Baltimore, Md., Jul 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a recent interview with CNA, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore reaffirmed religious liberty as a priority for the U.S. bishops, emphasizing its relation to personal dignity and evangelization.
“Let me just say that religious liberty is so fundamental to the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Lori stated, continuing that “anyone who is an impartial observer of the culture would say that in recent times, the challenges to religious liberty have accelerated.
Because of these situation, the archbishop said that the American bishops have dedicated themselves to upholding religious freedom, and will continue to discuss the “multifaceted challenges” faced by the Church.
Archbishop Lori noted that the right to religious liberty “is very much related to truth,” and “does not just depend on (the content of one's) belief.”
“God gave us the gift of religious liberty so that we could sincerely seek the truth, and embrace it once we have found it.”
He added that “to attenuate religious liberty is to attenuate the search for truth. So that is the fundamental level at which we are committed to religious liberty.”
Archbishop Lori also discussed the “linguistic and philosophical gulfs between the teaching of the Church, and the culture,” because “there are those who think religious liberty is really a guise for some right to discriminate, that the Church or others are seeking. So, we have to break those things down, in our catechesis and our evangelization.”
The vast differences in philosophical outlook and in use of language, between the Church and the mainstream culture, are important for Church leaders to take into account, he said.
“For those who preach and teach, it's important that we break down the language that we use into terms that are, in fact, preachable and teachable.”
Archbishop Lori reflected on the U.S. bishops' decision last month to renew for another three years its ad hoc committee, which he chairs, on religious liberty.
“I'm happy that they reaffirmed religious liberty as a priority for the work of the conference.”
This committee deals with affronts to religious liberty coming from such things as international persecution of minority religions; the re-definition of marriage; and challenges to religious practice and speech on university campuses.
“In setting up the ad hoc committee, the conference heard from bishops all around the country who have faced these kinds of challenges at the very local level, and now we're seeing them at the federal level.”
Echoing the Baltimore prelate's sentiments, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said to CNA that he had heard from bishops that “not only has this been worthwhile on a national level in helping us to craft approaches to public policy, but it’s been helpful to people in our parishes, and to bishops in their dioceses.”
Archbishop Kurtz also reflected how the ad hoc nature of the committee means precisely that the U.S. bishops will have to continue discussing the committee's ambit: “we’re not where we were three years ago, so are there new things that need to be done in composition, as well as the scope.”
“I heard Archbishop Lori say they are already anticipating, the existing committee is already recommending things, and they probably see the horizon better than any of us. And so I am sure we will be focused very much on the horizon, and the observations that the present committee has, as we move forward.”
Archbishop Lori concluded that the bishops' affirmation of the religious liberty committee indicates the episcopate continues to experience challenges to the exercise of religious freedom, “and that this is not at all a narrow focus.”
“This is a very fundamental focus on the life and dignity of the human person, and the ability of the Church to contribute to the common good.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia announced Sunday that St. John Paul II and St. Gianna Beretta Molla will be patron saints of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, being held in his cathedral city.
“Saint John Paul II and Saint Gianna have been chosen as the two worthy Patron Saints to guide all in preparation and participation of this international event as they fully embody the history, mission and theme of the World Meeting of Families 2015,” Archbishop Chaput stated July 20 during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
“Saints John Paul II and Gianna had a deep and abiding commitment to strengthening the family and sustaining it with love. This historic event will give thousands from around the globe the opportunity to share in the same commitment of our Patron Saints.”
During the Mass, Archbishop Chaput also unveiled and blessed a relic of St. John Paul II's blood for the veneration of the faithful.
The 2015 World Meeting of Families will be held Sept. 22-27 under the theme, “Love is our mission: the family fully alive.” Tens of thousands from across the world are anticipated to attend the event.
The World Meeting of Families began in 1994 by the Pontifical Council for the Family under St. John Paul II. Its mission is to strengthen families across the globe, encouraging them to live their faith with joy and sincerity.
St. John Paul II has a special link to Philadelphia, as he was the first Pope to visit the city, in 1979. The late pope was declared “pope of the family” during his canonization.
St. Gianna, mother of four, died while giving birth to her last child. Beatified in 1994, St. John Paul II canonized her in 2004. She is strongly associated with the mission of the family, and has been declared the patron of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.
Huntington, Ind., Jul 22, 2014 (CNA) -
Dignity of the human person, solidarity and care for creation are just a few topics author Brandon Vogt discusses in his new book, “Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World.”
