Rome, Italy, May 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At a communications conference in Rome this week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan offered his own observations on how to communicate effectively, emphasizing the importance of addressing hard issues.
Pope Francis “has given us a good example,” the Archbishop of New York told CNA April 29. “He's very shrewd, he’s very savvy. He’s what we need.”
“He says, 'how do we get the message out',” the cardinal stated, noting that although “he can stand at his window and talk,” he says that “I probably reach more people than the 100,000 in the square if I tweet a message.”
The Pope is “a shrewd man,” he repeated, adding: “never ever pass up a chance to speak about Jesus, to speak about the truth.”
Cardinal Dolan was in Rome for an April 29 – 30 conference on communications organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
During his speech, he highlighted seven observations he has made about effective communication from Catholic media outlets, noting that the first is to have “a real sense of professionalism; professionalism in all that we do.”
“We adhere to the best and highest standards” he said, indicating that this doesn’t only go for the latest in technological advancements, which are “critically important,” but also for “the way we use that technology,” because “how we say something is just as important as what we say.”
Cardinal Dolan then said that “if we are going to be effective in our ministry of communications, (then) we are never afraid to tell the truth, even when we are dealing with bad news.”
“What we hear over and over again is that people want and expect utter honesty and transparency from the Church,” highlighting that if a priest is removed from ministry or there are accusations of sexual misconduct “our people want to hear about it first from us,” and not the secular media.
Drawing attention to how “we’re almost never criticized for someone’s misbehavior,” the cardinal explained that “what we are criticized for, and rightly so, is if we attempt to cover it up or if we say nothing,” adding that “to be proactive in the truth is a good strategy.”
The New York archbishop also observed that “every communications outlet has a bias, a slant,” which is natural and to be expected, but that as Catholic communicators we “should also have our own bias.”
“And that slant must always be pro-Church. We do not apologize for that.”
He also noted the importance of never caricaturing or stereotyping those who oppose the Magisterium and bishops at every opportunity.
Even when confronted with those who attempt to distort what the Church says or who issue “mean, vicious, and outward attacks,” we must “always respond in charity and love,” he exhorted.
“We follow the instruction of Jesus by not responding back to with harsh words of our own,” but by responding “cleanly and civilly.”
Emphasizing the importance of being open to dialogue with those who seek to attack the Church, Cardinal Dolan drew attention to Pope Francis’ simple method of communicating, expressing that he “has communicated a beautiful message of love, of God’s goodness and mercy.”
“Pope Francis knows what he wants to say, and he knows how to say it,” the cardinal explained, stressing that “it’s not part of some grand public relations agenda, designed to improve the image of the Church; it’s just who Pope Francis is.”
“There’s no way somebody could script who he is … what you see is what you get, and the world is responding, because his whole life is dedicated to conveying the good news simply and sincerely in everything that he does.”
In his fifth point, the New York archbishop proposed that all communicators “bear in mind the need always to be catechetical in our approach.”
“We cannot underestimate people’s lack of knowledge about our Catholic faith, both within our own flock and especially those outside of the Church.”
“Anything that we can do clearly, confidently, simply, succinctly, joyfully, to explain how our faith is worth our time and effort, the simpler the better. Every diocese now needs to have trained, competent laypeople to represent them.”
Cardinal Dolan also pointed out the necessity of “always, always put(ting) Jesus first.”
“People have a hunger for meaning in their lives through the truth.” Thus, “we offer them Jesus before we do anything else.”
A final point the cardinal made is that “we have to know our audience.”
“As Church media professionals we need to know who we’re talking to, if we’re going to be effective and successful.”
“For many years those who represented us have known a lot about theology, but not much about the art of communications,” he lamented.
“We need people who know both.”
“Who not only know the faith, but can articulate it and send it out in a compelling, colorful, and inviting way.”
Personal witness was Cardinal Dolan's final point.
“We have to be happy and confident right? That’s what it’s all about.”
“If we believe everyday we receive his presence in Holy Communion, that he listens to us, that he answers our prayers, be not afraid.”
Rome, Italy, May 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Italian March for Life expects tens of thousands of attendees at its fourth march to support what organizer Virginia Coda Nunziante called “the first right for a human being.”
“If a human being doesn’t receive life, he won’t receive any other rights,” Coda Nunziante told CNA April 23.
