Colorado Springs, Colo., Apr 10, 2013 (CNA) -
A Christian pastor hopes a new film focused on modern day slavery will act as a catalyst for action to help some 27 million people who make up the thriving market of human trafficking.
“We’re praying this is that war cry for Christians to not just have faith, but to put faith into action,” Matthew Cork, lead pastor of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., told CNA in a recent interview.
Hitting theaters April 12, Not Today, tells the story of a twenty-something American who, through his own personal conversion, works to rescue a young Dalit girl after her father unintentionally sells her to human traffickers.
India’s Dalit population – approximately 250 million people – is among the most vulnerable people group for human trafficking in the world due to the practice of untouchability, or the ancient tradition that some people are inherently worthless and less than human.
Perhaps the most troubling group of people who are victims of the modern slave trade are the estimated 1.2 million Indians who are forced to be child prostitutes.
“I pray there are some things that are actually disturbing,” Cork, who also served as the film’s executive producer, said of the movie. “I pray there are some things that really challenge you to understand that you can no longer look the other way.”
Through watching the film, moviegoers will not only be exposed to the issue of modern slavery but will also be given the opportunity to sponsor a child through the Dalit Freedom Network – an international human-rights organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through educating children in India.
Cork said he first felt compelled to fight on behalf of the Dalits after he first visited the country in 2007 and came face to face with his own “selfishness.”
“I went from being just a Christian by name to actually saying I believe I am a follower of Jesus because I am actually being his hands and feet on this earth,” he said.
Since then, his church has committed $20 million to building 200 schools in India, 40 of which have already been completed. All profits of the film will go towards funding schools and educating children in India.
“India, for me, was a place that was uncomfortable,” he said. However, “I think wherever you get into a place that’s uncomfortable God begins to use that in ways you could have never imagined.”
As followers of Jesus, Cork said Christians need to work to put a stop towards that which goes “against the very nature of God,” or, the buying and selling of other human beings.
“His heart was for the poor and the marginalized,” he said. “It is our job as his representatives on this earth to care for the things that break his heart.”
Although not everyone can visit India like he has, the pastor hopes this film will give viewers the opportunity to become aware of the issue and help make a difference.
“We didn’t make a movie just to make a movie; as a church we’re not in the movie business,” he explained. “We made a movie to really be calling the church out and saying, ‘If we don’t do this, who will?’”
Even if the movie does well at the box office, Cork said they will not consider it a success if people are not “challenged” or “mobilized” to respond.
Along with sponsoring a child’s education, movie-goers can commit to building a school or can support the film’s global partners such as, Abolition International, Focus on the Family and International Justice Mission, in fighting human trafficking.
The film, which will premiere in select theaters across the country and is rated PG-13, stars TV actor Cody Longo, and Shari Rigbi and John Schneider – both of hit 2011 film “October Baby.”
To learn more about the film and the movement to end human trafficking in India, visit: nottodaythemovie.com.
Pensacola, Fla., Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Planned Parenthood lobbyist who appeared to endorse infanticide at a March hearing in the Florida legislature is a former board member of a local Catholic Charities affiliate, a spokeswoman said.
Alisa Lapolt Snow had served on Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida-Tallahassee’s board of directors, Peggy DeKeyser, director of communications for the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, confirmed to CNA April 9.
“She was vetted before she applied for the board of directors,” DeKeyser said. “There was nothing indicated that would have prevented her from becoming a board of directors member at the time.”
Snow resigned from her unpaid position with the Catholic Charities affiliate in January. She then became a lobbyist on behalf of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
She became the focus of controversy at the end of March for her comments to a Florida legislature committee considering a proposed bill to protect infants born alive during an abortion.
A state legislator asked what Planned Parenthood would want to happen to a baby born as a result of a botched abortion.
“We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” Snow said.
The organization’s Florida affiliates alliance partially backed away from Snow’s comments April 4, saying that it condemns physicians who do not follow the law or endanger a woman’s or child’s health. At the same time, the alliance contended that “biased media outlets” had reported its position “inaccurately.”
