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Gratitude to God should expand hearts, lead to hospitality, pope says

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every Christian should be grateful for the gift of his or her baptism, and that gratitude should draw them together to recognize that they are brothers and sisters and called to pursue holiness together, Pope Francis said.

Welcoming an ecumenical pilgrimage from Finland to the Vatican Jan. 17, Pope Francis told the Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian leaders that all Christians are called "to witness to the good news in the midst of their daily life."

Hospitality to the stranger and to those in need is a particularly strong form of witness, the pope said on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated Jan. 18-25.

The theme chosen for this year's commemoration is "They showed us unusual kindness," a quote from St. Paul, writing about the experience of being shipwrecked in Malta.

"As baptized Christians, we believe that Christ wishes to meet us precisely in those who are -- whether literally or figuratively -- shipwrecked in life," Pope Francis told his guests. "Those who show hospitality grow richer, not poorer. Whoever gives, receives in return."

The gratitude Christians feel for the gift of baptism "links and expands our hearts, and opens them to our neighbor, who is not an adversary but our beloved brother, our beloved sister," the pope said.

 

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Update: '9 Days for Life' prayer, action campaign takes place Jan. 21-29

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholics across the country are invited to take part in the 9 Days for Life is a novena for the protection of human life. Each day's intention is accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life.

The pro-life novena, sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, coincides with the annual March for Life that takes place in Washington every January to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the country. This year's march takes place Jan. 24.

But "even if you can't come to D.C., you can join others to witness and pray for an end to abortion," said Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications at the USCCB. "We ask all of the faithful to unite in prayer to protect the rights of unborn children, to end the violence of abortion, and for greater respect for human life."

According to Talalas, thousands of Catholics across the country have already signed up for 9 Days for Life. By signing up online at 9daysforlife.com, participants will receive a daily prayer intention, a reflection and suggested actions via email, text or through an app.

The novena encompasses the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children Jan. 22, the day the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The USCCB pro-life committee began the novena in 2013 in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roe.

The "9 Days for Life" website also has materials, in English and Spanish, for parish leaders to share. For each day there is an intercession, prayers, a reflection, "acts of reparation" and "one step further," describing one more suggested action for novena participants to take.

For example, the intercession for "Day One" is: "May the tragic practice of abortion end," followed by the Our Father, three Hail Marys and the Glory Be. The reflection for the day says in part: "At every stage and in every circumstance, we are held in existence by God's love. ... Christ invites us to embrace our own lives and the lives of others as true gifts. Abortion tragically rejects the truth that every life is a good and perfect gift, deserving protection."

The suggested "acts of reparation" for the first day are: Take a break from television and movies and consider spending some of that time praying with the day's reflection. Or pray the short prayer "Every Life Is Worth Living," reflecting on the gift of human life. (It can be downloaded www.usccb.org/worth-living.) Or offer some other sacrifice, prayer, or act of penance that you feel called to do for the day's intention.

For "one step further," novena participants are encouraged to read more about abortion, in particular the article "Another Look at Abortion," available at www.respectlife.org/another-look-at-abortion, which provides a basic overview and summarizes key points. "This article will help you be better prepared to witness to the sanctity of human life," it says.

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Protect your health, physically and spiritually, pope says

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By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus healed people of all sorts of physical ailments, but he always started with the essential -- forgiving their sins, Pope Francis said.

"We should take good care of our bodies, but also our souls," the pope said Jan. 17, preaching about the Gospel of Mark's account of Jesus healing the paralytic.

"Jesus teaches us to go to what is essential," the pope said at morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "What is essential is health, complete, body and soul."

Just like a person who is sick tries to find the right doctor to cure that ailment, he said, when a person's spiritual health is in danger, "we go to that physician who can heal us, who can forgive our sins. Jesus came for this reason; he gave his life for this."

In the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, a paralytic is hoping for physical healing, the pope said. But Jesus says to him, "Child, your sins are forgiven."

Only later does he tell the man to get up and walk.

"Physical healing is a gift, physical health is a gift that we must safeguard," the pope said. "But the Lord teaches us that we must safeguard the health of our hearts -- our spiritual health -- as well."

And, he said, the first step to any kind of healing is recognizing that one is unwell.

Simply saying, "Yes, yes, we are all sinners," isn't enough, the pope said. That just "waters down" the serious consequences of sin and the need for healing. "Today Jesus says to each of us, 'I want to forgive your sins.'"

 

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Update: President Trump issues new guidance on prayer in public schools

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump announced his administration's new guidance on prayer in public schools during a Jan. 16 event in the Oval Office on National Religious Freedom Day.

Primarily, it will require states to report cases where public school students have been denied their right to pray.

Ahead of the event -- which was delayed from a 2 p.m. (EST) start to about 4 p.m. -- material on the guidance was provided to reporters in a background briefing the morning of Jan. 16.

In a separate proposed rule, the administration aims to protect the rights of religious student groups at public universities, giving them equal treatment with secular student groups.

For schools to receive federal funding, they will need to certify once a year with state education departments that they do not have policies in place that would prevent students from constitutionally protected prayer, a senior administration official said.

State departments of education also would have to report to the U.S. Department of Education each year with a list of local school boards that failed to make the required certification as well as complaints made to that department about a local school board or school that has been accused of denying students or teachers their right to engage in constitutionally protected prayer.

The new guidance also stipulates that state education offices provide a clear process for people to report complaints about school boards or schools that have denied students or teachers their right to prayer which will in turn be sent to the federal Education Department. Similarly, state education offices will need to report to the Education Department any lawsuits against a local school or school board concerning rights to pray.

At an evening event marking National Religious Freedom Day, Jennie Bradley Lichter, deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, said the guidance was important because "you don't lose your constitutional rights when you walk in a public school."

She said the event included students -- Muslims, Jewish, evangelical and Catholic -- who had been punished for something related to religion.

One of the students, William McLeod, a Catholic at a public school in Utah, told those at the ceremony: "So it all started when I walked in the classroom. ... It was Ash Wednesday, and I had my ashes on my forehead, and all the kids in the classroom was like, 'Is that dirt on your forehead?' Because they don't know, because they aren't Catholic and they were all Mormon."

"So then the teacher came up and was like, 'It's unacceptable. Wipe it off.' And I told her four times, and she didn't listen and she made me wipe it off in front of all the kids."

William told the president: "I just don't want anyone to feel like that."

Trump mentioned school prayer in his Jan. 3 address to evangelicals in Miami where he praised an effort in Tennessee to expand school prayer. Last November, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against a school district saying it sponsored prayer assemblies and the distribution of Bibles.

"I will be taking action to safeguard students' and teachers' First Amendment rights to pray in their schools," Trump told the Florida gathering.

The Supreme Court has taken up the issue of school prayer multiple times. In the 1960s, it said that school-sponsored prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment but that students are permitted to pray alone or in groups at school if other students weren't compelled to participate.

In 1992, the court ruled against prayer at graduations and eight years later it said prayers said on a public address system at school games also violated the Establishment Clause.

 

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Update: Knights, N.Y. Archdiocese and others providing aid to quake victims

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PONCE, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- Jose Lebron-Sanabria, a Knight of Columbus and a general insurance agent for the fraternal organization, is coordinating assistance to Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes.

He led the Knights' recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico in September 2017. Among other efforts this time, he is working with the Diocese of Ponce to bring food, water and nutrition drinks, like Glucerna and Ensure, to a religious monastery, home to 25 elderly nuns.

