Spanish bishop emphasizes role of victims in journey toward peace

.- Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian, Spain has said that the country's victims of terrorism should occupy “the central place in the journey toward peace and reconciliation.”

To forget the memory of the terrorism victims would be “reason to question the authenticity of our commitment to peace and reconciliation,” the bishop said during a homily on Jan. 20, the feast of St. Sebastian.

He offered prayers that the patron saint of the diocese would grant “definitive peace to our people and particularly to our city.”

Victims must occupy “a central place in the journey toward peace and reconciliation, so that we do not add new injustices to those already committed,” the bishop said.

Bishop Munilla expressed gratitude that after almost 50 years of violence in the region, Catholics were able to celebrate the feast of St. Sebastian without the “explicit threat” of terrorism.  “Let us be joyful and hopeful, not forgetful and unsupportive,” he said.

“May the Lord receive into glory all those who were cruelly snatched from this life and may he alleviate the suffering of their families and move all of us to conversion,” Bishop Munilla prayed.

The Spanish bishop went on to note the economic crisis that has gripped Spain and expressed solidarity with those who have been unemployed for long periods of time. He urged political leaders to “work together to find solutions” for the entire country.

On the other hand, he warned of the “great temptation” for believers to be “dragged into and absorbed by a worldly spirit, such that we end up thinking, feeling and acting as if God did not exist.” 

“The religious meaning of our existence is perfectly reconcilable with the positive values that are derived from authentic progress,” the bishop explained. “In order to achieve that necessary maturity, in which modernity and religiosity are integrated, we need to live without hang-ups in the present day situation.”

 

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Young people the hope of pro-life movement, says Texas cardinal

.- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told over a thousand young people at a prayer vigil in D.C. that the pro-life movement depends on their loving witness in the face of a hostile culture.

“You are a good infection,” the cardinal told the youth gathered at the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. “Do not underestimate your presence.”

More than 10,000 people gathered on the evening of Jan. 22 for Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, including many young people from across the country.

The date marked the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America.

Cardinal DiNardo, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass, which was followed by confessions, a rosary, Night Prayer and holy hours throughout the night.

The Catholic University of America hosted almost 1,300 pilgrims overnight.

The vigil concluded on the morning of Jan. 23 with Morning Prayer and a closing Mass, at which Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York was the principal celebrant and homilist.

Participants were then able to attend the March for Life in downtown D.C., along Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building.

In his homily, Cardinal DiNardo spoke about the call of Jonah. Although he first ran away, Jonah eventually realized “that the call of the Lord is serious.” When he finally responded to that call, his preaching converted the people of Ninevah.

“We are walking through Ninevah,” the cardinal said, emphasizing the need for “personal conversion.”

With millions of lives destroyed by abortion in the last 39 years, he noted the need for ministries of conversion, as well as compassion and mercy.

Through the work of such ministries, he said, “we witness the miracle of Christ’s mercy and healing grace” as broken hearts are “made whole” and “filled with new peace and hope.”

The cardinal also expressed grave concerns that the pro-life movement is threatened by recent attacks on religious freedom in America.

On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule that will require virtually all health insurance plans to include sterilization and contraception – including drugs that cause abortion – free of charge.

Cardinal DiNardo explained that this mandate violates the religious liberty and rights of conscience of Catholics and other religious employers by forcing citizens “to directly purchase what violates our beliefs.”

He called for “timely and unwavering actions” to defend religious freedom.

At the same time, the cardinal expressed hope for the future, observing signs of good news, such as the “record numbers” of pro-life laws passed on the state level in recent years.

In many ways, the youth are “weaving Christ into our culture,” he said, urging them to show the loving face of Christ to those who are hostile.

“Don’t be compromised in your dedication to the protection of life.”


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Archbishop Chaput urges respect for life amid high disabled abortion rate

.- An 80 percent abortion rate of those with disabilities shows the need to restore a fundamental respect for human dignity in America, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

He underscored that the plight of disabled babies highlights “a struggle within the American soul” that will shape the future of the nation.

“These children with disabilities are not a burden; they’re a priceless gift to all of us,” the archbishop said. “They’re a doorway to the real meaning of our humanity.”

Archbishop Chaput delivered the keynote address at the thirteenth annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 22.

The conference, which was held at Georgetown University, took place one day before the March for Life, at which hundreds of thousands of Americans annually gather in the nation’s capital to protest abortion and show their support for the dignity of all human life.

