Archive of June 13, 2014

'The Fault in Our Stars' hailed for themes on suffering, love

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2014 (CNA) - Bestselling movie and book “The Fault in Our Stars” provides material to think more deeply about belief and skepticism – as well as the lessons on suffering and vulnerability that the terminally ill can teach us, clergy and cultural observers say.

“Pain demands to be felt – we need to face pain honestly, and we can't sugarcoat it,” said Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, a professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America.

However, the film shows that “pain is not the last word, love is the last word,” Msgr. Rossetti told CNA June 6, ultimately demonstrating that “love conquers suffering, even though it brings suffering.”

“It's a short step from the movie to a Christian understanding” of pain and suffering, he offered. “For the Christian of course, we have a name for that love that conquers suffering – Jesus.”

Based on the bestselling book of the same name, “The Fault in Our Stars” is already one of the most popular films of the summer grossing $48.2 million its opening weekend and taking the top spot at the box office.

The film's plot centers around a teenager, Hazel Grace Lancaster – who has terminal cancer – following her as she navigates her parent's expectations, the shallow consolations of her support group leader, friendship and love with Augustus Waters, another teen and cancer survivor.  

The story also focuses on the consequences of living with life-threatening illnesses, meditating on whether life has an ultimate meaning and the value and cost of love in the midst of pain.

Stephen D. Greydanus, film critic for the National Catholic Register told CNA that while the film does not adequately address all of the themes it touches upon, “it's truer than a lot of stories.”

“I think this story touches equally on two things in the face of the scariness and the darkness of the world,” he said.

The story shows both that “it's ok to be afraid, it's ok to be depressed,” and that “on the other hand there's still hope: the fact that you are dying doesn't mean that you're cut off from the world.”

The story also speaks to questions of belief and skepticism facing younger generations today, Greydaynus added, offering “two possible perspectives about human existence.”  

On the one hand a harsh nihilistic perspective that views people as the “byproduct of an evolutionary process,” countered by a “vaguely theistic” worldview that finds ultimate meaning in love and sees the “person as having irreplaceable value.”

The importance of love within the story and on making a difference to one person, he said, rests on a “confidence in something beyond this life, that there is an afterlife, that there is a Something with a capitol 'S.'”  

Though it is not explicit in its support of a traditional vision of God, and returns to wrestle throughout the book with its more nihilistic themes, the story’s portrayal of love argues that “rather than rendering this life meaningless, (love) makes this life that much more meaningful.”

Although the film’s presentation of love is incomplete and includes premarital sex, Greydanus said, it manages to show that “what we love is something eternal, something that is not just worldly,” and “is the opposite of the atheist complaint that to believe in heaven or to believe in an afterlife devalues this world.” 

In addition, “the story is a little franker about the realities of illness than many other stories” that deal with terminal illness and death. “In the movie we get something of the unpleasantness of the scariness” of the characters’ situations.

“It seems to me that serious illness is a topic that is often brushed aside,” Greydanus said. “Seeing a movie like this or reading the book can help young people especially" with being able to relate to illness and pain and sickness and being able "to prepare ourselves for whatever might come our way,”  he offered.

Deacon Tom Devaney a hospital chaplain and the director of pastoral Care at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. told CNA that he hoped the movie’s emphasis on the humanity of the sick and dying would help others to see the gift and importance of everyone – even the old or ill – “even though we may be broken.”

Modern society, he said, has discounted the sick, seeing them as a “burden.”

“When Jesus wanted to proclaim the reign of God, he went out and healed the sick...I see in the sick lessons that are ignored,” Deacon Devaney continued, adding that Jesus himself says this in His ministry and his emphasis on those who are ill being “a way of proclaiming the care and love of God.”

In his ministry as a chaplain, the deacon said he has had the “privilege” of journeying with people to encounter their death. “When they're vulnerable there's no pretenses,” he explained, saying that in those phases people are often “raw.”

At the same time, the deacon explained, ministry to those facing their deaths is a lesson in “humility, surrender, compassion.”

