Archive of March 6, 2014

Reject pornography to protect families, encourages Virginia bishop

Arlington, Va., Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., has urged fathers to protect themselves and their children from pornography’s “relentless assault,” stressing the need for everyone to cultivate Jesus Christ’s “purity of heart.”

“Every home now stands in the pathway of this attack on our children’s innocence and purity. If we are not vigilant, our sons and daughters will pay a steep and heartrending price,” Bishop Loverde said.

“I call on every man in the Diocese of Arlington to search his heart and renew his commitment to purity,” the bishop said. “I call on every husband and father to renew his sacred commitment to his wife and children.”

Bishop Loverde’s comments come in the preface to the 2014 edition of his 2006 pastoral letter against pornography, “Bought with a Price.” The pastoral letter reflects on pornography’s harms, criticizes “false arguments” from pornography proponents and reflects on the spiritual importance of human sight.

“Today perhaps more so than at any time previously, man finds his gift of sight and therefore his vision of God distorted by the evil of pornography,” the bishop said in his pastoral letter. He invoked Jesus Christ’s beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

He rejected the claim that pornography harms no one, charging that it dehumanizes its viewers.

Pornography “obscures and destroys people’s ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God’s creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated,” the bishop said.

It changes the relations between men and women, often in “subtle ways,” he added. Pornography damages the family and “tears at the marital bond.” It “distorts the truth about human sexuality” and reduces sex from “the expression of a married couple’s intimate union of life and love” to “a demeaning source of entertainment and even profit for others.” Pornography is an “insidious toxic poison” that depicts the body “solely in an exploitative way” and is especially damaging to children.

Pornography production, viewing and distribution is “an offense against the dignity of persons” and “objectively evil,” Bishop Loverde stressed.

He lamented pornography’s present status as “mainstream entertainment” that is easily accessed through television, the Internet and portable devices like cell phones. This availability, he said, makes it more difficult to protect “the precious virtue of chastity.”

The bishop directly criticized the pornography industry as a “multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise,” saying that legal protections for pornography contribute to “the debasement of our culture and the victimization of our own children.”

He called for the passage and enforcement of anti-pornography laws, describing these actions as “the demand for an end to the exploitation of persons and the degradation of public morality.”

Bishop Loverde rejected claims that Christian opposition to pornography derives from “hatred of the body.” Rather, he explained, Christians believe in the resurrection of the body and recognize the importance of the body as “an integral part of the human person.”

The pastoral letter’s new edition, available in PDF format, includes a study guide for individuals, families and groups, and a plan for life. The pastoral letter is interspersed with short summaries and recommended practices to combat pornography.

The new edition also includes a foreword by Catholic apologist Matt Fradd, author of the book “Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity.” Fradd discusses his first encounter with pornography at eight years old, his continued use of pornography, and its harmful effects on himself and on society as a whole.

Fradd tells how he abandoned his vice through a gradual process that drew strength from his wife’s love and the grace of the sacrament of confession. He emphasizes the promise of forgiveness and healing through Jesus Christ.

Bishop Loverde encouraged Christians who have used pornography or are using it to turn to the Sacrament of Penance and make its mercy “the cornerstone of the struggle against pornography.”

He recommended they form close bonds of Christian friendship to hold themselves accountable while avoiding any “occasion of sin” that would enable pornography use.

Christians should respond to the problem of pornography through “morally uplifting” pursuits, he advised. They should “never compromise” in order to meet “the expectations of a decadent culture.”

The bishop also urged prayer for pornography’s victims and acts of spiritual work and fasting for those who produce and distribute pornography.

He particularly addressed young people, lamenting that they have been targeted by the pornography enterprise and will have to endure “the impoverished notion of intimacy that results from a culture that has confused love with self-gratification.”

“Know first that God has destined you for a true and fully human love that finds its center not in manipulating others but in sharing and flourishing in a communion with your beloved,” he told the youth.

The full pastoral letter is available at the website of the Diocese of Arlington:

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Editor shares life-changing Lenten challenge in new book

New York City, N.Y., Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A New York-based Catholic editor says her experience with the corporal works of mercy two Lenten seasons ago transformed her understanding of charity and service.

Kerry Weber, managing editor of America Magazine, documents her experiences in her newly published book “Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job” (Loyola Press).

