Archive of June 23, 2014

Sacred art evangelizes hearts, Catholic experts say

Kansas City, Kan., Jun 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two sacred art experts have stressed the importance of the Catholic visual arts in the new evangelization, saying the arts have the potential to change individual lives, and cultures as a whole.

David Clayton and Caroline Farey will teach a two-day weekend program, “Sacred Art and the New Evangelization”, at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas July 11-13.

Clayton, an English-born artist and art teacher at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, told CNA June 19 that the beauty of art can help “open up people’s hearts so that they are inclined to be receptive to the Word when presented to them.”

Art can shape Catholic culture through “the transformation of all of us so that all our activities are ordered to the love of God. This way the whole culture can become beautiful.”

Farey, director of studies at the School of the Annunciation in Devon, England, similarly stressed the importance of art in evangelization.

“Sacred art attracts, and it attracts 100 times more when it can be explained or ‘read’ for oneself,” Farey said.

She noted that the Catechism describes sacred art as “a witness to truth” that shapes a Catholic Christian culture of “truth and honesty.” Benedict XVI said beauty “will be a primary way for the New Evangelization of the third millennium,” noted Farey, who has served as an expert for the synod of bishops and has published several books.

Clayton and Farey's program in Kansas City is intended for both artists and non-artists; a $250 fee includes meals and accommodations.

Clayton, who also runs the website “The Way of Beauty,” said that beautiful sacred art has a “profound influence” on Catholic worship.

When art is connected to the liturgy, it becomes “a visible manifestation of divine glory that affects all other art.”

He cited as an example the 16th century baroque art that emerged out of the Counter-Reformation. While this art originally was religious in character, secular art soon reflected the same styles.

Portrait, landscape and still life arts soon took on the same styles used in a crucifixion scene painted by the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez.

Farey saw a distinction between sacred art, which is primarily intended for the liturgy, and religious art, intended for educational or devotional purposes.

“Art that is expressly for encouraging or nurturing prayerful, worship and adoration, not of itself but of Christ as Eucharist, has to have a specific character of its own.”

Attendees at the upcoming weekend program will learn how to “read” works of art from a faith perspective.

“The best Sacred Art in the Christian tradition portrays the whole Catholic culture in which it was conceived,” Farey said.

The program intends to help attendees “gain a pictorial experience of faith which can have a lastingly deep effect on their memory and imagination.”

Clayton will also hold an icon painting class at Savior Pastoral Center July 14-18, at a cost of $595, which includes accommodations, meals, and supplies.

The class focuses on the Western gothic style of art found in illuminated manuscripts such as the Westminster Psalter.

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Bosnian Catholics in a 'grave position,' cardinal warns

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a recent conference in Bosnia discussing interreligious violence, Cardinal Vinko Puljic said Catholics face great persecution due to a lack of ethnic equality.

“We Catholics are in a grave position. There is no equality and this is a problem. There is no equality in the Serbian Republic, there is no equality in the federation,” the cardinal explained to CNA June 17.

"Where there is no equality, it isn’t possible to live in peace,” he added. 

Cardinal Puljic is the sixth and current Archbishop of the Vrhbosna diocese in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. He participated in a June 16-17 Oasis conference discussing the temptation of violence among religions.

Held in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the conference brought together various international experts who discussed the theme “The Temptation of Violence: Religions between War and Reconciliation” in light of the 100-year anniversary of the First World War that began in the city with the 1914 assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.

 The cardinal noted holding the conference in Bosnia was particularly significant because of the country’s religious and ethnic diversity.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country where we live together as Christians, Muslims, Jews but also where there are Christian traditions, Orthodox, Catholics,” he said. “This conference is very important to give an impulse not only for us Christians, but also for Muslims.”

“We want to create a paradigm for Europe where it is possible to live together with respect and human rights,” Cardinal Puljic said, noting that this “doesn’t depend only on communities of different religions.”

It also depends on “the international community and the local politics who need to create equality.”

Historically divided into three key ethnic groups, Bosnia-Herzegovina is composed of a majority of Muslim Bosniaks followed by a large percentage of mostly Orthodox Serbs and a great population of Croats, a majority of which are Catholic.

