Sri Lanka holds first public Masses since Easter attacks

6 days 6 hours ago

Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 13, 2019 / 04:13 pm (CNA).- The Sri Lankan Catholic Church on May 12 held its first public Sunday Masses since suicide bombers claimed more than 250 lives and injured hundreds of others on Easter.

Attendees at the Masses saw heightened safety precautions, including full-body searches, ID checks, and street patrols by military and police forces, according to The Guardian. At the churches’ gates, volunteers kept an eye out for suspicious people.

Last week, President Maithripala Sirisena told the Associated Press that “99%” of suspects related to the bombings have been arrested and explosive material has been seized.

Church leaders are considering reopening Catholic schools on Tuesday, the AP reported.

As a security measure, all public Masses had been cancelled for the two weeks following attacks by eight suicide bombers on two Catholic churches, a protestant church, three hotels, a residence, and a zoo on April 21.

On the Sunday following the attacks, a televised Mass was held at the private residential chapel of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo. A private ordination Mass quietly went ahead as planned April 30 in the village of Thannamunai, with attendance lower than had originally been anticipated.

On Monday, several social media platforms were banned indefinitely by the government amid concerns surrounding hateful speech and fake news. Facebook, Whatsapp, and Youtube among those sites blocked, according to CNN.

Other safety precautions undertaken by the government include enforcement of curfews and banning face veils. The government has also sought to suppress the jiihadist group National Thowheeth Jama'ath, whom the police say was responsible for the attacks. ISIS leaders have also claimed responsbility for the bombings, saying the local jihadists had pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.

According to The Guardian, 56 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, 13 safe-houses have been discovered, and 41 bank accounts belonging to the bombers have been found. However, police officials have continued to caution people about potential threats.

Since the attacks, Catholic charity groups have provided aid to the victims and their families. UCA News reported that Caritas Sethsarana has been funding medical services, transportation assistance, legal support, and home repair.

“We have identified those who have been heavily traumatized, and counseling by professionals is underway,” said Father Claude Nonis, an organizer for these church-run operations.

“I was inspired by what I saw Caritas doing,” a policeman at one of the hospitals told UCA News.

“They were right there with the families, helping them to identify the bodies, and they stayed with them until all the necessary arrangements had been made.”

'Unrestricted' abortion bill passes in Vermont

6 days 7 hours ago

Burlington, Vt., May 13, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Legislators in Vermont have passed new measures to enshrine unrestricted abortion access in to law at any time for any reason during a pregancy. The legislature also advanced a measure that would make abortion a constitutional right.

As of Friday, H. 57, “An act relating to preserving the right to abortion,” passed both the state House and Senate. The bill seeks to “recognize as a fundamental right the freedom of reproductive choice and to prohibit public entities from interfering with or restricting the right of an individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.”

The bill, which would protect abortion at any time during pregnancy for any reason, won large majority votes in both chambers of the legislature. In the House, it passed by 106-37, and 24-6 in the Senate.

The state’s governor, Gov. Phil Scott (R), has said that he supports legislation that would preserve a woman’s right to an abortion. It is unclear if he will sign this particular bill. If signed, the bill will go into effect upon passage.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, which encompasses the entire state, told CNA of his dismay at state legislature’s action, and his hopes that women will still choose life.

“I am disappointed that Vermont legislators have decided to move forward with H. 57, even amid many strong, authentic, and educated testimonies in opposition to the bill,” Coyne said.  

“Regardless of what the law allows, I hope that women will feel safe and supported in their pregnancies and motherhood and choose life for their children no matter the circumstances,” he added.

Coyne said that the Catholic faith “teaches that all human life is sacred -- meaning ‘of God’--from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and we are called to embrace and protect that sacred gift that is the very breath of each of our lives.” He reiterated the Church’s teaching that procured abortion is a “moral evil” that is contrary to natural law.

The bishop told CNA that he hopes the law will one day be reversed, and that he is “praying that the rights of unborn children will be recognized as the same human rights to which all are entitled.”

On May 7, Vermont’s legislature advanced Proposal 5, which would write a right to abortion into the state’s constitution. Before this can happen, it must be passed once again by the 2021-2022 legislature, and be approved by voters in the November 2022 election.

If the measure passes, Vermont would become the first state to list abortion as a constitutional right.

Officials from Planned Parenthood, the largest chain of abortion providers in the United States, took a decidedly different tone regarding the legislative actions.

Meagan Gallagher, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (which includes Vermont), said that the state was “the shining example for all other states.”

