Philadelphia’s new auxiliary bishop accepts role with gratitude

Philadelphia, Pa., May 31, 2016 / 12:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Philadelphia priest Monsignor Edward Deliman will become the archdiocese’s new auxiliary bishop in August, and he says the prospect is humbling, and a lot to absorb. “I’ve … Read more

Catholics join outrage over sale of sacred Native American items

Gallup, N.M., May 30, 2016 / 04:02 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- Native Americans say a French auction house should return their sacred objects set to go on sale, and they have an ally in Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, N.M. “My first reaction to this story was one of great sadness. It’s tragic that this desire for personal profit from the sale of sacred objects is the ultimate goal,” Bishop Wall said. “These objects are sacred to the pueblo people and they belong to the whole community.” The items come from tribes including the Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni as well as the prehistoric Hohokam tribe. Other objects to be auctioned off include a ceremonial shield of the Acoma Pueblo, whose territory is in the region of the Gallup diocese. “I understand their pain at the potential loss of these items, and I would like to add my voice and support to theirs in urging the sellers and buyers to withdraw these items from auction and return them to the Pueblo people,” said Bishop Wall. The objects will be auctioned on Monday at Paris’ EVE auction house along with other religious items and art pieces from the Americas, Africa and Asia. Under traditional Hopi beliefs, the auction’s mask-like pieces are considered to be the physical embodiment of their ancestors. The objecting Hopi say that selling the items is selling their ancestors’ spirits, the Associated Press reports. Other items include ancient jewelry and effigies linked to the prehistoric Hohokam tribe who lived in what is now Arizona. Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley has asked Secretary of State John Kerry and others to make every effort to persuade French officials to stop the auction. Reilly appealed for the return of the ceremonial shield. Tribal leaders said the shield was taken illegally from the community, which is based on a mesa southwest of Albuquerque, N.M. By pueblo law, the object is sacred and should never have been removed. “How it left the pueblo, we don’t know. However its mere existence outside the pueblo tells us an event occurred in violation of Acoma law,” he said. “A black market for these cultural items has emerged in the United States.” Gov. Riley addressed an emergency meeting hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Attendees included tribal officials, the State Department, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who has proposed a congressional resolution urging federal agencies to seek the return of the items. U.S. laws bar the sale of Native American ceremonial items, but these laws do not apply in France. Bishop Wall told CNA he personally knows Gov. Reilly and many Acoma and Hopi families personally. He has celebrated Mass in the Pueblo churches for those who are Catholic. The bishop was born in Ganado, Ariz., which is a chapter of the Navajo Nation Tribe. His parents were school teachers there. He currently chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. Suzanne Hammons, spokesperson for the Diocese of Gallup, N.M. urged the bidders and auctioneers to “take a long, hard look at the concerns of the tribes.” “Let’s be clear: these are sacred objects, and they should be treated as such,” Hammons said. “As Catholics, how would we feel if sacred relics, art, or other items were taken and then sold for a profit, especially without our knowledge or consent?” “These are religious objects, and they carry a deep significance to the tribes. They should be treated with honor – not as decoration for the home of the highest bidder. These items were intended to benefit the whole tribe, not to pad the private collections of bidders.” She said reports that the items were obtained illegally makes the auction “even more questionable.” Read more

George Clooney among celebrities honored by Pope Francis

Vatican City, May 30, 2016 / 08:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis praised Hollywood actors George Clooney, Salma Hayek, and Richard Gere at a conference promoting a Vatican education initiative that helps poor communities. Speaking in the Paul VI’s Synod Hall, the Pope reminded the celebrities of their responsibility to “help the world recover the language of gestures.” During the gathering, the actors received the “Olive Medal” of peace, which were presented by the Scholas Occurentes initiative, who organized the Vatican conference. Touching on a separate topic altogether, Francis said he does not intend to step down from the papacy, as Benedict XVI did when he became the first pope to resign in centuries. “I never thought of quitting being pope, or of leaving because of the many responsibilities,” the pontiff said during a Q&A session. The Argentine-founded Scholas Occurentes is an education initiative which aims to promote “integration of communities” – especially poor communities – through the use of “technology, sports, and artistic proposals,” according to its website. The initiative, which works in various kinds of schools of different religious affiliations, is present in 82 countries and 400,000, with headquarters in Vatican City, Argentine, Spain, Paraguay and Mozambique. The May 27-29 conference also marks the launch of the Scholas’s latest initiative: a new website which allows anyone to ask Pope Francis questions. Speaking in Spanish, Pope Francis praised the gathering for its climate of communication and encounter, offering a bridge in a world which is at risk of being “fragmented.” The Pope encouraged gestures such as smiling and making eye-contact, and being patient and tolerant. In contrast, “bullying is an aggression that hides a deep cruelty,” he said. “The world is cruel.” “To build a new world, a better world, we must banish all kinds of cruelty. And war is cruel. But this kind of war more cruelly still rages because an innocent.” The Pope said that the separation of peoples, families, and friends create animosity and hatred, where as “social friendship” defends “against every kind of throwaway culture.” Read more

