Dublin, Ireland, Aug 23, 2012 (CNA) - Just as 19th-century Ireland experienced Christian renewal after the apparition of Our Lady of Knock, modern Ireland can likewise undergo an “authentically Catholic” renewal despite decades of troubles, says Archbishop Charles Brown, the apostolic nuncio to Ireland.
“Brothers and sisters, the future of the Church in Ireland begins now,” Archbishop Brown said in his homily at the Aug. 22 closing Mass of the National Public Novena honoring Our Lady of Knock at the Knock Shrine in County Mayo.
“Certainly, the road ahead is not an easy one, but the road ahead for Catholics in Ireland did not look very easy in 1879 when Our Lady appeared here on that rainy evening in August. And yet her appearance was followed by one of the most fruitful periods in the 15 centuries of Catholicism on this Island.”
On Aug. 21, 1879, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared to 15 witnesses at the Catholic church at Knock. The apparitions were near an altar with a cross and a lamb, around which angels hovered. The apparitions remained silent as the witnesses watched and prayed for two hours in the rain.
Archbishop Brown reflected on the situation of Ireland in 1879, noting that the country was not yet free and independent. Thirty years before, almost a million people had suffered and died during the Great Famine, while many more had been forced to emigrate.
“And so it was that, in those very bad times, Mary appeared, to comfort and to console and – although she never spoke a word – to lead her people, to direct her children to the Lamb on the altar, the Lamb who was slain but who now is alive, the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’”
The century that followed the apparition witnessed an “extraordinary flourishing” of the Catholic Church, with “huge numbers” of priestly and religious vocations.
“Such a flourishing would have seemed impossible in 1879. But the night is often darkest before the dawn,” Archbishop Brown said.
He noted negative trends in contemporary Ireland, including “two decades of scandals, crimes and failures.”
“Certainly, there are reasons for discouragement,” he acknowledged.
However, he also pointed to signs of hope.
Tens of thousands of people attended the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June. At a recent ordination of a young man to the priesthood, Archbishop Brown witnessed a small country church “filled with people young and old” with a beautiful liturgy and hymns in the Irish language.
On Reek Sunday, the July commemoration of St. Patrick’s fast, the archbishop saw “thousands of pilgrims” climbing Croagh Patrick and hundreds going to confession. In Clonmacnoise, he saw “literally hundreds of young people” in Eucharistic adoration, praying the Rosary, confessing their sins and “rejoicing in the liberating love of God.”
“That, my brothers and sisters, is the future of the Church in Ireland,” said the archbishop.
He urged authenticity in the Catholic faith with firm attention to “the reality of salvation,” citing Pope Benedict XVI’s insistence that Christians must deepen their understanding of their faith.
“We need to propose the Catholic faith in its fullness, in its beauty and in its radicality, with compassion and with conviction. We need to be unafraid to affirm the elements of the Catholic way which secular society rejects and ridicules,” he said.
Austin, Texas, Aug 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a unanimous decision, a federal court on Tuesday lifted an injunction that protected Planned Parenthood from a Texas law that bars state funds from organizations that perform or promote abortion.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who backed the law, said Aug. 21 the decision is “a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Steven H. Aden also praised the decision in an Aug. 22 statement, saying it shows “abortionists and their political allies are bluffing when they say that states cannot stop taxpayer funding from being used to subsidize abortions, whether directly or indirectly.”
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal district court’s temporary injunction that preserved state funding before an October trial in which Planned Parenthood intends to challenge the law, the Associated Press reported.
The court decision said the district court “gave insufficient attention to Texas’s authority to subsidize speech of its choosing within its programs.”
The funds concern the Texas Women’s Health Program, which provides services to many women not qualified through Medicaid. The program previously funded Planned Parenthood’s provision of family planning and health services to poor women. About 65,000 women of the 130,000 enrolled in the program secured services through the abortion provider, though state funds were not used for abortion.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said the legal case is “about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams.
However, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot said Aug. 21 that the decision “rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women's Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion.”
He said his office is “encouraged” by the decision and will continue to defend the Women’s Health Program in court.
