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Archive of April 22, 2013

Being Christian means risking following Jesus, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Lukewarm Christians try to build a church that conforms to their own common sense and see too much risk in following Jesus, Pope Francis preached.
 
“They are Christians of good sense only: they keep their distance. Christians, so to speak, who are ‘satellites,’ that have a church small in size: to quote the words of Jesus in Revelation, ‘lukewarm Christians,’” the Pope said at the April 20 morning Mass in the chapel of St. Martha’s residence.  
 
“They walk only in the presence of common sense, common sense ... that worldly prudence: this is a temptation (to use) just worldly prudence,” he added.
 
He delivered his homily on the Gospel reading from John 6 in which Jesus declares that unless believers eat his flesh and drink his blood they will not have eternal life. Participants in the Mass included volunteers from the Vatican’s St. Martha pediatric dispensary, along with the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul who run the outreach.
 
"These people have turned away, they are gone, they say, 'this man is a bit strange, he says things that are hard,’” the Pope said referring to the Gospel reading.
 
“‘It's too big a risk to go down this road. We have common sense, eh? Let's go back a little and not (be) so close to him.’ These people, perhaps, had a certain admiration for Jesus, but a little from afar: ‘not to meddle too much with this man, because he says things that are a bit strange,’” the Pope summarized.
 
But “these Christians are not united in the Church, they do not walk in God's presence, they don’t have the security of the Holy Spirit, they do not make up the Church,” he stated, describing them as “Christian satellites.”  
 
Today, the Pope noted, there are so many Christians who “bear witness to the name of Jesus, even unto martyrdom.”
 
And these believers are not ‘Christian satellites,’ because “they go with Jesus on the path of Jesus,” the Holy Father said.
 
Reflecting on the first reading that described the life of the early Christians, Pope Francis pointed out that the first believers went through a period of persecution, it walked and grew “in the fear of the Lord and with the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”
 
"It is a style of the Church. To walk in the fear of the Lord is a sense of adoration, the presence of God, no? The Church walks and so when we are in the presence of God we do not do bad things or make bad decisions,” he commented.
 
And being “in God’s sight with joy and happiness: this is the security of the Holy Spirit, that is the gift that the Lord has given us - this comfort - that keeps us going,” the Pope preached.
 
“Let us pray for the Church,” he said, that it “will continue to grow, unite, to walk in the fear of God and with the security of the Holy Spirit.
 
“May the Lord deliver us from the temptation of that ‘common sense,’ and in inverted commas, the temptation to whisper against Jesus, ‘because it is too demanding,’ and from the temptation of scandal.”
 

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No room for self-promoters in God's kingdom, Pope says

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis warned that some people, even in the Church, are “social climbers” that try to promote themselves, instead of seeking to glorify Christ.

“These social climbers exist even in the Christian communities, no? Those people who are looking out for themselves ... and consciously or unconsciously pretend to enter but are thieves and robbers,” he said at an April 22 Mass for Vatican press office and Vatican Radio employees.
 
“Why? Why steal the glory from Jesus? They want glory for themselves and this is what (Jesus) said to the Pharisees: ‘You seek for each other's approval,’” the Pope responded.
 
The result of this approach is that the faith becomes “something of a ‘commercial’ religion,” he reflected.
 
“I give glory to you and you give glory to me. But these people did not enter through the true gate. The (true) gate is Jesus and those who do not enter by this gate are mistaken.”
 
Christians can know which way or gate is Jesus’ by looking for the marks of the Beatitudes, he said.

There are many paths that we can follow, he explained, some perhaps more advantageous than others in getting ahead, but they are “misleading, they are not real; they are false. The only path is Jesus. "

"Some of you may say, 'Father, you're a fundamentalist!'” Pope Francis recalled.
 
“No, simply put, this is what Jesus said: 'I am the gate,' 'I am the path.’ … It is a beautiful gate, a gate of love, it is a gate that does not deceive, it is not false. It always tells the truth, but with tenderness and love.”
 
But, he noted, “we still have … the source of original sin within us, is not it so? We still desire to possess the key to interpreting everything, the key and the power to find our own path, whatever it is, to find our own gate, whatever it is.”

"And this is the temptation to look for other gates or other windows to enter the Kingdom of God.

We can only enter by the gate whose name is Jesus,” he emphasized, reminding the congregation that any other path of entering is for 'thieves and robbers.'
 
“He is simple, the Lord. His words are not complex. He is simple.”

