In Los Angles, thousands rally to build a city that celebrates life

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 25, 2016 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The dignity of every human life was the focus of a major pro-life event in Los Angeles on Saturday. More than 15,000 people joined speakers, religious leaders and entertainers to encourage … Read more

Why China’s two-child policy won’t alter its human rights horrors

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2016 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The dark nature of abortion and choice come into sharp relief when considering the human rights abuses which result from forced abortions in mainland China, according to one pro-life activist. … Read more

Christians are united by mission and conversion, Pope Francis reflects

Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2016 / 11:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Monday marked the conclusion of the Week for Christian Unity, saying all Christians are united by the call to conversion and the mission to proclaim the Gospel.   “Beyond the differences that still separate us, we joyfully recognize that, at the origin of the Christian life there is always a call whose author is God,” the Pope during his Jan. 25 homily at Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. “Conversion means let the Lord live and work in us,” the Roman Pontiff said. “For this reason, when Christians of different churches together to the Word of God listen and try to put it into practice, they accomplish truly important steps towards unity.” “The mission of the whole people of God is to proclaim the wonderful deeds of the Lord, above all the Paschal mystery of Christ, through whom we have passed from the darkness of sin and death, the glory of his life, the new and eternal.” The annual Week for Christian Unity runs Jan. 18-25, and is organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the Commission on Faith, and the Order of the World Council of Churches. This year’s theme, “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,” is taken from chapter two of the First Book of Peter, and was chosen by a group from Latvia, which is home to a strong presence of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. Presiding over the event at Rome’s Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Francis recounted in his homily the story of Paul (previously known as Saul), a Jew who, before his conversion, had persecuted the early Christians. As the account goes, Saul was thrown from his horses and blinded while en route to Damascus. Hearing a voice say: “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” Asking who was speaking, Saul heard in reply: “Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecute.” “In that moment, in fact, Paul understood that, between the eternally living Christ and his followers, there is a real and transcendent union: Jesus lives and is present in them, and they live in him,” the Pope said. “The vocation to be an apostle is based not the human merit of Paul, who considered himself to be ‘lowly’ and ‘unworthy’, but on the infinite goodness of God, who chose him and entrusted him with the ministry.” The Pope spoke on Paul’s gratitude for the mercy which enabled him to serve God, despite having formerly been a “blasphemer” and “persecutor.” “The abundant mercy of God is the only reason on which is established Paul’s ministry and at the same time, it is what the Apostle must announce to all.” Pope Francis observed how Paul’s experience was like that of the early Christian communities. “For these early Christians, like for all of us baptized today, it is a source of comfort and constant wonder to know we have been selected to be part of God’s the plan for salvation, carried out in Jesus Christ and in the Church.” “We draw here the mystery of God’s mercy and choice: the Father loves everyone and wants to save everyone, and for this it is called by some ‘conquering’ with his grace, because through them his love reaches everyone.” Reflecting on the Week for Christian Unity, Pope Francis noted how all believers in Christ are called to proclaim his wondrous works. He spoke of moving toward “full visible communion among Christians,” not only in becoming closer, but in being converted by the Lord’s grace, and the call to be his disciples. We are united not only by the same call but by the same mission, the Pope said: “to proclaim to all the wonderful works of God.” “As we journey towards full communion between us, we can already develop multiple forms of collaboration in order to promote the spread of the Gospel,” he said. “And walking and working together, we realize that we are already united in the name of the Lord.” Reflecting on the current Jubilee Year of Mercy,  Pope Francis said the authentic search for Christian unity depends on being fully entrusted to the Father’s mercy. “First of all we ask forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound in the Body of Christ,” he said. Speaking as Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis asked for mercy and forgiveness on account of the “non-evangelical” behavior on the part of Catholics toward their separated brethren. He also called on Catholics to forgive wrongs done to them by other Christians. “We can not undo what has been, but we will not allow the weight of past sins continue to pollute our relationships. The mercy of God renewed our relationships.” Pope Francis welcomed the representatives of all the various Churches and ecclesial communities present at the gathering. “With them we passed through the Holy Door of this Basilica to remember that the only door which leads us to salvation is Jesus Christ our Lord, the merciful face of the Father.” “Unity is the gift of the mercy of God the Father,” the Pope said. Concluding his homily he indicated the tomb of St. Paul, who is buried under the main altar of the basilica. “Here before the tomb of St. Paul, apostle and martyr, kept in this splendid basilica, we feel that our humble request is supported by the intercession of the multitude of Christian martyrs of yesterday and today.” “They have responded generously to the call of the Lord, they gave faithful witness, with their lives, the wonderful works that God has done for us, and experience already in full communion with the presence of God the Father.” “Sustained by their example – as we see, for instance, in the ecumenism of blood – and comforted by their intercession, we turn to God our humble prayer.” Read more

