Vatican City, May 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis told the story of a man who felt ashamed of being a bishop to say that people should not worry of being sinners but should concentrate on allowing Jesus to transform them.
“He was ashamed because he did not feel worthy, he had a spiritual torment and he went to the confessor,” Pope Francis said at his May 17 daily Mass.
“The confessor heard him and said, ‘but do not worry, if after the mess Peter made of things, they made him Pope, then you go ahead!’” he recalled.
The Pope delivered his homily on the Gospel reading from John 21, which tells the story of Jesus asking Peter if he loved him three separate times.
According to the pontiff, people should try harder to encounter Jesus rather than focus on their own sins.
“Many times, we look the other way because we do not want to talk with the Lord or allow ourselves to encounter the Lord,” he stated.
“Meeting the Lord is important, but more importantly, let us be met by the Lord, this is a grace,” he added.
“Peter let himself be shaped by his many encounters with Jesus,” the Pope noted, “and this is something we all need to do as well, for we are on the same road.”
“Peter is great, not because he is good, but because he has a nobility of heart, which brings him to tears, leads him to this pain, this shame and also to take up his work of shepherding the flock,” he remarked.
The pontiff noted “the problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin; not being ashamed of what we have done, that’s the problem.”
“The Lord makes us mature with many meetings with Him, even with our weaknesses, when we recognize them with our sins,” Pope Francis said.
“The point is that this is how the Lord is, that’s the way He is,” he said.
Referring back to the Gospel reading, Pope Francis said the questions Jesus posed to Peter are “a dialogue of love between the Lord and his disciple.”
He explained that the narration goes back to the history of Peter’s meetings with Jesus, from his invitation to follow the Lord, to his receiving the name of the Rock, “a mission which was there, even if Peter understood nothing of it at the time.”
“Peter was saddened that, for a third time, Jesus asked him, ‘do you love me?’” said Pope Francis.
Peter was a great man, the Holy Father remarked, but he was also a sinner and this question made him feel “pain” and “shame.”
“The Lord makes him feel that he is a sinner, makes us all feel that we are sinners,” but this shame and humility “brings him to a new encounter with Jesus” and “to the joy of forgiveness,” the Pope preached.
New York City, N.Y., May 17, 2013 (CNA) - The apostolic nuncio to the United Nations urged those with influence over the warring parties in Syria to encourage them to end the violence and seek peace.
Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the U.N., said the Vatican desires to see Syria’s return to “that peaceful and harmonious coexistence which has been the hallmark of Syrian society for centuries.”
He cited Pope Francis’ words from his Urbi et Orbi Easter Sunday message: “How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?”
The archbishop spoke May 15 about a U.N. resolution on preventing armed conflict in Syria, where the Syrian government and rebel groups are fighting for control of the country. The conflict has killed an estimated 80,000 people and displaced several million more.
Archbishop Chullikatt said that his delegation has “grave concern” over Syria’s two years of an “unceasing spiral of violence,” which has become a “bloodbath.”
“If we wish to reconstitute a peaceable society and avoid the abandonment of the Syrian people to a violent and uncertain future, a clear change of course is needed,” he stressed.
The archbishop urged assistance for agencies and countries that are hosting refugees from the fighting, warning that if these countries collapse, there would be “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” with severe international repercussions.
“What matters here are not acts of mere generosity, but acts that can generate and sustain peace, security and the common good of the entire international community,” he explained.
He also urged the warring parties to recognize their obligations under international law to provide humanitarian workers safe access to refugees. The archbishop specifically called for the protection of health care institutions both from deliberate attacks and from the “indiscriminate effects of armed violence.”
He further encouraged the release of all kidnapping victims, including Greek Orthodox Bishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, who have been missing since April 22.
According to Archbishop Chullikatt, a solution to the violence requires the involvement of all political parties and various civil society groups, including the religious groups of Syria.
Any effort to rebuild the country must be based on human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law, good governance and respect for “diverse ethnic and religious identities,” he said.
