Portsmouth, England, Mar 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A pastoral letter from a British bishop to his faithful for Lent calls upon Catholics to consider their online interactions and to use social media for good rather than to hurt others.
In moral decisions, including the decision about what to post online, “we cannot choose simply on the basis of what gives us pleasure and what causes us pain,” wrote Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a pastoral letter released March 19.
Instead, in the letter titled “Sin, Lent, Redemption," he said people should focus on “what is right and what is wrong, recognizing that often, to do the right thing involves self-sacrifice.”
Bishop Egan asked Catholics to pay attention to their interactions on the internet. “How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging?" he asked. "Do I revel in other people’s failings?”
“All this is grave matter,” Bishop Egan taught in his letter, which will be read at parishes of the Portsmouth diocese March 23. Grave matter – something that directly contradicts one of the Ten Commandments – is one of the three necessary conditions for a mortal sin, he noted.
The question of how people act online is "very serious," and useful to consider during Lent, a “time of Christian warfare” and a time to reflect on "serious things, our choices, our sins, our redemption.”
He urged that people should avoiding “calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings.”
Instead, taking to mind the Eighth Commandment, which commands people to tell the truth instead of falsities, Bishop Egan asked the faithful to “exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy, and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment."
Popular culture, he said, seems to thrive "on breaking this Commandment," promoting a culture in which “fallen celebrities are pilloried, reputations shredded and people’s sins exposed."
The bishop counseled people to turn to prayer and Confession to help break away from sin and a lack of charity. In order “to purify our desires, to be happy in life, to be psychologically healthy, we must be people of prayer.” Thus people “cannot be saved unless we pray.”
Bishop Egan also stressed the importance of Confession – “I urge you to find time to celebrate this therapeutic Sacrament now," he said.
“There is no better way to effect Lenten renewal than to meet Jesus One to one, Face to face, in the Sacrament of Penance, burying our sins in Him and rising with Him to new life.”
He continued, saying “this Sacrament is the only means of being forgiven a mortal sin and a huge support in dealing with venial sins and bad habits. The ‘secret’ of a good confession is a careful examination of conscience, which is why reflecting in prayer on the Ten Commandments is a great help.”
“Indeed, on our Lenten journey with Christ in the desert, we will not reach Jerusalem unless we make a good confession.”
London, England, Mar 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized sex-selective abortion as “simply an appalling practice,” and said the British government will work to counter the illegal practice.
Cameron told parliament March 19 that Britain’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, and the Department of Health are preparing guidance for doctors about sex-selective abortions, intended to counter pressure on some pregnant women to have sons instead of daughters, the British newspaper The Independent reports.
Minister of Parliament Paul Uppal had questioned the prime minister about the practice.
“I’ve had conversations with people who’ve told me it’s going on and I trust what they are telling me. It’s a very subtle pressure on women to have sons,” Uppal told The Independent.
“The expectation is there – I’ve seen it firsthand myself.”
Uppal, who is from a Sikh background, said he wanted to “take on the cultural pressure within families to have boys.”
He said women sometimes come under pressure “to abort fetuses if they are girls.”
An analysis of 2011 census records in England and Wales suggests that as many as 4,500 girls may be “missing” due to sex-targeted abortion practices within some ethnic communities in the U.K. and overseas. The practice is most common among families with South Asian or Afghan heritage, according to the Daily Mail.
In some parts of the U.K., there may be as many as 120 boys for every 100 girls among families’ second children, the Daily Mail reports. The natural sex ratio is 105 boys to 100 girls.
U.K. health minister Earl Howe has said that there is no evidence that sex-selective abortions are taking place in the U.K., saying there are other explanations for the findings. However one British-Asian woman, the mother of three boys, told The Independent that she had two abortions after she and her husband’s family found that she was pregnant with girls.
“I’m pregnant again and I’m terrified it will happen to me again.”
Undercover investigations by the Daily Mail have also found doctors willing to perform sex-selective abortions.
Rani Bilkhu, an official of the women’s charity Jeena International, told the Daily Mail in January that “the Government can no longer brush this practice under the carpet as they have done. They are hiding behind political correctness to appease certain migrant communities who practise what I call ‘womb terrorism.’”
“This is not a debate about the rights and wrongs of abortion, but an issue of violence against women before they are born.”
Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The life of Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, a French researcher who discovered the genetic cause of Down syndrome, is an example of faith, respect for the dignity of all human life, and search for truth in science, say those who work to spread his legacy.
"The example of Jerome Lejeune is a man who serves as a witness in contemporary time for challenges that we all face," said Mark Bradford, president of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation USA, in a March 18 interview with CNA.
