Archive of March 27, 2014

Minor protection group shows collaboration with Jesuit center

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The appointments made to the newly established Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors show that Pope Francis has modeled it on the Jesuit’s Center for the Protection of Minors.

The center was launched in 2011 by the Pontifical Gregorian University in collaboration  with the Diocese of Munich and Freising, as well as the University of Ulm’s departments of psychiatry and infant and adolescent psychotherapy.

The establishment of the center followed the symposium “Toward healing and renewal,” organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University; several Vatican authorities, the representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences, and more than 30 religious orders took part in the symposium.

The conference’s main goal was not to prepare new norms to prevent abuse, but rather to move from juridical norms to widespread practice.

The symposium’s first effects were the establishment of the Center for the Protection of Minors and the publishing of a book collecting the lectures delivered at the meeting.

Examining the symposium participants, it becomes evident that Pope Francis shaped the Pontifical Commission on the Center for the Protection of Minors.

Fr. Hans Zollner is president of the Jesuit center, and is among the members of the Pontifical Commission.

Also on the commission is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has done much to support the protection of minors and the credibility of the Church.

Marie Collins presented on her own experiences at the symposium; she helped author the minor protection guidelines adopted by the Church in Ireland. Collins’ paper presented at the Pontifical Gregorian University was co-authored by Sheila Hollins, who has also been appointed to the commission.

Another appointment to the commission is Claudio Papale, who teaches canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, holding classes the delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The other members are: Hanna Suchocka, a former prime minister and Polish ambassador to the Holy See, a human rights experts chosen for her knowledge of international law; Catherine Bonnet, a French pedopsychiatrist awarded with the Legion d’Honneur, who has gained a solid reputation as counsellor on the abuse of minors since 1996; and Fr. Humberto Miguel Yáñez, a professor of moral theology and a longtime friend of Pope Francis.
This group of eight is called to work in issuing the statutes of the Commission and giving the commission a final shape, pointing out its goals and responsibilities and proposing new candidates for the board of the commission.

In sketching the statutes, the eight members will also have to deal with legal problems.

Card. O’Malley explained in a December press briefing that the commission will “study programs currently in place for the protection of children; formulate suggestions for new initiatives on the part of the Curia, in collaboration with bishops, episcopal conferences, religious superiors and conferences of religious superiors; and identify qualified persons for the systematic implementation of these new initiatives.”

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Philippines and Vatican release Pope Francis postage stamps

Manila, Philippines, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Philippine Postal Corporation, in collaboration with the Holy See, has released a commemorative postage stamp celebrating the pontificate of Pope Francis.

“The stamp will make this event memorable and will serve as a historical patrimony for the generations to come,” Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Mercedes Tuason told CNA March 21.
“The postage stamp is an effort of the Filipino people to, in some way, materialize our thanksgiving to God for giving us Pope Francis and to ask him to continue to bless the Pope and guide him in his task.”

The stamp features a smiling image of Pope Francis and the words “Pope Francis year II - 2014.” The Philippine Postal Corporation released the stamp March 19, while the Vatican Postal administration issued a similar one March 21.

Tuason said that “any memorabilia that has the Holy Father on it has the ability to warm hearts and connect people.”

She hopes this stamp will do just that, by reminding Filipinos that the “true treasure that we have is our faith, our belonging to the Catholic Church.”

The Philippine Postal Corporation has printed 90,000 of the commemorative stamps so far.

“Featuring Pope Francis is relevantly significant to the Filipinos and it’s opportune to honor his service at the commencement of his second year of his pontificate,” said Philippine Postal Corporation and philatelic department head, Elenita San Diego.

“A large number of the Filipino population is also Catholic and we are interested in the Holy Father.”

San Diego confirmed that the Postmaster General Josie de la Cruz would present a souvenir frame containing the stamps to the Vatican during her official visit there next month.

She added that there has been such an interest and demand both locally and internationally in the stamp that the Philippine Postal Corporation may release a second series.

