Archive of January 20, 2014

MLK's witness continues to push for justice 'rooted in love'

Birmingham, Ala., Jan 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The example of Martin Luther King, Jr., calls Americans today to renew their commitment to justice and charity, reflected the head of the Knights of Peter Claver ahead of the annual holiday recognizing the civil rights leader.

“We must illustrate and express ever more evidently the familial bond we share in Faith. Just as people often remember King as a drum major for justice, we must view ourselves as drum majors for justice in this contemporary age,” said F.  DeKarlos Blackmon, Supreme Knight of the historically black Catholic fraternal organization.

“After all, there can be no true justice, no true harmony, no true righteousness, and no true integrity without love. Our pursuit of authentic justice must be rooted in love.”

In a Jan. 17 statement just ahead of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Blackmon – who chairs the school board of the Birmingham diocese – exhorted Catholics to reflect not only on King's life and work, “but also on the challenge each of us has as baptized members of Christ's faithful.”

“The Word of God and King’s deep convictions led him to challenge these United States to live out its creed that all men are created equal. If we cannot look upon one another as brothers and sisters, we dare not call our God 'Father.'”

Blackmon called on Catholics to consider that faith is “not as much about us as individuals as it is about us as a loving family,” and that the unity is one of the marks of the Church, saying we are “bound by Christ” and urged by St. Paul “to live in a manner worthy of the call (we) have received.”

“King understood this; King preached this; and King lived this. The beatific call in his life led him from humble beginnings to the 'mountaintop.'”

The Knight of Peter Claver also remembered the Catholics who worked against segregation in this country, noting Joseph Rummel, Archbishop of New Orleans from 1935 to 1964; Joseph Durick, who was Auxiliary Bishop of Mobile-Birmingham when he was among the addressees of King's Letter from Birmingham Jail; and the Edmundite and Josephite Fathers, who ministered to black families.

“Durick, who was transformed by King’s plea, became an outspoken activist and advocate for civil rights and equal justice for everyone … Durick, like King and so many others, helped people to rise above their personal interests to bring about positive change for the greater community.”

Blackmon called on Catholics “to become ever inspired by the teachings of Christ,” saying that it is by “living authentically the gospel values” that “we can more effectively challenge our country to live out its conviction that indeed 'all men are created equal'.”

“We must recommit ourselves to being true peacemakers. We must commit to establish our homes as the first and best schools of reconciliation, compassion, mercy, and love.”

He said that “contrary to popular opinion, we have not made it over. When we see our Catholic schools among the urban poor closing across the country, I am reminded that we have not made it over. There is still a need for these schools, and local communities must find inventive ways to keep many of these schools open. We must see these institutions as means to evangelize and model successfully the gospel values.”

“The anthem of King and the Civil Rights movement is still our objective, our aim, our target, and our end: to overcome some day. By the grace of almighty God, by the arduous work of our hands, by the standing up to be witnesses to the saving power of God, we will overcome.”

He cited prejudice, racism, and intolerance as things to be overcome, as well as the idea that poor, suffering urban schools should be closed and their students sent to suburban schools.

Blackmon also addressed issues of immigration, and anti-Hispanic prejudices.

“I see so very often how we – especially black people – must be ever mindful of the implications of discrimination and prejudices toward Hispanics. We, the faithful who claim to follow Christ, must be ever mindful of our role in welcoming 'the stranger.' We must fight always for the dignity of every human person – from conception to natural death.”

“If we call ourselves believers and followers of Christ, we must stand up for what is right and just, and we must be willing to lose our lives for the sake of the gospel,” he exhorted, adding that Catholics must be willing to publicly do the right, and difficult thing, rather than the “easy moral wrong.”

Blackmon concluded, “May we live the gospel values fully and completely, and may we stand up for that which we profess to believe. Let us be willing to lose our lives for the sake of the gospel. May the all-powerful Lord grant us his grace and keep us in his peace.”

