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US bishops turn up the heat on Trump's environmental order

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2017 / 09:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have criticized President Donald Trump’s recent executive order which rolls back environmental protections, noting their concern that it offers no alternative for effective environmental stewardship.

“The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship and has called consistently for ‘our own country to curtail carbon emissions,’” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“This Executive Order places a number of environmental protections in jeopardy and moves the U.S. away from a national carbon standard, all without adopting a sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation,” the bishop said in a March 29 statement. “Yesterday’s action means that, sadly, the United States is unlikely to meet its domestic and international mitigation goals.”

On March 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that revokes a half-dozen executive orders from the Obama Administration targeted at halting the progress of climate change and regulating carbon emissions. Under particular scrutiny are the policies put in place by Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce emissions from power plants – one of the largest sources of pollution and greenhouse gasses in the United States – by 32 percent from 2015 to 2030. Other rules set for re-examination are rules regarding fracking and those restricting greenhouse gas emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

The new order will also roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s “social cost of carbon” calculations that had previously guided rule making surrounding environmental concerns.

President Trump has not yet taken a public stance on withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, but the new order, without additional regulations to take their place, will effectively remove the policies the United States had put in place to meet its commitments.

While the U.S. bishops do not specifically support any one set of policy or technical approaches to climate change, they have offered their support for several of the Obama Administration’s carbon emission standards in recent years. Bishop Dewane reinforced in his statement that while the Clean Power Plan is not the only means of addressing climate change or reducing carbon emissions, he is concerned by the Trump Administration’s failure to present an alternative plan in its place.

The bishop also echoed previous statements by EPA officials and other environmental experts that environmental policies can both protect the environment and foster growth. “An integral approach can respect human and natural concerns and still achieve these aims, if properly done,” he said.

Bishop Dewane pointed to states that have already made steps towards doing both under the previous Clean Power Plan, adding that “this momentum ought to be encouraged and not hindered.”

He pointed to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter Laudato si as highlighting the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of all humanity.

“With this recent order,” the bishop commented, “the Administration risks damage to our air, our waters and, most importantly, our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, without proposing a concrete and adequate approach to meet our stewardship obligations as a nation.”

 

This pregnant woman found her faith in 1930s Spain – and died for it.

Madrid, Spain, Mar 30, 2017 / 05:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A pregnant woman who found her faith in a Spanish prison, refused to give up the name of her Christian catechist to her persecutors, and died for lack of medical care was beatified on Saturday.

“Emilia is a martyr of suffering, because she died some 10 days after giving birth for lack of medical attention, clutching her rosary. She had a chance to apostatize, to betray the one who taught her the faith, but she did not. She’s an example,” Historian Martin Ibarra told CNA.  

On March 25, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Causes of Saints, beatified Emilia Fernandez and 114 other martyrs of religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936-1939.

Emilia became the first Romani – or Gypsy – woman to be beatified by the Catholic Church.

“Emilia's life up to 24 years of age was normal for an Andalusian Gypsy woman at the beginning of the century,” Ibarra said. “She devoted herself to her family, her work as a basket maker. She was a hard working woman, a Gypsy and honest.”

She and her husband, Juan Cortes and were imprisoned for trying to prevent Juan from being conscripted into the war.

Although Emilia was pregnant when she went to prison, she did not receive any additional care. Officials assigned her the same insufficient food ration as the rest of the female prisoners.

Emilia “carried her pregnancy in the prison under terrible conditions, and suffered a lot from hunger,” Ibarra said.

It was in prison where she discovered her faith.

“Even though she had been baptized, she never set foot in a church. It was especially through the rosary that her catechist Dolores del Olmo taught her,” Ibarra recounted.

“Every afternoon the female prisoners prayed, even though it was forbidden. Emilia wanted to know more about her faith and she asked Dolores del Olmo to explain it to her. There she realized that she belonged to the Church, and she learned the ‘Our Father,’ the ‘Hail Mary’ and the ‘Glory Be’.”