The Philippine Postal Corporation also plans to release a stamp commemorating the April 27 canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II.

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Change in annulment process could lead to 'grave damage'

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ecclesiastical tribunals are an essential part of the Church's saving mission -- thus changes to their procedures, including the annulment process, should be considered with great care, Cardinal Raymond Burke has said.

Understanding the Church's tribunal system, Cardinal Burke said March 20, "requires an understanding of the service of canon law in general to the saving mission of the Church, and its role in the Petrine ministry."

Cardinal Burke is prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest tribunal court, which ensures the correct administration of justice in the Church, and was delivering a lecture at the Catholic University of America.

Speaking to speculation over the possibility of changes to the annulment process, Cardinal Burke reinforced that the two-step annulment process "is not a mere matter of procedure, but that the process is essentially connected with the doctrinal truth" of the Church -- which the current tribunal process helps to ensure.

During a Feb. 20 address to an consistory of cardinals on the family, Cardinal Walter Kasper had suggested that instead of questions of nullity being decided by a tribunal, perhaps “other more pastoral and spiritual procedures could also be possible … as an alternative, one might think that the bishop could entrust this task to a priest.”

Speaking at Catholic University of America, Cardinal Burke explained “the necessity of canon law for the protection and promotion of the sacred realities which constitute our life in the Church, realities which include the rights and obligations of members of the Church.”

Referring to the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Bl. John Paul II, as well as the late Pope’s writings about it, Cardinal Burke said these show that the Church is a "social and visible structure," and must therefore have norms governing it.

“The service of the Roman Curia, and therefore of the Apostolic Signatura, is intimately connected with the apostolic character of the Catholic Church … the salvation of souls.”

Because of this profound nature of tribunals, he said, any changes to the annulment process should "be studied by a commission of experts" and considered with great care.

Annulments are recognitions that what appeared to be a marriage in fact was not; when a marriage is found to have been valid, couples are allowed to separate and seek a civil divorce, but remarriage within the Church is prohibited as long as one’s spouse is alive.

If a person has entered into a civil marriage after a divorce and without an annulment, that person is not allowed to receive Communion because their (first) marriage still exists, and the civil union is an extramarital living situation.

Catholics seeking an annulment must seek a tribunal, generally located in their diocese, which makes a judgement on the case. A second tribunal then either confirms or denies the first tribunal's judgement.

Explaining abuses that occurred before the two-court system was installed, Cardinal Burke warned that eliminating the requirement for a second judgement would lead to "grave damage."

He continued, adding that the Apostolic Signatura has found that "the necessity of the double-conforming decision for an adequate process for the declaration of nullity of marriage is shown without any shadow of a doubt."

Quoting Bl. John Paul II, Cardinal Burke warned that simplifying the process for procedural reasons would be a "false mercy, which is not concerned with the Truth and therefore is not charity, which has as its only goal the salvation of souls."

Any "further simplification of the process must respect its finality," which is  the "search for the truth."

"It must be clear that the process in question is not a matter of procedure," but that it is intimately "connected to doctrinal truth.”

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Pope, Obama discuss relations between Church and State

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During the March 27 meeting between Pope Francis and President Barack Obama, the two exchanged cordial discussion regarding the state of the Church in the U.S., as well as topics of shared interest.

Lasting approximately 50 minutes long, the meeting marks Obama’s second encounter with a Roman Pontiff since his election in 2008, the first being between him and Benedict XVI in July of 2009.

Upon greeting each other, Obama asked the Pope how he was, expressing twice that it was “wonderful” to meet him, and stating that “It’s a great honor. I’m a great admirer. Thank you so much for receiving me.”

The U.S. president also extended the greetings of his family, observing that “The last time I came to meet your predecessor, I was able to bring my wife and children.”

During the meeting, described as cordial, the U.S. president and the Holy Father exchanged views on current international themes, expressing their hope that in areas immersed with conflict, there would be a greater respect for both humanitarian and international law, and that all parties involved would be able to negotiate a solution.

