Archive of February 28, 2014

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, England's newest 'red hat'

London, England, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, was given the red hat in a Feb. 22 consistory, now that his predecessor Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has passed the age of 80.

Cardinal Nichols was born in Crosby, Merseyside, in 1945, and studied for the priesthood at the Venerable English College and the Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool in 1969 and served there for 14 years before taking on a number of roles in the English and Welsh bishops’ conference.

In 1992, he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of the Westminster archdiocese; he was 46, and at the time, the youngest of the British bishops.

Cardinal Nichols was transferred in 2000 to become the ordinary of the Birmingham archdiocese, where he served until his appointment as Archbishop of Westminster in 2009.

While Archbishop of Birmingham, he was vocal in defending the public reputation of the Church and, according to Damian Thompson, in 2007 he was “the only bishop (in England and Wales) who appears to understand” Benedict XVI’s liberalization of the extraordinary form of the Mass, “and seems prepared to respond to it.”

Cardinal Nichols was instrumental in the preparation of Benedict’s apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which provided for Anglicans to enter the Church in groups and to retain elements of their patrimony in structures known as “ordinariates.”

He has advocated for the place of the Church in the public square, and defended it against attacks in an increasingly secular Britain. He oversaw Benedict XVI’s 2010 visit to England and Scotland, saying the Pope set a “new agenda” for the faithful, reminding them that “faith in God plays an important role in modern pluralist societies.”

In a 2010 homily, he advocated a culture of “true compassion and healing” that does not fear death but prepares for it with prayer, the sacraments, and “daily abandonment to God.”

In a culture that particularly shies away from death, he said that “a culture of true compassion and healing fosters a deep respect and attentive care of the whole person, it promotes genuine care characterized by a sense of humility, a profound respect for others, and a refusal to see them as no more than a medical or behavioral problem to be tackled and resolved. To care in this way is a gift of oneself to another. And, as with all true giving, the giver also receives.”

He has also been mindful of the importance of letting the Gospel influence public policies, leading a group of bankers in a seminar on the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” in 2009, and recently criticizing the English government for its plans to significantly cut food aid programs for the impoverished.

Cardinal Nichols, 68, was appointed to the Congregation for Bishops Dec. 16, 2013, shortly before the consistory at which he was made a cardinal. He was one of 19 newly-elevated cardinals, and was appointed cardinal-priest of Santissimo Redentore e Sant’Alfonso in Via Merulana parish in Rome.

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Belgium's child euthanasia move lamented as 'unbelievable'

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the wake of Belgium's recent decision to legalize euthanasia for children, several members of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life voiced their dismay at the new practice.

John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pa. and governing member of the academy, called the development “dreadful.”

“They are appealing to 'rights of children' to make these determinations, but children aren't capable of making those types of self-determinations,” Haas told CNA in Rome Feb. 21.

“So what is really going to happen is that, under the rules of children making these decisions for themselves, parents and physicians are going to be making those decisions, for children, to eliminate them because they've become excessive burdens on them and on the rest of society.”

“It’s a terrible situation. Unbelievable, if I may say so.”

The bill, which was passed by Belgium's parliament on Feb. 13 and has been sent to the country's King Phillipe, allows for terminally ill children to request euthanasia if they are “in great pain” and there is no available treatment. Parental consent, as well as the agreement of doctors and psychiatrists, is required.

Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life convened Feb. 20-21 for a workshop on aging and disability at the Pontifical Augustinianum University just down the street from the Vatican.

The academy was established in 1994 by John Paul II to be a kind of institute for studying the fields of biology, medicine, and “ethical issues.” It seeks to offer a response to what Pope Francis has called a “throw-away culture,” which fails to recognize the inherent dignity of every human life.

Manfred Lutz, head physician of the Alexanier Infirmary in Cologne, Germany described the Belgium parliament's decision as “dramatic.”

“It really means that disabled children can be 'disposed of,' so to speak, so that society is not burdened with them,” Lutz said.

“For the humanity of society the outcomes are grave. I would call it a 'breach in a dam,' and we all have to make an effort to not let this breach happen in other countries,” he cautioned.

“What has been decided in Belgium is inhuman – it is a return to barbarism.”

For Robert Buchanan of Austin, Texas, one of the biggest issues surrounding euthanasia is the breach of trust between doctor and patient.

“There are physicians that are involved in euthanasia, and I think that is directly opposed to my role as a physician: to have any role in the process. The physician's role is care,” said Buchanan, who serves as chief of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery & Neuroscience at the Seton Brain and Spine Institute.

“Some people in the right to die movement would say that the end – death – is part of care, and I would agree with that,” he explained.

“As a neurosurgeon, we deal with a lot of very, very severe traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord, and people do die. (But) I've never, by my own hand, killed someone or euthanized someone.”