The warden for the women’s prison, Dolores Salmerón, knew that Emilia and the other prisoners were praying. She offered the woman more food and offered to release her and her husband on one condition: she must reveal the name of whoever taught her to pray.

Emilia refused to betray her catechist and so she was punished with solitary confinement.

A few months later, Emilia gave birth. “Between the cries and sobs, her catechist was saying prayers which Emilia repeated, although she could not continue because of the pain,” Ibarra added.

Dolores del Olmo, her catechist, baptized Emilia’s newborn daughter with the name Angeles. The new mother died 10 days later.

Ibarra is the author of the book “Emilia, the Basket Maker, Martyr of the Rosary,” which tells of her life and death. He said that Emilia’s devotion to the rosary led her to love Jesus Christ more.

“She fulfilled her maternity, risking her life and in fact she died for lack of medical attention,” the historian said. “She died from her sufferings, for being faithful to her faith, for bringing a life into the world and did not give in to her jailer’s desire that she apostatize.”

For Ibarra, Emilia’s beatification shows the vitality of the Church.

“She is a call to hope and responsibility, who teaches us with her life that God is at our side, even in difficulties,” he said. “Emilia went to prison hardly knowing the faith and when she died, she did so as a friend of God. That is beautiful.”

She was beatified in a group of martyrs from Almeria, Spain. They include cathedral dean Father Jose Alvarez-Benavides y de la Torre and 114 companion martyrs: 95 priests, 20 laymen and two women, including Emilia.

Emilia is the first Romani woman to be beatified. The first male Gypsy blessed, Ceferino Giménez Malla, known as El Pelé, was beatified by Saint John Paul II in 1997. He died in the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War for protecting a priest. Before his persecutors shot him, he held a rosary in his hand and cried out “Long live Christ the King!”

Iberra characterized both Emelia and Ceferino as “martyrs of the rosary” because both of them refused to stop praying it.

“This demonstrates that the Virgin leads us to God. For those two martyrs, she was the Gate of Heaven,” he said.

 

 

 

Love must be core of family life, Pope says ahead of WMOF

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2017 / 05:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis issued a message ahead of the 2018 World Meeting of Families (WMOF), saying couples and families should root their relationships in the love of God, which then propels them to joyfully share it with others.

“I wish to underline how important it is for families to ask themselves often if they live based on love, for love and in love,” the Pope said in his message.

In practice, “this means giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting,” as well as living and repeating daily the phrases “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”

Because of the daily experience we have of weakness and fragility, both families and pastors need a “renewed humility” that will allow them to learn and educate, to help, accompany, discern and educate people from all backgrounds and situations.

“I dream of an outbound Church, not a self-referential one, a Church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful Church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as Love, which is mercy,” he said, adding that “it is this very mercy that makes us new in love.”

“We know how much Christian families are a place of mercy and witnesses of mercy, and even more so after the extraordinary Jubilee,” he said, adding that “the Dublin meeting will be able to offer concrete signs of this.”

Published March 30 and dated March 25, the Pope’s letter was addressed to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the mega-dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

The cardinal was present alongside Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, the diocese hosting the event, for the March 30 presentation of the letter at the Vatican’s Press Office.

The World Meeting of Families will take place Aug. 22-26, 2018, in Dublin and will follow the theme “The Gospel of family, joy for the world.” Given the theme, catechesis for the event will focus specifically on the content of the Pope’s 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetita.”

In his letter, the Pope said organizers have “the task of translating in a special way the teaching of Amoris Laetitia, with which the Church wishes families always to be in step, in that inner pilgrimage that is the manifestation of authentic life.”

While discussion on the document is often reduced to footnote 351 of Chapter 8 on communion for divorced and remarried couples, both Cardinal Farrell and Archbishop Martin said there’s much more to the document, which they hope to convey to the families that come.  

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Farrell said “we seem to focus on just one small, aspect of the apostolic exhortation, however I think many times we overlook the great teaching that exists in Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 of this document.”

