Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2016 / 03:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Asked whether there are ways for the government to provide contraceptive coverage that do not require them to violate their consciences, the Little Sisters of the Poor are saying “yes.&rd… Read more

Newark, N.J., Apr 13, 2016 / 06:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For many Catholic families, the day their child receives the Sacrament of First Holy Communion marks a pivotal moment in their journey of faith.   The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey wants to make sure that financial hardship doesn’t stand in the way of that experience, by collecting First Communion outfits for families who might not be able to afford a suit or dress for their child receiving the sacrament. “It’s a unique idea and you wouldn’t think there would be a need, but these suits and dresses can get pricey,” said Kelly Marsicano, a public relations specialist at the Archdiocese of Newark. “This is a special day for the kids to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and now they are able to do that from these donations,” she told CNA. For the past three years, the Archdiocese of Newark has been gathering new and gently used dresses, suits, shoes and veils for children preparing to receive their First Communion. This year, they have collected more than 500 dresses and over 200 suits for families in need. “We receive calls from people needing one dress or one suit, to a parish needing 25, to a parish saying they will take whatever they can get,” said Lynn Gully, the Associate Director of Development at the Archdiocese, who also spearheaded the donation project. The idea all started when the archdiocese received a call from a boutique asking if they would accept some donated First Communion dresses and suits. “I was carrying the dresses into the building after picking them up, and there were people who were asking what was going on and if they could bring in their daughters,” Gully explained. “It just kind of spread from there.” Now, the majority of First Communion garments are donated from families who do collections at their parishes, but Gully said they have also received unexpected packages in the mail with brand new outfits. Children at a nearby parish started to make veils over the summer to donate to the campaign, and they have also received donations of socks, tights, purses, ties, and belts. This year, four parishes in the archdiocese have participated in the donation program, and they already have additional parishes lined up for next year. After the dresses and suits are worn, the children are able to keep the outfits or donate them for another year of use. “It’s up to them if they want to keep it or pass it on, there is a no charge… We don’t ask any questions. If you need it, we are here for you,” Gully said. After three successful years of donations, the Archdiocese of Newark plans to continue the program as long as there is a need for it. “It’s really a great help to the families in need,” Gully reflected. Photo credit: Alicia Chelini via www.shutterstock.com. Read more

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2016 / 05:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With a last-minute trip to Lesbos just days away, Pope Francis remembered the refugees and residents of the Greek island during his this week’s general audience, and asked for prayers ahead … Read more