In an interview with CNA, Weber recounted when Lent in 2012 was fast approaching and her typical Lenten sacrifice of sweets proved less than challenging.

“I was kind of doing the same Lenten sacrifice every year,” she explained. “As much as I would like to think that I was very spiritually advanced at the age of 12, and that I had perfected Lent and my sacrifice, I highly doubted that that was the case.”

Weber thought that “maybe as I grew and changed in my faith, I should try to grow and change in the way I live that faith out.”

Around that time, she was beginning research for an article on prison ministry at San Quentin State Prison in California. Eventually, her research led her to a list of the Catholic Church's corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and so on.

“It seems like such a simple list,” Weber said, describing her feelings upon rediscovering the corporal works of mercy. “But, I realized I hadn’t really been doing any of them lately.”

Weber then set out to complete all seven of the corporal works of mercy within that Lenten season.

“I wanted to challenge myself to really try to live out both the active and contemplative elements of the season as best I could.”

Of all of her experiences that Lenten season, Weber says her visit to inmates at San Quentin was the most striking because “the line between their lives and mine was much thinner than I'd thought.”

“I was struck by how ordinary our conversations were, by how welcoming they were,” Weber reflected. “I was more conscious of our shared humanity and how much more we had in common than I'd realized.”

“As I left, I said to the chaplain that it didn't seem like these men were capable of doing the horrible things they'd been imprisoned for. And the chaplain said something like, ‘We're all capable of such things’.”

Along with her prison visit, Weber’s acts of mercy included working an overnight shift at a local homeless shelter, handing out water to runners in the NYC half-marathon and visiting a retirement home in Queens for retired Sisters of Mercy.

Weber recalled that the biggest challenge that Lenten season was balancing her time.

“I’m not a morning person and a lot of these challenges took place in the morning, or in order to fit them in I had to rearrange my day and my schedule to make it work.”

“I found that challenging, but also invigorating because it was filling my day with really good things: things that nourished me,” she said.

Weber went on to describe how the experience taught her not only to stretch her time, but also her heart.

“Sometimes we equate the amount of time in our day with the capacity to love in some ways,” she said. “I only have so much time for other people and therefore I only have so much love to give, or so much that I can give of myself. But, it’s not a direct correlation.”

This realization also affected Weber’s understanding of mercy. She told CNA that her Lenten experience revealed that mercy is not a single act, but a lifestyle.

“I think mercy, at its core, is a kind of accompanying. It’s being beside someone. It’s being present to someone. I think that’s part of what we’re called to do as compassionate Christians; to suffer with, to put ourselves into the shoes of another, to consider the experience of another and to accompany each other on this journey through good and bad.”

Weber says trying to fulfill all seven corporal works of mercy in one Lent is likely not feasible for everyone. But, she says a lifestyle of mercy is not only realistic, but also required in the life of every Christian.

“It’s a process that we have to participate in throughout our lives,” Weber said. “And we live out that Gospel call imperfectly all the time, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep trying.”

“Being able to start over, to continue on that journey doing the best we can is part of accepting God’s mercy in our lives, as well as trying to live it out in the lives of others.”

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Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, a Salesian with a red biretta

Santiago, Chile, Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who is a Salesian and the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, was elevated to the college of cardinals by Pope Francis in a Feb. 22 consistory, at the age of 72.

Cardinal Ezzati was born in 1942 in a small town of northeastern Italy, and completed his secondary education at a school run by the Salesians of Saint John Bosco. He chose to enter seminary for the institute of consecrated life at 17, and opted for a novitiate outside of Italy.

“When I was sent to Chile, I made of the country my life option. I am of Italian origins and of Chilean vocation,” he has said.

He made his first profession as a Salesian in 1961, and then studied philosophy and education while in Chile. Later, he studied theology at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, and religious education in France.

He made perpetual vows in 1966, and was ordained a priest for the Salesians in 1970.

After his ordination, he served for two years in a pastoral mission in Chile, and from 1973 to 1977 was rector of the Salesian College, and superior of the community, in Concepcion. He later served as rector of the Salesian seminary in Santiago, and taught at the Catholic University of Chile.

While in Santiago, he co-authored a book in 1979 which was criticized by the Chilean minister for education as  being a betrayal of the nation.

At the time, Chile was ruled under the right-wing military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which lasted 17 years and left more than 3,000 dead or missing.

