Browsing News Entries

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Our task is to make the Gospel accessible, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, May 28, 2017 / 04:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of the Ascension, Pope Francis said that when Jesus rose into heaven, he entrusted his Church with the great and dignified responsibility of spreading his Word and making it accessible to everyone.

In addition to signaling the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus’ Ascension reminds us of his constant assistance and that of his Spirit, “who gives strength and security to our Christian witness in the world,” the Pope said May 28.

The Holy Spirit “reveals to us why the Church exists: she exists to announce the Gospel” he said. “Only for that. And also, the joy of the Church is to announce the Gospel.”

Francis said the Church includes all faithful that have been baptized, who today “are invited to better understand that God has given us the great dignity and responsibility of announcing it to the world, of making it accessible to humanity.”

“This is our dignity, this is the greatest honor of the Church!” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Regina Coeli address, which is prayed during the Easter season instead of the Angelus.

In his brief speech, the Pope said Jesus’ ascension into heaven signaled the end of his own earthly ministry, and the beginning of the Church’s mission.

“From this moment, in fact, the presence of Christ in the world is mediated by his disciples, by those who believe in him and announce him,” he said, adding that this mission will last “until the end of history and will enjoy every day the assistance of the Risen Lord,” who promised to be with his disciples “until the end of the age.”

Jesus’ constant presence, he said, “brings strength in persecution, comfort in tribulation, support in situations of difficulty that the mission and the announcement of the Gospel encounter.”

As the Church throughout the world turns their gaze toward heaven, where Christ ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father, Christians must strengthen their own steps so as “continue with enthusiasm and courage our journey, our mission of bearing witness to and living the Gospel in every environment,” the Pope said.

However, he cautioned that this mission doesn’t depend on human efforts, resources or our ability to organize, because only the “light and strength” of the Holy Spirit makes it possible to “effectively fulfill our mission of making Jesus’ love and tenderness more known and experienced.”

Pope Francis then asked for Mary’s intercession in becoming “more credible” witnesses of the Resurrection, and led pilgrims in praying the Regina Coeli.

After the prayer, voiced his closeness to Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II following the May 26 attack on buses carrying Coptic Orthodox en route to St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in Minya.

Gunmen who stopped the buses opened fire, killing 29 and injuring at least 22 others, including children. The attack marked the latest act in a string of violence against the community in recent months.

In his comments to pilgrims, Pope Francis prayed for the Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt after undergoing “another act of ferocious violence.”

“The victims, among whom were also children, are faithful who were going to the shrine to pray, and were killed after they refused to deny their Christian faith,” he said, and prayed that God would “welcome into his peace these courageous witnesses, and convert the hearts of the violent.”

He also voiced his sorrow for the May 23 terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena in England, killing some 22 people, most of whom were youth who had be enjoying a concert by popular teen artist Ariana Grande.

Francis prayed for the victims of the “horrible attack,” which left many young lives “cruelly shattered,” and voiced his closeness to the families and “all who mourn the deceased.”

Finally, the Pope noted that the day also marks World Day of Social Communications, which this year holds the theme “Fear not, for I am with you: Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time.”

Social networks, he said, “offer the opportunity to share and disseminate the news in an instant; this news can be good or bad, true or false.” He prayed that communications, in every form, would be “constructive, at the service of the truth by refusing prejudices, and spread hope and trust in our time.”

Denver to provide lockers for city's homeless

Denver, Colo., May 27, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to Denver's large homeless population, the city is providing lockers for the homeless to place their belongings so they can take better advantage of local outreach programs.

If the homeless are worried about where to place their belongings and “don't have access to safe, secure storage and those are all your possessions in the world,” then they aren't going to utilize available resources said Julie Smith, a spokesperson from Denver Human Services, to the Denverite May 23.

Ten storage units were added to a street downtown, where many homeless shelters are located. Smith explained the containers will hold about as much stuff as will fit into a shopping cart, and can be reserved for 30 days with the option of an additional 30 day renewal. The sidewalk lockers cost about $3,000 for each installment.

Teaming up with the Saint Francis Center, Denver is also planning on adding 200 more storage spaces at the organizations employment service center, located near the city's capital building. The contract between the city of Denver and the Saint Francis Center will start on June 1 and with $130,000 for the first year of storage space. After that, the center will then be given $100,000 a year if the contract continues.

Smith said the pilot program will measure the use and frequency of the storage systems, and will reassess in year. However, she said in order to access these lockers the person must be actively involved in one of Denver's many homeless services.

Denver's Road Home has over 20 community based organizations aiding thousands of homeless people to find a job, skill train, long term and short term shelters as well as providing food and clothing. According to their website, nearly a thousand people were provided with housing last year.

Part of Denver's many programs is the Saint Francis Center, an Episcopal ministry serving homeless and ex-offenders. It was established in 1983 and has since developed career services and a housing program. An additional program providing permanent lower income housing will be made available in 2017 or 2018.

