Archive of January 23, 2014

International bishops call Gaza Christians a 'people of hope'

Gaza City, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A group of bishops from around the world who visited the Gaza Strip this month has praised the “courageous” Christian communities continuing to live and work in the “seemingly hopeless situation” there.

“We were encouraged by our visit to tiny Christian communities, which day after day, through many institutions, reach out with compassion to the poorest of the poor, both Muslim and Christian,” the Co-ordination of Bishops’ Conference in Support of the Church in the Holy Land said Jan. 15.

“Their testimony of faith, hope and love gave us hope. This is precisely the hope needed at this moment to bring peace, a peace that can only be built on justice and equity for both peoples.”

The Holy Land Co-ordination was founded in 1998 at the request of the Holy See; the group visits Palestine and Israel each year to engage in prayer, pilgrimage and advocacy in solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land. The 14 bishops participating this year were from North America, Europe, and South Africa, and included Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines.

From Jan. 12-16, the co-ordination visited Christian schools and hospitals in the Gaza Strip; met with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv; and went to Bethlehem in the West Bank to meet Palestinian representatives and local Christians.

In their statement, the bishops voiced continued prayers and support for priests, religious, and lay people working in Gaza, noting their “ministry of presence,” their work in education, and their care for disabled children and the elderly.

They reported witnessing the “deep poverty of the people and the courageous presence of the small and vulnerable Christian communities there.”

“Gaza is a man-made disaster, a shocking scandal, an injustice that cries out to the human community for a resolution. We call upon political leaders to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, assuring access to the basic necessities for a dignified human life, the possibilities for economic development, and freedom of movement.”

The Gaza Strip is a 141 square mile area, part of Palestine, located to the west of Israel and home to 1.7 million persons. Since 2007, it has been ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Since Hamas came to power there, Israel has conducted an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of persons and goods in an effort to limit rocket attacks on Israel launched from the territory.

Israel also conducts air raids against militants in the Gaza Strip; a Jan. 22 raid killed two militants, and according to Palestinian medics a Jan 16. air strike injured five Gazans, four of whom were children.

The bishops stated that “Palestinians and Israelis desperately need … a peace that can only be built on justice and equity for both peoples.”

After their visit to Gaza, the bishops spent most of their time in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank.

There they met with Palestinian representatives; students and staff from Bethlehem University; and projects supported by the Church.

They also visited the Cremisan valley, where a proposed Israeli security barrier “threatens the agricultural land held for generations by 58 Christian families” from the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, they said.

The latest peace talks come “at a critical time,” the bishops said.

“Now is the time to ensure that the aspirations for justice of both sides are fulfilled.”

They urged public officials to become “leaders of hope, not leaders of obstruction.”

Pope Francis’ words were incorporated into their statement. Earlier this month he told diplomats that resumed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are “a positive sign.” He encouraged “courageous decisions aimed at finding a just and lasting solution to a conflict which urgently needs to end.”

The bishops’ statement concluded with prayers.

“We pray that the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land will reinforce hope in the region. We believe a lasting peace is possible.”

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Former Vatican accountant faces further corruption charges

Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An arrested priest who formerly served as an accountant in the Vatican now faces charges he falsely solicited donations, laundered them through the 'Vatican bank', and put them to his personal use.

The Italian legal charges concern Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked for the Vatican department known as the Administration for the Patrimony of the Holy See. His former department manages the Holy See’s investments.

On Jan. 21, Italian authorities seized about 6.5 million euros ($8.8 million) in bank accounts and real estate, including the priest’s luxury apartment in Salerno, the BBC reports. The latest charges are related to allegations he conveyed “false donations” through the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank, from offshore accounts.

Italian authorities said Msgr. Scarano falsely solicited dozens of people for donations to a home for the terminally ill in Salerno, then used the money to pay off a mortgage.

Two others were served with arrest warrants. Another priest was arrested on charges of money laundering and making false statements.

The allegations arose last year, leading Vatican authorities to suspend Msgr. Scarano from his job in early June 2013, and to freeze his funds on July 9. A Vatican investigation of the monsignor resulted in an 89-page dossier about his activities.

Msgr. Scarano was arrested on June 28, 2013 on other allegations of corruption. He allegedly planned to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) from Switzerland to Italy aboard an Italian government airplane. He had the cooperation of an Italian secret service agent and a financial broker.