“Vermont lawmakers made history today by declaring that reproductive rights are human rights,” said Gallagher. “We applaud Vermont’s legislature for making its position clear on reproductive freedom, that protecting the health, dignity, and civil rights of Vermonters is urgently important. “

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that this was “history in the making.”

“With Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, it is more important than ever for states to enact proactive policies to create a critical backstop and protect access to safe, legal abortion care,” said Wen.

“We at Planned Parenthood commend reproductive health care champions for their leadership and their work to protect the lives and well-being of women and families in Vermont.”

If the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, abortion legislation and legalization would devolve back to the level of the individual states.

Analysis: 'Vos estis' and 'vulnerability'

6 days 7 hours ago

Washington D.C., May 13, 2019 / 02:44 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis’ recently promulgated policy on sexual abuse allegations made against bishops, Vos estis lux mundi, offers a new and much expanded interpretation of what constitutes a canonical sexual crime by a cleric.

That interpretation has raised real questions about how the law is to be applied, at the Vatican and in diocesan chanceries.

The new policy recognizes as explicitly criminal the abuse of authority in coercive sexual relationships, a move called for often in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal. It also offers a new definition for “vulnerable” adults, a legal category of persons who could be subject to criminally coercive abuse.

The universal law of the Church previously defined a “vulnerable adult” as one who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”

The new definition classifies a “vulnerable adult” as “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offense.”

That definition could seem to cover a very broad swath of situations, which would be quite distinct from each other. Some Vatican and diocesan officials have told CNA they are concerned that the potentially broad applicability of the new definition could cause unjust expectations, and uncertainty about how to proceed in individual cases.

Specifically, some worry that Vos estis could foster a sense that nearly any sexual act committed by a priest is expected be treated on a par with the sexual abuse of minors, and lead to his removal permanent removal from ministry.

In a Church committed to zero-tolerance for sexual abuse, the new definition for “vulnerable adult” could make clergy discipline a decidedly more complicated undertaking.

It seems clear, for example, that a priest who has had a sexual relationship with a traumatized victim of abuse who comes to him for spiritual direction has committed a most grave offense, and should face the fullest measure of justice - civil and canonical.

But can the same be said for a newly ordained priest who, while still coming into maturity, kisses a parishioner with whom he is friends in a moment of indiscretion, after they both have a few drinks, and then immediately puts a stop to things?

Both are serious offenses that impact the good of souls and the public good. In both situations, the other party was impaired in some way, and could seem to meet the definition of vulnerability. Both should be addressed directly by ecclesiastical authorities. But ought those situations be treated the same?

Applying the Church’s new policy, some canonists have said, requires that Church officials clarify that different kinds of offenses will, and should, merit different kinds of penalties.
 
At the close of the global summit on sexual abuse in February, the organizing committee announced that the follow-up from the meeting would include a motu proprio, now published. They also said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would produce a vademecum, a practical and procedural handbook, outlining for bishops their responsibilities.
 
Many in Rome and in diocesan chanceries have told CNA they hope that such a manual will address these concerns, spelling out or at least acknowledging an escalating gradation of crimes and correspondent penalties.

It is not clear when the CDF might publish such a document, or even if it will address these questions. But those concerns might be addressed by other Vatican or diocesan offices.

It is possible that bishops might soon request guidance from the Congregation for Clergy, the curial department which receives the vast majority of cases involving priestly misconduct and requests for laicization. Given that the Congregation for Clergy has long handled clerical sexual issues not defined as sufficiently grave to be sent to the CDF, its experience could prove valuable to bishops trying to understand new canonical definitions and their implications.  

At the same time, bishops themselves might begin to act to bring the provisions of Vos estis into force in their own dioceses.

Bishops like Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori have already begun taking independent initiatives, like setting up third party reporting mechanisms, to address the current crisis. Bishops might soon decide to also establish localized policies reflecting the norms of Vos estis.

Bishops are canonically free to establish their own guidelines on how they will be applying the new norms of Vos estis, offering what many of the faithful say they want most to see: clear, concrete, steps towards reform in their own home dioceses.

Diocesan norms could also provide the reassurances that many priests are hoping for regarding their rights in the face of accusations, credible or otherwise, and the assurance that “zero-tolerance” will not be a byword for summary justice.

Before the February summit, Pope Francis repeatedly stated his intention not to provide a universal and comprehensive canonical solution to the sexual abuse crisis. Rather, the pope’s stated aim was to provide a global framework which supported bishops in their own responsibilities.

Despite Francis’s insistence that he is providing a foundation for local dioceses to build upon, many bishops are still tempted to look to Rome or the national bishops’ conference to tell them what to do next.

