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Bishop Finn’s spokesman confirms Vatican visitation

Kansas City, Mo., Sep 30, 2014 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has confirmed that an archbishop has held a visitation on behalf of the Vatican and met with Bishop Robert Finn, but cannot talk about the reasons for the…

Bishops find hope for religious dialogue at Palestinian university

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2014 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reflecting on their recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, U.S. bishops have cited relationships there between Christian and Muslim students as a sign of hope for peace in the region.

A delegation of 18 bishops from the U.S. made the pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel Sept. 11-18.

“What was really positive about this was the tremendous work being done there by Catholic Relief Services and by the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and a lot of these Catholic organizations that … doing really good work,” Bishop Richard Higgins, an auxiliary of the military archdiocese who was among the pilgrims, told CNA.

“The other really positive thing, that I think the bishops would agree on, was the experience of Bethlehem University … that university has over 3,000 students, and over 70 percent of them are Muslims. The rest of them are Christians of different denominations.”

“Having young people of that age being educated together and living basically together spiritually where there are particular cultures day by day, that is a very positive force as far as I am concerned … I believe the resolution down the road will be between educated people who have lived alongside each other for years and understand both cultures and respect each other.”

The entire group of bishops said they were “encouraged by Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution that is building bridges between Christians and Muslims as they study together to create the future of Palestine.”

During their trip, the bishops said Mass at pilgrimage sites and with Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal and with Palestinian communities. The bishops also met and prayed with Jews and Muslims, as well as Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant Christians.

“Motivated by the love of Christ and deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians, we went to pray for peace, and to work for a two-state solution and an open and shared Jerusalem,” the bishops said in a communique following their return.

They described Jerusalem, Israel’s border wall, and the situation of Christians Palestinians all as signs of contradiction in the region.

The border wall, they said, is for Israelis “a sign of security; for Palestinians, a sign of occupation and exclusion. The contrast between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is also a sign of contradiction. In crossing the border one moves from freedom and prosperity to the intimidation of military checkpoints, humiliation, and deeper poverty.”

The bishops lamented that “the route of the barrier wall, the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, especially now in the Bethlehem area and the Cremisan Valley, and any expansion of settlements threaten to undermine the two-state solution.”

In addition, they noted with alarm the rate of emigration of Christian Palestinians.

“The unresolved conflict and occupation undermine human dignity and the ability of Christians to raise their families,” the bishops wrote. “Israeli policies in East Jerusalem prohibit Christians who marry someone from outside the City to remain there with their spouse, and security policies restrict movement and confiscate lands, undermining the ability of many Christian families to survive economically. The harsh realities of occupation force them to leave. Muslims also suffer similarly, but have fewer opportunities to emigrate.”

Bishop Higgins commented that “it’s probably not news to you that the number of Christians in the Holy Land is diminishing and will continue to diminish. Especially if they’re Palestinian Christians,” citing “the restrictions placed upon them.”

“Their attitude is that there’s not much of a future for you in the Holy Land if you are a Palestinian Christian. So they … emigrate as soon as they can.”

The leader of the pilgrimage, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, shared that sentiment in an interview with Wyatt Goolsby of EWTN News Nightly.

“One of the great disappointments that we came upon was the realization that I think about 10 or 15 years ago, 12.5 percent of the population was Christian. Today, only 1.5 percent,” he said.

“So the Christians are really being squeezed, and we have to advocate for them also among both the Muslim and Jewish sisters and brothers because it is the Holy Land, which we consider to be so sacred and special.”

Bishop Pates emphasized that hope is possible because of prayer.

“The power of prayer is truly something that we have confidence in.”

Arizona town urged to stop discriminating against houses of worship

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 28, 2014 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Local government restrictions in Gilbert, Arizona are threatening the protection of religious speech by limiting signs promoting houses of worship while allowing political, ideological, and nonc…

At UN, cardinal condemns terrorism’s use of religion

New York City, N.Y., Sep 26, 2014 / 02:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Terrorism represents a “fundamental threat to our common humanity” and people of faith must condemn religion-based terrorism, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State…

‘Peace is possible,’ say US bishops returning from Palestine, Israel

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Stressing the importance of prayer, a delegation of U.S. bishops returning from a peace-focused pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel said peace in the region is possible “because God is our…

Renovation plans for Orange’s Christ Cathedral aim to uplift

Orange, Calif., Sep 24, 2014 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Orange announced Wednesday the new design plans for Christ Cathedral, saying they are intended to transform the former Crystal Cathedral into a space that is “liturgically and intrinsically Catholic.”

“Through this innovative design process an insightful plan has emerged that will establish Christ Cathedral as a place for involvement in the sacraments, a place to hear the Word of God proclaimed and a place for personal prayer and devotion,” Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange said Sept. 24. “It will be a holy place, where God dwells among us.”