"I have a tool to offer my community and that is the Knights of Columbus," Lebron-Sanabria said in a statement. The island is home to 5,240 Knights and 81 councils.

The series of earthquakes, the highest being a magnitude 6.4, has leveled towns and parish churches on the southern coast of the island. Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced has declared a state of emergency. Aftershocks continue to rock Puerto Rico.

The Knights of Columbus, based in New Haven, Connecticut, has established an online portal for donations for those affected by the quakes: https://bit.ly/2FN5pG0. Catholic Charities USA has established a Puerto Rico disaster relief fund that can accessed online at https://bit.ly/30hHwQd.

In addition, the Archdiocese of New York is raising funds for Puerto Rico assistance. In a Jan. 10 letter, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan asked priests of the archdiocese to raise funds to help the quake victims through a second collection at Mass.

In his letter, the cardinal said he was reluctant to ask for a second collection in the parishes, but, "given the unique relationship we share with Puerto Rico, I believe our people will respond generously if asked to show their support, as they have always done."

He also noted that the Puerto Rico is still struggling to overcome the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, making assistance even more critical.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and the archdiocese itself, have already sent a combined $80,000 to Caritas Puerto Rico, which is helping lead the relief efforts.

On Jan. 16, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, asked parishes in his diocese to take up a special voluntary collection for earthquake victims during weekend Masses Jan. 18 and 19. The diocese will send the money collected for distribution and direct assistance to the Archdiocese of San Juan in Puerto Rico.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible natural disaster," the bishop said in a statement announcing the collection. "We also must remember that Puerto Rico continues to recover from the devastating effects caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, which affected the infrastructure, health services, education, energy and telecommunications networks on the island."

In Puerto Rico, Jose Vazquez-Padilla, the Knights' state deputy, and other Knights purchased 20 canopies to bring to the now homeless living outside of San Antonio Abad Church in Guanica. Not only were they providing immediate shelter, but more than 300 Knights cooked 1,000 hot meals Jan. 12 for those affected by the earthquakes in Guayanilla.

According to Father Segismundo Cintron, a Knight of Columbus from Don Juan Ponce de Leon Council 1719, 20,000 people from the town of Guanica were living and sleeping outdoors. Every structure in town has been deemed unsafe and uninhabitable in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

In Guayanilla, Immaculate Conception Church lost both of its bell towers and collapsed due to the seismic activity. The nearly 180-year-old church withstood a large earthquake in 1918, but now the only thing left is the parish courtyard, where Father Melvin Diaz Aponte has been celebrating Mass.

The priest, a Knight from Council 1719, told EFE News of his sadness witnessing the pain of the parishioners.

"We want to support them, help them and do what we have to do, as we all should," he said.

He assured the congregation that they will rebuild, according to The New York Times.

Immaculate Conception is one of three churches destroyed by the earthquakes. Knights have brought the churches canopies so the parish priests will be able to continue Masses for their congregations.

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Hearing cites successes, undone work in protecting trafficking victims

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a Jan. 15 hearing to celebrate the act cited numerous successes -- including the passage of four subsequent bills to further clamp down on trafficking -- but noted work yet to do to keep both children and adults safe from others who would exploit them for sex or cheap labor.

Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the House's Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said few in Congress signed on when he first sponsored the bill. "For most people at that time -- including lawmakers -- the term 'trafficking' applied almost exclusively to drugs and weapons, not human beings," he said.

The act, Smith said, included a number of "sea change" provisions, "including treating as a victim -- and not a perpetrator of a crime -- anyone exploited by a commercial sex act who had not attained the age of 18 and anyone older where there was an element of force, fraud or coercion."

He added, "Thousands of human traffickers have been prosecuted and jailed pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act including all charges brought against (billionaire financier) Jeffrey Epstein (who committed suicide in his jail cell before trial) and the infamous convictions involving the 'Smallville' actress Allison Mack."

Smith, who chaired the hearing, said the law "is working as intended. In just over two years, the U.S. government has notified foreign governments of the planned travel of 10,541 covered sex offenders to their countries. As of July, 3,681 individuals who were convicted of sex crimes against children were denied entry by these nations."

Reciprocity is another feature of the law, as other countries now notify the U.S. government if a convicted sex offender is planning to travel from their nation to the United States, Smith said.

Limnyuy Konglim, head of the International Catholic Migration Commission's U.S. Liaison Office in Washington, testified that "faith-based actors" play a "critical role" in protecting both communities and individuals. Konglim said her commission's work is "inspired by the holy Bible, as well as by the ongoing teaching and tradition" of the church.

Partnering with local groups, the ICMC has worked since 1999 to "prevent and respond to human trafficking, provide direct assistance to survivors, conduct international advocacy on behalf of those most vulnerable to human trafficking, and train border officials to strengthen identification of trafficked victims and increase prosecution of traffickers," Konglim said. "We continuously and actively engage with our faith-based partners to ensure that the needs of affected communities are identified and appropriate services are sought."

She lauded last year's pastoral orientations on human trafficking issued by the Vatican, as well as Pope Francis' leadership on the issue. "We are facing a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country," the pope said. Therefore, he added, "we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself."

Trafficking issues, though, persist both in the United States and worldwide.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, the other co-chair of the Tom Lantos Commission -- named after the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress -- criticized the Chinese government's treatment of ethnic minorities, singling out Tibetans and Uighur Muslims, estimating there are 1 million Uighurs in government-run camps.

Witness Neha Misra, a senior specialist in migration and human trafficking for the Solidarity Center, a project of the AFL-CIO that deals with labor rights around the world, said similar problems exist in Indonesia, although the perpetrators tend to be companies and not government. Still, "items made from their forced labor appear on grocery and retail shelves" in the United States, she said.

Liat Shetret, a senior adviser at cryptocurrency compliance tools provider Elliptic, said traffickers are now turning to "privacy coins" to evade scrutiny. She cautioned, though, against banning privacy coins, saying it would be akin to "shooting ourselves in the foot" as other nations, especially China, are developing their own cryptocurrencies.

Lori Cohen, executive director of ECPAT-USA -- originally known as End Child Prostitution and Trafficking -- testified that while women and girls are most commonly thought of as the victims of human trafficking, the phrase "and boys" also must be added.

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Young adults make 'deep dive' into faith during 'ad limina' visit

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Supporting and supported by their bishops, 25 young adults from Minnesota and North Dakota made a pilgrimage "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- in mid-January.

The delegation of women and men, single and married, ages 21-35 flew to Rome with the bishops of Region VIII, who are required by church law to make the "ad limina" visits to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul and to meet with the pope and top Vatican officials.

Many dioceses offer pilgrimages to coincide with their bishops' "ad limina" visits, but the Region VIII trip was different: Young adults were invited last May to apply to make the trip either by providing a letter of recommendation from someone who would attest to their leadership in evangelization or by writing a short essay on how Christ has worked through others to draw them closer to him.

While the region's bishops met Pope Francis Jan. 13, the young pilgrims met him two days later after the pope's weekly general audience. Two young men came bearing white zucchetti -- the papal skullcaps -- and the pope put each on his head, then handed it back as a souvenir.

Mychael Schilmoeller, 33, the pastoral care minister at St. Michael parish in Prior Lake, Minnesota, received special attention from Pope Francis. Noticing her belly, he asked when her baby is due. She told him, "St. Patrick's Day," and he blessed her unborn baby and gently touched her.

"I don't usually like people touching me, but it was a beautiful blessing," she said.

