for Palestinian art students in the Holy Land.

He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the aims of the Bethlehem Icon Centre and the way this type of liturgical art can help to heal our ecumenical divisions…

Listen

Knowles says he started the school four and half years ago as an attempt “to revive iconography as living art in the Holy Land” since research suggests that this art form began in the monasteries of Palestine during the 5th and 6th centuries.

So many Christians are leaving the region, he said, that the community is down to one or two percent of the population in Palestine, making it “very important that you nurture what roots are still left”. In this way he hopes the school can contribute to rebuilding the Christian community “giving a bit of hope and confidence to those Christians” who want to remain.

The school currently has over 30 students, many of them enrolled on a diploma programme which works in conjunction with the Prince of Wales school of traditional arts in London. It also runs courses twice a year to bring visitors to stay and pray in Bethlehem, not just to visit the Church of the Nativity but to give people the chance to “stay and live alongside local Christians”. Doing that through iconography, Knowles says, touches “the very heart of what Bethlehem is about”.

Asked about the icon at All Saints, the artist says he believes that iconography is “incarnational art so it has to relate to the community it’s being painted for”. Considering the English Christian cultural heritage of All Saints and the presence of Pope Francis,  Knowles says he recalled a famous image of Christ the Saviour from around the 5th century kept in the chapel of Rome’s Lateran palace . When Rome was under threat in those early centuries, he notes, the pope “would take the image and walk around city barefoot”.

Pope Francis’s visit, he believes, will in a similar sense, help to foster healing of the ecumenical wounds of the past. As well as the image in the Lateran, Knowles says he drew inspiration from  the medieval English illustrator Matthew Paris.

Describing icons as “a hymn in paint”. Knowles says the works are all done with natural pigments, including “rocks which I find on the way to Jericho and we grind up”. God has given us these natural colours, he says, and it’s our job to “weave them together into something which is joyful and beautiful”, or as Dostoyevsky describes it, an image of salvation.

The point of an icon, he concludes, is to be an encounter, just as the liturgy is the place where “heaven is wedded to earth” so this liturgical art is about the “opening up of earth to heaven”. It is like a door “through which the saint or Christ himself comes and is present to the worshipper, and graces and blesses them, and you find yourself caught up in heaven through these images”.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Parish priests called to support married couples

Feb 25 2017

On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met with parish priests participating in a training course dealing with annulment procedures and other legal issues surrounding marriage.

The course was organized by the Roman Rota, the highest appellate tribunal of the Church.

Listen to the report: 

Referring to the proposals of the Synod of Bishops on “Marriage and the Family”, and his subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”, the Pope praised this study initiative saying it  is the parish priest who is in daily contact with families and is called to concretely apply the  appropriate juridical norms.

In most cases, said the Pope, the parish priest is the first to whom young people turn when they decide to marry and create a new family. And again, it is to the parish priest that couples come when their marriage is in crisis and they need to rediscover the Grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

No one knows better than you do, he told the priests, the complexity and variety of problems that exist in marriage: Christian unions, civil marriages, broken marriages, families and young people who are happy or unhappy.

“You are called to be a travel companion to every person in every situation, to support and to give witness”, said the Pope.

First and foremost you are called to witness to the Grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony and the good of the Family as the vital heart of the Church and society, by proclaiming that marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the union between Christ and His Church. Pope Francis went on to say how God and His Love are reflected in the Sacrament of Marriage – which he described as “an icon of God”.

At the same time, the parish priest is called to support those who have come to realise that their union is not a true sacramental marriage and want to correct this situation. In this delicate and necessary moment make sure your faithful see you as a brother who listens and understands, rather than an expert in bureaucracy and juridical norms, he said.

Pope Francis invited parish priest to pay special attention to those young people who prefer to live together rather than get married. “Spiritually and morally-speaking,” he said, ”they are among the poor and little ones towards whom the Church wants to be a Mother who never abandons, but is close to them and takes care of them…So be tender and compassionate towards them”.

