Vatican City, Feb 27, 2016 / 09:23 am (CNA).- Professor Saeed Khan, an expert in Islam, has said that mercy is central to the Muslim faith – a mercy with roots in Catholicism and which is opposed to the misguided, fundamentalist interpretati… Read more

Ottawa, Canada, Feb 27, 2016 / 06:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Legal assisted suicide will soon arrive in Canada, prompting a Catholic archbishop to reflect on what the last rites mean for those who want to kill themselves. Priests should work to dissuade … Read more

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2016 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- There’s probably very few people understand Church communications better than Msgr. Paul Tighe. For the better part of a decade, he has been the top Irishman and go-to man in the Vatican when it comes to media – an experience he hopes to incorporate into his new position as adjunct-secretary to the Pontifical Council for Culture. “A lot of my work in communications was looking at how digital culture is changing our world, and to see the strengths of that and the things that we might need to engage with,” Msgr. Tighe told CNA Feb. 26. He said there’s “a strong continuity between the area of communications and culture,” and said that at least for now, a lot of his new role at the Pontifical Council for Culture will likely be focused on digital culture. “That’s the culture I’ve been most familiar with,” he said, adding that “increasingly various expressions of culture, be it in literature, be it in music, are expressing themselves in true digital platforms, which are transformed into many of the traditional cultural industries, if we want to call it that.” Born in Navan, County Meath in 1958, Msgr. Tighe was appointed as secretary to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications by Benedict XVI at the end of 2007. Since then he has become well-known both within the Vatican and around the world, especially in the Anglosphere. As secretary for the Pontifical Council of Communications, he took a lot of trips abroad in order to help create dialogue and generate better, more effective communication in an increasingly digital culture. He spent a lot of time in the U.S. and Canada in particular. When Pope Francis began his reform of the Roman Curia in 2013 with the help of his council of nine adviser cardinals, one of the most immediate areas that needed attention were the Vatican communications operations. In order map out what a possible reform of Vatican communications would look like, Francis established an international commission headed by British Lord Chris Patten to study the current process and provide suggestions. He named Msgr. Tighe as secretary to the commission, and when the time came the Irish monsignor presented their conclusions to the C9 in the presence of the Pope. After the Pope established the new Secretariat for Communications in June 2015, naming Italian Msgr. Dario Vigano as its first head, Msgr. Tighe’s work was officially complete, leaving him the possibility of either being reassigned to another position in the Curia, or to an Irish diocese. Msgr. Tighe’s appointment as adjunct-secretary to Culture was announced Dec. 19, 2015, as well as his nomination as bishop. He was assigned to the titular episcopal See of Drivasto in Albania. He told CNA that the move to Culture “was a surprise” in the sense that he was expecting to return to Ireland, and that “interestingly” one of the things he had discussed with his Archbishop in Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, “was coming back and doing something precisely in the area of culture, public forum debates, the place of the faith and how it engages in the life of Ireland today.” “So therefore I have to say that it’s good in a sense that I get this opportunity and I’m very excited that I’m ending up here in culture.” While his assignment to the council of culture was small surprise, his appointment as bishop was “a major surprise,” Msgr. Tighe said. “Being bishop in the Curia is very different than if one had become a bishop in a diocese,” he said, explaining that after reflecting about what that means to be a bishop in a context that “is not as obviously pastoral,” he thinks the appointment is “a statement of how important this area is for the Church.” It’s a statement, he believes, that “they want to have somebody who will have the title of bishop so that you can engage with other bishops at a certain level and be able to encourage them and support them in thinking about how cultures need to be engaged with worldwide.” His episcopal ordination will take place this Saturday, Feb. 27, in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, will be the main celebrant. He will be assisted by both Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Cardinal Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social communications, as well as Archbishop Martin. In addition to the 60 family members who are traveling from Ireland to be at Msgr. Tighe’s ordination, an additional 50 friends and 20 priests will also be coming, as well as roughly 70 friends from the north of Italy. Msgr. Tighe said that although he’s no longer directly involved in Vatican communications, he believes the current reform is going well, and is sticking to the plan the commission had developed. “Our understanding is that at the end of the day we needed a much more integrated Vatican media,” in order to prevent “duplications and multiplications” of the same functions, he said. In order to keep up in an increasingly digital world, content has to be “digital and multimedia and transmedia from the beginning,” he said. “So you needed to flip the operation a little bit so that you would have the capacity to generate very rich, multimedia digital content that then can be streamlined for particular broadcast media,” he said, explaining that the commission’s idea on how to do this was to create one management with one budget that would integrate all of the various offices for a more united function. “I think that’s exactly the route that they’re on. I’m very pleased to see that,” he said, explaining that while there will always be difficulties in getting from point A to point B, “certainly they’re on the right path.” The Irish bishop-elect said that although he’s just getting started, one of the key aspects he sees in his new role is how faith, religion and the Church interact with society as a whole. No matter where they come from, people’s views are culturally determined, he said, explaining that although we’re not always aware of it, “how we see the world, how we understand things, how we reflect on meaning, the priorities we give to our everyday life…have all been determined by a specific culture.” What he would like to do, then, is to “identify the positive in every culture, and then maybe to see the things that can be strengthened, that can be broadened out or deepened with the word of the Gospel.” As one of two English-speaking officials on the council, the second being layman Richard Rouse, Msgr. Tighe said he hopes to engage the Anglo-Saxon world on a higher level, particularly North America. He said one of the other “privileged places” he’d like to engage with is how to work with universities, “because the universities are in the business of reflecting on and creating new cultures.” However, despite having some initial ideas, Msgr. Tighe said most of his time so far has been spent preparing for his ordination and studying how things are done before he needs to deliver on his work. “Every office in the Vatican has its own culture, it has its own way of doing things,” he said from his new office, one floor away from his previous one. “What I’m trying to appreciate here is the enormous strengths of the staff with whom I will be working and seeing what I can bring and what I can contribute.” Read more