Erbil, Iraq, Apr 13, 2016 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As he leaves Iraqi Kurdistan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said what struck him most during the visit were the people’s faith and hope, despite violent persecution. “These people from an earthly point of view don’t have much, but my, oh my, their sense of resilience and hope were simply astounding,” Cardinal Dolan said in an interview with CNA. “Do they mourn the past? Yes they do, but they’re about the present and they’re about the future, and that’s a sentiment that will never leave me.” Cardinal Dolan is the Archbishop of New York and chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). He was joined by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, a CNEWA board member, for a three-day visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he toured projects aimed at helping refugees and met with families, Church leaders, priests and religious who were displaced as a result of the 2014 Islamic State attacks. The trip included visits to the Kurdish capital of Erbil, and to the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk. It concluded with a Mass celebrated by Syriac-Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, in which representatives of several other rites were present, including the Latin and Chaldean rites, as well as the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Both Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy spoke to CNA in a sit-down interview on the last day of the trip to share their thoughts and reflections about what they had seen and experienced. Below is CNA’s full interview with Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy:What are your impressions after spending these days here in Iraq?Cardinal Dolan: I would find my impression would be on both sides. First of all there’s an impression of sadness and sobriety in what these people have gone through. They’ve lost their homes, their homes that have been in their families for centuries, centuries and centuries, alright. They’ve lost a sense of security, they’ve lost in many ways a sense of stability that is so necessary for human existence. So there is an undeniable sense of sadness and somberness. But then I jump ahead to the other side of the spectrum to say that they haven’t lost their sense of hope. They haven’t lost their faith. We’ve heard people cry out in anguish, but they always have a sense of hope. And I can’t get over it. I mean look, you were at the liturgy yesterday. You talk about joyful, reverent, grateful prayer and praise, trusting in God. Of all people you’d think they would be almost dour in Mass. You’d wonder if some of them would be tempted not to come anymore because they were so crushed. We have our parishes at home for Sunday Mass where sometimes there’s a sense of heaviness and people don’t seem interested, and we’ve got prosperity, we’ve got peace, we’ve got stability. These people from an earthly point of view don’t have much, but my oh my, their sense of resilience and hope were simply astounding. And I see it in the priests, I see it in the sisters, I see it in the lay leaders, I see it in my brother bishops. Do they mourn the past? Yes they do, but they’re about the present and they’re about the future, and that’s a sentiment that will never leave me.Is there a specific moment that was particularly moving for you?Cardinal Dolan: Bishop Murphy and I have shared a number of them, and when we process this it’s amazing that we both have felt the same thing. One would be the desire of people just to go back home. Just to go back home. They’re not saying ‘take us to America.’ They’re saying ‘we just want to go back home, can you help us get back home?’ And number two, the second I think, would be that sense of hope and promise. They’re so resilient that their kind of making the best of what they’ve got. They have this trust in God and they say ‘we wanna go back home, we don’t know how long we’re going to be in exile, but let’s make the best of it. Let’s tend to the basics of faith, education, healthcare, food, shelter, protecting our kids. That’s basic civilization, that’s basic solidarity and they’re doing it magnificently.Yesterday Bishop Wardona said that they are very grateful for your visit, but wished that it had come sooner and that the United States was doing more to help. Do you have a response to his comments about your visit, and that maybe the U.S. should have acted quicker and sooner? (Editor’s note: Bishop Shlemom Wardona is one of three auxiliary bishops in Iraq serving under Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako).Cardinal Dolan: We say: so do we. We wish we could have come sooner too, and we certainly want to do more. That’s one of the things we’ve said from the beginning, that the purpose of our visit is to learn. We don’t come here as saviors, we don’t come here as know-it-alls, we don’t come here as experts. We really came to listen and learn so we can bring that back home, and we need to. We need to encourage our people to more fervent and deeper prayer, we they’re already doing very well. We need to be unafraid to ask our people to be more generous to the agencies like CNEWA, like Aid to the Church in Need, like the Knights of Malta, like Catholic Relief Services, who are doing very well here for these