As he has learned more about Lejeune, Bradford said he "came to know him as a deep man of faith, a deep man of family, a commitment and love for his family, and an incredible love for science and realized that all of that sprang from his deep faith.”
Lejeune discovered that Down syndrome was caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21 in 1958. People with the syndrome present a variety of different conditions, including growth delays, varying levels of intellectual impairment, and a variety of physical abnormalities.
He spent the rest of his life researching treatments and cures for Down syndrome and the people living with it.
An ardent Catholic, Lejeune was named the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life by Bl. John Paul II. He advocated strongly against the use of prenatal testing and the abortion of unborn children who were found to have Down syndrome.
After his death in 1994, a cause for his canonization was opened in 2007. Aude Dugast, postulator of the cause, told CNA that Lejeune's life and work is a witness for doctors and researchers, and shows there "is no contradiction between the deeds of doctors and the deeds of Catholics."
Many of those involved in science and research "put their faith on one side, and their jobs on the other, and the two don't go together.” But Lejeune showed that "faith and reason are not opposed, but complementary," Dugast said.
He dedicated himself with passion to his research and learning, Dugast explained, but he also showed a passion for helping children with Down syndrome, to whom he showed an "unconditional love."
Lejeune showed hat through both learning and loving, "one can see the beauty of creation."
Thus, Lejeune's canonization would provide an official "example to the world,” Dugast commented, adding that in today's world, "there is a terrible need for people today in our world who respect human life.”
Through canonizing Lejeune, "the Church would recognize his sanctity" and it would "manifest to all that our right" as persons, is to respect and to protect life.
"If they canonize him, it would be a good demonstration of the heroic life of Jerome Lejeune."
Bradford, who has a son living with Down syndrome, said that Lejeune's legacy shows that "there was no contradiction between the practice of medicine and faith because they both have the same source" -- a grounding in the "natural moral law."
This witness, he continued, is a "sign of hope and an example of strength," particularly for the contemporary world. Today "we see a crisis in family and we see so many cases of absent fathers," as well as "cases of disingenuous practice of medicine or pursuit of science," and other transgressions of the natural law.
"In Jerome Lejeune we see a man who only sought the truth in each of those areas," Bradford said, "giving no place for the evil he saw."
“We can see the consequence of remaining true to our beliefs and true to our faith.” While Lejeune "lost almost everything, we're here talking about him tonight: he won."
Vatican City, Mar 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis warned against trying to co-opt the Word of God for one’s own purposes as did the Pharisees, urging prayer and humility instead, in his homily for Friday’s Mass.
“This is the tragedy of these people, and our tragedy too!” he preached March 21 during his Mass said at the chapel of the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse.
He reflected on the Gospel reading containing Jesus’ parable about the workers in the vineyard who killed the servants and then the son of the vineyard’s master, intending to take over the vineyard for themselves.
The Pope explained that this parable was directed to the Pharisees to show “where they had fallen” without “hearts open to the Word of God.”
He said such people “have taken over the Word of God. And the Word of God becomes their word, a word according to their interests, their ideologies, their theologies... but in their service.”
In this situation, he said, everyone interprets the Word of God “according to their own will, according to their own interests. This is the tragedy of this people. And to preserve this, they kill. This happened to Jesus.”
Jesus’ parable led the chief priests and the Pharisees seek to capture and kill him; Pope Francis said this is how the Word of God “dies” and is “imprisoned.”
This is what happens to Christians “when we are not open to the newness of the Word of God, when we are not obedient to the Word of God.”
While the Word of God can “die in our heart,” this is not the end, because “it is alive in the hearts of the simple of the humble, of the people of God.”
“That simple crowd — who followed Jesus because what he said did their hearts good, warmed their hearts — this people wasn’t wrong. They didn’t use the Word of God for their own interests; they listened, and sought to be a little bit better.”
The Pope said that through humility and prayer, Christians can become docile, and “not cage the Holy Spirit.”
“With humility and prayer we go forward by listening to the Word of God and obeying it.”
Liverpool, England, Mar 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Speaking Friday of his appointment as Archbishop of Liverpool, Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham has said he will strive to live up to the trust that is being put in him in his new role.
“I am honoured and humbled to have been appointed by our Holy Father Pope Francis as Archbishop of Liverpool,” Bishop McMahon said in a news conference March 21. “I promise to do my best to repay the trust that he has placed in me, and which the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Liverpool are being asked to put in me from today.”
“I am grateful to my family and friends, my Dominican brethren, and the priests and people of the Diocese of Nottingham for their support, guidance and friendship. I am naturally sorry to be leaving my home for the last thirteen years, and I will miss the priests and people there; I hope that the prayers of my Diocese will come with me as I prepare to bid them a fond farewell shortly after Easter.”
