Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 1, 2016 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia described as “misleading” an article claiming that his leadership of a working group on the Pope’s most recent document “sends a signal” regarding U.S. policy on Communion. “Our ‘committee’ is very ad hoc and may exist for only three or four months,” Archbishop Chaput told CNA June 1. “Our goal is to gather what the bishops of the USA are doing and share that information with the other bishops, and then also send a report to Cardinal (Lorenzo) Baldisseri who has asked for reports from the various conferences.” In a June 1 article, the Catholic Herald reported that Archbishop Chaput had been named chairman of a five-bishop committee that was working on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a positive reception and implementation of Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. “The news sends a signal on the question of admitting divorced and remarried people to Communion,” the Catholic Herald said, citing instances in which Archbishop Chaput has affirmed Church teaching on the subject. However, Archbishop Chaput said that the Catholic Herald’s characterization was not entirely accurate. “There is no policy dimension to what we are doing,” he said. “The bishops in the group are currently the chairmen of various committees and I am the chair-elect of the committee on Laity, Marriage, Family and Youth.” Amoris Laetitia, released April 8, is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-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. Both of the synods sparked controversy amid speculation over whether there would be a change in the Church’s practice that the divorced-and-remarried may not receive Communion. In accordance with the words of Jesus that “anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery,” the Church says that those living in adultery – or any other unrepentant grave sin – may not receive Communion. Pope Francis did not make any changes to Church teaching in the document, but one of its chapters – dealing with those in irregular marriage situations – has been the subject of much post-synod debate. Vague language in the chapter has allowed a variety of interpretations. Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, maintains that it does not change the Church’s discipline on admission of the divorced-and-remarried to Communion. Cardinal Walter Kasper, on the other hand, has said it “opened a door” to admitting the divorced-and-remarried to Communion, and that the document marks the “turning of a page” in the Church’s history “after 1,700 years.” However, the matter was dealt with explicitly by St. John Paul II, who wrote that “the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.”   Read more

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 1, 2016 / 04:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The reported gang rape of a 16-year-old girl by more than 30 men in Rio de Janeiro has sparked protests in the country – and condemnation by an official of the local archdiocese who met with the victim, and who called it “a brutal, inhuman act.” On May 21, the girl went to her boyfriend’s house and says she woke up the next day, drugged and naked, in another house, surrounded by some 30 men with weapons. A brief video of the gang rape was shared on social media, and was met with some misogynistic comments blaming the victim. Maria Christina de Sá is an official of the youth ministry office of the Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, who met with the girl and her family in a private encounter. “I saw a youth with a calm face, though in anguish through so many interviews and questions, and very upset by what has happened – by the attack and by the accusations she has suffered,” Maria Christina told CNA May 31. She said the attack “affects not only women, but deserves repudiation by all of us.” In her meeting with the girl, Maria Christina says she had “a wonderful impression of her, as a young woman of surpassing sweetness, but who also expressed great suffering for the attacks she suffered.” The girl’s family “is also very upset,” she added. “Her father cries non-stop over everything that happened to his daughter, as does her mother.” The accusations against the victim – that she dressed scandalously, “deserved it,” consented, or was using drugs – were roundly condemned by the archdiocese’s youth ministry official. “It seems that no one looks at the situation as something dramatic that could happen to anyone, and are rather judging her,” Maria Christina said. She pointed out that what is at issue is the atrocious act of sexual violence committed against a 16-year-old girl. “In a situation like this, we should ask ourselves: how would Jesus Christ behave? Look at the woman caught in adultery: he did not say, ‘I condemn you.’ On the contrary, he said: ‘Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.’” After having provided the support and solidarity of the youth ministry office, Maria Christina said that the victim is being cared for by Brazil’s federal office for protection of children and adolescents, and that with her family, she is being moved from state of Rio de Janeiro because she fears for her life. Michel Temer, the acting president of Brazil, has committed to forming a federal police force to deal with violence against women. Warrents have been issued for the arrest of more than 30 suspects, including the girl’s boyfriend. Brazilian cities have been hit by protests demanding an end to sexual violence and the country’s rape culture. Online protests have also taken place, using the hashtag #EstuproNuncaMais (RapeNeverAgain). One Brazilian Facebook user posted an image of the Virgin Mary embracing a young girl, with the caption “Child, I cried for you this morning.” The photo has since gone viral. CNA contacted the office of Cardinal Orani Tempesta of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, which said the archbishop would not comment on the case at that time, but reitirated the Church’s absolute repudiation of all acts of violence committed against women. The Brazilian bishops’ conference also declined to comment.Photo credit: Read more

