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Cuban Church to focus on evangelization in new pastoral plan

Havana, Cuba, Sep 16, 2014 / 03:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in Cuba recently unveiled its pastoral plan for 2014-2020, which will encourage the faithful to engage in evangelization and respond to the call of Pope Francis.
Entitled “On the Road to Emmaus,” the plan offers a three-part reflection on the social and political reality and on the Church in the country.

The first part invites the faithful “to look beyond sociological aspects and at the life of our society and of our Church, in order to discover in both realities the calls God is making today to our work of evangelization in Cuba.”
In the second part, the Gospel passage about the disciples on the road to Emmaus is highlighted as a source of inspiration and orientation in putting the pastoral plan into practice.
The third part lays out four priorities of the bishops’ pastoral plan, and concludes, “We proclaim our faith that the ‘conversion to Jesus Christ is our hope’.”
In drafting their pastoral plan, the bishops said they were guided by the conclusions of the Fifth General Meeting of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, the message of Benedict XVI in his visit to Cuba, the document “Hope Does Not Disappoint” by the Cuban bishops, and the words and gestures of Pope Francis.
“We exhort every Christian to be converted to Jesus Christ and to proclaim the joy of his Gospel, so that the transforming testimony of the love and hope of our communities and families will reach all the men and women of our country,” the bishops said.

Deluge of criticism after abortion funding revealed in health care law

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2014 / 02:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life groups have responded forcefully to a new report finding that despite promises from President Barack Obama, more than 1,000 health care plans under the Affordable Care Act cover aborti…

God’s path is closeness and compassion, Pope preaches

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2014 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday focused on the importance of giving hope to the world by imitating Jesus Christ’s closeness to God’s people.

“When God visits his people he restores ho…

First parish dedicated to John Paul II in Chinese-speaking world

Kaohsiung. Taiwan, Sep 16, 2014 / 09:49 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Kaohsiung in Taiwan has become the first in the Chinese-speaking world to have a parish dedicated to St. John Paul II, where a first-class relic of the Polish saint’s blood is kept…

Meeting of Families document offers global perspective

Rome, Italy, Sep 16, 2014 / 04:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The preparatory catechesis document for the 2015 World Meeting of Families is a “wonderful” work that addresses Catholic family issues from a global context, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said.

“It covers all the basic issues – the problems as well as the joys of family life – and situates it in the context of the culture of the world, not just the United States because it’s a world meeting of families,” Archbishop Chaput told CNA in Rome Sept. 15.

The recently published catechesis, titled “Love is Our Mission – the Family Fully Alive,” explains Catholic belief on human purpose, marriage and the family. It will be published in six languages.

The archbishop said he thinks the document is “a wonderful piece of work.”

“I actually enjoy reading it. Even though I read it from start to finish, I read it over and over again because I think it’s very, very good.”

The catechesis is intended to help preparations for the eighth World Meeting of Families, which will take place Sept. 22-27, 2015 in Philadelphia. Established by St. John Paul II in 1994 to help strengthen family bonds worldwide, the event is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants from around the world.

The catechesis focuses on 10 themes, the World Meeting of Families website says. It teaches that human beings are “created for joy” and have a “mission of love” to receive God’s love and share it with others. It discusses the meaning of human sexuality, the sacramental nature of Christian marriage, and marital love as an image of Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to the Church.

The document also discusses the role of children in marriage and the different ways marriage, the priesthood, vowed religious life and the celibate lay vocation can be spiritually fruitful.

Other topics discussed include temptations and other challenges to family life, including poverty, affluence, pornography, contraception, and intellectual mistakes that harm family life. The catechesis notes the “painful situations” facing many people, as well as the impact that divorce or same-sex attraction can have on the life of the family.

“Christian families and networks of families should be sources of mercy, safety, friendship and support for those struggling with these issues,” the World Meeting of Families’ website said.

Archbishop Chaput could not yet definitively confirm whether Pope Francis will attend the Philadelphia gathering next year.

“We hope so. I’ve talked to him about it several times and in every situation he’s indicated a hope to come,” the archbishop said.

