Archive of June 11, 2014

DVD tells story of Knights of Columbus founder

New Haven, Conn., Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A documentary about Venerable Michael McGivney, the 19th century priest who founded the Knights of Columbus, is now available on DVD.

“At a time when Catholics and Catholic immigrants were being marginalized, Father McGivney saw the opportunity to bring the men of his parish together to strengthen their faith, to engage in charitable activities, and to protect their families,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said June 10.

“His work has touched millions of lives, and this documentary film provides an excellent introduction to his life and legacy.”

The documentary “Father Michael McGivney” uses archival footage and dramatic recreations to tell the story of the priest, who died in 1890 at the age of 38.

Fr. McGivney, born in 1852 to Irish immigrants in Connecticut before the Civil War, left the Jesuit seminary in Montreal when his father died and continued to study at his diocese’s seminary.

He witnessed Catholic immigrant families who were devastated when their breadwinner died.

He founded the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charitable organization, to help widows, orphans and families to strengthen the Catholic faith.

The organization now has over 1.8 million members in 15,000 councils worldwide.

The Knights of Columbus said that the documentary shows how the priest’s response to his parishioners’ challenges provides “solutions so timeless they continue to be relevant today.”

In 2008 Pope Benedict XVI officially recognized Fr. McGivney for showing heroic virtue, declaring him “venerable.” The act marked one milestone in his possible path to sainthood.

If he is canonized, he would the first U.S.-born parish priest to be declared a saint.

The documentary on his life has been broadcast on several PBS affiliates. It may be purchased on DVD through the website, which also presents more information about the priest.


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Critic slams 'crazed claims' about Ireland child burials

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Distorted claims about the burials of hundreds of children who died at an Irish home for unwed mothers show a trend of “exaggerations and myths” about injustices in the country's Catholic past, one commentator charged.

The truth about the hundreds of children allegedly buried in a septic tank “was a very different story to the fact-lite, fury-heavy tale that had already gone round the world,” said Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Online.

O'Neill made his remarks in a June 9 editorial about news coverage of the Bons Secours Sisters’ St. Mary’s home for unwed mothers, which operated in Tuam in the twentieth century.

“Clearly this isn’t about news anymore; it isn’t a desire for facts or truth that elevated the crazed claims about Tuam up the agenda; rather, a mishmash of anti-Catholic prejudice, Irish self-hatred and the modern thirst for horror stories involving children turned Tuam into one of the worst reported stories of 2014 so far,” he said.

“The transformation of Ireland’s past into a cesspit of human wickedness that modern Irish historians and assorted Catholic-bashers can dip into in search for stuff to stand up their contemporary prejudices inevitably leads to the skewing of facts.”

O’Neill responded to media coverage about the work of a local historian, Catherine Corless, who researched the unmarked burials of 796 babies and young children who died at the Tuam home during its years of operation from 1925 to 1961. The children died at a rate of about 23 per year.

The reports focused on the burial of the children in unmarked graves, with much coverage focusing on claims that some bodies were interred in a former septic tank.

O’Neill said that the facts in the case have been wildly distorted.

“The septic tank or the grounds of the former home have not been excavated. No babies have been ‘found in a septic tank’, as the Washington Post, The Guardian and others claimed. The claim that the babies were ‘dumped’ into some kind of sewage system is wrong, too,” he said.

Corless has also clarified her research, telling the Irish Times that she never said the bodies had been “dumped.”

Some bodies were reportedly uncovered by children in the 1970s. One of the children, Barry Sweeney, recounted the discovery he made at the age of 10 when he and another child lifted a concrete slab in the burial grounds. He said he saw about 20 unwrapped skeletal remains laid haphazardly in the crypt. Corless speculated that the crypt was a former septic tank.

O’Neill countered several depictions of Corless’ research in the media.

“The claim that the babies were ‘dumped’ in a tank is not true, according to Corless herself. And the notion that the babies were hurled in with sewage is not correct – apparently the tank had been turned into a crypt,” he said.

O’Neill noted exaggerated reactions to the piece in prominent media outlets that compared the Tuam home to the Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan atrocities.

“What madness is this? How did speculation that some children out of 796 might have been buried in a former septic tank become news headlines about 800 dead children having been found in a septic tank, leading to comparisons being made between Ireland’s old nuns and the architects of the Nazi Holocaust?”