How Benedict XVI’s resignation changed the papacy

Vatican City, May 30, 2016 / 06:32 am (CNA).- When Pope emeritus Benedict XVI resigned as pontiff three years ago, he added a new dimension to the papacy, said his personal secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein. Archbishop Ganswein remains prefect of the Pontifical Household. He works closely with both Benedict and Pope Francis. The archbishop spoke about Benedict’s pontificate and its wake at a May 20 book presentation of “Oltre la crisi della Chiesa” (Beyond the Church’s Crisis) by Father Roberto Regoli, an historian and professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University. The book aims to be the first history-based evaluation of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Archbishop Ganswein stressed that there is only one legitimate Pope – Francis. However, for the last three years, Catholics have lived “with two living successors of Peter among us.” He said Benedict and Francis “are not in competition with each other, though they have an extraordinary presence.”   For Archbishop Ganswein, Benedict XVI’s resignation announcement on Feb. 11, 2013 marked the introduction of a new institution into the Catholic Church: the Pope emeritus. Pope Benedict used a key phrase in his resignation speech: “munus Petrinum.” This phrase is often translated “Petrine Ministry.” According to the archbishop, the Latin word “munus” has many meanings: service, commitment, guide, gift, even wonder.   “Benedict XVI thought of his commitment as a participation in that Petrine ministry,” the archbishop said. “That means that he left the papal throne, but he did not abandon this ministry.”   Benedict XVI now acts “with a collegial and synodal dimension” and a “common ministry” that appears to echo his episcopal and papal motto: ‘cooperatores veritatis,’ ‘cooperators of the Truth’,” he said.   Hence, “since Pope Francis’ election, there are not two Popes, but there is a de facto enlarged ministry, with both an active and a contemplative member.”   The archbishop said that this is why Benedict did not renounce his papal name or give up his white cassock. “This is the reason why the correct appellation for him is ‘Your Holiness.’ This is finally the reason why he did not retire to an isolated monastery, but within the Vatican walls, as if he just took a step aside to make space for his successor and for a new step in the history of the papacy,” Archbishop Ganswein said.   This is how Benedict XVI has “profoundly and lastingly transformed” the papal ministry during his “exceptional pontificate.” Archbishop Ganswein also reflected on the meaning of Benedict XVI’s election. He said that the election was “certainly the outcome of a clash” whose key interpretation had been given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself in his homily for the pre-conclave Mass on April 18, 2005. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger reflected on the clash of two forces. He criticized “a dictatorship of relativism” that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desire.” With this, he contrasted Christians’ goal of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and “the true man.” This is “the measure of true humanism.”   This clash is epitomized in what Archbishop Ganswein described as “the dramatic struggle” between two parties in the conclave. He labeled one the “Salt of the Earth” party after the name of a book-length interview with Cardinal Ratzinger. This party gathered around Cardinals Lopez Trujillo, Ruini, Herranz, Rouco Varela and Medina Estevez. Then there is the so-called St. Gallen group gathered around Cardinals Daneels, Martini, Silvestrini and Murphy-O’Connor. This is the group, Archbishop Ganswein noted, that Cardinal Daneels “himself amusedly described as ‘a sort of Mafia-club’.”   Archbishop Ganswein said that “the dictatorship of relativism” is now being channeled through the new media that could barely be imagined in 2005.   Once for all, Archbishop Ganswein rejected the notion that Benedict XVI’s resigned because of the scandals or following the “black year” of 2010. That year was marked by the breaking of new clergy sex abuse scandals in Europe and followed controversies like that of the Lefebvrist Bishop Richard Williamson, whose excommunication was lifted without knowledge of his remarks minimizing the death toll of Jews in the Holocaust.   Archbishop Ganswein said there are more personal reasons for the Pope to consider 2010 “a black year.” That was the year of the death of Manuela Camagni, one of the four consecrated lay women who were part of the pontifical household. She died after she was struck by a car.   “The media sensationalism of those years, from the Williamson case to escalating attacks on the Pope, did not strike the Pope as much as Manuela’s death did,” Archbishop Ganswein said. The papal butler, Paolo Gabriele, was then exposed as the source of confidential information about the papacy, which news stories have labeled “Vatileaks.”   The archbishop stressed that “as the Pope was shocked by Manuela Camagni’s sudden death, he then suffered a lot from the betrayal of Paolo Gabriele.”   But he said that Benedict did not resign due to these, or due to “spicy news.” Rather, as the former pontiff said in his resignation announcement, his decision was based on his advanced age and declining strength, which led him to believe that he could no longer exercise the ministry entrusted to him. “No betrayer or any journalist could push the Pope to that decision,” Archbishop Ganswein stressed, as “that scandal was too tiny” compared with the “well pondered historical step” Benedict XVI made with his resignation.     Read more