The current religious and ethnic situation is complex, Cardinal Puljic observed. The region has seen a series of wars, the most recent of which is the Bosnian War of 1992-1995 in which the country’s Serb population began a policy of ethnic “cleansing” in large areas of Bosnia inhabited by non-Serbs and Muslim, Croat and Serb populations who opposed their army. 

“Local Christians are diverse,” Cardinal Puljic said. Catholics are a minority in the area whereas the Serbian Republic is mostly Orthodox and the Federation is a majority Muslim.

“Europeans always speak about Christians but for us it is very different,” the cardinal observed. “When we speak of Christians, we are about half-and-half, half Christian, half Muslim.”

“But also the Christians are not in the same situation, because (for) us Catholics it’s very important to create a climate of ecumenism,” he added, noting there are currently “great tensions between Orthodox Christians and Muslims” in Bosnia.

"We Catholics are like catalysts between them. We want to create tranquility” and “a climate of dialogue,” he continued, stating that although it’s not possible to solve every problem, it’s “necessary to always talk in order to destroy prejudice.”

Cardinal Puljic then recalled the many “very beautiful messages, beautiful words” spoken during the conference, saying that “for me this is like a small school. One receives a certain richness.”

“I am also very grateful that Europe has not forgotten Bosnia-Herzegovina” he said, adding that “this conference gives the message ‘you are not alone, we are with you.’”

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Pope Francis stops car to bless young disabled woman

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2014 (CNA) - During his June 21 pastoral visit to the region of Calabria in southern Italy, Pope Francis stopped the car that was transporting him to see a young disabled woman and her family on the side of the road.

A video posted online by a family in the southern Italian region of Calabria depicts the encounter with the Holy Father.

The Pope passed by the highway near the family’s house as he returned from Cassano allo Jonio, where he spoke out against the mafia.

The Vatican’s website reported that family members waited with banners reading, 'Please Pope stop here to see an angel who has been waiting for you', and 'Please come and bless little Roberta'.

When the Pope saw their signs, he asked for his car to stop, and immediately went to greet and bless the people.

Once the vehicle stopped, the Holy Father descended, approached the woman, who was laying on a moving stretcher, blessed her, kissed her and greeted her family and the children around her.

The young woman – Roberta – is disabled and cannot travel far from her home, because she is dependent upon a machine to breathe, according to

Her family voiced their gratitude to the Holy Father on Facebook.

“I still can't believe it, thank you Holy Father...I thank the Pope for having given us a moment of great joy,” her sister, Pamela, wrote.

“Today we can say that Christ stopped in Sibari in the vestments of Pope Francis,” added Ivan Vania, a friend who helped make the posters calling the Pope’s attention.

He added that “it was very emotional to see how Pope Francis greeted Roberta...there are gestures in life that are worth more than speeches, much more than you would think...Pope Francis is unique.”

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Defend others before the Father, Pope Francis urges

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis warned that those who judge others are far from God, stating that in order to be close we must defend others rather than hastily accuse them.

“If we want to follow the way of Jesus, more than accusers, we have to be defenders of others before the Father,” the Pope said in his June 23 daily Mass.

“I see a bad thing in someone – do I go defend him? No! But keep quiet! Go pray and defend him before the Father as Jesus does.”

Pope Francis centered his reflections on the day’s Gospel, taken from Matthew, in which Jesus warns his disciples against pointing to the splinter in another’s eye while ignoring the beam in their own. He affirmed to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse that God is our “sole judge.”

“The person who judges is wrong, is mistaken and is defeated because he assumes God’s place, He who is the one and only judge.”

Jesus’ use of the word “hypocrite” in the scripture passage is directed toward all who pass a hasty judgment on others, the pope said, while instead God “takes his time” when passing judgment.

Referring to Jesus' analogy of the splinter and the beam, Pope Francis reiterated that those who judge others make the mistake of wanting to remove the splinter from their brother’s eye without even noticing the wooden beam in their own.

“He who does this is so obsessed with the person he wants to judge – that person – so, so obsessed! That the splinter will not let him sleep!” the pontiff said.

The man who judges others before himself “confuses reality," Pope Francis said.  "He’s fantasizing. And he who judges becomes defeated, ends badly, because the same measure will be used to judge him.”

