New Orleans, La., Feb 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said his archdiocese will not conduct business with individuals or organizations whose work is essential to the construction of a new Planned Parenthood clinic that could perform up to 30 abortions per day.
“We hope that the community invested in the City of New Orleans and in her future will join us in standing for life, not more abortion,” the archbishop said in his Jan. 27 column for the Clarion Herald newspaper.
“All citizens of the New Orleans area must stand together for a peaceful community, not one with more abortion and more Planned Parenthood.”
Archbishop Aymond said that the archdiocese, including its churches, schools, elderly apartments and nursing homes, will “strive in its privately funded work not to enter into business relationships with any person or organization” whose actions are “essential to making this abortion facility a reality.”
Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., is planning a New Orleans facility between 7,000 and 8,000 square feet in size. The abortion clinic, planned to open in 2014, will be the organization’s only abortion facility in the state.
The archbishop said the clinic’s projected capacity of 30 daily abortions – which could add up to about 10,000 a year – would be “a staggering increase” from the estimated 3,500 total abortions performed in Orleans and Jefferson in 2012.
“We cannot be silent in view of the grave injustice presented by the abortions that will be performed at the proposed Planned Parenthood facility,” Archbishop Aymond said. “A regional abortion center will not solve our problems; it will only create more.”
The archdiocese, he said, is obliged to remind everyone who helps in the acquisition, preparation and construction of any abortion facility that they are “cooperating with the evil that will take place there.”
He said there is “no justification,” including economic hardship, that renders acceptable a “direct or indirect relationship” with Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider.
Catholic affiliation with or support for Planned Parenthood is “a matter of serious scandal,” he stated.
The archbishop cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that human life must be “respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” and that the right to life of a human being must be recognized “from the first moment of his existence.”
Archbishop Aymond voiced continued prayers for “those that are blind to the destruction caused by abortion.” He said Catholics will continue to invite those involved with Planned Parenthood to “prayer and dialogue.”
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One year later, Cardinal James Stafford reflects on the meeting where Benedict XVI announced that he was stepping down as Bishop of Rome, noting that it was an “unexpected” moment of “shock” for all.
“Total surprise, total shock,” was the experience of all those present when they heard the Pope’s words that day, Cardinal Stafford explained in a Feb. 7 interview with CNA.
On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the Feb. 11, 2013 announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation, Cardinal Stafford, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council of the Laity and Archbishop Emeritus of Denver, CO, spoke of his experience at being in the room when the pontiff revealed his decision.
Calling to mind the meeting where the announcement was made, the cardinal revealed that “it took place at a consistory of the cardinals,” which was “basically” a gathering of “the cardinals of Rome.”
The consistory meetings, he explained, were held regularly in order to discuss “the presentation of those who were being beatified and canonized within the Catholic Church.”
“So we were gathered in the room of the ‘consistorio,’ where we usually gathered with the Holy Father,” the cardinal observed, noting that they “were gathered around him in prayer” for the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Liturgy of the Hours is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church to be recited by clergy, religious institutes, and the laity, and consist mainly of psalms, which are supplemented by hymns and readings.
The cardinal also observed that there was “a presentation by the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, of those that were to be presented and voted upon that day, for beatification and canonization.”
All of this “took place without any eyebrow raising,” he expressed, however “at the end of the prayer, “we were asked to sit down,” which “was something unusual.”
“We all sat down, including the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, and a rather extensive paper was brought up to him by his secretary to read.”
Originally, “I didn’t put any meaning upon all of that,” the cardinal reflected, stating that “I just thought we would be having an adjunct, that was somewhat unusual, but not very unusual,” but “within ten seconds” he knew something was happening because the Pope was “speaking in Latin, not in Italian.”
“I was alerted to the fact that it was about something very special by the fact that he was speaking to us not in the usual language of Italian, but in Latin,” Cardinal Stafford recalled, noting that the pontiff had not spoken to them in Latin “in this setting” since “his election,” so he thought “’I better listen in on this.’”
“So I listened very attentively, and very soon the words came out that he was resigning,” the cardinal observed, “and he continued about the reasons, but that came out within the first thirty seconds of his address.”
Then they “concluded the celebration of the Liturgy of Hours,” he explained, and Benedict XVI “left immediately, and we were left there stunned.”