How Benedict XVI’s resignation changed the papacy

Vatican City, May 30, 2016 / 06:32 am (CNA).- When Pope emeritus Benedict XVI resigned as pontiff three years ago, he added a new dimension to the papacy, said his personal secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein. Archbishop Ganswein remains prefect of the Pontifical Household. He works closely with both Benedict and Pope Francis. The archbishop spoke about Benedict’s pontificate and its wake at a May 20 book presentation of “Oltre la crisi della Chiesa” (Beyond the Church’s Crisis) by Father Roberto Regoli, an historian and professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University. The book aims to be the first history-based evaluation of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Archbishop Ganswein stressed that there is only one legitimate Pope – Francis. However, for the last three years, Catholics have lived “with two living successors of Peter among us.” He said Benedict and Francis “are not in competition with each other, though they have an extraordinary presence.”   For Archbishop Ganswein, Benedict XVI’s resignation announcement on Feb. 11, 2013 marked the introduction of a new institution into the Catholic Church: the Pope emeritus. Pope Benedict used a key phrase in his resignation speech: “munus Petrinum.” This phrase is often translated “Petrine Ministry.” According to the archbishop, the Latin word “munus” has many meanings: service, commitment, guide, gift, even wonder.   “Benedict XVI thought of his commitment as a participation in that Petrine ministry,” the archbishop said. “That means that he left the papal throne, but he did not abandon this ministry.”   Benedict XVI now acts “with a collegial and synodal dimension” and a “common ministry” that appears to echo his episcopal and papal motto: ‘cooperatores veritatis,’ ‘cooperators of the Truth’,” he said.   Hence, “since Pope Francis’ election, there are not two Popes, but there is a de facto enlarged ministry, with both an active and a contemplative member.”   The archbishop said that this is why Benedict did not renounce his papal name or give up his white cassock. “This is the reason why the correct appellation for him is ‘Your Holiness.’ This is finally the reason why he did not retire to an isolated monastery, but within the Vatican walls, as if he just took a step aside to make space for his successor and for a new step in the history of the papacy,” Archbishop Ganswein said.   This is how Benedict XVI has “profoundly and lastingly transformed” the papal ministry during his “exceptional pontificate.” Archbishop Ganswein also reflected on the meaning of Benedict XVI’s election. He said that the election was “certainly the outcome of a clash” whose key interpretation had been given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself in his homily for the pre-conclave Mass on April 18, 2005. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger reflected on the clash of two forces. He criticized “a dictatorship of relativism” that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desire.” With this, he contrasted Christians’ goal of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and “the true man.” This is “the measure of true humanism.”   This clash is epitomized in what Archbishop Ganswein described as “the dramatic struggle” between two parties in the conclave. He labeled one the “Salt of the Earth” party after the name of a book-length interview with Cardinal Ratzinger. This party gathered around Cardinals Lopez Trujillo, Ruini, Herranz, Rouco Varela and Medina Estevez. Then there is the so-called St. Gallen group gathered around Cardinals Daneels, Martini, Silvestrini and Murphy-O’Connor. This is the group, Archbishop Ganswein noted, that Cardinal Daneels “himself amusedly described as ‘a sort of Mafia-club’.”   Archbishop Ganswein said that “the dictatorship of relativism” is now being channeled through the new media that could barely be imagined in 2005.   Once for all, Archbishop Ganswein rejected the notion that Benedict XVI’s resigned because of the scandals or following the “black year” of 2010. That year was marked by the breaking of new clergy sex abuse scandals in Europe and followed controversies like that of the Lefebvrist Bishop Richard Williamson, whose excommunication was lifted without knowledge of his remarks minimizing the death toll of Jews in the Holocaust.   Archbishop Ganswein said there are more personal reasons for the Pope to consider 2010 “a black year.” That was the year of the death of Manuela Camagni, one of the four consecrated lay women who were part of the pontifical household. She died after she was struck by a car.   “The media sensationalism of those years, from the Williamson case to escalating attacks on the Pope, did not strike the Pope as much as Manuela’s death did,” Archbishop Ganswein said. The papal butler, Paolo Gabriele, was then exposed as the source of confidential information about the papacy, which news stories have labeled “Vatileaks.”   The archbishop stressed that “as the Pope was shocked by Manuela Camagni’s sudden death, he then suffered a lot from the betrayal of Paolo Gabriele.”   But he said that Benedict did not resign due to these, or due to “spicy news.” Rather, as the former pontiff said in his resignation announcement, his decision was based on his advanced age and declining strength, which led him to believe that he could no longer exercise the ministry entrusted to him. “No betrayer or any journalist could push the Pope to that decision,” Archbishop Ganswein stressed, as “that scandal was too tiny” compared with the “well pondered historical step” Benedict XVI made with his resignation.     Read more