In 2015, the center served an average of 811 people per day, distributed nearly 90,000 units of clothing, and facilitated jobs for just under 400 people.

Colorado has a large homeless population, and it has increased by over six percent between 2015 and 2016, according to an annual report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Over 10,000 people were considered homeless in 2016, and less than one third of that do not have a shelter.

Pope Francis: Jesus intercedes for us – every day, every moment

Genoa, Italy, May 27, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast of the Ascension in Genoa Saturday, telling faithful that Jesus never leaves us alone and is constantly praying and interceding for us to the Father.

“Jesus is truly with us and for us: in heaven, he always shows the Father his humanity, our humanity,” the Pope said during his May 27 day trip to Genoa.

He noted in the day’s Gospel from Matthew, before he ascends into heaven, tells his disciples, “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

This power and strength “connect heaven and earth,” Francis said, explaining that when Jesus ascended into heaven “our human flesh crossed the threshold of heaven: our humanity is there, in God, forever.”

A keyword that can be used to describe Jesus’ strength and power, he said, is “intercession,” because “Jesus intercedes for us with the Father every day, every moment. In every prayer, in every request of ours for forgiveness, above all in every Mass, Jesus intervenes.

Pope Francis offered Mass to conclude his trip to the Italian diocese of Genoa, which is guided by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who just finished his term as president of the Italian Bishops Conference, and has been replaced by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia.

After arriving to the city, Francis immediately had back-to-back meetings with members of the working force in Genoa, with the diocese’s bishops, priests and religious, and with youth, giving off-the-cuff responses to questions asked in each encounter.

He then had lunch with some 100 poor, refugees and prisoners before stopping by the city’s pediatric hospital and making his way to Kennedy Square to offer Mass before heading back to Rome.

In his homily, the Pope said the ability to intercede isn’t just a task Jesus carries out, but is also one that he has entrusted to the entire Church. Each of us has the power to pray for others, he said, asking: “Do I pray? Do we, as a Church, as Christians, exercise this power bringing people and situations to God?”

“The world needs it. We ourselves need it,” Francis said, noting that for many people, their days are spent running between work and various commitments. The risk with this, he said, is that “we can get lost, close in on ourselves and become restless about nothing.”

In order to avoid this, he said we have to “throw the anchor to God,” entrusting to him the burdens, people and situations we deal with on a daily basis.

“This is the strength of prayer, which connects heaven and earth, which allows God to enter into our time,” he said, noting that prayer isn’t something we do to find peace or internal harmony for ourselves, but is an active intercession to God.

“It’s not tranquility, it’s charity...It’s to put yourself into play to intercede, insisting assiduously to God for each other,” he said, adding that prayerful intercession is “our first responsibility,” because it gives us the strength to go forward.

“This is our power: not to prevail or to cry out louder, according to the logic of the world, but to exercise with strength the meekness of prayer, with which wars can be stopped and peace obtained.”

A second keyword from the Gospel that shows the nature of Jesus’ strength and power is “announcement,” Pope Francis said, pointing to the moment when Jesus invites his disciples to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.

This is “an extreme act of trust in us,” the Pope said, noting that Jesus believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. He sends us out despite our shortcomings, knowing that “we will never be perfect and that, if we wait to become better to evangelize, we will never start.”

However, one thing that is important to overcome right away is “closure,” he said, insisting that “the Gospel cannot be locked up and sealed, because the love of God is dynamic and wants to reach everyone.”

“To announce, then, means moving, going out of ourselves,” Francis said, adding that with the Lord, “we cannot be quiet, accommodated in your own world or nostalgic for memories of the past; with him it is forbidden to lay down in the securities acquired.”

For Jesus, security is moving forward with trust and confidence. Because of this, he prefers “discomfort and constant revivals” to ease and comfort.

“(Jesus) wants us going out, free from the temptations of contenting ourselves when we are doing well and when we have control,” the Pope continued.

Pointing to Jesus command to “go,” Francis said this going out “into the world” is something the Lord still asks of us today, and which “belongs to the Christian identity.”

A Christian is never stationary, but constantly moving with the Lord and with others, Francis said, but cautioned that this doesn’t mean a Christian is a runner that tries to beat others to the finish line.

Instead, a Christian is a pilgrim and a “hopeful marathonist,” who is meek, faithful, creative and enterprising, while also being decisive, active, respectful and open, he said.

Pope Francis closed his homily telling faithful to imitate the disciples, and bring the announcement of the Good News to “the streets of the world.”

Jesus, he said, “wants the announcement to be carried with his strength: not with the strength of the world, but with the clear and gentle strength of joyful testimony. This is urgent.”

He urged faithful to pray for the grace “to not fossilize ourselves” by getting caught up on things that don’t matter, but to work concretely for peace and the common good.

