Vatican City, Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bl. John Paul II’s key role in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact can be attributed to his vision of the human being, informed by personalism and the Catholic faith.
The foundations for his role as Vicar of Christ in the fall of Soviet communism were laid by his predecessors, particularly Bl. John XXIII; the two will both be canonized April 27.
The first exchanges between the Vatican and Moscow since 1917 were made on the occasion of Good Pope John’s 80th birthday, and a now opened line of communication allowed Paul VI to pursue a policy of Ostpolitik, dialoguing with officials behind the Iron Curtain to improve the conditions for Christians there.
Crucial in John Paul II’s policy toward the Warsaw Pact was Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, his secretary of state from 1979 until 1990. Cardinal Casaroli had represented the Holy See in negotiations with the communist governments of Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.
Bl. John Paul II was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow in 1946, shortly after a Soviet-backed communist government had come to power in Poland. Fr. Wojtyla was non-confrontational, but did promote religious liberty and Christianity.
As Archbishop of Krakow he participated in Vatican II and effectively led the Polish bishops’ role in the revision of what became the council's declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis humanae – a matter of great concern to the shepherds living under communist governments.
“It is beyond question,” wrote Fr. Andrzej Dobrzynski, director of the Center for Documentation and Research of the Pontificate of John Paul II, in an article in a 2013 issue of Communio, that Dignitatis humanae “provided the Church behind the Iron Curtain with a powerful resource for operating in a complex political situation – and Karol Wojtyla took full advantage of it.”
He largely avoided direct criticism of the communist Polish government, but did work to create new parishes in his archdiocese and to processions.
In 1977, after 20 years of effort, he was able to consecrate a new parish in Nowa Huta, a suburb of Krakow meant to be a “workers’ paradise.”
In his homily at the consecration, as translated by Fr. Dobrzynski, he said: “When Nowa Huta was built with the intention that this would be a city without God, without a church, then Christ came here together with the people and through their lips spoke the fundamental truth about man. Man and his history cannot be reckoned by economic principles along, even according to the most exact rules of production and consumption. Man is greater than this. He is the image and likeness of God himself.”
Shortly after his election as Bishop of Rome, Bl. John Paul II returned to Poland for an eight-day trip in June 1979, which his biographer George Weigel has said “began to dismantle” the Soviet Union.
“I earnestly hope that my present journey in Poland may serve the great cause of rapprochement and of collaboration among nations,” he said June 2 on arriving in Warsaw, and “that it may be useful for reciprocal understanding, for reconciliation, and for peace in the contemporary world. I desire finally that the fruit of this visit may be the internal unity of my fellow-countrymen and also a further favourable development of the relations between the State and the Church in my beloved motherland.”
He reminded the civil authorities of the nation that “peace and the drawing together of the peoples can be achieved only on the principle of respect for the objective rights of the nation, such as: the right to existence, to freedom, to be a social and political subject, and also to the formation of its own culture and civilization.”
Consecrating his homeland to Our Lady at her shine at Czestochowa June 4, he entrusted to her “all the difficult problems of the societies, systems and states—problems that cannot be solved with hatred, war and self-destruction but only by peace, justice and respect for the rights of people and of nations.”
And when leaving Poland on June 10, he said, “Our times have great need of an act of witness openly expressing the desire to bring nations and regimes closer together, as an indispensable condition for peace in the world. Our times demand that we should not lock ourselves into the rigid boundaries of systems, but seek all that is necessary for the good of man, who must find everywhere the awareness and certainty of his authentic citizenship. I would have liked to say the awareness and certainty of his pre-eminence in whatever system of relations and powers.”
“Thank you, then, for this visit, and I hope that it will prove useful and that in the future it will serve the aims and values that it had intended to accomplish.”
Bl. John Paul II’s example inspired Lech Walesa, an electrician who founded the Solidarity trade union the following year. Solidarity was an anti-Soviet social movement which the Pope subsequently supported and protected.
The Soviet-backed government was eventually forced to negotiate with Solidarity, and Poland held semi-free elections in 1989, which led to a coalition government.