“Naturally most of our emphasis in this gathering of families will deal with family life as it is,” he said, explaining that the bulk of the conversation will deal with Chapters 2, 3 and 4, which focus on the vocation of marriage and family life, and their challenges.

“It is so important when we live in a world where family comes under attack from many different sources and many different ideologies, that we explain what we believe as Catholics, as Christians, in married life,” Farrell said, explaining that many times the Church fails to teach what marriage is about.

“We fail to do that many times in the Church in our programs of preparation for married life, we fail to do that in continuing to help young couples after they’ve been married,” he said, stressing the need to accompany couples in the path of marriage, which is dealt with in Chapters 1-7 of Amoris Laetitia.

Similarly, Archbishop Martin told CNA that while the family “is under attack from ideologies” pushed by modern secular society, if they were to ask families how they are being “attacked,” the answers would overwhelmingly center on the day-to-day struggles of how to make ends meet and troubles they might be facing in raising their children.

“These are the challenges that parents need to be supported in so they can carry out their essential role in society and that people really give them the support and confidence to do that,” he said, explaining that Chapter 4 of Amoris Laetitia will likely be a key focal point for the event’s catechesis.

So while the ideologies are certainly present, “it’s the day-to-day realities that parents have to face with their children (and) this is where the Church has to be accompanying, not just accompanying them in problems.”

Speaking to journalists, Cardinal Farrell stressed the importance of the role of the laity and local parishes in preparing for the WMOF, specifically when it comes to reaching out to those who might have abandoned the Church or no longer attend for a variety of reasons.

“We need to be a Church that goes out to the peripheries of society, to those people who don’t listen to us at the present moment, to those families many times that have lost their way or go to church anymore,” he said.

The catechesis done by individual dioceses in the lead-up to the international gathering will be especially important, he said, adding that “it’s imperative” that this preparation take place in parishes since they are the ones who can better reach families that are far off.

“It’s very important that this take place. It’s not just a gathering of three days, this is an effort of the whole Church,” he said, noting that media also play a crucial role.

Laity must also embrace this task, he said, noting that the Church is currently celebrating 50 years since the the Second Vatican Council and 30 years since the publication of St. John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic exhortation “Christifideles laici” on the vocation of laity.

Both of these “spoke to the mission of lay people and the co-responsibility of laity in the Church,” the cardinal said. “Its not just a question of a few priests or a few sisters or a few people engaged in the pastoral life of (their parish), but we need to reach out, we are the communicators.”

And it’s married couples themselves who, in their different parishes and communities, “should be the ones who are responsible for communicating this love that we would hope to re-instill in the lives of so many people, that they would go and communicate it to other couples.”

Archbishop Gomez: English wasn't America's first language

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In recent months, national debates over immigration and deportation have reached a fever pitch in the wake of President Trump's election.

But for Archbishop Jose Gomez, both Catholic principles and the history of America as a home to people from a variety of backgrounds means that the immigration debate has higher stakes than just law enforcement or national sovereignty.

“For me, and for the Catholic Church in this country, immigration is about people. It is about families,” the archbishop said in a March 23 talk at the Catholic University of America.

“We are talking about souls, not statistics.”

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, the archbishop explained that he too was an immigrant, even though he has been an American citizen for more than 20 years. He pointed out that his family has been living in what is now Texas since the early 19th Century, and his family's relationship to both America and immigration reaches back generations.

He also explained that his archdiocese – the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – is not only the largest, with around 5 million Catholics, but the most diverse.

Within the archdiocese, Mass is celebrated and parishioners ministered to in more than 40 languages, from nearly every country in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“The Church is alive here – and active,” he said. “And we are really a Church of immigrants.”
 
Nearly one million of these immigrants who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are undocumented.

Archbishop Gomez argued that this issue of large numbers of undocumented persons is something his adopted country desperately needs to address. This is incredibly important, he said, not only for immigrants and their families, but for America as a whole.

