Mallorca, Spain, Jun 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has called on Catholics to be “active witnesses” of their faith, taking inspiration from the 17th century missionary Blessed Junipero Serra.
Rejecting the idea that the Christian faith is “a useful moral code” or “an exercise in nostalgia,” he stressed that the Christian faith is “a restlessness, a consuming fire in the heart to experience the love of Jesus Christ and then share it with others – or it’s nothing at all.”
“Young or old, we need to live our faith as Junipero Serra did – all in, 100 percent, holding nothing back, with charity, endurance, passion and hope,” Archbishop Chaput said. “That kind of faith changes lives and remakes the world.”
The words “new evangelization” are “overused and underthought,” he said, warning against speaking of the “new evangelization” in an empty way, “as if saying the slogan, or talking about it, actually makes mission work happen.”
“Unless we reconfigure our lives to understanding and acting on it, the ‘new evangelization’ is just another pious intention – well meaning, but ultimately infertile,” he warned.
The archbishop spoke June 22 at the Serra International Convention on the Spanish island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. The convention marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Bl. Junipero Serra, an influential Franciscan priest who founded many Christian missions in what is now California.
Serra International is a global lay apostolate that promotes and supports vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life.
Archbishop Chaput said Bl. Junipero Serra was “an extraordinary man” who lived at a “pivotal moment” in the history of the Catholic Church, when Catholic and Protestant powers competed for territory around the world as the threat of Muslim invasion of Europe waned.
Fr. Serra left his life as a university professor in Mallorca at the age of 36 to serve in the New World. The priest had a “supple, inquisitive, brilliant mind,” “tremendous personal energy” and “remarkable organizational skills,” the archbishop said.
Working to bring the Christian faith to the indigenous population of Mexico, Fr. Serra walked thousands of miles during his lifetime despite a wounded leg that never healed. He built a network of missions and confronted military and political leaders who wanted to exploit American Indians.
“He could be a demanding father to his native converts, but he was fierce in defending their dignity from the colonial authorities,” Archbishop Chaput observed.
The archbishop praised Fr. Serra’s foresight, endurance, political skill and leadership in a situation with “a very limited mix of people and resources under brutally difficult conditions.”
He stressed the need for all Catholics to spread the faith, saying that “Jesus commands it. We can’t call ourselves Christians and not be missionaries. We need to be active witnesses of our faith.”
Evangelization must begin with “our own repentance and conversion,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“As individuals, we control very little in life; but we do control what we do with our hearts. We can at least make ourselves available to God as his agents. Personal conversion is the essential first step. It immediately affects the people around us,” he explained.
Evangelization must also take into account the nature of contemporary society, he added.
Modern American society produces “a kind of radical self-focus and practical atheism” because it renders God “irrelevant to people’s needs and urgencies of the moment,” he said. Real individuality, self-mastery and the communities that shape individuals “can’t compete with the noise and flash of consumer society.”
Any new evangelization must begin with the “sober knowledge” that many once-Christian lands and many self-described Christians are “in fact pagan,” the archbishop stressed.
In addition, true evangelization is self-renewing, he said, explaining that at the core of “every fresh work of evangelization is this kind of ardor; a passionate faith that can only come from seeking out and giving ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost.”
“The irony, the glory and the joy of faith in Jesus Christ is that the more we give it away to others, the stronger it grows, and the more we have for ourselves to feed our own hearts,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“Junipero Serra heard the Gospel, and believed, and acted on it. Today, here, beginning now, God calls us to the privilege of doing the same.”
Vatican City, Jun 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At his daily Mass at Saint Martha House, Pope Francis said the Church lives to announce Christ to the point of martyrdom, following the example of Saint John the Baptist.
“The Church exists to proclaim, to be the voice of a Word, her husband, who is the Word,” he said June 24, the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, who died a martyr.
“The Church exists to proclaim this Word until martyrdom. Martyrdom precisely in the hands of the proud.”
The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and was attended by members of the council as well as employees of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology and the Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office.
The Bishop of Rome said that John the Baptist “could have made himself important” or announced himself, but rather “he felt himself to be the voice, not the Word. This is John’s secret.”
John the Baptist is held to have never committed a personal sin, and this is “because he never, never took a truth as his own...(he) negated himself so that the Word could come to the fore.”
The faithful should look at John the Baptist as a role model and so proclaim the truth, though not as one’s own, Pope Francis said.
The forerunner of Christ, he said, was not an “ideologue,” and added that “we, as a Church, we can now ask for the grace not to become an ideological Church.”
The Church, he added, must hear the Word of Christ and raise her voice, proclaiming it boldly.
“That is the Church without ideologies, without a life of its own: the Church … which has light from her Bridegroom and diminishes herself so that he may grow"
"This is the model that John offers us today,” the Roman Pontiff stated, to be a Church “always at the service of the Word...that never takes anything for herself.”
“The meaning of John’s life is to indicate another,” he added, and that he “seems to be nothing” and was called to “negate himself.”