Bishop McMahon was born in London in 1949. He studied mechanical engineering and worked in the transport industry before joining the Dominicans in 1976. He made religious profession the following year, and was ordained a priest of the order in 1982, serving as a university chaplain, pastor, prior provincial; and prior of Blackfriars in Oxford.
He was then appointed Bishop of Nottingham in 2000, where he has served until now. He has been outspoken in his support for Catholic education and for evangelization.
Msgr. Thomas McGovern, vicar general of the Nottingham diocese, said that “he has become a well-loved and well-respected shepherd, and we will miss him. The priests, deacons, religious and laypeople of our Diocese will look back on his ministry here with great affection, and Bishop Malcolm can be assured of our prayers for him as he prepares to take up his duties as Archbishop of Liverpool.”
Bishop McMahon continued his comments, commending the Liverpool archdiocese for its history of “missionary discipleship,” saying the “rich and living Catholic heritage of the Archdiocese should inspire us and challenge us, and I know that I can rely on the prayers and support of the Catholic faithful as I take up the challenge which lies ahead of me.”
“I am also looking forward to working with my fellow Christians from other Churches and communities, people from all religious traditions, and civic and political leaders, building up the good relationships which already exist between us, in our endeavour to serve the common good.”
He added, “I will do my level best to lead, guide and serve the people of this great Archdiocese, in Liverpool, west Lancashire and the Isle of Man, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.”
“There is much work to be done, because the challenges which we face as a community are real.”
Bishop McMahon will say Chrism Mass in Nottingham April 16, and also a Mass of Thanksgiving April 28, as opportunities for the diocese to bid him farewell.
His Mass of Installation as Archbishop of Liverpool will be said May 1 at the city's Cathedral of Christ the King.
Bishop Thomas Williams, the auxiliary bishop of Liverpool who has served as its apostolic administrator during its vacancy, welcomed their new archbishop: “I have to say on behalf of Archbishop Emeritus Patrick and the priests and people of the Archdiocese how pleased we are to welcome Archbishop-Elect Malcolm.”
“We welcome Archbishop-Elect Malcolm with open arms and fully commit ourselves to him in a spirit of brotherly love and service. We know he is a Londoner and an Arsenal supporter, but nevertheless we welcome him unconditionally."
Rome, Italy, Mar 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At a Friday meeting and prayer vigil with families of mafia victims, Pope Francis shared his sympathy with them, and then forcefully exhorted mafiosi to convert and change their lives.
“I wish to share with you a hope, and it is this: that the sense of responsibility will slowly, slowly win out over corruption, in every part of the world,” the Roman Pontiff said March 21 to members of the Libera Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting organized crime across Italy.
“This must begin from within, from the conscience, and from there restore, restore behaviors, relationships, choices, the social fabric, so that justice will flourish, take root, and take the place of iniquity,” he said at Rome’s St. Gregory VII parish to some 700 family members of mafia victims.
He continued, saying, “I know you feel this hope strongly, and I want to share it with you, to tell you I’ll be with you again, this night and tomorrow … even if I cannot physically come, I’ll be with you in this way, which requires tenacity, and perseverance.”
The Pope thanked the participants for their openness, “for telling your story of pain, and hope. This is very important, especially for the young!”
“I wish to pray with you – and I do this from my heart – for all the victims of the mafia.”
He referred to Tuesday’s killing of a family in Taranto, in which a convicted murderer, his girlfriend, and her 2-year-old son, were forced off the road by gunmen who riddled their car with bullets. He called it “a crime that has no mercy, not even for a baby.”
“But at the same time we pray together, all of us, asking for the strength to keep going, to not be discouraged, but to continue to fight against corruption.”
Turning to those involved in organized crime, Pope Francis said, “I feel that I cannot conclude without saying a word to the protagonists who are absent today -- the men and women mafiosi. Please change your lives, convert yourselves, stop perpetrating evil!”
“And we pray for you. I ask this on my knees. It is for your good … the power and money that you have now from many dirty dealings, from many mafia crimes – blood money, power gained with blood – you cannot bring them with you to the next life.”
He urged them: “Be converted, you still have time, so as not to end up in hell. That is what is waiting for you if you continue on this path.”
“You have a father and a mother: think of them. Cry a little, and be converted.”
Concluding, he led the participants in praying a Hail Mary.
The Libera Foundation was established in 1995 with the goal of encouraging society to fight against organized crime and to promote justice, and is chaired by Fr. Luigi Ciotti.
According to the Transcrime research center, the mafia has its strongest presence in the North-Western and central regions of Italy, and is responsible for the majority of the illegal activity in the country, the most important of which include sexual exploitation, firearms trafficking, drugs, counterfeiting, gambling, illegal waste trafficking, illegal tobacco trafficking, usury, and extortion.