Moreover, he added, “in my opinion, it would be very confusing to me as a patient. What is my physician's interest in my care? I want them to try to help me.”

“Sometimes help can also be withdrawal of certain types of care if it's extraordinary or burdensome: but I certainly don’t want them ending my life.”


Jan Bentz contributed to this article.

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Pope outlines congregation's focus in choosing bishops

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his address to the Congregation of Bishops Feb. 27, Pope Francis emphasized that the dicastery exists to ensure that bishop candidates are called to their ministry by Christ himself.

“This Congregation exists to ensure that the name of those chosen has first of all been pronounced by the Lord. Behold the great mission entrusted to the Congregation for Bishops, its most challenging task: to identify those whom the same Holy Spirit has given to guide the Church,” the Pope told the members of the congregation at a Feb. 27 meeting in the Sala Bologna of the Apostolic Palace, describing to them the essence of their mission.

“The holy People of God continues to speak … we need someone who looks upon us with the breadth of the heart of God; we do not need a manager, an administrator of a company, nor one who is at the level of our smallness or small pretenses.”

Describing those suitable for episcopal ministry, he said, “we need someone who knows how to raise himself to the height of God's gaze above us in order to guide us to him. We need those who, knowing the broad scope of God is more than his own narrow garden, can guarantee us that what they aspire to is our hearts, and not a vain promise.”

He emphasized the importance of keeping in mind each particular diocese’s needs when choosing bishops: “there does not exist a standard Pastor for all the Churches. Christ knows the singularity of the Shepherds which each Church needs … our challenge is to enter into the perspective of Christ, taking into account this singularity of the particular Churches.”

Pope Francis advised that the congregation themselves take care to “rise above and overcome any eventual preferences, sympathies, provenances or tendencies, to arrive at God's broad horizon,” adding that “we do not need men conditioned by fear from below,” but pastors who will speak the truth boldly.

Their work is to be marked by humility, he said, as he highlighted the virtues of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life.”

Pope Francis then noted the importance of apostolic succession and continuity, pointing out that “people already know through suffering the experience of many ruptures: they need to find that there remains indelibly in the Church the grace of her origins.”

He stressed the role of bishops as credible witnesses to the Risen Christ, saying they should be marked by “union with Christ on the cross of true giving of himself, for his Church … the courage to die, the generosity of offering their own lives and being consumed by their flock are inscribed in the ‘DNA’ of the episcopate.”

“I want to emphasize this: renunciation and sacrifice are connatural to the episcopal mission. The episcopate is not for oneself, it is for the Church, for the flock, for others, especially for those who according to the world should be excluded.”

In choosing bishops, Pope Francis said, “it is not necessary to list his human, intellectual, cultural or even pastoral skills. ... Certainly, there is a need for someone who excels; whose human integrity ensures a capacity for healthy relationships ... so as not to project his shortcomings onto others and to become a destabilising factor ... his orthodoxy and faithfulness to the complete Truth held by the Church makes him a pillar and a point of reference.”

“All these indispensable skills must be, however, in support of his central witness to the Risen Christ, and must be subordinate to this central commitment.”

He reminded the congregation that God’s sovereignty is the ultimate source of the choice of bishops, telling them, “the decisions cannot be conditioned by our claims, for any groups, cliques or hegemonies. To guarantee this sovereignty two attitudes are fundamental: conscience before God, and collegiality.”

Pope Francis said we need “kerygmatic bishops,” who proclaim the Gospel faithful to doctrine “in order to fascinate the world, to charm the world with the beauty of love, to seduce the world with the freedom offered by the Gospel.”

“The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power. Men who are patient, as they know that the weeds will never fill the field.”

“Patient men!,” he reiterated. “They say Cardinal Siri used to repeat: There are five virtues of a bishop: first patience, second patience, third patience, fourth patience, and last, patience with those who invite us to have patience.”

After his discussion of “kerygmatic bishops,” Pope Francis moved on to “praying bishops,” saying bishops must have the same freedom to boldly speak to God on behalf of his people, as he has to speak the truth of the Gospel.

“A man who does not have the courage to argue with God on behalf of his people cannot be a bishop – I say this from my heart, I am convinced – and nor can he who is not able to assume the mission of guiding the people of God to where he, the Lord, indicates.”

While speaking of bishops at prayer, he again stressed patience, telling them to endure and to persevere in speaking with God – even to the point of falling asleep: “So many times falling asleep in front of the Lord, but this is good, it’s good!”

The final aspect Pope Francis emphasized as characterizing those to be called to the episcopacy was pastorality: “May bishops be shepherds, close to the people,” adding that their legacy is in holiness.

He highlighted that the episcopal office is characterized by the “assiduous and daily” care of the faithful, and that there is within this, a temptation to be absent from one’s duties.