Pointing to Jesus as an example, the Pope explained that only God and those who he chooses have the authority to judge others, observing how “Jesus, before the Father, never accuses!”

“It’s the opposite: he defends!” he said. “He’s the first Paraclete. Then, he sends the second, who is the (Holy) Spirit. He is the defender: he comes before the Father to defend us against the charges.”

The Roman Pontiff observed that it is Satan who is described as “the accuser” in scripture, adding that he who judges “is an imitator of the prince of this world who’s always behind people to accuse them before the Father.”

Encouraging those present to “imitate Jesus” as “intercessor, advocate, lawyer,” Pope Francis explained that we must not only do this for ourselves, but also for others.

But “do not imitate others,” he cautioned, because following suit with others rather than God “in the end will destroy us.”

The Holy Father concluded by reminding the audience that he who judges will be judged. 

“Pray for him, but do not judge! Because if you do, when you do something bad, you will be judged.”

“Let us remember this well” he said, because “it will do us good in everyday life when we get the urge to judge others, to speak ill of others, which is a form of judging.”

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Release of Christian woman in Sudan draws gratitude, praise

Khartoum, Sudan, Jun 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Family members and religious liberty advocates are applauding the news that a Sudanese woman's death sentence for refusing to denounce her Christian faith has been overturned by an appeals court after months of international outcry.

“We are very very happy about this - and we're going to her now,” her lawyer, Elshareef Ali, told the BBC. “They have released her ... she's on her way to home.”

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, had been charged with abandoning Islam under Sudanese law. Because her father was a Muslim, Ibrahim was legally considered a Muslim even though her mother raised her as a Christian after her father left the family when she was six years old.

Despite pressure and threats of death, Ibrahim had refused to renounce her Christian faith while in prison.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, told the BBC he is looking forward to seeing his wife and wants his family to leave Sudan as soon as possible. The couple's young son Martin has lived in prison with his mother since February. Ibrahim gave birth to their second child, a baby girl, while in prison in May.

Besides the crime of apostasy – or the abandoning of the Islamic faith – Ibrahim was also charged with adultery. Her marriage to her Christian husband was not considered valid since she was considered a Muslim.

She was to receive 100 lashes for the adultery charge and was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had written twice asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene on Ibrahim’s behalf, released a celebratory statement on the release of Ibrahim from prison:

“I am very pleased that the Sudanese court has reportedly cancelled Meriam Ibrahim’s death sentence and ordered her release. I continue to urge U.S. officials to work quickly and use all resources available to immediately provide Meriam and her family with safe haven in the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of a congressional global human rights subcommittee, met with the Sudanese Ambassador to the U.S. on June 20 to discuss the Meriam Ibrahim case. He said releasing Ibrahim from prison was a good first step.

“But the second step is that Ms. Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane and heading to the United States,” Smith said.

Ali told the BBC that Ibrahim’s courage and strong position while in prison could deter the Sudanese government from prosecuting similar cases.

“It's a victory for freedom of religion in Sudan ... By Meriam's strong position, we believe that in the future no-one will be subjected to such a trial,” he said.

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Global Eucharistic Congress in Philippines to focus on hope

Cebu, Philippines, Jun 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 51st International Eucharistic Congress will be held January 2016 in the Philippines with the theme, “Jesus in us, the hope of glory.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila explained the theme at a press conference.

“We hope in only one person. We hope in God,” he said.

The Eucharistic Congress will take place Jan. 24-31 in the city of Cebu, with more than 15,000 international and local delegates expected to attend.

Cardinal Tagle noted God is the source of our hope, because he “has already come to us,” and this is “the greatest reason for hope.”

“We have desires,” he explained, “but desires are not hope. The people can have many desires, but they may not have hope.”

The virtue of hope referred to in the theme of the congress enriches the spiritual life of every believer, especially amidst any suffering, the cardinal continued.

“We are not hoping in someone distant. We put our hope in someone who was a refugee, someone who was betrayed, who was homeless, someone who was the target of mockery, who was killed, but who God raised to life again. He is in us and for this reason we have hope.”

“This is not about passing whims and desires, but about something deeper that defines the human being and society: hope,” he added.

