Orange, Calif., Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., announced the selection of two firms to collaborate in renovating the “Crystal Cathedral” into a Catholic cathedral at the diocese's annual prayer breakfast yesterday morning.
“The Crystal Cathedral is an established international landmark and is much lauded for its architectural inspiration and iconic stature…Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios have the experience and ability to respect the building’s original design inspiration while creating a fitting and functional spiritual home for Orange County’s 1.3 million Catholics,” Bishop Vann stated Sept. 18 at the eighth annual Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast, held in the structure's glass facade.
“These two firms see this important work as more than a renovation project, but as a reflection of God and his people on earth.”
The Diocese of Orange purchased the 3,000-seat Crystal Cathedral in February of 2012 from the Protestant church which founded it. The purchase was made after Crystal Cathedral had filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment. The diocese purchased it for $57.5 million under Bishop Vann's predecessor, Bishop Tod Brown.
The architectural landmark is made from over 10,000 panes of glass, and its interior must be renovated to make it suitable for Catholic worship.
From the 24 firms which responded to the diocese's request for proposals, Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios were chosen to work on the renovation of the 34 acre, seven-building campus which is home to what has now been renamed 'Christ Cathedral.'
According to a statement from the Orange diocese, “the architects were asked to reimagine the Christ Cathedral to support the celebration of Catholic liturgy and the Eucharist, while maintaining the architectural splendor of the reflective glass façade of the building.”
The prayer breakfast was also an opportunity for leaders among Orange's Catholic community to be informed of the encouraging process that has already been made in a capital campaign that will fund the renovation as well as other apostolates in the diocese.
Cindy Bobruk, executive director of the Orange Catholic Foundation, which is managing the capital campaign, told CNA Sept. 17 that the campaign has been successful because it is an opportunity for parishioners in the diocese “to be part of the living history of our diocese – to be able to watch this transformation take place, and actually invest in the transformation.”
The campaign, which was launched one year ago at the last Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast, has raised $60 million of its $100 million goal.
“We thought this was a wonderful opportunity to circle back to that same group it was announced to, and give them an update on where we are.”
Just over half of the campaign goal, $53 million, is earmarked for the renovation of the Christ Cathedral campus. The rest of the money will go to various diocese initiatives.
Sixteen million will go to Catholic education, and another $16 million will be returned to parishes; $6 million is for the annual Pastoral Services Appeal, which supports diocesan ministries, tuition, Catholic Charities, and clergy formation; and $2 million will be used to build an endowment fund for retired priests.
Bobruk said this capital campaign is “the very first time we've done a diocesan-wide fund raising appeal to every parishioner,” and it has been “very broad-based.”
Around 14,000 households in Orange County have contributed to the campaign, and Bobruk remarked that it is “really is the peoples' campaign. We're reaching out to as many people as possible, and we have a motto that every gift counts.”
“It's not an equal size gift, but it's an equal sacrifice, so that's a message we've woven through this campaign.”
The campaign is being conducted in two phases: 36 of the diocese's 62 parishes have already completed their portion, which lasted from January to July. The remaining 26 parishes are “in campaign mode right now,” which will last for them until December.
Bobruk drew particular attention to the emblematic role of the diocese's priests as participants in the capital campaign.
“So far 116 of our priests, including our bishop, have really led by example and have made sacrificial gifts totaling over $707,000.”
She explained that the firm assisting the Orange Catholic Foundation in the campaign has said “they've never experienced this type of support from the presbyterate in the past,” and added that when it is dedicated, likely in 2015 or 2016, Christ Cathedral's altar “will be given and named in honor of all our priests in our diocese.”
Bobruk attributed the campaign's success to the special opportunity to “really invest” in the diocese and to “walk in this historic and transformational time.”
Ryan Lilyengren, communications director for the Diocese of Orange, added that the enthusiastic participation in the capital campaign “speaks to Catholics in Orange County really wrapping their arms around the idea of having a central spiritual location for worship, and they have really gotten behind transforming this used-to-be evangelical center into something that's really Catholic and is a cathedral of their own.”
Concluding his comments at this morning's prayer breakfast, Bishop Vann reflected that “Orange County is a bustling place, with lots of noise and traffic and endless activity, a place where we can often feel isolated. The day when the Cathedral in Garden Grove becomes our center of gravity, we as Catholics will make believers and non-believers our welcome guests.”
