Vatican City, Aug 22, 2013 (CNA) -
Pope Francis told a group of young Japanese students and their teachers that gentleness is essential in order to foster peace and fruitful dialogue with other cultures.
“What is the deepest attitude we must have to dialogue, and not fight?” he asked them. “Gentleness, the capacity to meet people and cultures with peace.”
The students and professors present traveled from Tokyo for their Aug. 21 meeting with the Pope. They belong to Bunri Seibu Gakuen Junior High School Saitama, which is a non-religious school, and consisted of both Christians and Buddhists.
On the virtue of gentleness, the Holy Father affirmed that “It is the ability to meet people and cultures, as well as to find peace and have the ability to ask intelligent questions including ‘why do you think this way?’ and ‘why does this culture do this?’”
“I hope this trip to be very fruitful for you, because knowing other people and cultures always does so much good for us and makes us grow,” Pope Francis remarked.
He told them that this is because “if we are isolated in ourselves, we only have what we have” and “we cannot grow culturally.”
“But if we instead go to meet other people, other cultures, other ways of thinking, other religions, we go out of ourselves and we begin that so beautiful adventure called dialogue,” the Pope stated.
“When there is a problem, dialogue, this is what brings peace!”
The pontiff told the group that dialogue is important for their maturity because “in comparison with the other person, in comparison with other cultures, even in the healthy comparison with other religions, one grows and matures.”
“Of course there is a danger if the dialogue closes and one gets angry, one can fight,” he stated. “It is the danger of fighting, and that's not good for us because we meet each other to dialogue, not to argue.”
He told them gentleness is about “first listening and feeling others, and then talking.”
“And if you don’t think like me, I think in a different way and you don’t convince me but we are still friends,” he said. “I’ve heard how you think and you’ve heard how I think.”
Pope Francis explained that it is this dialogue which generates peace, and that peace cannot be obtained without dialogue.
“All of the wars, all of the struggles, all of the problems that aren’t resolved with those we meet exist because of the lack of dialogue,” he affirmed.
Pope Francis then expressed his hope for the students to have a “journey of dialogue,” and that they would “know how to dialogue, how this culture thinks, how beautiful this is.”
“I wish you all of this and a good trip in Rome,” he said. “I wish the best for you, your school and your families – God bless you all.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 22, 2013 (CNA) -
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced plans to sell its nursing homes and to outsource the management of its cemeteries, citing a major deficit in its operating funds.
“Our difficult financial situation must be addressed and the actions that we need to take may be painful ones,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said Aug. 20.
“I understand this fact fully, but it is of critical importance that we rebuild our financial foundation so that we can continue our collective good works.”
The archdiocese said its audit of financial statements for the fiscal year ending in June 2012 discovered a $39.2 million operating deficit and “several very significant and ongoing balance sheet issues” that ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
To help address the shortfall, the archdiocese plans to put up for sale six nursing homes and one assisted living facility, all operated by Catholic Health Care Services.
The nursing homes had an operating deficit of $1.4 million in the fiscal year ending in 2012.
The archdiocese said it would sell the nursing homes on the condition that all current residents be retained regardless of their ability to pay.
“Every effort will be made to ensure continued employment for all those currently working within the system,” the archdiocese said.
Catholic Health Care Services has a total capacity of 1,400 beds and is the seventh-largest faith-based nursing and assisted living provider in the country. It presently has about 1,100 full-time and 950 part-time employees.
The archdiocese is not planning to sell the cemeteries. Rather, it plans to outsource management and operations “in a manner consistent with Catholic values and the core mission of the cemeteries.”
The plan concerns 11 active cemeteries and two inactive cemeteries designated for future use. Cemeteries operated by local parishes are unaffected.
The archdiocesan cemeteries have about 160 full-time employees and about 30 seasonal employees. The archdiocese said it will make “every effort” to ensure current employees keep their jobs.
The cemeteries conducted 6,900 internments in 2012.
Archbishop Chaput said the financial decisions he has come to were not made “lightly.”
“They have all come after much careful discernment and prayer as well as significant discussion and consultation.”
“In the end, any final decisions about our nursing homes and cemeteries will be mine. They’ll be made with full and due consideration to the mission of our local Church and all those who would be affected.”
The archdiocese has already sold the archbishop’s residence and a vacation home for retired priests in Ventnor, N.J. It also cut staff at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center by 25 percent.