The march will begin May 4 at Rome's Piazza della Repubblica. Participants will begin to gather at 8 a.m. ahead of the March for Life’s launch at 9.
Coda Nunziante credited the U.S. March for Life for inspiring its Italian counterpart.
Italian pro-life organizers found that going regularly to the Washington, D.C. event was “an extraordinary occasion to meet pro-life people,” she said. That march gave them the idea of “doing something similar in Italy.”
The 2013 march drew 40,000 people from all over Italy, she said.
The event helps pro-life advocates to realize that they are not alone.
“We are a big number of people thinking in the same way, and we can win the fight,” Coda Nunziante said.
“We can win the fight.”
Italy’s abortion law has been in place since 1978. It allows women to abort their unborn babies up to 12 weeks into pregnancy for health, economic, social, or family reasons. Abortions are taxpayer-funded.
Coda Nunziante said the country “really couldn’t understand” the first March for Life, since it was the first time that people went “into the public square” about the issue. The news media were “very much surprised.”
“They said this is astonishing. They gave the news about the big result that we had last year. I think they never expected such a reaction.”
The Italian event also drew inspiration from Benedict XVI’s 2011 remarks to the U.S. bishops’ conference advising Catholics to “go into the public square” and not leave it to “their enemies,” she added.
The Italian event is drawing international interest, a fact Coda Nunziante credited to Rome’s importance as the center of Christianity.
Italy’s 2013 March for Life enjoyed a surprise visit from Pope Francis. He drove to the March after celebrating Sunday Mass and praying the Regina Coeli.
Coda Nunziante said that Italians have always valued large families and Italy is a place where “children are always very much loved.”
“Italy is a country of families, more perhaps than other countries.”
She noted that the country’s low birthrate has had an impact on the entire society, an event non-Catholics are also realizing
She suggested that major Italian media are realizing that it is “important to encourage life” for “the future of the Italian people.”
Coda Nunziante said she noticed this change taking place after the second and third pro-life marches.
Though some commentators say abortion is a right, she reported, they are now saying “nevertheless, we have to encourage women to have children.”
“It’s like they’re changing, slightly, their mind. The march is important for that.”
She said the march is also important to stop worse laws from taking effect, such as the expansion of euthanasia.
Other pro-life events will take place in Rome around the time of the March for Life.
On May 3, the day before the march, a conference for international pro-life leaders will take place in Rome at St. Pius X Hall on Via della Conciliazione at 2:30 p.m. Keynote speakers include Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Catholic commentator George Weigel.
Washington D.C., May 2, 2014 (CNA) -
Describing reports of atrocities coming out of South Sudan, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) called Wednesday for immediate action to prevent a potentially massive genocide in the country.
“America helped give birth to South Sudan. We have a moral obligation to do something – and something bold.”
Wolf spoke at an April 30 news conference in Washington, D.C. Joined by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), he voiced alarm over reports coming out of South Sudan, and the lack of international response.
Wolf noted that Rwanda is currently observing the 20th anniversary of its 1994 genocide, in which approximately 1 million people were slaughtered in 100 days, “while the world stood idly by.”
He implored President Barack Obama not to allow the United States to again turn a blind eye, as “every indication points to the fact that the crisis currently unfolding in South Sudan is headed the way of Rwanda.”
Recalling his numerous trips to the region and his humanitarian work on behalf of the people there, the congressman said that he is currently “as concerned as I have ever been about the state of affairs in South Sudan and the potential for the recent violence to spiral into genocide – a genocide that could defy even the horrors of Rwanda given the oil reserves that are in play.”
He pointed to numerous media accounts of ethnic killings, sexual violence being used for revenge, civilians being targeted and slaughtered, massacres inside mosques and piles of dead bodies.
“Where is the urgency? Where is the outrage?” he asked.
South Sudan – which became a country in 2011 when it gained independence from Sudan – has enduring fighting for nearly six months, after a power struggle erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, who was accused by the president of attempting a coup.
The conflict has been characterized as having both political and ethnic dimensions, and it is estimated that thousands of people have been killed and about 1 million have fled their homes since the violence began.
The town of Bentiu was captured by rebels April 15, and in the next two days hundreds of locals were killed, targeted for their ethnic origins and nationality, according to the U.N. Mission in South Sudan. That day, civilians who had taken shelter in a mosque were separated by ethnicity; some were escorted to safety, while more than 200 were killed.
