Archive of November 30, 2013

Calif. Church, political leaders fast for immigration reform

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez and local political leaders have held a 24-hour fast to pray for immigration reform and to remember families who are separated from each other at Thanksgiving.

“Today we are standing up for those who won't be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with their families and loved ones – those who are suffering because of our broken immigration system,” Archbishop Gomez said Nov. 25 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

He called for a “conversion of hearts” to fix U.S. immigration law.

The archbishop was joined in the Nov. 25-26 fast by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, L.A. Chamber of Commerce Chairman Alan Rothenberg and other religious, civic and business leaders.

They announced the Los Angeles Fast for Families, an effort which joins other national action to support changes in U.S. immigration law as immigration bills have stalled in Congress.

“We can't remain indifferent to so much suffering. And we can't let our leaders avoid the issue for another year,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We need immigration reform now.”

The archbishop lamented the deportations in the last four years of nearly two million people, 25 percent of whom are taken away from their families.

“These aren’t statistics. These are people. These are kids left without a mom or a dad. These are parents who may not see their children again for years,” he said.

“Millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering – and they have been for years now. People are dying in the deserts outside our border. Millions of workers are living without rights.”

Archbishop Gomez affirmed the importance of fasting, noting that it is a sign of penance and a way to show “solidarity with those in need” for both Jews and Christians.

“What we are doing here today is very little. We know that. But we do it with love – love for God and love for those he loves, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said.

“Our little acts of acts of sacrifice and self-denial have great spiritual power. So we’re inviting everyone to fast and pray for immigration reform. Let us share our bread with the hungry. And let us make our voices heard for those who have no one to speak for them.”

Some Catholics in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are observing a period of prayer and fasting from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 for immigration reform in an effort called the Hungry 4 Justice Project.

Archbishop Paul Coakley invited the more than 120,000 Catholics of his archdiocese to take part. He said Nov. 22 that the project provides “an opportunity to support our brothers and sisters who are caught up in this impasse.”

“I want to help move our great nation toward a more just solution to the situation that keeps so many of our brothers and sisters living in the shadows of our society,” he said.

A group of young adults from the group Dream Act Oklahoma will eat only one meal each day for 11 days, marking the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. They will also engage the public at Oklahoma City’s Holy Angels Catholic Church through information workshops, movies, and discussions. They will host open mic nights for immigrants to share their stories of detention and deportation as well as stories of hope.

Father Tim Luschen, pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, said Nov. 22 he hopes the project will make people aware of the need for immigration reform and help them “see that those who suffer from the broken system are people who are here and seeking the same life that all people seek.”

“They are all our brothers and sisters in Christ and they have a human face,” he said.

Archbishop Coakley prayed a novena for immigration reform from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31. On Nov. 24, he blessed a prayer procession from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Holy Angels Catholic Church.

On Nov. 25, Archbishop Gomez asked Our Lady of Guadalupe to protect those who are “forced to live at the margins of this great country.”

“Friends, as we give thanks to God this week with our families, let’s pray for all those who can’t be together on this holiday. Let's pray for a new spirit of welcoming and generosity – so that everyone can join us in the promise of America.”

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Be counter-cultural, Pope encourages university students

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During evening prayer with local college students on Nov. 30, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of remaining faithful to the truth in the face of modern ideologies.

“If you don’t let yourselves be conditioned by prevailing opinions, but remain faithful to Christian ethical and religious principles, you will find the courage even to go against the current,” he said in his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The fullness of the Christian life that God carries out in man, in fact, is always threatened by the temptation to succumb to the spirit of the world,” he cautioned.

“For this reason God gives us his aid by which we can preserve the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the new life in the Spirit that He has given us.”

“Dear young university students,” Pope Francis encouraged, “your willpower and your capabilities, united to the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in each one of you from the day of your baptism, permits you to be not spectators, but protagonists in contemporary events.”

He then acknowledged the importance of facing life’s many difficulties. “One can’t live without looking at the challenges, without responding to the challenges.”

