Archive of January 14, 2014

Remember 'human faces' of immigration, LA archbishop says

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 14, 2014 (CNA) - Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles has said Americans have to see “the human faces of immigration”: the children and families suffering under America's “broken” immigration policy.

“In the name of enforcing our laws, we’re breaking up families. Punishing kids for the mistakes of their parents,” he said, referring to the nearly two million people deported over the last four years. “That’s the sad truth – one out of every four people we deport is being taken away from an intact family.”

The archbishop’s remarks came Jan. 10 in a speech to the Rotary Club of Los Angeles.

“My friends, we’re talking about souls not statistics. We’re talking about fathers who without warning, won’t be coming home for dinner tonight. Parents who may not see their families again for a decade. We’re talking about kids suddenly left without a mom or a dad.”

Americans, he said, have accepted “a permanent underclass of men and women who are living at the margins of our society.”

While this underclass provides care for the children of natural-born Americans, builds their homes, cleans their offices, and harvests their food, they have “no rights, no security and right now – they have no reason to hope that things are ever going to get better.”

Archbishop Gomez noted that Pope Francis is himself the son of an Italian emigrant. The Pope’s first trip outside of Rome was to the island of Lampedusa, a major way point for Africans migrating to Europe. Thousands die every year seeking to cross the Mediterranean, and more become victims of human traffickers.

During his visit, the Pope lamented a “globalized indifference” in which people have become “insensitive to the cries of other people” and have lost “a sense of responsibility for others.”

Archbishop Gomez echoed these concerns.

“We don’t think about the people who are dying in the deserts trying to reach our borders. Or the women and children who become victims of smugglers and human traffickers.”

“That’s why immigration reform for me isn’t about the politics. Immigration reform for me is about these people. It’s about all the children and families caught up in our broken system. Immigration reform is about what is happening to America.”

The archbishop, an immigrant from Mexico who is now a U.S. citizen, said Americans “have to find a better way,” and we have to do this “now.”

“As a nation, we can’t remain indifferent when so many of our brothers and sisters are suffering. And there is no political calculation that can justify the tears of a child whose mom or dad has been deported.”

Archbishop Gomez praised the United States as “a great nation with a generous heart,” but he lamented the reductionism of the immigration debate to dealing with undocumented immigrants through “name-calling and discrimination,” race-based “profiling,” arbitrary detentions and deportations, and “commando-style raids of workplaces and homes.”

The archbishop called the national immigration debate “a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul.”

“How we respond to the challenge of illegal immigration will measure our national character and conscience in this generation.”

He told the Los Angeles Rotary Club that he and the other Catholic bishops support comprehensive immigration reform that “keeps families together,” protects workers’ rights, and gives “a generous path to citizenship.”

Archbishop Gomez noted his own archdiocese’s work in education, anti-poverty work and social services support, with ministries in more than 40 languages. He suggested that the Catholic Church does more for immigrants “than any other single institution in Los Angeles.”

“I hope you will consider me – and the Catholic Church – to be your friend and partners in building a better Los Angeles and a better world.”

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Jesuit rector in Rome grateful for Pope's 'Ignatian heritage'

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA) - Pope Francis' Jesuit formation is a blessing for the whole Church, says one Society of Jesus priest who recently concelebrated mass with the pontiff.

“I'd like to thank him for his closeness that he expresses not just by visiting us, by celebrating with us, but also by showing that (the) Ignatian heritage that he has can enrich the entire Church. We are grateful for this,” Fr. Janez Poljanek, S.J., told CNA on Jan. 13.

Fr. Janez is rector of the “Collegio Internazionale del Gesù,” a house of studies for young Jesuits preparing for the priesthood in Rome, which is attached to the Church where Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Jan. 3. The rector was one of the concelebrants.

The Mass was one of thanksgiving for the canonization of Peter Faber as well as the feast of the name of Jesus, which the Jesuits celebrate every year.

“Pope Francis desired to be with us, to celebrate this mass of thanksgiving for this canonization, for the new saint and to be with Jesuits on this feast,” said Fr. Janez. “It's always a joy for us to have him with us, and we Jesuits, we also see that he’s like one of us.”
The Pope “uses a lot of expressions that we use, like 'discernment,' 'having deep desires,' and so on,” the rector pointed out.

The Jan. 3 mass was not Pope Francis' first visit to the Jesuits in Rome. He celebrated mass with them on July 31st for the feast of St. Ignatius, as well as having visited the Jesuit Refugee Service which is also housed at the college.

