Menu

Update: Germany tour led to making Holocaust research her life's work

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joel Mason-Gaines, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Suzanne Brown-Fleming was on a track to the kind of career she wanted.

After having been educated in Catholic schools in the Virginia suburbs of Washington for 12 years, she flourished further in her undergraduate and graduate studies in college, and was quite close to finishing her doctoral dissertation in modern German history.

Then she and a group of other doctoral students from the University of Maryland embarked on a trip to Germany for their Ph.D. work.

"A friend who was Jewish, we were both in the same Ph.D. program. She was really the first person I knew in-depth who was Jewish. We were in Germany in this program, traveling near the former concentration camp at Buchenwald," Brown-Fleming recalled. "She wanted to visit." The exhibitions about Jews' experiences in the camp had not yet been redone since the fall of the Berlin Wall, "and she got emotional about that."

Yet for someone who was a student of modern German history, "the topic was a shock to me, after 25 years of being an active Catholic, half-German and going to Catholic schools," she told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 6 telephone interview.

For Brown-Fleming, "it's part of a journey -- a 25-year journey -- where I started asking questions that I had never even thought about," she said. She is now director of international academic programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.

"I was a fellow here as a grad student in 2000. I started working here in 2001," she said. "It's been my only job as an adult."

But first, Brown-Fleming had to shift gears.

"Germany was a Christian country, a Catholic country. About 30% of the population was Catholic," she said. "I asked my (doctoral) adviser; 'OK, 30% of the population is Catholic, 70% is Protestant, yet the Holocaust happened there. I don't understand.'"

Since the Holocaust is in many ways still inexplicable, "I said, 'I wanna know what the Catholic Church said it did after the Holocaust. I want to change my dissertation.' He said OK. And so I sort of had to self-teach. I was all the way through my Ph.D. coursework and was on my way through a Ph.D. dissertation totally unrelated to the Holocaust."

Brown-Fleming learned of a collection at The Catholic University of America, Washington. "I ended up at the Catholic U. collection of the German papal diplomat to Germany (Cardinal Aloisius Muench). He was the recipient of tens of thousands of letters from German Catholics describing their view on Nazism, the victims of Nazism."

Anti-Semitism, she added, is "there in the American Catholic correspondence, in the military correspondence, in the Vatican correspondence. I'm a 'Dignitatis Humanae' Catholic," referring to the Second Vatican Council's declaration on religious liberty. "I was shocked and reading things I couldn't believe."

And the German side of her family? After doing some research, she said, she learned "my family had some very strong ties to Nazism. They left their church for their new religion of Nazism."

Still a practicing Catholic -- her daughters attend the same Catholic high school she did -- Brown-Fleming said she has also learned that, as a Catholic, "you are to love other people as yourself. You are to give to the least of your brothers. Not all, but many Catholics and Christians (in Germany) totally failed in that mission.

"And now the question for me is: Well, that's heartbreaking. But why? Why did their faith not sustain them, or more of them, or at least a majority of them, to respond and behave differently? And what about church leadership in Rome and the United States, what animated the decisions they made?" she asked.

After 20 years reading details of the Holocaust, "by those of us who are still practicing (their faith) and are left to answer the questions of why the church did or did not do this or that," Brown-Fleming said, "I am left finding out that I don't have a good answer."

Some answers may be in store, though. The Vatican Secret Archives are unsealing come spring documents on Pope Pius XII, whose papacy covered the World War II years, and who, prior to that, spent a decade as Vatican secretary of state, dealing with both Germany and Italy.

There may be a million pages of documents, and perhaps more. How will researchers sift through it without duplicating others' efforts?

"They're talking about exactly that question, how to build the right networks," Brown-Fleming told CNS. "Pope Francis himself, when he made this opening up of its archives, said the church is not afraid of history." She added, "We don't believe in prejudged outcomes."

Brown-Fleming wanted to correct one mistaken notion: "Everyone thinks there are just one archive. Actually, there are seven different archives across Vatican City, all of which have documents potentially relevant to the Holocaust. The Vatican Apostolic Archive is one of the largest. The rules (for this particular archive) are any single researcher can stay for up to three months at a given time."

She said, "We've had a very positive relationship in the past with the church," thinking back to 2006, when documents relating to Pope Pius XI's papacy were made available. "We were able to make copies, and have partial copies available in Washington, D.C.," Brown-Fleming added. "We'll certainly hope for that good luck again."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Martyrdom comes from following Christ without compromise, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- There always will be martyrs among Christians in the world, Pope Francis said.

Martyrdom "is the sign that we are on Jesus' path; it's a blessing from the Lord that within the people of God there is someone who gives this witness of martyrdom," he said Dec. 11 during his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, which was decorated with a large Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

The pope continued his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles by looking at the increasing amount of suffering and persecution the Apostle Paul faced as he spread the Gospel.

"Paul is not just an evangelizer filled with passion, the intrepid missionary among pagans who brings new Christian communities to life, he is also a suffering witness of the Risen One," the pope said in his catechesis.

Much like Jesus, Paul faced fierce persecution in Jerusalem, and he was put in chains following his arrest on charges of preaching against the law and the temple.

While most people saw his chains as a sign of him being a criminal, the pope said, Paul saw the chains with "the eyes of faith" as a sign of his love for Jesus.

"For Paul, his faith is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world, but it is the impact of God's love in his heart, it is love for Jesus Christ," he said.

"Paul teaches us perseverance amid trials and the ability to see everything with the eyes of faith," the pope said. "Let us ask the Lord today, through the apostle's intercession, to rekindle our faith and help us be completely faithful to our vocation as Christians, as disciples of the Lord, as missionaries."

To further underline how, even in modern times, Christians still face suffering and persecution, the pope spoke about meeting with pilgrims from Ukraine earlier that morning.

He explained how Eastern-rite Catholics in Ukraine had been persecuted for their faith under communism, "but they did not negotiate the faith."

"In the world today, including in Europe, many Christians are being persecuted. And they give their life for their faith," he said.

"They are persecuted with 'white gloves,' that is, they are pushed aside, emarginated," the pope said. "Martyrdom is the context of a Christian, of a Christian community. There always will be martyrs among us."

The group of pilgrims that met with Pope Francis included bishops, priests, religious and laypeople from the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo, which was celebrating the 30th anniversary of no longer having to practice the faith clandestinely under Soviet oppression.

The pope told them that their church "is the mother of many martyrs," recalling the example of their bishop, Blessed Theodore Romzha, who was killed by the Soviet secret police in 1947 and who was beatified as a martyr by St. John Paul II in 2001.

"In the darkest hours of your history," Pope Francis said, "he knew how to guide the people of God with evangelical wisdom and courage, a tireless man," who, like Christ the good shepherd, gave his life for his flock, the pope said.

Pope Francis noted that many of the pilgrims' own relatives had to risk their freedom or life in order to hand down the "teaching of the truth of Christ" to them and future generations.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Everyday Heroes: How former Eagles GM founded Ronald McDonald houses

IMAGE: CNS photo/Spirit Juice, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Andrew Fowler

Jim Murray became the youngest general manager in NFL history without a family connection when he was hired at age 36 by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1974.

Five years before, Murray joined the Eagles' public relations staff at a time when the team had been struggling for 15 years and hadn't made the playoffs since 1960.

