Saints and sinners: Pope Francis distinguishes between sin and corruption

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2016 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The saints were also sinners, Pope Francis emphasized during his homily at the Santa Marta residence chapel on Friday morning, in which he highlighted the difference between sin and corruption, saying that while everyone is a sinner, not everyone is corrupt. “Corruption is a very easy sin for all of us who have some power, whether it be ecclesiastical, religious, economic, political … because the devil makes us feel certain: ‘I can do it,'” Pope Francis stated Jan. 29. However, the Holy Father noted that the difference between sin and corruption is forgiveness. While the corrupt think they have no need for God, “regular sinners” feel the need for forgiveness. Pope Francis used the reading from 2 Samuel 11 to further explain his point, which outlined the story of King David’s own passage from sin to corruption. “David is a saint, but also a sinner,” the Holy Father explained. First, David lustfully sought a married woman, Bathsheba. After she became pregnant, David tried to cover up his sin of adultery from her husband Uriah.   After many failed attempts, David sent Uriah to fight on the front lines of battle. By doing this, David secured his own safety through the certain death of Bathsheba’s husband. It was “because the kingdom was strong,” Pope Francis noted, that David’s lust led him down the corrupt path to murder, making him confident that “he has the power, he has the strength.” “This puts David in a difficult position, but he says to himself ‘I can do it,'” Pope Francis stated, saying that this was the moment “where David begins taking the first step towards corruption.” “He condemns him to death. This man, this faithful man [Uriah] – faithful to the law, faithful to his people, faithful to his king – carries his own death sentence,” Pope Francis continued. However, the “courageous youth” David was ultimately saved from corruption by the grace of God because he turned towards God’s forgiveness. Pope Francis emphasized this turning point as the ultimate distinction between sin and corruption. Just like David, there are moments in everyone’s lives where the attitude of sin ends and turns to corruption, Pope Francis explained. This spirit of corruption leads to the rejection of God and forgiveness. According to Pope Francis, “one of the ugliest things” about this stage is that corruption leads one to believe that he has “no need for forgiveness.” However, even if one sins regularly and still turns to God for mercy, he remains free from corruption. It is only when one believes they do not need God or forgiveness that they become corrupt. “Today, let us offer a prayer for the Church, beginning with ourselves,” the Pope said, praying, “Lord, save us, save us from corruption. We are sinners, yes, O Lord, all of us, but let us never become corrupt.” Read more

Pope Francis likely to visit Auschwitz during World Youth Day

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2016 / 10:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his July visit to Poland for World Youth Day, it’s probable that Pope Francis will follow in the steps of his two immediate predecessors by traveling to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, the Vatican spokesman has said. Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, told journalists at the Jan. 27 presentation of the book “We were Jews” by 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Alberto Mieli that a summer visit to Auschwitz for the Pope is “highly probable.” Pope Francis is scheduled to be in Poland for the July 25-31 World Youth Day – the first since the canonization of St. John Paul II in 2014. Auschwitz, the German name for the Polish town Oswiecim where the camp is located, sits roughly 40 miles from Krakow. At least 1.1 million people died in the camp during its years of operation, 1940-1945. The vast majority of prisoners – about 90 percent – who lost their lives at Auschwitz were Jewish men, women, and children. Other groups imprisoned and killed were Soviet POWs, gypsies, disabled persons, homosexuals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, met with Pope Francis in November 2015. According to Arutz Sheva, an Israeli media network, Duda said that during their encounter the Pope “asked to visit Auschwitz and to pray there for the memory of the victims.” Should Francis go to Auschwitz, he would follow in the steps of the Polish Pope, as John Paul II was often referred to as, in 1979, as well as Benedict XVI, a German, who made his landmark visit in 2006. Pope Francis has already imitated another great gesture of his two predecessors in visiting Rome’s major synagogue, where on Jan. 17 he called on Jews and Christians to counter the conflict, war, violence, and injustice that open deep wounds in humanity. “The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions,” he said. “The past must serve as a lesson for us in the present and into the future,” he added, recalling the tragedy of the Shoah, or Holocaust. St. John Paul II was the first Pope to ever cross the threshold of the synagogue. In 1986 he made history when he embraced Rome’s chief rabbi, Elio Toaf, at the synagogue’s entrance. In an almost ironic coincidence his successor, Bavarian-born Benedict XVI, made a similar gesture, embracing Rome’s current Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, in 2010. While Francis’ own visit to Auschwitz hasn’t been confirmed as anything more than probable, he has already proven that ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are key priorities in his pontificate. With the Church having just observed the 50th anniversary of Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, 2015 proved to be a year in which Francis made a great push in furthering Catholic-Jewish relations. One example of a recent landmark in Jewish-Catholic relations is the Dec. 10, 2015, publication of a Vatican document that discusses the means of salvation for the Jewish people. Another move reflecting Pope Francis’ desire to strengthen interreligious dialogue was an Oct. 26-28, 2015, conference hosted by the Vatican in honor of Nostra aetate’s anniversary. Representatives of religions from around the world, including Judaism, were invited to participate. If Pope Francis does go to Auschwitz, we can probably expect him to say something reminiscent of his frequent pleas for unity and an end to violence. As he said in his speech at the synagogue, recalling the thousands of Roman Jews who were deported to Auschwitz in October, 1943: “their sufferings, their anguish, their tears, must never be forgotten.” “The past must serve as a lesson for us in the present and into the future. The Shoah teaches us to always have the highest vigilance, in order to be able to intervene forcefully in defense of human dignity and peace.” Read more

