San Diego’s Bishop Flores undergoing cancer treatment

San Diego, Calif., Aug 27, 2014 / 10:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of San Diego has announced that Bishop Cirilo Flores is now being treated for prostate cancer, as he continues dealing with effects of a stroke that occurred four months ago. &… Read more

Pope: division is among greatest sins of Christian communities

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 05:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his weekly general audience Pope Francis spoke on the unity and holiness of the Church, stating that despite the fact we are sinners, we are called to live as a community centered on Christ. “In a Christian community division is one of the most serious sins, because it does not allow God to act,” the Pope said in his Aug. 27 general audience address. “What God wants is that we be welcoming, that we forgive and love each other so as to become more and more like Him, who is communion and love.” Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff explained that as Catholics “we affirm in the Creed that the Church is one and that she is holy.” “One because she has her origin in the Triune God, mystery of unity and full communion. Holy since she is founded by Jesus Christ, enlivened by his Holy Spirit, and filled with his love and salvation.” We continue to refer to the Church as “one” and “holy” despite the fact that “we know by experience that it is also composed of sinners and that there is no shortage of divisions,” he said, recalling how the night before he was arrested Jesus “asked for the unity of his disciples: ‘that all be one.’” “We trust in his desire that unity will be one of the characteristic features of our community,” the Pope continued, noting that “While we, the members of the Church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the Church arise from God and call us daily to conversion.” Observing how “We have an intercessor in Jesus, who prays…for our unity with him and the Father, and with each other,” the Bishop of Rome drew attention to the sins that often cause division. “Sins against unity are not only schisms,” he said, “but also the most common weeds of our communities: envies, jealousies, antipathies…talking bad about others. This is human, but it is not Christian.” These sins “which occur even in our parish communities,” Pope Francis continued, “come about when we place ourselves at the center.” “God’s will, however, is that we grow in our capacity to welcome one another, to forgive and to love, and to resemble Jesus.” Explaining how “It’s the devil who separates, destroys relationships, sows prejudices,” the Pope affirmed that “the holiness of the Church” is “to recognize the image of God in one another.” “The holiness of the Church consists of this: reproducing the image of God, rich in mercy and grace.” Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff prayed that all might “examine our consciences and ask forgiveness for the times when we have given rise to division or misunderstanding in our communities, and may our relationships mirror more beautifully and joyfully the unity of Jesus and the Father.” Following his reflections Pope Francis greeted groups of pilgrims present from around the world, giving special notice to several Cuban bishops who have come for the enthronement of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, in the Vatican Gardens tomorrow. “I greet with affection all of the bishops from Cuba, who came to Rome for this occasion,” he said, “while at the same time I ask you to convey my closeness and blessing to all of the Cuban faithful.” Read more

Papal envoy: we must see humanity of each Iraqi refugee

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 04:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The international community must view suffering Iraqi refugees not as a collective group, but as individual persons, each with his or her own story and needs, the Pope’s envoy to the country… Read more

Full release of faith education program to help form Catholics

Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2014 / 02:01 am (CNA).- The release of the complete adult faith formation series “Symbolon: the Catholic Faith Explained” hopes to offer a profound way of encountering the truths of the Catholic Church. “Symb… Read more

Chilean lawmakers ask president to denounce Iraqi violence

Santiago, Chile, Aug 27, 2014 / 12:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Chilean Congress has unanimously approved a measure calling on President Michelle Bachelet to condemn “the brutal persecution” of Christians in Iraq and to ask the U.N. to take … Read more