DeKeyser said Snow’s resignation before starting a consulting relationship with Planned Parenthood was “probably an appropriate step to take.”
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S. It is a frequent opponent of the Catholic Church on pro-life issues and matters of sexual morality.
DeKeyser suggested that the former board member’s present actions should not affect people’s views of Catholic Charities.
“I don’t think there’s any mistake about the Catholic identity of Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida,” she said.
“It is very much at the forefront of delivering a Catholic mission to those in need across Northwest Florida. It’s very much an agent of the gospel and of the mission of Jesus Christ.”
CNA sought comment from Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida’s leadership but did not receive a response by deadline.
Gallup, N.M., Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The newly-renovated chapel of Bishop James Wall of the Gallup diocese aims to be part of the spiritual formation of local seminarians as they prepare to pastor churches in the future.
“The idea was to make something peaceful and beautiful, and in God's honor...it's a house for discernment, and seminarians live there at time, so it's also intended to be part of their spiritual formation,” Father Matthew Keller, the Gallup diocese's director of vocations and mission resources, told CNA April 8.
The chapel, attached to the bishop's residence, is located at a discernment house which is at times home to both priests and seminarians of the Gallup diocese. It has been renewed with sacred art from artisans who work in styles native to New Mexico.
“It's all along with the idea of demonstrating to seminarians how to go about seeking out the artists, encouraging, collaborating with the artists, thinking things through very carefully – what is the meaning of each aspect of the chapel, how to do things beautifully and according to the guidelines the Church gives us, following that as closely as we could, while keeping the local customs as well.”
The process has been years in the making, and is nearly completed. The chapel has received a new altar and retablo, a celebrant's chair, sanctuary rail, stations of the cross, flooring, and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A lectern and pews are still in the process of being prepared.
One of the priorities in commissioning the chapel, Fr. Keller said, was “to use the art that's unique and local,” working with “New Mexico artists who are unique, and worthy as well.”
The lengthy process has served to show the seminarians that the renewal and care of church buildings “doesn't happen overnight,” and demonstrated “the patience involved, the fund raising, all the different things that go into it.”
“But also it took a lot of work to do it locally,” said Fr. Keller. “So many things it would be easier to just open up a catalogue...and you might find things that are beautiful that way, but it didn't really fit the model we were going for in this place, which was to serve 'artistic subsidiarity.'”
The style of art in the chapel, called “santero,” is a folk art based on Spanish colonial art, explained Roberto Gonzales, who made the chapel's station's of the cross. Artists in the style make their own pigments, and it is “meant for prayer; it's meant for people to have these images in their house and use them more for prayer than as art.”
Gonzales spoke to CNA/EWTN News April 9, noting that he and other artists in the style “reflect on the saints lives and what they went through, and what it means to have faith. And for the stations, when I was doing those, it was like re-living the Passion...it's a long process, and it's a prayerful process.”
The process of making the stations took a year, as “you pray on each station, you reflect on what Christ was going through at that time, and what it meant, and what it means to humanity, and what it means to you as a person, and how it's affected the world, how it's affected all mankind, and it's just a beautiful thing.”
The style allows for non-literal depictions of the scenes, as when Gonzales shows the Pieta as a large Mary holding a far-smaller Christ, to emphasize, that “he's her baby, a mother's child, and that's what she's mourning.”
In the station in which Christ is nailed to the cross, the background is ethereal and disconnected from the earth, to emphasize the spiritual nature of what's happening, Gonzales said.
Gonzales emphasized that his work is prayerful and it's not so much for renumeration. Fr. Keller, on the other hand, said that for the Church it is important to give artisans due compensation for their work.
“The Church is supposed to be the patron of the arts, and not just a benefactor. Artists aren't expected to work for free, we want to support them and make that viable way of life.”
He said that the chapel was provided through the donations of parishes and individuals who “believe in the project” and the importance of supporting priests, seminarians, and artisans.
Arlene Sena produced the paintings found in the sanctuary, and agreed that prayer is “the key to this tradition.”
