Author Archive

Vatican gives global communications group official stamp of approval

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2014 / 06:42 pm (CNA).- In a rare move, the Vatican has officially recognized the public communications organization SIGNIS as a Catholic association, which, according to a Vatican official, happens less than once a year.


Church mourns death of Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, priest and scientist

New York City, N.Y., Oct 25, 2014 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church is mourning the death of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, who died early Friday following a lengthy illness; he was deeply involved in the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, and was a good friend of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

“Friends, I just learned of the passing of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, the U.S. spiritual director of the Communion and Liberation movement,” Father Robert Barron, rector of Mundelien Seminary, posted on Facebook Oct. 24.

“Join me in praying for the repose of his soul. Msgr. Albacete was a gifted theologian and physicist, an outstanding spiritual guide, and a model for the New Evangelization.”

Msgr. Albacete was born Jan. 7, 1941, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He obtained a degree in physics, and after his ordination to the priesthood he earned a doctorate in theology at the Angelicum, officially known as the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

He served as the responsible for Communion and Liberation in the U.S. and Canada, and was chairman of board of advisors for Crossroads Cultural Center, a project which hosts events exploring the relationship between religion and culture.

The priest was a co-founder of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and taught at St. Joseph Seminary in New York. He was rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico from 1996-1997. He was also for a time an advisor to the U.S. bishops’ conference on Hispanic affairs.

Among his books are “God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity”; “Priesthood and the Human Vocation,” a retreat for priests; and “The Sacramental Priesthood: A Gift to Humanity.”

Msgr. Albacete’s writings also appeared in such places as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Tempi, Communio, and Godspy, and he was interviewed by PBS and Slate.

According to Marco Bardazzi at La Stampa, Msgr. Albacete’s “simple and clear way of ‘explaining’ Jesus Christ attracted both ordinary people (particularly those with doubts and agnostics) and prominent figures he met,” citing his discussion with Fidel Castro during St. John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba.

When Castro “asked him about evangelization in the world, Fr. Albacete began to explain the roots of ‘the religious sense’ (referring to Fr. Giussani’s homonymously titled book), the importance of the human figure of Jesus and the fact that this was the reason why the Pope ‘emphasized that the commitment toward and the defense of humanity is an essential element of evangelization.’ Castro was struck by the priest’s words because the priests he had met as a boy had never presented the subject to him in this way,” Bardazzi wrote.

Shortly before his death, on Oct. 10, Msgr. Albacete was visited by Cardinal O’Malley, who wrote on his blog that “it was a very moving visit with him and we were able to pray together. I would ask all of you to keep them in your prayers because his health is very poor.”

Communion and Liberation released an Oct. 24 statement, recalling Msgr. Albacete as a man who sought “encounter with anyone, challenging the American intelligentsia with the sole weapon of his witness, as a man who had been seized and transformed by Christ in his reason and in his freedom.”

“He was undoubtedly so captivating that he immediately became friends with anyone he met, because he was showing the beauty and usefulness of faith for facing life’s needs.”

The statement reflected on Msgr. Albacete’s “tireless work,” perseverance in suffering and “love of the truth that is present in every person.”

“Let us all pray together and personally that we may strive to live like he witnessed, so that we can inherit his legacy of how to follow the Movement within the Church.”

Cardinal Nichols clarifies, dispels media portrayals of synod

Westminster, England, Oct 25, 2014 / 10:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After returning from the 2014 Synod on the Family, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has clarified that the meeting was focused upon reaching out to those in difficulty, rather than changing doctrine.

“You may have heard or read that this Synod has been about changing the teaching of the Church on marriage, family life or sexual morality. This is not true,” the cardinal said.

“It was about the pastoral care that we try to offer each other, the ‘motherly love of the Church’, especially when facing difficult moments and experiences in family life.”

In a pastoral letter released Oct. 24, Cardinal Nichols recounted the “rich and moving experience” of taking part in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops that was held earlier this month in Rome.

He rejected numerous media portrayals of the synod, stating firmly, “There was no suggestion that the teaching of the Church might somehow give approval to the notion of ‘same-sex marriage’ or that its teaching on sexual morality is to change.”

Rather, he said, it was made clear that people should not be identified simply by sexual orientation, because they have a deep and unique dignity as a human person and a Christian that must be respected.

In addition, he said, it was clear at the synod that the Church’s teachings on respect, compassion and acceptance towards all people need to be “translated into loving care, in our daily life in the Church, in our parishes, and indeed in society.”

