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Archive of November 14, 2013

Cardinal Bertone: Vatican secretary of state has pastoral task

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Vatican's Secretary of State is also a bishop, his diplomatic action must take into consideration pastoral and missionary concerns, the secretary of state emeritus has said.

“During those seven years, I worked as secretary of state with the certain conviction that I needed to imbue my post with pastorality and a missionary spirit,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was secretary of state from 2006 until Oct. 15 of this year, said Nov. 12.

He spoke at the Vatican's New Synod Hall at a presentation of his book, newly published in Italian, called “Papal Diplomacy in a Globalized World,” which collects his addresses given while head of the Secretariat of State.

The book's publication can be seen as an effort to make a “final balance” of the Vatican's diplomatic activity under Benedict XVI.

While secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone was sometimes criticized for his frequent travels, but he said at the presentation that “a secretary of state must travel and visit countries” because in addition to serving as a sort of 'prime minister', the office also is responsible for the Holy See's foreign relations. The Holy See maintains diplomatic ties with 179 nations worldwide.

While a possible reform of the Secretariat of State, within a larger reform of the Roman Curia, is widely discussed, Cardinal Bertone pointed out that “a secretary of state has the function of being collaborator, counselor, and faithful tool of a mission coming from the highest, and incarnated in the diverse and original personalities of the successors of Peter.”

Also speaking at the book's presentation were Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States; Hans-Gert Poettering, a former president of the European Parliament; Fr. Federico Lombardi, Holy See press officer; and Vincenzo Buonomo, a law professor and editor of the work.

Archbishop Mamberti said that Vatican diplomacy is always concerned with building peace and fighting poverty, and that under Benedict XVI there was a particular concern for the “right use of reason, which leads to a real experience of religious freedom.”

“Papal diplomacy, before being a vehicle for dialogue between civil and ecclesiastical communities, is 'first and foremost a tool of intra-ecclesial cohesion', a sign of that 'concern for all the Churches' that the Bishop of Rome has always demonstrated,” he said.

He further asserted that “the diplomatic action of the Holy See is always oriented toward a positive good.” Archbishop Mamberti explained that “even when the Holy See recalls some specific values,” such as that of the dignity of human life, it is not a negative claim.

“The Church works to instill confidence, animated by the Christian hope that is not merely optimism, as Pope Francis always reminds us.”

Poettering's comments focused on Cardinal Bertone's role in promoting European unity, underscoring that “the lack of a shared ethics has always been the basis of a weak democracy.”

“If Europe will engage this idea, it will have to acknowledge the public role of religious bodies, including the Church.”

Buonomo, who teaches international law at the Lateran University, sketched the evolution of the Vatican diplomacy.

He maintained that Holy See diplomacy “knows very well that the goals of justice can never have a definitive solution – there is a need to build it up daily.”

“Vatican diplomatic activity is not shaped to achieve compromises. It is mostly aimed at building activity at the service of the human person.”

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US bishops unanimously reaffirm opposition to HHS mandate

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At their annual fall gathering in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops issued a message voicing their continued opposition to the federal contraception mandate and the threats that it poses to religious liberty.

“We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness,” noted the Nov. 13 message from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Our great ministries of service … strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so. Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers.”

Passed unanimously, the message was the first statement issued by the general membership of the bishops’ conference since the previous day’s election of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as the group’s president and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as its vice president. Their terms officially begin at the conclusion of the bishops’ meeting on Nov. 14.

The bishops’ statement renewed their opposition to the HHS mandate, or federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if doing so violates their religious convictions.

Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate is being challenged in lawsuits by more than 200 plaintiffs across the country. The lawsuits are currently in different stages of the judiciary process and could reach the Supreme Court in a future term.

Although the Obama administration went through a lengthy process to revise the mandate, religious freedom advocates warn that the changes are not sufficient to secure the constitutionally-protected right to free exercise of religion.

The bishops said that protection of religious freedom, “especially as threatened by the HHS mandate,” is among their priorities, and went on to quote the words of Pope Francis: “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

They identified three ongoing concerns surrounding the mandate: a reduction of religious freedom to mere freedom of worship; the compulsion of Catholic ministries to participate in the providing of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception; and the compulsion of Catholics owning for-profit businesses to act against Catholic teaching.

“Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain,” they said. “Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.”

The lack of a solution to the impositions against religious freedom, the bishops continued, is “all the more frustrating,” as the Church “has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care.”

“We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.”

However, America's bishops reiterated their “resolve to resist this heavy burden” and to protect religious liberty. “Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation.”

“We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences.”

They also expressed their gratitude to non-Catholic Americans who share a concern for the right to religious liberty, and said, “it is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church.”

“We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.”

Concluding their message, the bishops invoked the example of St. Frances Cabrini, whose feast day was being celebrated. They said that the woman religious, who is a patron saint of immigrants, was “a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant.”

“We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.”

Kim Daniels, spokesperson for the president of the bishops’ conference, said the statement shows that the bishops remain united and are not letting up on their efforts to secure religious freedom.

“This message was passed unanimously,” she told CNA. “It's remarkable that the bishops continue to stand united in their opposition to the mandate and in their desire to witness to the fullness of the Gospel.”

“The bishops are standing together as pastors to support the ability of Catholic ministries to fulfill their core mission of witnessing to our faith in its fullness while serving the common good,” she continued.

“Like others, the bishops are trying to come to grips with the complexities of this burdensome law, and each bishop is determining how best to respond. It's a very difficult situation and all are engaging in careful review.”

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Priest formerly of Newark agrees to seek laicization

Newark, N.J., Nov 14, 2013 (CNA) - A priest formerly of the Newark archdiocese, accused of sexual abuse, will apply to be removed from the priesthood instead of facing criminal prosecution after breaking an agreement to avoid youth ministry.

Father Michael Fugee, 52, entered a new agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office that included laicization, the New Jersey Star-Ledger said. The agreement was announced Nov. 8.

Fr. Fugee was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 2001. After an appellate court reversed his conviction, in 2007 he made an agreement with local prosecutors that allowed him to remain in ministry so long as he was not around children unsupervised and did not engage in youth ministry.

In late April, it emerged that the priest had participated in youth retreats and pilgrimages, though without the knowledge of the Newark chancery.

The priest submitted his resignation from the archdiocese to Archbishop John Myers on May 2, 2013, and authorities arrested him May 20.

Under the new agreement, Fr. Fugee may not become a teacher, coach or counselor. He may not describe himself as “a man of God.” He must inform the prosecutor’s office about his employers, and abide by restrictions on charity or volunteer work.

In a Nov. 8 statement, the Archdiocese of Newark repeated that the archdiocese never approved the priest’s unauthorized actions that led to his investigation.

“Throughout the past nine months, the Archdiocese of Newark has cooperated fully with the investigation,” said James Goodness, vice chancellor of the archdiocese.

He noted that the priest had left ministry before Archbishop Meyers’ arrival in October 2001.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli in his announcement of the consent order criticized Archbishop Myers, charging that the archbishop and his deputies did not make any significant effort to monitor the priest.

“If something like this were to ever happen again, I have no intention of relying on the archdiocese to monitor these priests,” the prosecutor told the Star-Ledger. He said future monitoring was “just not going to happen.”

Goodness said this criticism was “unfairly excessive.” He said the archdioceses has acknowledged “operational failures” in dealing with the priest, but many other entities were responsible for monitoring the priest, including the prosecutor’s office itself.

He also rejected the prosecutor’s contention that the archdiocese “did not nor would ever obtain” the priest’s laicization, noting evidence and grand jury testimony from Archbishop Meyers that the archbishop had begun preliminary action toward laicization.

“At the conclusion of the first trial in 2003, Archbishop Myers petitioned Rome for permission to begin to laicize Fugee,” Goodness said. “The archbishop’s decision to request this severe sanction of removing Fugee from the priesthood was based upon the guilty verdict finding that Fugee had engaged in wrongdoing with a minor.”

Goodness said the archdiocese takes sexual misconduct accusations “very seriously” and encourages anyone with knowledge of such misconduct on the part of clergy, religious and lay staff of the archdiocese to inform the archdiocese “immediately.”