people and whose work is deeply appreciated. And we need to do more advocacy. We really do, and that’s what we learned. Now we can come back with a little bit more credibility, because we’ve been there. Bishop Murphy said earlier we’re not just geography now, we’re not just talking about them or those people. We’ve met them, we’ve hugged them, we’ve listened to them, we’ve entered their cabanas, their little trailers where they’re living. They become part of us. It’s such a vivid reminder of the family of the Church, the mystical body of Christ.I know it’s still early, but do you have an idea of what this advocacy will look like once you guys are back?Cardinal Dolan: I think there’s probably going to be much more…Bishop Murphy and I have said that we’ve already got homilies for about six months, we’ve got blogs for about six months, we’ve got columns we’re going to write. And we just need to talk to our people about it, we’ve got to remind them of it. That’s what it means to be Catholic. We’re not congregationalists, we’re Catholic. The sense of the Church is always a bit beyond us, and we have a solicitude for the Church universal and this is a particularly acute area where that solicitude needs to be exercised. So I think you’re going to hear us. It’s going to color everything we say and do in the future.As a journalist I sometimes find that people read the news and move on. How can we convince people to continue to be interested and invested in what’s happening here?Bishop Murphy: One of the things is [that] I’ve been doing blogs each day. They’re not as long as a column, but you get them out. Everybody who’s on that website will see this regularly. Another thing we did was last year, we announced that in the middle of the summer, July-August, that weekend would be Middle East weekend. So we did what we Catholics do and took up another collection (laughs). But we were able to get some more money out of that, and I think we just need to take opportunities like that and call the attention of people to it. Then some people respond and you’ll find some groups will respond. As Abraham Joshua Heschel said: you start it with one, then another, then a third and fourth, and before you know it you have a movement. And I think we should really be encouraging those who catch on to this. To start to do some things on their own that would be helpful. We can’t be the only voice, for example, in Washington. We can be a voice, but we’re just the bishops. Take the decision on Christian genocide. What made the difference there? It wasn’t the fact that the names of x-amount of bishops were there, it was the fact that all of the sudden, people picked up on it. I’m not saying that’s changing things radically, but it’s another force for good.Cardinal Dolan: Let me mention this. We’ve got a lot of Catholic business leaders who would do a lot of business in this area of the world, and when I meet with them, when they tell me, ‘oh, I’m going to Saudi Arabia,’ or ‘I’m going to Iraq’ or ‘I’m going to Iran,’ or ‘I’m going to Kurdistan as part of some business ventures,’ I will often say to them: ‘are you going to meet with prominent leaders and government officials?’ – ‘Oh, yes.’ – ‘Are you going to mention to them the persecuted Christians?’ – ‘Well I hadn’t thought of that. That’s not really my responsibility, I don’t know if I’m an expert there.’ I’ll say to them: ‘Let me ask you this. If one of your Jewish partners were going to a country where there’s a persecution of Jews, would your Jewish partner bring that up to government leaders?’ And they’ll say ‘probably so.’ And I said when are we going to start doing that? When are we going to encourage our lay people? Sometimes they have a lot more clout that we bishops do. They expect us, fat, balding bishops, to go home and start talking about this. We’ve got to advocate with our people.Bishop Murphy: I’ll give you an example of that. I spent two years on the International Commission for Religious Freedom. And one of our jobs was to study every time, whoever was the president at that time, went to a foreign country, someone from the White House would call us and say for example, ‘the President’s going to China. What do you have by way of names of people, what do you have about issues?’ And he would bring those things with him and literally take them out of his pocket, and when he’d come back we’d get a little report from the president saying ‘I did talk with the president of China about those things you gave me.’ So there are different ways this can happen, but what I think what the cardinal suggests is it’s something we need to be more acute about.Cardinal Dolan: You know when I had brother bishops from India at my house, they told me that when President Obama went to India last summer they deeply appreciated the fact that he spoke publicly about the persecution of religious minorities, especially the Christians. Now Lord knows I’ve done my share of criticism of President Obama, as we bishops have with any and all of our presidents. We’d like to compliment them when they do good, we criticize them when they don’t, but my brother bishops say ‘that meant the world to us.’ So it’s that kind of advocacy that we need with our political leaders, but let’s not forget the business leaders, and let’s not forget the grassroots people who can make this work. Read more