Pope Francis concluded by encouraging every to ask for “the grace to always knock on that gate.”

“Sometimes it's closed: we are sad, we feel desolation, we have problems with knocking, with knocking at that gate. Do not go looking for other gates that seem easier, more comfortable, more at hand. Always the same one: Jesus. Jesus never disappoints, Jesus does not deceive, Jesus is not a thief, not a robber. He gave his life for me. Each of us must say this: ‘And you who gave your life for me, please, open, that I may enter.’”

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St. George's feast becomes Vatican holiday this year

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - St. George's feast day falling on April 23 means Vatican employees will have the day off to celebrate the saint their boss, Pope Francis, is named after.

But the Holy Father, formerly known as Cardinal Jorge (George) Bergoglio, will continue with his practice of presiding over daily Mass.

Instead of holding it at Saint Martha’s as he has been since being elected Pope, the Eucharistic celebration will take place at the Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, alongside the cardinals who live in Rome.

Under Pope Benedict XVI, the Solemnity of St. Joseph was a Vatican holiday, since his baptismal name is Joseph Ratzinger.

Pope Francis will celebrate the feast of Saint George, a martyr who lived around the year 300 in what is now Turkey.

St. George, the patron saint of England, was a soldier in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

Diocletian beheaded him in Palestine for protesting against the Emperor's persecution of Christians and refusing to take part.

Christians rapidly began venerating the saint for his bravery in protecting the poor, the defenseless and Christians.

His banner, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers and later became the flag of England.

St. George’s fame grew after James of Voragine published a book in 1265 called “Legenda Sanctorum,” which later became known as the “Legenda Aurea” (The Golden Legend).

The medieval legend goes that he slew a dragon and rescued an innocent maiden from death.

The Church now commemorates St. George, and although his existence is certain, little is known about him.

It is believed that he was killed in 303 on April 23, the day his feast is now observed on.

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Mistaken obituary labels George Soros as 'predatory' billionaire

Denver, Colo., Apr 22, 2013 (CNA) - A mistakenly-published article erroneously announcing the death of George Soros described the atheist billionaire as a successful “Hungarian-American financier” who has donated huge sums of money to liberal causes.

“George Soros, who died XXX at age XXX, was a predatory and hugely successful financier and investor, who argued paradoxically for years against the same sort of free-wheeling capitalism that made him billions,” said the article, written by Reuters.

The April 18 article was a pre-written obituary, with X’s for dates and ages that would need to be filled in before the story ran. It was published mistakenly, as Soros is still alive.

Reuters quickly removed the story and issued an apology, explaining that it had been published in error.

Born in Hungary, Soros emigrated to Great Britain and eventually became one of richest men in the world. He is a well-known liberal philanthropist and has been associated with groups that have drawn criticism for undermining Church teaching.

The Reuters article said Soros is known as “the man who broke the Bank of England” for “selling short the British pound in 1992,” a move that devalued the pound while earning him more than $1 billion.

It also noted that he was “widely blamed for helping trigger the Asian financial crisis of 1997, by selling short” certain Asian currencies. Soros has called this charge “a wholly unfounded accusation.”

The article also acknowledged the controversy that surrounded Soros, calling him “an enigma, wrapped in intellect, contradiction and money.”

Soros was convicted on charges of insider trading – which he denied – but was required to pay only a small penalty, the obituary observed.

It also noted his donations to legalize marijuana and his vocal support of assisted suicide, which he offered to help his own mother commit.

Through the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundations, both of which he founded, Soros has pumped billions of dollars into liberal causes. In addition to promoting more open societies in emerging nations, the financier has promoted various progressive causes in the United States. Some of these endeavors have been labeled as contentious and anti-Catholic by those who oppose them.

“In a bid to stop Bush's re-election, Soros donated $23.5 million to more than 500 liberal and progressive groups during the 2003-2004 U.S. election cycle,” Reuters explained.

Tax records show that the Open Society Institute gave at least $150,000 to Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a group that has been accused by both lay and bishop leaders of misleading Catholics about the natural priorities of the Church’s social teaching.

Through the Open Society Institute, Soros has also funded Faith in Public Life, a group that was criticized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last summer after it sent a memo to media groups with instructions on how to trap the Church with questions about the bishops’ allegedly false religious freedom concerns.

