Archive of December 12, 2011

Thousands attend funeral of beloved Chinese bishop

Rome, Italy, Dec 12, 2011 (CNA) - Over 3,000 people attended the funeral of beloved 79-year-old Bishop Antonio Changfeng Zong of China, who died on Nov. 22 after struggling with a long illness. 

The Nov. 29 funeral Mass drew three bishops and forty priests among the thousands who commemorated the life of  Bishop Zong, leader of the Kaifeng diocese in northwest China.

Bishop Zong was born into a devout Catholic family in the city of Xingping in the Diocese of Zhouzhi on September 13, 1932.

At the age of 12 he entered St. John’s Seminary in Wugong Puji and later studied philosophy and theology at the seminary of Fengxiang and Xi’an.

Because of a difficult political situation in the region, he was forced to return home, where he worked in agriculture and brick-making. However, he continued to feel called to the priesthood and patiently waited for the day of his ordination.

On May 29, 1979, at the age of 46—and after waiting 34 years—he was ordained a priest and sent to work at various parishes in the Diocese of Zhouzhi.

After 20 years of service as a priest, he was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Kaifeng in 1998. He retired from ministry in 2008 and lived with his cousin in the town of Nanyue.

Vatican-based Fides news reported that during his life, Bishop Zong endured numerous difficulties to build thirteen local churches. He also lived simply and with great pastoral zeal—qualities that drew many Catholics in the area to attend his Masses daily over the decades.

At the conclusion of his funeral on Nov. 29, a procession carried Bishop Zong to the cemetery of the parish in Nanyue where he was buried.

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Spanish bishop calls for authentic joy in Christmas season

Cordoba, Spain, Dec 12, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain said the upcoming Christmas season should be a time of great joy for believers, not exhaustion or distraction. 

“The joy of Christmas is inspiring” and “should lead us to live closer to God and to be more open to our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Fernandez told Europa Press on Dec. 9.  

“Christmas is Jesus Christ, and to celebrate Christmas is to have an encounter with Jesus Christ and find salvation in Him,” the archbishop said.  

However, perhaps “for many,” he added, “Christmas has been emptied of its real content. Perhaps for many, even Christians and believers, Christmas will be nothing more than a family festivity, and maybe not even that.”

Archbishop Fernandez said that the “word of God warns us: 'Let us then throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.'”

Christmas should center “us more on God and on the mission that God has entrusted to us, to help each one of us to more and more fulfill the obligations of our state in life and our vocation,” he underscored.

“If we live Christmas this way, we will realize what the festivity is, and to wait for this festivity is reason for great joy.”

“Christmas is a time of great joy for the Christian believer,” because “the Son of God takes on our mortal flesh to make us participants in his immortality and divine life,” he noted.

“This salvation is not something that happened and that we remember as something from the past, but rather it is happening today, it is happening for us and for all of humanity.”

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Cardinal John Foley, great Catholic communicator, dies at 76

Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Cardinal John Patrick Foley, former head of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, died in Pennsylvania on Dec. 11 at the age of 76. Pope Benedict XVI expressed gratitude for the cardinal’s priestly ministry and “distinguished service.”

In a message to Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, the Pope prayed that Cardinal Foley’s “lifelong commitment” to the Church’s presence in the media will inspire others to take up an apostolate “so essential to the proclamation of the Gospel and the progress of the new evangelization.”

“To all who mourn Cardinal Foley in the hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Chaput said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the cardinal’s death.

“Cardinal Foley was a man of great apostolic energy. Anyone who met him was immediately aware of his intense love for the Church and his zeal for communicating the Gospel. By the sheer force of his personality, he drew people to the faith and to himself,” the archbishop said Dec. 11.

Cardinal Foley was born to John and Regina Foley in Darby, Pa. on Nov. 11, 1935. He grew up in Holy Spirit Parish in Delaware County outside of Philadelphia.

The future cardinal was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1962 and edited the archdiocesan paper, the Catholic Standard & Times. He served as editor of Rome’s archdiocesan newspaper from 1970 to 1984. Ordained a bishop in 1984, he served as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from that year through 2007.

For 21 years, he provided the English-language commentary for the global TV broadcasts of Christmas and Easter Masses.

He became a cardinal in 2007 after Pope Benedict appointed him Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which gives spiritual and financial support to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land and helps maintain Christian shrines there.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the new pro-grand master of the order, said that the order grew “significantly” in numbers under the cardinal, largely due to his “devoted commitment.”

“I will be ever grateful for his words of support and counsel these three brief months since my appointment,” the archbishop continued, adding that the cardinal has long been regarded as “the patriarch of the American Catholic press.”

“Though very many of us will miss him, we prayerfully offer him back to God with gratitude for his friendship, his sterling priestly example and his many contributions to the kingdom of God on earth.”

Cardinal Foley returned to Philadelphia after being diagnosed with leukemia and other health ailments. He died at the retired priests’ home Villa St. Joseph, about 100 yards from the hospital where he was born, the Chester County Daily Local News reports.

On his 76th birthday this past Nov. 11, Cardinal Foley said he was grateful to God for a wonderful life.

“I was pleased that he was able to come home during the final months of his life,” Archbishop Chaput commented. “No matter where he lived or how he served the Church over the years, he always considered Philadelphia his home.”

He asked the people of Philadelphia to pray for the cardinal.

