Vatican City, Jul 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has approved the beatification of Venerable Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the second leader of Opus Dei, after recognizing the miraculous healing of a newborn who had suffered major cardiac arrest.
Father John C. McCloskey, a priest of Opus Dei, told CNA July 8 that the bishop was notable for “his humility, and his serenity and good humor.”
Fr. McCloskey said he felt “joy” at the announcement, realizing “the great good for the Church this will be.”
On July 5, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a miracle obtained through the intercession of Bishop del Portillo.
The miracle involves the August 2003 healing of Chilean newborn Jose Ignacio Ureta Wilson. A few days after his birth, the boy suffered a 30-minute period of cardiac arrest and a major hemorrhage.
The medical team treating the baby thought he had already died, but his parents prayed for healing through the intercession of the bishop.
The baby’s heart started to beat again and he recovered to live a normal life, the Opus Dei Information Office reports.
Bishop Javier Echevarria, the present head of Opus Dei, said in a statement that Bishop del Portillo was Saint Josemaria Escriva’s “best support” and “a most faithful collaborator of John Paul II.”
“Many churchmen and lay people from all over the world have told me how much good this faithful priest did to them. And they all agree in this: that it was easy for them to love him, to trust his advice, because they sensed his sincere and priestly interest for their souls,” Bishop Echevarria said July 5.
He prayed that Bishop del Portillo would transmit to Catholics his loyalty to God, the Church, the Pope, St. Josemaria, and his friends.
“I ask that he may transmit to us his special love for the family and his passionate love for the priesthood, as well as his tender and simple piety, which had such a Marian flavor,” he added.
Bishop Alvaro del Portillo was born in Madrid on March 11, 1914, the third of eight children. He studied to be an engineer and achieved doctorates in philosophy, liberal arts and canon law.
He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and soon became a close collaborator of St. Josemaria, who founded the organization dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the Catholic laity. The organization teaches its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.
Bishop del Portillo was ordained to the priesthood in 1944. He helped Opus Dei expand in 20 countries, including Italy. He was an active participant at the Second Vatican Council and was a consultor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was elected to succeed St Josemaria Escriva as the head of Opus Dei in 1975.
When Pope John Paul II made Opus Dei a personal prelature in 1982, he named Bishop del Portillo as head of the unique church structure. He was consecrated a bishop in December 1990.
Monsignor Flavio Capucci, the postulator for Bishop del Portillo’s cause of canonization, said that the Holy See must now set a date for the beatification ceremony. The ceremony will likely take place in Rome, where the bishop died in 1994.
Msgr. Capucci said that he has received almost 12,000 signed reports from Catholics who believe they have received favors through Bishop del Portillo's intercession.
Some extraordinary cures include the disappearance of metastasized melanomas and the full recovery of a child drowned in a swimming pool. Many favors concern family life, including the reconciliation of married couples, the conception of children after a period of infertility, and the birth of healthy children whom doctors believed to be sick or malformed.
“Bishop Alvaro was a family person, who carried out a wide and deep catechesis on the family. It is perhaps because of this that the desire to go to his intercession for these kinds of matters arises spontaneously,” Msgr. Capucci said.
Fr. McCloskey said he met Bishop del Portillo several times during his studies in Rome. It was the bishop who selected him to become a priest for Opus Dei.
The beatification will encourage Opus Dei members to imitate the bishop’s fidelity to the spirit of St. Josemaria Escriva, who was canonized in 2002, Fr. McCloskey said.
He added that the beatification will also have a lesson for all Catholics: “We all can be saints!”
Denver, Colo., Jul 10, 2013 (CNA) -
Father Robert Barron, rector of Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago, has produced a new video series emphasizing the primacy of beauty in drawing people to Christ.
“Let's start with the beauty of the faith … I wanted to start with the splendor of it,” Fr. Barron, a priest of the Chicago archdiocese, told CNA June 27. “I don’t talk about any of the hot button issues.”
Slated for release on DVD this August, “Catholicism: The New Evangelization,” explores the Church's mission in contemporary culture. The program follows Fr. Barron's critically acclaimed, high-definition “Catholicism” series of 2011, which aired on PBS nationwide.
His approach to the new evangelization – the late Blessed John Paul II's term for reaching formerly Christian societies – tends to begin with “something in the culture that people are watching or paying attention to.”
