Archive of May 23, 2010

Church to celebrate feast of French Revolution saint

CNA STAFF, May 23, 2010 (CNA) - On Sunday, May 23, the universal Church will celebrate the feast day of St. Jane Antide Thouret, a Sister of Charity who worked tirelessly for the faith amidst persecution during the French Revolution in the 18th century.

Jane was born in Sancy, France, in 1765 to a poor family and her mother died when she was 16 years old. The saint took on many family responsibilities until she joined the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris at the age of 22, working among the sick in various hospitals.

During the French Revolution, when many religious and priests were killed, she was ordered to return home to a secular life. Jane refused, and when she tried to escape the authorities, she was badly beaten.

St. Jane Antide Thouret finally returned to Sancy, where she cared for the sick and opened a small school for girls until she was forced to flee to Switzerland. She fled to Germany before returning again to Switzerland to found a school and hospital in 1799 and a congregation called the Institute of the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul. The community eventually expanded into France and Italy.

She died 30 years after the founding of her community, in 1828 of natural causes.

In 1934, she was canonized by Pope Puis XI.

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Convert looks forward to serving God in unique way

Minneapolis, Minn., May 23, 2010 (CNA) - Raised Lutheran, Deacon Doug Pierce considered careers in chemistry, classics, math and music. He thought about getting married and having a big family. But after he became Catholic in 2002, Deacon Pierce felt called to priesthood.

“I decided that I wanted to be able to live a celibate life,” he said, “because in that way, I’d be able to serve God in a unique way that I wouldn’t be able to if I had a family.”

Deacon Pierce was an undergraduate student at St. Olaf College in Northfield when he decided to convert. Amid the college life, he went to daily Mass and adoration, and discerned his vocation.

“As I was beginning to think about it, people would mention that, ‘Maybe that’s what God is calling you to,’” he said, “even without me asking about it.”

He attended an annual vocational retreat with Archbishop Harry Flynn. He transferred to St. John Vianney, graduating in 2006, and then entered St. Paul Seminary.

Anticipating sacraments

Deacon Pierce said he is looking forward to celebrating Mass and hearing confessions after being ordained.

“[Confession] is one of the things I look forward to most, actually,” he said. “I’ve experienced its power, and I want to be able to give people the most healing that they can experience, which is God’s forgiveness and God’s mercy.

“To say those words of absolution over someone and to help them grow in their faith, I think that’s the most important thing.”

Deacon Pierce spent last summer as a deacon in Faribault, where he participated in many aspects of ministry.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” he said. “I enjoyed every aspect of ministry there. We had Hispanic ministry and prison ministry. I loved that.”

Deacon Pierce also worked with some home-schooling families in the area, leading to his first invitation to celebrate Mass.

“The first Mass request I have is the graduation Mass for the home-school families in Faribault, so it will be No. 4,” he said. “It will be great.”

Learning to minister

Deacon Pierce said he learned some important lessons while ministering in Faribault and at St. Bernard in St. Paul, including patience and reaching out to people in different ways.

“In order to effectively minister to people [one must] really know where they’re coming from and reach out to them in a way that really impacts them,” he said. “For me, I tend to minister to people in ways that I would like to be ministered to, but that’s not necessarily effective. So I’ve worked on that.”

In one of his homilies at St. Bernard, Deacon Pierce spoke at Saturday Mass about Moses and the burning bush, and he compared it to the Eucharist. But, he said, the congregation didn’t seem engaged.

After Mass, the pastor, Father Mike Anderson, asked Deacon Pierce what he thinks of when he has a divine experience. The pastor then suggested the experience of walking into the Cathedral for the first time.

Deacon Pierce altered his homily to talk about that excitement, and the parishioners were much more engaged, he said.

“It worked out after my pastor suggested something they could grasp,” he said. “He’s been very helpful. I wish I could always have him there.”

As a Spanish speaker, Deacon Pierce especially enjoyed his experience with Hispanic ministry in Faribault. He hopes to continue that ministry in the future, he said.

Among his many gifts to the priesthood, Pierce said he believes he is sensitive because of different family experiences in his past.

Also, as a newer Catholic, Pierce said he will bring enthusiasm in teaching the faith.

“Becoming Catholic, I learned a lot in that stage,” he said. “I like explaining the faith, describing why we believe something.”

Printed with permission from The Catholic Spirit, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

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Cuban cardinal warns against hasty judgments of political prisoners' situation

Havana, Cuba, May 23, 2010 (CNA) - In a press conference held on Wednesday in the Cuban capital after a meeting with President Raúl Castro, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana, explained that among the topics covered at the meeting were the White Ladies, a group protesting the captivity of their husbands in the country, and political prisoners.

