Bladensburg, Md., Oct 13, 2011 (CNA) - Updated Oct. 18, 2011 at 12:31 MDT. Changes title of Mark Lewis to reflect that he is not currently a Catholic priest and corrects references to St. Luke's as a Catholic parish.
Mark W. Lewis, rector of a small, formerly Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Maryland, says the Holy Spirit guided the community’s decision “to accept the Holy Father’s offer” to enter the Catholic Church.
St. Luke’s congregation was received into the Catholic Church on Oct. 9 and plans to enter the Anglican ordinariate when in it is established in the United States.
“When Pope Benedict issued the apostolic constitution, Anglicanourm coetibus in 2009, it opened up a door for us that had previously been closed,” Lewis told CNA on Oct. 12.
“There had been a great deal of conversation within St. Luke’s parish about how the traditional beliefs we held were incongruent with the Episcopal Church,” he said.
“As we studied the Catholic faith and compared it to Anglicanism, we were drawn to the Church of Rome.”
After months of preparation and a unanimous vote by the vestry of St. Luke’s to enter the Catholic Church, a Mass and Rite of Reception for the community were held on Oct. 9 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
In his 2009 apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus,” Pope Benedict XVI authorized the creation of ordinariates for Anglican communities seeking to enter the Catholic Church.
The ordinariates, which are similar to dioceses but generally national in scope, will allow parishes to retain elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practices, while entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Vatican approved the first Anglican ordinariate in England and Wales in Jan. 2011.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington has been appointed as the representative of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the implementation of an ordinariate in the United States.
During a recent trip to Scotland, Cardinal Wuerl told the Scottish Catholic Observer that he is hopeful about a U.S. ordinariate being established “in this calendar year.”
St. Luke’s intends to enter the ordinariate when it is established. Until that time, the parish will fall under the Archdiocese of Washington.
Cardinal Wuerl celebrated last Sunday’s Mass and Rite of Reception for St. Luke’ community and confirmed 71 members of the group. Those who were unable to attend the Mass will be received into the Catholic Church at a later date.
Lewis explained the formation that the community has undergone in recent months to prepare for their reception into the Catholic Church.
“The community at St. Luke’s began catechism classes soon after announcing our intention to enter the Roman Catholic Church last June,” he said.
He explained that the Archdiocese of Washington designed a catechetical program for the study, based on “The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.”
“RCIA classes are now being planned for late fall and all new-comers or those who are still discerning will be expected to attend and complete these classes,” he said.
Lewis emphasized that although the parish council worked closely with the parishioners in making the decision to enter the Catholic Church, each member of the community had to make that choice as an individual as well.
He explained that each individual confirmed on Oct. 9 accepted Church teaching and “willingly chose to become a Roman Catholic.”
Although the majority of members at St. Luke’s have decided to leave the Episcopal Church, Lewis said that some “felt they were not quite ready yet to become Catholic, and others have a lifelong affinity to being Anglican.”
“I suspect there will be a small handful who will seek out a traditional orthodox Anglican parish,” he said.
However, he noted, even those members who have not chosen to enter the Catholic Church “have still been supportive of their fellow parishioners.”
“All are welcome to continue attending Mass at St. Luke’s, and those who remain Anglican understand that they are not permitted to receive communion,” he said.
Lewis hopes to begin an expedited process toward ordination as a Catholic priest. During the transition period, Fr. Scott Hurd, a former Episcopalian priest who was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Washington, will be the chaplain for the St. Luke’s community.
Lewis expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Wuerl for his “hard work, leadership and pastoral care” in making the reception into the Church possible.
“As St. Luke’s moves into the eventual ordinariate, I hope to continue a close relationship with the Archdiocese of Washington,” he said.
“I feel at home in the Catholic Church, and with the people of the Archdiocese of Washington.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Hispanic Catholic theology and ministry should work to recover the “sense of wonder and mystery” that the first missionaries to America experienced, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said Oct. 11.
“We need to see our country and all the Americas today through their eyes, to remember that these lands were once seen as the ‘ends of the earth,’ the final frontier of the Church’s universal saving mission. And we need to have our hearts inflamed with their same sense of personal duty for the salvation of souls and the coming of God’s Kingdom.”
“Everything we do must be measured by what it contributes or does not contribute to proclaiming Jesus Christ to the men and women of our day. We all need to see ourselves as missionaries to the brave new world of America and the Americas,” he added.
Archbishop Gomez’s comments came in the inaugural Hispanic Ministry and Theology Lecture at Loyola Marymount University. His Oct. 11 lecture was part of the university’s celebration of Latino Heritage Month.
