Father Lombardi steps down from Vatican Radio amid media reform

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the process of reforming the Vatican’s communications is carried out, Fr. Federico Lombardi will step down as director of Vatican Radio at the end of the month, though he will continue to serve as director of the Holy See press office. A Feb. 22 communique from the Secretariat for Communications announced the decision, and that Alberto Gasbarri, director of administration at Vatican Radio, will also be leaving his post. Neither Gasbarri nor Fr. Lombardi, who has served Vatican Radio for 25 years, will be replaced. Gasbarri had coordinated papal trips for 40 years. The head of the Secretariat for Communications appointed Giacomo Ghisani, deputy director of the secretariat, as Vatican Radio’s interim legal representative and director of administration. Ghisani’s appointment is meant to ensure Vatican Radio’s “ordinary administration within the current context of review and restructuring of the Vatican’s media operations.” Gasbarri’s post as organizer of papal trips is to be taken over by Msgr. Marcelo Rueda Beltz, an official of the Secretariat of State. Vatican Radio’s director of programs, Fr. Andrzej Majewski, will continue to manage news for the service. The personnel changes are part of the reform and unification of Vatican media being undertaken by the Secretariat for Communications, which was established in June 2015 with Pope Francis’ motu proprio The current context of communications. The editorial department of the Secretariat for Communications will likely take over direction of Vatican Radio, and at the same time will manage the delivery of news and image contents for Vatican Television. At the moment, no director for the editorial department has been appointed yet, while the directors of the other departments were appointed Feb. 9. The Secretariat for Communications includes other two departments: the Theological-Pastoral department, headed by Natasha Govekar; and the Technology Department, chaired by Francesco Masci, who had previously been responsible for the technical side of the Vatican’s internet service. Govekar’s department is to take over the functions of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the technology department is to centralize on one platform all the Vatican’s media departments. According to a source who took part in the reform process, there will be a new website which will include both radio and television content. The Secretariat for Communications’ editorial department will be in charge of news content. The secretariat is meant to unify all the Vatican’s media branches, which include the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Holy See Press Office; the Vatican Internet Service; Vatican Radio; Vatican Television; L’Osservatore Romano; Vatican Typography; the photo service; and Vatican Publishing House. Vatican Radio and Vatican Television are to be unified this year. The communique from the Secretariat for Communications noted that the two bodies already share resources and jointly provide some services. The communique adds that “the task that awaits us offers a great opportunity to evaluate in both entities the areas of excellence and our patrimony of multilingualism and multiculturalism.” Read more

Father Lombardi steps down from Vatican Radio amid media reform

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the process of reforming the Vatican’s communications is carried out, Fr. Federico Lombardi will step down as director of Vatican Radio at the end of the month, though he will continue to serve as director of the Holy See press office. A Feb. 22 communique from the Secretariat for Communications announced the decision, and that Alberto Gasbarri, director of administration at Vatican Radio, will also be leaving his post. Neither Gasbarri nor Fr. Lombardi, who has served Vatican Radio for 25 years, will be replaced. Gasbarri had coordinated papal trips for 40 years. The head of the Secretariat for Communications appointed Giacomo Ghisani, deputy director of the secretariat, as Vatican Radio’s interim legal representative and director of administration. Ghisani’s appointment is meant to ensure Vatican Radio’s “ordinary administration within the current context of review and restructuring of the Vatican’s media operations.” Gasbarri’s post as organizer of papal trips is to be taken over by Msgr. Marcelo Rueda Beltz, an official of the Secretariat of State. Vatican Radio’s director of programs, Fr. Andrzej Majewski, will continue to manage news for the service. The personnel changes are part of the reform and unification of Vatican media being undertaken by the Secretariat for Communications, which was established in June 2015 with Pope Francis’ motu proprio The current context of communications. The editorial department of the Secretariat for Communications will likely take over direction of Vatican Radio, and at the same time will manage the delivery of news and image contents for Vatican Television. At the moment, no director for the editorial department has been appointed yet, while the directors of the other departments were appointed Feb. 9. The Secretariat for Communications includes other two departments: the Theological-Pastoral department, headed by Natasha Govekar; and the Technology Department, chaired by Francesco Masci, who had previously been responsible for the technical side of the Vatican’s internet service. Govekar’s department is to take over the functions of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the technology department is to centralize on one platform all the Vatican’s media departments. According to a source who took part in the reform process, there will be a new website which will include both radio and television content. The Secretariat for Communications’ editorial department will be in charge of news content. The secretariat is meant to unify all the Vatican’s media branches, which include the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Holy See Press Office; the Vatican Internet Service; Vatican Radio; Vatican Television; L’Osservatore Romano; Vatican Typography; the photo service; and Vatican Publishing House. Vatican Radio and Vatican Television are to be unified this year. The communique from the Secretariat for Communications noted that the two bodies already share resources and jointly provide some services. The communique adds that “the task that awaits us offers a great opportunity to evaluate in both entities the areas of excellence and our patrimony of multilingualism and multiculturalism.” Read more