“Everybody right now knows that our immigration system is totally broken and needs to be fixed,” the archbishop said. However, while the United States has a right to secure its borders and enforce its laws, it also has to take responsibility for creating and benefiting from the situation that lead more than 11 million people to come to the country without documentation, he said.

“For many years our country did not enforce its immigration laws,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Why not? Because American businesses were demanding 'cheap' labor. So government officials looked the other way.”

The archbishop argued that “we need to recognize that we all share some of the blame for this broken immigration system.”

“Business is to blame. Government is to blame,” Archbishop Gomez said. “And you and I – we have responsibility, too. We 'benefit' and depend every day on an economy that is built on the backs of undocumented workers. It is just a fact. Immigrants grow our food, they serve us in our restaurants; they clean our rooms and our offices, they build our homes.”

He noted that while undocumented persons may be living here in violation of the law, “we aren’t putting business owners in jail or punishing government workers who didn’t do their job.”

“The only people we are punishing is the undocumented workers,” he charged. “They are the only ones.” While some punishment, such as community service or other requirements to stay in the United States may be appropriate, Archbishop Gomez commented, it is unfair to the families of nearly 11 million people to deport people with families – some of whom have been here for years.

“That is not fair. It is cruel, actually,” Archbishop Gomez said. “These are just ordinary moms and dads – just like your parents – who want to give their kids a better life.”

To balance love, laws, justice, and mercy, Catholics should consider principles that focus on the human person. The first principle, he said, is to recognize that “every immigrant is a human person, a child of God,” regardless of their legal status or background. The second Catholic principle to consider is that"immigration should keep families together.”

Archbishop Gomez pointed out that over a quarter of deportations break up families, and overwhelming majority of these deportations do not apply to violent criminals.

“I do not believe there is any public policy purpose that is served by taking away some little girl’s dad or some little boy’s mom. We are breaking up families and punishing kids for the mistakes of their parents. And that’s not right.”

While some common place policies could quickly resolve the issues surrounding immigration, Archbishop Gomez argued that the real conflict has more to do with ongoing questions about America – questions like what it means to be an American and what America’s mission is in the world.

The archbishop noted that almost all Americans are of immigrant heritage. “But immigration to this country has never been easy.” He pointed out that immigrant groups like the Irish have faced discrimination and hardship.

Yet, the history of America owes much to its immigrant – particularly Hispanic – roots, which long predate the arrival of English settlers, the archbishop said.

“For me – American history begins with Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Archbishop Gomez reflected. Before the founding fathers were born or before the Revolutionary War was fought, Spanish and Mexican missionaries and Philippine immigrants were settling in what is now the United States, celebrating the nation’s first Thanksgiving and establishing churches.”

“Something we should think about: the first non-indigenous language spoken in this country was not English. It was Spanish. We need to really think about what the means,” he said.

What it means, in his opinion, is that we “can no longer afford to tell a story of America that excludes the rich inheritance of Latinos and Asians.”

Conceptions of American identity that don’t incorporate the rich history of these groups, he said, are not only incomplete and inarticulate, they are not as well-set to adjust to the changing landscape of the United States. America is changing, and if America wants to be great, he argued, it needs to speak to the conscience and realities of the United States.

“That is what’s at stake in our immigration debate – the future of this beautiful American story,” Archbishop Gomez concluded. “Our national debate is really a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul.”

Pope's charity goes social

(Vatican Radio) People around the world can now connect directly with the Peter’s Pence Office on Twitter (@Obolus_EN) and Instagram. The Office collects donations offered by the faithful as signs of their sharing in the Pope's concerns for the many different needs of the Universal Church.

Following the successful launch of a website in November 2016, the charitable Office’s goal of communicating directly, accurately and transparently with Catholics around the world and with all people who want to help the most needy has led to the launch of new accounts in English, Italian and Spanish.