“Let us put ourselves into play with courage, convinced that there is more joy in giving than in receiving,” he said, adding that “the Lord is alive and risen, who always intercedes for us, whether in the strength of our going, or the courage our path.”

In Genoa, Pope challenges workers, religious and youth

Vatican City, May 27, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis paid a visit to the Italian diocese of Genoa, where he had lengthy Q&A sessions with youth, the city’s working class, and their bishops, priests and religious, challenging them and offering anecdotes to modern problems.  

After landing just around 8a.m. local time May 27, the Pope was greeted by Genoa’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who just finished his term as president of the Italian Bishops Conference. He was replaced by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia.
 
Once he left the airport, Francis immediately went to a warehouse where he met with the city’s workers. Afterward, he met the diocese’s bishops, priests and religious at the city’s cathedral before heading to a special shrine where he spoke with youth.

In each of the meetings Pope Francis responded to questions, taking his time to respond well to each of their concerns.  

After the meetings, he is slated to eat lunch with the poor, refugees and prisoners before greeting sick children at the Pediatric Gianna Gaslini Hospital. The Pope made a phone call to the hospital earlier this week to tell the children that he was coming to see them, and assured them that Jesus is always with us difficult moments.

Established in 1931, the hospital is linked to the University of Genoa and is considered as one of the most prestigious children’s hospitals in Europe. It has formally recognized as a scientific institute for research, hospitalization and healthcare.

After greeting the children, Pope Francis will head to the city’s Kennedy Square to celebrate Mass before returning to Rome.

Workers

In his audience with the workforce, Francis responded to four questions: one from an entrepreneur, the head of a company, who asked for a word of encouragement in his responsibilities; two questions from workers on how to recover from the economic crisis and how to avoid careerism and foster fraternity, and one question from an unemployed woman who asked how to stay strong despite challenges of not having consistent work.

In his responses, Francis said that in the world today, work today is “at risk,” because “it’s a world where work isn’t considered with the dignity it has and gives.” Work, he said, “is a human priority,” and because of this, “it’s a Christian priority, and also a priority of the Pope!”

Speaking inside a warehouse, the Pope said he wanted to meet with them there because the Church is where the people are, “in your places of work, in the places where you are.”

In his response to the first question, the Pope said, “there is no good economy without good businessmen,” adding that they are “the figure of a good economy,” since society functions well when there are honest and caring people in charge.

He cautioned against the temptation to do one’s work well just because they get paid to do it, saying this mentality is an injustice to the working system, “because it negates the dignity of work, which begins with working for dignity, for honor.”

On the other hand, a good boss “knows his workers, because he works beside them, with them,” the Pope said. “Let’s not forget that a businessman above all must be a worker. If he doesn’t have this sense of the dignity of work, he won’t be a good businessman.”

The Pope then warned against the temptation to solve problems in a company by firing people, explaining that a person who does this “is not a businessman, he is a commercialist. Today he sells his employees, tomorrow he sells his own dignity.”

“A sickness of the economy is the progressive transformation of workers into speculators, profiteers,” he said, adding that “workers must absolutely not be confused with profiteers,” because they are different things.

Profiteers, he said, “eat” people, leaving the economy abstract and “without a face.” In addition, laws intended to help the honest then end up penalizing the honest and profiting the corrupt.

He also warned the workers against competition in the workplace, calling it “an anthropological and Christian error,” as well as an “economic error,” since it forces people to work against each other.

Too much competition destroys the “fabric of trust” that binds every organization, he said, noting that when a crisis arrives, “the company implodes” because there is no longer a sense of collegiality uniting it.

Francis then issued a stern warning against the “non-virtue” of meritocracy, referring to the political philosophy that power ought to be invested in individuals solely based on their abilities and talents.

This attitude “denatures” the human being and creates inequality, he said, explaining that under this mentality the poor are faulted for their disadvantage and the rich are “exonerated.”

On the economic crisis, Francis noted that with unemployment, there often come illegal contracts and inhumane working conditions.

He noted that he's heard of people who are forced into working 11 hours a day for just 800 euro a month, or they who are paid illegally under the table with no contract or benefits.

In these cases, work becomes about survival, he said, noting that while this is part of it, work is about “much, much more,” because by working, “we become more human,” since we participate in God’s act of creation.

“Work is man’s friend, and man is work’s friend,” he said, explaining that there are few joys greater than what one experiences in a good and healthy workplace, and there are fewer sorrows greater than when work harms, exploits or even “kills” people.

He pointed to the societal paradox that there is an increasing number of people who are unemployed but want to work, and fewer and fewer people who work too much and want time off.

This is based on the logic of consumption, Francis said, calling it “an idol of our time” that eventually leads us to worship “pure pleasure,” rather than appreciating the value of “fatigue and sweat,” which are the backbone of work.

Bishops, Priests and Religious

Pope Francis opened his nearly 2-hour conversation with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians by leading them in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of yesterday’s attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, that killed 28.

