Vatican City, Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On July 1 Pope Francis invited a group of 200 homeless individuals to dinner at the Vatican, where they were served in his name by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello.
Cardinal Bertello, president of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, spent the entire evening with the special guests, with whom he chatted at length and shared personal experiences, according to the July 3 edition of L'Osservatore Romano.
“I welcome you in the name of the Pope. As you know, this is your home, and he is pleased that you are here,” he told the group of homeless persons before dinner was served.
The dinner took place near the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican. “Our Lady who stands before us looks upon us with serenity,” the cardinal said.
“It that same gaze that I wish upon each one of you and upon those who care for you with so much love.”
The dinner was organized by the Circle of Saint Peter, a papal charity. The evening was only one of a number of such events it holds throughout the year at its shelter in Rome “as a concrete sign of the Pope’s charity.”
After his welcoming address, Cardinal Bertello invited the guests to pray and said that their response “was a great success.”
The group was brought to the Vatican by bus and was received by 122 members of the Circle of St. Peter, led by its president, Leopoldo Torlonia.
The homeless were among the many that come to the organization’s shelter each day for meals, a place to sleep, and clean clothing.
The menu for the dinner was prepared by chefs from Naples, and members of the Circle acted as waiters, along with their wives and children.
The Vatican Gendarmes Band performed for the guests, providing them with entertainment as they dined.
At the end of the evening, Torlonia thanked the guests for “accepting the invitation from Pope Francis.”
Each was given a gift pack with pastries, fresh fruit, and a rosary.
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican Bank donated some $70 million to charities in 2012, according to a Vatican statement released Thursday.
“The Members of the Council expressed their deep gratitude for the support given, often anonymously, to the Holy Father’s universal ministry in spite of moments of economic crisis, and encouraged perseverance in this good work,” said the July 4 statement of the Council for Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See.
The Vatican Bank, officially called the Institute for the Works of Religion, distributed its charitable funds among the Amazon Fund; the Pro-Orantibus Fund, which supports cloistered monasteries; the San Sergio Fund, which supports the Church in the former Soviet Union; and the Commission for Latin America, as well as other Catholic charities.
The cardinals' council had met July 2-3 to review the 2012 fiscal year. The meeting was presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, and was attended by 12 other cardinals.
These included Cardinals Angelo Scola of Milan, Joachim Meisner of Cologne, George Pell of Sydney, John Hon of Hong Kong, and Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo.
The 2012 financial statement for the Holy See closed with a profit of $2.8 million, due mainly to good performance in financial management.
In 2012, Catholics offered nearly $66 million through Peter's Pence, a voluntary second collection for the Church. This represented a drop off from the nearly $70 million offered in 2011.
The Vatican revealed that one of the most significant categories of expenditure are those regarding the cost of personnel; the Holy See had 2,800 staff in 2012.
Two other areas of great expenditure included new means of social communication and new property taxes, which saw an increased expenditure of $6.5 million.
The Vatican City State's Governorate, which has autonomous administration independent from contributions of the Holy See, increased its profit from 2011 to 2012 by around $1 million, with a total of $30 million. The governorate employees nearly 2,000 people.
During the meeting, Peter Sutherland, a consultor with the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the properties owned by the Holy See so as to provide the funding necessary for the Roman Curia to function, explained the Vatican's current macroeconomic situation and the Administration's investment policies.
Ernst Von Freyberg, president of the Vatican Bank, told the cardinals of the bank's current situation, and Father Luigi Mistò, secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, spoke about the problem of safeguarding and appraising the patrimony of ecclesiastical entities.
Just ahead of the council's meeting, the Vatican Bank's director and deputy director both resigned, “in the best interest of the Institute and the Holy See.”
Italian media have connected the resignations with scandals surrounding the Vatican Bank, which has been working towards reform.
San Diego, Calif., Jul 9, 2013 (CNA) -
A group of filmmakers of the John Paul II generation, looking to spread the Gospel of Christ, is working to produce a new high-quality short film, called “Bandit,” in San Diego, Calif.
