Vatican City, Dec 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis concelebrated his daily Mass this morning with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, offering prayers for peace, and renewing his call for religious freedom throughout the Middle East.
“‘Be strong, do not fear!’ Here are the consoling words that find their confirmation in fraternal solidarity,” the Pope stated during his Dec. 9 homily, adding that “I am thankful to God for this encounter that gives me a way to reinforce your hope and our hope, because they are the same.”
With these words Pope Francis began the reflections of his morning Mass, which he celebrated in the Saint Martha guesthouse of the Vatican alongside Egypt’s Coptic Patriarch, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak.
Immediately turning his thoughts to the Coptic Catholics in the Middle East, the pontiff recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah in the day’s first reading, stating that “We feel that the encouragement for ‘the faint of heart’ is directed to so many in your beloved land of Egypt who are experiencing insecurity and violence, sometimes because of their Christian faith.”
Moving to the Gospel reading in which a paralyzed man was lowered through the roof by his friends in order to be healed by Jesus, the Pope highlighted how the passage presents “Christ who conquers the paralysis of humanity.”
However, the Pope also noted that “the paralysis of consciences is contagious.”
“With the complicity of the poverties of history and of our sin,” he continued, this paralysis “can expand and enter into social structures and into communities to block entire peoples,” adding that on the contrary, “the command of Christ: ‘Arise, walk!’ can reverse the situation.”
“Let us pray with confidence that in the Holy Land and all the Middle East peace might be able to rise from the often recurring and sometimes dramatic breaks (in the peace process),” urged the Pope.
“Rather, let hatred and divisions be ended forever! Let the peace agreements, often paralyzed by conflicting and obscure interests, be quickly resumed.”
“Let real guarantees of religious liberty be given to all,” he went on to say, “together with the rights of Christians to live peacefully in the places where they were born, in the native country they love as citizens of more than two thousand years, in order that they might contribute as always to the good of all.”
Recalling the flight into Egypt of the infant Jesus and the Holy Family, Pope Francis emphasized that they were welcomed into a “generous land,” and prayed that the Lord “watch over the Egyptians, that along the paths of the world they might seek dignity and security.”
Bringing his reflections to a close, the pontiff encouraged those present to “always go forward, seeking the Lord, seeking new paths,” and “new ways to come closer to the Lord.”
“If it necessary to open a hole in the roof in order for us to bring everyone closer to the Lord,” he stated, “may our creative imagination of charity bring us to do this: to find and to make new paths of encounter, paths of brotherhood, paths of peace.”
Patriarch Sidrak also spoke for a moment during the Mass, expressing his joy at celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Pope, and stressing that the Egyptian Church needs the “paternal support” of the Bishop of Rome during this sensitive time in history.
Also offering a prayer for peace, the patriarch asked that “the light of the Holy Nativity might be the star that reveals the path of love, of unity, of reconciliation, and of peace, gifts of which my Land has such great need.”
Asking for Pope Francis’ blessing, Patriarch Sidrak affirmed to the pontiff that “we eagerly await it in Egypt.”
Vatican City, Dec 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The founder of a new center aiding victims of abuse and their families praised the “courageous” actions of Pope Francis in facing the issue, stressing also the importance of helping victims to heal.
Discussing a new commission authorized by Pope Francis last which seeks to increase efforts preventing the abuse of minors, Father Fortunato Di Noto stated that “the commission is a proof” of the Pope's “commitment to prevent abuses and take care of the victims.”
Fr. Di Noto is originally from Sicily, and is the founder of the new “Meter House” in Rome, which officially opened Dec. 9 and offers psychological, spiritual and legal assistance to both victims of abuse, as well as their families.
In comments to CNA, the priest stressed the importance of the Church addressing the issue, emphasizing that “Pope Francis is a courageous man, courageous as Pope Benedict” for his action in creating the new commission.
“It’s a good idea. I have been asking for this commission for years, now it’s time to continue to follow what Pope Benedict did to protect the children.”
“This commission will be a tremendous help to address all the issues concerning the abuse by clergy and to protect children,” he said, “the Church cannot go backwards.”
The Church “is of the Baby Jesus,” noted the priest, “and from him and from children the Church can start the path of reform and revolution in light of the Gospel, for the little ones and the poor ones.”
Meter House, meter being the Greek word for “mother,” was an idea that was “gradually understood,” Fr. Di Noto revealed, stating that he and the others collaborating in the effort “started to fight against pedophiles and child pornography during the late 1980s.”
“We continued to work for all the children in Italy and the world,” with the primary motive of offering “a safe shelter and to let little victims try to heal from the pain and anger they suffered.”
Fr. Di Noto recalled that he originally felt the call to assist abuse victims after seeing “the first pictures made by pedophiles” while in the seminary in Rome in 1989.
“I decided to commit myself to fight against pedophiles and child pornography. It’s a Mission God gave me since I decided to be a priest.”
