Biloxi, Miss., Oct 22, 2011 (CNA) - At the special liturgy celebrating the feast day of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino martyr, on Sept. 28, Bishop Roger Morin of Biloxi, Miss. told the congregation, “There is a road to heroic virtue ... by each one of the individual acts of charity that we do. And each day we have an opportunity to do those Corporal Acts of Mercy.”
The bishop reminded the faithful, “there is also a possible opportunity for punishment by ignoring, neglecting, or omitting to help someone in need.”
He said the faithful can achieve their reward “By joyously serving the Lord and witnessing to our faith ... the path to the crown of glory can begin with just a cup of water, a piece of bread,” he said.
Hundreds of Filipinos and others gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Church for the celebration of the feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who was born in Binondo, Manila between 1600 and 1610, to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. After traveling to Nagasaki in 1636 and subjected to torture by his Japanese captors for more than a year, he died a horrible death.
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Manila on Feb. 18, 1981. He was canonized on Oct. 18, 1987 in Rome.
A celebration of the Filipino culture followed the liturgy in the parish hall.
Printed with permission from the Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.
Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Oct. 22, the first “John Paul II sister” will launch a year-long series of talks on the life, charism and spirituality of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
“Over a number of years, I’ve been preparing a lot of material that relates to John Paul II’s charism and his spirituality and his writings in different areas,” Sr. Bernadette Pike, MG, told CNA on Oct. 21.
Her series of talks, entitled “Living the Legacy,” is intended to present this information to lay people who are interested in living after the example of the late pontiff.
As a John Paul II sister, Sr. Bernadette is a member of the broader group, the Missionaries of the Gospel. The community is still in its very early stages, with its first members still receiving their own formation.
The Oct. 22 launch date for her talks was chosen to correspond with the first official celebration of Bl. John Paul II’s feast day in some dioceses.
The possibility of adding the feast day of Bl. John Paul II to the Church calendar for the United States will be discussed at the upcoming November meeting of the U.S. bishops.
Until then, it is up to each bishop to decide if the feast day will be celebrated in their diocese. Several dioceses, including Rome, Krakow and Washington, D.C., will celebrate Oct. 22, 2011 as the first official memorial of Bl. John Paul II.
Sr. Bernadette hopes that her talks will offer listeners “a deeper insight into where the Holy Father was coming from and what the Holy Spirit was trying to do through him in order to renew the Church.”
The international talks, which will be given bi-weekly for a year, will not yet be broadcast publicly but will instead be held through a video conference. Sr. Bernadette said that she has sent a link to the conference to people across the world who have expressed interest in participating in it.
Originally from Australia, Sr. Bernadette said the idea of the John Paul II sisters was initially proposed in 2004.
Archbishop Barry James Hickey of Perth, Australia was supportive of the idea, but over the course of several months of discussion and prayer, it was determined that the community should include more than just the sisters. Lay men and women had expressed interest in living after the example of John Paul II, and a discussion of establishing the John Paul II priests and brothers had also arisen.
The decision was made that a larger community should be established to encompass the various groups wishing to live the charism of John Paul II. With the guidance of Archbishop Hickey, the Missionaries of the Gospel were officially established on June 23, 2007.
Sr. Bernadette made her final vows as the first John Paul II sister on Oct. 16, 2008. Two other women who had been in formation with her became ill and had to leave the community.
Although Sr. Bernadette is now the only John Paul II sister, she said that she is in contact with several other women who are interested in joining the community.
Currently, Sr. Bernadette is living in Washington, D.C., where she has been sent to study at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences for two years. She explained that she is in a program that integrates psychology, philosophy and theology with the intent of gaining a fuller understanding of the human person in order to better evangelize and form people in the way that John Paul II did.
Sr. Bernadette said her own initial encounters with John Paul II took place through other people. She said that she was particularly struck by the stories and pictures of her friends who had gone to Rome for World Youth Day in 2000.
She was impressed by the Pope’s way of “personally relating to people and being present with them and bringing Christ to them in such a relevant, tangible way.”