The short silent film aims to explore the innocence of childhood through humor, as a masked and mischievous little girl sets out on a quest to cheer up a friend.
Students at John Paul the Great Catholic University plan to use the project to further launch themselves into the world of Hollywood film production.
“It’s really going to capitalize on a sense of childhood innocence and beauty, and look at laughter as medicine for sadness, all within a Charlie Chaplain-style film,” Maria Mitchell, a graduate student in film production at the university, told CNA on July 1.
The project is part of the greater mission of the university, known as “JP Catholic,” which is to “Impact Culture for Christ.”
“Oftentimes Christian media can be very cheesy and preachy and it’s just not as well done,” explained Mitchell, one of the three producers of “Bandit.”
“But we need to be better; we need to be funnier; we need to be smarter. We need to be more powerful.”
JP Catholic students seek to make movies with the universal properties of truth, goodness and beauty, which are accessible to everyone and can “give you something to chew on,” Mitchell noted.
“'Bandit' is an example of that: it’s meant to be really charming and comical and beautiful.”
“We’re not trying to be in your face with it, and we’re not going to be explicitly talking about the faith, but we’ll be presenting beauty, and man craves beauty.”
The short film – and the mission of JP Catholic as a whole – is based on Blessed John Paul II’s call to use media and communications to further the New Evangelization and spread the Gospel of Christ.
“He said that the question is not whether modern man can accept the Gospel, but how can we use the communications media to communicate (the Gospel) effectively to him? So that’s what we’re trying to do,” Mitchell reflected.
As a producer, Mitchell remarked that she is somewhat of an “event coordinator,” in charge of the logistics of bringing the film to life – hiring actors, drafting contracts, finding catering for the set, and fundraising enough money to make the film a reality.
“The most enjoyable thing about this program has been finding that this is my skill set,” she explained. “The hardest part is fundraising.”
“Bandit” will cost $15,000, and the production team has a limited amount of time to reach their goal. They have set up a webpage to seek donations.
“When you’re not in film it’s really hard to understand why it would cost $15,000, it seems like just a bunch of kids running around,” Mitchell said.
But being better, funnier, smarter, and more powerful than typical Christian media requires an investment, she explained.
Between hiring and housing 20 professional actors, feeding a cast and crew of 40 people for three days, and securing a location and all necessary equipment, costs quickly add up.
“We’re doing a student project on a professional level,” Mitchell said.
After the film is made, the production team will be submitting “Bandit” in various film festivals, where it may win awards and be picked up for further development.
Essentially, Mitchell said that this film is a way for her and her classmates to “break into the industry.”
“We really have to start somewhere, and this is our somewhere,” she explained.
She said her time at JP Catholic has prepared her to be a faithful Christian in the Hollywood environment.
“Within our media department, the majority of our professors currently work in the industry,” she said, “and they’re highly committed Christians who are swimming against the current.”
Professors at the university urge their students to maintain their values and standards while working in Hollywood, and to witness to Christ by doing their job well and through simple friendliness and personal relationships.
“You can’t have the mentality that you’re going to convert the whole place. But to be a person of morals and standards, and be a witness in the way you handle yourself…that alone will speak volumes, and people will notice,” said Mitchell.
Her professors also emphasize the need for more Christians in the film industry.
“We can’t complain about the content if we’re not willing to go in there and change it,” she observed.
“MTV is preaching its gospel pretty loud and clear,” she continued. “How culpable will we be for not doing it better and ‘fly-er,' and in a more attractive manner?”
Spreading Christ's Gospel is what motivates Mitchell to work on films such as “Bandit” with her classmates, so she can one day work on bigger projects that can impact even more people.
Investing in the project is “not so much investing in the film alone, but in the next generation of JP2 filmmakers,” she said. “And what we’re trying to do is answer his call.”
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has confirmed over 267 venues will offer lessons on the faith during Pope Francis’ World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later this month.
The catecheses – teaching sessions on the faith – will be given by bishops and cardinals for three days during between July 24 and 26, with 133 of them in Portuguese, 50 in Spanish and 25 in English.
