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Archive of October 29, 2011

Pope addresses bishops of Angola

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has urged the Catholic Church in Angola to build up family life while fighting witchcraft and tribalism.

“Christians breathe the spirit of his time and are under pressure from the mores of their society but, by the grace of baptism, are called to give up harmful prevailing trends and to go against the current, guided by the spirit of the Beatitudes,” said the Pope Oct. 29.

The Angolan bishops were in Rome for their “ad limina” visit during which they update the Pope and the Vatican on the Catholic Church in the southwest African state.

It is estimated that over half the Angolan population is Catholic although many newer converts still practice remnants of traditional African religions.

The Pope highlighted three areas where he wished to impart guidance and encourage  the Angolan Church in its mission.

The first was family life where the Pope expressed concern at the low number of Catholic marriages in Angola. The country’s bishops have chose marriage and the family as their current pastoral priority.

“Help couples acquire the necessary human and spiritual maturity to take responsibly their mission as Christian spouses and parents,” said the Pope, “reminding them that their spousal love should be as unique and indissoluble as the covenant between Christ and his Church. This precious treasure is to be safeguarded at all costs.”

Pope Benedict visited Angola in 2009. There he heard firsthand how many Catholics mingle their Christianity with traditional African religions that often indulge in witchcraft.

He said the “abominable effect” of such practices can be witnessed in the “marginalization and even murder of children and the elderly, who are condemned by false dictates of witchcraft.”

“Mindful that human life is sacred in all its phases and situations,” he said, “continue, dear bishops, to raise your voice in favor of their victims.”

Finally the Pope turned to the issue of tribalism with many areas consisting of closed ethnic communities “not accepting people from other parts of the nation.”

“I express my appreciation to those of you who have accepted a pastoral mission outside the confines of their language or regional group,” he said to the bishops, adding that in the Church, “there is no place for any kind of division.”

“Around the altar meet men and women of all tribes, languages and nations, sharing the same body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, become brothers and sisters, truly kin,” said Pope Benedict.

He then concluded by entrusting Angola to the protection of the Virgin Mary before imparting his apostolic blessing.

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Catholic men re-energized, inspired by conference

Southington, Conn., Oct 29, 2011 (CNA) - Before the start of the fourth annual Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, held Oct. 22 at St. Dominic Church, Ron Gerlip of Westfield, Mass., said he hoped it would enlighten him and strengthen him in his faith. Eight hours later, he said, “It’s like what all the speakers said: If you walk away with something, your day has been fulfilled. I walk away today with a deeper faith, a chance to go to reconciliation, an attempt to be a better person for Christ.”

Expectations and reactions of other men were similar. Joe Murphy of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Gales Ferry, Conn. said he went “for the experience of fellowship and to enrich my life.” Charlie Nostrand of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown said, “I want to get recharged going into the winter months. ... It’s nice to get a booster shot of spirituality and faith.” And conference veteran Richard Feil of St. John Parish in Old Saybrook said, “There are always so many booths of information where you can pick up so much other information besides the talks. You don’t doze off in here. It’s spectacular.”

Joe Premus, conference director, told the more than 400 men that a Pew Research poll found, “When a child comes to faith in Jesus, there’s a 20 percent chance that his or her family will follow. When a woman comes to faith in Jesus, there’s a 28 percent chance that her family will follow. But when a man comes to faith in Jesus, there’s a 93 percent chance that his family will follow.”

Father John Gatzak, director of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Radio and Television and emcee of the conference, said the theme of this year’s gathering was “Know Him. Love Him. Serve Him.” He said he was recently stopped for speeding, and the officer told him, “All right, Father, I’m giving you a warning: Slow down.”

Fr. Gatzak advised the men, “Let’s slow down and come to know him, love him and serve him.”

Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford used digital clocks and analog clocks as a metaphor for a disconnected society. Digital clocks show an isolated snapshot in time, but “On an analog clock face, you can see where time has been a minute ago and where it is going.” He said we are all connected with each other and with God. “What really matters when our time is up are not the things we have acquired but the love that we have given away,” he said.

Advertising entrepreneur-turned Catholic evangelist Tom Peterson picked up on this theme. For years, in the stressful but lucrative advertising world, he said, he suffered from the disease of “affluenza” – the desire to accumulate more and more wealth. He came to realize he had to “downsize and simplify” his life. He founded Catholics Come Home Inc. and VirtueMedia Inc., nonprofit apostolates dedicated to promoting Catholic evangelization and the sanctity of life. He announced that Catholic ads he created will air later this year on major television networks coast to coast and in prime time.

Doug Barry, who wowed the men at last year’s conference, returned to remind men that they are made to deal with conflict and that they should channel those energies in healthy ways rather than squelch them. Mr. Barry is founder and director of the Catholic apostolate RADIX and a personality on EWTN.

“The fighting spirit of a man is a gift from God,” he said. “It is essential to the safety of the family.” It’s no accident that soldiers in battle run toward the sound of gunfire – not to cause harm but to heal it, he said.

Randy Raus roused the men to become active in youth ministry. Mr. Raus is president of Life Teen, a parish-based ministry for young Catholics. He astonished the men with the statistic that if young Catholics are not involved in some kind of youth ministry, there is only a 3 percent chance that they will continue in the faith.

“Boys want to hear they have what it takes,” he said. “I make it a point to tell my boys every day that I love them.”

“If this conference helped one person, it was worth it,” said Fr. Gatzak. “What I ask you to do now is to look deep into your hearts and see if you – if you – can be that one person.”

Bruce Wimperis and his son Tony, both of Bridgewater, are members of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New Milford. “This is our first time,” Bruce said. “We felt we would hear some great speakers and meet some great guys, and it’s been great.”

Tony added, “I just came to hear some good wisdom from Doug Barry and some of the other speakers about how to be a man in the community, to live as a man of God and to take a leadership role.”

Jeannot Michaud, a member of the Knights of Columbus of Council 12 in New Britain, has attended all four conferences and was happy this one was held in his home parish. “I think it’s an eye-opening experience, listening to all these speakers,” he said. “It’s a refreshing, uplifting inspiration.”

Fr. John L. Lavorgna, pastor of Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in East Haven, accompanied 10 men from his parish. He said, “It’s a great source of strength, a great sense of hope, but also a lot of joy. What you really sense at the outset is that everyone’s real happy to be here, excited to be here, encouraged and affirmed. And we let God work, and he’ll never let us down.”

Fr. Ivan Kaszczak of the Unkrainian Diocese in Stamford, accompanied Bishop Chomnycky. He said, “I like the part about being a man, about taking responsibility, because I do find as a rule that Catholics are sort of timid and even apologetic when we express the faith.”

Tommy Valuckas is a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Watertown. Of his first conference two years ago, he said, “It gave me a lot to think about on how I can become a better Catholic, how I can translate that to other people to have them become better Catholics.”

Doug Barry’s talk made a big impression on Mr. Valuckas this year, he said. “There’s a lot of truth to what he says, and we need to become more the warriors for God. I think we sit back too much and let things happen when we really can cause a lot of change, we can effect a lot of change.”

It’s great to be re-energized, he said, but men need to pass it along to other people and say, “Lookit, you’re Catholic. This is what you should be doing. A lot needs to be done, but we can do it.”

A date and location for next year’s conference have not yet been decided, Mr. Premus said.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.

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Newt Gingrich describes importance of faith in political decisions

Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Catholics should pray about the decision of whom to support for public office and then vote according to their consciences.

Gingrich, a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2009, is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Gingrich told CNA on Oct. 24 that he believes the single biggest threat to America today is “the attack against the Judeo-Christian tradition and the effort to drive God out of public life and eliminate the understanding that our rights come from our Creator.”