Sena produced images of the Holy Family, Saint James, Saint Francis de Sales, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, two angels, and the Sacred Heart. Each was chosen for a particular reason, out of importance to the Gallup diocese and to Bishop Wall.
The woodwork in the sanctuary is modeled on that found in the Gallup cathedral, and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was included because she is patroness of the diocese.
Sena told CNA/EWTN News that this chapel was “one of the best projects I've ever worked on,” and said that “once you know who you're preparing these pieces for, it makes it so much easier to pray for those who will be serving in that chapel for years to come.”
Gonzales emphasized again that prayer is central to his process of making art, and that it is for him an important way to promote the faith.
“I'm not a very good speaker, but I can pass the faith by doing art.”
“And that's what it is for me, just spreading the faith.
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Pope celebrated Mass with Archbishop José H. Gomez, the highest-ranking American bishop of Hispanic origin, on the feast of the Lord’s Annunciation.
“It was a very special Eucharist for me because we were celebrating the Annunciation and I was ordained a Bishop in Denver on the Solemnity of the Annunciation in 2001,” Archbishop Gomez said in an April 8 Facebook post.
“During the Mass,” the archbishop added, “I was praying for Pope Francis and the Church but especially for our great Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
“After Mass I told Pope Francis that all the faithful of Los Angeles love him and that we are praying for him and his ministry and that he has our loyalty. He said that he is grateful for our prayers and he asked for more prayers!”
Archbishop Gomez, originally from Mexico and the current Los Angeles archbishop, concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at Saint Martha’s House in the Vatican on April 8.
The archbishop is the head of the largest archdiocese in the United States, which also has the highest number and percentage of Hispanics in the country.
“Archbishop Gomez was extremely delighted and very moved,” said Mario Paredes in an April 9 interview with CNA.
Mario Paredes is the chairman emeritus of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, a group based in Los Angeles that aims to strengthen ties between Hispanics and the Church.
Around 50 people attended the Mass for the Annunciation of the Lord in the residence’s chapel.
“It was a very simple Mass, and after it finished the Pope greeted every person individually,” said Paredes.
“I was very moved, and we never imagined we would be so close to him,” he added.
The group of 20 people, which attended the Mass alongside Paredes, is in Rome from April 7–12 to meet with Church leaders.
Interestingly, the delegation is staying at Saint Martha’s House, the same place where the Pope has decided to live.
He said the group is “extremely delighted” to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with Pope Francis every day at the residency for Vatican employees.
“He is very affable, simple and very direct. And although he doesn’t speak much, he is very warm,” said Paredes.
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2013 (CNA) -
Diverse groups from around the world were present at this morning’s general audience, but one – the Pope’s favorite soccer team – received a greeting from the pontiff that no one else did.
As he moved through the list of those present at the April 10 assembly, he came to the only delegation from his homeland and said, “Ah, this is very important!”
That group was made up of representatives from the Saint Lawrence Athletic Club, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They made Pope Francis a member in 2008, and after his election as Pope sent him congratulations, along with a new team jersey.
In response, Pope Francis sent a letter on March 20 to the club’s president, telling him, “I really appreciate this token of appreciation, which I am happy to respond to, asking our Lord to generously repay this delicacy.”
“Aside from the love of football, I ask you to cultivate friendship with Jesus, the true friend, he will always be with you, in good times and also when there are difficulties,” the Pope wrote.
At today’s audience, Pope Francis also spoke at length in Spanish for the first time, giving the summary of his Italian-language catechesis in his native tongue and greeting the various groups from Latin American and Spain.
Also present at the gathering were English-speaking pilgrims from the NATO Defense College and the Germany-based Wounded Warrior Project for U.S. servicemen. The Pope offered “prayerful good wishes” to students at the college, “that their service to international peace and cooperation be always fruitful.”
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican plans to demonstrate its commitment to financial transparency by presenting progress it has made in areas the Council of Europe’s money laundering prevention committee is not requiring.