The Diocese of Orange purchased the Crystal Cathedral in February of 2012 from the Protestant community which founded it. The building and its campus was sold after the community filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment. T

he church’s longtime minister, Robert Schuller, had approved the original designs for the church building and gave it the name Crystal Cathedral in the late 1970s.

The building is 120 feet tall, 141 feet long and 207 feet wide, covering an area of 78,397 square feet. It is made entirely of glass and steel. The cathedral will have a seating capacity of over 2,000.

The new design aims to support the centrality of the Eucharist, to provide a “solemn and prayerful experience,” and to meet the needs of a 10,000-member parish, the diocese said in a statement.

The altar’s central placement was designed taking into account Catholic liturgy, the massive space, and the presence of the Hazel Wright Organ, the fourth largest church organ in the world. The altar’s design is part of an “antiphonal” layout, with the altar placed at the building’s center.

One altar design photo shows a large crucifix suspended from the ceiling above the altar.

Monsignor Christopher Smith, Christ Cathedral’s rector, noted the ancient Christian image of the “porta coeli,” Latin for the “gateway to heaven.”

“A cathedral, such as the Christ Cathedral when completed, lifts the mind, heart and soul of believers – and perhaps even others – to the love of God and the hope that God has promised,” he said.

He said the design plan aims to build “a deeper unity of purpose and mission among Catholics within our local Church” in addition to “a renewed commitment to permeating the world with the love of Christ.”

The first phase of the project will concern the cathedral itself, its courtyard, and a reflection garden that will house the campus’ existing statuary and the bronze replicas of the 1,800 “Walk of Faith” stones currently on the campus.

The project’s second phase includes the expansion of the cathedral’s lower level, the expansion of the cathedral’s cemetery, and the redesign of the rest of the campus grounds.

The first phase is being undertaken with $29 million from the $100 million capital campaign. More funding is being raised to complete the project.

The structure’s façade of more than 10,000 panes of mirrored glass posed challenges involving heat transfer, excess light, and acoustics. In response, the design team has designed “petals” to cover each piece of glass. The petals will open to control light and heat transfer as well as acoustics.

Bishop Vann thanked the diocese architectural and renovations committee and the architectural firms that worked on the plans. He said the design plan respects Schuller’s “faithful witness and architectural legacy” while creating “a contemplative and prayerful space that embodies the solemnity and reverence of the Catholic tradition.”

The diocese retained the architectural firm Johnson Fain to focus on the cathedral itself, while Rios Clementi Hale Studios was retained to focus on the cathedral’s 34-acre surrounding campus, which will be used as a center for evangelization, arts and culture, interreligious dialogue and outreach to the poor.

When it was announced one year ago that Johnson Fain had been selected to renovate the cathedral, Scott Johnson, the firm’s design partner, explained to CNA that his strategy would be “essentially to conserve and restore the exterior” of the cathedral and that “the new architecture will really be in the refashioning of the operational aspects and the interior elements of the shell.”

The cathedral will reopen after renovations and a formal dedication scheduled for 2017.

The Middle East: A deficiency of love, says Lebanese speaker

Boulder, Colo., Sep 23, 2014 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Beneath the complex and violent situation in the Middle East lies a deficiency of love, said Lebanese-born Christian André Houssney at a recent talk in Boulder, Colo.

“This is a …

Catholic CrossFit gym lifts Colo. priests

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic CrossFit gym in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, is bringing a whole new meaning to redemptive suffering.

Oversized white boards typical to CrossFit gyms hang on the walls of Divine Mercy Fitness. Not so typical to CrossFit gyms are the prayer intentions scrawled across the board alongside the description of the day’s workout.

“You can offer up your suffering during the workout for souls,” explained member Father Brian Larkin.

In addition to its prayer intentions board, other indicators of the gym’s Catholic roots include scripture verses along the walls and icons. An image of Divine Mercy serves as a backdrop to exercise equipment. Priests work out alongside laity, and members start each workout with a prayer.

Monsignor Tom Fryar, a member at the gym, described the atmosphere at Divine Mercy Fitness as spiritual and uplifting.

“It’s a supporting setting for people to come together and know they’re doing something good; not only for themselves, but beyond,” he said.

Divine Mercy Fitness started in 2008 in the house garage of owner Steve Smith. The current location opened in 2009 in an industrial section of southeast Denver. Besides daily classes, Divine Mercy Fitness offers Olympic lifting training, neuromuscular therapy and a “Women on Weights” program tailored for women battling osteoporosis.

Though the gym is open and available for all people, Smith told CNA he has a special outreach to priests and seminarians.

“They do so much work on spiritual formation and education; and a lot of times they don’t have the emphasis on their physical bodies,” Smith said. “We all know it’s soul, body and mind; and when you leave one out, the others suffer.”

“And so my goal is simply to have a place that is safe, in terms of dress, and is just appropriate for priests to be exposed to – versus (other gyms) where you have a whole bunch of inappropriate things going on.”

Fr. Larkin has been a member at Divine Mercy Fitness since day one, when he was still a seminarian. He told CNA he is grateful to have access to a gym that gives him a good workout without compromising his faith.