“There is no doubt that life was grim in that home in Tuam, as it was across the west of Ireland in the early to mid-twentieth century,” O’Neill acknowledged. He noted the “depressingly high” infant mortality in early 20th century Ireland, particularly due to the spread of infection in institutions.

He said that the Ireland of previous centuries was “sometimes a harsh and unpleasant place” and the Catholic Church “undoubtedly” mistreated some women and children it cared for.

“But the unhealthy obsession over the past 10 years with raking over Ireland’s past has little to do with confirming such facts and instead has become a kind of grotesque moral sport, providing kicks to the anti-Catholic brigade and fuel to the historical self-flagellation that now passes for public life in Ireland.”

O’Neill said that claims of large-scale abuse at industrial schools and the Magdalene Laundries have also been called into question.

The women inmates of the laundries included orphans from abusive or neglectful homes, elderly women without other support, homeless women, women with physical or mental disabilities or mental health problems, women who had committed petty crimes and women who had given birth out of wedlock.

A government report about the laundries found that the “vast majority” of the girls were not physically punished and found no cases of sexual abuse, O’Neill said. One of the most popular books about the laundries, Kathy O’Beirne’s “Don’t Ever Tell,” which claimed she was raped and abused in other ways at the laundries, has also been exposed as fraudulent.  

Another government report about the abuse of boys in Catholic-run schools found 68 allegations of rape over an 85-year period. News coverage exaggerated this figure to report that “thousands” had been raped.

“If as many myths were spread about by a government in relation to a war or something, there would be outrage, demands for an inquiry; why is it okay, then, to promote half-truths, non-facts and embellishments about the Irish Catholic Church?” O’Neill asked.

The reports about the burials at the Tuam home have prompted a response from Catholic authorities.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam said he welcomed a government investigation of the accusations. He said he was “greatly shocked” and “horrified and saddened” by the numbers of children buried in the graveyard, noting the “great suffering and pain” likely suffered by the children and their parents.

Corless’ research is aiding the creation of a memorial for the dead children.

Archbishop Neary said his archdiocese will continue to work with the Bon Secours Sisters and the local community to commemorate the dead and their families with a memorial prayer service and a plaque.

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Arab Christian witnesses grace of Pope's prayer for peace

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The inter-faith prayer for peace in the Middle East held by Pope Francis last Sunday reminds us that peace is not a work of people but a work of God, said a key participant in the event.
An Arab Christian with Israeli citizenship, Margaret Karram was the only woman in the Holy See delegation for the prayer held in the Vatican's Gardens June 8.
“I have lived in the Holy Land most of my life, and when I arrived here I saw that we were going to pray all together: Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis…That meant to me that we really have to believe in peace,” Karram told CNA.

On Pentecost Sunday, the Pope and Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I met with Presidents Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine at the Vatican, praying together, talking about peace and exchanging symbols that represent a move towards peace.

The evening’s prayer was divided into three parts, following the chronological ordering of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious communities. Prayers were offered in Hebrew, English, Italian, and Arabic, praising God for creation, asking pardon for sin, and requesting the gift of peace.

Pope Francis and the two presidents planted an olive tree and spoke about the need for peace. The presidents, the patriarch, and Pope Francis also exchanged a sign of peace and gathered for a private discussion.
For 12 years, Karram was the Focolari movement's director for the Holy Land, moving a couple of months ago to work at the Focolari Movement’s International Center in Grottaferrata, not far from Rome.
In 2013, she was awarded with the Mount Zion prize together with the Jewish woman Yisca Harani for “the important effort to the development among religions and cultures in the Holy Land and to the mutual understanding between Jewish, Christians and Muslims.”
When the Vatican asked the Focolari for a woman to be included in the papal delegation, representing both the movement and the effort for peace, group president Maria Voce immediately thought of Karram. “It was a great privilege for me to be representing the Focolare movement,” Karram said of Voce's choice.
At the invocation for prayer, Karram was also charged of reading the prayer of St. Francis.
According to her, Sunday's event proves that peace “is not a work of people, it is a work of God. This gift can be only granted by God. Only God can change our hearts, and if we change our hearts we can change our relationships, and we can believe in peace more.”
On the three-part prayer, Karram noticed that for their intentions, Muslims added some words off the cuff  – “words I think were not supposed to be said.”
“What I understood is that they really wanted to underline their feelings, their suffering, their being oppressed. I think they wanted to say: 'We are here! We want peace!' But we do not have to forget that this peace has to be just, and that no one would ever forget our suffering,” Karram stressed.
She added that she hopes that “even these words not written but said may help people to understand that there is a long way to go” to achieve peace.
As a Christian who had lived in the Holy Land for most of her life, Karram that “being Christian and living in the Holy Land is a great challenge, because Christians are the minority, just two percent of the population.”
“It is a great challenge also because many Christians left the Holy Land, which is sad, because the Holy Land is for all of us and – as Christians – we have a message to give to the world, and it is important for Christians to be present there,” she said.
Karram explained that people emigrate “because they don’t see any future for their children, and they wish to be in a safe place.” She hopes then that “these people, wherever they can be, bear witness to their Christian faith and be an instrument of peace in other countries.”