The priest, who founded global media group Word on Fire, said is able to find in these things something “that speaks to the Catholic faith, that reflects the Catholic faith.”
“So it’s more of affirmative orthodoxy; a positive approach,” he said. “And I think that intrigues people.”
The series focuses on the new evangelization because “it's what we need, as a Church.” It grew out of conversations Fr. Barron had on trips to Australia and England, looking at what is “drawing people in these very secularized societies back to the Church.”
The election of Pope Francis has given the Church the opportunity of a new, more positive narrative in the mainstream media, and Fr. Barron suggested that “maybe they are captivated by Francis.”
In concert with his focus on beauty as a route for the new evangelization, the priest said, “I want to get people off of the one-sided stress on sexual ethics.”
While acknowledging that sexual ethics are “very important,” he said the singular emphasis on this one facet of Church teaching “distorts the message.”
“If you read the New Testament, yes there's a sexual ethic implicit in the New Testament, but would you get the impression that's the one thing that we're supposed to do – we're supposed to get people clear on their sexual lives?”
No, he answered, the primary calling of Christians is “declaring the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, declaring the kingdom of God breaking into history, declaring this revolution that's wrought grace.”
“Now an implication of that is, get your sexual lives in order, towards love.”
But rather than focusing all one's message on sexual ethics, he declared, “I'd like to widen the lens a little bit.”
CNA spoke with Fr. Barron at a Catholic media conference in Denver shortly after a talk he gave, which touched on the “balloons and banners” era following the Second Vatican Council. A time, he noted, when there was a “dumbing down” of catechesis in much of the Church.
Asked if he thinks that era is starting to change, he responded, “not enough.”
“I worry about that … it needs to change.” The Church needs “a couple of saints, who will really raise up armies of teachers,” Fr. Barron said.
The generations of Catholics formed under Benedict XVI and in John Paul II's later years need “to go for advanced studies in philosophy and theology, so they can pass the thing on in a sophisticated way,” he reflected.
Going along with this, he said Catholics colleges must “become a breeding ground of Catholic intellectual life,” having professors, not only in philosophy and theology, but all the disciplines, “whose teaching is informed by their faith.”
Fr. Barron called it a “tragedy” that so many Catholic universities have “secularized themselves … aping Princeton and Harvard.”
He promoted Vatican II's idea that Catholic laypeople are called to be “great Catholics in the world.”
Rather than privatizing their faith, Catholics – whether business leaders, politicians, or media personalities – should let that faith inform their “decisions, approach, attitude.”
This is “tricky,” he emphasized, saying that “if you're a media person you can't say, 'I'm going to be announcing Jesus Christ risen from the dead as I do the evening news.'”
And yet, he calls for the “still unrealized Vatican II vision … of the laity Christifying the world” by refusing to privatize their Catholic faith.
Letting faith inform one's decisions in public: “that's evangelization,” Fr. Barron said.
Prescott, Ariz., Jul 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As the city of Prescott, Ariz. grieves the loss of nineteen elite firefighters, Sacred Heart Catholic Parish is also coping with the “whirlwind” of the past few weeks.
“I honestly believe that when death comes, no matter how it comes, that the Resurrection is my source of hope,” Fr. Darrin Merlino, the new pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Prescott, Ariz. told CNA July 8.
Recently, his parish has endured tragedies that could tempt anyone to fall into despair.
Just as the Doce Fire consumed some 10,000 acres of land northwest of Prescott, the parish's pastor, Fr. Daryl Olds suffered a severe stroke which sent him to the intensive care unit. As Fr. Merlino took over as pastor a day later, he learned of a parishioner's suicide and the death of a close friend's father.
Just as “things kind of calmed down,” around the parish, Fr. Merlino heard news of the Yarnell Fire burning just south of Prescott. The next day nearly an entire team of firefighters from Prescott were killed in their attempt to build a fire line around the blaze.
“It was just overwhelming,” the priest said.
For nearly a week, the parish fielded calls from friends of the deceased, but Fr. Merlino was surprised that none of the firefighters who were killed were registered as attending his parish.
“I mean, statistically speaking, there's always Catholics in the fire department,” he said.