“Many of our desires will not be fulfilled, but our hope will never fail. And we hope to have this strong message as we prepare for the International Eucharistic Congress through our lives, through our relationships, through the dynamism of Jesus, who is in us,” Cardinal Tagle explained.

This will be the second time the Philippines has hosted the International Eucharistic Congress. The event was first held there in 1937 in Manila.

Three years earlier, in 1934, Buenos Aires hosted the 32nd International Eucharistic Congress. Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli attended the event as the papal envoy. Five years later he was elected Pope Pius XII.

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Archbishop: Church must be free to imitate Christ through service

Baltimore, Md., Jun 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In seeking religious liberty, Catholics are seeking the freedom to serve in response to Christ’s love in the Eucharist, said the archbishop of Baltimore at the start of the 2014 Fortnight for Freedom.

“May we find in the Eucharist, the source and the summit of our charity, and in that charity may we advocate by word and witness for the robust freedom of individuals and of Churches,” said  Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore during the opening Mass for the third annual Fortnight for Freedom.

“Not only to worship without fear, but indeed to serve others and the common good in love, in truth, in joy, and in freedom,” he added.  

Archbishop Lori, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, delivered the homily at a June 21 Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the nation’s oldest Cathedral, in downtown Baltimore, Md.

The Fortnight for Freedom – currently in its third year – is a two-week period of prayer, education and action to promote a greater respect for religious liberty both in the U.S. and abroad.

The first Fortnight for Freedom was held in 2012 amid threats to religious freedom stemming from the Health and Human Services mandate, which requires employers to fund or facilitate insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if such cooperation violates their firmly-held religious beliefs.

A potentially far-reaching ruling on the mandate as it relates to for-profit employers with religious objections to these requirements is expected from the Supreme Court within days.

Other religious liberty concerns that have been raised include threats to religious organizations and businesses caused by the redefinition of marriage and laws that consider objections to “gay marriage” to be illegal discrimination, as well as state immigration laws that could prevent charitable outreach and pastoral care to undocumented immigrants, and pressure on Catholic medical personnel and others who object to abortion.

Foreign religious freedom concerns include the threat to historic Christian communities in war-torn Syria and the danger to religious minorities, including Christians, in Pakistan. The U.S. bishops have also highlighted threats posed by the terrorist Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria and by religious conflict in the southeast Asian country of Myanmar.

Archbishop Lori’s homily focused on the Eucharist, which is the “source and the summit of Christian life.”

He explained that the Eucharist is “the Sacrament of Charity, the gift Jesus makes of Himself” in giving his body and blood, and by consuming it, “it’s meant to change us, to transform us interiorly.”

However, this interior change is connected to our exterior life. The Second Vatican Council “illuminated that link between Eucharistic worship and service of the common good,” Archbishop Lori said.

The love of Christ we receive in the Eucharist “opens our minds and our hearts and our eyes to the dignity of the poor and the vulnerable,” he said, leading Christians to “spend ourselves” in a variety of works of service to the hungry, homeless, migrant, vulnerable and impoverished.

“By entering the dynamic of Christ’s self-giving love, we are impelled also to work for a just and a loving society where the dignity of each human life is respected from the moment of conception to natural death and at all stages in between,” he noted.

By “digesting” the truth of Christ’s love in the Eucharist, the archbishop continued, Catholics are called “to bear witness to teachings on human life, on marriage and family, on sexuality and on a range of social issues, even when those teachings are unpopular and countercultural,” because these teachings contain “the very key to human happiness and freedom.”

But the ability to live by this freedom contained in the truth of Christ’s love is threatened, the archbishop said.

“In many parts of the world, people are dying for the faith they possess,” he explained, adding that “here in the United States, challenges to religious freedom are more subtle. They are less easy to see, but they are very real.”

“Increasingly government at all levels is inserting itself in the internal life of Churches,” dictating what parts of Catholic teaching and service are acceptable to be protected, he said. This places at risk the “millions and millions” of people aided by Catholic agencies and individuals.

Archbishop Lori called the government and Catholics to “look at the poor and needy not only as statistics but as persons made in God’s image and called to enjoy God’s friendship.”

In looking for religious freedom protections, the Church is not looking for special treatment for the Church and Church institutions, he stressed. “We are seeking the freedom to serve.”

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