Vatican City, Jul 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Pope Francis said that encountering Christ is done by reaching out to our "wounded brothers" in works of mercy – touching Jesus' own wounds.
“We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body – the body – and also to the soul, but the body, I stress, of your wounded brother,” the Bishop of Rome taught at his homily for daily Mass at the chapel of Saint Martha House in the Vatican July 3.
“Because”, Pope Francis added, “he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked, because he is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he is in jail, because he is in hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today.”
St. Thomas was sceptical of Christ's resurrection, and did not believe until his put his finger in Jesus' wounded side.
“He wanted him to wait a week … he gives the time he believes best for each of us.”
The Roman Pontiff found it significant that in touching Jesus' wound, St. Thomas did not say, “It's true: the Lord is risen,” but instead worshipped him, saying, “My Lord and my God!”
"And so we understand what the Lord’s intention was when he made him wait: he wanted to guide his disbelief, not to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but to an affirmation of his divinity.”
The “path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other,” emphasized Pope Francis.
He taught that meditation or penance by themselves are not the way to encounter the Son of God.
Pope Francis said that believing that “the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation” is “dangerous,” and that some have been “lost on that path, never to return.”
“They arrive yes, perhaps, to knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that,” he preached.
Trying to reach God only through meditation, he added, “does not lead to a safe harbour.”
Focusing only on penance – mortification, austerity, fasting – is not a safe means to meet Christ either, he said.
“They are the Pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts … not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ.”
The narrow path to meet Christ is through his wounds, found in his wounded brethren, taught Pope Francis.
“Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards him, but through these his wounds.”
And yet, he said, it is not enough to “set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help.”
While calling this approach “important,” he added that “if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic,” and will not succeed in meeting Christ.
“We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally,” he clarified.
He pointed to both St. Thomas and to his namesake for evidence of his teaching.
“Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.”
The pontiff explained that we don't need a “refresher course” to meet Christ: “it is sufficient to go out onto the street.”
“Let us ask St. Thomas,” he concluded, “for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will certainly have the grace to worship the living God.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 3, 2013 (CNA) - Father Francois Mourad, a monk killed last week in the ongoing violence in Syria, is being prayed for and remembered at a Mass in Rome on July 4.
The Mass, to be said by Bishop Matteo M. Zuppi, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rome, will also intercede for peace in Syria. Bishop Zuppi will say the Mass on Thursday evening at the parish of Saints Fabian and Venancio.
After the Mass, Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, a Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land, will give a testimony.
Fr. Mourad was reportedly killed on June 23 at the Franciscan monastery of Saint Anthony of Padua in Ghassenieh, a village near Jisr Ash-Shughur in northern Syria.
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Franciscan custodian of the Holy Land, told Vatican Radio that “Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians.”
“Let us pray so that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life,” he told Fides news agency.
Fr. Mourad's death occurred roughly 70 miles from Aleppo, in a contested region. Jisr Ash-Shughur is located in Idlib province near the Turkish border, between Aleppo and Latakia.
Fr. Pizzaballa said the village had been attacked by Islamist rebels and the St. Anthony of Padua Monastery gave shelter to Fr. Mourad and to some Franciscan friars, four religious sisters and ten lay Christians.
According to Vatican Radio, Fr. Pizzaballa explained that when Fr. Maroud tried to defend the sisters and others from the rebels, he was shot and killed.
A few days later, a video was posted on YouTube, and shortly thereafter on Live Leak, showing three men being beheaded. Those posting the video claimed that one of them was Fr. Mourad.
The claim has since spread, having been picked up by various other media outlets later in the week.
However, a reliable Vatican source told CNA July 2 that reports of the priest being killed by beheading are “false.”
“We can say that the sisters of his convent took his body, which was left inhumane so this is a delicate situation,” the source explained.
Another source, a Franciscan priest from the Holy Land who wished to remain unnamed for safety reasons, denied that the online video shows the murder of the priest.
He suggested that the confusion may be due to the fact that “the video was released around the same time as his death.”
Fr. Mourad was well known in the region, where he had retired several years ago to live the life of a hermit. He had finished his Franciscan novitiate for the Custody in Rome, but had left the order to live a contemplative life. He had become a Syrian citizen, the Custody of the Holy Land reports.