After then reciting a Hail Mary for the deceased, the wounded and their families, the Pope took four questions on how to maintain a good spiritual life daily, how to keep the charism of an order fresh as time passes, how to foster priestly brotherhood and what to do about the current vocational crisis.

When it comes to having a good spiritual life, the Pope said two things are essential: a constant encounter with God through prayer, and being close to the people.

He noted that the world today is constantly “in a hurry,” and that it’s often difficult to take time to be with people and listen to their problems and concerns. But this doesn’t mean being inactive, he said, adding that “I am afraid of static priests.”

Priests who are obsessed with structure and organization are better “businessman” than pastors, he said, noting that they might pray and celebrate Mass, Jesus himself was “always a man on the street,” in the midst of his people and “open to the surprises of God.”

There’s a certain tension between these two extremes, he said, but urged consecrated people to “not be afraid of this tension,” because it’s a sign of “vitality” and movement.

He told priests to be flexible in their prayer, always seeking a true encounter with God, and urged them to allow themselves to “get worn out be the people,” and not to “defend your own tranquility,” since Jesus himself prioritized relationships with the people, yet always set aside time to be with his Father.

When it comes to fostering a stronger sense of brotherhood among priests, the Pope said that first of all this means letting go of “that image of the priest who knows everything,” and who doesn’t need the input of others.

Self-sufficiency does a lot of harm to a consecrated person, he said, and asked the priests and religious how many times during a meeting they stop paying attention to what a fellow brother or sister is saying, and let their minds go “into orbit” with other things.

Even if what the other person says isn’t necessarily of immediate interest, it’s important to pay attention, he said, explaining that each person “is a richness.” He told them to look for moments to pray together, go for lunch or play sports together, which all help to form stronger ties.

He also warned against “murmuring” and “jealousy,” noting that at times when he reviews information collected on possible candidates for bishops, “you find true calumny or opinions (that) devalue the priest.”

To speak poorly of a brother is to “betray” him, Francis said, and warned, as he often does, about the dangers of gossip and the importance of forgiveness.

When it comes to keeping charisms fresh, the Pope emphasized the importance of staying attached to the concrete realities of a diocese or project.

While a congregation might be “universal” in the sense that it has houses throughout the world, the “concreteness” of involvement in the diocese helps give the order “roots,” allowing it to remain and also to grow as they see different needs come up.

On the vocational crisis, Francis immediately pointed out the low birthrate in Europe, particularly Italy, saying the lack of vocations is also tied to the “demographic problem” that people don’t want to get married or have children.

“If there are no young men and women, there are no vocations,” he said, explaining that while this is not the only reason for the crisis, it’s something that must be kept in mind.  

He also stressed the importance of looking critically at what is happening in the world and posing the question: “what is the Lord asking right now?”

“The vocational crisis is affecting the entire Church,” including the priesthood, religious life and even marriage, he said, noting that many young couples don’t want to commit themselves to the vocation of marriage, but instead prefer to cohabitate.

Given the widespread nature of the crisis, “it’s a time to ask ourselves, to ask the Lord, what must we do? What must we change?” he said, adding that “to face problems is necessary, (but) to learn from problems is obligatory.”

His words have a special resonance given that the next Synod of Bishops, set to take place in October 2018, will address the topic: “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

Francis cautioned against the temptation of “conquest” when it comes to filling empty convents and seminaries, stressing that true vocational work “is hard, but we must do it.”

“It’s a challenge, but we must be creative,” he said, and emphasized the importance of bearing personal witness through the living of one’s own vocation, which “is key” to showing youth how rewarding a life offered for Christ and others can be.

Youth

In a meeting with youth at Genoa’s Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard, he also took questions from four youth, two boys and two girls, telling them he wouldn’t give them “pre-made answers,” but personal answers.  

In their questions, the youth asked how to be a missionary in the face modern challenges; how to go beyond modern distractions and love those in difficulty and crisis around us; how to have a strong spiritual life, and how to have sincere relationships in a culture of indifference.

Francis said that being a missionary above all “means letting yourself be transformed by the Lord.”

“Normally when we live these activities, we are joyful when things go well, and this is good, but there is another transformation that you don’t see, it’s hidden and is born in the lives of all of us,” he said, adding that to be a missionary “allows us to learn how to look, how to see with new eyes.”

He told the youth to stop being “tourists,” many of whom come to the city and take pictures of everything, but “don’t look at anything.”

“To look at life with the eyes of tourists is superficial...it means I don’t touch reality, I don’t see things as they are,” he said, noting that going out on mission helps us to go beyond the superficial and “draw near to the heart of another."

It also destroys hypocrisy, he said, explaining that for adults, but especially for youth to have this attitude, “is suicide. Understand? It’s suicide.”

Accepting Jesus’ invitation to me a missionary, he said, helps us to look at each other in the eye and purifies us from seeing the Church divided into the “good” and the “bad.”