As an archbishop in Argentina, “he encountered a lot of (the) reality of poverty. We Jesuits use this expression, 'preferential option for the poor' so I think this is part of his formation, his growing-up as a Jesuit,” noted Fr. Janez.

The Jesuit “preferential option for the poor” is not intended as an indictment of the wealthy. Rather, “it’s only an invitation for rich people to share their goods with poor people,” explained the Jesuit.

“John Paul II spoke a lot about solidarity, sharing the goods with others – that's (the) evangelical way: it's not (an) exclusion of one or another group, but it's solidarity.”

Fr. Janez also expressed his admiration for the Pope's spirituality. “I was very inspired by his prayers and by his way of prayer: he's very recollected.”

In the spirit of their society's founder, Pope Francis' pastoral action arises out of his relationship with God, said Fr. Janez.

“Even though Pope Francis is a very popular personality, in prayer, he's an example of how one has to be recollected, and I think that his pastoral care and pastoral activity as a Pope comes from that deep prayer that he lives.”

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USA Today to Obama admin: leave Little Sisters alone

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The editors of USA Today have urged the Obama administration to stop trying to require the Little Sisters of the Poor to abide by the federal contraception mandate in violation of their religious beliefs.

“When the Obama administration picked a fight with Catholics and other religious groups over free birth control coverage for employees, sooner or later it was bound to end up doing battle with a group like the Little Sisters of the Poor,” the USA Today editorial board said.

In a Jan. 12 editorial entitled “Obamacare overreach tramples Little Sisters,” the publication's editors argued that the administration's move is “a political loser,” “constitutionally suspect” and “ultimately unproductive.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have worked for 175 years to care for the low-income elderly and dying in communities throughout the U.S.

The community says its work is now being threatened by the federal contraception mandate, which was issued under the Affordable Care Act and requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that may cause early abortions.

The religious congregation on Dec. 31 secured an emergency stay from the U.S. Supreme Court against the mandate. The Obama administration responded by reiterating its commitment to the mandate and its requirements.

USA Today said the administration is “now stuck arguing that it is justified in compelling nuns who care for the elderly poor to assist in offering health insurance that they say conflicts with their religious beliefs.”

The publication said the administration wrote its religious exemption to the rule “so narrowly” that it failed to exempt Catholic and other religious hospitals, colleges and charities. The Little Sisters of the Poor fail to qualify because they are not affiliated with a particular house of worship.

The Obama administration “could find some less divisive way to provide the coverage,” USA Today said. “Instead, the administration is battling Catholic bishops and nuns, Southern Baptists, Christ-centered colleges and assorted religious non-profits that filed challenges across the country.”

Rather than extending a religious exemption to the Little Sisters, the federal government has instead offered an “accommodation” under which the sisters can sign a document authorizing an outside group to provide the coverage they find morally objectionable.

However, the USA Today editors dismissed this accommodation as “more of a fig leaf than a fix.” They observed that the Little Sisters of the Poor and others say that the requirement “makes them complicit in an act that violates a tenet of their faith.”

The punishment for noncompliance with the mandate is “ruinous fines,” with the Little Sisters facing $4.5 million in annual fines for just two of their 30 homes.

USA Today noted that most of the legal cases against the mandate have been successful so far. More than 300 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against the mandate, and legal injunctions have been granted in most cases, which are largely still working through the court system.

“The administration should take the hint,” the editorial said, calling on the federal government to adopt the “most expansive” religious exemption.

A “more meaningful” compromise would give religious freedom “the wide berth it deserves,” the publication stated.

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It was a 'thrill' to perform for Pope, circus members say

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During last week’s general audience, members of the circus gave a special performance for Pope Francis, saying the exciting encounter was an opportunity to show how the circus can bring “harmony.”

“This has been my first time to perform in front of the Pope and it was truly a great thrill,” ringmaster Andrea Andreuzzi expressed in a Jan. 10 interview with CNA.

“For me it was a joy to both take my pony in front of the Pope,” Andreuzzi noted, “but overall I was very moved hearing his words when he said ‘you artists, you circus artists, give joy and serenity to the world, and the world is in need of joy and serenity.’”

“In that moment I felt proud of being a circus artist and I will continue to be proud.”

Members of the Golden Circus in Rome, who are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the pontiff’s weekly general audience on Jan. 8, performing special selections from their current show, which ran from Dec. 21, 2013 until Jan. 12, 2014, and will re-open again next the fall.

Andreuzzi explained that while he was not able to do the acts he normally does with larger horses in the circus ring, he was able to do a smaller presentation on the same acts with a diminutive pony.

