At UN, calls for global response to Christian genocide

New York City, N.Y., Apr 28, 2016 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The plight of Christians and other Middle East minorities demands action from the international community, one leader in relief efforts said in a panel at the United Nations. “We hav… Read more

Be open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis advises

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2016 / 10:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily Thursday Pope Francis stressed the need to be open to the novelty of the Holy Spirit, by discerning new movements and directions without being immediately closed off from them. Fran… Read more

Be open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis advises

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2016 / 10:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily Thursday Pope Francis stressed the need to be open to the novelty of the Holy Spirit, by discerning new movements and directions without being immediately closed off from them. Fran… Read more

How Swiss Guards are bringing the Vatican to your kitchen

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2016 / 03:36 am (CNA).- A native of Zurich, Switzerland, David Geisser was a chef prodigy. He compiled his first best-selling cookbook at age 18, produced his second cookbook before he was 23, and was working under masters such a… Read more

At the Supreme Court, Catholic bishops speak up for a Lutheran playground

Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2016 / 12:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The denial of a playground resurfacing grant to a Lutheran school empowers religious discrimination, not constitutional principles, the U.S. Catholic bishops said in a Supreme Court brief. “Missouri’s religious discrimination not only contravenes the First Amendment, it is profoundly demeaning to people of faith,” the U.S. bishops said in their April 21 amicus curiae brief. The brief backs Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo. in its suit against the Missouri government. The church’s learning center had sought a state grant for playground resurfacing with scrap tire material to improve playground safety at its preschool and daycare center. The grant could have totaled $30,000 in aid to the school. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources rejected the grant application. The Catholic bishops’ brief argued that constitutional law does not authorize a blanket exclusion from public programs that provide “religiously neutral benefits” for secular purposes. “Otherwise  the  government  could  exclude religious  institutions  from  basic  public  services  like police and fire protection.” The Catholic bishops said the religious school was otherwise eligible, but the State of Missouri denied it solely due to its religious affiliation. Since 1875, the Missouri state constitution has barred public money for the direct or indirect aid of any church or any minister or teacher. The bishops’ brief rejected the claim that such a grant would violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This claim could be used as “a pretext for penalizing religious groups whose beliefs or practices diverge from government-prescribed orthodoxy,” they said. “Official discrimination based on religion is no less invidious or stigmatizing than discrimination based on other protected traits,” the brief said. “It sends a message that religious people and their institutions are second-class citizens who deserve special disabilities and are not entitled to participate on equal terms in government programs.” In 2015 the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling against the school, on the grounds the U.S. constitution permits the provisions of the Missouri constitution. The Supreme Court could hear the case in its late 2016 session. Other signatories to the Catholic bishops’ brief include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Catholic Educational Association, the Salvation Army and the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. Many groups have filed separate briefs in favor of the Lutheran Church. These include a brief from eighteen mostly Republican-run states, The Oklahoman reports.Photo credit: Aleph Studio via www.shutterstock.com. Read more

For Cardinal Wuerl, Pope Francis calls Christians to evangelize through marriage

Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2016 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family presents a special challenge to laypeople to evangelize, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said Wednesday at the Catholic University of America. One finding of the recent synods on the family was that “we have a lot of catechesis to do, a lot of sharing the faith,” Cardinal Wuerl said April 27 in his address to university students and professors on Amoris laetitia, and the synods which led up to its publication. The exhortation presented both a “beautiful gift” and an “extraordinary challenge” to the Church, the cardinal maintained. Catechesis is needed because many people “only have a vague idea” of Church teaching on “marriage, morality, family, even something as basic as the obligations of the commandments,” he noted. Cardinal Wuerl spoke as a special presentation in the class of university president John Garvey on “The Virtues.” A rupture from tradition in catechesis has resulted in many Catholics needing to be evangelized themselves, the cardinal said, and he challenged the university students to evangelize: “I would like to see all of us accepting the personal obligation to be an evangelizing disciple.” “There’s a whole catechetical deficiency that’s the result … of that ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity’ of the ’70s that led to several generations of people who simply don’t know the faith; and if they don’t know it, then they can’t grow to appreciate and embrace it.” “For many, many, many people, lifting up marriage and lifting up the importance of the family is for them something new,” Cardinal Wuerl added. Laypersons can evangelize through “the witness of their own life,” he said. “How do you manifest that belief that you are a true disciple of Jesus, that he’s risen and walks with you?” he asked. Then when the opportunity is right, someone can take the initiative and evangelize through their words, he said, telling the students, “you can’t overestimate the impact you have” by saying something “countercultural” and with “conviction.” Renewal was at the heart of the Second Vatican Council, and this theme continues in Amoris laetitia in a call for a renewal of understanding what marriage is, Cardinal Wuerl stated. “There’s a sense in which one can see in this exhortation a renewal, a renewal to recognize our Catholic identity, our connectedness to the Church, and how our ministry is validated precisely in our participation in and our adherence to the articulated magisterium of the Church,” he explained. The exhortation “draws deeply and richly” from the magisterial teaching of recent popes reflected in the “astounding number of citations” from the pontificates of Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II, and Bl. Paul VI, and as well as Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he noted. “The Council called for a renewal of our pastoral ministry, a renewal of our moral theology. And this document is taking the priority of charity and mercy, articulated in the papal encyclicals beginning with Paul VI, and placing them at the service now of pastoral ministry,” he said. He exhorted the students to take part in this renewal of the Church. “The role of each one of you on this campus, the role of every young person in the Church is the renewal that’s going to be the Church’s renewal of the future,” he stated. “We can’t go back and undo what was done in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s done. But we can build for the future, and we can build if we have that confidence” that “what the Church teaches us is truly relevant.” An evangelizing disciple knows Church teaching and what Christ said, and has the “quiet confidence that it’s true,” he concluded. Read more