“With this initiative, the Holy See wishes to provide a more complete overview of the measures taken over the last year to further strengthen its institutional structure in the area of preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” says an April 10 statement from the Vatican.
The Council of Europe’s financial oversight committee, known as MONEYVAL, requires that the states or institutions it reviews submit an update on how they are working to comply with shortcomings highlighted in the “core recommendations” section of its report.
The report also lists items that are less important, which are called “key recommendations,” but the entity being evaluated is not obliged to inform the committee on how it is progressing in those areas.
The April 10 communiqué from the Vatican explained that the European financial committee “accepted the Holy See’s own proposal that this next report cover not only the Core Recommendations, but also all the areas covered by the Key Recommendations.”
The Vatican’s financial team will make a report on its progress to the full MONEYVAL assembly in December.
The original evaluation began in Feb. 2011 and the committee’s report was issued in July 2012.
It found the Holy See and Vatican City State to be largely in compliance, with nine key and core areas receiving a positive assessment and seven needing improvement.
One item that has already been fixed was a conflict of interest created by Cardinal Attilio Nicora having a role in both the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency and its monetary policy body. He resigned from his position with the policy unit in July 2011 but remained the president of the watchdog agency.
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis urged Catholics to serve humanity by showing “the joy of being children of God” to the world, since it “no longer seems able to lift its gaze towards God.”
“Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom he gifts us to live in Christ … It is a precious service that we give to our world, which is often no longer able to lift its gaze upwards, it no longer seems able to lift its gaze towards God,” he exclaimed to the 40,000 people gathered April 10 in St. Peter’s Square.
“This means that each day we must let Christ transform us and make us like Him; it means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him, even if we see our limitations and our weaknesses,” Pope Francis explained.
He noted that “without being discouraged by our falls, can we feel loved by Him, our life will be new, inspired by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!”
And the sacraments, he stressed, are vital to this father-child relationship with God.
“This filial relationship with God is not like a treasure that in a corner of our lives, but it must grow, must be fed every day by listening to the word of God, prayer, participation in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist and charity,” he said.
“Christianity is not simply a matter of following commandments,” the Pope explained.
It is about “living a new life, being in Christ, thinking and acting like Christ, and being transformed by the love of Christ, it is allowing Him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, to free them from the darkness of evil and sin.”
He also linked behaving as children of God with the resurrection of Jesus and its “meaning and salvific value.”
Pope Francis taught that the Catholic faith is based on the resurrection and is “in vain” without it.
“Our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ just like a house built on the foundations, without them the whole house collapses,” said Pope Francis.
“On the cross, Jesus offered himself by taking upon himself our sins and going down into the abyss of death, and the resurrection removes them and opens the way to be reborn to a new life,” he added.
He explained that the day’s Gospel says that the Resurrection of Jesus brings something “absolutely new” because “we are freed from the bondage of sin, we become children of God and we are begotten to a new life.”
“The Holy Spirit produces in us this new status as children of God and this is the greatest gift we receive from the Paschal Mystery of Jesus,” said the Pope.
“God treats us as children, understands us, forgives us, embraces us, loves us even when we make mistakes,” he remarked.
The pontiff explained that after the resurrection of Jesus, “God is now our Father.”
“He treats us as his beloved children, he understands us, forgives us, embraces us, and loves us even when we go astray.”
Pope Francis finished his third general audience by imparting his apostolic blessing and then mingling with the crowd for more than 15 minutes. He blessed statues of Mary, autographed a painting of Mary, and greeted children and people with disabilities.
Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 10, 2013 (CNA) -
Church bells across Colombia rang out on Tuesday in a move of solidarity with the thousands of victims of violence that has plagued the country for decades.
“This was a humanitarian gesture of closeness...with the victims of the violence in Colombia, that their suffering not be minimized or ignored and that their right to the truth, to justice and to reparations be protected,” Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, adjunct secretary of the local bishops' conference, told CNA.
The tolling of the bells came as 200,000 Colombians took part in a massive peace rally in the capital city of Bogota on April 9.
Colombia's bishops warned in February that violent actions by a prominent rebel group are undermining peace negotiations in the country.