The priest is currently under house arrest. He and his alleged conspirators in the money smuggling have been on trial in Rome since December.

The Vatican bank has been undergoing reforms to encourage transparency and compliance with international financial standards to combat money laundering. Benedict XVI started the reform process, which is continuing under Pope Francis.

Vatican financial reform was begun in 2009, when the Holy See signed a monetary agreement with the European Union, and issued an anti-money laundering law the following year.

Vatican City underwent an evaluation by the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee in 2011, after which it amended and improved its anti-money laundering law. In July, 2012 the Vatican received a generally positive evaluation from Moneyval.

The Holy See and Italy last year signed an agreement to exchange information that helps prevent money laundering. Pope Francis has also hired a financial service company to examine the bank’s 19,000 accounts to ensure compliance with rules to prevent money laundering.

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Cardinal: joy and compassion are at heart of pro-life movement

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics in the pro-life movement must “evangelize with beauty and with joy” as they seek to offer compassionate aid to women facing difficult pregnancies, said Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston.

“People think Catholics are the 'people of no',” the cardinal said, but “in reality, we are the people of 'yes': yes to God, yes to life, yes to compassion with the poor and the suffering, yes to solidarity that makes us messengers of joy even in the valley of tears.”

Thousands of pilgrims from across the country packed the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on the evening of Jan. 21.

They gathered to attend Mass on the eve of the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

After the Mass, the National Prayer Vigil for Life took place throughout the night with a rosary, confessions, and time for prayer, ending with a closing Mass the next morning. Those attending were then able to participate in the March for Life in downtown Washington, D.C., from the National Mall to the Supreme Court building.

Cardinal O'Malley, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Jan. 21 Mass. Assisting him were more than 500 seminarians, 300 priests, and 30 bishops.

“The Gospel of Life is the center of the Church's social teaching,” Cardinal O'Malley said in his homily, explaining that “this defense of unborn life is linked to the defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of every other kind of human life.”

Without protecting the right to life for all, the United States' notion of defending human rights lacks a solid foundation, he said. Neglecting the most vulnerable members of society opens a  “Pandora's Box that unleashes every kind of injustice and violation.”

This dismissive attitude towards human life, he continued, “jeopardizes the very meaning of democratic coexistence. Rather than societies of people living together, we risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted and oppressed.”

Therefore, when “the Church raises the prophetic cry 'Choose Life,' we are performing a prophetic service to all of society.”

However, he also stressed the importance of love and mercy in proclaiming this message to those in difficult situations.

“The pro-life movement needs to be the merciful face of God to women who are facing a difficult pregnancy,” he said, adding that “being judgmental or condemnatory is not part of the Gospel of Life.”

Pointing to the day's Gospel reading, the cardinal remarked that like the woman caught in adultery, many women facing difficult pregnancies must similarly feel “overwhelmed, unloved, afraid and confused.”

While the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman to death, Jesus defended her, reminding them that they too were sinful. He offered hope to the woman, and encouraged her to embrace a new life.

In a similar way, Cardinal O'Malley said, the pro-life movement “has to be about saving mothers” and extending mercy, love and understanding to women facing difficult situations.

“We can rescue unborn babies from abortion by rescuing their mothers from a life of hopelessness,” he said. This must begin with a “focus on the woman to try to understand what she is suffering.”

From there, he continued, the Gospel of Life leads us to pursue economic justice and a “new start” for all people.

“The antidote to abortion is solidarity, community where people are willing to care for each other and for the most vulnerable.”

When this happens, “more solutions present themselves” to help women facing difficult pregnancies, the cardinal said, giving the example of adoption, which is the theme of this year's March for Life.

In a world in which many people see abortion as “a necessary evil,” he said, the Church's task is to proclaim the truth.

He referenced the classic tale of “The Emperor's New Clothes,” in which swindlers convince a vain king and an entire kingdom that they had prepared a grand suit of clothes for the king and that anyone who was not able to see the clothes was “stupid, and unfit to rule.”

While the king and the citizens in the story pretended that they could see and approve of the new “clothes” the king wore,  only a small child had the bravery and honesty to proclaim that the king was actually naked.

“The king's new clothes today,” Cardinal O'Malley explained, “are called reproduction rights, termination of pregnancy, choice, and many other euphemisms that disguise the reality and brutality that is abortion.”

Society is “afraid to question,” and so it plays along, saying that “those who do not applaud must be stupid, naive, obstinate,” while “the Church is like the child who declares before the world that the clothes are a lie, a humbug a deception.”