Benedictine nuns back at it again with a new album

Kansas City, Mo., Apr 27, 2016 / 04:52 pm (CNA).- A new album from the chart-topping community of Benedictine nuns in rural Missouri has an intimate selection of the songs they sing when they gather for Eucharistic Adoration at their monastery. “We pray that the music on this album will contribute to a more profound belief, adoration, hope and love…in the Blessed Sacrament among many, many souls,” Mother Cecilia told CNA. She is prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, whose album Adoration at Ephesus is newly available.Jesus My Lord, My God, My All from Benedictine Sisters on Vimeo. “This new album contains much of the music we sing for Eucharistic adoration,” she explained. “The Sisters gather for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday, Thursday, and Solemnity for just over an hour. As the priest first places Our Lord in the monstrance, we sing a hymn to greet Him.” Eucharistic Adoration at the community then proceeds with a moment of reverent gratitude for the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament, chanted Vespers, and often a communal rosary. “Then there is time for silent prayer, as we converse heart to Heart with the One whom we love.” Just before Benediction, Mother Cecilia said, “we sing a Tantum Ergo,” the hymn which traditionally concludes communal Adoration. “After Benediction and the Divine Praises, as Our Lord is placed back in the tabernacle, we chant a final reposition hymn in His honor. There are a variety of these ‘farewell’ hymns on the disk, and (we) were sure to include two of the most well-known, Holy God, We Praise Thy Name and Adoremus in Aeternum.”Adoration at Ephesus includes 24 tracks, in both Latin and English, that the sisters sing in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. Ten of the tracks, which were recorded this spring, were arranged by the sisters. In addition to the times of communal Adoration, Mother Cecilia explained that “on the vigil of the Feasts of the Apostles, the Sisters take turns adoring during the day and all through the night.” “Our main intention during these hours is for our bishops – that they will have great fortitude and fidelity to the Faith, especially amidst growing persecution from all sides.” Though the community practices limited enclosure, their music albums have brought them international renown and popularity – they have been Billboard’s Best-Selling Classical Traditional Artist for three years in a row, and their albums have topped Billboard’s Top Traditional Classical Albums. Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and “continually turning” towards God. They have Mass daily according to the extraordinary form, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office. They also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments. The proceeds from the sales of Adoration at Ephesus will help to fund the sisters’ new monastic church. “The chapel in which we now pray was conceived as a temporary one,” Mother Cecilia said. “As the community grows and the hospitality apostolate expands, the necessity of undertaking the design and building of a new church has become a pressing reality.” “In releasing Adoration at Ephesus, it is our hope to use the funds raised for the construction of a house of prayer – a new edifice where the Lord may truly be adored in spirit and in truth,” she added. “We have been so touched thus far by the generous response our friends have shown in adding donations for the Church to their pre-orders. It has been tremendously inspiring.” The sisters’ new chapel “is being built up by faith in the charity of our friends and spiritual family spread across the country,” Mother Cecilia said. “Their faith provides the living stones with which we press on, striving to raise up a beautiful house for God.” The prioress concluded by reflecting on the link between the album and the apparitions at Fatima, noting that “this very month is the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the Angel to the three little shepherds near Fatima.” “I was simply astounded that our album corresponds so perfectly and intimately with the message he brought to the children and the world. If one word had to be chosen to summarize that message, it would be: adoration.” “We pray that all souls will adore our Eucharistic Lord with great faith, love, reverence and thanksgiving!” Read more

Pope opens the door for beatification of Albanian martyrs

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2016 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday gave the green light for the beatification of 38 Albanian martyrs, all of whom were killed by the country’s atheistic, communist regime between 1945 and 1974. In an … Read more

