Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Supporters of the canonization cause of California priest Father Aloysius Ellacuria, C.M.F., have welcomed the help of prominent canon lawyer Dr. Andrea Ambrosi.
Fr. Kevin Manion, a representative of the group The Friends of Father Aloysius, said Dec. 6 that the support from Ambrosi “confirms we are on the right track.”
Ambrosi, who is based in Rome, has worked on the canonization causes of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Bl. John XXIII, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and U.S. military chaplain and Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun.
He will now take on the role of diocesan and Roman postulator for the canonization cause of Fr. Ellacuria, making the case for why the priest should be considered to have led a life of heroic virtue.
The 20th century priest, who was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1905, worked for many decades around Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Antonio. Many of those who knew the priest say God worked miracles of healing through him and gave him special charisms like prophecy, reading souls and expelling demons.
Fr. Ellacuria entered the Claretian Missionaries at the age of 11 and was ordained a priest at the age of 24. Soon after his ordination, he went to the United States and served as a Greek and Latin professor.
He served as a novice director and a superior for the Claretians. He founded the Missionaries of Perpetual Adoration in Fatima, Portugal to help spread the message of the Marian apparition at Fatima.
Fr. Ellacuria died on April 6, 1981 and is buried at the old San Gabriel Mission in San Gabriel, Calif. His life has been the subject of several books and the documentary movie “The Angel of Biscay.”
The Claretians have decided to not pursue the priest’s cause actively. The religious order is seeking to open causes for several hundred of its members, mainly martyrs from the Spanish Civil War, but also lacks resources.
Fr. Manion said supporters of Fr. Ellacuria’s canonization still have “many details to work out,” including funding.
More information about the priest’s sainthood cause is available at the website www.aloysius.com.
Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan 9, 2014 (CNA) -
As the refugee situation in the Central African Republic continues to worsen, Catholic Relief Services says it is working to help displaced persons and to encourage a peaceful resolution to the violence.
“The humanitarian consequences have been horrendous,” Helen Blakesley, Catholic Relief Services' regional information officer for West and Central Africa, said Dec. 7.
“The country was already extremely poor, but with the violence now many hundreds have died, thousands have been injured. Many thousands have fled their homes in fear of their lives and have had to camp out in makeshift shelters in cramped unsanitary conditions,” she said in a report for the U.S.-based relief agency.
The Central African Republic was torn by war from 2004 to 2007. Violence again broke out in December 2012, followed by a March 2013 coup.
An estimated 935,000 people have been displaced, including half the population of the national capital of Bangui, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports. Nearly 60 percent of the displaced are children. Some of the displaced are hiding in the bush.
French and African Union troops have tried to restore order. Reuters reports that the interim president Michel Djotodia, who took power in the coup, is planning to step down.
Amid the violence, relief agencies are working to help refugees. “Catholic Relief Services has stood with people in need,” Blakesley said.
She said the agency has distributed food vouchers and is supporting religious leaders “to spread the message of reconciliation.” It is also supporting thousands of displaced people by working with its partners in Caritas Internationalis, a global network of Catholic relief agencies.
The Central African Republic is among the world's poorest countries. The U.N. has said the country is in danger of becoming a failed state.
Christian and Muslim Central Africans have had a history of peaceful relations, but the latest conflict has caused some religious divisions.
Blakesley voiced hope that peace can be restored. “The Muslims and Christians have been pulled into this escalating situation beyond their control, and they really need our help,” she said.
Denver, Colo., Jan 9, 2014 (CNA) -
Vatican journalist and expert John L. Allen, Jr. will join the staff of the The Boston Globe as an associate editor next month in a bid to enrich the media's coverage of religion and the Church.
“What I really hope we can accomplish is to offer a model of what serious coverage of the Catholic Church will look like in a major secular news outlet,” Allen said in a Jan. 7 conversation with CNA.
“Fundamentally, what I hope is that this will lift up an example of what getting this story right would look like, so that in the end it's not just The Boston Globe doing it, but I hope it has a kind of leavening effect in the media business generally.”
Allen's new post, which he will assume Feb. 1, was announced Tuesday. The Globe is one of Boston's two major dailies; last year, its Sunday edition circulation was more than 380,000. Nearly 46 percent of the population of the Boston area is Catholic.
The paper's editor, Brian McGrory noted in a statement the “resurgence of global interest in the Catholic Church” following the election of Pope Francis, saying there is “nobody in the nation better suited” than Allen to cover the Church.
“John is basically the reporter that bishops and cardinals call to find out what’s going on within the confines of the Vatican. His inexhaustible energy, supported by extraordinary insights, is legendary.”