Also performing for the Pope was Rogerio Piva, a Brazilian youth who originally joined the circus as part of a special program initiated by the government to get kids off the streets.

Piva, who displayed his talents in juggling, explained that his first audiences were those on the streets of Brazil, but that after being spotted by a large circus, he was hired and has traveled “around America and now here in Europe.”

When asked how it felt to perform in front of the Pope, Piva stated that “I don’t know if I was more scared of the cold, of the Pope or of the thousands of people that were behind me. So I didn’t want to think about anything,” and just performed.

“For me,” Piva noted, circus performing “was always a street art, performing even at traffic lights. I was always at the street and now I was in front of the Pope. And he was giving me his attention.”

“He was looking at me, showing to the world that the circus has a space and should be respected, that the circus is an art that can change lives.”

The circus, he emphasized, is “an art of love, an art of sharing, an art that goes beyond our hearts for a message of peace, joy and harmony between families, artists and the whole society,” adding that this performance “was the most thrilling moment of my life as an artist.”

Piva also remarked that during their performances, "people look at us not just as performers but as part of an art that revolutionizes the world with love, with smiles, with joy," observing that “this is the power that people today of the twenty-first century have forgotten.”

Circus director Liana Orfei, echoing the words of her performers, told CNA on Jan. 10 that performing for the Holy Father “has been a great thrill.”

“When this Pope received us in Saint Peter’s,” she said, “it was so great and important that I felt I had wings and I was flying and flying in paradise.”

Orfei, whose family has been in the circus business for 270 years, has personally met five Popes, “from Pope John, Paul the Sixth, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.”

Speaking of Pope Francis, Andreuzzi explained his opinion that “Pope Francis is a good Pope, as several Popes in the past, and he is very fair.”

“I saw that all the people that were at Saint Peter’s Square believed a lot in his words and in everything,” he recalled, “so I think that little by little, the Church will regain a lot of power.”

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Revelation helps answer reason's questions, priest scholar says

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2014 (CNA) - In a new work exploring the connection between revelation and political philosophy, Fr. James Schall argues that revelation is an answer addressed to questions raised, but unable to be solved, by reason alone.

“Political Philosophy and Revelation,” by the Jesuit priest who is emeritus professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, is a collection of 21 essays, as well as an introduction and conclusion, which consider faith and reason, and the place of both philosophy and Christian revelation in the public sphere.

The book, published by Catholic University of America Press, is dominated by the thought of Plato, and by Plato's consideration of the trial and death of Socrates: in “all the dialogues that Plato wrote, he asked the question, 'was it necessary that Socrates be executed by the best city?'” Fr. Schall said in an interview with CNA about the work.

“That particular question is the foundation of political philosophy.”

Fr. Schall explained that a Christian reading Plato will be struck by the fact “that the death of Christ and the death of Socrates are paradigmatic to each other: … they are both in a trial, both are in the best cities of their time.”

“So the question,” central to political philosophy, is “how is it possible that the two best men were killed by a trial?

“That enigma of the similarity in their deaths has always been in my mind the link between reason and revelation, and why (the two deaths) must be considered both together, and uniquely in themselves.”

The deaths of these just men raise this problem, Fr. Schall explained: “the just man will be persecuted, and the unjust will have rewards in this life.”

Plato's solution to this problem of injustice in the world is the immortality of the soul: with an immortal soul, even though “no political institution has produced a situation where all good men have been rewarded, and all bad men punished … then ultimately after death there is a judgment, which sorts out those who are good and those who are evil.”

Fr. Schall explained that reason and philosophy can get this far – to the immortality of the soul – in addressing the problem of injustice in the world.

“Yet Plato leaves you with a question,” an incompleteness, he continued. “The resurrection of the body … has to be a part of this whole political philosophy question, as it appears in Plato, and the reason is that we don't sin as minds alone: it's our whole being, body and soul.”

“The question (of injustice in the world) is unanswerable without revelation, but revelation's idea of the resurrection of the body brings to completion several strands of thought.”

“Christianity doesn't say you can argue from reason to the resurrection of the body,” Fr. Schall clarified. “You can't do that. But, it also says the resurrection of the body, once it is revealed to you by the source of intelligence, is understandable to you, if you are asking the right questions.”

The book “Political Philosophy and Revelation” then, “is designed to show that revelation and reason are designed to go together,” but that “unless you pursue reason as far as it will go under its own powers, you will not recognize that revelation has been addressed to reason.”

If you pursue philosophy and reason as far as they will go, Fr. Schall said, “you have to get to a point where you don't understand something: 'my mind understands that there ought to be an answer to this, but it doesn't know what it is,'” and that any philosopher, not just a Jew or Christian, can see that the Bible “is an appeal directed to reason.”