Regarding bilateral relations and matters regarding the cooperation between Church and State, the two discussed questions of particular relevance for the Church in the United States.

Among the topics touched upon were religious freedom, conscientious objection, and immigration reform. A final point discussed was their shared interest in eradicating all forms of human trafficking throughout the world.

After the meeting concluded the two exchanged gifts, with Obama giving the Pope a box containing a variety of seeds planted in the White House gardens in celebration of the opening of the gardens of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo to the public earlier this year.

Presenting a second part to his gift, the U.S. president revealed to the pontiff that in his honor a donation of seeds would also be given to a charity, which would provide several tons of fresh produce. The seeds, noted the president, represent the Pope’s commitment to sowing the seeds of global peace.

When presenting the gift to the Pope, the president extended his own invitation to the Holy Father, telling him “If you have a chance and come to the White House, you can see our garden,” to which the pontiff replied “Why not?”

Offering his own gifts to the U.S. president, Pope Francis presented him with two bronze medals, one depicting an angel representing solidarity and peace that is bringing together the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth, while at the same time is depicted overcoming a dragon.

The second medal commemorates the moment in 1657 when Alexander VII laid the first stone of the north colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and reveals the original plan of sculptor Antonio Bernini to include a third colonnade in the Square, but which was never built.

Also presented to Obama was a red-covered copy of Evangelii Gaudium. Upon receiving it, the president commented that “You know I actually will probably read this in the oval office when I am deeply frustrated, and I am sure it will give me strength and calm me down.”

Pope Francis responded to him in English, saying “I hope.”

When parting with the Pope, Obama thanked him in Spanish, saying “Muchos gracias,” and asking him to “Please pray for me and for my family. They are with me on this journey, please pray for them,” and adding that “My girls and wife have to put up with me.”

Following his encounter with the Holy Father, President Obama met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, saying to them “So nice to see you. It’s wonderful to be here.”

In attendance at the encounter between the president and Cardinal Parolin was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.

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Obama meets with Pope at time of 'tense' relations with Church

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. President Barack Obama’s March 27 meeting with Pope Francis comes at a time of tension between his administration and the Church over religious liberty, several Catholic leaders have said.

“There has been a great deal of acrimony over issues related to religious freedom. This is something new and quite serious, since it affects the ability of the Church to carry out its mission,” V. Bradley Lewis, a philosophy professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNA March 26.

He said relations between the U.S. government and the Catholic Church are “quite vexed … I don't believe they have been this vexed in my memory.”

Many Catholic dioceses, charities, universities, health care systems, and even the Little Sisters of the Poor, have filed legal challenges against the Obama administration’s mandate requiring most employers to cover or aid access to procedures and drugs that violate Catholic teaching: sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.

Lewis said that the contraception mandate has been “a source of great tension,” it is “not an isolated incident.”

The Obama administration has revised conscience protection rules in federal health care law, and argued against protecting the hiring decisions of religious groups before the U.S. Supreme Court – an argument rejected in a unanimous decision by the justices.

The administration also ended a contract with the U.S. bishops to help human trafficking victims. Its allies opposed the grant because the program would not facilitate access to abortion and contraception.

Lewis commented that Pope Francis is in a “very strong position” to make a case to the president about the importance of religious freedom, “in a way that cannot be perceived as politically motivated.”

“I hope the president will listen.”

Chad Pecknold, a religion professor at the Catholic University of America, agreed with Lewis that the Obama administration’s relationship with the Catholic Church has been “tense.”

“Some bishops have described the administration as hostile to the Catholic Church, and coercive of conscience.”

He attributed these hostilities largely to the government’s agenda, rather from “any hostility of the Church toward the duly-elected government.”

