Tallahassee, Fla., Sep 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As the scheduled execution date approaches for a Florida man convicted of murder, local Catholics are offering prayers and renewing their call for an end to the practice of the death penalty.
“Even those who have committed terrible deeds and caused great pain possess a human dignity that is inherent in all persons,” said the Florida Catholic Conference in a Sept. 25 statement. “This dignity, instilled by our Creator, is neither earned nor can it be forfeited.”
The conference urged Florida Governor Rick Scott to spare the life of Marshall Gore, who is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 1 for the murder of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick.
While voicing “profound sadness” over the murders and praying that the victims’ “families are able to realize true peace and healing,” the Florida Catholic Conference warned that “Mr. Gore’s execution serves only to further distort society’s understanding of the sacredness of all human life.”
“With this deliberate taking of a life, the State demonstrates that killing is an acceptable manner in which to address harmful and hurtful acts. We believe it is not.”
“The State’s responsibility to protect society and punish criminals can be accomplished without resorting to the death penalty,” the conference continued.
“A sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole is a severe punishment, which allows for the prospect of conversion for the sinner and gives us the opportunity to forgive their wrong doings.”
A number of vigils have been planned throughout the state to show solidarity and to pray for victims of violence, people on death row and an end to the death penalty.
In the Diocese of St. Augustine, prayer vigils will be held in front of the Duval County Unified Courthouse, Flagler County Courthouse, and St. Augustine Beach City Hall, as well as across from the Florida State Prison Execution Building.
Pensacola-Tallahassee will hold a Eucharistic Holy Hour at 7:00 on the evening of Sept. 30 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
Catholic Charities Respect Life Office is co-hosting a 5:30 p.m. prayer service on Oct. 1, followed by a procession and silent vigil at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg will host an evening prayer session on Oct.1on the local radio, which will also be available online. Prayer vigils will also be held in Miami, Orlando and Venice.
Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty have organized a community prayer service in front of the Governor’s Mansion on the evening of Oct. 1.
An interfaith Remembrance Service has also been planned for noon the day after the execution at the Capitol Building.
Lilongwe, Malawi, Sep 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic African leaders met in Malawi earlier this week for an assembly dedicated to the Bible and to increasing the place of scripture in the lives of the continent’s faithful.
“The Word of God serves as a guide for faith and human activities and gives believers a style of life guided by the Holy Spirit in order to live the mystery of Jesus Christ according to Christian vocation,” the assembly observed.
“The Bible is a source of inspiration and faith in the family, among the youth, religious communities and societies when revitalized through daily prayers.”
The thirteenth plenary assembly of the Biblical Centre for Africa and Madagascar took place Sept. 17-23 in Malawi at the Archdiocese of Lilongwe’s St. Anthony Major Seminary in Kachebere. The meeting’s theme was “Letting the Bible inspire all pastoral activities.”
Dozens of assembly participants from the Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar gathered, coming from as far as Egypt and South Africa. Many bishops responsible for the biblical apostolate joined them, as did representatives of the Association of the Panafrican Catholic Exegetes and other priests, vowed religious, and laity.
Topics at the gathering included the Bible as an “action book” for pastoral work, Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini,” how to advance the apostolate amid the diversity of Africa, and biblical interpretation in dialogue with African culture.
One speaker reflected on lay people’s concerns for democracy, good governance and development, while another examined youth formation and the impact of modernity and unemployment among youth.
The assembly focused on several goals for “strategic actions,” including an increase in familiarity with the scriptures through lectio divina, Bible sharing groups, catechesis, and the liturgy. One speaker stressed the need to “evangelize the evangelizers,” while another focused on how to increase the availability of the Bible in translation.
The gathering said that the biblical apostolate is an “effective tool” against “the invasion of sects and misinterpretation of the Bible.” However, it lamented that this apostolate is not fully developed in many parts of Africa.
The assembly listed several threats to Christian practices, such as fundamentalism, “political Islam,” and “bad governance.”
The assembly resolved to strengthen networking and collaboration among Catholics working in the biblical apostolate and to give “special attention” to the pastoral biblical formation of Catholics. It resolved to promote the formation of biblical associations and to provide these groups with “all necessary help and guidance based on the Bible.”
The meeting pledged to discern the challenges of contemporary society, especially to respond to the questions and concerns of youth. It resolved to use modern technology to teach scripture in a way that will “capture the interest” of youths and to make the Bible available in local languages.
Every bishops' conference should promote biblical formation, the assembly recommended. These conferences should set aside a specific period of time for reflection on the Bible, such as a special Bible Week or Bible Month.
Bishop Joseph Zuza of Mzuzu, in Malawi, delivered a goodwill message to the participants. Father Yves-Lucien Evaga Ndjana, the director of the biblical center, gave the keynote. Archbishop Julio Murat, apostolic nuncio to Malawi and Zambia, presided at the assembly’s opening Mass.