That year, a series of revolutions led to the fall of communism in Europe, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet head of state, visited John Paul II at the Vatican Dec. 1, 1989, in what was considered Christianity’s triumph over Soviet communism.
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy See's press officer said Tuesday that its report on an anti-torture agreement which will be made to the U.N. next month is routine, and a part of its obligations as a signatory to the treaty.
“It is a standard procedure adhered to by all States party to the Convention” against Torture, Fr. Federico Lombardi said April 15. “Considering the types of obligations included in the Convention, the Holy See signed the Convention in 2002 exclusively in the name of and on the part of Vatican City State.”
“For this reason, the Holy See continues to fulfil its obligations on the part of Vatican City State and to present periodical reports, in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Convention.”
The Holy See will submit its report this May, along with the states of Cyprus, Lithuania, Guinea, Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Uruguay.
Each of the 155 states which are parties to the U.N. Convention against Torture – including the U.S. – are obliged to report to the international organization's Committee against Torture every four years about its implementation.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal group which represents the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, meanwhile said April 14 that the Vatican had been “summoned” to report about sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church to the U.N. committee.
The center contends that failures in the Holy See’s response to sexual abuse constitutes a violation of the convention.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has earlier asked that the International Criminal Court prosecute Benedict XVI and other Church leaders, alleging they had direct responsibility for sexual violence and crimes against humanity.
Critics saw the move as a publicity stunt that undermined human rights law and was based in a misunderstanding of how oversight works in the Church, where local bishops and religious orders are primarily responsible for the actions of clergy.
The International Criminal Court dismissed the center’s investigation request in June 2013 on the grounds that it did not fall within the court’s jurisdiction.
In January 2014, the U.N. committee that oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child controversially criticized both the Church’s handling of sex abuse and Catholic moral teaching. The Committee on the Rights of the Child’s report claimed that the Vatican had “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest children.
That report also criticized the Catholic Church's teachings on contraception, abortion and same-sex “marriage,” suggesting that the Church change canon law to support these “rights.”
Catholic leaders, including Fr. Lombardi and the archbishop leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the U.N., said the report failed to acknowledge the Church’s progress in protecting children and tried to impose secular views upon the Church.
Pope Francis on April 11 asked forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children. He said the Church’s response to sex abuse has to be “even stronger.”
The Pope has also affirmed the Church’s efforts to combat abuse.
In a March 5 interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, he denounced cases of abuse by clergy as “terrible” and acknowledged the “extremely deep wounds” abuse can cause.
He praised Benedict XVI’s “very courageous” efforts, saying his predecessor “cleared a path” in response to abuse.
“The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone,” Pope Francis said. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked.”
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his general audience address Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of suffering and evil, explaining that it is a mystery which finds its answer in the passion and death of Jesus, who endured it for each of us.
“This week, it will do good for us all to look to the Crucifix, kissing the wounds of Jesus, kissing the Crucifix. He has taken upon himself the whole of human suffering,” the Pope expressed in his April 16 Wednesday general audience.
Speaking to the thousands gathered for his weekly address, the pontiff began by drawing attention to the day’s Gospel reading which recounts the betrayal of Judas, noting that this event marks the beginning of Christ’s Passion.
With his death on the Cross “Jesus reaches complete humiliation,” the Pope observed, highlighting how “It involved the worst death; that which was reserved for slaves and criminals,” and that although “Jesus was considered a prophet,” he “died as a criminal.”
“Looking at Jesus in his passion, we see as in a mirror also the suffering of all humanity and find the divine answer to the mystery of evil, of suffering, of death,” he continued.
Noting that “Many times we experience horror in the face of the evil and suffering that surrounds us, and we ask: why does God permit it?” the Pope expressed that “It's a deep wound for us to see suffering and death, especially that of the innocent!”
This wound especially stings “when we see children suffering…it's a wound in the heart. It's the mystery of evil,” he lamented, “and Jesus takes all this evil, all this suffering, upon himself.”
Often times we believe that “God in his omnipotence will defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory,” the Bishop of Rome pointed out, however instead he shows us “a humble victory that seems like a human failure to us.”