In the same way that no investigative model or review board can insulate the Church from individual episcopal negligence, no papal decree of conference policy can substitute for conversion and leadership by individual bishops. Rome has spoken, and bishops will now face the challenge of carrying out the pope’s direction.

Supreme Court rejects Ohio Christian school discrimination case

6 days 8 hours ago

Washington D.C., May 13, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from an Ohio Christian school that claimed it was singled out for exclusion when a city government denied zoning approval for a new location at a larger building.

The decision lets stand a lower court ruling that sided with the city.

In September 2018 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the zoning ordinance didn’t violate the law. However, dissenting from the ruling was Judge Amul Thapar, who has been listed as a possible Supreme Court nominee for President Donald Trump.

“The government isn’t being neutral toward religion when it chooses to treat religious organizations worse than other entities,” said John Bursch, senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy at the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Bursch argued that Upper Arlington, a Columbus-area city of about 34,000 people, violated federal law by discriminating against religious groups in zoning matters.

“The government can’t say ‘yes’ to daycare centers and other nonprofit uses of property but say ‘no’ to a Christian school that wants to educate children. For that reason, this issue will come back to the court someday in a different case,” Bursch said May 13.

Tree of Life Christian Schools had aimed to move its three-campus school network to a single campus. It bought the vacant former America Online / Time Warner building. It had hoped to double enrollment to 1,200 students and claimed the relocation would have brought 150 new jobs to the city.

However, the city denied zoning approval for the relocation.

In 2011, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit charging that the city wrongly excluded religious schools from the zone while allowing daycares and secular nonprofits. The lawsuit cited the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which bars treating religious institutions or assemblies on lesser terms compared with non-religious institutions or groups.

Angela Carmella, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, said the case focused on whether it is appropriate to consider a locality’s economic goals when deciding whether the religious use law was violated, the news site Bloomberg Law reports.

Shawn Judge, an attorney representing the city, said the building in question is the only large office building in the city and is “the last jewel of economic development in a land-locked inner-ring suburb.”

Zoning intended to encourage office use has “nothing to do with religion” but is “a simple, pragmatic approach to generating enough money to provide city services.”

Bush countered that the city would have received $1 million in tax revenue from the school had it been operating since the beginning of litigation.

Judge has said the school is advancing an interpretation of the federal law that would change it from a tool to fight religious discrimination into a federal mandate that allows any religious claims to invalidate zoning restrictions.

The federal religious use law has been interpreted in eight different ways by eight different courts of appeal.

Discrimination against religion has become ‘fashionable’ says Pence

6 days 12 hours ago

Washington D.C., May 13, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Christians should prepare to be persecuted for their beliefs, Vice President Mike Pence told graduates during a commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday.

“It’s become acceptable, and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith,” said Pence during his speech on May 11.

The Vice President cited the case against the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as the reaction to his wife, Karen Pence, taking a job teaching art at a Christian elementary school as instances of a growing religious intolerance in American public life.

“When my wife, Karen, returned to teach art at an elementary Christian school earlier this year, we faced harsh attacks by the media and the secular left,” he added. Immanuel Christian School, where Mrs. Pence teaches art, requires that students and employees profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as follow certain moral codes.

After Mrs. Pence announced her new job, a reporter started the hashtag “#ExposeChristianSchools” and encouraged people to share negative experiences with Christian education. On Saturday, Pence described these incidents as “attacks on Christian education,” which he said were “un-American.”

“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” said Pence, warning the graduates to “be ready.” He also said that Liberty grads may soon have to endorse things that they find contrary to their faith, as “things are different now.”

“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian. It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible,” said Pence.

Liberty University, which is located in Lynchburg, Virginia, is the largest private university in the United States, as measured by total enrollment. It was founded by Jerry Falwell, an evangelical Southern Baptist Christian pastor who passed away in 2007.

Since Falwell’s death, the school has been led by Jerry Falwell Jr., his son. The younger Falwell has been a vocal supporter of President Trump, who he once referred to as a “dream president” for evangelical Christians.

Pence told the graduates that the administration was committed to defending religious liberty.

“I promise you, we will always stand up for the right of Americans to live, to learn, and to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience,” said Pence.

Beijing and Rome can work together, Parolin tells Chinese media

6 days 12 hours ago

Vatican City, May 13, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- In an interview with a Chinese state-run publication, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin welcomed the opportunity for China and the Holy See to work together to “build a more secure and prosperous world.”

“The prospect opens up that two ancient, great and sophisticated international entities - like China and the Apostolic See - may become ever more aware of a common responsibility for the grave problems of our time,” Parolin said in an interview with the Global Times published May 12.