He said that to respond to the needs of people in difficulty – the poor, migrants, homeless and unemployed – we must first of all “love them. We can’t do anything without love.”

No matter how many projects we set up or are involved in, it’s useless without love, he said. The Pope explained that whenever he can he likes to ask people, when they give to the poor, if they “touch the hand of the person” they give to, or if they pull back immediately.

Love, he said, is the ability to take hold of the “dirty hand” and to look at people in situations of drugs, poverty and hardship, and to say that “for me, you are Jesus.”

Pope Francis said focusing on the person who has been wounded and excluded, rather than their situation, is part of “the madness of the faith,” and of the announcement of Jesus.

He told the youth to never ignore people or “make the person into an adjective,” calling them a “drunk,” because they are a person with a name. “Never make people into adjectives!” he said, adding that “God is the only one who can judge, and he will do it in the Final Judgement for each one of us.”

Giving advice for how to have a strong spiritual life, the Pope tied his answer to the city’s link with boaters and sailors, telling them that if they want to be a good disciple, “you need the same heart as a navigator: a horizon and courage.”

“If you don’t have a horizon...you will never be a good missionary,” he said, and warned against the distractions new media technologies can bring.

“You have the opportunity to know everything with new technologies, but these information technologies make you fall into a canal many times, because instead of informing us, the saturate us,” he said. And when you are saturated, the horizon “gets closer and closer” and soon “you have a wall in front of you.”

When this happens, the horizon is lost as is the ability to contemplate, he said, and told the youth to take time to contemplate and make good decisions, instead of “eating” whatever is put in front of them.

He also urged the youth to question what has become almost routine in today’s “normal culture.” He asked if it was normal that “so many migrants come from far away, bloodied by a selfishness that leads to death” end up living in difficulty in foreign countries. “Is it normal that the Mediterranean has become a cemetary?”  

Instead of just accepting that this is the norm, he told them to ask themselves: “is this normal, or is this not normal?” and to always “have courage to seek the truth.”

At the close of his meeting with youth, Francis offered a special greeting to prisoners of watching the meeting via television before heading to lunch with poor, refugees, homeless and prisoners from Genoa.

In Iraq, necessity makes priests become engineers

Rome, Italy, May 27, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Priests in Iraq are helping reconstruct around 13,000 homes in the Plain of Nineveh which have been damaged or destroyed by ISIS so that Christians will have a place to come back to.

To accomplish this, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has created a Commission for the Reconstruction of Nineveh.  

Besides celebrating Mass, the priests also serve as surveyors and obtain electric service and materials for the reconstruction of homes. The first work is being done in places that ISIS occupied for a short time and where there is not a lot of material damage.

One of the members of this project is Fr. Georges Jahola, a Syrian Catholic priest from Qaraqosh.

The priest told ACN that “here in Iraq if the Church doesn't do these things, who's going to do them? We have the capacity to act and do the talking, and also the contacts.”
 
The reconstruction of the Plain of Nineveh includes five Chaldean Christian villages: Badnaya, Karamlesh, Telleskof, Bakofa and Telkef, located in the eastern part.

Fr. Salar Boudagh, another member of this initiative, said that $7,000 is needed to renovate a lightly damaged home. To restore a burned home costs $25,000 and to reconstruct a totally destroyed home runs $65,000.

“We have begun the reconstruction of Telleskof and Bakofa, because there damage to the homes is not too serious, as opposed to what is happening in Badnaya where 80 percent of the homes are destroyed,” the priest said.

“Before the arrival of the Islamic State 1,450 families lived in Telleskof, 110 in Bakofa, 950 in Badnaya, another 700 in Telkef and 875 in Karamlesh,” said Fr. Boudagh, who is also the Vicar General of the Chaldean Diocese of Alqosh.

“For these families, the first condition to return to their villages is security.”

The priest emphasized that “our area, the eastern part of the Nineveh Plain, is controlled by a Christian security force, the Zeravani, who are guaranteeing us 100 percent security. It's an official militia which is paid by Kurdistan.”

In Qaraqosh, 6,327 houses  of Syrian Catholics and 400 homes of Syrian Orthodox Christians must be rebuilt.

Fr. Jahola explained that after the liberation of Qaraqosh from the control of the jihadists, an operation which took place in November and December of 2016, 6,000 houses in the city were photographed. These were divided into sectors and classified according to the level of damage.

“There are very damaged or totally destroyed homes that would would need to be rebuilt from the ground up, burned homes or hit by a missile that can be restored, and finally, there are homes partially damaged the we can renovate with little means,” he said.   

“When we began we had a team of 20 volunteer engineers; now we have 40 and some 2,000 workers ready to begin work. We're optimists, since electric service is slowly being restored throughout the city,” Fr. Jahola said.