Italian and French are the next largest language groups with 15 sessions each, while Germans will have the chance to hear the faith eight times and Poles will being able to find it in their native tongue in five places.
In addition, the faith will be explained in Arabic, Russian, Croatian, Greek, Czech, Slovenian and Danish.
The three days will each have themes, which are: “Thirsting for hope, thirsting for God” on July 24, “To be Christ’s disciples” on July 25 and “To be missionaries: go forth!” on July 26.
They will be given in a total of 20 different languages and will include an in-depth examination of the Pope’s World Youth Day overall theme: “Go and make disciples of all nations” from Matthew 28.
One of the two biggest catechesis venues, the Cathedral of Sao Sebastiao in downtown Rio, will host up to 5,000 pilgrims for a Portuguese session.
The other large-scale meeting will take place at the Riocentro Exhibition and Convention Center in the Jacarepaguá area, which can also hold 5,000 participants.
One of the main venues for English-speakers will be the Vivo Rio Pilgrim Center, where artists such as Steve Angrisano, Jesse Manibusan, the Jacob and Matthew Band, and Danielle Rose will be perform on stage throughout the week.
The educational sessions will begin at 9:00 a.m. with praise conducted by a group of volunteers selected by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.
A different bishop or cardinal will speak each day for around 30 minutes, followed by a question-answer session with pilgrims.
Many of the catechists will refer to the document of the fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Aparecida, Brazil in 2007.
Its theme was “Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our people may have life in him.” Pope Francis played a key role in drafting the final document that was issued after the Aparecida gathering.
The Vatican is encouraging bishops and cardinals to also offer their own personal testimony and speak about positive role models – saints, blesseds or exemplary youths.
Each day will close with Mass presided over by the catechist, alongside any priests who are present. During the morning portion of the gathering priests will also be available for confession.
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
“I think that bicycles are necessary because there’s a lot of work to do and you have to move around but get a humbler one!” Pope Francis told seminarians and novices July 7 in the Vatican’ s Paul VI Hall.
“And, if you like that beautiful car, think about how many children are dying of hunger, just (think of) that!” he told the approximately 6,000 young adults.
Pope Francis met with the young seminarians and novices to mark the end of their four-day pilgrimage to Rome sponsored by the Vatican as part of the Year of Faith.
“I’m telling you, truly, it hurts me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car. But you can’t (do that), you can’t!” he commented.
“Now, you’re thinking, ‘but then, father, must we go by bike?’” the Pope asked. “Bikes are nice,” he replied, noting, “Monsignor Alfred goes by bike, he does it.”
The pontiff also advised them to always be coherent in living out their vocation so that their testimony will be credible.
“True joy doesn’t come from things. No, it is born of an encounter, of the relationship with the other,” he said.
“It’s born of feeling ourselves accepted, understood, loved and of accepting, understanding and loving,” the Pope said. “And this is not for interests of the moment but because others are people.”
He underscored that joy is born from the freedom of an encounter and of “feeling yourself saying, ‘you are important for me’ and not necessarily with words.”
“This is wonderful and it’s precisely God who helps us understand this,” he said.
Previously, during a morning Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, he told the seminarians and novices they are in a “beautiful season” that represents “the moment of betrothal; the spring of vocation; the season of discovery, assessment, formation.”
He also stressed on the importance of joy, the cross and prayer as the mission of Christians.
A novice from the Congregation of Sisters of Nazareth in London told CNA July 4 that the first day of the pilgrimage was a “very good and lovely experience.”
“It’s beautiful, I don’t even have words to explain how beautiful,” said Sister Siponda Mary Agnes, who is originally from the island of Samoa.
“We’re very lucky and very privileged to be here, because this is the new Pope and everything is just beautiful,” she added.
Deacon Felipe de Jesus Varela Lopez from the Diocese of Guadalajara, Mexico said that vocation is the call that God gives to each of us “to be happy and to love.”
“It’s through the priesthood that I can fully love God and help people get to know him, so they can live life to the fullest,” he explained.
“This pilgrimage is a renewal and a confirmation of my vocation,” he added as he stood outside Castel Sant’Angelo.