“We can say: God wins precisely in failure. The Son of God, in fact, appears on the Cross as a defeated man: he suffers, is betrayed, is scorned and finally dies.”
Drawing attention to how “Jesus permits that evil crosses the line with him, and takes it upon himself to conquer it,” the Pope emphasized that “his passion is not an accident; his death – that death – was ‘written.’”
Referring to “the mystery of the great humility of God,” Pope Francis observed that “Really, we don't have many explanations; it's a puzzling mystery. ‘For God has so loved the world that he gave his only son.’”
“This week we think so much of the pain of Jesus,” he stated, “and we tell ourselves: ‘this is for me. Even if I had been the only person in the world, He would have done it.’”
“’He did it for me.’ And we kiss the Crucifix and say: ‘For me. Thank you, Jesus. For me.’”
“And when all seems lost, when there is no one left because they will strike ‘the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered,’” he concluded, “it is then that God intervenes with the power of the resurrection.”
Manchester, United Kingdom, Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, has announced plans for a house of discernment for potential priests, emphasizing the need for “a renewed love for the priesthood.”
“If we truly open our hearts in prayer within our families and parishes, I have no doubt this gift of new vocations will be given us,” the bishop said in his homily during the April 16 Chrism Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in the Wythenshawe district of Manchester.
The new discernment house will be based at the Shrewsbury Cathedral and is set to open in September 2015, the Diocese of Shrewsbury reports.
Bishop Davies said the house will create “a community at the heart of our diocese where the vocation to priesthood can be actively discerned and supported.” The house will be a year-long program.
He told the congregation that Catholics must recognize their role in caring for “the supernatural environment of faith and love within which each new generation grows.”
“Each of us has a part in making an environment where vocations can flourish,” he said.
The bishop lamented that some young people have told him that they were discouraged from their vocation, not by “hostile influences” outside the Church, but by Catholics.
Bishop Davies compared concerns for the vocations environment to concerns about the natural environment. He noted that problems in the natural environment turn people’s attention to the state of the water, soil and air.
“Likewise in the supernatural order if these vital signs of life in the vocations of marriage, consecrated life and the priesthood die away in a local church we also must be alert to the environment,” he said.
“This crisis of vocation is neither inexplicable nor irreversible,” the bishop continued. He encouraged prayer and a “renewed love for priestly vocation” to resolve the vocations crisis.
Bishop Davies noted that Jesus teaches Christians to pray “not as a last resort but as the first and irreplaceable means towards receiving this gift from God.”
He also announced prayer cards for vocations, which bear a prayer he wrote himself. These cards will be sent to all his diocese’s parishes.
The bishop also voiced gratitude for priests.
“Today we give thanks for every priest who has faithfully accompanied us along the path of our Christian lives bringing us the word of truth, the grace of the Sacraments and, above all, the supreme gift of the Holy Eucharist,” he said.
This love for the priesthood is not “human adulation” but rather “a faith-filled appreciation of the gift God gives in every man called to share in Christ’s priesthood.”
The priesthood is a life and ministry in which a man seeks “to draw all eyes to Christ the Lord,” Bishop Davies explained.
The Diocese of Shrewsbury presently has eight seminarians and 111 priests, including 28 retired priests, who are serving 98 parishes with 121 churches.
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Leading up to the canonizations of Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII, the Pontifical Council for the Laity will publish a new webpage highlighting the emphasis both pontiffs placed on the role of women.
Referring to the upcoming canonizations, Ana Christiana Villa, a consecrated laywoman of the Marian Community of Reconciliation and head of the Womens' Department of the Council for the Laity, explained to CNA April 16 that the new webpage is designed to bring attention to the effect of the Popes' work through the voices of women themselves.
The webpage contains testimonies from 11 women around the world, as well as writings on women from the Magisterium of both Roman Pontiffs. Villa explained that the people in her office were inspired to launch the initiative because they wanted to create something “to commemorate the two Pope saints.”
“We thought to ask different women from around the world what they thought this canonization meant in general for the Church and in particular for Catholic women.”
