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Mercy Friday: Pope makes surprise visit to residence centers for the sick

Rome, Italy, Dec 7, 2018 / 10:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Continuing his ‘Mercy Friday’ initiative, Pope Francis visited two live-in health centers in the far southern suburbs of Rome today, where he spoke with residents and gifted a 22-pound Christmas cake.

Around 3:30 pm, the pope left the Vatican to visit the CasAmica, a home for people with chronic illnesses who need continual medical care. The facility accepts those with serious economic difficulties, and their families, who need support for daily needs.

The residents of the CasAmica are mostly from southern Italy, with some from North Africa and Eastern Europe.

According to a Vatican press release on the pope’s Dec. 7 visit, the fact that most of the guests are from outside Rome “highlights the phenomenon of ‘health migration,’ with the addition of the burden of hardship and poverty that it entails.”

During his visit, Pope Francis stopped to play and joke with children in the game room of the center and exchanged a few words of comfort with parents.

He also listened to the stories of two children, Achille, 13, and Andrei, 11, who have cancer; of Sandra and Plamen from Bulgaria and Arwa from Morocco, who are each 3-5 years old and suffering from hematological diseases; and of two men and a woman affected by cancer.

Francis greeted everyone, leaving gifts for the families and a special parchment with a message recording his visit.

Following the visit to CasAmica, the pope went to a rehabilitation center called Il Ponte e l’Albero (The Bridge and the Tree), which is in a poor area on the southern outskirts of Rome.

Twelve young people with mental illnesses, and who come from difficult family conditions, live at the center. When he arrived, the pope surprised the boys in the middle of an activity and sat down to speak with them and answer their questions.

Several months ago, three of the boys had written a letter to the pope to tell him about their difficulties living with mental illness and their effort to continue the journey to wellness with their doctors.

For the upcoming holiday, the pope gifted the residents of the center a 22-pound panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas cake.

The Algerian martyrs shed their blood for Christ, pope says

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2018 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the beatification Saturday of Bishop Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions, who were martyred in Algeria between 1994 and 1996, Pope Francis said martyrs have a special place in the Church.

“The Church has always paid special devotion to the martyrs, who have faith and love for the Lord Jesus, even to the shedding of their blood as witness,” he wrote in a letter to Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.

Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Becciu, as the pope’s envoy, will celebrate the Dec. 8 beatification of the 19 Algerian martyrs at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Oran.

In his letter, composed in Latin, the pope recalled the suffering and persecution experienced by Christ, quoting his words to his disciples that “a servant is no greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

These words have been confirmed throughout time and place in the persecution and martyrdom of Christians, he continued.

“Persecutions are not a reality of the past,” he said, quoting his 2018 apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, “for today too we experience them, whether by the shedding of blood, as is the case with so many contemporary martyrs, or by more subtle means, by slander and lies.”

He also said that “at other times, persecution can take the form of gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous.”

But Christians should not be afraid of persecution, Francis said, because Christ told his followers that “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. […] And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

The death of these 19 martyrs has acted like a seed planted in the desert, and “the seeds have sprouted,” resulting in the growth of virtues, Francis said. The martyrs loved eternal life more than death, and now “they possess what they loved, and they will possess it even more fully at the resurrection of the dead.”

Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to recognize the martyrdoms in January.

Bishop Claverie, who was a French Algerian and the Bishop of Oran from 1981 until his Aug. 1, 1996 martyrdom, is one of the future blesseds. He and his companions were killed during the Algerian Civil War by Islamists.

In addition to Claverie, those being beatified are: Brother Henri Vergès, Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond, Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso, Sister Caridad Álvarez Martín, Fr. Jean Chevillard, Fr. Alain Dieulangard, Fr. Charles Deckers, Fr. Christian Chessel, Sister Angèle-Marie Littlejohn, Sister Bibiane Leclercq, Sister Odette Prévost, Brother Luc Dochier, Brother Christian de Chergé, Brother Christophe Lebreton, Brother Michel Fleury, Brother Bruno Lemarchand, Brother Célestin Ringeard, and Brother Paul Favre-Miville.

