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

India’s foreign minister reassures bishops that Father Tom is alive

New Delhi, India, Apr 6, 2016 / 05:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After rampant rumors spread of the crucifixion of kidnapped priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian government official told the nation’s bishops on Saturday that the priest is alive and that they are working on ensuring his safe and quick return. Fr. Uzhunnalil, an Indian national, was abducted last month when four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people, including four Missionary of Charity sisters. The attacks are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, though no group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have a presence in the area. During Holy Week, several blogs and media outlets reported that Fr. Tom was crucified by Islamic State militants on Good Friday. However, there has been no confirmation of the event by friends, family, or Fr. Uzhunnalil’s Salesian community, and the bishop of the local Church dismissed the rumors. On March 28, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) wrote a letter to India’s Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, urging greater efforts in locating the priest and for further information to clarify his whereabouts and to quell the rumors of crucifixion. A CBCI delegation then met with Swaraj at her office Saturday. “Ms. Sushma Swaraj has categorically assured the delegation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil is safe and that the Government is adopting all possible means for the quick and safe release of Fr. Tom,” the bishops said in an April 2 statement after the meeting. “The Honorable Minister also said that the wild rumors being spread about any harm done to Fr. Tom, are totally baseless.” While Swaraj assured the bishops that every effort is being made to bring the priest back safely, the specifics of the ongoing investigation and negotiations could not be revealed so as to protect the life of Fr. Tom. Rumors of the possibility of a Good Friday crucifixion for Fr. Tom emerged on March 20, when the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen, a religious group based in South Africa, shared a post on Facebook saying they’d received information that the priest was being tortured after his capture and that he would be crucified on Good Friday. The Sisters have since deleted the post, but it had already been shared by more than 100,000 people. The rumors continued when Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna allegedly confirmed the crucifixion during Easter Vigil services, causing Austrian and Polish media sources to believe the crucifixion had taken place. Afterwards, Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia (whose apostolic vicariate serves Catholics in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen) told CNA that Cardinal Schönborn’s statement was based on an incorrect statement from Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore. Cardinal Schonborn has since corrected the alleged statement. At the end of their statement on Saturday, the Indian bishops said they “expressed the sincere gratitude of the whole Church in India for the various steps taken by the Government of India and, in particular, the Hon’ble Minister for External Affairs, to trace and rescue Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil from the abductors.” Read more

The blessing of a lifetime: 5-year-old girl going blind meets Pope Francis

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2016 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Lizzy Myers was diagnosed with a condition that could result in complete blindness, her parents, Steve and Christine, went to work on a “visual bucket list” for their daughter. Today, Lizzy got to check something off: meeting Pope Francis. The five-year-old, along with her parents and three-year-old sister Michaela, had special seats for the general audience with the Pope on Wednesday, where she was able to meet him in person. She gave him a gift – a piece of meteorite from an observatory she had recently visited – and he gave her a hug and blessed her eyes. “I felt an overwhelming sense of peace” when they met, Christine Myers said at a press conference following the meeting. “Since the beginning of all of this, this is the first time I have felt peace.” As for Lizzy, “She was awestruck. She just stared at him, she had totally big eyes,” Christine said. Lizzy attends a Catholic Montessori school back home in Ohio, and was excited to meet Pope, whom she refers to as the “big guy in the white hat.” When she first heard the family was going to Rome, where the Pope lived, she asked if she could knock on his door. The family is in Rome courtesy of Turkish Airlines, whose general manager heard her story and offered the family free plane tickets to anywhere in the world. They chose Rome because of their Catholic faith, and because of all the beautiful art and sights Lizzy could see there. Steve told reporters that he was very grateful for the meeting with the Pope, which he didn’t realize would be an option when they first decided to visit Rome. He said the encounter with his daughter and the Holy Father gave him an inexplicable sense of calm. “I was very nervous coming up to that point, I started having stomach pains,” he said. “But as soon as Pope Francis came up to where Lizzy was, a calm came over me, I don’t even know how to explain it.” “I believe and I think that what Pope Francis has done for her – if there’s any chance for a miracle, it would be there.” After several recent tests, Lizzy was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type II, a rare genetic condition that causes hearing and progressive vision loss, and can result in blindness. Steve and Christine created a “visual bucket list” for their daughter, which included a trip to a local observatory near their home town. The story made the front pages of a local paper, and caught the attention of the Associated Press, which eventually led to their Rome excursion. There are also many ordinary things on the list, Christine said – catching fireflies, roasting s’mores over a bonfire, kite-flying. The couple said they hope that Lizzy’s story will encourage other parents of children with bi-lateral hearing loss to genetically test their children for Usher II Syndrome, so they might be able to give their children as many visual experiences as possible before it’s too late. VIDEO: 5-year old Lizzy Myers, sees #PopeFrancis this morning – her wish before she goes blind. He blesses her eyes. pic.twitter.com/Z8AxRtKxMP — Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) April 6, 2016 Read more




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