Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the eighth anniversary of the death of Blessed Pope John Paul II, the chaplain of a shrine in his memory explained that the Pope called others to holiness through the witness of his own life.
“Blessed John Paul II embodied the ‘man of God’ in his life and teaching,” said Fr. Gregory Gresko, chaplain of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C.
Fr. Gresko told CNA on April 2 that since his death, Blessed John Paul II “may be remembered most for the profoundly personal encounters he shared with fellow human beings, regardless of their state or position in life.”
“Pope John Paul II loved the human person and treasured his face-to-face interactions with the people of God,” said Fr. Gresko, adding that the Blessed Pope knew “that within each one of them he would find the mark of the Creator, Who had formed each of these persons in the image and likeness of God.”
“Blessed John Paul II lived a life of consistent testimony to the value of the human person at all moments of life.”
Therefore, Fr. Gresko explained, “it comes as no surprise that billions of people throughout the world felt an intimate loss in their hearts when the beloved Pontiff passed from his earthly life.”
He added that the Pope left a mark on the world that continues to this day.
“Perhaps the greatest legacy that Blessed Pope John Paul II has left to the world is his own personal witness as to what it means to live a life of genuine faith, ever striving to fulfill in his own life the call to holiness that flows fundamentally from Christian baptism,” said Fr. Gresko.
“During his early life and work as a bishop, and then subsequently throughout his papacy,” he said, “the man who would become pope – Karol Wojtyla – showed the world what it means for a Christian to be a “man of God.”
The chaplain further explained that Blessed Pope John Paul II taught that man is called to freedom “because he stands in front of God and thus should never be afraid to stand in front of God.” In turn, man is free from himself and from the material world to follow God.
Thus, Fr. Gresko said, the Pope taught that this freedom from the world “helps him to realize his full dignity as a human person.”
“In choosing Christ, the man of God is a free man who makes a complete gift of himself. Free from himself, the man of God accepts suffering and is empowered by the Holy Spirit to love as God loves,” Fr. Gresko added of the late Pope’s teachings.
The former Pope continues to teach Catholic faithful even today, he said, by providing “an authentic testimony to us of what it means to live the Christian life through the virtuous choices we are called to make in our daily lives.”
The chaplain added that the late Pope’s life and writings show Catholics “that the man of God is one who actively seeks the will of God the Father at all moments,” and “grows in holiness as he chooses what is authentically good and shuns that which is evil.”
“Blessed John Paul II demonstrated through his own holiness of life how each one of us – regardless of our own state and position – can, and always ought to, cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit to become a saint, which indeed is our fundamental vocation in baptism,” said Fr. Gresko.
“An authentic Christian thinks as Christ, acts as Christ, lives as Christ, and loves as Christ. Blessed John Paul II showed us how to do precisely this.”
Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new survey of African Americans shows that most disagree with the claim that the effort to promote gay rights is comparable to the historic movement for racial equality.
About 55 percent of respondents to a Zogby Analytics survey said that equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons are not the same as equal rights for African Americans. Only 28 percent agreed, while 17 percent said they are not sure.
The online survey of 1,002 adults used respondents recruited through partners or random telephone samples. It was commissioned by Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, and was conducted Feb. 14 through Feb. 20.
The analysis – which claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent – also shows an apparent increase of support for “gay marriage” among a group historically opposed to redefining marriage.
About 42 percent said marriage should be “restricted to between a man and a woman” while 40 percent said same-sex couples should be “allowed to marry with benefits.”
Close to 34 percent said that ministers who oppose homosexuality, “including the rights of gays and lesbians to marry” are right. Thirty-one percent said they are wrong, while 35 percent said they have no opinion.
The analysis comes as oral arguments began last week for Hollingsworth v. Perry, one of two gay marriage cases being heard this term by the U.S. Supreme Court. This case challenges California’s Proposition 8, a state measure recognizing marriage as existing solely between a man and a woman.
The other case, for which arguments began on March 27, challenges the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Decisions in both cases are expected in late June.
At the national March for Marriage held March 26 in Washington, D.C., speakers told the crowds that marriage is fundamentally about preserving an institutional link between parents for the sake of their children.
During his remarks, Rev. Bill Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, refuted the idea that same-sex marriage is an issue of civil rights.
Owens, who marched in the Civil Rights Movement, criticized the analogies of same-sex “marriage” to the push for racial equality. Efforts to preserve the definition of marriage as it always has been are not comparable to “what we suffered,” he said.
