Archive of December 6, 2013

Over 10,000 youth to send birthday card to Pope Francis

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - More than 10,000 young people have signed a giant birthday card for Pope Francis, offering their prayers and well-wishes for the Holy Father’s 77th birthday on Dec. 17.

“We wanted to give the Pope a gift he would truly appreciate; something he would be proud of,” said Mark Nelson, founder of Catholic to the Max, the Ohio-based arts and gifts outlet company behind the initiative.

The 4-foot-tall card consists of a tri-fold plaque featuring an image and prayer of one of the Holy Father’s favorite Marian devotions, “Mary, Un-doer of Knots.” After collecting both physical and digital signatures, Catholic to the Max intends to send the card to the Pope later this month.

Nelson said that the idea to give the Holy Father gifts of prayer and service came from the Pope’s first “Urbi et orbi,” when he asked that the faithful pray for him before he imparted his blessing.

“From day one, he has asked all of us to pray for him and to serve the poor. This is our response,” Nelson said.

The card traveled to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last month and acquired signatures from more than 10,000 young people.

Now that the card is back in Steubenville, Ohio, it has been gathering signatures at local Catholic parishes and Franciscan University.

A website has also been created to allow even more youth to digitally sign the card, which will be sent in time to reach the Holy Father for his birthday.

Well-wishers can choose from different spiritual gifts or works of mercy to give the Pontiff on his birthday, such as visiting the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary or serving the poor.

Those wishing to sign the card can do so until Dec. 9, when the pages containing physical and digital signatures will be organized and bound together with the Marian image and sent to the Holy Father.

To learn more about Catholic to the Max’s project, visit

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Book on Vatican art walks a course of spiritual exercises

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The director of the Vatican Museums' art patrons program has authored “Meditations on Vatican Art,” a collection of images of beautiful works accompanying the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

“Obviously you can't exhaust the richness of the Spiritual Exercises in this book, because his was 30 days in silence, with one on one preaching, but you always can get a first step into the mystery of the retreat through the window of the art” found in the book, Fr. Mark Haydu told CNA.

“It's really meant to be a tool, either personally or in groups, with questions and reflections, and spiritual exercises for each day, and a resolution, that can make the prayer practical.”

Fr. Haydu, a Legionary of Christ, explained that much of the order's spirituality is Ignatian, noting that he goes on an eight-day retreat using St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises annually.

“In the Ignatian method of meditation, there's a step called composition of place: once you place yourself in God's presence, the composition of place is to use your imagination to enter into the scene, whether it be the Gospel, or an idea, or the life of a saint that you're meditating on: and art facilitates that imagination, and reflection.”

Beauty, he said, “has a role of inspiration, and projecting us into the eternal and transcendent, as well as healing and soothing the soul,” just as prayer has. “On a different level maybe, in that beauty is a reaching out to us, so to speak, and prayer is our reaching out to God. So both are complimentary, but beauty is a great medium” to foster prayer.

The book, produced by Liguori Publications, presents meditations from the 28 days of the Spiritual Exercises, each with a work of art found in the Vatican Museums reflecting the theme; a text from Scripture; commentary from Fr. Haydu; points for prayer and reflection; and a resolution or exercise with which to put the meditation into practice.

For the creation of man, he said, “I was almost obliged to go to Michelangelo's scene of creation from the Sistine Ceiling; talking about the flight into Egypt, well Barocci is again a must, as is The Transfiguration of Raphael.”

“So a lot of them were clear, and for other meditations, I used my own inspiration, what I like. When I came to, for example, meditating on time and creatures, which can be kind of an abstract meditation for Ignatius, I used a St. Francis, who is a good symbol of someone who places little focus on the treasures of this world and focuses his treasure on God, so I thought that was appropriate.”

Fr. Haydu added that another concern was to include a variety of pieces from across the 12 Vatican Museums: “Many people think of the Vatican as just Raphael, Michelangelo, and don't realize that our largest collection is our Missionary Museum, or that we have an incredible collection of 1st-4th century sarcophagi of the Christians. So I tried to pull from the modern collection as well, to give people a sense of the breadth of the Vatican tradition of patronage and collection.”

“Meditations on Vatican Art” includes art ranging from the fourth century to a portrait of Bl. John Paul II produced in 1980, and the majority of pieces presented for meditation are from the Renaissance era.

As director of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, Fr. Haydu is charged with connecting those who support the restoration of art held by the Vatican the museums' curators and restoration labs. The Vatican Museums are the “breadwinner” for the Vatican City State. “So much of what the Pope and the Vatican does, the services, the daily Masses, the plaza, some 100,000 people come, and its all free, but it does have its cost.”