The archbishop closed with an exhortation to find “a lasting solution worthy of the dignity of the people of that great nation.”
Washington D.C., May 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Along with its targeting of conservative political groups for extra scrutiny, Internal Revenue Service employees also reportedly singled out pro-life leaders for intimidation.
As the IRS scandal continues to grow, news surfaced that two pro-life groups, Coalition for Life of Iowa and Christian Voices for Life, were withheld approval of tax exempt status.
“For both of those organizations there were inquiries from the IRS, there was delay, there were questions...which really infringed on First Amendment rights; they were asking them not to protest, not to assemble,” Sally Wagenmaker, special counsel with the Thomas More Society who assisted the groups, told CNA May 16.
Wagenmaker, who regularly works with non-profits as they seek tax exemption, affirmed that the Internal Revenue Service's treatment of the two groups was out of the ordinary, calling it “push back.”
“There was no sense of respect or according of good faith; there was an assumption that they weren't probably what they said they were, and in both cases asking if they were really legitimate.”
She explained that “the gate is supposed to be somewhat wide to get tax exempt status.”
“So as long as you're organized for a legitimate purpose, the IRS isn't going to ask too much about that purpose or your activities, except to the extent that there could be some financial corruption, or something that is truly abusive of the tax exempt status itself; but not the message that the tax exempt organization is carrying out.”
And yet, in a June 6, 2009 call to Coalition for Life of Iowa, an Internal Revenue Service representative told them to send the agency a letter stating that “they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood,” and that their application for tax exemption would be approved upon receipt of that letter.
The IRS was “picking on this group” as if it “were protecting Planned Parenthood, so that definitely struck me as very strange,” Wagenmaker reflected.
When a group applies for tax exemption, they typically “sail through based on the application,” she said, unless “it's a very unusual thing they're doing, or their application is very poorly put together.”
Neither of these was the case for the Iowa group, she noted. “It was just fine, it was done by an attorney and had all kinds of information.”
“In my experience, the IRS ask things about money: are you abusing money, do you have some kind of conflict of interest, are you doing something that shows you're not really legitimately educational, charitable, or religious.” The questions about religious views are highly unusual, she said.
“I didn't see a point, on its face,” Wagenmaker said, of the invasive questions from the Internal Revenue Service. “Why would they even be asking them?”
“In both of these situations, through the additional questions being asked, it kind of insinuated or implied” that they were unworthy of trust.
“What was disturbing most was this was content based...getting into the religious nature,” and into the pro-life message of the groups.
Wagenmaker has said it shows “the IRS's disturbing ability” to stall and oppose legitimate applications through lengthy questionnaires and incorrect citations of applicable law.
“The application itself should have been it,” she said.
On May 10, the Internal Revenue Service apologized for subjecting conservative “tea party” groups to additional scrutiny. The agency asked some groups for donor lists, violating its own policies.
The so-called “IRS-gate” is among the topics Congress questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about May 15. Questioning also focused on the illicit seizure of phone records from the Associated Press by the Department of Justice, as well as the Sept. 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission at Benghazi in Libya.
The same day as Holder's questioning, Internal Revenue Service commissioner Steve Miller submitted his resignation to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who had requested it.
Pharmacists For Life International has also reported that at least two of its officers and board members were “subjected to ongoing harassment and intimidation attempts by the IRS through continued and costly nuisance audits and threatening letters over a period of months and years.”
The association of pro-life pharmacists said the two have “generally come away with clean audits” after “ugly threats of reprisal” from the agency.
And Protestant minister Franklin Graham has said the tax office selected for auditing two non-profits he heads, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.
Graham voiced concern that it was not a “coincidence” that the audit came after the organizations took out ads in support of the North Carolina marriage amendment and others which advocated that voters choose candidates using “biblical principles.”
