Author Archive

Memory, hope, witness are Korea trip’s import, Pope reflects

Vatican City, Aug 20, 2014 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis discussed his recent trip to South Korea in his General Audience address Wednesday, saying its significance is found in the three words memory, hope, and witness.

In South Korea &ld…

LCWR may not be open to reform, commentator worries

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 20, 2014 / 07:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Actions by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at its latest annual assembly suggest that it may be closed to the possibility of reform, one writer on Catholic religious life has said.

“These are educated women, and certainly they have the intellectual ability to understand the doctrinal teachings of the church,” Ann Carey told CNA Aug. 19.

“However, the LCWR leaders seem to be so convinced that they have taken the correct path that I think many of them have closed their minds to the possibility that they may have made some mistakes and need to rethink their positions.”
“Rather than actually engaging some of the doctrinal issues involved, they tend to bring in speakers who reinforce their own views and even propose unproven theories such as ‘conscious evolution’ and ‘new cosmology’,” said Carey, the author of the 1997 book “Sisters in Crisis” and its 2013 edition “Sisters in Crisis Revisited.”

Carey suggested that the conference leadership’s mindset means it will be “very difficult” to have a dialogue with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is overseeing the conference’s reform after the Vatican found a doctrinal crisis within the canonically-recognized group of U.S. women religious superiors.

With some 1,500 members, the LCWR constitutes about three percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. However, the group says it represents 80 percent of American sisters since its members are leaders of their respective religious communities.

In April 2012, the Vatican released the findings of a multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women’s conference, which raised concerns of dissent from Church teaching on topics including homosexuality, the sacramental priesthood and the divinity of Christ.

Among the assessment’s key findings were serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s recent annual assemblies. Some presentations depicted a vision of religious life incompatible with the Catholic faith, or attempted to justify dissent from Church doctrine and showed “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium,” the assessment found.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith granted Archbishop Sartain a mandate of up to five years to help lead reform efforts by working to review and revise the group’s statues, formation materials, presentations, events and links with affiliated organizations.

The LCWR held its 2014 annual assembly in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 12-16. After the assembly, the conference’s 21-member national board met for three days. Their meeting included a one-hour session with Archbishop Sartain.

The national board then issued a statement voicing their “deepest hope to resolve the situation between LCWR and (the) CDF in a way that fully honors our commitment to fulfill the LCWR mission as well as protect the integrity of the organization.”

The board members said they wanted to continue in conversation with Archbishop Sartain in order “that new ways may be created within the church for healthy discussion of differences.”

“We know that thousands of persons throughout the country and around the world long for places where they can raise questions and explore ideas on matters of faith in an atmosphere of freedom and respect,” the statement continued.

Carey said she was not surprised by the board’s statement.

“LCWR leaders realize the organization would lose many of its members if its canonical status were revoked, so they don’t want that to happen. On the other hand, they do not want to implement the mandate, either. So Plan A seems to be just to keep talking,” she said.

However, she observed, this plan may have to change, given new requirements that assembly speakers be approved by the archbishop.

Carey said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has a responsibility to protect the faith, especially when “a high profile entity” like the religious sisters’ leadership conference “expresses doctrinal errors.”

“Many ordinary Catholics do not follow news of the LCWR, but most ordinary Catholics do recognize the importance of adhering to the doctrines of the faith if one is to be a practicing Catholic,” she said.

At the annual assembly, the LCWR presented the conference’s Outstanding Leadership Award to Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., a theologian whom the U.S. bishops have criticized for serious doctrinal errors, including misrepresentations of Church teaching on God.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith head Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller said in an April 2014 speech that the selection of Sr. Johnson for the award would be seen “as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the doctrinal assessment.” The decision “further alienates the LCWR from the bishops as well,” he added.

Sr. Johnson used her acceptance speech to strike back at her critics, claiming that the U.S. bishops’ assessment of her book misrepresented it. She said Cardinal Muller and his staff appear not to have read her book or her response to the concerns about it.

She contended that both her book and the LCWR were the objects of “institutionalized negativity.” She suggested that criticism of the LCWR was the product of several factors, including centuries-old historical tensions between religious orders and the bishops and an alleged “patriarchal structure where authority is exercised in a top-down fashion” which prioritizes “obedience and loyalty to the system.”

