Archive of April 6, 2014

Holy See emphasizes family's role in poverty eradication

New York City, N.Y., Apr 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Praising the U.N.'s plan to eradicate poverty, the Holy See's observer to the body emphasized the importance of the family in encouraging development and in fighting poverty.

In eradicating poverty "we do not need to reinvent the wheel," Archbishop Francis Chullikatt said in a March 31 statement.

"Setting a development agenda for the next 15 years is a powerful gesture of intergenerational solidarity. The future we want becomes, then, the future we want for our children and our children’s children."

The archbishop commented on the United Nation's hope to eradicate poverty during the Tenth Session of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. The comments focused on the goals of the document "The Future We Want," a document adopted at the close of the the Rio+20, a U.N. conference which took place  June 2012, and which focused on sustainable development.

Archbishop Chullikatt expressed that the Holy See "stands resolutely with all of you in this conviction" to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development, citing Pope Francis' call in Evangelii Gaudium to "resolve the structural causes of poverty" because "society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it."

The archbishop asked that these measures not overlook the importance of the family in building society, saying that it is "within the family that the next generation of humanity is welcomed, fed, clothed, and provided for. "

Quoting Pope Francis, he asked that the role of the family not be "exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens" its role.

Archbishop Chullikatt warned that an "obstinacy in recognizing the obvious role of the family in eradicating poverty" which does not bolster the most basic unit of society “is highly irresponsible and ultimately counter-productive on the part of governments.”

Supporting previous statements from the Rio +20 meeting proclaiming that “people are at the centre of sustainable development,” the archbishop added that those "urgently affected by the scourge of poverty and hunger" are women, children, and youth.

To protect these people, Archbishop Chullikatt supported the U.N. Secretary-General's recommendation that the family is added as a priority to the international organization's post-2015 goals.

"With him, we call upon States to recognize that that adding the family as a cross-cutting priority to the post-2015 development agenda could constitute 'a progressive step', since this is currently insufficiently addressed in this process."

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Bishops voice abortion concerns over Affordable Care Act

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A spokesman for pro-life activities at the U.S. Bishops' conference explained that the bishops hope to see grave concerns with the Affordable Care Act's permission of abortion funding and lack of coverage of immigrants fixed.

"We are not among those pushing for repeal of the healthcare act," said said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities in an April 3 interview with CNA.

Instead, the conference hopes that Congress can fix "the moral problems that we saw when it was enacted."

The Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare", is a 2010 healthcare law reforming parts of the nation's health care system and requiring health care coverage for all U.S. citizens.

The legislation, as well as mandates issued by the Obama Administration during its implementation, have been disputed for a range of reasons, including contentions over its conscience protections and allowance of abortion funding.

Doerflinger wrote a March 28 article in America Magazine, a publication of the Society of Jesus, addressing some of the bishops' concerns.

"The bishops conference opposed the final bill for three reasons," Doerflinger explained, saying that the act "did not have the restrictions against funding of abortion," "did not have sufficient protections for conscience" and "did not really promote universal coverage in one key respect: it did not extend coverage to immigrants."

These issues, he continued, “have become more urgent for two reasons.”

“One is that we have some history of the act being implemented and we're seeing now some of the problems appear visibly," and also the bishops are "now trying to promote a legislation which is at the House, which is the 'No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,' which would correct some of the problems" with abortion funding and conscience rights protections.

However, the bishops conference faces a challenge in trying to promote this possible solution.

There are "people who in good faith don't understand the problem," Doerflinger said, because they think "there's no abortion problem in the healthcare act: President Obama said there wasn't."

Instead of abortion being explicitly funded by the law, he explained, "the problem with abortion funding is a problem of omission." The Affordable Care Act does not explicitly prohibit abortion funding, and includes kinds of services that have typically covered abortion under a  "family planning" program.

"Those are all going to include abortion unless you say otherwise," he said, adding that in "every other program, Congress has said otherwise, but not this one."