Pope Francis’ messages, which can already be found on the Peter’s Pence website, are being posted on Twitter and Instagram on a daily basis, along with photos, reflections and more information about the charitable works of the Holy See. The Office has committed to sustaining projects of all sizes around the world, including the creation of a paediatric hospital in Bangui in the Central African Republic and supporting the first Catholic university in Jordan.

Follow Peter's Pence on Instagram account. Click here to visit the Twitter accounts in Italian and in Spanish. Interact with the Office by using the hashtag: #movingMercy.

Please find below the full communique:

 

Peter’s Pence is now on social network sites Twitter and Instagram

The aim is to go out to those who want to help the most needy and to make them aware of the charitable works being carried out through the solidarity of the faithful across the world, including men and women religious, lay faithful, societies, institutions and foundations, together with the offices closely assisting the Holy Father in the exercise of his mission.

After the launch last November of the new website www.obolodisanpietro.va, the  longstanding charitable Office will now be on social networks. The Twitter and Instagram accounts of Peter’s Pence have been active since 1 March last, with the goal of communicating directly, accurately and transparently with Catholics throughout the world and with all people who want to help those most in need. Peter’s Pence can be found on Twitter in Italian, English and Spanish, whereas there is one Instagram account.

The Messages of Pope Francis found on the Peter’s Pence website are being published daily on Twitter and Instagram, together with photos, reflections and further information on the charitable works of the Holy See carried out through this historic initiative of Christian charity.  As was tweeted in one of the inaugural tweets: “Mercy is about moving together, it is about meeting the needs of the needy”. It is in this spirit that Peter’s Pence has committed itself to sustain small and large projects throughout the world, such as the creation of a pediatric hospital in Bangui in the Central African Republic, the collection taken up to alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and support for the first Catholic University on Jordanian soil.

An initiative of the Holy See and the result of close collaboration between the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for Communication and the Governorate of Vatican City, the three Twitter accounts – “Obolo di San Pietro: @obolus_it”; “Obolo de San Pedro: @obolus_es”; “Peter’s Pence: @obolus_en” – and the Instagram account “Obolus: obolus_va” can now be followed by Catholics throughout the world who are inspired by a common path of mercy: #movingMercy. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope tells Somascan Fathers to continue to serve abandoned youth

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday encouraged Somascan Fathers to continue and further develop their mission to serve the poor and take care of orphans and abandoned youth.

Receiving a group of Somascan Fathers who are holding their General Chapter, the Pope expressed appreciation for the theme chosen for the Chapter: “Let's cross to the other side with our brothers with whom we live and die” and he highlighted their missionary openness.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Pope Francis recalled the shining example provided by the Somascan Fathers’ founder, St. Girolamo Emiliani, and quoted the words of Pope Benedict XVI in a message to the Order asking them  “to take to heart every kind of poverty experienced by our youth: moral, physical, existential poverty; and above all the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem”.

He pointed out that the ideal at the root of St. Girolamo Emiliani’s mission was to reform the Church through works of charity. 

His first project, he said, was to renew his own commitment to faith and the Gospel and then to reach out to the Christian community and to civil society highlighting the plight of the poor and the marginalized and promoting integral human development.

“I encourage you to remain faithful to the original inspiration of your Order and to go out into the world assisting humanity that is wounded and discarded, with evangelically effective choices that arise from the ability to look at the world and humanity through the eyes of Christ” he said.

Underscoring the fact that the care for youth and their human and Christian education is the mark of the charism of Somascans, the Pope lauded their method of education which is centered on the person, on his or her dignity, on the development of intellectual and manual skills.
  
Pope Francis noted that in the effort to make their service more effective, the Somascan Fathers and Brothers are working on new ways to accomplish their mission. 

He encouraged them to be attentive to new and different forms of marginalization in geographical and existential peripheries. 

And, he said: “Do not be afraid to ‘leave the old wineskins’ and address the transformation of structures where this would be useful for a more evangelical and consistent service. Structures, he said, in some cases can give false security and hinder the dynamism of charity”.

But he pointed out that at the basis of these processes there must always be the joyful encounter with Christ.