Pope will go to Sweden for Reformation anniversary, Vatican announces

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2016 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will take part in an ecumenical ceremony in Lund, Sweden, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the Vatican announced Monday. The event will “will highlight the solid ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts received through dialogue,” according to a joint press release by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the World Lutheran Federation (LFW). The Pope will lead the Oct. 31 commemorations alongside LWF President Bishop Younan and General Secretary Junge, in cooperation with the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm. The event will include common common according to the recently published “Common Prayer,” a jointly-written Catholic and Lutheran liturgical guide prepared for the Reformation anniversary commemorations. “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ,” said PCPCU president, Cardinal Kurt Koch, in remarks published by the joint press statement. “The LWF is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability,” said Junge, according to the joint press release. “I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.” Sweden, where the event will take place, was among the nations in which Catholics experienced oppression during the enforcement of changes brought about by the Reformation. “The ecumenical situation in our part of the world is unique and interesting,” says Anders Arborelius OCD, Bishop of the Catholic Church in Sweden. “I hope that this meeting will help us look to the future so that we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ and His gospel in our secularized world.” “It is with joy and expectation that the Church of Sweden welcomes The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church to hold the joint commemoration of the Reformation in Lund,” said Church of Sweden Archbishop Antje Jackelén, according to the statement. “We shall pray together with the entire ecumenical family in Sweden that the commemoration will contribute to Christian unity in our country and throughout the world.” October’s ecumenical ceremony will kick-off the fifth centenary commemorations of the Reformation which will take place in 2017. Read more

Cost and conscience – why more Christians are ditching health insurance for this alternative

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2016 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- The youngest of James Lansberry’s nine children almost didn’t survive his birth. Born with no heartbeat, he was resuscitated and spent 11 days in the neo-natal intensive care unit. The medica… Read more

Evangelize the poor: that is your mission, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2016 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis centered his Angelus address this Sunday on what it means to evangelize the poor, and how this is the mission of the Church. “Evangelize the poor: this is the mission of Jesus; this is also the mission of the Church, and of all the baptized in the Church,” the Pope said Jan. 24 to the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square. “To be a Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing.” “What does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means to be close to them, to serve them, to free them from oppression, and all this in the name and with the Spirit of Christ, because he is the Gospel of God, he is the mercy of God, and he is the liberation of God.” “It is he who has made himself poor to enrich us with his poverty,” the pontiff said. Speaking from the Papal Palace to the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis centered his pre-Angelus reflection on the day’s Gospel reading which recounts Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. The pontiff noted how Luke’s account first summarized Jesus’ “work of evangelization” before his return to Nazareth.   The Pope noted how Jesus is unlike other teachers of the time. Rather than opening “a school for the study of the Law,” he instead “goes around preaching and teaching everywhere.” He also noted how John the Baptist preached God’s judgment, “whereas Jesus announced the forgiveness of the Father.” Pope Francis then recounted the scene in which Jesus enters the synagogue and reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” After a moment of silence, Jesus declares: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Drawing attention to the need to evangelize the poor, the Pope said the proclamation of the Gospel, by word and life, “is the main purpose of the Christian community and all of its members.” “Jesus directs the Good News to everyone without exception, rather favoring those furthest away, the suffering the sick, the discarded by society.” The pontiff went on to observe how in Jesus’ time, the marginalized, prisoners, and oppressed were probably not “at the center of the community of faith.”   “And we ask ourselves: Today, in our parish communities, associations, movements, are we faithful to God’s plan? The evangelization of the poor, bringing them the good news: is this the priority?” Pope Francis warned that such service to the poor goes beyond social work, not to mention political activity. Rather, it entails “offering the strength of the Gospel of God, which converts hearts, heals wounds, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. The poor, in fact, are the center of the Gospel.” Before leading the crowds in the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope called on Mary, “Mother of evangelizers,” to “help us feel strongly the hunger and thirst of the Gospel in the world, especially in the hearts and flesh of the poor.” He appealed to Mary to make “every Christian community concretely witness the mercy which Christ has given us.” Read more

