Bernie Sanders, ‘a big fan’ of Pope Francis, to attend Vatican conference

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has announced that he will attend a Vatican conference on social justice and the economy just before the New York primary election on April 19. “I was very moved by the invitation from the Vatican which was just made public today,” Sanders said April 8 during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The invitation was extended on behalf of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The academy is hosting an academic discussion April 15 to 16 to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus annus which was written for the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum. Participants will reflect on world changes over the last 25 years and how Catholic social teaching can best serve these new challenges. Sanders called himself a “big, big fan” of Pope Francis for his work at “injecting moral consequence into the economy.” “He’s trying to inject a sense of morality into how we do economics,” Sanders said, “and we need that absolutely, desperately.” Sanders has been an outspoken advocate for the poor and unemployed, supporting issues such as a national $15 per hour minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges and universities as well as expansion of social security benefits for the elderly. However, Sanders noted of the Holy Father, “Obviously there are areas where we disagree on women’s rights (and) on gay rights.” Sanders has described himself as “very strongly pro-choice” and has made the repeal of the Hyde Amendment – a law that bars taxpayer funds from being used for abortions – a part of his presidential campaign. He has a strong record of voting against pro-life proposals in the Senate, including most recently, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would prevent abortion after 20 weeks gestation, when an unborn child is capable of feeling pain. A longtime supporter of gay rights, Sanders has vowed to “(v)eto any legislation that purports to ‘protect’ religious liberty at the expense of other’s rights” if he’s elected president. Sanders said that he will speak at the upcoming conference on April 15, though it has not been confirmed if he will actually meet Pope Francis.Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com. Read more

Interpreting Amoris Laetitia ‘through the lens of Catholic tradition’

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 11:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While some passages in Pope Francis’ new document may be unclear and open to multiple interpretations, the correct view is that which aligns with the tradition and teaching of the Church, sai… Read more

Pope Francis: Children are always gifts, even in tough circumstances

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ latest writings on the family include a strong affirmation of the need to welcome children even in difficult circumstances. He praises large families and adopted families, reje… Read more

Pope Francis: Children are always gifts, even in tough circumstances

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ latest writings on the family include a strong affirmation of the need to welcome children even in difficult circumstances. He praises large families and adopted families, reje… Read more

No doctrine change from Pope Francis – but a call for better pastoral care

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried need the fullness of Church teaching. They also need a wise pastoral and community response to their difficulties that can help them grow in the Christian life, Pope Francis said on Friday in his new document on love in the family. “The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements,” the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia. Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life was published April 8. Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the document was presented to journalists in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Signed March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the release of the document was delayed in order to allow time for its translation into other languages. The apostolic exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Hosted at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, these synods gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world. While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-civilly remarried, actual topics discussed in the meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, incest and abuse within families, and marriage preparation. Pope Francis acknowledged the attention generated by the synods, saying, “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without suf¬ficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.” The wide-ranging document included Biblical reflections on family, as well as discussion of the family as a place of faith and labor, celebration and tears. The Pope spoke about sexuality within marriage and on the sometimes devastating effects of poverty and migration on families. He also touched on the importance of communication within the family, the challenges of raising children in a technology-saturated world, and the witness of virginity. Pope Francis devoted a substantial section of the document to the topic of educating children, observing, “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” He also offered suggestions for improving marriage preparation programs, inviting engaged couples to consider a simple wedding and to set aside technological distractions. In a world where many have lost respect for marriage and are delaying the union or choosing cohabitation instead, the Church must speak up, Pope Francis said. “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings,” he reflected. “We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.” At the same time, he said, “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” Pope Francis praised the “indissolubility of marriage,” saying that it “should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.” He added that “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.” In addition, he said that “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.” In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis wrote that “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight,” which is titled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.” That chapter, which describes the Church as “a field hospital,” discusses the pastoral care of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, as well as those who cohabit and face other irregularities. Pope Francis wrote that “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community.” He emphasized that the divorced-and-remarried “can find themselves in a variety of situations” and that this variety requires discernment and accompaniment on the part of pastors. The Pope voiced agreement with the Synod Fathers’ observations that divorced-and-remarried Catholics need to be “more fully integrated into Christian communities…while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” He restated that the divorced-and-remarried are not excommunicated, and quoted the Synod Fathers, who had said that “language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided.” Care for these persons is not a weakening of Christian faith and belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but is rather “a particular expression of its charity,” he said, again quoting the Synod Fathers. While he affirmed the ideal of sacramental marriage in ministering to those in broken situations, the Pope also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to individual cases. Considering the “immense variety of concrete situations” that the divorced-and-remarried have put themselves in, he said, “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules … applicable to all cases.” Instead, he said, what is possible is “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases” which would recognize varying degrees of responsibility and therefore varying consequences or effects.    This is also the case with admission to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, he said, due to mitigating factors that might reduce a person’s culpability. “Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” Pope Francis said. “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may … be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.” Someone in such a situation of objective sin but without full culpability can grow in charity with the help of the Church, and “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” he noted. “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” he added, quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. The Pope acknowledged the importance of fidelity to the Gospel, saying that “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.” He called it “reductive” in discernment merely “to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.” “A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.” Pope Francis professed understanding for those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.” “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’.”   Read more