The assembly thanked supporting organizations, which included Aid to the Church in Need, Missio Aachen, and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
It entrusted the meeting's outcome to the Virgin Mary, “Mother of the Church and Queen of Africa.”
Vatican City, Sep 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Vatican police force today, exhorting them to fight in the war against evil by rejecting the temptation to gossip.
He warned that among those who live and work in the Vatican, “the devil seeks to create an internal war, a kind of civil spiritual war” by means of idle chatter, said Pope Francis on September 28.
The temptation to gossip is present for everyone, noted Pope Francis, “even for me.”
Gossip is a sin against unity which the devil uses to undermine the community of the Church, he explained.
The morning Mass was held outdoors in the Lourdes grotto of the Vatican gardens.
The Mass was for members of the Vatican police corps, known as the Gendarmes. The Gendarmerie was founded in 1816 by Pope Pius VII after the dissolution of Napoleon’s empire. While the Swiss Guards are primarily dedicated to protecting the Pope, the Gendarmes are responsible for the security and public order of Vatican City.
Pope Francis said the police force must not only defend the Vatican against thieves or attacking armies.
“Napoleon is not coming anymore,” he quipped.
Instead, the “war here today is rather something else.”
“It is a war that is not waged with the weapons that we recognize: it is a war waged with the tongue,” he explained.
Pope Francis told the police force to be attentive to gossip within the Vatican walls.
“If (you hear) someone gossiping, stop him! (Say) ‘here there can be none of that: walk out of St. Anne’s Gate. Go outside and talk there! Here you cannot!’”
This spiritual war is one of light and darkness, said the Pope.
On the eve of the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the Gendarmerie’s patron saint, Pope Francis asked for his intercession.
“We ask St. Michael to help us in this war: never speak ill of each other, never open your ears to gossip,” the Pope said.
Vatican City, Sep 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with a group of catechists from around the world on Friday, encouraging them to live a life of witness for the faith rather than simply catechizing as a job.
“Be catechists, don’t work as catechists,” the Pope said to a group of two thousand gathered in the Paul VI audience hall in Rome on September 27. “Being a catechist is a vocation.”
The pontiff stressed the importance of living a life of witness, because as Benedict XVI had noted, the Church does not grow through proselytizing, but through attracting, and that which attracts people is a life that witnesses to the gospel.
“People see the gospel in our lives: let them read the gospel,” said Pope Francis.
In order to live the gospel, we must remain with Christ.
“The first thing, for a disciple, is to be with the Teacher, to listen to him, to learn from him. And this always matters, it is a journey that lasts the whole of life!”
The Pope then asked the participants, “how do you live, remaining with Christ?”
When someone goes to pray before Jesus in the tabernacle, “you look at him, but do you let him see you? Allow him to look at you!” encouraged Pope Francis.
It is in this union with the Lord that we find the strength to go out of ourselves in order to share the gospel with others, he explained.
These evangelization efforts must bring us to the periphery, because that is where God himself goes.
Pope Francis reflected on the story of Jonah, who was called by God out of his “calm and orderly life” to go the city of Nineveh, which was “beyond his schema, at the periphery of his world.”
This story teaches us that “God is not afraid of the periphery.” In fact, “if you go to the periphery, you will find him there,” explained the Pope.
He then went on to give an example of how catechists could do this.
“In Buenos Aires, there are many children who don’t even know how to make the sign of the Cross! This is a periphery. We must go there.”
Pope Francis went on to emphasize the need for “creativity” in catechesis, because “you need to know the circumstances in which you preach the gospel.”
Although the gospel message never changes, we must be able to adapt our methods according to our circumstances. “God is not rigid,” he said.
Moreover, said the Pope, Christian catechists cannot remain “closed off in our group, in our parish, in our movement, in our environment.” Such an attitude leads to a person being “sick.”
Rather, we need the kind of catechist who “has the courage to take the risk to go out” preaching the gospel.
Sue Petritz of Sussex England, who works with adults entering the Catholic Church, was present at the meeting. She found Pope Francis’ words motivating.
“He’s just a great inspiration to catechists everywhere, because if the Pope can do it and he uses Jesus as his example, we can do it as well. He inspires us,” she told CNA.
The meeting with Pope Francis was part of the International Conference on Catechesis organized for the Year of Faith. Two thousand catechists from around the world gathered from September 26-28 in Rome to consider the theme of “Catechist: A Witness of Faith.”
One participant from Portugal, Christina, expressed her joy in being part of an international gathering.
“I think it’s very important to meet with people from other countries and other cultural experiences – and then we feel that we really are brothers and sisters that have a common Father,” she said.
The conference included the meeting with Pope Francis as well as various presentations on catechesis and a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter.