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Posted on 01/26/2020 13:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2020 / 04:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis preached Sunday about the life-changing power of God’s word in Scripture, encouraging everyone to keep a Bible close for daily inspiration.
“Let us make room in our lives for the word of God. Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily,” Pope Francis said in his homily Jan. 26.
“The Lord gives you his word, so that you can receive it like a love letter he has written to you, to help you realize that he is at your side. His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion. Because his word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light,” the pope said.
Pope Francis inaugurated the first Sunday of the Word of God with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope established the Sunday of the Word of God to take place annually throughout the world on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
“On this first Sunday of the Word of God, let us go to the roots of his preaching, to the very source of the word of life,” the pope said.
“We need his word: so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life,” he said.
The pope reflected on Jesus’ preaching in Matthew’s Gospel: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
“We can now understand the direct demand that Jesus makes: ‘Repent,’ in other words, ‘Change your life.’ Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love. Today Jesus speaks those same words to you,” he said.
Francis said that Jesus began preaching from the peripheries in Galilee, passing through “all of that varied and complex region.” In the same way, Christ is not afraid to explore the difficult terrain in our hearts.
“Here there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives,” the pope said.
“Now, as then, God wants to visit the very places we think he will never go. Yet how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden. We keep it locked up within, approaching the Lord with some rote prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts,” he said.
Throughout the Mass, the statue of Our Lady of Knock from Ireland was on the altar as the Church celebrates the 140th anniversary of the Marian apparition. Pope Francis blessed this statue of Our Lady of Knock when he visited the Irish Marian Shrine during the World Meeting of Families in 2018.
The relics of St. Timothy were also moved to St. Peter’s Basilica for the Sunday of the Word of God. At the end of Mass, Pope Francis gave copies of the Bible to 40 people as a symbolic gesture.
“To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call. He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep of life,” he said.
“We will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters,” Pope Francis said.
Posted on 01/26/2020 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Gallup, N.M., Jan 26, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- With their children getting older, the Aguilars wanted to find a church home for their family. They visited a few Christian churches close to home, but nothing felt right. They were surprised, the couple said, to find that Catholic Church - the Church of their youth - was the place where they realized they were at home.
Michelle and Andres Aguilar decided to reenter the Catholic Church in 2019, finishing Michelle’s confirmation process and validating their marriage in the Church.
The couple now attends St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bloomfield, New Mexico, which is pastored by Fr. Josh Mayer. Michelle, 38, owns the oilfield company Ernie’s Pilot Service, and Andres, 33, works as a parole officer.
Michelle was confirmed by Bishop James Wall of Gallup last Easter. She told CNA that the Easter Mass, where her two children also received their first communion, was one of the most beautiful experiences of her life.
“Last April, we all made our sacraments together. I tell everybody that aside from my marriage and my kids’ births, that was the best day of my life. I felt so much joy and it was at the Easter vigil. We [got] home [at] like one in the morning and I could not sleep. I was just so excited from it,” she said.
Michelle and Andres were both baptized and raised in the Church. Michelle attended Mass and catechetical classes with her aunt, but she fell away during her teenage years once her aunt became too busy to take her to Mass. Andres told CNA that he began distancing himself from the Church when he was in his 20s, after a priest who gave a disappointing homily with a judgmental and unkind attitude at his cousin’s funeral.
“The priest at the time made a comment during her funeral. It just kind of shut me out,” he said. “She was murdered … the comment he made was, had she not been living the lifestyle [she] was living, she wouldn't have died. It was like I saw him almost condemn her in the Church.”
“I didn't want to be a part of something group that would condemn people,” he further added.
The couple was civilly married in 2008, three years after their son Augustine was born and a few months after their daughter Cheyann was born - both of whom were baptized in the Catholic Church.
The Aguilars said the family was a major reason for their desire to return to the faith, but they had tried several other denominations before finding themselves in the Catholic Church.
“We wanted to get back into church,” she said. “So we kind of tried different religions. We tried Baptist, we tried Pentecostal, we tried a nondenominational [church]. We just never really liked any of them. It didn't feel like church.”
“Other denominations, it is beautiful there, but they don't have structure, and I need that. I need structure and tradition. … It is so beautiful to see even the older ladies in Mass and it just reminds me of family,” she further added.
Not having found anything that fit, the family took a break from their search. Meanwhile, Augustine started attending Mass with Michelle’s father, who would often have Augustine stay over at his house on Saturday night before Mass. She said, seeing that, she wanted to start attending Mass again as a family.
“I kind of wanted to start going as a family and I spoke to my husband about it and then we decided that we would go,” she said. “We started a friendship with a family here [Adam and Desiraye Benavidez]. They’re really devout and we liked how they put [the faith] first. So we started talking and we decided to join them.”