In regard to prisoners, he said, one cannot jump to conclusions about when they will be released or when the government will take concrete actions, but the cardinal affirmed that “the topic is being dealt with seriously.”

The Wednesday meeting was held between President Raul Castro, Caridad Diego Bello, Head of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee’s Office of Religious Affairs; Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Archbishop Dionisio García, President of Cuba’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Before the journalists’ questions began at the conference, Cardinal Ortega explained that the meeting with President Castro cannot be viewed as an act of compromise. Instead, he noted, their discussion led to a series of conversations “that had a magnificent beginning and which ought to continue.”

The discussions at one point touched on the topic of political prisoners and the White Ladies, a group of women who protest the fact that their husbands are being held captive as political prisoners by demonstrating while wearing white. Archbishop Garcia indicated that conversation with the president was inconclusive but that “we are working on the topic.” He added that one cannot race to conclusions regarding dates or concrete actions, though he did emphasize “the topic is being dealt with seriously, that I can say.”

Archbishop Garcia later said that though there have been disagreements in the past, Wednesday’s meeting was significant for the assistance it gave to the Church’s efforts of mediation, and for the recognition it gave to the role of the Church as an interlocutor. The meeting, he added, helped set aside old grievances in order to work together in a new direction.

The conversations, the archbishop added, should not be used to interpret relationship between the state and the Church as being a “strategic alliance,” because this phrase has military or political connotations. The Church ought to act within society with the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution but never under any type of alliance. The importance of the recent meeting stems from this, he added. In this way, it is possible overcome old conceptions and stereotypes in order to enter in that which is the nature of the Church and her mission in society.

The meeting with Raúl Castro, said Cardinal Ortega, opens a new era. Above all, it must be kept in mind that the meeting was not to dialogue about problems in the Church, but rather to dialogue about Cuba, about the present moment, and about the future. “And that is how it was for more than 4 hours,” he indicated. This important event ushers in the necessary phase of dialogue. Quoting Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Garcia said, “Dialogue is the new name of peace.”

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Bishops in England and Wales condemn abortion ads on TV

London, England, May 23, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops' Conference in England and Wales has condemned TV ads promoting abortion services that recently aired throughout the United Kingdom, charging that the “exploitative promotion” of abortion is not “in the interests of the health or psychological well-being of women.”

Marie Stopes International, a self-described non-profit organization for sexual and reproductive health, will run TV ads for abortion services throughout the U.K. as part of their “Are you late?” campaign which is set to air until June 4.

“We hope the new ‘Are you late?’ campaign will encourage people to talk about abortion more openly and honestly, and empower women to make confident, informed choices about their sexual health,” said Dana Hovig, CEO of Marie Stopes International on May 20.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the bishops condemned the ads, stating that “services which offer or refer for abortion - whether commercial or not-for-profit organizations - should not be allowed to advertise on broadcast media.”

“Abortion is not a consumer service,” the spokesperson added. “To present it as such erodes respect for life and is highly misleading and damaging to women, who may feel pressured into making a quick decision, which can never be revoked.”

“Moreover, to allow the broadcasting advertising of abortion-referral services is, in effect, to allow the exploitative promotion of these services and is not in the interests of the health or psychological well-being of women.

“The Bishops of England and Wales encourage and support women to make informed choices about their emotional, psychological and physical well-being,” the statement continued, adding that the bishops “support a number of charities which do this, in particular the organization called ‘LIFE’ which offers confidential information, counseling and practical help and support for women contemplating abortion, suffering after pregnancy loss or struggling to cope after abortion.”

John Smeaton, director for the U.K.-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), likewise condemned the ad campaign, charging that “Marie Stopes may claim to be a non-profit organization, but they have a financial interest in drumming up demand for abortion.”

Smeaton added that the pro-abortion organization has a history of displaying a “cavalier attitude to obeying legal restrictions regarding abortion, and has been implicated in illegal abortions overseas.”

“Although Marie Stopes claims to be a charity helping women,” he noted, “its huge multi-national revenue means it can afford TV advertising, which is hugely expensive. This creates an unfair playing field, as pro-life groups simply cannot afford any such advertising.”

“Allowing abortion to be advertised on TV will lead to more unborn babies being killed and to more women and girls suffering the after-effects of abortion,” Smeaton underscored. “Abortion ads will trivialize abortion. It is an insult to the hundreds of women hurt by abortion every day. Such ads are offensive and will mislead viewers about the reality of abortion.”

The ads have already been banned in Northern Ireland, where the United Kingdom's Abortion Act of 1967 does not apply.

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Catholic Church must always be universal, Pope proclaims on Pentecost

Vatican City, May 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pentecost reminds us as Christians of the universality and unity of the Church, Pope Benedict said during Mass on Sunday. The Church, he stated, must always be Catholic and universal, “the home of all in which each person can find himself again.”