“I am marching again, and this time I’m marching to defend marriage,” Owens said.
Rome, Italy, Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The father of a boy with special needs, whose iconic hug from Pope Francis has captured the world's attention, says that the Pope in that instant held “all people” with disabilities.
“The Pope was embracing all the impoverished in that moment and it was a profound blessing,” Dr. Paul Gondreau told CNA April 2.
“Not just for me and my wife,” he added, “but all parents of special needs children or all those who are close to special needs people.”
“Who would think that a little boy with such severe physical limitations would so profoundly move the world?”
Media outlets across the globe have zeroed in on Gondreau's eight year-old son after he was photographed receiving a hug and kiss from Pope Francis following Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on March 31.
The moment, however, “almost didn’t happen” said Gondreau, who teaches theology at Providence College's Rome campus.
His family – who hails from Rhode Island and are living in Rome as Gondreau spends a semester teaching – arrived only an hour and fifteen minutes early to the square.
Along with Dominic, the Gondreaus have four other children: 16 year-old Alena Maria, 12 year-old Lucas, and twins, Maria and Junia, who are five.
Although they were too late to get good seats, a Swiss Guard was able to move Dominic and his mother, Christiana, to a special section for those with disabilities.
When they arrived, the boy caught the attention of an usher named Augustino who “got it into his head” that Dominic would meet the Holy Father when he toured the square in the pope-mobile.
As Pope Francis was approaching, Augustino instructed Christina to take Dominic out of his chair and to hold him up to receive a blessing.
She did so, but the Pope, who is “very clearly energized by the big crowds,” was looking in the other direction and passed them by.
“The usher was apologetic,” Gondreau said, “but my wife who was this close to the Pope still thought it was fantastic.”
As the Holy Father began a second round of greeting the crowd of 250,000, Augustino enlisted the help of other ushers who caught the attention of the pope-mobile’s driver and signaled him to stop.
“They just lifted him up to the Pope and everyone knows what happened from that point on,” he said.
It was not until his oldest son caught a glimpse of the video screen and called out his brother’s name that Gondreau realized what was happening.
“I was immediately moved to tears along with my son Lucas,” he said. “I will always cherish the memory of hearing my son Lucas say, 'It’s Dominic!'”
As he looked up, Gondreau saw that Pope Francis “held Dominic and gave Dominic a kiss and a hug and just cradled him for a moment.”
The fact that this moment has captured the world’s attention is “profound,” Gondreau said.
“It’s a sign of contradiction because the world that repudiates Christ is moved by a boy who makes little sense apart from Christ.”
Because those with special needs “share more intimately in Christ’s cross” than anyone else, they also “give more profound witness to Christ's love and are more powerful instruments of Christ’s redemptive mercy,” he noted.
The boy has been showing those he comes in contact with “how to love” for his whole life, Gondreau said. This moment is simply the one that God chose for him to show that to the world.
“This is how God works...he chooses the weak and the vulnerable to move and to shame the strong and the wise and he’s been doing this since the very beginning of salvation history.”
Gondreau explained that Dominic was born three and a half months prematurely but was in good health. However, shortly after birth he got an infection and his body had to dedicate all its resources to fighting the illness.
“That’s what caused the cerebral palsy,” Gondreau said.
Now eight years-old, the boy is “cognitively entirely normal” but does have severe physical limitations. In a culture that “reduces human dignity to productivity,” and a world where “abortion is so widespread,” Gondreau said his son’s life “makes no sense.”
However, when seen through Christ’s eyes, it is clear his son’s purpose is to love and to teach others how to love.
“This is what he's productive of,” his father said with a laugh. “He instructs us in a very profound way, in a very powerful way.”
Dominic's gift was illustrated perfectly, he noted, when a woman in the crowd called out to the child's mother after the hug saying, “'You know your son is here to show others how to love.'”
“It was like a heaven-sent confirmation to her of what she has suspected.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Some might call it fate, but through a series of providential connections, Bishop Michele Pennisi discovered that Pope Francis wants to visit Sicily “as soon as possible.”
The story begins with Father Pasquale Di Dio waiting for Pope Francis outside the Vatican parish of Sant’Anna on March 17, standing next to an Argentinian priest.
“The Pope,” Fr. Di Dio related in an April 2 interview with CNA, “recognized and called by name the Argentinian priest, telling him to come into the church. I followed him. This is how I could have access to the Mass in Sant’Anna.”
After the Mass, Fr. Di Dio gave the Pope’s secretary, Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, a letter for Pope Francis.