Cardinal Nichols also dispelled the notion that the synod “represented a ‘defeat for Pope Francis’ or that he was disappointed at its outcome.”

“At the end of our meeting Pope Francis spoke at length about his joy and satisfaction at its work,” the cardinal said, adding that the Pope stressed the synod as “a spiritual journey, not a debating chamber.”

“In fact, the very word ‘synod’ means making a walk or a journey together,” he said, explaining that this is what the synod participants did as they discussed a global range of issues affecting families, ranging from war, immigration and polygamy to inter-religious marriage, cohabitation and divorce.
Listening to the real struggles of married couples, synod participants were able to see both the overwhelming suffering that accompanies so many people today and the great joy and importance of marriage and family as a “sanctuary of holiness.”

“Pope Francis set the tone” at the synod, Cardinal Nichols said. “He asked us to look reality in the eye; to speak openly from the heart; to listen humbly and respectfully to each other.”

The result was a “marvelous experience of the Church as a family and of the Church, at this level, hard at work, trying to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and express them in carefully chosen words.”

While there were disagreements among synod members, there was no rancor or contestation, the cardinal said. Rather, participants demonstrated tranquility and trust, in response to the call of Pope Francis, who emphasized the need for the Church to go out and find the lost sheep in today’s world.

Cardinal Nichols explained the synod process of working to form documents that would reflect the views of participants.

“By the end I believe we got there,” he said, noting that the final synod report was voted on paragraph by paragraph, to show where the greatest areas of agreement were. That document will be the starting point for next year’s synod, which will focus on ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family Today.’

“Central to the work of the Synod that has just ended was the desire to strengthen and reinvigorate the pastoral practice of the Church,” Cardinal Nichols emphasized. “A central principle for this pastoral care emerged clearly: that in trying to walk alongside people in difficult or exceptional situations, it is important to see clearly and with humility all the good aspects of their lives.”

“From this point, we learn to move together towards conversion and towards the goodness of life that God has for us and that Jesus opens for us all.”

This approach is particularly important in reaching out to individuals who are not living in the way that God asks, such as those cohabiting or the divorced and remarried, the cardinal said. Recognizing that there is still “real goodness” in their lives despite these shortcomings allows a basis for approaching them in care and offering an invitation to come closer to the Church and its call, knowing that this is where true happiness is found.

The coming year leading up to next year’s three-week synod has been described by Pope Francis as a time “to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront.”

Cardinal Nichols echoed this call, voicing hope that the ongoing prayer and reflection will yield fruit that will renew the Church “in response to the unfailing love of Jesus, under the leadership of Pope Francis and always in union with him.”

Beyond economics, youth unemployment a ‘problem of dignity,’ Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2014 / 09:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has sent a message to young people affected by the “culture of waste,” calling on them to spread the hope of the Gospel amid these times of uncertainty.

The Pope’s message, dated Oct. 16, was written to mark the Italian Bishops’ conference of Salerno’s national convention on the theme: “Hope amid uncertainty.”

According to the message, the aim of the convention, which runs from Oct. 24-26, was to reflect on that which offers hopeful prospects, “in a time marked by uncertainty, bewilderment, and great changes.”

Having encountered many young people over the course of his visits throughout Italy, the Pope Francis writes that he has seen “firsthand the plight of many unemployed youth.”

 The problem is more than merely economic, he said: “It is a problem of dignity.” Without work, one cannot have the experience of dignity which comes from being able to put food on the table. “And unfortunately,” he said, “there are many young people in Italy without work.”

At this moment in time, the Pope writes, “the ‘culture of waste’ is strong: everything that does not bring in a profit is discarded. The youth are discarded, because they are without work.” Because of this, “the future of a people is discarded, since the youth represent the future of a people. We must say ‘no’ to this ‘culture of waste’.”

Amid this uncertainty, the Pope said, “there is another word: hope.” It is through the “strength of the Gospel” that one keeps from losing hope in “the ‘quicksand’ of uncertainty.”

“The Gospel is the source of hope, because it comes from God, because it comes from Jesus Christ,” who sympathizes with “all of our uncertainties.”

“You young people belong to the Church,” he said, “and therefore you have the gift and the responsibility” to use the “power of the Gospel” within the current social and cultural context.

