Archive of March 16, 2013

Catholic group marks St. Patrick's love for the Irish

New York City, N.Y., Mar 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - St. Patrick’s Day is a time to remember the saint's “tremendous love” for the Irish people, says the head of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a U.S. fraternal organization.

St. Patrick “had had such a widespread impact on Irish spirituality and Irish culture, the direction that the nation took,” group president Brendan Moore told CNA March 12.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is a U.S.-based Irish-American Catholic fraternal organization with over 80,000 members in 46 U.S. states, Canada and Ireland. One of its inspirations is St. Patrick, whose feast day is observed March 17, this Sunday.

The saint was born in Romanized Britain in the late fourth century. While a teenager, he was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders. He lived as a shepherd before he escaped and returned home.

He then returned as a missionary and became known for his life of sacrifice, prayer and fasting. Although he was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland, he is widely regarded as the most successful.

Moore said St. Patrick’s Day is a “tremendous day of celebration” not only of the saint, but also of the achievements of the Irish people in the U.S.

In addition to the holiday’s spiritual dimension, he said St. Patrick’s Day is “a day of sharing our culture, of which we are most proud.” He noted the quality of Irish music and dance and Irish accomplishment in sports and other areas.

Hibernians often mark the day by taking part in parades, holding dance exhibitions, and hosting pipe bands. They also hold special St. Patrick’s Day Masses for their members and invite non-members to attend.

Moore, the son of Irish immigrants, said St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is traditionally a religious holiday.

“There was very little of the celebration that we know in the public venue today in the United States,” he explained.

Moore lamented what he said is “a creeping deterioration” of the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day that can degrade it in the eyes of some Irish-Americans.

For example, the emphasis on heavy drinking, he said, “overshadows the day.” He noted that this has helped perpetuate stereotypes in “some very, very offensive materials.”

These include sweatshirts and t-shirts being produced by major brands “that really should know better,” Moore said.

The Hibernians in particular object to some clothing sold by Spencer's, Urban Outfitters and Wal-Mart that associates the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day with drunkenness.

Moore said the Hibernians reject negative portrayals of the Irish and any other ethnic or religious group.

He also voiced hope that the good in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations outweighs the bad.

Moore said that his order encourages its members to show charity to “everyone we meet,” a reflection of the Hibernians’ principles of friendship, unity and Christian charity.

“In addition to that, I think we’re charged with the responsibility to recognize around us that there are terrible needs in society and that we are required to reach out to those in need,” he told CNA.

The organization particularly focuses on hunger relief. At the Hibernians’ founding in New York City in 1836, members helped Irish immigrants who were leaving their ships to the U.S. in a state of starvation with nowhere to go.

When Hurricane Sandy struck the northeastern U.S. in late October 2012, an estimated 500 Hibernian members were among the many victims.

The Hibernians launched a special relief fund, collected supplies and sent in squads of volunteers in what Moore said was a “tremendous effort” to help repair the damage.

“We were kind of overwhelmed, both with the response of our membership in terms of donations and assistance, and also with the applications for help that poured in,” Moore said.

The organization has received about 250 applications for assistance and has distributed close to $250,000 in direct aid. Hibernian volunteers from places like Albany, far from the coasts, still travel to help clean homes. Some are still surveying storm victims to see what their needs are.

Moore said the Hibernians are growing as an organization at a time when many other groups’ member rolls are stagnant or shrinking.

“In many areas of the country, we seem to be attracting members who are in their 20s and 30s. Oftentimes they are young professionals.”

The men Hibernians recently launched a new division in Dubuque, Iowa. In Texas a new division will launch soon In Houston and discussions are underway for a new division in Dallas.

Divisions in Virginia have increased by 20 percent and there are as many as nine divisions in South Carolina.

Membership in the Ancient Order of Hibernians is open to Catholic men age 16 or older of Irish descent. The Ladies' Ancient Order of Hibernians is a separately-run partner organization for Irish-American Catholic women.

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Wikileaks shows US Vatican embassy profiled Pope Francis in 2005

Vatican City, Mar 16, 2013 (CNA) - Leaked U.S. State Department cables published by Wikileaks show that the U.S. Vatican Embassy saw the future Pope Francis as a contender for the papacy in the 2005 conclave, reporting him to be a “wise pastor” who could appeal to allies of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Six cables mention Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires who became Pope Francis on March 13. One of the unclassified cables, dated April 18, 2005, includes a detailed profile that examined the Argentine cardinal as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II.