Under Murray's guidance, the Eagles clinched playoff berths in four consecutive seasons (1978-1981) and reached the Super Bowl in January 1981.

For Murray, a Knight of Columbus member from De La Salle Council 590 in Aldan, Pennsylvania, reaching the Super Bowl was an incredible feat. But it paled in comparison to what he calls his personal Super Bowl -- founding the first Ronald McDonald House in 1974.

His efforts are highlighted as part of the Knights of Columbus video series, "Everyday Heroes," which tells the stories of ordinary Catholic men acting extraordinarily.

It started when the child of Fred Hill, an Eagles' tight end, was diagnosed with leukemia. Hill and a friend founded a charity called Eagles Fly for Leukemia. Murray wanted to help, and he began by learning more about leukemia.

At the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, he met Dr. Audrey Evans, the head oncologist, and offered donations to help the hospital. What she then said at that meeting changed his life.

"'You know what else we need? When I tell a family their child has leukemia, I've changed their family's life forever. So I'd like to get a room in a YMCA where they could stay while their child's being treated,'" Murray recalled.

He replied to the doctor: "You know, you need a house."

Murray wasn't sure how he was going to fulfill his promise to Evans, so he prayed for guidance. He decided to contact McDonald's and asked for a percentage of Shamrock Shake sales to buy the house. McDonald's not only agreed, they decided to donate all Shamrock Shake sales proceeds. The only provision was that Murray name it the Ronald McDonald House.

With Murray's guidance, the first Ronald McDonald House opened its doors on Oct. 15, 1974, not far from where he was born.

"I knew from the first day we opened the house in Philly that this should be duplicated," Murray said. "The McMiracle, as I call it, happened from there. A couple of years later, there was a second house in Chicago. Today, there are 368 houses all over the globe."

The Ronald McDonald House now provides families of sick children in more than 64 countries with affordable lodgings and has saved these families an estimated $932.6 million.

"On the wall of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House is a map with little pins showing where families have come from to try to save their child's life and you can't even see the wall because there are so many different countries represented," Murray said.

"But it's not about statistics," he said. "It comes down to each kid."

For his charitable work, Murray has received numerous awards including the President Ronald Reagan's Medal for Volunteers of America (1987), the American Medical Association's Citizen of the Year award (1999) and Catholic Leadership Institute's Award for Outstanding Catholic Leadership (2005).

Of course, it has never been about the awards for Murray. It's about the smiles on the faces of the families and children who enter the Ronald McDonald Houses.

"When a child gets sick, everybody rallies around," Murray said. "That's what family is. It's the ultimate huddle! You all get together and say, 'What's our next play?' ... Well, the Ronald McDonald House was my play; it was my Super Bowl."

- - -

Editor's Note: A video accompanying this story can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Yiu-M1M4ts. To share your story of an everyday hero with the Knights of Columbus, contact andrew.fowler@kofc.org.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Court won't take case on law requiring ultrasound before abortion

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 9 declined to take up a challenge to a Kentucky ultrasound law that requires a physician or qualified technician to perform an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and show the screen images to her.

The petition to the court did not get the required four justices to sign on to hear an appeal of an April 4 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturning a lower court decision that the law violated doctors' freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The Kentucky Ultrasound Informed Consent Act law can take effect immediately. It was passed in early 2017 by Kentucky's House and Senate and signed into law by then-Gov. Matt Bevin. A Kentucky abortion provider, EMW Women's Surgical, filed suit against the law on free speech grounds.

"March for Life applauds the U.S. Supreme Court decision today upholding a Kentucky ultrasound law," said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life. "Women facing an unexpected pregnancy deserve to have as much medically and technically accurate information as possible when they are making what could be the most important decision of their life."

The law -- passed by the House 83-12 and by the Senate 32-5 in January 2017 -- requires a physician or qualified technician to perform an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and show the screen images to her. The doctor or technician will be required to inform the mother what the images show, including any organs that are visible and the size of the fetus. The provider also must seek to detect the fetus' heartbeat.

The law allows the woman to refuse to view the ultrasound and she may ask the provider to mute the heartbeat if audible.

"Consistent with the Supreme Court's direction that mothers considering abortion may be given accurate, nonmisleading information about abortion and the nature of human life," said Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, "today's decision confirms that women deserve the truth, and cannot give real informed consent to an abortion unless facilities are transparent and honest about what abortion really is."

She added: "That's a right that was denied to me when I was 19 years old and making a difficult, life-changing decision, and I am so relieved that going forward, the women of Kentucky will have the opportunity I never did."

The Catholic Association's legal adviser, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, likewise hailed the high court's decision.

It "affirms common sense, transparency and the democratic process," said Picciotti-Bayer. "Rather than keep women in the dark, Kentucky requires all medical professionals -- including abortionists -- to disclose vital information related to a woman's pregnancy and her developing child. Women deserve to know all the facts before making such a consequential decision."

Said Dannenfelser: "Modern ultrasound technology opens an unprecedented window into the womb, providing undisputable evidence of the humanity of the unborn child. The abortion industry has proven incapable of policing itself and will stop at nothing to keep vulnerable women in the dark for the sake of profit, which is why state laws protecting women's right to informed consent are so important."

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson also emphasized the right to informed consent.

"Key to our system of law is the idea of informed consent, and we believe that every American should welcome the fact that under this law women in Kentucky will be able to make a more informed choice about abortion," he said in a Dec. 9 statement.

"Our own work with ultrasounds has shown that women who see an ultrasound result while considering an abortion are often transformed by the experience through seeing their unborn child and avoiding what they would later consider to be a tragic mistake," he said.

"Such outcomes are better for the child and mother alike. Leaving this law in place will make mothers better informed on the issue and will undoubtedly save lives in the process," Anderson added.

Students for Life, via Twitter, said: "This is another pro-life law that will be allowed to stand and will help protect preborn babies from abortion."

This fall the Supreme Court said will hear oral arguments in March in a challenge to a Louisiana law -- Unsafe Abortion Protection Act -- that would require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The case is June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Gee.
 

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

'Ad limina' visit takes on Marian flavor for Region VII bishops

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- As the bishops of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana began celebrating an early morning Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the church was abuzz with activity and repeated banging on a bass drum.

In Rome for their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- the bishops celebrated Mass Dec. 9 at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and in a chapel of St. Mary Major Dec. 10, the feast of Our Lady of Loreto.

Pope Francis has declared a special jubilee to mark the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Loreto being named patron of aviators and air travelers.

As the U.S. bishops prayed in the Marian chapel, workers moved chairs and pews and decorated the railing around the basilica's main altar with pine boughs, poinsettias and other flowers. And the orchestra of the Italian air force, which claims Our Lady of Loreto as their patron, began tuning their instruments.

The rumble from all that activity carried into the chapel.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, the principal celebrant and homilist, noted how the bishops' "ad limina" week in Rome had a very Marian flavor: the transferred feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 9, the day's Loreto feast and the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12.

"We have been truly blessed to walk these days with our Blessed Mother," he said. "The world is in need of her intervention, her prayers, her grace and this is a time when she is reaching out to save souls and bring them to her son Jesus."

The day's first reading, from Isaiah 40, began, "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God."

Many, many people need comfort -- not the comfort of material goods, he said, "but the comfort of true and genuine peace that comes only from God."