Pope Francis concluded the message, saying: “The Gospel engenders attentiveness toward the other, a culture of encounter, of solidarity. Therefore, with the strength of the Gospel, you are witnesses of hope amid uncertainty.”

Sistine Chapel being used as sacred place – not ‘venue for private parties’

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2014 / 07:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Director of the Vatican Museums Antonio Paolucci has rejected rumors that they are now renting the Sistine Chapel, adding that beauty is always an occasion to grow in charity and generosity.

“In the last few days I’ve read that someone thought we are renting the Sistine Chapel to those who have money to spend,” Paolucci said in an Oct. 20 statement released by the Vatican Museums.

“It is nothing of the sort, because the Sistine Chapel is a sacred place: it’s certainly not able to be rented on request, nor will it ever become a venue for private parties!”

Rumors surrounding the Sistine Chapel began following the Oct. 18 launch of the museum’s “The Art of Charity” initiative, which consists of a series of exclusive events that include a guided tour of the museums with a private concert inside the Sistine Chapel, as well as a dinner inside the museums.

The Rome-based Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, was the group selected to play during the launch event. They performed Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle.”

The Porsche Travel Club was the first to take advantage of the new project, with members paying up to $6,000 per person for the concert-tour combo, which would yield a ballpark total of $200,000, a Vatican source confirmed. Up to 70 people are expected to participate in such events.

In his statement, Paolucci lamented the confusion that has arisen out of the event, explaining that the Vatican Museums have always accepted groups for private tours after hours, during which a visit to the Sistine Chapel is customary.

This, he said, is “a natural part of the Museum tour, so this is not ‘news;’ we are not doing anything that different, (only adding) an additional pretense which is the novelty of the project.”

Paolucci noted that as the museums belonging to the Vatican, they seek to channel the energy and resources they receive from these events in the name of “the beauty of the arts” toward the always-present and ever-increasing needs of the poor.

“The insight that we give is simple: art is charity and love. It gives so much to man, it recalls the sense of his existence, without asking anything in return other than a glance and an open heart.”

For those who still maintain the “contemptuous audacity” to ask the Pope why he doesn’t sell his art if he is so interested in the poor, the museum director said that the museum’s response is simple: “because man would be poorer in every sense” for it.

When art and the generosity of businesses and individuals come together so much more can be done, he said, and expressed his hope that the Oct. 18 launch of “The Art of Charity” will only be the first of many other such events that “many others” will support in the future.

In the statement, the museums also emphasized the “daily actions of solidarity” practiced by the Church throughout the world, which are executed “silently but effectively, without clamor, without making any noise, and for which there is always a need for new resources.”

“It is, therefore, a unique opportunity aimed at those who want to embrace initiatives of high cultural and social value,” the statement closed.

Pope calls Christians to be ‘living stones’ of the Church

Vatican City, Oct 24, 2014 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily for Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Oct. 24, Pope Francis reflected on the call of Christians to perpetuate unity in the Church by being “living stones” built upon the “cornerstone of Christ.”

This creating of unity in the Church, the Pope said, recounting the reading from Saint Paul to the Philippians, “is the work of the Church and of every Christian throughout history.”

In addition, the Holy Father cited the Apostle Peter, who contrasts the Church – “a temple made of living stone” – with the Tower of Babel, which he described as the “temple of pride.” The first temple creates “unity,” he said, whereas the second symbolizes disunity and misunderstanding.

The task of every Christian, Pope Francis said, is “to create unity in the Church,” the temple built upon Jesus, who is the “cornerstone”.

Jesus is the “rock upon which the Church’s unity” is built, the Pope said, adding that “there is no unity without Jesus Christ at its base: He is our certainty.”

It is the Holy Spirit who creates this unity, the Holy Father said. “For this reason, Jesus sent Him: to make the Church grow, to make it strong, to make it one.”

In order to be strong “bricks” of the Temple, Pope Francis said the faithful must first become “weak” through the virtues of humility, kindness, and generosity. The weaker we become through these virtues which seemingly serve no purpose, the Pope said, the stronger we become as “living stones” of the Temple.  

Just as Jesus “was made weak” even unto the Cross, the Pope said, “He became strong.” On the other hand, “Pride [and] conceit are useless.”

In creating this Temple, Pope Francis said, the architect must lay out a ground plan. This plan is “the hope to which we are called: the hope of going towards the Lord, the hope of living in a living Church, made with living stones, with the strength of the Holy Spirit.” It is only with this hope as the “ground plan” that it is possible “to move forward in the unity of the Church.”