Schilmoeller said the bishops' invitation to young adults to join them for the "ad limina" is "a sign of hope, a sign of a willingness to listen to young people, a willingness to change some things, perhaps."

Vincenzo Randazzo of the Office of Evangelization of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis came up with the idea for the pilgrimage and presented it to Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, who, he said, responded, "Let's do it."

"I want everything we do to be an effort to evangelization," Randazzo told Catholic News Service. If the pilgrimage simply had a first-come-first-served sign-up policy, "we'd get the choir," instead of a mix of young adults who are or potentially are evangelizers of their peers.

Will Herrmann, a 30-year-old computer programmer and member of St. Bonaventure parish in Bloomington, Minnesota, was the newest Catholic in the group. He entered the church last Easter.

Although he was surprised to be chosen for the pilgrimage, he said he applied because "I wanted to dive into the deep end of my faith."

Speaking to CNS near the tomb of St. Paul, he said, "I feel like I married into this family and now I'm meeting the relatives -- the saints."

One thing the pilgrims have in common, Randazzo said, is how much of their time is spent online, including when seeking information about the faith.

As opposed to that "virtual reality," Randazzo said, "Rome has lots of stuff" with art and architecture and the actual places where Sts. Peter and Paul and a host of other saints lived, died and were buried.

Another pilgrim, Mary Evinger, 29, the director of religious education at St. Joseph's parish in Williston, North Dakota, is planning to bring high school students to Rome precisely for that reason.

"They're just on their screens, and just seeing an image isn't the same," she said. "You don't get that awe of being there."

"Being there" -- in the basilicas, the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum -- was a big motivator for Evinger to apply for the pilgrimage, she said. But she also wanted to be with the region's bishops and with Pope Francis.

Organizing the pilgrimage was part of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' ongoing response to young adults who wrote Archbishop Hebda an open letter in 2018 about what they want from the church, the archbishop told CNS.

The youthful pilgrims, the archbishop said, told the bishops they were making the pilgrimage "to pray for Pope Francis and then to pray for their bishops."

Most of the pilgrims already have completed university and are "trying to figure out where they are in the church now that they are working and living on their own," he said. They want to know where God is calling them to serve.

"It's no secret that one of the things that the church, at least in the United States, struggles with is young people drifting at times," Archbishop Hebda said, so when the region's bishops met Pope Francis, they assured him "there also were young people who were very much involved in the church, who loved him and certainly the way he articulates his ministry."

Randazzo said it is easy for Catholics to notice the scandals and the problems afflicting the church, but "it takes courage to recognize God is doing something incredible," and the growing faith of many young adults is one of those things.

 

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The greater the sinner, the greater God's love, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God shows the greatest love and compassion for the greatest sinners, Pope Francis said.

The Lord "has come precisely for us sinners and the greater the sinner you are, the closer the Lord is to you because he has come for you, the greatest sinner; for me, the greatest sinner; for all of us," the pope said in his homily Jan. 16 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark, in which Jesus' takes pity on and heals a leper who kneeled before him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean."

In saying "if you wish," the pope explained, the leper "attracts God's attention" and makes an "act of faith" because he saw that Jesus acted with compassion toward those who suffer.

"This was Jesus' mission," the pope said. "Jesus did not come to preach the law and then go away. Jesus came with compassion, that is, to suffer with and for us and to give his life. The love of Jesus is so great that compassion brought him to the cross, to give his life."

Pope Francis said that Christians should pray to God like the leper did -- by acknowledging their sinfulness and asking for mercy.

It is "a simple prayer that can be said many times a day. 'Lord, I, a sinner, ask you: have mercy on me.' It can be said many times a day, from the heart, without saying it aloud: 'Lord, if you want, you can; if you want, you can. Have mercy on me.' Repeat this," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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God's word can never be 'enchained,' pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A true apostle is one who continues to be a courageous and joyful evangelizer even in the face of persecution and certain death, Pope Francis said.

By choosing to close the Acts of the Apostles not with St. Paul's martyrdom but with his continuing to preach the Gospel even while under house arrest, St. Luke wanted to show that the word of God cannot be "enchained," the pope said Jan. 15 during his weekly general audience.

"This house open to all hearts is the image of the church which -- although persecuted, misunderstood and chained -- never tires of welcoming with a motherly heart every man and woman to proclaim to them the love of the Father who made himself visible in Jesus," he said.

The pope concluded his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles with a reflection on St. Paul's imprisonment in Rome.

St. Paul's treacherous journey and adventures to "the heart of the empire," he said, did not weaken the Gospel he preached but instead strengthened it by "showing that the direction of events does not belong to men but to the Holy Spirit, who gives fruitfulness to the church's missionary action."

During his imprisonment, the pope continued, the apostle would meet with notable Jewish people in his efforts to show "the fulfillment of the promises made to the chosen people" through Christ's death and resurrection.

While not everyone was convinced by his preaching, St. Paul continued to welcome anyone "who wanted to receive the proclamation of the kingdom of God and to know Christ," which is a grace that all Christians should pray for, he said.

May the Lord "enable us, like Paul, to imbue our houses with the Gospel and to make them cenacles of fraternity, where we can welcome the living Christ, who comes to meet us in every person and in every age," Pope Francis said.

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Encore: Catholic schools called 'essential, integral' to church's ministry

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

By Sydney Clark

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said the head of the National Catholic Educational Association.

Catholic schools are obligated to evangelize simply because that is the core and mission of the Catholic Church, according to Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of the NCEA.

"The apostles told the good news of Jesus Christ, and Catholic schools are an essential and integral ministry of the Catholic Church," he told Catholic News Service.

Nationwide, 1.8 million students are enrolled in 6,300 Catholic schools, he noted. Additionally, 80% of students are Catholic, and the remaining 20% are non-Catholic.

Despite the percentage difference, the mission of Catholic education is the same for Catholic and non-Catholic students, Burnford explained.

"The teaching of the faith, the way we witness the Catholic faith fully to Catholic students is the same for all students. All students are invited and welcomed to participate fully in the whole culture of the school, the formation of the school and the life of the school," Burnford said.

Evangelization is present within schools because students are presented with a Catholic worldview that reveals the reality of God and the Gospel through the curriculum, he said.

"In that way, we are evangelizing students by giving them a real understanding of the world and society. Everyone in a Catholic school is being moved along in the process of evangelization and outreach," Burnford said.

Acknowledging the inherent relationship between Catholic education and evangelization in the presence of faith, community and identity, Pope Francis in a June 2018 address said: "Schools and universities need to be consistent and show continuity between their foundational mission and the church's mission of evangelization."

He delivered the address to members of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which he established in October 2015 at the invitation of the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education.

In that same address, Pope Francis proposed a challenge to members of the foundation, which aims to renew the church's dedication to Catholic education, saying: "To fulfill your mission, therefore, you must lay its foundations in a way consistent with our Christian identity, establish means appropriate for the quality of study and research and pursue goals in harmony with service to the common good."

Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, identified roles within Catholic schools that help bring Catholic and non-Catholic students together. "I think Catholic schools have a unique opportunity to provide hope in a world that is increasingly beset by hopelessness. A world without God is a world without hope," Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes that Catholic education is uniquely distinct from other education systems due to its long tradition of conveying the inherent and inseparable relationship between faith and reason. Consequently, Catholic schools "restore what the industrialized model of education has stripped from the classroom -- an understanding of the meaning and purpose of things," she told CNS.

