|Unburned letters of John Paul II reveal richness of Trinity
Vatican City, March 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The personal notes of JPII published by former secretary Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, which the pontiff asked to be burned, reveal the depth of the Blessed's keen knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity.
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VATICAN CITY, March 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- In honor of the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as Bishop of Rome, the Vatican website has published a special online book, compiled of various phrases he has spoken throughout the year.
Entitled “Do we want to be holy? Yes or no?” the online publication can be found on the Vatican’s official website by clicking on one’s language of choice, after which a pop-up window appears with the book’s cover and title.
Beginning with the Pope’s familiar plea for the faithful not to be “men and women of sadness” because “a Christian can never be sad,” the virtual memoir offers short quotes by Pope Francis taken from his homilies, speeches and addresses given throughout the year.
Below each quote is a link to the exact text from which it has been extracted, and each phrase is accompanied by a picture of him on the adjacent page, courtesy of Vatican daily news source L’Osservatore Romano.
The book commemorates the pontiff’s election as Bishop of Rome on March 13 of last year, on which his opening words as Pope during his first Urbi et Orbi blessing already foreshadowed the unique tone that has defined much of his impactful first year as head of the Catholic Church.
During the speech, he observed how “it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop,” and that “It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one...”
“But here we are...I thank you for your welcome,” the newly-elected pontiff expressed, adding that “The diocesan community of Rome now has its Bishop. Thank you!”
Offering his first moment of prayer for retired pontiff Benedict XVI, Pope Francis led his new flock in the traditional prayers of the blessing, consisting of an Our Father, Hail Mary and a Glory Be.
Afterwards, he explained to the thousands gathered below in St. Peter’s Square that “now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People,” noting that it is a “journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches.”
“A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.”
Pausing for a moment before giving his official first blessing as Bishop of Rome to the Church and to the world, Pope Francis asked for a special “favor” which has become a common request and a unique trait of his pontificate.
“Before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.”
Extending his blessing then to all “men and women of good will” the new pontiff thanked those gathered again for their welcome, stating that “we will see each other soon,” and wishing them “good night and sleep well!”
The special commemorative book can be found on the Vatican website under the French, German, Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese sections by either clicking on the pop-up window, or on the image of the Pope himself on the homepage.
VATICAN CITY, March 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The personal notes of JPII published by former secretary Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, which the pontiff asked to be burned, reveal the depth of the Blessed's keen knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity.
Entitled “I am so much in God’s hands: Personal records 1962-2003,” the book was published by Krakow-based publisher Znak on Feb. 12, and contains 639 pages of meditations and some photos and scans of the pages from two of the late Pope's notebooks, one beginning in 1962 and the other in 1985, which were both published in Italy by the Archdiocese of Milan.
Coming from one of the notebooks, the pontiff writes on the identity of the Trinity in three separate meditations, one focusing on God the Father, one on the Son, and another on the Holy Spirit.
“The analogy of the fatherhood which is given to us in the created world, is variously reached and at the same time is very poor and out of proportion in comparison with that reality of the 'Father' in God,” the soon-to-be Saint wrote.
“God in some ways identifies with the Father, and at the same time He exceeds all that we can think of regarding the subject of 'father' in the dimension of the creature, especially in the dimension of a human reality.”
A father, he continued, “is one who gives life, who hands down humanity and who conditions its development, who is a point of reference for a child, and a correlator of the certainty of existence and good.”
Explaining how God is “mysterious” in both the world and in Creation, the pontiff reflected that this mystery “is beyond everything” and that it “is cleared up with one reference: it is the reference of Christ.”
“In Christ’s consciousness as well as in His mission and the world, the Father completely obscures 'the Absolute,' although at the same time it absorbs Him in a certain way.”
He then highlighted that if a person is able to think about God in terms of “the Absolute” and the “height of existence,” it is only possible “on the condition that they accept, after Christ, the truth about Love.”
“Outside the 'mystery of the Father,'” the Blessed emphasized, “there is no evolution of man in truth and love.”
Referring to the figure of God the Son in another personal note, Bl. John Paul II recalled Jesus' words when he said that “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” and that “the Father and I are one.”