In addition, the Vatican operates a radio station and a newspapers, “so the Vatican Museums support all those initiatives. Thus the Patrons pay for the restoration” of the collections, “so it's a way for art lovers and faith lovers to be part of the Vatican family, the Vatican Museums, in a real direct way, and help the Pope preserve the collection that the Church has patronized over the years.”

Individuals can join the Patrons of the Arts for a donation of 600 U.S. dollars  a year, or 1,200 for families, and 250 for under-35s.

“We want to bring in as many people as can be connected to the art as possible … it's certainly not just for the ultra-rich,” Fr. Haydu explained. “At the same time, it allows for someone who is coming to Rome to do it as a special experience for their families, and build up their faith.”

When visiting Rome, the Patrons of the Arts are given private tours of the Vatican Museums, and are allowed into the restoration labs to see the work for which they donated.

Fr. Haydu related that “Pope Francis told me recently when we had lunch together, that no-one needs beauty more than the poor.”

“So keeping it open to the world and to those who can't access it as easily, that's really what the Patrons are about. Those who have the capacity to come and to see and preserve, do it not only for themselves … but they do it out of a sense of service.”

Patronage of the Vatican Museums' art is important because as the marketplace has become the primary patron of artists, “the whole sense of art as a service to the common good, has lost a bit of traction”; becoming patrons of art through the Church helps to restore the role of art as what is offered for the edification of all, including particularly the poor.

“Art is a great way, especially with Pope Francis' focus on the peripheries, and on people who aren't as connected to the faith, to reach out to them … and to those who wouldn't be in the pews on Sunday.”

“So the book presents itself in a beautiful manner … it can be given as a gift” to those not in the Church – its format is that of a coffee table book – “so it's a tool for evangelization, for reaching out.”

Fr. Haydu said “Meditations on Vatican Art” could be used either on a daily basis, even to go through Advent for example, or Lent, or one's own spiritual preparation for a decision you need to make, or for small groups” such as Bible studies or prayer groups.

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Asian bishops encourage biblically-based apostolates

Pattaya, Thailand, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences is hosting a seminar on biblical apostolates and the new evangelization this weekend, drawing clerics, religious, and laity from across the continent.

“The main crux is to reawaken the missionary challenge of the Word,” Fr. Jacob Theckanath, executive director of the bishops' conference, told CNA, explaining “Crossing the Borders: Renewed Biblical Apostolate,” being held Dec. 5-7 in the Thai city of Pattaya, located 90 miles southeast of Bangkok.

The seminar marks the release of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium,” on  the new evangelization; Fr. Alberto Rossa, an Argentine missionary, has supplied copies of the document to the participants.

The group aims to draw on both Pope Francis' text and “Verbum Domini,” Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation on the Word of God in the Church's life and mission, to amplify the role of the biblical apostolate.

The seminar was also inspired by the message of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences' tenth plenary assembly, published in December 2012, on “renewed evangelizers” for the new evangelization in Asia.

Drawing people from 19 countries across Asia and Oceania, the seminar aims to help participants produce more effective biblical apostolates, using lectio divina and integrating missionary zeal for the new evangelization into all forms of biblical and pastoral ministry, Fr. Theckanath explained.

The Christian community should not be “introverted” with their use of the Bible, but rather carry and integrate the Gospel into all walks of life, he stressed.

Fr. Theckanath was encouraged by the “tremendous representation of the laity,” making up half of the participants in the seminar, calling it a “positive sign of the interest and hunger for the Word of God.”

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Mandela’s legacy is one of 'reconciliation,' priest says

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In wake of the passing of Nelson Mandela, spokesman for South Africa’s Episcopal Conference lauded his political achievements, stating that he will be remembered most for his work in fostering unity.

The political legacy of Mandela can be described in “one word: reconciliation,” Fr. Similo Mngadi told CNA in a Dec. 6 interview.

“He made you feel human, and want to be human.”

Nelson Mandela, the South African revolutionary who headed the country’s anti-apartheid movement, fighting to replace it with a multiracial democracy, died at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home after a long battle with illness.

Regarding the politician’s Dec. 5 passing, Fr. Mngadi, spokesman for the South African Episcopal Conference, explained that many in South Africa are experiencing “mixed feelings,” because although Mandela had been suffering various health problems the last few years, “he was an icon for everybody.”

He was “good for reconciliation,” observed the spokesman, reflecting that he “put everyone together,” and that his work was a “point of cohesion” for the division in the country.
South Africa’s apartheid originally developed after the Second World War, and was strictly enforced by the country’s National Party governments, who implemented the movement as a means of racial segregation, and under which the rights of most blacks were seriously restricted.

