Archive of June 26, 2014

Holy See bolsters financial transparency in Argentine agreement

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican's financial watchdog signed a memorandum of understanding with its Argentine counterpart Tuesday, extending and bolstering its anti-money laundering reforms.

For the first time, the signing of such a memorandum took place within the Vatican. It was signed by the director of the Holy See's Financial Information Authority, Rene Bruelhart, and the president of Argentina's Unidad de Informacion Financera, Jose Sbattella, in Palazzo San Carlo, the AIF's headquarters.

“We are very pleased to have signed this memorandum of understanding with Argentina today,” Bruelhart stated June 24. “This is an important step to further expand the network to support global efforts to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.”

“We are looking forward to fruitful cooperation with Argentina, which will be beneficial to both parties.”

In the past two years, the AIF has signed such bilateral agreements with its counterparts in more than 30 countries.

During the Egmont Group global meeting, held June 1-6 in Lima, it made agreements with the U.K., France, Malta, Peru, Poland, and Romania. The Egmont Group gathers international financial information departments from across the world; the AIF joined the group last July.

Among the other prominent nations with which the AIF has signed agreements are the U.S., Germany, and Italy.

The memorandum of understanding signed with Argentina, according to a statement from the AIF, “is standard practice and formalizes the cooperation and exchange of financial information to fight money laundering and combat terrorist financing across borders between the competent authorities of both countries.”

“It is based on the model memorandum of understanding prepared by the Egmont Group … and contains clauses on reciprocity, permitted uses of information and confidentiality.”

The Holy See's commitment to financial transparency has been demonstrated by the AIF's continuing reform, begun after the 2012 Moneyval assessment, and following from the positive progress report it issued in December, 2013. It has rebuilt institutional and juridical structures for finances, bringing its policies in line with international anti-money laundering standards.

The AIF's ability to open and to strengthen cooperation with its foreign counterparts was enhanced with two reforms, undertaken in 2012 and 2013.

It's policies seem to show that the Holy See's agenda for combatting money laundering is based on the twin pillars of a strong internal structure and an enhanced international cooperation.

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IRS ordered to pay $50,000 to marriage defense group

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal court has ordered the IRS to pay $50,000 to the National Organization for Marriage due to the leak of confidential tax documents, but the organization has called for further investigation to determine the extent of the wrongdoing.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work, we've forced the IRS to admit that they in fact were the ones to break the law and wrongfully released this confidential information,” National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman said June 24.

“While we are very pleased that the IRS has been exposed as being responsible for this leak of our confidential information to our political opponents, we believe the IRS may still be hiding information from the American people,” he added.

On June 23, a consent judgment issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sided with the pro-marriage organization’s lawsuit that sought to uncover suspected wrongdoing at the IRS.

The lawsuit concerned the disclosure of confidential documents in early 2012.

Around that time, Matthew Meisel, a homosexual activist in Boston, received the National Organization for Marriage’s 2008 tax return and a list of its major donors from a “conduit,” his e-mails showed. Some of the documents were labeled for official government use only.

Meisel then gave these records to the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual advocacy group at the time headed by Joe Solmonese, a co-chair of Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign. The advocacy group published some of the documents, as did the Huffington Post.

The National Organization for Marriage, which supports marriage as a union of one man and one woman, qualifies as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. It is obliged to make public its tax returns, though not explicitly confidential portions such as donor lists.

The organization filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service in May 2013 saying that the Department of the Treasury’s inspector general, the Department of Justice and the IRS had been uncooperative in the investigation of how the documents became public.

In May 2013, Eastman said that the Human Rights Campaign had sought the National Organization for Marriage’s donor list “for a long time” so that others could “start harassing our donors and boycotting their businesses.”

At a legal deposition, Meisel invoked Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination and refused to say how he obtained the documents.

The National Organization for Marriage is now calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to grant immunity to Meisel in order to “force him to disclose the identity of his conduit.” The organization has also urged Congress to examine the case.

“It's imperative that all those who have engaged in corrupt practices and illegal acts in the IRS be identified and held accountable,” Eastman said.

The National Organization for Marriage is also seeking an award of attorney fees to help defray the costs of litigation.