The 49-year-old priest had helped start construction on a monastery dedicated to St. Simeon the Stylite in Ghassanieh. After the monastery was bombed at the start of the Syrian civil war, he moved to the Franciscan monastery for his own safety and to minister to those who remained.
Archbishop Jacques B. Hindo, of the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Hassake-Nisibi, told Fides News Agency that he had been in contact with the priest before he was slain.
“Lately, Father Mourad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and (he) offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world,” the archbishop said.
Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, at least 93,000 have died and 1.5 million have become refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Jordan and Lebanon.
An additional 4.25 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.
Milwaukee, Wis., Jul 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki has released almost 6,000 pages of documents related to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s handling of sex abuse cases, saying the documents will help the Church face up to mistakes and prevent abuse.
“My hope in voluntarily making these documents public is that they will aid abuse survivors, families, and others in understanding the past, reviewing the present and allowing the Church in southeastern Wisconsin to continue moving forward,” Archbishop Listecki said.
“We can never tell abuse survivors enough how sorry we are for what they endured. My apology goes out to all who have been harmed and I continue to offer to meet with any individual abuse survivors who would find it helpful.”
He said the documents show “how people tried to do their best with what they knew at the time.”
He also said the documents describe “some terrible things” and include some graphic descriptions that require spiritual preparation to read.
The documents, released July 1, involve portions of personnel files for 42 of the 45 priests credibly accused of sex abuse whose cases are involved in the archdiocese’s bankruptcy, which began in January 2011.
The documents include the depositions of former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who now heads the Archdiocese of New York as a cardinal; retired Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland; retired auxiliary bishop Richard Sklba; and the laicized priest Daniel Budzynski.
Documents include those for offending priests like Father Lawrence Murphy, who may have molested as many as 200 boys at a school for the deaf, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. The files have victims’ names and other identifying information redacted.
Cardinal Dolan said July 1 that he welcomed the release of the documents. He criticized the repetition of “old and discredited attacks,” such as the claim he paid abusive priests to apply for laicization. He said these payments were part of his duty to provide basic support for priests until they leave the priesthood.
He also rejected claims that the transfer of $57 million in archdiocesan funds to a perpetual care fund for cemeteries was an effort to deny funds to victims, saying the funds had been legally designated for the cemeteries.
Archbishop Listecki noted some examples in the documents that show how society has changed: some parents of victims wanted the bishop to know about an abusive priest’s behavior, but did not want police involved. Doctors and therapists at the time believed abuse had no long-lasting impact.
He added that sexual abuse of a minor was first seen as a moral failing and sin that needed personal direction, then as a curable “psychological deficiency” that needed therapy, then as an addiction, then as criminal activity.
The archdiocese reassigned 22 priests to parish work after the archdiocese knew of “concerns about their behavior,” the archbishop said. Of these, eight are known to have reoffended.
Many of the documented abuse incidents date back decades and were not reported to the archdiocese or civil authorities until years after the abuse. Priests who were prosecuted often did not go to jail.
“It is easy to question decisions of the past with the insight of today, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that the Church and society began to better understand this topic,” Archbishop Listecki said.
Formal outreach to survivors and response to abusive priests only began to emerge in the 1990s, he said.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee entered bankruptcy three years ago to allow the archdiocese to continue to operate while also paying some of the claims of abuse plaintiffs. There are 575 plaintiffs involved in the bankruptcy, mainly represented by Jeffrey Anderson.
“Our hope is that the publication of these documents can help bring this chapter of our history to a close and allow us to continue to focus on our desire to work with abuse survivors, and to focus on education and prevention,” Archbishop Listecki said. “We pray for those who are abuse survivors and pledge our continued support for those who have been harmed, following the Lord’s command to love one another.”
Cardinal Dolan, who is president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said sexual abuse of minors is “a crime” and “a sin.”
“The Church must remain rigorous in our response when an allegation of abuse is received, and ever-vigilant in maintaining our safeguards to do all that we can to see that children are protected,” he said.
“It is my hope that the release of these documents will also help to show how the Catholic Church in the United States has become a leader in dealing with the society-wide scourge of sexual abuse, and help other groups and organizations who are also seeking combat this evil.”