“A cardinal who was sitting next to me said, ‘Did he resign?’ I said, ‘yes, that’s what he did. He resigned.’ And we just all stood at our places.”
Eventually “we came together in smaller groups, and began sharing some of our reaction to it,” the cardinal said, adding that “It was totally unexpected, and totally, historically, unexpected.”
When asked what he thought the legacy of this act and this time in the Church would be, Cardinal Stafford responded that “I think it’s too soon” to know.
Benedict XVI’s retirement officially went into effect on Feb. 28, 2013, and was a conclusion he came to “after having repeatedly examined my conscience before God,” he stated in his Feb. 11 address to the cardinals.
Speaking of the reasons influencing his decision, the retired pontiff cited his age as the primary factor, explaining that “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
Only two other Pope’s have resigned from their post in the history of the Church, the first being St. Celestine V in 1294, and the last was Gregory XII, in 1415.
The retired pontiff is now living in the Vatican’s monastery “Mater Ecclesiae,” which lies just west of St. Peter’s Basilica, and which contains a chapel, a choir room, a library, a semi-basement, a terrace and a visiting room that was added in 1993.
Alan Holdren contributed to this piece.
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 10, 2014 (CNA) -
The Bishops' Conference of Colombia has released a voter's guide focused on life, family and poverty as the country prepares for upcoming congressional and presidential elections.
Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, president of the conference, presented the statement during a press conference at the conclusion of the bishops’ 96th Plenary Assembly last week.
In choosing leaders, the bishops said, voters should take into account the duty politicians have to address “the suffering caused by poverty, access to adequate nutrition, decent housing, an efficient public health care system, quality education and decent jobs that pay a just wage.”
They also said leaders must address the problems of rural communities, the working class, those who have been displaced and the victims of violence. Candidates must demonstrate “an effective commitment to establishing public policies” that provide real solutions to “the profound causes of the social conflict.”
The bishops called on elected officials to offer “proposals with ethical and moral principles that are authentically human” and that defend “the fundamental right to life” and “the nature of marriage and the family.”
After noting the duty voters have to actively participate in the elections, the bishops said, “We cannot be content with pessimistic apathy or fruitless lamentation...We should adopt a responsible and proactive attitude.”
They called on candidates to carry out a transparent campaign and voiced concern about the establishing of a “political anti-culture” characterized by excessive lobbying, illicit gain, association with illegal groups and the lack of transparency in the awarding of contracts.
The bishops called on Colombians to pray for the upcoming elections and that those elected “will be instruments of God’s plan and can contribute to achievement of a just and reconciled Colombia at peace.”
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily, Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of the Liturgy, highlighting how it is a real participation in Jesus’ presence, and encouraged all to enter more fully into the mystery of the Mass.
“When we celebrate the Mass, we don’t accomplish a representation of the Last Supper: no, it is not a representation. It is something else: it is the Last Supper itself,” the Pope explained in his Feb. 10 homily.
Speaking to those present in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Pope centered his reflections on the “theophany” spoken of in the first reading, taken from the First book of Kings, in which David’s son Solomon, the new king, places the arc of the covenant in the temple, and God’s presence descends upon it in the form of a cloud.
Listing the many ways that God speaks to his people, the pontiff emphasized that a theophany is “different,” and that it speaks in different way than prophets or scripture because “it is another presence, closer, without mediation, near. It is His presence.”
He then observed how this same thing happens during the Mass, highlighting that it is not just a “social act” or a prayer gathering, but “the presence of the Lord is real, truly real.”
“When we celebrate the Mass, we don’t accomplish a representation of the Last Supper,” noted the Pope, explaining that “it is the Last Supper itself,” and that it “is to really live once more the Passion and the redeeming Death of the Lord.”
“It is a theophany: the Lord is made present on the altar to be offered to the Father for the salvation of the world.”
Calling to mind how some people say that they are going to “to hear Mass,” the pontiff emphasized that “the Mass is not ‘heard,’” but “it is participated in,” and that “it is a participation in this theophany, in this mystery of the presence of the Lord among us.”
Representations, he said, are things like nativity scenes or even praying the Stations of the Cross, but the Mass “is a real commemoration” in which “God approaches and is with us, and we participate in the mystery of the Redemption.”
Pope Francis then lamented that there are often many who look at the clock during Mass, “counting the minutes” until it is over, highlighting that this “is not the attitude the liturgy requires of us.”
