Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2013 (CNA) -
During his homily at a Mass with George Washington University students, Cardinal Wuerl expressed support for the campus' priest, who has faced hostility for upholding Church teaching on sexuality.
“I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer...and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” the archbishop of Washington said April 14.
His remarks come as two gay students said the Newman Center chaplain had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.
Asserting that this was anti-gay behavior, the two students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Shaffer off the campus of the private university.
Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the duty of bishops and priests to “feed Jesus' flock,” and considered to whom “Jesus' flock” refers.
Christ's flock are those who freely choose to follow Christ and be a part of his Church, the cardinal said, and that those who choose not to follow Christ are not forced to do so.
“We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.”
When Christ himself was faced with those who would not follow his teachings, he “did not respond by changing the teaching,” Cardinal Wuerl noted.
“Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, 'Oh, then, I will change my teaching.'”
Christ continues to offer unchanging truths today, which cannot be changed to “conform with any particular cultural demand,” he said.
“Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.”
Cardinal Wuerl said that this experience is not new to the Church, and she has always bore the brunt of “narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.”
He urged a need to preserve and protect religious liberty in the face of attempts to silence priests lest they “be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture.”
Just because there are forces in society wishing to change marriage and to deny the dignity of human life and natural law, that “does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society,” the archbishop stated.
“Our response must be the response of Jesus Christ, the response of his Church, a response rooted in love.”
Cardinal Wuerl reminded those at the Mass that those striving to live the Church's teachings are not perfect, and that “we must be inclusive, we must recognize the bonds of mutual charity and we must continue to reach out to all of those brothers and sisters who come to Mass to be with us.”
But, he added, “we must be allowed to do so freely.”
He said the Church's place is to “welcome everyone...while at the same time upholding a moral law by which we are all obliged to live.”
“There has to be room enough in America in a society as large, as free and pluralistic as ours to make space for all of us,” he said, appealing for “tolerance and respect among all people.”
Members of the Newman Center and nearby St. Stephen, Martyr parish have voiced support for Fr. Shaffer.
“Thank you for standing up for the freedom to speak our faith and thank you for standing up for your chaplain,” Cardinal Wuerl concluded. “God bless him and all of you.”
Baltimore, Md., Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In recognition of his service to youth, the Boy Scouts of America have given retired Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore scouting's highest commendation, the Silver Buffalo Award.
“The Boy Scouts of America could not have chosen a more worthy person to receive this high honor,” said Sean Caine, the archdiocese of Baltimore’s communications director.
He added that the present Baltimore archbishop, William Lori, congratulates his predecessor on “this well-deserved award.”
Cardinal Keeler, 82, received the award on April 12 at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville, Md., his current place of residence. The cardinal is a former boy scout, the Baltimore archdiocese newspaper The Catholic Review reports.
Renée Fairrer, a public relations manager with the Boy Scouts of America, said Cardinal Keeler was chosen for the honor for numerous reasons.
He worked “diligently” to strengthen Baltimore’s parochial school system, and in 1996, he founded the “Partners in Excellence” program to help needy families and at-risk youth afford Catholic education. The program has raised $20 million to help award over 16,500 scholarships.
During his time as archbishop, his Lenten Appeal raised more than $70 million to help those in need. The cardinal also chaired the eighth World Youth Day, held in Denver in 1993.
Fairrer also noted that the National Jewish Committee on Scouting gave Cardinal Keeler its Shofar award for his work in Catholic-Jewish relations.
Any individual who provides a service to youth or has worked to improve the lives of youth is eligible for the Silver Buffalo Award. About 50 nominations are made each year and about 10-12 are chosen.
The Baltimore archdiocese said Cardinal Keeler has a long history of working with youth.
“Much of Cardinal Keeler’s priestly and episcopal ministry was dedicated to the service of children, whether he was driving the parish school bus as a newly-ordained priest or leading the school system of the nation's oldest diocese,” Caine told CNA April 16.