"Often, my brother bishops, we are called to give comfort to our people, to listen to their trials and tribulations, sometimes their anger, sometimes their hostility," he said, "and we are called to walk with them, to accompany them in their sorrow, their sense of betrayal, their sense of needing God.

"And thank God they're still coming to us for consolation, some comfort," he added.

Bishops also are called to offer solace, affirmation and consolation to their priests and seminarians. "The challenges of being a priest today," Bishop Ricken said, "are more than anything I remember in my almost-40 years of priesthood, 20 years of being a bishop."

The Isaiah reading also spoke about being a "herald of good news" and not being afraid to share the glad tidings of salvation. "Courage is needed today to engage in a mission we've all been called to, a mission that seems defeated at this point, but we know in hope and confidence that this is God's church and the world needs the church now, perhaps more than ever," the bishop said.

During the "ad limina" visits, Bishop Ricken said, the bishops should renew their "'disponibilita' -- radical availability" to serve God, serve God's people and proclaim the Gospel.

Cardinal James M. Harvey, a native of Milwaukee and archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, was invited by the group to be the principal celebrant and homilist at their Mass Dec. 9 near the tomb of the apostle.

While the bishops did pray at the tomb, the readings for the Mass were those for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The cardinal quoted William Wordsworth's poem, "The Virgin," which includes the lines: "Woman! above all women glorified, our tainted nature's solitary boast."

"We do boast about Mary," Cardinal Harvey said. "We boast when we say, 'See what the power of God has done for a member of our human race.' And herein lies our hope. If the power of God is great enough to preserve from sin a human person like ourselves, Mary, then it is great enough to cure us of the effects of sin."

Celebrating the Immaculate Conception during Advent, he said, helps Catholics "recognize with humility that we are not worthy of Emmanuel -- God with us -- and yet God never fails to want us" because as St. Paul said, "God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight."

Praying at St. Paul's tomb, the cardinal said, the bishops pray for a renewal of their "zeal to be missionary disciples, first and foremost by living up to our calling as those chosen in Christ be holy and blameless in God's sight."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz in Rome.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Go to confession, let yourself be consoled, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anyone who wants to experience the consolation and tenderness of God simply needs to go to confession, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.

Celebrating the liturgy Dec. 10 in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis recited an imaginary conversation:

"Father, I have so many sins, I've made so many mistakes in my life."

"Let yourself be consoled."

"But who will console me?"

"The Lord."

"Where must I go?"

"To ask pardon. Go. Go. Be bold. Open the door. He'll caress you."

The Lord draws near to those in need with the tenderness of a father, the pope said.

Paraphrasing the day's reading from Isaiah 40, the pope said, "He is like a shepherd who pastures his sheep and gathers them in his arms, carrying the lambs on his bosom and sweetly leading them back to their mother ewes. That's how the Lord consoles us."

"The Lord always consoles us as long as we let ourselves be consoled," he said.

Of course, he said, God the father also corrects his children, but he does that, too, with tenderness.

Often, he said, people look at their own limits and sins and start thinking that there is no way God can forgive them. "It is then that the voice of the Lord is heard, saying, 'I will console you. I am close to you,' and he tenderly reaches us."

"The powerful God who created the heavens and earth, the hero-God -- if you want to say it that way -- became our brother, who carried the cross and died for us, and is capable of caressing us and saying, 'Don't cry.'"

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope names Cardinal Tagle to lead evangelization congregation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a move that may signal Pope Francis' plan for the reform of the Roman Curia is close to completion, the pope has named Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The 62-year-old cardinal succeeds Cardinal Fernando Filoni, 73, who since 2011 had led the Vatican office overseeing the church's vast mission territories.

Announcing Cardinal Tagle's appointment Dec. 8, the Vatican also announced that Cardinal Filoni would become grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Cardinal Filoni succeeds U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, 80, as grand master of the organization that supports Catholics in the Holy Land.

In a statement released by the order, Cardinal O'Brien thanked Pope Francis for allowing him to continue as grand master for five years after he submitted his resignation at the age of 75.

"Throughout my more than eight years as grand master, my personal faith and love of our church have deepened as I have witnessed our members' commitment to the goals of our order, expressed in different cultures and languages, all profoundly Catholic," Cardinal O'Brien said.

His office said Dec. 9 that he plans to continue living in Rome.

Cardinal Tagle is set to take up his new Vatican post early in 2020. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, often referred to as Propaganda Fide, is set to become part of a mega-Dicastery for Evangelization, at least according to a draft of the apostolic constitution on the Curia, "Praedicate Evangelium" ("Preach the Gospel").

According to the draft, distributed for comment in the spring, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization will be combined, becoming the first of the dicasteries. Currently, the first is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new office would have two sections, one focused on the "first evangelization" and support for churches in the lands of more recent evangelization -- the traditional mission territories -- and one focused on evangelization, catechesis and the formation of missionary disciples in traditionally Christian lands.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the nuncio to the Philippines, spoke at the end of a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Tagle Dec. 9 in the Manila cathedral. He said the cardinal smiled through his homily, "but I know his heart is broken" at the thought of leaving. And even though Filipino Catholics are sad to lose the cardinal, he said, they must give him to the global church.

Cardinal Tagle, he said, is "the best gift we have to give to the universal church." And he had everyone in the packed cathedral stand, extend their right arm and pray for God's blessing on the cardinal.

Mission, evangelization and dialogue have been recurrent themes in Cardinal Tagle's teaching, preaching and public speaking.

At the 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, then-Archbishop Tagle emphasized the importance when evangelizing of imitating Jesus' humility and demonstrating real love and concern for all people, particularly "those neglected and despised by the world."

Being humble also means recognizing when the church does not have all the answers, and therefore being willing to remain silent, he said, adding that "a church at home with silence will make the voiceless believe they are not alone."

It was during the 2012 synod, at the age of 55, that he was informed he would be made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. The November consistory to create six cardinals, including Cardinal Tagle, was the last before Pope Benedict resigned three months later.

Born in Manila June 21, 1957, he was raised in Imus and went to a grade school and high school run by the Augustinians in Paranaque City. In 1973 he entered the seminary and began university studies at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University and San Jose Seminary in Manila.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1982 for the Diocese of Imus, he was sent to the United States for further studies, earning a doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America.

In 1997, St. John Paul II named him to a five-year term on the International Theological Commission, the group of theologians who study specific questions at the behest of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During his term, the president of the commission was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict.

In 2001, he was ordained a bishop and installed as bishop of Imus and, 10 years later, he was installed as archbishop of Manila.

He served as an expert at the special Synod of Bishops on Asia in 1998 and, as a bishop, was a member of the synods in 2008 on the Bible, 2012 on evangelization and 2018 on young people. Pope Francis chose him as one of the presidents delegate of the 2014 and 2015 synod assemblies on the family.

In 2015, Cardinal Tagle was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of national Catholic charities; he was re-elected to the position in May. And, in late 2014, he was elected to a six-year term as president of the Catholic Biblical Federation.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Communion comes from faith in Christ, U.S. archbishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The traditional visit of bishops to Rome to report on their dioceses is about more than just keeping things in order; rather, it is a manifestation of their communion with Christ and his vicar on earth, the pope, said Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit.

