Newtown, Conn., Dec 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One year after the murder of 20 school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the local Catholic bishop says that Jesus Christ’s love can be victorious, even over such “profound” sorrow.
Despite the bitterness of loss, the Christian faith offers “the victory of Christ’s love over any and all suffering and pain,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport said.
“The love of Our Lord does not necessarily take away the pain, because the loss is real and profound. The sorrow is profound,” he told CNA Dec. 12. “To lose a child is a wound that perhaps never completely heals. But love is victorious over all sin.”
The bishop strongly praised the response of parents who had lost their children.
“I have been absolutely impressed, deeply impressed by the faith of the parents who I have met, who lost children and yet still remain very strong in their faith and their conviction that love will conquer.”
Dec. 14 marks the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On that day in 2012, a lone gunman, who had shot and killed his mother that morning, entered the school and gunned down 26 people before taking his own life.
Bishop Caggiano celebrated a morning Mass at the local Catholic church, St. Rose of Lima, to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting. He also blessed a memorial at the church, which hosted most of the funeral services for the shooting victims.
Bishop Caggiano arrived in Connecticut to become head of the Diocese of Bridgeport in September 2013, nine months after the atrocity. He celebrated Mass in Newtown shortly after his installation.
He said that on his first trip to Newtown, he was “so deeply impressed” by the community’s use of the motto, “We choose love.”
“It’s their way of life, they really do choose love over bitterness or over anger,” he added. “In that sense, I think the Catholic faith offers a great testimony that Christ’s love has conquered death not only at Calvary, but in the lives of all of us.”
Priests at St. Rose of Lima Church were among the first people to respond to the shooting at the school, located only minutes away. The church’s pastor, Monsignor Robert Weiss, played a prominent role in consoling the community. He celebrated several funeral Masses for the shooting victims.
One year later, in the parish’s bulletin for Dec. 15, Msgr. Weiss is encouraging parishioners to “never forget that our God is a God of hope, pure love, goodness and forgiveness.”
The past months have posed many challenges for the parish families and communities, he acknowledged.
“Tears continue to fill our eyes as we reflect on the events of that day,” he said, also noting the “great strength” the community has drawn from the affected families’ “courage” and “positive actions” to honor their loved ones.
“It is love and love alone that keeps them and us moving forward.”
Msgr. Weiss also voiced “great gratitude” for the “incredible amount of support” the community has received from around the world. He said that it is “only in faith” that the community can “move forward and find the strength and hope that we need.”
Scottish priest Father Basil O’Sullivan, 81, has been visiting St. Rose of Lima Church since Dec. 9. The 81-year-old priest was living in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996, when a similar shooting took place at the primary school where he served as Catholic chaplain.
Fr. O’Sullivan had written the Connecticut parish offering his prayers and support after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Msgr. Weiss said in the Dec. 8 parish bulletin that Fr. O’Sullivan asked to be present “to support us for the first anniversary.”
He said the Scottish priest has been “one of my strongest sources of support these past several months.”
The parish is also hosting the Bells of Remembrance Project, an idea that started after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Special bells, ranging in weight from 750 to 3,500 pounds, were rung before the Saturday morning memorial Mass to remember the victims.
Bishop Caggiano explained that Msgr. Weiss has been in many ways “a spiritual leader and a tower of strength for so many throughout the tragedy.”
The bishop said he has prayed that the anniversary Mass will be “a moment of healing” and a celebration of “the gift of eternal life that we certainly believe these children now enjoy with the Lord.”
Manila, Philippines, Dec 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
An international competition launching next month will invite Mandarin Chinese-speaking Catholics throughout the world to compose devotional religious hymns for use in ministry.
“Music is an influential means to promote the Christian values,” said Fr. John Mi, the coordinator of the event.
He told CNA on Dec. 7 that among Chinese Catholics, there has been little composition of music for Mass and prayer gatherings. As a result, Protestant songs are sometimes used.
Fr. Mi explained that the idea developed when some young people approached him to ask if there was any platform for them to write songs and use them in ministry.
They suggested a plan to “reach out” to the greater Catholic community to search for devotional hymns that reflect the faith. The result is an invitation to all Catholics in the Mandarin Chinese-speaking world, not only in mainland China, but in Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and across the globe.
The contest is being launched by the Mandarin section of Radio Veritas Asia in the Philippines. Located in Manilia, Radio Veritas Asia is the non-commercial Catholic radio station of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. It was started in 1969 and broadcasts in 15 Asian languages.