The best known of Claverie's companions are the seven monks of Tibhirine, who were kidnapped from their Trappist priory in March 1996. They were kept as a bartering chip to procure the release of several imprisoned members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and were killed in May. Their story was dramatized in the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

After the death of the monks of Tibhirine, Bishop Claverie knew his life was in serious danger. A bomb exploded at the entrance of his chancery Aug. 1, 1996, killing him and an aide, Mohamed Bouchikhi.

Pope Francis explains symbolism of Vatican Christmas tree and sand nativity

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2018 / 09:30 am (CNA).- As the Vatican illuminated its 65-foot Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square Friday, Pope Francis shared the deeper meaning found in the traditional festive spruce.

The signs and symbols found in Christmas traditions can “help us to contemplate the mystery of God made man to be close to each one of us,” Francis said Dec. 7.

“The Christmas tree with its lights reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives away the darkness of animosity and makes room for forgiveness,” he continued.

The great height of this year’s Christmas tree -- cut from Italy’s Cansiglio forest -- symbolizes that the Son of God, who lowered himself in assuming the human condition to draw man up to himself, the pope explained.

God raises man “from the fogs of selfishness and sin” and invites him to “participate in his divine and incorruptible nature.”

The Vatican also unveiled the annual nativity scene in St. Peter’s square, this year sculpted entirely out of sand. The 52-foot-wide sand sculpture of Mary, Joseph, the Child Jesus, and an angel was created by four international artists using around 700 tons of sand brought from the Dolomites.

The concept of a sand nativity originated from a tradition from the Northern Italian beach-town of Jesolo, where professional sand sculptors from around the world create original renderings of the nativity and other Christian stories for locals and visitors to enjoy each Christmas season.

Pope Francis reflected that sand is a humble, poor material that “recalls the simplicity, the smallness with which God showed himself at the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem.”

“Contemplating the God child, who emanates light in the humility of the nativity scene, we can also become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness,” Francis said.

Pope Francis encouraged families and communities come together to reflect upon the meaning of  these Christmas traditions:

“The nativity and the tree, fascinating symbols of Christmas, can bring families and meeting places a reflection of the light and tenderness of God to help everyone to live the feast of the birth of Jesus.”

At USCCB conference, advocate explains immigrant recruitment fraud

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- An immigrant rights group hopes the Maryland legislature will protect migrant workers in the state from labor trafficking and fraud by banning recruitment fees, licensing recruiters for jobs, and prohibiting discrimination in recruitment.

It is fairly common for migrant workers to be charged a fee by a recruiter to be matched with a job in the United States.

But some migrants have reported paying the fee for a promised job that does not really exist. In other scams, a job is real, but the work is very different than the initial job description.

Rachel Micah-Jones, founder and executive director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., a transnational migrant rights organization based in Mexico and the United States, explained to CNA that a labor trafficking and fraud bill is important for Maryland because of the number of foreign workers in the state.

Michah-Jones says a labor-trafficking bill could create a system of licensing for recruiters, and a registry of recruitment agencies. This bilingual registry would be a way for a potential worker to verify that the job they are being offered actually exists and that the terms of employment are what they are expecting. This registry would also be a way to track employers, create a level of oversight, and crack down on labor trafficking.

Micah-Jones spoke Dec. 6 on a panel at the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services “Justice for Immigrants” conference held in Arlington, Va.

While similar bills have been proposed in California and New Jersey, Micah-Jones highlighted the importance of this legislation for the Old Line State. Maryland is “a big destination state” for international workers, she explained, and has “the full alphabet soup” of visa holders who work in industries across the state.

“This bill is really important because it would prohibit the charging of fees for workers who are recruited to work in the state of Maryland,” she said. These recruitment fees make migrant workers more vulnerable to abuse, as they are indebted to their employer. Other times, these workers may be discouraged or afraid to speak out about abuse on the job due to fear of losing their visa.