The Global Times is an English-language newspaper owned by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

The cardinal told the state-owned paper that “inculturation,” a Catholic missionary practice, and “sinicization,” a Chinese government campaign, can be “complementary” and “can open avenues for dialogue.”

“Inculturation is an essential condition for a sound proclamation of the Gospel which, in order to bear fruit, requires, on the one hand, safeguarding its authentic purity and integrity and, on the other, presenting it according to the particular experience of each people and culture,” he said.

“These two terms, ‘inculturation’ and ‘sinicization,’ refer to each other without confusion and without opposition.”

Parolin pointed to the example of 16th century Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, as an outstanding witness of fruitful inculturation in China.

“For the future, it will certainly be important to deepen this theme, especially the relationship between ‘inculturation’ and ‘sinicization,’ keeping in mind how the Chinese leadership has been able to reiterate their willingness not to undermine the nature and the doctrine of each religion,” Parolin said.

Since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has mandated the “sinicization” of all religions in China, a move which the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called  “a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’’

The Chinese government is in the midst of implementing a five-year “sinicization plan” for Islam, a religion that has faced increased persecution in the country with at least 800,000 Uyghur Muslims held in internment camps.

In April 2019, the commission recommended that China continue to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern. This designation is reserved for nations in which the government “engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations, meaning those that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”

Parolin said that there is “an increased trust between the two sides” since China and the Holy See signed a provisional agreement in September 2018 on the nomination of bishops, saying the accord provides “hope that we can gradually arrive at concrete results.”

“There is confidence that a new phase of greater cooperation can now be opened for the good of the Chinese Catholic community and the harmony of the whole society,” he said.

Parolin also said that it should not come as a surprise that there is criticism of the deal between the Holy See and the Chinese government, as this is what “generally happens in complex issues and when one faces problems of great importance.”

The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

Since the agreement was reached, there have been numerous instances of Catholic churches and shrines being demolished by government agents.

More recently, in the capital of Guangdong province, the Guangzhou Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs offered a reward of 10,000 Chinese yuan (almost $1,500) for information on the activities of religious groups which could lead to the arrest of key leaders.

In March, U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said that “since this provisional deal [between the Vatican and China] was announced last year, the Chinese government’s abuse of members of Catholic communities has continued. We see no signs that will change in the near future.”

Parolin reiterated that dialogue is close to the heart of Pope Francis, who is particularly interested in dialogue on the pastoral level.

“The Holy Father asks Catholics in particular to undertake with courage the path of unity, reconciliation and a renewed proclamation of the Gospel. He sees China not only as a great country but also as a great culture, rich in history and wisdom,” he said.

The Vatican Secretary of State pointed to the fight against poverty, environmental and climatic emergencies, migration, and ethical scientific development as global issues in which China and the Vatican can work together in a spirit of positive cooperation with “the dignity of the human person be placed at the center.”

“The Holy See hopes that China will not be afraid to enter into dialogue with the wider world and that the world's nations will give credit to the profound aspirations of the Chinese people. In this way, with everyone working together, I am sure that we will be able to overcome mistrust and build a more secure and prosperous world,” Parolin said.

Francis prays for victims of Burkina Faso attack

6 days 14 hours ago

Vatican City, May 13, 2019 / 07:37 am (CNA).- Pope Francis is praying for the victims of the recent attack on a Catholic church in Burkina Faso, the interim head of the Holy See press office said Monday.

"The Holy Father learned with sorrow the news of the attack on the church in Dablo, in #BurkinaFaso. He prays for the victims, for their families and for the whole Christian community of the country," Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter May 13.

A group of gunmen burned down a church building in Dablo May 12 while Mass was being said. At least six people, including a priest, were killed.

The attackers reportedly burst into the church around 9 am.

France 24 cited a security source who said there were “some twenty to thirty armed men" involved in the attack. The gunmen are as yet unidentified. 

A government official told the BBC that the militants also set fire to a nearby shops and a health center. Dablo’s Mayor, Ousmane Zongo, said the town is “filled with panic” and that citizens are “holed up at home.”

The people of Burkina Faso have suffered an increasing number of terrorist attacks in recent years from Islamist groups. Authorities said five teachers were shot to death in an attack on Friday.

The government in Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces last December because of Islamist attacks, including in the region where the assault on Sunday took place, Reuters reports. 

Sunday’s attack is the second on a Catholic church in the area this year; four died after an attack on a church in a nearby village in April. In addition, attackers targeted a Protestant church during the same month, killing six.

Papal almoner restores power to building occupied by homeless

6 days 16 hours ago

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2019 / 06:08 am (CNA).- Cardinal Konrad Krajewski climbed down a manhole Saturday to restore the power supply to a disused, Italian state-owned property in Rome where many homeless persons have been living.