Archbishop Shevchuk on the ‘silent war’ no one cares about

Kyiv, Ukraine, May 29, 2016 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s a conflict that’s been raging in Ukraine for two years, costing thousands of lives and displacing millions of people. But the international community seems to have largely forgotten about it. And as one who’s lived in the very heart of the crisis, the leader of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has some ideas as to why. “Very often in international society so-called ‘rich countries’ are very much concentrated in their own interests and their own life in their own international policy,” Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said. And very often, “modern politicians would rather close their eyes” and pretend that a problem doesn’t exist, rather than make a commitment to solve it, he said. CNA sat down with his beatitude May 23 at his residence in Kyiv, where he opened up on a panorama of issues: the conflict in east Ukraine, to relations with the Orthodox and his friendship with Pope Francis. The most urgent topic was what he called the “silent” war in the country’s east between Russian troops and Ukrainian soldiers fighting to keep their young independence in a climate of political and economic instability. He also offered his thoughts on Pope Francis’ historic February meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and relations between their Churches, which have a sour history. Pope Francis’ strategy for ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue was also addressed, as well as the upcoming Pan Orthodox Council and the June visit of the Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Ukraine. Below is the full text of CNA’s conversation with Archbishop Shevchuk:What’s behind the conflict in east Ukraine? The very, very essence of this conflict is the external aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. After the fall of the Soviet Union 25 years ago, Ukraine voted in the referendum for its independence, but it is sad to say that our neighbor is starting to restore the Soviet Union, trying to pull back all those countries to the so-called ‘Eurasian Union.’ For the Ukrainian people all those social projects are a big discussion between our movement toward democracy, toward European values, or coming back to the times of the Soviet Union. It was a huge discussion in Ukraine maybe three or four years ago. And the citizens of Ukraine decided to be a free and independent country, this is why we were attacked by our neighbor. Of course Ukraine is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, with its inner tensions, conflicts and all kinds of historical causes which bring us to the richness of our daily existence. But nevertheless, that aggression was using the weakness of the Ukrainian state after the so-called ‘revolution of dignity’ when that discussion about our future was, I would say, expressed by that phenomenon which we would call ‘Maiden.’ People would just go out, expressing they are willing to live in a democratic and independent country. And during that discussion, using the weakness of the Ukrainian state, we were attacked by the Russian Federation, first with the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and then the invasion of Russian troops in Donbass, which is the region in eastern Ukraine.Two years into this conflict there’s still debate about setting a definite boarder for the occupied territory. Why do you think that has been so difficult to do up to this point? My opinion is that the borders of Ukraine are internationally established. So it is not a discussion about the Ukrainian borders, it’s a question about an illegal annexation and occupation of the Ukrainian territory. It is an issue of the breaking of international law, and the system of international, worldwide security. If a strong, big country has a right to invade a small neighbor, international law does not exist anymore. So the whole issue is about justice and international law, and respect of the integrity and serenity of your neighbors. This is an international problem.It’s an international problem, but a lot of the international community seems to be unaware. Why do you think this conflict is so invisible to them? Are they indifferent? I think there are many causes of that, I would say ‘silent’ war in Ukraine. Very often in international society so-called ‘rich countries’ are very much concentrated in their own interests and their own life in their own international policy. Those countries who are not directly involved in the welfare of those rich, global powers are very often marginalized and forgotten. Very often modern politicians would rather close their eyes and make an impression that the problem does not exist, than making a commitment to solve those problems. I have to say that the situation in Ukraine, that war against a sovereign and independent country, the Ukrainian State, is the biggest international crisis in Eastern Europe after the Second World War. Not only on the diplomatic level, not only at a military and political one, but the humanitarian level as well because that conflict involves millions of people who are suffering. Ukraine right how has more or less 2 million internally displaced persons. Many people are trying to simply survive in the rich Ukrainian soil. This is why Ukraine desperately needs an international solidarity. Because very often in today’s life human suffering is becoming a simple show. Very often in western countries news about war and suffering is simply an issue of some sort of everyday news. Very often we are indifferent, very often we would rather close our eyes and say ‘this is not my business’ when we see bloodshed or human suffering. This is why the situation in Ukraine arises very deep questions: do we commit ourselves to the very foundation of democracy, which is the dignity of the human person? Do we commit ourselves to establish the sanctity of