The Pope invited those present to engage with laypeople of the Somascan community in the effort to protect human rights, enforce child protection and the rights of children and adolescents, oppose child labor, prevent exploitation and fight trafficking. 

“These are issues that must be addressed through the liberating power of the Gospel and, at the same time, through adequate operational tools and professional skills” he said.

Pope Francis recalled that St. Girolamo Emiliani was a contemporary of Luther and suffered for the tear in the fabric of Christian unity.

He urged the Somascan Fathers to continue to teach catechism and to provide formation to catechists in fidelity to the Sacraments and within the love for the Virgin Mary, but he also encouraged them to support ecumenical dialogue and urged them to continue their collaboration with other ecclesial communities, in particular in Africa and in Asia.

“Dear Brothers, you have the task to go forward with the work inspired by St. Girolamo Emiliani, who was declared patron of orphans and abandoned youth by Pope Pius XI” he said.

“I encourage you, Pope Francis concluded, to carry on your journey following your apostolic zeal, always open to new expressions according to the most urgent needs of the Church and society in different times and places”. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope at Mass: ‘God weeps when we go astray from His love’

(Vatican Radio)  Beware of following fantasies and false idols, for only God loves us and waits for us like a father.  That was Pope Francis’ message at Mass on Thursday morning in the Casa Santa Marta.

Commenting on the First Letter from the Book of Exodus, the Holy Father focused on God’s love for His people, despite their infidelity. Even today, he said, it is good for us to ask whether we distance ourselves from the Lord to follow after idols and worldliness.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:

Pope Francis took inspiration from the Book of Exodus to reflect on the “dreams and disappointments of God”. The people, he said, is “God’s dream. He dreamed of them because he loved them.” But the people betrayed the Father’s dreams and so God “began to be disappointed,” asking Moses to come down from the mountain where he had gone to receive the Law. The people “did not have the patience to wait for God” for even 40 days. They had made themselves a golden calf and “they forgot God who had saved them”.

Temptation to infidelity towards God

The prophet Baruc, Pope Francis said, “had a good expression for this people: ‘You have forgotten the One who reared you’”.

“To forget God who made us, who raised us, and who accompanies us in our lives: this is the disappointment of God. And many times in the Gospel Jesus speaks in parables about that man who builds a vineyard, which then fails, because the workers want to take it for themselves. In the human heart there is always this restlessness! It is not satisfied with God, with faithful love. The human heart always tends towards infidelity. This is a temptation.”

God is “disappointed” by the infidelity of His people who go after idols

God, therefore, “through the prophet rebukes this people”, which “is inconstant and does not know how to wait”. They go astray from God to seek another god.

“The disappointment of God is the infidelity of the people… And we are God’s people. We know well how [the dispositions] of our heart, and every day we must take up again the path so as not to slide slowly towards idols, fantasies, worldliness, and infidelity. I think it would do us good today to reflect on the disappointed Lord: ‘Tell me, Lord, are you disappointed in me?’ In something, yes, surely. But reflect, and ask yourself this question.”

Reflect in Lent whether we have distanced ourselves from God

God, Pope Francis affirmed, “has a tender heart, the heart of a father”. He recalled that Jesus wept “over Jerusalem”. Let us ask ourselves, he said, if “God weeps for me”, if “He is disappointed in me”, and if “I have distanced myself from the Lord”. He asked aloud, “How many idols do I have, which I am unable to remove, which make me a slave? The idolatry that we have within us… And God weeps for me.”

“Let us reflect today on this disappointment of God, who created us for love, whilst we go in search of love, of wellbeing elsewhere and not in His love. We distance ourselves from this God who raised us. This is a thought for Lent. It will do us good. Do this small examination of conscience daily: ‘Lord, you who have so many dreams for me, I know that I have gone away from you, but tell me where and how to return…’ The surprise will be that He ever awaits us, like the father of the prodigal son who saw him from afar, because he was waiting for him.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope's letter for Dublin World Meeting of Families presented

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a letter to the organisers of next year’s World Meeting of Families, who presented the event at the Vatican press office on Thursday morning.