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Pope: Fear of the Lord an alarm reminding us of what's right

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his general audience Pope Francis spoke on the Holy Spirit’s gift of Fear of the Lord, saying it does not mean we should be afraid of God, but rather serves as a reminder to do the right thing.

“Fear of the Lord is an ‘alarm.’ When a person is not on the right path, he settles himself in evil,” the Pope explained in his June 11 audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“When he distances himself from God, when he takes advantage of everyone, when he lives attached to money, to vanity, to power or pride, then the holy fear of God draws his attention: You will not be happy like this, this way you will end badly.”

Continuing his instruction on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Pope greeted the crowds gathered to hear his weekly address, saying “Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the last of these gifts: fear of the Lord.”

“The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us,” the Roman Pontiff observed.

It “is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace” he continued, adding that “when the Holy Spirit lives in our heart, he instills consolation and peace in us.”

This peace, Pope Francis noted, is “the attitude of those who place all their trust in God and feel protected, like a child with his father,” explaining that through fear of the Lord “we become, as Jesus asks us, like little children, trusting in the goodness and the protection of our heavenly Father.”

The Pope also described how this gift “allows us to imitate the Lord in humility and obedience, not with a resigned and passive attitude, but with courage and joy.”

“He turns us into Christians convinced that we are not subject to the Lord out of fear, but rather conquered by his paternal love.”

Referring to the fear of the Lord as an “alarm” that awakens us “to the presence of sin in our lives” and reminds us that one day we will “be held accountable to the just Judge,” the pontiff stated that when we start to sin, this spiritual gift can help direct the faithful back on the right path. 

Pope Francis then prayed that the fear of the Lord would allow all “to understand that one day everything will finish and we will have to be accountable to God.”

“Let us pray that the fear of God, together with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, will renew us in faith and constantly remind us that in God alone do we find our ultimate happiness, freedom and fulfilment.”

Following his address, Pope Francis drew attention to the World Day against the exploitation of child labor, which will take place Thursday June 12.

“Tens of millions of children are forced to work in degrading conditions, exposed to forms of slavery and exploitation, as well as to abuse, ill-treatment and discrimination,” he noted.

“I sincerely hope that the international community can extend social protection of minors to eradicate this scourge.”

Encouraging those present to “renew our commitment, especially families, to ensure the tutelage of every boy’s and every girl’s dignity and enhance the chance to grow up healthy,” the Pope stated that “a serene childhood allows children to look with confidence to life and the future.”

Pope Francis then greeted pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including Scotland, Sweden, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, England and the United States.

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Pope's Sri Lanka trip will be January 13-15

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The coordinator of Sri Lankan migrants in Italy has confirmed the dates announced by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for Pope Francis’ 2015 visit, during which he could canonize Sri Lankan Blessed Joseph Vaz.

Msgr. Nevin Perera revealed to CNA June 11 that Pope Francis first said he would go to the country during a Feb. 8 gathering with Sri Lankans in Rome. During the audience, “the Pope said then that he was going to Sri Lanka, and we know that he confirmed it coming back from the Holy Land.”

According to the Colombo Page, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, confirmed Monday that Pope Francis will travel to Sri Lanka Jan. 13-15, 2015.

Speaking of the pontiff’s projected schedule, Msgr. Perera explained that Pope Francis is set arrive to Colombo the morning of Jan. 13 around 9 or 9:30 a.m., and will leave for Manila, in the Philippines the morning of Jan. 15.