“We and they will find it a place of refuge. Our Cathedral will be a place for involvement in the sacraments, a place to hear the Word of God proclaimed and a place for personal prayer and devotion. It will be a holy place where God dwells among us.”
Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The persecution of religious minorities in both Indonesia and Burma pose dangers not only to the two countries, but to the region and the world, says a human rights advocate who specializes in the area.
Speaking Sept. 12 on “Radical Islamism in Indonesia and Militant Buddhism in Burma,” a talk sponsored by the Hudson Institute, Benedict Rogers said that “there is a real danger of these situations feeding off each other.”
He added that religious freedom threats in the region pose “serious consequences for the two countries and beyond.”
Rogers is the East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a London-based group that investigates religious freedom around the world.
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, has “been held up for a long time as a model” of religious pluralism and democracy, especially in Muslim world, he explained. However, “that pluralism is increasingly under threat from radical extremism and religious intolerance.”
Indonesia's population is around 87 percent Muslim, and most Indonesian Muslims are Sunni. However, there are some Shia Muslims, as well as Ahmadis – a heterodox Muslim movement founded in the 19th century.
Rogers said that “a growing number of churches” and Ahmadiyya mosques “are being forced to close” because of local ordinances restricting religious practice in public places and the licensing of places of worship set in place by city governments, in contradiction to the nation's constitution.
Self-proclaimed atheists have also been jailed for public statements of non-belief. In addition, a vigilante group known as the Islamic Defenders Front stages protests and uses violence against Christian, Ahmadiyya, and Shia groups and congregations.
One Ahmadi mosque that was forced to close was the subject of such violence and discrimination. The imam and several members, Rogers said, stayed in their condemned mosque to keep it from being torn down by local government officials and Islamic Defenders Front protestors.
“We want the international community to know what has happened here,” the imam told Rogers. “Let the outside world know that we are not safe anymore. We are not free to believe what we want to believe.”
Rogers explained that while such actions are against the country's laws, parts of the Indonesian government are “complicit in what we are seeing.”
He pointed specifically to the actions of the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose administration has been reticent to prosecute religious discrimination and other government officials.
Some government officials, such as the Minister for Religious Affairs, have “blamed the incidence of violence on the Christians and the Ahmadis,” Rogers said.
Burma – also known as Myanmar – also faces threats to religious freedom. In the country, which is nearly 90 percent Buddhist, both Muslims and Christians have reported suffering persecution.
Rogers noted the rise of “militant Buddhism” there, primarily against Muslims, particularly the Rohingya, an ethnic group who live in Rakhine state. The Rohingya have long been persecuted by the country's Buddhist majority, and in 2012, riots in Rakhine displaced some 125,000 Rohingya.
In addition, the state has engaged in the targeting of individuals in Kachin state, which is home to an ethnic group whose identity is “tied up” with Christianity, he said. Within the territory, Kachin people have been held prisoner and forced to participate in sexual acts with other prisoners.
Rogers said he feared that such persecution of Muslims and Christians in Burma may “call the attention of radical Islamist groups” to use violence against their Buddhist persecutors. He warned that the destabilization of Burma, and the upsetting of the tradition of religious tolerance in Indonesia, may set an unfortunate example for other nations in the region.
However, there is still hope, Rogers noted. In Burma, some Buddhists are beginning to speak out against the persecution, joining Christian and Muslim voices in opposition to the discrimination.
Rogers described meeting a former Islamic Defenders Front fighter, who became an advocate for religious liberty after speaking to his Ahmadi neighbors.
He also added that there is some public support for pluralism and solidarity with the persecuted in the country, displays of which have become more common as the country's 2014 national elections approach.
Still, “we just need more of them to counter this climate of hatred,” he emphasized.
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis spoke today to new bishops gathered from across the globe, encouraging them to tend their flocks – and to welcome, journey and remain with the members of their dioceses.
“I've served three bishops in the diocese of Tyler and I’m the fourth bishop of the diocese,” said Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Texas during the annual New Bishop's Conference in Rome.
“It really is a reminder of what that commitment is, a reminder that it really is all about Christ. He's the continuity of the church,” Bishop Strickland told CNA. “Bishops come and go, priests come and go, popes come and go, but Christ remains.”
The conference, which was held this year from Sept. 10 -19, is designed to provide formation and orientation for men who have been elevated to the episcopate each year.
The new bishops present participated in a private audience Thursday with Pope Francis marking the end of the event. Quoting the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium,” the Pope reminded them that “the Bishop is a man of communion and unity, the ‘visible principle and foundation of unity.’”