How the struggle against apartheid taught Cardinal Napier the value of collegiality

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2016 / 05:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of the Church must be united under the Holy Father and not divided into factions, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban maintained Thursday at a lecture in which he shared lessons gleaned from South Africa’s effort to end apartheid. Bishops “should never be seen as pitted against each other in a contest or control over the Church, but rather they’re a college,” Cardinal Napier said Feb. 18 in Washington, D.C., where he was delivering the annual Cardinal Dearden lecture at the Catholic University of America. The lecture is meant to promote the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and Cardinal Napier focused on the collegiality among bishops taught in Lumen gentium, the council’s 1964 dogmatic constitution on the Church. Cardinal Napier discovered the power of collegiality when he joined South Africa’s bishops’ conference and they united the Church in opposition to the racial segregation of apartheid, then a national policy. At their first plenary session in 1979, “I got the experience of what it means to be a bishop,” he said. South Africa’s bishops were already “committed to engage in what Pope Francis would now call pastors earnestly listening to each other, but also listening to the laity.” In the Church’s struggle against apartheid, he said the central question was, “How does the Church become involved in transforming society?” The bishops went to work. They opened Catholic schools to students of all races – which contrasted with the government’s policy of segregation at the time. In 1977 South Africa’s bishops issued a declaration of commitment on social justice and race relations within the Church, acknowledging that “the Catholic Church in South Africa is lagging behind in witness to the Gospel in matters of social justice,” and committing the Church to practicing de-segregation and social justice. Their challenge, as the bishops saw it, was transforming the minds of Catholics who accepted the prevailing segregation into believing that “each and every person … has equal dignity and worth.” This was done through promoting a vision of the Church that is “community serving humanity,” Cardinal Napier emphasized. The bishops and the faithful thus worked together to overcome widespread discrimination in South Africa through “becoming a real community of brothers and sisters” in Christ. These same principles of collegiality must be at work today in “reforming the Church, beginning with marriage and the family,” he insisted. “These are the foundation stones upon which the Church and society are built.” Cardinal Napier referred specifically to the bishops present at the recent Synod on the Family, but also spoke more broadly of the college of bishops in his talk. The bishops must be “walking together,” he said, “in a joint effort to make the Church a change-maker in modern society.” “I think it’s more about ourselves being one, from the bishops down,” he said of the Church, citing St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on commitment to ecumenism, Ut unum sint. If the bishops splinter into factions, he added, then the faithful “will be split along the same lines.” Cardinal Napier noted that Pope Francis has emphasized collegiality in his work to “reform and renew the Church.” The Pope decided from the beginning of his pontificate “that the only way to get this [reform] happening would be to involve the college of bishops, of cardinals, right from the beginning,” he said. “Whatever influence we have on our society, we have to do it through that vision of being a community serving humanity,” Cardinal Napier concluded.   Read more

Kalamazoo bishop offers prayers, Mass in wake of shooting spree

Kalamazoo, Mich., Feb 22, 2016 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Paul J. Bradley of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Mich. offered his prayers and condolences for the victims of a shooting spree in the city that left six dead and at least two seriously inju… Read more

How Catholics remembered Justice Scalia at his funeral Mass

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2016 / 10:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a funeral Mass on Saturday, Catholics recalled the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a man of deep faith that informed his public service. “He was God’s first,”… Read more