“I think everyone is in love with the Pope because we see God himself in him, who loves us so much,” he said.
Additional reporting by Marta Jimenez Ibanez from Rome.
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis will grant a plenary indulgence – a remission of all temporal punishment due to sin – to World Youth Day Catholic participants, the Vatican announced July 9.
The head of the Church’s Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, and its secretary, Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, released a decree on July 9 that says the Pope will grant it during the July 22-29 event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“The young people and the faithful who are adequately prepared will obtain the Plenary Indulgence, once a day and under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in accordance with the intentions of the Holy Father), applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful,” states the decree published July 9.
The document adds that people who cannot attend World Youth Day can receive it “under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff.”
But this means they must participate “in the sacred functions on the days indicated, following the same rites and spiritual exercises as they occur via television or radio or, with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.”
Cardinal Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Nykiel added that the faithful can also obtain a partial indulgence – a remission of some temporal punishment due to sin.
This will be for Catholics who “in any place and between the indicated days, with a contrite heart raise devout prayers to God, concluding with the official prayer of the World Youth Day.”
They will also need to invoke “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Brazil (with the title Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Aparecida) as well as other patrons and intercessors of the same meeting, that they may encourage the young to reinforce their faith and lead a holy life.”
The granting of indulgences by the Pope comes from Jesus’ response to Peter, the first Pope, when he proclaimed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16.
Jesus replied to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Washington D.C., Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Days after the U.S. bishops indicated the HHS contraception mandate remains unacceptable, the Catholic Health Association has approved the government's accommodation.
“CHA had two principal concerns. The first was the four-part definition of what constituted a 'religious employer.' That concern has been eliminated,” Sister Carol Keehan, president of CHA, announced in a July 8 memo to members of the organization.
“CHA's second concern was establishing a federal precedent that mandated our members would have to include in their health plans, services they had well-established moral objections to,” she continued.
“HHS has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done.”
On June 28, the Obama administration issued its final rules regulating the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and drugs which can cause early abortions.
Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate has become the subject of lawsuits from more than 200 plaintiffs who claim that it forces them to violate their deeply-held religious convictions. The rules issued June 28 were supposed to have addressed religious liberty concerns.
The CHA represents over 600 hospitals and 1,400 other health facilities, and is the largest group of non-profit health care providers in the U.S.
Sr. Keehan wrote that “we are pleased that our members now have an accommodation that will not require them to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage.”
At the same time, she acknowledged that the final rule have “not been what some organizations, including the Bishops' Conference, asked for on behalf of a wider group.”
On July 3, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, explained that the U.S. bishops' conference “has not discovered any new change that eliminates the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts,” and that the mandate continues to threaten the Church's ability “to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”
Under the finalized rules, “churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations” will be exempt from the mandate, yet faith-based groups not affiliated with a particular house of worship, such as many religious hospitals, schools, and charities, are not covered by the exemption.
Those groups have been provided with an “accommodation” under which insurance issuers must “provide payments for contraceptive services” directly to female employees of those groups.
Cardinal Dolan indicated that this accommodation “seems intended to strengthen the claim that objectionable items will not ultimately be paid for by the employer's premium dollars,” but added that it remains “unclear whether the proposal succeeds in identifying a source of funds that is genuinely separate from the objecting employer, and if so, whether it is workable to draw from that separate source.”
He also noted that the mandate creates different categories of religious freedom, distinguishing among employers that receive a full exemption, those that receive only an accommodation, and the for-profit businesses that receive no exemption whatsoever.
In a June 15 letter, the CHA had said it is “imperative” that the Obama administration abandon its “narrow” definition of religious employers and exempt not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations, and other Church ministries.
The CHA was a major backer of the Affordable Care Act, with Sr. Keehan receiving one of the pens used by President Obama to sign the bill into law as a token of thanks.
Washington D.C., Jul 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - While the search for knowledge is universal, spanning all times and places, true wisdom is found in the Church and points us towards salvation in Christ, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
“Wisdom is the pursuit of the true, the right, and the lasting,” which find their source “in God, and nowhere else but God,” the archbishop said in a July 8 talk.