Then, after Mass one day, a parishioner came up to him “very distraught” telling the priest that his roommate, John Percin Jr., was one of the firefighters killed in the fire.
Originally from West Linn, Oregon, Percin was new to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but was known to be a natural athlete, “free-spirited” and generous.
Because he was so young – only 24 years-old – and fairly new the the area, Percin was not a registered parishioner, but had a reputation as someone who would have “given the shirt off his back.”
The young man's father, John J. Percin Sr., broke down to Fr. Merlino the day after nineteen white hearses bearing the remains of the fallen firefighters made their way through Prescott.
“Everyone and their mother wants to interview him, poor guy,” the priest said.
After speaking with the young man's father it was clear his parents “were very proud of him.”
“He was kind of one of those kids who'd made some mistakes but he accepted it, moved on,” he said.
Before he went out to work on what local station KATU reported was his first fire, Percin prayed for protection for himself and his team.
“Lord watch over us as we go into battle. Amen!” he wrote in a June 30 Facebook status.
In wake of the tragedy, Fr. Merlino focused his homily last Sunday on the hope of the resurrection, reminding those in attendance that “we'll all be reunited someday.”
“This is a fact, it's a reality,” he added.
Although his parish is “a little numb right now,” they have decided to put up a plaque in memory of Percin, just next to their memorial for children killed by abortion.
Another one of the young men who lost his life, Grant McKee, 21, reportedly lived with a family of parishioners for a short time and dated their daughter.
As the mother of the family spoke to Fr. Merlino after Mass, he said it was clear the boy was “very dear to their heart.”
“She couldn't really talk about him at all,” he said, “she was just in tears.”
The parish has also devoted their gym to housing about 400 firefighters who needed a place to stay while paying their respects to those who lost their lives.
On June 30, the Granite Mountain Hotshots responded to a fire started by lightning the day before. It quickly spread from 200 to 2,000 acres within a matter of hours due to a shift in winds.
Cut off from their exit, nineteen of the twenty firefighters sought refuge under their foil-like emergency shelters which proved to be insufficient. The lone survivor was spared because he was farther away from the fire line serving as a lookout.
Aged 21 to 43, many of the Prescott 19 leave behind wives, fiancées, and young children.
“This is our 9/11,” Fr. Merlino said. “God can't be blamed for these things; God is here to help us through the tragedy.”
A Memorial Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Parish on Thursday, July 11 at 6 p.m. for the fallen firefighters.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis said he is uniting himself in prayer with the victims of the unusual train explosion that killed at least 15 people and destroyed a section of a Quebec town's center July 6.
“His Holiness Pope Francis unites himself through prayer in the anguish of the grieving families and he entrusts the victims to the mercy of God, asking Him to welcome them into His light,” he said in a message released July 9 by the Vatican.
“He expresses his deep sympathy to the injured persons and their families, to the emergency workers, and to all the people around them, asking the Lord to support and comfort them in their hardship,” it said.
Pope Francis’ message was sent to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on July 8 by the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa, the equivalent of the Vatican embassy in Canada.
The tragedy began unfolding early on Saturday morning in rural Quebec.
A Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train carrying 72 cars of crude oil first received attention when a small fire was reported and extinguished by local firefighters in the town of Nantes.
At the time of the fire, there was no train engineer present since he had retired for the night and set the brakes on the locomotive and several of the cars, according to the railway.
At some point after the fire was put out, the train’s brakes appear to have failed, causing it to roll down the 1.2 percent grade toward the 6,000-person town of Lac-Mégantic.
The train gathered speed until reached 63 miles per hour, when it derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic around 1:00 a.m. on July 6.
The explosion and fire destroyed 30 buildings, including a store and the local public library.
Up to 35 people are still missing and authorities say some bodies may have been incinerated in the inferno and will never be recovered. A criminal inquiry into the accident has been launched.
“As a token of consolation, the Holy Father sends a special apostolic blessing to all persons touched by this tragedy,” the papal letter said.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis has appointed a new bishop for one of only two Maronite Catholic territories in the United States, while also accepting the resignation of the current shepherd.
Father Abdallah Elias Zaidan, 50, was named July 10 by the Pope to replace Bishop Robert J. Shaheen as bishop of Our Lady of Lebanon Eparchy.
Bishop Shaheen turned 76 on June 3, placing him one year beyond the retirement age.