Following the Pope’s arrival, the coordinator explained that the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is planning to welcome him, after which the pontiff “will go to the presidential palace where he will meet all of the politicians” from both major parties in the country for lunch.

After their encounter, Pope Francis is set to travel to the Institute for theological studies in Asia, located in the large city of Negombo.

“From there he will go to the basilica of Our Lady of Sri Lanka,” where he will meet “with all of the religious, priests and nuns of the whole island,” the coordinator continued.

The next morning Msgr. Perera revealed that the Pope is slated to celebrate Mass at 8:30, during which they are hoping he will canonize Bl. Joseph Vaz, an Indian priest who traveled to Sri Lanka as a missionary during the Dutch occupation, bringing the sacraments to Catholics forced to practice their faith in secrecy.

Although they are still waiting for the canonization to be approved by the Vatican, the coordinator explained that he is hopeful it will take place.

Following the Mass, the Roman Pontiff is scheduled to have lunch with the Sri Lankan Bishop’s Conference, and will meet with various other religious leaders later that evening.

“This is the tentative program that we have,” he said, observing that there are still some events that could be added or changed, but that the Vatican delegation will go to Sri Lanka at the end of this month, “and they will finalize the program as such.”

Referring to the preparations happening within Sri Lanka, Msgr. Perera noted that there have already been “two to three meetings with the cardinal, the president, the leader of the armed forces, the security division and the foreign ministry.”

“We have already had discussions,” he explained, adding that the cardinal’s own personal schedule during the Pope’s visit will also be confirmed, as well as that of the bishop’s conference secretary-general, who are the key organizers of the trip.

Regarding security concerns while the Pope is there, the coordinator observed that “we have a peaceful atmosphere in Sri Lanka today.”

“We don’t worry too much about security because anybody can travel anywhere in Sri Lanka today,” he said. “This is my impression.”

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US bishops unanimously reauthorize religious liberty group

New Orleans, La., Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voted to reauthorize its Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty for a second three-year term.

The unanimous voice vote came June 11, the first day of the U.S. bishops’ Spring General Assembly in New Orleans.

As an ad hoc committee, the group was initially authorized for three years and required express authorization to renew it for a second term.

The reauthorization vote comes days before the start of the 2014 Fortnight for Freedom. Sponsored by the U.S. bishops, the two-week initiative is a period of prayer and awareness of religious liberty, both at home and abroad.

In addition to two nationally televised Masses, the fortnight in the last two years has included diocesan-level rosaries, Masses, prayer vigils and holy hours, as well as study groups, movie nights and community service events.

Some dioceses have hosted public gatherings, ecumenical prayer rallies, talks and panel discussions on religious liberty. Others have encouraged private devotion, fasting and contributions to spiritual bouquets during the two-week period.

This year’s fortnight will focus on how religious freedom enables service to the poor and vulnerable.

The June 21-July 4 initiative includes the Catholic feasts of saints like John Fisher, Thomas More, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul and the first martyrs of Rome who faced persecution by political power.

Among the concerns addressed by the bishops’ ad hoc religious liberty committee is the federal contraception mandate, which requires most employers, including many Catholic organizations, to facilitate employee health coverage for sterilization, contraception and drugs that can cause early abortions, despite their religious and moral objections. Violators of the mandate face heavy penalties.

The bishops’ conference has worked to speak out and raise awareness about problems posed by the mandate. A ruling is expected from the U.S. Supreme Court later this month on the mandate as it affects religious individuals running for-profit businesses.

The U.S. bishops have also noted threats to religious organizations and businesses caused by the redefinition of marriage and laws that consider objections to “gay marriage” to be illegal discrimination. Catholic adoption agencies in numerous cities have been shut down because they cannot in good conscience place children with same-sex couples. In addition, businesses have faced lawsuits for declining to serve same-sex “wedding” ceremonies.

State immigration laws have also threatened charitable outreach and pastoral care to undocumented immigrants, while Catholic medical personnel and others who object to abortion have faced pressure to participate in the deadly procedures, the bishops’ conference has said.

International religious freedom violations have also been gaining increasing concern and attention, with threats facing those in Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria, among other countries.

In a new book last year, entitled “The Global War on Christians,” Vatican analyst John Allen, Jr. focused on the tremendous extent of Christian persecution that still exists around the world today. He observed that the first decade of the 21st century saw 100,000 Christians were killed per year – 11 new martyrs every hour.