“You don't know what suffering they may be going through,” Deacon Devany said, adding that in ministry to the sick, he must be humble and listen and not assume he knows the struggles of other people. ”

“You can surmise you can guess, but you can never know because you will never be in their shoes.”

Deacon Devaney also spoke to the power of love in this phase of life, pointing to the example of his first wife, who died fifteen years ago of cancer.

“It was just her and I at the moment she died,” he said, adding that the “intimacy of watching a person go and see the face of God for the first time is such a privilege.”

“The last thing that she heard was me telling her that I loved her and I always will love her,” Deacon Devaney said. “That is the most intimate moment during my years of marriage to Lori.”

Msgr. Rossetti commented that the film raises an important question of “how do we connect with people who are dying, who are ill, without sugar coating?” Ultimately, he said, the movie shows that “love reaches across the divide” even though that “love carried with it a sense of pain and loss.”

This question of the importance of love and its meaning resonates, he added, with “the philosophical and existential place of young people today,” and addresses many of the struggles adolescents face such as divorce and suffering.

Ultimately, Msgr. Rossetti said, “The Fault in Our Stars” emphasizes that “the love we share with each other, even through it may cause pain, gives us hope.”

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Forensic experts attempt to reconstruct face of St. Anthony

Rome, Italy, Jun 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The University of St. Anthony of Padua’s Anthropology Museum, together with a team of international forensic researchers, have attempted to reconstruct the face of St. Anthony using only a digital copy of his skull.

Using the latest 3D technology, the researchers worked to recreate the saint’s face, which they say is “one of the most faithful reconstructions of the face of St. Anthony.”

The face was presented on June 10 at a congress in Padua with archeologist Luca Bezzi, who created the three-dimensional image of the saint’s face, and the director of the Center for St. Anthony Studies, Franciscan Friar Luciano Bertazzo, who provided all of the relevant source material from the era.

3D designer Cicero Morales of the University of Sao Paolo, renowned for his work in archeological facial reconstruction, also took part in the presentation.

The Brazilian expert was asked to reconstruct the saint’s face knowing only that the skull belonged to a 36-year-old male.

“At each step I asked myself, who was that man? When I found out, I was speechless, literally amazed. Although I am not religious, I felt a huge responsibility. Millions of people in the world would be able to see the face of their saint!” Morales said.

The face of St. Anthony will be revealed to the public June 12-22 at the basilica dedicated to the saint in Padua, where his relics are also venerated.

Born in Lisbon on August 15, 1195, St. Anthony joined the Augustinians in 1210 but left to join the Franciscans 10 years later. He took part in the order’s general chapter in Assisi in 1221 and personally met St. Francis.

He died at the convent of Arcella in Padua, Italy, on June 13, 1231.

Believed to be the second fastest canonization in history, he was declared a saint just one year after his death, in May 1232.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church.

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European court narrowly affirms Catholic religious freedom

Strasbourg, France, Jun 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although the European Court of Human Rights has allowed a bishop to set standards for Catholic religion teachers in Spain, some say the threat of government interference still gives cause for concern.

“If government can dictate who teaches a particular religion, then government can dictate what the content of that religion is,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the U.S.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said June 12.

Rassbach, an expert consultant with third parties who intervened in the case, said the human rights court's Grand Chamber recognized that churches “must be able to require their teachers to show loyalty to church beliefs” in order to be “truly autonomous.”

The legal case was brought on behalf of a Catholic religion teacher in Spain, Fernandez Martinez. He taught Catholic religion classes in a state high school under a legal arrangement in which religious communities may approve or reject religion teachers.

In 1997 the local bishop declined to renew Martinez's contract on the grounds the teacher, a former Catholic priest, publicly opposed priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church, the Becket Fund reports.

Martinez appealed the decision to a local employment tribunal, contending that the act violated his right to personal autonomy. He took his appeal to Spain's Constitutional Court and the Third Section of the European Court of Human Rights, losing his appeal there as well.