In Canada, a bishop protests gender ideology mandate for Alberta schools

Calgary, Canada, Jan 29, 2016 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “Totalitarianism.” That was the word the Bishop of Calgary used to describe the Alberta government’s new mandatory gender guidelines. The Alberta provincial government’s gender education guidelines “show no evidence of consultation with, or sensitivity to, the Catholic community,” Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary charged Jan. 25. “They breathe pure secularism. This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.” On Jan. 13 Alberta’s education minister David Eggen announced policies that are mandatory in all schools in the province. The 21-page policy document said that students have the right to self-identify their gender and gender expression. The guidelines say teachers should allow students to choose their own name and pronoun and which bathroom they use, CBC News reports. It encourages staff not to attach “male” or “female” to students’ names in school records, and calls for the elimination of separate activities based on sex, including school sports. The policies require the establishment of LGBT advocacy Gay-Straight Alliances at any school where a student requests one. School employees in supervisory positions are advised to “anticipate, support and value staff diversity, including diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”Bishop Henry’s message in part recounted his Jan. 13 critiques of the Alberta government’s policy. He was strongly critical of the clubs in schools. “GSAs and QSAs are highly politicized ideological clubs which seek to cure society of ‘homophobia’ and ‘heterosexism,’ and which accept the idea that all forms of consensual sexual expression are legitimate. The view of sexuality that they espouse is not Catholic,” the bishop said Jan. 13. Bishop Henry stressed Catholic schools’ belief that all children are loved by God and deserve compassion and respect. Each school has a mission “to help each student to fulfill their God-given potential in all aspects of their persons: physically, academically, socially, morally and spiritually.” He also stressed the importance of chastity. “Chastity unites our sexuality with our entire human nature. It approaches sexuality as related to our spiritual natures so that sex is seen as more than a physical act. Sexuality affects the whole person because of the unity of body and soul. Jesus is the model of chastity.” Bishop Henry suggested the guidelines violate legal precedent. He cited a unanimous Canadian Supreme Court ruling from March 2015 that protected the rights of a Catholic school in Quebec to teach from a Catholic viewpoint. The court ruling said that “to tell a Catholic school how to explain its faith undermines the liberty of the members of its community who have chosen to give effect to the collective dimension of their religious beliefs by participating in a denominational school.” “(I)t amounts to requiring a Catholic institution to speak about Catholicism in terms defined by the state rather than by its own understanding of Catholicism,” the court continued. The decision protected parents’ rights to transmit the Catholic faith to their children and to guide their religious upbringing. School boards in Alberta have until the end of March to approve their policies implementing the guidelines. Eggen, the education minister, said there would soon be meetings with Catholic Church leaders about the guidelines. Bishop Henry’s stance has drawn objections from critics such as University of Calgary professor Tonya Callaghan, who is monitoring what she considers to be homophobia in Catholic schools. She told CBC News that the Catholic Church’s position is “discriminatory, oppressive and should be abolished.” According to her faculty profile page, her research aims to “free members of sexual and gender minority groups from religiously-inspired heterosexist oppression.” Bishop Henry countered criticisms that the Catholic view is judgemental. “Only God can judge the state of the human soul but it is pure nonsense to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behavior. Reluctance to judge moral behavior is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based,” he said. He noted that Pope Francis spoke about gender ideology in his 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato si’. “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” the Pope wrote. The Pope noted the need to accept one’s body in its masculinity or femininity. “In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it,” Pope Francis said. Read more

What Catholics are doing about Flint’s stunning water scandal

Flint, Mich., Jan 29, 2016 / 03:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “It all started before Christmas. We knew something was wrong with the water.” Vicky Schultz is president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, headquarter… Read more

One family’s unimaginable suffering paves the way for a teen’s sainthood

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 29, 2016 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The miraculous cure of a baby with brain damage through the intercession of Mexican martyr Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río has been approved by the Vatican, completing the final step for the teen’s path to sainthood. Pope Francis signed the decree Jan. 21, verifying the inexplicable recovery of a baby who doctors said had “no hope of survival” due to a myriad of health problems including brain damage caused by a stroke as a miracle attributed to Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, a teenager who was martyred for his faith during the Cristero wars of the 1920s. Ximena Guadalupe Magallón Gálvez was just a few weeks old in September 2008 when her parents took her to Sahuayo in the Mexican state of Michoacán where Bl. José was born. During the visit, Ximena began running a fever that her regular doctor was unable to treat, her mother Paulina Gálvez Ávila said in a post on the Facebook page dedicated to Bl. José. Concerned that the fever was a sign of something more serious like pneumonia, the doctor sent her to have X-rays at Santa María Hospital in Sahuayo where doctors ruled out that disease, but were still unable to treat the fever. Her parents took Ximena to get a second opinion from Dr. Rosendo Sánchez in Aguascalientes State who had the child readmitted to the hospital, saying that she might be suffering from atypical pneumonia. “We spent two months living that nightmare and (the doctors) didn’t know what was going on since she wasn’t responding to any treatments,” Mrs. Gálvez said. They sought another opinion from Dr. Adán Macías who diagnosed her with pneumococcus, a bacterial infection that can cause several different life-threatening illnesses including meningitis, severe pneumonia, and bloodstream infections. Ximena was transferred back to to Aguascalientes where Dr. Rosendo discovered that Ximena’s right lung was filled with fluid. She would need to immediately undergo an operation which could be very risky on such a young child. “Dr. Rosendo spoke with us and informed us that she would have to undergo a very delicate operation since she could bleed and die. We gave our consent and we told him to do whatever it takes  to save little Ximena and that we were putting her in God’s hands,” Mrs. Gálvez said. Concerned about their young child’s worsening health, the couple decided to have her baptized before the operation rather than waiting until she was older. The operation was successful, but upon examining lung tissue, doctors discovered that Ximena had been suffering from tuberculosis. “When they told us it was in fact tuberculosis and they brought her to us in the room, she looked strange, just staring off with an empty look in her eyes. We talked to her but she didn’t react. I told the doctor she looked bad, it wasn’t my baby because she was always smiling before,” the mother said. The baby underwent began intense treatment for tuberculosis, but her health took a turn for the worse when doctors informed the parents that baby Ximena had suffered from a stroke, causing 90 percent of her brain to be dead. Mrs. Gálvez asked to see her daughter. Before going into the room where the child was, one of the doctors warned her “that my baby was already in a vegetative state and that appropriate procedures should be initiated.” “Dr. Rosendo arrived and crying I begged him to save my daughter. They put her into an induced coma and gave us 72 hours to see if she would live, since 90 percent of her brain was dead,” she said. During those three days, Ximena’s parents went to Mass everyday “to ask God and Joselito to intercede for my baby, that they would work a miracle” she said, using the affectionate nickname her family had for Bl. José Luis Sánchez del Río. Mrs. Gálvez said, “I asked them to let me be with her and hug her, then they disconnected her.” “At that moment I put my baby in God’s hands and the intercession of Joselito and at that moment she opened her eyes and smiled.” Ximena looked at the doctors “and she started laughing with them.” The doctors “couldn’t explain what had happened. Because they had done everything medically possible and that’s when they said it’s a miracle.” The doctors took Ximena to do a CT scan and an encephalogram. They were surprised to see that 80 percent of her brain had recovered. When they examined her the next day, her brain had become completely healthy again. Even after such an inexplicable recovery, doctors told Ximena’s parents that as a result of the temporary brain damage, she would never be able to eat or walk properly and that would most likely be blind and deaf and unable to speak due to the stroke. However, when her mother gave her a bottle of milk at the hospital, she drank eight ounces right away. The doctors were astonished. Contrary to all of the doctors predictions, Ximena completely recovered and is “perfectly well thanks to God and the intercession of Joselito,” Mrs. Gálvez said. “We give endless thanks to Almighty God for this miracle and to Blessed Martyr José Sánchez del Río for his ample intercession.”     (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = “//”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Felices, Ximena Guadalupe la niña del milagro y su mamá Paulina Gálvez agradeciendo a Dios y al Beato Mártir José Sá… Posted by Beato Mártir José Sánchez del Río on Friday, January 22, 2016   Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río was brutally tortured and killed when he was 14 years old during the 1924-1928 religious persecution by Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles. José Luis had enlisted in the ranks of the Cristeros, under the command of General Prudencio Mendoza. He was martyred by the Federal Army on Feb. 10, 1928. According to the story, the soldiers cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to his grave. Moments before he was killed, the boy shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!”, or “Long live Christ the King!” No date has been set yet for his canonization. Read more