The Holy Father presided over Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, concelebrating with 30 cardinals and 50 bishops and archbishops, to the accompaniment of Sistine Chapel Choir.

Pentecost, said Pope Benedict during his homily, invites us as a Church to make the invocation “Come Holy Spirit!” with particular intensity, calling for “the gift that Jesus asked and continually asks of the Father for his friends.”

It is “the first and principal gift that he obtained for us with his Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven,” the Pope explained.

“From the Son of God dead, risen and returned to the Father now blows over humankind, with unparalleled energy, the divine breath, the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Father went on to describe the effects of this “new and powerful self-communication of God” in the world.

Where there is distress and detachment, the Holy Spirit creates unity and comprehension in the world, reunifying the human family in its divisions, and opening those in competition to communion, thus making of them “a new organism, a new subject: the Church.”

“This, in effect, is the work of God: unity; therefore unity is the sign of recognition, the ‘business card’ of the Church in the course of its universal history,” the Pope said.

In this “criteria of unity and universality,” observed the Holy Father, the Universal Church, one and Catholic, rises over all others, which “must always conform themselves to it” and “harmonize themselves with it.”

It is never a “prisoner” to political, racial and cultural limitations, he continued, and should not be confused with state or federal unions, because “its unity is of a different type and aspires to cross all human borders.”

Wrapping up his reflection on unity and universality in the Church, Pope Benedict emphasized that “Always and in every place the Church must be truly Catholic and universal, the home of all in which each person can find himself again.”

In his extensive homily, the Holy Father also spoke eloquently of the difference between the fire of God, the Spirit, which doesn't destroy but illuminates the way for humanity, and the fire of war and bombs, "lit by dictators of every age ... who leave the land burned behind them."

The Holy Spirit, he said, is "a flame that burns but doesn't destroy."

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No Church without Pentecost, no Pentecost without Mary, Pope says

Vatican City, May 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Before reciting the Regina Coeli prayer from his apartment window, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Pentecost and the constant “effusion” of the Holy Spirit on the Church, “without which it would exhaust its forces, like a sailboat lacking wind.” He taught that there is no Church without Pentecost and no Pentecost without Mary.

The celebration of the Solemnity renews strong moments of unity on local and universal levels, he said, citing the Vatican Councils and the occasion of John Paul II’s meeting with ecclesial movements in the Square in 1998 as examples.

“But the Church,” he continued, “knows innumerable ‘pentecosts’ that enliven the local communities: think of the Liturgy, in particular of those that lived in special moments for the life of the community, in those the strength of God is perceived in an evident way, instilling joy and enthusiasm in souls.

“We think of so many prayer conventions, in which the young people feel clearly the call of God to root their lives in his love, also consecrating themselves entirely to Him,” said Pope Benedict.

“So,” he observed, “there is no Church without Pentecost.”

And, he added before the Marian prayer, “there is no Pentecost without the Virgin Mary.”

She was present in the Upper Room when with the disciples when the Holy Spirit descended and, as she is “in all places and times,” the Pope explained, including his recent trip to Fatima as an example.

“What did that immense multitude live, in fact, in the esplanade of the Sanctuary, where all of us were a single heart and soul, if it wasn’t a renewal of Pentecost?

“Among us was Mary, the Mother of God,” Pope Benedict said of the Mass he celebrated in Fatima with 500,000 people in attendance on May 13.

Saying that wherever Christians join in prayer with Mary, the Lord offers them his Spirit, Pope Benedict XVI closed by invoking her aid for the Church and its ministers, “so that the message of salvation may be announced to all peoples.”

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Newly beatified Italian lauded by Pope for her holiness

Vatican City, May 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father thanked God for Blessed Teresa Manganiello, a "luminous witness to the Gospel," after the Regina Coeli prayer on Sunday. The recently beatified saint is remembered for her humility and penitential spirit.

Blessed Manganiello was beatified in a ceremony presided over by Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in Benevento, Italy on Saturday with 10,000 people on hand for the celebration.

She was the 11th child of a farming family in the southern Italian city of Montefusco. The Holy Father remembered the simple and humble life she spent between working in the home and praying at the local Church of St. Egidio, where she became a lay member of the Franciscans' Third Order.

In an article published in L'Osservatore Romano this week, the postulator for her cause, Luigi Porsi, spoke of her deeply spiritual life which was "imbued above all with a poor spirit" and was shared between these two "poles of attraction," Church and home.

Living always with a penitential spirit, all the way up to her death of tuberculosis in 1876, Blessed Manganiello said that she was asked by God to offer up her sufferings for the reparation of sins. For her, Porsi said, "that meant wanting to be like Christ crucified and demonstrate all of her love to him."