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg, France-headquartered human rights court sided with the bishop by a narrow margin of nine to eight. The majority decision ruled that the teacher did not suffer “disproportionate” interference in his private life and did not suffer the violation of rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

It found that the teacher’s activity and the Catholic Church's mission was “very close” in proximity. Because the teacher was voluntarily bound by “a duty of loyalty to the Catholic Church,” the renewal of his contract could be rejected for failing to fulfill that duty.

Rassbach said the case upheld religious freedom.

“Whether Catholic priests should be celibate or not is something for the Catholic Church to decide, not government officials, and not judges,” he said.

However, Rassbach criticized the “chilling” dissent authored by Judge Dmitry Dedov, whom the Russian government appointed to the human rights court in 2012.

Dedov said Europe’s human rights convention “does not entitle religious organizations, even in the name of autonomy, to persecute their members for exercising their fundamental human rights.” He criticized the Catholic discipline of priestly celibacy as something that “contradicts the idea of fundamental rights and freedoms.”  

His dissent said that media reports on clerical sex abuse have portrayed the “adverse consequences” of “the outdated rule of celibacy.” He also cited Victor Hugo's novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Colleen McCullough's novel “The Thorn Birds” as portrayals of the negative consequences of celibacy.

Rassbach said the dissent “shows just how high the stakes are here.”

“The dissent should be condemned by all friends of human rights as a call to gross government interference with religious practice that ought to belong to Europe’s past,” he said.

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Knights of Columbus report record donations in 2013

New Haven, Conn., Jun 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus set new records in donations and volunteer hours in 2013, continuing its long-standing service programs and responding to several natural disasters.

“Whether with funds or service, and whether quietly helping someone overcome a personal tragedy or assisting in the aftermath of a widely known humanitarian disaster, the outpouring of charity by our members produces meaningful results, especially by helping to bring peace of mind to those who find themselves in incredibly difficult situations,” Knights of Columbus head Carl Anderson said June 12.

The order gave more than $170 million in donations and its members worked more than 70.5 million volunteer hours last year, the Knights of Columbus said, citing its annual survey.

“Charity has been at the heart of the Knights’ mission for the past 132 years,” Anderson said.

He noted the Knights of Columbus’ response to the two “enormous” natural disasters in the Philippines: the October 2013 Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

The order provided aid in the aftermath of tornadoes in Oklahoma, floods in Canada’s Alberta province, and the factory explosion in the small Texas town of West. It also provided assistance to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

“The year also saw the Knights continue their support for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, and for the people of Newtown, Connecticut, as they recovered from the school shooting that took the lives of 26 residents, most of whom were young children,” Anderson said.

The organization’s regular initiatives include support for the intellectually disabled, programs to provide food and winter coats to poor families, and blood drives. It helps support Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics and the American Wheelchair Mission.

The order’s reported volunteer hours increased by more than 421,000 over its 2012 total.

In the last 10 years the organization had donated almost $1.5 billion to charity and contributed 683 million volunteer hours.

The Knights of Columbus has more than 1.8 million members in North America, Central America, the Philippines, the Caribbean and Europe. It was founded in 1882 in New Haven, Conn., by Venerable Servant of God Michael J. McGivney, a parish priest who sought to help widows and orphans while aiding Catholic families and conducting acts of charity.

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Full text of Pope Francis' Interview with 'La Vanguardia'

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an interview granted with Spanish-language magazine "La Vanguardia" on Monday, Pope Francis lauded Pius XII for his efforts in saving Jews, discussed Orthodox-Catholic relations, as well as the motivations behind his prayer meeting at the Vatican last Sunday.

Below, please find the full text of his interview in English:

Interview with Pope Francis: “One has to take the secession of a nation with grain of salt.”

“Our world economic system can’t take it anymore,” says the Bishop of Rome in an interview with La Vanguardia. “I’m no illumined one. I didn’t bring any personal projects under my arm.” “We are throwing away an entire generation to maintain a system that isn’t good,” he opines with respect to unemployed youth.