Bishop-designate Zaidan will be moving from his post as rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon to the eparchy’s headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.
While the eparchy was originally established in Los Angeles in 1994, its seat was moved to St. Louis in 2001 with approval from the Vatican.
Bishop-designate Zaidan was born in Kosaybé, Lebanon on March 10, 1963.
He is a member of the Congregation of Lebanese Maronite Missionaries, has worked in school administration, and has served as the pastor of several parishes.
In addition to English, he speaks Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish and Syriac.
The Maronite Catholic Church traces its roots to the early Christians of Antioch, the first believers to be called Christian. In fact, the Church still uses Syriac in its liturgy, a dialect of Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.
The Church takes its name from the fourth century hermit St. Maron, whose way of life inspired many monks and laity to follow him, eventually resulting in the distinctive Maronite Rite.
With the influx of immigrants to the United States from Lebanon and the surrounding region in the latter part of the 19th century, the Pope set up ecclesial structures to serve the Maronite faithful.
The Maronite Church in the U.S. falls under the jurisdiction of two eparchies: the Detroit-based Eparchy of St. Maron and the St. Louis-based Our Lady of Lebanon Eparchy.
As shepherd of the Our Lady of Lebanon Eparchy, Bishop-designate Zaidan will lead 24,108 Catholics, 39 priests, 8 permanent deacons and 15 religious.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Juan A. Reig Pla of the Spanish diocese Alcala de Henares said that the thought of Pope Francis is evident throughout his recent encyclical.
“Lumen Fidei,” or “The Light of Faith,” was released July 5, and is the first encyclical promulgated by Pope Francis. Much of the rough draft was prepared by Benedict XVI, who was not able to finish it before resigning from the office of Pope.
However, Bishop Pla told CNA that “the hand of Francis can be seen in the entire encyclical.”
“First, in saying that the way in which we explain the light of faith, which is Jesus Christ, must be done through a narrative and testimonial theology,” the bishop explained on July 5. “That is, not through grandiose concepts or centered on speculative theories, but in a narrative and testimonial way.”
Bishop Pla also noted that Pope Francis has explained many times that the faith much reach each human person.
He said that the Holy Father’s contribution is seen in the final chapters, “which refer to faith for the building of the city and for achieving the common good.”
“The faith must not be kept to ourselves but must bring light to the building of human life, the person, the family, and the Church,” he explained.
“Faith is for the whole world, and for this reason the hand of Francis can be seen in the last chapter, because faith should also lead to charity, to what man needs, and without Jesus Christ that cannot be done,” he added.
The bishop noted that Pope Francis has inherited the legacy of Benedict XVI not only in this encyclical but in the continuity of the whole Magisterium.
“Francis has made this encyclical his own, and he is expressing the continuity that exists in the Catholic Church between the magisteriums of the Popes, and in this case between Benedict XVI and Francis.”
For this reason, he continued, tradition is important in the life of the Church.
“Continuity in the Church takes place through tradition and faith. In other words, what one Pope says is accentuated and reaffirmed by his successor, and this is very clear in the case of the encyclical ‘Lumen Fidei.’”
In certain phrases, Bishop Pla stated, “one can perceive the direct influence of Pope Francis in this encyclical that commemorates the Year of Faith decreed by Benedict XVI.”
“Francis could not have adopted a better program for beginning his pontificate” than such continuity with his predecessor, the bishop said.
The initial intention of the encyclical on faith was to form a trilogy with two of Benedict's encyclicals on the theological virtues: hope in “Spe salvi,” and charity in “Deus Caritas est.”
“This encyclical completes the series on the three great virtues: faith, hope and charity,” Bishop Pla reflected.
“And in the Year of Faith, it is a wonderful opportunity that Pope Francis has picked up and used in order to publish his first encyclical on the faith, which gives us the very strength of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Pla said Pope Francis “emphasized that in our entire lives, our faith should be in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is found in the Church. This is an encyclical that helps us encounter Jesus Christ through the faith,” he concluded.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 10, 2013 (CNA) - The World Youth Day Cross and Icon of the Virgin Mary arrived July 6 in Rio de Janeiro, where they will remain until the conclusion of the July 23-28 gathering of young people and Pope Francis.