Finally, the Pope reminded those present of his speech to the Roman Rota on January 21st in which he called for a new teaching style in preparing couples for matrimony, one that follows each step of their sacramental journey, from the wedding itself to the first years of marriage.

“I encourage you to put this teaching into practice”, he said, “despite the difficulties you may encounter.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: A society that excludes not worthy of mankind

Feb 25 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged the Comunità di Capodarco in its work to help the disabled and marginalized people of society.

The community was founded in 1966 in the Capodarco neighborhood of the eastern Italian city of Fermo.

Listen to the report by Charles Collins:

Its main activity is organizing services for the rehabilitation of disabled people, with a particular aim of social and occupational integration. Over the years, its sphere of action expanded to helping young people, children, drug addicts, immigrants, the mentally ill, and other populations on the peripheries of society.

“The Comunità di Capodarco, existing in numerous local chapters, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year,” – Pope Francis told them – “With you, I thank the Lord for the good accomplished during these years … You have chosen to be on the side of people who are less protected; to offer them hospitality, support and hope, in a dynamic of sharing. In this way, you have contributed and contribute to making a better society.”

The Holy Father said the quality of life within a society is measured from the ability to include its weakest members, “effectively respecting their dignity as men and women,” adding this inclusion should be seen “not as something extraordinary, but normal.”

“Even the person with disabilities and frailties – physical, mental or moral - must be able to participate in the life of society and be helped to implement his or her potential in different ways,” – the Pope continued – “A society that would give space only to people who are fully functional - completely autonomous and independent - would not be a society worthy of man. Discrimination based upon efficiency is no less deplorable than that based upon by race, religion, or ability to pay.”

Pope Francis praised the Comunità di Capodarco for not approaching those who are weaker with a “pietistic attitude” or as if they were welfare cases, but by promoting the “protagonism of the person.”

“In the face of economic problems and the negative consequences of globalization, your community is trying to help those who find themselves being tested not to feel excluded or marginalized; but, on the contrary, to walk at the forefront, carrying the witness of personal experience,” – the Pope said – “This promotes the dignity and respect of each individual, making the ‘losers of life’ feel the tenderness of God, loving Father of all of his creatures.”

The Holy Father also said those marked by physical or mental impediments have a special place in the Church, and their participation in the ecclesial community “opens the way to simple and fraternal relations, and their filial and spontaneous prayer invites all of us to pray to our Heavenly Father.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to French volunteers: promote a culture of mercy

Feb 25 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received in audience on Saturday the French voluntary service agency, “the Catholic Delegation for Cooperation”, which is marking the 50th anniversary of its foundation.

Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report:

The Catholic Delegation for Cooperation is the international voluntary service agency run by the Church in France and has volunteers on missions in over 50 countries who work in solidarity with local Churches and communities on development projects.

Culture of Mercy

To mark its 50th anniversary the delegation on Saturday was received by Pope Francis in the Vatican where he told them to promote a culture of mercy.

He said this culture needed to be one where “no one looks to the other with indifference or runs away when he sees the suffering of brothers “. Do not be afraid, the Pope told those gathered “to walk the streets of fraternity and to build bridges between peoples…”

Through your initiatives, your plans and your actions, he added, you render a poor Church visible, one that empathizes with those who are suffering, marginalized and excluded.

Solidarity

The Holy Father pointed out that the word “solidarity” is at times over used to such an extent that its meaning is lost, and is in fact more than just an act of generosity. He explained that what was required was a new mindset that thinks in terms of the community where everyone is respected. Thinking in this way, underlined Pope Francis also contributes to a genuine ecological conversion which recognizes the eminent dignity of every person, their value, their creativity and their ability to seek and promote the common good.

The Pope encouraged the delegation to be at the service of a Church which allows everyone to recognize the amazing closeness of God, his compassion, his love and to welcome the strength that he gives us in Jesus Christ.

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis addresses Vatican conference on human right to water

Feb 24 2017

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis met on Friday with participants in a conference on the human right to water, organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Listen to the report by Philippa Hitchen:

Pope Francis said the questions concerning the right to water are not marginal, but basic and pressing.  Basic, because where there is water there is life, and pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.