“The persecuted Christians are a concern that touches me very deeply as a pastor. I know a lot about persecutions but it doesn’t seem prudent to talk about them here so I don’t offend anyone. But in some places it is prohibited to have a Bible or teach the catechism or wear a cross… What I would like to be clear on is one thing, I am convinced that the persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church. Today there are more Christian martyrs than in that period. And, it's not because of fantasy, it’s because of the numbers."

Pope Francis received us last Monday in the Vatican - a day after the prayer for peace with the presidents of Israel and Palestine - for this exclusive interview with “La Vanguardia.” The Pope was happy to have done everything possible for understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

Violence in the name of God dominates the Middle East.  

It's a contradiction. Violence in the name of God does not correspond with our time. It's something ancient. With historical perspective, one has to say that Christians, at times, have practiced it. When I think of the Thirty Years War, there was violence in the name of God. Today it is unimaginable, right? We arrive, sometimes, by way of religion to very serious, very grave contradictions. Fundamentalism, for example. The three religions, we have our fundamentalist groups, small in relation to all the rest.

And, what do you think about fundamentalism?

A fundamentalist group, although it may not kill anyone, although it may not strike anyone, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalists is violence in the name of God.

Some say that you are a revolutionary.

We should call the great Mina Mazzini, the Italian singer, and tell her “take this hand, gypsy” and have her read into my past, to see what [she finds]. (He laughs) For me, the great revolution is going to the roots, recognizing them and seeing what those roots have to say to us today. There is no contradiction between [being a] revolutionary and going to the roots. Moreso even, I think that the way to make true changes is identity. You can never take a step in life if it’s not from behind, without knowing where I come from, what last name I have, what cultural or religious last name I have.

You have broken many security protocols to bring yourself closer to the people.

I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God. I remember that in Brazil they had prepared a closed Popemobile for me, with glass, but I couldn’t greet the people and tell them that I love them from within a sardine tin. Even if it’s made of glass, for me that is a wall. It’s true that something could happen to me, but let’s be realistic, at my age I don’t have much to lose.    

Why is it important that the Church be poor and humble?

Poverty and humility are at the center of the Gospel and I say it in a theological sense, not in a sociological one. You can't understand the Gospel without poverty, but we have to distinguish it from pauperism. I think that Jesus wants us bishops not to be princes but servants.

What can the Church do to reduce the growing inequality between the rich and the poor?

It’s proven that with the food that is left over we could feed the people who are hungry. When you see photographs of undernourished kids in different parts of the world, you take your head in your hand, it incomprehensible. I believe that we are in a world economic system that isn’t good. At the center of all economic systems must be man, man and woman, and everything else must be in service of this man. But we have put money at the center, the god of money. We have fallen into a sin of idolatry, the idolatry of money.

The economy is moved by the ambition of having more and, paradoxically, it feeds a throwaway culture. Young people are thrown away when their natality is limited. The elderly are also discarded because they don’t serve any use anymore, they don’t produce, this passive class… In throwing away the kids and elderly, the future of a people is thrown away because the young people are going to push forcefully forward and because the elderly give us wisdom. They have the memory of that people and they have to pass it on to the young people. And now also it is in style to throw the young people away with unemployment. The rate of unemployment is very worrisome to me, which in some countries is over 50%. Someone told me that 75 million young Europeans under 25 years of age are unemployed. That is an atrocity. But we are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can’t hold up anymore, a system that to survive must make war, as the great empires have always done. But as a Third World War can’t be done, they make zonal wars. What does this mean? That they produce and sell weapons, and with this the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, obviously they are sorted. This unique thought takes away the wealth of diversity of thought and therefore the wealth of a dialogue between peoples. Well understood globalization is a wealth. Poorly understood globalization is that which nullifies differences. It is like a sphere in which all points are equidistant from the center. A globalization that enriches is like a polyhedron, all united but each preserving its particularity, its wealth, its identity, and this isn’t given. And this does not happen.

Does the conflict between Catalunya and Spain worry you?