“There’s no official announcement yet – we expect that to come several months out before the event. But we’re working hard and we’re expecting him to come and we’re making all the preparations necessary for that.”

When the world’s bishops gather next month for their Synod on the Family, Archbishop Chaput suggested that they use “Love is Our Mission – the Family Fully Alive” as preparation for discussion.

The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family will meet in Rome Oct. 5-19 to explore the global pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization.

Archbishop Chaput said the synod is “very important” not only for the Catholic Church, but also for the world.

“Everything comes to us from the family. Every bit of our lives – from our genes, to our ability to deal with problems, how to cooperate with others in society.”

“So I’m praying along with everyone else that it be a wonderful experience for everyone and that the Holy Spirit is able to change the world through the work of the synod.”

Archbishop Chaput declined to make predictions about the synod.

“I can’t predict what’s going to happen any more than anyone else can but the Church is always the Church, always guided by the Holy Spirit, always protected from error and moved towards creativity by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “So, I have great confidence that whatever happens there will be under the guidance of God and we can have confidence in the future.”

Death toll rises in Central African violence

Bangui, Central African Republic, Sep 16, 2014 / 02:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands more people have died in ongoing violence in the Central African Republic since December, and many more of the dead may never be counted, new estimates suggest.


Leeds’ new bishop: ‘I have longed and longed to be with you’

Leeds, England, Sep 16, 2014 / 12:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Msgr. Marcus Stock, who was appointed Monday as Bishop of Leeds, England, has said in a message to his new flock that his motto as a bishop will be taken from Christ’s words at the Last Supper, “I have longed and longed to be with you.”

“When I was informed of my appointment, I was given a list of tasks that require fairly quick decisions from me. Among these, was the need to choose a motto for my life as a bishop. However, I needed no time to ponder on this,” Msgr. Stock said Sept. 15.

“Many years ago in Rome, on the day of my ordination as a deacon, and just before I made my solemn ordination promises, the late Cardinal Basil Hume said to me, ‘Let the words of Our Lord ring in your ears, “I have longed and longed to be with you.” Carry these words not only throughout your diaconate but into your priesthood; then, you will discover that peace, that joy, in the service of the servants of the Lord.’”

“Since then, those words have been imprinted deep upon my heart. Desiderio desideravi … Cardinal Hume had used those words to express the great desire and intimacy with which Our Lord wishes to share His divine life and love with each one of us.”

Msgr. Stock continued, saying, “if in faith we accept that life and love, we have no need to be afraid, we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. It is that message which I have tried to make central to my ministry as a priest and which I hope and pray will continue to be at the centre of my new ministry as a bishop. So, Desiderio desideravi will be my motto.”

Msgr. Stock was born in 1961 in London. He studied theology at Oxford, and dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

In 1988 he was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Since 2009 he has been secretary general of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference and director of Heythrop College’s theology department. Previously, he had served as a parish priest and as the archdiocesan director of Catholic schools; he was named a monsignor in 2011.

He began his statement noting his gratitude for the trust placed in him by the Holy Father.

“I am only too conscious of my weaknesses and sinfulness. It is therefore with humility and the desire to obey the call to serve, in whatever way the Church asks of me, that I have accepted this appointment. Before all else therefore, I ask for your prayers for me.”

Msgr. Stock added to his new flock that “throughout my ministry as a priest, I have been sustained in grace by the prayers of the parishioners and religious that I have been privileged to serve and by the prayers of my brother clergy … this is the first thing for which I hope; to be assured of your prayers. And from now on, I assure you, for my part you will be in the first thoughts of my prayers each day.”

He also expressed his gratitude to the former Bishops of Leeds, and to Msgr. John Wilson, who was administrator of the diocese during its vacancy. “I know that I will need to listen carefully to their wise counsel and advice both before and after my ordination as bishop,” Msgr. Stock said.