Catholic education asks the deeper questions, regarding the nature of something and its purpose, according to Sullivan. "Secular education can't offer that, can't decide on a meaning or a purpose, so it has to stay away, and therefore, it's incomplete," she explained.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, expressed a similar viewpoint regarding evangelization efforts within Catholic schools. Donoghue said because formation in a Catholic school is integral, students are not solely taught religious doctrine in a religion course.

"What we seek to do is bring forward the church's intellectual tradition and form their minds in all of the content and areas that they study. This is an excellent tool of evangelization because it exposes kids not just to Catholic practices, regarding prayer and liturgy, but also to a Catholic understanding of reality."

Donoghue is hopeful that Catholic schools will continue to fulfill their mission of bringing children and young adults into a relationship with Christ.

As populations shift, she said, many Catholic schools will be located in new areas, creating a changing landscape. However, Donoghue said that Catholic education in America has been around for centuries and "will renew itself by turning toward the church's own tradition and that can be the way forward in the future."

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Update: Retired pope wants his name removed as co-author of book on celibacy

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI, his name will be removed as co-author of a book defending priestly celibacy, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican official who coordinated work on the book.

"Considering the polemics provoked by the publication of the book, 'From the Depths of Our Hearts,' it has been decided that the author of the book for future editions will be Cardinal Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI," Cardinal Sarah tweeted Jan. 14.

"However," he said, "the full text remains absolutely unchanged."

The tweeted announcement came only a few hours after Cardinal Sarah had issued a formal statement accusing people of slandering him by saying that while Pope Benedict may have contributed notes or an essay to the book, he was not co-author of it.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary to Pope Benedict, phoned several German news agencies and spoke with the Reuters news agency Jan. 14, saying the retired pope had requested that his name be removed as co-author of the book, its introduction and its conclusion. The archbishop confirmed that the book's first chapter, attributed to Pope Benedict, was the work of the retired pope.

Since marriage and priesthood both demand the total devotion and self-giving of a man to his vocation, "it does not seem possible to realize both vocations simultaneously," retired Pope Benedict wrote in his essay.

The French newspaper Le Figaro published excerpts of the book late Jan. 12 and, almost immediately, some people began questioning just how much of the work actually was written by the 92-year-old former pope.

The introduction and conclusion were attributed jointly to the retired pope and to Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; the book has two other chapters, one attributed to each of them alone.

The book was to be published in French Jan. 15 and in English Feb. 20 by Ignatius Press.

In a statement Jan. 14, Ignatius Press indicated its edition would still credit Pope Benedict as co-author.

The correspondence released by Cardinal Sarah indicate he and Pope Benedict "collaborated on this book for several months," the Ignatius Press statement said. "A joint work as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style is 'a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contribution be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole,'" therefore, "Ignatius Press considers this a coauthored publication."

Given Pope Benedict's declining health and energy, many questions were raised about just how much of what was attributed to him was written by him and about the decision to list "Benedict XVI" as co-author of the book, rather than "Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI," the form he used for his series of books on Jesus of Nazareth.

At the end of a day of questions and accusations posted on Twitter, Cardinal Sarah tweeted early Jan. 14: "Attacks seem to imply a lie on my part. These defamations are of exceptional gravity."

And, as "the first proofs of my close collaboration with Benedict XVI to write this text in favor of celibacy," he tweeted photographs of correspondence from the retired pontiff.

In the first letter, dated Sept. 20, Pope Benedict said that before receiving a letter from Cardinal Sarah dated Sept. 5, he already had "begun to write a reflection on priesthood. But while writing I increasingly felt my energies would no longer allow me to edit a theological text."

"Then your letter arrived with the unexpected request for a text precisely on priesthood with particular attention to celibacy," the retired pope continued. "So, I took up my work again and will send you the text when it is translated from German into Italian. I will leave it up to you to decide if these notes, whose inadequacy I strongly feel, can have some usefulness."

In a brief note posted by Cardinal Sarah and dated Oct. 12, Pope Benedict wrote that "finally I can send you my thoughts on the priesthood. I leave it up to you if you can find some usefulness in my poor thoughts."

In a formal statement released Jan. 14, Cardinal Sarah said that after meeting Pope Benedict Sept. 5, he wrote to the retired pope saying that with debate about mandatory priestly celibacy already begun before the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, he realized Pope Benedict might not think the timing was right for him to intervene on the subject because of "the polemics it could provoke in the newspapers."

Nevertheless, the cardinal said, he believed a contribution from Pope Benedict would be a gift to the whole church and "could be published at Christmas or at the beginning of 2020."

Cardinal Sarah said Pope Benedict gave him "a long text" on Oct. 12 and he realized that rather than publishing it in a journal or magazine, it would be more appropriate as part of a book.

"I immediately proposed to the pope emeritus integrating his own text and mine for the publication of a book that would be an immense good for the church," the cardinal said.

After several exchanges, he said, on Nov. 19 he sent "a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus comprising, as we had decided by mutual agreement, the cover, an introduction and a common conclusion, the text of Benedict XVI and my own text."

The cardinal tweeted a photo of a letter dated Nov. 25 in which Pope Benedict thanked him "for the text added to my contribution and for the whole elaboration you have done."

"For my part, the text can be published in the form you envisaged," Pope Benedict added.

The chapter attributed to Pope Benedict is about 25 pages long, including a six-page reprint of the homily he gave at the chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in March 2008 on the meaning of "being a priest of Jesus Christ," specifically in standing in the presence of God and serving him. The homily did not mention celibacy.

In a chapter originally attributed to both the retired pope and the cardinal, they said the book resulted from an exchange of "ideas and our concerns," particularly related to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, which heard repeated calls for considering the ordination of married elders to serve far-flung communities and provide greater access to the Eucharist and other sacraments.

Pope Francis' response to the requests of the synod is expected early in the year. Observers noted how unusual it was for the retired pope to intervene publicly on an issue the reigning pope is considering.

Cardinal Sarah and Pope Benedict seemed to recognize how unusual the move was, but the introduction said, "'Silere non possum!' I cannot be silent!"

The introduction said the two offered their reflections "in a spirit of love for the unity of the church" and in "a spirit of filial obedience to Pope Francis."

In a separate interview with Le Figaro, Cardinal Sarah said: "If this book is a cry, it's a cry of love for the church, the pope, the priests and all Christians. We want this book to be read as widely as possible. The crisis facing the church is striking."

According to the published excerpts, the chapter signed by Pope Benedict noted how today many people assume the gradual adoption of the discipline of priestly celibacy was a result of "contempt for corporeality and sexuality." The error of that thinking, he said, is demonstrated by the church's high view of the sacrament of marriage.

And, while acknowledging that celibacy has not always been a requirement for priesthood, he said that married priests were expected to abstain from sexual relations with their wives.

Renouncing marriage "to place oneself totally at the disposition of the Lord became a criterion for priestly ministry," he said.

The published excerpts did not discuss the continuing practice of ordaining married men in the Eastern Catholic churches nor the exceptions granted by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict to married former ministers of the Anglican Communion and other Christian denominations who become Catholic.

Last January, speaking to reporters flying back from Panama with him, Pope Francis said, "Personally, I believe that celibacy is a gift to the church."

"I'm not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy," he said. "A phrase St. Paul VI said comes to mind: 'I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy.'"

However, he did say "there could be some possibility" of ordaining married men in very remote locations where there are Catholic communities that seldom have Mass because there are no priests. But, even for that situation, much study would need to be done.

Responding to journalists' questions Jan. 13, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said, "the position of the Holy Father on celibacy is known," and he quoted the pope's comments to journalists last January.