Chicago, Ill., May 17, 2013 (CNA) -
As a new bill aims to bar federal funding of adoption services that do not place children with gay couples, an Illinois Catholic leader warned a similar law there downsized faith-based agencies.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act was introduced May 7 in the U.S. House, with bi-partisan backers. Under the bill, adoption agencies receiving federal funding may not delay or deny foster parenthood on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
Nor would federally-funded agencies be able to require “different or additional screenings, processes, or procedures” for same-sex couples or individuals seeking to adopt a child.
A similar measure was enacted in July 2011 in Illinois. At that time, the state children and families department ended its contracts with Illinois Catholic Charities because the agencies’ practice of placing children only with married couples discriminated against unmarried and homosexual couples.
As a result, “the nature of all the Catholic Charities agencies have changed, and obviously the biggest thing you'd notice is the smaller number of employees,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told CNA May 16.
“They all had significant numbers of people that were being funded by state contracts to do foster care and adoption,” he explained. “In some ways, the presence of Catholic Charities is reduced, in that obviously there are fewer employees working.”
“But on the other hand...what happened now is they're doing things they didn't do in the past. They're engaged in more creative service delivery, they're doing it with less money, and with more volunteers, and I think you could say there's a move back towards the community and to parishes.”
Gilligan said that prior to the de-funding in Illinois, Catholic agencies were “beholden” to “the state's way” of providing social services.
He added, however, that “ it's a sad commentary that an organization can't abide by what everybody knows to be true – that children are best raised in a home with a mother and a father – and get state funding to supplement those activities.”
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act is meant to “decrease the length of time that children wait” to be placed in a foster home “by preventing discrimination” of prospective parents, enlarging the pool of potential foster parents.
The bill notes that in 2007, 51,000 children were adopted, but another 25,000 “aged out” of the foster care system, which put them at a high risk for poverty and incarceration.
It also states that “professional organizations in the fields of medicine, psychology, law, and child welfare have taken official positions in support of the ability of qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and unmarried couples to foster and adopt.”
In Illinois, Catholic adoption agencies either closed altogether, or became non-affiliated with the Church.
Gilligan called it unfortunate that American society is experiencing “a movement away from policies that prioritize children being at home with a mother and a father.”
He found, however, a silver lining in the de-funding of Catholic Charities in Illinois.
“The fact of the matter is there are a lot of needs in our communities, and Catholic Charities and the Catholic Church has always sought, and will continue to seek, ways to provide comfort and services to people in need. Whether its through the state or individuals or some other means, we'll try to meet those needs as best we can.”
Since the loss of public funding in Illinois, Gilligan has noticed “a movement back towards what Dorothy Day was espousing – good works done by individuals.”
Day was a social activist, tireless advocate for the poor, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. The sanctity of her life is under investigation as part of her cause for canonization.
Gilligan noted that “that's how we experience the poor, on an individual basis.”
“Maybe sometimes when we create these bureaucracies we distance ourselves from serving the poor, and maybe this is the Holy Spirit working through the Church: we have an obligation to know the poor personally.”
“Bigger is not always better,” he reflected. “The way we serve the poor is noteworthy, and to the degree that an individual can personally experience serving the poor, I think it helps that individual truly understand what that other person is experiencing.”
“Sometimes when we create those larger bureaucracies we lose that personal appeal, and I think at least in Illinois, that is what's going on.”
Cagliari, Italy, May 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Father Giovannino Tolu said his heart began racing when he heard that Pope Francis will the visit the shrine he oversees on the Italian island of Sardinia, making it the fourth time he has received a pontiff.
Pope Francis announced at the end of his May 15 general audience that he will travel to the city of Cagliari in September to venerate Our Lady of Bonaria at the basilica of the same name.
“Can’t you hear my heart going tick, tick, tick?” Fr. Tolu, the basilica’s pastor, asked in reaction to the Pope’s declaration.
“We still don’t know yet if Pope Francis will be here one day or if he will be here several days because we just found out yesterday about this,” Fr. Tolu explained in a May 16 interview with CNA.