The former speaker explained that he was motivated to run for president by the current political situation in America.

“The United States faces the most serious election since 1860,” he said.

“Our challenges are so great and the consequence of choosing American exceptionalism or class warfare and bureaucratic socialism is so large that as a citizen I felt compelled to run.”

Gingrich explained that his faith would influence his political decisions as president.

“Any leader should seek God's guidance,” he said. “The teachings of the Church inform my thinking about solving earthly problems.”

Gingrich said that he would “listen” to the concerns of those who feel threatened by his views and values.

“In many cases better communications and clarification will eliminate their worries,” he said.

“In some cases they are right to feel threatened because we have incompatible values and fundamentally different visions of the future.”

As speaker of the House, Gingrich had a strongly pro-life voting record.

In his race for GOP presidential candidate, he has signed the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge.

The pledge asks candidates to commit to nominating federal judges who are dedicated to “applying the original meaning of the Constitution;” selecting “only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions;” supporting legislation to “permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion;” and working toward a law “to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.”

Gingrich has also expressed support for efforts to defend marriage.

“I helped author the Defense of Marriage Act which the Obama administration should be protecting in court,” he said in a Republican primary debate in Manchester, N.H. on June 13, 2011.

“I think if that fails, you have no choice except a constitutional amendment.”

Gingrich told CNA that Catholic voters who are trying to pick a candidate to support in the upcoming election should pray about their decision and “take seriously the responsibility of citizenship.”

“Pray for America and for our leaders,” he said. “Then vote as your conscience instructs you.”

“If possible become an activist helping America regain its sense of purpose and direction.”

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US bishops reaffirm critique of controversial theologian's work

Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have confirmed their criticism of a controversial theology book, after the author insisted they had “misunderstood” and “misrepresented” it.

In an October 11, 2011 statement made public yesterday, doctrinal authorities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said their committee “finds itself confirmed in its judgments” about Sister Elizabeth Johnson's “Quest for the Living God,” which it previously criticized in March 2011.

After reviewing the Fordham University professor's defense of her work, the Committee on Doctrine said it “remains convinced that the book … does not sufficiently ground itself in the Catholic theological tradition as its starting point,” and “does not adequately express the faith of the Church.”

In her response to the bishops' first critique, Sr. Johnson sought to remind them that theology “does not simply reiterate received doctrinal formulas but probes and interprets them in order to deepen understanding.”

The committee agreed with Sr. Johnson's insight about theology, but insisted she had not accomplished this task appropriately.

“It is true that the task of theological reflection is never accomplished by the mere repetition of formulas,” they noted, saying they did not object to Sr. Johnson's attempt “to express the faith of the Church in terms that have not previously been used and approved.”

Rather, they objected to “Quest for the Living God” because “the 'different' language used in the book does not in fact convey the faith of the Church.”

“The real issue is whether or not new attempts at theological understanding are faithful to the deposit of faith as contained in the Scriptures and the Church’s doctrinal tradition,” they said. “All theology is ultimately subject to the norm of truth provided by the faith of the Church.”

Sr. Johnson's treatment of the Trinity raised particular concerns for the committee.

They noted that her way of speaking about the three divine persons “leaves the door open to modalism,” an ancient heresy which rejected any real distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

“The book's misunderstanding of the incomprehensibility of God has effectively ruled out even divinely revealed analogies for the relationship among the persons of the Trinity,” they noted. “The result is that the book can only speak in vague terms about the Trinity.”

While refraining from any judgment of Sr. Johnson's motives, the committee said her book had become a “particular pastoral concern” as a work intended for a popular, non-scholarly audience.

“Furthermore,” they stated, “whether or not the book was originally designed specifically to be a textbook, the book is in fact being used as a textbook for the study of the doctrine of God.”

Bishops, they said, have a responsibility “to judge works of theology … in terms of how adequately they express the faith of the Church.”

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