The archbishop said Hispanic Catholics are called to be “spiritual and moral leaders” in the “new evangelization of America.” They should draw “more deeply from the wells of the missionary experience and theology of America’s ‘first evangelization.’”
This will help respond to the challenges of secularism, the loss of the sense of God, and the loss of the sense of the sanctity, meaning and purpose of human life, he said.
“America needs our Hispanic Catholic witness for the renewal of her national soul,” he stated.
“The fact is, that after only 600 years, the faith that the missionaries brought to our lands is fading,” Archbishop Gomez lamented. “America risks becoming a land that no longer knows Jesus Christ, a reality that has already happened in many of the once-Christian nations in the West.”
What Pope Benedict XVI called the “eclipse of the sense of God” is the “great sign of our times,” he continued, attributing this in part to elite groups’ “aggressive project” to “radically secularize and ‘de-Christianize’ American culture.”
In this environment, Catholics need the same “zeal for souls” as the first American missionaries.
He noted the example of the Franciscan priest Fr. Antonio Margil, who left his homeland of Spain forever in 1683 because millions of souls lacked priests to “dispel the darkness of unbelief.” The priest would walk barefoot for 40 or 50 miles a day to evangelize all over the Americas.
Archbishop Gomez also pointed out that the first colonial “patents” granted to New World explorers all speak of Jesus Christ. Florida explorer Vásquez de Ayllón, for example, received permission from the Spanish government to explore so that their inhabitants may be brought to understand the Catholic faith and to “become Christians and be saved.”
“Sadly, we know that many of the colonizers came, not as Christians but as conquerors, their hearts filled with greed and sinful ambitions,” the archbishop acknowledged. “Their cruelty and the suffering of their victims — generations of victims and atrocities — are well documented and condemned in our theologies and history.”
Despite these failures, Archbishop Gomez urged those active in Catholic theology and ministry to recover the “deeper meaning of our history,” especially Americans’ place as “children” of both the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The period should be studied with prayer.
“We need to recover the sense of awe and possibility that inspired the first evangelization of our continents,” he said.
New York City, N.Y., Oct 13, 2011 (CNA) -
After rumors that the controversial pop singer Madonna was under consideration to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, the National Football League has assured fans that its Super Bowl shows will be “appropriate for our audience.”
“We have not commented on any potential musical performers for the Super Bowl and will not until we make an announcement,” NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy told CNA on Oct. 12.
On Oct. 3 the sports website SB Nation reported that Madonna would be part of the February championship game’s halftime entertainment.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said that Madonna’s history of religious provocation makes her unsuitable as a performer at Super Bowl XLVI.
“For decades, Madonna has blatantly offended Christians, especially Catholics. The offensive lyrics, lewd behavior and misappropriation of sacred symbols are reason enough not to have her perform,” Donohue said Oct. 4.
He said the singer has “repeatedly mocked” Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Eucharist and the Crucifixion.
The Super Bowl halftime show in February 2004 became notorious when performer Janet Jackson had a “wardrobe malfunction” which exposed her breast at the end of a song with lewd and suggestive lyrics.
Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization has clarified that the life of Iranian Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani remains in the hands of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
“The latest reports indicating that the Supreme Court has called for yet another retrial are misleading,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice on Oct. 12.
Sekulow explained that “the judicial system in Iran operates in a substantially different way than court systems Americans are familiar with.” He made his remarks after news outlets reported Oct. 11 that the case was being sent back to a lower court for re-evaluation.
He explained that the “retrial” being reported is most likely actually the trial that occurred Sept. 25 to 28. That trial took place in response to an order by the Supreme Court in June that required a lower appeals court to determine whether Pastor Nadarkhani was a Muslim at the age of majority, which is 15 years-old in Iran.
Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old pastor, was imprisoned in 2009 after complaining to local authorities about his son being required to read from the Koran at school. He faces execution for apostasy because he has refused to recant his Christian beliefs.
Although the appeals court determined that Nadarkhani had not been a Muslim during his adult life, it ruled that he had abandoned the faith of his ancestors and therefore must recant or die.
Iranian officials then requested an “opinion” on the case from the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, a move which Sekulow described as “something unusual and unlikely to have occurred without the growing condemnation and international media coverage of Pastor Nadarkhani’s trial.”
Sekulow called for a continued effort around the world to defend Nadarkhani’s life.
On Oct. 11, the American Center for Law and Justice hand-delivered a petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to increase pressure on Iranian officials.
The petition was signed by over 156,000 Americans and continues to receive more signatures daily.
“We cannot allow this atrocity to be carried out,” reads the petition.