All division worries me. There is independence by emancipation and independence by secession. The independences by emancipation, for example, are American, that they were emancipated from the European States. The independences of nations by secession is a dismemberment, sometimes it’s very obvious. Let’s think of the former Yugoslavia. Obviously, there are nations with cultures so different that couldn’t even be stuck together with glue. The Yugoslavian case is very clear, but I ask myself if it is so clear in other cases. Scotland, Padania, Catalunya. There will be cases that will be just and cases that will not be just, but the secession of a nation without an antecedent of mandatory unity, one has to take it with a lot of grains of salt and analyze it case by case.  

The prayer for peace from Sunday wasn’t easy to organize nor did it have precedents in the Middle East nor in the world. How did you feel?

You know that it wasn’t easy because you were there, and much of that achievement is due to you. I felt that it was something that can accidentally happen to all of us. Here, in the Vatican,99% said it would not happen and then the 1% started to grow. I felt that we were feeling pushed towards something that had not occurred to us and that, little by little, started to take shape. It was not at all a political act - I felt that from the beginning - but it was rather a religious act: opening a window to the world.

Why did you choose to place yourself in the eye of the hurricane, the Middle East?

The true eye of the hurricane, due to the enthusiasm that there was, was the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro last year. I decided to go to the Holy Land because President Peres invited me. I knew that his mandate would finish this Spring, so I felt obliged, in some way, to go beforehand. His invitation accelerated the trip. I did not think of doing it.

Why is it important for every Christian to visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land?

Because of revelation. For us, it all started there. It is like “heaven on earth.” A foretaste of what awaits us hereafter, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

You and your friend, the Rabbi Skorka, hugged each other in front of the Western Wall. What importance has that gesture had for the reconciliation between Christians and Jews?

Well, my good friend professor Omar Abu, president of the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue of Buenos Aires, was also at the Wall. I wanted to invite him. He is a very religious man and a father-of-two. He is also friends with Rabbi Skorka and I love them both a lot, and I wanted that that friendship between the three be seen as a witness.

You told me a year ago that “within every Christian there is a Jew.”

Perhaps it would be more correct to say “you cannot live your Christianity, you cannot be a real Christian, if you do not recognize your Jewish roots.” I don’t speak of Jewish in the sense of the Semitic race but rather in the religious sense. I think that inter-religious dialogue needs to deepen in this, in Christianity’s Jewish root and in the Christian flowering of Judaism. I understand it is a challenge, a hot potato, but it can be done as brothers. I pray every day the divine office every day with the Psalms of David. We do the 150 psalms in one week. My prayer is Jewish and I have the Eucharist, which is Christian.  

How do you see anti-Semitism?

I cannot explain why it happens, but I think it is very linked, in general, and without it being a fixed rule, to the right wing.  Antisemitism usually nests better in right-wing political tendencies that in the left, right? And it still continues (like this). We even have those who deny the holocaust, which is crazy.

One of your projects is to open the Vatican archives on the Holocaust.

They will bring a lot of light.   

Does it worry you something could be discovered?

What worries me regarding this subject is the figure of Pius XII, the Pope that led the Church during World War II. They have said all sorts of things about poor Pius XII. But we need to remember that before he was seen as the great defender of the Jews. He hid many in convents in Rome and in other Italian cities, and also in the residence of Castel Gandolfo. Forty-two babies, children of Jews and other persecuted who sought refuge there were born there, in the Pope’s room, in his own bed. I don’t want to say that Pius XII did not make any mistakes - I myself make many - but one needs to see his role in the context of the time. For example, was it better for him not to speak so that more Jews would not be killed or for him to speak? I also want to say that sometimes I get “existential hives” when I see that everyone takes it out against the Church and Pius XII, and they forget the great powers. Did you know that they knew the rail network of the Nazis perfectly well to take the Jews to concentration camps? They had the pictures. But they did not bomb those railroad tracks. Why? It would be best if we spoke a bit about everything.

Do you still feel like a parish priest or do you assume your role as head of the Church?

