New Orleans, La., Jun 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Thanking his brother bishops for their work in supporting marriage around the United States, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone stressed the key role of marriage in spreading the Gospel.
The San Francisco archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, explained that marriage “is not peripheral to the message of the Gospel of love for the poor, the sick, and the stranger, but rather integral to it.”
“The Lord God calls us to witness to this truth with love and confidence,” he continued, explaining that teaching the truth about marriage is part of the larger truth about love revealed in the Gospels.
“Pope Francis’ call for a new chapter of evangelization inspired by missionary dynamism offers important touchstones for our road ahead,” he added.
The archbishop spoke during a June 11 address before the U.S. Bishops’ General Assembly, meeting in New Orleans, La.
“We are at a critical point in this country when it comes to the promotion and defense of marriage in the law,” he stressed.
Archbishop Cordileone praised the success of some of the bishops’ marriage initiatives, such as the Spanish-language film, “Marriage: Made for Love and Life” and the “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” website, both of which received positive public feedback and increased use in the past year.
He also noted his excitement for several upcoming events to affirm marriage, including the national March for Marriage, to be held on June 19 in Washington, D.C., and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015. The archbishop will be speaking at the Washington march, which will call the nation to prayer about the truths of life, marriage and the family.
However, he explained, marriage is also facing several challenges in the legal and policy sphere, especially since a June 2013 Supreme Court ruling declared that the federal definition of marriage as existing between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. That ruling left the definition of marriage up to each state and said that the federal government would acknowledge whatever unions each state chose to acknowledge.
Since the decision, Archbishop Cordileone explained, there have been numerous lower federal court rulings that have declared state definitions of marriage unconstitutional, leading to the complete redefinition in some states.
To help defend marriage on the state level, the U.S. bishops’ conference as joined with a variety of other religious organizations to write briefs to the court supporting the true definition of marriage. In addition, the bishops are preparing for these questions of the states’ ability to define marriage as being between a man and a woman to eventually reach the Supreme Court again.
In the legislative realm, the bishops are supporting legislative endeavors such as the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which “protects religious liberty by barring the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations that act upon their religiously motivated belief that marriage is the union between one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage” as well as the Marriage Defense Act, Archbishop Cordileone said.
Defenders of marriage are also investigating the introduction of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he added, emphasizing that this “is the only remedy in law against judicial activism that may ultimately end with the federal judges declaring that the Constitution requires states to redefine marriage.”
Despite these challenges, the proclamation of the Gospel – including the truth that the “family founded on marriage is the fundamental cell of society” – is the responsibility of the Church, Archbishop Cordileone said, referencing Pope Francis’s words in his recent letter to the Church, “Evangelii Gaudium.”
The truth of marriage is “beautiful,” the archbishop said, in that “man and woman are made to be given to one another in a love that brings new life,” emphasizing the need to “share this beauty which we have all seen and encountered.”
He also stressed the need to “seek new ways to foster openness to the message about marriage and the family” as part of this call to share the truth about the institution.
“We keep in mind that our culture has been wounded by the erosion of an authentic vision of love, sexuality, and marriage over several decades,” the archbishop said, adding that this challenge requires responsiveness “to the challenges people face.”
In building up the institution of marriage and proclaiming the reality of its purpose in society, Archbishop Cordileone said that Catholics should “invite openness to the message of the Gospel” and be approachable and welcoming.
“As Pope Francis has noted, the Church seeks not to impose the truth, but to appeal to freedom and our witness should be marked by joy, encouragement, and liveliness,” he added.
Most of all, the archbishop said, people should remember the connection between prayer and the good of society, calling to mind Pope Francis’ words on “the missionary power of intercessory prayer.”
New Orleans, La., Jun 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic Relief Services' chairman has affirmed the international aid agency's strength and effective representation of the bishops' conference, especially lauding its aid to the Philippines.
“I can confirm that CRS, as the overseas international aid, relief, and development arm of this conference – representing us – is strong and representing us well in the Philippines and around the world,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said June 11 in New Orleans.
Archbishop Coakley's report to the U.S. bishops during their annual spring meeting focused on Catholic Relief Services response to last year's Typhoon Haiyan. The storm pummeled the Philippines Nov. 8, 2013, killing more than 6,000 and displacing more than 4 million.