These types of fees “need to be eradicated,” said Micah-Jones. Nearly 37,000 guest workers came to work in Maryland in 2016. The largest percentage of these workers were in the United States on J-1 visas, and worked as au pairs, camp counselors, or in internships.  

In addition to the elimination of fees, a bill could also add transparency to the international labor recruitment system, which Micah-Jones said is “crucial” for the prevention of fraud.

Micah-Jones thinks that the passage of such a bill would be a “huge step forward” to increasing transparency and accountability for recruiters who are bringing workers to Maryland.

“Many workers are recruited for jobs that oftentimes that don’t exist, (even) after paying for those jobs,” she added.


What is the Apostles' Creed, anyway? A CNA Explainer

Denver, Colo., Dec 6, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- During Wednesday's funeral for George H.W. Bush, US President Donald Trump made headlines when he did not recite the Apostles' Creed. Supporters and critics of the president speculated on what his omission might have meant.

But the occasion raises another important question: What is the Apostles’ Creed, and what does it mean?  

The Apostles' Creed is a developed expression of the faith handed down by the apostles, which originated in Rome and is used by the Catholic Church and the ecclesial communities of the West.

The creed took shape in the second or third century in connection with baptism, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, wrote in his 1968 work Introduction to Christianity.

Catechumens in those centuries were asked successively if they believed in each of the three persons of the Trinity, responding, “I believe”.

“Thus the oldest form of the confession of faith takes the shape of a tripartite dialogue, of question and answer, and is, moreover, embedded in the ceremony of baptism,” Ratzinger wrote.

The middle section of the creed, concerning God the Son, was expanded in the second, or, probably, third century, and it was in the fourth century that a continuous text, detached from the question and answer format, began to emerge.

The text of the Apostles' Creed was finalized in Gaul during the ecclesiastical reforms of Charlemagne in the ninth century. That text was received in Rome, and the creed has been used in the same form ever since.

Ratzinger noted that the Apostles’ Creed is focused on salvation history and Christology, and is rooted in the ecclesiastical form of faith: that “faith demands unity and calls for the fellow believer; it is by nature related to a Church.”

The creed was treated by the early Church as a kind of symbolum, a tradition whereby a ring, staff, or tablet would be broken in half, and the corresponding halves used as identification for guests, messengers, or treater partners.

“Possession of the corresponding piece entitled the holder to receive a thing or simply to hospitality. A symbolum is something which points to its complementary other half and thus creates mutual recognition and unity. It is the expression and means of unity,” according to Ratzinger.

“In the description of the creed or profession of faith as the symbolum we have at the same time a profound interpretation of its true nature. For in fact this is just what the original meaning or aim of dogmatic formulations in the Church was: to facilitate a common profession of faith in God, common worship of him.”

The Apostles' Creed's connection to a dialogue between the Church and a catechumen during the ceremony of baptism is thus reflective of the communal nature of faith, which arises in the Church.

It also demonstrates that it is in worship that doctrine “assumes its proper place,” Ratzinger wrote, and that the Church “belongs necessarily to a faith whose significance lies in the interplay of common confession and worship.”

According to the Pope emeritus, the Church herself “holds the faith only as a symbolum ... which signifies truth only in its endless reference to something beyond itself, to the quite other.”

This profession of faith was called the Apostles' Creed at least as early as 390, when a council headed by St. Ambrose used the term in a letter to St. Siricius.

A legend holds that it is known as the Apostles' Creed because it includes 12 articles, each of which was contributed by an apostle before their dispersal.

This legend “has the disadvantage of calling attention to a division ... into twelve articles,” Henri de Lubac wrote in The Christian Faith, “whereas the structure of the Creed is tripartite because Christian faith is essentially faith in the indivisible Trinity.”

Moreover, this legend was discredited when at the Council of Florence in the 15th century, the Latins were surprised to find that the Greeks did not use the Apostles' Creed.