Cardinal Ezzati has said, “the minister considered that the book was communist and subversive, but if I read it today I find it so innocent. We maintained that money had to be used more in social issues than in armaments; that the objection of conscience was a fundamental right; that peace could not be built with arms, but with human development.”

At the Salesians' general chapter in 1984, Cardinal Ezzati was appointed head of the Chilean province, and then served as vice-president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Religious of Chile.

From 1991 to 1996 he worked at the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life.

In 1996, Cardinal Ezzati was consecrated Bishop of Valdivia, in southern Chile, where took took the episcopal motto, “to evangelize.” He served there until he was appointed, in 2001, an auxiliary bishop of Santiago.

Cardinal Ezzati was transferred to the Archdiocese of Concepcion in 2006. There, he showed himself to have great social concerns, acting as a mediator between laborers and employers, and opposing an increasing role of the state in education.

He was entrusted as one of the five apostolic visitors to the Legion of Christ in 2009: he carried out the order's investigation in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela.

In 2010, he was appointed Archbishop of Santiago, where he has worked with youth and prisoners. He disbanded a priestly association, the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, after its founder, Fr. Fernando Karadima, was found to have been guilty of sexual abuse.

He also established a new association of consecrated life for a group of women who had left Regnum Christi, a lay association linked to the Legion of Christ.

Cardinal Ezzati was elevated along 19 other bishops in the Feb. 22 conclave; he is one of four Latin Americans – he was joined by the archbishops of Managua, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro.

According to Diario Uchile, shortly before the consistory, he said: “I have asked Mary, Help of Christians, for her maternal protection, and St. John Bosco to keep me very simple, and close to the people.”

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In interview Pope talks marriage, family, scandals and life

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As part of a recent interview given to an Italian news agency, Pope Francis discussed hot-button issues in the Church today, giving clarity to topics which have often been misinterpreted since his election.

During the interview, published on March 5 in the Italian daily “Corriere della Sera,” the Pope was asked to speak on several issues which have been a source of heavy debate within the Church, particularly in the pontiff's short tenure.

When asked by the interviewer, Ferruccio de Bortoli, about whether or not the Church will allow contraception 50 years after Pope Paul VI wrote his historic encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” the pontiff responded that although doctrine will not be changed, a pastoral emphasis on mercy is needed.

“Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations,” the Pope explained.

“But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing the present and future neo-Malthusianism.”

The question of contraception, he observed, “is not that of changing the doctrine, but of going deeper and ensuring that pastoral ministry takes into account the situations and what is possible to do for the people,” adding that “We will also speak of this in the path of the synod.”

Drawing attention to the topic of civil unions, Bortoli questioned the pontiff as to whether or not it is something that the Church would be open to, to which Pope Francis replied that “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”

“The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of co-habitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care,” he said.

“This consists of pacts of cohabiting of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways,” he continued, adding that “One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”

Turning to the theme of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, Bortoli gave notice to how the family is the topic of reflection, noting that many things have changed since JPII wrote his Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio.”

Speaking of the two synods which will address the topic of the family, the interviewer stated that great “newness” is expected, and referenced the Pope's comments on helping those who are divorced, rather than condemning them.

“It is a long path that the Church must complete. A process wanted by the Lord,” the Pope explained.

“Three months after my election the themes for the synod were placed before me. It was proposed that we discuss what the the contribution of Jesus was to contemporary man. But in the end with gradual steps - which for me are signs of the will of God - it was chosen to discuss the family, that is going through a very serious crisis,” the pontiff recalled.

Referring to this crisis, Pope Francis explained that “It is difficult to form it. Few young people marry. There are many separated families in which the project of common life has failed. The children suffer greatly. We must give a response.”

“But for this we must reflect very deeply. It is that which the consistory and the synod are doing,” he affirmed, emphasizing that “we need to avoid remaining on the surface.”

“The temptation to resolve every problem with casuistry is an error, a simplification of the profound things, as the pharisees did, a very superficial theology. It is in light of the deep reflection that we will be able to seriously confront the particular situations, also those of the divorced, with a pastoral depth.”

Calling attention to a speech given by Cardinal Walter Kasper during the last consistory, in which his comments on divorced and re-married Catholics caused some division among the other cardinals, Bortoli questioned whether or not the doctrine regarding their reception of communion was “firm,” and why debate is necessary.