“As a Christian, it can be hard to go to the gym sometimes; especially as a priest,” he explained. “It’s almost like Divine Mercy is redeeming the workout culture.”

“I love to work out, I think it’s really important and I think it makes you happier and healthier. (But) some of the fitness culture – in fact, almost all of it in our country – is broken. It’s characterized by vanity and by lust, quite frankly. There can also be a pride that comes with physical fitness.”

Smith’s personal goal is to help 100 priests and seminarians get physically fit. So far, he’s had more than a dozen.

“The hard part is taking the time to do it,” he said. “We try to convince the priests who have a hard time to really come in.”

Another typical barrier to fitness, and CrossFit in particular, is cost. Membership at Divine Mercy Fitness has an initial fee of $250 for those who are new to the CrossFit movement. After that, membership costs $125 each month for access to the gym three times a week.

But, for priests and seminarians, membership is free. Smith pays out of his own pocket.

“There’s no way I could do it without Steve being so generous toward priests and seminarians,” Fr. Larkin said. “That wasn’t something we approached him about. It was his initiative and he’s being doing it since…they were still running the gym out of their garage.”

“I think the Church is healthier when its priests are healthier, so it’s a great service that Steve and his family are giving to priests.”

Msgr. Fryar said he can see the difference in his ministry since he started working out regularly at Divine Mercy Fitness several years ago.

“I’ve certainly got more energy to carry out my full days,” he explained. “Quite often, I start the day around 5 and hopefully get in bed by 11. Every bit of energy you can have, it all helps.”

Fr. Larkin echoed Msgr. Fryar’s comments.

“Working out helps me to be joyful in being a priest,” he said. “It helps me be the man I’m supposed to be to serve my parish.”

Smith is looking for donors to assist in covering membership costs of the priests and seminarians who walk through the doors of Divine Mercy Fitness. Those who are interested can find more information at

San Diego bishop remembered for Christian example in life, death

San Diego, Calif., Sep 18, 2014 / 06:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- San Diego’s late Bishop Cirilo Flores was “a man of the Beatitudes” with a deep affection for the people of his diocese, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said at the bishop’s Sept. 17 funeral Mass.

“We thank God today for the life of our brother and friend, Bishop Cirilo. What a beautiful example he was for all of us,” Archbishop Gomez said in his homily at Saint Therese of Carmel Church in San Diego.

“He showed us how to be a priest, how to be a bishop — and how to be a Christian,” the archbishop continued. “He tried to live with humility, simplicity and purity of heart. He tried to be a merciful man with a heart for the poor and vulnerable.”

Bishop Flores died Sept. 6 at the age of 66 at San Diego’s Nazareth House, a senior care facility. He had suffered a stroke in April and was still recovering from its effects. The diocese announced in August that he had also begun treatment for prostate cancer.

More than 1,000 people attended the bishop’s funeral Mass, including about 400 priests and 50 bishops.

Archbishop Gomez told the congregation that Bishop Flores helped teach Christians “the newness of life” even in his suffering and death.

“I think he was surprised by his illness but he took it well. His first trial came when he had the stroke during Holy Week and then, just recently when he learned that he had cancer,” the archbishop said.

“He was at peace when he learned that the cancer was terminal and could not be treated. He put himself in the hands of God,” he continued. “What a beautiful way to live and to die!”

Archbishop Gomez voiced sadness at the bishop’s death.

“We are going to miss him a lot. His smile, his peaceful way,” the archbishop said. “But we are happy for him, too. Because he has reached his goal! The goal that we are all striving for. The goal of Heaven, eternal life.”

“He wanted Jesus Christ to always be present to his people. So he went out to be with you, as often as he could.”

Bishop Flores was born in 1948 in Corona, Calif., 22 miles northeast of Orange, the child of Cirilo and Armida Flores. He has three brothers and two sisters, all of whom live in California.

He studied law at Stanford University and practiced law in Riverside and Los Angeles counties prior to entering St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in 1986.

Bishop Flores was ordained a priest of the Orange diocese in 1991, at the age of 43. He served in several parishes of the diocese. He was then consecrated as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 2009.

In 2012, Bishop Flores was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, becoming its head in September 2013 upon the retirement of Bishop Robert Brom.

Archbishop Gomez said that Bishop Flores’ last weeks “taught me to want to center my life more on loving God and loving others.”

He encouraged the congregation to focus on “bringing the joy of Jesus to others” and “getting to heaven and helping people to be with God – now and forever.”

“We entrust Bishop Cirilo to the welcoming arms of our Blessed Mother Mary. And we ask her to pray for all of us, that we might have the grace to follow his example and to always walk in the newness of life!” Archbishop Gomez said.

Bishops praise agreement on low-income child care bill

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2014 / 02:41 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference has praised federal lawmakers for reaching an agreement to reauthorize legislation that funds child care and job training for low-income families.

“Child care …

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