Mother Angelica still in ‘delicate’ condition, fellow nuns ask for prayers

Irondale, Ala., Feb 22, 2016 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The nuns of Mother Angelica’s monastery have thanked those who have prayed for the EWTN founder and have asked continued prayers for the 92-year-old nun. “Mother’s condition remains delicate and she receives devoted care day and night by her sisters and nurses,” the nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery said in a Feb. 22 update. “Although she is most often sleeping, from time to time Mother will give a radiant smile. There is no doubt that her heart must be ‘on things above,’” the nuns said, referencing St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. Mother Angelica founded Eternal Word Television Network in 1981. The organization would become EWTN Global Catholic Network. She headed the organization until the year 2000 and became one of the most influential Catholic women in the U.S. She suffered a stroke in 2001. She continues to live at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala. It was reported last November that Mother Angelica was placed on a feeding tube. “We want to extend a very special and heart-felt thank you to each of you who have been praying for Mother Angelica,” the nuns said. “Mother herself is regularly fortified by the sacraments. Please continue to keep her in your prayers. Each day is a gift!” Mother Angelica was able to pass through one of the special Holy Doors designated for the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy. Pope Francis recently sent greetings to Mother Angelica Feb. 12 on the plane to Cuba. “God bless you, Mother Angelica!” the Pope said in a video taken by journalists on his flight. Near the end of 2015, all the friars of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word came to the monastery for the offering of a special Mass for Mother Angelica. EWTN Global Catholic Network, which includes Catholic News Agency, is the largest religious media network in the world. Read more

Pope Francis against the death penalty: criminals too have the right to life

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2016 / 03:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians must work to abolish the death penalty and improve prison conditions, Pope Francis said on Sunday. After praying the Angelus on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called … Read more

When Pope Francis looks back at Mexico trip, he sees Our Lady of Guadalupe

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2016 / 08:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday said the visit to Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the “central point” of his spiritual pilgrimage to Mexico. He praised the witness of the Mexican faithful a… Read more

What’s the point of fasting, anyway?