“These words are the key of the meditation,” he affirmed, observing that “the Son appears as a 'visibility' of the Father, not only His invisible Image that is the Consubstantial Word, but also his 'revelation' in the history of mankind, which enters in becoming a Man.”
“In this ultimate closeness to a man, to mankind, to history, Jesus” acts “above all as Consubstantial to the Father (Consubstantialis),” the Pope reflected, drawing attention to the “thorough way” in which the Person of Jesus enters into human history.
Noting how this closeness enters firstly “in the event of the Cross, a fulfilling sacrifice which has salvific power,” he emphasized that the Father is still becoming visible, and that “the ‘mystery of bearing the Son’ is ‘unfathomable.’”
“The Son is eternally Consubstantial – and as eternally the Son, He is bearing by the father. There is dependence, giving birth is a sign of consubstantial-ness between the Son and the Father – and also between the Holy Spirit in the unity of the Divine.”
Reflecting on the Holy Spirit in a third meditation, Pope John Paul II noted how “God is a spirit,” and that all who worship him do so “in spirit and in truth.”
“This reality is at the same time ‘purely’ spiritual and ‘purely’ personal,” he reflected, observing how “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are a spirit.”
Highlighting how “the Spirit permeates everything,” including “the depths of God,” the Blessed explained that “we know He is Holy, that He is a Person, as are the Father and the Son. We know that He ‘proceeds’ from the Father and the Son as Love. God is love.”
“The Holy Spirit is love of the Father and the Son. Therefore He is ‘Holy,’ as holiness is love.”
In his meditation, Bl. John Paul II went on to explain that the “mutual giving of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit…is a complete mystery of faith.”
Observing how “the Holy Spirit is a ‘hidden God’ (Deus absconditus),” the pontiff wrote that “If He is an internal gift with whom the Father and the Son are united – He especially has been revealed to man as a Gift.”
“At the cost of the Son’s Passion and Death” the Holy Spirit becomes “a gift for souls” he noted, emphasizing that “‘God’s Love is spilled in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us’” as a gift, and reveals to us both truth and love.
“As long as the Son, Christ, consists of the ‘visibility’ of God and His ‘historicity’ – the Holy Spirit re-introduces us to His ‘invisibility.’”
Explaining that that the Holy Spirit “is above all an Action,” the pontiff emphasized that “He is Effectiveness and Bearing fruit – not entering into the sphere of our sight. His action in the soul, however effective and basic, is always action of the Invisible in the invisible.”
The meditations included in this piece were translated from the original Polish by Anna Artymiak, Polish correspondent to the Vatican, reporting from Rome.
[This article is the first in a two-part series providing excerpts of personal notes written by Bl. John Paul II dating between July 1962 when he was auxiliary bishop of Krakow, to March 2003, two years before his death and in the 25th year of his service as Roman Pontiff.]
Please see below for the full text of the meditations provided in this article:
1st step GOD THE FATHER
Meditatio de mysterio Patris [Meditation on the mystery of the Father]
(cfr. Mystere du Pere [cf. Mystery of the Father] Fr. Guillou read on vacation). The analogy of the fatherhood which is given to us in the created world, is variously reached and at the same time is very poor and out of proportion in comparison with that reality of the “Father” in God. God in some ways identifies with the Father, and at the same time He exceeds all that we can think of regarding the subject of “father” in the dimension of the creature, especially in the dimension of a human reality. A father is one who gives life, who hands down humanity and who conditions its development, who is a point of reference for a child, and a correlator of the certainty of existence and good. The Father – God, is actually mysterious in the terms of the world and the Creation. His is the Mystery which is beyond everything and that conditions everything. This Mystery is cleared up with one reference: it is the reference of Christ – “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Thanks to Christ, we also “know” the Father in some way, and we have access to Him. In Christ’s consciousness as well as in His mission and the world, the Father completely obscures “the Absolute,” although at the same time it absorbs Him in a certain way. The Father is also the Creator and the Lord (I praise You, father, Lord of heaven and earth, because … Mt 11.25). He is the Height of existence and good, He is the Beginning, final Support, Certainty and Fulfillment all the fulfillments. If a person can think about Him reasonably in the terms of the Absolute, it is possible only on the condition that they accept, after Christ, the truth about Love. The Father, He is the Fulfillment of Truth and Goodness, in a typical only-to-Him way, accepting the world since the reality of Creation, giving existence – to the man whom He creates “in his own image and his likeness,” granting to him participation in His Divinity. He is constantly present in everything – being in Creation in the deepest way, especially in man – out of our created imagination and thought. At the same time only He is the anchor of self-confidence and the condition of the development of everything, especially of a man (cfr. education). Outside the “mystery of the Father,” there is no evolution of man in truth and love. (cfr. Guillou’s thesis).