The Meeting is scheduled to take place in Dublin, Ireland from August 21st to 26th 2018 on the theme ‘The Gospel of the Family: joy to the world”.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:

In the letter addressed to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the new Vatican office for Laity, Family and Life, the Pope says he hopes the Meeting will be a way for families to deepen their reflection on the document ‘Amoris Laetitia’ which he wrote at the conclusion of the two recent synods on the family.

At the press conference, the cardinal stressed the importance of preparations that will take place in parishes and dioceses ahead of the event. This catechesis must involve lay people as well as clergy, he said, reaching out especially to individuals and families who have grown away from the Church.

"As Pope Francis said we need to be a Church that goes out to the peripheries of society to those people who don't listen to us at the present moment, to those families who have lost their way or who do not go to church any more".

Also present at the press conference was the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin who highlighted the complex combination of faith and secularization which characterizes his country today. He said the meeting will be a challenge for the archdiocese but also an opportunity to underline the importance of family life for Irish society as a whole.

Archbishop Martin said the Church must learn to accompany families and address the real day-to-day difficulties which he hears about from those in his own archdiocese:

"They’d be talking about work, leisure, homelessness, how to make ends meet, how government subsidies are being cut back, how they’d have sleepless nights worrying about their teenage children - these are the challenges they have to be supported in so that they can carry out this essential role in society and that people really give them the support and confidence to do that".

Both leaders hope the meeting will not be a one-off event, but rather a chance for the whole Church to deepen its reflection on the Pope’s words in 'Amoris Laetitia', seeing the family as a vital resource for sharing the message of God’s love with the world.

Neither of them would confirm the Pope’s presence at the Meeting next year, but they did share their hopes that he’ll be attending the event – a hope also expressed in the promotional video for the World Meeting of Families.

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ letter for the World Meeting of Families

To the Venerable Brother Cardinal KEVIN FARRELL, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life

            At the end of the Eighth World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in September 2015, I announced that the subsequent meeting with Catholic families of the world would take place in Dublin. I now wish to initiate preparations, and am pleased to confirm that it will be held from 21 to 26 August 2018, on the theme “The Gospel of the Family: joy for the world”. Indeed, it is my wish for families to have a way of deepening their reflection and their sharing of the content of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

            One might ask: does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also: does the family continue to be good news for today’s world?

            I am sure the answer is yes! And this “yes” is firmly based on God’s plan. The love of God is His “yes” to all creation and at the heart of this latter is man. It is God’s “yes” to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God’s “yes” and His commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love. The family, therefore, is the “yes” of God as Love. Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God’s love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers.

            I wish to underline how important it is for families to ask themselves often if they live based on love, for love and in love. In practice, this means giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. Every day we have the experience of fragility and weakness, and therefore we all, families and pastors, are in need of renewed humility that forms the desire to form ourselves, to educate and be educated, to help and be helped, to accompany, discern and integrate all men of good will. I dream of an outbound Church, not a self-referential one, a Church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful Church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as Love, which is Mercy. It is this very mercy that makes us new in love; and we know how much Christian families are a place of mercy and witnesses of mercy, and even more so after the extraordinary Jubilee. The Dublin meeting will be able to offer concrete signs of this.

            I therefore invite all the Church to keep these indications in mind in the pastoral preparation for the next World Meeting.

            You, dear Brother, along with your collaborators, have the task of translating in a special way the teaching of Amoris Laetitia, with which the Church wishes families always to be in step, in that inner pilgrimage that is the manifestation of authentic life.

            My thoughts go in a special way to the archdiocese of Dublin and to all the dear Irish nation for the generous welcome and commitment involved in hosting such an important event. May the Lord recompense you as of now, granting you abundant heavenly favours.

            May the Holy Family of Nazareth guide, accompany and bless your service, and all the families involved in the preparation of the great World Meeting in Dublin.