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Pope Francis: accept the surprises of God

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on the theme of Christian freedom, observing that it comes from our docility and willingness to accept the “newness” and the “surprises of God.”

“The Word of God is alive and so comes and says what he wants to say: not what I expect it to say, or what I hope it says,” stated the Pope in his Jan. 20 daily Mass, adding that it is a “free” word that is also “a surprise, because our God is the God of surprises.”

Directing his thoughts to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha Guesthouse, Pope Francis began his homily by focusing on the importance of having an attitude of “openness” in order to truly receive the Word of God.

“The Word of God is living and active, it discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” noted the pontiff, adding that Christian freedom comes from “docility” to this word, and because of this we should always be prompt in accepting the “newness” of the Gospel.

“The Gospel is newness. Revelation is newness. Our God is a God that always makes things new and asks from us this docility to his newness,” the Pope emphasized.

“Jesus is clear in this, He is very clear: new wine into new wineskins,” affirmed the pontiff, recalling Jesus’ response in the day’s Gospel reading, taken from Mark, to those who question why his disciples are not fasting like the others.

“God brings the wine, but it must be received with this openness to newness,” he continued, highlighting that this openness “is called docility.”

Pope Francis then encouraged those in attendance to ask themselves “am I docile to the Word of God or do I always do what I believe to be the Word of God?”

If we do the latter, he observed, we “end up like a piece of new cloth on an old garment, and the tear gets worse,” again referring to the day’s Gospel reading, adding that to “conform to the Word of God in order to receive it” requires “a whole ascetic attitude.”

“When I want to take electricity from the electrical source, if the appliance that I have does not work, I seek an adaptor,” explained the Pope.

“We should always try to adapt ourselves, adapt ourselves to this newness of the Word of God, to be open to the newness.”

Recalling the conversation between Saul and Samuel in the day’s first reading, taken from the First Letter of Samuel, in which the prophet chastises Saul for disobeying the Lord, the Pope stated that “Saul, precisely the elected of God, God's anointed, had forgotten that God is surprise and newness.”

“He had forgotten,” noted the pontiff, “he was closed in his thoughts, in his schemes, and so he reasoned in a human way.”

Explaining how, during Saul’s time, the loot taken from a victorious battle would often be used as a sacrifice, the Pope highlighted that when the king decided that the animals they had won would be “for the Lord,” he “reasoned with his thoughts, with his heart, closed in his habits.”

“Our God,” stated the pontiff, is not “the God of habits: he is a God of surprises,” adding that Saul “did not obey the Word of God” and was “not docile to the Word of God.”

“Rebellion, not obeying the Word of God, is a sin of divination,” he observed, and “obstinacy, the stubbornness of doing that which you want and not what God wants, is the sin of idolatry.”

These things can drive us think about what really is “Christian freedom,” and “what is Christian obedience,” the Pope reflected, emphasizing that “Christian freedom and Christian obedience are docile to the Word of God.”

“It is having this courage to become new wineskins, for this new wine that comes continuously,” he went on to say, adding that it is the “courage of always discerning: discerning, I mean, not relativizing.”

“Always discern what the Spirit does in my heart, what the Spirit wants in my heart, where the Spirit leads me in my heart. And obeying. Discern and obey.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by praying that all might receive “the grace of docility to the Word of God, and this Word that is alive and effective, that discerns the feelings and thoughts of the heart."

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Pope Francis visits Roman parish serving homeless, poor

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, made a pastoral visit to one of his parishes Sunday, choosing one situated in an area filled with migrants, refugees, homeless persons, and itinerants.

During his Jan. 19 visit to Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Praetorian Barracks, Pope Francis said Mass in the evening and met with members of the parish, including the homeless who live near Rome’s large Termini train station.

While located in Rome's geographical center, three miles east of the Vatican, Sacred Heart is in an “existential periphery” of the city.

“Initially (Pope Francis) said, ‘I don’t want to go to a church in the center of Rome, but on the outskirts,’” the parish's pastor, Fr. Valerio Baresi, a Salesian, told CNA Jan. 20.

