Archive of November 29, 2013

Indian diocese celebrates 60th anniversary, focuses on catechesis

Belgaum, India, Nov 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Diocese of Belgaum, in southwestern India, celebrated its diamond jubilee this month, and intends to continue building on 60 years of faith among its people.

On Nov. 14, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to India, presided at a Mass with over 3,000 faithful at St. Xavier school in Belgaum to mark the anniversary. The diocese was established Sept. 19, 1953, by Pope Pius XII.

These 60th anniversary celebrations are an important occasion for us to “thank God for his blessings and to evaluate our past, assess the present and plan for the challenges of the future,” Bishop Peter Machado told CNA Nov 25.

“Our attention is focused on catechesis, so that our youth and children will be properly grounded in the basics of faith.”

The diocese's focus now lies on the “training of catechists, so that they can supplement the work of our missionaries.”

Education has been the priority in the diocese, which has over 90 schools. An emphasis is being placed on “intellectual charity,” inter-cultural dialogue, and the Christian values of love, service, and discipline.

Bishop Machado also emphasized the role of the laity, and women in particular.

“It’s time to make our laity aware, especially the youth, of the challenges ahead of us, so that they can take up responsibility in the Church and in society.”

The Belgaum diocese covers 13,000 square miles in the state of Karnataka, and serves 30,500 Catholics, who constitute 0.3 percent of the total population of 10.7 million.

It has been a challenging ground for inter-religious dialogue and inter-cultural exchange, and the diocese promotes various initiatives to share the Gospel during Christmas and other feast times.

Presently, there are over 65 parishes in the diocese, with 75 diocesan priests and 40 religious priests. There are 59 congregations of religious in the diocese, working in education and health and social development.

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Minnesota diocese to soon launch 'Year of Marriage'

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the wake of Minnesota legalizing same-sex marriage earlier in 2013, the Diocese of Crookston will begin a year dedicated to a renewed appreciation and a better understanding of the married life.

Amanda Zurface, the diocese's coordinator of Marriage, Family Life, and Evangelization, described the outreach as an “opportunity for many to heal from the difficulties and challenges of this past year.”

The 12-month initiative aims to help locals “grow, and even be challenged to better understand the truth, the joy and beauty of the meaning and importance of marriage, human sexuality and family life – all without a timeline to follow and a vote to be cast at the end,” she told CNA Nov. 19.

“I feel this year will truly provide opportunities for all of us; and for our hearts to be moved so as to arrive at a deeper understanding of God’s design for marriage, without having to worry about a vote, but about how to align the posture of our hearts and intellects with the Truth,” she noted. 

Following its approval by the Minnesota legislature, a bill changing the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples was signed by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton into law on May 14 – making Minnesota the 12th state to redefine the institution.

Zurface explained that “A 'Year of Marriage' in the Diocese of Crookston was in the works before the traditional definition of marriage was officially being challenged in the State of Minnesota and before the legislation ever happened.”

Nevertheless, she noted, “God’s timing is always perfect.”

Through a series of diocesan events including conferences, retreats, and increased prayer opportunities, Crookston’s Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner and the Office of the New Evangelization hope to offer “a creative and exciting way to provide a setting for the people to learn more deeply about God's design for marriage and family… and to do it together as a community.”

“We must emphasize in this moment that a political question can reduce marriage to something less than what it is, and the polls taken do not fully convey people's varying degrees of understanding for the dignity and essence of marriage.”

“It is our task as ‘Church’ to rebuild that,” she underscored.

Beyond a political framework, Zurface and her collaborators hope “to share the truth of marriage and to show that marriage reflects a very deep immutable reality.”

When asked what she believes the biggest obstacle to marriage is, Zurface spoke of the “need for a true understanding of masculinity and femininity both within marriage and outside of marriage.”

Additionally, she noted, there is a general “lack of preparation” for couples entering into the sacrament.

“It’s getting better,” she added hopefully. “We’re starting earlier.”

This year, the diocese hopes that people will start talking more about marriage. This means that even children will have a kind of “remote preparation” for successful relationships one day. It begins, says Zurface, “by teaching kids how to really love.”

“At the same time, this is an opportunity for us to talk about the deep, deep love and respect Christ and His Church has for all people, regardless of whether they are married, single, divorced, have same-sex attraction, experience sexual brokenness, and the list goes on,” she explained.

“This year provides us with an opportunity to discuss honestly how we are all called to approach our sexuality in virtuous ways.”

The Year of Marriage will begin on December 1 with a mass celebrated by Bishop Hoeppner, including the blessing of an original Byzantine Icon of the Holy Family written exclusively for the Diocese of Crookston's year-long celebration of Marriage.

Those who make a pilgrimage to the Cathedral within the Year so as to venerate the icon will receive a partial indulgence.

For couples preparing to be married, the diocese’s newly created Office of Marriage and Family Life is planning to enhance the formation currently offered.

Several retreats will be held throughout the year, including one for men entitled “Radiant Fatherhood” and another for married couples, “Blessed are the Married.”

Other events include presentations on topics like “7 Keys to a Holy, Healthy Marriage,” and “Paschal Suffering & the Sacrament of Marriage.”

Parishes and deaneries throughout the diocese will hold local events: Zurface and her co-workers plan to use social media like facebook and twitter as platforms for keeping people up-to-date on all the activities.

The year will culminate with a diocesan marriage congress that includes keynote speaker Fr. Thomas Loya and Catholic recording artist Danielle Rose.

More information can be found at Crookston’s Year of Marriage website:

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Vatican launches healthcare initiative for Syrian refugee children

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has collaborated with other Catholic organizations in order to arrange a special mission which will provide basic medicines needed for the care of refugee children in Lebanon.