“We are called to a great hope,” he said. “Let us go there! But with the strength which Jesus’ prayer for unity gives us; with the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, who is able to make living stones from bricks; and with the hope of finding the Lord who has called us to encounter him in the fullness of time!”

Archbishop Chaput rejects ‘false’ media reports on synod comments

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 24, 2014 / 08:38 am (CNA).- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia rejected claims that he had harshly criticized the Vatican or the recent synod, saying that he had instead been cautioning against a public image of the synod created by media reports that distort the truth.

“That’s simply false,” Archbishop Chaput told CNA Oct. 24 about claims that he had “blasted” the recent Synod on the Family.

“The synod isn’t mentioned in my formal remarks, and what I said in answer to a question from the audience about the synod is easily available, in full, online. People can see or read for themselves.”  

Archbishop Chaput’s comments followed a report by David Gibson of Religion News Service covering the archbishop’s Oct. 20 delivery of the 2014 Erasmus Lecture, hosted by the interreligious journal First Things.

The lecture itself did not involve the synod, but focused on the role of religious believers in modern America.

After the lecture, an attendee asked Archbishop Chaput about the Synod on the Family, a global gathering of bishops that recently concluded in Rome, and the archbishop replied:

“Well, first of all, I wasn’t there. That’s very significant, because to claim you know what really happened when you weren’t there is foolish. To get your information from the press is a mistake because they don’t know well enough how to understand it so they can tell people what happened. I don’t think the press deliberately distorts, they just don’t have any background to be able to evaluate things. In some cases they’re certainly the enemy and they want to distort the Church.”

“Now, having said all that, I was very disturbed by what happened. I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was of confusion. Now, I don’t think that was the real thing there,” he said, adding that he is eager to hear from the U.S. bishops who were present at the event.

“I want to hear from them. Then you can ask me the question and I can give you a better answer,” he said.

The archbishop then went on to say that “the Church has a clear position” on matters of marriage and communion, adding, “I’m not fundamentally worried because I believe the Holy Spirit guides the Church.”

In his reporting for Religion News Service, Gibson omitted the archbishop’s qualifying remarks about not presuming to know what really happened at the synod that he had not attended. He also omitted the archbishop’s comment that while confusion was the public image presented in the media, he did not think “that was the real thing” at the synod.

Gibson quoted Archbishop Chaput as saying, “I was very disturbed by what happened. I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.” He then moved on to other parts of the archbishop’s remarks.

The Religion News Service article was picked up by several other publications. Michael Sean Winters, a blogger for the National Catholic Reporter, pointed to Gibson’s article to argue that Archbishop Chaput was challenging Pope Francis, “criticizing the process of synodality,” and pushing an “agenda.”

Archbishop Chaput reiterated to CNA that when he had spoken of confusion being from the devil, he was not referring to the Vatican or the synod debates themselves, but to the way that the proceedings had been presented.

“The news media, sometimes innocently and sometimes not, distort the public image of the Church and her efforts. That creates confusion, including confusion in public perceptions of the synod, and there’s nothing Godly about that,” he said.

He lamented a sense of “infallibility” among some parts of the press, adding that “the worst offenders refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes and prejudices.”
Matthew Schmitz, deputy editor of First Things magazine, responded to Gibson’s article in an Oct. 23 blog post. He included both the video and written transcript of the archbishop’s comments.

Gibson’s article portrayed the archbishop as critical of the synod itself, Schmitz stressed, while “(i)n fact, Chaput denounced its public image while saying he would need to hear more from his brother bishops who actually attended before forming a firm opinion.”

Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, also voiced “grave concerns” about Gibson’s article, particularly its headline, which initially read, “Archbishop Chaput Blasts Vatican Debate on Family, says ‘Confusion is of the Devil’.”

After the archdiocese contacted Religion News Service, the headline was changed to, “Archbishop Chaput ‘disturbed’ by Synod Debate, Says ‘Confusion is of the Devil’.”

Both of these headlines, however, inaccurately present Archbishop Chaput as being critical of the Vatican and the synod, Gavin said, when in reality, the archbishop was simply criticizing “those who used the draft report from the Synod out of context to reinforce their own opinions and agendas.”

Additionally, Gavin said, the focus that Gibson’s article places on the comments could lead the casual reader “to believe that the Archbishop’s talk was all about the Synod,” when his comments were actually in response to an audience question, and his lecture was not about the synod at all.

