Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In response to Blessed John Paul II's call to evangelize formerly Christian societies, the Church must build a “culture of witness,” said representatives of the U.S. bishops in a new document.
It is “primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world,” explained the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
The committee, headed by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisc., released a new online resource on April 16 to assist dioceses, eparchies and parishes in reaching out to engage the faithful and encourage them to witness to their faith through their lives.
The document, entitled, “Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization,” explains that with only an estimated 23 percent of U.S. Catholics attending Mass each week, the Church must reach out to those who “have simply drifted away” from their faith.
“The New Evangelization places a special emphasis on welcoming back to the Lord’s Table all those who are absent, because they are greatly missed and needed to build up the Body of Christ,” said the bishops.
They explained that while evangelization has always been “at the very core of the Church’s mission,” Blessed Pope John Paul II called for “a New Evangelization, new in its ardor, methods and expression.”
This New Evangelization was a call to re-propose the unchanging content of the Church’s message in a new way, engaging the modern culture and keeping in mind the contemporary realities of secularism, globalization and the economy, as well as the influence of science, technology and politics.
Continuing the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI has worked to create a Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization and suggested that the theme be central to the upcoming bishops’ synod.
Key to the New Evangelization is the witness of individual Catholics, who reach out to those in their lives who have fallen away from the Church, said the bishops.
They explained that when Catholics live out their faith, they open “the hearts and minds” of those around them, allowing for a turn towards Christ that can open the door to the “gradual and lifelong process of conversion” to which Christians are called.
“Before one can evangelize, one must be evangelized,” the bishops noted, stressing that as disciples of Christ, we are continually called to renew our own faith in order to share it with others.
Therefore, they said, there is a need to cultivate a “culture of witness,” which is done largely through the commitment of the faithful to live out Christian discipleship and service.
Also helpful, they said, are a vibrant parish life and human experiences such as retreats and prayer groups, through which one “enters into a dialogue with modern culture.” Furthermore, those who have left their faith may still feel a connection to certain prayers, popular devotions, and liturgies of the Church.
The bishops also noted the importance of strong marriages and families, as well as the witness of Catechists and teachers, to offer instruction and examples of sanctity.
In addition, they offered ideas to help address the fears and anxieties of those who are considering returning to their faith.
Programs to welcome Catholics back to the Lord’s Table must foster a spirit of trust and hospitality, emphasizing the Holy Spirit and conversion, they said. Such programs require active leadership and should include faith formation, prayer and popular devotions.
Also important is effective preaching at Sunday Mass, as well as adequate resources and ongoing support for those who are considering returning to an active life of faith, they added.
By actively participating in the New Evangelization, members of the Church can reach out to those who have drifted away from their faith, the bishops said.
In doing so, they can carry out the Church’s work as “an agent of healing and reconciliation,” offering hope through “a personal encounter with the person of Jesus.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 17, 2012 (CNA) -
In an exclusive interview on his new eBook “A Heart on Fire,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says the recent contraception mandate points to a “pattern” of attacks on religious liberty in the U.S.
These attacks, he noted, are changing America into a country more hostile to religion in general and to Catholicism in particular.
“Our national leadership over the past few years has been much colder toward America’s traditional understanding of religious freedom than any administration in recent memory,” the Archbishop of Philadelphia told CNA April 16.
While Americans presume that the Constitution guarantees their rights, he said, “in practice our rights survive or disappear based on how firmly we defend them.”
“It’s not hard to imagine a time in this country when sexual and reproductive ‘rights’ will take precedence over rights of conscience and freedom of religious expression. It’s happening elsewhere. It can happen here. We have no magic immunity.”
The archbishop’s eBook, released on March 27 through Doubleday, comes at a time of intense controversy over religious freedom in the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that almost all employers provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including an abortion-causing drug.
The federal rule’s narrow religious exemption does not apply to many Catholic institutions like health care systems, colleges, and charitable agencies. Employers who do not comply will face heavy fines.
While the Obama administration has proposed a compromise, Catholic leaders say it still requires them to cooperate in providing procedures and drugs whose use they consider to be sinful.
For Archbishop Chaput, the debate is “not an isolated incident.”
“It’s part of a pattern,” he said.
The archbishop finished his eBook last November before the HHS mandate controversy arose, but in his view attacks on religious freedom are problems that have been “brewing in our country for years.”
“Religion is under pressure in the public square because traditional religious faith, and the morality that flows from it, are obstacles to a very different and much more aggressively secular model of American life,” said the archbishop, who served on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.
The archbishop’s comments echo his eBook, which predicts that religious freedom will be “one of the key issues facing Christians in the coming decade” both globally and in the U.S.