Yet we must also realise, he said, that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality. The right to safe drinking water, he insisted, is a basic human right which cries out for practical solutions and needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy. 

Our right to water, the Pope continued, gives rise to an inseparable duty. Every state, he said, is called to implement, also through juridical instruments, the Resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly since 2010 concerning the human right to a secure supply of drinking water. Similarly, non-state actors are required to assume their own responsibilities with respect to this right which is so decisive for the future of humanity.  

Noting that every day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of people consume polluted water, the Pope said we must give high priority to educating future generations about the gravity of the situation. 

We cannot be indifferent to these facts, he said, but rather we must work to develop a culture of care and encounter, in order to make our common home a more liveable and fraternal place, where none are excluded, but all are able to live and grow in dignity.

Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's address:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Conference on the Human Right to Water

Pontifical Academy of Sciences

23 February 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good afternoon!  I greet all of you and I thank you for taking part in this meeting concerned with the human right to water and the need for suitable public policies in this regard.  It is significant that you have gathered to pool your knowledge and resources in order to respond to this urgent need of today’s men and women.

The Book of Genesis tells us that water was there in the beginning (cf. Gen 1:2); in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is “useful, chaste and humble” (cf. Canticle of the Creatures).  The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing.  Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance.  Pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.  Yet it must also be realized that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality.

All people have a right to safe drinking water.  This is a basic human right and a central issue in today’s world (cf. Laudato Si’, 30; Caritas in Veritate, 27).  This is a problem that affects everyone and is a source of great suffering in our common home.  It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right.  Water needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy.  Our right to water is also a duty to water.  Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty.  We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.  Every state is called to implement, also through juridical instruments, the Resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly since 2010 concerning the human right to a secure supply of drinking water.  Similarly, non-state actors are required to assume their own responsibilities with respect to this right.

The right to water is essential for the survival of persons (cf. Laudato Si’, 30) and decisive for the future of humanity.  High priority needs to be given to educating future generations about the gravity of the situation.  Forming consciences is a demanding task, one requiring conviction and dedication.

The statistics provided by the United Nations are troubling, nor can they leave us indifferent.  Each day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water.  These facts are serious; we have to halt and reverse this situation.  It is not too late, but it is urgent to realize the need and essential value of water for the good of mankind.

Respect for water is a condition for the exercise of the other human rights (cf. ibid., 30).  If we consider this right fundamental, we will be laying the foundations for the protection of other rights.  But if we neglect this basic right, how will we be able to protect and defend other rights?  Our commitment to give water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care (cf. ibid., 231) and encounter, joining in common cause all the necessary efforts made by scientists and business people, government leaders and politicians.  We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all.  In this culture of encounter, it is essential that each state act as a guarantor of universal access to safe and clean water. 

God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all.  It is my hope that this Conference will help strengthen your convictions and that you will leave in the certainty that your work is necessary and of paramount importance so that others can live.  With the “little” we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more liveable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity. 

Thank you.

(from Vatican Radio)

CNA Daily News

Rome's Anglican pastor: Papal visit an exciting, but normal, step

Feb 25 2017

Rome, Italy, Feb 25, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will tomorrow become the first Roman Pontiff to set foot in an Anglican parish in Rome, marking a symbolic act the church’s pastor said is hugely significant, yet surprisingly normal for two communities that are close to one another.

“Personally, as a parish priest of 17 years in this place, I can’t imagine a more fulfilling moment in my ministry,” Jonathan Boardman, pastor of All Saints Anglican Church in Rome, told CNA.

“It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened, except it isn’t,” he said, explaining that it’s a very “natural and normal thing” for a group of Christians to welcome the leader of their brethren to their house.

For Pope Francis to become the first Roman Pontiff to step inside an Anglican parish in Rome, then, is “the most exciting thing, and it’s the most normal thing,” he said, saying it’s a gesture “that explains a truth about our Christian living.”

Both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he said, have to find “the excitement of the Gospel and the fulfillment of it” in everything they do, “from the most rare thing to the most ordinary thing,” such as giving to the poor and offering prayers together.