“Abortion kills a child, it wounds a precious part of a woman’s own dignity and identity, and it steals hope,” the archbishop said. “That’s why it’s wrong. That’s why it needs to end. That’s why we march.”

He warned that without a strong foundation of faith and morals, America becomes “alien and hostile” to its founding ideals. This threat is clearly demonstrated in the country’s treatment of the poor and disabled, which the archbishop said “shows what we really believe about human dignity.”

In his talk, Archbishop Chaput focused on children with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects development, appearance and cognitive function, and can cause other health problems.

He observed that prenatal testing is now able to detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies that have a strong risk of Down syndrome, and more than 80 percent of the unborn babies who are diagnosed with the disorder are aborted.

These babies are killed because of a flaw in their chromosomes that is “neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable,” he said. 

The archbishop lamented the growing tendency of medical professionals to emphasize the possible defects of Down syndrome, thus steering expectant mothers of children with the disorder towards abortion.

Parents and doctors should be realistic about the challenges, understanding that raising a disabled child will involve “some degree of suffering,” he said. However, they should also see the potential and beauty of children with special needs, realizing that no child is perfect.

Archbishop Chaput noted that today, individuals with Down syndrome have longer life expectancies than ever before and can generally “enjoy happy, productive lives.”

“The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear,” he said.  

This is a choice that must be faced on both an individual level and as a society, he added, emphasizing that “God will demand an accounting” of how we have used our freedom.

If we really “take God seriously,” we will work to uphold the sanctity of human life and dignity of sexuality in our daily lives, he said.

This means that public officials should live out their Catholic faith in the laws that they support; doctors in the procedures they perform and the drugs they prescribe; and citizens in their actions on public issues, he explained. 

He praised the work of people and organizations who aid those with disabilities, recognizing in them “an invitation to learn how to love deeply and without counting the cost.”

Archbishop Chaput urged those present at the conference not to be afraid as they persevere in being an apostle to those around them.

“Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life,” he said. “Never give up the struggle that the March for Life embodies,” he added. “Your prolife witness gives glory to God.” 

Although changing the culture is “a huge task,” we must recognize that we are being called by God to do so, the archbishop said. “He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him.”

 

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Face of homeless is the face of Christ to Anchorage volunteers

.- Iraq war veteran Samuel Paul Albers had come across hard times and was living at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage, Alaska in March 2011 when he came down with a chest cold and sinus infection.

Thanks to a free clinic which is staffed by volunteers from Providence Alaska Medical Center also in Anchorage, Albers received much needed health care.

Albers, who has a degree in human services, now works at the shelter, is moving into a case management position there, and has lived in his own home since August of 2011.

As part of his new job, he counts heads after the shelter’s evening meal. The numbers are then relayed to Providence, which provides all dinners for the shelter every night of the year.

Lately, the shelter has served between 200 and 275 meals a night.

But many of the homeless also require basic medical care.

Heidi Hurliman, an advanced nurse practitioner and director of the shelter’s medical clinic, said volunteer health care workers aim to provide this needed medical care along with a dose of compassion.

“Everybody you treat is the face of Jesus,” Hurliman said. “I remind my folks I work with, it’s the face of Jesus you’re looking at and treating. And the guests we treat are grateful we’re there, and they thank us profusely.”

Providence provides medicine for the clinic as well as volunteer physicians on the first and third Tuesday of each month.

“Providence has been very generous,” Hurliman said. “They give us all brand-new medications.”

The clinic is open two to three times a week, based on volunteer availability. It is limited in scope, providing care and treatment for issues like colds the flu, and some wounds. The clinic also coordinates with other medical providers for people who need additional care.

At Providence, Monica Anderson, the hospital’s chief mission integration officer, said caring for the homeless goes to the heart of the Catholic hospital’s mission. Providence was founded in Anchorage by the Sisters of Providence in 1939.

“There’s no way we can be faithful to what we are called to be if we’re not reaching out to the poor and the vulnerable,” Anderson said.

The hospital’s official mission statement is simple: “As people of Providence, we reveal God’s love for all, especially the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service.”

Albers, who lived at Brother Francis Shelter for seven months, said the hospital’s contributions make a tremendous impact.