Allen said he will fundamentally “continue to do the kind of reporting and analysis on the Vatican and the Church that I've always done,” and that his role as editor will largely be part of a “ramped-up” coverage of the Church by the Globe.
“I'll be guiding, quarterbacking that in some sense, but the primary thing is, I'm going to continue to be a correspondent in the field,” he added.
McGrory said Allen will help the Globe “explore the very real possibility of launching a free-standing publication devoted to Catholicism.”
Allen is currently senior correspondent at the National Catholic Reporter, where he has worked since 1997. Dennis Coday, the Reporter's editor, wrote, “we will miss John and the contributions he has made to NCR over the years” and that “we look forward to a continued friendly, professional relationship as colleagues carried out in mutual respect.”
The Vatican analyst explained the move, saying, “my rap on the so-called mainstream media for years has been that it doesn't take religion seriously as a newsbeat; that is, it doesn't invest the resources in religion coverage that it does, not only in things like politics and finance, but even in sports and entertainment.”
“The coverage of religion tends to be sporadic, it tends to be incomplete, it tends to be incredibly superficial.” The Globe's decision to hire him, he said, suggests that such coverage of religion is beginning to change, “and at long last the kind of secular news business has clued into the fact that religion is something that an incredibly important segment of its audience cares deeply about, and therefore it's worth trying to get it right.”
McGrory said that Allen will work alongside the Globe's religion reporter Lisa Wangsness, and the change will have no impact on the paper's coverage of other religious bodies.
He noted that coverage of the Church in a major secular daily will be distinguished from that in “the specifically Catholic press,” but that “I want this to be responsible and well-informed, without fear or favor.”
Allen added that his new position will allow him to continue his current side projects, which include speaking engagements, television appearances on CNN, and book writing. His most recent and critically acclaimed work, “The Global War on Christians,” was published last October.
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Earlier this morning the Legionaries of Christ began their first Extraordinary General Chapter meeting to draft and approve their new constitutions, after which they will elect their new leadership.
Opening with a Jan. 8 Mass celebrated by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Chapter, which will be held behind closed doors throughout its duration, began its official meetings the morning of Jan. 9, and is slated to last roughly 20 days.
The General Chapter was mandated by Benedict XVI in wake of the revelation of the double-life led by the congregation’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, who is since deceased.
An official investigation into the life and conduct of Fr. Maciel was launched by the Vatican, and in 2006 Benedict XVI stripped him of his duties and role of leadership within the congregation, ordering him to a life of prayer and penance.
In his homily for the Chapter’s opening Mass, Cardinal De Paolis, Papal delegate to the Legion of Christ, stated that after three and a half years of preparation, the Chapter is “an event of faith” which can only be undergone with “the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
“It has been repeatedly stressed,” stated the cardinal, “that the revision of the constitutions cannot simply be considered a technical effort, but should be accompanied by a process of examination of life, of review and of spiritual renewal for the institute.”
Highlighting how the constitutions which will be drafted are not “simply a code of laws” for external discipline, he explained that they “will be an expression of a common vocation, a common ideal, a common mission.”
“The heart of the constitutions,” Cardinal De Paolis continued, “is the charism, or spiritual patrimony, of the Institute,” which “should be examined in depth.”
“The constitutions must contain the vocation and identity of the Institute.”
Shifting to the second task of the Chapter, the cardinal noted the importance of electing a governing body whose superiors will “preserve and promote” the institution’s charism, which “is only guaranteed when authority is exercised as service, in the spirit of the Gospel and in fidelity to the norms of the Church.”
“It is a point which should always be given special attention, especially for you, who have a history of suffering in this regard” he added.
Emphasizing that although “well-made laws are important,” the cardinal stated that they are “not enough” if they do not also have “a new spirit.”
“It is this new spirit that you are called to foster and cultivate inside of you when you are called upon to give yourselves new superiors,” continued the cardinal, explaining that they must also “have a new heart, both on the part of those electing and those elected.”
“To the degree that it depends on you,” he said, “have present only God and the good of the Church and the Legion, and choose those whom you deem most worthy and suitable for the ministry of authority.”
Although there has been suffering, “both internally and externally” in the past few years, Cardinal De Paolis observed that future of the Legion “looks rather calm and hopeful.”
Highlighting how this suffering has purified and matured the members of the congregation, the cardinal stated the time of preparation for the Chapter “is like the memory to which you are called to return, so as to regain confidence, serenity and hope.”
“Hope in the Lord who has preserved your vocation; hope in the Legion, which, thanks to you, presents itself to this chapter with new strength and new horizons; and hope in the Church, which has accompanied you.”