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Apostolate teaches women their 'irreplaceable' value, dignity

Denver, Colo., Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In 2003, a trio of laywomen in Denver were inspired by the writings of Pope John Paul II to create a Catholic study apostolate for women.

Eleven years later, what began as a grassroots effort has become an international organization, reaching the lives of more than 25,000 women, and working to transform culture by educating women on their authentic dignity and true femininity.

“I think the message that women need to hear the most is the truth about their origin, identity, and destiny,” said Terry Polakovic, founder of ENDOW: Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women.

“The ENDOW program helps a woman to understand that she is unique, and that God has given her specific gifts, which she is to share with the world,” she told CNA.  

“There is a certain amount of freedom in knowing that in God’s world, you are irreplaceable. It allows a woman to be herself and to express her femininity in ways that are most suited to her personality.”

Polakovic, along with Betsy Considine and Marilyn Coors, founded ENDOW to help women see and embrace their God-given dignity and understand a “new feminism” based on the teachings of Pope John Paul II.

The program consists of study groups of 8-12 women who meet regularly to read, discuss and connect, exploring Scripture, Church history and Catholic teaching in order to grow in an understanding of God’s vision for women.

From its humble beginnings in Denver, ENDOW is now present in more than 100 dioceses throughout the U.S., and has spread into Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Philippines.

The program has seen significant results, Polakovic said, recalling one ENDOW group in New Mexico that welcomed a member who had been away from the faith for a long time. She had not been to confession in many years, and was urged to receive the sacrament of reconciliation by the other group members. To everyone’s surprise, she went to confession on the last day of class, but was later killed in a car accident.

“That story has always moved me,” Polakovic said.   

Brianna Lawson, an ENDOW small group facilitator at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is confident that the program is both positive and effective for women. She has witnessed firsthand the fruits of this organization, especially on a college campus.

“ENDOW’s unique study program not only allows for deep discussion, but can be applied specifically to the issues that women are facing today,” she told CNA. “It was beautiful to see how one student began to understand Christ within her dignity as woman, which then boosted her confidence to share her faith around campus.”

The organization hopes to increase the number of participants in the program by 100,000 over the next couple of years.

“ENDOW has changed every aspect of my life,” Polakovic reflected. “Most specifically, I have fallen madly in love with God and His plan for human flourishing. Every day, I try to give my life completely to Him, because He has done the most amazing things through me and through the ENDOW program.”

“When we started ENDOW in 2003, I could never have dreamed that God would give me such a beautiful gift,” she said. “I am entirely grateful.” 

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Vatican to appoint adviser for Legionaries of Christ

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a statement released by Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., the Vatican spokesman revealed that the Holy See is to appoint an adviser to assist the Legionaries in the revision of their newly-drafted constitutions.

Having received numerous questions from journalists regarding the state of the Legionaries in light of the set revisions, Fr. Lombardi published the answers he received from spoken with Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, who are currently overseeing the process.

Cardinal Braz de Aviz serves as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Archbishop Carballo as the congregation’s secretary.

In the statement published June 25, Archbishop Carballo explained that the identity of the Vatican-appointed adviser has not yet been released. However, as “a gesture of fraternal closeness,” he and Cardinal Braz de Aviz will meet with the Legionaries general director, Fr. Robles Gil, July 3 to discuss their future adviser and the needed changes to their constitutions. 

The role of the assistant “will be assumed by a consecrated person, as anticipated, who knows the Legionaries and will be able to be of help to the general Council on legal and other themes, according to need,” the archbishop explained.

He also emphasized the autonomy of the Legionaries, saying “this figure is an assistant, not a visitator, commissioner or delegate,” and as such “has neither a voice nor a vote, and is merely an assessor, and was agreed upon before the general Chapter.”

Archbishop Carballo also said after their first general Chapter earlier this spring, the Legionaries are no longer under the watch of the apostolic delegation investigating them, but have “returned to the competence of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.”

Regarding the various corrections to be made to the text of the Legionaries’ new constitutions, the archbishop observed they are “very few in number.”

The new constitutions were drafted during the congregation’s first General Chapter meeting, which began on Jan. 9 and was mandated by Benedict XVI in wake of the revelation of the double-life led by the congregation’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, who is since deceased.