The dimension of parish priest is that which most shows my vocation. Serving the people comes from within me. Turn off the lights to not spend a lot of money, for example. They are things that a parish priest does. But I also feel like the Pope. It helps me to do things seriously. My collaborators are very serious and professional. I have help to carry out my duty. One doesn’t need to play the parish priest Pope. It would be immature. When a head of state comes, I have to receive him with the dignity and the protocol that are deserved. It is true that with the protocol I have my problems, but one has to respect it.

You are changing a lot of things. Towards what future are these changes going?

I am no illumined one. I don’t have any personal project that I’ve brought with me under an arm, simply because I never thought that they were going to leave me here, in the Vatican. Everyone knows this. I came with a little piece of luggage to go straight back to Buenos Aires. What I am doing is carrying out what we cardinals reflected upon during the General Congregations, that is to say, in the meetings that, during the conclave, we all maintained every day to discuss the problems of the Church. From there come reflections and recommendations. One very concrete one was that the next Pope had to count on an external council, that is, a team of assessors that didn’t live in the Vatican.

And you created the so-called Council of Eight.

They are eight cardinals from all the continents and a coordinator. They gather every two or three months here. Now, the first of July we have four days of meetings, and we are going to be making the changes that the very cardinals ask of us. It is not obligatory that we do it but it would be imprudent not to listen to those who know.

You have also made a great effort to become closer to the Orthodox Church.

The invitation to Jerusalem from my brother Bartholomew was to commemorate the encounter between Paul VI and Athenagoras I 50 years ago. It was an encounter after more than a thousand years of separation. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has made efforts to become closer and the Orthodox Church has done the same. some orthodox churches are closer than others. I wanted Bartholomew to be with me in Jerusalem and there emerged the plan to also come to the Vatican to pray. For him it was a risky step because they can throw it in his face, but this gesture of humility needed to be extended, and for us it's necessary because it's not conceivable that we Christians are divided, it's a historical sin that we have to repair.

In the face of the advance of atheism, what is your opinion of people who believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive?  

There was a rise in atheism in the most existential age, perhaps Sartrian. But after came a step toward spiritual pursuits, of encounter with God, in a thousand ways, not necessarily the traditional religions. The clash between science and faith peaked in the Enlightenment, but that is not so fashionable today, thank God, because we have all realized the closeness between one thing and the other. Pope Benedict XVI has a good teaching about the relation between science and faith. In general lines, the most recent is that the scientists are very respectful with the faith and the agnostic or atheist scientist says, “I don’t dare to enter that field.”

You have met many Heads of State.  

Many have come and it’s an interesting variety. Each one has their personality. What has called my attention is the cross made between young politicians, whether they are from the center, the left or the right. Maybe they talk about the same problems but with a new music, and this I like, this gives me hope because politics is one of the more elevated forms of love, of charity. Why? Because it leads to the common good, and a person who, [despite] being  able to do it, does not get involved in politics for the common good, is selfish; or that uses politics for their own good, is corrupt. Some fifteen years ago the French bishops wrote a pastoral letter reflecting on the theme “Restoring Politics.” This is a precious text that makes you realize all of these things.

What do you think of the renunciation of Benedict XVI?

Pope Benedict has made a very significant act. He has opened the door, has created an institution, that of the of the eventual popes emeritus. 70 years ago, there were no emeritus bishops. Today how many are there? Well, as we live longer, we arrive to an age where we cannot go on with things. I will do the same as him, asking the Lord to enlighten me when the time comes and that he tell me what I have to do, and and he will tell me for sure.

You have a room reserved in a retirement home in Buenos Aires.  

Yes, its a retirement house for elderly priests. I was leaving the archdiocese at the end of last year and and had already submitted my resignation to Benedict XVI when I turned 75. I chose a room and said “I want to come to live here.” I will work as a priest, helping the parishes. This is what was going to be my future before being Pope.    

I am not going to ask you whom you support in the World Cup….

Brazilians asked me to remain neutral (he laughs) and I  keep my word because Brazil and Argentina are always antagonistic.   

How would you like to be remembered in history?