“It is absolutely critical that you call for Iran to overturn Pastor Youcef’s death sentence and demand his full and unconditional release from prison.”
“As other world leaders denounce Iran’s condemning this man to death just for being a Christian, it is critical that America – the land of liberty – take a stand and pressure Iran to release Pastor Youcef.”
Sekulow encouraged Secretary Clinton to work with international leaders and groups including the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to prevent the pastor’s execution.
He noted that Secretary Clinton is scheduled to meet with the Swiss Embassy, which handles U.S. relations with Iran, on Oct. 12.
While the meeting was called to discuss the failed Iranian plot to attack the Israeli Embassy and other targets in Washington, D.C., Sekulow said it would also “provide the perfect opportunity to urge Iran to release Pastor Youcef.”
A bipartisan effort to help save Nadarkhani is also underway in Congress.
Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) drafted a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging her to “use all the powers at your disposal” for “swift engagement with the international community to advocate for his release.”
The letter has gained the support of more than 50 members of Congress so far.
Uncertainty regarding reports about Nadarkhani’s case also arose earlier this month when Iranian state media said on Oct. 1 that the pastor was charged with rape, extortion and security-related crimes.
However, Sekulow observed at the time that the court documents do not mention any crime other than apostasy.
He noted that Iran has a disproportionately large number of executions for rape and suggested that Iranian officials routinely switch from an initial charge to a rape charge in cases that are attracting negative international attention.
Rome, Italy, Oct 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As thunder, lightning and wind whipped through the World Youth Day prayer vigil this past August, Pope Benedict XVI was advised to leave the event three times. But he insisted that if the young people stayed, then he would too.
The revelation comes from a young Honduran woman was who stood next to the Pope throughout the event.
“The masters of ceremony were asking him if the wanted to leave because it was raining, it was pouring and the wind was really strong and he kept on saying that he would not leave. In fact, he twice waved his finger saying ‘no, no, no’,” 27-year-old Erika Rivera told CNA.
The advisers then asked a third time if the Pope wanted to leave. But this time he responded even more firmly, pointing to the 2 million drenched young pilgrims and saying, “If they are staying, then I am staying too.”
“And when he said that, we, the young people who were there next to him, were just so happy to have him as the Holy Father. So it was a fantastic, unique experience,” Rivera said.
Rivera was a senior press officer at August’s World Youth Day, but she also served as the host at a number of the week’s papal events, including the Saturday night vigil at Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos airbase.
While the rain lashed and lighting flashed, Pope Benedict seemed to remain prayerfully composed beneath two white umbrellas. Meanwhile, the 2-million strong congregation youthfully sang, danced and prayed in the soaking rain.
We were not afraid at all because we could see that the first one who was serene was the Holy Father,” said Rivera.
“He transmitted a lot of serenity, a lot of calmness and therefore, you know, we thought what else could happen to us?”
After approximately 15 minutes, the rain abated, allowing Pope Benedict to thank the crowd for their “joy and resistance” in enduring the storm. “Your strength is bigger than the rain,” he told them, adding that “the Lord sends you lots of blessings with the rain.”
He then proceeded to lead the young people in Eucharistic adoration.
“It was just fantastic, amazing; it was like a masterpiece,” she said. “The Eucharist was there, the Holy Father was there and the future of the Church was there too - the young people - it was just amazing.”
Two months later Rivera believes there is a deeper lesson to be learned from Pope Benedict’s fortitude in the face of a Spanish storm.
While modern society often opts to “take the easy exit,” she said, to “see Pope Benedict willing to stay there, to make the sacrifice for him who died on the cross for us -- it was truly inspiring for me.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 13, 2011 (CNA) - Following the resignation of its director and six editors, the international Catholic news agency Zenit has announced that Italian journalist Antonio Gaspari will be its new editorial coordinator.
“He has been a member of the Zenit team since the beginning and, with his vast curriculum and experience, he will guarantee the quality of the service and guide it through the new challenges of the future,” Zenit executive director Alberto Ramirez said Oct. 11.
Gaspari, a longtime Zenit contributor, said he is “humbled and proud” to have been chosen for the position and was “enthusiastic and moved.”
“I humbly put myself at the service of positive communication,” he said. “Our daily service will strive to discover and write about all that is true, good and beautiful in the life of the Church.”
Gaspari was born in Cascia, Italy in 1955. The veteran Vatican journalist has written for many leading Italian Catholic publications such as L’Avvenire, Tempi, Il Timone, Mondo e Missione, and Sě alla vita.
He is an expert in journalism and environmental issues. Gaspari is also the scientific coordinator of the master’s program of environmental sciences for the European University of Rome, which is run by the Legionaries of Christ.