“As far as the clinic goes, I’ve known quite a few people that were sick and went there and were able to get help,” he said. “And there have been times that we’ve seen somebody that we knew wasn’t doing really good health wise, but didn’t realize how serious the situation was and they’ve gone to the clinic and the doctor or nurse has said, ‘I’m putting you in an ambulance.’ I’ve seen basic wound care that needed to be addressed that probably wouldn’t have been addressed otherwise.”

Through the Parish Nurse Program, which is supported through funds from Providence, guests at Brother Francis Shelter also receive care for their feet, which volunteer nurses do in imitation of Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

Anderson said it is this imitation of Christ’s love that ultimately allows Providence to carry forward the healing ministry of Jesus.

“You’ve got to love people,” she said. “If you’re going to be a revelation of God’s love, you’ve got to love people.”

Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, newspaper for the Diocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

 

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Pope: Unity requires the personal conversion of each Christian

.- Pope Benedict XVI said that Christian unity can be achieved only through personal conversions rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“We are called to contemplate the victory of Christ over sin and death, that his resurrection is an event that transforms those who believe in him and opens them up to them a incorruptible and immortal life,” said the Pope during his Sunday Angelus address from the window of his Apostolic Palace on Jan 22. 

He told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peters Square to “recognize and accept the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ that sustains Christians also in the search for full unity among themselves.”

The Pope’s comments come in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which runs from Jan. 18-25. It is being marked by over 300 churches and Christian communities around the world.

Pope Benedict paid particular attention to the words of St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, which state that “we will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The phrase was chosen as the motto for this year’s Christian Unity Week by the Polish Ecumenical Council.

“Poland has known a long history of courageous struggles against various adversities and has repeatedly shown great determination, animated by faith,” the Pope observed.

“Over the centuries, Polish Christians have instinctively perceived a spiritual dimension in their desire for freedom,” and have realized that “true victory can only come in accompanied by a profound inner transformation.”

The experience of the Polish nation should illustrate to everybody, the Pope suggested, that “our search for unity can be conducted in a realistic manner if change occurs primarily within ourselves.”

Christian unity can be more readily achieved if “we allow God to act, if we let ourselves be transformed in the image of Christ, if we enter into new life in Christ, which is the real victory,” he said.

The “visible unity,” of all Christians “is always a work that comes from above, from God, by asking for the humility to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift.”

The Pope then reminded pilgrims of the words of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, who used to say that “every gift also becomes a commitment.”

Thus, he added, “our daily commitment is to be open to one another in charity.”

The Pope concluded by looking forward to the Vespers of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul which he will preside over at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 25. There he will be joined by the leaders of numerous other Christian Churches and communities.

 

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Pro-life congressmen hopeful despite Roe v. Wade anniversary

.- Members of the U.S. Congress reflected on the negative effects of almost forty years of legal abortion in America, but said they are encouraged that the pro-life movement continues to gain momentum. 

The estimated thousands of people who will “descend upon Washington” for the Jan. 23 March for Life, remind the country of its obligation “to protect life and be stewards” of God's creation, said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.).

Jan. 22 marks the 39-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

Rep. Ellmers told CNA on Jan. 20 that the protection of life is “a mission that is very near and dear to my heart.” The Congresswoman explained that she worked as a nurse for more than 21 years which taught her “that every life is a precious gift from God.”

“I’ve held the hands of newborn infants, and I’ve held the hands of elderly patients in the last moments of their lives,” she said. “I have witnessed firsthand how fragile and delicate our lives are and the miracles that take place every day.”

Rep. Ellmers said that the March for Life is important because it “serves as a powerful reminder of the injustice taking place in our country and the millions of lives lost but not forgotten.”

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) said he believes that America’s “love for liberty” can be measured by how “the most innocent” members of society are treated.

“And the pro-life movement has played an extremely important role in fighting to make sure innocent life is protected,” he told CNA. 

Rep. Paul, who is currently running for Republican presidential candidate, said that there is still “much work to do” to protect the unborn.

He said that he would work as president to effectively repeal Roe v. Wade and would support legislation defining life as beginning at conception.

Thirty-nine years after the Supreme Court decision “that opened the door for abortion in our country,” Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) called abortion “a very important issue” that needs to be addressed today.

He told CNA on Jan. 20 that the pro-life movement is fighting an “uphill battle” against the “culture of death” that permeates much of the secular media.

However, he also observed that progress had been made in recent years, particularly at the state level. 