"This is the reality of our communion, not organizational arrangements but faith in Christ Jesus. We live a mystery, we are servants of this mystery, the mystery of faith," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Vigneron was the principal celebrant and homilist at a Mass Dec. 9 at the tomb of St. Peter with the bishops of Ohio and Michigan, who were in Rome for their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- to report on the status of their dioceses.

In his homily in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica, the archbishop reflected on the Gospel reading, which recounted Peter's profession of faith.

Archbishop Vigneron said that while the "ad limina" reports prepared before the visit focus on giving an account of their organizational and pastoral governance, it is "only one dimension" of a much deeper reality: "the church as a mystery."

"We come here to the tomb of St. Peter, conscious -- very conscious -- of this mystery that is the communion we have of faith with Peter," he said. "This is the mystery that is made present every time we offer the Eucharist."

As shepherds charged with the care of the flock, he added, bishops are called "to enable the whole people of God to have communion in this sacred mystery."

"We do that not as isolated individuals, but in communion with Peter, with his successor, Pope Francis, with one another, with bishops throughout the world," Archbishop Vigneron said.

"It means what it means all the time: communion in the faith of Peter and the apostles, the saving communion in Jesus Christ, his son and our Lord," he said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Immaculate Conception is feast of hope for sinners, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mary, conceived without sin, is a "masterpiece" who reflects "the beauty of God who is all love, grace and self-giving," Pope Francis said on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square Dec. 8, Pope Francis focused on the feast day that celebrates how Mary was conceived in the womb of St. Ann without original sin.

Several hours after the noon prayer, the pope joined thousands of people near the Spanish Steps in central Rome to pay homage to the Immaculate Conception at a Marian statue atop a tall column. The statue was erected in 1857 to commemorate Pope Pius IX's declaration three years earlier of the dogma that Mary was conceived without sin.

Early in the morning each Dec. 8, Rome firefighters using a truck and tall ladder, hang a ring of flowers from the statue's outstretched arm. Throughout the day, individuals and organizations leave flowers at the base of the statue.

As is his custom, Pope Francis did not read a speech by the statue but recited a prayer he wrote for the occasion.

Nine days before his 83rd birthday, the pope told Mary that "the further we go on in life, the more our gratitude to God increases for having given us sinners a mother like you."

"You, Mother, remind us that yes, we are sinners, but we are no longer slaves to sin," he said.

The pope offered special prayers for everyone in Rome or around the world who feels oppressed, burdened and discouraged by their sins, those "who think that there is no longer hope for them, that their faults are too many and too great and that God certainly has no time to waste on them."

Mary is a mother who "never stops loving her children," he said. And in the darkest night and in the darkest souls, she can reflect the light of Christ, who alone "breaks the chains of evil, liberates from the strongest dependencies, dissolves the most criminal bonds, softens the most hardened hearts."

Earlier, in his address before the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said that God always wanted Mary to be "full of grace, that is, full of his love."

When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear God's son, she "didn't lose herself in all sorts of arguments," Pope Francis said. "She immediately put her whole being and her whole personal story at God's disposition."

"Corresponding perfectly to God's plan for her, Mary became the 'all beautiful,' 'all holy,' but without the slightest shadow of self-satisfaction," the pope said. "She is humble. She is a masterpiece, but remains humble, small, poor. In her is reflected the beauty of God who is all love, grace and self-giving."

Pope Francis prayed that the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception would "help us make our whole lives a 'yes' to God, a 'yes' comprised of adoration of him and daily gestures of love and service" to those in need.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope says he is 'scandalized' by anti-migrant rhetoric

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told Jesuits in Thailand he was "scandalized" by some of the anti-migrant rhetoric he hears in Europe, and he is convinced people are being manipulated into thinking the only way they can preserve their lifestyles is by building walls.

"The phenomenon of migration is compounded by war, hunger and a 'defensive mindset,' which makes us think only from a state of fear and that by reinforcing borders we can defend ourselves," Pope Francis said Nov. 22 when he met 33 Jesuits in Thailand.

The Jesuit magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript Dec. 5 of the pope's responses to questions the Jesuits asked the pope during the meeting in Tha Kham, Thailand.

Often on trips abroad, Pope Francis spends time with local Jesuit communities and holds a question-and-answer session with them. Weeks later, a transcript of the exchange is published by La Civilta Cattolica.

A Jesuit who works for Jesuit Refugee Service in Thailand raised the question of ministry among migrants and refugees.

"The phenomenon of refugees has always existed, but today it is better known because of social differences, hunger, political tensions and especially war," the pope responded. " For these reasons, migratory movements are intensifying."

Much of the world responds with a "throwaway policy," he said; "refugees are waste material. The Mediterranean has been turned into a cemetery. The notorious cruelty of some detention centers in Libya touches my heart. Here in Asia we all know the problem of the Rohingya."

"I must admit that I am scandalized by some of the narratives I hear in Europe about borders," the pope told his Jesuit confreres. "In other parts (of the world) there are walls even separating children from their parents."

Strangely enough, the pope said, those same governments do not seem to be able to build a wall to keep illegal drugs out.

Pope Francis noted that the Bible and millennia of Christian teaching have encouraged welcoming the stranger. "But there are also many little customs and traditions of hospitality, such as leaving an empty chair on a festive day in case an unexpected guest arrives."

"If the church is a field hospital," he told the Jesuits, "this is one of the camps where most of the injured are found."

But, recalling the visit to Thailand in 1981 of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, then superior general of the order, Pope Francis said the work with refugees and any other social apostolate must be supported by prayer.

"We must remember it well: prayer," the pope said. "That is to say, in that physical periphery do not forget this other one, the spiritual one. Only in prayer will we find the strength and inspiration to engage fruitfully with the messy consequences of social injustice."

Another Jesuit asked the pope about balancing the need to denounce unjust social systems and "the prudence that suggests you sometimes keep quiet for the greater good or not to complicate situations further."

Pope Francis said there was no easy answer to that question. The right way can be found only through prayer and the discernment of the concrete situation. "There are no rules that are definitive and always valid."

And, he added, sometimes a broad boulevard of opportunity will not open up and, even if it did, it may not be the right path to take. "Sometimes, more than highways, small paths work better; these are the routes through the peripheries that nonetheless get you to your destination. They're not rigid, big or obvious, but they're effective."

"Sometimes, however, when we want everything to be well-organized, precise, rigid and always defined in the same way, then we become pagans, even if disguised as priests," the pope said. "I think Jesus spoke a lot about pharisaic hypocrisy in this regard."

Another Jesuit asked Pope Francis how they should minister to Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried. "I could answer you in two ways: in a casuistic way, which however is not Christian, even if it can be ecclesiastical; or according to the magisterium of the church as in the eighth chapter of 'Amoris Laetitia,'" his 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family.

The document, he said, urges pastors to "journey, accompany and discern to find solutions. And this has nothing to do with situation ethics, but with the great moral tradition of the church."

Asked about the reception of his 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," Pope Francis said the Paris Climate Accord was a big step forward in addressing climate change.

"But then the conflicts began, the compromises between what was hoped for and the 'wallet,' the economic interests of certain countries," he said. "And so, some countries withdrew."

Still, he said, people today, especially young people, "have become much more aware than before of the need for the care of our common home and its importance."

Young people understand the encyclical "with their hearts," he said. Their commitment is "is a promise for the future."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Rise in populism due to lack of listening, dialogue, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ignoring the reality lived by men and women today has caused a resurgence of old ideologies, such as populism, that inevitably do more harm than good, Pope Francis said.