In recent years, several charges have also been made regarding a connection between Soros and Catholics United, an organization that has sparked controversy numerous times over accusations of left-leaning political activism rather than a true representation of Church teachings. Catholics United has denied any connection with Soros.

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Franciscan University names Fr. Sean Sheridan as president

Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio has named as its next president theology professor and canon lawyer Father Sean O. Sheridan.

“I am honored to serve as the next president of Franciscan University,” Fr. Sheridan said April 19.

“It is inspiring and truly humbling for me to be here at Franciscan University with the students who are pouring their hearts into their education and their prayer life, falling in love with God and the Church, and striving to become saints.”

Fr. Nicholas Polichnowski, TOR, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, said Fr. Sheridan brings to the university “an excellent blend of academic, pastoral, legal and business experience.”

He praised the next president’s “strong care and concern” for the university’s mission.

The private Catholic university serves 2,400 undergraduate and graduate students in Ohio. It has had five previous presidents since its founding in 1946.

Fr. Sheridan is a native of Cresson, Pa., a small borough 75 miles east of Pittsburgh. He served on Franciscan University’s Board of Trustees from 2007-2012. He also worked on the student Life Committee and chaired the Academic Affairs Committee from 2011-2012.

The priest joined Franciscan University’s theology department in fall 2012, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses.

He has served at Franciscan University summer conferences and has had parish ministerial duties and has served in hospital and campus ministry and in residence hall chaplaincy.

Fr. Sheridan worked in several careers before entering the Franciscan Third Order Regular. He received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 1985 and a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1990.

He spent a decade practicing law in Sacramento and Pittsburgh, with a focus on healthcare litigation representing hospitals and physicians.

Fr. Sheridan joined the Franciscans in 2000 and made his solemn profession in 2005 and was ordained a priest in December 2006. Soon after, he graduated from Washington Theological Union with a master in divinity.

He received a doctorate in canon law from the Catholic University of America School of Canon Law in 2009. His dissertation was a canonical commentary on John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” which deals with the role of the Catholic university in the Church’s mission. Fr. Sheridan then became an assistant professor in canon law at Catholic University.

He has also served on the editorial board and as book review editor for the canon law journal The Jurist.

He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa. and has been a canonical consultant to religious communities and Catholic universities. He has also served as a judge on the tribunal of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Fr. Sheridan will succeed Fr. Terence Henry, TOR. He said his predecessor helped grow the university and increase its reputation for “excellent academics and faithful Catholicism.”

“I will build on that strong foundation, always with a view to serving the Church and the new evangelization,” Fr. Sheridan said.

Fr. Henry will stay at Franciscan University to help Fr. Sheridan’s transition. He said he has “the utmost respect” for his successor.

“I’m happy to be leaving the University to his leadership, and I am certain he will continue to raise the bar of excellence,” Fr. Henry said.

Fr. Sheridan will take over as president on June 1. His formal installation will take place at the university’s inauguration ceremony on Oct. 10.

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Peruvian lawmaker praised for rejecting contraception plan

Lima, Peru, Apr 22, 2013 (CNA) - The president of Peru’s congressional Committee on Women and the Family has reaffirmed her commitment to resisting pressure from abortion and contraception advocacy groups.

During a committee hearing on April 17, Aurelia Tan de Inafuko promised to continue efforts to respect life in the country, while rejecting calls to distribute contraception to minors without parental notification. 

Carlos Polo, director of the Population Research Institute’s Office for Latin America praised Congresswoman Inafuko for the “courageous” statement.

In statements to CNA, Polo warned that committee hearings are typically “one of the strategic places for pro-abortion organizations to triumph.”

He revealed that a close advisor to Congresswoman Inafuko said she has “rejected the ‘aid’ that UNICEF, Promsex and other pro-abortion organizations have always offered to her predecessors.”

This move, along with her public statements, are important to help push back against organizations in Peru that are seeking to change the law in order to allow minor children to receive contraceptives without parental consent, he said.

Such groups are also pushing for abortion legalization in some cases, although such proposals have been rejected by Peruvian government officials and congressional representatives.  

Polo voiced gratitude to the congresswoman for refusing to “bow to any pressure.”

He also laid out arguments for why the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s “recommendations” to legalize abortion in Peru and distribute contraceptives to students should be dismissed.

The recommendation does not reflect the official stance of the United Nations, he advised, because the human rights commission is an independent organ whose members exercise their functions in their own name.