“Nothing guarantees that America’s experiment in religious freedom, as we traditionally know it, will survive here in the United States, let alone serve as a model for other countries in the future,” he warns.
He writes that many American leaders no longer regard religious faith as a healthy force even though American institutions and American values grow out of “a predominantly religious view.”
“The America emerging in the next several decades is likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past. And that poses a challenge for all of us as Catholics.”
The archbishop’s eBook urges Catholics to witness to their faith in public life, which he describes as “an obligation of the Gospel.” This witness is “even more urgent as the mistakes and ambiguities of the past half-century of American Catholic experience come to harvest.”
Archbishop Chaput said that traditional religion and morality are under pressure because they are obstacles to a “much more aggressively secular model of American life.”
These attacks on religious faith and morality, such as advocacy for abortion and “gay marriage,” are carried out in the name of the individual but ultimately these attacks benefit the power of the state.
The state “necessarily grows stronger as mediating institutions like the Church are pushed out of the conversation or forced to violate their own teachings,” he said.
“It is a difficult time for believers,” he added.
The archbishop rejected any claim that the eBook and its concerns about religious liberty serve as a distraction from the internal problems of the Catholic Church.
“The main focus of every bishop certainly does need to be his own diocese and his own people – in Philadelphia and everywhere else. But religious liberty is not just another passing national controversy. It impacts every believer in every diocese, right here and right now,” he said.
Catholics should be especially protective of religious freedom because of the United States’ “long history of anti-Catholic prejudice,” he said.
Turning to the origins of “A Heart on Fire,” Archbishop Chaput explained that the eBook began as a new foreword to the print edition of his 2008 book “Render Unto Caesar.” Its electronic form is an inexpensive way to reach a general audience quickly, he added.
The eBook’s title is a compromise with his publisher. He had originally intended to use the title “Fire Upon the Earth,” from Luke 12:49, but his publishers thought it seemed “a bit too strong.”
The title still reflects Jesus’ desire for his disciples to “burn with the love of God” and to “have a zeal for winning souls and making the world holy.”
“A living Christian faith is never entirely at peace with the world,” he said. “Tepid faith is not much better than no faith at all, and in some ways it's worse because it deludes us into thinking we have a friendship with God.”
Every Christian has a missionary vocation, he emphasized. “If we’re not somehow bringing others to Jesus Christ, we’re missing the point of our baptism.”
Vienna, Austria, Apr 17, 2012 (CNA) - Fr. Jacob Strampickal, S.J., a major Catholic communications leader in India, died April 14 at the age of 62.
“He was truly a missionary of communications in India,” said Fr. William Nellikkal of Vatican Radio’s Malayalam section. “He succeeded in convincing the Catholic bishops of India that media is a powerful tool for evangelization.”
Fr. Nellikkal, a former student of Fr. Strampickal, said he united Catholics across India despite their differences in culture and liturgical rites.
Fr. Strampickal had a stroke in September 2011 in India but recovered in what he said was a miracle. He was on a visit to Austria 10 days ago when he became critically ill and was hospitalized.
The Indian bishops’ conference recently appointed him as head of the National Institute for Social Communications, Research and Training, which he helped to found in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
He headed both the Indian and Asian offices of Signis, the international association for Catholic communications. He also taught at the Gregorian University in Rome and in 18 theological seminaries of India, where he discussed the importance of communications for priests and for the Catholic Church, UCA News reports.
His projects included the New Delhi Video Festival for NGOs, national seminars on Church and media, online media training for students from poor countries, and a weekly radio program for migrants.
He has served as a consultant for the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications and he worked closely with Vatican Radio’s Indian program.
Brussels, Belgium, Apr 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Two of the world's largest abortion providers are being funded by the European Union's development aid budget, says a recent report by the non-governmental organization European Dignity Watch.
The findings, which were presented at a March 27 meeting in Brussels as part of a “Week for Life” initiative, drew criticism from members of the European Parliament.
“In Slovakia we cannot finance abortion because it goes against our domestic law,” European Parliament member Miroslav Mikolasik told CNA.
“We have to question the EU Commission on how they think the money they give is being used and whether they stand for life or are against it.”
European Dignity Watch explained in its report that the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International are both “major beneficiaries” of EU funds, receiving millions of dollars for projects relating to “sexual and reproductive health.”
In its regulations on supporting developing countries, the European Union explicitly excludes abortion funding and multiple EU member states have stringent laws restricting the procedure.
However, both Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes consider abortion to be a key part of “sexual and reproductive health.” Planned Parenthood has stated that one of its goals is a “universal recognition of a woman’s right to choose and have access to safe abortion.”