Pope Francis replied, saying that “Cardinal Kasper made a beautiful and profound presentation that will soon be published in German, and he confronted five points, the fifth was that of second marriages.”

“I would have been concerned if there wasn’t an intense discussion in the consistory,” the Pope expressed, “It wouldn’t have served for anything. The cardinals knew that they could say what they wanted, and they presented many different points of view that are enriching.”

“The fraternal and open comparisons make theological and pastoral thought grow. I am not afraid of this. Actually, I seek it,” he said.

Drawing attention to the tensions surrounding the abuse scandal within the Church, the interviewer referenced an appeal that was made to the Pope in the Italian newspaper “Il Foglio” to speak out against “the bad conscience” of secular society, which “hardly respects infancy.”

On this topic, the pontiff explained that “I want to say two things,” adding that “The cases of abuses are terrible because they leave extremely deep wounds,” and affirming that “Benedict XVI was very courageous and he cleared a path.”

“The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of the violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuses take place in the family environment and around it.”

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility,” he stated, “No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked.”

Following his previous interviews with Italian newspapers “La Stampa” and La Reppublica,” this marks the third interview that Pope Francis has given to secular papers since his election to the Chair of Peter last March.

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Spanish bishop issues letter on abortion

Madrid, Spain, Mar 6, 2014 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian in Spain has released a new pastoral letter on abortion that answers questions and encourages open discussion on the issue.

“We cannot accept 4000 abortions each year in the Basque Country,” Bishop Munilla said.

In his letter – which he presented to Pope Francis during an ad limina visit to the Vatican – the Spanish bishop responded to specific questions about abortion and invited readers to get past the political debate and pursue instead a free and moral debate, because “the cause of life is pre-political and is above any ideology.”

For this reason, Bishop Munilla underscored the scientific certainty that human life begins at conception.

He rejected the argument defending abortion as a woman's right to choose, noting that behind every abortion there is always poverty, loneliness, pressure from family members, or other factors.

“Abortion is not a cause for women because women who are heading for an abortion are often subjected to male chauvinist pressure,” he stated, adding that for this reason, women are the second victims of abortion.

Bishop Munilla called on society to become fully engaged in ending the tragedy of abortion and offering help and assistance to women at risk for abortion. The Mirian Center in the Diocese of San Sebastian, which has been reaching out to women in troubled pregnancies over the last year, is an example of such service, he said.

“Let's not allow our biases to keep us from thinking, feeling and confronting the tragedy of abortion head on, and let us have a real debate that is free of these biases,” he said.

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Research finds link between oral contraception, multiple sclerosis

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a new study, researchers analyzed the data found in women's health records over four years, discovering a connection between the use of oral contraception and the contraction of multiple sclerosis.

“It’s not clear what role (hormones) play in the development of the disease, but it’s clear that two to three times more women than men have MS,” Dr. Kerstin Hellwig stated in comments on

Dr. Hellwig is the study author of the research team that conducted the analysis, which gathered membership data from Kaiser Permanente Southern California and studied the health records of 305 women aged 14 to 48 who were diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), between 2008 and 2011.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Although its causes are unclear, experts believe that genetics, environmental hazards and smoking are all possible factors in the condition, which Hellwig stated normally develops between the ages of 20 and 40.

Looking at the frequency of the women's use of birth control prior to their initial symptoms of MS, researchers found a 30 percent increase in the risk of developing the disease among women who had used oral contraceptives for at least three months, compared with a control group of 3,050 women who did not have MS.

According to Hellwig, researchers discovered in the study that 29.2 percent of women with MS had used oral contraceptives prior to their diagnoses, while only 23 percent of women in the healthy control group had used the drug, showing an increased risk of contraction with a higher use of the pill.

For women who were not currently taking oral contraceptives, but had at some point in the three years before their diagnosis, the research team also found that there was a slightly higher risk of developing the disease.

Hellwig noted that although her team only studied the data of women who had used oral contraception for at least three months rather than a lifetime exposure, she expects to see an increased risk of contracting MS with a longer usage in their final analysis.

Most of the women in their study, she observed, used the common combination of estrogen and progestin, highlighting how the group's final analysis will be presented at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting.

Warning that this study was only a preliminary analysis, Hellwig explained that although the research points to an association between MS and birth control, they cannot firmly establish a cause.