            From the Vatican, 25 March 2017

FRANCIS

(from Vatican Radio)

Facing large decline in priest numbers, an Irish diocese preps for change

Longford, Ireland, Mar 30, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In one Irish diocese, the number of active priests may halve in fewer than 15 years. As a result, Bishop Francis Duffy of Ardagh and Clonmacnois has aimed to prepare his flock to take on more active roles.

“This ongoing development will impact every parish in the diocese and will bring about considerable change in how the parishes are organized and also in the way the Good News of Jesus Christ is passed on to succeeding generation,” he said in a new pastoral letter. “Critically, there will also be an impact on the workload of priests and their welfare is our concern in this changing context.”

Bishop Duffy’s March 24 pastoral letter focused on sustaining the Catholic faith community in the diocese.

“Many of you will fondly remember when there were two or three priests working in your parish and where now there is only one. Three of our parishes do not have a resident priest,” he said. “This trend of a declining number of clergy is set to continue.”

The diocese is located in the northern area of the Republic of Ireland. At present, its 53 diocesan priests serve 41 parishes. The diocese has four priests serving from abroad and from missionary congregations.

The diocese has no seminarians in formation.

By 2030, 28 of the diocese’s 53 diocesan priests will have reached the retirement age of 75.

Bishop Duffy said that soon parishes may lack a resident priest or have to share a priest with a neighboring parish. This will affect every parish in the diocese and bring “considerable change.”

He offered his blessing and “heartfelt gratitude” to deacons, parish catechists,  religious educators, lay ministers, and volunteers and workers in parish support roles.

These are “positive developments” amid the decline in the numbers of priests, Bishop Duffy said.

But the decline in priests’ numbers make it important that some responsibilities of the clergy will be shared with parishioners “even more so than at present.”

“At this time you and our priests have a unique and precious opportunity to serve the Lord by encouraging and engaging with each other to prepare for and take on responsibility for the formation, promotion and practice of the faith at local level in changing circumstances,” Bishop Duffy continued.

“We continue to pray for and promote vocations to priesthood and religious life. A time of decline in one area can be an opportunity for growth in other areas. I firmly believe the Lord is with us in change and will provide opportunities for the local church communities to continue to flourish in new ways.”

In DRC, political uncertainty after bishops withdraw from peace talks

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mar 29, 2017 / 08:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Political unrest and uncertainty about the future have grown in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following the Catholic bishops’ withdrawal from mediation talks aimed to resolve national political tensions.

“We think that there’s no longer anything to do,” Msgr. Donatien Nshole, secretary general of the Congolese bishops’ conference, told Reuters on Tuesday. “We have given all our time and all our energy.”

The bishops’ conference helped negotiate a Dec. 31 agreement that aimed to avoid political crisis through securing a 2017 election that would choose the successor of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila.

The agreement brought the country back from the brink of renewed civil war.

After the bishops’ latest announcement, the president’s opposition announced a nationwide protest for April 10. The largest party in the opposition coalition, UDPS, called on its supporters to hold “a big, peaceful march” and to “resist the dictatorship taking root.”

President Kabila’s office announced on television that talks would continue, saying “the current impasse must in no way signify a definitive rupture of the dialogue.”

Sporadic unrest and protests also broke out after the bishops’ announcement. Police fired shots and tear gas to dissuade some protesters.

Political unrest in Congo under President Kabila has been increasing since January 2015, after a bill proposed that the president could remain in power while a national census was conducted, potentially delaying presidential and parliamentary elections.

Protesters who saw the bill as a power grab by President Kabila took to the streets in what sometimes turned into deadly clashes with the country’s security forces.

In January 2017, the bishops had warned that the Dec. 31 agreement was at risk of unraveling unless political leaders worked quickly to compromise and implement it.

In February, Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, the country’s capital, reported an arson attack on a seminary and a gang attack on a church that overturned a tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some pews, and tried to set fire to the church. The cardinal told the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need he thought the Church was being targeted deliberately “in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation.”