Speaking off-the-cuff with staff and members of the Italian Jesuit magazine, "Aggiornamenti Sociali" ("Social Updates") Dec. 6, the pope said that prejudices, certain "schools of thought and positions taken do so much harm" in the world.

"Today for example in Europe, we are experiencing the prejudice of populism, countries who close in on themselves and turn to ideologies," he said. "But not just new ideologies -- there are a few -- but to the old ones, the old ideologies that created the Second World War."

Founded in 1950, "Aggiornamenti Sociali" offers "information but above all formation," as well as "criteria and instruments to confront today's most debated issues and participate in social life in a conscious way," according to the Jesuit magazine's website.

The pope told the staff and writers he had prepared to read an eight-page speech, but he feared that "after the third page, there will be few left who will listen."

In his off-the-cuff remarks, the pope highlighted the importance of listening, saying it is the "fundamental attitude of every person who wants to do something for others."

"Listen to situations, listen to problems, openly, without prejudices," he said. "Because there is a way of listening that is 'Yes, yes, I understand, yes, yes,' and it reduces them, a reductionism to my categories. And this cannot be."

The resurgence of ideologies like populism, he explained, is a product of not listening because "it is a projection of what I want to be done, what I want to be thought, what I think should be."

"It is a complex that makes us substitute God the creator: we take the situations in our own hands and work," he continued. "Reality is what I want it to be; we place filters. But reality is another thing, reality is sovereign. Whether we like it or not, it is sovereign. And I must dialogue with reality."

Dialogue, he added, is an important step in confronting today's societal ills. Christians are not called "to impose paths of development or solutions to problems," but instead, to initiate "a dialogue with that reality starting from the values of the Gospel, from the things Jesus has taught us, without dogmatically imposing but with dialogue and discernment."

"If you start from preconceptions or preestablished positions, from dogmatic pre-decisions, you will never, never be able to give a message. The message must come from the Lord through us. We are Christians and the Lord speaks to us through reality, through prayer and discernment," he said.

In his prepared remarks, which were given to those present, the pope encouraged the magazine's writers to continue "to give space to the perspective of those who are 'discarded'" by today's society.

"Continue to be with them, listen to them, accompany them so that their voices may be the ones who speak," the pope said. "Even those who research and reflect on social questions are called to have the heart of a shepherd with the smell of the sheep."

He also reminded the Jesuit magazine's editorial staff of its responsibility to allow for dialogue and different points of view while avoiding "the temptation of abstraction, of limiting yourselves to the level of ideas while forgetting the concreteness of doing and walking together."

"Serious intellectual research is also a journey made together, especially when dealing with cutting-edge issues," he said. The staff must allow "for different perspectives and disciplines to interact" and should "promote relationships of respect and friendship between those involved so that they may discover how encountering one another enriches everyone."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Religious freedom is a basic human right, says lawyer for Little Sisters

IMAGE: CNS photo/Becket - Religious Liberty for All

By Linda Petersen

SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) -- As an attorney with Becket, a religious liberty law firm, Luke Goodrich is proud to be able to make a difference while earning a livelihood. He sees his work as a calling from God.

It entails representing religious groups or individuals who fall afoul of the federal government simply by trying to follow the dictates of their conscience.

Perhaps the most well-known of his clients are the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate a number of homes for the elderly poor across the nation. The sisters continue to fight the Obama-era contraceptive mandate in the courts.

"I'm very grateful and very thankful that my life's work lines up with what I see as a fundamental issue of justice in Scripture," he said. "It's a great joy because I do think religious freedom is a basic human right and a basic issue of biblical justice."

Goodrich is a member of Misseo Dei Community, a nondenominational Protestant church in Salt Lake City. Originally from Florida, Goodrich has for the past seven years lived in Utah with his wife, Sarah, who grew up in Utah, and their seven children.

Prior to that, he attended the University of Chicago law school and afterward clerked for Judge Michael McConnell, one of the nation's leading scholars on religious freedom cases. He then worked for the U.S. State Department in the human trafficking division, followed by time at a private law firm in Washington.

When a position opened up at Becket in 2008, "I jumped at the opportunity," Goodrich told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Becket was founded in 1994, by Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, a Catholic. It is "the nation's only law firm dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty and to doing so for people of all faiths," said Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel. Becket's main headquarters are in Washington.

With regard to the legal battle being waged by the Little Sisters of the Poor, Goodrich called their case critically important for the defense of religious liberty.

"If the government can reach inside us and force us to violate our conscience, there's very little that the government can't do," he said. "Every human being is born with a religious impulse, a desire for transcendent truth and by its very nature we can't act on that impulse under coercion.

"If the government coerces us in matters of transcendent truth, it's going against our fundamental nature as human beings and therefore violating our human rights," he added.

President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services in 2013 added FDA-approved contraceptives to a list of preventive services, mandating all employer health care plans cover all forms of these methods. It included a very narrowly drawn exemption for churches.

This exemption did not cover religious employers such as the Little Sisters, Catholic dioceses and many other faith-based organizations, all of whom opposed the mandate on moral grounds, because some of the approved contraceptives are considered abortion-inducing.

More than 100 lawsuits have been filed over the Obama-era regulation by religious organizations.

"It's one of the only times in our nation's history where the federal government has attempted, on such a large scale, to force so many religious organizations to violate their conscience, particularly around the issue of abortion," Goodrich said.

When the Little Sisters sued, claiming a religious exemption, their case made it to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected their argument. Becket intervened in the case on their behalf.

In 2016, the Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters of the Poor a religious exemption from the mandate.

Then, one year later, they were given further protection by an executive order issued by President Donald Trump requiring HHS to write a comprehensive exemption from the contraceptive mandate for the Little Sisters and other religious ministries.

HHS provided this exemption in 2018, but several states challenged it, including California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, saying HHS didn't have the power to give this exemption.

In May, HHS introduced the "conscience rule" that protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs. Several state attorneys general subsequently filed suit against HHS and the administration, arguing that the new rule is unlawful.

The attorneys general cases "exploit essentially a loophole because the Supreme Court's decision did not issue a definitive ruling that the Obama-era regulation was unlawful," Goodrich said. "Instead, it urged the parties to figure out a solution that would respect the religious freedom of the sisters and also accomplish the government's goal of distributing contraception."

So far, the 3rd and 9th circuit courts, based in Philadelphia and San Francisco, respectively, have found against the Little Sisters and other religious organizations. Becket has appealed to the Supreme Court to rehear the Little Sisters case and give a definitive ruling.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by June 2020 whether it will hear the case, which Goodrich said is likely.

He believes that ultimately the Little Sisters will prevail. Still, there are a number of significant religious freedom challenges on the horizon in the United States that Christians are ill-prepared to deal with, he said.

"Long-standing Christian beliefs about life, marriage and absolute truth, which used to be uncontroversial, are now viewed in many quarters as a threat to the prevailing culture," he said.

Goodrich has published his first book, "Free to Believe," examining the principle of religious freedom, threats to it and how to protect it. He offers three arguments why everyone should care about religious freedom: It benefits society, is the foundation of all of our other rights and is a fundamental human right.