At the time, Sr. Bernadette was returning to her faith. She said that her encounters with the Pope through her friends helped her to “experience Christ” and grow deeper in her faith.
As she learned more about John Paul II, she realized that she was drawn toward his “thought and his way of doing things” and wanted to spend her whole life shaping and forming people in the way that he did.
When Sr. Bernadette met John Paul II in 2004, her appreciation for him was already strong.
She spoke of the incredible experience of simply seeing “his way of being with others and with God.”
At the Pope’s beatification on May 1, 2011, Sr. Bernadette read the second reading.
She believes that the legacy of Pope John Paul II will reach far into the future of the Church.
“I think it will completely revolutionize the way the Church does everything,” she said.
“I know that’s a really bold statement,” she added, explaining that she believes that people have only begun to understand “the gift that the Church received through John Paul II.”
More information about the Missionaries of the Gospel can be found at: http://www.mg.org.au
London, England, Oct 22, 2011 (CNA) -
Former British politician Ann Widdecombe criticized Prime Minister David Cameron for axing foreign aid to countries that persecute gays while overlooking widespread threats to Christians.
“David Cameron’s government have threatened to cut the overseas aid budget for countries which persecute homosexuals,” Widdecombe said in London at an Oct. 22 conference for the international charity Aid to the Church in Need.
“Fair enough. But what about Christians? When do we qualify for such protection or don’t we?”
Widdecombe, a Catholic convert who represented the Conservative Party as a Member of Parliament from 1987 to 2007, contrasted the government’s pro-gay overseas aid policy with its stance on some countries' state-sponsored violence against Christians.
Recently named a “special envoy on religious freedom” for Aid to the Church in Need, Widdecombe gave the keynote address at the event titled “The Arab Spring: A Spring or Autumn for Christians?”
During her speech, she noted that in Pakistan, where U.K. aid will double to 350 million British pounds per year, Christian Asia Bibi has been sentenced to death for blasphemy—a case that has drawn international condemnation.
Meanwhile, U.K. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has cut the country's aid to Malawi after two homosexual men were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.
“In the last 10 years, how many debates have there been on persecution of Christians, how many government statements on the subject?” Widdecombe asked.
“You stand a better chance of earnest representation if you are a hedgehog—and I speak as a patron of the Hedgehog Protection Society.”
The former MP's comments come in the wake of the Oct. 9 attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt, that left 25 dead and over 300 injured.
Aid to the Church in Need reported that in 2011, 75 percent of all religious persecution worldwide was directed against Christians and noted that around 105,000 Christians are killed every year for faith-related reasons.
In Iraq alone, the Christian population has plummeted from 1.4 million to around 150,000.
The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations said that since the fall of President Mubarak in February more than 100,000 Christians had fled the country because of a surge in violence against religious minorities.
Widdecombe strongly appealed to her government to make the defense of religious freedom a foreign policy priority.
“Today we should all begin to act. Each of us should pick one country, pray for it, donate to the Church there, write to (U.K. Foreign Secretary) William Hague and the local MP.”
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Australian Catholic bishops’ delegation to Rome has issued a statement about the Vatican’s response to the dissenting Bishop of Toowoomba. They described their multiple “candid” meetings with Vatican officials about the matter and urged the healing of divisions.
“What was at stake was the Church’s unity in faith and the ecclesial communion between the Pope and the other bishops in the College of Bishops,” said the Australian bishops’ Oct. 22 statement.
Because Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba was “unable to agree to what this communion requires,” they said, Pope Benedict XVI “acted as the Successor of Peter, who has the task of deciding what constitutes unity and communion in the Church.”
The Australian bishops said their recent meetings with Vatican officials have given them a more adequate understanding of the actions taken to try to resolve “the difficulties with Bishop Morris.”
These difficulties concerned “not only matters of Church discipline but also of Church doctrine definitively taught, such as on the ministerial priesthood.”
In a 2006 pastoral letter, Bishop Morris proposed considering the ordination of women and married men. He also proposed allowing Anglicans, Lutherans and other religious figures to preside at Mass.