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Pope: Jesus was a pastor, not a 'moralistic' power-seeker

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis warned of those who reduce the faith to moralism and ambition, stating that people in Jesus' time followed him because he spoke the truth in a way they understood.

“This is why the people followed Jesus, because He was the Good Shepherd. He wasn’t a moralistic, quibbling Pharisee, or a Sadducee who made political deals with the powerful, or a guerrilla who sought the political liberation of his people,” the Pope explained in his June 26 daily Mass.

“He was a pastor! A pastor who spoke the language of His people, who understood, who spoke the truth, the things of God.”

Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff drew attention to the scene in the day’s Gospel from Matthew in which the people were astonished by the teachings of Jesus.

The Pope said so many followed Jesus because “they were astonished by His teaching,” and his words “brought wonder to their hearts, the wonder of finding something good, great.”

Pope Francis noted there were four specific groups who also spoke out at the same time as Jesus, but were unable to reach the people.  

The first such group were the Pharisees who reduced “the faith in the Living God” to a type of “casuistry” and bickering by burdening their people with “more than three hundred” commandments to follow, and subjecting them to “contradictions of the cruelest kind of moralistic quibbling.”

Giving an example, the Pope stated “You have to obey the fourth commandment!” to which the people respond “Yes, yes, yes!” or “You have to feed your elderly father, your elderly mother!” to which they also say “Yes, yes, yes! But you know, I can’t because I gave my money to the temple!’”

“You don’t do that? And your parents starve to death!” he went on.

“The people respect (the Pharisees), because the people are respectful. They respected them, but they didn’t listen to them! They went about their business,” the pontiff observed.

The second group, the Sadducees, “did not have the faith, they had lost the faith,” because they “made it their religious work to make deals with the powers: political powers, economic powers. They were men of power,” the Pope said. 

Another group was the “revolutionaries,” or the zealots, who “wanted to cause a revolution to free the people of Israel from the Roman occupation,” he noted.

However the people “had good sense, and knew to distinguish when the fruit was ripe and when it was not! And they didn’t follow them.”

The last group was the Essenes, the Pope observed, saying that they were “good people” but that even though they were monks who had consecrated their lives to God, they were still “far from the people, and the people couldn’t follow them.”

Pope Francis went on to describe that these “were the voices that reached the people, and none of these voices had the power to warm the hearts of the people.”

“But Jesus did! The crowds were amazed: They heard Jesus and their hearts were warmed. The message of Jesus reached to the heart.”

Recalling how Jesus “approached the people,” healed their hearts and was “not ashamed to speak with sinners” but rather “went out to find them,” the pontiff explained that Christ “understood their difficulties” and “felt joy, He was happy to be with His people.”

“And this is why the people followed Jesus, because He was the Good Shepherd” who “spoke in such a way that the people loved the things of God. That’s why they followed Him.”

The Roman Pontiff then invited the audience to question themselves: “Whom do I like to follow? Those who talk to me about abstract things or quibbling morals? Those who talk about the people of God but have no faith and negotiate with political, economic powers?”

“Those who always want to do strange things, destructive things, so-called wars of liberation, but which in the end are not the paths of the Lord? Or a faraway contemplative? Whom do I like to follow?”

Pope Francis concluded by praying for these questions to “bring us to prayer, and to ask God the Father, who brings us close to Jesus, to follow Jesus, to be amazed at the things Jesus tells us.”


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Franciscans of the Immaculate to receive house in Rome

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has revealed that a house is being sought for members of the Friars of the Immaculate who study in Rome, and assured that Pope Francis is well-informed on the order’s temporary receivership.

In a statement released June 24, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. published the answer of Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo addressing several questions regarding the Franciscans of the Immaculate following a June 10 meeting with Pope Francis.

“The Holy Father is punctually informed of all the steps as they are taken,” he observed, explaining that currently “a house in Rome is being sought to accommodate the Friars…who attend a Pontifical university in Rome to pursue their studies.”

Archbishop Caraballo is the secretary for the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, and assists the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, in overseeing the order.

“Both the commissioner, Fr. Volpi, and all the seminarians of the Franciscans of the Immaculate were received by the Holy Father on June 10 at the Domus Sanctae Marthae,” Archbishop Caraballo said. 