Knowledge is empty unless it leads to love, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2016 / 05:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that just because someone is an expert in God’s law and a strict adherent to the rules doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to love and serve others. “It’s not automatic that whoever frequents the House of God and knows his mercy knows how to love their neighbor. It’s not automatic,” the Pope said April 27. “You can know the bible, you can know all the liturgical norms, you can know theology, but ‘to know’ is not automatically ‘to love,’” he said, explaining that “to love has another path, with intelligence, but it has something more.” While knowledge and worship are good, they are false unless they are “translated into service of others,” Francis stressed. “Let us never forget: in front of the suffering of so many people exhausted by hunger, violence, injustice, we cannot remain spectators. To ignore the suffering of man means to ignore God!” Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience, which he has dedicated to the topic of mercy as seen in scripture for the Jubilee of mercy. In his speech, the Pope focused on the Gospel passage in Luke in which Jesus recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan. After telling the crowd that they must “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and will all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus is questioned by a doctor of the law, who presses him on who qualifies as a neighbor. What this doctor of the law is looking for, Francis said, is “a clear rule that permits him to classify the others into ‘neighbor’ and ‘non-neighbors.’ Those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.” Jesus then responds with a parable including a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. The first two are linked to their worship at the temple, while the third, the Samaritan, is “a schismatic Jew, considered as a stranger, a pagan and impure.” Francis noted that the Law of the Lord obliged the priest and the Levite to help the suffering, injured man, yet they both pass without stopping. The despised Samaritan, on the other hand, doesn’t walk by the wounded man like the other two, but instead had compassion. “That is the difference,” Pope Francis said. “The other two saw, but their hearts remained closed, cold. Instead the heart of the Samaritan was in tune with the heart of God.” Compassion is “an essential characteristic of God’s mercy,” the Pope continued, explaining that the compassion shown by the Good Samaritan is the same that God shows to each one of us. The Lord, he said, “doesn’t ignore us, he knows our pains, he knows how much we need help and consolation. He comes close to us and never abandons us.” In taking the wounded man to a hotel, caring for him and paying the bill, the Samaritan teaches us that love and compassion “are not a vague feeling,” but mean taking care of one another even to the point of paying the expense in person. “It means to compromise oneself taking all the steps needed in order to draw close to the other, to the point of immersing yourself with them,” he added. Pope Francis then turned to Jesus’ question at the end of the passage, when he asks the doctors of the law which figure in the parable was a neighbor to the wounded man. The unanimous answer, he noted was “the one who had compassion.” Francis noted that this answer differed from what they initially said at the beginning. Namely that for the priest and the Levite, their neighbor was the dying man. However, at the end, the neighbor became the Samaritan, “who drew near.” “Jesus reverses the prospective,” he said, explaining that rather than sitting by and classifying who is a neighbor and who isn’t, “you can become the neighbor of anyone you meet in need, and you will be if in your heart you have compassion.” The Pope closed his speech saying the parable is “a stupendous gift” and a commitment for all to take into consideration. “We are all called to follow the same path of the Good Samaritan, who is the figure of Christ,” he said, adding that “Jesus bent down over us, became our servant, and in doing so saved us, so that also we can love one another as Jesus loved us. In the same way.” Read more

Woman bulldozed to death in China signals new wave of oppression

Beijing, China, Apr 27, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Two members of a Chinese church demolition crew have been detained by police after they allegedly bulldozed the wife of a Christian pastor who had attempted to halt the destruction of her church. Bob Fu, president of the NGO China Aid, said that Christianity has become a “major target” in culture and is treated as “a political and security threat to the regime,” he told CNA April 25. “Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act,” Fu said in a previous statement from China Aid. “This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law. The Chinese authorities should immediately hold those murderers accountable and take concrete measures to protect the religious freedom of this house church’s members.” Ding Cumei and her husband Li Jiangong were pushed into a ditch and buried alive by the bulldozer as congregants watched. Her husband was able to dig his way out, but she was not. Li headed Beitou Church in the city of Zhumadian in central China’s Hena province. A government-backed company had sent the demolition crew to the church after a local developer wished to take the property, China Aid said. One member of the crew allegedly said “Bury them alive for me…I will be responsible for their lives.” An officer at the local police station told China Aid that the two members of the crew were detained but the officer did not disclose their alleged crimes. Local Christians said that the government departments in charge of the area were not present to oversee the demolition. Li said that police took an unusually long time to arrive after the murder was reported. Fu told CNA that the situation for Christians in China has changed under President Xi Jinping, who took office in 2013. He likened the situation to a “new Cultural Revolution.” Under the previous presidential administrations of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, Fu said, “officially Christianity was not overtly regarded as a national security threat.” Suspicion and crackdowns instead focused on unregistered churches in both Protestant and Catholic churches. Now, even registered churches have faced increased scrutiny and persecution. Church leaders at government sanctioned churches have faced heavy criminal sentences. “Christians, including Catholics have been asked to change into a different version of belief under the banner of ‘Sinicization of religion’ in order to make Christianity compatible with socialism,” Fu said. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, told Fox News that there has been a change from previous trends to recognize Christians as productive members of Chinese society. “China has the goal of nationalizing Christians,” he said. Curry’s organization monitors anti-Christian persecution around the world. He said there are many ways to marginalize China’s Christian churches, including rezoning church properties to allow for demolition. Some local pastors are required to meet weekly with local officials to discuss their sermons. “It has had a chilling effect on religious freedom in China,” he said. Fu added that China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief. “Religious freedom is a universal, fundamental first freedom,” he said. “Religious freedom for Christianity can foster a more stable less volatile and more prosperous China.”Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com. Read more