He was introduced by conference president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who recounted their visit along with CRS staff to the Philippines to meet with local leaders shortly after the storm struck.
Archbishop Kurtz explained the joint trip was both an act of solidarity with the Filipino people, and was to “bring to the public the extraordinary recovery work that's been taking place, thanks in many ways to the wonderful generosity of people throughout the U.S., and to witness to the effective cooperation between our conference and CRS.”
He noted that typhoon recovery in the Philippines has been “assisted greatly by the tremendous generosity of the faithful,” noting that the diocese of the U.S. have given $21 million to the Typhoon Haiyan special collection.
Archbishop Coakley, who was appointed CRS chairman last November, said he is “pleased to report that CRS emergency responders were on the ground and working with the local Church – bishops, Caritas in the Philippines, religious communities – immediately after the super typhoon struck,” noting that the agency already had staff in the Philippines before the storm's landfall.
“The first delegation from CRS headquarters and our board left the USA even before our November meeting finished, and arrived within a week of the disaster. The response was immediate.”
He affirmed the CRS team on the ground in the Philippines, saying they are “living and working, as the Holy Father and our Lord would want, with the poor, in solidarity with those on the margins, peripheries.”
Archbishop Coakley called CRS' work “quite impressive,” noting that its Haiyan relief operations have targeted 60,000 households with an integrated package of emergency shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, and household items; and that they aim to serve 100,000 households throughout a three year recovery plan, “focused on restoring communities, as well as restoring the capacity of local institutions.”
During their visit to the Philippines, he said, “we witnessed the efforts of our teams on the ground working to provide shelter, to restore water, to provide opportunities for income generation, where livelihoods have been lost; and to do this with extraordinary compassion, with extraordinary grace, and in order to give witness to the Gospel, the inspiration for all our actions.”
“We witnessed the extraordinary resilience and beautiful faith of the Filipino people … for me it was a first visit to the Philippines, and it was an extraordinary experience of a depth and quality of faith unlike any I've ever witnessed.”
He was followed by CRS' chief operating officer, Sean Callahan, who drew attention to the agency's mission of communion “in a world seemingly becoming more and more divided,” saying “we are called to be an instrument of communion and harmony, uniting the Church in this country and throughout the world with people of different communities and traditions, and calling for communion with our brothers and sisters, particularly those most in need.”
“When you think of CRS,” he told the bishops, “I hope you don't think of a separate Catholic organization; rather, I hope you think how we, all of us, are saving, protecting, and transforming 100 million lives annually.”
The bishops were then able to ask questions of Callahan and Archbishop Coakley, with Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham asking for clarification on the use and distribution of the Typhoon Haiyan Special Collection: half of it had been designated for the Filipino bishops' conference for recovery and the rebuilding of ecclesial infrastructure, and half was given to CRS for its humanitarian relief efforts.
Archbishop Coakley explained that “in a culture that is so very Catholic, the Church is the place people turn to for aid, for support, and to gather, and we recognized that because the Church plays such an important part in Filipino life, that it was very important that we dedicate some of the collection to rebuilding the churches.”
Thus, half of the collection was given to rebuilding churches “so that the life of the Church could go on there locally, and the other 50 percent went to CRS to channel our efforts there in providing… redevelopment programs, rebuilding the nation, those parts of the nation that suffered so terribly.”
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Saturday, Pope Francis met with an Italian group dedicated to the service of the poor, encouraging them to continue their concrete works of mercy rather than falling prey to the risk of becoming well-informed spectators.
“It’s necessary that our words, our gestures, our attitudes express solidarity, the will to not remain extraneous to the sorrows of others, and this with fraternal warmth and without falling into some forms of paternalism,” the Pope told the tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square on June 14.
“We have at our disposal a lot of information and statistics on poverty and on human tribulations. There is a risk of becoming the most informed spectators and (yet) removed from these realities,” he cautioned, “or to make nice discourses that conclude with verbal solutions” but are “disengaged with respect to real problems.”
Pope Francis spoke emphatically about how he hears “too many words, too many words!” from people who are well-informed, but never do anything.
“But not you!” he added as the members of Italy’s oldest volunteer organization, the “Misericordie” or “Mercies,” cheered at his encouragement of their service to the needy.