Andres said the Benavidezs were a big motivator for his rejoining the Church too. He said Adam is a powerful example of a good Catholic father. He said the family possessed a peace and joy he wanted for his own family.
“They have this tradition where they, after mass, all eat breakfast, and I just saw happiness in them,” he said “It just made me want that for my family as well. He owns that peace, like you can't bring that man down. I think his faith has a lot to do with it, and being a part of the church I think really helps him be who he is as a person.”
He said, while he still disagrees with some of the things the priest said at the funeral, he has come to better understand the need to forgive and forget.
“This priest is a human and he sins just as much as I do. He made a mistake. That's the beauty of the church and reconciliation is that you can ask for forgiveness and start fresh.”
Michelle emphasized the important role of the RCIA classes. She said the group watched videos from the Augustine Institute and analyzed scripture prior to the Sunday Mass. She expressed a love for the group, especially Deacon Pat Valdez, who heads the parish’s RCIA class.
“I miss them since I've made my confirmation. I really miss them because it was so fulfilling. I learned so much,” she said.
“[Deacon] would give us the scriptures for the next week and he would break that down. So it was really neat to hear it there, and then on Sunday we'd go and hear it again.”
She said her decision to reenter the Church was verified during the first RCIA class. On the first day, she said, the deacon answered most of the questions she was struggling with, namely the Sacrament of Penance and prayers to the saints.
“I struggled with those growing up. I didn't understand why we were doing that. [During] my first RCIA class, [Deacon Pat] answered both of those without me even asking the question. That was what he talked about. And I was like, okay, this is where I'm supposed to be,” she said.
Both of them described how faith has inspired meaningful interactions with their children, especially for their son who is 15 years old. Michelle said, through the use of the Catechism, she has been able to engage the children in learning, such as looking up answers to moral questions.
“It's been really helpful in those aspects like discipline,” she said. [My son] had messed up and he felt really bad and I could tell it was weighing heavy on him. … [so] he went to confession.”
“We went together and I could just tell when he got out, he felt a relief and I got to explain that to him that you can mess up but you need to ask for forgiveness and then try your best not to make the same mistakes.”
Andres said the faith has given him more patience. He also said that faith has improved communication with Augustine and given him a better perspective on what it means to be a parent.
“Sometimes I can [be] pretty hot-headed and I can be a little strict with the kids, but at the same time I'm learning that being a parent is important in God's eyes,” he said.
“I feel like it's my job now to make sure that my kids have that happiness and the peace that they can find with the Lord and through the church. I feel like I shouldn't deprive them of that anymore.”
Posted on 01/26/2020 07:01 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2020 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- God is a “tricky God” who schemes for the good of humanity and salvation, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said in a homily Saturday at the opening Mass of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC.
“How many times in the scripture have we seen, either telling stories or having encounters with people, who all of a sudden are tricked into salvation,” Cupich said Jan. 25.
“We think of the woman at the well - all of a sudden she's talking about all sorts of things and then (Jesus) asks her that question: bring me your husband. And then she ends up evangelizing the entire community even though she's the one who is shunned by God.”
Cupich cited the Caravaggio painting “The Calling of St. Matthew,” which depicts Matthew “cornered” by Christ.
“Jesus is at the doorway. There’s no exit for Matthew,” said Cupich.
The cardinal explained that these “tricks” extend past scripture, and are present in everyday life.
“How many times in our life have we found ourselves tricked by God?” asked Cupich. These “tricks” include “putting us in situations where, all of a sudden, there was a grace that came from us that we otherwise would have not had.”
These tricks, explained the cardinal, help people to realize they must rely on God, and trust in God and His plan.
“And yet in our lives so often our spiritual relationship with God, we have this little idea in our mind that we've got to be the one to save ourselves, that we have to do something to earn salvation,” he said.
Cupich spoke at length about how people today seem more concerned with “image” over anything else. This is misguided, he said, as the “image” of something does not necessarily mean it is the reality.
“We're in a moment of crisis and the life of the Church, where the brand name of the Catholic Church has been seriously damaged because of bad decisions, and so we might think we need a PR firm to get our image back,” said Cupich.
“You have to be careful with that though, because the Lord is the one who saved us, but not our image.”
Cardinal Cupich shared a humorous anecdote from when he was consecrated a bishop in 1998. His young niece took several of the prayer cards with his picture on it and brought it to show and tell at her preschool, where her classmates guessed he was a “ninja warrior.”
“How foolish would it be for me to get into that image of keeping up a reputation as a ninja warrior?” asked Cupich, to laughter.