human life? All these questions are rising right now in Ukraine, and we as Ukrainians would ask those questions to international society.As far as the Greek-Catholic Church goes, how has the conflict affected it? Is there difficulty for priests in the conflict area? How is the Church handling the situation? The role and the commitment of the Church in the conditions or war is a pastoral care for those who are suffering. We have our parishes in Crimea, we have our parishes in the occupied territory of Donbass, we have our priests even in that so-called ‘Grey Zone,’ which is a line of division between the territory which is controlled by the Ukrainian government and the occupied territory. We have our structures, our parishes, our communities in the whole territory of Ukraine and our mission is to be with those who are in need, to serve those who are in danger, to be with those who need our solidarity. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is a global Church, we have our parishes, our communities, not only in Ukraine but in South and North America, Australia, Western Europe, so that body of the Church in such extremely difficult conditions is more or less mobilized, so we’re trying to help those in need. Our priests are sacrificing their lives being with those who are in danger. We are trying to perform social services to the internally displaced persons, we are trying to be with the Ukrainian soldiers in the front line who are giving up their lives for a free and independent Ukraine, and we’re trying as Christians to serve everybody who is in need without asking which kind of Church you belong to, which nationality you are, which language you speak. Of course a priest is not a simple social worker. By our pastoral care we are bringing a witness, a witness to those who very often would feel abandoned by everybody. In such painful conditions people would ask: does God care about us? Are we forgotten by God? And the presence of our priests, of our nuns, of our bishops, with those people who are suffering is a presence that God is with us, that Christ always is with those who are victims of aggression, because he himself became a victim on the cross, and in this way he brings salvation to the world. I would say service, challenge and witness in everyday life in Ukraine.What about collaboration with other rites and other Churches in terms of mutual support? What has this been like? As I mentioned before, Ukraine is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, but in such dramatic conditions we experienced the ecumenism in action, because nobody is asking who you are and to what confession, what Church you belong to. We are united in our care for those who are in need. We are praying together, we are helping each other, we are supporting each other as Churches, as communities, because our common goal is to serve everyone who needs our service, because all Christians believe that each human person was created in the image and likeness of God. So our service to those who are in need is an essential part of our worship to God, we cannot praise God without bringing our service to those in whom he is present today as those who are in the hospital, who are hungry, who are thirsty, who are those who are in danger of their lives.The Latin Church has shown a lot of support to Greek-Catholics in Ukraine and to humanitarian efforts on the ground. Pope Francis also had a collection to support conflict relief efforts not long ago. What has this support meant to the Ukrainian people? We are very grateful to the Holy Father for his initiative, first of all to bring attention of the international community to the suffering of Ukrainian citizens in Ukraine. That particular support, that particular humanitarian mission which the Holy Father announced, is not directly a support of the local Church, but this is a support and help to the people who are victims of the unjust aggression. Of course the local Churches, both Byzantine and Latin Rite, we are open to cooperate with that mission of the Holy Father, we are open to offering our structures, our possibilities, our communities, to reach those people to whom the Holy Father is willing to help. We are very grateful that the Holy Father is trying to awaken the consciousness of European Christians to that silence about the unjust war against Ukraine.I’d also like to ask about relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. The situation has been complicated, especially given the ongoing conflict, but what is the current state of relations between your Churches? In Ukraine we do not have the Russian Orthodox Church, we have the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate, and that Church is also trying to help those who are in need. Of course that Church is experiencing some internal tensions concerning the Russian aggression, because those soldiers who are killing Ukrainians, the majority of them belong to the same Church. So the question is why members of the same Church are killing their brothers and sisters on the soil of Ukraine. This is a big question. But nevertheless in Ukraine we’re trying to cooperate with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we are trying to respect the sensibility of Orthodox believers, and to help each other. I think we are discovering that there are many more things and issues which unite us than which divide us. If we would abandon politics, if we would look into the eyes of those people to whom we are supposed to serve, we will rediscover the living Christ present among us, our God, which is the same for Catholic and Orthodox, the same God for Christians, Muslims and Jews. Our Lord who is asking us to love our neighbor.So would you say that efforts for collaboration are stronger than whatever tensions might exist? I have to bring the witness that our people in the very, very, basic foundation of the Church, are more united that the Church hierarchs are, and they are asking us to follow