He said the archdiocese reports abuse allegations to appropriate prosecutors immediately, but also encourages victims to report allegations to the prosecutor on their own.

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Pope Francis: Kingdom of God 'comes by wisdom'

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily, Pope Francis warned against a misguided ‘spirit of curiosity’ which can lead us away from God, stating that it is only through the spirit of wisdom that we are able to be close to him. 

“Jesus says that the Kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention: it comes by wisdom,” the Pope said during his Nov. 14 homily.

The words of the pontiff were directed to those gathered in the Saint Martha guesthouse of the Vatican for his daily Mass.

Opening his reflections by recalling the day’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom, Pope Francis stated that the passage described “the state of the soul of the spiritual man and woman” and of true Christians who live “in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.”

“This wisdom carries them forward,” he explained, “with this intelligent, holy, single, manifold and subtle spirit.”

“This is journeying in life with this spirit,” underlined the Pope, “the spirit of God, which helps us to judge, to make decisions according to the heart of God. And this spirit gives us peace, always! It is the spirit of peace, the spirit of love, the spirit of fraternity.”

Holiness, is “exactly this,” expressed the pontiff, adding that this peace is exemplified in God’s request to Abraham to “walk in my presence and be irreproachable.”

Peace, he noted, means “to follow the movement of the Spirit of God and of this wisdom.”

However, turning to the day’s Gospel in which the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come, the Pope highlighted that in this reading “we find ourselves before another spirit, contrary to the wisdom of God: the spirit of curiosity.”

This spirit is manifested “when we want to be the masters of the projects of God, of the future, of things, to know everything, to have everything in hand,” he observed, citing the Pharisees’ question to Jesus as an example.

“Curious! They wanted to know the date, the day…The spirit of curiosity distances us from the Spirit of wisdom because all that interests us is the details, the news, the little stories of the day.”

“It is the how” the Pope continued, “Oh, how will this come about? The spirit of curiosity is not a good spirit. It is the spirit of dispersion, of distancing oneself from God, the spirit of talking too much.”

Jesus, he went on to say, also “tells us something interesting: this spirit of curiosity, which is worldly, leads us to confusion.”

Curiosity can lead us to have the wrong focus, the Pope added, making us want to say “But I know a visionary, who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady.”

“But, look, Our Lady is the Mother of everyone!” he continued. “And she loves all of us. She is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.”

When we seek to find God on our own, saying that he is one place rather than another, or that he is with one person and not another, the Pope said, we distance ourselves “from the Gospel, from the Holy Spirit, from peace and wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God.”

It is the “action of the Holy Spirit” he noted, “which gives us wisdom and peace,” adding that “the Kingdom of God does not come in (a state of) confusion, just as God did not speak to the prophet Elijah in the wind” or “in the storm,” but “in the soft breeze, the breeze of wisdom.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by affirming that “The Kingdom of God is among us,” and that we must not “seek strange things” or “seek novelties with this worldly curiosity.”

“Let us allow the Spirit to lead us forward in that wisdom, which is like a soft breeze. This is the Spirit of the Kingdom of God, of which Jesus speaks. So be it.”

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Vatican intervenes to clarify marriage teaching in Germany

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of the Vatican’s doctrine office has written to the archbishop emeritus of Freiburg in Breisgau, reaffirming that Catholics in irregular marital unions after divorce may not receive Communion.

“Pastoral paths must all agree with the teaching of the Church,” Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in an Oct. 21 letter to Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.

The letter was a response to a document released Oct. 7 by the Freiburg archdiocese's office of pastoral care suggesting that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion if they can show their first marriage cannot be reentered, if they repent of their fault in a divorce and if they enter “a new moral responsibility” with their new spouse.

The document also suggested priests might offer “prayer services” for divorced faithful entering into a new civil marriage.

While the Archdiocese of Freiburg is currently vacant, Archbishop Emeritus Zollitsch is its apostolic administrator, and remains chairman of the German bishops' conference. His resignation as archbishop was accepted by Pope Francis on Sept. 17, within six weeks after his 75th birthday.

Archbishop Müller wrote in the letter, published publicly Nov. 11, that the “draft text” of the pastoral care office's document “is to be withdrawn and revised so that no pastoral directions are sanctioned which are in opposition to Church teaching.”
 