I have not thought about it, but I like it when someone remembers someone and says: “He was a good guy, he did what he could. He wasn’t so bad.” I’m OK with that.


This text was translated from the original Spanish by CNA's Alan Holdren, Estefania Augirre and Elise Harris.

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Pope Francis: God always prepares us for our mission

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on the mission given to each of us personally by God. 

“When the Lord wants to give us a mission, wants to give us a task, He prepares us. He prepares us to do it well, as he prepared Elijah,” the Pope explained in his June 13 daily Mass.

“The most important part of this…is the whole journey by which we arrive at the mission the Lord entrusts to us.”

Speaking to those present in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff centered his address on the day's first reading, taken from the First Book of Kings, in which the prophet Elijah searches for the Lord and finds him only in a small breeze.

The Pope explained that it is always up to God to balance the extremes of human strength and fragility, observing how often times we can be courageous servants of God one moment and afterward become depressed when someone in our mission frightens us,

Elijah is an example of the story of every human being, he noted, recalling how Elijah first searched for God in a strong wind, an earthquake and a fire, but did not find him until there was a soft breeze.

“The Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake, the fire, but in that whisper of a light breeze, in the peace, or, as the original says, – the true original, a beautiful expression – it says: 'The Lord was in a thread of silent sound,'” the pontiff stated.

Although the finding of God in “that thread of silent sound” might seem “to be a contradiction,” Elijah knew “how to discern where the Lord was,” the Pope continued, “and the Lord prepared him with the gift of discernment. And then He gave him the mission.”

Describing how Elijah's mission was to anoint the new king of Israel as well as the prophet called to succeed himself, Pope Francis called attention to the delicate and sensitive way in which the prophet's task was appointed to him, having once been courageous and zealous, but who now seemed defeated.

“The Lord prepares the soul, prepares the heart,” he said, “and He prepares it in trial, He prepares it in obedience, He prepares it in perseverance.”

Emphasizing how God always prepares us when he wants to give us a task, the pontiff explained that the most important element of our preparation is not necessarily our initial encounter with God, “the whole journey by which we arrive at the mission” he has given us.

“And this is the difference between the apostolic mission given us by the Lord, and a common task: 'Ah, you have to complete this task, you have to do this or that…' a human duty, honest, good…”

“But when the Lord gives a mission,” he noted, “He always has us enter into a process, a process of purification, a process of discernment, a process of obedience, a process of prayer.”

Going on, the Bishop of Rome pointed out that to be faithful in this process means “allowing ourselves to be led by the Lord,” just as Elijah did when he overcame his fear of the queen Jezebel, who had threatened to kill him.

Recalling how Jezebel was “a wicked queen, and she killed her enemies,” Pope Francis explained that although Elijah was afraid, “the Lord is more powerful.”

However, going through this process of fear makes the prophet understand “that they, the great and the good, also need the help of the Lord and the preparation for the mission,” he observed.

“We see this: he walks, obeys, suffers, discerns, prays… he finds the Lord,” the Pope concluded, praying that the Lord give each of us “the grace to allow ourselves to prepare every day the way of our life, so that we can bear witness to the salvation of Jesus.”

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Synod on family is opportunity for teaching faith, archbishop says

New Orleans, La., Jun 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A consultation regarding the upcoming synod on the family highlights the need for a better teaching of the faith, the president of the U.S. bishops' conference said.

“Unsurprisingly, we still have much ground to cover in sharing the good news of marriage and the family with our Catholic faithful,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said June 11.

“We know there is a need for greater, effective teaching on key tenets of the faith, such as the indissolubility of marriage, the importance of sexual difference for marriage, the natural law, and the married couple's call to be open to life.”

The archbishop addressed his fellow bishops as they gathered in New Orleans for their Spring General Assembly.

He presented a report on the upcoming Oct. 5-19 extraordinary synod of bishops – a meeting of bishops from around the world – which will address “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”

He noted that “as with past synods,” the bishops had been asked to consult with the faithful about the topic. The U.S. bishops “responded generously” to this request, he observed, while the faithful “were happy to assist the bishops by offering their feedback, and many bishops noted the enthusiasm of the laity and their gratitude at being asked for their thoughts on the subject of the family.”