Rep. Lipinski said that he is always inspired by the number of young people at the March for Life, who remind him that “there is hope” for the future.

He believes the pro-life movement is “picking up more and more support” across the country and that progress will continue to be made “step by step.”

“When it really comes down to it,” he said, “what we need to do is change the hearts and minds of the American people.”

 

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St. Thomas Aquinas' intellectual devotion honored Jan. 28

.- On Jan. 28, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates Saint Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century theologian who showed that the Catholic faith is in harmony with philosophy and all other branches of knowledge.

Blessed John Paul II, in his 1998 letter “Fides et Ratio,” said St. Thomas “had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason,” knowing that “both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God … Hence there can be no contradiction between them.”

Thomas was born during 1225 into a noble family, having relatives among the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. His father Landulph was the Count of Aquino, and his mother Theodora, the Countess of Teano. At age five, Thomas was sent to study at Monte Cassino, the abbey founded by St. Benedict.

The boy's intellectual gifts and serious disposition impressed the monks, who urged his father to place him in a university by the time he was 10. At the University of Naples, he learned philosophy and rhetoric while taking care to preserve his morals against corruption by other students.

It is said that a hermit, before Thomas' birth, told Theodora that she would have a son who would enter the Dominican Order “and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him.” In his adolescence, Thomas' friendship with a holy Dominican inspired him to join them.

His family, however, did not envision the brilliant young man as a penniless and celibate preacher. His brothers kidnapped him from the Dominicans, took him to the family's castle, and at one point even sent a woman to seduce him – whom Thomas drove out by brandishing a poker from the fireplace.

Under pressure from both the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Thomas' brothers allowed him to escape from captivity. He traveled to Rome and received the Pope's blessing upon his vocation, which would soon take him to Paris to study with the theologian later canonized as Saint Albert the Great.

Thomas' silent demeanor caused other students to nickname him “the Dumb Ox.” Albert, however, discovered that the young man was a brilliant thinker, and proclaimed: “We call him the Dumb Ox, but he will give such a bellow in learning as will be heard all over the world.”

By the time he was 23, Thomas was teaching alongside his mentor at the university of Cologne. During 1248, he published his first commentaries on the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose insights on nature, logic, and metaphysics would inform Thomas' approach to Catholic theology.

Around the middle of the century Thomas was ordained to the priesthood, in which he showed great reverence for the liturgy and skill as a homilist. In keeping with the Dominican order's charism for preaching, he strove to bring his own family to a sincere practice of the faith, and largely succeeded.

St. Thomas' best-known achievements, however, are his works of theology. These include the Summa Contra Gentiles, the Compendium Theologiae, and the great Summa Theologica – which was placed on the altar along with the Bible at the 16th century Council of Trent for easy reference during discussions.

In December 1273, however, the scholar proclaimed that he could write no more, following a mystical experience in which he said he had “seen things that make my writings look like straw.” But he complied with a request to attend the Council of Lyon to help reunite the Latin and Greek churches.

On his way there, however, Thomas became ill and stopped at a Cistercian abbey. The monks treated him with reverence, and it was to them that he dictated a final work of theology: a commentary on the Old Testament's Song of Songs.

The saint did not live to finish this commentary, however. Nearing death, he made a final confession and asked for the Eucharist to be brought to him. In its presence, he declared: “I adore you, my God and my Redeemer … for whose honor I have studied, labored, preached, and taught.”

“I hope I have never advanced any tenet as your word, which I had not learned from you,” he told God, before making his last communion. “If through ignorance I have done otherwise, I revoke everything of that kind, and submit all my writings to the judgment of the holy Roman Church.”

His last words were addressed to one of the Cistercians who asked for a word of spiritual guidance. “Be assured that he who shall always walk faithfully in (God's) presence, always ready to give him an account of all his actions, shall never be separated from him by consenting to sin,” he declared.

St. Thomas Aquinas died on March 7, 1274. He was canonized in 1323, and made a Doctor of the Church in 1568. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council taught that seminarians should learn “under the guidance of St. Thomas,” in order to “illumine the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible.”

 

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Archbishop Chaput sees societal lesson in Amelia Rivera case

.- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia believes that the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the U.S., undermined reverence for the lives of the mentally and physically disabled as well as the lives of unborn children.