“The RNS piece that was published just isn’t an accurate reflection of reality. It mischaracterizes both Archbishop Chaput and what he said,” Gavin said. “The story has been picked up by secular and religious media at the national level and it has created a false and misleading image. That’s problematic and unfair. People have a right to the truth. Media have an obligation to present it.”

Pregnancy centers, not politics – the future of the pro-life movement

Front Royal, Va., Oct 24, 2014 / 02:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the chilling dark chaos of a woman’s unwanted and unexpected pregnancy, a group of pro-life Catholics try to be a light to both the mother and the unborn child.

Their mission is in an unassuming plot in a modest town well outside the sprawling Washington, D.C. suburbs. Not much car traffic passes through town other than tourists on their way to see the mountain leaves turn every October.

Seventy miles outside the nation’s capital in northern Virginia, there is no national pro-life headquarters, army of lobbyists, or melodramatic political battle being waged. The Front Royal Pregnancy Center is simply part of a national chain of crisis pregnancy centers, “the real future of the pro-life movement,” as board member Mary Brand put it.

And this future is carried out in a drab brick building on South Royal Avenue, ministering to pregnant women from town and from the surrounding area. Walk through the door, however, and one will meet a disarmingly festive atmosphere. Decorations festoon the ceiling and walls. A joyful, peaceful intoxication pervades the place.

“It’s liberating to work in a place like this where every life is precious. Every life is important. Planned or unplanned,” said head nurse Rosemary Antunes, RN.

If there’s any gravitas over a battle for the life of an unborn child, the volunteers aren’t showing it. There’s no grim reminder of what’s at stake, no guilt-trip ready for an anxious mother who is not sure what to do with her baby. The focus here is simply on the goodness of life and the Gospel.

“We work hard to be across-the-board life-affirming,” Antunes told CNA. “Not just the baby’s personhood. (The mother’s) personhood. Oh, and their significant other’s personhood.”

Crisis pregnancy centers are sometimes criticized for existing solely to save babies. The staff flatly rejects that line of thought when treating expectant mothers.

If the mother’s needs aren’t taken care of, if she is not affirmed and cared for through and even after the pregnancy, than the child will suffer the consequences, explained outreach coordinator Maura McMahon. A healthy mother is necessary for a healthy child.

This includes a mother who freely chooses to carry the child to term. She may be feeling intense pressure, on multiple fronts, to abort or keep the child, but the volunteers will not pressure her to save the life of the baby. All the witness to life is done through gentle, patient affirmation and education, through an authentic personal care for the woman.

“You’re merely giving them all the tools that they need to make an educated choice. And they know it,” McMahon said. “We’re giving them the space and time to make the decision. And we obviously pray that they keep (the baby), for the baby’s sake but (also) for their own sake. For the sake of their health, their well-being, and their conscience.”

“We really work hard on our non-judgemental, cheerful attitude,” Antunes says. This welcoming atmosphere begins right when a mother walks in the door.

“It’s important to get someone to smile or laugh,” said executive director Kathy Clowes. And no judgement of the woman is even considered.

In fact, the staff admire the women who come through the door, knowing that many of them are under intense pressure to abort their child.

“I think that a lot of them have heroic virtue, according to where they’ve come from, the very little training they’ve had,” Clowes added.

From humble beginnings

The center was begun in 1991, and presently ministers to almost 400 women per year and provides $23,000 worth of material assistance to mothers.

A local Catholic businessman offered the building that is the current location, and once they saw the building, the staff then knew they had room for an ultrasound machine. They procured one with the fundraising help of the Knights of Columbus. The local Knights council, the John Carrell Jenkins Council at St. John the Baptist Church, raised $24,000.

The national Knights of Columbus covered half the cost of the ultrasound machine. Through a program begun in 2009, the Supreme Council matches the funds raised by local Knights councils for ultrasound machines for local pregnancy centers.

The staff acknowledge the machine has been a game-changer.

“It’s been transformative, really,” Clowes said of the ultrasound machine. “The most common thing that the women say is that it did not seem real until they saw the baby on the screen. And they might expect to see a motionless little figure, they don’t expect to see it moving. Sometimes they don’t expect a heartbeat.”

The staff recounted once how an unborn baby on the ultrasound screen waved with his hand and the two year-old in the room waved back.

“You just let it dawn on them,” Clowes said. “Let the beauty of it come to mind.”