But Bruni also included Pope Francis' statement that "some possibility" could exist for exceptions in remote areas "when there is a pastoral necessity. There, the pastor must think of the faithful."

In addition, Bruni noted that when Pope Francis addressed members at the end of the synod in October, he said he was pleased that "we have not fallen prisoner to these selective groups that from the synod only want to see what was decided on one or another intra-ecclesial point" while ignoring all the work the synod did in analyzing the problems, challenges and hopes on the pastoral, cultural, social and ecological levels.

 

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Love of baking, culinary skills and prayer make religious brother a winner

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard

By Richard Szczepanowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The oven timer dings, alerting Capuchin Franciscan Brother Andrew Corriente the chocolate layer cake he is baking needs to be checked.

A quick test with a toothpick tells him the cake needs about five more minutes in the oven, more than enough time for him to soften the butter that will eventually become the buttercream icing that will top the confection.

The enticing aromas in the kitchen at Capuchin College in Washington signal that Brother Andrew is busy creating another treat for the men who call the friary home.

Brother Andrew knows his way around a kitchen. In fact, he was crowned this year's baking champion on ABC's "The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition." The program, which aired during the month of December and concluded Jan. 2, is an adaptation of the wildly popular "Great British Bake Off."

Brother Andrew said he wanted to participate in the program "because I love to bake, and I wanted to learn from the others" who were part of the production. "They were very good, incredible cooks," the brother said of his competition. Several of them have since become good friends of his.

"The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition," now in its fifth season, features 10 amateur bakers who compete in a series of challenges in which they must produce outstanding baked goods. Contestants are eliminated one by one until a champion is selected.

Brother Andrew emerged as the victor after he and the other two finalists were charged with making three individual party desserts of their choice. He earned the crown with chocolate cookies with lime cream and blackberry jam, sponge cakes with fresh cream and fruits, and a puff pastry.

Brother Andrew was given the nod to appear on the show last June, but he applied for the program in 2017.

"In 2018, they (producers of the show) called me, but I said no because I was taking my final vows," he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. "They called me again this year, and I did it."

He said he spent the month of July "recipe developing and recipe testing" before traveling to London in August, where the entire season was taped over the course of that month. "Filming sometimes took up to 14 hours a day," Brother Andrew said. "I had to stay focused so that I could get my prayers in, Mass in and meditation in."

Although it was very hot in the kitchen where the contestants competed, Brother Andrew chose to wear his distinctive brown Capuchin robes as he baked.

"I love my life so much, and I wanted people to see that," he said. "My ability to bake is so tied to my way of life. Everything I have is from God, and I wanted people to see how all of that is integrated."

The friary where Brother Andrew regularly creates his bakery masterpieces is part of the St. Augustine Province of the Order of Friars Minor. The 30 men who live at Capuchin College are either studying nearby at The Catholic University of America, preparing for the priesthood, serving in various ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Washington or are retired.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Paul Dressler, the province's guardian and director of formation at Capuchin College, called Brother Andrew's appearance on the program "part of the new evangelization."

"Brother Andrew wanted to be on the show as a witness. He went to evangelize and put before the world the Gospel and our order," Father Dressler said.

Capuchin Father Tom Betz, the provincial of the St. Augustine Province, gave the nod and Brother Andrew was on his way.

"Brother Andrew brought attention to the goodness of God and the goodness of religious life," Father Dressler said.

He added that it is not unusual for a religious to be familiar in the kitchen. "Religious life has long been a source of nourishment," Father Dressler said. He also pointed to the ancient tradition of monks brewing beer, making wine and even giving coffee lovers everywhere the eponymous cappuccino.

"It is connected to the fact that all good things come from God," Father Dressler said.

In episode four of "The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition," Brother Andrew struggled with the challenge of creating a cheesecake tower with at least three tiers, with two of one flavor and one of a different flavor. As he struggled to construct his tower, Brother Andrew stopped, lifted his hands in prayer and uttered the word, "surrender."

Brother Andrew is a third-year seminarian. After studying filmmaking in college, the now 31-year-old native of California, "had a desk job in the entertainment industry," working for a talent agent.

"I was searching for other jobs, but never thought about religious life," he said. "A friend of mine from college became a nun, and when I went to see her profess her vows, I met a Capuchin." That spurred Brother Andrew to give the order a try. "I met the guys, and the rest is history," he said.

Brother Andrew regularly bakes for the residents of the friary and one of his specialties is "kouign amann," a French pastry made with multiple layers of buttery croissant pastry caramelized with slightly burnt sugar.

Baking, he said, "is in a way eucharistic."

"Jesus gave us himself in the bread and wine," Brother Andrew said. "For me, I put myself out there with my cooking. It is kind of a sacrificial love."

His interest in baking, he added, was spurred during his postulancy.

Brother Andrew said he finds time for prayer as he cooks. For example, in preparing meringue -- a confection made of whipped egg whites and sugar -- he discovered "the best way to time my stirring is by praying the Hail Mary."

The "guys," as Brother Andrew calls his fellow Capuchins, sent their favorite baker off to compete in London with "a really nice blessing and prayer." Brother Andrew's family -- mother Elna, father Rodel and sister Theresa -- flew to London to watch the finale.

When he won, Brother Andrew was sworn to secrecy; for more than four months he was not allowed to tell others that he had won.

The residents of the friary would gather each week to watch the show together, cheering their brother on. Father Dressler said it was akin to watching the Super Bowl. The friary, he said, exploded with whoops and shouts and cheers when Brother Andrew was named the winner.

In addition to his baking, Brother Andrew uses his culinary skills to help the less fortunate and the working poor. He and a group of brothers and lay volunteers cook and serve dinner every Sunday for the day laborers who congregate at a local Home Depot looking for work.

After he is ordained to the priesthood in two years, Brother Andrew is unsure whether his priestly vocation will permit him as much time to pursue his baking avocation. "God has already zigzagged my life in so many ways that I am open to anywhere he leads me," he said.

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Szczepanowski is managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

 

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Bishops visiting Holy Land get look at complexities of Gaza Strip

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- In addition to a sense of isolation, young people in the Gaza Strip are experiencing an unemployment rate of 70 percent, and most see emigration as their only solution, said Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

"This is a challenge for young people," he told Catholic News Service Jan. 13. "They are facing uncertainty and insecurity about their future."

Archbishop Broglio was one of 15 bishops -- mostly from Europe and North America -- taking part in the annual weeklong Holy Land Coordination visit to support the Holy Land's local Christian communities. Several talked to Catholic News Service after visiting Gaza.

"The future for the young people is very tenuous," Archbishop Broglio said. "Basically, the only solution they see is getting out. But that is very problematic, because once they do get out, there is no coming back (because of travel restrictions.) Leaving means an indefinite separation for families."

Basics such as water and electricity are interrupted daily, he said.

The Gaza Strip has been under an air, land and sea blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007, when Hamas took control of the Palestinian area from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The 1.8 million Palestinian residents of the coastal Gaza Strip are cut off from the remainder of the Palestinian territory by the blockade, which also restricts their free travel access to the rest of the world.

The United States, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Egypt, Israel and other countries list Hamas as a terrorist organization, charging that it is funded by Iran.

The bishops began their visit in Gaza and celebrated Mass with members of Holy Family Catholic Parish there Jan. 12. They also met with local families and religious sisters working in Catholic charitable institutions and visited the Daughters of Charity, the Thomas Aquinas Training Center and the Caritas Medical Center.