them. Those very profound questions – why do we suffer? Do we have hope? Does our sacrifice have any meaning? – are the same questions (all) people are asking; Orthodox, priests, bishops, Catholics, Muslims and Jews, and I think if we will be honest and faithful to our own vocation we will give the same response to those people. In that service, we are and will be united.Speaking of relations between Church hierarchs, what is your opinion on the Pope’s meeting with Patriarch Kirill in February? I think it was a historical meeting. We are very thankful to God that it finally happened, because for decades we as Ukrainian Greek Catholics were called an obstacle for that meeting. Thanks be to God that now we are not an obstacle for such brotherly relationships and meetings. I think that the Holy Father is opening a new page in the history of relationships between Catholics and Orthodox. But in order to cooperate, in order to develop our brotherly relationships we cannot put any conditions. The main discussion in Ukraine, (in terms of) some sort of ‘conditions,’ were some points of the joint declaration that was signed. But the Holy Father, many times when I had the chance to talk to him, underlined that for him the most important (thing) is a person and not a paper, a meeting and not a declaration, cooperation and not some theoretical thinking, some philosophical statements, because that theory would come and go, a declaration would be forgotten, but the gesture of open arms will remain.You have known the Pope since his time in Argentina. He seemed to have had great success in uniting people from different religions and backgrounds in that context. Do you think he’s using the same strategy as then, but in perhaps a broader scale as Pope? I have to say he is the same person as he was in Buenos Aires. He’s the same as the Successor of Peter in Rome, and his policy is almost the same, because he’s trying to really break all those divisions, all those prejudices against brothers and sisters. I think really that he’s under the motion of the Holy Spirit, which brings him to appreciate the dignity of the human person regardless of what confession, Church or political background that person comes from. I think this is how we Christians are supposed to bring our witness to Christ in the future, and I think in that motion of the Holy Spirit we can build unity. The unity of the Church, the unity of the human race. I remember the words of St. Pope John Paul II, that a united Europe can be united only in Christ. And I think the Holy Father Francis is simply going forward on the same path.Would say that so far his strategy is working? Absolutely.On the theme of dialogue, another historic meeting is coming up in June, the Pan Orthodox Council. What are your thoughts on this, considering your presence in a majority Orthodox country? I wrote a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and to the members of the Pan Orthodox Council assuring our prayer, because the challenges which Christianity is facing today are common, for Orthodox and for Catholics. As I said previously, there are many more things which unite us than divide us. The biggest scandal for our world is a division between Christians. So my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help our brethren Orthodox to be united their efforts in order to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in today’s globalized culture. Our prayer is that openness to dialogue with modern culture, and to dialogue with brethren Christians who are maybe not a member of the Orthodox communion, will be a topic of their discussions. Because we can face those challenges only if we will be in dialogue with God and today’s world, if we will be able to love God and our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbor without entering into dialogue with him. We cannot bring our witness to today’s humanity without the spirit of love. Love brings that openness, that freshness, that vibrancy to the Church. This is my prayer and my wish for the Pan Orthodox Council, which I expressed in my letter.Will any representatives of the Greek Catholic Church be observing? Yourself or anyone else? No. As I understand, the observers from the Catholic side, particularly from the Greek Catholic side, were not invited to the council. But we respect their sensibilities and wishes, and nevertheless we will support (and) we will be united with the Orthodox hierarchs in prayer and in the Holy Spirit.While this is a council specific to the Orthodox Churches, which of the discussion topics would be most pertinent from a Catholic standpoint? Issues such as the unification of liturgical calendars, for example… Well, those topics mostly are inner issues of the Orthodox community, so this is why we are not entering into the discussion or arguing with the Orthodox brethren. Any kind of growing in unity among the Orthodox would be helpful for our dialogue, because some sort of divisions between the Orthodox Churches hurts the possibility to have an open and successful dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics. Perhaps in Ukraine, we have three Orthodox Churches, and we pray someday at least the Orthodox in Ukraine will be united among them. It will facilitate our dialogue the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The same in the worldwide perspective. More unity among the Orthodox will bring more unity among all Christians.One final question. Is there any news on the Pope coming to Ukraine? Not yet.But Cardinal Parolin is coming in June… Yes, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parloin, the Secretary of State of Vatican City announced that he is coming. Right now we are preparing his visit, discussion his program in Ukraine, and we hope that he will announce everything that we should know about a possible visit of the Holy Father and the humanitarian action of His Holiness in order to help those who are suffering in Ukraine. Read more