The building’s power was cut by the electricity supplier May 6 because it had accumulated a debt of some 300,000 euro ($337,000).

It has been occupied since 2013 by the Action movement, and in addition to housing, it hosts several workspaces.

“I intervened personally last night to turn back on the meters. It was a desperate gesture. There were over 400 people without electricity, families with children,” Krajewski, almoner of the office of papal charities, told Ansa May 12.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, said, “I expect that the pope’s almoner, who intervened to turn the power back on in an occupied building in Rome, will also pay the 300,000 euros in back bills.”

The politician of the center-right populist party Lega Nord added at an electoral meeting: “I think you all are making sacrifices to pay your bills; if someone is able to pay the bills of those Italians in difficulty, we are happy.”

As papal almoner, Archbishop Krajewski is responsible for distributing donations to those in need on behalf of Pope Francis. Other initiatives he has carried out include a dormitory, barber services, and showers for those in need.

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

6 days 18 hours ago
Reading 1 Acts 11:1-18 The Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea
heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God.
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem
the circumcised believers confronted him, saying,
'You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them."
Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying,
"I was at prayer in the city of Joppa
when in a trance I had a vision,
something resembling a large sheet coming down,
lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me.
Looking intently into it,
I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth,
the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky.
I also heard a voice say to me, 'Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.'
But I said, 'Certainly not, sir,
because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'
But a second time a voice from heaven answered,
'What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.'
This happened three times,
and then everything was drawn up again into the sky.
Just then three men appeared at the house where we were,
who had been sent to me from Caesarea.
The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.
These six brothers also went with me,
and we entered the man's house.
He related to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying,
'Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter,
who will speak words to you
by which you and all your household will be saved.'
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them
as it had upon us at the beginning,
and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said,
'John baptized with water
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us
when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I to be able to hinder God?"
When they heard this,
they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying,
"God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too."
Responsorial Psalm Ps 42:2-3; 43:3, 4 R.(see 3a) Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
As the hind longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Alleluia Jn 10:14 R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 10:1-10 Jesus said:
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers."
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."
For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, please go here.
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Gunmen kill six during Mass in Burkina Faso

1 week ago

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, May 12, 2019 / 10:36 am (CNA).- A group of gunmen burned down a Catholic Church during Sunday Mass and killed at least six people, including a priest, in the west African nation of Burkina Faso this morning. 

The attackers reportedly burst into the church, located in the northern town of Dablo, and started shooting at the beginning of Mass, around 9 am local time.

France 24 cited a security source who said there were “some twenty to thirty armed men" involved in the attack. The gunmen are as yet unidentified. 

A government official told the BBC that the militants also set fire to a nearby shops and a health center. Dablo’s Mayor, Ousmane Zongo, said the town is “filled with panic” and that citizens are “holed up at home.”

The people of Burkina Faso have suffered an increasing number of terrorist attacks in recent years from Islamic jihadist groups including al-Qaeda affiliates. Authorities said five teachers were shot to death in a separate attack on Friday.

The government in Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces last December because of deadly Islamist attacks, including in the region where the assault on Sunday took place, Reuters reports. 

Sunday’s attack is the second on a Catholic church in the area this year; four died after an attack on a church in a nearby village in April. In addition, attackers targeted a Protestant church during the same month, killing six including the priest. 

Last week, two French soldiers died during a successful attempt to rescue two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean who had been kidnapped and were being held in that very region. 

In 2017, Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of the country after gunmen opened fire in a Turkish restaurant in the capital Ouagadougou, killing at least 18 people and taking hostages before police ended the standoff.

 

Pope permits pilgrimages to Medjugorje as apparitions continue to be studied

1 week ago

Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 12, 2019 / 07:46 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has given the green light for Catholics to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje, a site of alleged Marian apparitions, though the Church has not yet given a verdict on the apparitions' authenticity.

The pope's authorization of pilgrimages to the site is not to be understood as an "authentication" of the alleged apparitions, "which still require an examination by the Church," papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement May 12.

He added that anyone leading pilgrimages to the site should avoid creating "confusion or ambiguity under the doctrinal aspect," including priests who intend to celebrate Mass there.

The provision was made as an acknowledgment of the "abundant fruits of grace" that have come from Medjugorje and to promote those "good fruits." It is also part of the "particular pastoral attention" of Pope Francis to the place, Gisotti said.

The announcement of the papal authorization was made May 12 by the Vatican's apostolic visitor to the site, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, and Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, apostolic nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Hoser, retired archbishop of Warsaw-Prague, was appointed apostolic visitor to Medjugorje by Pope Francis in May 2018. His directive, which is of an undetermined length, is to oversee the pastoral needs at the site of the alleged Marian apparitions.