2nd STEP THE SON OF GOD
Morning meditation (longer) on the mystery of the Son.
Jesus the Lord said “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” and at another time “the Father and I are one.” These words are the key of the meditation. The Son appears as a “visibility” of the Father, not only His invisible Image that is the Consubstantial Word, but also his “revelation” in the history of mankind, which enters in becoming a Man. God – Man: the God of history arranges the whole history of salvation and concentrates it around Himself. In this ultimate closeness to a man, to mankind, to history, Jesus – God, fully the Son to man, to humankind, to history, Jesus, God and Son acts above all as Consubstantial to the Father (Consubstantialis). This divine act, which is a result of his Person, enters in the most thorough way into the history of mankind, from Bethlehem until Calvary. First of all, it enters in the event of the Cross, a fulfilling sacrifice which has salvific power. But the whole human background of these events, life and death, do not cover the God-Son. Meditation with some special power showed me His reality, in which the Father became (and still is becoming) visible in a special way. Unfathomable is that mystery of bearing the Son – the Word. Here the analogy with human bearing “according to the body” disappoints in a special way. The Son is eternally Consubstantial – and as eternally the Son, He is bearing by the father. There is dependence, giving the birth is a sign of consubstantial-ness between the Son and the Father – and also between the Holy Spirit in the unity of the Divine.
3rd STEP THE HOLY SPIRIT
Meditation (longer) on the mystery of the Holy Spirit.
“God is a Spirit – and truly worshippers shall worship him in spirit and in truth (J)”. Our notion of God’s spirituality develops over the poor experiences of our own human spirituality. This reality is at the same time “purely” spiritual and “purely” personal. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are a spirit. “The Spirit permeates everything, He permeates the depths of God.” We know He is Holy, that He is a Person, as are the Father and the Son. We know that He “proceeds” from the Father and the Son as Love. God is love. The Holy Spirit is love of the Father and the Son. Therefore He is “Holy,” as holiness is love. His “proceeding” from the Father and the Son is at the same time remaining in the unity of the Father and the Son, and – to a certain extent – constituting that unity. Yet this mutual giving of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit – and mutual “breath” of that Spirit, is a complete mystery of faith. The Holy Spirit is a “hidden God” (Deus absconditus). If He is an internal gift with whom the Father and the Son are united – He especially has been revealed to man as a Gift. This is revealed by Christ, who described his Passion and Death as a price for that Gift for man (“if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (J). Here we already pass from the “Trinitas theologica” [“theological Trinity”] to the “Trinitas oeconomica” [“economic Trinity”]: the acting of Persons in the work of human salvation. The Holy Spirit – at the cost of the Son’s Passion and Death – becomes a gift for souls: “he will guide you into all truth...” “God’s Love is spilled in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us:” the Holy Spirit is the source of man’s holiness, and holiness consists of truth and love. In them is expressed the true nature of “spirituality” and holiness, also on the level of man. In one way, we know more about the Holy Spirit from the Revelation in the “economic” order than in the “theological” order. Also, in the economic order, He is still “Deus absconditus.” As long as the Son, Christ, consists of the “visibility” of God and His “historicity” – the Holy Spirit re-introduces us to His “invisibility.” And after all, He is above all an Action, He is Effectiveness and Bearing fruit – not entering into the sphere of our sight. His action in the soul, however effective and basic, is always action of the Invisible in the invisible.
VATICAN CITY, March 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- On March 8, dozens packed into the Vatican's tiny San Carlo Cinema for what was hailed as a “unique storytelling event” on the dramatic narratives of women who give their lives in service to the Church.