Boston, Mass., Aug 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the recent feast of the Assumption, a young U.S. woman became a novice with a traditional religious order after she saw their devotion to Mary and counter-cultural witness to Christ.
Taking the name Sister Marie-Celine, Erin Kelly joined the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an order in Massachusetts that focuses on Marian devotion according to Saint Louis de Montfort.
“The sisters and brothers were the ones, by their teaching and example, with the help of God’s grace, who inspired me to try the religious life,” Sr. Marie-Celine told CNA Aug. 17.
“Seeing religious in full habits, living a life so contrary to today’s world – a life of dedication to God and His work, of selfless love – is such a beautiful and refreshing thing unknown to most. I wanted to be a part of that.”
The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart are a community of religious brothers and sisters for whom the writings of St. Louis de Montfort, especially “True Devotion to Mary,” make “up the essence of life,” Sr. Marie-Bernard, a professed Sister in the community, told CNA.
“We renew the consecration daily, and the 33 days of readings for Total Consecration yearly,” she explained.
“Everything about ourselves and our work is given to Jesus through Mary – in all we do, our life is a prayer.”
Sr. Marie-Celine reflected on God's call in her life, saying that while she had “considered the possibility of dedicating my life to God” throughout high school, she “quickly became involved in the world after graduating” and slowly started to “drown out the idea of religious life.”
She “greatly enjoyed work and travel,” “the power of independence,” and “the fun I was having.”
Yet, she explained, “in the midst of my worldly experience, a solitary thought constantly pricked my mind which I could not evade – 'what am I doing with my life?'”
“Aside from learning life lessons, I was wasting time. I wasn’t satisfied with the superficial happiness and unrest the world gave me, and the idea of a vocation started to resurface.”
Sr. Marie-Celine started to look into different convents across the country, but realized that “what I was looking for had been right in front of me – a community living a life of total consecration to Jesus through Mary.”
She had attended first through twelfth grade at the the order's Immaculate Heart of Mary School, and said that “I firmly believe that it was divine providence which placed me in their care.”
Reflecting on her formation by the community, Sr. Marie-Celine said that “in their daily actions ... I saw their work was not merely routine – it was supernaturalized. They were doing things for God alone.”
“That is what I lacked in the world, a supernatural motive, a striving for eternal life with God.”
Sr. Marie-Celine's profession as a novice on Aug. 15 followed her completion of a six-month postulancy. She will be a novice for two years before taking temporary vows, which last three years. At that time, she will be able to make final profession with the community.
During the Mass of Profession, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart also received a new postulant, Clair Sonnier, who was “drawn to the Slaves because of their traditional religious life,” and their devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass.
Sonnier became familiar with the community through one of their apostolates, a summer camp for girls. The profession was received on the feast of the Assumption because of the community's Marian focus.
Sr. Marie-Bernard explained that it was selected “because it was the fulfillment of the Blessed Virgin Mary's life,” being re-united with Christ body and soul in heaven – “something we all desire, especially as consecrated religious (and) Brides of Christ.”
Along with Marian devotion in the tradition of St. Louis de Montfort's consecration, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart are devoted to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite – the Mass as it was celebrated in 1962, prior to the Second Vatican Council.
The extraordinary form Mass is the “pulse” of the community's life and apostolates, “with its beautiful richness in tradition and liturgy,” Sr. Marie-Bernard explained. She cited the “reverence and sacredness” of its prayer and rites as something that “draws souls to Christ,” which is “what our world needs now, more than ever.”
The spirituality of the Traditional Latin Mass forms the community's charism for evangelization. Sr. Marie-Bernard said “the Slaves' main purpose and goal is to bring souls to Jesus through Mary, evangelizing through their publications, school, catechism classes and summer youth programs.”
The community of sisters includes 14 professed, two novices, and one postulant. There are four professed brothers, and one novice. Members add a fourth vow, to promote the doctrine of the Church, to the traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The community is a re-founding of an order originally founded by Fr. Leonard Feeney. In 1976 Brother Hugh MacIsaac re-founded the community, located in the Diocese of Worcester.
In 2002, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, then the Bishop of Worcester, “regularized” the community in his diocese, and his successor, Bishop Robert J. McManus, has on three occasions celebrated confirmations at the chapel of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart.