“We say the use of birth control might explain a little bit of the increasing incidence (of MS) among women, but only to a small amount,” she said, “(We) don’t intend to mean that young women should avoid birth control to avoid MS.”

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Frontline episode on Church scandals one-sided, critic says

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The PBS Frontline documentary series’ recent episode “Secrets of the Vatican” largely covered old scandals in a one-sided way, said Scot Landry, executive director of Catholic Voices USA.

Landry said Frontline should have called the episode “Re-hashed church scandals presented as new.”

“The whole episode was tragically one-sided and short of appropriate context,” he told CNA March 5.

He said that the Frontline episode discussed the scandals “mainly through the eyes of those who earn a living suing the Church or writing books about the hypocrisy of a small fraction of the Church’s leaders and ministers.”

The Frontline episode aired on PBS Feb. 25.

It discussed sex abuse in the Catholic Church, sometimes with graphic descriptions from abuse victims. The episode also discussed financial scandals at the Vatican the as well as immoral behavior by priests who secretly engage in homosexual conduct. One particular focus was the Vatican’s handling of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ who was exposed as leading a double life including sexual abuse and drug addiction.

Landry said that clergy sex abuse is a “very real and painful issue” where the Church has “acknowledged its errors, begged for forgiveness, cared for abuse survivors and committed to programs, policies and an environment to ensure it never, ever happens again.”

He pointed to Pope Francis’ March 5 interview with the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera,” in which the Pope noted that abuse cases have left “very deep wounds.”

However, the Pope also said that the Catholic Church is “perhaps the lone public institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more, yet the Catholic Church is the only one attacked.”

The Frontline episode interviewed several figures who criticize Catholic doctrine and practice amid discussions of scandals. Among them is American attorney Jeff Anderson, who has filed many lawsuits against Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

In the documentary, Anderson repeated his claim that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, in his previous position as Archbishop of Milwaukee, was “hiding” $57 million from sex abuse lawsuits by moving it from the archdiocese’s accounts to a perpetual care fund for cemeteries.

Cardinal Dolan has repeatedly rejected the claim, saying that the funds had been legally designated for the cemeteries. He recently addressed the issue again in a Feb. 18 post at his blog “The Gospel in the Digital Age.” He said the judge overseeing the case ruled that he had acted properly.

The Frontline documentary also interviewed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop emeritus of Westminster, as well as Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Nicaragua, the head of Pope Francis’ advisory council of eight leading cardinals from around the world.

However, the cardinals spoke mainly about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis. They engage with the scandals only in general terms.

Landry noted that there are more than 1 billion baptized Catholics in the world, with more than 5,000 bishops and 400,000 priests.

“It is a sad fact that a very small percentage of bishops, priests and lay Catholics fall short of their promises to God and to the Church. In any group, the Church included, some individuals will choose to do the wrong thing when they are expected to do the right thing,” he said.

“It’s not unfair that the Church is held to the highest standard of behavior, often higher than other organizations, because we are clear that we seek to follow Jesus Christ as the model for our actions,” he added. “However, no group should be defined only by the behaviors of those that failed to live up to its ideals.”

Landry suggested that a fair profile of the Catholic Church “should also be prepared to profile its saints,” those who do live up to “their promises and ideals.”

“There are many holy men and women that work in the Vatican and throughout the Church today but you would never get that sense from this show,” he said.

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Churches critical to development of South Sudan, author says

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - With unique knowledge and solidarity with the people, churches play an essential role in helping cultural development in South Sudan, said an author familiar with the region.

“I think it’s crucial for people to understand that South Sudan is fundamentally dependent on the churches,” said Gabriel Meyer, a Catholic journalist and author who has written and lectured extensively on the region.

Development in South Sudan, he told CNA March 3, is “not simply throwing money at roads,” but instead a project of “societal and cultural change.”

“You need formation, you need cultural formation, you need women's formation, you need cultural change,” Meyer said. “The only agent I see that is capable of doing that in any kind of consistent, patient and effective way are the churches.”

South Sudan was formed in 2011 when the region gained independence from the Republic of Sudan following a 20-year-long civil war. Recently, the nascent country has erupted in violence again as forces loyal to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and those allied behind former Vice President Riek Machar have come into conflict.

“These divisions, which are questions of power and political differences,” Meyer said, “go back a very long time” to the longstanding conflict in the region.

