Archive of November 9, 2013

As temperatures drop, diocese offers heating assistance

Pawtucket, R.I., Nov 9, 2013 (CNA) - With his home heating fuel tank empty and the unseasonably mild temperatures waning at the end of October, Leo Tremblay resorted to covering himself with blankets during the day, and sleeping in layers of clothing at night in order to keep warm in the drafty trailer that has served as his home since 1976.

When even the layers of blankets could not stop him from shivering as the mercury dropped, he visited the diocese’s Project Hope office in Pawtucket to apply for fuel assistance through the diocese’s “Keep the Heat On” program.

“I was crying, I didn’t know what to do,” Tremblay said in his home last week following the delivery of 100 gallons of kerosene, provided through the program.

With overnight temperatures dipping below the freezing point, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin last week authorized a $50,000 donation from the Catholic Charity Appeal – which provides critical financial support to a number of ministries and programs that work to meet the spiritual, educational and social needs of more than 200,000 Rhode Islanders – to “Keep the Heat On” to begin providing immediate assistance to those in need.

Sponsored by the diocese since 2005 when home heating oil prices skyrocketed, “Keep the Heat On,” provides heating assistance to Rhode Islanders who have exhausted all other public and private forms of assistance.

Since its inception, the program has raised more than $1.7 million to help more than 6,500 Rhode Island families and individuals coping with financial struggles in paying their oil, gas or electric heating bills.

Over the last seven seasons, Bishop Tobin has authorized $450,000 in grants from the Catholic Charity Appeal in support of “Keep the Heat On,” which is also funded through donations from generous individuals and businesses who believe that no Rhode Island family should be forced to live without heat during the winter months.

Last week, the bishop visited with Tremblay in his home following the fuel delivery, presenting him with prayer cards, including an image of the new pontiff that was recently blessed by Pope Francis himself in Rome, and offering his assurance that he would keep him in his prayers.

Throughout the trailer the bishop took note of the many testaments to the faith that Tremblay has drawn strength and comfort from to help him through the trying times he has faced in his 84 years.

Among several statues of Jesus and the Blessed Mother, a plaque of Blessed John Paul II and an artist’s rendering of The Last Supper, there are also reminders of the more difficult moments in his life.

To the right of the entrance hangs the studio portrait which he and his late wife Mary posed for following their wedding at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Providence. Mary passed away three years ago. They had been married for 55 years.

On the opposite wall is a baby picture of a child who succumbed to illness nearly 50 years ago, before reaching the age of two. The thought of his passing brings tears to Tremblay’s eyes, and he still finds it difficult even now to talk about it.

He lives alone on an annual income of approximately $8,500, which he receives from Social Security. Earlier in his life, he worked with his hands as a mechanic, as well as in the jewelry industry.

To help him survive the cold winters for the last several years he has been an annual recipient of diocesan fuel assistance through the “Keep the Heat On” program, and has received federal help through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), annually as well.

He heats his home with kerosene, which traditionally has a much higher price than oil. Last week, the price of kerosene was $4.40 per gallon, compared to $3.40 per gallon for oil.

With federal LIHEAP funds not scheduled to be released until at least the end of November, and his application for assistance from the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program still pending, Tremblay is grateful for the immediate support once again provided by the diocese at a critical time.

“The diocese has helped me quite a bit,” Tremblay said of the heating assistance he has received over the last few years from “Keep the Heat On.”

Bishop Tobin was moved by the visit to Tremblay’s modest trailer home, noting how his life story is both challenging and inspiring at the same time.

“The situation in which this gentleman is living is very difficult and challenging, but his own good will and his own faith are very strong. So if we can help him in some small, but important way, that’s terrific,” Bishop Tobin said.

Since 2005, “Keep the Heat On,” has served as a crucial safety net for individuals such as Tremblay who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet during the winter months, and who have exhausted all other public and private forms of heating assistance.