Based on documents and correspondence between the two abortion groups, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the European Commission, which functions as the executive body of the EU, the recent report gives examples of instances in which the abortion-supporting organizations received EU money for “reproductive and sexual health” projects.
In a project in Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru, which was given more than 1.7 million euros by the EU, Planned Parenthood and its member organizations distributed more than 1100 “emergency contraception units,” a term that it never defined, but one that is often used to describe early abortion-inducing drugs.
In addition, Marie Stopes provided training for “manual vacuum aspiration” abortions in its Papua New Guinea project, also heavily funded by the European Commission.
The report also found that the organizations bypassed abortion prohibitions by using technical discrepancies in terms.
Planned Parenthood reported that during its Bangladesh project, which began in 2005 and received 1.48 million euros from the European Commission, it provided “menstrual regulation” services for many of its clients.
Marie Stopes also reported providing “menstrual regulation” for more than 12,000 patients in Bangladesh.
However, on its website, Planned Parenthood describes “menstrual regulation” as a process that empties the uterus of a woman who has been “at risk of conception.”
The procedure uses the suction from a high-powered vacuum to remove the contents of the uterus, which may include a human embryo or fetus.
Planned Parenthood claims that this differs from surgical abortion because the pregnancy is never verified through a pregnancy test, so while the woman may suspect that she is pregnant, it is not confirmed.
But despite these technical distinctions, European Dignity Watch concluded in its report that the evidence clearly shows that Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes “are perpetrating abortion in foreign countries while receiving Commission money intended to aid development in third-world countries.”
The organization voiced concern that despite receiving these reports, the European Commission has continued funding both groups. It queried whether measures are being taken to ensure that the Commission is not funding abortion and called for further investigation.
“This raises questions,” group executive director Sophia Kuby told CNA. “What are the consequences for such a misuse of European budgets and what could be done to prevent such misuse in the future?”
Theresa Okafor, director of Life League in Nigeria who also attended the meeting, was troubled by what she viewed as the potentially far-reaching effects the global abortion funding efforts.
Okafor questioned why the EU is seeking to reduce the population in places such as Africa when “we've seen that economic progress actually corresponds with population growth.”
Denver, Colo., Apr 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Three Catholic priests, including one hailed by Pope Saint Pius X as a martyr for the faith, were among the victims of the Titanic disaster remembered during its 100th anniversary on April 14-15.
All three of the European-born priests – Father Juozas Montvila of Lithuania, Father Josef Peruschitz, O.S.B. of Bavaria, and English rector Father Thomas Byles – are said to have declined lifeboats in order to offer spiritual aid to travelers who perished in the shipwreck, which claimed 1503 lives.
An eyewitness account of the 1912 sinking, published in the Jesuit journal “America,” described how “all the Catholics on board desired the assistance of priests with the greatest fervor.”
The priests led passengers in recitation of the Rosary, and “aroused those condemned to die to say acts of contrition and prepare themselves to meet the face of God.” According to the eyewitness, they were “engaged continuously giving general absolution to those who were about to die.”
Fr. Byles and Fr. Peruschitz had offered Mass on the morning of Sunday, April 14, only hours before the supposedly “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
Prior to the crash, both men had preached sermons on humanity's need for the spiritual “lifeboat” offered by Jesus Christ amid the dangers of the world.
Born in Yorkshire, England during 1870, Fr. Byles converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism in 1894. He ministered to Catholics on the Titanic while traveling to the U.S. for the wedding of his brother, who had also entered the Church.
After Fr. Byles' death in the shipwreck, St. Pius X reportedly described him as a “martyr.” A plaque at his onetime parish recalls his “heroic death in the disaster,” after “earnestly devoting his last moments to the religious consolation of his fellow passengers.”
Fr. Peruschitz was also described by eyewitnesses as declining a place on the lifeboats. The Bavarian priest-monk, born in 1871, was traveling on the Titanic to take up his new position as principal of a Benedictine high school in Minnesota.
His body, like those of the other two priests, was not recovered. A memorial at his onetime monastery in Bavaria reads: “May Joseph Peruschitz rest in peace, who on the ship Titanic piously sacrificed himself.”
The youngest of the three priests, Fr. Juozas Montvila, was born in 1885. Ordained in 1908, he secretly ministered to Eastern Catholics in Lithuania, whose faith had been outlawed by authorities of the Russian Empire.
Under government pressure, Fr. Montvila was forced to leave the country in order to continue his priestly ministry. He boarded the Titanic in Southhampton, England, with the intention of emigrating to the U.S.
Reports from the sinking ship recounted how the Byzantine-rite priest “served his calling to the very end.” Since then, there have been efforts toward his canonization.