Some 1,500 young people from the Diocese of Itaguai carried the two World Youth Day symbols in procession to Rio de Janeiro, where they were met at the Church of St. Joseph by the head of the World Youth Day organizational committee.
Archbishop Orani Tempesta presided at a special Mass, and afterwards, the two symbols were taken to the Cathedral of St. Sebastian.
The two symbols “have crossed the world, and since September of 2011, they have traveled throughout Brazil, visiting not only the dioceses but also schools, prisons, squares and indigenous communities,” Archbishop Tempesta said. “In this way, the message of Christ is reaching all the men and women of Brazil.”
As young people prayed and sang hymns, the 12-foot cross first entrusted to the youth by John Paul II in 1984 was placed in the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.
The Icon of the Virgin Mary, a replica of the Byzantine image of Mary Salus Populi Romani (Protector of the Roman People), was also brought to the cathedral. It was donated to young people by John Paul II in 2003 to accompany the Cross.
“This is a sign that shows the beauty of the Christian faith, the certainty of Christ risen on the cross, giving his life for us all, and at the same time the joy of young people, who in all these years have seen a little bit of their own lives, their dreams, their searching, their joy, in these symbols,” Archbishop Tempesta said.
The Cross and the icon will be taken to various parts of Rio de Janeiro until the start of World Youth Day, when several million people are expected to gather in the Brazilian city.
Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pro-lifers nationwide lauded Texas legislators for passing a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation on the grounds that unborn infants can feel pain at that stage of development.
The bill passed the Texas House of Representatives with a vote of 96 to 49 on July 9, and its companion bill will be considered by the state Senate.
“I do think it is what the people of Texas want, it is what the people of the nation want,” Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs for the pro-life lobby Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA.
On July 9, Musgrave delivered a petition signed by over 20,000 pro-life activists in favor of the legislation, telling the legislators it was a great “opportunity to do something of such significance."
"You can just feel the tide turning in the country," Musgrave said of the bill's passage. "Polls are showing it, but even more than that, you can sense it.”
The bill includes several pro-life initiatives, including a measure that bans abortions past 20 weeks gestation in order to protect unborn infants who can feel pain, and regulations that require abortion physician supervision of all abortion procedures.
An earlier attempt to pass the bill failed on June 25 at the end of a special legislative session, with Democratic state senator Wendy Davis filibustering for over 10 hours.
While her speech ended before the end of the legislative session, members of the Senate were not able to complete the vote before the session’s midnight expiration, due to a combination of time restraints and protests from citizens in the upstairs gallery.
The following day, the Texas governor called a second special legislative session in order to vote on the measure again. If the bill fails to pass in special sessions, the legislation will not be eligible for re-introduction in a normal session until 2015.
The final day of argumentation before the House bill’s passage was met with ardent support from pro-life advocates from around the state and the country, in contrast to clashes between pro-life and pro-choice supporters earlier in July.
The demonstrations have become “more calm,” said Abby Johnson, a former abortion clinic worker and founder of “And Then There were None,” a ministry dedicated to helping abortion clinic employees receive the aid necessary to change careers should they decide to leave the abortion industry.
She noted that while there were confrontations the week before the vote, in the days leading up to the bill’s passage there has been more discussion. She added that she herself has had many enlightening discussions with pro-abortion supporters about her ministry and on the topic of abortion more broadly.
Johnson also noted a strong rise in pro-life support for the legislation in the state capitol, Austin.
She said that in glancing at the crowds, she saw at least “50 pro-life activists to every one pro-choice activist” in front of the capitol on July 9. She noted that pro-life activists have been wearing light blue shirts to pro-life rallies in Austin in order to distinguish themselves from pro-abortion supporters, who have been wearing orange.
Johnson noted that the demonstrations before the state capital building were calm, and that pro-life advocates demonstrated a “sense of peace” during a potentially confrontational period.
Musgrave called the crowds gathered in the "hot and humid" Austin summer “absolutely incredible."
“I couldn’t even see how far the crowd went down. I'm sure almost to the street, it was on the east and on the west; you could not see the end of the crowd.”
"Being there was overwhelming" and "such a blessing," Musgrave said, noting the "humility and compassion coming from the crowd" as she presented the petition to the state legislature.
"It was one of the most powerful expressions of the pro-life movement in this country and in the state of Texas."