Nevertheless, Goodrich believes all Christians should have hope. "As Christians, our hope doesn't rest primarily in the results of an election or the composition of the Supreme Court. If we are Christians, our hope rests in the person of Jesus Christ," he said.

- - -

Petersen is a reporter for the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Beatification for Archbishop Sheen postponed

IMAGE: CNS

By

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria said Dec. 3 Vatican officials have told him that the upcoming beatification of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has been postponed.

A news release from the Diocese of Peoria said it was informed Dec. 2 that Vatican had decided to postpone the Dec. 21 ceremony "at the request of a few members" of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The diocese added, "In our current climate it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against (Archbishop) Sheen involving the abuse of a minor."

However, a Dec. 5 statement from the Diocese of Rochester, New York, said it had "expressed concern about advancing the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen at this time without a further review of his role in priests' assignments."

The statement said the Rochester Diocese, prior to Vatican announcement Nov. 18 that Pope Francis approved the beatification, had provided documentation expressing its concern to the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for Saints' Causes via the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

Archbishop Sheen was bishop of Rochester from October 1966 until his retirement in October 1969. He received the title of archbishop at retirement.

The statement from the Rochester Diocese said, "Other prelates shared these concerns and expressed them," adding that "there are no complaints against Archbishop Sheen engaging in any personal inappropriate conduct nor were any insinuations made in this regard."

"The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen's cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification," the statement continued.

The Rochester Diocese added it would have no other comment.

Calling the delay "unfortunate," the Peoria Diocese's Dec. 3 release outlined some of the activities for which Archbishop Sheen was especially known, including "his personal dedication" a Holy Hour of daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and "courage in confronting the challenges in our society."

"Drawing strength from his personal prayer life and deep devotion to Our Lord, Fulton Sheen consistently demonstrated tremendous courage in confronting the challenges in our society," the statement said. "He was well known for his boldness in preaching the Gospel on radio and on television in the face of our secular culture. This same spirit of courage and boldness guided him as a bishop to preach the truth, to defend the faith and to safeguard the church."

The Peoria Diocese also said "there continue to be many miracles reported" through the archbishop's intercession. The diocese said there have been "several" miracles reported since the pope's announcement of the beatification ceremony.

"The Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen's virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated," the statement said. "Bishop Jenky has every confidence that any additional examinations will only further prove Fulton Sheen's worthiness of beatification and canonization.

"The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognized as a model of holiness and virtue," the statement added.

The diocese said Bishop Jenky was "deeply saddened" by the Vatican's decision.

"In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news," the diocese said. "He is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the venerable servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the cause, but no further date for beatification has been discussed."

The Diocese of Peoria said it will offer no further comment "at this time."

Fulton J. Sheen, a native of El Paso, Illinois, was ordained Sept. 20, 1919, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria. He went on to teach at The Catholic University of America in Washington and lead the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. Perhaps he is best remembered for his popular television show, "Life Is Worth Living."

He died in 1979 at age 84. His sainthood cause was officially opened in 2003. The church declared his heroic virtues and he was given the title "Venerable" in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

In July, Bishop Jenky announced Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen, which led the way to the announcement he would be beatified.

The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010. His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, immediately invoked the prayers of Archbishop Sheen and encouraged others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria for emergency treatment.

In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonization.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican unveils Nativity scene, lights Christmas tree

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican unveiled the Nativity scene and lit the Christmas tree with energy-saving lights in St. Peter's Square during a late afternoon ceremony Dec. 5.

The 85-foot-tall spruce tree came from the forests of the Veneto region in northeast Italy and another 20 smaller trees were donated by communities in the region's province of Vicenza.

It was adorned with silver and gold balls and "next generation" lights meant to have a reduced impact on the environment and use less energy.

The large Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square was made entirely out of wood and replicates traditional northern Trentino-style buildings.

Some 23 life-size wooden figures -- all with handcarved heads -- fill the scene, representing life in a small rural village in the northern Province of Trento in the early 1900s. There is a lumberjack pulling wood with a sled and people making cheese and washing clothes. Some of the faces reproduce the faces of real Italian shepherds from the region, including a man who recently died in an accident. Some of the clothes are real outfits handed down through the generations or once worn by local shepherds.

The scene also features broken tree trunks and limbs salvaged from severe storms in the region in late 2018. About 40 trees will be replanted in the area that had been seriously damaged by hurricane-like winds and torrential rains.

A smaller Nativity scene, provided by the northern province of Treviso, was set up in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall; with its Gothic arches, it imitates an old style of barns and stables in the Lessinia mountains of the Veneto region.

Early in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions responsible for the tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said he was happy to hear that new trees will be planted in the region to help reforest areas hit by last year's storms.

"These alarming events are warning signs that creation sends us and that ask us to immediately make effective decisions to safeguard our common home," he said.

The Christmas tree they donated represents "a sign of hope, especially for your forests, that they may be cleared (of debris) as soon as possible in order to begin the work of reforestation," he said.

The pope reminded his audience of his recent letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs.

"It is a genuine way to transmit the Gospel in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is and erases Christian signs in order to keep only those of a trivial, commercial" nature, he said.

Pope Francis also asked people to pray for help in seeing Jesus in the face of those who suffer and in lending a hand to those in need.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Bishop Malone resigns; Albany bishop named apostolic administrator

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Buffalo

By

BUFFALO, N.Y. (CNS) -- Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone told Catholics Dec. 4 he asked Pope Francis to allow him to retire early so the people of the diocese "will be better served" by a new bishop who is "perhaps better able" to bring about "reconciliation, healing and renewal" in addressing the abuse crisis.

In a three-page letter, he said that "despite the measurable progress we have achieved together," he made his decision "after much prayer and discernment." The "spiritual welfare" of the faithful will be better served by a new bishop.

Bishop Malone released his letter as Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced Pope Francis had accepted Bishop Malone's resignation and named Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, as Buffalo's apostolic administrator.

At 73, Bishop Malone is two years shy of the age at which bishops are required by canon law to turn in their resignation to the pope.

For more than a year, he has faced questions about how he has addressed the clergy sex abuse crisis, particularly a situation involving two priests' relationship with a seminarian that he has called "a very complex, convoluted matter."

Bishop Malone has headed the Diocese of Buffalo since 2012. Pope Benedict XVI named him the 14th bishop of Buffalo May 29, 2012, and he was installed in August of that year. Bishop Scharfenberger, 71, has headed the Albany Diocese since 2014. In his five and a half years in Albany, he has been a national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis.

"My family just expanded and we have 600,000 wonderful Catholics (in the Diocese of Buffalo.) It's a very wonderful Catholic diocese," Bishop Scharfenberger said in an interview with The Evangelist, Albany's diocesan newspaper. "I want to do a lot of listening and I want everybody to feel that they do have my ear. I don't want anyone to feel excluded."

"I am very well aware that there has been a lot of hurt and polarization and trust breaches," he added. "We only have one healer and that is Jesus, and we are going to turn everything into his hands and trust that he will guide the way."

Bishop Scharfenberger said he plans to visit the Diocese of Buffalo in western New York weekly. As for how long he could be in the dual role, he said: "I have no idea ... these things can take over a year. I know it will be a high priority to find the right successor."

In his letter, Bishop Malone referred to the apostolic visitation the Vatican had assigned Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, to conduct in October. When the visitation was announced, Bishop Malone welcomed it.