“Everyone is traumatized,” he continued, “and you have to deal with that” in rebuilding society.

Meyer explained that South Sudan in particular has “specifically borne the brunt for over a generation or more” during the civil war and resulting violence. For instance, discriminatory policies from Khartoum, the capital of the Republic of Sudan, prevented schooling for certain groups of persons, and as a result, many people in South Sudan were not educated.

During this time, “it was the churches, really, who were there with the people, and in many cases churches were the only source of aid, food and support” for the people, Meyer said.

The churches have supported “people on the ground, no matter what” and are invested not in “immediate short term success but solidarity.”

Because of this devotion to the South Sudanese, he explained, “there are no organizations, including the government” that have as much “respect and influence over the populations that the churches do.”

“There is no stronger nation building institution than the churches,” Meyer stressed, both because of their closeness to the nation’s people and the resulting respect from the people.

He pointed to a variety of education and health care projects supported by churches around the country as examples of the building up of society.

Meyer specifically noted the case of a school in the Nuba Mountains funded by the Sudan Relief Fund. After decades of a lack of education, Ugandan teachers came to teach students in the parish. When the children were “exposed to consistent education for the first time,” Meyer said, they “were like sponges,” and were “absolutely dedicated to education.”

“Doing the right thing in a committed way can produce some remarkable results,” he said.

“Moral and ethical formation, religious formation, are also a part of the cultural formation that needs to go on in these situations,” he added, explaining that while other aid organizations tend to have a short-sighted view focused on solving immediate problems, the church groups have a deeper focus on developing people.

Meyer cautioned outside organizations to consider cultural customs and approaches when trying to help people in South Sudan, otherwise they “will complicate the situation, not help.”

“Are you imposing a template that you’ve already worked out,” he asked potential development workers, “or are you actually sitting down with local leaders and you’re solving the problem with them?”

Support for the churches, and through them, support for the people of South Sudan is essential for the country’s development, Meyer stressed.

“If you want to help the people of South Sudan, this is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing.”

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Vatican panel approves Archbishop Fulton Sheen miracle

Peoria, Ill., Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bishop of Peoria has rejoiced at a Vatican medical panel’s unanimous approval of a reported miracle attributed to the famous television personality and evangelist, Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

“There are many more steps ahead and more prayers are needed. But today is a good reason to rejoice,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill. said March 6.

“Today is a significant step in the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of our beloved Fulton Sheen, a priest of Peoria and a Son of the Heartland who went on to change the world.”

The approval came from a seven-member board of medical experts advising the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Diocese of Peoria reports.  

The reputed miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield. He showed no signs of life as medical professionals tried to revive him. The child’s mother and father prayed to Archbishop Sheen to heal their son.

Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.

The Vatican’s medical advisory panel ruled that there is no medical explanation for the healing of the baby. The ruling means that a board of theologians will now review the case. If they approve the case, its consideration could pass to the cardinals and bishops who advise Pope Francis on beatifications.

If the case reaches Pope Francis, his approval would recognize Archbishop Sheen as “blessed,” the final stage before possible canonization as a saint.

Archbishop Sheen was born May 8, 1895 in El Paso, Ill. near Peoria. His family moved to Peoria and he grew up in the parish of the Cathedral of St. Mary, where he was an altar server, the Diocese of Peoria says. He was ordained a priest at the cathedral in 1919. He served as a professor of philosophy and religion at the Catholic University of America before becoming a popular radio personality in the 1930s.

The beloved host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the Emmy-award winning television show “Life is Worth Living” reached an audience of millions during his broadcasting career. Servant of God Fulton Sheen authored many books and headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the United States. He served as an auxiliary bishop of New York and as Bishop of Rochester.

Archbishop Sheen dedicated the profits from his books into foreign missions. Sheen’s work has helped create 9,000 clinics, 10,000 orphanages, and 1,200 schools. The institutions his donations support now educate 80,000 seminarians and 9,000 vowed religious.

He continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death in 1979 at the age of 84, at the entrance to the private chapel of his New York City apartment.

Bishop Jenky opened Archbishop Sheen’s cause for sainthood in 2002. In June 2012 Pope Benedict XVI recognized Archbishop Sheen as having heroic virtues.

More information about Archbishop Sheen and his cause for canonization is available at the website

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Pope Francis to Roman priests: cry for your people

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with the priests of Rome, emphasizing the importance of mercy in pastoral ministry and explaining that to be a priest means being close to one's flock.