“The third thing for which I hope is for your patience and support. I am sure that my name will be quite unknown to the vast majority of the clergy, religious and lay people of the diocese. Consequently, I hope that you will be patient with me as I get to know the clergy, religious, parishes, schools and the whole area of the Diocese of Leeds. I pray too, that you will support me not only by your prayers but also by your collaboration in the important work of evangelisation … and, in making known to all those people who touch our lives, the infinite mercy of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham commented  that Msgr. Stock’s appointment “will be a wonderful blessing to the Diocese of Leeds and to the Church in England and Wales and I am grateful that Msgr. Marcus takes with him his experience as a priest of our own archdiocese for twenty-six years.”

The date of Msgr. Stock’s episcopal consecration has yet to be announced.

The Diocese of Leeds serves nearly 158,000 Catholics, who are some eight percent of the local population. As bishop, Msgr. Stock will be assisted by 182 priests, 24 deacons, and 149 religious.

The diocese had been vacant since June 2012, when Bishop Arthur Roche was transferred to Rome as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Thousands attend annual healing service in Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sep 15, 2014 / 08:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The annual “Day for the Sick” held by the Archdiocese of Colombo recently drew more than 5,000 Sri Lankan faithful to the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka for a service led the Cardinal Ranjith.

The spiritual, inner healing service and blessing of the sick is a renewal of faith held in Ragama, a suburb of Colombo, and has been observed annually for 67 years.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo led the Aug. 31 service, accompanied by two of his auxiliary bishops, Emmanuel Fernando and Maxwell Silva, and hundreds of priests and religious.

“There is no point in pleading to God if we are leading a life of duplicity,” Cardinal Ranjith advised those attending the healing service during his homily.

He told the faithful that merely listening to homilies is useless without practicing their advice and living it out in a transformation of their lives, urging the people to “turn away from wicked and sinful ways.”

Mindful of the challenges facing his people in the wake of tsunamis and an ethnically divisive civil war which ended only five years ago, Cardinal Ranjith stressed that “before anything else, we need to heal the wounds that afflict this land of ours, which is no longer a healthy nation.”

“The hearts of our people are wounded and plagued with various forms of diseases, where even race and religion do not spare demeaning the dignity of a person,” he lamented.

“The tendency we have today is to rise above others in any way possible, using any means, even to the extent of putting down the other … so these wounds in our people only grow deeper and deeper and fester, and thus people become more and more discouraged.”

In a pastoral letter last year, the Sri Lankan bishops urged reconciliation and nation building, urging the people to “learn to settle issues among ourselves through dialogue and in a spirit of magnanimity,” rather than inviting foreign organizations to become involved.

The country is under pressure from international agencies to probe alleged atrocities and human rights violations during the civil war between Sinhala nationalists and Tamil separatists which claimed at least 60,000 lives.

The Church has been instrumental in carrying its mission of evangelization through its social teaching and interreligious dialogue, and has untiringly engaged in helping post-war reconciliation and nation building.

The Colombo archdiocese’s prayer day for the sick began in 1947, when Archbishop Jean-Marie Masson, O.M.I., had a vision of such a prayer service for those with pain and suffering, to give them spiritual solace and draw them close to God.

In the years since, the service has drawn thousands who come in sickness and grief to petition, also for their loved ones, to receive graces and miracles of healing.

The basilica at which it is held hold a special significance for Sri Lankans, having been constructed in thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin Mary for having protected the island during World War II.

In May, 1940, Archbishop Masson had prayed that if the nation was spared the ravages of the war, he would build a basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Lanka.

The British navy operated out of bases in Sri Lanka, but the island was itself spared any violence during the war.

In 1947, Pius XII granted Archbishop Masson permission to build the basilica, and when the archbishop died later that year, the work was carried out by his successor, Cardinal Thomas Cooray.

The Archdiocese of Colombo is currently in the midst of its Year of Mary, which will conclude in November, and is preparing for the Jan. 13-15 visit of Pope Francis, during which he is expected to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka.

Catholic League withdraws from St. Patrick’s Day Parade

New York City, N.Y., Sep 15, 2014 / 05:39 pm (CNA).- Controversy over the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade continues as the Catholic League has withdrawn its delegation, charging that parade organizers have not fulfilled a promise to include a pro-life Catholic group.