“So we had a very beautiful group…from different countries and continents,” she said, who are “writing us with their reflections, their thinking, but also their testimonies of what these Popes have meant in their lives.”
A great desire for the webpage, Villa said, is to take advantage of “this historical opportunity of two Popes being canonized together, two Popes that are very recent Saints, that lived in our modern times.”
They both lived, she went on to say, “many of the challenges that we are living also today, and showed us their witness of how to live these challenges as a Christian, and with a deep Christian faith.”
“(It) is a very beautiful moment for us to raise the voices of women thanking them for their witness and also for the teachings they developed on women. They both have important roles.”
Recounting how the idea of webpage originally came about, Villa explained that it began when they were researching the works of John XXIII.
Drawing attention to his encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” which emphasizes the importance of peace in the world, the laywoman revealed that in the document, John XXIII also “wrote very beautifully” about “the presence, the growing presence of women in society and life.”
Observing how it was the early 1960s when the encyclical came out, Villa reflected that his words on women were “to be considered a sign of the times, and something beautiful.”
“So we started digging into what other things has he said about women, and so that’s how the idea came up of gathering a page of his Magisterium on women, which is not as large as (that of) John Paul II, but it is very interesting because it was the very beginning of many changes.”
Highlighting how at that time John XXIII was “already there as a father, as a brother in Christ, illuminating from the Catholic faith these new paths that were opening in the lives of women,” Villa expressed that “we want to bring light to that, that he did speak about women too, and he had something to say in those very first years of many changes.”
“And also, obviously John Paul II for women, and for women in particular in the Church, is a real father and a real point of reference,” she continued, adding that “his Magisterium has been so rich, so deep.”
“I think that it is informing and will inform for the years to come all the work for the dignity and vocation of women that is done in the Church but also in society.”
When asked if the page will remain a permanent part of the Council’s website, Villa responded, “yes, we’re going to leave it there.”
Revealing that the page will hopefully be launched the Thursday before the canonizations, the laywoman explained that “it’s going to be there as a permanent homage to these two Pope saints, and how they opened the ways for women each one in their own way.”
Denver, Colo., Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Archbishop of Denver on April 15 rallied opposition to a Colorado bill he says is “both extreme and dangerously ambiguous” in its ban on all abortion regulations and other pro-life laws.
“Coloradans are not against common sense regulations on abortions, and they should have the opportunity to be able to debate and pass those regulations,” Archbishop Aquila Samuel J. Aquila said to a crowd of hundreds at an assembly and prayer vigil at the Colorado State Capitol.
The large crowd was a sign of the rapid buildup of opposition to the bill, which had been introduced late in the legislative session.
“Some of the senators have said they have shut off their phones. Some of them have said they have never been contacted by so many,” the archbishop told the crowd. “You can make a difference.”
The vote on the bill was originally scheduled for April 15, but a Democratic senator fell ill and left before the debate could take place. It will now receive a vote at 5 p.m. local time April 16.
Democratic Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, who voted for the bill in committee, has told reporters he is now unsure whether he will vote for the bill, 9 News reports.
His statement puts the bill’s future in doubt. Democrats control the State Senate by only one vote, though they control Colorado’s House of Representatives by a wider margin.
If bill S.B. 175 becomes law, it would create a “fundamental right” to anything defined as “reproductive health care.” The bill would bar state agencies and local government from having a policy that “denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions.”
The pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America said that if the bill becomes law it will be the first of its kind in the country.
Opponents including the Colorado Catholic Conference say the bill could affect parental notification or involvement laws, conscience protection laws, and requirements that only licensed physicians can perform abortions. It could prevent abortion regulations aimed at protecting the health and safety of women and children.
In addition, the legislation could affect government programs and facilities that pay for or promote childbirth without subsidizing abortion. School health clinic policies and abstinence education policies could also be affected.
The bill aims to ban all new pro-life laws and regulations, though its effect on current laws and rules is debated.
Archbishop Aquila noted that lawyers and legal experts who testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee April 10 were “split” on whether the bill would impact existing laws.