The image of a baby on the screen is transformative for fathers as well.

“They’re frequently stunned,” Antunes remarked. “There’s a genuine disconnect in our society between having sex and having a child. It’s documentable with the advent of contraception and the proliferation of contraception devices and use.”

Caring for the woman, no matter what

However, the woman needs more than pre-natal care if she decides to bring her baby to term. For many women the journey to childbirth can be a lonely and scary one. Motherhood, said McMahon, is a “life-changing experience,” and the women and babies need to be cared for even after the birth.

Women can participate in the center’s “Earn While You Learn” program, where women can “earn” supplies for motherhood as they are educated about pregnancy and motherhood.

“We make what seems like an impossible feat possible to them,” said McMahon. “Like you’re taking something that’s so intangible and you’re saying look, we have these material things for you to help you through the rough patches.”

The program also brings women back to the center, where they can establish a relationship with one of the volunteers.

“That first 45 minutes, you’re creating the start of a relationship, and if they come to ‘Earn While You Learn,’ you have all these hours to build on that relationship,” said Clowes.

And it is especially though these personal one-on-one meetings that the center strives to “share the Gospel,” as Antunes put it.

“A lot of centers have a group class, and you have to sign up for the group class, you come for the group class, you’re in the group with all these other people that you don’t really know,” Clowes explained.

“And we do one-on-one individual lessons. You come, you come with your mom, you come with your boyfriend, whatever. And if we can, we’ll sit in with you, most of the time, sit in with you and spend that time with you one-on-one.”

And any judgements of the women walking through the door go out the window.

“If they’ve had a couple of kids, or something like that, we’re not looking down our noses that they’re pregnant again,” Antunes said. “We’re here to help you through this pregnancy. And we think your kids are cute, by the way.”

“There has to be a safe place where they can know that this baby is welcomed,” Clowes said.

“And their other kids are welcome,” Antunes chimed in.

Vatican reorganizes Montecassino, mother abbey of the Benedictines

Montecassino, Italy, Oct 24, 2014 / 12:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday appointed a new Abbot of Montecassino – the first monastery built by St. Benedict – and at the same time reduced the territory for which the new abbot is responsible.

“The Monastic Community warmly welcomes Father Donato Ogliari as 192nd Ordinary Abbot of the territorial Abbey of Montecassino,” the abbey posted on Twitter Oct. 23.

Abbot Ogliari, O.S.B., who is 57, was professed as a member of the Consolata Missionaries in 1978, and ordained a priest of that institute in 1982. He later transferred to the Order of Saint Benedict, and was solemnly professed there in 1992. Before his appointment as Abbot of Montecassino, Abbot Ogliari had been abbot of Santa Maria della Scala Monastery in Noci, Italy.

The Territorial Abbey of Montecassino had been vacant since June 2013, when Abbot Pietro Vittorelli resigned.

Montecassino is one of the few remaining “territorial abbeys” in the world. This means that the abbey is independent of a diocese, and is in fact its own particular church.

The Code of Canon Law defines a territorial abbacy as “a certain portion of the people of God which is defined territorially and whose care, due to special circumstances, is entrusted to some prelate or abbot who governs it as its proper pastor just like a diocesan bishop.”

While they were more common in the past, a 1976 motu proprio of Bl. Paul VI, Catholica ecclesia, moved toward reordering territorial abbeys so that monks might focus on their proper charism rather than also being responsible for a portion of the people of God.

Many were suppressed, and only 11 remain. There are six in Italy, two in Switzerland, one in Hungary, and one in Austria. There is also one in North Korea, Tokwon, though it has been vacant since its abbot died in 1950.

The U.S. once had a territorial abbey: Belmont Abbey, in North Carolina. The abbey had been founded in 1876, and in 1910 was given the status of territorial abbey, with jurisdiction over the parishes in eight North Carolina counties. Belmont’s territory was reduced twice, in 1944 and 1960, to the point that it retained jurisdiction over one parish. One year after Catholica ecclesia was issued, the territorial abbacy was suppressed and its territory transferred to the Diocese of Charlotte, though it remains an abbey.

Pope Francis’ Oct. 23 decision applied Catholica ecclesia to Montecassino.

Prior to the reorganization, it had been responsible for a territory of 227 square miles, including 53 parishes, 37 priests, 50 women religious, a number of seminarians, and nearly 79,000 faithful total.

Though Montecassino retains the status of territorial abbey, Abbot Ogliari will no longer be responsible for the care of so many faithful.