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2016 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has sent a special message to support the work of prison chaplains during the Year of Mercy. “He especially wishes to assure all who are serving prison communities of his prayer… Read more

Palai, India, Jun 1, 2016 / 11:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Syro-Malabar Catholic bishop from the southern Indian state of Kerala has a special way to celebrate the Year of Mercy: he is donating his kidney to save a young Hindu man battling for his life. “I have no anxiety about the surgery, and it’s only a simple sacrifice for a fellow being,” Bishop Jacob Muricken, 52, told CNA. He is an auxiliary bishop of the Sryo-Malabarese Diocese of Palai. He will donate his kidney to save 30-year-old Sooraj Sudhakaran. The young man is from Kottakkal, another city in Kerala, about 120 miles northwest of Palai. Sudhakaran is the only breadwinner of his family, and supports his wife and his mother. The low-cast Hindu man has lost his job, and sold his house to pay for the treatment costs of dialysis. He was diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago. “If I can save the life of Sudhakaran, a family would be saved,” Bishop Muricken said. The procedure is taking place June 1 at a private hospital in Kochi, another city in Kerala. Bishop Muricken has helped to pay for lab tests as well as ancillary costs for the treatment. For his part, Sudhakaran has thanked the bishop for offering to save his life.   Fr. Anithottathil Gervasis, secretary of the Palai diocese, reflected that “This is a great selfless act of Bishop Muricken in the spirit of the Year of Mercy. Bishop Muricken’s generosity has practically taught us a moral example in reaching out to save life.” Fr. Gervasis said the bishop’s act is no publicity stunt, and that he is regarded as one of the simplest persons among the bishops. He added that the bishop is happy and has only asked for prayers so that he could continue to work and be a witness for Christ and to his people. Bishop Muricken was himself inspired to kidney donation by Fr. Davis Chiramel, founder of the Kidney Federation of India. The organization has arranged for 15 priests and six religious sisters to donate their kidneys to unrelated, needy recipients. A year ago Bishop Muricken attended a seminar on organ donation organized by Fr. Chiramel, and he took the challenge personally. People of diverse beliefs have praised the bishop’s plan to donate his kidney. “Donating an organ while living to save a life requires tremendous courage and is worth more than donations of money or wealth to institutions,” Anil Belurkar, a local businessman, told CNA. “The bishop, in his own way, has set a great example especially for all types of leaders to set love in action rather than merely preaching by words,” Anil added. He said Bishop Muricken’s act would help break down taboos in India against organ donation. Read more

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2016 / 06:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One who prays with humility and awareness of his or her sin speaks to God, Pope Francis said on Wednesday, whereas one who prays with arrogance and self-righteousness is speaking to a mirror. “It is not enough to ask ourselves how often we pray,” the Pope said to the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience. “We must also ask ourselves how we pray, or rather, how our heart is.” The pontiff centered his June 1 catechesis on Jesus’ parable of the tax collector and the pharisee. The problem with the pharisee – who stands in the temple and gives thanks for not being like other sinners – is that, as he prays to God, he looks at himself, Francis said. “Instead of having the Lord before his eyes, he has a mirror,” the Pope said. When he prays, the pharisee lists his good deeds, and is made happy by following “precepts.” “Yet, his attitude and words are far from the way of acting and speaking of God, who loves all men and does not despise sinners,” Francis said. Thus, this pharisee, who believes he is just, “neglects the most important commandment: the love for God and for neighbor.” Francis said we must examine our thoughts and feelings, eradicating “arrogance and hypocrisy.” We cannot pray with arrogance or hypocrisy, but rather “we must pray before God as we are,” he said. The tax collector, on the other hand, is shown to be humble, asking God for mercy. Francis invited the crowds to follow the example of the tax collector, and repeat after him three times: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” The parable teaches that being righteous or sinful has nothing to do with social status. Rather, it has to do with the way we relate to God and to our neighbors. “The tax collector’s humble gestures of penance and (these) few simple words,” Francis said, demonstrate his awareness of his “miserable condition.” “His prayer is essential. He acts out of humility, secure only in being a sinner in need of mercy,” the Pope said. In the end, he “becomes a symbol of a true believer.” In contrast, “the pharisee is the symbol of the corrupt pretense of praying, but only succeeds in showing off in front of a mirror.” “Pride affects every good deed; it empties prayer,” and keeps God and others at a distance, Francis said. Humility, on the other hand, is necessary in order to receive mercy. God has a “weakness” for humility, the pontiff said. “Before a humble heart, God opens his heart completely.” Later in the audience, Pope Francis remarked that Friday marks the  Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, as well as the start of the June 3-5 Jubilee for priests. He invited everyone to dedicate the month of June to praying to the Sacred Heart, and “to support the closeness and affection of your priests, so that they may always be in the image of that Heart full of merciful love.” Read more