Columbus, Ohio, Jul 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ohio governor John Kasich signed a state budget on Sunday which local pro-life backers say is the “most pro-life in history.”
“Ohio Right to Life applauds Governor Kasich and the vast pro-life majorities in the House and Senate,” Mike Gonidakis, the organization's president, said June 30.
“Low-income pregnant women will now receive greater care and their unborn child will have a much greater opportunity to be born healthy. It took great compassion and courage for our Governor and pro-life legislature to stand up to the abortion industry that blatantly pressured them.”
The budget creates new funding for pregnancy centers by shifting about $1.4 million in federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood.
Ohio's new budget also adds an informed consent requirement, ensuring that a woman considering abortion will have an ultrasound and be informed if a heartbeat is detected. The physician must tell the woman the chances that her baby will live to delivery, reported the Columbus Dispatch.
Furthermore, the budget bars abortion clinics from forming patient transfer agreements with public hospitals, and strengthens other clinic regulations.
Three Ohio abortion clinics could close because of the measures, WLWT News reports.
The budget is part of a growing trend of pro-life legislation at the state level amid continued controversy over Planned Parenthood’s use of taxpayer money.
Gonidakis said that Ohio voters “elected a pro-life legislature as well as a pro-life governor.”
“We should all take great comfort in knowing that the majority of our state leaders truly value precious human life as well as higher standards for women’s health care.”
Greensburg, Pa., Jul 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, who retired as bishop of Greensburg in 2004, died peacefully July 2 at his home after 61 years of priesthood and is being mourned by the people of his diocese.
“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the death of Bishop Emeritus Anthony G. Bosco last night,” Greensburg's current bishop, Lawrence E. Brandt, said July 3.
“He was a faith-filled, humble servant of the Lord who loved his priesthood and the church. He served the people of Greensburg with joy as their shepherd for 17 years.”
Bishop Brandt continued, saying that Bishop Bosco did not cease ministering after his retirement, even saying Mass “at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral as recently as this past Saturday. He loved the Mass and the Eucharist.”
“We met often for private luncheons and other occasions, and I always appreciated his friendship and wisdom.”
Bishop Bosco was raised in Pittsburgh, and was ordained a priest of that city's diocese in 1952, months before his 25th birthday. He was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese in 1970, and in 1987 became the third bishop of Greensburg, a city on the south-eastern edge of Pittsburgh's metro area.
As bishop, he ensured that children in Greensburg would receive the sacrament of Confirmation at the same time as First Communion, instituting the restored order of these sacraments.
He was deeply committed to the Second Vatican Council's call to the laity, doing much to catechize his people and bring them to a profound involvement with the local Church. Bishop Bosco created Greensburg's department of evangelization and faith formation
He promulgated a program for parish leadership and collaboration among parishes, and “Journey of a Lifetime,” which focuses on Catholic education and faith formation as a lifelong process, and in 2001 wrote a pastoral letter on the link between the Eucharist and service.
In 2000, he launched a capital campaign which raised more funding for the diocese than he had even hoped, ensuring a stable future for his diocese.
Even as a priest he appreciated the importance of new media, working with a local radio station during Vatican II, and hosting a television program. He also taught at Seton Hill University and at the University of Dayton.
Funeral arrangements for the late bishop are still being finalized.
Bishop Bosco's death “is not only a great loss for the people of the Diocese of Greensburg, whom he loved, but it is great loss for the national and universal church that he served so faithfully for more than six decades,” reflected Bishop Brandt.
Rome, Italy, Jul 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decisions on gay marriage will make it harder for the Church to teach Americans about the nature of marriage, the archbishop of San Francisco has said.
“It’s going to be harder to teach this truth, which is very basic and obvious, that to form a marriage you need a man and a woman,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone told CNA June 28.
Despite this, “I’ve told people many times that regardless of how the Supreme Court decides, our role as pastors is the same: we need to educate people about marriage.”
In separate rulings on June 26, the Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act, limiting federally recognized marriages to those between a man and a woman, unconstitutional, and dismissed an attempt to uphold California's Proposition 8, which prohibited “gay marriage” in the state.
The Church has “a huge task to help our people understand what the real purpose and meaning of marriage is,” Archbishop Cordileone reflected, “and how it fits into God’s plan.”