With just over 1,000 people, the Christian community in the Gaza Strip is very tiny, but the educational, vocational and health services it provides to the general population are highly regarded.

Archbishop Broglio said that just over 10 percent of the 700 students attending Catholic school are Catholic; the majority of students are Muslim.

Irish Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor noted that while the Thomas Aquinas Training Center provides advanced training for young people, the availability of good jobs is so minimal that often thousands of applicants vie for one position.

"Opportunities are so limited ... the current situation is not sustainable," he said. "A solution must be found. Though the Catholic community is vibrant, the number of Catholics has gone down drastically ... and the fact so many people are leaving has an impact on the Christian population."

But finding a solution to the situation in Gaza is no easy task, said Canadian Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

"We need to try to educate people as to the situation here. It is a very complex issue, where you have the internal issue of Gaza and the approach and thinking by the current (Hamas) government, and there is a confrontational situation where there is tension between the Gaza territory and the government of Israel, and this also needs to be brought within context. It is very complicated."

Since 2001, thousands of missiles have been launched from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel border towns, sometimes resulting in Israeli retaliatory attacks that have caused overwhelming destruction in Gaza.

Still, despite the political complexity and economic difficulties people face in their daily lives in Gaza, Archbishop Gagnon said, he was struck by the real sense of joy and positivity he sensed within the Catholic community.

"They have a real sense of who they are and what their identity is," said Archbishop Gagnon. "They provide wonderful opportunities for people in Gaza, both Christians and non-Christians, through their schools and charitable organizations."

During their stay in the Holy Land the bishops will also meet with young Palestinians in East Jerusalem; visit Holy Family Parish in Ramallah, West Bank; visit a kindergarten run by the Comboni Sisters under the shadow of the Israeli separation wall in East Jerusalem; and tour the Jerusalem Old City Basin to review Israeli settler activity in the contested area.

 

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Update: Former cardinal moves from Kansas friary to new location

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal who was laicized by the Vatican in 2019 after numerous claims of abuse by him were substantiated, moved Jan. 3 from the Capuchin Franciscan friary in Kansas where he had been living since late 2018.

McCarrick made the move on his own accord, according to a spokesman for the Capuchin Franciscan province that oversees the friary.

The former prelate had stayed a little over one year at St. Fidelis Friary, run by the Capuchin Franciscan order in Victoria, Kansas, in the Diocese of Salina in the northwestern part of the state.

While his new residence has not been publicly disclosed, one Florida diocese denied reports that McCarrick was within its territory.

"Rumors that the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick has moved to Jacksonville and is staying at a priest retirement facility in the Diocese of St. Augustine are absolutely false. The diocese has made no arrangements for McCarrick to stay at any of its church-owned properties," said a Jan. 8 statement from Kathleen Bagg, diocesan communications director for the northeast Florida diocese.

"The diocese does not know the whereabouts of McCarrick, and it is not our responsibility to keep tabs on his movements," Bagg added. "It is important to note that McCarrick was laicized in February 2019, therefore like any person, he can travel where he wants without reporting his presence in a location within any diocese where he may visit."

The statement was in response to a posting by the website Church Militant that the diocese had arranged for McCarrick to move there.

The election of a new provincial for the Denver-based Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad had no influence on McCarrick's decision to leave, according to Capuchin Father Joseph Mary Elder, director of communications and vocations for the province, which also has a friary in San Antonio within its boundaries.

"There was nothing on our part" that suggested McCarrick leave, Father Elder said. "Our provincial was very clear with him."

Nor was space an issue. Fewer than 10 Capuchins live at St. Fidelis.

"It's a huge place. We have our meetings there and we have enough room for almost everybody," Father Elder said told CNS in a Jan. 10 telephone interview.

"There may have been concern on his part on the report coming from Rome" stemming from the allegations that first surfaced in 2018, Father Elder added. "But that is just conjecture on my part. He was free to stay as long as he wanted to."

McCarrick's life at the friary was uneventful, save for an interview in Slate.

But "he had to be supervised at all times," Father Elder told CNS. "The friary is a big building that adjoins a church," and behind the church was a school, he added.

Wherever McCarrick moved to, he kept his own counsel on the matter.

"The only knowledge we have is that he made plans to leave, and we were privy to his plans," Father Elder told CNS. "That was the first time I heard any plausible location to where he might be."

McCarrick had served as archbishop of Washington and archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and was founding bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. He also was a New York archdiocesan priest and auxiliary bishop.

Media interest in McCarrick has followed him since he stepped away from all forms of ministry at the Vatican's request in the summer of 2018.

He was quickly and quietly moved to Kansas after a Washington Post reporter unsuccessfully tried to track him down in late 2018 at the priests' retirement community in the District of Columbia where McCarrick had lived.

That move took place before McCarrick, now 89, was removed from the clerical state.

Then, last summer, a reporter from the online journal Slate was able to conduct a brief interview with McCarrick inside St. Fidelis.

After a query from CNS, Paula Gwynn Grant, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, said in an email: "We understand that Mr. Theodore McCarrick has moved. As he is now a layperson, he is responsible for his own actions."

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Residents fear what may come next after quakes, archbishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Hurricane Maria was a body blow to Puerto Rico in 2017, one from which it has yet to fully recover.

Then came the series of 5-magnitude-and-higher earthquakes that began Dec. 29 -- topped off by three such temblors in a 30-minute span Jan. 7 and followed by a magnitude 5.9 quake Jan. 11 -- that has resulted in only two confirmed deaths, but untold losses in property damage. And not only the earthquakes, but their many aftershocks.

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan lives on the northern part of the island, which was spared most of the worst effects of the quakes. But on a Jan. 10 visit to the island's southern region in the Diocese of Ponce -- what he could see of it -- the damage was much worse.

"I got around by car," Archbishop Gonzalez said. "But I wasn't able to go everywhere I wanted to because a bridge here or there collapsed."

Driving around Ponce, the archbishop told Catholic News Service in a Jan. 10 telephone interview from near San Juan, "I saw a number of people In Ponce now with their suitcases and looking for a place to find shelter."

"I can see lots of damage," he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez added, "I didn't see many buildings that had collapsed, but you see buildings with pieces of cement, pieces of the roof that have fallen off. It will take a while for structural engineers to make an assessment. The cathedral has bene quite damaged. I say it might take a year or two to fix the cathedral."

People are sleeping in tents and spending most of their waking hours outside, he noted, fearing an aftershock might cause more of their homes to crumble.

Complicating people's quest to find shelter is the weather. It has been raining on the island. Archbishop Gonzalez, during the interview, said it was raining heavily, and that the quake also has affected telephone and internet service on Puerto Rico.

Another fear is people not knowing where their next meal is coming from.

"There are many people without food," Archbishop Gonzalez told CNS. He mentioned one district where "there are at least 400 people homeless. Caritas has been doing their best to provide them with food. Yesterday (Jan. 9) we purchased $150,000 for our Catholic Charities for that group of 400 or so."

One difference Archbishop Gonzalez noted between a hurricane and an earthquake: "One can prepare for a hurricane -- 'there's a hurricane on its way' -- but you cannot prepare for an earthquake. It just happens."

"Every day there have been replicas" -- the archbishop's word for aftershocks. "Those replicas continue to affect the structure of buildings. In the building, it has a number of people. You come to this building, and it's traumatic. One becomes afraid -- what's going to happen next?"