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Bishops cautiously hopeful on immigration plan

Washington D.C., Apr 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Prominent U.S. bishops have expressed support for the immigration reform bill recently introduced in the Senate, although they noted that it still has room for improvement.

“We bishops are grateful for the brave senators who have introduced this bipartisan legislation,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during a conference call April 22.

“We admire their leadership and courage in moving the issue forward, and in the name of my brother bishops I've assured them we look forward to working with them to achieve the fairest legislation possible.”

An immigration reform bill was introduced April 17 by a “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.

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. These triggers include a border fence plan, employment verification and visa exit system to ensure immigrants cannot overstay their visa allowance.

Cardinal Dolan was joined on the call by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, and Kevin Appleby, director of the migration policy office of the U.S. bishops' conference.

The Church in the U.S. is an “icon” of the country's immigrant composition, Cardinal Dolan noted. He went on to tout the Church as “one of the most effective tools of Americanization in its best sense” and praised it for helping to “integrate newcomers into the social fabric of our nation for well over two centuries.”

The principles for just immigration reform, the cardinal said, include citizenship for a maximum number of persons in a reasonable amount of time, that families remain together, and that poor and low-skilled workers can enter the country “legally and safely to support their family.”

Vulnerable populations, such as refugees and migrant children, must receive protection, the root economic and social causes of immigration need to be addressed in foreign policy, and the integrity of American borders must be assured, he added.

Cardinal Dolan urged an end to the “broken, unjust and unfair” immigration system that is in place, noting that untold numbers of families are being divided and that “these are human beings made in God's image and likeness, and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, and we moral leaders can't just stand by and let that happen.”

Archbishop Gomez, while noting that the bill “does some positive things for families,” said the bishops want to see it “improved and advanced” into law.

Among the concerns he raised were strict eligibility requirements and obstacles, which will “leave many behind” in the path to citizenship. Rather than the 13-year path currently in the bill, he hopes for a period of no more than 10 years.

He also called for the possibility of citizenship to be extended to those who came to the U.S. after the bill’s Dec. 31, 2011 cut-off date, and advocated a reduction in the fees and penalties that must be paid, “so that also poor migrants and their families can attain citizenship.”

“If the goal is to solve the problem in a humane manner, then all undocumented persons should be able to participate,” concluded Archbishop Gomez.

Bishop Wester emphasized that immigration reform must be comprehensive, pointing out that enforcement-only policies “don't work, if they aren't complemented by human policies.” The focus on enforcement, he said, has failed to stem the tide of immigration.

A comprehensive approach, as outlined in the new Senate bill, “would increase legal avenues for migrants to enter our nation safely and securely,” he observed.

However, he also expressed concern over the border security “triggers.” It would be “best to de-link these triggers from the other elements of the bill,” he said, and all elements should be implemented “simultaneously,” for the sake and safety of American immigrants.

Bishop Wester noted that immigration is not merely a political issue, but a “human and moral” one. He hopes for the bill's debate to be characterized by “civil and respectful” dialogue.

“Too often we hear human beings being referred to with pejorative terms and being de-humanized and demonized in the rhetoric of the debate, and it's important for us to be careful to remember that we're talking about human beings,” he said.

Cardinal Dolan added that while the bishops are often caricatured as opposing any type of immigration control, Catholic teaching has constantly affirmed the right to national security. However, he said, building higher fences with more barbed wire is not going to change the reality of immigration and is “counter-productive.”

Rather than focusing on physical obstacles, border security could be more effectively achieved by spending a fraction of that money improving the economies of Latin American countries, he suggested.

“If there were family unification,” he added, “and a legitimate, just, and expedited path to citizenship, we wouldn't have so many people trying to sneak through the desert and trying to dodge the walls.”

Catholics should be quick to support “fair immigration reform,” the cardinal continued, because any Catholic family need go back only a few generations to “find an immigrant that came over.”

Appleby estimated that the process of approving the immigration reform bill could stretch into the end of summer of autumn. He expects that it should be out of committee by the end of May and debated on the Senate floor in June, and from there be passed on to the House. The group noted hopefully the political expediency of passing the bill, given the impact of the Latino electorate in last year's elections.

“We're hopeful but not naïve, and we have a long fight ahead of us,” Cardinal Dolan concluded.

“We've got a few complaints about the current legislation, as thrilled as we are about it as a sign of progress, but we know that even that is going to have a tough time getting through.”

Despite the bill's flaws, he re-iterated that the bishops “are on board with this one.”

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September 17, 2014

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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