Throughout the afternoon, 10 different women from around the world stepped onto the darkened stage to tell about their life and work.
Despite the vast difference in their experiences – ranging from working with drug addicts and homeless in Rome's city center to serving the marginalized in rural Nigeria – each woman expressed her joy in serving Christ in his Church.
“There needs to be a venue for sharing the inspiring stories and life-giving stories of women and people around the world that don’t have that opportunity. I hope this helps,” emcee Andrea Hattler Bramson, President of the Loyola Foundation, told CNA on March 8.
The Voices of Faith initiative was begun by Chantal Gotz, executive director of the Catholic philanthropic Fidel Götz Foundation, and project manager Giovanna Abbiati, in the hope of promoting “extraordinary talent, courage and positive social contributions of Catholic women around the world.” The Pontifical Council for Social Communications provided the venue for Saturday’s event.
As lay and religious women shared their stories, the those in the audience were often moved to tears.
Alessandra Melidoz of New Horizons, an outreach to those caught in drug addiction, prostitution and other serious difficulties, spoke about the organization’s founder, Chiara Amirante.
Amirante found herself outside of Rome’s Termini train station, a neighborhood filled with crime. Graffitied onto a wall was the phrase, “despite your indifference, we exist.”
For Amirante, recounted Melidoz, this was a turning point. The foundress began to visit with the homeless there, “to listen to their stories.” She discovered that the young people “had not been loved, or were loved too little, so their hearts are hard.”
“Their pain is so huge that they need drugs and alcohol,” said Melidoz. “They can’t manage the emptiness that they find within themselves.”
“They are not missing bread, but affection. We take them by the hand, we pray with them,” she shared. “What we can do is bring them before Jesus and show them what changed our lives.”
Through the outreach of those at New Horizons, those caught in difficult circumstances learn that “there is Somebody who loves them through us.”
Sr. Caritas Chinwen offered the audience a glimpse of the joy of her faith as she stepped onto the stage dressed in the colorful habit of her community. The energetic sister of the Emmanuel Family Institute sang a song in celebration of motherhood in her native language.
Despite their work with the extremely impoverished and marginalized people in Nigeria, “we are joyful” she proclaimed.
“Today is my first time speaking in public. It's my first time coming out from Nigeria. I’ve not been out from Nigeria...I’m very very happy. It’s a privilege,” she told CNA.
Other voices offered a challenge to those at the Cinema.
Soft-spoken Augustinian Sister Abir Hanna invited attendees to consider the beauty of contemplative prayer, using the “daring image” of the uterus – a “tiny organ” that is “hidden, but irreplaceable.” Like the womb of the mother, the Church is a “space for encounter,” she explained.
Describing her spiritual mission, Sr. Hanna said, “I too am called to be a womb and a vessel,” a “place of mission…not just intercession, but gestation,” bringing souls to new life in Christ.
Another contemplative, Sister Cristiana Dobner, challenged participants at the end of her poetic presentation, “Does our face express His face? This is the question.”
Sabrina Moranti, mother of nine, shared her testimony of faith, recounting how at age 25 she was disillusioned with God and the church, but went to confession because her then-boyfriend, now husband, encouraged her to go before attending mass one day.
As she spoke to the elderly priest in the confessional, he began to weep. Moranti was touched by his tears and felt the overwhelming presence of God. After that, she felt called to follow God faithfully, despite the challenges that came with family life.
“Mothers today are frightened, and rightly so,” she admitted, “but the fact that God was patient and loving with me allows me to be so with my children,” she explained, noting the great opportunity to respond to God that comes with motherhood.
“The story of the human being is born when the mother says 'yes' to God,” she explained.
The Voices of Faith storytelling event on March 8 was the group’s first initiative, though organizers are hopeful for future opportunities.
VATICAN CITY, March 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has shared some of his memories of the meetings held in preparation for the 2013 conclave, recounting that Cardinal Bergoglio’s interventions emphasized the need to focus on Christ.
“The activities and the approach of the pontificate that is now being revealed in Pope Francis’ style” are an outcome of the pre-conclave meetings, the Vatican’s former secretary of state told CNA March 7.