Groups in refuge at a Catholic parish and at a hospital were also separated by ethnicity, and some of them killed.
In a May 1 news conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the gravity of the situation in South Sudan.
“(T)here are very disturbing leading indicators of the kind of ethnic tribal targeted nationalistic killings taking place that raise serious questions,” he said, “and were they to continue in the way that they have been going could really present a very serious challenge to the international community with respect to the question of genocide.”
“It is our hope that in these next days, literally, we can move more rapidly to put people on the ground who could begin to make a difference,” Kerry added, saying that discussions with leaders of all involved parties, additional international peacekeeping troops, and consideration of sanctions against human rights violators are all tools in working toward peace.
In his remarks the previous day, Wolf had stated that “crimes have been committed by both sides” in the fighting.
“There are no angels in this conflict. There must be accountability for anyone implicated in these atrocities. We have the technology, the capacity and the eye-witness accounts to know who is involved and who is actively violating the cease-fire.”
Saying that he had been “heartened” by Obama’s rhetoric about Sudan during his 2008 campaign, as well as the human rights credentials of his foreign policy advisors, Wolf called on the president to take “bold action.”
He suggested that Obama send former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton “to help negotiate a lasting peace and to convey in no uncertain terms that the fate of South Sudan is a U.S. foreign policy priority.”
“Both of these men have done a great deal on this issue and have remained invested in Africa beyond their presidencies. This pair of statesman, hailing from two different parties, would send a powerful message to the warring factions … and would open immediate lines of communication at a pivotal time.”
While news coverage of the situation has been “sporadic, at best,” and many Americans likely remain unaware of what is occurring, Wolf said, “people who are in a position to help know what is happening.”
He observed that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has described South Sudan as being “on the verge of catastrophe.”
The country is enduring “what can only be characterized as an emergency situation in urgent need of high-level intervention,” Wolf emphasized. “But with the stakes as high as they are, the situation is simply not being met with the urgency it demands.”
The congressman pointed to an op-ed by South Sudan experts Eric Reeves and John Prendergast, who explained how the nature of the warfare in the country is leading to heavy casualties. In addition, they said, “the victors see military victory as justifying civilian slaughter of the predominant ethnic group of the opposing forces.”
Additionally, this mounting violence has interrupted the planting season, which could create a famine in the country, which Reeves and Prendergast predicted could lead to the starvation of up to 7 million people this fall.
“Will we see the content of the reports only after it is too late, when enterprising filmmakers and authors dredge up the documents and wonder why no one mustered the will to act?” Wolf asked, stressing the need for action immediately.
“The atrocities must stop. The suffering must cease.”
Vatican City, May 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily on May 2, Pope Francis said that he wept over recent news of Christians allegedly being crucified, reflecting that there are still many martyrs in today’s world.
“I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio, during morning Mass in the chapel of his residence.
In recent weeks, media groups have circulated images that appear to be individuals bound to wooden crosses, allegedly in Syria. The identity and religious faith of the persons pictured have not been confirmed, nor has it been confirmed whether they were actually killed from crucifixion. Some appear to have been shot in the head and then attached to a cross.
In his homily, Pope Francis first commented on Christ’s love for people. This is seen in the Gospel passage of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, he said, where Jesus “speaks, preaches, loves, accompanies, travels on the path with people, meek and humble.”
Jesus is aware of the needs of the people, and he serves them, the pontiff said. The authority with which he speaks is “the power of love.”
The Pope contrasted this with the jealousy of the religious authorities in Christ’s time, caught up in “cold, hard legality.”
“They couldn’t stand the fact that people followed Jesus! They couldn’t stand it!” he said. “They were jealous.”
“This is a really bad attitude to have,” he explained, pointing out that the father of envy is the devil, and it was through his envy and jealousy that evil entered the world.
In fact, the pontiff asserted, the religious authorities “knew who Jesus was,” and they were the same people who later “paid the guard to say that the disciples had stolen Christ’s body!”
“They had paid to silence the truth. People can be really evil sometimes!” Pope Francis said, suggesting that this evilness is why the people would not follow them.
Such evil does not accept Christ’s meekness and love, he said. Rather, it turns to hate.