“Then he realized we, because we are in the center of Rome – we’re across from Termini station – that we live in the reality of an existential periphery, because here there are numerous poor people, looking to survive near the station.”

Termini is Rome's main railway station, connecting it to Europe and Italy's major cities; it is also a metro station, where the city's two main lines intersect.

Sacred Heart offers special outreach to the diverse populations who arrive at Termini, often living on the peripheries of society. Each Thursday the parish hosts a get-together with games, songs, reading the upcoming Sunday gospel together, as well as a dinner. On Friday, a group of young people bring dinner to the homeless at Termini station.

“It’s not just that we give them something to eat: above all, we create relationships,” explained Fr. Baresi.

The many activities are run by both the Salesian priests at the parish and a group of missionary sisters from Argentina. Together, they work “with the youth” rather than “for the youth” of the parish, forming the young people to be able to enter into the work of service with people from all over the world.

“It’s beautiful to see the young refugees together with the young Italians - mutual enrichment, one learning from the other, one teaching the other,” reflected Fr. Baresi.

Sacred Heart, which serves over 400 refugees every year, also offers Italian classes, education for a middle school diploma, and a driving school, “so that they can find it easier to enter into the world of work.”

During his homily for Mass, Pope Francis preached on Christ as the “lamb of God,” taking on the “weakness” of humanity.

Christ “takes away many sins with love,” preached the Bishop of Rome. He “is full of love, close to the small, close to the poor: he was there among the people.”

The city's bishop also emphasized the profundity of God's forgiveness.

“Maybe we have torment in the heart, darkness in the heart, maybe one feels sad for a sin… but (Jesus) came to take on all the sins … this is the salvation of Jesus.”

Jesus came to bring “peace in the world, but first in the heart,” he said.

“We must grow in faith in Jesus.”

Often we have faith in a doctor, or a brother or sister, to help us, and “it is good to have faith in humanity. But don’t forget to have faith in the Lord! This is the key to life.”

“Jesus never deludes, never, eh? Never – listen well, you young people who are starting life: Jesus never deludes!”

Pope Francis then led the congregation in an Ignatian-style meditation about Sunday’s gospel reading.

“I invite you to do something. Close your eyes. Let us imagine this scene. We arrive at the river. There is John the Baptist, and Jesus passes by. We hear the voice of John the Baptist, ‘behold the lamb of God’, and now we hear the voice of Jesus in each one of us, in the silence of our hearts.”

Following the Mass, a Ghanaian refugee, Steven, told CNA he appreciates Sacred Heart because “here they have respect for everyone – we are all like family here, we don’t have a difference between refugees or the people who live in Rome.”

Steven met Pope Francis during the pastoral visit, and said that when he asked the Pope to pray for him, he replied, “pray for me too.”

“One thing he said that was very interesting for me,” Steven added, is “he said that no one here can save us – only God will save us.”

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DC concert to share message of Bl. John XXIII, John Paul II

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An upcoming concert in Washington, D.C., will celebrate the lives and canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, highlighting their efforts to promote unity, cooperation and peace.

“This concert is going to be unique,” said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., at a Jan. 16 press conference.

“It will stand in its own right because what it is saying is 'look at the fruit of the lives of these two popes and what they have brought to our world today.'”

The concert, “Peace through Music 'In Our Age',” will draw its inspiration from the two popes. It will also seek guidance from the 1965 Vatican document “Nostra Aetate,” or “In Our Age,” which explained the necessity and importance of inter-religious dialogue and relationship between the Catholic Church and other world faiths.

The document, a product of the Second Vatican Council started by Bl. Pope John XXIII, was often referenced by Bl. Pope John Paul II during the ecumenical and inter-religious work of his pontificate.

Both late popes will be canonized on April 27, 2014. The concert in honor of the canonization will be held on May 5 in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

It will be broadcast by PBS, and the organizers are in discussions about a potential international broadcast as well.