He thanked them for their work, a committed “witness to the Gospel in charity with the sick, the elderly, the disabled, youth, immigrants, and the poor.”
“All of your service takes meaning and form from this word, ‘mercy,’” he continued, noting that the Latin etymology of the word means “to give heart to those who are miserable.”
The Holy Father went on to reflect upon the example of Jesus, who “opened his heart to the miseries of man.”
“The Gospel is rich with episodes that present the mercy of Jesus, the gratuitousness of his love for the suffering and the weak.”
It is in these passages that we can see “the closeness, the goodness, the tenderness with which Jesus came close to suffering people and consoled them.”
“In the example of our Teacher, we too are called to place ourselves near, to share the condition of people we meet,” the Pope stressed.
Jesus does not “make plans” for the poor, but rather “stops at the very first one He encounters, becoming a presence that gives aid, a sign of the closeness of God who is goodness, providence, and love.”
The pontiff concluded his remarks by thanking those who serve the needy in the corporal works of mercy: “thank you, thank you so much for what you do!”
He blessed them and then said, “please, don’t forget to pray for me. I need it too!”
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Day, which focuses on the continuing need for all Christians to proclaim the Gospel with joy to the many who have not heard of Christ’s saving work.
“Humanity greatly needs to lay hold of the salvation brought by Christ. His disciples are those who allow themselves to be seized ever more by the love of Jesus and marked by the first of passion for the Kingdom of God and the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel,” wrote Pope Francis in his message for the 88th World Mission Day, which will take place on October 19.
“All the Lord’s disciples are called to nurture the joy of evangelization,” he stressed in the text, which was released on June 14.
Although the bishops as pastors are “primarily responsible for this proclamation,” there is “a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the lay faithful in the Church, as well as a recognition that they are called to take an increasingly important role in the spread of the Gospel,” he said.
He added that “consequently, they need to be given a suitable training for the sake of an effective apostolic activity.”
Christians must pray and work to make the Church “a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples and the source of rebirth for our world.”
He acknowledged that many parts of the world “are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life” – a problem often caused by the “absence of contagious apostolic fervor.”
The joy of the Gospel arises from an “encounter with Christ and from sharing with the poor.” Those communities who lack such joy also lack vocations.
Yet, “wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise.”
“Let us not be robbed of the joy of evangelization!” he urged. “I invite you to immerse yourself in the joy of the Gospel and nurture a love that can light up your vocation and your mission.”
Pope Francis also reflected on various Gospel passages and figures who represent the joy of evangelization.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks to his disciples, urging them to “share his joy, different and greater than anything they had previously experienced.”
The disciples were initially “filled with joy, excited about their power to set people free from demons.” Yet Jesus cautioned them “to rejoice not so much for the power they had received, but for the love they had received ‘because your names are written in heaven.’”
Jesus’ own “deep joy” comes from his immense love for the Father, who reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom to “the childlike,” he said. These “little ones” are the “humble, the simple, the poor, the marginalized, those without voice, those weary and burdened…We readily think of Mary, Joseph, the fishermen of Galilee and the disciples whom Jesus called as he went preaching.”
The Pope noted that Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving describes “the Father’s saving and benevolent plan for humanity. It was this divine graciousness that made Jesus rejoice, for the Father willed to love people with the same love that he has for his Son.”
Moreover, this love is Trinitarian, he continued. “The Father is the source of joy. The Son is its manifestation, and the Holy Spirit its giver.”
Like Mary and the disciples, “why shouldn’t we too enter this flood of joy?”
“World mission Day is also an occasion to rekindle the desire and the moral obligation to take joyful part in the mission ad gentes,” emphasized Pope Francis.
One means of participation in the joy of evangelization includes financial support for missionary activity, he explained.
“A monetary contribution on the part of individuals is the sign of a self-offering, first to the Lord and then to others; in this way a material offering can become a means for the evangelization of humanity built on love.”
The Pope concluded his message with a call to be faithful in the joy that Jesus offers.
“I urge each of you to recall, as if you were making an interior pilgrimage, that ‘first love’ with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your heart, not for the sake of nostalgia but in order to persevere in joy. The Lord’s disciples persevere in joy when they sense his presence, do his will and share with others their faith, hope and evangelical charity.”