“It is my hope that through this critical program, which is funded in part through the Catholic Charity Appeal, Rhode Islanders in need will have another means by which to keep their homes warm this winter,” the bishop said.

Posted with permission from Rhode Island Cahtolic, official publication of the Diocese of Providence.

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Pope's words show ongoing conversation with world

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis’ priority is the pastoral care of the people entrusted to him, and his words are intentionally suited to this purpose; but this does not mean he will concede on doctrine, a noted Vaticanista has explained.

In two recently published articles at L'Espresso, Sandro Magister sketched out the peculiar style of Pope Francis' informal means of communication.

Magister maintains that Pope Francis has inaugurated a “twofold communicative register”: on one side, what he says off the cuff, or in the interviews and in spontaneous preaching, is meant for the people of God; on the other side, the official pronouncements of the Pope himself, or of someone with his complete trust, are intended to point out what the doctrine is.

Two example of this twofold register can be provided.

The first is the contrast between the Roman Pontiff's sometimes words on marriage, and those of Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Archbishop Mueller published an article in L'Osservatore Romano Oct. 22 as an “official answer” to those who have supposed that under Pope Francis, the Church would be open to admitting to Holy Communion those who have been divorced and re-married.

In the thinly veiled response to an office of the vacant Archdiocese of Freiburg which had suggested some divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion, Archbishop Mueller wrote that while Catholics in irregular marital unions after divorce cannot receive Communion, this makes it “all the more imperative” to show them “pastoral concern.”

The archbishop's clarification was needed because of the mystification of Pope Francis’ words in the question and answer conference he held in his plane on the way back from World Youth Day in Brazil.

Speaking about the divorced and remarried persons, Pope Francis stated that “those who are divorced can receive communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t,” adding that “we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage.”

On Nov. 8, Pope Francis again proved that he cannot alter Church teaching on the admission of divorced and remarried persons to Communion.

Receiving the plenary assembly of the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme tribunal and minister of justice in the Church, Pope Francis praised the role of the “defender of the bond” – those charged with defending a marriage against suppositions of nullity.

Pope Francis underscored that “the defender of the bond who wants to render a good service cannot limit himself to a quick reading of the acts, not to bureaucratic and generic answers.” He instead is called to “harmonize the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law with the concrete situations of the Church and of society.”

He also stressed that the defender is called to “facilitate the achievement of the truth in the definitive sentence” and that he must “keep always alive the connection between the action of the Church which evangelizes and the action of the Church which administers justice.”

“Service to justice is a commitment of the apostolic life: it needs to be exercised keeping our eyes fixed on the image of the Good Shepherd, who bends down to the lost and hurt sheep.”

According to a Vatican source who spoke with CNA Nov. 8, “reiterating the importance of the defender of the bond, Pope Francis wanted to reiterate that marriage is always indissoluble, and an eventual nullity cannot be taken lightly.”

Pope Francis' speech to the members of the Signatura was in fact an official one, and was not of the sort of communication he performs in the public arena.

According to Magister, Pope Francis preaching “is primarily addressed to the common people, to the weak in faith, to the sinners, to the far away. Not as a whole, but as if the Pope would like to speak one-on-one with each of them.”

Magister maintains that “just as in the Gospel Jesus is very demanding in the commandments but turns to individual sinners with mercy, so also Pope Francis wants to be.”

This is why, he said, “on disputed questions, on birth, on death, on procreation, he is of undisputed doctrinal orthodoxy”.

“The view of the Church is known, and I am a son of the Church," Pope Francis stated in his interview with Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica – leaving the exposition of doctrine to a different environment.

This interview granted to La Civiltà Cattolica is the second example of Pope Francis’ new “communicative register.”

According to Magister, the interview “appears more and more as the ‘overture’ to a concert for many voices”, and it is also “eliciting responses that are adding questions on top of questions”.