US bishop says Trump budget at odds with Catholic, American ideals

Louisville, Ky., May 26, 2017 / 05:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The former head of the US bishops decried President Trump's budget plan, claiming its cuts to social services conflict with both the Catholic faith and American principles.

“Whether through Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps or foreign aid, our nation has recognized that our worth is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky said in a May 24 article published by Courier-Journal.

“The concept is shared by many religions and has become part of the ethos of the United States.”

President Trump issued 2018’s budget proposal, “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” on Tuesday. The proposal would defund many aid programs benefiting the poor, the environment, and the foreign aid, drawing outcry from organizations like Catholic Charities and Catholic relief services.

The budget proposes 4.1 trillion dollars for 2018, with budget cuts expected to affect nearly $19 billion in global aid according to Reuters.

Catholic leaders have applauded that federal funding will be redirected from Planned Parenthood to women's health centers that do not perform abortions. But they lament the decrease in funding to US charitable programs.

“Our church has always said that we fulfill our responsibility to the poor not only through personal charity, but also through our support for just governmental policies,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“The work of these agencies to serve the most vulnerable people depends on both private contributions and public support.”

Archbishop Kurtz, who served as president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference from 2013-2016, discussed the benefits of foreign aid, especially to schools which provide both food and education.

“Right now in many developing countries, hundreds of thousands of kids get a nutritional meal every day at school … Sometimes that’s the reason they go to school. It’s a win-win situation: They get fed, and they get educated. They benefit. Their country benefits.”

He continued to give the example of Thomas Awiapo, who went to school solely because he was hungry. Receiving an education, he now works at Catholic Relief Services providing similar relief to other children.

After his father died, Awiapo was forced to live with his extended family. The family was already struggling with food, including family members who died from malnutrition. He then saw his friend returning from school with sorghum, a grain often used to feed US cattle. Attending school, he worked was able to receive food and education, and eventually he received his master’s in public administration.

The programs not only work, said the archbishop, but are part of U.S. history and serve to affirm the inherit dignity of the person. He expressed hopes that Congress would consider this and reject the proposal.

The budget cut would affect both Catholic Relief Services, an international aid program established in 1943, and Catholic Charities, a national relief program established in 1910. The programs rely on funding from private and public donations.

A budget cut for the next 10 years will decrease funding to national welfare programs by over $270 billion and $72 billion to disability programs in order to prepare for the increase in national defense.

Included in the proposal is an additional $54 billion to US military funding and $2.7 billion to immigration control. Military funding will have a total of $639 billion. Over $44 billion will go towards the Department of Homeland Security and nearly $28 billion to the Department of Justice.

This parish is hosting a benefit concert for children with cancer

Charleston, W.Va., May 26, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- A young girl in Charles Town, West Virginia was undergoing treatment for bone cancer when she dreamed about meeting a beautiful princess.

She later identified that princess as St. Philomena, and when she eventually recovered from bone cancer after extensive treatment, her family attributed the recovery to the intercession of St. Philomena, who is known as the patron of difficult situations, especially for youth.

In honor of her experience, the Catholic parish of St. James in Charles Town, West Virginia is holding their second annual St. Philomena Medical Benefit Concert, which will aid cancer victims and their families.

“The people of St. James have done their best to provide support to alleviate the strain that families naturally feel during these difficult times,” stated Angie Cummings, a member of the parish.

“Many have reported that, as they have done their best to exercise the faith during these trials, they have felt the presence of God grow stronger in their lives,” she continued.

Over the years, multiple individuals in the St. James community have experienced cancer, including three children, and many have lost family members to the disease.

St. James Catholic Church will donate all of the proceeds from the benefit concert to the Father McGivney Medical Assistance Fund. Founded by the local Knights of Columbus, the fund will be used to help out with medical expenses for local cancer patients.

The concert will feature the world-famous Irish band Scythian, with other music groups such as New Tides, the Santiago Mountain Band, and Holy Trinity Choir.

The benefit will take place on Saturday, June 10 at St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town. The doors will open at 6:15, and all tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite.

More information can be found at RadioHeart Media.

Military chaplains help traumatized soldiers, but who helps them?

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As military veterans and victims of violence are treated for psychological trauma, the emotional wounds of missionaries and military chaplains might be overlooked, but are just as present.

And with mass shootings, suicides, and acts of terrorism on the rise, more and more first responders like policemen, firemen, hospital workers, and clergy will “continually bear the brunt” of experiencing these horrors.

That's according to Monsignor Stephen Rosetti, a psychologist and former president of the St. Luke Institute, who spoke to CNA.

“The priests are helping others, and the question is who helps them?” he asked.

Monsignor Rosetti led the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., an organization that provides psychological care for priests and religious in need of treatment for mental illness, addiction, and other disorders.

Part of the institute’s ministry is helping military chaplains and missionaries who have served in war-torn areas, but also religious who have ministered to victims of trauma at home – amidst events like natural disasters and mass shootings.