“The decision is disappointing. The Catholic League will always be welcome in the parade,” said parade spokesman William O’Reilly to CNA Sept. 12.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, on Sept. 11 said parade organizers had consulted him about plans to include an LGBT advocacy group under its own banner in the 2015 parade. At the time, he had said he could only support the decision “if there were a formal revision in the parade’s rules governing marching units.”

“To be specific, I asked them to pledge that a pro-life Catholic group would also be permitted. I was told that a formal change in the rules had been approved and that a pro-life group would march.

“Now I am being told that the list of marching units is set and that no pro-life group will march in next year’s parade. Accordingly, I have decided to withdraw our participation.”

The Catholic League’s small delegation has marched in the parade for 20 years.

The parade has had a long-standing policy that banned most forms of political signs and advocacy, which had resulted in targeting by LGBT activists and their allies in politics, media and business who demanded the traditionally Catholic parade include LGBT advocacy groups.

Supporters of the previous policy included past New York archbishop Cardinal John O’Connor, who died in 2000. The parade committee previously defended the parade against lawsuits aimed to force it to approve LGBT groups’ applications.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade website said that in the early 1990s the parade was “attacked for its traditional values” but noted that organizers’ rights were “upheld all the way to the Supreme Court.”

The parade committee on Sept. 3 announced that the LGBT group Out@NBCUniversal, an employee resource, recruitment and affinity volunteer group for LGBT people and their supporters within the media corporation NBCUniversal, would march in the parade.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will be grand marshal of the 2015 parade. On Sept. 3 the cardinal voiced his “confidence and support” for the parade committee. He said that he and his predecessors have “always left decisions on who would march to the organizers of the individual parades.”

Donohue voiced his own support for Cardinal Dolan, saying his criticism was intended for the parade committee.

“They not only told me one thing, and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics,” Donohue said Sept. 11. “This is as stunning as it is indefensible.”

O’Reilly said that space in 2015 parade is now “full” and any new applications will be for the 2016 parade.

On the question of a pro-life group marching, O’Reilly said an application was “unfortunately” never filed for 2015.

“One still hasn’t been. But an application to march in the 2016 parade is certainly welcome,” he said.

Donohue said that there was no reason for a pro-life group to apply “given the reality that there was no public announcement of a rule change.”

“So what about the NBC gay group? How did they know there was a rule change when no other group did?” Donohue asked.

The Catholic League head has previously raised concerns that despite his conversations with parade committee leaders about including a pro-life group, this change was not announced on Sept. 3, but the inclusion of the LGBT advocacy group was.

O’Reilly told CNA he had been unaware of the conversation about including a pro-life group before the Sept. 3 announcement.

“The fault is mine. I was unaware of that conversation at the time of the announcement,” he said. “I apologize if that caused confusion.”

O’Reilly has rejected claims that the parade committee changed its policy due to outside pressure.

Donohue, the Irish Central news website and the New York Times have all reported that NBC had threatened to end its broadcasts of the parade because of the previous policy. Some sponsors, like brewers Guinness and Heineken, have pulled their sponsorship in previous years. The Irish Central reports that the Irish government had also been pressuring the parade committee.

The well-known parade dates back to 1762. The parade’s website says it is the oldest and largest parade in the world, with participants ranging in number from 150,000 to 250,000. The Archbishop of New York traditionally reviews the parade from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Archdiocese of New York did not respond to a request for comment.

Cardinal Dolan said Sept. 3 that he looked forward to celebrating Mass in honor of St. Patrick.

He said he prayed “that the parade would continue to be a source of unity for all of us.”

No scandal here: How the 20 couples married by Pope Francis were legit

Vatican City, Sep 15, 2014 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ witnessing of marriages between Catholics who cohabited or who have had annulments is not a change, but is part of the Church’s effort to bring people to Jesus Christ, said two experts on Christian marriage.