Young people in London hear Catholic view on sex and love

London, England, Jan 24, 2016 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Helping young Catholics engage their culture on matters of human dignity and sexuality – based on the writings of St. John Paul II – was the aim of a recent symposium held in the heart of London. “Young people are hungry for knowledge about the true meaning of personal love and human sexuality,” said conference speaker Robert McNamara. Over the course of the Jan 13-17 symposium, McNamara, an adjunct professor of philosophy at Steubenville University, led a series of lectures on human dignity and sexuality, based primarily on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility. “People, both young and old, are most interested in discovering a path for life, in discovering the meaning of their being and life, and in so doing finding that which enables them to live full and meaningful lives,” McNamara told CNA. “Ultimately, we are all interested in discovering love. And so too, we are all hungry to better understand the meaning of personal love and, with it, the meaning of human sexuality. In this way we can more easily discern how to discover love and choose love.” Theology of the Body is the corpus of 129 General Audience addresses delivered by St. John Paul II from 1979 to 1984, which centered on the human person and human sexuality. Likewise addressing the theme of marriage and sexuality, “Love and Responsibility,” first published in 1960, years before his election to the papacy, examines the subject from a more academic perspective. The five-day gathering in London of presentations and workshops was opened by speaker Christopher West delivering the 2016 Theology of the Body Lecture – an annual initiative since 2004 organized by Westminster Director for marriage and family life, Edmund Adamus. Addressing interconnected themes of love, sex and mercy, West garnished the academic and practical principles of Theology of the Body with personal testimony, appreciated by the 300 plus audience. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, located in the upscale Soho district of London, hosted the event under the guidance of its pastor, Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke. “People who come into an area like this, essentially they are looking for love,” said Fr. Sherbrooke in an interview with CNA. “That search for love is often misdirected and misappropriated, but, still they’re searching for love.” Speaking in the context of marriage and human sexuality, Fr. Sherbrooke discussed the role of beauty in evangelization, and its ability to bring order to the lives of people living in a society marked by permissiveness. “In society, you can do everything, you can be everything, there are no rules to anything,” he said. “We live in a very formless, fluid world.” However, “man is not, in fact, well-structured for that,” Fr. Sherbrooke said. “He needs his form. He needs his structure. He needs to have his patterns of existence.” People are “made for love, to receive love, and to give love,” he continued, “but most people have had no experience of the beauty of married life, of a family, and of all the things that we hold dear.” “That is part of God’s beauty. That is a beauty in itself.” Also incorporated into the symposium were opportunities for prayer and evangelization. These included daily Mass and Adoration, a healing service led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and an evening of Nightfever. “We need to hear what people are saying,” Fr. Sherbrooke said, explaining the reason for incorporating evangelization into this conference. “We need to hear how people are living their lives, however unsettling it may be for us. “We can’t just talk amongst ourselves,” he stressed, “because a). we’re not being true to the Gospel, and b). we’re not trusting in the Holy Spirit.” The Symposium also included a series of workshops aimed at showing how Theology of the Body can be practically applied to everyday life. Several of the workshops dealt with issues related to fertility, and how attempts to artificially control it – such as through IVF or contraception – can have serious implications for women in terms of health and self-worth. Theology of the Body helps to “answer to the many reproductive questions that we have today,” said Ira Winter, manager of the Life Fertility Care clinic in the UK, which offers Natural Procreative (NaPro) technology to treat couples struggling with infertility. “God is the author of all new life,” she said. “Therefore, we need to involve him when we are discerning how we live this out.” NaPro Technology is a method of addressing infertility by diagnosing and treating underlying problems. Unlike IVF, which relies on invasive procedures, NaPro takes a holistic approach in addressing the core causes of infertility. “NaPro technology is really going back to trying to find out what is the underlying cause of problems, and trying to come up with solutions that are not eradicating the woman’s cycle, but actually leading to some healing,” Winter explained. “In the end couples will turn away from IVF when they understand God placed the co-creative gift right at the heart of their marital communion,” she said. “Theology of the Body helps couples understand why this gift is simply too precious to abdicate to a laboratory,” Winter said, adding that it “excites couples as to the value of their marriage.” Another theme addressed during the workshop sessions regarded the implications of so-called “gender theory.” A speaker from the Warsaw-based Center for the Thought of John Paul II illustrated the characteristics and dangers of gender ideology with reference to the suffering endured by individuals affected by gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria. In light of demands for “gender-affirming” treatments and procedures that aim to override an individual’s biological sex, the speaker encouraged participants to affirm reality and to reflect on the importance and meaning of sexual difference and of the human body as such. The talking points of the workshop were based on fragments of Benedict XVI’s 2012 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, and a 2004 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Drawing on John Paul II’s reflections on woundedness and Redemption and on parts from Pope Francis’ newest book “The Name of God is Mercy,” participants were invited to respond with mercy to those affected. One of the volunteers at the conference, London lawyer Stephanie Tang, told CNA it was “a complete healing process” to encounter Theology of the Body as a recent convert to Catholicism from a family of Buddhists. “One of the greatest difficulties, I would say, is shedding the schema with which I interpreted the world, and replacing it from the inside, from the heart, with Catholic theology, and Jesus’ way of life,” Tang said. She recounted how one of the lectures by McNamara on “spousal love” and complete self-gift caused her to have a “visceral” reaction. “It actually flew in the face of everything that my parents had taught me,” Tang explained. “My mom had always said: reserve a little bit for yourself; if he’s not nice to you, take a bit of your love back; make sure you’ve got separate bank accounts; make sure you’re alright if he leaves you.” “Being a lawyer, we’re all about risk minimization,” she said. “So, to learn that God wanted us to love completely, expose all your vulnerabilities – that was very hard for me.” The principles learned at the conference not only show it is possible to “live right by God,” she said, but “the responsibility we have to spread the truth about our own bodies that all of us innately know.” Margaret Jey-Sharwan, who traveled from Nigeria to attend the event, told CNA how the principles of Theology of the Body could help those in her country discover how to bring unity within their marriages. “For us in Nigeria, and basically in most African cultures, it’s a man’s world. It’s what the man wants,” she said. “All you need is to have a submissive wife.” Although this mentality is starting to change, still “you find people who are not happy in their marriages,” she said. “We don’t have high divorce rates in Africa, not as high as the Western world,” yet there are a number of unhappy marriages. Many choose to live through these marriages in order to avoid the stigma of separation, she said. “If people understood (Theology of the Body) better, if couples understood this better, then they would understand themselves, understand their marriages, understand what is expected of them, it would definitely bring unity in the home.” Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, issued a message for the symposium, noting its objective being to “nurture deeper reflection on our God given human dignity from the perspective of Pope St. John Paul’s visionary catechesis on sexuality in the context of marriage and family.” “I pray that everyone involved will be blessed with greater confidence to give witness to the wonderful truth about the human person,” Cardinal Nichols said.Photo credit: Read more