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God commanded it, Jesus practiced it, Church Fathers have preached the importance of it – fasting is a powerful and fundamental part of the Christian life. But for many Catholics today, it’s more of an afterthought: something we grudgingly do on Good Friday, perhaps on Ash Wednesday if we remember it. Would we fast more, especially during Lent, if we understood how helpful it is for our lives? The answer to this, say both saints of the past and experts today, is a resounding “yes.” “Let us take for our standard and for our example those that have run the race, and have won,” said Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, founding executive director of the Institute of Catholic Culture and a deacon at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Mclean, Va., of the saints. “And…those that have run the race and won have been men and women of prayer and fasting.” So what, in essence, is fasting? It’s “the deprivation of the good, in order to make a decision for a greater good,” explained Deacon Carnazzo. It is most commonly associated with abstention from food, although it can also take the form of giving up other goods like comforts and entertainment. The current fasting obligation for Latin Catholics in the United States is this: all over the age of 14 must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, adults age 18 to 59 must fast – eating no more than one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not add up in quantity to the full meal. Catholics, “if possible,” can continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference adds. Other Fridays throughout the year (aside from Friday within the Octave of Easter) “are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church,” according to Canon Law 1250. Catholics once abstained from meat on all Fridays, but the U.S. bishops received permission from the Holy See for Catholics to substitute another sacrifice or perform an act of charity instead. Eastern Rite Catholics, meanwhile, follow the fasting laws of their own particular church.   In their 1966 “Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence,” the National Conference of Catholic Bishops exhorted the faithful, on other days of Lent where fasting is not required, to “participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.” Aside from the stipulations, though, what’s the point of fasting? “The whole purpose of fasting is to put the created order and our spiritual life in a proper balance,” Deacon Carnazzo said. As “bodily creatures in a post-fallen state,” it’s easy to let our “lower passions” for physical goods supersede our higher intellect, he explained. We take good things for granted and reach for them whenever we feel like it, “without thinking, without reference to the One Who gives us the food, and without reference to the question of whether it’s good for us or not,” he added. Thus, fasting helps “make more room for God in our life,” Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. said. “And the Lord said at the well, with the (Samaritan) woman, He said that ‘everyone that drinks from this well is going to be thirsty again. Why don’t you let me go to work in your life and I’ll give you a fountain welling up to Eternal Life.’” While fasting can take many forms, is abstaining from food especially important?   “The reason why 2000 years of Christianity has said food (for fasting), because food’s like air. It’s like water, it’s the most fundamental,” Deacon Carnazzo said. “And that’s where the Church says ‘stop right here, this fundamental level, and gain control there.’ It’s like the first step in the spiritual life.”What the Bible says about it Yet why is fasting so important in the life of the Church? And what are the roots of the practice in Scripture? The very first fast was ordered by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden, Deacon Carnazzo noted, when God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). This divine prohibition was not because the tree was bad, the deacon clarified. It was “made good” like all creation, but its fruit was meant to be eaten “in the right time and the right way.” In the same way, we abstain from created goods so we may enjoy them “in the right time and the right way.” The fast is the weapon of protection against demons – St. Basil the Great. Fasting is also good because it is submission to God, he said. By fasting from the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve would have become partakers in the Divine Nature through their obedience to God. Instead, they tried to take this knowledge of good and evil for themselves and ate the fruit, disobeying God and bringing Original Sin, death, and illness upon mankind. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus abstained from food and water for 40 days and nights in the desert and thus “reversed what happened in the Garden of Eden,” Deacon Carnazzo explained. Like Adam and Eve, Christ was tempted by the devil but instead remained obedient to God the Father, reversing the disobedience of Adam and Eve and restoring our humanity. Following the example of Jesus, Catholics are called to fast, said Fr. Lew. And the Church Fathers preached the importance of fasting.Why fasting is so powerful “The fast is the weapon of protection against demons,” taught St. Basil the Great. “Our Guardian Angels more really stay with those who have cleansed our souls through fasting.” Why is fasting so powerful? “By setting aside this (created) realm where the devil works, we put ourselves into communion with another realm where the devil does not work, he cannot touch us,” Deacon Carnazzo explained. It better disposes us for prayer, noted Monsignor Pope. Because we feel greater hunger or thirst when we fast from food and water, “it reminds us of our frailty and helps us be more humble,” he said. “Without humility, prayer and then our experience of God really can’t be unlocked.” Thus, the practice is “clearly linked by St. Thomas Aquinas, writing within the Tradition, to chastity, to purity, and to clarity of mind,” noted Fr. Lew. “You can kind of postulate from that that our modern-day struggles with the virtue of chastity, and perhaps a lack of clarity in theological knowledge, might be linked to an abandonment of fasting as well.”A brief history of fasting The current fasting obligations were set in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, but in previous centuries, the common fasts among Catholics were stricter and more regularly observed.   Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays of the year, Easter Friday excluded. During Lent, they had to fast – one meatless meal and two smaller meatless meals – on all days excluding Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. They abstained from meat on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent – the days of Christ’s death and lying in the tomb – but were allowed meat during the main meal on the other Lenten weekdays. The obligations extended to other days of the liturgical year. Catholics fasted and abstained on the vigils of Christmas and Pentecost Sunday, and on Ember Days – the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy on Dec. 13, after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday, and after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September – corresponding with the four seasons. In centuries past, the Lenten abstention was more austere. Catholics gave up not only meat but also animal products like milk and butter, as well as oil and even fish at times. Why are today’s obligations in the Latin Rite so minimal? The Church is setting clear boundaries outside of which one cannot be considered to be practicing the Christian life, Deacon Carnazzo explained. That is why intentionally violating the Lenten obligations is a mortal sin. But should Catholics perform more than the minimum penance that is demanded? Yes, said Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., who is currently studying for a Pontifical License in Sacred Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. The minimum may be “what is due to God out of justice,” he explained, but we are “called not only to be just to God,” but also “to love God and to love our neighbor.” Charity, he added, “would call us to do more than just the minimum that is applied to us by the Code of Canon Law today, I think.” In Jeremiah 31: 31-33, God promises to write His law upon our hearts, Deacon Carnazzo noted. We must go beyond following a set of rules and love God with our hearts, and this involves doing more than what we are obliged to do, he added.Be wary of your motivation However, Fr. Lew noted, fasting “must be stirred up by charity.” A Catholic should not fast out of dieting or pride, but out of love of God.   “It’s always dangerous in the spiritual life to compare yourself to other people,” he said, citing the Gospel of John where Jesus instructed St. Peter not to be concerned about the mission of St. John the Apostle but rather to “follow Me.” (John 21: 20-23). In like manner, we should be focused on God during Lent and not on the sacrifices of others, he said.   Lent (is referred to) as a joyful season…It’s the joy of loving Him more. “We will often fail, I think. And that’s not a bad thing. Because if we do fail, this is the opportunity to realize our utter dependence on God and His grace, to seek His mercy and forgiveness, and to seek His strength so that we can grow in virtue and do better,” he added. And by realizing our weakness and dependence on God, we can “discover anew the depths of God’s mercy for us” and can be more merciful to others, he added. Giving up good things may seem onerous and burdensome, but can – and should – a Catholic fast with joy? “It’s referred to in the preface of Lent as a joyful season,” Fr. Lew said. “And it’s the joy of deepening our relationship with Christ, and therefore coming closer to Him. It’s the joy of loving Him more, and the more we love God the closer we draw to Him.” “Lent is all about the Cross, and eventually the resurrection,” said Deacon Carnazzo. If we “make an authentic, real sacrifice for Christ” during Lent, “we can come to that day of the crucifixion and say ‘Yes Lord, I willingly with you accept the cross. And when we do that, then we will behold the third day of resurrection.’”This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 20, 2016. Read more