The Apostles' Creed has not been received by the Eastern Orthodox because it was not a subject of the first seven ecumenical councils; their sole profession of faith is the Nicene Creed. This has led at least a few journalists to wonder if perhaps Trump is seeking admission to an Eastern Church.

The Apostles' Creed was used liturgically in the Latin rite of the Church until 1955. Prior to that year's reform of the general calendar and the rubrics of the Roman Breviary, it was recited at the beginning of Matins and Prime, at the end of Compline, and during the preces of Prime and Compline during certain seasons.


Declaración del Presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos en relación a la muerte del Presidente George H.W. Bush

WASHINGTON— El Cardenal Daniel N. DiNardo, Arzobispo de Galveston-Houston y Presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos, emitió un comunicado sobre el fallecimiento del Presidente George Herbert Walker Bush.

La declaración completa del Cardenal DiNardo es la siguiente:

“Nos unimos a las personas de todo el país al lamentar el fallecimiento del Presidente George H.W. Bush. Recordamos con gratitud a este gran hombre que pasó su vida desinteresadamente al servicio de su país. Con un compromiso inquebrantable de construir puentes de paz y garantizar las libertades de nuestra nación, también inspiró a muchos como un devoto esposo, padre y patriarca de la familia. En nombre de mis hermanos Obispos de Estados Unidos, oramos por el descanso del alma de nuestro cuadragésimo primer presidente al recordar una vida bien vivida. También ofrecemos nuestras más sinceras condolencias y oraciones por su familia afligida y por todos aquellos que lloran su muerte. Que encuentren paz y consuelo en el amor consolador de Jesucristo".
Palabras clave: Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos, USCCB, Presidente George Herbert Walker Bush, Cuadragésimo Primer Presidente, Cardenal Daniel N. DiNardo,

Contactos de prensa:

Judy Keane

Miguel Guilarte


President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Statement on the Death of President George H.W. Bush

WASHINGTON--Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement on the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows: 

“We join with people across the nation as we mourn the passing of President George H.W. Bush. We remember with gratitude this great man who spent his life selflessly in service of his country. With an unwavering commitment to building bridges of peace and ensuring our nation's freedoms, he also inspired many as a devoted husband, father and family patriarch.   

On behalf of my brother bishops of the United States, we pray for the repose of the soul of our forty-first president as we remember a life well lived.  

We also offer our deepest sympathy and prayers for his bereaved family and all those who mourn his passing. May you find peace and comfort in the consoling love of Jesus Christ.”

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, President George H.W. Bush, forty-first President, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo


Media Contact:
Judy Keane


El Papa Francisco Nombra al Obispo Auxiliar de Austin como el Nuevo Obispo de Monterey

WASHINGTON— El Papa Francisco nombró al Obispo Auxiliar de Austin, TX, el Reverendísimo Daniel E. García, como el nuevo Obispo de Monterey, CA.  

El nombramiento fue publicado en Washington hoy martes 27 de noviembre de 2018 por el Arzobispo Christophe Pierre, Nuncio Apostólico en los Estados Unidos.

El Obispo García nació el 30 de agosto de 1960 en Cameron, Texas. Él obtuvo una Licenciatura en Artes en el Seminario de Saint Mary's en la Universidad de St. Thomas en 1984 y más tarde completó sus estudios de Maestría en Divinidad en Saint Mary's en 1988. En 2007, obtuvo una Maestría en Artes en Estudios Litúrgicos en la Escuela de Teología de Saint John.

El Reverendísimo García fue ordenado sacerdote para la Diócesis de Austin el 28 de mayo de 1988. Desde entonces, ha servido en las parroquias de St. Catherine de Siena, Cristo Rey, St. Louis y St. Vincent de Paul, todas en Austin. También sirvió tres años en la Arquidiócesis de Galveston-Houston en la parroquia St. Mary Magdalene en Humble, Texas. En la Diócesis de Austin, se ha desempeñado como decano y miembro de la Junta de Personal de los Sacerdotes, el Colegio de Consultores y la Comisión Litúrgica Diocesana, así como miembro y presidente del Consejo Presbiteral.