“We need to understand that if some lives are regarded as unworthy, respect for all life is at risk,” the archbishop said.

In his Jan. 19 column for the Catholic Standard and Times, the archbishop commented on local media coverage of Amelia Rivera, a young girl with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome who was denied a kidney transplant. Her parents said that she was denied the transplant because of her diminished mental ability and shortened lifespan.

While Archbishop Chaput cautioned readers not to rush to judgment about the medical personnel involved because of the media coverage, he praised Amelia’s parents for loving their daughter and knowing “the beauty and dignity of her life despite her disability.”

He lamented a “growing” habit of treating genetically disabled children as “somehow less worthy of life.” This practice is advanced by prenatal testing, which can detect many pregnancies with a risk of genetic problems.

“The tests often aren’t conclusive. But they’re pretty good. And the results of those tests are brutally practical,” he said, noting that more than 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.

“They’re killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes – a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable.”

Archbishop Chaput criticized doctors who encourage these abortions and steer women towards deciding to abort.

“I’m not suggesting that doctors should hold back vital knowledge from parents. Nor should they paint an implausibly upbeat picture of life with a child who has a disability,” he said.

Rather, doctors should refer women to parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities.

They often have “a hugely life-affirming perspective” and can bear witness that every child with special needs has “a value that matters eternally.”

The archbishop praised parents who care for these children with “real love” that “forces its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God.”

“The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. ... No child is perfect,” he said. The choice to accept or reject a child with special needs is in fact one “between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear.”

“That’s the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.”


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Vatican approval for Neo-Catechumenal Way only applies to non-liturgical teachings

.- The Vatican’s approval of the Neo-Catechumenal Way’s forms of “celebration” only applies to non-liturgical prayers within their catechesis and not to the Mass or other liturgies of the Church.

“With respect to the celebrations of the Holy Mass and the other liturgies of the Church,” communities of the Neo-Catechumenal Way must “follow the norms of the Church as indicated in the liturgical books – to do otherwise must be understood to be a liturgical abuse,” a Vatican official who requested anonymity told CNA on Jan. 21.

Pope Benedict XVI met with around 7,000 members of the movement in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall on Jan. 20 for an annual event to send families to mission destinations worldwide.

The invitation issued by the movement to bishops for yesterday’s event stated that “the purpose of this meeting is that His Holiness will sign a Decree from the Congregation of Divine Worship recognizing the full approval of the liturgies of the Neo-Catechumenal Way.”

Instead, approval for the non-liturgical practices of the group came by way of another source. It was Pontifical Council for the Laity that issued a decree of approval – after having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship – for those “celebrations” present in their Catechetical Directory. 

In this process “the Neocatechumenal Way obtained no new permissions whatsoever,” said the official, who is familiar with the approval process for prayers and liturgies.

“Essentially, the Pontifical Council is only approving these things that are found in the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way, and in no way touches those things contained in the liturgical books.”

He said that the decree served merely as an assurance that “there is nothing erroneous to the prayers that they use in the context of their catechetical sessions.”

The Neo-Catechumenal Way was founded in 1964 in Spain by Francisco “Kiko” Argüello and Carmen Hernández. It draws its inspiration from the practices of the early Catholic Church, providing “post-baptismal” Christian formation in small, parish-based communities. The movement is present all over the world, and has an estimated membership of more than 1 million people.

Since its foundation, however, the group has been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into Masses organized by the movement. These include lay preaching, standing during Eucharistic Prayer, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting down, as well as the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.

“The Neo-Catechumenal Way has no such permission for any of these kinds of things,” said the Vatican official. He claimed that the Vatican still receives complaints about the group’s “non-compliance with the universal norms of liturgy.”

He added that it should be clear that “yesterday’s decree has nothing to do with the widely seen liturgical innovations of the Neo-Catechumenal Way,” which “should be stopped immediately because they don't correspond to the law about the way the Mass and the sacraments are to be celebrated.”

The only exceptions are two permissions granted which allow the group to move the sign of peace to before the presentation of the gifts and also to have communion under both kinds. Even these changes, though, still require the permission of the local bishop.

“The Church’s liturgy is narrowly defined as the public worship of the Church” such as Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, the official explained to CNA. Church norms for the liturgy, he said, are “found in the approved liturgical books and the Neo-Catechumenal Way is bound to observe these no differently than any other group within the Catholic Church.”