“And for married couples,” he added, “how it fits into their own sanctification and eternal salvation.”
CNA spoke to the archbishop in Rome, where he was preparing to receive a pallium from Pope Francis. The pallium is a white vestment which signifies an archbishop's fidelity to Rome, where Saints Peter and Paul both were martyred for their own faithfulness to Christ's Gospel.
Archbishop Cordileone recognizes that as a successor to the apostles he is called to be faithful in teaching about the true nature of marriage and human dignity, rooted in the complementarity of the sexes, even in a culture hostile to this message.
“My responsibility is to say the truth and I have to find the most effective way of teaching in the current circumstances,” said the archbishop.
Regarding the Court’s decisions, he stressed that he is “a pastor of souls,” and said that “as pastors of souls, our job remains unchanged.”
While he was still an auxiliary bishop of San Diego, Archbishop Cordileone was a leader in the effort to pass Proposition 8.
The Supreme Court's decision to dismiss the attempt to uphold the legislation was based on the fact that state officials declined to support the law when it was challenged. The court said that the law's proponents, who took up the burden of defending it in court, did not have the legal standing, or right, to do so.
“A lot of citizens worked very hard, some people made great sacrifices, especially financial sacrifices,” to defend the measure, Archbishop Cordileone said. “Seven million people voted to approve this, and now there is no one to defend the law of the state.”
“They now have no right to defend the law that they worked so hard to get passed; so it’s very, very worrisome about what the future of our democracy” is, he reflected.
The court's ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act referred to the federal law as an attempt to “disadvantage” and place a “stigma” on those who enter into same-sex marriages.
Archbishop Cordileone said that the nature of marriage has been obscured, “now that the law has enshrined the principle that marriage is not about uniting children to mothers and father but is about giving affirmation to adults.”
He underscored that the proper understanding of marriage has not been popular for some time, and affirmed that the reason many Catholics accept the push for same-sex “marriage” is because “they don't know their faith.”
“Catholics first need to better formed in their faith before they can become more active in the public sphere and to be witnesses of the truth of marriage and the sanctity of human life,” he reflected.
“They need a strong conviction and a clear Catholic identity.”
Improving catechesis is one way to achieve this, he suggested.
“The formation of our priests is also extremely important,” Archbishop Cordileone noted.
“We have a seminary in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and for me it’s the most important thing, because they are the pastors of souls and it’s they who will form their people well in the faith.”
Colorado Springs, Colo., Jul 3, 2013 (CNA) -
In a new e-book, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan offers his personal insight into a momentous time in the Church's recent history, from the resignation of Benedict XVI to the election of Pope Francis.
The head of the New York archdiocese wrote “Praying in Rome” in response to the many requests he's received to share his experience of the transition from one Pope to another.
“Praying in Rome” will be released in electronic formats on July 9.
On Feb. 11, the day that Benedict XVI announced his resignation, Cardinal Dolan was just finishing his morning prayers by reading “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Every time I’d read a paragraph, I’d say to myself, 'This guy (Benedict XVI) just keeps getting better.'”
Just then, Cardinal Dolan’s communication director, Joseph Zwiller, called to inform him of “rumors” that the Holy Father had announced his resignation.
“We both had a chuckle,” Cardinal Dolan wrote, “agreed that the news was highly improbable, and I told him, ‘Go get a Bloody Mary and go back to bed.’ I returned to my prayers.”
Minutes later, Zwiller called the cardinal to confirm that the rumors were in fact true. “It’s been confirmed. The Holy Father has resigned,” he said.
To which the cardinal’s response was, “OK, Dolan, better get going. This is going to be a big day.”
Weeks later, Cardinal Dolan was present at the conclave to elect a successor to the man who had appointed him archbishop of New York and who made him a cardinal just one year earlier.
“While I trusted 100 percent the wisdom of his discernment, just on a personal level I wondered how (Benedict XVI) had come to his decision,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “I could only speculate, but I would say there must have been a lot of peace after his resolution.”
While in Rome, Cardinal Dolan said many people – including himself – were unsure as to what would happen next.
“The first step for me was prayer,” he wrote. “I felt some calm in knowing that it’s actually the Holy Spirit who chooses the next pope.”