El 21 de enero de 2015, el Papa Francisco lo nombró Obispo Auxiliar de la Diócesis de Austin, el primer obispo auxiliar en la historia de esa diócesis, así como Obispo Titular de Capsus. Fue ordenado obispo el 3 de marzo de 2015.

El obispo García se desempeña actualmente como Presidente del Subcomité de Adoración en Español de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB). También es miembro del Comité de Divina Adoración; del Comité de Comunicaciones y Consultor del Subcomité de Asuntos Hispanos de la USCCB.
El Obispo Daniel García ha sido nombrado Obispo de la Diócesis de Monterey luego de la muerte del obispo Richard García el 11 de julio de 2018, debido a complicaciones de la enfermedad de Alzheimer con la que había sido diagnosticado el pasado abril.
La Diócesis de Monterey abarca 21.916 millas cuadradas en California, con una población total de 1.048.237 personas, de las cuales 209.650 ó el 20 por ciento, son católicas.

Palabras clave: Papa Francisco, Christophe Pierre, Nuncio Apostólico, Obispo Daniel D. García, Obispo Richard J. García, Diócesis de Monterey.

Contactos de prensa:
Judy Keane

Miguel Guilarte


Pope Francis Names Auxiliary Bishop to Lead Diocese of Monterey

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named the auxiliary bishop of Austin, the Most Reverend Daniel E. Garcia, as the new Bishop of Monterey.  

The appointment was publicized in Washington on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Garcia was born August 30, 1960 in Cameron, Texas. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary's Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in 1984. He completed his Master of Divinity studies at Saint Mary's in 1988. In 2007, he earned a Master of Arts in Liturgical Studies from the Saint John’s School of Theology.  

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin on May 28, 1988. Since then, he has served at the parishes of St. Catherine of Siena, Cristo Rey, St. Louis, and St. Vincent de Paul, all in Austin. He also served three years in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Humble, Texas. In the Diocese of Austin, he has served as a dean and as a member of the Priests' Personnel Board, the College of Consultors, and the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, as well as a member and chairman of the Presbyteral Council.

On January 21, 2015, Pope Francis appointed him as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, the first auxiliary bishop in the history of the diocese, as well as Titular Bishop of Capsus. He was ordained a bishop on March 3, 2015.

Bishop Garcia currently serves as Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Worship in Spanish. He is a member of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship and the USCCB Committee on Communications, as well as a consultant to the USCCB Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs.

Bishop Daniel Garcia has been named bishop following the death of Bishop Richard Garcia of Monterey on July 11, 2018, due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed with the disease in April 2018.

The Diocese of Monterey is comprised of 21,916 square miles in California with a total population of 1,048,237 of which 209,650 or 20 percent, are Catholic.  


Keywords: Pope Francis, Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Daniel D. Garcia, Bishop Richard J. Garcia, Diocese of Monterey


Media Contact:

Judy Keane




WASHINGTON—Following the tragic shooting yesterday in Chicago, Illinois, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling for prayers and steps to curb gun violence.

The full statement of Cardinal DiNardo follows:

"Yesterday, at a place which should be a center of healing, a police officer, a doctor and a pharmaceutical resident lost their lives in a senseless act of gun violence. The shooting was carried out at Mercy Hospital on the south side of Chicago. We entrust to Almighty God the victims and their loved ones and for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May her love and compassion embrace and bring comfort to those who sorrow.

Again, we must ask the question how a person capable of such violence was able to obtain a firearm to carry out this heinous act. In our desire to help promote a culture of life, we bishops will continue to ask that public policies be supported to enact reasonable gun measures to help curb this pervasive plague of gun violence. Our prayers are with the staff of Mercy Hospital and the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago as they continue God’s healing work.”
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Archdiocese of Chicago, violence, Mercy Hospital, prayers, healing
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Media Contact:  
Judy Keane