Military chaplains suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental illnesses related to their ministry shared their struggles with the Washington Post last year. Repeatedly serving as a listening ear for the dark problems of soldiers, combined with experiencing the horror of battlefield combat and seeing the dead bodies of friends, can take its toll on a priest’s psyche.

“Just about all” priests and religious returning from a war-torn areas will need “some sort of support,” Monsignor Rossetti noted, like a “detoxing” in their transition from a stressful environment to life back in the U.S.

However, a few will require special attention, he said. These are cases where someone has experienced a particularly appalling atrocity or ongoing violence or stress, “almost too much for the human soul to bear.”

“I think especially of missionaries who are in violent areas,” he said, those who have witnessed “mass murders” or “unbelievable poverty and disease.”

For any clergyman traveling to a poor or war-torn area, “we try to train them as best we can to deal with such trauma” before they depart, the monsignor said, “but sometimes the situation is just so horrible that there’s a real human toll to it.”

Trauma – inflicted especially through acts of terrorism, mass shootings, and suicides – is on the rise, he said. The suicide rate in the U.S. is the highest in decades; the number of mass shootings are also on the rise.

Catholics cannot act as if the first responders like parish priests or military chaplains won’t be affected, he insisted. We must “help train them” to deal with trauma, he said, noting the need for “qualified laypeople” in fields like psychology.

Also, he added, “I think we shouldn’t isolate our chaplains.” Rather, we should be working to connect “first responders” like police, emergency medical technicians, hospital nurses and priests, who can talk about their experiences with each other and “support each other,” he said.

Tragedies can make or break someone’s faith, he added. If a person who has experienced trauma is treated with professional psychological care and a network of support, it can help sustain one’s faith and not break one’s spirit.

“Unspeakable sufferings do challenge our faith, and in times when our faith is a little bit too glib, it kind of bashes that and challenges it,” he admitted. “So these kind of events really challenge us to move deeper into the Lord’s passion and eventually, hopefully, His resurrection.”

“It can build up your faith in a new, deeper way, or sadly sometimes people lose their faith.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA June 5, 2016.

Francis calls Don Orione Sisters to be 'missionaries without borders'

Vatican City, May 26, 2017 / 11:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity on Friday, Pope Francis spoke to them about their charism for evangelization, especially to the poor, encouraging them to be joyful in their mission.

“You are called, and are by vocation, 'missionaries'; that is, evangelizers, and at the same time you are at the service of the poor. Sisters, be missionaries without borders,” the Pope said May 26 at the Vatican's Consistory Hall.

“To all, but especially to the poor, in whom you are called to recognize the flesh of Christ, bring the joy of the Gospel that is Jesus Himself. To all, show the beauty of God's love manifested in the merciful face of Christ. With this beauty fill the hearts of those you encounter. Closeness, encounter, dialogue, and accompaniment are your missionary approach. And do not let yourselves be robbed of the joy of evangelization.”

The Little Missionary Sisters of Charity are holding their 12th General Chapter in Rome throughout the month of May. They are also known as the Don Orione Sisters, after their founder, St. Luigi Orione. The Italian priest founded the order in 1915 to perform works of charity among the poor, orphans, the aged, and the handicapped.

Pope Francis thanked the sisters for their apostolate “in the various activities of youth ministry, in schools, in homes for the elderly, in the little 'Cottolengo' institutes, in catechesis and oratories, with new forms of poverty, and in all places where Divine Providence has placed you.”

Mission and service “help you overcome the risks of self-referentiality, of limiting yourselves to survival and self-defensive rigidity” and “make you take on the dynamics of exodus and giving, of coming out of yourselves, of walking and sowing,” he reflected. “For all these purposes, it is vital to nurture communion with the Lord” in prayer, he added.

“In the Church, mission is born of the encounter with Christ … The centre of the Church’s mission is Jesus. As His disciples, you are called to be women who work assiduously to transcend, projecting towards the encounter with the Master and the culture in which you live.”

Missionaries must be “bold and creative,” the Pope said. “The convenient criterion of 'it has always been the case' is not valid. It is not valid. Think of the aims, the structures, the style and the methods of your mission.”

“We are living in a time when we need to rethink everything in the light of what the Spirit asks us,” Pope Francis maintained. “This demands a special look at the recipients of the mission and reality itself: the look of Jesus, which is the look of the Good Shepherd; a gaze that does not judge, but which grasps the presence of the Lord in history; a gaze of closeness, to contemplate, to be moved, and to stay with the other as often as necessary; a deep look of faith; a respectful gaze, full of compassion, that heals, frees, and comforts.”

This gaze “will make you courageous and creative and will help you always to be in search of new ways to bring the Good News that is Christ to all.”

He also said that missionary must be free, “without anything of his or her own. I never tire of repeating that comfort, lethargy and worldliness are forces that prevent the missionary from 'going out', 'starting out' and moving on, and ultimately sharing the gift of the Gospel. The missionary can not walk with the heart full of things (comfort), an empty heart (lethargy) or in search of things extraneous to the glory of God (worldliness).”