Pope Francis to author new book answering teens’ questions

Vatican City, May 29, 2016 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After becoming the first Pope to author a children’s book earlier this year, Pope Francis will soon come out with another, based on his responses to questions posed by youth through a new online platform. Speaking at the May 27-29 World Encounter of the Directors of Scholas Occurrentes, Italian journalist and author Tiziana Lupi explained the idea behind the new book, which she said seeks to “open a door” to dialogue with youth. Scholas was founded by Pope Francis in August 2013 as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts and sports. The foundation has organized several events at the Vatican, including two Google hangout sessions with Pope Francis, as well as 2014’s interreligious Match for Peace. Both Richard Gere and George Clooney were present for the May 29 meeting between the Pope and participants in the encounter. Lupi, who works with Italian editorial Mondadori, said May 29 that the publication has joined efforts with Scholas in creating a new technological platform “which allows all youth from all over the world, all social classes, all religious to ask Pope Francis a question without filters.” While it’s generally journalists who ask the questions, this time it will be the youth who open their hearts to the Pope through the new webpage “askpopefrancis.scholasoccurrentes,” which has yet to be launched. Since there will obviously be too many questions to include all of them in the book, only certain questions, which come more authentically from the heart, will be selected. “We’ll select the ones that seem more from the heart and which allow Pope Francis to touch on topics he hasn’t been able to until today,” Lupi said, adding that the book will likely be released sometime in October or November. Pope Francis met with participants in the gathering May 29, which also marked the presentation of the platform the new book project, called “Chiedete” in Italian. In addition to the announcement of the new book, several other projects and initiatives were presented to the Pope. After hearing the tearful testimony of a teen girl from Mexico who was bullied after coming to the United States following her parents’ separation, the Pope was told that a new anti-bullying campaign was being launched by Scholas with the hashtag “#nosotrossomosunicos,” meaning “#weareunique.” Following the girl’s testimony, 12 young, influential Youtube users from around the world asked the Pope how to build a better, more diverse and integrated world. In his response, Francis said that each person must be recognized for their own personal identity, explaining that “there is no future” if a person lacks a clear identity. He spoke of the importance of the “language of gestures” in making someone feel included. These gestures, he said, can be “pat, a smile, a smile that gives hope, looking into one’s eyes. Gestures of approval or patience, tolerance.” If bullying is ever going to stop, we must leave aggressions behind, he said, adding that “bullying is an aggression that hides a profound cruelty.” “The world is cruel. Wars are monuments of cruelty,” he said, and pulled out from his pocket graphic pictures sent to him by a nun living in an African country torn apart by civil war. Showing the pictures to the participants, Francis lamented how they depicted grotesque images such as a child with their throat cut and another “butchered in the head.” “If this happens, how will bullying not? It’s the same cruelty,” he said, explaining that if we want to build a better world, we must first eliminate “all forms of cruelty. War is a form of cruelty.” Instead of aggression, we must gain the ability to listen to one another and to dialogue, rather than argue, he said, telling attendees “don’t be afraid of dialogue,” because with dialogue “everyone wins, no one loses.” Pope Francis also stressed the importance of leaving one’s pride and superiority behind, because these attitudes “always end badly.” The world today “needs to lower the level of aggression, it needs tenderness, it needs to listen, it needs to walk together,” he said, and, pointing to the photos, said added that “this is happening today because all these attitudes are lacking.” Francis was then presented with several other initiatives before receiving a signed copy of all the commitments made by participants during the three-day gathering. Mention of the second interreligious Match for Peace, to be played June 10 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium and which draws together major soccer stars from around the world, was also mentioned. The Pope closed the gathering by offering his gratitude to participants for their prayers and work, and praying for youth around the world. Read more