Pope Francis' visit coincides with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City, and will consist of a short choral Evensong service, during which the Pope will bless and dedicate an icon of “St. Saviour” commissioned for the occasion.

The symbolic “twinning” of All Saints Anglican Church with the Catholic parish of “Ognissanti” – the only Catholic parish in Rome dedicated to All Saints – will also take place during the liturgy, forming strong ecumenical ties between the two.

Ognissanti is the parish where Bl. Paul VI, on March 7, 1965, celebrated the first Mass in Italian following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

After the singing of Evensong during his visit to All Saints, Pope Francis is expected to deliver a brief homily before taking questions from the congregation.

Established in 1816, All Saints contains the largest Anglican congregation in Italy, and is headed by Boardman and his assistant chaplain, Dana English. Both pastors will be present to welcome the Pope for his visit Sunday, as well as Robert Innes, the Anglican Bishop in Europe, and his suffragan, David Hamid.

In his comments to CNA, Boardman said that in his opinion, the reason a papal visit to an Anglican parish is possible now rather than in the past is likely due to “the fact that we’ve got Pope Francis.”

Francis “really determinately seeks to exhibit, to show the way in which he’s the Bishop of Rome and how that can be celebrated by other Christians who are present in Rome,” he said, noting that the visit builds on 50 years of dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans.

This positive dialogue the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have enjoyed shows that Anglicans “are serious in giving honor to the Pope, in recognizing him as the leader of Christendom in some way, although obviously not in the juridical way,” Boardman said, explaining that this point “still keeps us separated.”

But from both the Catholic and Anglican sides, “I think both the Pope’s ability to recognize and accept and celebrate that (dialogue) with us, and our willingness to receive him and celebrate that (dialogue), are the two factors that have led us to where we are today.”

Pointing to Benedict XVI’s establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate in 2009 as a means of helping Anglicans who wish to become Catholic while maintaining certain elements of their liturgy and customs, Boardman called the move “a real generosity and attempt to meet some of the deficiencies, as they were conceived, of what kept us apart.”

While some on the Anglican side initially viewed the act as “hostile and invasive,” the pastor said for him that wasn’t the case, and that in his own personal view, the time has come “to settle down” and appreciate the gesture as “an act of generosity”.

“The degree to which Anglican patrimony truly has been inserted into the Roman Catholic world is something that’s ongoing,” he said, and noted that after the Pope’s visit to his parish this weekend, a Choral Evensong of the Anglican rite will be sung inside St. Peter’s Basilica March 13.

When it comes to progress Catholics and Anglicans have made toward unity, Boardman said he thinks the communities have grown closer, and that in his view “we’re closer to unity than we ever were before simply because time has passed and we’re nearer to God’s gathering us all in.”

“In that sense we’re nearer,” he said, but added that if they want to continue growing closer to one another, it can’t happen without taking on a more prayerful attitude.

There has to be greater openness “to God’s surprising demands on us, and our alignment with his will where all of us, all Christians” make the sacrifices and take the steps needed in order “to truly align ourselves with God’s will.”

Dialogue “has flourished” in the past 100 years, particularly after the Second Vatican Council, he said, acknowledging that unity is closer, but there is still a long way to go.

“We’re only just beginning truly to be real friends and being able to talk about our differences and our problems as friends,” he said, adding that “we’ve got a ways to go to resolve them.”

Some of the biggest hurdles that still need to be overcome exist on both a spiritual and practical level, he said, noting that the first challenge is always “to be faithful to God and to grow in spiritual depth.”

Apart from this, major issues from the Catholic standpoint include the ordination of women and homosexual individuals, whereas for Anglicans, how to accept papal primacy without “changing the nature” of Anglicanism is still a looming concern.

But putting the hurdles aside, Boardman said he hopes the twinning of his parish with the Catholic parish of Ognissanti will help to foster “greater friendship between our two communities.”

The gesture will offer both communities a way to experience the spiritual life of the other while staying “true to our … disciplines” and growing together through various activities, such as service to the poor.