Carey, however, did not agree. She said Sr. Johnson’s remarks “easily could be seen as gratuitous defiance of church authority, particularly in the setting of a canonically-erected conference of women religious.”

“I do not think the LCWR helped its cause by giving her that platform,” she said.

Carey suggested that the criticisms of Sr. Johnson’s book and of the leadership conference are examples not of “institutional negativity” but rather “institutional integrity.”

“The U.S. bishops and the CDF are taking seriously their responsibility to safeguard the integrity of Catholic doctrine,” she said.

In Carey’s view, the LCWR has three options: implement the reform the Holy See requires of it and remain a canonical conference of religious superiors; “go its own way as a professional organization of women who are in leadership positions in religious orders without any canonical status”; or disband.

While Carey hoped the leadership conference would choose reform, she suggested the conference is instead seeking another option that would allow it to go “its own way on doctrinal matters” while keeping canonical status.

“I don’t think the CDF will allow that fourth option, however.”


Franciscan friars in Pakistan celebrate 75 years of mission

Karachi, Pakistan, Aug 20, 2014 / 02:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Franciscan friary in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, celebrated its platinum jubilee earlier this month on the feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Porziuncola, an important observance in their tradition.

“We are grateful to God for being with us for the past many years,” Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, O.F.M., of Lahore, preached during the Aug. 2 Mass of thanksgiving for the 75th anniversary of the friary.

Karachi’s Porziuncola friary was established in 1940, and is home to Observant Franciscans serving in the city.

The friary’s guardian, Fr. Younis Hussain, O.F.M., welcomed Archbishop Shaw; the local ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Coutts; members of other religious orders; and local lay faithful to the friary’s chapel for the Mass celebrating the community’s jubilee year.

Archbishop Shaw preached, reflecting on the charity to which the friary has witnessed with its service and faith formation over the years.

He himself joined the Order of Friars Minor in 1989, and reflected on the friary as a “mother house”, saying, “the friary has loved us first, and we have grown in the bosom of this friary … this love should not be contained and remain with us only, but is meant to be shared with all those around us.”

“Keep alive the uniqueness of our Franciscan identity,” he exhorted the friars. “Friars Minor is our identity, and we must retain this, and let it remain that way” in the service of the Church.

Karachi’s Porziuncola friary is named for the parish church, originally built in the fourth century, which was rebuilt by St. Francis of Assisi in obedience to Christ’s command to “rebuild my church.”

Aug. 2 is observed as the dedication of the Porziuncola, and is the occasion of a plenary indulgence.

Fr. Yusuf Bagh, O.F.M., head of the Custody of St. John the Baptist of Pakistan, said that it was a great honor for the friars to be joined by the bishops for their jubilee.

He recalled the long-standing tradition whereby the Archbishop of Karachi would regularly pay visits to the friary, being present for its special ceremonies and celebrations among the friars.

“I wish this tradition to be continued,” Fr. Bagh said. “We need continued reciprocal support as we pray for the well-being of zealously continuing the mission of evangelization in the region.”

Following the Mass of thanksgiving, a dole of doves were released to extend a message of peace and harmony, and balloons were released as well, symbolizing the joy of the jubilee celebration.

Fr. Hussain recalled the friary’s history, noting that Bishop Hector Catry, O.F.M. Cap., traveled from his see of Lahore – more than 750 miles away – to bless the house, on March 31, 1940.

He added that the friary was blessed again by the presence of Bishop Catry’s successor, Archbishop Shaw.

The Observant Franciscans came to Karachi from the Netherlands in 1934, and opened their friary six years later.

Bishop Coutts recalled that “when the foundation stone of the friary was laid, Pakistan was not yet independent. The mission to Sindh (Karachi’s province) and Balochistan was run from Bombay. Karachi was not yet a diocese, and therefore the bishop came from Lahore to bless the Porziuncola friary.”

He described the friary as the “first theological institute in Pakistan,” adding that it has “contributed since the very beginning to the formation of the local clergy.”

Fr. Louis, O.F.M., who has been in religious life 65 years, recounted much of the friary’s history and encouraged his younger brothers to “continue ahead, with hope and determination.”

Asif Nazir, a local catechist and teacher, told CNA Aug. 18 that “the Franciscan missionaries have been a benchmark for their apostolic mission of love, service, peace, and interreligious dialogue with the diverse communities of Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s population is about 97 percent Muslim, with Hindus and Christians each constituting nearly two percent of the total population.