Archbishop Gonzalez disclosed something that perhaps few non-Puerto Ricans know: "The island shakes every day. We're in a seismic area that's very active -- as active as California. but only shakes 2 points or 3 points (of magnitude), and you become accustomed to that and you don't feel it. I remember as a child there were maybe two or three significant quakes, but I'd never felt anything like this. It is quite a jolt. It affects everyone emotionally."

He recalled one morning receiving a call from a priest in Guanica, on the south side of the island. "I'm in the north, in San Juan, but they needed volunteers to organize the distribution of food from large trucks that had come from Caritas, from Catholic Charities. He asked if I would make calls to get volunteers. I spent an hour, an hour and a half, making calls. I had 100 volunteers going across the island to the town of Guanica to give help. It shows the spirit of solidarity, and the goodness among the people. It's very touching."

For people on the U.S. mainland, "first of all, we appreciate your spiritual solidarity and prayers, your awareness, your concern," Archbishop Gonzalez said. "Secondly, if you are able to make monetary donations to assist in the relief effort -- I'm speaking mainly of food and shelter -- that would be a big help."

Catholic Charities USA has established a Puerto Rico disaster relief fund that can accessed online at https://bit.ly/30hHwQd.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Baptism is first step on path of humility, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In asking to be baptized, Jesus exemplifies the Christian calling to follow along the path of humility and meekness rather than strutting about and being a showoff, Pope Francis said.

Addressing pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Jan. 12, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the pope said that Christ's humble act shows "the attitude of simplicity, respect, moderation and concealment required of the Lord's disciples today."

"How many -- it's sad to say -- of the Lord's disciples show off about being disciples of the Lord. A person who shows off isn't a good disciple. A good disciple is humble, meek, one who does good without letting himself or herself be seen," Pope Francis said during his midday Angelus address.

The pope began the day celebrating Mass and baptizing 32 babies --17 boys and 15 girls -- in the Sistine Chapel. In his brief homily before baptizing the infants, the pope told parents that the sacrament is a treasure that gives children "the strength of the Spirit."

"That is why it's so important to baptize children, so that they grow with the strength of the Holy Spirit," he said.

"This is the message that I would like to give you today. You have brought your children here today so that they may have the Holy Spirit within them. Take care that they grow with the light, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, through catechesis, through helping them, through teaching them, through the examples that you will give them at home," he said.

As the sounds of fussy children filled the frescoed chapel, the pope repeated his usual advice to mothers of infants, encouraging them to make their children comfortable, and to not worry if they start to cry in the chapel.

"Don't get upset; let the children cry and scream. But, if your child cries and complains, perhaps it's because they feel too hot," he said. "Take something off them, or if they are hungry, breastfeed them; here, yes, always in peace."

Later, before praying the Angelus with pilgrims, Pope Francis said that the feast of the Lord's baptism "reminds us of our own baptism," and he asked the pilgrims to find out the date they were baptized.

"Celebrate the date of your baptism every year in your heart. Do it. It is also a duty of justice to the Lord who has been so good to us," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Seasoned musician inspires people to sing, raise voices 'in honor of God'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Cothran, courtesy of Tonya Taylor-Dorsey

By Gina Christian

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- With the start of the new year, a seasoned Philadelphia musician is taking on a new challenge as director of the Philadelphia Catholic Gospel Mass Choir.

Tonya Taylor-Dorsey was appointed to the post by the Philadelphia Archdiocese's Office for Black Catholics, effective Jan. 1.

Established for the 2014 World Meeting of Families, the ensemble features voices from the archdiocese and neighboring dioceses. The choir has participated in parish revivals, the U.S. bishops' listening sessions on racism and the annual "Soulful Christmas Concert" at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition, the choir regularly performs at archdiocesan observances such as the St. Martin de Porres Mass and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer service.

For Taylor-Dorsey, who has more than three decades of experience in parish music, the role once seemed unlikely for someone who was raised Presbyterian -- and who "didn't sing in the church choir growing up."

"I wanted to be a concert pianist," she said, citing "Fanfarinette" from Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Suite in A Minor" as her favorite piece to play.

Taylor-Dorsey's musical ambitions led her to study at Michigan State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Diploma in hand, she returned to her native Philadelphia, and shortly thereafter landed a job as music director at St. Peter Claver in Center City until the parish was closed.

In 1993, she started a 13-year appointment as choir director at Our Lady of Hope parish in Philadelphia, during which time she staged annual concerts and produced a recording of the Hope Singers.

When she became the choir director at St. Martin de Porres Parish in 2006, Taylor-Dorsey decided to make her lifelong commitment to Catholicism official, joining the church under the guidance of then-pastor Father Edward Hallinan.

"During our first meeting, he asked me, 'Why aren't you Catholic?'" she recalled in an interview with CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocese's online news outlet. "Actually, I felt like I was Catholic even before I converted."

In college, she had studied the Mass, finding beauty in the order of the liturgy. As her career developed in Catholic parishes, she realized that she felt increasingly at home.

"I thought to myself, 'I'm playing at this church for two Masses each Sunday, but I wouldn't be buried from here if I died,'" she said.

Father Hallinan also encouraged Taylor-Dorsey to attend the National Black Catholic Congress, which gathers participants from a number of African American Catholic organizations. Participating as a new Catholic in 2007, she was eager to connect with fellow believers, but lamented the lack of musical presentations at the conference. Eventually, she created her own, delivering workshops on sight reading and music ministry.

During the organization's 12th conference in 2017, Taylor-Dorsey was the first woman to direct the congress's liturgical music, conducting a 100-voice choir at its daily Masses while writing musical scores for the accompanying string orchestra.

In the process, she realized that although she enjoyed performing herself, her talents "really were in composition, in writing and arranging," she said.

In fact, Taylor-Dorsey may be best known for her original piece "Everybody Needs Someone," which was presented in concert at the Juilliard School by alumnus and pianist Peter Dugan.

Her composition "God's Angel" was featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper after she dedicated a 2012 performance of the song -- originally written after her mother's death -- to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A number of Taylor-Dorsey's vocal works have been sung throughout the United States.

Despite such musical prestige and prowess, though, she said she strives to "refresh and renew" her choirs, giving all participants a chance to grow musically and not simply "letting a few people do solos."

Selections for the Sunday liturgies at St. Martin de Porres are carefully chosen by Taylor-Dorsey in close collaboration with the parish's pastor, Father Stephen Thorne, who also is a consultant for the National Black Catholic Congress.

In addition to her preparations for Sunday Mass, she also is in the process of setting the Book of Psalms to music, while managing the Tonya Dorsey and New Vision foundation, which since 2008 has awarded more than 140 scholarships in the arts to school-age children.

Though practiced and prolific, Taylor-Dorsey remains focused on the true source of her artistic inspiration.

"I give 100% credit to God," she said. "There are songs that I write where I truly could not tell you the process involved."

Taylor-Dorsey's joy in music is central to her ministry, which she says is a simple one: "I want to encourage people to sing and raise their voices in honor of God."

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Christian is senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Update: Pope sets special day to honor, study, share the Bible

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The newly established "Sunday of the Word of God" is an invitation to Catholics across the world to deepen their appreciation, love and faithful witness to God and his word, Pope Francis said.

By papal decree, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time -- Jan. 26 this year -- is to be observed as a special day devoted to "the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God."

A day dedicated to the Bible will help the church "experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world," the pope said in the document establishing the special Sunday observance.