“The liturgy is to really enter into the mystery of God, to allow ourselves to be brought to the mystery and to be in the mystery,” he stated, affirming to those present that “I am sure that all of you have come here to enter into the mystery.”
“However,” noted the Pope, “someone might say: ‘Ah, I have to go to Mass at Santa Marta, because on the sight-seeing tour of Rome, each morning there is a chance to visit the Pope at Santa Marta: it’s a tourist stop, right?’”
“All of you here, we are gathered her to enter into the mystery: this is the liturgy. It is God’s time, it is God’s space, it is the cloud of God that surrounds all of us,” the pontiff stressed.
Recalling his preparation to receive Holy Communion as a child, the Pope observed that when his class was given un-consecrated hosts to use as practice, they were told that “these count for nothing,” because they have to be consecrated.
Therefore, “to celebrate the liturgy is to have this availability to enter into the mystery of God,” and to entrust ourselves to this mystery, he said.
Concluding his homily, the pontiff encouraged all present to ask that the Lord give each of us “this ‘sense of the sacred,’” and that “to pray at home, to pray in Church, to pray the Rosary, to pray so many beautiful prayers,” is one thing, but “the Eucharistic celebration is something else.”
“In the celebration we enter into the mystery of God, into that street that we cannot control: only He is the unique One, the glory, the power...He is everything,” expressed the Pope.
“Let us ask for this grace: that the Lord would teach us to enter into the mystery of God.”
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Speaking to the Polish bishops last week, Pope Francis encouraged a stronger understanding of marriage, accompanied by a merciful attitude toward those in difficult family situations.
“Today marriage tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will,” the Pope said. “Unfortunately this vision also influences the mentality of Christians, promoting a tendency toward divorce or separation.”
He encouraged pastors to consider how they can help those who are divorced “so that they do not feel excluded from God's mercy, from the fraternal love of other Christians and the solicitude of the Church for their salvation; on how to help them not to abandon their faith and to enable them to raise their children in the fullness of Christian experience.”
Pope Francis’ words came Jan. 7 at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall in an address to the bishops of Poland, who were in Rome for their ad limina visit, a trip that bishops must make every five years to discuss the state of their dioceses with the Pope.
Continuing to reflect on families, the pontiff stressed the importance of improving marriage preparation for young people, “in such a way that they can discover more and more the beauty of this union which, well-founded on love and responsibility,” is able to overcome trials and difficulties through mutual forgiveness.
“One has to consider,” he added, “how to help families to live and to appreciate both moments of joy as well as of pain and weakness.”
The Holy Father had begun his address looking forward to the April 27 canonization of Bl. John Paul II, whom he said “has given us a shining example of total abandonment to God and to his Mother, and of complete dedication to the Church and to mankind.” He also pointed to the late Pope’s example of communion among bishops, highlighting the importance of their unity.
“During our encounter these days I have had confirmation that the Church in Poland has great potential for faith, prayer, charity and Christian practice,” he said, thanking God that the Sacraments are frequented in Poland, and that there are good initiatives for the new evangelization and catechesis, as well as many priestly vocations.
However, he also noted “a certain decline in various aspects of the Christian life,” referencing an idea of limitless freedom, distrust of truth and “resistance to the Church's legitimate opposition to prevailing relativism.”
This situation calls for “discernment, a search for underlying reasons and for ways to face new challenges,” he said.
After discussing family life and marriage, Pope Francis turned to the upcoming World Youth Day, to be held in Krakow in 2016. He called youth, together with the elderly, “the hope of the Church.”
Contemporary technology offers “new possibilities for communication, but at the same time reduces interpersonal relationships based on direct contact, on the exchange of values and shared experiences,” he said. “However, in the hearts of the young there is the yearning for something deeper, which allows their personalities to bloom fully. We must meet this wish.”
He suggested improved catechesis for the young, focusing on “existential knowledge of Christ, a personal relationship with the God who is love,” rather than treating formation as an “abstract science.”
“Perhaps we should insist more on the formation of lived faith as a relationship, in which one experiences the joy of being loved and of loving.”
Pope Francis also encouraged youth participation in movements based on scripture or liturgy, as well as volunteer or missionary work.