As the ballots were counted on the afternoon of March 13, Cardinal Dolan said, “it became clear that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was accumulating more and more votes.”
“Naturally, we all snuck a look at him to gauge his reaction,” he wrote. “I tried not to be too obvious, but I don’t think I was successful.”
Pope Francis “quickly proved to be a man comfortable in his new role,” the cardinal said. Even as an ornate chair was placed on a platform for him to receive the cardinals, he remained standing on the same level saying, “Oh, I’ll stay down here.”
Minutes later, Cardinal Dolan revealed, Pope Francis “suddenly bolted,” leaving the cardinals thinking that he must have been headed to the balcony to greet the Church.
However, Pope Francis was actually headed to greet two of the infirm cardinals rather than have them walk to greet him.
“What an act of spontaneous natural courtesy, sadly rare today,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.
Just a few months into Pope Francis’ pontificate, Cardinal Dolan believes that the Holy Father is “calling for change” – not of Church teaching but of the Church's heart.
“And that change starts with you and me,” he wrote. “The change needs to come within us, in our behavior, our attitudes, our temperament, our approach to life.”
“That’s where the change, the conversion of heart, needs to happen – not in what the Church teaches but in how we live it.”
“Praying in Rome” will be available through Image Books for $1.99.
Washington D.C., Jul 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on marriage were narrowly constructed, legal experts say they will likely have far-reaching consequences for society.
Hadley Arkes, professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College, warned that the decisions “will have wide-reaching effects” within states because they make an “underlying moral judgment” that “sets off a dynamic of its own.”
Arkes spoke at a July 1 panel at the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington, D.C., on the effects of the Supreme Court’s June decisions on two cases concerning same-sex “marriage.”
Also on the panel were Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former Department of Justice official, and Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.
The panelists responded to the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling striking down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes.
The majority opinion stated that the 1996 law – also known as DOMA – violates Constitutional principles of due process and equal protection under the law, adding that supporters of DOMA intended “to disparage and to injure” gay individuals with the legislation.
In a separate ruling on the same day, the Supreme Court dismissed a case attempting to uphold California’s Proposition 8, which had defined marriage within the state as existing between one man and one woman.
The court did not rule on the merits of the case but instead pointed to the fact that state officials declined to support the law when it was challenged. The court said that the law's proponents, who took up the burden of defending it in court, did not have the legal standing, or right, to do so.
Panelists criticized the rulings. Arkes observed that the majority opinion, penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy, asserts that those who oppose a redefinition of marriage are motivated by irrational “animus” and said that this will lead to state definitions of marriage as the union of one man and one woman being labeled as irrational and bigoted.
Whelan pointed out that marriage has traditionally reflected “the biological reality that only opposite-sex unions generate children.”
The Constitution “doesn’t speak to how the states allocate their authority” in regards to social institutions such as marriage, and the public could potentially change its mind about such institutions through a democratic process, he suggested. However, the court cases have damaged that democratic process, enabling the federal government to override the people’s understanding of marriage within a state.
Severino said that the rulings will lead to an incremental advance of same-sex “marriage” throughout the states. “It builds complacency, it builds cultural acceptance,” she explained.
In addition, she noted, the dismissal of the Proposition 8 case on “standing” grounds has established a precedent for a governor to exercise “veto power over any law” he or she does not like by simply refusing to defend it, disregarding the will of the people as expressed through their elected officials.
Severino also warned that these rulings pose a religious liberty threat to individuals and institutions that do not recognize same-sex partnerships as marriages.
Recent lawsuits have made it difficult to be involved in the marriage industry – along with other industries such as adoption and foster care – “unless you’re willing to cooperate in same-sex ‘marriages,’” she said.
She suggested that under the new understanding of marriage, colleges accepting federal funding “would be branded as having animus if they don’t, say, extend married dorms” to same-sex partners.
Such a policy could result in religious schools being forced to give up federal funding or even shut down, similar to Catholic adoption agencies that have been forced to shut down in states where “gay marriage” is recognized, she said.
Severino voiced doubt that the current administration would provide sufficient religious freedom protections to guard against such a situation.
“This administration has been very troubling in everything they have ever said on religious freedom,” she stated.