“It was extremely telling to hear the drafter of the bill say that he did not know with 100 percent certainty that S.B. 175 wouldn’t affect current policies,” the archbishop said. “He told one reporter that he was ‘pretty sure’, but ‘pretty sure’ does not work.”
A staff attorney for the legislature told the committee hearing that the bill would likely not affect current law related to reproductive health, but it would bar changes to existing laws. Some critics of the bill have warned that local governments, including school boards, may be led to change their existing policies for fear of lawsuits.
Archbishop Aquila said that the legislation would open the door to challenges to existing regulations, especially through the court system.
“Anyone who claims that this law will have no material effect is either naïve or disingenuous,” he said.
“The fact is that there is nothing in the bill that says this law won’t affect current regulations in place,” he said. “If the intent of the bill is not to change current law, then it should state that explicitly in its language.”
Archbishop Aquila said it was “even more troubling” that the bill would make the enactment of laws like pre-abortion ultrasound requirements “extraordinarily difficult if not impossible.”
The archbishop told the April 15 prayer vigil to pray “that the truth will triumph” and to pray for “the conversion of hearts.”
He stressed the need for further action, noting the importance of voting and involvement in the political process.
“Too many times we have taken a back seat. Catholics, Christians and people of good will can no longer take a back seat. We are called to work for the good and for the true.”
The political party assemblies that choose major party candidates for the Colorado legislature have already met and designated candidates for the ballot. The delegates to these assemblies were chosen at neighborhood precinct caucuses across Colorado on March 4.
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis is contributing to the fight against human trafficking by making the matter a frequent point of public discourse, says a U.S. ambassador who specializes in the subject.
Luis CdeBaca, U.S. Ambassador in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, shared with CNA April 12 his impressions about the Pope Francis’ commitment against modern day slavery.
“I do see Pope Francis working to insert the issue of human trafficking in informal comments. The idea is to institutionalize the issue as part of the normal public discourse,” the ambassador said.
He underscored that when Pope Francis “talks about freedom and mentions modern slavery, the latter becomes the normal part of the conversation– it is very exciting.”
He emphasized that “Popes in the past have issued writings and statements, but writings and statements don’t necessarily have the same impact as the spoken word and what people may hear. For instance, I was struck that at the Mass we had here in Washington for the St. Josephine Bakita feast, the priest talked in the sermon very extensively about what Pope Benedict XVI wrote on human trafficking. Just a few people knew it, and policy makers have not really heard it.”
Pope Francis had fierce words against human trafficking during the first year of his pontificate.
In a speech to a new group of ambassadors accredited to the Holy See Dec. 12, the pontiff said that human trafficking is “an issue that worries me very much and today is threatening people’s dignity.”
On March 5, Pope Francis sent a message to the faithful in Brazil on the occasion of the annual Lenten “Fraternity Campaign,” exclaiming that “it is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods!”
Pope Francis also backed a workshop on “Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery” organized by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences and held last November.
The conference organizers issued a joint statement based on the suggestions presented by the participants, which included proposals for media, religious institutions, civil organizations and business sectors to work together in order to combat human trafficking.
CdeBaca told CNA that “the final document laying out the 42 points was very well thought-out, and represents the Vatican’s cutting edge work on human trafficking. It is evident that the Vatican is putting itself into the lead on human trafficking, making sure that it is not just religious, but also ‘secular.’”
The ambassador stressed that “human trafficking is modern slavery and impacts people across the globe. It’s vital to focus on the victims as survivors and incorporate their voices into anti-trafficking policies and programs.”
“Part of our goal is to encourage NGOs we work with to think outside-the-box,” he explained. “For example, many NGOs do a great job addressing the child sex trafficking or migration issue; however, we encourage these organizations to take a hard look at issues facing adults or people in their own countries, rather than only children or migrants. It’s important to look at the issue of human trafficking holistically.”
A holistic approach to the issue was also experienced in a conference on human trafficking organized by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales April 9-10, hosted by the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences, in the Vatican City State.
The conference gathered police chiefs from 20 different nations around the world, and both law enforcement and Vatican officials exchanged ideas on how to collaborate in combating the issue and caring for victims.