Pope Francis asks kids to join Syrian children in praying for peace

Vatican City, May 29, 2016 / 06:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Millions of children have either been killed, displaced or orphaned as a result of Syria’s ongoing, bloody civil war. Some have witnessed bombings, the death of friends and loved ones, and have been forced to leave their homes and villages, seeking refuge in places where soldiers and gunfire don’t wake them up at night. Hundreds of Syrian children, scarred by five years of civil war, will now be the protagonists in a special June 1 prayer event, which takes place on International Children’s Day and will join together Christians from both Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Syria to pray for peace. Backed by both Catholic and Orthodox leaders in Syria, the event will gather hundreds of children from different denominations, who will lead processions in ravaged cities throughout Syria such as Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Tartus and Marmarita. In a show of support for these children and all those suffering due to the country’s gruesome war, Pope Francis on Sunday gave a shoutout to the event after celebrating Mass for the Jubilee of Deacons, urging children around the world to join their peers in Syria in praying for peace June 1. “This Wednesday, June 1, on the occasion of International Children’s Day, the Christian Community of Syria, both Catholic and Orthodox, will participate together in special prayer for peace, which will have children as the protagonists,” the Pope said May 29. “The Syrian children invite children from all over the world to unite with them in their prayer for peace,” he said, and led the deacons and other pilgrims present at the Mass in praying the Angelus. Francis’ promotion of the event fell the day after giving a speech to children, which he centered on the heartbreaking story of a young Syrian girl who drowned at sea in an attempt to reach Europe after fleeing the war with her family. He assured the children that he didn’t want to make them sad, but instead wanted to tell them the truth: “they are in danger – many boys and girls, small children, men, women – they are in danger.” The June 1 prayer event is being promoted by Catholic charitable organization Aid to the Church in Need, who is asking children from schools and parishes throughout the world to join the youth in Syria in praying for a peaceful end to the conflict. In a joint message issued by Syria’s Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs, the leaders said the children will gather and pray so that “peace may come at last.” “The children in our own home country of Syria are the little brothers and sisters of the suffering Child Jesus,” they said. For more than five years these kids have been “dragged through a cruel war, wounded, traumatized or even killed,” they said, explaining that “their tears and their sufferings cry out to heaven.” They noted how Jesus, the God of all creation, chose to become a defenseless child. Often times the Christ Child is portrayed not as a naked infant in a manger, “but as a King, holding in his left hand the globe, representing the world, and with his right hand blessing the whole earth.” Because of this, the June 1 event has been entrusted to the patronage of the Child Jesus, as well as the Catholic image of Infant of Prague and the Orthodox icon of “The Mother of God of the Never Fading Rose,” in which the Blessed Virgin Mary is depicted holding a crowned Christ Child in her arms. The children will carry both of the images with them during the June 1 processions. In their message, the Catholic and Orthodox leaders of Syria asked God to “Protect and save the children of this land! Hear our prayers, now! Delay no longer in granting peace to our land! Look upon the tears of the children; dry the tears of the mothers; let the cries of grief at last fall silent!”  Photo credit: Credit: ZouZou via www.shutterstock.com Read more

How a music professor became a papal knight

Washington D.C., May 29, 2016 / 05:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Growing up in a modest home in southern California, Leo Nestor never imagined that his love of music would one day lead to him becoming a papal knight. But that’s exactly what happened, … Read more

Want to be a good servant? Be generous, Pope Francis tells deacons

Vatican City, May 29, 2016 / 03:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis celebrated a special jubilee for deacons, telling them that a good servant is one who forgets themselves, letting go of their own plans and humbly placing their lives at the… Read more




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