Priest: Pray for jihadists’ conversion – one of them could be a future St. Paul

Merrimack, N.H., Jan 23, 2016 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- French spiritual writer Father Jacques Philippe says there is only one thing that can end violence. “We must pray for the conversion of the jihadists. There certainly is among them some future Saint Paul,” Fr. Philippe said. He said that Islamic terrorism is “a great menace,” but he warned against “hysteria” or “aggressive reactions” or hatred towards terrorists in response. “The fragility of our societies is a call to find our security, our hope, and our peace in God,” he continued. “We must be called to a personal conversion to live and preach the life of the Gospels, which alone have the power to completely uproot violence from man’s heart. We must not forget that violence does not only exist in others but also resides in us, less visible, but still present.” Fr. Philippe is the first priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, an ecclesial family of consecrated life that draws from Carmelite spirituality. His comments came in an early December interview with William Fahey, president of Saint Thomas More College in New Hampshire. In his interview, the priest also spoke of spirituality and Christian renewal. He said the heart of Christian spiritual life is to welcome “the unbounded love of our Father manifested through Christ, and to respond to this love.” “For our part, it firstly means to have an open attitude, built on humility and trust: to realize our smallness and place all of our trust in the goodness and mercy of God; to nurture, day after day, a relation with God built on simplicity, persevering love, and of constant search for his will.” He said Christian life is not merely adhesion to doctrine, conformity to external ‘ideal,’ or belonging to a nice community. “On the contrary, the Holy Spirit works in Christians who, through the living experience of God’s love and mercy, respond to a call for a personal encounter with Christ through prayer which will allow a journey of simplicity, trust, and freedom,” Fr. Philippe said. Catholic renewal in a Catholic community is not a human work, but “a gift from God.” “Such a community is not programed but rather is born of God’s eruption into the life of one or a few people who have received a charism for founding,” the priest said. “Any Christian community must be founded on fidelity to such a gift and to God’s call, as well as on faith and prayer.” “Belonging to a Christian community must bring us closer to God so as to be closer to men and their sufferings,” he continued. Such a Christian community must be “a place where each and every one is welcomed and loved as he is, with his strengths and weaknesses.” A community must allow its members to live “not according to the spirit of this world but according to the Beatitudes.” The community must not be oriented towards itself. Rather, it must be “at the service of this world that God wants to meet and save.” Fr. Philippe reflected on the Community of the Beatitudes, in which he has long been a leader. He said its calling is “to turn the hearts of men towards the coming Kingdom of God, in a trusting and joyful hope, and to manifest that this Kingdom is already present among us.” “Through the fervor of prayer, the beauty of the liturgy, the announcement of the Gospel, the service to the poor, its members express man’s nearness to God and they communicate the consolation of the Holy Spirit,” he explained. The priest suggested that the main grace of the Community of the Beatitudes is to transmit a desire for prayer and an intimacy for God. “Man is called to things far greater than the universe. Man needs to experience things that will open some horizons far greater than material reality. When life is meaningless, man seeks to fill this emptiness with strong sensations, found either in drugs, sexuality, extreme sports, sometimes even violence…” Asked how to respond to Catholics who feel betrayed or confused by the clergy, Fr. Philippe encouraged them to look to the saints. “The Church is still able to produce saints. It is a sign of fidelity to God, a sign that grace is beyond and above sin,” he said. “Sainthood should amaze us more than sin scandalizes us; for the former is far greater.” “The Church is not made of some perfect elite, but rather of sinners journeying towards conversion. It is a place where we can meet both man’s wretchedness and God’s unbounded mercy.” Photo credit: Oleg Zabielin via   Read more