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2016 / 01:57 pm (CNA).- The CEO and co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, was received in a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace today. The Pope and Systrom spoke about the power of images “to overcome cultural, geographic or generational barriers,” according to a Vatican source. Systrom has posted an image of his encounter with the Holy Father in his Instagram profile: “Today I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis. We spoke about the power of images to unite people across different cultures and languages. It was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life!”     Today I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis. We spoke about the power of images to unite people across different cultures and languages. It was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life! A photo posted by Kevin Systrom (@kevin) on Feb 26, 2016 at 4:40am PST Read more

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2016 / 11:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Continuing his knack for surprises, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at a rehabilitation center for those addicted to drugs and alcohol as part of monthly works of mercy, which he carries out on Fridays during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He traveled to the Fr. Mario Picchi Italian Center for Solidarity on Friday afternoon for the surprise visit, where he spoke with the 60 guests receiving treatment, and offered words of hope. The center, a nonprofit organization founded by Fr. Picchi in 1979, organizes numerous initiatives aimed at fighting the marginalization of youth and families as well as social exclusion. Their primary objective is the prevention of and rehabilitation from drug addiction and alcoholism. In a Feb. 26 communique, the center’s president, Roberto Mineo, said that everyone was “without words” when they saw the Pope pull up in front of their door. True to his simple style, Francis arrived with no special entourage, but was accompanied only by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Mineo said the Pope “seemed at home” with both the workers and volunteers of the center, as well as with the patients themselves. “He met at length with each one of them like a loving father listening to their stories and embracing them one by one,” Mineo said, noting how some of the guests showed the Pope photos of their families and children. Papa al @CeIS_Roma “Non abbiate paura” — CeISdonMarioPicchi (@CeIS_Roma) February 26, 2016 In a Feb. 26 communique from the Vatican, Archbishop Fisichella said that “the deep emotion” of the visit touched everyone, and that the Pope “wanted to stay together with the youth, he listened to their stories and made each one of them feel his closeness.” The Pope, he said, encouraged them “not to be devoured by the ‘metastasis’ of drugs and, embracing them, wanted to make understood how the path started in the community is a real chance” to start again with “a life worth living.” After hearing  this “word of hope” from Pope Francis and receiving his blessing, Mineo said they told the Pope their primary philosophy in working with those suffering from addiction, namely, that “drugs are not defeated with drugs…the liberalization of soft drugs is not admissible.” The philosophy is one Mineo said that their founder, Fr. Picchi, was serious about, and is something Francis himself has said on several occasions. Mineo explained that the center had written the Pope a few weeks ago telling him about their work not only with drug addicted youth, but also with refugees and women who are victims of violence. The letter’s messenger was the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who traveled to the center Dec. 19 to celebrate a Mass for Christmas. “But we never imagined that the Pope, after reading our letter, would have honored us with his presence,” Mineo said. Pope Francis’ decision to visit is part of his “Mercy Friday” initiative, in which he carries out one act of mercy a month on a Friday throughout the Holy Year. Last month, he made a surprise visit to two different nursing homes in Rome. The first was the Bruno Buozzi Retirement Home on Via di Torre Spaccata, on the outskirts of Rome, which houses 33 elderly people. Before returning to the Vatican, Francis made a second surprise stop at the “Casa Irde,” a home where six persons in a vegetative state live with their families and are provided assistance.   Read more