“The Church, with the candor of the child, must call out the uncomfortable truth: 'Abortion is wrong! Thou shalt not kill',” the cardinal said.”'Choose Life' is the message of the Church confronted by the king's new clothes.”

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Media should foster culture of encounter, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his first message for World Communication Day, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of creating a culture of encounter, highlighting how media should always be a service which goes out to meet others.

“A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive,” the Pope stated in his Jan. 23 message,” adding that “media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances.”

During the Jan. 23 press conference announcing the Pope’s message in honor of the 48th World Communications Day, to be celebrated on June 1, Msgr. Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, noted that the address is “very Francescano.”

Msgr. Celli highlighted that the pontiff’s message, which reflects on the theme “Communications at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter,” is “very endearing,” and “typically his.”

In the beginning of his address, Pope Francis stated that although we are living in an increasingly “smaller” world where developments of technology and travel “bring us closer together” and make us “more connected,” divisions which are often “quite deep” still exist.

“On a global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor,” he noted, adding that “our world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty.”

 “Media can help us to feel closer to one another,” the Pope observed, adding that “the internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity,” which is “a gift from God.”

However, reflecting on certain challenges the area of communications faces, the pontiff expressed that the “speed with which information is communicated” can inhibit “our capacity for reflection and judgment,” which cripples “balanced and proper forms of self-expression.”

Although the wide variety of opinions online can often be helpful, the Pope warned that they can also enable people to “barricade themselves” behind a wall of information which only confirm “their own wishes and ideas.”

Despite the fact that these drawbacks exist, the pontiff stressed that they do not “justify the rejecting of social media,” but rather remind us that authentic communication is a “human,” and not a “technological achievement.”

Emphasizing the importance of recovering our sense of “deliberateness and calm” as well as the ability to “be silent and listen,” the Pope observed that “people only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted.”

“How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter?” he asked, explaining that the answer can be found in the Gospel when Jesus states that all are our neighbors.

In order to truly understand communication in the sense of “neighborliness” the Pope continued, we can look to the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Not only does the Samaritan come close to the man he finds on the road, “he takes responsibility for him,” the Pope recalled, highlighting that through this image Jesus shifts our understanding so that we no longer see “the other as someone like myself,” but have the ability of making ourselves “like the other.”

“Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable...we cannot be live apart, closed in on ourselves.”

“The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness” stated the Pope, adding that “personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.”

Turning to our witness as Christians, the pontiff explained that, “thanks to the internet,” we are able to “reach the peripheries of human existence.”

“Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others by ‘patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts” as they search for truth and meaning,” he said, quoting Benedict XVI’s message for last year’s communications day.

Pope Francis concluded his message by praying that the image of the Good Samaritan be an inspiration for all in the communications field.

“Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts,” he stated, expressing his hope that the “light” we bring will not be “the result of cosmetics or special effects,” but rather of being “loving and merciful ‘neighbors.’”

“Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world,” the pontiff exclaimed, adding that “the Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.”

“The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge,” noted the Pope.

“May we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.”

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'Poison' of jealousy destroys communities, stresses Pope

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis warned against the dangers of envy, explaining that it is a sin which fosters bitterness against our brothers, stifles our joy and inhibits us from truly praising God.

When someone in a Christian community suffers from jealousy, the community “ends up divided: one against the other,” the Pope explained in his Jan. 23 daily Mass, emphasizing that “this is a strong poison – a poison that we find on the first page of the Bible in Cain.”

Giving his remarks to those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Pope centered his homily on the day’s first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel in which King Saul seeks to kill David out of jealousy for his victory over Goliath.

After hearing the women praise David, Saul’s joy turns into sadness and jealousy, and “that great victory begins to undergo defeat in the heart of the King,” the Pope expressed.

Just like the “worm of jealousy and envy” that seeped into the heart of Cain when he killed his brother Abel, the pontiff emphasized that “this is what jealousy does in our hearts.”

“It is a destructive anxiety which cannot tolerate that a brother or sister has something that I have not.”

And “instead of praising God for this victory as did the women of Israel,” observed the Pope, Saul “prefers to withdraw into himself, feeling sorry for himself” and to “stew his feelings in the broth of bitterness.”

“Jealousy leads to murder. Envy leads to murder,” the pontiff continued, adding that “it was this door, the door of envy, through which the devil entered the world.”