Pecknold said Pope Francis is not unaware of these tensions, and though he will have wanted to diffuse them, “he will almost certainly seek to stand with the fight for religious liberty, to defend the weak and unborn against the unjust exercise of free choice.”
He said it was unusual for U.S. presidents to visit the Pope until after the Second Vatican Council; but since John F. Kennedy’s presidency, every U.S. president has met with the Pope.

“This particular meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis is significant as their first meeting, and because of perceived symmetries between them on questions of economic justice,” Pecknold reflected.

However, he added that such meetings are “so often symbolic,” and it is uncertain whether substantive discussions take place.

Lewis said the Pope is a “unique world leader” who has “no particular political or geopolitical agenda or interest.”

“His agenda is the Gospel and his authority is moral and spiritual in nature,” he added, suggesting other world leaders value discussions with the Pope because “he has no ulterior motives” and because so many of their citizens consider him a spiritual leader.

Maryann Cusimano Love, a fellow of the Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, said the Church and the U.S. government have “many areas of common concern” in foreign policy and Pope Francis and Obama were likely to discuss these.

She noted their shared concern for peace and anti-poverty work, and suggested they could discuss nuclear weapons, since Obama is in Europe to host the Nuclear Security Summit.

“For the first time, a U.S. president … has agreed to the Catholic Church’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons,” Love said.

She noted the U.S. and the Holy See can find common ground in opposition to world hunger and human trafficking. Immigration issues are another point of discussion.

However, she noted that the U.S. government is arming and funding the military capacities of governments such as Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, as well as non-state combatants in Syria, while the Church has emphasized the need to reduce trade in guns and conventional weapons that can worsen conflicts.

“Bishops in Africa and Latin America will tell you that their countries are awash in guns that were ‘Made in the USA’,” Love said.

According to Love, both the Holy See and the U.S. government “work for peace in the Middle East,” though the Holy See supports stronger protections for Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians.

And Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, director of the North American College’s Institute for Continuing Theological Education, told Vatican Radio March 26 that while “the Church … is looking for points we have in common,” the Holy See is “very concerned about questions, for example, of religious freedom.”

The Church is “concerned about ethical issues such as the destruction of the family by laws which propose gay marriage or ‘liberty’ in so many ways.”

“We believe in something else: We believe that there is a law placed in our hearts by God, and no one has the right to change that law. In fact, when one lives that law, one finds true freedom and true joy.”

“That’s what the Church wants, and certainly that is what this Pope wants.”

Following Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis, and later with officials of the Secretariat of State, the Holy See press office stated that “views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.”

“In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in (the U.S), such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.”

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Schedule for Pope’s Holy Land visit released

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See has officially published the itinerary for Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to the Holy Land, during which he is slated to travel to Jordan, the State of Palestine, and Israel.

Announced by Pope Francis himself during his Jan. 5 Sunday Angelus address, he revealed that the principal goal of the trip is “to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras I, that occurred … 50 years ago today.”

In January of 1964, Pope Paul VI traveled to the Holy Land. He met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the Mount of Olives on January 5.

This historic meeting led to an improved relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, including a momentous joint declaration issued in 1965, in which both leaders expressed their desire “to overcome their differences in order to be again ‘one’ as the Lord Jesus asked of his Father for them.”

Responding to questions regarding the current strike of diplomatic personnel in the Israeli foreign ministry, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi expressed his hope that they would soon be able to resume the formal contacts with the authorities responsible for the proper preparation for the visit of the Pope.

The itinerary of the Pope’s visit is as follows:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

08:15 Departure from Rome Fiumicino Airport for Amman

13:00 Arrival at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman

13:45 ARRIVAL CEREMONY in the al-Husseini Royal Palace in Amman



16:00 HOLY MASS at the International Stadium in Amman. Homily of the Holy Father

19:00 Visit to the Baptismal Site at Bethany beyond the Jordan

19:15 MEETING WITH REFUGEES AND DISABLED YOUNG PEOPLE in the Latin church at Bethany beyond the Jordan. Discourse of the Holy Father