Hoser's appointment as apostolic visitor followed his service as papal envoy to the site in 2017.

In January 2014, a Vatican commission concluded a nearly four-year-long investigation on the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions, and submitted a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

When the congregation has analyzed the commission’s findings, it will finalize a document on the site, which will be submitted to the pope, who will make a final decision.

The alleged apparitions began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015 but declined to stop in Medjugorje during his trip. During his return flight to Rome, he indicated that the process of investigation in the apparitions was nearly complete.

On the return flight from a visit to the Marian shrine of Fatima in May 2017, the pope spoke about the final document of the Medjugorje commission, sometimes referred to as the “Ruini report,” after the head of the commission, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, calling it “very, very good,” and noting a distinction between the first Marian apparitions at Medjugorje and the later ones.

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts,” the pope said.

On multiple occasions, the pope has said he is suspicious of the ongoing apparitions, “I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus.”

Confused about life? Listen to the Good Shepherd, Pope Francis advises

1 week ago

Vatican City, May 12, 2019 / 07:05 am (CNA).- On Sunday, Pope Francis advised listening to and speaking with Christ the Good Shepherd in prayer, so that one can be guided on the right paths of life.

"Listening to and recognizing [Jesus'] voice implies intimacy with him, which is consolidated in prayer, in the meeting heart to heart with the divine Master and Shepherd of our souls," he said May 12.

"This intimacy with Jesus, this being open, talking with Jesus, strengthens in us the desire to follow him," the pope continued, "to come out of the labyrinth of wrong paths, to abandon selfish behaviors, to set out on the new paths of fraternity and the gift of ourselves, in imitation of Him."

Speaking before the Regina Coeli on "Good Shepherd Sunday," Pope Francis reminded people that Jesus is the only Shepherd who speaks to us, knows us, gives us eternal life and keeps us.

"We are his flock and we must only strive to listen to his voice, while with love he scrutinizes the sincerity of our hearts," he said.

"And from this continuous intimacy with our Shepherd comes the joy of following him, allowing us to lead to the fullness of eternal life."

Jesus the Good Shepherd welcomes and loves, not only one's strengths, but one's faults, he said.

"The Good Shepherd -- Jesus -- is attentive to each of us, seeks us and loves us, addressing his word to us, knowing our heart, our desires and our hopes, as well as our failures and disappointments."

He asked for the Blessed Virgin Mary's intercession, especially for priests and consecrated, who, he said, are called "to welcome Christ's invitation to be his most direct collaborators in the proclamation of the Gospel."

After the Regina Coeli, Francis noted the celebration, in many countries, of Mother's Day. He sent his warm greetings to all mothers and thanked them for "their precious work in raising their children and protecting the value of the family."

The pope also recalled all the mothers who "look at us from heaven and continue to watch over us with prayer."

Recalling the May 13 feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, "our heavenly mother," he said "we entrust ourselves to her to continue our journey with joy and generosity."

He also prayed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis ordained 19 new priests in St. Peter's Basilica. The men had been studying for the priesthood in Rome and are mostly Italian, with others coming from Croatia, Haiti, Japan, and Peru.

Eight are from the Priestly Society of the Sons of the Cross, one from the Family of Disciples. Eight from Neocatechumenal Way's Redemptoris Mater seminary were ordained for the Archdiocese of Rome.

Pope Francis gave the homily prescribed in the Ritual for the Ordination of Priests, to which he added a few of his own thoughts.

He recommended the new priests regularly read and meditate on the Scriptures, and advised they always prepare to give a homily with time in prayer and with "the Bible in hand."

"Let your teaching be therefore nourishment to the People of God: when it comes from the heart and is born of prayer, it will be so fruitful," he said.

He also told the new priests to be careful in their celebration of the Mass, asking them not to "mess it up with petty interests."

"Aware of having been chosen among men and constituted in their favor to await the things of God, exercise in joy and charity, with sincerity, the priestly work of Christ, solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves," the pope said. "Priestly joy is found only on this path, seeking to please God who has elected us."

The priest, he added, should be "close to God in prayer, close to the bishop who is your father, close to the presbytery, to other priests, as brothers... and close to the People of God."

Who are the new priests of 2019?

1 week ago

Denver, Colo., May 12, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- This year, 481 men in the United States will kneel in cathedral churches and be ordained as Catholic priests for Jesus Christ.