“I think of that, because it is foolish as well for us to try to keep up an image that we think (will) please other people,” he said.
Other people choose to make their image a “central preoccupation” of their lives, he said, but the Christian should not.
“It is a good test of whether or not we're open to this God who wants us to trust Him,” said Cupich. “A God who in fact schemes to the point of trickiness so that we trust Him.”
Earlier in the day, Cupich delivered the opening keynote address, titled “Our Call to Holiness: Life and Justice for All,” to the meeting. In the address, Cupich said that Christians should look to the actions of Christ as the inspiration for their lives.
“Our Christian call to holiness is not about being called as individuals, but an invitation from God in which he brings people together, and invites believers to a deeper level of human intercommunion and a shared life,” Cupich said during his keynote.
The cardinal reflected on his experience seeing an exhibit of Andy Warhol’s paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, including one that included an image of the Last Supper superimposed with camouflage. A piece of the camouflage exposed the image of Christ, which Cupich said “forc(ed) the viewer to look for the otherwise familiar image of the Lord at table.”
“May the light of the Gospel help us see through whatever camouflages the needy from our sight, whatever impedes us from being evangelized from those on the margins,” he said.
“For it is in encountering the poor and the marginalized that we are mutually enriched, that we respond to the call to holiness as we take up the social ministry of the Church - because we know that whatever we do for the least of our sisters and brothers, we do for Christ.”
Posted on 01/26/2020 01:43 AM (CNA Daily News)
Paris, France, Jan 25, 2020 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The French Senate this week passed a bill that would allow access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for single women and lesbian couples.
The bill passed 160-116 on Wednesday and is part of a larger bioethics law which cleared its first reading in the French National Assembly late last year.
The Senate voted against part of the bill that would have funded IVF through French social security. The National Assembly had approved that provision of the legislation.
Under the current law, IVF is only available to heterosexual couples who are unable to conceive or who may risk passing on a medical condition or sexually transmitted disease.
The new bill has been applauded by LGBT advocates.
“What was recognized to heterosexual couples must be recognized for homosexual couples,” said Socialist Party Senator David Assouline, according to Reuters.
When the bill passed the National Assembly in October, crowds of more than 40,000 people marched in a peaceful demonstration opposing the legislation.
The French Catholic bishops have staunchly opposed the bioethics bill since it was introduced six months ago. The Bishops’ Conference of France has compiled statements from 71 bishops on the subject.
The conference also issued a statement earlier in January titled “No one should treat another as an object.” The statement raises concerns that the bill prioritizes parents’ desire over the good of the child and paves the way for eugenics through preimplantation diagnosis and embryo selection.
“Not only is wanting a child without any genetic variant an illusion, but it would also dehumanize our humanity,” the statement from the bishops’ conference reads.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris, who practiced medicine and taught bioethics at a medical school prior to the priesthood, said the bill has potentially harmful consequences for the vulnerable.
“A child is a gift to be received, not an order to be manufactured. The absence of a father is an injury that can be suffered, but it is monstrous to inflict it on purpose,” said Aupetit in a Jan. 15 statement.
“For years, we have been committing ourselves ever further to a commercial drift of wealthy countries which afford the luxury of organizing a eugenic trade with the systematic elimination of the most fragile, the creation of transgenic embryos and chimeras,” he added.
Posted on 01/25/2020 22:21 PM (National Catholic Reporter)
Posted on 01/25/2020 22:00 PM (National Catholic Reporter)
Posted on 01/25/2020 20:27 PM (CNA Daily News)
Lexington, Ky., Jan 25, 2020 / 11:27 am (CNA).- One person is dead and others are injured after an oncoming car struck a charter bus carrying Covington Catholic students and chaperones back from the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., local sources have reported.
According to witnesses speaking to WLWT in Kentucky, the car had been traveling in the southbound lane of AA Highway in the city of California, Kentucky, when it crossed the median into the northbound lane and hit the bus head-on.
"I saw a car come across the median and head toward me," Ricky Lynn, a witness driving north on the highway, told WLWT. "I was able to get out of the way."
The car's driver, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses told WLWT that a priest on the bus gave the driver of the car a final blessing.
According to officials, four other people were sent to the hospital with minor injuries, WCPO in Cincinnati reported.
The passenger side of the bus was significantly damaged in the crash, and passengers in the bus escaped through emergency windows, WLWT reported. The bus was one in a caravan of four, carrying a total of about 200 people who had attended the March for Life on Friday.
In a statement given to local media, the Diocese of Covington said: "This morning, a bus carrying students and chaperones home from the March for Life in Washington, DC was involved in an accident. EMT personnel and the Campbell County police have been at the scene and are handling the matter. Please join us in praying for everyone involved in this accident."