Highlighting how “jealousy and envy open the doors” to “all evil things,” Pope Francis noted that “they also divide the community.”

The Pope went on to describe that there are two “very clear” things present in the heart of someone who is affected by jealousy, the first of which is that “the envious person, the jealous person, is a bitter person who doesn’t know how to sing, how to praise, (or) know what joy is.”

Looking at someone in this way, considering only what they have and what we don’t have, “leads to bitterness, a bitterness that spreads throughout the whole community,” the pontiff stated, referring to people with this mentality as “sowers of bitterness.”

A second approach which “brings jealousy and envy, are rumors,” revealed the Pope, emphasizing that when a person sees someone else who has something that they want, the solution is often to put the other person down” so that “I am a bit higher up.”

“Gossip” is a tool that is frequently used in this situation, observed the Pope, noting that behind every rumor, “there is jealousy and envy.”

“Gossip divides the community, destroys the community. Rumors are the weapons of the devil.”

“How many beautiful Christian communities were getting along well” but were divided because one member allowed the “worm of jealousy and envy” to enter their heart, the pontiff lamented.

With this jealousy comes “sadness, resentment and gossip,” he explained, highlighting that a person under the influence of envy “kills.”

Bringing his reflections to a close, Pope Francis asked for prayer for “our Christian communities so that this seed of jealousy will not be sown between us, so that envy will not take root in our heart” or “in the heart of our communities, so we can move forward with praise to the Lord, praising the Lord with joy.”

“It is a great grace, the grace of not falling into sadness, being resentful, jealous and envious."

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Bishop and Vatican police save suicidal Italian woman

Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA) - The swift reaction of Italy’s Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni and the Vatican gendarmerie saved a 56-year-old Italian woman who was threatening to commit suicide.

Officials from the Diocese of Grosseto confirmed to CNA that on Jan. 16 that the woman, whose identity has not been made public, called Grosseto’s Bishop Cetoloni on the phone and told him she wanted to take her own life.

The woman traveled from her home in Scarlino, a town of 4,000 inhabitants in the Tuscan province of Grosseto, to Rome. She intended to commit suicide at the Vatican, the Italian newspaper Il Tirreno reported.

After the phone call, Bishop Cetoloni immediately contacted the Vatican gendarmerie, the Holy See’s police force, which worked together with police in Grosseto to develop a plan to stop the potential suicide.

Police traced the woman’s cell phone and were able to determine her location. They rescued her when she arrived in Rome.

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Personal notes of Bl. John Paul II to be published in Polish

Krakow, Poland, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The private papers of Bl. John Paul II will be released in Polish next month in a book titled “I am so much in God’s hands. Personal records 1962-2003”, from the Krakow-based publisher Znak.

The book, being published Feb. 5, contains meditations from two of the late Pope's notebooks, dating from between July 1962, when he was auxiliary bishop of Krakow, to March 2003, two years before his death, and in the 25th year of his service as Roman Pontiff.

Znak says the book contains “the most important personal, innermost questions and moving reflections and prayers that marked (the Pope's) everyday life.” This includes “notes that show his concern for those dear to him - friends and collaborators – and for the Church that was entrusted to him.”

In his testament, Bl. John Paul II asked his personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, to burn his personal notes.

But Cardinal Dziwisz, now the Archbishop of Krakow, said in a Jan. 22 press conference he “did not have the courage” to burn all of his friend's notes after his death.

The cardinal also maintained that in preserving some of the notes, he was motivated by the "despair of historians" when the letters of Pius XII were burned after his death in conformity with his wishes.

The book's title, “I am so much in God’s hands” is taken from the opening statement in the diary, which is taken from two notebooks: “Agenda 1962” and “1985.”

In the first notebook, Bl. John Paul II used his own page numbers, from 1 to 220. The notes, however, are not in chronological order.

The reflections in this notebook cover the blessed's time as auxiliary, and then Archbishop of Krakow; two conclaves; and the first six years of his time as Pope. It concludes with his notes on the 1984 Lenten spiritual exercises preached to the Roman Curia by Cardinal Alexandre do Nascimento, then the Archbishop of Lubango, in Angola.

In writing of the conclave in which he was elected Bishop of Rome, Bl. John Paul II made particular note of the stroke suffered by his friend, Bishop Andrzej Deskur, then the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Bishop Deskur's stroke, which occurred Oct. 13, left him paralyzed on the left side of his body.