Portland, Ore., Feb 26, 2016 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Requests for physician-assisted suicide in Oregon have almost doubled annually since 2013, records for the state’s public health authority show. “What’s happened in America &n… Read more

Venice, Fla., Feb 26, 2016 / 05:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” by telling participants in a conference commemorating the document that not only is love … Read more

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his first children’s book Pope Francis touches on a variety of both lighthearted and sensitive topics from war and solving the world’s conflicts, to Sunday school, miracles and his preference for tango. When asked by 6-year-old Prajla from Albania if he liked to dance as a child, the Pope said he liked it “a lot! I liked to be together with other children, playing…dancing our typical dances from Argentina. I had a lot of fun.” He told Prajla that as a teenager he liked to dance tango, and that for him, to dance “is to experience joy and happiness.” “When someone is sad they can’t dance. Generally kids have a big asset: being happy. And because of this when they are young they dance and express the joy in their heart,” he said, noting that “the people who can’t experience joy in their heart are always serious.” Because of this, the Pope told children to dance, “so that you aren’t too serious when you are older!” This is just one of the answers Pope Francis gave to the 30 children around the world who wrote to him with questions and drawings. On March 1 Jesuit-run Loyola Press will release the book “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World,” alongside Jesuit publishing houses in 11 other countries. Eight children whose letters appear in the book, plus a few siblings, met with Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican Feb. 22 to present him with the Italian translation of the book, as well as all 259 letters collected for the project. The Italian translation, “L’Amore Prima del Mondo,” is already available in bookstores. A collection of 30 letters and drawings from children around the world aged 6-13, the book contains both questions from the youth, as well as Pope Francis’ answers. Pope Francis gave the project the official thumbs-up last May, when executives from Loyola Press traveled to Rome to pop the question on whether he would ever consider writing a children’s book. Due to the Pope’s time constraints, he couldn’t respond to all 259 letters, but was advised on which ones to select with the help of a special group of parents, grandparents, teachers, Jesuits, writers and children. Letters included in the book come from across the globe, including countries such as Albania, Russia, China, Nigeria, Kenya, the Philippines and a school for displaced children in Syria. In the book Pope Francis answers questions simple, fun questions from the youth, as well as heart-wrenching questions from children in warring countries. When asked by Mohamed, 10, from Syria if the world will ever be beautiful again like it was before, the Pope responded by pointing out how after he died and ascended into heaven, Jesus promised that he would return, and that when he does, “everything will be new: a new heaven, a new earth.” Because of this, “the world now will not be like it was in the past,” Francis said. He lamented that there are “evil people” who produce and sell arms in order to make war, people who hate, and people who are so attached to money that they will “even sell other people” to get more. Although “this is terrible,” the Pope stressed that “this suffering is destined to end, you know? It’s not forever. Suffering is lived with hope, despite everything.” Similarly, when asked by Michael, 9, from Nigeria asked how to end the world’s conflicts, Francis said that war “is only the fruit of egoism and greed.” While he acknowledged that he can’t solve all the world’s problems, Pope Francis told the youth that “you and I can try to make this land a better world.” “You know conflict, I understand. But there is not a magic wand. Everyone must be convinced that the best way of winning a war is not to do it. It’s not easy. But I will try. You try too.” On a more lighthearted note, the Pope answered questions surrounding his “tall hat” (his miter), miracles, Sunday school, how Jesus walked on water and what he would like to do to make the world a better place. Ana Maria, 10, from Brazil asked the Pope why children needed to go to catechism classes. In response, Francis said simply: “Go to catechism to know Jesus better!” “If you have a friend you like to be with them in order to know them better. You like to be with a friend to play together, to get to know their family, their life, where they were born, where they live.” Catechism, he said, “helps you in this, to know your friend Jesus better and to know his big family which is the Church.” When William, 7, from the U.S. asked him what miracle he would perform if he could, Pope Francis said he would “heal children,” and that he still hasn’t been able to understand why children suffer. “I pray about this question: why do children suffer? It’s my heart that asks me the question,” he said, noting how Jesus himself cried, “and in crying he understood our dramas.” “If I could do a miracle, I would heal all children,” he added, and told William that “I’m not afraid to cry. You shouldn’t be either.” On a fun note, when Natasha, 8, from Kenya asked him how Jesus walked on water, the Pope jested, saying that Jesus “didn’t fly or do somersaults swimming,” but walked normally like he was on the ground. Jesus walked “one foot after the other, also seeing the fish under his feet partying and swimming fast,” the Pope explained, adding that since Jesus is God, “he can do everything. He can also walk calmly on water. God doesn’t sink, you know?” Read more

Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2016 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. must not ignore the Islamic State’s genocide of Christians. That is the position of a petition drive and television campaign seeking to persuade Secretary of State John Kerry. &… Read more

Denver, Colo., Apr 19, 2017 / 03:27 am (CNA).- Noting the sharply increasing costs of weddings, marriage advocates have begun to urge couples to be less extravagant in their nuptial celebrations for the good of their relationships. “We ran a survey [in early 2013] with a law firm that looked at reasons for not marrying, and the top reason for men was the cost of the wedding,” said Harry Benson, an official with the U.K.-based think tank The Marriage Foundation. Benson said that the average price for the event in the United Kingdom is around $30,000, according to wedding magazines. Such expenses, he told CNA, are “definitely a barrier” to getting married. “I think the celebrities have set the bar very, very high with all these hyped-up, high profile, highly photographed weddings, very extravagant events.” When couples want the “big, dream wedding,” he added, “often it’s very unrealistic.” The Marriage Foundation was established by British judge Paul Coleridge, an expert in family law. Having seen a “stream of human misery pass through his doors,” Coleridge decided to launch the charity to promote strong marriages, Benson said. Part of the promotion of strong marriages, he believes, is focusing more on the marriage than on the wedding. Melissa Naasko, a Michigan-based wife, mother, and blogger at Dyno-mom, agrees. “If I was going to give a bride advice, it would be to focus more on the marriage and less on the wedding,” she told CNA. Naasko advocates celebrations that won’t break the budget and put burdensome financial stress on the married couple. She recalled planning the wedding of one of her friends a year ago, helping keep the cost reasonable. When her friend got engaged, the first piece of advice she gave her was “never ever, ever buy a bridal magazine…because they’re all geared just to sell stuff.” “Anytime you pick up a bridal magazine, they’re at least 60 percent ads. You’ll look and see that all the articles in it are sponsored articles.” Avoiding wedding magazines – and shows such as “Say Yes to the Dress” – helps brides to “pay attention more to what their friends and their family are saying, and it becomes more about the people and less about the stuff.” “There’s nothing wrong with having smaller weddings,” Naasko urged. “And the marriage obviously is the most important part of a wedding.” “But one of the reasons it’s a social event, is because it’s the public aspect of our lives. Making the wedding itself about people always makes it less expensive.” Not being influenced “by all the propaganda that surrounds the wedding mystique,” will ultimately benefit the couple, Naasko reflected. Catholic commentator Matt Archbold added to the discussion in a blog post for the National Catholic Register in May 2013, noting that “big weddings…might just be causing heartbreak, damaging society, and hurting people’s faith.” Being engaged for more than a year, saving up the money to splurge on the big day, can put couples in a precarious moral situation, often involving cohabitation, which in turn is linked to higher rates of divorce. “The dream of the lavish Hollywood style wedding is not only ridiculous but harmful to one’s faith and society in general,” Archbold wrote. Another factor that can put stress on couples is the societal pressure put on a fiancé to spend, on average, two months of his salary – $3500 to $5000 – purchasing an engagement ring for his beloved. The two-month figure was first promoted decades ago by advertisers from the De Beers diamond and mining business, according to Business Insider writer Robin Dhar. De Beers has effectively held a monopoly on the global diamond market for some 100 years. Dhar wrote in March 2013 that “Americans exchange diamond rings as part of the engagement process, because in 1938 De Beers decided that they would like us to.” The marketing campaign of the company that year pushed the idea that diamonds are a sign of love and affluence, and was massively successful in doing so. Diamond rings are now given to 80 percent of American fiancées on their engagement – mostly because the company which has effectively monopolized the market for diamonds told men they should. Adding to the financial strain of many couples in the U.S. is student loan debt. A May 2013 survey for the American Institute of CPAs showed that 15 percent of student loan borrowers have postponed getting married because of debt incurred from going to university. Student loan debt in 2012 averaged nearly $25,000, a figure 70 percent greater than in 2004. In his comments to CNA, Benson of The Marriage Foundation also touched on the rise in cohabitation, linked to the delay in getting married. “The fundamental issue is that we’ve normalized cohabitation, which is much more unstable than marriage.” He added that “deferring marriage is because we’ve effectively broken the link between marriage and childbirth.” The Marriage Foundation is focusing its mission on educating couples about the benefits of getting married and having children, and helping them to realize they can have a wedding reception focused on what’s important, rather than on extravagant spending.  This article was originally published on CNA June 15, 2013.   Read more

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