Cardinal Bertone was one of the main characters of the transition between the papacies of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Having served as secretary of state under Benedict from 2006, he served as Camerlengo of the Apostolic Chamber during the sede vacante, and briefly resumed as Pope Francis’ secretary of state, until his retirement Oct. 15, 2013.
A year on from the election of Pope Francis, Cardinal Bertone said a major item of discussion during the pre-conclave meetings was “the setting of a new dialogue with society, in order to reduce the distance of mentality between the Church and new generations.”
During the meetings, it was made clear that “the Church had to focus on an awakening of faith and love by offering to mankind the essential doctrine, together with a sense of divine mercy.”
Cardinal Bertone then stressed that the Church “must not fear being the field hospital of humanity, in Pope Francis’ words.”
Pope Francis’ description of the Church as field hospital reminded the cardinal of a poem by Nino Costa, a poet from Piedmont – the Italian region from which he hails.
“Writing about the First World War, Nino Costa imagines a woman walking through a field full of injured and dying people. The woman is the Virgin Mary, but it can be perfectly fitted with the image of the Church, which consoles, encourages, heals.”
According to this view, the Church should “concretely respond to those who spontaneously set themselves at the margins of the Church, perhaps because of the defaults and defects of the men and women of the same Church.”
Given the present crisis of faith, the cardinals’ speeches “considered the occasions, the opportunities, the new perspectives opening up to the Church,” Cardinal Bertone recounted.
According to the emeritus secretary of state, the new evangelization was another major topic discussed during the pre-conclave meetings.
Cardinal Bergoglio zeroed in on the new evangelization in one of his interventions during the pre-conclave meetings.
Cardinal Bertone explained, “Cardinal Bergoglio spoke about a new evangelization brought toward the peripheries of the Church. A Church – he said several times – called to go out from itself to evangelize.”
“It was a no to the self-referentiality of the Church, and a yes to a Church going out, dialoguing with the world, moving toward everyone.”
Cardinal Bertone underscored that “the new Pope must be a man that arouses the contemplation of Jesus Christ.”
Conceding that “every Pope must do this,” yet – he added – “Jorge Mario Bergoglio accentuated the need to re-focus everything on Christ.”
Editor's Note: This is the first of three articles to be published featuring material from CNA's March 7 interview with Cardinal Bertone.
VATICAN CITY, March 10 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Known as the Barberini Gardens, the historic area of Castel Gandalfo has been declared open to the general public by Pope Francis, with tours available for those who are interested.
Located roughly 20 miles south of Rome in the Alban Hills, the gardens surround the Papal Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo and include the remnants of a Roman Villa, a 62 acre farm, and the ancient papal palace.
According to a March 4 article published on Vatican Radio, director of the Vatican Museums Antonio Paolucci explained that it was the Pope himself who made the decision to open the gardens of the Pontifical Villa, “where the splendor of art and the glory of nature co-exist in admirable equilibrium.”
Having officially opened on March 1, the gardens lay on an ancient Villa built by Emperor Domitian, who was both the third and last ruler during the Flavian dynasty.
With a view overlooking Lake Albano and beyond, as well as the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, visitors are now free to stroll throughout the ruins of the imperial theater and covered passageway where the emperor himself and his guests would walk when trying to escape from the heat.
A favorite summer getaway for Benedict XVI during his pontificate, the villa was conceded to the Holy See as one of their extra-terrestrial possessions under the Lateran pact of 1929.
Following major restoration efforts, the Villa has served as the Papal summer residence since the pontificate of Urban VIII during the 17th century, and has a small farm created by Pope Pius XI, which produces eggs, milk, oil, vegetables and honey either for local employees, or for sale in the Vatican supermarket.
Among the other secret treasures the gardens hold, visitors can also enjoy a magnolia garden, a path of roses as well as one of aromatic herbs and one of lilies, a square of holly oaks and the breathtaking Belvedere garden, from which there is a panoramic view over Latium, out to the coastline.
Pope Pius XII, who offered war refugees sanctuary in the Villa, died there in 1958, as did Pope Paul VI two decades later.
The gardens are open to the public in the mornings from Monday through Saturday, with bookings available for either individuals or groups on the Vatican Museums website. Individual tickets cost 26 euros, while group costs vary, with a beginning rate of 450 euro for a group of 1-15 people.