Cardinal Keeler was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1931 and raised in Pennsylvania. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa. in 1955 and served as an expert at the Second Vatican Council, the Archdiocese of Baltimore website says. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop for Harrisburg in 1979 and later served as the diocese’s bishop. He was Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007.
Past Silver Buffalo honorees include Walt Disney, Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart, as well as astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Past cardinals who have received the award include John Cody of Chicago and Francis Spellman of New York.
Chicago, Ill., Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In honor of Father Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest in the U.S., the Chicago archdiocese is holding a pilgrimage in May which will visit sites associated with his life and ministry.
“He has been looked upon as a founder, if you will, of the black Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Chicago,” Andrew Lyke, director of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics, told CNA April 15.
In 2010, the archdiocese opened Fr. Tolton's cause for canonization, investigating his life and virtues, and he is currently a Servant of God, the first step on the road to being declared a saint.
Fr. Tolton was born a slave in Missouri in 1854 to a Catholic mother, named Martha Jane. She escaped with her children to Illinois. Tolton attended seminary in Rome and was ordained a priest there in 1886 – serving first in Quincy, Illinois and then in Chicago.
In Chicago he founded a black national parish, Saint Monica's, and was very successful in ministering to the city's African-American community. He died in 1897 from heat stroke and heart failure at the age of 43.
“The cause (for canonization) takes his memory to a different level of spiritual intimacy, as someone we pray to and seek intercession from,” Lyke stated.
“Our hope is...that this helps to strengthen our black Catholic identity,” he said, adding that the black community remains “marginal” within the Chicago archdiocese.
“This cause for canonization becomes something to bolster that identity within us, but it's also something from our community that we can share with the broader archdiocese – it's something very rich.”
“Though it's from us, it's not just for us; its for the whole Church. So it's a major contribution from the black Catholic community of Chicago,” Lyke said.
The cause is important for the Chicago archdiocese, he said, because Fr. Tolton is “a saint from our community. He served here in Chicago, so that's something to stick our chests out for.”
Lyke is also hopeful that the advancement of Fr. Tolton's cause will contribute towards the healing of racial problems still afflicting America.
“I'm not aware of any saint of the Church who comes from that history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the U.S. This is a wound on our American conscience that I think we haven't adequately addressed.”
“Having a saint of the Church who comes from that, it gives us a new focus, an opportunity to re-dress some of that ignoble past,” Lyke reflected.
“Tolton' story, the cause and hopefully canonization, will lift that up, and help us to remember the nightmare of America so that we can better live the dream.”
Fr. Tolton, he said, is “with us now, intercedes for us now, but this is part of that legacy that we...remember.”
Lyke hopes also that Fr. Tolton's cause will help to promote vocations within Chicago's black community. After Fr. Tolton's death, he said, the archdiocese did not have another black priest until the 1950s, and “the black priests of today are predominantly African.”
“That's part of what we're trying to promote, in terms of fostering priestly vocations from the community. We need to win over African-American families,” he said.
A question that must be asked in order to foster these vocations, however, is: “are you willing to make the Catholic priesthood a viable option in your son's life?” Lyke asked.
“There's hard challenges around that, for any family, but I do think we need to look at fresh approaches, and Tolton's cause lifts that up.”
“His story is one of heroism, and it helps that cause of priestly vocations from the African-American community. It gives us something to wrap our arms around.”
Lyke's office holds an annual event each autumn to raise funds for Fr. Tolton's canonization in which a Martha Jane Tolton award is given to a woman of the Chicago community.
He noted the “dedication and courage” of Fr. Tolton's mother, and that those same qualities are honored in the recipient of the award each year.
The Chicago pilgrimage remembering Fr. Tolton's life will take place May 11, and will include presentations by Bishop Joseph Perry, and auxiliary of the Chicago archdiocese and postulator of Fr. Tolton's cause.
“We pray at those places,” Lyke explained, and “the narrative presented during the pilgrimage and the prayers offered really help us engage in his memory, and makes each particular site so significant.”
Lyke said that he encourages people to “not just study Tolton and know his story as a historical reference...but develop a spiritual intimacy with him by praying to him and asking for his intercession.”