Joining the Porziuncola community in their jubilee celebration were the Franciscan Sisters of the Missionaries of Mary; the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King; the  Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus; the Missionaries of Charity; Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena; and the newly arrived Albertine Franciscans, who came to Karachi from Poland and who have been entrusted with the Baji Mariam mission in Malir, to the east of Karachi.

Karachi is also home to a friary of Capuchin Franciscans, which suffered a fire last month.

‘The Giver’ praised for themes on free will, sanctity of life

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2014 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The new dystopian movie “The Giver” has drawn praise for its deep thematic content on the value of human life, suffering, free will and the dangers of a world that distorts language to do evil.

“We all love to be comfortable,” actor Jeff Bridges, one of the movie’s leads, told EWTN’s The World Over host Raymond Arroyo in an interview broadcast Aug. 14. “The movie asks the questions: ‘What are you willing to pay for that comfort? What does that comfort cost?’”

Bridges told Arroyo that he was drawn to the work because of its themes. “It’s provocative,” he added.

“Hopefully it will have people asking these questions: What am I willing to do just to be comfortable? What is that costing me? Is there any value to the suffering that life has for all of us?”

Bridges plays the title character in “The Giver,” based on the 1993 young adult book by Lois Lowry. The movie, which co-stars Meryl Streep, depicts a futuristic society that seems ideal, but is colorless. The society purports to eliminate passions and suffering, as well as past memories, in the name of sameness and harmony.

Bridges’ character transmits the community’s suppressed memories of its past to Jonas, played by young actor Brenton Thwaites. Thwaites plays the solitary role of a “receiver” of memories who learns the concealed truths about the society he lives in.

Lowry told Arroyo her vision for the book “was to take a young person to perceive the hypocrisy in the world and to try to do something to change it, to forestall a hideous future, and then put myself in the mind of that young boy.”

Michael Flaherty, president of the Walden Media entertainment company and producer of “The Giver,” reflected on one line in the movie: “Have faith that is beyond seeing.”

Flaherty said faith is “central” and “absolutely everything” to Walden Media films like “The Giver,” “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

“Everything we do is children believing in something and adults telling them that they’re crazy,” Flaherty said of Walden Media’s movies.

In “The Giver,” he said, the main character realizes “the way the totalitarian regime kept control over people.”

The regime imposed control “because they didn’t want people to think that there was an authority that was higher than the government.” The regime wanted to prevent belief in “an actual creator outside of the government” who “had endowed these people with free will.”

Though the leaders in the world of “The Giver” claim to prevent murder, Flaherty explained, “they just call it by a different name.”

Flaherty said the movie’s themes resembled those of dystopian writers George Orwell and Adolus Huxley, who saw that language “is one of the greatest weapons in the totalitarian arsenal.”

The movie shows what happens when rulers “can pervert the language” and “call something entirely different than what it is”

For instance, the movie depicts people who are called “nurturers” but commit infanticide. “Language is so important. You can call them ‘nurturers’, but they are still killers,” Flaherty reflected.

Arroyo said the movie is “one of the films that strikes the heart and speaks to our time.”

“The questions it raises about free will and the preciousness of every human life regardless of what society says are worthy of consideration,” he said.

Iraqi bishop warns that West will suffer from Islamism

Erbil, Iraq, Aug 19, 2014 / 06:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul has warned that Christians around the world would face suffering from Islamists as his diocese has, and decisions that challenge the underpinnings of Western political ideas.

“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future,” Archbishop Emil Nona told Italian daily Corriere della Sera Aug. 9 from Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Archbishop Nona has been forced from his home by the Islamic State, a caliphate recently established in Iraq and Syria. He is among five bishops who have been forced from Mosul.

The Islamist group has persecuted all non-Sunni Muslims in the territory it holds – Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have all fled the area.

“I lost my diocese,” he said in the comments which were translated by Rorate Caeli. “The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.”

According to the United Nations, there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, as well as at least 10,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria as a result of the Islamic State.

Archbishop Nona appealed to western media to “try to understand us.”

“Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles.”

“You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values.”

“If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”

Pope Francis asks prayers for relatives killed in car accident

Vatican City, Aug 19, 2014 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has asked that the faithful join him in praying for the repose of the souls of three members of his family who have been killed in a car accident.