On Oct. 31, the Brooklyn Diocese announced completion of the visitation and said Bishop DiMarzio had submitted his report to the Congregation for Bishops. It has not been made public.

"Inevitably some will surmise that my decision" is the result of this visitation, Bishop Malone wrote. "While I was made aware of the general conclusions of the report, which were a factor in my discernment, my decision to retire early was made freely and voluntarily" and reached "after honest reflection" and with " a deep and abiding commitment" to the best interests of the church in western New York.

Bishop Malone did not share details of what the report contained in his letter.

"This has been a difficult period in the life of the church in Buffalo. Throughout this process, the lay faithful, religious and clergy were in my prayers," Bishop DiMarzio said in a Dec. 4 statement.

At the Vatican's direction, he said, the visitation was thorough, "conducted with urgency" and carried out with "the good of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo" being the foremost consideration. More than 80 people were interviewed over a period of several weeks "to gather information for this administrative review," he said.

"What I found are many deeply devoted Catholics who love their church. I pray this moment of suffering and pain will lead to a birth of new faith," he added, saying he is confident Buffalo Catholics "are in good hands" with Bishop Scharfenberger overseeing the diocese.

"I hope that now Catholics in Buffalo can begin the process of moving forward, healing and helping the diocese in all of its ministries," Bishop DiMarzio said. "We extend a promise of prayer for Bishop Richard Malone, as he moves into the retirement phase of his episcopal ministry, and for the faithful of Buffalo."

Bishop Malone said in his letter that some have attributed the Buffalo Diocese's turmoil "to my own shortcomings." "But the turmoil also reflects the culmination of systemic failings over many years in the worldwide handling of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy."

"The crisis our church is facing relates not only to the immoral and criminal acts of those who committed unconscionable offenses toward the most vulnerable," he said, "but also to the failure to regard these violations as grave offenses that warranted the full weight of civil and ecclesiastical justice."

Much has been accomplished in addressing the abuse crisis by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since passage of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in 2002, but "injury caused by past abuse continues to bring immense suffering around the world and here in our diocese," Bishop Malone said.

"I have met with many survivors of child sexual abuse and felt deeply their anguish, which words and gestures alone are inadequate to soothe," he said, and he has acknowledged on "many occasions the mistakes I have made in not addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view, required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behavior between adults."

The Diocese of Buffalo, too, has "made much progress" in many areas including accountability and ensuring safe environments, but in listening sessions he has held across the diocese, he said, "I have heard your dismay and rightful concerns."

"I have been personally affected by the hurt and disappointment you have expressed, all of which have informed our actions. I have sought your understanding, your advice, your patience and your forgiveness," he said.

- - -

Editor's Note: The full text of Bishop Malone's letter can be found online at https://bit.ly/34PZaMy.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Mike Matvey, staff writer at The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope demands action for failing fight against climate change

IMAGE: CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

By Paige Hanley

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite growing recognition of climate change as a legitimate and looming threat, current commitments to mitigate its effects and alter human behavior fall short of those needed to resolve the crisis in time, Pope Francis said.

"We must admit that this awareness is still rather weak, unable to respond adequately to that strong sense of urgency for rapid action called for by the scientific data at our disposal," the pope said in a message to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, COP25.

The conference was being held in Madrid Dec. 2-13, and the Vatican released a copy of the pope's message Dec. 4.

The conference aimed to take crucial steps in the U.N. climate change process and to identify effective strategies for implementing the Paris Agreement, a framework of action against climate change adopted by the U.N. Dec. 12, 2015.

However, studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "demonstrate how far words are from concrete actions," the pope said.

According to the intergovernmental panel, global temperatures and emissions continue to rise and humanity is not on course to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2020.

"We must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change," Pope Francis said.

The pope also affirmed that numerous studies show how curbing global warming is still possible.

This closing window of opportunity "calls us to reflect conscientiously on the significance of our consumption and production models and on the processes of education and awareness to make them consistent with human dignity," he said.

"We are facing a 'challenge of civilization' in favor of the common good and of a change of perspective that places this same dignity at the center of our action," the pope said.

He called on the current generation of international leaders and regular citizens to act, rather than allow the burden to fall on the next generations.

"We should give them the opportunity to remember our generation as the one that renewed and acted on -- with honest, responsible and courageous awareness -- the fundamental need to collaborate in order to preserve and cultivate our common home," Pope Francis said.

"May we offer the next generation concrete reasons to hope and work for a good and dignified future," he said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Trust in Christ, not in psychics, sorcerers, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis scolded people who consider themselves practicing Christians, but who turn to fortunetelling, psychic readings and tarot cards.

True faith means abandoning oneself to God "who makes himself known not through occult practices but through revelation and with gratuitous love," the pope said Dec. 4 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope called out Christians who seek reassurance from practitioners of magic.

"How is it possible, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you go to a sorcerer, a fortuneteller, these types of people?" he asked. "Magic is not Christian! These things that are done to predict the future or predict many things or change situations in life are not Christian. The grace of Christ can bring you everything! Pray and trust in the Lord."

At the audience, the pope resumed his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, reflecting on St. Paul's ministry in Ephesus, a "famous center for the practice of magic." In the city, St. Paul baptized many people, and drew the ire of the silversmiths who made a business of crafting idols.

While the uprising of the silversmiths eventually was resolved, the pope recounted, St. Paul made his way to Miletus to deliver a farewell speech to elders of Ephesus.

The pope called the apostle's speech "one of the most beautiful pages of the Acts of the Apostles," and he asked the faithful to read chapter 20.

The chapter includes an exhortation of St. Paul to the elders to "keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock."

Pope Francis said that priests, bishops and the pope himself must be vigilant and "close to the people to guard them and defend them," rather than being "disconnected from the people."

"Let us ask the Lord to renew in us his love for the church and for the deposit of the faith which she preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the care of the flock, supporting in prayer the shepherds so that they may manifest the firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd," the pope said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Sister recalls vaudeville days and her family as 'Nine Dancing Donahues'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Brown

By Michael Brown

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) -- Sister Barbara Donahue, 90, was only 10 minutes into an interview about the vaudeville group made up of her and her siblings when she broke out in "The Donahue Song."

The ditty was written by her mom for the group, which became its signature piece, emphasizing the importance of family.

"We were just ordinary people trying to do extraordinary things," said Sister Barbara Donahue, who is a member of the Sisters for Christian Community.

She was talking to Catholic Outlook, Tucson's diocesan newspaper, as she looked back looking back on memorabilia from her childhood when she and her siblings were the "Nine Dancing Donahues."

Sister Barbara, who had her 90th birthday in September, lives at El Rancho Encanto assisted living center in Tucson. She was diagnosed recently with lung cancer. She's the last survivor of the troupe.

Born Sept. 14, 1929, she was the youngest of five boys and four girls growing up in Detroit. Her dad, Emmett, was a bricklayer by trade, but supported his family with his job at the Plymouth auto factory. Her mom, Ella, was the musical genius. She graduated from St. Aloysius School and played the organ in church.

"St. Aloysius was the root of all that happened," Sister Barbara said.

"Her early occupation was to play at the silent movies," she said about her mother. When the oldest child, Emmett Jr., turned 7, she put him to work as "an Irish tenor."

"When she would play, he would sing," Sister Barbara said.