“In the letter,” he explained, “I asked for special blessings for my family.”
But Fr. Di Dio was surprised to receive a phone call at 9:00 p.m. on April 1 from Msgr. Xuereb, who told him, “the Pope would be pleased to have you and your family at the morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Martae, on April the 2nd.”
So, he quickly looked for a plane from Sicily to get him and his family to Rome in time for the Pope’s 7:30 a.m. Mass the next morning.
After the Mass, the Pope invited the priest and his family to have breakfast with him.
“During the breakfast, Fr. Di Dio told the Pope that he is my secretary,” Bishop Michele Pennisi explained in an April 2 conversation.
Then “Pope Francis asked Fr. Di Dio to call me. When I answered, he just told me that the Pope was on the line.”
Bishop Pennisi is currently the administrator of the Piazza Armerina diocese, but he has already been appointed Archbishop of Monreale, where he will be installed on April 27.
Bishop Pennisi recounts: “I also was at Sant’Anna on March 17. I did not attend the celebration, but I was in Rome, and so Fr. Di Dio called me inviting me to go.”
Bishop Pennisi arrived in time to see the Pope exit the parish and was able to greet him.
He gave the Pope a letter asking for prayers for his diocese, and the bishop said “the Pope assured me his prayers for the Diocese of Piazza Armerina, which I will be leaving in a few days, and for the Archdiocese of Monreale.
“He also told me that he wishes to visit Sicily as soon as possible.”
“It seems like John Paul II’s times are back,” Bishop Pennisi remarked.
John Paul II used to invite people to attend the Mass he held in his private chapel in the early morning and then for breakfast or lunch.
It was such a common habit that Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office and Vatican Radio, encouraged the Italian journalist Angela Ambrogetti to write a book about John Paul II's "informal" lunch table conversations.
In the end, she authored two books in Italian on the press conferences Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI held as they flew to visit the Church overseas.
Vatican City, Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Pope is praying for the 54 people who have died in flooding that hit two cities in Argentina and is also appealing for aid to those made homeless by the disaster.
“Pope Francis, deeply saddened by the news of the serious damage caused by the torrential rains over the past days, offers prayers to the Lord for the eternal rest of those who died, at the same time wanting to express his paternal, spiritual closeness to all those affected and their families,” reads an April 4 telegram sent to Archbishop Aurelio Poli of Buenos Aires.
After the nation’s capital and the nearby metropolis of La Plata were inundated with rain on April 1 and 2, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent the message on behalf of the Pope.
In La Plata, a city of almost 1 million people, survivors described the water gushing up through the drains in their kitchens and bathrooms.
According to local reports, La Plata was hit the hardest, with 16 inches of rain falling in two hours on Tuesday evening, while Buenos Aires received four inches earlier in the day.
The deluge has left thousands of people stranded on the roofs of their houses, in trees or in cars, waiting to be rescued, according to the Argentinian Red Cross.
In his message, Pope Francis encouraged “civil and ecclesiastical institutions, as well as all people of good will, to provide in a spirit of charity and Christian solidarity the necessary help those who have lost their homes or personal belongings.”
The Pope’s telegram finished with him imparting his apostolic blessing to “those affected and those who come to their assistance … as a sign of his closeness to the dear people of Argentina.”
Vatican City, Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Awe and wonder at an encounter with Christ are the first steps in deepening a spiritual life that leads to ultimate peace in the Lord, said Pope Francis at a Vatican Mass.
“First wonder, then spiritual consolation and finally, the last step, peace,” said Pope Francis, adding that “even in the most painful tests, a Christian never loses the peace and presence of Jesus.”
“Wonder is a great grace, the grace that God gives us in our encounter with Jesus Christ,” said the Pope on April 4 at Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he celebrated a Mass that included the staff of the Vatican Typography.
“It is something that draws us outside of ourselves with joy,” he noted. “It is not a mere enthusiasm like that of sports fans when their favorite team wins, but something deeper.”
“It is having an inner experience of meeting the living Christ and thinking that it is not possible, but the Lord helps us understand that is the reality (and) it is wonderful,” he exclaimed.
The Pontiff explained that all of the day’s readings relate to amazement and wonder, giving the examples of the crowds’ amazement at Peter’s healing of the crippled man and the wonder of the disciples at the Risen Christ’s appearance to them.
“This is the Lord’s and this wonder is the beginning of the habitual state of Christians,” he said.
He added, however, that people cannot permanently live “in a state of wonder.”