“The Pope was informed of the tragic accident in Argentina involving some of his family, and is profoundly saddened,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, Holy See press officer, said Aug. 19.

“He calls upon all who share in his grief to be united with him in prayer.”

Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, 38, was returning to Rosario from a weekend with his family in the mountains near Cordoba, in central Argentina.

Their Chevrolet Spin hit a truck carrying corn.

Emanuel is in the hospital of Villa Maria in critical condition. His wife Valeria Carmona, 39, died, along with their children, Jose, 2, and Antonio, 8 months.

The Pope’s nephew is the son of his late brother, Alberto.

New Ukrainian Orthodox head to face questions of independence

Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug 19, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The newly elected head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate must decide whether that Church can be independent from Russia, Ukraine’s eastern neighbor with which it is in conflict, analysts say.

On Aug. 13, Metropolitan Onufriy was elected Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, making him the primate of the UOC-MP, which is one of the three primary Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. He was enthroned at his Church’s Kyiv cathedral Aug. 17.

In addition to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate – which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church – there is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

“The greatest dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Moscow is ideological,” Anatoliy Babinskyj, an analyst of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine told CNA, adding that “98 percent of the literature which is sold in the churches of the UOC-MP are published in Russia with a clear idea of ‘the Russian world’.”

“Ukraine is not only a huge market for Russia  but also a field for ideological influence through books, websites, magazines, and priests who teach theological, cultural, and mental traditions in Russian.”

Ukraine has experienced significant unrest this year: its president was ousted in February and a new government appointed; in March, Crimea was annexed by Russia; and pro-Russian separatist rebels have taken control of eastern portions of Ukraine, around Donetsk and Luhansk, since April.

Fighting in the country continues: at least 2,119 have died in the violence since mid-April. More than 155,000 are internally displaced, and 188,000 have become refugees in Russia, according to the United Nations.

Against this backdrop, Metropolitan Onufriy’s election last week was due to his excellent reputation, experts say: he has not been involved in scandals in the past, and is known for his true prayer.

He was born in 1944 to a priest in western Ukraine. He became a monk in Russia in the 1970s, and was ordained a priest in 1972. He later returned to Ukraine, joining a monastery in his homeland. He was consecrated a bishop in 1990.

In 1988 Metropolitan Onufriy graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy, which belonged to one of the most conservative schools of theology in the Soviet Union; in contrast, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, studied at the liberal Leningrad Theological Academy.

“The Church has chosen prayer and ministry, and clever conservatism has never been harmful,” Fr. Gregory Kovalenko, spokesman for the UOC-MP, told CNA regarding Metropolitan Onufriy’s election.

While the metropolitan has 40 years experience as a monk, some experts are hesitant that this will help him be a good manager, a necessary talent for exercising control over his Church.

He had, in fact, been elected locum tenens for the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine – thus acting head of the UOC-MP – in February. He acted on behalf of Metropolitan Volodymyr, who was primate of that Church from 1992 until his July 5 death.

According to Fr. Kovalenko, Metropolitan Onufriy speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, and English.

“The bishops’ choice (of Onufriy) is very logical; we are not ready for radical steps today” the UOC-MP Metropolitan of Vyshneve and Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyy, Oleksandr Drabynko, told CNA.

Prior to the election, the electors gave the future primate three tasks: unification of Ukrainian society; gaining autocephaly for the Church, that it could be united with the UOC-KP; and union within the Church, which has been troubled by the recent unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Metropolitan Volodymyr had been able to balance the factions within the Church, according to Babinskyj.

“(While) staying a rather pro-Ukrainian leader, he didn’t prohibit pro-Russian priests from working,” he said. “And the situation in eastern Ukraine is, in a way, their fault. Even now, when there is war with Russia, the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate continue to agitate for ‘the Russian world’ in the churches of Luhansk and Donetsk.”

This spring, Fr. Vitaliy Eismonth, a priest of the UOC-MP, served a Divine Liturgy with the UOC-KP, for which he was removed from ministry for a month.

Following the election of Metropolitan Onufriy, he joined the Kyiv Patriarchate.

According to the Information Center of Razumkov, a Ukrainian analytics center, the number of believers adhering to the UOC-KP now exceeds the those with the UOC-MP, while in 2013 the Churches’ numbers were about the same.