This means that in the Affordable Care Act "there are many different provisions that provide money for healthcare and appropriate money for healthcare without any language that stops that money from going to abortion."

Also, while there are laws that stop the federal funding of abortion for many government programs, such as the Hyde Amendment, they do not apply to the  Affordable Care Act because it has has its own sources of funding, rather than seeking funding through the annual appropriations bills.

In addition, the law does not adequately protect conscience rights, he said. Pointing to individuals' health care plans, Doerflinger explained that once a given plan decides to cover abortion, insurance companies cannot exempt subscribers of that plan from its abortion surcharge. The law, he said, effectively says "you may not respect people's conscience on abortion."

In addition, the HHS mandate "covers drugs and devices that constitute an abortion," even if it violates an employer's deeply held religious beliefs to provide those drugs and devices.

"The precedent set by the HHS mandate could require people to have abortion in their coverage down the road," he warned, citing arguments by the government from a March 25 Supreme Court case.

In addition, the law does not provide adequate coverage for immigrants- particularly those who are undocumented, Doerflinger said.

"People have a right to basic healthcare, not because they're citizens, but because they're human beings," he said. "Society's obligation to those who cannot help themselves extends to those who are newly in our country as well."

He added that excluding immigrants from health care protection, even if they pay for it, is "so short sighted," because allowing immigrants to receive health care coverage from their employers or to allow them to buy it for themselves makes "good economic sense."

With no health care coverage, "immigrant families can't do anything except to fall on the emergency rooms and get care when they are most direly in need," he said, adding that taxpayers will pay for this emergency care "and it's much more expensive than just letting people buy insurance."

In general, Doerflinger said, "the bishops are very supportive of universal health coverage."

"If not for these moral problems, we might have been able to support this act," he added.

However, "things that are really not healthcare at all, like abortion, are getting elevated to this status."

"At that point we really have to say, 'this has taken a wrong turn.'"

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Pope distributes free copies of Gospels

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis handed out free pocket-sized copies of the gospels to crowds filling St. Peter’s square for the Sunday Angelus , as an encouragement to read the Word of God.

“Last Sunday I suggested that you get a little copies of the gospels, to carry with you during the day, to read often. Then I thought over the ancient tradition of the Church, during Lent, to give the gospel to catechumens preparing for baptism. So today I want to offer to you who are here in the piazza - but as a sign for all - a pocket-sized gospel. They will be distributed to you freely,” the Pope explained on April 6.

“Take one, carry it with you: it is truly Jesus who speaks to you,” he urged those packed into the square. “This is the word of Jesus!”

The Holy Father then asked that the faithful remember Christ’s words, “freely have you received, freely give!” so that they too would “give the message of the gospel” to others.

Pope Francis acknowledged that some may be skeptical of a free gift, asking “how much does it cost? How much must I pay, father?”

“But let’s do something,” he suggested. “In exchange for this gift, do an act of charity, a free gesture of love for another: a prayer for a friend, a reconciliation, something.”

The pontiff’s Angelus reflection focused on the story of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, a sign of Jesus’  own resurrection and the hope for our eternal life.

“We believe that the life of those who believe in Jesus and follow his commands, after death, will be transformed into a new life, full and immortal. As Jesus was resurrected with his body, but did not return to earthly life, so we will be resurrected with our bodies that will be transformed into glorious bodies.”

The Pope explained that Jesus’ resurrection also affects our earthly lives by inviting us “to get out of the tomb into which our sins have caused us to collapse.”

“He calls us insistently to leave the darkness of prison in which we are confined, contenting ourselves with a false, selfish, mediocre life. ‘Come out!’ he says.”

Just as Lazarus was unbound from his burial clothes, “let us be free from the ‘bandages’ of pride,” urged Pope Francis.

“Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey the command of Jesus, coming to the light, to life.”