The pontiff pressed the bishops to ask themselves during their daily work, “how to live the spirit of collegiality and collaboration in the Episcopate” and how “to be builders of communion and unity in the Church the Lord has entrusted” to them.
Pope Francis then offered some reflections on the first letter of Saint Peter, in which the apostle encourages the early Christians to tend the flock of God in their care willingly and eagerly, saying that the words of St. Peter “are carved on the heart!”
“They call you and establish you as Pastors not from yourselves, but from the Lord; and not to serve yourselves, but to serve the flock entrusted to you, to serve it even to the point of giving your life, like Christ, the Good Shepherd.”
If they “welcome with magnanimity” and with an open door, those who are in their care, said the Pope, “will experience the paternity of God and understand how the Church is a good mother that always loves and welcomes them.”
The Holy Father also imparted to the new bishop’s the necessity to journey with one’s flock, a journey which cannot be completed without affection for his priests and his presence among his people.
Taking to heart the Pope’s message, Bishop John T. Folda of Fargo, N.D., who was appointed April 8 at the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, said that one of the things he’s enjoyed the most since his appointment has been “the opportunity to get around the state and to visit the different parishes, especially to get to know the priests of the diocese.”
The priests of the diocese are the ones “who obviously I work very closely, and they’re my closest collaborators,” Folda told CNA, “so I’ve really made a point to try to get to know them as much as possible.”
Pope Francis then called for Bishops to serve with humility, which he described as an austerity and focus on what is essential, saying that pastors must not have “the psychology of Princes.”
He warned of “ambitious men, men that are married to this Church, but hoping for a more beautiful or a richer” Church.
“This is a scandal!" he said, describing the longing for a bigger or better diocese as a kind of “spiritual adultery.” He cautioned the bishops not to fall into the “spirit of careerism,” which he referred to as “a cancer.”
The pontiff ended his address by encouraging those present to “remain with their flocks,” which referred to as “stability.” This stability, he said, “has two precise aspects – ‘to remain’ in the diocese, and ‘to remain’ in this diocese, without seeking change or promotion.”
In a time when travel has become increasingly easier, “the ancient law of residence hasn’t passed out of fashion,” said the Pope, citing that residence in one’s diocese is not only functional, but has deep theological roots.
“Avoid the scandal of being 'airport bishops!'” he said, “Be welcoming Pastors, journeying with your people, with affection, with mercy, with sweetness of expression and paternal firmness, with humility and discretion, being able to see your own limitations, and with a good sense of humor . . . and remain with your flock!”
In attendance at the conference were new bishops from around the world who have been appointed since September of last year, including bishops from Canada, Ireland, Germany, England, the United States, South America and the Middle East.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The shrine of Our Lady of Fuencisla, patroness of the Spanish city of Segovia, will mark its 400th anniversary on Sept. 23 with a traditional novena led by the city's bishop, Ángel Rubio Castro.
“In these 400 years, innumerable Segovians have passed through this Shrine to visit Our Lady. Only she knows of the thousands of intentions, prayers, troubles, joys, sorrows and secrets of her children,” wrote Monsignor Alfonso Frechel Merino, chancellor of the Segovia diocese, in a letter to the faithful.
“She has done so many other small daily miracles in their hearts and lives. Our Lady of Fuencisla, patroness of Segovia, has always been present in the life of the city, and many events of all kinds have happened, with her as our star and our guide.”
Msgr. Frechel invited the faithful to celebrate the milestone by “instilling in our children and young people love and trust in Mary.”
The celebration of the shrine's anniversary will last Sept. 19-29, and will be led by Bishop Rubio. Also in attendence will be Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, the emeritus archbishop of Sevilla; Archbishop Jesús Sanz Montes of Oviedo; and Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez of Valladolid.
Describing the celebration, Msgr. Frechel said, “among us there is an undeniable phenomenon during eleven days in which our streets are filled with people who come to the cathedral to continue telling their secrets to Our Lady of Fuencisla. She will continue to work miracles each day and to stir up hearts and awaken the dormant faith of some, and she will be the guarantor of the faith for Segovia.”
Mary “will always care for all those who invoke her and call her ‘Mother,’ even if they may have forgotten her. She continues daily to work miracles and we know it.”
Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As scores of lawsuits against the federal contraception mandate continue to move through the courts, the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference has voiced renewed commitment to defending religious liberty.