But regardless of how long the pontiff stays, Fr. Tolu said, “I feel my heart has accelerated; we have the joy of already having had three Popes here.”
Pope Paul VI visited the shrine in 1970, Blessed John Paul II in 1985 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
“The shrine has a special tie to this Pope because he is from Argentina,” the priest explained.
The link between the two places a world apart is that the city of Buenos Aires is named after Our Lady of Bonaria.
The city’s Spanish founder, Pedro de Mendoza, wanted to name the area “City of the Most Holy Trinity,” but Sardinian sailors, who knew of the special devotion to the Mary, wanted to name the city after her.
They then agreed to call the city “City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Our Lady of Bonaria.” But because the name was so long it was eventually shortened to “Bonaria,” which is translated into Spanish as “Buenos Aires,” which means “good air.”
“Our basilica here is an old sanctuary from the time of the Spanish soldiers who came here and built a small church for the soldiers,” said Fr. Tolu.
“But in 1704 they felt the need to expand the basilica, and there is a lot of devotion here,” he added.
Fr. Tolu revealed that the connection between the city and the basilica will soon be further strengthened by a small, blessed replica of the Madonna that measures around four feet (1.10 meters) and will be sent to Buenos Aires on July 1.
The devotion to Our Lady of Bonaria originated in 1370 when a violent storm began to strip all of the equipment from a Spanish sailing vessel.
But when a heavy wooden chest fell overboard and hit the water, the sea suddenly calmed.
The box was found on the shore at the port of Bonaria by some friars, who discovered a locust-wood statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her left arm and a lit candle in her right hand.
Devotion to the Madonna soon took root among the island’s inhabitants and especially among the sailors who looked to her for protection.
Vatican City, May 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis met this afternoon with the directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and encouraged them to help “the young churches” that operate in difficult and sometimes hostile circumstances.
After reminding them not to forget the universal and missionary nature of their work, Pope Francis underscored the importance of helping those in “the young churches, which often operate in a climate of difficulty, discrimination, and persecution.”
The 120 national directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, met with the Pope at 12:30 p.m. on May 17 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
During the encounter, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to unlock an app for smartphones. He launched the MISSIO app on an iPad by pressing a button that said “Evangelizantur,” which means, “that they be evangelized” in Latin.
The app that he unlocked offers news from the Vatican, stories and photos from the missions, and a way to donate to the society. It is available for Android and Apple devices.
Father Andrew Small, who is the U.S. national director, said in a May 17 interview with CNA that during the directors’ meeting with the Pope he “reclaimed us as the Bishop of Rome, as the Roman pontiff” by emphasizing that they are pontifical institutes.
He also told the leaders that they are, “in a sense, my specialists in the missionary work of the Church,” Fr. Small recalled, before going on to explain how the societies work to help the poor and needy and proclaim the Gospel.
The Pope also underlined the relevance of the societies, saying that they are “still necessary today because there are so many peoples who have still not known and met Christ and it is urgent to find new forms and new ways that God's grace might touch the heart of each man and each woman and bring them to him.”
Pope Francis acknowledged that their mission is a difficult one, but “with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it becomes an exciting mission. … This is what we should always draw courage from: knowing that the strength of evangelization comes from God, belongs to him.”
The Pope also touched on one of his major themes, telling the societies to bring God’s mercy and to the poor and abandoned while maintaining an outward focus on evangelization, instead of becoming “wrapped up in themselves.”
Cordoba, Spain, May 17, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain, is calling on the faithful not to remain silent about the genocide of abortion and to work for “policies inspired in the culture of life.”
“The hundreds of thousands – more than a million – abortions that have taken place in recent years constitute the slow suicide of nation that is incapable to transmitting life to the next generation,” he warned.
In his latest pastoral letter, Bishop Fernandez said the defense of life from the moment of conception is not a religious matter, but is “above all a human matter.”