Yes, ISIS is guilty of genocide, says European human rights group

Strasbourg, France, Jan 28, 2016 / 04:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Europe’s leading human rights body passed a resolution on Wednesday calling ISIS atrocities a “genocide,” a week before the European Parliament will vote on a similar resol… Read more

Ask Mary’s help if illness makes it hard to trust God’s mercy, Pope Francis advises

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2016 / 10:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the experience of illness can certainly test our faith, for Pope Francis it is an opportunity to entrust ourselves to the tenderness and mercy of Christ, which Mary, his mother, shows us how to do. “Illness, above all grave illness, always places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions that dig deep,” the Pope said in his message for the 24th World Day of the Sick, noting that our first reaction to illness is often “one of rebellion,” asking ourselves “Why has this happened to me?” “We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaning,” the Pope said, explaining that while one’s faith in God is tested in these moments, they also reveal the positive aspects of faith. This is not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions that arise disappear, but “because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side.” And this key, he said, “is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.” Pope Francis’ reflection was part of his message for the 24th World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated Feb. 11 in the Holy Land. The day also marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The theme for the day, “Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: ‘Do whatever he tells you,’” is especially fitting for the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope said. In addition to the Mass on Feb. 11, celebrations will also include the praying of morning and evening prayer, as well as daily Masses held in different places marking the various mysteries of Jesus’ life, such as his birth in Bethlehem and his resurrection in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulchre. The sacraments of Confession and of the Anointing of the Sick will also be offered throughout the week in different locations. Bishops from different Catholic rites will perform the Anointing of the Sick throughout Jerusalem, as well as in Bethlehem and Ramallah, so that Catholics in the north and south of Palestine can also receive the sacrament. Ash Wednesday, which will take place Jan. 10, is set to be celebrated in Gethsemane, where Christ  prayed the night he was arrested. After the distribution of the ashes, attendees will then walk through the Holy Door in the city. Due to the fact that the main festivities will be held in the places that Christ lived and carried out his ministry, including many miracles, Francis said he decided to center his message for the day on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana, where Christ performed his first miracle through the intervention of his mother. With Mary’s attentiveness and personal involvement with the newlywed couple in mind, as well as her and docile attitude toward her son, the Pope asked what the scene can teach us about the World Day of the Sick. The wedding feast is above all an image of the Church, with Christ at the center, performing a miracle out of his mercy. He is surrounded by his disciples, and beside them all is Mary, “the provident and prayerful Mother.” “Mary partakes of the joy of ordinary people and helps it to increase; she intercedes with her Son on behalf of the spouses and all the invited guests. Nor does Jesus refuse the request of his Mother,” the Pope noted. He said the event serves as a sign of hope for everyone, because “we have a Mother with benevolent and watchful eyes, like her Son.” Mary, he said, has “a heart that is maternal and full of mercy, like him; hands that want to help, like the hands of Jesus who broke bread for those who were hungry, touched the sick and healed them.” “In Mary’s concern we see reflected the tenderness of God,” the Pope said, noting that this tenderness is also present in the lives of all those who care for the sick and are attentive to their needs, “even the most imperceptible ones, because they look upon them with eyes full of love.” When this love is animated by faith, it inspires us ask God for “something greater than physical health” for those who