These Iraqi children have lost everything – except their faith

Erbil, Iraq, Apr 7, 2016 / 03:30 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- Six hundred Christian children whose families fled ISIS violence in 2014 have lost their homes, schools, sometimes friends, sanitary living conditions and the stability of a normal life. However, despite their many losses, there’s one thing they never left behind and which continues to grow stronger everyday: their faith. When it comes to the question of how to persevere in the faith – and pass it on with terrorists just a few miles away – one woman named Carin has developed a unique form of catechesis that she is teaching to displaced Christian children in Iraq. “I think that children have the capacity to worship Jesus, to contemplate,” Carin told CNA in an April 7 interview in Erbil. Her classes aren’t intended to just teach the kids how to pray, but rather to provide them the opportunity “to meet with Jesus, to give and receive his love” on a personal level, she said. A French native, Carin is a volunteer at a prefabricated school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in the Iraqi city of Erbil, which provides education to 600 displaced Christian children and is sustained by funding from charitable organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). Most of the children attending the school are from either Mosul or Qaraqosh, the former Christian capitol of Iraqi Kurdistan, and are among the 120,000 families who fled Qaraqosh when ISIS attacked in August 2014. The majority of those who fled, the sisters included, came to Erbil and are now living in what they refer to as “containers” inside refugee camps the city’s Christian suburb, Ankawa. Due to the difference in the educational system between most schools in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the materials are largely taught in Kurdish language, and the schools in Mosul and the Nineveh plain villages, where Arabic is the primary language, the majority of displaced students were unable to attend school last year. However, with the building of the new school, which teaches classes in Arabic, the children are able to continue their education and, with the help of Carin, can continue learning and growing in their faith thanks to the lessons in catechesis they receive at the school. Complete with readings from the Gospel, Eucharistic Adoration, prayers to the Holy Spirit and concrete advice for living the Gospel inside the camps where they live, the catechesis they receive is taught to all grades once a week inside the school’s makeshift chapel. Each lesson is 40 minutes long and begins outside, so that the children can “prepare their heart,” Carin said, explaining that “it’s better (for the children) to prepare their heart outside” before entering the chapel. After coming inside, the children have time for a brief “prayer of the heart” before asking Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be present during their prayer. The Blessed Sacrament is then taken out of the small tabernacle in the chapel and set on top of  then sit in silence in front of the for about 10-15 minutes, so they can “experience silence (and) meet Jesus in the silence,” Carin said. Afterward, a passage from the Gospel is read, since that is where Jesus speaks to us “directly,” she said, explaining that when the reading is done, they discuss “how we can live the Gospel in daily life, because to be Christian is not only in the chapel, we have to continue in the camp.” The class ends with prayers of intercession asking “for the world as we want (it to be),” and with a prayer to Mary. Homework consists only of practicing at home what they learn in class, Carin said, explaining that when the children go back to the camps “they have to continue to put the Gospel into practice. This, and only this.” Carin, who has eight years of experience as a missionary, developed the curriculum for the catechism class herself. It follows the liturgical calendar, and includes special activities during Christmas and Easter. After visiting the school on her own for a two week visit in September, Carin proposed her plan of catechesis to the Dominican sisters running it. The sisters approved, and invited Carin to return for a longer, six month period. After receiving help from the international missionary-training organization FIDESCO, Carin arrived to Erbil in January, and will move on in June when the school year is over. She currently lives in a camp inside one of the “containers” provided for her by the Dominican sisters, and has no income. “It’s providence that takes care of me,” she said. Carin said that while she had worked for humanitarian organization for seven years, the motivation for her missionary work comes from a personal conversion she had at the age of 25. “I was living for 25 years without God. I started my life without God,” she said. After she converted to Christianity she felt strongly that she wanted to give her heart to her Father in heaven, “and for this I am a missionary. I gave up my life because (now I) give my life for God.” In addition to helping the Dominican Sisters at the school, Carin also assists another order of religious sisters, the Little Sisters of Jesus, with their ministry inside a camp they run. Every day the Blessed Sacrament is brought to camp so that everyone, adults and children, will have the opportunity to pray. The idea is not only to provide direct access to Jesus in the Sacrament, but also “to give hope, because the people here are very tired.” “It’s been a long time now and now they need hope,” Cardin said, adding that “when we cannot do anything on a human level, it’s better to put Jesus, and then after Jesus, work. It’s like this.” Read more

Pope Francis: Martyrs are still the ‘life blood of the Church’

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2016 / 01:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday praised the consistency and courage of the modern day martyrs who continue to “carry the Church forward” even as they face death for their witness to the Risen … Read more

Vatican confirms Pope Francis will travel to Greece, visit refugees

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2016 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will travel to the Greek island of Lesbos next Saturday, April 16, where he will meet with ecumenical leaders and refugees, the Vatican announced Thursday. Director of the Holy See Pr… Read more

Kids being exposed to porn is abuse, Australian bishops say

Canberra, Australia, Apr 7, 2016 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Exposure to pornography harms children to such an extent it should be considered child abuse, Australia’s Catholic bishops said in a recent call for action. “Children have a rig… Read more

Kids being exposed to porn is abuse, Australian bishops say

Canberra, Australia, Apr 7, 2016 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Exposure to pornography harms children to such an extent it should be considered child abuse, Australia’s Catholic bishops said in a recent call for action. “Children have a rig… Read more