State-level efforts to defund abortion providers have increased in recent years. However, they have faced significant legal and regulatory obstacles as well as interference and threats from pro-abortion rights officials in the federal government.
In December 2011 the Obama administration threatened to deny federal funding to the Texas women’s health program if the law stood.
A similar defunding effort in New Hampshire that threatened $1.8 million in funding for Planned Parenthood caused the Department of Health and Human Services to say it would give a federal grant to the abortion provider.
In July 2012 a federal official with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Chicago reaffirmed that an Indiana law barring Medicaid funds to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood is unacceptable on the grounds that it denies women the freedom to choose their health care providers, according to the Associated Press.
Rome, Italy, Aug 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As fighting in neighboring Syria rages on, Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed that he will proceed with his trip to Lebanon as planned.
"The Christians in Lebanon are looking forward to the Holy Father's visit with great joy,” Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Boutros Rai told Aid to the Church in Need Aug. 22.
Escalating violence in Syria and increased tensions in Lebanon gave rise to speculation that the Pope would postpone or cancel his Sept. 14-16 trip.
“Of course the visit will go ahead,” Cardinal Rai confirmed.
Just last week an assassination plot against Cardianl Rai, who is the highest ranking dignitary in the Maronite Church, was prevented when one of the conspirators informed Lebanon’s domestic secret service of the plan.
Large quantities of explosives were intended to detonate along the route of Cardinal Rai's visit to Sunni parliament member Khaled Daher's home in northern Lebanon.
Michel Samaha, a former minister and current supporter of Hezbollah, was involved in the plot and has been arrested and admitted to the plan.
"The preparations for the visit are going ahead without any uncertainty on the part of the Vatican," Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, told reporters Aug. 20.
Fr. Lombardi said a sign that the visit will take place is that a popemobile has already been sent to Lebanon.
This past week violence and tensions from the conflict in Syria have begun to spill over the border into Lebanon, and the assassination plot is among those incidents.
Since March 2011, the armed revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has claimed over 10,000 lives, according to the latest U.N. estimates.
During his visit, the Pope will meet with Cardianl Rai to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Middle East, which is the result of a synod that took place in 2010.
Pope Benedict is set to meet with Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati and celebrate Mass at Beirut's City Center Waterfront.
In a July 29 Sunday Angelus address, the Pope said that he has been following events “with concern” for the “growing and tragic episodes of violence in Syria” which have created a “sad sequence of deaths and injuries among civilians.”
In the same speech, he lamented the large number of internally displaced people and refugees who have moved to neighboring countries.
Over 50,000 Christians throughout Syria have fled their homes. In the city of Homs, where much of the fighting has been centered, 90 percent of the Christian population has fled.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The government of the Balearic Islands is slated to propose legislation aimed at helping pregnant women in difficult situations, and to encourage them not to undergo an abortion.
After a meeting with Antoni Mesquida – leader of the islands' Department of Health – local spokesman for Right to Life Juan Jose Tenorio said the law will not “require” women to continue with their pregnancies, but is only intended to help them “choose freely.”
In remarks to Europa Press on Aug. 22, he noted that ultimately the “objective is to help the birth rate” increase in the western Mediterranean island community.
According to Tenorio, Mesquida's department is drafting the measure and will send it to parliament when the next legislative session begins in September.
Tenorio said the health department and society in general should help pregnant women in need so they can “save their pregnancies and not abort, always taking into account that women’s freedom should be respected.”
“The priority should be that they choose freely,” he said, arguing that women are not being given adequate information on alternatives to the procedure, despite requirements to the contrary under Spain's current abortion law.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The official flag of the Olympic Games, on its way from London to Rio de Janeiro's Shrine of Christ the Redeemer, was received by Archbishop Orani Tempesta and World Youth Day volunteers.
The flag was presented during a ceremony on Aug. 19 attended by the mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, and the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Arthur Nuzman.
Archbishop Orani said the presence of the flag next to Christ the Redeemer should be a reminder that the preparations for the Summer Games in 2016 should take place in an atmosphere of peace and fraternity.