In a message sent to the conference, Pope Francis encouraged the participants all to “combine our efforts” with the desire for “our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel” and “by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime.”
Denver, Colo., Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Blessed John Paul II’s life and teachings on family and marriage are still bearing fruit, say members of one Colorado parish that has launched a family-friendly initiative inspired by the late Pope's example.
Pope John Paul II taught that “the Christian family is a ‘locus theologicus,’ a place where we can understand the mystery of God,” Father Luis Granados of Saint Mary Parish in Littleton, Colo., explained in a recent interview with CNA.
“As a priest, I look at spouses loving each other and loving their children and I understand a lot about God’s mercy, God’s faithfulness, God’s sacrifice,” he said. “The families are better than many books of philosophy and theology.”
Saint Mary’s is in the middle of a 12-month initiative titled “Toward a Family-Friendly Parish,” which launched in October 2013.
The program is divided into 12 monthly topics that delve into God’s plan for the family. On the first weekend of each month, the priest at each Mass introduces the topic, and parishioners receive a guide to exploring the topic at home during the weeks to follow. The guide includes a visual image, a proposed family project, and a song and psalm for weekly family prayer.
Parishioner Julie Hecker told CNA that February's topic of “Fruitfulness” particularly affected her. The month's challenges included creating a photo slideshow of your family.
Hecker says many of the family pictures she rediscovered for the project showed her family's involvement in the sacraments and the parish.
“(The project) revealed just how important the Church has been in our lives,” she reflected.
Her husband, Michael, says the first month's theme of “Family Tree” had a special impact on him. That month's activities included a short song called “Magnificat,” which he sang together with his wife and their children.
“I can’t help but smile when I hear my 6-year-old and 3-year-old singing it when they think no one is listening,” he reflected. “It is a song that connects my high school kids, middle school child, grade school kids and toddler together.”
During that first month, the Heckers also sang that song with their parish. Michael says the experience taught him to consider his fellow parishioners as extended family.
“Over the past few months my concept of family has changed,” Hecker said. “I still have my nucleus family, but I have grown to look at and love all in our parish as part of my ‘extended’ family.”
Longtime parishioner Thomas Buelt says he has also noticed this transformation of the parish community into a family – even in the early months of the program.
“The real change, I have noticed, in those who participate, is the desire and action to incorporate the extended family to the program,” Buelt said. “It inspires the entire St. Mary Community to view your fellow parishioner as a family member, and in turn allows each member to transfigure their relationships.”
Specific community-building efforts include Family Movie Nights and Discipleship Nights, where parishioners share their testimonies and receive catechesis.
Fr. Granados says the initiative also aims to build relationships between priests and families, an effort he says is at the core of the new evangelization.
“The new evangelization will come through the personal relationship between the priest and the spouses: the reciprocal gratitude for their fidelity: 'Thank you for your priesthood.' 'Thank you for your marriage',” Fr. Granados explained.
“This is not a matter of programs, plans, theories - even family-friendly theories. The point of our 'program' is to foster this relationship and connection between the priests and the families that will help both parts to grow in the faithfulness of their vocation.”
He added that John Paul II is the model of this goal, pointing to a parish in St. Florian, Poland, as one of the first implementations of this family-based concept.
“There was no explicit ‘program,’ but there was the life of the priest and the lives of the young adults and families,” he said.
The image for St. Mary's entire “Toward a Family-Friendly Parish” initiative is an icon of Christ sharing a meal with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Parishioners were invited to hang the icon of Bethany in their homes. The image is part of the parish's efforts to emphasize the inclusion of all members, even those who may not currently be married or raising children.
“We needed to remember that not only do the family members have an age, but the family as a whole unit has an age as well,” Fr. Granados explained. “Every family experiences very different stages of life and progress in the path of holiness accordingly.”
He said the initiative aims to include widowed parishioners as well as single people and those who are divorced.
“When we touch the family, we touch every person at every time of life: the child, the young adult, the widow, the sick, the poor, the divorced, or the priest,” he said.
In this way, the program does not detract from or compete with other programs at the parish.