His books include one on the confrontations between the United Nations and the Holy See and another titled “From Malthus to green racism: the true story of the birth control movement.”
Gaspari is married and has one son.
Gaspari specifically asked for prayers “that Our Lord continue to illuminate our minds and our hearts.”
On Oct. 7 six editors of Zenit resigned, citing their disagreement with plans to increase agency’s ties with the Legionaries of Christ. Zenit is an independent news agency, but the Legionaries of Christ have served as spiritual advisors to ensure its fidelity to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
“After years of fruitful collaboration with the Legionaries of Christ, we disagree with the decision of the congregation to underline the institutional dependence of the agency on the Legion,” they said.
Jesús Colina, who founded Zenit in 1997, resigned as its director on Sept. 27.
“Antonio Gaspari is a good friend with whom I collaborated since 1992, and I really wish him the best and for Zenit to continue to grow. I wish it wholeheartedly,” Colina told CNA Oct. 13.
Zenit publishes in seven languages and sends its daily service to some 450,000 subscribers.
Vatican City, Oct 13, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will commemorate the bicentennials of countries in Latin America with a special Mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica on December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Latin America.
In a statement the Pontifical Council for Latin America announced that the Pope “joyfully accepted” a proposal by the dicastery to join in the celebrations “on a very significant date, December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Latin America teacher of the enculturation of the faith, mother and protector of her nations, and whose image has been very present in the patriotic armies.”
The council noted that the bishops’ conferences of Latin America and the Latin American Bishops’ Council will be involved in the bicentennial celebrations. “Numerous documents and statements of the bishops’ conferences and of individual bishops have been published, and there have been various ecclesial celebrations in the liturgy, academia and the press.”
All of the commemorations fall between 2010 and 2014 with the exception of Peru and Brazil, which will commemorate the bicentennials of their independence between 2020 and 2022.
“In fact, the emancipation of the countries of Latin America took place from 1808 to 1824, although we should include the independence of Haiti (1804), that of Cuba which took place later (1898) and those that took place more recently in the Caribbean,” the statement said.
Roman Curia officials, diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Latin American priests and religious who work in Rome, and Latin American immigrants who reside in the Italian capital are all invited to the Dec. 12 Mass, the council announced.
It said the Mass would be a gesture of affection and solidarity on the part of the Holy Father towards the people and nations of the Continent of Hope.
“It will be a sign of the unique contribution that the Catholic Church offers to commemorate this ‘Bicentennial’ in the light of the historic truth in order to illuminate the current-day situation of Latin America and nourish the hope for a future of peace and justice,” the council said.
Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Obama administration has cut funding for the U.S. bishops' campaign against human trafficking, which had been challenged by the ACLU for avoiding contraception and abortion.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there was “no reason given” by the Department of Health and Human Services, for rejecting the conference's application for a new grant at the end of September.
She said the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services work had previously been “well regarded.”
However, in a Sept. 29 letter to the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan had warned that the administration was “requiring that Migration and Refugee Services provide the 'full range of reproductive services' to trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors in its cooperative agreements and government contracts.”
The U.S. bishops' conference president indicated that the “full range of reproductive services” was a veiled reference to contraception and abortion. He stated that this new federal requirement followed “exactly the position urged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the ongoing lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of MRS’s contracts.”
In its written instructions to groups requesting grants through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Department of Health and Human Services states that “strong preference” will be given to organizations that offer referrals for the “full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”
Sr. Walsh explained that Migration and Refugee Services could have been denied funding under those instructions because of the Church’s opposition to abortion and contraception.
In a 2009 lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts claimed that the contract with the Catholic bishops was unconstitutional because the group would not aid or refer individuals for services that violate Church teaching.
The lawsuit is still pending, with oral arguments in federal court scheduled for Oct. 18.
Sr. Walsh, however, said that in six years of providing food, clothing and medical care to human trafficking victims, Migration and Refugee Services has been “very well received,” and was “seen as one of the best programs.”
The organization has served more than 2,700 people since 2006, when it entered a five-year contract to offer services with a federal grant. After a brief extension, the contract ended Oct. 10.
Sr. Walsh said the bishops are “concerned” about the situation.
Freedom of conscience for religious organizations has become a heated topic in recent months, after the Department of Health and Human Services released regulations that would require the coverage of contraception in most new health insurance plans.
In his Sept. 29 letter establishing a new committee on religious freedom, Archbishop Dolan told the U.S. bishops that believers' rights were “increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America” from an “assault which now appears to grow at an ever accelerating pace in ways most of us could never have imagined.”
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to CNA/EWTN News' inquiry about the de-funding of the bishops' refugee program.