This month the UOC-MP community in Soloniv, a village in western Ukraine’s Rivne province, joined the Kyiv Patriarchate when its priest refused to pray for the Ukrainian military serving in the country’s east; and the Kyiv Patriarchate recently announced that about 10 parishes have transferred to their jurisdiction this year from the UOC-MP.

Despite these moves, the UOC-MP does not see a danger in losing its faithful.

Metropolitan Drabynko said it is not a catastrophe, and that the situation is highly dependent on what region of Ukraine one is in.

Metropolitan Onufriy told journalists shortly after his election that “we remain, and have always been, open to dialogue among different branches of Orthodoxy. And we want to see union between us, but we have our principles – a canon of the Holy Orthodox Church and association can only be in accordance with these canons; no other argument can be sufficient. We will communicate with our Orthodox brothers.”

Patriarch Kirill affirmed the metropolitan’s election, and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, congratulated him, saying, “I am sure that you will do everything to establish and maintain peace, to strengthen the Orthodox unity, and to revive  spiritual and moral values,” according to RIA Novosti.

The Kyiv Post reported Aug. 14 that Patriarch Filaret, head of the Kyiv Patriarchate, reacted to the election his new counterpart won’t advocate for Ukrainian interests, and that he will discuss unification of the Churches “only with the patriotically-minded clergy” of the UOC-MP.

Metropolitan Onufriy was elected on the second round of voting, by 48 of the 74 bishops voting in the council. Fr. Kovalenko said the decisiveness of the vote shows that the new primate will be able to united the faithful of the UOC-MP.

“He is honored in the monasteries of our Church. People in different regions like him, and it will help him to stabilize the life of Church,” Fr. Kovalenko said.

Metropolitan Oleksandr said that “I don’t see any pro-Russian branches of bishops, (though) there are some who still think in Soviet and imperial stereotypes. But Russia is not the example for them, rather, union with the Russian Orthodox Church. They are afraid of anything new, and an unpredictable future. Unity with Moscow is what they see as a guarantee of canonicity and stability – that the path they stand on is the right one.”

The analysts who spoke to CNA, however, are hesitant whether or not Metropolitan Onufriy is the person who can maintain balance within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, noting the changes in Ukrainian society which the patriarchate has ignored.

“Before the future head of the Church was placed a goal: union with the Kyiv Patriarchate. But now there is the question, can Metropolitan Onufriy integrate the atmosphere of the UOC-MP? Even if there are some bishops and priests who do not agree with the policy of the authority, they will not make such  radical steps. But the UOC-MP cannot just get rid of a significant number of parishioners,” Babinskyj said.

Babinskyj also noted that “no official dialogue” has occurred between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – to which most Catholics in Ukraine belong. There been only “private conversations, and cooperation at various commissions,” he said.

While Metropolitan Onufriy has not made any statements about his attitude toward Ukrainian Greek Catholics, analysts expect he will maintain his conservative views.

“The school of theology to which Metropolitan Onufriy belongs holds that the UGCC is a Western project to capture Ukraine in a union. I think that such a statement can be expected very quickly,” Babinskyj added.

Metropolitan Oleksandr concluded that “the biggest impact on the future vector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the outlook of its bishops and priests will be had by the tears of the mothers who have lost their children, sacrificed to keep Ukraine integral.”

Thai families gather for fellowship, discussion of challenges

Chiang Mai, Thailand, Aug 19, 2014 / 02:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In preparation for the upcoming synod on the family, more than 50 Thai faithful came together last month for a weekend of community building and reflection on the Gospel.

The families gathered July 26-27 at the center of the Catechist Sisters of Mary the Immaculate Conception – also known as the Mae Pon Sisters – in Chiang Mai, a city in far northern Thailand.

The weekend, sponsored by the local chapter of the Focolare movement and by the Diocese of Chiang Mai, reflected on the complex issues and challenges facing families in the country.

“It was one big family,” Santa Agustilo and Darwin de Guzman, members of the Chiang Mai Focolare group, told CNA.

The event was meant to be an experience of living the Gospel and in the spirit of preparation for the synod on the family which will be held in Rome in October.

“Pope Francis has expressed his growing concern for the family,” Bishop Francis Xavier Vira Arpondratana of Chiang Mai told CNA Aug. 18.

“With Pope Francis’ call for the special synod on the family’ slated this October, looking into the empirical pastoral challenges facing families around the world, we would like to join in, sharing our humble contribution to this effort with the universal Church.”