“If the family is the path of the Church, then it is the path of the parish, the center of its mission,” Fr. Granados said. “Any department in the parish should be family oriented. If we help the sick, we will try to heal his or her relationships with the family. If we have a wonderful food bank, we need to consider the poverty of being without relationships – loneliness.”
“To consider the family as (simply) another ‘sector’ of the ministry is to forget the way God has chosen to come to us,” Fr. Granados said. “God came to us in the Holy Family of Nazareth and comes to us through the sacrament of marriage.”
During one month of the initiative, parishioners were invited to reflect on outreach, specifically to widows and orphans.
Parishioners Tim and Angela Urban say this challenge particularly affected them.
“(It) challenged us to look outside our family, to treat all members of the parish as family and to be more attentive to who might be needing our family's help,” they said. “We realize what a gift family is and sharing it with others has been a blessing for us and our children.”
Fr. Granados' Spain-based community, the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, also has a parish in Virginia, but Saint Mary’s is the first to host the “Towards a Family-Friendly Parish” program. Fr. Granados says the order hopes to spread the program to its school in Madrid next year.
Denver, Colo., Apr 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Amid growing protests led in large part by the Catholic Church, the Colorado Senate on April 16 killed a controversial bill that could have banned all pro-life laws in the state.
“Lift up your hearts in gratitude to God,” said Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in a post on Twitter. “Blessings on everyone who prayed and contacted legislators! Stay involved!”
The legislation had passed committee on a party line vote. While the floor debate and vote were initially scheduled for April 15, they were delayed until the following day after Democratic State Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins went home sick. The Democrats control the Senate in the state by a single vote.
On April 16, however, Denver NBC affiliate 9 News reported that Kefalas – after voting in favor of the bill in committee – was saying that he was undecided about whether he would vote for it in the full Senate vote.
The leadership of the Colorado Senate subsequently spiked the legislation – setting it aside until May 8, while the legislative session ends May 7, so that the bill is effectively dead.
Originally introduced March 31, the controversial bill – S.B. 175 – only gained wide publicity last week. It sought to ban all new pro-life laws and regulations, including requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds and restrictions on the RU-486 abortion drug.
Pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, which backed the bill, had said that if it became law, it would have been the first of its kind in the country.
The legislation would have created a “fundamental right” to anything defined as “reproductive health care.” It would have barred state agencies and local government from having any policy that “denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions.”
Opponents had argued that the bill was vaguely worded and could have had far-reaching effects. They said it could have affected laws requiring parental involvement or notification for a minor who is seeking an abortion, as well as conscience protection laws and requirements that only licensed physicians can perform abortions.
It could also have prevented abortion regulations aimed at protecting the health and safety of women and children, opponents said. The legislation could have affected government programs and facilities that pay for or promote childbirth without subsidizing abortion, they warned. School health clinic policies and abstinence education policies could also have been impacted.
Archbishop Aquila helped lead opposition to the bill, calling together hundreds of people at a prayer vigil and assembly outside the state capitol on the afternoon of April 15, when the measure was originally scheduled to be debated.
The archbishop defended the need to restrict abortion, calling the bill “extreme and dangerously ambiguous.”
“Coloradans are not against common sense regulations on abortions, and they should have the opportunity to be able to debate and pass those regulations,” he said at the gathering.
Opposition to the bill grew quickly and prompted many Coloradans to call their legislators.
Archbishop Aquila stressed the need for further action, noting the importance of voting and lay involvement in the political process.
“Too many times we have taken a back seat. Catholics, Christians and people of good will can no longer take a back seat. We are called to work for the good and for the true,” he said at the prayer vigil Tuesday.
The Colorado Catholic Conference released a statement on the evening of April 16 thanking everyone who prayed and spoke up about the legislation.
“It was your witness that made it possible to kill this horrible piece of legislation,” the conference said. “It is because of your willingness to engage the public square that we were able to defeat SB 175.”
“Your voices matter and are needed in the public square now more than ever; please remember what we were able to accomplish and continue to be involved and make your voices heard!”
The conference cited the words of Pope Francis, who said last September: “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”