After the 1994 overthrow of the apartheid, Mandela, who had previously been imprisoned for 27 years due to his opposition to the government, was elected as South Africa’s first black president, and worked tirelessly to dismantle the remaining legacy of the apartheid until the end of his term in 1999.

During his time in office Mandela collaborated closely with Church officials in overcoming racial tensions, Fr. Mngadi recalled, highlighting how he continued to work alongside South Africa’s current cardinal until his death.

The Episcopal Conference of South Africa offered Mass for the political icon this morning at 8:30, the spokesman noted, stating that a special Mass will be held at 1p.m. in Capetown’s Our Lady of the Flight to Egypt’s cathedral in his honor.

Marta Jimenez Ibanez contributed to this report.

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Pope Francis lauds Mandela's creation of a 'new South Africa'

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Pope Francis issued a letter offering condolences to his family and praising the politician’s commitment to promoting human dignity.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the South African revolutionary who headed the country’s anti-apartheid movement, fighting to replace it with a multiracial democracy, passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home after a long battle with illness.

On the occasion of his death, the Pope sent a Dec. 6 telegram to current president of South Africa Jacob Zuma paying tribute to the “steadfast commitment” of the former president in “promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth.”

In his letter, published in the Vatican Press Office’s “Bulletin,” the pontiff stated that “It was with sadness that I learned of the death of former President Nelson Mandela.”

Expressing his “prayerful condolences” to the Mandela family, the Pope also expressed sympathy “to the members of the Government and to all the people of South Africa.”

“In commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of Almighty God, I ask the Lord to console and strengthen all who mourn his loss.”

South Africa’s apartheid was strictly enforced by the country’s National Party governments, who implemented the movement as a means of racial segregation, seriously restricting the rights of the majority of the country’s black population.

After the 1994 overthrow of the apartheid, Mandela, who had previously been imprisoned for 27 years due to his opposition to the government, was elected as South Africa’s first black president, and worked tirelessly to dismantle the remaining legacy of the apartheid until the end of his term in 1999.

Lauding the “commitment” of the political icon’s efforts promoting human dignity as well as unity in the country, the pontiff also prayed “that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations.”

“With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity.”

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Vatican group for minors' protection may work with Jesuit center

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church's latest step toward the prevention of the sexual abuse of minors is the newly-announced Vatican commission, which is expected to collaborate with the Jesuit-run Centre for Child Protection.

“The task of the new commission will be greater than what the Centre for Child Protection would ever be able to realize,” the center's president, Fr. Hans Zollner, told CNA Dec. 6. “We take care of delivering a program with the aim of educating pastoral personnel. At first glance, this will be an occasion to collaborate with the commission.”

He added that “three months ago, we decided that the Centre for Child Protection would be moved to Rome at the end of the pilot phase – that is, at the end of 2014, and this will surely open many opportunities for the synergies O’Malley talked about.”

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, announced Dec. 5 that Pope Francis “has decided to establish a very specific commission for the protection of children,” which had been proposed by the group of eight cardinals he had assembled to advise him on reform of the Roman Curia and the governance of the Church.

The commission will be officially launched by a document by Pope Francis, and will probably work together with the Centre for Child Protection, which is run the Pontifical Gregorian University and is the fruit of the 2011 conference “Toward healing and renewal,” hosted at the university.

The center, the offices of which are in Munich, is a collaboration of the Gregorian University, with the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising as well as the University of Ulm's departments of psychiatry and infant and adolescent psychotherapy.

It functions as a source of distance learning, over the internet and in various languages, for the  competencies necessary for confronting and preventing the sexual abuse of minors.

The Vatican commission's task will be much the same. Cardinal O'Malley said yesterday that among its responsibilities will be “to study the present programs in place for protection of children and to come up with suggestions or new initiatives on the part of the curia in collaboration with the bishops and the episcopal conferences,” and its staff will include experts in various fields, including psychology.

The commission marks the latest instance in the Vatican's response to clergy sex abuse.

In 2002, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the instruction “De delictis gravioribus” to face the sex abuse scandal.

The instruction was issued because dioceses, failing to report cases of sexual abuse to Rome, had neglected to take measures against the priests responsible, often merely transferring them.

When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope in 2005, he continued his concern for the issue, further strengthening protective measures and meeting discreetly with victims, praying with them and asking forgiveness on behalf of the Church.

In 2010, in the midst of the Year of the Priesthood, Pope Benedict at Fatima imposed penance on the Church over the sexual abuse scandal.

The following year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith delivered a letter to the world's bishops' conferences, asking that they adopt stringent guidelines to fight such abuse by May, 2012.

The letter highlighted five key points: assistance to the victims of sexual abuse; protection of minors; education of future priests and religious; helpful support for guilty priests; and collaboration with civil authorities.