The two had both been priests in Krakow since Bishop Deskur's ordination in 1950, and the late Pope wrote that the following day “I visited Andrzej in the hospital, on my way to the conclave which was to choose the successor to John Paul I.”

Two day's later, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was chosen to succeed John Paul I as Bishop of Rome.

“The sacrifice of Andrzej, my brother in the episcopate, seems to me a preparation for the fact,” he wrote. “Through his suffering, all this has been placed within the mystery of the Cross and Redemption carried out by Christ.”

The second notebook compiled in “I am so much in God’s hands” covers the years 1985 through 2003, on 315 notebook pages. This notebook had originally belonged to the papal secretary, Bishop Emery Kabongo Kanundowi, as evidenced by a blurred inscription on the first page and by an embossed seal with the abbreviation ‘E.K.’ in the center and the inscription 'Library of Emery Kabongo'.

Znak said they were honored to be publishing the book, and noted that its editors, Agnieszka Rudziewicz and Anna Szulczynska, had taken great care in their work. Part of the challenge of its editing was that later entries, in particular, were written in languages other than Polish.

Cardinal Dziwisz authored the foreword of the book, in which he wrote, “I faithfully followed the Holy Father’s will after his death in 2005, by distributing all his possessions, particularly his personal mementos.”

“However, I did not have the courage to burn the notebooks he had left behind, because they contained important information about his life.”

The cardinal also said, “What had to be destroyed, was destroyed. And what had to be saved, for the benefit of humankind, has been saved.”

Polish news agency KAI was told by the cardinal, “I didn’t burn John Paul II’s notes, because they are the key to interpreting his spirituality, his innermost self: his relationships with God, others, and himself.”

Cardinal Dziwisz had turned them over to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and they were used in the process of his canonization.

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College students strongly represented at March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Continuing a decades-long trend, college students and young people from across the nation maintained a strong presence on Jan. 22 at the 41st annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“It is a privilege to be in the nation’s capital and host young pilgrims from all over the country for the annual March for Life. Our University community takes great pride in providing housing and meals for our many friends,” said The Catholic University of America chaplain Fr. Jude DeAngelo.

Each year, the school – located in northeast D.C. – hosts droves of college students who have come from all over the country to take part in the March for Life.

Held each year on or near Jan. 22, the march marks the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that resulted in legal abortion throughout the U.S. Since that time, some 55 million unborn babies have become victims of abortion.

The D.C. March for Life typically draws huge numbers of participants – primarily young people – from across the country. Last year, organizers estimated an attendance of around 650,000 people.

College students from both religious and secular schools are generally a large component of marchers. This year, more than 1,200 students camped out overnight in the athletic center at The Catholic University of America, and 500 university students participated in the march under the school's banner.

Students from Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kan., led the march this year, carrying the official March for Life banner. According to the school's blog, The Gregorian, one quarter of the student population traveled over 1,000 miles by bus to take part.

College President Stephen D. Minnis accompanied the students, saying, “They really see abortion as the civil rights issue of the day and just like the freedom riders of the ’60s, they board buses and travel across the country to fight injustice.”

Students at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., also braved the cold, bringing a strong representation of their student body thanks to donations that helped students participate at minimal cost.

“These babies are created in the image and likeness of God. We have a duty to love them. The march is one way of showing we believe there is something wrong that needs to change,” President Bill Thierfelder said in a statement on the school's website.

The entire student body of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., attended the march this year, according to its website. Students, faculty and staff have participated in the event every year of the school's 36 years of existence, and the school customarily halts classes for the day so the entire college community has the opportunity to be present at the march.

More than 800 students, faculty, staff and affiliates from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio traveled through the night to make it to the march under the theme of John 1:5 – “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

“I have participated in the annual March for Life for several years, and it is my honor to walk again this year with the students of Franciscan University as public witnesses for life and the need for men and women of all faiths to protect life at all stages,” President Fr. Sean Sheridan said.

The school's Students for Life president, Jenna Leighton, said sign-ups for buses to the event filled up within days.

Despite the below-freezing wind chill, Aquinas College of Nashville, Tenn., sent its largest group of students ever to the demonstration. Students who stayed behind were invited to a Holy Hour to intercede for their classmates, who would be traveling over 600 miles away.

Ave Maria University in Florida sent about 100 students to make the trek along Constitution Avenue as their president, Jim Towey, live-tweeted pictures and status updates.