The Marxist group FARC – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – “is destroying the hopes for achieving reconciliation” with its recent acts of violence and kidnapping, said Bishop Hector Gutierrez Pabon.
Three police officers died on Feb. 1 when they were attacked by a FARC contingent in northern Colombia. The rebel group also kidnapped two other police officers and three petroleum contractors in a one-week period. The hostages were all freed later by the Colombian military.
In statements Tuesday, Bishop Jose Daniel Falla – secretary general of the bishops’ conference – told reporters that the Church does not support on sector of society over another, but instead raises her voice to defend those suffering from violence.
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi says that contrary to a report in the Spanish daily El Mundo, the Bishop-emeritus of Rome, Benedict XVI, is not suffering from any illness.
The report in El Mundo by Rocio Galvan quotes statements made by Spanish Vaticanista Paloma Gomez-Borrero in Madrid during the presentation of her most recent book.
“Benedict XVI has something very serious. In 15 days his physical condition has deteriorated tremendously, that’s the news I have,” Gomez-Borrero said.
In comments to CNA on April 10, however, Fr. Lombardi underscored that Benedict XVI “does not have any illness” and that “this has been certified by his doctors.”
He said he was saddened by Gomez-Borrero's comments and that the Spanish journalist, whom he has known for many years, “has begun to speculate after seeing images of a tired Benedict.”
“But to say that he has an illness is foolish. There is no basis for this,” the spokesman said.
“As we all know, Benedict XVI led a very engaged pontificate at his age, and therefore he is enduring the aches and pains of an elderly person who has worked very hard,” Fr. Lombardi added.
Benedict XVI was Pope for eight years and resigned just shy of his 86th birthday. During his pontificate, he made the same number of trips that Blessed John Paul II did in same span of time but at a much older age.
He currently resides at the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo but will return to the Vatican to live once renovations at the former monastery of Mater Ecclesia are completed in May.
Pope Francis has visited Benedict XVI and spoken to him on several occasions by telephone since his election. The two maintain a cordial and close relationship.
Tallahassee, Fla., Apr 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida says it is saddened that a former board member has become a Planned Parenthood lobbyist, noting that she had affirmed Catholic teaching in applying for the board.
“We were appalled and equally saddened and disappointed to learn of her advocacy on behalf of Planned Parenthood, and want to reiterate Catholic Charities' absolute commitment to upholding Catholic teachings on abortion and other issues threatening the sanctity of human life,” Mark Dufva, executive director of Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, told CNA April 9.
Dufva said former board member Alisa Lapolt Snow underwent a vetting process that included a detailed application, checking personal references, an interview, and approval by the local bishop.
The process concluded with an orientation that Dufva said “clearly explains Catholic social teaching on a number of issues, including abortion.”
“At several times throughout the process, potential board members are asked if they have any conflicts with these teachings,” he said.
“At no time during the process did Ms. Snow express any disagreement with the Church's teaching on these subjects, and she signed a board member agreement wherein she reiterated that understanding.”
Snow sparked controversy last month during her appearance before a Florida State House committee as a lobbyist on behalf of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
The committee was considering a proposed bill to protect infants born alive during an abortion. A state legislator asked Snow what Planned Parenthood would want to happen to a baby born as a result of a botched abortion.
“We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” she replied.
The Planned Parenthood Florida affiliates’ alliance partially backed away from Snow’s comments April 4, saying that it condemns physicians who do not follow the law or endanger a woman’s or child’s health.
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S. and is a frequent opponent of the Catholic Church on pro-life issues and matters of sexual morality.
Dufva noted that Snow resigned from the Catholic Charities affiliate’s regional advisory board on January 21. He said her activities on behalf of Planned Parenthood began after she resigned.
He said members of the Catholic Charities’ regional advisory board serve as “ambassadors” for the organization and help raise funds to provide “vital assistance” to those who are vulnerable.
“All of us at Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida are praying for Ms. Snow and are deeply saddened by this turn of events,” Dufva said.