Jackson, Miss., Apr 13, 2016 / 12:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Mississippi’s new religious freedom law helps protect Catholic education and social services like adoption, said the Catholic Bishop of Jackson. The bishop said his diocese supported the … Read more

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2016 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday reflected on the “polite persecution” of Christians that takes away their freedom in the disguise of modernity and progress. “Persecution, I would say, i… Read more

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2016 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday reflected on the “polite persecution” of Christians that takes away their freedom in the disguise of modernity and progress. “Persecution, I would say, i… Read more

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2016 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia Pope Francis is helping priests to be better pastors, not giving individual consciences the ultimate authority to decide their spiritual state, a moral theologian and a canon lawyer both maintain. “We still have to form conscience,” said Fr. Thomas Petri, academic dean at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., in an interview with CNA. “That’s what [Pope Francis] is doing with this exhortation, is helping people to understand … what the beautiful vision of Christian marriage is.” Pope Francis is not allowing divorced-and-remarried persons to determine whether or not their first marriage is valid, explained Dr. Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Rather, the Pope is teaching priests to be “tactful” and “sensitive” in explaining to divorced-and-remarried couples why they might not be able to receive an annulment, to get them to “come to understand” what that means, he said.Amoris laetitia, released April 8, is Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation on love in the family. It addresses many topics regarding marriage and family life, from the Biblical foundation of the family to reflections of St. Paul on charity in 1 Corinthians, to practical advice for married couples. Chapter Eight deals with “accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness”, or pastoral care for those in irregular family situations. Contrary to assumptions that it demonstrates a change in Church teaching on reception of Holy Communion by divorced-and-remarried persons, the document upholds existing Church teaching, both Martens and Fr. Petri affirmed. The exhortation must be interpreted “obviously within the context of the texts that have gone before it,” Fr. Petri stated. It “builds strongly” on Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the role of the Christian family in the modern world following the 1980 Synod on the Family. In Familiaris consortio, John Paul II had written that the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the reception of the Eucharist is possible for the divorced-and-remarried only when they ‘live in complete continence’. Martens agreed that Amoris laetitia builds upon the foundation of Familiaris consortio. “I don’t see a fundamental change in here,” he said. Pope Francis makes the “classic distinction” between an “objective state of a situation” and “subjective culpability,” Fr. Petri explained. There are three conditions necessary for a sin to be mortal – serious matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will – and sometimes people enter into adulterous unions without knowing Church teaching, he added. “What [Pope Francis] is suggesting here is that sometimes people enter into these new unions without having a full knowledge of what the marriage is,” he said. The pastor’s job is to lead them to live in accord with Church teaching. “And part of the discernment of accompaniment … is this slow conversation in helping people understand where they are before God and where God’s grace wants them to move, or is moving them to be.” The pastor “leads” the couple “to understand what they can and cannot do,” Martens said. The apostolic exhortation goes on to state that “because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” The footnote for that paragraph (305), footnote 351, states that “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” and later states that “the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” quoting Pope Francis’ own 2013 apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization, Evangelii gaudium. Asked if this footnote admits of certain cases where the divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion, Fr. Petri first said that the teaching on the matter “comes from Our Lord Himself,” wh o said that one who divorces their spouse and marries another commits adultery. The footnote “cannot suggest carte blanche that everyone receive or not receive Communion,” he explained. Any passage must be interpreted “in light of existing Church teaching,” he said. He pointed to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ 2000 “Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried”, which is cited in Amoris laetitia. Regarding reception of Communion by divorced-and-remarried persons, the declaration states: “Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives – such as, for example, the upbringing of the children – ‘to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses’ (Familiaris consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo.” It is the priest’s job to help form a person’s conscience so they can correctly determine if they are in this state or not, Fr. Petri explained. “We have to accompany people where they are in their moral life, and help them move forward. And that’s going to be different for every particular circumstance,” he said, adding that “pastoral care can often be murky” and “circumstantial.” In the footnote, Pope Francis refers “in the first place” to the Sacrament of Penance, Martens said, and then to Holy Communion. This order points to Church teaching of reception of Holy Communion only after one’s sins have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance and they are in the state of grace, he said. The Pope has “underscored…the importance of confession” for his entire papacy, he added. Read more

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2016 / 06:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Social media can be a place for evangelization. The proof? The giant audience for Pope Francis’ new Instagram profile. More than 1 million people followed his “Franciscus” accou… Read more

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2016 / 05:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has appointed French-born Archbishop Christophe Pierre as the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., replacing Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Holy See press office announced Tuesday. The appointment of the new Vatican ambassador – known as an apostolic nuncio – comes after Archbishop Viganò reached the retirement age of 75 on Jan. 16 of this year. The Italian prelate had served as apostolic nuncio to the U.S. since 2011. It had been speculated that the role of papal nuncio to the U.S. would fall to Archbishop Pierre, who has been nuncio to Mexico since 2007. As reported by CNA, Vaticanista Sandro Magister asserted in his March 10 blog that the 70-year-old Archbishop Pierre would be “imminently” promoted to the position. Magister characterized Archbishop Pierre as a “Bergoglian,” and someone in whom Francis confides. Additionally, a source close to the Mexican bishops’ conference told CNA that Archbishop Pierre “is known for suggesting solid, reliable candidates to the episcopate.” The French prelate was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Rennes in 1970. In 1995 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed apostolic nuncio to Haiti. He served there until 1999, when he was transferred to Uganda. In an April 8 speech at the Pontifical North American College’s annual rector’s dinner, Archbishop Viganò offered a farewell reflection of his four and a half year “mission” as the Pope’s representative to the U.S., and the challenges against religious liberty in the country. “As everyone knows, the past years have been very challenging for the Church in America,” he said, acknowledging in turn other significant events, including Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.   He stressed the need to pray “that the United States of America will protect our freedom, especially our religious liberty, as well as respect the human right to conscientious objection, and that we will be courageous in always defending the freedom to put our Catholic faith into practice without fear.”           “This is an age when we need great courage—courage to stand up for the Truth, even when we are not understood, or persecuted when we are understood. We need to be strong in the face of evil.” Read more

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