“It's only since the cause of canonization started, where I've really worked on that spiritual intimacy, that I feel as though I've gotten to know Tolton,” he reflected.
“His personality is now something on my heart, and I think that's whats going to be demanded of the community if this cause for canonization is going to be successful.”
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis proclaimed “we are never alone” and that Jesus is our defender, as he reflected on the Ascension during his Wednesday general audience.
“We are never alone in our lives, we have this advocate who waits for us,” the Pope told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered at Saint Peter’s Square to participate in the April 17 audience.
The Pope centered his teaching on the line from the Creed that says, "he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father."
Pope Francis is continuing Benedict XVI’s practice of reflecting on the Catholic statement of belief at his weekly general audiences as part of the Year of Faith.
“We are never alone, the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us and there are many brothers and sisters with us,” he stated.
These Christians “live their faith every day and bring to the world the lordship of God’s love together with us, in silence and obscurity, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, in their joys and hopes,” he said.
Jesus’ ascension in to heaven does not mean he is absent, Pope Francis asserted. Instead, it tells us that he is alive among us “in a new way.”
“The Ascension of Jesus into heaven then reveals to us this reality that is so comforting for our journey, (that) in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was brought to God,” he remarked.
Jesus “has opened the passage up for us,” the Pope said, comparing Christ to a mountaineer who leads the climb up the rock face, has reached the summit and “draws us up to him leading us to God.”
“If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him we are sure to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior, our advocate,” the Pope said.
“Jesus is the only and eternal priest, who passed through death and the tomb, and rose again and ascended into Heaven,” he explained.
“He is with God the Father, where he always intercedes in our favor.”
Pope Francis noted that Jesus is no longer “in a definite place in the world as he was before the Ascension.”
“He is now in the lordship of God, present in all space and time, next to each of us.”
But the Pope underscored that entering “into the glory of God requires daily fidelity to his will, even when it requires sacrifice, when at times it requires us to change our plans.”
A prime example of how to be faithful to the Lord can be seen in Jesus’ ascension, which happened on the Mount of Olives, near the place where he had retired in prayer before his passion “to be in profound union with the Father.”
“Once again,” the Pope noted, “we see that prayer gives us the grace to live faithfully to the project of God.”
He advised the pilgrims to not be afraid to turn to Jesus with their fears and ask for his blessing and mercy.
“He always forgives us, he is our advocate, he always defends us (and) we must never forget this,” Pope Francis emphasized.
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis is praying for the victims of the earthquake that killed 35 and injured 100 in Iran and Pakistan.
“I raise a prayer to God for the victims and for all those who are in pain, and I wish to express my closeness to the Iranian and Pakistani people,” he said during his April 17 general audience at the Vatican.
“I learned with sadness of the violent earthquake that struck the peoples of Iran and Pakistan, bringing death, suffering and destruction,” he said.
The earthquake hit the border of Iran and Pakistan on April 16 at 3:44 p.m. local time.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused 35 deaths in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and around 150 have been found injured in both countries so far.
Baluchistan has since been shaken by several strong aftershocks including one today with a magnitude of 5.7.
Tremors were also felt in India and in other Persian Gulf countries on April 16.
Authorities say it was the worst earthquake Iran has seen in 50 years, but it had limited casualties because its epicenter was in a remote region.
It caused 70 percent of houses to collapse in Mashki, Pakistan, and the country’s military is helping rescue efforts in both countries.
Impacted Iranian cities include Khash, Zahedan, Iranshahr and Saravan.
Over 180,000 people live in Khash, while Saravan has a population of 250,000.
The executive director of Caritas Pakistan, Amjad Gulzar, reported in an April 16 blog post that his Catholic relief group is coordinating with Baluchistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One month into his papacy, Pope Francis has made his first episcopal and administrative appointments and has met with heads of state and the faithful, but one decision that is likely to play a key role in his reform project will be how he deals with the Vatican’s financial operations.