“The light of God makes us see more clearly that which simply human reason can perceive, if it is not obscured by selfish interests,” he explained.
“We are living in turbulent times in many areas,” the bishop said. For this reason, “we need the Holy Spirit to make clear to us the truth about God and man, to give us the strength to follow the will of God, to inspire us in the mission of brining the Gospel to every person.”
He noted that some people debate about how late into a pregnancy abortion should be allowed. However, he said, “any law that allows abortion will always be a law that is unfit for mankind,” because it allows for the killing of an innocent human life.
Because of the murders that are taking place in the womb, he cautioned, “Europe, and Spain included, is dying of old age.”
Policies should be enacted to encourage births and not to penalize “the family that is generously open to life,” Bishop Fernandez urged.
He also called the faithful to let the Holy Spirit enter into their lives as the “Lord and giver of life.”
Rome, Italy, May 17, 2013 (CNA) -
With the touch of an iPad, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to unlock a new smartphone application and expanded the Church’s footprint in the digital world.
“I was quite anxious that we were going to get the signal and it was all going to work. Because this isn’t made up, these folks are actually waiting for the Holy Father to hit this button before it works,” said Father Andrew Small in a May 17 CNA interview.
The launch of the MISSIO App took place May 17 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall during a meeting of the Pope and the 120 national directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
The mission society’s application for mobile devices and smartphones collects news from Rome, stories and photos from the missions and other material and makes it available to the world.
The actual unlocking of the app was simple.
Fr. Small, the U.S. national director, presented his iPad to the Pope, who asked, “I push here?”
“As soon as the Holy Father hit the button, a little notice came across the top – what they call a ‘push notice’ – and it said, ‘Pope Francis has unlocked the MISSIO App.’
“And he sort of looked a little bit surprised,” Fr. Small recalled.
The button was labeled “Evangelizantur,” which means, “that they be evangelized” in Latin.
Since the app is available in English, Spanish, Italian, German, French,
Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic, Fr. Small explained that the developers settled on the Latin phrase for the launch.
The purpose of the application is to help the Pope and the Church extend the reach of its message, with a particular emphasis on young people.
“Ever since his election, Pope Francis has reached far beyond the Vatican, touching people's lives in simple and meaningful ways,” Fr. Small observed.
By making the app available the Pope is putting “the missionary Gospel in the pockets of millions of people, young and old, rich and poor, believer and searcher,” he added.
The MISSIO App was developed by the company Little iApps and is available for free in the iTunes App Store and on Google Play.
Lima, Peru, May 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura recounted the Eucharistic love and call to holiness of Blessed Pope John Paul II on his second visit to Peru, 25 years ago.
John Paul II visited Peru for the second time May 14-16, 1988, three years after his first visit to the country.
Archbishop Eguren was named master of ceremonies for the 1988 liturgical events. A 32 year-old priest at the time, he recalled that the visit by the Polish Pope “was a huge event.”
“It is an event that all Peruvians should treasure in our hearts and thank God for, because a saint visited us and left us a message that is still very relevant and a task that is still pending for all Peruvians, which can be summarized in the words he spoke to us: Build a more just and reconciled Peru,” Archbishop Eguren told CNA on May 16.
“I witnessed his profound filial devotion, his profound love for the Most Holy Virgin, when he placed a gold rosary in the hands of Our Lady of the Evangelization, the patroness of the Archdiocese of Lima,” he recalled.
He also noted the Pontiff’s “love for the Eucharist.”
“I remember his profound sense of recollection during the celebration of the Mass, and I remember with great emotion the long time he spent kneeling down in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the private chapel we prepared for him.”
Archbishop Eguren noted that Pope John Paul II invited Peruvians to strive for holiness and perfection in the Christian life, which are essential for the New Evangelization.
“Something I remember about that visit was the Pope’s longing to bring Christ to everyone, that passion he had to proclaim Christ, to make Christ present, the lead others to Christ,” he said.
The archbishop added that he was profoundly impacted by the ability to be close to such a saintly man.