“I think there is a perception out there, especially in some media circles, that Pope Francis is trying to undermine what the Church has taught and what the Church has practiced,” Catholic University of America moral theology professor John Grabowski told CNA Sept. 15.

“I see absolutely no evidence of that. When he’s pressed on issues concerning the Church’s teaching on marriage, on sexuality, he is very firm, saying he is ‘a son of the Church’,” Grabowski continued. “What he wants to do is simply put the Church’s focus on mercy, on an encounter with Christ as the heart of its life.”

On Sept. 14, Pope Francis celebrated the marriages of 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome. In his homily, he told them that Jesus Christ “will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.”

Some media reports have focused on whether some of the couples had annulments or had lived together before marrying. Time magazine claimed that the marriages “hint at coming changes” on divorce and remarriage. The New York Times claimed that the weddings mean that Pope Francis “looks past tradition.”

However, Grabowski said he saw no concrete evidence that the Pope is “instituting any kind of sweeping changes.”

In fact, the Pope’s actions in marrying cohabiting couples reflect common Catholic practice.

“It’s not just Pope Francis, it’s the whole Church who wants to encourage people who are living in a way that contradicts their baptismal dignity to stop living that way,” the professor said.

Catholic teaching holds that cohabitation is “objectively, morally wrong” and on a practical level undermines the prospects of success for marriage. Studies indicate that couples who cohabit before marriage show more propensity to divorce than couples who do not.

Grabowski noted the U.S. bishops’ 1999 document on marriage preparation and cohabiting couples.

That document noted the destructive impact of cohabitation and the steps couples can take to change their situation before marriage. These steps included ceasing a sexual relationship until the wedding and going to confession “to try to begin their marriage on a new footing so that this harmful practice doesn’t end up undermining their chance at a happy, successful marriage,” Prof. Grabowski said.

Msgr. Joaquín Llobell, author of the book “Marriage Procedures in the Church,” stressed that marriage and the family “are the first means of God to make us happy here on Earth and to take us to Heaven.”

He explained that the Catholic faith sees a distinction between a divorce and a recognition of an invalid marriage, commonly known as an annulment.

Civil divorce “breaks a valid marriage.” By contrast, to annul a marriage doesn’t “break that which existed.” Rather, it is a declaration from the Church that a marriage “was never valid” to begin with.

A man with a previously annulled marriage “will be getting married for the first time” because that previous union was not valid due to a defect in him or in the woman with whom he attempted to enter a martial union. These defects can include matters of intention, like the rejection of having children as a purpose of marriage, or conditions such as mental illness that prevent a true marriage from being joined.

Msgr. Llobell is a canon law professor who has taught at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and has served on the tribunal for the Apostolic Signatura.

“What Pope Francis has said most often since becoming Pope is that God is merciful, that we humans exist because God has created us as a manifestation of God’s mercy. Therefore the Church, which is the instrument that God gives us to save us, cannot not be merciful. It is always profoundly merciful,” the monsignor told CNA ahead of the Sunday weddings.

He said the Church is also merciful in cases of alleged marriage nullity, though these cases are “complicated.”

If the Church thinks a marriage is valid, it “cannot but say the truth to its child: ‘Your marriage isn’t invalid and therefore you can’t get married a second time’.”

“And that is said with love, explaining why, and with a mercy that is compatible with the truth.”

The marriage of cohabiting couples should also not be misinterpreted, Grabowski advised.

He said that a Church marriage for a cohabiting couple is “not a validation of cohabitation” but “a removal of cohabitation.”

“It’s enabling them to move out of a state that objectively contradicts their Christian profession and their Christian baptism,” he said.

The professor noted that canon law “speaks of the freedom of the baptized to marry” and that the Church and its ministers cannot “put any obstacles in the face of that.” He said individual priests who have barred cohabiting couples from marrying in their parish have been corrected by their bishops.

This does not mean that Catholics want to encourage couples to cohabit, he explained.

“We don’t want to impinge or impede the freedom of the baptized to marry and to move out of what is an objective state of sin,” he added.


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