Later, someone approached her and suggested that they form a family vaudeville group, and the "Nine Dancing Donahues" were born. After Emmett Jr. came Jack, Dennis, Thomas, Richard, Betty, Kay, Nancy and Barbara.

"Our sponsor was the Kennedy Milk Company," she said with a grin.

Her dad was the stage manager, Sister Barbara recalled. His greatest challenge was trying to keep the girls' shoes properly organized offstage as they switched between their tap and stage shoes.

The group was prominent in the Detroit area, especially among the Irish parishes. It broke up in 1945 when the U.S. entered World War II. Three brothers entered the military and Barbara entered the convent. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 16, taking the name Sister Mary Leah. She joined her current community after the Second Vatican Council.

In 1949, the University of Michigan sponsored a vaudeville show that included the siblings' group. Even though she was preparing for her vows, Sister Barbara said, she was allowed to return to join the reunion.

During their touring days, each child had a song. Hers was "Alice Blue Gown," from the play "Irene" as sung by 1930s' Hollywood star Alice Faye. She even has a photo of her singing in a blue gown at age 15.

Nancy and Kay sang "East Side, West Side," Sister Barbara recalled. That was usually preceded by her brother Denny singing "Ain't She Sweet?"

Whenever a local parish sponsored a fundraiser, the "Nine Dancing Donahues" was there in a pinch, she said.

The signature song, "The Donahue Song," became a family mainstay, so much so that those who marry into the family are not really members until they attend a special ceremony with the family at the Irish American Club in Detroit. Family members encircle the newcomer and sing "The Donahue Song."

"Then you are in the family," Sister Barbara said.

When Ella died Sept. 8, 1953, her obituary ran the following week in Billboard magazine, the entertainment industry periodical of record.

Sister Barbara marveled at the amount of detail she still remembers from her early days. "All this is extraordinary. I paid a lot of attention apparently."

The theater skills came in handy in ministry, especially during her time serving at the San Solano missions in the Tucson Diocese. "I was always regarded as a good teacher," she said.

She repeated a mantra she learned from her mother: "If you see a need, step up to it."

Sister Barbara said when she was growing up, people always knew the location of the Donahue house. A fire hydrant stood in front, so the city also placed a streetlight nearby to help first responders during nighttime emergencies.

"We were always out there playing baseball," she said.

More than seven decades after the troupe broke up, one memory was as strong as the day it started, said Sister Barbara, the last surviving member. "The wonderful part of this was family."

- - -

Brown is managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Everyday Heroes: Fisherman attributes survival to heavenly intercession

IMAGE: CNS photo/Spirit Juice, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Andrew Butler

Jeffrey Rentegrado never expected that his career as a fisherman could put his life in danger. Nor did he know his faith -- and perhaps the intercession of the founder of the Knights of Columbus -- would save him from a deadly attack in his own home on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

"I'm very grateful to Father McGivney. I feel that he provided for me. He granted my prayers and that is why I survived," Rentegrado said.

Before May 27, 2009, Rentegrado and his wife, Ginalyn, had a routine typical for a fisherman's family. His day began at 2 a.m., when he made his way out to sea. When he came ashore with the catch, Ginalyn weighed and sold it.

But on that May evening 10 years ago, Rentegrado prepared to have dinner with his family when two gunmen stormed into the house. Aiming to seize control of Rentegrado's fishing grounds, they shot him 13 times in front of Ginalyn and their two children. One son, Reggie, also was shot.

Blood spilled from Rentegrado's mouth as he and his son were taken to a local doctor. The medic thought he was dead on arrival, but she found a pulse and sent him to the hospital.

The gunshot wounds should have been fatal, according to Dr. Roger Braceros, who treated Rentegrado at the hospital.

"With those 13 gunshot wounds, it seemed impossible for us to revive this patient," Braceros said.

But Rentegrado wasn't dead. He was conscious and heard a voice telling him to pray. He grabbed his rosary and turned to pray for the intercession of Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus.

Medics told Rentegrado's wife it was a hopeless cause. But she wouldn't listen.

"I said to my husband, just have faith, fight it out. You can do it," she said.

For his commitment to faith throughout this traumatic incident, Rentegrado is featured in "Everyday Heroes," a video series produced by the Knights of Columbus showcasing ordinary men acting in extraordinary ways, who are strengthened by their Catholic faith and membership in the Knights of Columbus.

Rentegrado underwent three surgeries in five hours. And, defying nearly everyone's expectations, he survived.

"Suddenly I remember opening my eyes and seeing my wife, Ginalyn. I was so overwhelmed my heart jumped," Rentegrado said.

Rentegrado now has a new appreciation for Knights' founder Father McGivney, who started the organization in part to keep families together. He established the Knights to band together men of faith, to help families stay together despite dangerous working conditions. So it's no wonder Father McGivney was watching over Rentegrado.

Father McGivney (1852-1890) was a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford who founded the Knights in 1882 in New Haven. The cause for his sainthood formally began in Hartford in 1997. He was declared to be a venerable servant of God in March 2008.

Now every day before going out to sea, Rentegrado makes the sign of the cross, asking the Lord for strength, endurance and protection. An active member of the Knights of Columbus, he has worked with his brother Knights to construct a parish hall and to serve their pastor whenever he calls.

For surviving that horrific attack 10 years ago, his wife calls him the "King of the Sea," or, thanks to the K of C, he's also the "K of Sea."

- - -

Editor's Note: A video accompanying this story can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NVY2P-ijuU. To share your story of an everyday hero with the Knights of Columbus, contact andrew.fowler@kofc.org.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Great faith sprouts from small, humble actions, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God makes his presence known not by those who claim to have great faith but by those who are little and humble, Pope Francis said.

Priests, bishops and laypeople who "do not take on this path of littleness" will fall like the Christians of the past who "sought to impose themselves with force, greatness and by conquering," the pope said in his homily Dec. 3 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"The Kingdom of God sprouts in the small things, always in the small things, the small seed, the seed of life," he said.

Celebrating the memorial of St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits, the pope dressed in white vestments, which signify joy, innocence, purity and glory.

He reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus praises God for having hidden his divine revelation from the wise and instead "revealed them to the childlike."

Littleness, the pope said, is where "redemption, revelation, the presence of God in the world begins."

"The great ones present themselves as powerful. Let us think about Jesus' temptation in the desert, like Satan who presents himself as powerful, the lord of the whole world," the pope said. "Instead, the things of God begin by sprouting from a small seed. And Jesus speaks of this littleness in the Gospel," he said.

Christmas, he continued, also serves as a reminder of this since "we will all go to the creche where the littleness of God is" found.

True Christians "always starts from littleness" and in prayer, they "give thanks to God because we are little," he said.

"If, in prayer, I feel little, with my limits, my sins, like that publican who prayed at the back of the church, ashamed: 'Have mercy on me for I am a sinner,' you will go forward. But if you think you are a good Christian, you will pray like that Pharisee who did not leave justified: 'I give you thanks, God, because I am great,'" he said.

Pope Francis said his favorite sacrament to administer is the sacrament of confession, especially to children because "they tell you concrete facts."

The concreteness of one who is small. 'Lord, I am a sinner because I did this, this, this and this. This is my misery; this is my littleness. But send your spirit so that I will not be afraid of the big things, that I may not be afraid of you doing great things in my life,'" the pope said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.