Detailing the story of how in his first parish assignment he saved the life of a 12-year-old girl who wanted to commit suicide as the result of abuse, Fr. Di Noto explained that from that moment he wanted to “let the people know who I was and what I was doing in my parish.”
Fr. Di Noto explained that after this incident, he began to celebrate “Abused Victims Day” in his parish, adding that “now, 18 years later, we celebrate the GBV in communion with the Church,” and that “every year the Pope remembers to celebrate” the day, lasting from April 25th to the first Sunday of May.
“Meter Association,” he noted, “is completely” at the “disposal to collaborate with the Church and the society, as it has always been doing for about 24 years.”
Revealing his hopes for the future of the center, Fr. Di Noto stated that “I would like that one day nobody shall need of this center. That will be the day when we’ll have defeated all the abusers.”
In a letter written to Fr. Di Noto on the occasion of the Dec. 9 opening of the center, Pope Francis extended his “cordial greeting” to the victims of violence and to their families.
The pontiff also expressed his “satisfaction with this opportune institution and encouraging a continuation on the path of selfless dedication in service of little ones, always filled with feelings of genuine charity and love of neighbor.”
Asking for prayers, the Pope invoked the protection the Virgin Mary, extending his Apostolic Blessing to all involved at the center, with “special affection” for “the children and their families.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One of late actor Paul Walker’s final movies – a thriller set to debut next week – is drawing praise for its life and family-affirming message.
Walker, best known for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, died in a fiery car crash on Nov. 30. The actor was 40 years old.
Before his death, Walker had completed filming for a film entitled Hours. The suspenseful thriller was filmed in March of this year in New Orleans and is still set to be released on Dec. 13, despite Walker's death. He stars with Genesis Rodriguez in the film.
Hours takes place in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. Walter plays Nolan, a man who faces the death of his wife and premature birth of his daughter as the storm hits.
Nolan must fight to keep his daughter alive. She must be kept on a respirator for 48 hours in an incubator at a hospital that has been flooded and left without power.
In a Dec. 7 article for Live Action News, writer Lauren Enriquez said that Hours offers a strong pro-life message.
“Walker’s character defies all odds and gives completely of himself to the point of self-sacrifice so that his daughter can have a chance at staying alive and becoming healthy,” she explained, praising the “incredibly life affirming role.”
Peter Safran, the movie’s executive producer, told the Hollywood Reporter that Walker “was incredibly proud of this project.”
He recalled being at a press conference two weeks before the crash. “I remember sitting with (Walker) and how excited he was for people to see this movie.”
“Hours embodies a message that was so important to him, which is that you have to do everything you can to keep friends and family safe,” Safran explained.
Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A lawsuit against the U.S. bishops for teaching Catholic hospitals not to perform direct abortions is “misguided” and unfounded, says the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“This claim is baseless,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Dec. 6 statement.
He explained that the Ethical and Religious Directives given to Catholic hospitals “urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy.”
On Nov. 29, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it had filed suit against the U.S. bishops' conference on behalf of Tamesha Means, a Michigan woman who was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon in 2010.
Means was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke. She made three emergency visits to the Catholic hospital, and on the third visit, delivered the baby, who died less than three hours after birth.
The ACLU claims that the hospital was negligent because it did not tell Means “that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.”
The legal group said the woman was in “excruciating pain” and the pregnancy posed “significant risks to her health.” She also suffered “extreme distress” and an infection that can cause infertility, the organization said.
The Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives, updated most recently in 2009, seek to affirm the lives of both women and their children. The guidelines prohibit the direct killing of an unborn child through abortion. However, they allow for operations, treatments and medications for a pregnant woman in order to treat a “proportionately serious pathological condition,” even if doing so results in the child’s unintentional death.
Archbishop Kurtz expressed sympathy for the loss of Means’ child.
Because the bishops were not directly involved in the case in question, they cannot comment on it specifically, he said, but they can respond to the claim that their affirmation of all human life amounts to negligence.
The rules provided by the Ethical and Religious Directives reaffirm the Church's teaching that “all human life, both before and after birth, has inherent dignity, and that health care providers have the corresponding duty to respect the dignity of all their patients,” Archbishop Kurtz explained, mirroring medical oaths that affirm the dignity of life.
This dedication to life and refusal to “approve the direct killing of their unborn children,” he continued, “has motivated Catholics to establish the nation’s largest network of nonprofit health care ministries.”
“These ministries provide high-quality care to women and children, including those who lack health coverage and financial resources,” the archbishop said, and they offer “a haven for pregnant women and their unborn children regardless of their financial resources.”
Furthermore, Archbishop Kurtz continued, the “universal and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on defending the life of the unborn child” is, as Pope Francis has said “linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”
“It witnesses against a utilitarian calculus about the relative value of different human lives,” the archbishop explained.
In claiming that it is “negligent” for the Catholic bishops to teach that all life is valuable, the ACLU's lawsuit “urges the government to punish that proclamation with civil liability, a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Kurtz said.
He promised that the “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will continue to defend these principles in season and out, and we will defend ourselves against this misguided lawsuit.”