But “God is more powerful than our weaknesses,” he stressed. “God’s faithfulness never disappoints.”

“There are several challenges that you university students are called to confront with inner strength and evangelical courage,” he continued.

“The socio-cultural context in which you are placed is sometimes weighed down by mediocrity and boredom. We must not resign ourselves to the monotony of everyday life, but cultivate large-scale projects, going beyond the ordinary: don’t let your youthful enthusiasm be stolen!” he urged.

Christian youth must find the balance between independent thought and fidelity to the truth, he noted.

“The model to follow is not the sphere, in which every protrusion is leveled and every difference disappears; instead, the model is the prism, which includes a multiplicity of elements and respects unity in variety,” explained the Pope.

Independent thought becomes fruitful not merely because it stands apart, but rather “when it is an expression of an open mind that discerns, always illuminated by truth, by goodness, and by beauty.”

“In fact,” he said, “the plurality of thought and of individuality reflects the multiform wisdom of God when it approaches truth, when it approaches the good, when it approaches beauty, with honesty and intellectual rigor.”

“May the task of journeying in the faith and of carrying yourselves in a manner consistent with the gospel accompany you in this time of Advent, in order to live in an authentic way the commemoration of the birth of the Lord,” the Pontiff concluded.

The Nov. 30 celebration of Vespers with the university students of Rome is a papal tradition taking place every year in anticipation of the first Sunday of Advent.

An icon of Mary, patroness of university students, stood under the title “Seat of Wisdom” to the side of the altar. At the end of the evening, a group of French students processed out bearing the image on their shoulders.

The icon had been kept for the celebration of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will now be received in university chaplaincies in France.

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Pope expresses hope for reunion with Orthodox Patriarch

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis sent special greetings to the Archbishop of Constantinople today, expressing his desire for continued dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

“You Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, this is the first time that I address you on the occasion of the feast of the Apostle Andrew, the first-called. I take this opportunity to assure you of my intention to pursue fraternal relations between the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” he wrote on Nov. 30 in the message delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Cardinal Koch had led a delegation from the Holy See to Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew. After taking part in a Liturgy presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Cardinal Koch delivered Pope Francis’ message.

“It is for me a source of great reassurance to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, the fruit of a grace-filled journey along which the Lord has guided our Churches since the historic encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras,” the Pope’s message said, referencing the momentous event of 1965 in which the leaders of the two churches lifted the excommunications that had been placed on each other in 1054.

Pope Francis explained, “God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us throughout these years to regard one another as members of the same family.”

“For indeed, we have one Lord and Savior. We belong to him through the gift of the good news of salvation transmitted by the apostles, through the one baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through the holy ministry.”

The Bishop of Rome then reflected on the current state of relationship between the churches and indicated his hope for the future. “United in Christ, therefore, we already experience the joy of authentic brothers in Christ, while yet fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion.”

“In anticipation of the day in which we will finally take part together in the Eucharistic feast, Christians are duty-bound to prepare to receive this gift of God through prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue.”

Pope Francis also took time to consider the difficulties faced by Christians in the East who are persecuted for their faith.

“The memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith,” he reflected.

“Christians of the East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world.”

Earlier on Saturday, Pope Francis had met with pilgrims from the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, expressing similar concern for Middle Eastern Christians who face serious persecution.

“My thoughts go immediately to our brothers and sisters in Syria, who have been suffering a ‘great tribulation’ for a long time; I pray for the many who have lost their lives and for their loved ones,” he said to those gathered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

“We believe firmly in the strength of prayer and reconciliation,” emphasized Pope Francis.

“For centuries, your church has known how to coexist peacefully with other religions and is called to carry out the task of fraternity in the Middle East.”

Moreover, he insisted, the presence of Christians in the Middle East is crucial: “we are not resigned to thinking of the Middle East without Christians.”

Those Eastern Christians who remain in communion with the Catholic Church, such as those of the Melkite tradition, are a “visible sign to all of our Eastern brethren of the desired communion with the Successor of Peter,” he added.

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