The event will bring together three world-class choirs and orchestras from Poland and the United States: the Carnegie Hall-based Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir and the Washington Choral Arts choir.

They will perform a 16th century canzona by Giovanni Gabrieli; the Sanctus from Giuseppi Verdi's “Requiem Mass”; “Totus Tuus” – a Marian work written by Polish composer Henryk Górecki; Jewish-American composer Leonard Bernstein's “Chichester Psalms,” performed in Hebrew; and Johannes Brahms' “Symphony No. 1.”

The Archdiocese of Washington worked alongside Maestro Levine, as well as Polish ambassador Ryszard Schnepf and chair of Georgetown University's board of directors Paul Tagliabue, to make the concert a reality.

Cardinal Wuerl explained that the focus of the concert will be the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXII because “so much of the world feels a personal bond with each or both of these Popes.”

“John XXIII was the Pope who convened the the Second Vatican Council, and he ushered in a whole new era of interfaith, of ecumenical collaboration, and a whole new focus on social justice issues,” the cardinal said, adding that Bl. John Paul II  “served as hope, traveled all over the world and highlighted over and over and over again the need for people to come together.”

“This is the opportunity to open a reflection,” he continued, saying that the two popes taught about the “basic humanity that we all share” and showed that “we are all the children of a loving God and we need to relate to one another in that way.”
“This is the beginning of a whole new chapter, saying 'these things work,'” Cardinal Wuerl reflected. “It is possible to bring people together to build a world of peace, a world of mutual respect.”

Maestro Levine, who will be conducting the event, has deep ties to Pope John Paul II. The New-York born conductor was with the Krakow Philharmonic while the future pope served there as archbishop, and the two became friends.

Pope John Paul II invited Levine to conduct concerts to celebrate his 10th anniversary as pope and the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver.

In addition, he was commissioned by the Pope in 1994 to conduct the “Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah.”

Levine, who is Jewish, pointed to this concert as a demonstration of the power of music. Levine's family lost more than 40 members during the Holocaust, and his own mother-in-law survived the Auschwitz concentration camp.

John Paul II had “sensed that there was a tremendous hunger” for healing from the Holocaust, Levine said. While there were reservations both from the Jewish and Catholic communities, the Pope defended the event, which ultimately hosted more than 200 Holocaust survivors.

The music helped the community to heal, Levine reflected, recalling that his mother-in-law felt that it “healed her soul.”

The conductor voiced his joy at bringing the upcoming concert “home” to America. From the D.C. venue, he said, the concert will focus on the two popes and their “outreach to all Americans of all faiths, from the Catholic tradition but reaching out to all traditions.”

Ambassador Schnepf, who helped spark the idea for the concert, said the Polish embassy is excited to work on the project. He emphasized that Pope John Paul II's “message of independence and freedom is a beautiful message for the future.”

“That it is coming from Washington to the people of the whole world is a great thing,” he reflected.

Tagliabue added his hopes that the concert will inspire people to look at the two historic popes “and their lives and their achievements” involving outreach and inter-faith cooperation.

“The world needs to hear their message,” he said.


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Vatican commission completes Medjugorje investigation

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2014 (CNA) - The Holy See has announced that the commission charged with investigating the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje has completed its task, and will be submitting its findings to the Vatican's doctrine office.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed Jan. 18 that the international commission investigating the supposed apparitions had held its final meeting the prior day, and will submit its final report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, emeritus vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, the commission was created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2010, and was composed of an international panel of bishops, cardinals, theologians, and various experts who have undertaken a detailed study of the reports of the reported Marian apparitions.

The commissions were established to further investigate “certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje.”

The alleged apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in the town of Medjugorje, located in what is now Bosnia, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Originally said to have occurred on a hilltop in the town where a cross commemorating the Redemption rests, the apparitions are also said to have taken place in various other locations, including the local parish church and wherever the visionaries happen to be located during the time of Mary’s appearance.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings, and because the commission was still in the process of its investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed last October that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted.”

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