As the Church’s cardinals were preparing to elect the next Pope one month ago, two of them suggested closing down the Institute for Works of Religion, because it has drawn negative media coverage in recent years.
But Pope Francis might not be inclined to take that path because of a financial mess he had to wade through in his former position as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
A source familiar with the Vatican’s financial operations told CNA April 12 on the condition of anonymity that based on that experience, Pope Francis “should understand that the Holy See needs financial sovereignty, that is, the capacity to carry out its institutional works of religion and charity without the interference of foreign financial institutions.”
Alberto Barlocci, the long-time director of the Buenos Aires-based magazine Ciudad Nueva, explained in a late March interview that when the future Pope was appointed coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he inherited “a diocese with a financial disease.”
In 1998, the administration of his predecessor, Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, was involved in trying to prevent the collapse of a bank in which it was a shareholder.
The cardinal’s secretary, Monsignor Roberto Marcial Toledo, signed an agreement in his boss’ name to obtain 10 million dollars from Sociedad Militar Seguro de Vida (Military Society Life Insurance). The archdiocese then gave the money to the cash-strapped Banco de Credito Provincial, which it held shares in.
But in spite of the injection of capital, the bank collapsed. In the midst of the investigation of the meltdown, Msgr. Toledo was imprisoned.
Then-Archbishop Bergoglio swiftly took responsibility for the financial turmoil in his archdiocese.
The key move, according to his former spokesman Federico Wals, was Archbishop Bergoglio deciding to sell off the archdiocese’s bank shares and to transfer its funds to international banks such as HSBC and UBS “as an ordinary client,” rather than as a partial owner.
Now that he is Pope, Francis will have to consider the idea of whether or not to shutter the Institute for Works of Religion, which receives and administers funds for charitable activities, especially in the developing world where the financial strength of institutions is not always robust.
At the moment, he still has not revealed what path he will choose, but before he makes makes any decision, its reasonable to expect that he will consult with the eight cardinals he has chosen to advise him.
Until now, he has met almost all the heads of the Vatican congregations but has only spoken with a few heads of the pontifical councils, which means a decision is not expected soon.
For its part, the cardinals’ council will not hold its first meeting until October, but Pope Francis is currently in touch with them, leaving open the possibility of a decision before the fall.
Any future decision on the Institute for Works of Religion is also clearly linked to the appointment of the new Secretary of State, who traditionally serves as the president of the commission of cardinals who oversee the institute.
New developments in the status of the institute also mean that the decision making process is still very fluid.
The Vatican’s commitment to financial transparency could soon result in another reform of its anti-money-laundering laws, according to a top official at the Secretariat of State who spoke to CNA April 10 on a condition of anonymity.
The state department source thinks “some novelties will come up” because “the Holy See asked the Council of Europe’s financial arm Moneyval to make a report wider than required.”
Moneyval is a committee that evaluates the adherence of member states to international standards for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The work of the Holy Spirit at the Second Vatican Council is not yet finished, Pope Francis said, because many in the Church are unwilling to fully embrace what God inspired in the council fathers.
In his homily at an April 16 Mass at St. Martha’s Residence, the Pope observed that the Holy Spirit always “moves us, makes us walk and pushes the Church forward.”
However, he said, we often respond by saying, “Don’t bother us.”
“We want to put the Holy Spirit to sleep,” the Pontiff noted. “We want to ‘tame’ the Holy Spirit. And that doesn’t work, because He is God. He is the wind that comes and goes and we know not from where.”
“He is the strength of God, the one who gives us comfort and drives us to continue forward,” Pope Francis continued. But the idea of “going forward” is what often bothers us, because we want to “remain comfortable,” he explained.
“This temptation is still here today,” the Holy Father observed, pointing the Second Vatican Council as an example.
“The Council was a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit,” he stressed.
“But after 50 years have we done everything that the Holy Spirit told us at the Council?” he asked, questioning whether the Church currently contains the council’s “continuity of growth.”
“No,” he answered.
Some Catholics want to “build a monument” to the council without being willing to change, the Pope lamented. “And what’s more, there are some who want to turn back.”