“Bergoglio exemplifies the virtues of the wise pastor that many electors value,” said the cable authored by the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican. “Observers have praised his humility: he has been reluctant to accept honors or hold high office and commutes to work on a bus.”

The cable was signed by the U.S. embassy’s then-Charge d’Affaires D. Brent Hardt and was sent the day the 2005 conclave began. It discussed the future Pope Francis as one of 16 possible candidates.

“Bergoglio is said to prefer life in the local Church as opposed to a bureaucratic existence in Rome’s ecclesiastical structures, but at the same time he has been willing to serve on the Vatican's various supervisory committees,” the cable continued.

The embassy analysis said this preference indicated the cardinal could bridge what it characterized as a “divide” between the curia and the cardinal archbishops of local Catholic churches. In the embassy’s view, this made Cardinal Bergoglio “a good compromise candidate” for voting cardinals.

The embassy said the cardinal’s membership in the Jesuit order “could count against him,” citing some senior prelates who are “suspicious of a liberal streak in the order.”

The embassy analysis said Cardinal Bergoglio, along with Cardinals Ruini and Scola, would be “suitable to the Ratzinger camp.”

Like most observers, the embassy incorrectly believed there was not enough conclave support for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would be elected Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005.

In late 2010 the whistleblower website Wikileaks published about 250,000 leaked State Department cables as part of its “Cablegate” project. Hundreds of the cables touched on Catholic issues, including 700 cables originating from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

Catholic News Agency published multiple in-depth reports on the documents from late 2010 through September 2011.

Cardinal Bergoglio is mentioned by name in a total of eight State Department cables in the Cablegate archive, which does not contain all State Department communications from 2010 and earlier.

Several of the cables concern the Catholic Church’s sometimes tense relationship with the Argentine government, especially with current President Cristina Kirchner and her predecessor and late husband President Nestor Kirchner.

An Oct. 11, 2007 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires said that some observers consider Cardinal Bergoglio to be “a leader of the opposition” to the administration of President Nestor Kirchner.

The cable suggested that the conviction of the Catholic priest Christian Von Wernich for his role as an accomplice in murder, torture and illegal imprisonment during Argentina’s “Dirty War” would be used to undermine the moral authority of the Catholic Church and the cardinal.

One confidential cable sent in January 2010 mentioned Cardinal Bergoglio in the context of U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Vilma Martinez’s meeting with Gabriela Michetti. Michetti is a former vice-mayor of Buenos Aires who presently sits in the lower chamber of Argentina’s legislature as a national deputy from Argentina's center-right Republican Proposal (PRO) party.

The cable said Michetti maintained “regular dialogue” with Cardinal Bergoglio and other Catholic groups.

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Weigel thinks Pope Francis embodies Church's future

Rome, Italy, Mar 16, 2013 (CNA) - Catholic author and scholar George Weigel believes that Pope Francis embodies the type of Catholicism that is needed for the Church to thrive in the modern cultural context.

“I think Pope Francis embodies the Church's turn into the Evangelical Catholicism of the future in a profound way,” Weigel told CNA on March 15, just two days into the new papacy.

“If he can reform the Curia and turn it into a more effective instrument of the New Evangelization, while concurrently being the Church's principal evangelist, he will have done precisely what the Church needs in these first decades of the new millennium,” he said.

Weigel, who is the author of the official biography of Pope John Paul II and numerous other books on contemporary Catholicism, has just released “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church” (Basic Books, $27.99).

In a March 8 interview with CNA before the election of the new Pope, Weigel explained that he was motivated to write the book because it “seemed to me two years ago that a number of things were beginning to come into focus.”

“I had been thinking about the long trajectory of modern Church history for a long time … and it finally came clear to me that this ‘Church of the New Evangelization’ or ‘Evangelical Catholicism’ was the prism through which all of that deep reform that had been underway since Leo XIII was being focused,” he explained.

In fact, Weigel asserted, the Church was and is at “a hinge moment” in its history, a time when “a new mode of being Catholic was being born, and that this was not dissimilar from other such transition points in Catholic history.”