He pointed out that John the Baptist's birth is six months before Christ's, when the days are the longest of the year, and when daylight begins to wane.
“John really was the man of light, he brought light, but it was not his own light, it was a reflected light.”
“John is like a moon and when Jesus began to preach, the light of John began to decline, to set,” he affirmed. The prophet was a “voice” though not the Word, and brought “light but not his own.”
Despite his greatness, Pope Francis said, John the Baptist's life ended in the “darkness of a prison” leading up to his martyrdom.
“He was killed, his head was put on a platter, as a great gift from a dancer to an adulteress. I don’t think you can lower yourself much more than this, negate yourself much more. That was the end that John met.”
Noting the saint's plight in prison, including his “doubts” and “anguish,” Pope Francis said, “the figure of John makes me think so much about the Church.”
“His life is one of pain and darkness and he was not even spared this,” he stated.
The Bishop of Rome concluded by praying “for the grace of joy,” asking that the Church be cheered “in her service to the Word, to be the voice of this Word, preach this Word.”
“We ask for the grace, the dignity of John: with no ideas of their own, without a Gospel taken as property, only one Church that indicates the Word, and this even to martyrdom.”
Aparecida, Brazil, Jun 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic faithful from around the world are invited to send their prayer intentions to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida for the Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate there during his visit to Brazil in July.
The press office of the Shrine of Aparecida announced that it will collect all of the intentions that it receives in a special book that will be given to the Holy Father.
The deadline for receiving prayer intentions for the Mass is July 14.
Pope Francis will be visiting Brazil for World Youth Day 2013, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro July 23-28. He will celebrate Mass in Aparecida on July 24 at 10:30 a.m. local time.
Auxiliary Bishop of Aparecida Darci Jose Nicoli said, “It is a great blessing to have the Vicar of Christ on earth among us, and it is an even greater grace to pray together for the intercession of the Mother of God, Our Lady of Aparecida.”
“Let us join with the Pope in his intentions. Let us pray with him and for him,” the bishop said.
Those who wish to send in their prayer intentions should visit: http://www.a12.com/campanhadosdevotos/papa
Vatican City, Jun 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Christians and Jews can work together to challenge the contemporary problems of secularism and disrespect for the human person, Pope Francis told representatives of Judaism in a Vatican audience.
“Humanity needs our joint witness in favor of respect for the dignity of man and woman created in the image and likeness of God, and in favor of peace which is above all God’s gift,” the Bishop of Rome told members of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations June 24.
“Friendly relations are in a way the basis for the development of a more official dialogue,” he added.
The audience with the Jewish leaders was also attended by Cardinal Kurt Koch, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as head of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and members of that office.
The Committee has held 21 meetings with Catholics so far, and Pope Francis said this has “certainly helped to reinforce mutual understanding and the links of friendship” between them. He welcomed their next meeting, which will be held in October in Madrid, which will consider challenges to faith in contemporary society.
In his first meeting as Bishop of Rome with official representatives of Judaism, he noted the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, as the Church's “key point of reference for relations with the Jewish people.”
“In that Council text, the Church recognizes that 'the beginnings of its faith and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and prophets,'” he stated.
He emphasized that “due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic,” and pointed to the writings of Saint Paul, who “firmly condemned hatred, persecution and all forms of anti-Semitism” and called the gifts and call of God “irrevocable.”
Nostra Aetate, he said, has been the basis for “greater awareness and mutual understanding” between Jews and Catholics in the past 40 years, and reflected on the good relations he had with the Jewish community when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
“I had the joy of maintaining relations of sincere friendship with leaders of the Jewish world,” Pope Francis remarked. “We talked often of our respective religious identities, the image of man found in the Scriptures, and how to keep an awareness of God alive in a world now secularized in many ways.”
While head of the Church in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis even authored a book of dialogues between him and Abraham Skorka, an Argentine rabbi. “On Heaven and Earth” was written in Spanish, and was recently translated and published in English.
Pope Francis told the members of the International Jewish Committee that he met with Argentine Jews on various occasions to discuss the challenges which Jews and Christians both face.
“But above all, as friends, we enjoyed each other’s company,” he said. “We were all enriched through encounter and dialogue, and we welcomed each other, and this helped all of us grow as people and as believers.”
“I encourage you to follow this path trying, as you do so, to involve younger generations,” he added.
Mumbai, India, Jun 24, 2013 (CNA) - A June 23 seminar in Mumbai, India, sought to help Catholics, including families and young people, commit to living a spirit of faith and renewal as part of their role in evangelization.
Seminar organizer Fr. Hilary Fernandes, who has led efforts to train local fishermen folk groups, told CNA that the goal of the event was to help lay people “intensify their apostolic activity” so that they may more fully exercise their mission in the Church and in the world.
The seminar, entitled “Lay Leadership in the Church and Society,” was held on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, which is celebrated as Laity Sunday in the Archdiocese of Mumbai.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias extolled and acknowledged the apostolic mission of the laity in his circular letter dated June 10.