Noting the large number of Polish missionaries and the high quality of the country’s seminaries, he emphasized the importance of maintaining a “missionary spirit” of service.
“In priestly ministry the light of testimony can be obscured or ‘hidden under a bushel’ if there is a lack of missionary spirit, of the wish to ‘go out’ with an ever-renewed missionary conversion to seek – even in the peripheries – or encounter those who await Christ's Good News,” he reflected.
“This apostolic style also demands a spirit of poverty, of abandonment, to allow freedom of proclamation and sincere witness to charity.”
He lamented a decline in the number of those in consecrated life, especially among women, expressing hope that “female religious institutes may continue to be … privileged spaces for the affirmation and human and spiritual growth of women.”
Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis exhorted the bishops to show “solicitude for the poor,” both those in Poland and those who emigrate.
“Be close to them!” he urged, calling on the bishops to support those in poverty “so that they can preserve the faith and the religious traditions of the Polish people.”
Washington D.C., Feb 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Christian aid organization Sudan Relief Fund is helping thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons with supply water and other life-saving assistance after devastating conflict in the country.
“We are changing focus” to help the Southern region more directly, Neil Corkery, the group's executive director told CNA in a Feb. 7 interview.
While the organization is continuing its development projects around the country, it is “focusing on humanitarian needs” in central South Sudan for those affected by sectarian violence as well as areas that are hosting thousands of the displaced.
In December of 2013, violence erupted between forces loyal to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe and those allied behind former Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe.
The resulting conflict, arising less than three years after the country gained independence from the Republic of Sudan following a 20-year-long civil war, has killed thousands. It has also forced nearly 900,000 people from their homes and places around 3 million people in danger of starvation according to United Nations estimates.
The Sudan Relief Fund, started in 1998, has focused on humanitarian aid, infrastructure improvement and development in the Nuba mountains and South Sudan for over two decades. Working with local Catholic dioceses, the organization has started a hospital, “Mother of Mercy,” in the Nuba Mountains – still a disputed territory between the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan – in addition to working alongside eight parishes and starting a teacher training program in the region.
The organization has also supported a teacher training program in Malakal in the center-East of South Sudan, a vocations training center in Eastern South Sudan, a nurse training facility in the diocese of Wau to the west, and an agricultural and educational training Center in Yambio along the South-Western border of South Sudan.
Due to the increased violence, “it’s very much changed into a humanitarian crisis” and the organization is shifting its focus to “life-saving issues,” Corkery said.
“Where the real crisis is now is in a different part of the country” from the Sudan Relief Fund’s other operations, he noted, but the organization is still able to help the displaced and needy in these areas.
The Sudan Relief Fund just authorized two large water filters for use in displaced persons camp – run by Samaritan’s Purse, another Christian organization – in the eastern part of the country, where the fighting has been centered. Sudan Relief Fund is also helping to assist with food and medical aid for persons displaced by the violence.
Displaced persons, however, are also spread throughout the country, and the organization is helping to distribute survival kits containing basic cooking supplies, nutritional staples, and essential needs to women and children seeking shelter in other regions of South Sudan.
“The people that are suffering the most are these women and children,” Corkery said.
The organization’s structure and connections to the local Church is essential, he added, to delivering aid.
According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, Christianity forms much of South Sudan’s social structure, with over 60 percent of the population professing Christian beliefs, forming a population of over 2.7 million Catholics and over 2 million Anglican Christians spread throughout dioceses in the country.
With the increase in violence and breakdown of reliable political infrastructure, “the only reliable way to get aid is through these faith based organizations,” Corkery said.
While the United Nations and USAID are trying to provide aid in the crisis, he continued, many of their current efforts are focused on building infrastructure. In addition, the “organizations with large hierarchies” are not as able to set up aid networks quickly.
“Unless you’re using the Church, there’s no way to reliably get aid,” because it is the churches who are already in local communities serving the people. He pointed to the Cathedral in Malakal, which has been serving as an unofficial refuge for thousands of internally displaced persons since December, feeding and sheltering over 5,000 people who have nowhere else to turn.
“We believe we will be able to be effective,” he said, “because we’re small” and connected to existing aid structures through Church networks.
**Correction: 02/18/2014 3:25 p.m. EST. The seventh paragraph incorrectly stated that the organization began a teacher training program in Malakal. In fact, the organization did not begin the program, but has supported it.