Sunday, May 25, 2014

8:15 FAREWELL FROM JORDAN at the Queen Alia Internal Airport in Amman

8:30 Departure by helicopter from the Queen Alia Internal Airport in Amman for Bethlehem

9:20 Arrival at the helicopter port of Bethlehem

9:30 ARRIVAL CEREMONY at the presidential Palace in Bethlehem


10:00 MEETING WITH THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY - Discourse of the Holy Father

11:00 HOLY MASS in Manger Square in Bethlehem. Homily of the Holy Father

REGINA COELI PRAYER. Allocution of the Holy Father

13:30 Lunch with families from Palestine in the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem



15:45 FAREWELL FROM THE STATE OF PALESTINE at the helicopter port of Bethlehem

16:00 Departure by helicopter from the helicopter port of Bethlehem for Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv

16:30 ARRIVAL CEREMONY at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Discourse of the Holy Father

17:15 Transfer by helicopter to Jerusalem

17:45 Arrival at the helicopter port of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus

18:15 Private meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople at the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem. Signing of a joint declaration.

19.00 ECUMENICAL MEETING on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Discourse of the Holy Father

20:15 Dinner with the Patriarchs and Bishops and the Papal suite at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem

Monday, May 26, 2014

8:15 VISIT TO THE GRAND MUFTI OF JERUSALEM in the building of the Great Council on the Esplanade of the Mosques. Discourse of the Holy Father


9:45 Laying a wreath at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem

10.00 VISIT TO YAD VASHEM in Jerusalem. Discourse of the Holy Father

10:45 COURTESY VISIT TO THE TWO CHIEF RABBIS at Heichal Shlomo Center in Jerusalem, next to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. Discourse of the Holy Father

11:45 COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem. Discourse of the Holy Father


13:30 Lunch with the Papal suite at Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem

15:30 Private visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople at the building next to the Orthodox church of Viri Galileai on the Mount of Olives

16:00 MEETING WITH PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND SEMINARIANS in the church of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Discourse of the Holy Father

17:20 HOLY MASS WITH THE ORDINARIES OF THE HOLY LAND AND THE PAPAL SUITE in the room of the Cenacle in Jerusalem. Homily of the Holy Father

19:30 Transfer by helicopter from the helicopter port on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv

20:00 FAREWELL FROM THE STATE OF ISRAEL at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv

20:15 Departure from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for Ciampino Airport in Rome

23:00 Arrival at Ciampino Airport in Rome

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British paper suspends writer who looked forward to Benedict's death

London, England, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Tablet, a British Catholic weekly, has suspended its Rome correspondent Robert Mickens after he publicly referred to Benedict XVI as “the Rat” and anticipated his death.

In a March 2 Facebook post about Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla, who was Pope John XXIII's secretary and was elevated to the red Feb. 22, Mickens wrote: “This should have happened a LONG time ago. Do you think he'll make it to the Rat's funeral?”

The comment about Joseph Ratzinger was noticed by Damian Thompson, a writer at The Telegraph, who wrote about it March 24.

Two days later, The Tablet announced Mickens’ suspension “following remarks made by him on the Facebook website about the Pope Emeritus. An inquiry is now being carried out.”

Robert Mickens is suspended as The Tablet’s Rome correspondent following a comment on Facebook. An enquiry is underway

— The Tablet (@The_Tablet) March 25, 2014

“The Tablet's editor, staff, directors and trustees all disassociate ourselves from these remarks.”

The Tablet describes itself as having “a special emphasis on Roman Catholicism while remaining ecumenical," and points out specifically that “it is committed to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.”

Its editor, Catherine Pepinster, has written that the journal is a place of “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home but ideas are welcome.”

In the past, Thompson has described The Tablet as "a magazine read by Left-wing Catholics whose 'Masses' involve circle-dancing around a justice ’n’ peace co-coordinator in a  poncho. The Tabletistas can’t bear the reforms of Pope Benedict XVI."