Fr. Mi said that the idea is to “motivate” those who have the “talent to compose” religious songs, and inspire them in producing reflections, meditations and prayers to be part of the Catholic faith life.
It is also hoped that the contest will help renew the faith life of Chinese Catholics through song, he said.
The contest is open from January through July of 2014. A group of judges will then spend several weeks considering the submissions, and results will be publicized in October at an award night.
Prizes will be given for first, second and third place. In addition, 10 consolation prizes will be given.
The 13 winning songs will then be compiled on a CD and distributed throughout the world.
To submit an entry in the contest, an individual is only required to offer the lyrics of his or her composition. The actual music can be provided later. Fr. Mi explained that this is because many of the contributors live in rural areas and may not have access to high quality recording facilities.
Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact [email protected]
Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On the morning of Dec. 14, Pope Francis paid a visit to patients and workers of the pediatric dispensary of Santa Marta, who surprised the Pontiff with a small birthday celebration.
Pope Francis, who turns 77 on Dec.17th, expressed his gratitude for the gesture. After they had finished singing the traditional Italian birthday song, the Pope blew out the candles, and said, “Thank you for the love you have, the joy of these children, the gifts, the cake… It was beautiful!”
The visit to the clinic included time to greet many of the children and their parents individually, as well as workers and volunteers. Later, Pope Francis went over to the Paul VI audience hall in order to accommodate a larger meeting.
One of the mothers whose child receives care from the clinic welcomed the Holy Father. “Your presence, Holy Father, is a surprise for us and always gives us moments of tenderness and joy,” said Elizabeth, who is originally from Peru.
“We know how much you love the children, especially those who need it most.”
“At the dispensary we feel especially privileged because we know that we are in your heart and on your mind. And we are happy because, every day, you help us to meet Jesus,” she explained.
Sr. Antonietta Collachi, the head of the clinic, also greeted Pope Francis, describing the work of the institution as a “symphony of love.”
The pediatric dispensary of Santa Marta was founded by Pope Pius XI in 1922, “with over 90 years of solidarity spent in serving those people who too often seem invisible to the eyes of the world,” she recounted.
The Vatican clinic provides medical care in the form of check-ups and consultations, as well as psychological support.
The clinic’s work, noted Sr. Collachi, “is made possible thanks to the voluntary work of doctors – pediatricians, obstetricians, sonographers, dermatologists, dentists – and the many workers who offer their time, passion, and tenderness.”
“Divine Providence ensures that we do not lack His support, by multiplying charity every day, in our hands.”
“We work to globalize solidarity and love, rather than indifference and selfishness,” continued Sr. Collachi.
“In this time of Advent, pregnant with hope for the coming of the Messiah, once more we turn our gaze to a family in need, abandoned by men to their fate, but we see above all the trust in the will of the Heavenly Father and cultivate an awareness that in His design is imprinted the touch of an artist completing a masterpiece,” she concluded.
Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who also visited the clinic in 2005.
Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is very important to Pope Francis, said the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
“I think the ecumenical issue and the ecumenical challenge is very close to his heart,” Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch told CNA on Dec. 13.
From Dec.14-19, Cardinal Koch will travel to Russia to meet with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church. He will meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow as well Metropolitan Hilarion, who is president of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“The possibility or the opportunity of a meeting between Pope Francis and his Holiness Kirill” would require “a very good and profound, deep preparation,” the cardinal explained.
“I hope this (trip) can be a little path in the way of preparation.”
Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has entered the papacy with personal knowledge of the challenges of ecumenism.
Just as Pope Benedict understood “the ecumenical situation in Germany, with all the churches and ecclesial communities (that) came from the reformation, Pope Francis knows very well the situation in Latin America” where there is “very big growth” of the “Evangelical and Pentecostal communities,” noted Cardinal Koch.
“We must speak today about the ‘pentecostalization’ of Christianity or a ‘fourth form’ of Christianity: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and now (a) Pentecostal form of Christianity.”
The cardinal went on to highlight that the pontiff’s experience of ecumenism also includes the eastern Christian Churches.
“As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was responsible for all the oriental Catholic Churches,” thus “he knows very well also the oriental tradition, and very important for the ecumenical dialogue is the orthodox and the oriental orthodox churches.”
“I think we have a very beautiful continuation between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, (of) what belongs in the ecumenical issues,” he added.
Cardinal Koch’s itinerary includes attendance at a theology conference on the progress of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, a visit to the monastery of Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and pastoral meetings with Catholic clergy on the topics of ecumenical dialogue and the Second Vatican Council.
The cardinal will also preside at a celebration of the jubilee of the basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria in St. Petersburg.