Outcry flares over Calif. abortion push in Catholic colleges

Sacramento, Calif., Aug 26, 2014 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid backlash from religious liberty and education advocates, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has ordered abortion coverage in health insurance plans for two Catholic universities. “California Catholics are no longer safe to practice their faith within their own institutions. Gov. Brown’s decision demonstrates that, in California, tolerance does not extend to people of faith and moral conscience,” David Luke, co-founder of Renew LMU, told CNA Aug. 26. Luke’s group aims for the renewal of Catholic identity at the Los Angeles-based Loyola Marymount University, from which he graduated in 1993. He said that Gov. Brown and his administration has given the university leadership “a unique opportunity to prove that being a Catholic institution still means something.” Brown, he noted, “has given them an opportunity to stand in defense of innocent human life and religious freedom. I hope they take advantage of that opportunity.” Luke’s comments follow California government officials’ scrutiny of health care plans designed to remove some abortion coverage from health plans that Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University provide to their employees. On Friday, Michelle Rouillard, director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care announced that health plans that restricted abortion coverage were illegal under state law. Her Aug. 22 letter to health care companies active in the state instructed them to cover abortion on the grounds that it is “a basic health care service.” She said that some contracts “limiting or excluding coverage for termination of pregnancies” may illegally discriminate against women. Under California’s Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 and judicial rulings applying the California state Constitution, Rouillard’s letter said, “all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.” The letter instructed health care companies to remove “discriminatory coverage exclusions and limitations,” including those that limit coverage to “therapeutic” or “medically necessary” abortions. The department’s action, however, could face legal challenges. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal religious liberty advocacy group, co-authored with the Life Legal Defense Foundation a letter to the California department objecting to the action. The two groups said that the action is a “clear violation” of the federal Weldon Amendment, which bars states that accept federal funds from discriminating against institutions and health care entities that do not provide coverage of abortion or refer for abortions. The California government department “cannot deny approval to or otherwise penalize a health insurance plan for failing to provide coverage of some or all abortions,” said the letter, which was written on behalf of the Cardinal Newman Society. “When Congress enacted the Weldon Amendment, it sought to ensure that the government could never strong-arm pro-life employers into paying for abortion coverage; therefore, California’s decision is illegal,” Matthew Bowman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said Aug. 22. “No state can ignore federal law in a pursuit to conform everyone to the state’s own ideology on abortion,” Bowman added. “Faith-based organizations should be free to operate according to the faith they espouse and live out on a daily basis.” The letter threatened to file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Peter Warren, an assistant director of communications at Loyola Marymount University, told CNA Aug. 25 that the university is waiting to hear from its insurance companies on how the decision affects the university. Deepa Arora, communications director at Santa Clara University, said Aug. 25 that the university has reached out to its insurers. “We will confer with them to ensure that our health plans continue to be fully compliant with state and federal law,” Arora said.A fight for Catholic identity Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount, told CNA/EWTN News Aug. 19 that California government officials’ scrutiny of abortion coverage in health plans are hindering Catholic colleges’ ability to be consistently Catholic. “A Catholic university, if it is to retain its identity, must be distinctive in its fidelity to fundamental truths.” Kaczor cited the Society of Jesus’ 2003 document “Standing for the Unborn,” saying that “the defense of human life prior to birth is a justice issue.” He said Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university, “should not, in any way, facilitate abortion.” In fall 2013 both Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara announced that they planned to stop paying for employees’ elective abortions, the Associated Press reports. They said their insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, had secured approval from state officials. In an October 2013 letter, Santa Clara University president Father Michael E. Engh, S.J., said that the Catholic university’s “core commitments” are incompatible with abortion coverage. State officials revisited their decision following agitation from pro-abortion rights faculty and staff at the universities, as well as activism from pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. Santa Clara University faculty voiced their rejection of the changes to the health care plan by a vote of 215 to 89 in December, the California Lawyer magazine reports. Before the policy was revised, Santa Clara’s abortion coverage also applied to dependents of faculty and staff.   The universities’ revised health plans still offer supplemental coverage for abortion through a third party. Kaczor said that Loyola Marymount’s health coverage change is a “significant, meaningful improvement” over the previous policy that covered elective abortion. He said university president David Burcham’s initial proposed policy was “a wonderful affirmation of our Jesuit character.”   However, he said the change actually implemented by the university’s board of trustees was not as strong because it still cooperated in the provision of abortion. Luke, of Renew LMU, agreed that the university’s current policy still makes it “morally complicit” in the procurement of abortion. He said it was “not clear” that Loyola Marymount’s leadership “has the commitment to Catholic mission required to oppose an assault on religious freedom.” He noted that the president of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles was invited to speak on campus despite the protests of concerned students, faculty, alumni and others. Luke said that Loyola Marymount’s Catholic mission and identity “have been in decline for years.” He charged that the university’s leadership “would rather bow to a loud, secular faculty majority than do the right thing.” “The faculty who lobbied Governor Brown were not satisfied with the affordable abortion coverage provided by their Catholic employer,” Luke said. ”They will only be satisfied when their Catholic employer actively participates in the killing of the unborn.” He encouraged prayer for the restoration of the university’s Catholic character. Read more