“I hope that this book is a ringing call to saintliness for all readers to say, ‘I want to be a saint and here’s the game plan for doing it,’” Vogt told CNA July 11.
The book focuses on seven basic themes of Catholic social teaching – life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for creation.
It uses examples of the saints to show how those themes can be lived out in daily life.
“There’s lots of books on Catholic social teaching that are helpful in terms of the theoretical principles they provide, but most of them are very abstract. That’s what makes Catholic social teaching difficult – it’s hard to apply.”
By providing readers with examples of how real people practiced the principles of Catholic social teaching, he hopes that readers will be able to more easily live them out themselves.
Vogt first became interested in learning more about the Church’s teaching on social justice when he converted from Protestantism in 2008. Like many young Evangelicals, he was “extremely enthusiastic” about social justice.
When he brought up these ideas to his fellow Catholics, he quickly realized that there were many negative connotations attached to the idea of social justice.
“The more I started reading and learning, I discovered that over the last several decades, these words and phrases have really been twisted and hijacked for all sorts of purposes, but why that worried me was that one of the things that led me to the Catholic Church was social teaching,” he explained.
In reading Church teachings, writings of the saints and encyclicals, he found a “disconnect” between what the Church actually taught and how certain words and phrases were interpreted “on the street.”
“I wanted to fix that, I wanted to sort of reclaim Catholic social teaching and give it an authentic presentation and I figured the best way to do that was by availing by the lives of the saints,” Vogt said.
For each of the Church’s teachings on social justice, Vogt chose two saints whose lives highlighted a particular principle.
The most important of the Church’s social teachings is belief in the dignity of the human person, which Vogt called “the first and most fundamental principle.”
“We believe that, for instance, it’s wrong to kill an unborn child, or an elderly person constrained to a wheelchair, because every person has inviolable dignity that was a result of them being created in the image and likeness of God,” he said.
“It’s that principle that drives everything that Catholics do to help the world whereas non-believers really don’t have a basis in the same way that religious people do, especially Catholics.”
In his book, Vogt chose Blessed Mother Teresa and St. Peter Claver to highlight this principle.
Mother Teresa not only dedicated her life to serving the poor, but she also brought them dignity by seeing them as Jesus in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” Similarly St. Peter Claver, who ministered to African slaves in South America, saw each person as a reflection of God and dedicated his life to living as “the Slave of the Slaves.”
Vogt said he also wanted a wide variety of saints in his book so a wide audience would find them relatable. He chose single or married members of the laity as well as religious and clergy of various ages and times in history to highlight the different parts of Catholic social teaching.
“We often times see the saints as museum pieces on pedestals that are unapproachable and unattainable, but really when you read this book and you read the stories of their own struggles, their own travails, their own difficulties and challenges, they’re in many ways a lot like us,” he explained.
Vogt is not only writing about social justice, he is also seeking to live it out, as evidenced by his decision to donate all royalties of the book to Catholic Charities.
“I’m in a position where I have a job, I have food and I have drink and I have a home, so I didn’t necessarily need the money,” he said. “I figured I’d put into practice what I was advocating throughout the entire book.”
“Saints and Social Justice” is available through Our Sunday Visitor publishing.
Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The senses are the “road to God”, who speaks to us through beauty, said Bill Donaghy, who holds a master's in systematic theology, at the recent Theology of the Body Congress held in Philadelphia.
God “is trying to break into our minds and hearts through beauty,” said Donaghy who, using the image of a leaf open to sunlight, said, “we need to be as receptive to God’s beauty as this leaf.”
Donaghy was addressing an audience on the role of beauty in the new evangelization at a conference about the more than 100 catecheses delivered by St. John Paul II on “Theology of the Body” early in his pontificate.
Part of John Paul II's thought is his sacramental vision of creation, through which we can see God, Donaghy explained. The senses “are a road to God,” he said, imploring the audience, “don’t shrink from the gift of the senses.”
Quoting Fr. Robert Barron, Donaghy called beauty the “arrowhead of the new evangelization” because, although it is not an end in itself, it catches the heart and points it towards the true and the good, adding that it is “the point with which the evangelist pierces the minds and hearts of those he evangelizes.”
When asked what Catholics should do to bring beauty into everyday life, Donaghy called for “'lectio divina' in the visual realm.”
“It means that you get good books. That your coffee table books are rich sacred art. That you give yourself opportunities to wander in the woods, that you read the book of creation more deliberately and you spend time before the 2,000 years of history of sacred art.”