“We’ve already started in sharing some of the feeding programs to the homeless in Rome,” he said, explaining that Ognissanti has already launched various projects, “but now we are participating in them.”

Are MidEast youth losing the virtue of hope?

Feb 25 2017

Beirut, Lebanon, Feb 25, 2017 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Syriac-Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan has said that the number of youth wanting to leave the Middle East is a major concern, and stressed that if local Christians are going to stay, political agendas must be set aside.

“We hope that peace, reconciliation and stability will be realized as soon as possible,” the patriarch said Feb. 23. The problem is that there are geopolitical agendas that don’t involve us.”

Their greatest concern is “how to convince our people to return to their homelands,” he said, adding that “this goes above all for the youth...our youth are losing the virtue of hope.”

Head of the Syriac-Catholic Church of Antioch, Younan, who is based in Lebanon, spoke at the presentation of the project “Stand Together,” a digital ecumenical platform aimed at promoting religious freedom and drawing attention to persecuted Christians, particularly those from the Middle East.

The event was held at the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. Among the partners sponsoring the initiative were Communion and Liberation, Rome Reports and the ISCOM association.

In comments to journalists, Patriarch Younan said that if Christians are to stay in the Middle East, “a welcoming, peaceful environment must be created for them so that they can return.”

If they have gone abroad, “it means that they are threatened, persecuted or are truly in straights for everything: they no longer have anything.”

In the summer of 2014 some 100,000 people were forced to flee when ISIS stormed their homes and villages, demanding that Christians either convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.

According to a recent U.N. report, between January 2014 and October 2015, at least 18,802 civilians were killed in Iraq. About half of them died in Baghdad province. Another 36,000 were injured.

Another 3.2 million people were internally displaced, include about 1 million school-aged children. In addition, millions more have fled to surrounding countries and are currently living as refugees.

Younan said that when he visited Christians displaced from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain after they first fled, he spoke with the Kurdish president, who told him that within a matter of months or even weeks, his people would be back in their villages with the Kurdish Peshmerga army to protect them.

“Two and a half years have passed” since that conversation, the patriarch said, explaining that during a November visit to the Christian villages in Iraq recently liberated from ISIS, “half of the houses were torched, the churches burned.”

Faced with the situation, Younan said his people ask “how can we return if there is no stability, without a strong governing presence?” The burning of their houses and churches, he said, was as if ISIS were telling Christians “you won’t ever come back, we don’t want you.”

The patriarch sympathized with their concerns, admitting that if that he himself had a family with children, “I would not return.”

Another big problem for those who have fled to other countries, such as Lebanon, is the fact that frequently they are not given refugee status, he said, explaining that these people know they will “not ever be accepted as Lebanese,” and so try to move abroad to Australia, Canada, the United States and Sweden.

When asked what can be done to help Christians to stay rather than moving abroad, the patriarch said the world has to avoid letting individual countries go there “to negotiate in order to have greater advantages in trade.”

Local Christians will never be able to be protagonists of change in their home countries because they are such a small minority. Pointing to Egypt as an example, he noted that only 8-10 million of the 80 million people living there are Coptic Christians, and mosques frequently control the elections.

“We try to live in peace with the others but we need stronger interventions on the part of the family of nations to say to these peoples: ‘Live in the 21st century, not the 7th,’” he said. “There must be a unified approach.”

Younan also commented on Pope Francis’ frequent declaration that “no religion is terrorist.” When asked if he agreed this declaration also applies to Islam, the patriarch said that “it’s they who have to prove this, it’s not up to me or the Pope to say it.”

In general “relations with Islamic religious heads are good,” he said, but added that for him, this is only at the “politico-diplomatic level, to not say that there is fanaticism.”

“We meet, we speak in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Syria, but the important thing is that we can’t do more, we are oppressed by a fundamentalism radical Islam that receives funding,” he said, voicing his hope “that Europe reawakens and finds an adequate solution.”

Referring to Pope Francis’ May 23, 2016, meeting with Imam Ahmed al Tayyeb of the prestigious Al-Azhar monsque at the Vatican, Younan called the move “a diplomatic step,” but said he would have representatives at a special Feb. 24 seminar at the Al-Azhar University on countering religious justification for violence.