“A careful reading of the draft shows that it does contain correct and important pastoral notes, but the terminology is unclear and does not coincide in two points with the Church's teaching,” the Vatican's head for doctrinal matters wrote.

He cited both doctrinal and pastoral reasons which oppose the draft text from Freiburg.
 
The doctrinal reason is that “this position of the Magisterium is well-founded: remarried divorcees put themselves in the way of their admission to the Eucharist, inasmuch as their lifestyle is in objective contradiction to that bond of love between Christ and the Church, which the Eucharist makes visible and present.”
 
Archbishop Müller added that the pastoral reason against is that “if such people were allowed to (receive) the Eucharist, it would cause confusion among the faithful regarding the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.”
 
The archbishop went on to explain why prayer services cannot be offered for the divorced faithful who enter new civil marriages.

“Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.”
 
“The respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry,” continued Archbishop Müller, adding that “such celebrations were expressly forbidden by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”
 
Archbishop Müller told Archbishop Zollitsch he “felt obliged to inform Pope Francis about it” because “the text has raised questions not only in Germany, but in many parts of the world as well, and has led to uncertainties in a delicate pastoral issues.”
 
He revealed in his letter that he was sending a copy to all diocesan bishops in Germany, since many bishops had turned to him about this topic.
 
“Hoping that on this delicate issue we go on pastoral paths, which are in full agreement with the doctrine of the faith of the Church, I remain (yours) with heartfelt greeting and blessings in the Lord,” Archbishop Müller concluded.
 
Shortly after the letter had been seen to Archbishop Zollitsch, a lengthy essay on the same topic, also by Archbishop Müller, was published in L'Osservatore Romano. The essay had previously been published June 15 in German Catholic paper Die Tagespost.

That essay stressed that while divorced and remarried Catholics cannot be admitted to Communion, this means it is “all the more imperative” to show them “pastoral concern.”

“The path indicated by the Church is not easy for those concerned,” he added, “yet they should know and sense that the Church as a community of salvation accompanies them on their journey.”

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Cardinal Tagle to typhoon victims: You are not alone

Manila, Philippines, Nov 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has called for a day of prayer and fasting in solidarity with all those affected by the deadly Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

“You are not alone and will never be alone,” the cardinal said in a message to victims of storm, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda.

Cardinal Tagle has announced a “Day of Lament and Hope” with the theme “Solidarity in Prayer,” to be held Nov. 16.

In his message addressed to the priests, religious and laity in the archdiocese of Manila, he asked that the day be observed through penance, prayer and fasting, as a way to be united with those suffering in the storm’s aftermath.

The cardinal will lead a Prayer Service and Holy Hour at 8 p.m. at the San Fernando de Dilao Parish church, in Paco, Manila, which is temporarily serving as the official church of the Archdiocese of Manila. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception remains closed for restoration efforts that began last year.

The prayer service will be held for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, which struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, leaving destruction in its wake.

Initial estimates suggested that some 10,000 people had been killed by the storm, although the nation’s president, Benigno Aquino, later placed the number closer to 2,500. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council confirmed that 2,357 dead bodies have been recovered as of Nov. 14, but this number is expected to grow.

In a recent address to the U.S. bishops, Catholic Relief Services president Carolyn Woo explained that reliable estimates are still difficult at this point because the damage is so bad that some regions of the country are still inaccessible and death tolls are uncertain.

Church agencies including Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Manila have been working to provide immediate aid and relief, particularly in the most critically affected areas of Eastern Samar, Leyte, Panay and Palawan.

The bishops' conference in the Philippines has also declared a nationwide novena of prayer from Nov. 11-19 for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, as well as victims of the earthquake that struck the central Philippines last month.

Cardinal Tagle stressed solidarity, urging, “We are one with our suffering brothers and sisters.”

“A time of disaster is a time to help others,” he told the faithful. It is not a time to think only of self and forget others. It is a time to console and embrace our neighbors. It is a time to show a love that is stronger than an earthquake or a typhoon.”

“With this love, human lives will be restored and our nation rebuilt.”

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October 31, 2014

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First Reading:: Phil 1: 1-11
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