“We pray for the intercession of Christ the Redeemer so that, not only during the Olympics, the presence of the Olympic flag will lead us to seek after peace, understanding and fraternity,” the archbishop said.
After the ceremony to receive the flag, the rector of the Shrine of Christ the Redeemer, Father Omar Raposo, celebrated Mass for the Wolrd Youth Day volunteers. In his homily, he reflected on the mission Christians have in the world.
“Service to God demands of us sacrifice and good will. We do everything for love of God and our Redeemer,” he said.
Pope Benedict is slated to attend the global youth event next summer, which will take place from July 23-July 28.
Rimini, Italy, Aug 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The coordinator of Communion and Liberation in North America believes the Catholic lay movement can help people there realize that “the American dream” finds its greatest fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
“There is something that is deeply rooted in the people of North America, we call it ‘the American dream,’ that is a fundamentally positive attitude about life, an idea that the future is going to bring something better,” said Christopher Bacich in an Aug. 21 CNA interview.
“People who have encountered Jesus Christ through Communion and Liberation, and I’m sure I can speak for many of us, recognize that the encounter with Christ, and his presence in our life, is the answer to this desire for a life that is better, that is great, that is worthwhile and fruitful.”
Communion and Liberation grew out of the teaching methods of its Italian founder Father Luigi Giussani, who died in 2005. As a high school teacher during the 1950s in Milan, he wanted to help young people live out their Catholic faith in everyday life.
Bacich recounted how Fr. Giussani would always bring his high school students back to the “most elementary aspects of the Gospel” as he explained that Christianity “did not begin as anybody’s idea or as a moral code or even a liturgical event” but, instead, originated with “people meeting a person.”
“It began on the shore of the Jordan River,” said Bacich, “when two men heard another man say ‘There goes the Lamb of God,’ they walked across and they followed that man who turned around and said, ‘What are you looking for?’”
The same story held true “for everybody in the Gospels,” he noted, including the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, St. Matthew, the lepers and demoniacs. For the reason, the movement’s charism “emphasizes that experience of encounter with a human being, with a human person, with a human reality that is different, is essential to Christianity.”
From his base in New York, 42-year-old Bacich helps coordinate the growth of Communion and Liberation in Canada and the United States. Currently the movement has an estimated 200 communities with over 5,000 members across North America.
“That ranges from several hundred people in New York, Washington, D.C. or Montreal, down to small communities of 10 and 20 in places like Crosby, Minnesota or Lincoln, Nebraska.”
It can also include those who are already members of religious orders and “feel that their relationship to their own particular charisms is regenerated through the experience of the charism of Communion and Liberation,” he said.
Bacich believes that a defining characteristic of the movement’s North American members is that they have a “real willingness to grapple with the real life, everyday culture in which we live, while showing no fear, like Pope John Paul II said, ‘Be not afraid.’”
Denver, Colo., Aug 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic News Agency's editor-in-chief, David Scott, has been tapped to lead the communications operations of the nation’s largest archdiocese.
Archbishop José H. Gomez has appointed Scott as his vice chancellor for communications. Scott will “direct and coordinate all internal and external communications for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” according to a statement released by the archdiocese Aug. 20.
The Los Angeles archdiocese spans nearly 9,000 square miles and encompasses 120 cities in southern California. It serves a Catholic population of roughly 5 million in 288 parishes and is one of world’s most diverse archdioceses, ministering to 72 different ethnic and national groups and offering liturgies and pastoral services in roughly 40 languages.
A veteran Catholic journalist, Scott has served as CNA’s editor-in-chief since 2010. He helped guide Catholic News Agency during a period of growth that saw the agency expand its coverage of national and international affairs and cultural issues.
During his tenure, the agency launched a subscription service for diocesan newspapers and was selected as the exclusive newswire provider for the National Catholic Register, the nation’s premier Catholic newsweekly. Scott also helped the agency establish new digital and multimedia operations and expand its Rome bureau.
“This appointment is an honor,” Scott said. “Archbishop Gomez is one of the great leaders in the Church today. I’m excited to help him communicate his vision for the new evangelization and the power and beauty of the Gospel.”