He said that representatives from his Church have been to the university – widely considered one of the most authoritative voices in Sunni Islam – several times, and that with the joint-seminar with the Vatican they “want to make the world see that they are open.”

However, he also said there are still problems in the educational system of the university, including lessons in which youth use verses of the Koran that endorse violence “as they are.”

“Some are tolerant, others much less,” he said, noting that the two men who killed French priest Jacques Hamel in July 2016, didn’t know the priest, but murdered him “because they were formed like this.”

“It’s there that we need to intervene,” he said, explaining that while the seminar is a step, “Azhar must reform itself.”

When it comes to Vatican diplomacy, the patriarch said they are already doing a lot to intervene in the crisis in the Middle East, “but it’s not enough.”

He recalled that during the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family he urged the Vatican to speak with officials in the U.S. government, in the U.N. and with the foreign ministers in China, Russia and the E.U., telling them that the ancient Christian communities in the region “run the risk of disappearing.”

The primary message that needs to be conveyed is that “you must do something and enough with your own interests please,” he said, but added that so far, “nothing has been done.”

When asked if there was talk of Pope Francis visiting Kurdistan, Younan said that the proposal has been made by several bishops, but nothing is confirmed yet.

However, Younan said that while “will be very happy to have the visit of the Holy Father” if he does go, what they really want are “the facts that can reassure our people.”

Marriage prep should be more than just a few courses, Pope tells priests

Feb 25 2017

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2017 / 05:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis told a group of parish priests training on the new marriage annulment process to place strong emphasis on good preparation that isn’t limited to just a few courses, but extends even to the first few years after marriage.

“I ask myself how many of these youth who come to marriage preparation courses understand what ‘marriage,’ the sign of the union of Christ and the Church, means,” the Pope said Feb. 25.

“They say yes, but do they understand this? Do they have faith in this?” he asked, and voiced his conviction that “a true catechumenate is needed for the sacrament of marriage.”

Part of this formation process he said, means being thorough, not “to make preparation with two or three meetings and then go forward.”

During marriage prep, couples must be helped to understand “the profound meaning of the step that they are about to take.” This support must also continue through the celebration of marriage itself and even through the first years after, he said.

Marriage, he said, “is the icon of God, created for us by him, who is the perfect communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The love of the Trinity and Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, must therefore be “the center of marriage catechesis and evangelization.”

Whether it’s through personal or communitarian encounters, and whether they are planned or spontaneous, “never tire of showing to all, especially to spouses, (the) great mystery” of God’s love, he said.

The Pope spoke to priests participating a formation course for the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Holy’s See’s main court, dedicated to the new marriage annulment process, which went into effect Dec. 10, 2016. Held in Rome, the course ran from Feb. 22-25, and was closed by an audience with the Pope.

The course follows a similar one held in March 2016, but which was directed specifically toward bishops.

In his speech, Francis said priests have a twofold responsibility when it comes to marital ministry: to always bear witness to the beauty of marriage, and to be a consistent support to couples, regardless of their marital status.

He noted that priests are often “the first interlocutors” of young couples who want to get married, and are also the first ones these couples go to when problems or crisis come up, including the request for an annulment of their marriage.

Faced with so many “complex situations” affecting families today, “no one knows better than you and is in contact with the reality of the social fabric in the area,” experiencing firsthand the complexity of various situations they encounter, including valid sacramental marriages; domestic partnerships; civil unions; failed marriages and families and youth, both happy and unhappy.

“For each person and each situation,” he said, “you are called to be travel companions in order to bear witness and to support.”

The Pope stressed that a priest’s first concern is that of “bearing witness to the grace of the sacrament of marriage and the primordial good of the family” by proclaiming that “marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church.”

This witness is also shown when accompanying young couples on their journey “with care,” showing them how to live in times of “light and darkness, in moments of joy and those in fatigue,” always showing the beauty of marriage.