Pope Francis' decision marks one more step forward in the Church’s response to the abuse of minors. Cardinal O'Malley noted that it “will be able to advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and the pastoral care for victims of abuse.”

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Jesuit theologian remembered for scholarship, joyfulness

St. Louis, Mo., Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic theologian and professor Father Edward T. Oakes, S.J. died in St. Louis Dec. 6, prompting his colleagues to remember his work in Christology, his wit, and his lasting effect on students.

“Fr. Oakes was a unique scholar, largely because of his Jesuit background in Classics, where he was able to really do theology within the full richness and the full texture of the Western intellectual tradition,” Fr. Thomas Baima, vice-rector for academic affairs at Mundelein Seminary, told CNA Dec. 6.

“He was a very pleasant and gregarious personality. A little bit quirky, as scholars often are,” the vice-rector continued. “I always thought him delightful. He had a great wit and was very interested in current events.”

Fr. Oakes, who was elected president of the Academy of Catholic Theology in 2013, had taught at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago from 2002 until October 2013, when he entered hospice care at Jesuit Hall in St. Louis.

He died of complications of pancreatic cancer, the Jesuits' Missouri Province said Dec. 6. The Kansas City, Mo. native was 65-years-old.

Fr. Baima said Fr. Oakes was best known for the “extraordinary amount of work” he did on the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century who is widely considered to be an influence on the thought of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Fr. Oakes was involved in the ecumenical group Evangelicals and Catholics Together and was a major contributor to to the ecumenical journal “First Things.”

He joined the Society of Jesus in 1966 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979. He taught at New York University and Regis University in Denver. He had served as a scholar in residence at Cambridge University and taught English, theater and drama at St. Louis University High School.

He held a doctorate in theology from Union Theological Seminary, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in philosophy from St. Louis University and a master of divinity in scripture from Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

His books include “Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar” and “Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology.”

Before his death he was working on a project involving the theological debate about grace and nature, Fr. Baima said.

The Academy of Catholic Theology remembered Fr. Oakes as “a deeply cultured man” who “enlivened everything of which he was a part by his penetrating intelligence and warm, friendly spirit.”

The Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus said in a statement that Fr. Oakes was “a joyful man” who “loved studies and the intellectual life.”

Fr. Baima also remembered the priest’s dedication as a teacher. He recalled that one of the last public events Fr. Oakes attended at Mundelein Seminary was an Oct. 5 celebration of his book “Infinity Dwindled to Infancy.”

“A number of his former students, including doctoral students, came to the event,” the seminary vice-rector said. “We were particularly touched by the long-term affection that they maintained for all he had done for them.”

“He was a teacher who was completely there for his students. He was ‘all on’ when it came to being a teacher,” Fr. Baima said.

The Academy of Catholic Theology asked for prayers for the soul of Fr. Oakes, adding “to say that Father Oakes will be sorely missed is a profound understatement.”

Fr. Oakes' funeral Mass will be Dec. 10 at St. Francis Xavier College Church at St. Louis University, the Jesuits’ Missouri Province reports. On Dec. 11 he will be interred at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

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Sri Lankan Catholics bid farewell to former apostolic nuncio

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops, priests, and religious of Sri Lanka celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving Dec. 2 to show appreciation for their former apostolic nuncio, who has been appointed nuncio to Ivory Coast.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and president of the Sri Lankan bishops' conference, thanked Archbishop Joseph Spiteri for his valuable contributions to the Catholics of Sri Lanka, where he had been apostolic nuncio since February 2009.

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Spiteri as nuncio to Ivory Coast Oct. 1.

While posted to Sri Lanka, Archbishop Spiteri was instrumental in influencing the peace building process following a nearly 30-year civil war, with his continual pastoral visits to areas of re-settlement and reconciliation.

The Mass of thanksgiving was said at All Saints' parish in Borella, a suburb of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.

Archbishop Spiteri in his turn thanked Sri Lankan Catholics for the help they had shown him, and for their cooperation and assistance with the apostolic mission entrusted him by the Holy See.

He said he was impressed with the pastoral activities throughout Sri Lanka, and the contribution of the Church to the “development and progress” of the country where Catholics make up about six percent of the population.

Archbishop Spiteri was born in the Maltese town of Sliema in 1959, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Malta in 1984.

He holds a degree in canon law, and after being recruited for the Holy See's diplomatic corps, he served in the nunciatures to Panama, Iraq, Mexico, Portugal, Greece, and Venezuela.

He was appointed apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka while working in the Secretariat of State's office, and was consecrated a bishop in May 2009.

Archbishop Spiteri's role as nuncio to Ivory Coast fills the void created by the death of Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, who was killed in a car accident in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan last December.

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