Dioceses and parishes have been invited to respond with creative initiatives, helpful resources and renewed efforts for helping Catholics engage more deeply with the Bible at church and in their lives.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said added emphasis on the importance of the word of God is needed because "the overwhelming majority" of Catholics are not familiar with sacred Scripture. For many, the only time they hear the word of God is when they attend Mass, he told Vatican News Sept. 30, when the papal document, titled "Aperuit Illis," was published.

"The Bible is the most widely distributed book, but it's also perhaps the one most covered in dust because it is not held in our hands," the archbishop said.

With this apostolic letter, the pope "invites us to hold the word of God in our hands every day as much as possible so that it becomes our prayer" and a greater part of one's lived experience, he said.

In his letter, Pope Francis wrote, "A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers."

"We need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness," he wrote.

Sacred Scripture and the sacraments are inseparable, he wrote. Jesus speaks to everyone with his word in sacred Scripture, he said, and if people "hear his voice and open the doors of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain ever with us."

Pope Francis urged priests to be extra attentive to creating a homily each Sunday that "speaks from the heart" and really helps people understand Scripture "through simple and suitable" language.

The homily "is a pastoral opportunity that should not be wasted," he wrote. "For many of our faithful, in fact, this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God's word and to see it applied to their daily lives."

Pope Francis encouraged people to read the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, "Dei Verbum," and Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation on the Bible, "Verbum Domini," whose teaching remains "fundamental for our communities."

The pope also suggested pastors provide parishioners with the Bible, a book of the Gospels or other catechetical resources, "enthrone" the Bible in order to emphasize the honor and sacred nature of the text, bless or commission lectors of the parish and encourage people to read and pray with Scripture every day, especially through "lectio divina."

"The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privileged few. It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words," the pope wrote.

"The Bible is the book of the Lord's people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division toward unity" as well as come to understand God's love and become inspired to share it with others, he added.

The celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God also "has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity," he wrote. The third Sunday in Ordinary Time falls during that part of the year when the church is encouraged to strengthen its bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity.

The document was published on the feast of St. Jerome, patron saint of biblical scholars and doctor of the church, who said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." The title, "Aperuit Illis," is based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

The pope said it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth without the Lord who opens people's minds to his word, yet "without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his church in this world would remain incomprehensible."

 

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Survivors' group, archbishop back journalist sued by Sodalitium members

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paola Ugaz

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A network of clergy abuse survivors has joined calls for an end to lawsuits against a journalist who investigated alleged sexual abuse and financial irregularities within a controversial Catholic group.

In an open letter released Jan. 9, the Ending Clergy Abuse organization, also known as ECA, expressed concern regarding five lawsuits against Peruvian journalist Paola Ugaz by several members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

The lawsuits, the ECA said, are a form of "judicial harassment" meant to punish Ugaz for exposing alleged criminal activities within Sodalitium.

"It is true that we recognize the legitimate right of every person who feels that his or her honor was damaged to take legal action," the group said. "However, it is unlawful for anyone to abuse this right. In the abusive case of legal actions against Paola Ugaz, it is clear the intention is not to seek justice but to silence her."

Ugaz and fellow journalist Pedro Salinas co-authored a book titled, "Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados" ("Half Monks, Half Soldiers"), which detailed the alleged psychological and sexual abuse, as well as corporal punishment and extreme exercises that young members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae were forced to endure.

A 2017 internal investigation found that Luis Fernando Figari, who founded Sodalitium in 1971 and headed it until 2010, and three other high-ranking former members abused 19 minors and 10 adults.

"I thank ECA with all my heart for this support because it comes at the right time and gives me a lot of encouragement to keep going," Ugaz told Catholic News Service Jan. 9.

She also received the support of Peruvian Archbishop Carlos Castillo of Lima who said Ugaz was "a journalist of great importance." The archbishop challenged the members of the group who are suing her, saying: "If those Christians truly believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, they must stop" the lawsuits.

In an interview Dec. 14 with RPP, the Peruvian radio and television company, Archbishop Castillo said he was concerned that the continuing lawsuits against Ugaz by members of Sodalitium were an attempt "to cover up the truth."

"If we want to use trickery, power, social or economic relationships or influence to hide the terrible things we do, then we are not true Christians and we do not give a witness of service, which is what Jesus came to do," the archbishop said.

By suing Ugaz, he added, members of Sodalitium "are delaying too much to confront and solve something that is very serious, which is the destruction of people in our country, our middle class, who they have damaged psychologically and humanly. This isn't possible! This must change and they cannot shackle the truth."

Ugaz told CNS she also has received "support and solidarity" from Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, apostolic nuncio to Peru.

Archbishops Castillo and Girasoli, she said, "have been following this wave of persecution against me. I am infinitely grateful to both for their solidarity with my work as an investigative journalist."

The lawsuits against her, she alleges, are being used to hamper her investigations and prevent the publication of a new book detailing financial irregularities within Sodalitium. She hopes to publish the book this year.

Ugaz told CNS she has been harassed publicly and received numerous letters threatening further lawsuits against her by Sodalitium members due to her investigative reports as well as her participation in an Al-Jazeera documentary, titled "The Sodalitium Scandal."

"There is no doubt in my mind that this new lawsuit (filed in December) is related to my investigation into Sodalitium's finances," she told CNS. "All the complaints that have been made have the same objective: to harass me, to intimidate me, to take up my time in responding to the complaints, to show me that responding to Sodalitium will drain my finances and that I stop concentrating on my current investigation."

Both Ugaz and Salinas were sued in 2019 by Archbishop Jose Eguren Anselmi of Piura, a professed member of Sodalitium since 1981. The prelate later dropped the lawsuit against Salinas in April and Ugaz in August after facing considerable backlash by the public and the Peruvian bishops' conference.

Citing Pope Francis, the country's bishops distanced themselves from Archbishop Eguren's lawsuit and said the church needs the help of journalists and survivors of clergy sex abuse to overcome the current crisis.

Ugaz said she admires the pope's efforts to combat clergy sex abuse as well as his closeness with survivors who have also supported her throughout her ordeal.

"My answer to Sodalitium's lawsuits will always be the same: more and better journalism," she said.

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Love is never indifferent to other's suffering, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Most Christians would agree it is wrong to hate someone, but it is also wrong to be indifferent, which is a camouflaged form of hatred, Pope Francis said.

Real love "must lead you to do good, to get your hands dirty with works of love," the pope said Jan. 10 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Commenting especially on 1 John 4:19-21, Pope Francis said the Bible "does not mince words." In fact, he said, the Bible tells people, "If you say you love God and you hate your brother or sister, you're on the other side; you're a liar."

If someone says, "I love God, I pray, I enter into ecstasy, and then tosses aside others, hates them, doesn't love them or simply is indifferent to them," the pope noted, St. John doesn't say, "You're wrong," but "you're a liar."

"The Bible is clear because being a liar is the devil's way of being. He is the Great Liar, the New Testament tells us; he is the father of lies. That's the definition of Satan the Bible gives us," the pope said.

Love "is expressed by doing good," he said.

A Christian does not get points for just standing by, he said. Love is "concrete" and faces the challenges, struggles and messiness of everyday life.

Indifference, he said, "is a way of not loving God and not loving neighbor that is a bit hidden."

Pope Francis quoted St. Alberto Hurtado, who said, "It is good not to do evil, but it is evil not to do good."

On a truly Christian path, one does not find those who are indifferent, "those who wash their hands of problems, those who don't want to get involved to help, to do good," he said. "False mystics are not there, those with hearts distilled like water who say they love God but forget to love their neighbor."

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.