“The missionary is a person who is free of all these ballasts and chains; a person who lives without anything of his own, only for the Lord and His Gospel; a person who lives on a constant path of personal conversion and works without rest towards pastoral conversion.”

A missionary must also be “inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit Who reminds the disciples of all that Jesus said to them, Who teaches them, Who bear witness to Jesus and leads the disciples, in turn, to bear witness to Him. The missionary is asked to be a person obedient to the Spirit, to follow His movement.”

This obedience should lead them “to become capable of perceiving the presence of Jesus in so many people discarded by society,” he said. “You too, dear sisters, be in this sense spiritual people, let yourselves be led, driven and guided by the Spirit.”

Pope Francis said a missionary's spirituality must be based on Christ, the Word of God, and on the liturgy. A 'holistic' spirituality, involving the whole person in its various dimensions, based on complementarity, integrating and incorporating. It allows you to be daughters of heaven and daughters of the earth, mystical and prophetic, disciples and witnesses at the same time.”

“Finally, the missionary is required to be a prophet of mercy … Your charism of service to the poor demands that you exercise the prophecy of mercy, that is, to be people centred on God and on the crucified of this world. Let yourselves be provoked by the cry of help from so many situations of pain and suffering. As prophets of mercy, announce the Father’s forgiveness and embrace, a source of joy, serenity and peace.”

“Along with the other institutes and movements founded by Don Orione, you form a family. I encourage you to walk the paths of collaboration with all the members of this rich charismatic family … Cultivate between you the spirit of encounter, the spirit of family and cooperation.”

Francis concluded by offering the Visitation as “an example for your mission and for your service to the poor.”

“Like the Virgin Mary, go on your way, in haste – not the rush of the world, but that of God – and, full of the joy that dwells in your heart, sing your Magnificat. Sing the love of God for every creature. Announce to today’s men and women that God is love and can fill the heart of those who seek Him and who let themselves be encountered by Him.”

 

Dozens of Egyptian Christians killed in bus attack (Updated)

Cairo, Egypt, May 26, 2017 / 09:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An attack on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims in Egypt on Friday killed at least 28 people, including children, and injured at least 22 more.

The AP reported that, according to the Egyptian government, the bus was stopped and attacked by gunmen in the desert south of Cairo, en route to St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in Minya, Egypt. Witnesses reported seeing eight to 10 gunmen wearing masks and military uniforms, who fired on the bus.

Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the UK, tweeted on Friday that he had spoken to the Bishop of Menia, and confirmed the attack.

The May 26 attack is the latest in a string of violent incidents where Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted. Twenty-nine were killed when a chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo was bombed in December.

The Islamic State released a threatening video message after that attack, saying, “Oh crusaders in Egypt, this attack that struck you in your temple is just the first with many more to come, God willing.”

Later in the winter, several more were killed in a series of murders in Egypt’s Sinai region, and ISIS affiliates there claimed responsibility. Hundreds fled their homes in the face of the violence.

Then on Palm Sunday, 45 were killed in two separate attacks on Masses: A bomb was detonated inside St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta, which killed 28, while a suicide bomber detonated outside of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria – where the Patriarch of Alexandria Pope Tawadros II was saying Mass – killed 17 including himself.

Egypt’s president Abdul Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency following the April 9 attacks, and Friday’s attack fell within the time frame.

A checkpoint near St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai region was also attacked in April, resulting in one dead and four injured. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.

Church leaders offered prayers following the May 26 attack.

A Vatican telegram offered the condolences of Pope Francis.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the barbaric attack in central Egypt and of the tragic loss of life and injury caused by this senseless act of hatred, Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this violent outrage,” the telegram said.  

“He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va. said in a statement that he is once again “deeply saddened by news of violence against innocent people of faith.”

“This attack reminds us again of the horrific persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and their courageous witness to their faith,” he continued. “I ask that all the faithful in the Diocese of Arlington and people of good will join me in prayer for the victims of today’s attack.”

He asked for the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, “for an end to violence and religious persecution throughout the world.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., blogged about the attacks, saying, “Our response to this most recent atrocity is to turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, whose eternal love triumphs over suffering and evil and turns the darkness of death into the dawn of new life.”

“(W)e are all one human family. We are all in this together and we must all stand together in solidarity against such violence and evil,” he said, stressing that while we may be tempted to think that our efforts at change are futile, “we can look for opportunities to speak out, to awaken consciences and urge a change of heart.”

“At the very least, we can persevere in prayer,” the cardinal said. “Let us pray for the gifts of the Spirit to strengthen us and also to touch the hearts of all to stop the violence and so that toleration and genuine peace reigns in every land.”

 

Editor's note: Updated with reactions from Church leaders.