Make a daily commitment to spreading God’s mercy, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2016 / 04:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis held his second Saturday general audience of the Jubilee, encouraging pilgrims to make a daily commitment to spreading God’s mercy both in the small things, and to those most in need. “My life, my attitude, my way of living, must truly be a concrete sign that God is close to us,” the Pope said Feb. 20. He explained that this is done through “small gestures of love, tenderness and care” which show that “the Lord is with us, that he’s close to us. And this is how the door of mercy opens.” Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his second Saturday general audience for the Holy Year of Mercy. In addition to his weekly Wednesday general audiences, the Pope chose to hold an extra one once a month on a Saturday as a special initiative for the Jubilee. In his address, Francis continued his reflections on the topic of mercy as understood through scripture, this week focusing on God’s commitment to humanity in sending Jesus. He said that committing oneself to something means to “assume a responsibility, a task toward someone; and it also means the style, the attitude of fidelity and dedication, of special attention with which we carry forward this task.” Each day we are asked to commit ourselves in the simple things we do, such as prayer, work and study, as well as in sports or free time, he said. “To commit ourselves, then, means to put our good will and our efforts to improve life,” Francis said, noting that God is also committed to us. God’s first commitment to humanity was when he created the world and dedicated himself to keeping it alive “despite our efforts to ruin it – and there are many.” But God’s greatest commitment, he said, was when he gave us Jesus. “Jesus is truly the extreme commitment that God has made toward us…this is the greatest commitment of God,” he said, adding that along with Jesus, “the Father will give us everything we need.” Seeing this commitment in action is easy if we read the Gospel, which tells us how through Jesus, God totally committed himself to restoring hope to the poor and those deprived of their dignity, as well as to strangers, the sick, prisoners and sinners, he said. “In all of this, Jesus was a living expression of the mercy of the Father,” the Pope continued. In off-the-cuff remarks, he underlined Jesus’ merciful attitude in his unconditional welcome of sinners with goodness. When seen in a human way, the sinner seems like God’s enemy, he said, but noted that despite this, Jesus still “drew close to them with goodness, he loved them and he changed their hearts.” All of us are sinners who have some sort of guilt before God, Francis said, yet the Lord still chooses to be near us in order to give us comfort, love and mercy. “This is the commitment of God! And because of this he sent Jesus!” he said. “To draw close to us, to all of us, and to open to us the door of his love, his heart, his mercy. And this is very beautiful, very beautiful!” Pope Francis concluded saying that in response to God’s commitment to us, we in turn must commit ourselves to spreading his love, mercy and goodness, beginning with those most in need. He pointed to those who suffer due to abandonment, illness, a serious disability as well as those who are dying or who cannot express their gratitude. “In all of these realities we bring the mercy of God through a life commitment, which is the testimony of our faith in Christ,” he said, and told pilgrims to always bring God’s caress to others, “because God has caressed us like this with his mercy.” “Bring it to others, to those in need, to those who suffer in their hearts, or who are sad. Draw near to them with that caress of God, which is the same that he had with us,” he said. He closed by praying that the Jubilee would help to open our minds and hearts so that we can “touch with our hands” the commitment God has for each person, and that our lives would be transformed “into a commitment of mercy for all.” Read more