“But I am really sad to leave CNA,” Scott added. “This is a special place. Every day I had the privilege of working with the sharpest, most creative journalists and editors in the business. They have the highest professional values and a true dedication to Catholic journalism as a vocation. I’m going to miss them a lot.”
“For me, CNA represents the future of Catholic media,” Scott continued. “This agency understands that Catholic journalism has to serve the Church’s mission in a global culture where many people are indifferent to God, and where powerful interest groups are unfriendly to the Church and the Catholic vision of life and society.”
With news bureaus in North and South America and Europe, the Denver-based Catholic News Agency and EWTN News operation is one of the biggest and fastest growing independent Catholic media outlets in the world.
Through its Editors’ Service, the agency also provides a full range of news, features, commentary web-video and photojournalism for print and internet publications. CNA’s sister news agency, ACI Prensa, is the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish.
“David Scott has played a tremendous role in helping to take CNA/EWTN News to the next level of its development,” said Michael Warsaw, President and CEO of EWTN, the world’s largest Catholic media organization. “He has a keen news sense and a tremendous understanding of the Church and her teachings.”
“All of us are very grateful for David’s service to our mission,” Warsaw said. “While I hate to see him leave his current role with us, I think he is the perfect person for this new position within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I wish David well and assure him of our prayers.”
Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of Catholic News Agency, stated that “David’s departure marks a significant transition for CNA.”
“He will be greatly missed in the day to day operations, but we are energized by his enthusiasm and knowledge and the vision he has given to our team.”
“That vision includes expanding our presence in the new media, especially our growing services to Catholic news editors in the English-speaking world,” Bermudez said.
Denver, Colo., Aug 23, 2012 (CNA) -
The upcoming family-friendly film “Last Ounce of Courage” by screenwriter Darrel Campbell takes the debate surrounding religious freedom and public expression of faith to the big screen.
Campbell said he intends the film to not only address how and why we celebrate Christmas in today's politically correct society, but also honor the soldiers and veterans who serve our country, “strap on the boots, and go in harm’s way.”
The movie, which will be released Sept. 14 on 1,200 screens nationwide, follows three generations of the fictional Revere family.
Bob Revere, played by veteran actor Marshall Teague, is a decorated war hero and the part-time mayor of a small town. But his life drastically changes when his son Tom goes off to war and is killed. Adding to his pain, Tom's young wife – who had just given birth to their son Christian – drifts away from the family in her grief.
After 14 years, however, Christian and his mom decide to come back into the Reveres' life one holiday season, looking for the family they desperately need and miss.
When he settles into the community, Christian finds himself chastised for bringing a bible to school and observes Christmas being ignored or secularized when once it was celebrated by locals.
One day, Christian asks his grandfather what his father had died for. When Bob has no quick answer, they both start down a road to find the answer’s they have been hiding from. Soon, all three generations of Reveres take a stand for their beliefs and end up inspiring an entire town.
Campbell told CNA on Aug. 22 that the film is “a celebration of those who have given their last full measure of devotion.”
The screenwriter’s father was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II and his brother, Campbell’s uncle, lost his life in that same war. Campbell said he wants the film to prompt audiences to ask “what can I do to make sure their sacrifice is not in vain?”
Lead actor Marshall Teague agreed. He told CNA he hopes that moviegoers ask themselves “what are we willing to do?”
“You start with your first ounce of courage,” he said, explaining that “That first ounce of courage is your voice – speaking up.”
Finding one's voice allows individuals to publicly say “I believe in this country, I believe in the people, I believe in freedom, I believe in my church, my religion, my faith,” Teague said. “This country is based on faith, family, and freedom, and that’s what the movie is about.”
“It is very rare for faith based film to be about our country and our people,” he added. “This is really a movie about all of us.”
Campbell said he aimed to make the film in a way that was “ecumenical – in the sense that it’s not Protestant or Catholic, but it is Christian.”
More information on the film can be found at: http://www.alrcnewskitchen.com/looc.