Under the leadership of Jeanne Monahan, the March for Life has increased its social media presence and redesigned the website, making it sleeker and more user-friendly.

This year's march featured a hashtag campaign, #whywemarch, to spread awareness about the pro-life movement and encourage discussion on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Archbishop Müller encourages unity serving evangelization, mission

Valencia, Spain, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Spanish university's canon law conference, the Vatican's head for doctrinal matters spoke this week about collegiality and unity in the Church, emphasizing their orientation to evangelization.

The speech by Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, focused on Church structures and served as a commentary on Pope Francis' Nov. 24 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium,” in which he discussed a “conversion of the papacy” and “sound 'decentralization.'”

“A readjusting of independence and collaboration with the local Churches, of episcopal collegiality and of the Primacy of the Pope will enable us not to lose site of the transcendent need for the question of God,” Archbishop Müller explained Jan. 20 at the St. Vincent Martyr Catholic University of Valencia.

“The life of the Church cannot be concentrated in this way on the Pope and his Curia, as if what happens in parishes, communities and dioceses were something secondary. An exaggerated centralization in administration does not help the Church but instead impedes her missionary dynamic.”

The archbishop, who will be made a cardinal at next month's consistory, was speaking during the university's 12th annual conference on canon law; his speech was titled “Collegiality and the Exercise of Supreme Power in the Church.”

Calling a “reform” of papal primacy pertinent to the new evangelization, Archbishop Müller said that “a Church which only revolves around her own structural problems would be dreadfully archaic and unconnected to the world, for in her being and mission she is nothing other than the Church of the triune God, the origin and destiny of every man and of the entire universe.”

“Communion and mission are the two elements that constitute the community of the disciples of Jesus as the sign and instrument of the unity of mankind with God and with one another. Therefore, the Church is essential one, as a servant and mediator of that union.”
He clarified, however, that “Evangelii gaudium” is a “corrective,” and has “not given a signal for a change of direction or revolution in the Vatican,” criticizing “superficial interpretations.”

“What interests the Pope is an overcoming both of lethargy and of resignation to extreme secularization, and bringing to an end the debilitating disputes within the Church between traditionalist and progressive ideologies.”

“'Evangelii gaudium' desires interior reunification in the Church, so that the People of God, in their missionary service, may not be an obstacle to a humanity that is in need of salvation and help.”

Archbishop Müller cited civil wars, terrorism, poverty, the situation of refugees, and pornography among the “global and daily tragedies” that give the Church “the momentous task of giving new hope to humanity.”

He emphasized that “separatist tendencies and arrogant behavior will only hurt the Church”, and that it is part of the Church's holiness that bishops are united “with and under Peter,” decrying a “power struggle” between centralist and particularist views of the Church.

The Church, he said, “is not a federation of national Churches or a global alliance of confessionally related ecclesial communities, which respect, by human tradition, the Bishop of Rome as an honorary president,” but is what both “testifies to, and realizes, the unity of peoples in Christ.”

Church unity, Archbishop Müller said, comes from Christ, who established the apostles and their successors, adding that nationality, language and culture are not “constitutive principles” of the Church.

This vision would end in “a secularized and politicized Church, different only in degree from an NGO.”

“The invitation of the Pope to a renewed perception of the Collegiality of Bishops is contrary to a relativization of the service which Christ entrusted directly to him.”

The doctrine chief explained that the college of bishops “serves the Church's unity,” founded on Christ, and that “a bishop can only be pastor of a local Church, and not president of a federation of regional and continental ecclesial alliances.”

He added that national conferences “cannot be a pure objective principle” in the Church, for the office of bishop is essentially one of “personal testimony”: therefore “the principle of the unity of the episcopacy itself is incarnated in a person.”

Bishops' ministry, he reflected, should be seen as “a sacramental reality” and not “confused with the service of a moderator of purely human associations.”

Concluding his talk, Archbishop Müller reminded those gathered that the Church “is not the Light,” but exists to give testimony “to the Light which illumines every man, Jesus Christ,” and that “despite all the storms and strong winds, the barque of Peter must raise again the sails of joy, for Jesus is with us.”

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LA archdiocese launches pro-life networking app

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has set up a smart phone application that connects pro-life pregnancy centers and persons so they can help provide resources and prayers for pregnant women at risk of choosing abortion.