Rome, Italy, Apr 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Graham Turner, 48, was a priest for only one week when he passed away from leukemia.
“There is a great wave of sadness here at the moment but it was important that Graham was ordained,” said Monsignor Roderick Strange, Rector of the Beda College in Rome, where Fr. Turner studied for the priesthood.
“Although we are ordained for active ministry this was also a completion of a significant period in Graham’s life of discernment and commitment. So it was wonderful that he was ordained a priest.”
Fr. Turner was supposed to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh, Scotland last June. That was postponed, however, after he was diagnosed with leukemia.
Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien of St. Andrews & Edinburgh decided to move swiftly after being told by the deacon’s father during Holy Week that his son’s prognosis was very bleak.
Fr. Turner was ordained on Easter Monday in the chapel of Salford Royal Hospital, near Manchester, England.
“The ceremony itself was very moving, very poignant, very powerful,” Msgr. Strange recalled, noting that “there is a line in the ordination rite where the bishops tells the ordinand to model their life on the mystery of Christ’s cross and that was very much fulfilled in that ceremony.”
Fr. Graham was wheeled into the chapel in his bed but was transferred to a wheelchair. He was able to assist at the Mass and, with the help of the nursing staff, stood for a short time at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer. His parents, Marilyn and George, along with his brother Ian and sister Sue were able to be at the ordination.
“With Graham, I will remember the gentleness, the humor, the intelligence, the patience, the extraordinary strength of character, and in particular, the fortitude with which he responded to and coped with the last 12 months of his life,” Msgr. Strange said.
Lima, Peru, Apr 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Catholic University of Peru has reportedly been given a final deadline of April 18 to comply with the Vatican's demand that it bring its statutes in line with Church teaching.
“According to church sources, this deadline is not extendable,” the Riva Aguero University Association, a group of students, teachers and alumni from the school, said April 16.
The Vatican had previously given the school until April 8 – later extending the deadline to April 13 upon the university's request – to comply, which marked the first time the Holy See has set such a deadline for a school to reform.
University officials have been refusing to accept the Church’s guidelines for Catholic universities, which were laid out the papal document “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.” The apostolic constitution was promulgated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II to clarify what is expected of an authentically Catholic university.
An investigation of the university was carried out Dec. 5 -11, 2011 by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, who found the Lima-based institution to be at odds with the Catholic Church in several significant areas of policy.
In an unrelated dispute, the school has pitted itself against the Archdiocese of Lima involving the wishes of Jose de la Riva-Aguero, a Catholic patron who donated the land where the university was built.
Riva-Aguero had stipulated in his will that the land would belong to the university as long as a representative of the Church was allowed a seat on its board of directors. The university had defied a ruling by the Peruvian civil courts to give the Archdiocese of Lima a seat on its board of directors.
The association warned that a failure to comply with the Vatican “would mean the unexpected end of the institutional life of a Catholic educational center that has enjoyed national and international prestige for 95 years.”
“We call on the university community – especially students – to stay informed and to be ready to accept the effects that a refusal of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru’s to reform its statutes would have on their university life,” the group said.
Rome, Italy, Apr 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The breakaway Society of St. Pius X has given its assent to a statement of doctrinal belief presented to it by the Vatican, but with some suggested amendments to the text.
It will now be for Pope Benedict XVI to decide whether the traditionalist group's response is sufficient to permit them back into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Weekend media speculation suggested that there has been behind-the-scene dialogue between both sides in recent weeks trying to smooth reconciliation.
“Unofficially and in the utmost discretion, the envoys have worked on both sides to reach agreement,” wrote Jean-Marie Guenois, religion correspondent for the French newspaper Le Figaro April 13.
“In recent weeks, the final adjustments have been finalized between Rome and Ecône (the Society’s Swiss headquarters) to best respond to requests for ‘clarifications’ sought by the Vatican, 16 March.”
A public announcement by the Vatican on the latest state of play with negotiations is likely to be made this week.
If agreement can be reached, the Society could be offered the status of Personal Prelature within the Church. That is a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei.
The Society of St. Pius X was presented with a “doctrinal preamble” by the Vatican in September 2011, which outlined points of belief that the Church needed clarified before finally healing the decades-long rift between the two sides.
An initial reply in January 2012 was deemed “not sufficient” by the Vatican who then invited the Society to further clarify its position by mid-April.
The Society has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve, consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988.
Archbishop Lefebrve founded the Society in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
In 2009, Pope Benedict remitted the excommunications of the Society’s bishops and set talks in motion aimed at restoring “full communion.” The Pope said at the time that to achieve full communion the members of the Society would have to show “true recognition of the Magisterium and the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.”