“The tears of a priest…Do you cry, or is this a clergy that has lost its tears? Do you cry for your people? Do you battle with the Lord for your people, like Abraham fought?” the pontiff asked the clergy present in the March 6 morning audience.

Held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis centered his address to the priests on mercy, calling to mind the scene from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus weeps for those he encounters when traveling through towns and villages, because they resemble a people “tired and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.”

“We are not here to perform a spiritual exercise for the beginning of Lent, but rather to listen to the voice of the Spirit that speaks to everyone in the Church in this, our time, which is indeed the time of mercy,” he said.

Reflecting on this “time of mercy,” the Pope drew attention to how easily we forget things today, “including the teaching of the Church!”

“This is in part inevitable,” the Pope observed, “but we must not forget the important content, the great intuitions and that which has been consigned to the People of God. And divine mercy is among these.”

“It is up to us, as ministers of the Church, to keep this message alive, above all in preaching and in our gestures, in signs and in pastoral choices, such as the decision to restore priority to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and at the same time to works of mercy.”

Asking the clergy what it means to be a priest, the pontiff explained that, as Jesus, “priests are moved by their sheep,” and that like the Good Shepherd, a priest is a man of compassion and mercy, who is close to his flock and is a servant of all.

Calling to mind the special “depth” of mercy shown through the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Pope noted that a priest shows compassion “in all his attitude, in his way of welcoming, listening, advising and absolving.”

“But this derives from how he lives this Sacrament himself…If a person lives this himself, in his own heart, he is also able to give it to others in his ministry.”

Emphasizing the importance of having a heart that is moved, Pope Francis affirmed that “sterile priests do not help the Church,” and referred to the Church as a “field hospital” where injuries are treated.

Drawing attention to the many “who are wounded by material problems, by scandals, even in the Church” and by “the illusions of the world,” the pontiff explained that “We priests must be there, close to these people.”

“Mercy means, above all, taking care of wounds. When a person is injured, this is the immediate help they need, not analysis; the special care can follow, but first we need to tend to the open wounds.”

“Do you know what your parishioners' wounds are? Are you close to them?” he asked, highlighting that in Confession, they must not be too “lax,” or too “rigorous.”

“Often, as priests, we hear of the experience of the faithful who say they have encountered in Confession a very 'rigid' or a very 'flexible' priest, lax or rigorous,” the Pope observed, adding that although different styles are normal, they “must not relate to the substance, that is the healthy moral doctrine and mercy.”

Reflecting on how mercy “accompanies” persons to holiness and fosters “growth,” the pontiff expressed the importance of “pastoral suffering” which is  a “suffering with the people, like a father and a mother suffer for their children, and I would say also with anxiety.”

Asking the clergy how many of them “cry when faced with the suffering of a child, the destruction of a family, before the many people who cannot find their path,” the Pope encouraged them to fight for their people as “Abraham fought.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis stressed that “we will be judged for how we have been able to be close to 'every flesh,' to our neighbors, to the flesh of our brothers.”

“At the end of time, only those who have not been ashamed before the flesh of his injured and excluded brother will be admitted to the contemplation of Christ's glorified flesh.”

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Path of self-denial brings joy, fruitfulness, Pope reflects

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis spoke of the Christian “style,” explaining that in order to be authentic, it must follow the path of Jesus in denying oneself, taking up the Cross, and practicing humility.

“And this style will save us, will give us joy and make us fruitful, because this path of denying oneself is there to give us life,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse on March 6.

Calling to mind the words of Luke's Gospel on Thursday, the pontiff repeated Jesus' words to his disciples, saying “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Emphasizing how this is truly the “Christian style” because it was first put into practice by Jesus himself, the Pope observed that “We can't think of the Christian life apart from this path.”

“There is always this journey, a journey that He took first: the journey of humility, the journey, too, of humiliation, of denying oneself, and then rising.”

“But this is the path,” repeated the Pope, explaining that “without the Cross, the Christian style is not Christian, and if the Cross is a Cross without Jesus, it is not Christian. The Christian style takes the Cross with Jesus and goes forward,” but “not without the Cross, not without Jesus.”

Despite the fact that Jesus is one in being with the the Father, he gave us an example in denying himself and becoming “a servant for all of us,” the pontiff said. This “style will save us” give us “joy” and “make us fruitful.”