are sick: “we ask for peace, a serenity in life that comes from the heart and is God’s gift, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift which the Father never denies to those who ask him for it with trust.” Francis urged the faithful to ask Mary to intercede in helping them to have her same readiness to serve those in need, particularly those who are ill. “We too can be hands, arms and hearts which help God to perform his miracles, so often hidden,” he said, explaining that while the experience of suffering “will always remain a mystery, Jesus helps us to reveal its meaning.” Pope Francis also expressed his hope that the celebrations in the Holy Land would be an occasion for increased dialogue among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, who often bicker over rights and access to the holy sites in the area. He closed his message by praying that all who are sick and suffering would draw inspiration from Mary, entrusting to her their trials as well as their joys. “Let us beg her to turn her eyes of mercy towards us, especially in times of pain, and make us worthy of beholding, today and always, the merciful face of her Son Jesus!” Read more

Pope Francis meets Leonardo DiCaprio at the Vatican

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2016 / 09:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met briefly with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, who recently won an award for his efforts environmental protection at the World Economic Forum. The meeting between the two lasted just 15 minutes, but was enough time for DiCaprio to hand the Pope a book of art from Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch, according to Vatican Radio. Francis’ gift to the actor was likely a copy of his encyclical “Laudato Si” and a medal – lately he’s been giving one to presidents and heads of state who have come to the Vatican that bears the image of St. Martin cutting his cloak in two for a poor man. In some of the pictures of the encounter, DiCaprio can be seen holding the small box usually containing papal medals, as well as two red books. What the two discussed is unknown, however it’s likely that issues surrounding the environment formed the bulk of the dialogue. DiCaprio – who is a candidate for Best Actor at the Feb. 28 Oscar Awards ceremony for his lead role in the drama “The Revenant” – describes himself on twitter as an “actor and environmentalist.” He recently participated in the World Economic Forum where received their Crystal Award for his leading role in fighting climate change. In his speech for the event, DiCaprio said that “we simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity.” “Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied, and even covered up the evidence of our changing climate… Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.” According to the actor, “our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong.” He said that with today’s technologies, we have the means to end our “addiction” to them. DiCaprio also announced that his foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, will be donating donating $15 million to support environmental protection projects. Pope Francis himself sent a message to the forum participants, in which he said that while advanced technologies are good, they should promote environmental protection and shouldn’t replace the jobs currently held by people. Global dependence on coal and fossil fuels is something Francis also condemned in his encyclical “Laudato Si,” published June 18, 2015. As usual, the Pope did not shy away from controversial issues in the document, making bold statements on global warming, pollution, species extinction and global inequality’s impact on natural resources. He cited studies supporting the theory of global warming and stated that human activity is the primary driving force behind the phenomenon, as well as the main cause of species extinction. He also spoke of developed nations’ obligations involving renewable resources and the development of poorer countries. In addition to defending life from conception to natural death, Francis also issued a condemnation of gender ideology and advocated for a limited use of non-renewable resources. While the two men might not have much in common apart of DiCaprio’s Catholic roots – he was raised Catholic, but currently has no specific religion – their mutual interest in safeguarding the environment is enough to bring them together for the brief encounter. Read more