“I think that in this time of meetings and congresses the decree on residency (of a bishop in his diocese) of the Council of Trent is very up-to-date: and it would be good for the Congregation for Bishops to write something about this. The flock needs to find a place in the heart of its Pastor. If he is not firmly anchored within himself, in Christ and in his Church, he will be constantly buffeted by the waves in search of ephemeral compensation and will not offer any shelter to the flock.”

Concluding, Pope Francis asked, “Where can we find such men? It is not easy.”

He recommended the story of Samuel looking for a successor to Saul, “who, knowing that little David was outside in the field grazing the sheep, demands 'Send for him'. We too must search among the fields of the Church for men to present to the Lord, in order that he say 'Rise and anoint him; this is the one.' I am sure that they are there, since the Lord does not abandon his Church.”

“Perhaps we are not seeking well enough in the fields. Perhaps we need to heed Samuel's warning: 'We will not sit down until he arrives.' I would like this Congregation to live in this state of this holy restlessness.”

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Pope cancels seminary visit due to minor fever

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis cancelled his Feb. 28 visit to the seminary of the Diocese of Rome, because he felt unwell and had a slight fever.

“Pope Francis will not make it to his encounter with seminarians due to his having a slight fever,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, told CNA.

Fr. Lombardi said the Pope's doctor, Roberto Polisca, recommended that Pope Francis rest, saying, “I think he is doing fine.”

Commenting on the Holy Father’s various commitments through the weekend, the Vatican spokesman said they will monitor how his health improves through the next few hours.

On Friday morning, Pope Francis received in audience the bishop and cardinal participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the president of which is Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

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Walk with those who suffer failed marriages, Pope exhorts

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on the beauty of marriage, emphasizing that when it fails, we should not condemn the couple, but accompany them on a path of healing in the Church.

“When this love fails – because many times it fails – we have to feel the pain of the failure, (we must) accompany those people who have had this failure in their love. Do not condemn. Walk with them,” the Pope encouraged in his Feb. 28 daily Mass.

Directing his homily to those present in the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff began by referring to the attitude of the Pharisees in the day's Gospel, taken from Mark, in which they question Jesus on divorce, trying to make him fall into a trap with the law.

Although the question is important, the Pope warned against falling into the temptation of “special pleading” regarding questions of marriage, and noted that the Pharisees' method is always “casuistry – is this licit or not?”

“It is always the small case. And this is the trap, behind casuistry, behind casuistic thought, there is always a trap: against people, against us, and against God, always,” he explained.

Calling attention to Jesus' response, the Pope observed how he referred back to the law prescribed by Moses, saying that he only allowed divorce in certain cases because of the hardness of man's heart.

“But He doesn’t stop there,” continued the pontiff, “from (the study of the particular case), He goes to the heart of the problem, and here He goes straight to the days of Creation.”

“That reference of the Lord is so beautiful,” he noted, “‘But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.'”

Explaining how God “did not want man to be alone,” but wanted him to have a “companion along the way,” the pontiff recalled the moment when Adam meets Eve, saying that this moment “is the beginning of love: (a couple) going together as one flesh.”

Repeating that fact that the Lord “always takes casuistic thought and brings it to the beginning of revelation,” Pope Francis went on to explain that “this masterpiece of the Lord is not finished there, in the days of Creation, because the Lord has chosen this icon to explain the love that He has for His people.”

Drawing attention to how Paul uses the image of marriage to explain the mystery of Christ, the Pope emphasized that “Christ is married, Christ was married, He married the Church, His people,” and that just “as the Father had married the People of Israel, Christ married His people.”

“This is the love story, this is the history of the masterpiece of Creation – and before this path of love, this icon, casuistry falls and becomes sorrowful.”

When this love fails, observed the pontiff, “(we must) accompany those people who have had this failure” and “walk with them” rather than condemning or practicing “casuistry on their situation.”

Reflecting on how the Gospel teaches us about “this plan of love, this journey of love in Christian marriage,” the Pope highlighted that this “masterpiece” has “never been taken away. Not even original sin has destroyed it.”

When we think about this, he continued, we “see how beautiful love is, how beautiful marriage is, how beautiful the family is, how beautiful this journey is, and how much love we too (must have), how close we must be to our brothers and sisters who in life have had the misfortune of a failure in love.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis returned to Saint Paul, emphasizing the beauty of “the love Christ has for His bride, the Church,” stating that “Here too, we must be careful that love should not fail.”

“(It is dangerous) to speak about a bachelor-Christ,” he said, “Christ married the Church. You can’t understand Christ without the Church, and you can’t understand the Church without Christ.”

Highlighting how this is “the great mystery of the masterpiece of Creation,” the Pope prayed that the Lord “give all of us the grace to understand it and also the grace to never fall into these casuistic attitudes of the Pharisees, of the teachers of the law.”

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Puerto Rico bishops hand over accused priests to civil authorities

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA) - Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan and Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo in Puerto Rico have handed over a group of priests accused of sexual abuse to civil authorities.