“The children need more specially medicine and schools, you know, because they have left the country and no schools or no medicine and many are very traumatized, so we have to help them psychologically,” Cardinal Robert Sarah told CNA in a Nov. 27 interview.

Cardinal Sarah, originally from French Guinea, is the president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” which was created by Pope Paul VI in 1971, and oversees the promotion of charity in wake of humanitarian emergencies, conflicts and natural disasters that affect man and his human, social and cultural wellbeing.

Vatican-run hospital Bambino Gesu, “Child Jesus,” and Caritas Lenanon have also helped in the organization of the mission, which begins in December and will last for three months.

A key goal of this mission, Cardinal Sarah noted, is to help the children to be “to be more serene, more capable to see the future with hope.”

The cardinal, who will travel to Lebanon along with the Secretary of “Cor Unum,” Bishop Giampietro Dal Toso, from Dec. 4th through the 8th, revealed that during his last visit to the country he encountered a 7 year old boy who had seen his father get killed in Syria.

“He was asking if really God exists, why He did permit my father to be killed?” the cardinal recalled, “So I said God exists, but we are very naughty, we killed your father but not God.”

“So I think we have to help the children to get out from the trauma they are living because children who is heavily traumatized by bombing, by violence, we have to help them to be more serene.”

“That is the main point,” he stressed, “the children must see the future” as the “time they have to build the society, to build the families… we must give them a comfortable atmosphere to see the future with serenity.”

During his upcoming trip, Cardinal Sarah revealed that he will be meeting with the bishops from both Syria and Lebanon in order “to find how to be more efficient” as a Church “in front of the many, many refugees in Lebanon and how to organize Caritas Syria,” which is “very weak” at the moment.

Caritas is an international confederation which began during the Second World War, and is composed of various Catholic relief, development and social service organizations which operates in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Until now, the cardinal revealed that “78 million” euros have been spent in aid for the fields of education, sanitation and care of the elderly.

In addition to this, he stated that Caritas is launching an “emergency appeal” for an additional 5 million in order to improve conditions of the continuous influx of refugees, as well as to aid the “many” who are currently working in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

With the current allotted funds for the mission in December, the cardinal noted that they will be able to help close to 3 to 4 thousand children by providing basic pediatric medicines.

However, during a Nov. 26 press conference announcing the three month mission, Cardinal Sarah expressed that as the time of Christmas nears, “we believe that the greatest present we can give, to help the children suffering because of the Syrian war, is to help them find their smile again.”

To help them “be able to continue living,” he explained, “supporting them in a growth which should not only be material but also and above all spiritual and human.”

Marta Jimenez-Ibanez contributed to this piece.

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Pope Francis: Use intelligence to understand signs of the times

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his daily Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of man's intellect in understanding the Lord, and cautioned those present against “restricted” thought which keeps us focused on ourselves.

“What path does the Lord want? Always with the spirit of intelligence with which to understand the signs of the times. It is beautiful to ask the Lord for this grace,” the Pope said in his Nov. 29 daily homily.

Pope Francis directed his reflections to those present in the Saint Martha guesthouse of the Vatican, where he has chosen to reside.

He began by recalling of how in the Gospels, the Lord taught his disciples to pay attention to the signs of the times, which the Pharisees failed to understand, emphasizing how one must think not only with the head, but also with the heart and the spirit in order to fully comprehend “way of God in history.”

“In the Gospel, Jesus does not become angry, but pretends to when the disciples do not understand him,” the Pope explained, adding that at Emmaus Jesus says, “'How foolish and slow of heart.'”

“He who does not understand the things of God is such a person,” noted the pontiff, emphasizing how “The Lord wants us to understand what happens, what happens in my heart, what happens in my life, what happens in the world, in history.”

“What is the meaning of what is happening now? These are the signs of the times!”

“On the other hand,” he continued, “the spirit of the world gives us other propositions, because the spirit of the world does not want a community: it wants a mob, thoughtless, without freedom.”

Explaining that while the spirit of the world tries to lead us down a “restricted path,” the Apostle Paul warns that this spirit “treats us as thought we lack the ability to think for ourselves; it treats us like people who are not free.”

“Restricted thought, equal thought, weak thought, a thought so widespread. The spirit of the world does not want us to ask ourselves before God: ‘But why, why this other, why did this happen?’”

Or, the Pope observed, this worldly spirit “offers a prêt-à-porter ('ready to wear') way of thinking, according to personal taste: ‘I think as I like!’”

While there are many who say that this attitude is ok, the Pontiff noted, the spirit of the world does not want “what Jesus asks of us: free thought, the thought of a man and a women who are part of the people of God, and salvation is exactly this!”

Pope Francis then encouraged the Mass attendees to think of the prophets who proclaimed that “You were not my people, now I say my people,” stating that “so says the Lord.”

“And this is salvation: to make us people, God’s people, to have freedom.”

Reflecting on how Jesus asks us to “think freely…in order to understand what happens,” the Pope stressed that “we are not alone,” and that “we need the Lord’s help” in order to “understand the signs of the times.”

In order to do this, the Pope went on to say, the Holy Spirit “gives us this present, a gift: the intelligence to understand.”

Emphasizing how the Lord always wants us to walk along the path of intelligence, Pope Francis highlighted how “it is beautiful to ask the Lord for this grace, who sends us this spirit of intelligence, in order that we avoid weak thought, we do not have a restricted thought and we do not have a thought according to personal preference.”

We must only have “a thought according to God,” he stated, adding that “with this thought, which is a thought of the mind, of heart, and of soul; with this thought, which is the gift of the Spirit, (we) look for the meaning of things, and to understand the signs of the time well.”

Bringing his homily to an end, the Pope said that we must ask the Lord for the grace to have “the ability which gives us the spirit” to “understand the signs of the time.”

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