His aim in writing “Evangelical Catholicism” was to describe a future that “is already being born,” and to offer “some very specific suggestions on how to accelerate that.”

Weigel spends the first half of his latest work explaining his vision of Evangelical Catholicism which “is being born out of 120 years of Catholic reform.”

It places “friendship with Jesus Christ at the center of the Christian experience, a friendship nurtured by an intensified sacramental life and a deeper encounter with the Bible, all of which lead to a Church in mission,” he explained to CNA.

In the second half of his book, Weigel looks at the numerous vocations, institutions and apostolates in the Church and offers his ideas for how to carry out an Evangelical Catholic reform.

Some of the areas he addresses are: the episcopate, the priesthood, consecrated life, the liturgy, the lay vocation, the intellectual sphere, the Church’s public policy advocacy, and the papacy.

In the interview, Weigel offered his thoughts on the “Global South,” the area where the Church has grown the most in the recent decades, which also happens to include the new Pope’s homeland of Argentina.

“I think there is real opportunity now in Latin America to move in this direction,” he said, pointing to a 2007 document issued by the bishops of Latin America that “marked the real turning point from institutional maintenance, Counter-Reformation Catholicism, in Latin America, which had counted on the ambient culture to carry the faith for 500 years.”

“That’s not there anymore, so it has to be proposed and proposed and proposed again.”

Weigel also reflected on the “developed world,” where the vital areas of Catholicism “are the Evangelical Catholic parts.”

In his view, “‘Catholic Lite’ is finished. It’s going to take another 20 years for some people to figure that out, but it’s over.

“And it’s over for a very simple reason. It doesn’t work,” he stated.

“It’s incapable of engaging this toxic culture and it’s incapable of inspiring people to embrace the full symphony of Catholic truth and then share that.”

When it comes to Pope Francis, Weigel believes that he understands this reality well.

“He has lived a Gospel-centered ministry in Argentina. He knows that a ‘kept’ Church – ‘kept’ in the sense of legal establishment, cultural habit, or both – has no future, given the acids of secularism.”

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Pope to journalists: 'I love you so much and I thank you for everything'

Vatican City, Mar 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis told thousands of journalists today he loved them and thanked them for their recent work.

“I love you so much and I thank you for all that you have done,” Pope Francis told over 5,000 journalists today at Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.

“We aren’t called to communicate about ourselves, but on this trinity of truth, goodness and beauty,” he told the journalists at 11:00 a.m. local time.

The newly elected Pope from Argentina spoke to them and their families on the third day of his pontificate.

“Your work needs study, sensibility, experience like all other professions, but needs to also give special attention to truth, goodness and beauty,” said the Pope.

“That is why we are so close because the Church exists to communicate precisely this,” he stated.

He thanked the journalists for their “hard work” covering the days since Benedict XVI announced his resignation adding that it is not easy to communicate to “a vast and varied public.”

“Be sure that the Church reserves a big attention to your precious work,” said the 76-year-old Argentinian.

The pontiff told the professionals that Jesus is the center of the Church and not himself.

“Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist nor would they have a reason for existing,” he said.

Pope Francis also explained that he chose the name Francis because of what a cardinal told him on the day he became Pope.

“On the election day I had next to me the Archbishop emeritus of Sao Paolo and the prefect emeritus of the Congregation of the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a great friend,” he said.

“When the voting resulted in the election of the Pope, he hugged me, he kissed me and he told me ‘do not forget the poor,’” said the Pope.

He explained that the words “the poor” remained stuck in his head and he suddenly thought of Saint Francis of Assisi.

“Man of poverty, man of peace, man who loves and guards creation,” said Pope Francis.

“And in these times we don’t have a good relation with creation, right?” he asked the crowd.

He explained that it is the poor man who gives “a spirit of peace.”

“Oh how I would like a poor Church and for the poor!” he remarked.

The new Pope said some people joked saying he should have named himself “Adrian” because Adrian VI was a reformer.

“Another told me I should be called ‘Clement XV’ to revenge myself from Clement XIV who suppressed the Jesuits,” the Pope exclaimed laughing.

The Pope then personally greeted several Vatican journalists including a blind man and his yellow Labrador, which he patted.

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