The weekend featured the insights of  Khun Tavorn and Khun Varaphorn Wongvirathepphiban, who attended the recent Family Congress in Rome.

During the residential program the couples did exercises such as “how to wait, to listen, to forgive, to talk and share and to appreciate each other,” and were reminded of Pope Francis’ three phrases for couples: “thank you, I’m sorry, and may I?”

“The program was very dynamic,” Guzman said, “and rich in content, as it focused on the relationship between husband and wife; the differences between a man and a woman; raising children; and family difficulties, as well as delicate matters in conjugal relationships.”

Fr. Matthew Sasin of Chiang Mai said that “the importance of prayer and having Jesus at the center of family life was emphasized – that presence of Jesus in the midst, which guides and leads spouses on how to lead the family.”

Agustilo told CNA, “the couples went home, taking with them the conviction that it is neither the husband nor the wife who is greater in the family: rather it is God who is the greatest inside the home.”

More than 50 people participated in the event, ranging from an infant to grandparents, and including 11 married couples. As the Chiang Mai diocese is dominated by hill tribes, many of the participants were from diverse tribes in the area, as well as Filipino migrants.

Fr. Sasin said Mass for the participants, in his homily voicing psalms and prayers in various native languages for the participants from diverse backgrounds.

Families from such remote tribes as the Pgakenyaw, Akha and Kachin participated; each has its own language, customs, and traditions.

The two-day family experience witnessed evenings of inter-cultural recreation, where children and adults manifested their joy in singing and dancing, and consecrating each day with prayers of thanksgiving before the Blessed Sacrament.

The postulant students of Baan Marie Niramol displayed a medley of traditional Pgakenyaw dances integrating culture and faith.

“I have known the Focolare movement since I was young in the Mission Center … now I am married with two children, and coming here is like renewing my life,” a participant from Mae Suai told CNA.

“I have been so far away from God for some time now, and I want to go back to him … this is like a way of recharging my life,” she said.

Another participant from the Kachin tribe recalled, “I am very happy for this occasion of sharing with us about how to live family life,” adding, “I am not an educated person I am able to learn from your examples and from your life.”

“I have only my family, and I want to live better. It is a hard life with my wife and two daughters, but I will try to put into practice what I have learned here,” said the participant.

Another participant from the Akha tribe told CNA that “what I have always liked in the Focolare movement is the family atmosphere, where everybody is welcome: all the tribes can be together as a family without any discrimination.”

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI before trips, archbishop reveals

Vatican City, Aug 19, 2014 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Before any international trip Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI, a key Vatican archbishop revealed, noting the good relations between the two and how Pope Francis is carrying forward Benedict’s vision.
Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, who serves as prefect of the Pontifical Household, spoke in an all-out interview Aug. 15 with the Austrian Catholic press agency in “” while he was in the diocese in Freibourg.

There he led  Aug. 13 the pilgrimage to the shrine of Lautenbach, in the territory of Oberkirch, where Archbishop Gaenswein served as a parish priest shortly after his priestly ordination.
Asked about the “two Popes,” Archbishop Gaenswein underscored that “there is only one Pope,” and then stressed that he personally is acting as a “bridge” between Pope Francis and the former pontiff, given his double charge as prefect and personal secretary of Benedict XVI.
“I live with Benedict XVI, I regularly meet with him in the morning for meals and during the evenings… so I work as a bridge, when Pope Francis and Benedict XVI want exchange messages, give one a phone call to the other, or even want to meet.”