Francis told the priests that while bearing witness to the beauty of marriage, they must also care for and support “those who realize the fact that their marriage is not a true sacramental marriage and want to leave this situation.”

Because of the “delicate” nature of this type work, the Pope said priests must do it “in such a way that your faithful recognize you not so much as experts in bureaucratic actions or judicial norms, but as brothers who place themselves in an attitude of listening and understanding.”

He told them to imitate “the style” of the Gospel by meeting with and listening not only to engaged or married couples, but also youth who prefer to cohabitate rather than getting married.

People in these situations “are among the poor and little ones toward whom the Church, in the footsteps of her master and Lord, wants to be a mother who never abandons but who draws near and cares for them,” Francis said.

“Even these people are loved by the heart of Christ,” he said, telling priests to “have a gaze of tenderness and compassion toward them.”

This type of care and attention “is an essential part of your work in promoting and defending the sacrament of marriage,” the Pope said, adding that the parish is the place “par excellence” for the “salus animarum (salvation of souls).”

Pope Francis then pointed to a recent speech he gave to the Rota in which he told them to implement “a true catechumenate” of future spouses which covers all stages of the sacramental path, from the time of marriage preparation, the celebration of the sacrament and the first years immediately after.

“To you pastors, indispensable collaborators of the bishops, is primarily entrusted this catechumenate,” he said, and encouraged them to implement it “regardless of the difficulties you could encounter.”

Francis closed his speech by thanking the priests for their commitment to announcing “the Gospel of the family.”

He prayed that the Holy Spirit would help them “to be ministers of peace and consolation in the midst of the holy faithful people of God, especially the most fragile and those in need of your pastoral support.”

Cincinnati Catholics hope to give Church a megaphone on racial, social problems

Feb 25 2017

Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb 25, 2017 / 04:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics in Cincinnati are hoping that an upcoming meeting of bishops and leaders will give the local Church a much stronger voice to address issues of racism and violence.

“It is a blessing for this archdiocese, through the archbishop, to embrace addressing racism, the pervasive gun violence, restorative justice…race relations, and mental health, that our voice has to be heard,” said Deacon Royce Winters, director of African-American ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“That’s what we really wanted to do was to say as big and as powerful as the voice of the Catholic Church is in the United States, we have to do our part to bring about justice and the dignity of life for all peoples,” he told CNA.

The Feb. 28 meeting of Catholic leaders at Xavier University – entitled “Promoting Peace In Our Communities” – is a continuation of a years-long effort by Catholics to restore race relations and heal social tensions in the archdiocese, Deacon Royce said.

Area social tensions were inflamed after a 2015 incident where a University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in a car. The officer was tried for murder and voluntary manslaughter before a judge declared a mistrial in November. A re-trial has been set for May.

That was the starting point for next Tuesday’s meeting, Deacon Royce recalled.

“We began to have conversations about what is the role of the Church to use this prophetic voice to address violence, whether it be police violence or black-on-black crime or any violence,” he said.

Several members of the archdiocese’s pastoral services department met to bring the problem of violence in the city to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. The archbishop then celebrated Masses for peace at four African-American parishes in the archdiocese, and staff sent out prayer intentions and homily suggestions to parishes on “the role of the Church in seeking justice.”

Then, after a rash of violent incidents across the nation in the summer of 2016 – police shootings of minorities and retaliatory shootings of police officers – Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for a Day of Prayer and Peace in Our Communities on Sept. 9. There were two Masses for peace that day in the archdiocese, at African-American parishes.

The U.S. bishops also commissioned a special task force to plan the day of prayer, but also to issue a report to the U.S. bishops’ conference on “promoting peace.”

Bishops addressing these issues at the national level proved to be a vital support to Catholics in the archdiocese who had been working for years on them, Deacon Royce said, noting that it “emboldened us to be even more intentional about addressing the issues in the diocese.”

Two big social problems in the Cincinnati area are “policing” and “black-on-black violence,” he said. Back in 2002, the police department and federal government entered a collaborative looking at “how they are policing in our communities.”

The collaboration led to firearm training and cultural sensitivity training for police officers, among other things, but “there’s still more to do,” Royce said.