Over the next five years, he declined Vatican requests for immediate discussions and then repeatedly refused to resign even when personally asked to do so by Pope Benedict.
In May 2011, Pope Benedict dismissed Bishop Morris because of his long track record of dissent from Catholic teaching and practice.
The Australian bishops issued their joint-statement following the conclusion of their “ad limina” visit to Rome, where they have discussed the health of the Church in their country with the Pope and other Vatican leaders.
In the past 12 days they have had individual meetings with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as a subsequent joint-meeting with both men. The bishops also met as a group on several occasions.
They described their discussions as “substantial, serious and candid” and they thanked both cardinals for their “personal and pastoral concern.”
The Australian bishops concluded their letter by expressing their acceptance of “the Holy Father’s exercise of his Petrine ministry.” They reaffirmed their “communion with and under Peter.”
They now return to Australia “to heal any wounds of division, to extend our fraternal care to Bishop Morris, and to strengthen the bonds of charity in the Church in Australia.”
The Diocese of Toowoomba is presently without a bishop.
Rome, Italy, Oct 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Blessed John Paul II was remembered with celebrations all over Rome on Oct. 22, his first feast day since his May 1 beatification.
Among other events in Rome, the day was celebrated with a pilgrimage from one papal basilica to another.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, head priest of St. Peter's Basilica, started off the pilgrimage in St. Peter's Square in the early afternoon. It concluded four hours later with a prayer vigil at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Diocese of Rome’s vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, then celebrated Mass.
John Paul II's personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisc of Krakow, Poland, celebrated Mass at St. Peter's earlier in the day with more than 200 other priests and several cardinals and bishops.
In his homily, the Polish cardinal said John Paul II can inspire the new evangelization.
“Committing ourselves to this work,” he said, “we fulfill in the best way the testament the blessed introduced to the Church in the third millennium of Christianity.”
Also on Saturday, Cardinal Comastri celebrated Mass at Rome’s Shrine of Divine Love. He blessed a new mosaic depicting Bl. John Paul II. The shrine, on the city's southern edge, was visited by the late Pope just months into his papacy.
Though John Paul II was elected a week prior to Oct. 22, the chosen feast day, the date marks the official beginning of his pontificate in 1978.
The blessed’s memory was also celebrated with multiple Masses, prayers and reflections at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, a sanctuary dedicated to Divine Mercy. Bl. John Paul II established the church himself and it is now a major pilgrim destination, particularly for Poles, in Rome.
Ken Smith of Dover, Del., recounted his memories of the Pope’s election in a conversation with CNA on the steps of Santo Spirito.
“I remember when I heard the news,” he said.
He heard it on the radio and thought it “amazing” that a Pole would be Pope.
Not long after that, he saw Pope John Paul II for himself.
“We actually were at a Wednesday audience back in 1979,” Smith said.
“I remember him coming down that aisle and the sun came out. My sister had been here a little earlier and she had the same experience. The sun shone on him and he glowed. It was wonderful.”
This year, Smith had happened upon the church a day before the feast along with his wife, Lida. They were visiting Rome as a stop on a Mediterranean cruise.
The stop at Santo Spirito was a special moment for them. An enormous painting of Bl. John Paul II was placed behind the main altar for the feast day. There is also a side chapel dedicated to his memory, complete with a blood relic donated by Cardinal Dziwisc.
“It was a thrill for me because I have a Polish background and he means the world for me and our people,” said Lida.
Her most lasting memory of the Pope?
“His smile mostly, how he suffered and never complained. He's just a great role model.”
Meanwhile, the Polish priest in charge of promoting John Paul II's cause for sainthood, Father Slawomir Oder, told Vatican Radio that with the first feast day comes a special grace for all those who have prayed for his intercession to bear children.
“For many little Karols, Carolinas and John Pauls born after these prayers,” said Fr. Oder, “the liturgical memory will be the first name day celebrated in the company of their Holy Patron.”