What yesterday’s decree approved are “those things in the Directory not included in liturgical books,” which is “the equivalent of approving the prayers of, for example, the meetings of the Knights of Columbus or of a confraternity or perhaps of the prayers that a group like the Missionaries of Charity pray after Mass.” 

During Pope Benedict's meeting with the movement on Jan. 20, he praised them for helping “those who have already been baptized to rediscover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christian.”

He also cited their statutes as he gave them guidelines for the celebration of the liturgy, saying that for members of the Neocatechumenal Way, “the progressive growth in faith of the individual and of the small community should promote their integration into the life of the greater ecclesial community, which finds its ordinary form in the liturgical celebration of the parish, in which and for which the Neo-catechumenate is implemented.

“But also during the way, it is important not to separate oneself from the parish community, and particularly in the celebration of the Eucharist which is the true place of universal unity, where the Lord embraces us in our various states of spiritual maturity and unites us in the one bread that makes us one body.”

The Statutes of the Neo-Catechumenal Way were given approval by the Vatican in 2008, while its Catechetical Directory was approved two years later, after consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

 

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New CNA video shows where Pope will visit in Cuba

.- With help from the local Diocese of Holguin, CNA launched a video outlining the places where Pope Benedict XVI will visit in Cuba when he travels to the country March 26-28.

Pope Benedict will visit Cuba as a “pilgrim of charity and a pilgrim of faith,” said Bishop Emilio Aranguren of Holguín, who provides commentary in the video.   

The short film begins with images of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Cobre, which the Pope will visit on March 26 to mark the Jubilee Year for the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Marian statue in Nipe Bay.

It then travels to the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago, where the Pope will celebrate Mass on March 26 and where Blessed John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1998.

Viewers will also catch a glimpse of the Apostolic Nunciature in Havana and Revolution Square, where the Pope will celebrate Mass on March 28, the last day of his visit.

“The Church in Cuba has led a preparatory mission for three years for the Jubilee Year,” explained Bishop Aranguren. “The Pope’s visit is part of this program and the Pope will be a pilgrim.”

 

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Adults, youth share hope at pro-life demonstrations in Nebraska

.- For 37 years Cathy Peterson, a parishioner at St. Columbkille Church in Papillion, Neb. has zipped her coat, tied her shoelaces and headed out to the Walk for Life, a pro-life rally in Lincoln, Neb. Peterson was at the first walk in 1974 - and has missed only two since.

"It definitely is a statement that we continue every year to be there," Peterson said. "They expected us within a couple years of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (legalizing abortion) to just take it and accept it."

Peterson will don her coat again Jan. 28 and join about 5,000 other pro-life advocates - some longtime marchers and others relatively new to the peaceful protest - at 10 a.m. on the steps of the Nebraska Capitol. The group will carry pro-life signs, pray the rosary and sing devotional hymns as they walk eight blocks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Student Union.

One relative newcomer will be Bronson Gerken, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha and a senior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, who will participate in his third Walk for Life.

Gerken said he felt a bit intimidated as he stepped on the sidewalk for the first time in 2009, in effect making a public statement about his opposition to abortion. But he has been inspired by the joy and respect for life he sees exhibited by people such as Peterson.

"It's a very outward sign of your faith," Gerken said. "That can be a scary thing if you're not used to standing up and defending your faith in a very public way."

His experiences at the Walk for Life also inspired Gerken to pray at the abortion clinic in Bellevue, Neb. the last several years during 40 Days for Life, an annual international effort of prayer and protest in the battle against abortion.

"There's a lot of fighting left to do but there's also a lot of hope," Gerken said.

Peterson, whose sister, Anne Marie Bowen, is the founder and president of Nebraskans United for Life, said she hopes to move people to get involved in the November elections and "make people more aware of the cause for human life."

She said the walk is cold sometimes but her convictions compel her to stand up for the right to life.

Peterson said she also has seen progress in the effort against abortion, including growth in the Walk for Life from about 500 people in 1974 to more than 5,000 last year.

The Walk for Life takes place one week after the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which will be held for the 39th straight year Jan. 23 and includes more than 300 youth from the Archdiocese of Omaha.

Father Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha and an organizer of the archdiocese's six pilgrimages to Washington, said six buses filled with pro-life advocates from across the archdiocese will travel to Washington Jan. 19-24 and make several other stops, including a Catholic shrine and seminary and the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

But the young people won't be the only representatives of the archdiocese at the March, which is expected to draw more than 400,000 people from around the country.

Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha plans to join the March, and Marilou Holmberg-Roth, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha, said she will fly to Washington for the event with about 20 other adults from the archdiocese.

Holmberg-Roth said she also expects to participate in the Walk for Life, carrying a sign at both events that proclaims "Adoption is an Option."

She said her involvement - which includes participating seven times in the Walk for Life and four times at the March - stems from putting a son up for adoption after she became pregnant her freshman year in college. She recently learned her son is attending a university on a full-ride scholarship after graduating valedictorian of his high school class.

"It just affirms that every life has potential," she said.

Abby Allen, a freshman at Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus, Neb. said she, too, hopes to promote adoption as she travels to the March for Life. Her 4-year-old brother, Ryan, inspired her, she said. Her family adopted Ryan after his mother twice tried to abort him, she said.

"Seeing him and how important he is to me makes me realize how important the lives of the babies being aborted could be to someone else," Allen said.

About 40 of Allen's schoolmates also plan to go on the archdiocesan trip to Washington, including Allen's older sister, Emily, a sophomore at Scotus Central Catholic.

It will be the Allen sisters' first pilgrimage to Washington, but one veteran of the trip will be Matt Coupon, a senior at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha.

Capoun said he plans to make his third trip to the March this year.

He said it was difficult "to be actively passionate" about being pro-life until he went on the March for the first time in 2010 and was "surrounded by people who feel the same way."

When he came back, Capoun helped rebuild his school's pro-life club, Skyhawks for Life. Today he is vice president of the club, voted in by his peers. The club has focused its energy on sending students to the March for Life and this year more than 20 students from Skutt Catholic will be on the March, he said.

Father Cook said having archdiocesan youth come together around the issue of life "gives a lot of hope."

"They are not only the future, but the present of the church," Father Cook said. "The desire is really to empower them with the truth."

Posted with permission from Catholic Voice, newspaper for the Diocese of Omaha, Neb.

 

 

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Leaders warn that same-sex ‘marriage’ threatens religious liberty

.- Several dozen religious leaders joined together against redefining marriage in America, warning that such a move would have “far-reaching consequences” for religious freedom.

In a Jan. 12 open letter to all Americans, the leaders described marriage and religious liberty as “fundamental goods that stand or fall together.”

They noted that if the civil definition of marriage is changed to include same-sex couples, the government “will compel special recognition of relationships” that many communities “cannot, in conscience, affirm.”

Those who signed the letter included Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York – president of the U.S. bishops' conference – and Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, head of the bishops’ ad hoc Committee for Religious Liberty also signed the letter, along with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Ft. Wayne - South Bend, who leads of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

The bishops joined with more than 35 religious leaders representing a wide variety of communities across the United States, including Evangelical, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish and Mormon groups.

In their statement, they said that marriage is a universal and foundational institution that “precedes and transcends” any government, society or religious group. This, they explained, is because it is rooted in the nature of the human person as male and female and the children that are born from their union. 

The religious leaders argued that changing the civil definition of marriage changes hundreds or even thousands of laws that are dependent upon marital status, including taxation, housing, property, employment discrimination and benefits, adoption, education and health care. 

New laws in these areas will have “grave consequences” for religious individuals and groups who serve in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, adoption agencies, counseling centers and many other facilities, they said.

The leaders warned that religious groups are already being targeted as bigots for adhering to their firmly-held religious convictions.

The letter gave examples of “government punishments and pressures” against adoption agencies who object to placing children with homosexual couples, marriage counselors who deny counseling services to same-sex “married” couples and employers who do not wish to extend married health benefits to same-sex “spouses.”

They also pointed to situations in which religious groups across the country have faced other government sanctions, losing service contracts, grants and tax-exempt status because they refused to treat same-sex unions as marriages.

If civil marriage is redefined, the punishments will become “more frequent and more severe,” as the government forces religious people and groups to violate their beliefs by recognizing homosexual conduct “as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.”

The religious leaders urged Americans to recognize that the union of one man and one woman is a fundamental institution that contributes to the “common good” of society.

They urged “all people of good will” to work together in supporting laws that protect both “the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.”

 

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Spanish cardinal urges welcome of immigrants

.- During the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Jan. 15, the archbishop of Madrid called on Christians to welcome immigrants in Spain and to help them remain steadfast in their faith.