From slavery to model of mercy – the powerful story of Julia Greeley

Denver, Colo., Sep 7, 2016 / 11:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Julia Greeley was a familiar sight on the streets of Denver in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Wearing a floppy hat, oversized shoes, and dabbing her bad eye with a handkerchief, Greeley was often seen pulling her red wagon of goods to deliver to the poor and homeless of the city. She had a particularly special devotion to the Sacred Heart, and would deliver images and information about the icon to firefighters throughout Denver every month. Her charitable work earned her the title of a “one-person St. Vincent de Paul Society” from one writer, and has made her the local model of mercy for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Born a slave in Hannibal, Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848, Greeley endured some horrific treatment – once, a whip caught her right eye and destroyed it as a slave master beat Greeley’s mother. One of many slaves freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Greeley’s work with the family of William Gilpin, Colorado’s first territorial governor, brought her to Denver in 1878. After leaving the Gilpins’ service, Greeley found odd jobs around the city, and came upon the Sacred Heart Parish of Denver, where she would convert to Catholicism in 1880. She was an enthusiastic parishioner, a daily communicant, and became an active member of the Secular Franciscan Order starting in 1901. The Jesuit priests at her parish recognized her as the most fervent promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Despite her own poverty, Greeley spent much of her time collecting food, clothing and other goods for the poor. She would often do her work at night, so as to avoid embarrassing the people she was assisting. “She stood out because of how extraordinary she was,” David Uebbing, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver, told the Denver Catholic. “Even though she was only earning $10 to $12 a month cleaning and cooking, she was using it to help other people who were poor,” he said. “That spoke volumes about the charitable heart she had. In addition, she had great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was known for walking (monthly) to 20 different firehouses to give (felt) badges of the Sacred Heart and tracts to firemen. That brings to life the corporal and spiritual works of mercy this holy year is dedicated to.” Julia Greeley died on June 7, 1918 – the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Although her death came unexpectedly, she was able to receive last rites. It is estimated that she was around 80 years old, though because she was born into slavery, her exact age was never known. After her death, her body lay in state in a Catholic parish for five hours, during which a constant stream of people came to pay their last respects to the well-known, well-loved woman. A documentary about Greeley, based on the book In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart: The Life and Virtues of Julia Greeley, has been produced by the Archdiocese of Denver for the year of Mercy. Mary Leisring, president of the Julia Greeley Guild, told Denver Catholic that she was happy about the recognition Greeley was receiving during the Year of Mercy. “We had a saint walking the streets of Denver, yet very few people know about her.”This article was originally published Jan. 28, 2016. Read more