Washington D.C., May 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The National Organization for Marriage is filing a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, after its confidential tax return was leaked from the agency to the group's chief political opposition.
“In March 2012 Human Rights Campaign posted a copy of our confidential tax return on its website...and we know for a fact that the source for this was within the IRS,” National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman told CNA May 17.
The National Organization for Marriage qualifies as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. They are obliged to make public their tax returns, “ but there are parts of those tax returns that are explicitly confidential, including schedule B, our list of donors and their addresses.”
On or about March 30, 2012, the Human Rights Campaign posted National Organization for Marriage's 2008 Schedule B on its website as a PDF.
“It had some redactions on it, and our computer guys were able to unlayer the PDF to get beyond the redactions and look at the original document, which is stamped with internal IRS markings,” Eastman said.
Human Rights Campaign posted a version with retractions, showing a white bar diagonally across the pages. When this layer is removed, it reveals an Internal Revenue Service tracking number, as well as statements at the bottom and top of each page reading, “This is a copy of a live return from SMIPS. Official use only.”
SMIPS is the tax agency's internal computer system. It is a felony offense for Internal Revenue Service officials to disclose private tax returns.
Eastman offered the three possible ways that the Human Rights Campaign obtained National Organization for Marriage's tax return from the tax agency.
“Either someone hacked into the IRS computer system...or someone fraudulently impersonated an officer of the NOM...or someone at the IRS disclosed this.”
“Of those three, the one that's clearly the most plausible is the latter,” Eastman said.
The tax return was quickly republished by the Huffington Post and other media outlets and blogs.
On April 11, the National Organization for Marriage requested that both the Treasury department's inspector general and the Department of Justice investigate the leak of their private documents.
When both departments, and the Internal Revenue Service, proved to be uncooperative, the nonprofit began filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Frankly we've been stonewalled...and they didn't give us any of the actually relevant information,” said Eastman.
Having exhausted their means of recourse regarding investigations and requests for information, the National Organization for Marriage decided on May 6 to begin pursuing a civil suit against the Internal Revenue Service.
“Our final round of having to go through hurdles of FOIA requests is now concluded, and we're teeing up that lawsuit now,” Eastman said.
Human Rights Campaign is an LGBT advocacy group promoting same-sex marriage. The group “had been trying to get our donor list for a long time, because then they can publish it on the internet and then people start harassing our donors and boycotting their businesses.”
Eastman finds its significant that Human Rights Campaign's president in March 2012 was Joe Solmonese, who the month before had been named a co-chair of the campaign to re-elect President Obama.
“What a coincidence,” Eastman said, that shortly after Solmonese was given a prominent position in Obama's re-election campaign, “somebody at the IRS discloses to that very same person our confidential tax returns, and commits a felony in doing so.”
Eastman considers the idea risible that a low-level employee at the Internal Revenue Service would have taken the risk of committing such a felony without direction from a highly-placed supervisor.
“Given who was involved in this that we know, it seems pretty implausible,” Eastman stated, that there wasn't “some involvement” from “high level political appointees at the Department of Justice or the Treasury department, as well as with the campaign folks.”
The news of the pro-marriage organization's lawsuit comes as the tax agency is embroiled in scandal. On May 10, the government agency apologized for subjecting politically conservative “tea party” groups to additional scrutiny beginning in 2010. The agency asked some groups for donor lists, violating its own policies.
Since then, several nonprofit pro-life groups have also come forward with allegations of harassment and intimidation at the hands of Internal Revenue Service employees.
On May 15, Internal Revenue Service commissioner Steve Miller submitted his resignation to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who had requested it, becoming the first official to resign over “IRS-gate.”
Joseph Grant, the commissioner for the tax agency's tax-exempt division, announced his resignation May 16.
At a Congressional hearing May 17, Miller told representatives of the House ways and means committee that the additional scrutiny given to politically and socially conservative groups was neither partisan nor politically motivated.