This is “a gesture that demonstrates the interest with which Pope Francis follows the situation of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and his closeness to the work that the commissioner is carrying out in the name of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.”

Founded by Fr. Stefano Manelli in 1970 with strong Marian charism, the Franciscans of the Immaculate were placed under temporary receivership last year in order to resolve internal differences involving the government and administration of the order, their relationship with their female branch, the use of the exclusive old missal and the interpretations of the Second Vatican Council.

During the hour and a half long meeting between the Pope and members of the religious order, all of the Friars present sang the Ave Maria di Fatima and renewed their vows of total consecration to the Immaculate.

Afterward the friars had the opportunity to ask Pope Francis questions on the most highly debated topics regarding their internal operations.

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Supreme Court unanimously rejects abortion clinic buffer zones

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts state law that imposed a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, in which protestors and pro-life counselors could not enter to speak with patients.

The law violates First Amendment free speech protections, the court said in its McCullen vs. Coakley opinion, delivered June 26 by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr.

Although it did not strike down all buffer laws, the court said that the Massachusetts regulation is unconstitutional, stressing that sidewalks and public ways are key forums for free speech.

In 2007, Massachusetts amended existing law and made it a crime to “knowingly stand on a ‘public way or sidewalk’ within 35 feet of an entrance or driveway to any ‘reproductive health care facility.’” This barred pro-life sidewalk counselors from distributing literature and having personal conversations with women entering the building anywhere within this distance of the clinic.

The state's brief on the case argued that the law was “justified solely by legitimate government interests in public safety and health care access.”

However, pro-life challengers to the law said that it infringed upon their constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to the freedom of speech. They argued in a legal brief that the law “indiscriminately criminalizes even peaceful, consensual, non-obstructive conversation and leafleting” and that it unfairly targeted certain kinds of speech, namely, pro-life counseling and views.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the buffer law in January 2013, ruling that the First Amendment does not guarantee an audience “available at close range,” and arguing that pro-life counselors still have access to women seeking abortions, even with the 35-foot buffer zone in place.

However, the Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s ruling in a rare unanimous vote, saying that the law restricted speech on public streets and sidewalks.

“It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas,” the court opinion stated. “Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir.”

The buffer zone law imposed “serious burdens” on the free speech of pro-life sidewalk counselors, inhibiting their ability to conduct “close, personal conversations that they view as essential to ‘sidewalk counseling,’” as well as their ability to distribute literature, the court said.

Calling the law “extreme,” the ruling said that the legislation shut off “a substantial portion of a traditional public forum to all speakers” and failed to find an alternative that would “leave the forum open for its time-honored purposes.”

“Petitioners are not protestors,” the court opinion said. “They seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to inform women of various alternatives and to provide help in pursuing them.”

“Petitioners believe that they can accomplish this objective only through personal, caring, consensual conversations. And for good reason: It is easier to ignore a strained voice or a waving hand than a direct greeting or an outstretched arm. If all that the women can see and hear are vociferous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively stifled petitioners’ message.”

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Supreme Court's abortion clinic ruling hailed as win for women

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A unanimous Supreme Court decision striking down a 35-foot buffer zone around Massachusetts abortion clinics is being praised as a victory not only for pro-life counsellors but for all women.

Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life, told CNA that the ruling “absolutely protects women.”

“Abortion is bad physiologically and psychologically for many, many, many women,” she continued, adding that the ruling supports counselling that “allows women to have informed consent.”

“Abortion can be the most important decision a woman makes in her life, and sometimes she rushes in there in a state of panic,” Monahan explained. “This allows her to put the brakes on, to think about it, to think about what’s actually happening inside of her.”

“So many women regret their abortions,” she lamented.

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Eleanor McCullen and other pro-life sidewalk counsellors in McCullen v. Coakley, striking down a Massachusetts law that placed a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, including on sidewalks and public streets.

McCullen’s lawyers argued that the law unconstitutionally violated freedom of speech and penalized only those with certain views – specifically pro-life views – from offering counselling and education to those entering the clinics, even if they do so peacefully.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the buffer zone regulations “burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests” of protecting access to health care.

“Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks,” he noted, specifically highlighting the significance of such public places as areas for discussion and exchange of ideas.