Turning to the daily reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope noted that the religious leaders were asked by a “wise man,” Gamaliel, to free the arrested apostles.
Instead, however, “with their political maneuvering, with their ecclesiastical maneuvers to continue to dominate the people ... they called the apostles and had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they freed them.”
This injustice is still the case today, he lamented: “there are these people who kill and persecute, in the name of God.”
However, we can draw encouragement from the “joy of witness,” illustrated by the Christian martyrs, Pope Francis said, noting that “today there are still so many” martyrs in the world.
“Just think that in some countries, you can go to jail for just carrying a Gospel. You may not wear a crucifix or you will be fined.”
“But the heart rejoices,” he underscored, reflecting on “the joy of so many of our brothers and sisters who have felt this joy in history, this joy that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ’s name.”
Vatican City, May 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis gave words of encouragement to the Vatican’s new Council for the Economy, stressing concern for the poor and commitment to the Gospel.
He told the group that its mission will be difficult, but important, urging them to embrace it bravely, according to Vatican Radio.
The Pope had formed the Council and the Secretariat for the Economy in February. The council held its first meeting May 2, discussing its statues and work.
The pontiff told members of the council that they should be dedicated to transparency and efficiency as they oversee Church assets, Vatican Radio reports.
He called on them to be courageous and committed to a mindset of evangelizing service as the Roman Curia undergoes reform.
Earlier in the week, the Council of 8 Cardinals met at the Vatican. Pope Francis appointed the cardinals from around the globe to advise him in the process of reforming the Roman Curia.
During its three-day meeting, the council completed an initial review of the Pontifical Councils, according to a Vatican statement.
The group will meet again in early July.
The Pope is also scheduled to meet with the new Commission for the Protection of Minors that he created. The commission is meeting for the first time this week to discuss its mission.
Vatican City, May 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ahead of a report to the U.N. on an anti-torture agreement next week, the Holy See has emphasized its commitment against torture, and warned against the hearing being reduced to a “tool of ideological pressure.”
“The Holy See also proposes important teaching with regard to matters of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, which is of great importance for the diffusion of the principles inspiring the Convention and for its implementation,” said Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, May 2, referring to the U.N. Convention against Torture.
He voiced hope that in the upcoming meeting, “a serene and objective dialogue may take place, pertinent to the text of the Conventions and their objectives.”
“Otherwise, the Conventions may be distorted and the Committees risk losing authority and being reduced to tools of ideological pressure rather than a necessary stimulus toward the desired progress in promoting respect for human rights,” he said.
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 Holy See, which signed the treaty in 2002, will submit its report May 5-6, along with the states of Cyprus, Lithuania, Guinea, Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Uruguay.
The Holy See signed the convention on behalf of Vatican City State, “so its legal responsibility for implementation regards the territory and competences of Vatican City State,” Fr. Lombardi said.
On May 5, the Holy See will present its report on the convention’s implementation, and receive comments and questions from the committee; the following day, the Holy See’s delegation will answer the committee’s questions.
The Committee Against Torture will then, on May 23, publish its findings on the Holy See as well as the seven other states, and the states will each be able to issue a response.
The convention “relates principally to matters regarding criminal legislation, criminal procedure, the prison system, international relations in the legal domain,” Fr. Lombardi said, explaining that since the last Holy See report on the convention, it has adopted two laws to “ensure that the Vatican’s criminal law and criminal procedure legislation is in accordance with the Convention.”
He went on to note that “not infrequently the Committees pose questions deriving from issues not strictly linked to the text of the Convention, but rather connected to it indirectly or based on an extensive interpretation.”
Offering January’s hearing at the Committee on the Rights of the Child as an example of this, he said that “a contributory factor is often the pressure exercised over the Committees and public opinion by NGOs with a strong ideological character and orientation.”
The January hearing became controversial when the U.N. committee turned from discussing children’s rights to a condemnation of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
Fr. Lombardi cautioned against efforts in the current discussion “to bring the issue of the sexual abuse of minors into the discussion on torture, a matter which relates instead to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“The extent to which this is instrumental and forced is clear to any unbiased observer,” he said.
James Kelly, of the Solidarity Center for Law and Justice, told the Committee against Torture May 2 that the January hearing “exceeded its mandate and the rule of law to criticize a range of Catholic moral and social teachings … rather than limit its concluding observations and recommendations to specific matters relating to the Holy See's governance of the Vatican City State.”