“But it is the beginning and then this astonishment leaves an impression in the soul and spiritual consolation, the consolation of those who have encountered Jesus Christ,” said Pope Francis.
In this way, he explained, wonder is the first step in attaining peace.
The Pontiff encouraged the congregation to pray, “Lord, grant me this grace which is the hallmark of our encounter with you: spiritual consolation and peace.”
He added that this peace “is a gift of God” which “we cannot lose because it is ours and the Lord’s true peace cannot be bought or sold.”
“This is why we ask for the grace of spiritual consolation and peace of mind, that starts with this joyful wonder of our encounter with Jesus Christ,” said the Pope.
Paris, France, Apr 4, 2013 (CNA) - A couple in France is reporting acts of violence by police officers against participants in a recent march to defend marriage against redefinition by the French government.
In an email sent to CNA, Benoit and Marie Dubois described violent actions that they claimed to witness at a March 24 pro-family demonstration.
“The government allowed a peaceful demonstration made up mostly of families comprised grandparents, parents and children, to be violently repressed,” the Duboises said.
“Without any warning and at point blank, they used tear gas, pointed their guns at small children and various young people were beaten for no reason at all.”
More than 1 million people took part in the March for All to voice opposition to French President Francois Hollande’s plan to impose homosexual marriage and adoption on the country.
Shortly after the march, The Telegraph ran a story with pictures taken by Getty Images displaying police spraying tear gas on protestors.
It is unclear whether the violence was provoked by the actions of the demonstrators.
While the Duboises acknowledged that acts of vandalism sometimes occur during demonstrations, they asserted that “none of this happened” at the March for All.
“Instead, this was a peaceful but firm demonstration in order to speak out, and the crowd it drew was so large that there was not enough space in the small area designated by police for the event,” they said.
“How did the police respond? With violence that was absolutely unnecessary,” they argued.
The couple further asserted that the French government has “illegally rejected a petition signed by 700,000 people” and is relying for help on the mass media to redefine marriage in the country.
Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A U.S. bishops’ subcommittee has approved over $3.1 million dollars in funding for pastoral work in Latin America, including the continued reconstruction of Haiti and World Youth Day pilgrimage efforts.
“We are pleased to see our efforts beginning to pay off as reconstruction is finally gaining momentum for the Church of Haiti,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who is a member of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America at the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“Our approval of new reconstruction grants helps maintain this momentum,” the archbishop said, adding that the subcommittee is happy “to continue supporting pastoral projects throughout Haiti.”
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti, destroying much of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. More than 200,000 people were estimated to have been killed in the earthquake and one million more left homeless.
The U.S. Church has been instrumental in offering continued assistance to rebuild after the quake, as well as to offer pastoral care for those in the country.
On March 21, the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee awarded $1.1 million to three grants to fund the continuing reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
One of the projects being funded is the reconstruction of the church of Sainte Genevieve des Orangers. Located in a poor rural area near Port-au-Prince, the church was badly damaged by the 2010 earthquake. A grant of $575,000, in combination with a gift of $50,000 from a Connecticut parish, will help to demolish and rebuild the church.
In addition, the subcommittee approved just over $2 million for more than 100 grants to cover projects in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The funds came from collections taken up at parishes throughout the nation.
Some of this money will go toward projects supporting migrant workers in the Latin American region.
“We are committed to supporting migrants and helping provide pastoral care to them not only in our country but also across the Americas,” said Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Latin America subcommittee.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Peruvian bishops have “received a grant of $15,000 to strengthen Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, the conference's official organization for the pastoral care of migrants.”
In addition, the U.S. bishops’ grants will help provide pastoral care for migrant workers on a regional level.
The subcommittee has awarded funding to help leaders of the Church in Latin America attend the Consultation on Migration being held in Los Angeles later this year. The event will unite Church leaders from around Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States in order to discuss the phenomenon of migration and how to improve spiritual support for migrants.
Some of the funds will also go to help young pilgrims attend World Youth Day in Brazil this summer.
The Ecuador bishops’ conference has been chosen to receive a $30,000 grant to help fund the country’s third National Youth Congress, which will work to both prepare youth who will attend the World Youth Day events in Brazil and gather those who are unable to attend.
The new Holy Father, Pope Francis, is from Argentina and is the first Pope is hail from Latin America.
“We are very glad to continue helping youth across the hemisphere to attend World Youth Day and have an opportunity to see Pope Francis,” said Bishop Elizondo.