Archbishop José Gomez said Jan. 22 that the app, named “ProLife,” is “creating a network of prayer and practical support to help women facing crisis pregnancies.”

“We want to say today that no woman should ever face a pregnancy feeling alone, or desperate, or feeling like she has no other options. These are our sisters. We cannot be indifferent to their fears. We need to be near to them. In our love, we need to help them in every way that we can.”

Archbishop Gomez joined health leaders, mothers, and babies at the app’s launch at Guadalupe Medical Center in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles.

ProLife was developed by the Pasadena-based nonprofit Options United and the Los Angeles archdiocese’s life, justice, and peace office. It is available for both Apple and Android smart phones and tablets by searching for “Options United” in the App Store or Google Play.

The app lists 78 pregnancy centers in Los Angeles and Southern California, including the counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial. The app lists services including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and post-abortion healing.

App users can also broadcast requests for prayers for pregnant women and girls, as well as find contact information for all local pregnancy centers, pro-life action organizations, churches, and schools that are registered on the app.

Those who use ProLife may set reminders to volunteer, pray, or sacrifice for pro-life causes and log their actions. Users may receive alerts from registered pregnancy centers when a woman is in need of prayer, and can use the app to make pledges to pro-life organizations and to invite others to use it.

Although southern California is best represented on the app, pro-life individuals, pregnancy centers and pro-life resources from across the U.S. will also be able to register.

Archbishop Gomez noted that about 220 women have abortions in southern California each day. He said that ProLife can provide “practical help to women in need” and engage others in building “a culture of life.”

He explained that such action is rooted in Christians’ belief in Jesus, who “loved us so much that he came into this world the same way that each one of us did – spending nine months in a mother’s womb and being born from his mother’s love.”

“Jesus taught us that every human life is sacred and precious to God, from conception to natural death,” the archbishop continued.

“We pledge to use every means to help our sisters in need. And to build an America where every child is welcomed and loved and where every life is treasured as sacred.”

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US celebrates 30 years of diplomacy with the Vatican

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See's founding, new Ambassador Ken Hackett lauded the many fruits borne from the relationship, expressing his hope to help bear more.

“The relationships that have grown between our government and the Holy See over that period have been phenomenal,” Hackett told CNA Jan. 23 at a reception held in honor of the event.

“Look what happened in the collapse of the Berlin Wall, look at the collaboration on humanitarian assistance, issues like trafficking, and now under (Pope) Francis, the wider issues of peace,” the ambassador said.

“So we're hoping that there will just be a growth, and more opportunity for collaboration and cooperation.”

Originally agreed upon by President Ronald Reagan and Bl. Pope John Paul II on Jan. 10, 1984, the first U.S. Embassy to the Holy See opened on April 9, 1984 with William A. Wilson as its first ambassador.

In his remarks for the event, Ambassador Hackett highlighted that although an embassy has only existed for thirty years, the U.S.'s relationship with the Vatican have existed since the country's beginnings when Pope Pius VII named a young Jesuit, John Carroll, as “Superior to the Mission to the Thirteen States.”

After the United States' first President, George Washington, agreed to having the Pope appoint bishops to the newborn nation, John Carroll became the first bishop ever appointed to the U.S.

Pointing to a panel-exhibit at the reception of photos and commentary detailing the history of their diplomatic relations, the ambassador said that the relationship between the U.S. and the Holy See has been “strong and positive.”

“It is a story of engagement and cooperation over the last century on a wide range of important global issues.”

The importance of this relationship, he noted, “was underscored recently by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Vatican last week where he met with Archbishop Parolin,” and Hackett said he expects it to be strengthened with the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama in March.

“My ideas, my whole life resonates in so many ways with Pope Francis and what he is saying,” especially the pontiff’s “concern for the poor and the marginalized, the excluded people,” Ambassador Hackett said – adding that these are issues which are likely to come up during the March encounter between the Pope and the president.

“I think they will be,” the ambassador affirmed, “knowing the president's concern about people who fall through the cracks.”

“Migrants, and the homeless, and what we’re discussing these days in the States, raising the minimum wage, I mean we have to do this, people are working forty, fifty hours a week and not able to feed their families,” he explained.

Although the meeting will primarily be “a relationship opportunity, where President Obama and Pope Francis really get to connect on a very personal level,” Ambassador Hackett called it “a special moment,” and that “I’m sure it will mean an awful lot to President Obama.”

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