Sr. Marie-Celine recounted that since having joined the community six months ago, she has experienced the the peace that Christ promised his disciples during his farewell discourse in the Gospel of John.
“Leaving the world was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Having the privilege of daily (Traditional) Latin Mass, availability of the Sacraments, and the companionship of the community as a religious, has been the greatest grace of my life.”
While saying she “wouldn't do it justice” were she to try to relate her interior feelings about her vocation, she said the following quote from St. Augustine's “Confessions” “beautifully gathers the sentiments I find hard to express.”
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Madrid has announced that this fall, the beatification cause of Auxiliary Bishop Eugenio Romero Pose will officially be opened.
Bishop Pose was appointed as Madrid’s auxiliary bishop in early March of 1997, and was a close collaborator with the current archbishop, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela.
The archdiocese announced on August 21 that the solemn opening of his cause for beatification will be led by Cardinal Rouco Varela in the Spanish capital, where Bishop Romero Pose died six years ago.
The Cathedral of Alumenda and the San Damaso Theology Faculty, which are two projects the late bishop devoted much energy to helping establish, are two possible sites for the ceremony.
The opening of the cause comes after the required five-year waiting period and would make Bishop Romero Pose the only Spanish bishop of recent times to be under consideration for sainthood.
Several years ago, the cause for canonization of the first bishop of Getafe, Spain, Francisco Jose Perez y Fernadez-Golfin, was opened and is continuing to move forward in Rome.
Bishop Eugenio Romero Pose died at the age of 58 after a long illness. During his years as auxiliary bishop of Madrid, he was extremely close to Cardinal Rouco Varela, and has been the theological inspiration behind many of the statements made by the Church in Madrid in recent years.
La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 22, 2013 (CNA) - The adjunct secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia, Archbishop José Fuentes, said that government officials who support abortion should not receive Holy Communion.
Such individuals, he said, are not acting consistent with their faith and with the teachings of the Gospel and the Church.
In July of this year, four government ministers announced their support for the legalization of abortion in Bolivia.
In an interview with the newspaper Pagina 7, Bishop Fuentes was asked about these ministers. He responded that “they can act in conscience, but they should not approach during communion to receive the Body of Christ.”
“The person who aborts or who encourages another to abort, as well as health care workers who participate in an abortion and lawmakers, commit a sin before God, because they make themselves the owners of life, and the only owner of life for us is God,” he said.
“For a Catholic, for a believer, that is something that is not at our disposal, and therefore if as a legislator, a judge or whatever, I support an abortion law, I am separating myself from the Church, I cannot receive Communion unless I show my repentance,” Bishop Fuentes continued, emphasizing the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for those who have had an abortion.
He stressed that the Church’s position is not based on a desire to punish wrongdoers, but rather an effort to reach out to them in mercy to help them accept Catholic teaching.
Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid ongoing attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt, a U.S. Senator has introduced legislation aimed at protecting the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East.
“The continued violence against Coptic Christians and other civilians in Egypt is incredibly disturbing and flies in the face of the religious freedoms and fundamental values that Americans hold dear,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in an Aug. 21 press release.
“I urge Majority Leader Reid to allow a vote on this bipartisan legislation, which would call attention to all religious minorities and demonstrate to leaders in the region that the United States takes religious freedom seriously.”
Blunt serves on both the Senate defense authorization and defense appropriations committees. He is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations.
The bill, which has been introduced in the Senate, asks the U.S. Department of State to create a special envoy for religious minorities in Middle Eastern countries to help mediate the violence facing Coptic Christians and other religious minorities.
The proposed legislation calls for the envoy to promote “the right of religious freedom of religious minorities in the countries of the Near East and the countries of South Central Asia, denounce the violation of such right, and recommend appropriate responses by the United States Government when such right is violated.”
It also asks the envoy to monitor “and combat acts of religious intolerance and incitement targeted against religious minorities” and work “to ensure that the unique needs of religious minority communities” in these areas are addressed.
The legislative effort is particular important, Blunt stressed, given the ongoing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Dozens of Christian churches – as well as schools, homes and other institutions owned by Christians – have come under attack in recent days, as violence continues throughout the country.
On Aug. 14, Egyptian security forces broke up camps of protesters allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. The protesters had been demanding that President Mohammed Morsi be returned to power after he had been ousted by the military last month.