In statements to the media, Archbishop Gonzalez Nieves said six cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests have been turned over to Puerto Rican prosecutors.

He pledged “the full cooperation of the Archdiocese, regardless of whether the person who committed the abuse is a minister, employee or volunteer. This entire process, while painful, should be an occasion for reaching the ultimate goal, which is the well-being and protection of minors.”

“None of these priests is currently in ministry,” the archbishop emphasized. “Some of the cases have gone before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and others have exceeded the statute of limitations. One (accused individual) is dead, another was tried in court in Bayamon and another is outside Puerto Rico.”

For his part, Bishop Daniel Fernandez of Arecibo filed a complaint with police and the Department of the Family against one accused priest.

The attorney for the Diocese of Arecibo, Frank Torres-Viada, said that once accusations were made against the priest, “the Diocese of Arecibo proceeded to immediately and decisively activate the protocol for handling accusations of sexual abuse and referred the matter to civil authorities.”

“The Diocese of Arecibo and its bishop reaffirm their commitment to absolute transparency and cooperation in eradicating the scourge of sexual abuse against minors in the Catholic Church,” Torres-Viada told reporters.

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Legion's general director affirms Christ-centered spirituality

Rome, Italy, Feb 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the conclusion of the Legion of Christ’s general chapter, the order’s recently elected general director, Fr. Eduardo Robles Gil, confirmed their commitment to Christ and his reign.

“The center of our spirituality will be Christ, as it always has been. We are Christ-centered; the ‘Regnum Christi’ is the kingdom of Christ,” Fr. Robles Gil told CNA Feb. 25, the concluding day of the order’s general chapter.

“Christ is our life; he is the ruler. We look at him for inspiration. As the Gospel says, he is the way, the truth and the life of every Christian, every priest, and every religious -- especially of every Legionary.”

Fr. Robles Gil expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who was appointed governor of the Legion by Benedict XVI in 2010 after an apostolic visitation determined the order needed “profound re-evaluation.”

In 2006, the order's founder, Fr. Marcel Maciel, had been removed from public ministry and invited to a life of penitence and prayer, as it was discovered he had led a secret life of impropriety.

The Legion’s general chapter began Jan. 8 and was charged with establishing a new constitution for the order and electing its new leaders.

Fr. Robles Gil expressed joy at the chapter’s successful conclusion, saying, “now we have to look at our life and how to implement the new Constitutions and put things in action.”

The new text of the constitutions will begin governing the life of the Legion once they have been approved by the Holy See.

The chapter closed with a Mass said by Cardinal De Paolis; it was concelebrated by Fr. Robles Gil and seven other newly elected members of the Legion of Christ’s leadership.

In his homily, Cardinal De Paolis reviewed the two principal topics of the general chapter: to “give the Congregation a new general direction,” and the “revision of the Constitution.”

He attributed special importance to the constitutions, since they embody the order’s “charism and spirituality, the spiritual patrimony and the identity of the congregation, and the norms necessary to conserve and promote it.”

“The constitutional text is the rule on which the Legionary is called to model his life,” he summarized.

Reflecting on Fr. Maciel, the cardinal noted that the chapter had included “an ample, objective and serene evaluation of the figure of Maciel and his relation to the Congregation,” concluding that the “personal behavior of the founder cannot be seen as personal faults of the other Legionaries, as if these they should be held responsible for his actions.”

“Rather, the Legion itself can be seen as a victim of the founder’s unwarranted actions.”

Cardinal De Paolis then stated that the “Legionaries have been reconciled with themselves, with their history, with the world, and the Church … they have looked inside themselves with a new and purified glance.”

Regarding the order’s renewed direction, Cardinal De Paolis pointed to the family and culture as the main fields of evangelization: “In renewing their vocations, their self-giving to Christ and to one another, they have been freed of the burden that weighed on their backs.”

“They have gone out of themselves and have found their place within the whole Regnum Christi Movement, participating in a vocation that they share with lay people that live their baptism and bear living witness to the faith they profess in their families and in culture, and with lay men and women who reinforce their witness in the world with the added profession of the evangelical counsels.”

Fr. Paul Habsburg, superior of the Legion’s apostolic community in Paris, later commented that “with this renewal, the Church has newly approved us as a congregation.”

“A charism is given to the Church through a man. As soon as that man, the founder, entrusts this charism to the Church, it does not belong to him anymore, but to the Church. And the Church lives it through the members. Whatever happens in the life of the founder, cannot destroy that charism anymore.”

Prior to the final blessing of the Mass, Cardinal De Paolis invited the Legion to “walk along the path of renewal, to be of service again to the Church.”

“I invite all members of Regnum Christi and the women of consecrated life to be united to the Legion, while each one keeps working in his specific field of evangelization.”

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