“It is directed to precisely those questions which the human mind can't figure out by itself … reason, when it is understanding as much as it can by itself … can at least see that the Christian answer to the question of justice in the world … is a reasonable answer.”

The relevance of all this to today's world, the priest said, is that we're seeing “a reduction of that link between reason and revelation,” in which governments are denying that religion has a role to play in the public square, or that religious people have a right to act in accordance with their conscience: religion is being relegated to the private sphere.

“When they cross that fine line, it was a momentous thing for us, in Aristotelian terms, of tyranny. People think that a tyrant is … all kind of terrible things. No; if you read Plato, the tyrant is a rich, well spoken, well-educated, very attractive person who … becomes himself the decider of what is right and what is wrong; there is nothing higher than he is.”

Fr. Schall described the “dramatic scene” in Plato's dialogue the Gorgias, where the would-be tyrant, Callicles, who believes in power over reason and argument, says, 'I will no longer talk to you, Socrates, I'll let you go talk by yourself.'”

“What he does is one of the most momentous things in the history of thought,” Fr. Schall explained.

“When you come to that moment … you know Socrates is dead at that point, because Socrates’ only defense is if the tyrant will engage him in thought and argument. And in our context right now, we are seeing that they won’t engage us in argument any longer, and they'll simply say, 'no, we will do this whether you like it or not.'”

In the face of court cases involving religious freedom, Fr. Schall suggested that at times, we “have been arguing on the wrong basis … it should not be argued on the basis of religious freedom, but on the basis of what's reasonable.”

The reasonableness of revelation, he said, is what Catholics are called to share with the rest of the world. And this sharing is what we must first be concerned with, rather than whether it will be accepted.

“The essence is not 'how do we convince people this is so'; that is a legitimate question, but the broader question is, 'are you teaching the truth or are you afraid to teach the truth?'”

Political philosophy, Fr. Schall concludes in the book, is a question of what place philosophy has in the polis, the public sphere. Philosophy is meant to come to know reality, and revelation's role as an answer to the questions of philosophy mean that both these do have a place in the public square.

“All persons reach, or fail to reach their transcendent end in a manner that includes their freedom and how it was used in the polities of their time,” Fr. Schall writes in the conclusion of “Political Philosophy and Revelation.”

“Political philosophy eventually confronts issues that it cannot fully answer by itself, by its own methods and competency … the knowledge of politics includes the knowledge of its intrinsic limits. In this sense, the purpose of revelation is to free politics to be politics and not a pseudoreligion or metaphysics.”

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Fraternity, dialogue aid in fostering peace, Pope tells diplomats

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his annual meeting with the diplomatic corps, Pope Francis spoke to ambassadors about the importance of fostering peace through the use of dialogue, diplomacy and respect for human dignity.

“Everywhere, the way to resolve open questions must be that of diplomacy and dialogue,” the Pope told those gathered for the Jan. 12 encounter.

Extending his greetings to the 180 ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, the Pope began his discourse by recalling the theme of his message for the World Day of Peace, “fraternity as the foundation and pathway to peace.”

Quoting his own words, he reminded the ambassadors that “fraternity is generally first learned within the family,” which is “meant to spread its love to the world around,” highlighting how in the Holy Family we encountered at Christmas, “there is room for everyone, poor and rich alike, those near and those afar.”

However, the Pope noted that although, in the words of his predecessor Benedict XVI “the language of the family is a language of peace,” this is “sadly…often not the case.”

“As the number of broken and troubled families is on the rise, not simply because of the weakening sense of belonging so typical of today’s world, but also because of the adverse conditions in which many families are forced to live,” stated the pontiff, there “is a need for suitable policies aimed at supporting, assisting and strengthening the family!”

Drawing attention to the fact that the elderly are often viewed “as a burden” while the youth “lack clear prospects for their lives,” Pope Francis emphasized that both categories “are the hope of humanity.”

“The elderly bring with them wisdom born of experience; the young open us to the future and prevent us from becoming self-absorbed,” he reflected, adding that “It is prudent to keep the elderly from being ostracized from the life of society, so as to preserve the living memory of each people.”

“It is likewise important to invest in the young through suitable initiatives which can help them to find employment and establish homes. We must not stifle their enthusiasm!”

“Being closed and isolated always makes for a stifling, heavy atmosphere which sooner or later ends up creating sadness and oppression,” the Pope stressed, stating that what is needed instead is “a shared commitment to favoring a culture of encounter” which radiates “joy and being peacemakers.”