Covington Catholic students were the center of a barrage of media scrutiny following the March for Life last year, when a video published online showed Covington Catholic students as part of a confluence of demonstrators near the Washington Memorial, including some from a Washington-based religious group called the Black Israelites, and some from the Indigenous Peoples’ March.
Initially, a viral video depicted a crowd of teenage boys chanting, dancing, and doing the “tomahawk chop” cheer, while a Native American man played a drum in chanted in close proximity to Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, who stood silently. The drummer was soon identified as Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Tribe and Native American rights activist.
The students became the subject of widespread condemnation from media figures and some Catholic leaders, who accused them of disrespect, racism, and antagonism.
Later video and reports that emerged showed a more complex picture, depicting the protestors approaching the students rather than the students surrounding them. The students said that they were chanting school songs in response to taunts from the Black Israelites when Phillips approached.
In January of this year, CNN settled a lawsuit with Sandmann, who sued the network for accusing him of racism in its coverage of the incident.
According to the Washington Examiner and photos posted on Instagram by Catholic Connect, Sandmann attended the March for Life again this year, though it is unclear if he was on the bus that was struck in the accident or in the caravan of busses.
Posted on 01/25/2020 20:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2020 / 11:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of St. Paul with Orthodox and Anglican leaders Saturday to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
“God’s priority is the salvation of all,” Pope Francis in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Jan. 25.
“This is an invitation not to devote ourselves exclusively to our own communities, but to open ourselves to the good of all, to the universal gaze of God who took flesh in order to embrace the whole human race and who died and rose for the salvation of all,” he said.
On the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the pope presided over ecumenical vespers with Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, and Anglican bishop Ian Ernest, personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Pope Francis told those gathered in prayer that the Acts of the Apostles speaks to “our ecumenical journey towards the unity which God ardently desires.”
The Christian leaders also venerated the relics of St. Timothy, which were moved to Rome for the Week of Christian Unity, and will be present in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 26 for the Sunday of the Word of God.
Pope Francis quoted St. Paul’s first letter to St. Timothy in which Paul wrote that God “desires everyone to be saved.”
Ecumenical prayers have been held in Rome each day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18 - 25. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity participated in the preparation of the prayer materials for the week, as it has each year since 1968.
“From this Week of Prayer we want to learn to be more hospitable, in the first place among ourselves as Christians and among our brothers and sisters of different confessions,” Pope Francis said.
“Among Christians as well, each community has a gift to offer to the others. The more we look beyond partisan interests and overcome the legacies of the past in the desire to move forward towards a common landing place, the more readily we will recognize, welcome and share these gifts,” the pope said.
Posted on 01/25/2020 18:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis met Saturday with Iraqi President Barham Salih, and discussed the need to secure the future of Iraq’s deep-rooted Christian population.
The president and the pontiff spoke privately for about 30 minutes before Sahil met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
A Vatican statement Jan. 25 said the talks focused on “the challenges the country currently faces and the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process.”
“Attention then turned to the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country, of which they are an integral part, and the significant contribution they bring to the reconstruction of the social fabric,” the Holy See said.
During the talks, the Vatican underlined the need to guarantee Christians “security and a place in the future of Iraq.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told EWTN News that Pope Francis also expressed his great concern for persecuted Christians in Iraq in his audience with the pope the day prior.
Christianity has been present in the Nineveh plains in Iraq – between Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan – since the first century. However, since the ousting of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Christians have been fleeing the region.
Five years after the Islamic State captured the Christian communities of the Nineveh plains, the region’s diminished Catholic population are still in the process of rebuilding their destroyed homes and churches.
Recent tensions between the United States and Iran have heightened Iraqi bishops’ fears for Iraq’s fragile Christian communities.
“Iraqi Christians “need the certainty, reassurance, hope and the belief that Iraq can be a peaceful country to live in rather than being victims and endless collateral damage,” Archbishop Bashar Warda told CNA following an Iranian attack on an air base in Erbil Jan. 8.
The Holy See said it encouraged “the path of dialogue” and solutions in favor of the Iraqi people and “with respect for national sovereignty” in the meetings with Salih.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis began protesting government corruption and Iranian influence in Oct. 2019 in the largest protests in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
The Vatican meeting occurred one day after an estimated 200,000 people protested in Baghdad in a demonstration against the U.S. military presence in Iraq organized by Shiite groups with ties to Iran.
Amid the tensions, Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, has called for dialogue.
“The international community has a responsibility for what is happening in the region in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran now. They should help people to sit together and to dialogue in a civilized way and to look for a political solution,” Cardinal Sako told EWTN News Jan. 6.
Posted on 01/25/2020 10:00 AM (National Catholic Reporter)