The decision means that “there is no abortion exception to the First Amendment, and it may very well mean the end to abortion buffer zones around the country,” Casey Mattox, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA.

Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakle said in a June 26 press conference that the state and abortion officials were disappointed with the decision, seeing it as a blow against abortion access.

“The decision today is obviously a disappointment to us,” Coakley said, adding that she would work with law enforcement across the state to enforce portions of the law prohibiting “harassment,” such as “screaming” at abortion clinic employees, which still stand after the Supreme Court decision.

Catholic University of America law professor Mark Rienzi, who served as lead counsel in the McCullen v. Coakley case, praised the high court for affirming “a critical freedom that has been an essential part of American life since the nation’s founding.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the ruling “has affirmed the American tradition of basic constitutional rights for all.”

He criticized the overturned law, saying it discriminated against pro-life counsellors while exempting pro-abortion “clinic escorts.” This treatment, he continued, sought to “deny that their fellow Americans who seek to protect the unborn have the same rights as other Americans,” specifically “the right to participate in the public square and serve the vulnerable in accord with our moral convictions.”

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, called the decision “wonderful news” not only “because it upholds our crucial First Amendment rights of free speech” but also “for women considering abortion because it frees sidewalk counselors at abortion facilities to be able to offer compassionate and caring alternatives.”

In a June 26 statement, she challenged those who honestly call themselves “pro-choice” to welcome the decision, asking them to “give the woman a chance at choosing life by presenting her options she may not even know about.”

“Sidewalk counselors can't stop women from having abortions, but they can offer information, resources, and just a listening ear to those young women who feel desperate and alone,” she added.

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at The Catholic Association, called the ruling “a double victory for the First Amendment.”

“The Supreme Court has rightly held that it is unconstitutional to grant preferential legal status to the speech of pro-abortion activists while punishing pro-life speech,” she stated, adding that this protection of free speech allows for free discussion in public places.

“This was a victory for free speech, this was a victory for religious liberty and, by the way this was a victory for women,” McGuire continued, saying that because all of the women on the Supreme Court agreed in the unanimous decision, it cannot be viewed as anti-woman.

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Vatican releases outline for October synod on the family

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Divided into three parts, the Vatican's newly released outline that will drive discussion during the upcoming synod touches on the nature of families and current challenges they face.

Reflecting on the theme of “the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” the Oct. 5-19 third extraordinary synod of bishops was called by Pope Francis last fall in order to prepare the ordinary synod in 2015.

Present at the June 26 press conference announcing the “Instrumentum Laboris” was Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, and relator general of the 3rd extraordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops.

In his address, Cardinal Baldisseri revealed that the outline for the bishops’ October discussion is divided into three parts, the first focusing on the communication of the Gospel in today’s world, while the second part addresses the pastoral program for the family in light of new challenges.

The instrumentum concludes with the third part, which centers on an openness to life and parental responsibility in the upbringing of children.

“Dedicated to the Gospel of the family,” the first part of the outline “relates to God's plan, biblical and magisterial knowledge and their reception, natural law and the vocation of the person in Christ,” the cardinal explained.

“The difficulties that arise in relation to natural law can be overcome through more attentive reference to the biblical world, to its language and narrative forms, and to the proposal to thematise and deepen the biblically-inspired concept of the ‘order of creation’,” he explained.

Moving on to the second part, the cardinal stated that it “relates to the pastoral challenges inherent in the family, such as the crisis of faith, critical internal situations, external pressures and other problems.”

Preparing couples for marriage is a responsibility among pastors that is “increasingly necessary” in modern times, he observed, adding that special attention is to be given to difficult pastoral situations regarding married couples.

Among these pastoral challenges will be unmarried couples who live together and de facto unions, separated and divorced couples, remarried divorcees and their eventual further children, single mothers, those who are in canonically irregular situations and non-believers or non-practicing Catholics who wish to marry, he said.

In regards to the increasing number of unmarried couples who cohabitate, the cardinal pointed out that “the Church has the duty to accompany these couples in the trust that they are able to bear a responsibility, such as that of marriage, that is not too great for them.”

He also gave special note that the instrumentum “offers real knowledge” of the situation of remarried divorcees, stating that from this knowledge “the Church is required to find solutions compatible with her teaching and which lead to a serene and reconciled life.”