WASHINGTON D.C., March 10 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Although recent polls on Catholics supporting same-sex “marriage” are viewed as less disheartening than they appear, the results sparked a call for education on the beauty and truth of Church teaching.
Tim Roder, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said that Catholic belief in marriage is about “remaining faithful to Jesus and his teaching.”
He cited Christ's words about married couples in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10: “from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
“We cannot be driven by polls,” Roder told CNA March 7.
Surveys indicating some Catholics' rejection of Catholic teaching show “there is still much work to be done, particularly in educating the faithful on the beauty of marriage as the unique union of one man and one woman.”
Two recent polls suggest that some Catholics approve of same-sex “marriages” not only in U.S. law, but even in Catholic churches.
The U.S. Spanish-language television network Univision's recent global poll of Catholics about their views indicated that about 54 percent of U.S. Catholic respondents support “gay marriage.” Among this subset, fifty-nine percent of respondents agreed that the Church should not perform “gay marriages,” but 35 percent said the Church should. Among the 12 countries polled, only Spanish Catholics showed more support than Americans for these ceremonies in Catholic churches.
Roeder said it was a positive sign that even among supporters of same-sex “marriage,” most rejected such unions being performed in Catholic churches.
However, a February survey from the Pew Research Center reported that 50 percent of all Catholic respondents said they think the Church should “recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples,” while 43 percent did not. Only 36 percent thought this would be likely by the year 2050. The Pew survey had a sample size of 351 Catholics and a margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points.
Roder noted, though, that even in the Pew survey, only one-third of Catholics who attended Mass weekly or more supported Church recognition of same-sex “marriages.”
He said that the survey results help show that changing the legal definition of marriage “can indeed have a cultural impact swaying more to support it.”
“The law teaches for good and ill,” Roder said. “When it teaches something false many just accept it and this increases the profound cultural crisis in marriage and family that Pope Francis spoke about in 'Evangelii Gaudium.'”
Roder said marriage is “a question of definition, not expanding rights.” It is “impossible” for the Church to perform same-sex weddings.
“The body matters. Sexual difference between man and woman is essential to marriage,” he said. “The Church cannot affirm something that is not true or real. Only a man and a woman can enter a conjugal union open to the possibility of children.”
Roder noted that even in countries where marriage has been redefined like France and Argentina, the majority of Catholics still do not support the redefinition of marriage or coercing the Church to perform it.
“I think many come to realize that such laws redefining marriage are fundamentally unjust,” he said.
Roder did not foresee immediate pressure on the Church to perform same-sex “marriage” ceremonies. Rather, the “most urgent threat” beyond the threat to marriage and the family is to the religious freedom of individuals, businesses and religious organizations.
“Beyond religious ceremonies, there is a serious concern that many persons may be pressured to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct,” he said.
Changing the civil definition of marriage would also impact “hundreds, even thousands” of laws at the same time and give rise to “countless” violations of religious freedom.
Roder encouraged Catholics to respond to such threats with prayer, fasting, and “honest study of the faith.”
“We need to move beyond merely reading the headlines and sound bites that often do not convey the full truth,” he said. “Although there is a concerted effort to redefine marriage, this attempt still cannot change the fact that marriage can only ever be between one man and one woman.”
He noted the “Call to Prayer” movement, which involves fasting on Fridays, praying for weekly prayer intentions, and holding parish holy hours and daily rosaries to increase awareness of the challenges to life, marriage and religious liberty and to build “spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful to address these challenges in truth and love.”
Roder recommended the resources of U.S. bishops' “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” website, including the bilingual film “Marriage: Made for Love and Life.”
That website is at http://marriageuniqueforareason.org.
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA, March 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The 80th annual “Battle of the Saints”, a cricket match between rival schools in Sri Lanka’s Colombo archdiocese, ended in a draw this weekend.
Cricket, a bat-and-ball game popular in the U.K. and its former colonies, is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka. Each March and April, historically rival secondary schools play games for the “Big Match” season.
St. Peter’s College and St. Joseph’s College, both located in Colombo, played March 7-8 at P. Sara Oval Stadium in the “Battle of the Saints” for the Friar Maurice Legoc Trophy; but the match ended in a draw due to heavy rains which limited play.