Ashley McGuire of Catholic Voices USA added that “it is a shame to see NGOs attacking the Church at the U.N., some trying to use this committee to advance an ideological agenda, so often because the Church will not change her moral positions.”
Last month, the Center for Constitutional Rights – a U.S. legal group representing the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – issued a statement characterizing the Holy See’s regularly scheduled hearing as the Holy See having been “summoned” to report to the U.N. about sexual abuse and cover ups in the Church.
This characterization has drawn criticism from those who argue that it is misleading, distorting the nature of the routine committee report and painting the Vatican and the Church in a bad light.
Fr. Lombardi commented that “the experts who form the Committees are mostly committed with great determination and merit to the causes of the promotion of rights, and therefore tend to broaden the spaces for and forms of defence.”
“However, this must necessarily be balanced with the correct rules for legal interpretation, so that the debate, in a pluralistic, multicultural and international world, may take place in a constructive fashion, favouring the growth of consensus in the international community for the effective protection of essential values for the dignity of the person.”
He concluded his statement by again emphasizing “the Holy See’s strong commitment against any form of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Denver, Colo., May 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As the Synod of Bishops on the Family draws closer, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver has offered a reflection for his brother bishops on the pastoral issue of proclaiming “the gospel marriage” of Christ to the world.
“If pastoral solutions to the contemporary challenges to marriage are not grounded in what God has revealed about marriage, they will not lead to real freedom and happiness,” he wrote in the current issue of the UK-based Faith magazine.
The extraordinary synod of bishops will take place at the Vatican in October 2014 to discuss the pastoral care of the family and pastoral challenges in the context of evangelization. About 150 leading bishops are expected to attend.
Archbishop Aquila said that Christ’s interchange with the Pharisees over the issue of divorce offers a good starting point for those taking part in the synod. Rather than giving into their arguments for justification of such an act, Jesus reminds his listeners of God’s original plan for marriage.
Today, some continue to denounce Christ’s “gospel of marriage” calling it “impractical” and, as a result, “non-pastoral,” the archbishop explained.
The response to such beliefs should not be to “manufacture a pseudo-truth about marriage in the name of being ‘pastoral,’” but rather to “draw the correct conclusion” about why the faithful would come to believe this in the first place.
“In my view, these opinions expressed by the people of God should compel bishops to declare a profound mea maxima culpa,” he stated. “They point to our failure as pastors, teachers and spiritual fathers.”
Noting that “mercy cannot be confused with tolerating an evil,” he stressed the importance of helping the faithful to properly form their consciences.
He explained how, as Bishop of Fargo, he mandated that a Natural Family Planning and Theology of the Body be taught to all couples preparing for the sacrament of marriage. While many couples resisted at first, their hearts were often changed.
One young woman even wrote him telling the archbishop that while she was initially upset over having to take the classes, she later became grateful and asked why this was not taught to high school students.
“I would have been saved so much hurt and heartache in college if I had been taught this earlier and not listened to the voice of the world,” the young woman said.
As a result, he required that Theology of the Body be taught at all Catholic high schools and in teen religious education programs in the diocese.
The response to confusion about marriage among the faithful is “not to adopt a pseudo-truth about marriage or a falsely pastoral approach permeated with the casuistry of the Pharisees,” Archbishop Aquila emphasized.
Rather, he wrote, the solution “is fidelity to the only Truth that really saves the human person: Jesus Christ!”
Before the fall and original sin, Adam and Eve existed in intimate unity as God intended, he explained. This should be the starting point for understanding marriage, not man’s disordered definition.
“From the perspective of God’s saving grace and restorative mercy, the truth about marriage revealed by Christ is practicable and most pastoral,” he explained.
As bishops continue to prepare for the synod, they should keep in mind Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, he added. Jesus proclaimed the truth about the woman’s situation and how she was living in sin and showed her the love and mercy of God’s law.
“This is the kind of pastoral approach that we should adopt for the synod on the family,” he said. “We should imitate God whose works are always justice, truth and mercy.”
Archbishop Aquila encouraged his brother bishops to remember Christ’s exhortation to his disciples to go out and “make disciples of all nations,” no matter what the cost.