“Usually, Pope Francis pays a visit to Benedict XVI before every international trip,” and this has become a sort of habit like that of going to pray to the Basilica of Saint Mary the Major.
Archbishop Gaenswein rejected any comparison between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, since “the Pope is not the successor of his predecessor, but the successor of Peter,” and so the differences of personas is quite normal.
“Comparing Pius XII with his successor John XXIII is like comparing day and night. And also Paul VI and John Paul II are very different,” the prefect explained.
Archbishop Gaenswein also stressed that Pope Francis is following the line given by the speech Benedict XVI’s held in Freibourg Sep. 25, 2011.
In that speech, Benedict XVI addressed the Church’s tendency to “become self-satisfied, settle down in this world, becomes self sufficient and adapt herself to the standards of the world,” and underscored that “not infrequently, Church gives greater weight to organization and institutionalization than to her vocation to open towards God, her vocation to opening up to the world towards the other.”
These issues are recurrent themes of Pope Francis’ preaching, who had often spoke about them, also during his voyage to South Korea.
In his meeting with Korean Bishops Aug. 14, Pope Francis underscored that “a prophetic witness to the Gospel presents particular challenges to the Church in Korea,” since the prosperous, yet increasingly secularized and materialistic society may tempt pastoral ministers lifestyle and mentality guided more by worldly criteria of success, and indeed power, than by the criteria which Jesus sets out in the Gospel.”
Pope Francis inherited the search for a less worldly Church, and now this search is pervading the Curia reform.
Archbishop Gaenswein explained that “Curia is living reform the way it was expected, who knows the Curia also know that the Curia is better of its fame. Roman Curia is very ancient, there is no century during which its structure had not been modified, and this is partly because of internal suggestions and partly because of external suggestions.”

Church can learn social media tips from Jesus, archbishop says

Houston, Texas, Aug 18, 2014 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If Christianity could be contained in one tweet, it might read: God creates man, man sins against God, God sends his only Son into the world to bring man back to Him.

It’s a difficult task to fit the entire Gospel into 140 characters or less. But that doesn’t mean the Church shouldn’t try.

That was Archbishop Jose Gomez’s Aug. 16 message on media and the New Evangelization at the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) conference in Houston, Texas.

In fact, he said, the Church can learn from the brevity of some of Jesus’ teachings and the prayers of early Christians when creating social media content.  

“Jesus spoke in ‘brief’ but memorable forms,” the archbishop reflected, “think about his beatitudes, his parables, and his aphorisms. The Desert Fathers and early Christian monks used proverbs and short prayers drawn from the Psalms and the Scriptures.”

The concept of the Church employing the latest media to share the Gospel is not a new one, the Archbishop noted. Evangelization has always been about communication, and technology has always helped further that mission, beginning with the printing press and continuing with radio, T.V. and the internet.

For the 23rd World Communications Day in 1989, even before the internet was standard household technology, Pope St. John Paul II observed: “The question confronting the Church today in not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the gospel message.”

That question remains relevant as technology continues to change and advance.

“We are living in the first generation where the Internet, computers, mobile phones and social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a “given” part of ordinary daily reality,” Archbishop Gomez observed.

The way people think, express themselves, learn, and form relationships are all affected by this reality, he said, and the Church must respond, seeing the media as an opportunity rather than as a challenge to the Gospel.

The archbishop himself has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, with about 235,000 followers and 14,000 followers respectively.

“My goal is to make connections with my people, to build friendship and community, to address peoples’ spiritual needs, and to nourish their faith,” he said.

His own diocese of Los Angeles is employing a social media strategy with four goals: to provide news and information about the Church, to provide the Church’s interpretation of current events, to share Church doctrine, and to defend and explain the Church’s teachings.

The Church must also be savvy when it comes to the culture of the “digital realm”, he said, recognizing that social media often makes use of brief snippets that tend to appeal more to emotions and experiences rather than arguments and explanations.

“The Church holds the most extraordinary human-interest stories ever imagined – in the lives and adventures of our saints and mystics, in the stories of our missionaries and martyrs,” he said.

“What we need today is a new zeal and fresh imagination to bring out the riches from the vast treasury of our Catholic spiritualities.”

And despite the widespread secularization of today, social media reveals humanity’s need for connection and love, and ultimately their hunger for God.

“People are searching the social channels of the Internet for ‘answers’ and for spiritualities that will bring them holiness and wholeness and communion with God and other people,” he said, which is why social media must be “mission territory” for the Church.

However, all social media must be used as a means to an end – to help people encounter the living God, outside of the digital world.

“But we need to remember…that our Catholic faith is incarnational and sacramental,” he said. “There is nothing ‘virtual’ about the Christian religion. That means our message will always be in a kind of fundamental tension with the ‘virtual’ realities and ‘virtual’ communities of the digital continent.”

So regardless of what form of social media interaction the Church engages in,“it’s all about bringing people to Jesus.”

“(They must) experience of the reality of the living God who loves us, who forgives us, who cares for us like a Father. And this reality is only experienced fully in the Church and in the sacraments.”

CALL is a national organization dedicated to the growth and spiritual formation of the Latino leaders of this country in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith.

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