“I think that our homes, our schools, our offices, should be places of beauty, too. There should be beautiful things all around us.”
All good works of art can lead us to God, Donaghy explained. “Create a treasure chest of sacred art, of photographs, of poems, of movie clips and songs,” he told the audience. “God is speaking to us through all of it.”
However, he warned that beauty can be abused. We must “reverence” it and not try to grasp it and bottle it for our own selfish desires.
“Don’t try to bottle beauty. Don’t try to capture it. If you do, it stagnates,” he warned. He contrasted Mary and Eve, noting how Mary was open and receptive to God’s grace, but Eve tried to grasp God’s nature for her own selfish desires.
As Mary was, so must we be, he urged.
“Beauty can be a terrible thing. God and the devil are fighting, and the battlefield is the human heart,” he admitted.
But if we are open and receptive to God, we can see beauty as we were meant to see it, he added.
“We listen, we’re attuned to the transcendent, to God, and beauty leads us to God. Keep your head and your heart open to God, and beauty will lead you to God.”
Baghdad, Iraq, Jul 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Chaldean patriarch has urged Iraq to turn away from its current path, warning that the new policies of Islamist jihadists threaten Christian-Muslim coexistence.
“Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe,” Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako said in a July 17 message he described as “urgent.”
He called for peace and co-existence “in a spirit of human brotherhood.”
“We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers, asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.”
He spoke weeks after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and as the organization was beginning to force Mosul's remaining Christians from the city.
On July 18, ISIS issued an ultimatum to the Christians of Mosul: convert to Islam, pay the jizya, or be killed. The cross atop the city's Syriac Orthodox cathedral was removed, and thousands of Christians have fled the city in recent days.
ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates River in northwest Syria. Members of the group have threatened both Christians and Shia Muslims.
Patriarch Sako called on Christians to “endure the time of trial and pray until the storm will be over.”
He said that Islamist jihadists’ control of Mosul and their proclamation of an Islamic state has had profound negative effects upon the Christian population.
Given the ultimatum from ISIS, he said that “the only alternative (for Christians) is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else.
Under ISIS' imposition of sharia law, when Christians leave the territory, their houses are “instantly confiscated” as property of the Islamic state.
The patriarch said that the Arabic letter 'nun', which stands for “Nazarene” or “Christian,” has been written on Christians’ homes in the city. The letter 'ra', which stands for “Rejecter,” has been written on the walls of Shiite homes.
The new law code is “powerful” and has been interpreted to require religion-based forms of identification. Patriarch Sako said that this categorization affects many Muslims and contravenes Islamic injunctions against compulsion in religion.
“The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force,” he said.
He said that Christians and Muslims in Iraq have had a “fraternal life” thusfar.
“How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam,” Patriarch Sako continued.
“They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life. Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.”
He warned that legally enforced discrimination eliminates the possibility of religious coexistence between religious majorities and minorities. This will be “very harmful” to Muslims, as well, he noted.
The patriarch wished God’s peace and mercy “to all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world,” to moderate Muslims, to “all who have a concern that Iraq should remain a country for all his Children,” and “to all protectors of the dignity of human beings and of religion.”
Patriarch Sako called on all the region’s Christians “to act with reason and prudence and to consider and to plan everything in the best way possible.”
“Let them understand what is planned for this region, to practice solidarity in love, to examine the realities together and so be able together to find the paths to build trust in themselves and in their neighbors,” he said, urging them to stay close to their own church.
Vatican City, Jul 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ schedule for the first of his two day-trips to the Italian city of Caserta, where he will later meet an evangelical pastor and friend from his time in Buenos Aires.
Pope Francis will travel by helicopter to the province of Caserta in the Campania region of Italy the afternoon of July 26, and will arrive to the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force, in the Royal Palace of Caserta at 3:45 p.m.
After his arrival, the Roman Pontiff will hold a meeting with the diocese’s priests and seminarians at 4 p.m., and will celebrate Mass at the airport at 6 p.m.
Following the Mass, he will return to the Vatican by helicopter that evening so that he can recite the Angelus prayer with faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, as he does every week.
On Monday, July 28, the Bishop of Rome will return to Caserta to pay a private visit to his longtime friend, Evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, and his community.
Announced by the Vatican July 10, the Pope’s Caserta visit was originally scheduled as a one-day event for the purpose of his private encounter with pastor Giovanni Traettino, however upon receiving an invitation from the diocese’s bishop, Giovanni D'Avise, the pontiff decided to add a day in order to meet with locals.