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World Meeting of Families shows man's destiny is love, official says

New Orleans, La., Jun 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family urged the U.S. bishops to help share the message that the 2015 World Meeting of Families is intended to show that man is made for love.

“Please believe, and preach to your flocks, that it is most surely in the family that we see that our destiny is not loneliness but rather love, mutually sustaining and fruitful,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia urged the bishops of the U.S., who were gathered for their Spring General Assembly in New Orleans June 11.

“The Gospel is always the only answer to the crying need, all over the world, for love. The Gospel of Jesus, and of the Family, must overcome the loneliness that excludes real love and that is suffocating humanity today.”

Archbishop Paglia's address concerned the upcoming World Meeting of Families, which is to be held Sept. 22-27, 2015 in Philadelphia.

The Vatican official was introduced by Philadelphia's shepherd, Archbishop Charles Chaput, who asked that the bishops encourage families to attend the event, and who noted that “its cost will easily run into the tens of millions of dollars.”

He added that while “obviously a papal visit is never official until the Holy See confirms it … we do have good reasons to believe that Pope Francis will take part in the meeting, and we are planning to welcome him wholeheartedly.”

The meeting “comes at a time when the Church in the U.S. urgently needs an opportunity for joy and renewal. It is also a time of great confusion about the nature of marriage and family,” he said, noting that its goal is to “offer the beauty of Catholic teaching about marriage and the family with confidence and a spirit of invitation to every person of good will.”

Archbishop Paglia, whose pontifical council organizes the World Meeting of Families, then spoke, saying that it will be an “important element of the family synod process,” noting that there is a link among the crises in faith, families, and society.

He said the crisis in families is “above all cultural,” and based on the tendency to value the individual above all else: “the individual prevails over society and the rights of the individual prevail over those of the family.”

The archbishop lamented that throughout the developed world, “laws reflect the primacy of the individual over the family. In this context, it is easy to understand how the family, as it has been understood for thousands of years, is ignored or is, worse yet, vilified and persecuted.”

The crisis in families has led to a society in which there are fewer families, and more people who choose to live alone or to live in unions without any commitments.

“In addition, people today are convinced that they can 'be family' in all sorts of different ways. Any type of 'living together' can be called a family as long as there is 'love.' With that approach, the family is not rejected, it is simply grouped among various other ways of living, with forms of relationship that might seem compatible with the family as the Church understands it but that in reality demolish the family piece by piece.”

Despite all this, he emphasized, “the family will always be the most important resource for society … no other form of living can create the positive relationships that are found in the family. No other form of relationship has such societal potentialities, or such economic potential.”

“Nowhere else can humans fully learn and experience the solidarity that family ties provide and the mercy without which the other virtues lose much of their meaning.”

The family is an “indispensable resource for society,” he said, quoting the first century B.C. Roman philosopher Cicero, who called the family “the foundation of the city and, as it were, the seed-bed of the commonwealth.”

“The family is at the heart of human development.”

Archbishop Paglia looked forward to the 2015 ordinary synod on the family, voicing hope that it “will bring forth a new spring for families, and their joyous witness can overcome the individualism that is poisoning our lives. The synod’s real document will not be words, it will be witness, and we must invite to that witness all in the world who see in marriage, and in the family it produces, the perfection of our humanity and of society.”

The World Meeting of Families, which will take place shortly before the ordinary synod, “has to be a great celebration for families from all over the world,” he emphasized. “We must show that it is possible, and beautiful, to create joyful and solid families, starting with families in America, Hispanic families in particular.”

He noted that Latino Catholic families are a model for the rest of the Church in the U.S., but added that their risk of falling away from the Church “is significant.”

“My brother bishops, as you welcome these new sisters and brothers in Christ, remember that only the joy of the Gospel, the Gospel of the Family, will protect the Catholicism of this vital part of the Church in America.”

He added that “I also want our meeting to include – with their leaders - Eastern Catholic and Orthodox families, and all communities of Christians–evangelical, Protestant and unaffiliated–as well as families from the world’s other religions, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and nonreligious families of good will. My brother bishops, please make this happen!”

Following Archbishop Paglia's address, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, read an invitation formally inviting Pope Francis to attend Philadelphia's World Meeting of Families, which was greeted with hearty applause.

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