Amid the “scenes of destruction and death” of this past year caused by a “self-centeredness which gradually takes the form of envy, selfishness, competition and the thirst for power and money,” the pontiff noted that he has great “confidence” in the year ahead.

Turning to the ongoing conflict in Syria and the Middle East, the Pope thanked the ambassadors for their participation in his day of fasting and prayer for the region last September, and expressed his hope that the upcoming Geneva 2 Conference, to be held Jan. 22, will “mark the beginning of the desired peace process.”

What is needed in order to overcome these conflicts, emphasized the pontiff, is the “courage ‘to go beyond the surface of the conflict.’”

It is necessary, he continued, quoting his message for the World Day of Peace, “to consider others in their deepest dignity, so that unity will prevail over conflict and it will be ‘possible to build communion amid disagreement.’”

Referring also to what is happening in Africa and Asia, Pope Francis stressed that “Christians are called to give witness to God’s love and mercy.”

“We must never cease to do good, even when it is difficult and demanding, and when we endure acts of intolerance if not genuine persecution,” he said, referring to ongoing violence in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Drawing attention to the “long history of peaceful coexistence” between the Republic of Korea’s “different civil, ethnic and religious groups,” the Pope affirmed that “such reciprocal respect needs to be encouraged.”

“Especially,” added the pontiff “given certain troubling signs that it is weakening, particularly where growing attitudes of prejudice, for allegedly religious reasons, are tending to deprive Christians of their liberties and to jeopardize civil coexistence.”

In addition to the numerous conflicts and acts of violence threatening peace, Pope Francis emphasized that another great danger is “every denial of human dignity,” beginning with the lack of “access to adequate nutrition.”

“We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger,” he said, “especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed ‘the throwaway culture.’”

“Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects,” the Pope went on to say, “but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’”

“For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”

It is also troubling, noted the pontiff, that children are “being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts” and are “being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”

Turning to the many refugees who flee their homeland due to “famine, violence and oppression,” Pope Francis observed how many are “living as fugitives or refugees in camps where they are no longer seen as persons but as nameless statistics.”

Recalling his July to the small island of Lampedusa to pray for the victims of the Mediterranean refugee crisis, the Pope explained that often “there is a general indifference in the face of these tragedies.”

This, he added, “is a dramatic sign of the loss of that ‘sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters,’ on which every civil society is based.”

One final threat to peace in our world, explained the pontiff, is “the greedy exploitation of environmental resources.”

“Even if ‘nature is at our disposition,’ all too often we do not ‘respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations,’” he said, again quoting his message for the World Day of Peace.

Concluding his remarks, the Pope quoted his predecessor Pope Paul VI, stressing that “peace ‘is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power.’”

“It is fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of an order willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men and women.”

Pope Francis assured the ambassadors of the “readiness of the Holy See, and of the Secretariat of State in particular,” to cooperate with their countries in “fostering those bonds of fraternity,” and gave his blessing to them, their families and to those whom the diplomats represent.

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Be true witnesses rather than 'pure legalists,' Pope exhorts

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily, Pope reflected on different models of Christian witness, cautioning the faithful against hypocrisy when they evangelize, and encouraging them to imitate Jesus.

“Let us ask the Lord that these two readings help us in our lives as Christians,” said the Pope in reference to the day’s scripture passages, and let us learn “not to be pure legalists, hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees…but to be like Jesus, with that zeal to seek the people.”

During his Jan. 14 homily given in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, Pope Francis used the characters in the day’s readings to develop the theme of Christian witness, highlighting how the attitudes portrayed display four different types of believers.

Focusing on Eli the priest from the first reading, his sons who were also priests, the scribes and on Jesus, the pontiff explained that the Lord’s attitude is one of teaching with authority, while the others bound their people with heavy burdens.

“It is Jesus himself who says that (the scribes) did not move these things even with a finger, right?” the Pope explained, “And then He will say to people: ‘Do what they say but not what they do!’”

The scribes, he noted, are “incoherent people,” adding that it often seems “that these scribes and Pharisees are always beating on the (regular folks).”

However, the pontiff explained that “Jesus told them…that in this way, they closed the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, (as if to say), ‘You don’t let others enter, and so neither will you yourselves gain entrance.’”

“This is how some people teach, preach and witness the faith…and how many people out there think that the faith really is as they present it.”

Pope Francis then recalled the attitude of Eli in the first reading when he saw the woman Hannah in the temple begging for a son, and at first thinking her drunk, he told her to go away.

This attitude, he noted represents that of the “salesman” or the “manager” of the faith, revealing a priest whose heart is not truly in what he does.