“The bishops have made clear their strong, unified commitment to protecting religious freedom,” said Kim Daniels, spokesperson for Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The HHS mandate restricts the ability of Catholic apostolates to witness to our faith in its fullness,” she told CNA, “a witness that is at the core of their ministry.”
The mandate – issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – requires nearly all employers to offer health insurance covering free contraception, sterilizations, and some drugs that may cause early abortions.
The policy has sparked serious concerns and led to lawsuits from more than 200 plaintiffs, including religious schools, charities, hospitals and private individuals who do not qualify for the narrow religious exemption included in the mandate but say that facilitating the required products and procedures forces them to violate the teachings of their faith.
Following a Sept. 10-11 meeting of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Cardinal Dolan wrote a letter to his fellow bishops throughout the country.
He explained that the conference will continue to fight against the mandate, saying that it “is a fight that we didn't ask for, and would rather not be in, but it’s certainly one that we won’t run from.”
Responding to religious freedom concerns over the mandate, the Obama administration instituted a series of delays and revisions, creating an “accommodation” for some religious employers to have the objectionable products provided indirectly to their employees through a third-party insurer.
According to the administration, contraceptives and similar products can be provided for free because of the “tremendous health benefits” they provide women and the reduced costs that will result from having fewer children. Critics have questioned this premise, however, arguing that the products will ultimately have a cost that will likely be passed on to the objecting employer through increased insurance premiums.
Cardinal Dolan voiced concern over the D.C.-based Catholic Health Association’s “hurried acceptance of the accommodation, which was, I’m afraid, untimely and unhelpful.”
He said that he appreciated the organization’s “great expertise in their ministry of healing, but as they have been the first to say, they do not represent the Magisterium of the Church.”
“Even in their document stating that they could live with the ‘accommodation’ they remarked that we bishops, along with others, have wider concerns than they do,” he explained.
The bishops’ conference did not immediately respond to the finalized version of the mandate, saying instead that they would take time to morally and legally analyze the 110-page document.
After doing so, the bishop stated that the final version had “only minor changes” and was still plagued by the same basic problems as the original version.
In his letter, Cardinal Dolan highlighted these problems, noting that the exemption included in the mandate is based on a narrow definition of “religious employers” as houses of worship and their affiliated groups, leaving religious service ministries to be given “second-class treatment” under the lesser provisions of the accommodation, which he labeled inadequate.
At the same time, he observed, the revised mandate fails to give “any relief at all to for-profit businesses run by so many of our faithful in the pews.”
The cardinal noted that “Catholic Church in America has long been a leader in providing affordable health care, and in advocating for policies that advance that goal,” noting that Catholic religious brothers and sisters have been at the forefront of providing health care to those who need it.
“Yet, instead of spending our time, energy, and treasure on increasing access to health care, as we have done for many decades,” he continued, “we’re now forced to spend those resources on determining how to respond to recently enacted government regulations that restrict and burden our religious freedom.”
The mandate dampens the ability of these ministries to witness through their services, a central part of the Catholic mission, Cardinal Dolan said, stressing the bishops are continuing to work through venues including Congress and the courts “to develop avenues of response that would both preserve our strong unity and protect our consciences.”
Mixed rulings on lawsuits challenging the mandate have led some observers to suggest that the Supreme Court may soon decide rule on the regulation.
Further discussion on how to address the contraception mandate will take place at the bishops’ fall plenary assembly this November in Baltimore, Cardinal Dolan stated.
“We are united in our resolve to continue to defend our right to live by our faith, and our duty to serve the poor, heal the sick, keep our apostolates strong and faithful, and insure our people,” he affirmed.
Brussels, Belgium, Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
An initiative to propose to the European Parliament a ban on the funding of embryo-destructive policies has gained one million signatures, ensuring the proposal will be received at the legislature.
The initiative, “One of Us,” seeks to protect the “dignity, the right to life and the integrity of every human being” for all human persons at all stages of development, according to the organizers' website.
The proposal is a European citizens’ initiative, which is a means for E.U. citizens to introduce proposed legislation to the E.U. Parliament. In announcing this legislative proposal process, the European Commission has stated that in order to be introduced to the parliament, citizens’ initiatives must receive more than one million signatures from E.U. citizens, and a minimum number of signatures from at least seven of the 27 countries in the E.U. within a year of their introduction.