Highlighting how Jesus shows us this path in order to give us life, Pope Francis observed that it is completely “opposed to the path of selfishness, of being attached to all the good things for myself alone.”

“This path is open to others, because the path Jesus took – of abnegation – that path was to give life. The Christian style is precisely this style of humility, of mildness, of meekness.”

Quoting the Gospel passage once again, the pontiff stated that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,” because “if the grain of wheat does not die, it can't bear fruit.”

He then went on to describe that this death to self is a source of joy for Christians because the Lord himself “gives us joy” as long as we follow Jesus in the style of Jesus, rather than that of the world, adding that to follow Jesus means to walk his path as closely as one is able in order “to give life to others, not to give oneself life.”

Noting that often times we want to appear better or more important in the opinion of others out of selfishness, he emphasized that Jesus' way “is the spirit of generosity,” and drew attention to the book “The Imitation of Christ,” which gives the “good advice” to “love to be unknown and considered as nothing.”

Explaining that this is what “Christian humility” is, the Pope repeated that “this is our joy, and this is our fruitfulness: to go with Jesus.”

“Other joys are not fruitful” he observed, because “as Jesus said, they think only to gain the whole world, but in the end lose and ruin their lives.”

The Pope concluded his reflections by encouraging all, at the beginning of Lent, to “ask the Lord to teach us a little of this style of Christian service, of joy, of self-abnegation, and of fruitfulness with Him, as He desires.”

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Vatican appointments may signal new role for state secretariat

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Recent appointments are beginning to show a pattern of how Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia will be carried out, with a seemingly diminished role for the Secretariat of State.

For the first time, the president of the cardinals’ commission overseeing the Institute of Religious Works, or Vatican bank, is not chaired by the Secretary of State.

On March 4, the cardinals’ commission of the Institute for Religious appointed Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major and a former nuncio, as its president.

According to the Institute’s constitutions, the cardinals elect their president. However, Pope Francis reportedly voiced his preference that the new president of the board not be the Secretary of State, but rather his longtime friend Cardinal Abril y Castello, who was apostolic nuncio to Argentina from 2000 to 20003.

The five cardinals of the board – among whom the current Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin -- followed the Pope’s will.

This is just the latest sign that the powers of the Secretariat of State are being redistributed. Indications suggest it may come to be considered one among many Vatican offices, joined by other secretariats of seemingly equal weight.

In recent decades, the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have been the most powerful of the Vatican offices.

In the new design, the Secretariat of State would be entrusted only with the task of diplomacy, while a “moderator curiae” would be in charge of the general affairs and coordination of the Vatican dicasteries.

The idea of a moderator curiae was offered during the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, proposed the idea based on his experience as a priest and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Milan.

In his view, a moderator Curiae would manage personnel, organize periodic meetings of the heads of the Vatican dicasteries, and audit the work of these offices. He envisioned the role as a person to coordinate the general affairs of the Roman Curia, the state secretariat, and the Pope himself.

Seemingly, Pope Francis has a different view.

With a motu proprio issued Feb. 24,  Pope Francis established a Secretariat for the Economy, a financial oversight council composed of 15 members and a general auditor of Vatican finances.

Cardinal George Pell has been appointed as prefect of the economy secretariat. His second-in-command, with the title prelate general secretary, will be Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, who had until now been Pope Francis’ personal secretary and his delegate within the Pontifical Commissions.

At first glance, the Secretariat for the Economy appears to have the same purpose as the existing Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

The only difference is that the prefecture refers to the Secretariat of State, while the economy secretariat refers directly to the Pope.

Luis Badilla Morales, a Vatican Radio journalist, wrote Feb. 25 that the model of the Secretariat for the Economy could eventually be followed in carrying out curial reform. He specifically mentioned the possibility of a new arrangement in which the Vatican communication departments would be brought under a single umbrella.

Following the example of that for the economy, this and other secretariats could take on the tasks of today’s pontifical councils, and eventually the congregations.

All the secretariats, and any remaining offices, would report directly to the Pope, and the Secretariat of State would become an office on par with the others.

The moderator curiae would still exist in this model, but would serve instead as an intermediary between the Pope and the dicasteries.

This, in fact, is just one possibility. What is clear is that Pope Francis will personally make the final decision.

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