“How many times,” the Pope lamented, “do God's people feel themselves unloved by those who ought to give witness: by Christians – by lay faithful, by priests, by bishops.”

“Why, then, do I have some sympathy for this man, (Eli)?” asked the Pope, “Because in his heart he still had the anointing, because when the woman explains her situation, Eli says, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant you what you asked for.’”

“The priestly anointing comes out in the end: he had hidden it inside his laziness, poor man, a lukewarm man, and it ends badly for him, poor fellow.”

Turning to Eli’s sons, Pope Francis explained that after the scribes and their father Eli, they represent a third model of a believer, referring to them as “brigands” who “were priests,” but shirked their duties in order to chase after power and money.

These men exploited their people and took advantage of the alms given, observed the Pope, stating that they, like Judas, are an image of the corrupt Christian who betrays Jesus, and in the end were punished severely by the Lord.

Pope Francis then noted that in contrast to the former three, the fourth and final model of witness is Jesus himself – who teaches others by the power and authority of his own holiness, and by being close to his people, especially to sinners.

Citing how Jesus pardons the adulteress, and converses with the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospels as examples, the Pope explained that the Lord genuinely seeks to heal the wounded.

“Let us ask the Lord that these two readings help us in our lives as Christians,” he prayed, “let us not be corrupt like the sons of Eli, nor to be lukewarm as Eli himself,” but “to be like Jesus, with that zeal to seek the people, heal people, to love people.”

Concluding his homily, the pontiff encouraged those in attendance, with the attitude of Jesus, to say to others, “‘but if I do this tiny little thing, little as I am, think about how God loves you, think about how your Father is!’ Let us ask for this grace.”

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John Kerry, Vatican Secretary of State hold 'positive' meeting

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin met Jan. 14, focusing their discussions on the Middle East, the Syrian conflict, the Sudan situation and religious freedom issues in the U.S.

“The encounter was extremely fruitful and rich in content,” said Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., of the Vatican Press Office.

He characterized the one hour, forty minute meeting as “very important” and “intensive.”

“The mood of the meeting was a positive one. It was a constructive encounter, an important one and the length of time it lasted is indicative of its underlying significance.”

Kerry is on an international diplomatic tour to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, Vatican Radio reports. He is also working for the success of the Geneva 2 Conference for peace in Syria, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 22.

Fr. Lombardi said the meeting centered on Middle East issues, especially the conflict in Syria. The Syria conflict between rebels and the government has killed more than 100,000 people while internally displacing 6.5 million people. Over 2.3 million registered refugees from Syria are living in nearby countries.

The U.S. is backing the rebels and has periodically threatened military strikes against the government. In September Pope Francis led a worldwide vigil for peace in Syria after the U.S. said the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons justified military action. The U.S. later backed down after Russian president Vladimir Putin proposed that the Syrian government give up all chemical weapons.

Fr. Lombardi said the meeting voiced a desire for a peaceful solution in Syria and for humanitarian aid for the conflict’s victims.

The meeting also discussed negotiations between Israel and Palestine “in an effort to encourage, pursue and hopefully achieve the aspired for positive result.”

The“increasingly dramatic” situation in Sudan was also a subject of discussion. The participants voiced hope that the new violence may be ended by mediation.

U.S. domestic issues also drew attention. According to Fr. Lombardi the Holy See “expressed its concern, shared by the bishops of the United States, regarding rules regulating the health reform relating to guaranteeing freedom of religion and conscientious objection.”

The Health and Human Services mandate requires most employers to provide employees coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The mandate’s narrow religious objection means that many Catholic organizations and Catholic-run businesses are being forced to assist in providing drugs and procedures that violate Catholic beliefs or face heavy fines.

The mandate is currently being litigated in court. President Obama’s efforts to combat poverty were also discussed at the meeting.

The meeting included Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett. Three staff members of Kerry and two officials of the Roman Curia also attended.

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Papal almoner celebrates funeral for homeless man

Rome, Italy, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican officials held a funeral Mass on Jan. 10 for Alexander Pawlewski, a beggar who was often seen on the streets of Rome and died from exposure to the cold last month.

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, who is responsible for distributing donations to those in need on behalf of Pope Francis. Father Policarpo Nowak of the Vatican Secretariat of State delivered the homily.

“Let us defend ourselves from the evil of selfishness and indifference, offering more time to our neighbor, and above all recognizing his full dignity as a child of God,” the priest said.

Pawlewski, a 63 year-old Polish national, was found dead on the street with his sole possessions – a cardboard box he used as a bed and a blanket to keep warm.