The average man entering the priesthood this year looks something like this: he’s about 33 years old, which is slightly younger than the previous two classes of incoming priests. He was born in the U.S, he got his college degree and worked full time before entering seminary, and he was baptized Catholic as an infant, according to data collected by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) from 379 transitional deacons.  

Deacon Ambrose Dobrozsi is one of those incoming priests. A 28 year-old transitional deacon with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Dobrozsi said he first had the thought to become a priest while having a “vision” during Mass in second grade.

“This one day, during Mass, I was in second grade, I decided that I was going to have a vision, and so I did, as one does,” he told CNA. “And I decided - it was entirely make-believe, it was pretend - but it was St. Francis telling me to be a priest.” Dobrozsi wrote about the vision in his diary before, shortly thereafter, deciding that “diaries were for girls.” Although he eschewed his journaling practices, the idea of priesthood stuck with him. He told his family, who were supportive of the idea. Dobrozsi was homeschooled, and he said the saint stories that his mom taught him were also influential in his decision.

Then high school came and two things happened: he went on a retreat at the seminary, and he discovered girls.

According to CARA, 52% of respondents said that retreats at the seminary were influential in their decision to become a priest.

“I don’t remember very much except for thinking seminarians were cool, which may be the only time anyone has ever thought that,” Dobrozsi said.

Dobrozsi started dating and set his priestly aspirations aside - for a time. After dating a girl in college for three years, he proposed because, he said, that’s what you do.

“It was a small Catholic college, and the way small Catholic college campuses work is that you find someone (to marry) and then re-evangelize the culture by having like a million babies,” he said.

Ultimately it wasn’t meant to be, and the engagement broke off. It was around this time that Dobrozsi, feeling a bit lost, was invited back to the seminary for another retreat. It was there that he had an experience of God in adoration, and felt the call to enter the seminary.

“I knew I needed to go,” he said.

According to CARA, most transitional deacons entering the priesthood report having three of four people in their lives who were very influential in their discernment. For Dobrozsi, both of his parents, as well as a priest who was his spiritual director, played a key role, he said.

“I would definitely say my parents, both mom and dad had a very big influence on us. We were homeschooled so we were with them a lot of the time, and they were both holy people who prayed a lot and have given me fantastic advice,” he said.

“And Fr. Sean Landenwich, he definitely had a big impact,” he added. “He was my spiritual director at that time...he’s a very good priest, and an excellent preacher.”

Deacon Cassidy Stinson is another transitional deacon who will be ordained this spring, for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. Stinson differs from 89% of the CARA survey respondents in that he was not baptized a Catholic as an infant. Although he came from a “strong faith background”, he converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 12, along with the rest of his family, who had previously been Protestant.

The idea of the priesthood first came to Stinson while he was transitioning from community college to the College of William and Mary, he said. It was during that time that he experienced a renewal of his faith, and he committed to living as a Catholic in the secular environment of his college.

He decided to sign up for a retreat at the beginning of the school year, where he planned to pray over the experiences he had had that summer in Rome and throughout Europe, where he had traveled with his dad. A classics major, Stinson was tossing around the idea of becoming an archeologist and studying ancient ruins.

“As I was praying, I had no sense of peace about it. Then I remembered we’d passed the Pontifical North American College (the American seminary) in Rome, and I had this thought out of nowhere - ‘you could be a seminarian!’” Stinson said.

“I imagined myself wearing the black clerics, dressed like a priest. And as soon as I imagined myself as that, I had this great sense of peace from outside of me. It was so striking because I knew it wasn’t from me, because I freaked out,” he said.

Stinson said he had always been drawn to the Church’s vision of marriage and fatherhood, and was struggling with this new call to the priesthood. He couldn’t see how he could be happy as a priest if he couldn’t be a biological father.

But a talk at a discernment retreat helped Stinson realize that being a priest did not mean giving up fatherhood, he said.

“There was a priest who was a pastor in a military parish, and he talked about the challenges of being a spiritual father when you’re in a parish where there are a lot of losses,” he said. “Seeing how real the fatherhood of the priesthood was what made me see how I could be fulfilled in spiritual fatherhood in my vocation; that was really pivotal for me.”

Besides his parents, Stinson said that one of the most helpful things for him in becoming a priest was watching a close family friend, also a convert, who came into the Church shortly before the Stinson family and eventually became a priest.

“It made the priesthood real for me because I knew a real human being who had gone from not being a priest to going through seminary and being ordained and being a priest,” he said. “I got to see someone I knew go through that process.”

Both Stinson and Dobrozsi had just been ordained deacons last year when the Theodore McCarrick sex abuse scandal broke in the summer of 2018, followed by the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of clerical sex abuse allegations. While the news made them sad and angry, it has also been convicting for them in their vocations, they said.