Catholics should be “builders of integrating unity, capable of embracing everyone beyond the differences in our origins,” Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela said in a Jan. 10 letter to parishioners.

He emphasized the need to create “appropriate conditions for immigrant families” to be able to live fulfilling lives. Rather than be considered foreigners, they should be able to live side-by-side with Spaniards in a society based on unity and fraternity, he said.

Cardinal Rouco observed that migrants often undergo culture shock in their new countries and that this suffering “has serious implications for their faith lives.” 

For this reason, he said, it is important they be welcomed and that special ministries be created to reach out to them.

He invited Catholic immigrants in Spain “to occupy the place in the Church and in society that corresponds to them, and to be open to the values” of their new home.

 

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Haitian archbishop urges residents to take charge of recovery

.- Port-au-Prince Archbishop Guire Poulard marked the second anniversary of 2010's earthquake with a call for Haitians to build a better future for themselves and their country.

“The reconstruction will be Haitian or will not be,” the archbishop proclaimed in a message carried by the news outlet Haiti Libre.

He said Haitians “cannot accept to live only from international begging,” but must take on the task of reconstruction in the same way that national independence was achieved: “by rolling up our sleeves.”

“Put your hope in God and in yourself,” the archbishop urged, saying the “other promises do not offer any guarantees” for the future.

Archbishop Poulard was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 12, 2011, on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed his predecessor Archbishop Joseph S. Miot along with 250,000 other residents of the island.

On the second anniversary of the earthquake, the archbishop described his appointment as a message to Haiti from Pope Benedict XVI.

“He wanted to say to Haiti, battered, traversed by all kinds of misery: take courage, get up, dry your tears and put yourself to work,” Archbishop Poulard recounted.

“Thus, on this second anniversary of this tragedy,” he proclaimed, “I turn towards the refugee camps of the earthquake, towards the homeless of before and after the earthquake, to the physically and mentally handicapped, towards the victims, finally towards the people in general, to say to all: courage!”

The Port-au-Prince archbishop explained that the Haitian Church stood in solidarity with the whole country, especially in light of the “slow progress of the reconstruction.”

“Haitian people, people of my country, people of this country that I love with great passion, the Church is with you and will continue to walk with you,” he pledged.

He noted that the archdiocese has no headquarters, while many priests and religious remain homeless alongside hundreds of thousands of other Haitians.


In these conditions, he said, “we show really our solidarity with the poor” and those who lack the means to “lead a decent and dignified life.”

The Pope’s representative to Haiti Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza told Fides news agency that 600,000 Haitians still live in tents two years after the earthquake, including students of Port-au-Prince's seminary.

“The Church has dozens and dozens of reconstruction projects, but the technical preparatory stages are long and difficult,” he said.

Archbishop Auza was among the first residents to convey news of the disaster to international media in 2010. Two years after, he sees the recovery efforts lacking direction and momentum.

“The reconstruction in Haiti was and is particularly difficult and expensive because everything is imported, even the sand,” he noted.

In a further complication, an international commission that had been helping with the rebuilding lost its mandate on Oct. 21. Now, Archbishop Auza said, “there is no longer a structure or an institution that guides or directs the efforts.”

“Parliament has yet to address the issue, and the question is not in the legislative program. The issues of management on who manages the funds, and especially who gets the contracts, are very hot these days.”

Under these circumstances, Catholic Relief Services' new president says communities must be empowered to deal with their own local needs.

Carolyn Woo, who became the organization's president and CEO on Jan. 1, recently visited Haiti together with her predecessor Ken Hackett and Catholic Relief Services board chairman Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas.

In a report on their visit, Woo and Hackett said they were “impressed with what has been accomplished” in Haiti, “and equally struck by the amount of work still to do.”

They explained that Catholic Relief Services' strategy of local self-empowerment was necessary  “to get this recovery right for Haiti,” and have “ordinary Haitians – who had lost so much – leading their own reconstruction in dignified and sustainable ways.”

Some of these ways include organizing local cleaning and building crews, making loans and grants to entrepreneurs, and providing small-scale technology that can be easily used by individuals.

Woo says Catholic Relief Services “doesn't pretend we can solve the myriad problems in Haiti” but is committed to “working with communities – not for them,” as they forge their own future.

 

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