A refreshed Benedict XVI captivates students with homily

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 12:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Participants in the annual Ratzinger “schulerkreis” study group were overjoyed at seeing the retired pontiff in good health, noting that they were deeply moved by his homily on the triumph of God’s love. “The homily was very moving. It was the Gospel of the day about Cesarea of Philippi where Jesus asks the apostles, ‘Who do you say I am?’” Father Vincent Twomey recalled to CNA Aug. 25. “Peter answered ‘you are Christ, son of the living God,’” to which Jesus responds: “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” Fr. Twomey was one of the participants of this year’s Ratzinger “schuelerkreis,” or “students’ circle,” which has met annually to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, when their professor Josef – later to become Pope Benedict XVI – was tapped to become a bishop. This year’s encounter was held at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 21-24, with German theologian Karl-Heinz Menke serving as relator. During the main meetings he gave a presentation on the “Theology of the Cross.” Following the normal discussions, Fr. Twomey explained that on Sunday the group traveled to the Campo Santo Teutonico chapel in the Vatican for Mass, where the main celebrant was retired pontiff Benedict XVI. The main points of Benedict’s homily, the priest explained, were that “today people are always asking who is Jesus Christ.” “They say he was a great man, a teacher, a revolutionary perhaps. People outside see him in different ways. And that’s not a bad thing; that means that Jesus image has spread throughout society and religions,” he went on, “But, to recognize him as the Son of God is a gift of faith.” Noting how “Our Lord didn’t build his Church on a theory or a statement, but on a person, relationship with Jesus,” Fr. Twomey stated that Benedict’s words were “very moving because the Church where we celebrated was near the place where Peter himself gave his final witness.” “Benedict XVI talked about how the gates of hell would never prevail. The Church is always the weak player, always under attack but the Church always survives because it is not a human, but a divine entity.” “The cross is the way to the resurrection. The good news is God’s love triumphs over evil. Evil will never triumph over good,” the priest continued, explaining that after the Mass participants had a special reception with Fr. Stephan Horn, 80, who is the key organizer of the annual schuelerkreis. “What struck us all is that despite being older each year,” Benedict XVI “looks much better, fresher. He’s very clear in his mind,” he noted, observing how the former pontiff stood for nearly an hour and a half during the mass even though a chair was provided for him. “He was in good form. There was a good spirit about him.” Echoing Fr. Twomey’s sentiments is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou, who also participated in the study circle. “It was extraordinary. As always, it amazed us that in spite of age, and without a prepared text, the Pope (emeritus) gave a homily at a great level, with an extraordinary clarity of mind for his age.” Composed of about 50 people who studied for their doctorates under Ratzinger, the schuelerkreis usually takes place with the 25 to 30 who are able to make it to any given year’s meeting. The circle has enlarged in recent years, establishing a “youth branch” composed of academics who had not studied with Ratzinger, yet who are studying and developing upon his theological work. The topic of the meeting varies each year; last year was the question of God amid secularism, and the year prior to that, ecumenism was the subject chosen. Read more