One of Us passed the one million vote mark in early September, more than one month ahead of its Nov. 1 deadline. It also has the minimum number of signatures in 11 E.U. member countries: Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
Since One of Us has met the requirements, the European Commission will ask the E.U. “to end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health.”
This move would force the European Parliament “to schedule a debate on the issue of life at conception,” One of Us' website explained.
The proposal is only the second European citizens’ initiative to receive the support needed to present the initiative to parliament. In addition to wide support among individuals, One of Us has the official support of over 40 pro-life leaders, politicians, scholars, and doctors from across the continent.
Furthermore, Catholic bishops from across the E.U. – including both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis – have spoken in support of the campaign.
During an Italian march for life held in May, Pope Francis said, “I invite everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.”
“I am pleased to recall the petition to support the ‘One of Us’ initiative to ensure legal protection to the embryo, protecting every human being from the first moment of its existence.”
And in February, Benedict XVI had said, “I greet the Movement for Life and wish it success on the ‘One of Us’ initiative so that Europe might always be a place where every human being's dignity is safeguarded.”
If the legislation is passed, it will ban the funding of embryo-destructive policies, including research, health programs, and abortions throughout the E.U.
“A ban of such funding will greatly contribute to the consistency within the EU," the website adds.
Currently, abortion and embryo-destructive research laws vary widely from country to country within the union.
Abortion is legal within the first trimester throughout Europe, except in Malta, but with differing restrictions in each member state. It was legalized in late June in Ireland.
In addition, countries throughout the E.U. have different laws governing the legality and funding of embryo-destructive research, such as for embryonic stem cells or for reproductive technologies.
The initiative is still able to collect votes until it closes on Nov. 1, and aims to gain 1.5 million by that date, as well as minimum support from the remaining E.U. member states.
On Sept. 22, One of Us will hold a Europe-wide day in support of the initiative to garner more support and signatures.
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a new wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis called for Christians to “heal wounds” in society by sharing the entirety of the Church’s message, offering the proper context for its spiritual and moral teaching.
The Holy Father explained that “the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”
Proclamation of salvation must come first, followed by catechesis, and then the moral consequences that flow from this teaching, he said, warning that if this does not happen, there is a risk of reducing the Church’s message to aspects that “on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”
Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica, conducted the interview with Pope Francis in August. The U.S. Jesuit magazine America published an exclusive English-language translation of the interview Sept. 19.
In the interview, Pope Francis highlighted the need to proclaim moral truths in the full context of the Church’s Gospel message rather than as isolated requirements to be imposed.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said, explaining that this would not be the fullness of the Gospel, but instead a “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
Observing that some people have criticized him for not speaking more frequently about these moral matters, he clarified his agreement with Catholic teaching on these issues, explaining, “The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church.”
However, he maintained that “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”
He urged a missionary-type proclamation of the Gospel that focuses on the “essentials,” on “what fascinates and attracts” and on “what makes the heart burn.”
“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow,” he explained.
Without this proper balance, he cautioned, the moral teachings of the Church will lose “the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Pope Francis said the Church should “go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.” The Church most needs “the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.”
He compared the Church to “a field hospital after battle.”
“It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”
In addition, the Holy Father cautioned against temptations to seek God in the past or in a possible future, saying that “God is to be encountered in the world of today” and that the Lord is present in every person’s life, no matter what their circumstances.
The interview also touched on the Pope’s personal preferences in books, movies and music, as well as his prayer life and spiritual journey to join the Jesuit order, which attracted him with its missionary spirit, community and discipline.
Reflecting on the Ignatian spirituality’s emphasis on discernment, he encouraged a mindset that is constantly seeking God, while remaining alert because we do not know where we may encounter him.
Asked to describe himself, Pope Francis said he is “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon,” both “a bit astute” and “a bit naive.” He recounted mistakes he made as a Jesuit provincial superior, especially his “authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions.”
The Pontiff also reflected on the nature of the Church, stressing that it is “the people of God, pastors and people together.”
“No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.”
He commented that Pope Benedict’s decision to allow the wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass was a “prudent” move to help those sensitive to the old Mass, but voiced worry of a possible “exploitation” and “ideologization” of the old rite.
On the topic of church reform, he said structural reforms are “secondary” to a change in attitude.
“The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost,” he said. “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”
In addition, the Holy Father emphasized the essential role of women in the Church.
“Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops,” he said, adding that women’s “feminine genius” is needed for important decisions.
The Church must “work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman,” he said, while also noting that he is “wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man.”