It’s time to put the heat on South Sudan’s leaders, bishop says

Rome, Italy, Jan 28, 2016 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale joined his brother prelates from South Sudan and Sudan for a time of rest and prayer in Rome last week, during which they were able to discuss key issues the two countries face, including decades of internal conflict and war. South Sudan – which won its independence from Sudan in 2011 – has endured its own civil war for more than two years, since a power struggle erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, who was accused by the president of attempting a coup. The only solution to ongoing conflicts in the area is to “put an end to this violence by stopping the war,” Bishop Santo, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Juba, told CNA in an interview. “The bishops are asking for true support for the suffering people in Sudan and in South Sudan.” He said pressure must be applied to the governments of both Sudan and South Sudan, that they might put their peoples’ interests over political agendas. “The people should be put first, and that’s the only way that this pressure should go on, so that we achieve peace in both countries,” the bishop said, explaining that to make peace only in South Sudan without doing so in their northern neighbor “will not be a viable peace.” This week South Sudan missed a deadline to create a transitional government, which was part of a peace deal made in August 2015. Both sides accuse each other of violating the deal. Two months after the peace agreement was made, Kiir decreed that the country’s 10 states were to be replaced with 28 states, a move by opposition leaders and international players. The bishops of Sudan and South Sudan were invited to Rome for a time of rest and prayer by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Jan. 11-21 spiritual retreat included a private audience with Pope Francis, and provided an opportunity for the bishops to discuss the various challenges both countries face, which range from war and poverty to catechetical and clerical formation. Sudan has been the scene of nearly continuous civil war since it gained independence in 1956. Many of the initial problems were caused by corruption in the government, which led to the political, economic, and religious marginalization of the country’s peripheries. The Second Sudanese Civil War ended in 2005, and eventually resulted in the secession of South Sudan in 2011. However, tensions between the two countries remain, primarily surrounding border issues and oil. The conflict has led to serious human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and a severe humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s southern regions of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which are among the hardest-hit by fighting. Although South Sudan is now independent from Sudan, the two countries share an episcopal conference, the operation of which was also touched on in the discussions between the South Sudanese and Sudanese bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In their meeting with Pope Francis last week, each bishop had the opportunity to explain the situation of their own local Church, Bishop Santo said. “Pope Francis was very delighted to receive us,” he said. “Of course he is the father of the Church, our father, so we felt at home; the meeting was warm.” One of the most serious problems both Sudan and South Sudan face is the humanitarian crisis brought about by their years of war and internal conflict. “Right now we have people suffering in South Sudan and war in South Sudan,” Bishop Santo said. “Displaced people move to Sudan, and then displaced people move from Sudan to South Sudan, so we have crossroads of displaced people in both countries suffering from the political elite who don’t take their people in heart.” The majority of issues the country faces are political problems “that have been created by the ruling elites in all Sudan,” making life difficult for both Christians and Muslims alike, he said. In the beginning, war “was created by this political elite, using fundamental ideologies in order to make life difficult,” the bishop said, explaining that while the situation has somewhat improved since South Sudan’s 2011 secession, “the political war is still in place.” The South Sudanese Civil War has been characterized as having both political and ethnic dimensions, and it is estimated that thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced from their homes since the violence began. This war “is what the bishops are praying should come to the end sooner or later because the suffering is too much,” Bishop Santo said. He offered thanks to the international organizations assisting in the humanitarian crisis on the ground in conflict areas. Many humanitarian workers “risk their lives, they leave their countries, they go down to help us,” but at the same time are blocked by the government from getting the aid to those who need it, the bishop said, noting that at times they are even harassed “in carrying out this noble humanitarian task.” He made an appeal to the governments of both Sudan and South Sudan to drop political interests and help with the crisis “so that aid can reach those in need.” “This is very urgent and it is needed now, because if the people are cut off, (if) they lack medicines, they lack water, they lack food, many of them will die.” With water points far and hard to get to as the hot season approaches, the need is becoming even more dire, the bishop said, adding that “if this conflict continues in the dry season it’s going to affect millions and millions of people.” “So we continue to appeal that the international community. Most urgently we would like to see that these people are safe. Once they are safe and protected then they will need the basic necessities of life.” Bishop Santo drew specific attention to the need for education for displaced children, who are particularly vulnerable and “who are not part of this war, but it is brought to them. So this is very, very urgent and very urgently needed now more than before in both countries.” According to a recent report from Unicef South Sudan has the highest proportion of children unable to attend school, at 51 percent. Many youth in Sudan and South Sudan have left and joined terrorist groups in neighboring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic. Given the political situation and the war, it’s “very difficult” for young people to find opportunities for education and a better life, the bishop said. “Therefore when the extremists came to Sudan, especially, they offered chances and these young people embraced these chances and began to go into this violence.” As the bishops return to their respective dioceses to face the looming challenges, Bishop Santo said he is grateful to have had the time to pray and to discuss the issues. He offered his thanks to the Pope and Cardinal Filoni for “such a cordial response” to the problems at hand in both Sudan and South Sudan: “We are taking back home a lot of memories and blessings.” “The Holy Mother Church stands with the suffering people of South Sudan … and therefore it is a great affection to each and every one of us,” he said. “So we will continue to carry our responsibilities and our duties in order to continue building the Church as God wants it throughout our times.” Read more