Pope Francis reminded his listeners that it is never too late to repent of sin and turn to Christ, because “there are no limits to the divine mercy offered to all.”

“Repeat it together with me!” he exclaimed. “There are no limits to the divine mercy offered to all!”

He then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer and took a moment to remember the genocide in Rwanda, as April 7 marks its tragic 20th anniversary.

“I want to express my paternal closeness to the Rwandan people, encouraging them to continue, with determination and hope, the process of reconciliation that has already manifested its fruit,” said the Pope.

“To everyone I say: Don’t be afraid! Build your society on the rock of the gospel, in love and in harmony, because only like this can you build lasting peace!”

The Pontiff also recalled the earthquake that shook the Italian town of Aquila five years ago today, killing almost 300 people, injuring 1,500, and leaving nearly 65,000 homeless. “At this time we want to unite ourselves with that community which has suffered so much, and still suffers, struggling and hoping, with great faith in God and in the Virgin Mary.”

He also went on to pray for the victims of the Ebola virus that is spreading in Guinea and neighboring countries. “May the Lord sustain the efforts to combat this epidemic and provide care and assistance to all those in need.”

Pope Francis concluded by greeting the various pilgrim groups who were present in St. Peter’s square, and reminded everyone to read the gospels.

Whether in a book or on a smartphone or tablet, said the Pope, “the important thing is to read the word of God, with all means, but read the word - it’s Jesus who speaks there! And welcome it with an open heart. So the good seed bears fruit!”

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Jesus can heal deadened hearts, says Pope

Rome, Italy, Apr 6, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis delivered a Sunday evening homily at a parish in the south of Rome, preaching about the importance of detaching from sin through the power of Christ’s healing grace.

“All of us, we are sinners, but let’s not finish (our lives) attached to sin. We have the power to feel that which Jesus said to Lazarus, crying out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ Today I invite you to think for a minute here in silence… ‘where is the dead part of my soul? Where is my tomb?’” he urged the parishioners in St. Gregory the Great Church on April 6.

“Take the stone in your heart, and allow the Lord to do what he says, as he said to Lazarus, ‘come forth!’ so that all of our hearts might be healed, might be resurrected by the power of Jesus.”

The pontiff used the story of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead to point out that everyone has a “tomb” in his or her heart, a place in need of new life.

Since “we are all sinners” there is “something--really small, really small--something internal, some parts of our heart that are not living. They are dead.”

Some people have “many dead parts of the heart,” and find it difficult to be free of sin, he noted.

“We want to get out of it, but we can’t. Only the power of Jesus is able to help us leave this dead part of the heart, this tomb that we all have.”

“We’re all sinners,” he acknowledged, “but we have to be attentive not to be corrupted by sin.”

The Pope then told the faithful that he wanted them to read the gospels, and would give them a copy so that they could.

“I want to give you a little copy of the gospels, and you bring it home to your house,” he said.

“Just carry it with you and read a little,” he encouraged, adding that the book is pocket-sized and easy to read anytime, like “when you are on the bus, sitting comfortably.”

“But don’t get too comfortable, or else they’ll pick-pocket you!” he jested.

Pope Francis had also given away copies of the gospels at the Sunday morning Angelus.

At the close of the Mass, the parish presented Pope Francis with a small gift: a new little black bag, similar to the old one that he carries during his travels.

The gift was small but “symbolic” said the pastor, indicating that just as Pope Francis carries the bag, he carries the parishioners in their faith.

A few hours before the Mass, Pope Francis met with the children and youth of the parish, the sick, the elderly, the engaged, and couples who recently had their children baptized, as well as members of an outreach dedicated to helping with the reintegration of ex-prisoners and ex-addicts.

Sunday’s visit was Pope Francis’ sixth pastoral visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome.

St. Gregory the Great Church was founded in 1963. Today it is served by the Marian Congregation of the House of Charity and the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Queen of Peace.

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