Archbishop Kurtz proceeded to offer a “very general view” of the consultation’s results, balancing a desire of the Holy See for confidentiality, as it was intended “solely for use in preparation for the extraordinary synod.”

“Pastoral care for the faithful who are separated and divorced continues to be a great need. Many divorced and remarried persons seem to feel a sense of alienation from the Church.”

He said the faithful tended to indicate “a great desire to hear the Church's teaching on marriage,” adding that “many noted distractions caused by inaccurate portrayals” of that teaching.

The consultation also revealed that families are feeling the pressure of “economic instability, being overly busy, and living in a culture often hostile to the faith and excessively focused on material gain,” and that parents often find it difficult to pass on the faith, “because they themselves have not been fully catechized or evangelized.”

The archbishop noted that while many Catholics “understand what the Church teaches” about same-sex unions, “there remains a great desire to go further and understand why.”

Marriage preparation programs “have become more intentionally evangelistic and catechetical,” he added, though there remains a need “for more remote and proximate formation,” as well as continuing formation for couples after their wedding.

The consultation also found that when couples are in crisis, they see their parish and priest as key “first responders,” and that families witnessing to other families about being a domestic church is a “great opportunity” for evangelization.

Archbishop Kurtz' final note was that there is a “vibrant existence of many small, faith-centered groups, such as those fostered by various ecclesial movements,” which are helping their members live out their vocation to marriage and family.

The U.S. bishops' conference president then invited Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., a member of the synod of bishops' permanent council, to speak about the preparations for the synod.

Cardinal Wuerl explained that the synod council is responsible for “sifting through” the consultations sent in by the bishops' conferences around the world, from which they developed an “instrumentum laboris,” or working document.

“Our Holy Father comes to the council meetings, he participates,” the cardinal noted. “Over the last several sessions he has spent a total of six hours over two days every time we meet. It's clear he wants to be involved in the development of the instrumentum laboris.”

The council has completed the instrumentum laboris in its Italian original, he said, and it is in the process of being translated into other languages, and will be distributed to the bishops world-wide by the end of June.

“We'll all have an opportunity to reflect on that,” he told the assembled bishops. “That material all goes back into the synod offices, and it becomes the task of the synod office to pool that, together with the council, so that at beginning of the synod we can say 'this is what we’ve heard from bishops around the world.'”

The synod itself will be “streamlined,” Cardinal Wuerl said, noting that while it will last only two weeks, there should be “more opportunities for interaction.”

The last synod, held in October 2013 and concerning the new evangelization, had lasted three full weeks.

“The Holy Father has made it clear that this is a process,” Cardinal Wuerl noted in conclusion. “The 2014 synod is to be seen in relation to the 2015 synod,” which will also regard the family.

“All of this is supposed to be a process of listening, as (Pope Francis) said, of invoking the Holy Spirit in guiding us as we move forward.”

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Pope's boyhood home declared historic site

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 13, 2014 (CNA) - The city council of Buenos Aires voted on Thursday to designate as a “Historic Site” the home where Jorge Mario Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – lived during his childhood and adolescence.

In their declaration, council members described the pontiff as a humble, compassionate person in touch with the poor and concerned about the problems of today's society.

These traits were apparent in his concrete actions to support priests working in poor neighborhoods, they said.

“He never ceased to reach out and help those suffering from some tragedy,” the council members stated in their declaration.

Ever since his election to the papacy last year, the Holy Father’s boyhood home in Buenos Aires has become a popular site for tourists and Catholic faithful.
“Undoubtedly the home in which he lived and grew up as a child is of immeasurable historical, social and cultural value for the city and for all of Argentina,” said city council members Carmen Polledo and Fernando De Andreis, who wrote the declaration.

Under Argentinean law, buildings designated as historic sites cannot be modified or destroyed in part or in whole without previous authorization from the Ministry of Culture.


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