Cardinal De Paolis concluded his homily by offering special thanks to all those who have worked for the “salvation” of the Legionaries, and encouraging the “participation, solidarity, and love that enters into sin and sorrow so as to redeem them from the inside” of all attending the Chapter.
In addition to the 61 priest from varying nations who are participating in the Chapter meetings, representatives of the consecrated men, women and lay members of Regnum Christi have also been invited.
The Legionaries have 950 priest-members, and close to one thousand seminarians at various levels of formation. With the help of their once 30 thousand-strong lay organization, Regnum Christi, the Legion operates schools and other works of social and charitable service in more than 20 countries around the world.
Once the Legionaries approve their new constitutions and elect a new government during this first phase of the Chapter, a second phase will address various issues in regard to the life of the congregation.
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily Mass today, Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of Christian love, explaining that it is not a form of selfish romanticism, but rather something “concrete” that requires sacrifice.
“The love John speaks of is not the love of soap operas! No, it is something else. Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness,” the Pope emphasized in his Jan. 9 homily, referring to the words of the Apostle John in the first reading.
Beginning by reflecting on the passage of John’s First Letter in which he says “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us,” Pope Francis highlighted how the experience of faith is found within this double “remaining.”
“We are in God and God is in us: this is the Christian life,” the pontiff affirmed, “not remaining in the spirit of the world, not remaining in superficiality, not remaining in idolatry, not remaining in vanity.”
“No, no, remaining in the Lord,” he repeated, adding that “He reciprocates: He abides in us. But He remains in us first.”
“Many times we push Him out and we cannot remain in Him. It is the Spirit that remains.”
After examining this dynamic of remaining in the spirit, which impels the love Christians, the Pope turned his reflections to how to apply this love, saying that “Remaining in the love of God” is not like an ecstasy in one’s heart or a nice feeling.
“Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness. Christian love is concrete,” observed the Pontiff, “Jesus Himself, when He speaks of love, speaks to us about concrete things: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many concrete things.”
“And when this concreteness is not there, you can live a Christianity of illusions,” he continued, “because you don’t understand where the center of Jesus' message is.”
“This love does not arrive at concrete being: it is a love of illusions, like the illusions the disciples had when, looking at Jesus, they thought He was a ghost,” the Pope went on to say, recalling how in the day’s Gospel the apostles mistook Jesus for a ghost when he approached them on the water.
Their surprise, reflected the Pontiff, arose from a hardness of heart because, as said in the Gospel, “they had not understood” the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves which took place shortly before.
“If you have a hardened heart,” Pope Francis explained, “you cannot love, and you think that love is to imagine things. No, love is concrete,” he affirmed, adding that this concreteness is based on two criteria.
“The first criterion: to love with deeds, not words. Words are taken away by the wind! They are here today, tomorrow they are not.”
“The second criterion of concreteness is: in love it is more important to give than to receive,” Pope Francis revealed, adding that “the one who loves, gives...Gives things, gives life, gives oneself to God and to others.”
“On the other hand (is) the one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages,” urging those present to “stay with an open heart.”
“Not like that of the disciples, which was closed, which did not understand anything: remaining in God and God remaining in us; remaining in love.”
Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., discuss a possible increase in federal minimum wage, Catholic leaders are asking that the needs of workers and families be kept in mind.
The current federal minimum wage fails “to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families,” argued Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, in a Jan. 8 letter to the U.S. Senate.
“We write not as economists or labor market experts, but rather as pastors and teachers who every day, in our ministries and churches, see the pain and struggles caused by an economy that simply does not produce enough jobs with just wages,” the representatives continued.
The letter, which encourages policies “promoting decent work and ensuring fair and just compensation for all workers,” was sent Jan. 8 to members of the U.S. Senate, who will soon be considering proposed legislation to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour – where it has been since July 2009 – to $10.10 an hour over the course of three years.
Those who oppose the bill argue that an increase in minimum wage would decrease the number of jobs employers are able to provide.
According to the National Journal, Senate leaders in charge of the bill have opted to bypass committee deliberation and bring the legislation straight to the floor, likely in February.
Archbishop Wenski and Fr. Snyder explained that in the current economic system, “many of our families find it increasingly difficult to afford basic needs, forcing some to take multiple jobs or, in desperation, even seek out predatory loans” because they lack the resources to support their families.
Emphasizing the importance of family, they pointed to research suggesting that “as much as 25 percent of workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase are parents.”
“A full-year, full-time worker making the minimum wage does not make enough money to raise a child free from poverty,” the representatives said. “Because the minimum wage is a static number and does not change, each year it becomes more difficult for workers making the minimum wage to survive.”
Policies that promote decent work and a just wage would honor both work and society, they continued.
“Human work has inherent dignity, and just wages honor that dignity,” they wrote, adding that providing a just wage will also “allow us to develop more fully as individuals, families, neighborhoods, parishes and even society as a whole.”
“Workers deserve a just wage that allows them to live in dignity, form and support families, and contribute to the common good,” they stressed.
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2014 (CNA) -
Pope Francis welcomed an old friend – Father Fabian Baez – to ride on his popemobile after spotting the priest in the crowd at the Jan. 8 General Audience at St. Peter's Square.
The Argentinean priest has been friends with Pope Francis since they worked together in Buenos Aires.
According to the newspaper La Nacion, Fr. Baez was able to get past a security barrier to get close to the Pope. He called out to the Holy Father, who turned and saw him.
“Are you with somebody or alone?” Pope Francis asked. “No, I'm alone,” the priest replied, to which Francis said, “Come on, get in!”
Fr. Baez was shocked, as were the papal security guards, who once again witnessed the Holy Father break with protocol and establish his own papal style.
Pope Francis asked for the popemobile to stop so his friend could get in, and then jokingly told the priest, “The photo is going to go around the world.”
The popemobile continued making the rounds in St. Peter's as Fr. Baez sat next to the Holy Father.
Fr. Baez describes himself on his Twitter account as “a priest from Buenos Aires. My mission is to shepherd. I am on Twitter because I want you to draw close to God.”
“I am going to change my biography. The poor priest who climbed into the popemobile today with #PapaFrancisco,” he tweeted after the event.
Editor's note, Jan. 17: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Fr. Baez' first name as Fabrian, rather than Fabian.
Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Nearly twice the number of Christians were reported as dying for their faith in 2013 than the previous year, according to a new study by an organization monitoring global religious persecution.
The World Watch List, issued by Open Doors USA each year, documents oppression of Christians throughout the world. Based on data from the past year, it ranks the 50 countries that are home to the worst treatment of Christians.
Along with the release of the 2014 report, Open Doors USA also offered information about global Christian persecution on its website, explaining that it had gathered evidence of 2,123 Christians who were killed for their faith in 2013, up from 1,201 such martyrdoms in 2012.
“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for the organization, according to Reuters. He explained that the actual numbers could be much higher.
The Open Doors USA report estimated that around 100 million Christians were persecuted for their faith in 2013.
North Korea, which ranked as the worst offender on the 2013 World Watch List, remains the most dangerous country for Christians in 2014 as well, solely because of the national government's targeting of religious believers.
“The God-like worship of the rulers leaves no room for any other religion,” the report said, explaining that any “reverence not concentrated on the Kim dynasty will be seen as dangerous and state-threatening.”
It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 Christians in the country are imprisoned in forced labor camps. Immediate family members of Christians are also targeted, often being placed in “re-education camps,” Open Doors USA said.
Conditions have also deteriorated in Somalia, which moved from the fifth most dangerous to the second most dangerous country for Christians in the past year. The report explained that within public society, leaders “maintain that there is no room for Christianity, Christians and churches,” an attitude that is “upheld and reinforced on different levels” throughout society.
This problem is compounded by the tribal social structure, which creates a fracturing of society, allowing “Islamic extremism, via groups like al-Shabaab, to flourish in Somalia.”
To gain access to “basic necessities, such as basic social services, education or justice,” the report stated, “Somali Christians have to hide their belief,” with Church life and community existing in secret.
A spike in persecution also occurred in Syria, which accounted for more than half of the total Christian martyrdoms recorded by Open Doors USA in the past year.
Syria was ranked as 36th worst offender on the World Watch List in 2012. Two years later, in 2014, it has risen to become the world's third most dangerous country for Christians.
The report noted that while the government was totalitarian and persecuted some Christians before the country's civil war, the ongoing conflict has given rise to great social instability and militant Islamist groups with ties to al-Qaeda throughout the country.
“As indeed the conflict is becoming more and more sectarian, targeted violence against Christians has increased,” it said. “The sectarian dimension of the conflict is indeed a factor that has made Christians, as a religious/ethnic minority, more vulnerable.”
Since 2011, the “four main groups of Christians” present in Syria have faced great trials, with many leaving to seek refuge in other nations. Because of this, the Christian population in the country has dropped from 1.7 million people one year ago to an estimated 1.3 million today.
Among the other countries on the World Watch List were Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Colombia and China. Added to the list this year were the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka and Bangaldesh.