Rome, Italy, Jun 1, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Irene Bertoni was 18 years-old during World War II. And it was at this tumultuous time that she discovered God’s vocational call for her to be a mother. She adopted two abandoned children, and with the blessing of her bishop founded the Catholic charitable work Nomadelfia, along with a priest named Father Zeno Saltini. Mama Irene fully lived out her calling and died on May 15, the Solemnity of Pentecost, at 93 years-old. She was the adoptive mother of 58 children and an example for dozens of women who followed in her path. Irene died in the home that Blessed Paul VI donated to her in the 1960s. Hundreds of people, including Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, attended the funeral which was held at the Nomadelfia community, founded in 1948 and which currently is comprised of more than 50 families that take in abandoned children as their own. Saint John Paul II visited this community in 1989 and praised their way of life, saying it reminded him of the early Christians. The community has also received Pope Francis’ blessing. Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni of Grosseto, Italy, conveyed Pope Francis’ condolences and said that with Irene “a new and prophetic form of motherhood was born, that of mothers by vocational calling, mothers who during their lives took care of children who would not have had any other affection, and raised them to become Christian men and women.” He added that “the first mother of Nomadelfia” took seriously the Gospel’s call to “loving and taking care of the least…which today are called by Pope Francis those ‘thrown away’ by a society that continues to marginalize and seeks to exclude.” “We must thank Irene and all the mothers by vocational calling for this service that Nomdelfia has raised up and offered for our time,” he said. Avvenire, the Italian bishop conference’s newspaper, quoted Elisa Tirabassi, the adopted great-granddaughter of Irene who said that her “life mission was always to do what is good.” She also recalled that her great grandmother’s kitchen “had the warm smell of coffee and a relaxed atmosphere where calm reigned and we lived in peace.” Tirabassi said that Irene would wait until evening for them to come home from work, and take great pains to make sure they had everything they needed. “Finally when dinner was served, she sat down in front of me with her wonderful and disarming smile which shown from a face from which seemed to disappear all the signs left by time and her intense life,” she said. Mamma Irene fue madre adoptiva de 58 hijos y ejemplo para mujeres que siguieron su camino — ACI Prensa (@aciprensa) May 29, 2016 Read more

Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 1, 2016 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Israeli government’s policies for Christian schools and unfair education budget cuts put them at risk of collapse, the Office of Christian Schools in Israel has charged. Fr. Abdel Masih Fahim, general secretary of the Catholic Church’s Office of Christian Schools in Israel, urged the Israeli government to recognize the importance of continued Christian education in Israel. These schools are a “vital component of the Christian presence in the Holy Land,” he said in a May 23 statement. “Christian schools in Israel are now in immediate danger of collapsing financially,” he warned. Fr. Fahim voiced concerns to the office of the Israeli Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Social Equality and others. These concerns focused on three imminent issues. He called on the government to fulfill immediately the transfer of 50 million shekels, about $13 million. He said the government must decide on a fixed annual sum to be paid to Christian schools to “compensate for the drastic cuts.” He called for new legislation to “create a new status for the Christian schools that will ensure sufficient funding and take into consideration their uniqueness and long service in the land.” The statement said that about 47 Christian school educate around 33,000 Christian, Muslims, Druze, and Jewish students around Israel. These schools are owned by various groups from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as well as the Anglican Church of Scotland, Christ Church, and the Baptists. The Christian schools criticized the Israeli government, saying it drastically reduced the budget allocation for Christian schools.  Over the past six years the national budget allocation for the schools has been cut by 45 percent.  Furthermore, the education ministry has issued regulations to restrict the limit on the collection of school tuition fees from parents. In September 2015 Christian schools made a continuous 27-day protest about the measures, and constraints on their ability to raise funds. The demonstrations ended after the government promised an agreement with the Christian schools, and to supply the $13 million by the end of March 2016 to compensate for budget cuts in previous years. This promised agreement has remained unfulfilled.   A special commission has been established to deliberate on proposed changes and to make recommendations for the Christian schools.   The commission recommended that the schools join the Israeli public school system, but the Christian schools have expressed their reservations about the proposal. The commission proposals suggested an additional three hours per class be dedicated each week to “strengthen and preserve the Christian identity and the special style of living in Christian schools.” The collection of tuition fees in Christian schools will be determined by the committee from the ministry of education. Fr. Fahim decried the way the education department has handled these concerns, saying the recommendations do not solve the financial crisis and further force Christian institutions to join the public school system. Read more