The Community of Sant'Egidio, which has helped the poor around the Vatican for more than 30 years, often provided him with assistance and took charge of organizing his funeral in collaboration with the Pontifical Urban University.

The funeral Mass came a month after Pawlewski's death and was held at the university chapel. Members of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Vatican personnel and some of his fellow homeless friends attended the funeral. Friends said no family member ever took interest in him.

In his homily, Fr. Nowak urged a greater openness to those who live in poverty.

“Due to the economic, spiritual and moral crisis of today, the hearts of many are frozen and many are dying in inhumane conditions,” he said.

“When we encounter the poor,” he reflected, “do we treat them with affection or do we humiliate them? Let us remember that Christ became man choosing to be poor, and therefore the poor are truly privileged relatives of Jesus, like Mary. So treat them and look at them as such.”

Carlo Santoro of the Community of Sant'Egidio said loneliness “is something very common among those who live on the street. They truly suffer because of it.”

“I assure you that the homeless, the poor, are exactly like us and therefore, they have the right to a beautiful funeral, only sometimes these are people who die alone and no one knows of their death,” Father Nowak said.

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San Francisco pro-life walk to include slate of dynamic events

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 2014 Walk for Life West Coast will host an engaging series of events surrounding the walk itself, which one of the founders is calling a fruition of ten years of pro-life witness in San Francisco.

“We have so many events around the walk: the Law of Life summit, the sidewalk counselor training by Abby Johnson, the very first west coast Students for Life of America conference … it's the fruits of the walk,” Eva Muntean, a co-founder of Walk for Life West Coast, told CNA Jan. 7.

“It's amazing the fruit that comes out of making these events happen.”

The Walk for Life is a pro-life march held annually in San Francisco, from Civic Center Plaza to the Ferry Building on the San Francisco Bay.

This year's event will occur Jan. 25, and will be preceded by a Mass said by the city's archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone. The walk will be followed by sidewalk counselor training, and an evening Mass in the extraordinary form.

The walk is held on a Saturday, Muntean explained, to facilitate the participation of more families and young people, and it is always focused on “how abortion hurts women.”

On Jan. 24, events include a youth conference held by the Sisters of Life; a legal summit; a prayer vigil, and all-night Eucharistic Adoration. The Sunday after the walk will feature a conference for Students for Life of America.

Students for Life of America has been “so motivated by the walk,” and having “decided that their east coast conference is such a success, they wanted to start doing it on this coast,” Muntean said, adding that it is another “fruit of the walk.”

Speakers at this year's walk come from an array of backgrounds; notable among them is Monica Snyder, of Secular Pro-Life. The group seeks to unite pro-life persons regardless of religious beliefs, and argue for the rights of the unborn on the basis of reason alone.

Snyder “is great,” Muntean said. “She's a wonderful, well-spoken, articulate woman who is very pro-life, and fights the battle without religion, and I think it's fantastic to show that you don't have to be religious to be pro-life.”

The Walk for Life's other speakers are Shari Rigby, an actress and mother; Grace Dulaney, of the Agnus Dei Foundation, which supports women who give up their children for adoption; and Clenard Childress, a Baptist pastor and the director of Black Genocide, which educates about abortion's disproportionate threat to the African-American community.

Muntean said the Walk for Life “has spent a lot of effort” reaching out to non-Catholics, and that while “ the majority of people who come are Catholic, but we're finding more and more people who tell us they are not.” The invocation at the walk will this year be given by an Anglican bishop, and “we invite everyone to join us,” she added.

“It's our tenth anniversary, and that's huge for us; we're working hard to make it a special event.”

The walk has purchased 50 six-foot tall banners for the event, which features its logo and the mantra “abortion hurts women.”

The “bright and beautiful” banners are “posted along Market Street (the walk's route) on the light poles, and it's caused quite a stir here in the city … we wanted to reach out to the city.”

“They're out for a full month,” having been erected Dec. 26, Muntean said. “We're trying to make ourselves heard here, in San Francisco, and to show that … we're pro-life, and we're here to stay.”

While pro-choice groups such as Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women have protested the signs, the San Francisco mayor has maintained their presence because the city's public works department does not consider the content of messages on approved signs so long as they do not include profanity or nudity.

Last year's Walk for Life drew an estimated 50,000 participants, and Muntean indicated that the organization is “on par for last year.” She noted that the beginning and end of the route are now both served by the Bay area's public transit, “so I think we'll grow. We'll see by how much on the 25th.”

Muntean added that the Walk for Life is a “labor of love,” as she and all those who make it happen are volunteers.