They have now been transferred to the Diocese of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, which had previously been responsible for 551 square miles and included 91 parishes, 83 diocesan priests, and 175 women religious.

The diocese will now be known as Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo, according to Vatican Radio.

“To the entire diocesan community of Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo I extend my cordial greetings and I entrust my deep trepidation of soul,” Bishop Gerardo Antonazzao wrote to his newly-enlarged diocese Oct. 23.

“I invite all to prayer for one another, and in a particular way for my episcopal service, invested in an expanded pastoral responsibility. Along with the charity of prayer and of fraternal friendship of the entire diocesan community, I am comforted by the trust accorded by the Holy Father.”

Egyptian Christians feel safer, though Islamism still looms

Cairo, Egypt, Oct 23, 2014 / 08:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While problems still exist, Christians in Egypt feel “much safer” under the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former military officer who played a key role in the coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013, a Catholic official said.

“The mood has improved considerably. The security situation is getting better. There is greater stability,” Father Rafik Greiche, press officer for the Egyptian bishops’ conference, told Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 21.

“Christians feel a lot safer. They are going to church without feeling threatened as they did under President Morsi … In all, a more peaceful atmosphere is being created.”

A 2011 revolution, part of the Arab Spring, had overthrown Hosni Mubarak, a military officer who had been Egypt’s president since 1981. The following year Morsi, of the Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected Egyptian president.

“Under the Muslim Brotherhood Molotov cocktails were hurled at churches or graffiti was sprayed on the walls,” Fr. Greiche recounted.

On July 3, 2013, Egypt’s military ousted Morsi, and in August began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Violence then spread across the country, with Islamists killing hundreds of people from August to October. Churches were vandalized, burned, and looted, as were the homes and businesses of Christians.

In January, the interim government approved a new constitution, and then el-Sisi won elections in May, which were boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other political groups.

Three journalists from Al Jazeera have been imprisoned in the country since December 2013, accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and of spreading false news; the three have an appeals hearing scheduled for Jan. 1, 2015.

“The number of acts of aggression has fallen to a low level, a minimum,” Fr. Greiche explained. “Sometimes there are still inter-religious tensions in some villages. It still happens that jihadists abduct Christian girls. But the situation has nevertheless improved considerably. The problems that exist are only a fraction of those that Christians experienced under Morsi.”

He added, though, “That does not mean that there are no incidents whatsoever. There continue to be Muslim-Christian difficulties of the kind we have been familiar with for more than 30 or 40 years.”

Fr. Greiche said that el-Sisi has received representatives from both the Orthodox and Catholics, as well as Protestants: “He told them that Christians have every right to have their churches and to pray.”

El-Sisi’s government is working with Christians “to prepare a law governing the construction of churches,” the priest reported. “This is one of our most urgent problems here in Egypt – to-date it has been very difficult to build a new church.”

The drafted version of the law, Fr. Greiche said, would allow such symbols as crucifixes to “be mounted visibly on the exterior” and would “also stipulate that the construction of new places of worship is no longer subject to the approval of state security authorities.”

“The President himself will no longer himself have to grant permission to build a new church; instead this will be the responsibility of the provincial governor. If the latter has no objections after a period of 60 days after a proposal is submitted, the work can proceed.”

The proposed legislation, however, “is in limbo, as the country currently has no Parliament that could pass such a law.”

Fr. Greiche said parliamentary elections “are due to take place at year’s end,” but he fears that Islamists will play a major role in the new legislative body.

“The problem is that the civilian parties are very weak and lacking direction. They also don’t have much backing. The Islamists will probably not have a majority, but they could form a substantial minority that is capable of upholding or delaying the passing of legislation.”

Egyptian Christians, he said, are threatened both by “jihadists based in neighbouring Libya, who are sending weaponry into Egypt” and by those on the Sinai Peninsula.

The priest added that when the Islamic State began to drive Christians from Mosul, “not a word was heard initially from the Sunni Al-Azhar University, for example.”

It was only when Copts gathered in Cairo and appealed to the university – the highest authority in Sunni Islam – to condemn the violence that “the school actually did publish a statement.”

“Unfortunately, the curriculum of the university and that of the schools managed by Al-Azhar feature many aspects that are pretty much in line with ISIS transgressions,” Fr. Greiche said.

“Fundamental changes must be made because such teachings have a big effect on people’s thinking.”

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