Hundreds of people have been reported dead in the violent clashes that have followed. The Coptic Christian population – a minority in the country – has particularly been targeted in attacks attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Noting that his legislation has drawn support from both political parties, Blunt urged it to be quickly considered for a vote in the Senate.
The bill has been co-sponsored by Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
Kansas City, Mo., Aug 22, 2013 (CNA) - Amid continued controversy over the Catholic identity of U.S. women religious, a dissenting Catholic newspaper has been awarded a multi-million dollar grant to cover religious sisters locally and globally.
Brad Myers, a senior program officer for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation's Catholic Sisters Initiative, confirmed to CNA on Aug. 22 that the foundation board last week approved a three-year, $2.3 million grant to the Kansas City, Missouri-based National Catholic Reporter.
He said the grant is designed to create “what we're calling a global sisters' net.”
“The idea is a website devoted to the coverage of Catholic sisters globally,” he said. “Initially our focus is going to be on issues facing Catholic sisters in the United States and Africa. Ultimately we do have global ambitions. We have stronger networks between these two countries, so that’s where we'll start.”
“For the most part, we’re looking to improve the support systems among religious life among women.
Our approach is to look at ways to make the systems work better for all women religious,” he added.
Myers noted that the grant was only recently approved by the board and the newspaper has not yet officially accepted the grant.
The National Catholic Reporter's Catholic identity has been called into question by its local bishops several times.
Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph in January 2013 said the National Catholic Reporter takes positions “against authentic Church teaching and leadership.” He said the agency's perspectives “have not changed trajectory” since October 1968.
At that time, Bishop Finn's predecessor Bishop Charles H. Helmsing condemned the newspaper for “its disregard and denial of the most sacred values of our Catholic faith,” and asked it to remove the name “Catholic” from the title.
The newspaper's editorial staff announced their dissent from Church teaching on the ordination of women in an editoral last December.
Myers declined to comment on whether or not the newspaper's history enables it to reliably cover Catholic issues.
The Hilton Foundation previously approved a $150,000 one-year grant for the National Catholic Reporter in late 2011 to assist with the planning for a project on women religious, the foundation's website says.
CNA contacted the National Catholic Reporter for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
The newspaper's coverage and editorial writing has been highly critical of the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The conference represents 1,500 leaders of U.S. Catholic religious orders.
Myers said that the Hilton Foundation does not take a position on the controversy between the Vatican and the leadership conference.
“This grant is just not related to the current issues related to the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR,” he said.
The assessment, begun in 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, found serious theological and doctrinal errors in the presentations at the conference’s annual assemblies. It voiced concern about “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that could distort Catholic teaching.
The assessment said that the conference’s material for new superiors and formators lacks sufficient doctrinal formation and may reinforce confusion about Church doctrine. The analysis also found that the conference is a strong advocate on many social justice issues, but has remained silent on the right to life.
In January 2011 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the leadership conference is “grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world.”
National Catholic Reporter publisher Thomas C. Fox, in an April 29 editorial, argued that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was not “simply a group of ‘leftist’ nuns.” He challenged the accuracy and the justice of the Vatican investigation of the leadership conference, characterizing it as “Vatican muggings.”
Myers linked to the editorial and several other National Catholic Reporter pieces about the leadership conference on his personal Twitter account. He also engaged a reporter from the newspaper in a joking exchange about Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle's address to the leadership conference's general assembly.
“My personal opinions are my personal opinions,” Myers told CNA in response to a question about his comments.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, based near Los Angeles, was founded by the Catholic hotel magnate of the same name. The foundation has long backed religious sisters and is a major funder of the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters, which in 2010 said it had awarded about $75 million in grants for the educational, health and social service ministries of religious sisters in 130 countries.
In 2013 the foundation gave a $3 million grant to the Catholic Church Extension Society of the United States to implement an exchange program for Catholic religious sisters from Latin America to come to the U.S. The foundation also gave $4.5 million to Marywood University in Pennsylvania to teach African sisters and to support graduates of the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative.
Other grant recipients include the National Religious Vocation Conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The foundation has given grants to Wyoming Catholic College, Thomas Aquinas College, Loyola Marymount University and some Los Angeles Catholic schools.
Hilton family members have a significant presence on the foundation’s board of directors. One religious sister is on the foundation’s board, Sister Joyce Meyer, P.B.V.M.