In the March 2 Facebook exchange, a Chris Grady replied to Mickens’ comment, adding that “I’m hoping he’ll be well enough to concelebrate the canonisation Mass for Saint John XXIII plus one other on 27 April.”

“The Rat’s funeral the next day would be a bonus,” Grady continued, demonstrating contempt for both Benedict XVI and Bl. John Paul II.

Following Mickens’ suspension, Thompson wrote: “The truth is that Robert Mickens has never been able to hide his contempt for Benedict XVI."

"He should have been replaced by a more dispassionate correspondent years ago.”

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Congressmen support legal challenges to HHS mandate

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life members of the House of Representatives spoke out in support of the Green and Hahn families after they argued in front of the Supreme Court in defense of their religious liberty rights.

"To tell people that their conscience is irrelevant and that they must follow the federal government’s conscience rather than their own is completely antithetical to the American principle of freedom of religion and the First Amendment," said Chris Smith (R- N.J.) in a March 25 statement.

 The HHS mandate's "attack on conscience rights will result in government-imposed discrimination against those that seek to live according to their faith," he continued.

Smith, who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus, offered statements along with other pro-life members of the House regarding the two cases heard in the Supreme Court Tuesday, challenging the contraception mandate.

The mandate, issued by the Health and Human Services department as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, and early embryo-destructive drugs, even if they violate the employer's deeply-held religious beliefs.

While some houses of worship and religious nonprofits have gained an exemption or accommodation from the mandate, for-profit businesses are still required to provide and pay for all objectionable products and procedures.

Both the Hahn family, Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, and the Green family, an evangelical Christian family who own Hobby Lobby, filed suit against the mandate, objecting to its requirement that they  provide and pay for drugs that can kill human persons in their earliest stages of development. Their cases, which were consolidated into one argument, were presented before the Supreme Court March 25.

Dan Lipinski (D- Il.) spoke on the floor of the House March 24, saying religious liberty is a “critical issue,” adding that “I used to teach my American government students that clearly” the free exercise clause “was not (just) freedom to worship … but a freedom to exercise religion in the way you see proper.” “We must protect the freedom to exercise our religious beliefs every day of the week.”

Lipinski noted that religious liberty “is not just a partisan issue; I’m a Democrat, I know this is not a partisan issue … this is not even just a foundational American principle. It’s a fundamental human right.”

“I want to pray for wisdom for our Supreme Court justices tomorrow, as they consider this very critical, fundamental case,” Lipinski concluded, “when we all must rededicate ourselves and continue to fight for religious freedom in our nation, without which we would be giving up on a fundamental pricniple that underlies this greatest of nations.”

James Lankford (R- Okla.), who represents the district where the owners of Hobby Lobby live, said in a March 25 news conference that while people think the Green family are "some kind of corporate tycoons," really, “they’re neighbors.”

"They live less than a mile from my house. This is not something they pursued: it's something that came after them," he added, saying that they offer "great health care" and pay "well above minimum wage," even for starting employees.

Joe Pitts (R- Penn.), whose district represents the Hahn family, explained that the Hahns are "sincere Mennonites that seek to live their lives and practice their faith everywhere they live."

“This is really about faith and freedom: the right not to be compelled to do something by the government that violates your religious beliefs.”

Diane Black (R- Tenn.) criticized the mandate's "crippling fines" of $100 per employee per day. She explained that if "an employer provides health care coverage that fails to cover even one of the controversial drugs included in the mandate, they can be fined up to $36,500 per employee each year," but if the same employer dropped all health care coverage, "their fine is only $2,000 per year."

"Respecting freedom of conscience is a long-held American tradition and the government should not impose mandates or laws that force individuals and businesses to violate this freedom," she added.

Virginia Foxx (R- N.C.), said that “my hope is that the Supreme Court sees fit to stand up for religious liberty and stop this assault on business owners who believe that their faith does not begin and end at the Church door.”