Pope names Philly bishop to head Toledo diocese

Toledo, Ohio, Aug 26, 2014 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday named Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia to be the next bishop of Ohio’s Diocese of Toledo. “I express my profound gratitude to Pope Francis for his confidence and trust in appointing me the shepherd of the Lord’s flock here in northwest Ohio,” Bishop Thomas said at an Aug. 26 press conference in Toledo. “Aware that I am not worthy of the office, I trust in God’s Holy Will as expressed through the Successor of Peter and in the grace and mercy of Jesus the Good Shepherd.” “What is important is not so much my name, but who I am for you, a father, brother, and friend in the faith,” the bishop said. He added: “it is my fervent hope and prayer that the weak and the vulnerable, the poor and the needy, indeed all of us, might experience more deeply the love and mercy of Christ.” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia praised the appointment, saying that the Toledo Diocese “has been given a true gift in Bishop Thomas.” “The appointment being announced today demonstrates the confidence our Holy Father has in Bishop Thomas’ pastoral and administrative skills,” Archbishop Chaput said in a statement. “I have worked with him closely since my arrival in Philadelphia nearly three years ago and have witnessed his wisdom, intelligence, personal warmth and keen affection for the people of God.” “I know he will serve them joyfully as a faithful shepherd and spiritual father.” Bishop Thomas was born June 11, 1959 in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Philadelphia archdiocese in 1985 by Cardinal John Krol. He was named an auxiliary bishop in 2006. He served as a parochial vicar and a pastor at several Pennsylvania parishes, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reports. The bishop holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He served in the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican and was adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College Seminary in Rome. During the press conference, Bishop Thomas said that he looked forward to participating in the life of the diocese. “Most of all, I look forward, as your bishop, to preaching the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, to teach and defend our Catholic faith, to lead and strengthen you so that together we might be more vibrant and courageous disciples of the Lord.” Bishop Thomas will be the eighth Bishop of Toledo. He succeeds Leonard P. Blair, who was named Archbishop of Hartford, Conn. in October 2013. Archbishop Blair said he was “very pleased” to hear of Bishop Thomas’ appointment. “He is a man of wide pastoral experience, deeply committed to Christ and the Church. The clergy and people of Toledo will be well served by the many gifts Bishop Thomas brings as their new shepherd,” the archbishop said in a statement. Bishop Thomas voiced his prayers for the people of the diocese and said he prayed that he will be “a faithful, humble, holy and ardent bishop for Toledo.” The Diocese of Toledo has about 320,000 Catholics in a population of over 1.4 million.   Read more

Vatican spokesman: ISIS threat to Pope Francis unfounded

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 08:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to rumors that the Islamic State may be targeting Pope Francis, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said there is no reason for concern. “There is nothing serious to this. There is no … Read more

Catholic Charities helps with relief after Calif. quake

Napa Valley, Calif., Aug 26, 2014 / 04:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in northern California is helping respond to a major earthquake, which shook Napa Valley early Sunday morning, the largest earthquake to hit the area in 25 years. Jennielynn Holmes, director of shelter and housing for Catholic Charities in the area, said they are partnering with local emergency response programs to provide assistance. “There’s a lot of cleanup going on right now,” she told CNA Aug. 25. “The water situation is really bad, they’re not sure if they’ll have it turned on for another week in some locations…but (everyone is) working hard, they’ve already fixed up a lot of places where the pavement became uneven.” The 6.0 magnitude earthquake was the biggest to hit the region since the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which killed 63 people, injured thousands and caused several billion dollars in damage according to the U.S. Geological Survey. While there are no known fatalities from the Aug. 24 earthquake, more than 100 people were injured and many homes and businesses damaged or destroyed. Nearly everyone who had been brought to the hospital for earthquake related injuries was released by Sunday night, CNN reports. One patient remained in critical condition and a child injured when a fireplace collapsed was life-flighted to UC Davis Medical Center. Holmes said while the Catholic Charities shelter had its own cleanup to do, other buildings sustained much more damage, and the downtown area seemed to be hit especially hard. “There’s actually a house next to one of our shelters that…the foundation just sunk into the ground,” she said. “Luckily we just did work on our program foundation a couple years ago, so we were fortunate.” Catholic Charities of California has also been working to round up food, furniture and clothing for those who lost their homes or belongings in the quake. Besides household items and houses themselves, the biggest need in the aftermath might be cars, Holmes said. “There’s been a couple of car ports that have collapsed and fell on cars and they’ve been destroyed, so I would say probably financial assistance in that way (will be the biggest need),” she said. “Hopefully by the end of today we’ll have more information.” She added that Bishop Robert Vasa has been in the area, helping out with local parishes. “He’s checking in to see how everybody’s doing.” As recovery efforts solidify, there will be a need for volunteers who can give of their time to cleanup efforts or who can donate household items, Holmes said. The next few days and even weeks of recovery will be precarious, especially because of possible aftershocks expected from the quake, she explained. But so far the response in the community has been positive. “I know a lot of people have kind of rallied together to help out.” Donations to Catholic Charities of California can be made on their website: http://catholiccharitiesca.org/wp/join-us/ Read more