He recalled that during the initial trial of the police officer that killed the unarmed black man in 2015, Catholics joined ecumenical leaders and social activists to pray on the steps of the court house. They prayed for the young man who was shot, and for his family, as well as for the police officer.

“We were also…that justice be done, whatever that justice is,” he added, insisting that “we weren’t praying for an outcome” in the case.

In November, Deacon Royce gave a presentation on Church statements against racism at the University of Cincinnati, citing the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on racism, “Brothers and Sisters to Us.” The previous November, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville discussed his letter on the “racial divide” at both Dayton University and Xavier University, preached at Mass, and participated in a panel discussion with area police chiefs and state representatives.

When Cincinnati hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in the summer 2015, Catholics joined with ecumenical leaders, activists and members of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center to ask the MLB to take public stands against racism and violence. They met with the owner of the Cincinnati Reds and representatives of the MLB.

Church leaders must be better equipped to talk about racism and gun violence, the deacon insisted.

“Our pastors, our deacons, or whoever’s preaching in our communities, are not skilled to address this issue, so that means the people in the communities are not being formed and most of us as preachers and as homilists would rather steer away from it than address it.”

After Archbishop Kurtz called for the Day of Prayer, Deacon Royce and others reached out to him and began planning the event modeled after the theme of the task force, “Promoting Peace In Our Communities.” The archdiocese, along with Xavier University’s Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice and Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, will host the event.

“It provides us an opportunity to, again, promote the Church’s response to the letter that was sent out from the general secretary and Archbishop Kurtz,” the deacon said.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati will celebrate Mass at 4 p.m. in the university’s Bellarmine Chapel to begin the event, with Archbishop Kurtz concelebrating.

The Mass will be followed by dinner and discussion on “embracing diversity in our communities.” This topic is needed for discussion, Deacon Royce stressed, because even though Catholic organizations do “great work” in the area, “we tend not to be engaged at the street level of dealing with people where they are.”

“We have to ask ourselves the question: Are we prepared to minister to all of God’s people and the range of race, culture, and origin in which they place themselves?”

This involves “teaching our staff” to look at “our own personal biases,” he said, “and identify their impact on our ministry.”

He added that there must be “an understanding that there is no one culture in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati into which non-white cultures are supposed to assimilate.”

The discussion will be followed by a keynote address on “Carrying Out Our Prophetic Ministry in Times of Racism and Violence” by Archbishop Kurtz.

The meeting is so important, Deacon Royce emphasized, because it gives the opportunity for Catholics to “be engaged” on these societal issues.

“When we say there’s a seamless garment of life from the womb to the tomb, then that means that we have to be engaged in those events to help people know what that dignity of life is.”

 

Archbishop Chaput and his new book are coming to NYC, DC

Feb 24 2017

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 24, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput will present his latest book in New York City and Washington, D.C. in the near future, discussing the changed situation for Catholicism in America.

“As Christians, we're offering a salvific message in a therapeutic culture. It's a tough sale,” the archbishop told CNA. He suggested that new understandings of religion and civic life are very different from previous generations.

“Jesus changed the world with 12 very flawed men,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We have plenty of good men and women, and more than enough resources, to do the same. But not if we’re too self-absorbed and too eager to fit into the world around us to suffer for our faith. We’re not short of vocations. We’re short of clear thinking and zeal.”

His newest book, “Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World,” was released Feb. 21 by Henry Holt and Co. The archbishop makes the case that American culture has undergone a qualitative change from the past, and he considers the future for Catholics and Americans in public and private life.

While there are tens of millions of actively practicing Christians in the U.S., Archbishop Chaput suggests the overall trends in religious affiliation are not good. He stressed that the Christian past was great only insofar as Christians were faithful to Jesus Christ.

The archbishop will hold a book signing, deliver comments and take part in a panel discussion.

On Feb. 27 in New York City he will hold an event at 7 p.m. at the Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street, Manhattan.

The Washington, D.C. event will take place March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Catholic Information Center, 1501 K Street NW.

Admission at both events is free.

 

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