“Both renowned institutions have a historical Catholic legacy and are acclaimed for their academic excellence and Christian discipline,” Fr. Gamini Fernando, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Colombo, told CNA Mar 5.
“Sport plays an important role in the formation of students’ mental and physical discipline, and forms them to be responsible citizens of the country,” he added.
In a Feb. 26 news conference ahead of the match, Fr. Trevis Gabriel, rector of St. Joseph’s, said, “we follow the historic tradition that the two school teams play in a friendly manner.”
“It is showing our unity, fellowship, and our oneness to all those around us, because we all belong to one Catholic family,” he said.
Fr. Gabriel added that while each team strives to win the trophy, the larger point is to come together to see a good cricket match, and to display unity and friendship between the schools.
Cricket is played with teams of 11 on an oval field, at the center of which is a “pitch.” Each team takes turn at batting, attempting to score runs, while the other team fields.
The Battle of the Saints is a “limited overs” match: the set of deliveries from the bowler (pitcher) is limited. This match limits the first inning to 60 overs, and each day may have only 105 overs. This special rule is meant to encourage a result in the game, which can often end in a draw.
In the 80 years of the Battle of the Saints, St. Joseph’s has won 20 matches, to the Peterites’ 17, according to The Times of Sri Lanka.
The Battle of the Saints was begun in 1933 by Fr. Maurice Legoc, who rectored both St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s. Many of the national and international Sri Lankan cricketers are alumni of the two schools.
Fr. Fernando commented that the teams “are not exclusively Catholic, having members of different religions. But in play they forget their differences, and concentrate on play.”
He highlighted that this contributes to a national integration of the players and spectators, creating a harmonious interreligious dialogue and unity, spreading Catholic values imbibed in their academic formation.
Fr. Fernando noted that the matches are also relayed live on television and radio, bringing excitement and “uniting the nation.”
Sri Lanka suffered a civil war for nearly 30 years, which ended in 2009. Cricket’s ability to unite Sri Lankans across geographical and religious divides has been important for the nation in recent years.
BANGALORE, INDIA, March 10 (CNA/EWTN News) .- “Called to be a Catechist,” a book recently released by the Indian Catechetical Association, discusses the role of the laity in faith education in the country.
The book collects the talks delivered at the association’s 17th annual conference, held last year in Patna, and is edited by Fr. Gilbert Choondal, a Salesian priest.
“The papers explore the dimensions of a catechist, including historical, religious, pedagogical, and Oriental models, as well as discussing the challenges of being a catechists today,” Fr. Choondal told CNA March 7.
He said the book’s title indicates that “to be a catechist” is a “basic Christian vocation,” and the mission of all the baptized.
“The papers provide a new emphasis on the identity, role, and formation of catechists,” he explained.
Fr. Choondal described how the Church has placed a renewed emphasis on lay catechists since the Second Vatican Council, with numerous magisterial documents underlining the importance and training of catechists.
He lamented that “in recent years, the formation and role of catechists, especially of laypersons, has taken a backseat.”
Fr. Choondal made reference to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” in which he wrote, “many lay people fear that they may be asked to undertake some apostolic work and they seek to avoid any responsibility that may take away from their free time. For example, it has become very difficult today to find trained parish catechists willing to persevere in this work for some years.”
Fr. Choondal recounted that the Church in India is “both blessed and cursed by parishes dominated by clergy and religious … they have also hijacked the role of laity, making the laity withdraw from active involvement in the mission.”
“The Church in India has failed to train our laity or to equip them to be skilled catechism teachers,” he observed. “When I see Sunday catechesis dominated by catechists who are religious or seminarians, I feel that the Church has yet to grow.”
He added that while there are in some places numerous lay catechists, they often remain “faceless ministers of the Church” and are not sufficiently recognized or promoted in many parts of India.
Among the challenges facing Indian catechists, he noted first that of coordinating their training, at both regional and local levels.
“Another serious problem facing Indian catechesis is isolated catechetical content,” Fr. Choondal reflected. “In this present times, especially in all the major towns and cities, we face all three ritual churches living side by side.”