He recounted the young girl's friendly demeanor, the love she held for not just her family and neighbors, but for all people, and the way she took in and nursed those who needed assistance.

The Holy Father said on Sunday after praying the Regina Coeli, "As St. Francis, she sought to imitate Jesus Christ offering sufferings and penances for the reparation of sins, she was full of love for neighbor, and she did everything she could for everyone, especially for the poor and sick."

Archbishop Amato, who concelebrated the beatification rite with 165 other priests and bishops, reflected on the significance of the event, saying that "without holiness the Church cannot exist.

"This is the great pentecostal gift that the Church offers all of us: the everlasting and edifying spectacle of holiness."

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Catholic bishops: CHA wounded Church unity with health care endorsement

Washington D.C., May 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The division between the U.S. Catholic bishops and some Church-affiliated organizations, most prominently the Catholic Health Association, that accompanied the passage of the Obama administration's health care overhaul was downplayed as a difference of opinion purely at the personal level. But on May 21 the bishops issued a statement that cast aside that spin, saying, “it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the Bishops themselves.”

The process of reforming the nation's health care system is not something that the U.S. Catholic bishops began thinking about when it popped up on the political radar; they have been advocating reform decades.

In the lead up to the passage of the Obama administration's overhaul, the bishops said that while they liked the availability of health care to all, they remained opposed to certain aspects of the Senate version being pushed by the administration. The U.S. Catholic leaders wanted stronger conscience protections, no federal funding for abortion and access for immigrants to health care.

After the ink dried on the new law, the three bishops chairing the committees that were involved in giving moral guidance on the health care reform process decided that they needed to “set the record straight,” resulting in a May 21 statement with the same title.

Recalling the build up of political pressure to pass the Senate bill, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester said in their joint statement that because the bishops presented their concerns all together and with a united front, “some thought the bishops might ultimately be persuaded to abandon one or the other in response to political pressures from left or right.” 

Some hoped or feared, the bishops recounted, that they would join those calling for no reform of the health care system. “Others hoped or feared that, for the 'greater good' of making progress on health care, we would neglect or deny the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society, including unborn children who have no voice and of immigrants.”

But there was “never any chance that the bishops would do any of these things,” they said in their statement. “We will never cease to advocate for everyone, beginning with the most needy, to have access to health care. We will never conclude that we must accept what is intrinsically evil so that some good may be achieved,” they insisted.

During the discussion about the Senate bill, the bishops said that some Catholics presented the argument to them that “expanding health care coverage justified setting aside our longstanding opposition to government participation in elective abortions or weakening rights to life and freedom of conscience,” but they noted in their recent statement that both they and Catholic teaching “specifically reject” that line of thinking.

Since the passage of the health care bill, the bishops said that they have been “disturbed and disappointed by reactions inside and outside the Church that have sought to marginalize or dismiss legitimate concerns that were presented in a serious manner by us. Our clear and consistent position has been misrepresented, misunderstood and misused for political and other purposes.”

The bishops also noted that their “right to speak in the public forum has been questioned” and their “teaching role within the Catholic Church and even our responsibility to lead the Church have come under criticism.” While they were open to constructive criticism, the Catholic prelates found that those firing critiques at them frequently “lacked an understanding of these particular issues or of the moral framework that motivated our positions” or if they did grasp the seriousness of the issues, they were guided by other priorities “to accept an inaccurate reading of the proposed legislation.”

Those who made moral judgments about the bill for Catholics undermined the bishops teaching authority, and that, “is first of all the task of the bishops, not of any other group or individual,” they insisted. The push for the passage of the health care reform bill saw efforts made by the social justice lobby of Catholic sisters called NETWORK, statements from the group Catholics United contradicting the bishops' positions, and most significantly, the endorsement of the Catholic Health Association, led by Sr. Carol Keehan. 

Sr. Keehan was rewarded for her endorsement with a presidential pen from President Obama and a listing as one of Time Magazine's top 100 influential leaders, which lauded her for protecting the poor and her “unwavering respect for human dignity.”

The U.S. bishops addressed those efforts, saying, “As Bishops, we disagree that the divergence between the Catholic Conference and Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association, represents merely a difference of analysis or strategy,” the bishops' statement said.

“Rather, for whatever good will was intended, it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the Bishops themselves.  As such it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

Looking at the current situation, the Catholic bishops said now that the “battle over the bill is over, the defects can be judged soberly in their own right, and solutions can be advanced in Congress while retaining what is good in the new law.”

Although the bishops believe that the new law contains some good provisions, they said that “it also perpetuates grave injustices toward immigrant families and makes new and disturbing changes in federal policy on abortion and conscience rights.” These problems provide an opportunity for Catholics to come together to advocate for a better law, they concluded.

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