Smith concluded: “Under the weight of the mandate’s ruinous fines and penalties many businesses could be forced to shut down, eliminating jobs. I never would have believed this kind of religious violation could occur in the United States.”

"The Supreme Court must end this abuse."

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Pope urges lawmakers to embrace faith over 'theology of duty'

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Saying Mass for some 500 Italian parliamentarians Thursday, Pope Francis warned them of the corruption of the heart, imploring them not to slip from the theology of faith to a theology of duty.

Describing the religious leaders whom Christ encountered, Pope Francis said March 27, “they resisted the salvation of the Lord’s love, and thus slipped away from the faith, from a theology of faith to a theology of duty.”

Because of the large number of parliamentarians who had asked to participate in a daily Mass with him, Pope Francis said Mass for them in St. Peter’s Basilica rather than in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel. Roughly half of Italy's parliament attended the Mass.

Pope Francis preached on the readings from the day, which he described as “a dialogue between the lamentations of God and the justifications of men.”

The first reading gave voice to the “lamentation of God” toward a generation that did not welcome God’s messengers, and at the same time justified itself despite its sins.

The “pain of the Lord” is caused by those who “turned their back” on him, and this can be seen also in the reading of the Gospel, which recounted the blindness to God of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ time, Pope Francis said.

“God’s lamentation comes from the fact that God had done much, much work to remove idolatry from the hearts of his people, and to make them docile to his Word. He did this for centuries and centuries, until the advent of Jesus.”

And when Jesus came, he recounted, some called him a great prophet, and some a servant of demons, and “God’s people was alone, while the ruling classes – the doctors of the law, the Sadducees, the Pharisees -- were closed into their ideas … their ideology.”

Pope Francis said that at Jesus’ time, the ruling class “had become so hardened in their sin that they were corrupt … they could not hear the call, since they were so closed, so far away from the people.”

Jesus watched the people of God and was moved by them, since they were “sheep without a shepherd,” and so he “went to the poor, to the sick, to everyone, to the widows, to those affected with leprosy to heal them. And he spoke to all of them with such authority that people admired him,” Pope Francis recounted.

“All of us who are here are sinners,” Pope Francis underscored. But the corrupt were “more than sinners,” because “it was impossible for them to listen to the Lord’s voice.”

“It is very hard for a corrupt person to turn back. The sinner can, yes, because the Lord is merciful and awaits us all. But the corrupt are fixed on their affairs, and these people were corrupt. They therefore sought to justify themselves, because Jesus, with his simplicity, but with his strength in God, made trouble for them.”

“And, step by step, they ended up convincing themselves that they had to kill Jesus,” because they “resisted the salvation of the love of the Lord.”

“They rejected the Lord’s love and this rejection put them on a path that was not the dialectic of freedom offered by the Lord, but that of the logic of necessity, where there is no room for the Lord. In the dialectic of freedom, there is the good Lord who loves us, who loves us very much! Rather, in the logic of necessity, there is no place for God: this must be done, this must be done, this must…They have become behavioral: men of good manners, but bad habits. Jesus calls them ‘whitewashed tombs.’ This is the pain of the Lord, the pain of God, the lamentation of God.”

Pope Francis then invited the legislators to consider Lord’s invitation given to them, the invitation to the dialectic of freedom, where there is love.

“On this path of Lent it will do us well to think about this invitation from the Lord to love … and to ask ourselves, all of us …am I on this path? Do I risk justifying myself and take another path?”

“We pray,” he concluded, “that the Lord gives us the grace to always go down the path of salvation, to open ourselves to the salvation that only comes from God, through faith - not from what was proposed by these 'doctors of duty,' who had lost the faith, and who led the people with this pastoral theology of duty.”

“We ask this grace: Give me, O Lord, the grace to be open to your salvation. Lent is for this. God loves us all: he loves us all! Make the effort to be open: this is all he asks of us. ‘Open the door. The rest, I will do.’ Let us allow him to come into us, to caress us and give us salvation.”

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