“This is a procedure typical of any open conversation,” Magister reflected. “And since this is the modality used by Pope Francis to announce the program of his pontificate, it is natural that the reactions as well should not limit themselves to listening, to acceptance, to criticism or rejection, but should engage directly with him in an ongoing dialogue”.

One example on how such a dialogue can be developed is the commentary on the interview written by Fr. Robert Imbelli, a priest of the New York archdiocese and a theology professor at Boston College, for “America.”

Imbelli compared Pope Francis’ style to that of the German composer Wilhelm Furtwängler, whom the Pope loves.

Imbelli asserted that “Furtwängler’s style resembled an ongoing conversation among players and parts, gradually building toward a dramatic, sometimes surprising, conclusion”, and this is parallel to Pope Francis’ conversational style, with his penchant for “narrative,” “discernment,” and the “mystical.”

Imbelli explains that “the conversation transpired between two believers (Pope Francis and Fr. Spadaro, who conducted the interview), two fellow Jesuits, who share a commitment, vision and common language. However, it is being overheard by a world avid to detect any hint of change in church teaching, but that is often deaf to the deeper language of faith.”

This is why Fr. Imbelli considers the interview as part of an on going conversation, and he ends his commentary by raising some concerns he would address to the Pope should “America” commission him with a follow up interview.

To complete the Pope’s symphony, in fact, it is needful for Catholics to fill the “communicative hole” of a Furtwängler devotee such as Pope Francis.

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Bishops ask Catholics to call Congress on immigration

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As L.A. Archbishop José Gomez laments the lack of urgency to reform the immigration system, the U.S. bishops are urging Catholics to call and write Congress to support “just and compassionate immigration reform.”

“Immigration reform can’t wait. We can’t let another year slip away, doing nothing,” Archbishop Gomez said in his Nov. 8 column for Los Angeles' archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings.

“Millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering – and they have been for years now.”

The U.S. bishops are asking that Catholics call their congressmen in support of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and in opposition to the SAFE Act.

The SAFE Act would make illegal residence in the U.S. a federal crime and strengthen state and local law enforcement authority to arrest and charge immigrants for overstaying their visas or entering the U.S. without documentation, the Washington Post says.

Catholics are asked to call Congress at 1-855-589-5698 on Nov. 13, the feast of St. Frances Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has a special website on immigration,, that also encourages Catholics to send a postcard to Congress.

The postcard advocates a path to citizenship for the undocumented, while preserving family unity as a “cornerstone” of the immigration system. The postcard asks for the restoration of due process protections in immigration enforcement and legal avenues for low-skilled immigrant workers to enter and work in the U.S.

The postcard also asks Congress to address the “root causes” of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.

Archbishop Gomez, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, said immigration reform must address the suffering of “the anonymous men and women who dire regularly in the desert trying to reach our borders,” as well as the victims of human trafficking, the men and women who make up “a vast underclass of workers without rights.”

It must also address young people whose parents brought them into the country illegally and now cannot enroll in school or legally work, he commented.

“Two-thirds of the undocumented persons in our country have been here for at least a decade. They are our neighbors and classmates. They are the people we sit next to in church on Sunday,” he said, lamenting the nearly 2 million deportations over the last four years.

Archbishop Gomez noted Pope Francis’ visit to the small Italian island of Lampedusa, an arrival point for undocumented immigrants from North Africa to Europe. There, the Pope reached out to immigrants and mourned the thousands who have died at sea.

The archbishop said that Lampedusa represents “a dark region  of the heart” where people become “insensitive and indifferent to the sufferings of others.”

“Immigration reform is a life issue and it is a family issue. And it is a question of our soul.”

“Jesus told us that he would be present in the immigrants, in the prisoners, in those who are suffering sickness and poverty. What we do to them, we do him.”

Archbishop Gomez prayed that we “rediscover our capacity to care for one another and to be close to others in their sufferings.”

“And let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother of Refuge, to help revive hearts deadened by indifference.”

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