“The Walk for Life West Coast is a strictly volunteer-based event, so everyone who works on Walk for Life, including myself … have full-time jobs,” and that the volunteers have virtually “two full-time jobs for several months out of the year to make the Walk for Life happen.”

“If there was ever a good definition of 'labor of love,' it's the Walk for Life.”

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Cardinal calls the word capitalism 'misleading,' urges better dialogue

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2014 (CNA) - Cardinal Reinhard Marx wrote an essay in the Vatican's newspaper on Pope Francis' “Evangelii gaudium,” taking capitalism to task for centering itself on means of production rather than persons and calling for broader dialogue on the issue.

“The very word capitalism is misleading,” the archbishop of Munich and Freising wrote, “to define the whole of life from a particular point. What vision of the economy and of society is that which takes capital as its starting point, and renders acting persons marginal conditions, or factors of cost?”

“Whoever reduces economic action to capitalism not only has chosen the morally wrong starting point, but is also wrong in the long term from the economic point of view.”

The essay affirms market economies as a good, while criticizing the worldview of capitalism as making laborers and consumers subject to capital and goods, rather than placing the human person at the center of its concerns.

“Beyond Capitalism,” written in Italian, was published in the Jan. 10 issue of L'Osservatore Romano. It appears here in full, in an English translation by CNA's Rome bureau chief, Alan Holdren.

Cardinal Marx has served as Archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2008, and is part of the group of eight cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to advise him in curial reform. The German native was ordained a priest in 1979, and consecrated a bishop in 1996.

His essay echoes statements he made at a May 30, 2012 lecture delivered at Washington D.C.'s Georgetown University, on the topic of “Economic Crisis as an Opportunity for Change.”

Cardinal Marx began his latest remarks by noting the heated opposition to Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium,” particularly the Pope's statement that “an economy of exclusion and inequality” ultimately “kills.”

He said that the document is not “a social encyclical,” and pointed out that Pope Francis was writing not about economics, but first and foremost of evangelization, saying he writes in a style of “prophetic exhortation.”  

“He is interested in announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ, which must have effects on the entire life of persons. In his Exhortation, he recalls the great tradition of Catholic social teaching.”

Cardinal Marx stressed that the Church has a contribution to make in the public square, saying politics, economics, and culture are all “part of the evangelizing mission of the Church,” despite those who “feel annoyed and upset” and “would like to limit religion to the issue of the salvation of the soul” and consider the Church a vestige of history that has been “overcome by enlightenment and progress.”

Cardinal Marx critiqued the movement of the past 25 years toward “a financial capitalism” akin to gambling, which “has brought a catastrophic crisis.”

“This capitalism destroys human lives and harms the common good,” he said, while being careful to distinguish it from market economies, which he called “necessary and sensible.”

Cardinal Marx said that the Pope's “integral approach,” which included economics within the field of evangelization, was unsurprisingly upsetting to those who would make economics a specialization, set apart from the consideration of persons and the common good: “self-sufficient, partial systems … defend themselves from external interference.”

A danger, he said, is that far from being a mere specialization, economics and capitalism have broadened their purview, such that there is an “economization of all areas of life,” calling it the “rendering the rhythm of society dependent on the interests of the exploitation of capital.”

“It is precisely this which the Pope justly criticizes.”

The economization of life treats capitalism as a natural necessity “to which men, their cultures and their lifestyles must adapt.” He added that capitalism “should not become the model for society because … it doesn’t take into account” the weak and the poor.

While affirming the necessity and goodness of market economies, he critiqued the worldview of capitalism as being concerned with capital first, and the human person only secondarily.

Cardinal Marx said that it is necessary that market economies be reminded that they are “products of civilization … that the economy must serve the common good” and that material goods can never fulfill human desire.

“A society in which the praise of greed is invited is on the road to alienation and divides persons.”

He exhorted Christians to “engage in the fields of politics, economy and society” to improve them, acknowledging that “criticizing capitalism is not a solution.”

“Where are the political parties, especially those that define themselves as starting from the Christian image of man, when it comes to doing it properly, and of introducing him in the debate at a global level?”

The Pope's concerns are centered on the persons of the poor, he concluded: “they need to find a place in the Church and in society.”

“The call to think beyond capitalism is not a struggle against the market economy or a renunciation of any economic reason,” but is an invitation from the Pope to “reorder priorities.”

“The future is not capitalism, but a world community, which leaves always more space to the model of a responsible freedom and that does not accept that peoples, groups and individuals are excluded and marginalized. Is it really something so wrong and out of this world?”

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