Washington D.C., May 31, 2016 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With thousands of displaced Christians in Iraq subsisting on humanitarian aid, advocates are asking if they have a future there once the Islamic State is removed – and what that might loo… Read more

St. Paul, Minn., May 31, 2016 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is eager to see a quick end to its reorganization plan so that victims and survivors of clerical sex abuse can see more compensation sooner, according to its bishop. The plan of reorganization is part of the bankruptcy process, for which the archdiocese filed in January 2015. “Victims/survivors cannot be compensated until a Plan of Reorganization is finalized and approved. The longer the process lasts, more money is spent on attorneys’ fees and bankruptcy expenses; and, in turn, less money is available for victims/survivors,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda wrote in a May 26 letter to the faithful of the archdiocese. “In other dioceses, that approval process has taken years. For example, in Milwaukee, the process took more than five years and only $21 million was available to compensate claimants. We are submitting our Plan now in the hope of compensating victims/survivors and promoting healing sooner rather than later.” A reorganization plan is a required step in the process of bankruptcy, and must be accepted by an entity’s creditors. Archbishop Hebda noted that to prepare for filing the reorganization plan, the archdiocese had sold real estate assets, will lease less expensive office space, and is cutting its budget. “For over a year, we have worked cooperatively with others. We have also participated in mediation to help determine the value of insurance coverage.” He said that while “progress has been made, the insurance companies and attorneys for those asserting claims of sexual abuse have not been able to agree on the proper value of the insurance proceeds for the claims.” The plan of reorganization has three pillars, according to the archbishop. First is a settlement made last December which ensures child protection policies in the archdiocese, and second is a $500,000 victim counseling fund. “And third, the creation of an independent Trust,” Archbishop Hebda explained. “The Archdiocese has proposed that the Trust will initially be funded by $65 million or more in proceeds from Archdiocesan cash and the sale of our properties, proceeds from insurance settlements, and contributions of insurance settlements from our parishes.” “In addition, all insurance proceeds, including those that have not yet been agreed upon between the insurance companies and those filing claims, will be put in the Trust. A court-appointed Trustee will then control the Trust and have the authority to pay claimants.” The archbishop emphasized that the archdiocese considers the reorganization plan to be fair, but that some might object to it. “Reorganizations sometimes involve modifying an initial Plan,” he noted. “We are committed to working earnestly with everyone involved to find a fair, just and timely resolution.” He also responded to claims by the lawyers of some abuse victims that the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese had not made public all of its assets when it filed for bankruptcy. “Let me be clear: The Archdiocese has disclosed all of our assets and has followed all of the rules set forth by the Court and all directives from the judge. I know that for at least the last 11 months we have been working extremely hard to marshal and maximize our assets with the hope of providing the most for the most.” Archbishop Hebda concluded by saying, “We will never be able to undo the harm caused, but, we will compensate those harmed, help in any way we can with their healing, and create and maintain safe environments for all children today and always.” Archbishop Hebda was appointed Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in March, though he had led the archdiocese as its apostolic administrator since June 2015. He succeeded Archbishop John Nienstedt, who resigned after the archdiocese was charged on six counts of failure to protect minors.   Read more

Vatican City, May 31, 2016 / 12:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily at daily Mass on Tuesday, Pope Francis pointed to Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth at the Visitation as a lesson in service and joy in the Christian life. “Serving others… Read more

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