“In this respect, the need to simplify the judicial procedures for the annulment of marriage would appear relevant.”

Also drawing attention to the topic of same-sex unions, the cardinal explained that within the outline “a distinction is made between the contexts in which civil legislation is more or less in favor.”

He emphasized that “There is a need for pastoral care on the part of the particular Churches in these situations, including matters relating to children who may be present.”

Going on, Cardinal Baldisseri turned to the third part of the outline, stating that the focus on topics connected to openness to life includes “knowledge and difficulties in receiving the Magisterium, pastoral suggestions, sacramental praxis and the promotion of a mentality open to life.”

“With regard to the educative responsibility of parents, difficulty emerges in terms of transmitting faith to children, which is then made concrete in Christian initiation,” he said.

“This is a matter of Christian education in difficult family situations, in which the effects on the children extend to the sphere of faith and methods of celebration of the sacraments.”

Following his explanation of the outline’s contents, Cardinal Baldisseri revealed that the concluding documents of the extraordinary synod this fall will be used to form the Instrumentum Laboris for the ordinary synod in 2015.

After the closing of the ordinary synod, which he announced will reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family,” Pope Francis will use the conclusions to draft his first Post-Synodal Exhortation, which can be expected in 2016.

The cardinal also announced that due to its importance, a day of prayer for the synod will be held Sunday, Sept. 28, and daily Mass is to be celebrated each day during the work of the Synod in the Salus Populi Romanii Chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.

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Peace in Middle East can flourish again, Pope assures

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an audience with aid organizations assisting Oriental churches, Pope Francis explained that peace is a gift from God, which can be regained by offering hope through our solidarity with those who suffer.

“Those who would cultivate the plant of peace must never forget that God alone gives the growth. True peace, the peace which the world cannot give, is a gift to us from Jesus Christ,” the Pope observed in his June 26 audience with members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.

“For all the grievous attacks it endures today, peace can always flourish again.”

Pope Francis assured the assembly of his closeness to the churches of the East, explaining that their tears, fears and hopes are both his as well as those of the rest of the Catholic Church.

Speaking of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the invocation for peace held in the Vatican earlier this month with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, the Pope stated that the olive tree they planted together “is a symbol of that peace which is secure and enduring only because it is cultivated by many hands.”

“I am grateful that you continue to 'make peace grow' through charity, which is the ultimate aim of all your organizations,” he continued.

“With unity and charity Christ’s disciples strive to be peacemakers everywhere, in all peoples and communities, and to overcome persistent forms of discrimination, starting with those based on religion.”

Members of the Oriental churches, he said, are the first among “those called to be peacemakers,” together with their pastors.

“Hoping at times against all hope, remaining in the place of their birth where the Gospel of the incarnate Son of God was first proclaimed, may they experience the blessedness reserved to those who are peacemakers: ‘they will be called children of God,’” the pontiff prayed.

Going on, the Bishop of Rome voiced his hope that Christians in the Oriental churches would always find support in the universal Church, and never lose their conviction that “the power of love can halt the fire of arms, hatred and vengeance.”

“Their tears and their anguish are ours, as well as their hope! We can express this through our solidarity, if it is one which is concrete and effective, capable of ensuring that the international community upholds the rights of individuals and peoples.”

Expressing the solidarity of the Catholic Church with those suffering alongside their priests and bishops in Syria and Iraq, the pontiff also assured the Church’s closeness to “the beloved people” of Ukraine and Romania in the midst of their ongoing “critical situation.”

He then encouraged the organizations to “continue your generous efforts” in assisting the people in those areas.

“Your works of relief and assistance in nations most affected by these crises respond to basic needs,” the Pope noted, “particularly of those who are powerless and most vulnerable, as well as the many young people tempted to leave their homeland.”

Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff encouraged participants to actively pursue the goals set during their last plenary session, including the training of young persons and teachers, and uniting them with their interest for the family, particularly in light of the upcoming Synod, which will reflect on this theme.

“The Holy Family of Nazareth, ‘which knew anxiety ... as well as the pain of persecution, emigration and hard daily labor,’” he said, “teaches us ‘to trust the Father, to imitate Christ and to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.’”

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