In the initial July 10 announcement of the visit, the Vatican revealed that the idea of making the trip to pastor Traettino’s church of the Reconciliation in Caserta originally sprang from an encounter Pope Francis had with a group of evangelical pastors in the Vatican last month, during which the pontiff expressed his desire to visit the pastor’s church.
The visit with pastor Traettino “will be a strictly private, simple and quick” encounter, the statement read.
Caserta lies in southern Italy and is a prominent agricultural, commercial and industrial commune. It is roughly a two-and-a-half hour drive from Vatican City.
Please see below for the Pope’s full schedule:
Saturday, July 26, 2014
3:00 p.m. Depart by helicopter from the Vatican heliport
3:45 p.m. Land in the heliport of the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force, in the Royal Palace of Caserta
4:00 p.m. Encounter with priests of the diocese in the Officers Club of the Air Force in the Royal Palace of Caserta
6:00 p.m. Holy Mass in the square in front of the Palace of Caserta
7:30 p.m. Depart by helicopter from the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force, in the Royal Palace of Caserta
8:15 p.m. Arrive to the Vatican heliport
Vatican City, Jul 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
According an Italian Catholic new organization, Pope Francis made a phone call to Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan over the weekend to reassure him of his continued prayers for Iraqi Christians.
Following the July 19 burning down of the Episcopal palace of Syrian-Catholics in Mosul, Italian Catholic news organization SIR reports that Pope Francis made a phone call to the Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan of Antioch the afternoon of July 20 to express his condolences and closeness in a time of persecution.
The agency reports that during their 9 minute conversation, the Pope reassured the patriarch “that he follows closely and with concern the drama of forced and threatened Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul.”
SIR referred to other reports coming from the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate, which stated that Patriarch Younan “thanked the Pope” and asked him to “intensify” his efforts to engage world leaders by bringing them face-to-face with the fact that the province of Nineveh is undergoing “a mass cleaning based on religion.”
At the end of the call Pope Francis gave his apostolic blessing to the patriarch and to “all the Christian people of the East,” assuring that he “will always be present in his prayers for peace and security.”
Members of ISIS, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, overtook the country’s second-largest city, Mosul and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, June 10.
The group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16; and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.
ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates River in northwest Syria.
Thursday the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate declared to the remaining Christian community of Mosul that they either needed openly convert to Islam, pay an unspecified jizya tax in exchange for their safety while observing certain conditions, or leave their homes with only their clothes, nothing more.
Following Thursday’s declaration, the houses of Mosul Christians were marked with an “N,” signifying “Nazarenes.” As a result, the few remaining Christians have left, marking the first time in history the city has been without Christians.
Fr. Nawar, a priest from Nineveh currently living in Rome, spoke with CNA July 22, stating that the country is overrun by “war, violence, conflict. It is not the same Iraq as before.”
Hailing from the Iraqi city of Karakosh on the plains of Nineveh, a city currently under Kurdish protection and where many citizens fleeing Mosul are taking refuge, Fr. Nawar lamented the exodus of Christians from the city, stating that “for four days there have been no Christians in Mosul.”
“All of them left because there is fear,” he said. “All of the Christians are leaving. Families left for Nineveh by foot. There is no car, no money. Many people right now are afraid, afraid of this future.”
“Today life, Christian life in Iraq, is very hard,” the Iraqi priest continued, explaining how when many times when families have attempted to leave the city they were stopped and asked “where are you going?”
When they responded “I’m leaving because I’m afraid in this city,” militant forces tell them to stop and get out of the car. Then “whoever has money, gold, documents…they take all of it,” Fr. Nawar observed, explaining that for those who do not leave, “I think they die.”
Noting how the future of the country is “not certain” he explained that it’s hard to say what the future will bring “because today thousands of Christian families are leaving for Nineveh. Today there is no Christianity in Mosul.”
“There has been war every day, every day the war has developed, there is no peace, there is no dialogue, there is no communication. All of this is a fact right now in Iraq.”
Despite the current discord and seemingly bleak outlook of the country, Fr. Nawar, who is in daily contact with his bishop and other priests in Iraq, explained that there is still hope “because we believe in Christianity” and “we believe in hope.”
“We are with every person. Sick, in pain. But even today there is fear,” the priest observed. “Every day there is the need to confront this fear. This is the question.”
“Even today many Christians from other cities, other regions also have fear…in Karakosh, also in Baghdad, there is fear. They don’t know, they don’t know what to do in the future.”