This sword-wielding Samurai just moved closer to sainthood!

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2016 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The martyrdom of a 16th-century Samurai who died for his Catholic faith was approved this week by Pope Francis, making the Japanese warrior one among nine other causes that advanced toward sainthood. Takayama Ukon was born in 1552 in Japan during the time when Jesuit missionaries were becoming introduced within the country. By the time Takayama was 12, his father had converted to Catholicism and had his son baptized as “Justo” by the Jesuit Fr. Gaspare di Lella. Takayama’s position in Japanese society as daimyo allowed him many benefits, such as owning grand estates and raising vast armies. As a Catholic, Takayama used his power to support and protect the short-lived missionary expansion within Japan, influencing the conversion of thousands of Japanese. When a time of persecution set in within the country under the reign of Japan’s chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1587, many newly-converted Catholics abandoned their beliefs. Instead of denying their faith, Takayama and his father left their prestigious position in society and chose a life of poverty and exile. Although many of his friends tried to persuade Takayama to deny Catholicism, he remained strong in his beliefs. Takayama “did not want to fight against other Christians, and this led him to live a poor life, because when a samurai does not obey his ‘chief,’ he loses everything he has,” Fr. Anton Witwer, a general postulator of the Society of Jesus, told CNA in 2014. Ten years passed, and the chancellor became more fierce in his persecution against Christians. He eventually crucified 26 Catholics, and by 1614, Christianity in Japan was completely banned. The new boycott on Christianity forced Takayama to leave Japan in exile with 300 other Catholics. They fled to the Philippines, but not long after his arrival, Takayama died on February 3, 1615. In 2013, the Japanese bishops’ conference submitted the lengthy 400-page application for the beatification of Takayama to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On Jan. 22, 2016, Takayama’s advancement in the cause for canonization was further promulgated when Pope Francis approved his decree of martyrdom. “Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process for beatification is that of a martyr,” Fr. Witwer explained. Takayama’s life exemplifies the Christian example of “a great fidelity to the Christian vocation, persevering despite all difficulties,” Fr. Witwer continued. Takayama’s cause was one of ten other new sainthood causes, which included three blesseds who have had approved miracles attributed to their intercession. The other approved decrees included Bl. Stanislaus of Jesus, Bl. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, Bl. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, Francesco Maria Greco, Elisabetta Sanna, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig CMM, Genaro Fueyo Castanon, Arsenio da Trigolo and Maria Luisa del Santissimo Sacramento. Read more

Monster storm can’t keep massive crowds from March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2016 / 01:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite weather forecasts calling for what might end up being the worst blizzard in over a century, tens of thousands flooded the nation’s capital Friday to support the dignity of life. … Read more