There are three major ritual churches which exist in India: the Latin Church; the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Fr. Choondal stressed that catechists in India do not have enough knowledge of the rites which are not their own, even though the three Churches are all Catholic and in communion with one another and are ultimately under the Pope.
“We need to have inter-ritual training of catechists and inter-ritual catechism textbooks so that we don’t live with ignorance about the Catholic faith,” he said.
“Called to be a Catechist” will serve as a guide to the modern challenges faced by catechists in India, and is published by Kristu Jyoti Publications in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka state. It is priced at 150 rupees, or about $2.50.
Fr. Choondal is chief editor of the Word and Worship Commission of the National Biblical and Catechetical Liturgical Center, an official organ of the Indian bishops’ conference.
DAMASCUS, SYRIA, March 10 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A group of Greek Orthodox nuns in Syria, as well as women from their convent’s orphanage, were returned safely Sunday, following their kidnapping by the rebel al-Nusra Front.
“God did not leave us,” said Mother Pelagia Sayyaf of the convent of St. Thekla, when they arrived in Damascus Monday, March 10.
One dozen nuns and three workers were abducted from St. Thekla convent in Ma’loula, located 35 miles north of Damascus, when the town was seized by al-Nusra Front Dec. 2. They had been held three months in the nearby town of Yabrud.
The abductees were brought through a rebel-held border crossing to Arsal, a Lebanese border town, where they were given to Lebanese officials, and then driven to Syria, where they have been taken to the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Damascus.
“As God is my witness, I tell you the al-Nusra Front treated us well,” one of the nuns told the press.
They explained that they were not forced to remove their crosses, but Mother Sayyaf said they did so “because we were in the wrong place to wear them.”
The nuns’ abduction had prompted objections and concerns from around the world. Pope Francis called for prayers for the nuns in his Dec. 4 general audience. They appeared in a video broadcast on Al Jazeera in December.
Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, said the nuns’ release was “a sign of hope in this time of crisis.”
“I think they were not treated too badly, as it is not in the interest of the kidnappers to do this,” he told Aid to the Church in Need March 9.
Yabrud is now the focus of a major military campaign by the Syrian army and fighters of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist movement.
Greek Orthodox Bishop Louka al-Khoury credited the military action, saying “what the Syrian army achieved in Yabrud facilitated this process.”
Patriarch Gregorios said that Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch had intervened to help secure the nuns’ release, adding that the secret services of Qatar and Lebanon helped mediate the negotiations.
The BBC reports that officials from Qatar and Lebanon negotiated the deal, quoting a Lebanese general, Abbas Ibrahim, who was involved in the talks. It said the nuns’ release was part of a deal with the Syrian government, which agreed to release around 150 female prisoners.
Sana, the Assad regime’s news agency, quoted the regime’s information minister, Omron al-Zoubi, as saying that only 25 prisoners were released in exchange for the nuns’ freedom, and that Qatar was not involved. Sana has acknowledged Lebanon’s role in their release.
Syrian officials have said the nuns were abducted to intimidate Syria’s Christians, while al-Nusra Front have said they were protecting the nuns from government shelling.
The rebels first took Ma’loula for three days in September. Twelve people were killed during that time, including three men who refused to renounce their Christian faith.
The Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, according to Sana, said that the nuns’ return “is a divine message to the Christians to cling tenaciously to this land in fraternity with Muslims.”
Sana added, “the Patriarchate expressed in a statement hope that freeing the nuns is a step forward on the road to genuine national reconciliation and the return of all the abducted and the missing, including bishops Boulous Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, to their homes.”
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulous Yazigi of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo were abducted in April 2013. Their fate is unknown, though there are rumors that only one bishop is still alive, and is being kept in either Syria or Turkey.
Approaching its third anniversary, the Syrian conflict has claimed the lives of at least 100,000 persons, and as many as 130,000.
The conflict began March 15, 2011, when demonstrations protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad and his Ba'ath Party sprang up nationwide. In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters.
The civil war is being fought between the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The revels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; and Kurdish separatists.
Some 40 percent of Syria's population have fled their homes because of the civil war. There are 2.4 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and an additional 6.5 million Syrians are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.
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