“This is called being stubborn, this is called wanting to tame the Holy Spirit, this called being foolish and slow of heart,” he stressed.
The same thing happens with our own personal lives, the Holy Father continued, explaining that we often resist when “the Holy Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path.”
“Do not resist the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis urged. “It is the Spirit that makes us free, with that freedom of Jesus, that freedom of the children of God!”
“This is the grace that I wish all of us would ask of the Lord: docility to the Holy Spirit, to that Spirit who comes to us and makes us advance down the path of holiness, that holiness of the Church that is so beautiful,” the Pope concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 17, 2013 (CNA) - Spanish civil rights groups have launched a campaign calling for the removal of a video game based on clerical sex abuse, in which a Pope figure coordinates abuse and tries to avoid being caught by reporters.
The website HazteOir denounced the company RoundGames.com for its March 14 release of “Vatican Quest,” an arcade game that “mocks the underage victims of sexual abuse and brings the trend of slamming the Church and Catholics into the video game business.”
The video game is being distributed in Spain by Minijuegos.
“Vatican Quest belittles the tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors and mocks its victims” through “a for-profit game for computers and smartphones,” HazteOir said.
In the game, the character that represents Benedict XVI has to “bring children dressed as altar boys to cardinals who are waiting for them at the doors of the Vatican palace.”
“The cardinals take the children under their arms and disappear into a dark room, closing the doors behind them,” the website explained.
Benedict XVI’s opponents in the game are “reporters who investigate cases of sexual abuse in the Church.”
HazteOir is supporting human rights group Maslibres.org, which has launched a petition calling for the removal of the game.
“The ‘Vatican Quest’ game for computers and smartphones hurts many people like me for no reason, by portraying Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI as a pimp and the cardinals as pedophiles,” a spokesman of the group said.
“To reduce the tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors to a cartoon and to profit from it offends the victims and their families,” he explained. “Even satire against Christians and their institutions has a limit.”
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles applauded the introduction of legislation to change the U.S. immigration system, while pledging the bishops’ help in reviewing and improving the proposal.
“The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land—migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations,” he said April 17.
Archbishop Gomez, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, refrained from commenting on specific details of the bill – which is more than 800 pages in length – until the U.S. bishops’ conference can thoroughly analyze it.
However, he commended the sponsors of the Senate bill for their “leadership and courage” in working to address the immigration system in the United States.
On April 17, an immigration reform bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators who have been working to strike a deal between those who want to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and those who want to focus on securing the U.S. border.
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, known as S. 744, is being sponsored by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
If the legislation is passed, it will offer a 13-year path to citizenship to immigrants who are already in the country illegally. These immigrants will be required to pass background checks, be fingerprinted, pay fines and taxes and prove gainful employment.
The bill would also institute other changes including a wider pool of visas for migrant workers.
However, no undocumented immigrants can apply for temporary status until certain border security “triggers” are in place.
The bill has drawn initial criticism both from those who thought the waiting period for undocumented immigrants was too harsh and those who argued it was unfair to offer citizenship under any circumstances to immigrants who entered the country illegally.
However, it also drew praise from those who view it as a realistic compromise that can help alleviate problems that have plagued the U.S. immigration system for years.
Archbishop Gomez applauded the legislation as an effort toward comprehensive immigration reform, which the bishops have long encouraged.
He said the bishops will work “constructively” with the senators and other Congress members to improve the proposal if needed, emphasizing that the goal is an immigration system “that restores the rule of law in a humane and just manner.”
The archbishop pointed to the principles laid out in the 2003 pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”
That letter listed several goals for immigration reform, such as a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants that includes “the maximum number of persons” and acts “within a reasonable time frame.”
In addition, the bishops have repeatedly backed a family-based immigration system that protects vulnerable groups and unifies spouses and their children.
They have also endorsed a program to help low-skilled migrant workers to enter and work in the U.S. legally, as well as the restoration of due process protections for immigrants and policy changes to address the deeper causes of immigration.