“All of us are very grateful for the life and service of Cardinal Foley. His charisma and gentle spirit will be sorely missed throughout the Universal Church.”

On Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. the cardinal’s body will be transferred to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary’s Chapel of St. Martin of Tours in Wynnewood, Pa. After midmorning prayers, his body will lay in state for public viewing.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia will celebrate Mass at 7 p.m., after which the chapel will be closed.

Cardinal Foley’s body will be transferred to Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul at 9:15 a.m. Dec. 16. His body will be received at the cathedral at 10 a.m., followed by Midmorning Prayer and another public viewing.

His Solemn Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m., followed by the Rite of Committal in the Cathedral Crypt below the main altar.

Updated Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:20 MST. Adds funeral information.

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Pope confirms Cuba, Mexico visits on Guadalupe feast

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that he will visit Cuba and Mexico next year, during a Dec. 12 Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe and celebrating Latin American and Carribean independence.

“With this strong desire, and supported by the aid of divine providence,” he said in his homily at St. Peter's Basilica, “I have the intention to undertake an apostolic journey before the holy Easter, to Mexico and Cuba, there to proclaim the word of Christ.”

Representatives of Latin American countries displayed their national flags at the Mass, which commemorated both the Virgin Mary's 1531 appearance in Mexico, and the end of Spanish rule in the Americas between 1810 and 1825.

The Pope said next year's planned trip was based on a conviction that “this is a precious time to evangelize” in Latin America and the Caribbean. In his homily, he called for the New Evangelization to reach the countries currently marking 200 years of independence.

“The true disciples and missionaries of the Lord will thus be multiplied, and the vocation of Latin America and the Carribean to hope will be renewed,” said the Pope, predicting the fruits of a renewed preaching of the Gospel.

Vatican sources told CNA that the Pope's own evangelistic trip would take him to Cuba from March 21 to 23, and to Mexico on March 24 and 25. In Cuba, he will likely visit Havana and possibly Santiago de Cuba, while his Mexican itinerary will take him to León in the state of Guanajuato.

Mexico City was reportedly discarded because of its high altitude. León is located in what is know as the “bajío,” or lower lands.

In his homily, Pope Benedict cited Blessed John Paul II's call for a New Evangelization – “new in its ardor, its methods, its expression” – in historically Christian lands. He also endorsed the Latin American bishops' 2007 call for a “continental mission” of Catholic outreach.

Through these initiatives, he said, the “light of God” would shine “increasingly on the face of each of the children of that beloved land, and his redeeming grace guide their choices,” in order to accomplish “the triumph of love and the dissemination of justice.”

The Virgin Mary's 1531 appearance to Saint Juan Diego, in which he received her miraculous image on his cloak, is considered a turning point in the Christianization of Latin America. Today, Pope Benedict said, Mary continues to show the world “the only light and the only truth, her son Jesus Christ.”

Jesus, he said, is “the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life, and the fundamental questions that still trouble many men and women of the Americas.” He reminded the congregation of Mary's prayers for those “who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties.”

The Pope urged Latin American Catholics to “safeguard their faith and their rich trove of historical and cultural dymanism,” while stepping forward as “promoters of peace” and “defenders of human life from conception to natural death.”

Believers in the region were also urged to “to promote reconciliation, brotherhood, and solidarity and enhance environmental stewardship, while reinvigorating efforts to overcome poverty, illiteracy and corruption and eradicate all injustice, violence, crime, insecurity, drug trafficking and extortion.”

Pope Benedict entrusted Latin America's future to the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and to the “many saints and blesseds that the Spirit has brought forth” in Latin America's history – whose example “favors a New Evangelization under the gaze of Christ, the savior of man.”

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LA to host giant 'Guadalupe Celebration' in 2012

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Knights of Columbus announced plans today for a massive “Guadalupe Celebration,” to be held at the 93,000-seat L.A. Coliseum on Aug. 5, 2012.

“At certain times, the Church gathers together for an event that provides the opportunity for the expression of faith in a very public way,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gómez said in an announcement made on the Dec. 12, 2011 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“In this celebration we will renew our devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and our commitment to continue the process of evangelization that she began on this continent nearly 500 years ago,” said the leader of the five-million member archdiocese.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, said the Catholic fraternal and charitable order was “pleased to be able to cosponsor this event with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” featuring prayer, music, and speeches honoring the Virgin Mary.

“We strongly believe that Our Lady of Guadalupe has an important message to share with all of us and has an important role to play in unifying the faithful of this hemisphere,” he said.

Anderson, co-author of the 2009 bestseller “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love,” said the Guadalupe Celebration will be “an opportunity for us to bring Our Lady’s message to a large audience joined together in prayer and celebrating the great gift she has given this hemisphere.”

The Supreme Knight and his co-author Monsignor Eduardo Chavez will be among the event's speakers, along with Archbishop Gomez. Msgr. Chavez oversaw the canonization cause of St. Juan Diego, who received the Virgin Mary's miraculous image on his cloak when she appeared to him in 1531. 

Los Angeles' Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is home to the only relic of St. Juan Diego's cloak – or “tilma” –  in the United States. The portion imprinted with the miraculous image resides in Mexico City's Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most-visited religious shrine in the Western hemisphere.

The Knights of Columbus co-sponsored a U.S. tour of the L.A. archdiocese's tilma relic in 2003, and held their first International Marian Congress in Arizona on the 2009 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That event concluded with its own Guadalupe Festival that drew 22,000 people.

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