He referenced Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter for the Year of Faith, Porta Fidei, reiterating its call for believers not to grow “lazy in faith.”
Cardinal Gracias also called for Laity Sunday to be celebrated according to the guidelines issued by the Office for Lay Collaboration in Ministry, with prayer and participation in a diocesan rally.
Fr. Fernandes emphasized the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, which recognized lay people’s “indispensable role in the mission of the Church,” as well as the “apostolic duty” to prepare them.
In order to fill their role within the Church, members of the laity must not only be passively devoted, but active in shouldering their responsibility to evangelize, he said.
This requires an effort on behalf of all to “dialogue with culture, time and space,” he said, describing the calling of the laity as an opportunity for “transformation and renewal” for all people, especially for young people to “discern” how their lifestyle and mindset can contribute to spreading the message of Christ.
New Dehli, India, Jun 24, 2013 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops Conference of India issued a June 21 statement voicing deep “solidarity” and “concern” for victims of severe flooding in the Uttarakhand region.
Heavy rains in the north part of the country have created floods that have claimed more than 600 lives and affected thousands more.
According to the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, the death toll is expected to reach 1,000.
The devastating floods hit in June, in the Northern valley under the Himalayan Mountain range. Incessant torrents led the river basins to swell and overflow.
Caritas India, the Catholic bishops’ national aid organization, is working to provide relief efforts to those in need.
P.U. Francis, the north regional manager of Caritas India, told CNA that the current situation is “miserable,” with continuous torrential rains and a high, mountainous geography that make travel difficult.
About 70,000 pilgrims and locals who were trapped in the area are being “evacuated,” he added, and more than 44 choppers and 10,000 army and paramilitary personnel are engaged in the rescue operations.
Francis warned that there is also fear of an “outbreak of disease” due to contamination and floating corpses, along with the lack of safe drinking water in much of the flooded area.
Mobile health clinics are being utilized, and Caritas India is working with local diocesan partners to supply safe water, basic food, clothing medicine and supplies, while calling for further donations to aid those affected by the flooding.
Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Federal lawmakers, archdiocesan representatives and leaders of companies and non-profit organizations came together at a Philadelphia forum to publicly support religious liberty from governmental threats.
“What brought us all here today is so much bigger than a single piece of legislation or a political party; it is about protecting Americans’ First Amendment right to religious freedom,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.).
“Every American – religious or otherwise – has something to lose if this administration prevails in their efforts to infringe upon a basic Constitutional right.”
The June 21 forum was held during the 2013 Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period in which the U.S. bishops have asked Americans of all faiths to engage in prayer, education and action to defend religious freedom both at home and abroad.
Joining Rep. Black at the event were Congressmen Joe Pitts (R- Pa.) and Chris Smith (R- N.J.). Francis Maier, senior advisor to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, also spoke at the forum, along with Penny Nance of the Concerned Women of America and Michael Geer of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
They were joined by Anthony Hahn, CEO of Conestoga Wood Specialties of East Earl, Pa., which is currently fighting in court to protect its First Amendment religious freedoms from the demands of the controversial federal contraception mandate.
The mandate – issued by the Department of Health and Human Services – requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering a full range of abortion and contraception, even if doing so violates their religious convictions.
In their remarks, the speakers at the forum said that the mandate – which is the subject of lawsuits from more than 200 plaintiffs nationwide – poses a threat to religious liberty throughout the United States and to the rights of all Americans, regardless of whether they are people of faith.
“For some Americans, businesses like Hobby Lobby, Hercules Industries and Conestoga Wood Specialties, and the numerous Catholic charities, living out their faith will soon mean facing the very real possibility of shuttering their doors,” Black warned.
“But for all Americans the HHS mandate means a dangerous precedent that undermines our most basic founding principles that have made our nation a place where individuals can freely choose to practice or reject any religion without fear of persecution from their own government,” she said.
Speakers at the forum discussed the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, introduced in Congress to provide an exemption for those who cannot in good conscience abide by the HHS mandate.
Black said that the proposed bill would “protect the American people from this unprecedented violation of the First Amendment.”
Rep. Smith noted that the mandate also requires funding of drugs that are known to cause early abortions if a human embryo has already been created.
By forcing religious employers to violate their deeply held religious beliefs, he argued, the administration “demonstrates a reckless disregard for conscience rights.”
Congressman Pitts warned that the mandate violates constitutional protections that were purposely put in place by the creators of the American government.
“The Founding Fathers established a bill of rights because they knew that the government would always be tempted to abuse its power,” he said.
“The bureaucrats at HHS may feel that they know what is best for all Americans, but being an American means the freedom to decide on your own,” Pitts continued. “To let your convictions guide your life.”
Noting that he is neither Catholic nor Mennonite and does not personally share the beliefs of those faiths “about what is morally objectionable,” he stressed that he nonetheless does “believe in their right to live and worship according to their beliefs of their faiths.”