“Power, sex, knowledge, money, possessions – none of these things finally lasts,” he explained. “Wisdom consists in turning our hearts to the search for what does satisfy that hunger, and then pursuing it with all our strength.”
Archbishop Chaput gave his talk, entitled “Wisdom, Christian Life and the Year of Faith,” at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
He explained that wisdom is integrally linked with knowledge of God, and the Church is the most reliable bearer of this knowledge. As the Church becomes minimized in society, he said, so also does wisdom, and society turns in upon the self, technology and tools for its nourishment.
“The more secular we become, the less we care about the true, the right and the lasting. And here’s the reason: We don’t really believe they exist. Or we simply don’t care,” the archbishop said.
Instead, society has turned to “see and judge everything in terms of its utility, right here and right now. What’s useful and productive is judged good. What isn’t is judged bad.”
Therefore, Archbishop Chaput continued, “we’re shifting a belief in ourselves to a belief in our tools under the cover of a scientific and technological revolution.”
He warned that “without God, we turn ourselves into the objects and the victims of our own knowledge,” and this objectification of humanity poses a threat because “our tools have more destructive power than at any time in history.”
“Americans love science for the technology we can extract from it, and technology does not have a conscience,” he explained, observing that knowledge has been used to garner power in order “to penetrate, dominate, and exploit the natural world.”
The archbishop cautioned that “(t)he more we subordinate the sanctity of the human person to the tools we create, the less human we become.”
“Our job as Christians is to remind our culture that true and right and lasting things do exist about human nature – and if we abandon these things, we abandon who we are, and we abandon those who need us to speak on their behalf.”
Christians must not be afraid to speak out about the truths that their faith teaches, Archbishop Chaput said, explaining that as the “most reliable bearer of wisdom in the contemporary world,” the Catholic Church is also “the most reliable defender of the human person.”
“Her wisdom lies in seeing the world as God sees it,” he added, saying that the Church reminds humanity of essential truths about the human person.
The Church knows and teaches that human nature does not change, he explained.
“Man is a creature of animated carbon, but every life also has a higher purpose,” even amidst its imperfections and shortcomings, he stated. “We’re put in the world to seek the truth. We thirst for it. We can’t be happy without it.”
He noted that modern American discourse has lost both a respect for wisdom and the humility necessary to appreciate man’s relationship with the truth, leading to troubling cultural trends for the Church and those who still seek to live according to its wisdom.
“It took less than thirty years for abortion to go from a crime against humanity at Nuremberg to a constitutional right,” he observed, adding that it has “taken even less time for disordered sexuality” to be enshrined in law “and to redirect the course of our culture.”
“People unwise enough to accept a slogan like ‘marriage equality’ without challenging its honesty and examining its massive implications, are people capable of doing things even more foolish. And even more damaging.”
“If we think we have some kind of safe haven from these events in America’s tradition of religious freedom, we should probably think again,” Archbishop Chaput warned, pointing to the “coercive” language surrounding the HHS mandate and its requirement that many employers violate their deeply-held religious beliefs by providing insurance coverage of contraception and similar products.
“It’s a monument to ideological pride and belligerence,” the archbishop said of these cultural shifts.
These circumstances challenge modern Christians, who must reject the world’s understanding and choose instead to “live our faith with courage and zeal, endurance and hope, and to begin every new day by grounding our hearts and our actions in the wisdom of the Church,” he stressed.
He warned, however, that this choice to submit to the Church’s wisdom over the world’s ideologies comes at the price of one’s own life for thousands of Christians each year.
“Life consists in choosing one or the other. It’s a choice we can’t avoid,” the archbishop confirmed, “and each of us faces that choice right here, today, now.”
“The wisdom which the Church offers the world is for the humble, not the proud, and it’s the only wisdom that counts: the path to salvation.”
“The true, the right, and the lasting meet in a Man,” Archbishop Chaput reminded listeners. “Our task is to follow him, no matter what the cost, and to lead others to do the same.”
In doing so, the witness of our lives is critical, he said. “Nothing is more compelling than a good man, or a good woman, in an evil time.”