“There’s a strong negative light in the culture right now towards the priesthood, which to some extent makes it easier and more attractive because that ‘Oh I guess this is nice’ mentality is obviously false,” Dobrozsi said.

“You have to be committed...it makes it more radical. And I think for myself and a lot of guys I’ve talked to, the fact that this is a radical, difficult thing is part of its attraction. The recent scandals and difficulties in the church have helped make that real and have helped people to live it and pray with it,” he added.

Stinson echoed Dobrozsi’s sentiments, and added that the scandals will shape the ministry of the incoming priests for years to come.

“This is what God has called us to do, to heal the Church,” he said. “Our priesthood is going to be on some level dedicated to the rebuilding and healing of the image of Christ for these people.”

Bringing Christ to people is what it’s all about, Stinson added.

“I think we all signed up to bring Christ to people,” he said. “Everyone who’s becoming a priest at this time in the Church’s history is doing so because they’ve discovered a love for the priesthood and a love for Christ’s presence in the sacraments,” he said.

“So I think everyone is very excited to be getting out into their parishes and living the life of the priesthood.”

 

 

 

 

Correction 5/12/19: A previous version of this story included the incorrect spelling of Dobrozsi. It has been corrected. 

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

1 week ago
Reading 1 Acts 13:14, 43-52 Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them
and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered
to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.”


The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5
R.(3c) We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R.We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is good:
his kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R.We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Reading 2 Rev 7:9, 14b-17
I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

Then one of the elders said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“For this reason they stand before God’s throne
and worship him day and night in his temple.
The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.
They will not hunger or thirst anymore,
nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne
will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Alleluia Jn 10:14R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 10:27-30 Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Cupich denounces pastor's decision to host Nation of Islam leader

1 week 1 day ago

Chicago, Ill., May 11, 2019 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago is distancing himself from the decision of a pastor who invited controversial preacher Louis Farrakhan to speak at his parish, saying that he was not consulted before Farrakhan’s talk.

“Antisemitic rhetoric — discriminatory invective of any kind — has no place in American public life, let alone in a Catholic church,” Cupich said in a May 10 statement.

Farrakhan, 86, is the founder of the Chicago-based group Nation of Islam and has a history of anti-Semitic preaching.

“I’m here to separate the good Jews from the satanic Jews,” Farrakhan said at one point during the talk.

“I have not said one word of hate. I do not hate Jewish people. Not one that is with me has ever committed a crime against the Jewish people, black people, white people. As long as you don’t attack us, we won’t bother you.”

Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, invited Farrakhan in response to Facebook’s decision May 2 to ban him from its platforms, due to Farrakhan’s violations of the site’s policies regarding “hate speech.” St. Sabina is a predominantly African American parish in Chicago’s South Side.

The Archdiocese had released a statement May 9 reiterating that the event was not sponsored by the archdiocese.

“Minister Farrakhan could have taken the opportunity to deliver a unifying message of God’s love for all his children. Instead, he repeatedly smeared the Jewish people, using a combination of thinly veiled discriminatory rhetoric and outright slander,” Cupich said.

“He referred to Jewish people as 'satanic,' asserting that he was sent by God to separate the 'good Jews' from the 'satanic Jews,'” Cupich noted.

”Such statements shock the conscience. People of faith are called to live as signs of God’s love for the whole human family, not to demonize any of its members...I apologize to my Jewish brothers and sisters, whose friendship I treasure, from whom I learn so much, and whose covenant with God remains eternal.”

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center has reportedly extended an invitation to Pfleger to meet with their leadership and dialogue with survivors. Cupich encouraged the priest to accept the invitation.

This is reportedly not the first time Plfeger has hosted Farrakhan to speak at his parish, and also not the first time the archdiocese has had to walk back controversial comments by the priest. In 2008, the late Cardinal Francis George had to publicly respond to comments Pfleger made deriding Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and advocating the candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

In addition, George suspended Pfleger from his ministry at St. Sabina in 2011 and barred him from celebrating the sacraments because of public statements Pfleger had made, the Chicago Sun Times reports. Pfleger reportedly threatened to leave the priesthood unless George relented.

“He said there were good Jews and there are bad Jews, true. There are good Catholics and bad Catholics,” Pfleger told ABC7 news regarding Farrakhan’s talk.

“I’m doing what I believe the Gospel calls me to do and continue to try and bring people together and try to speak truth.”

Pfleger said he has known Farrakhan for 30 years and embraced him after the talk. Pfleger has said that Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are respected locally for their anti-violence and anti-drug campaigns, CNN reports.