Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

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.”
 

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.”
 

How Catholics in Scotland are reforming marriage prep

Edinburgh, Scotland, Oct 23, 2014 / 02:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new marriage preparation program in the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh aims to help engaged Catholics on their path to marriage by rediscovering beauty, value of the sacrament…

Formation for marriage can’t end at the wedding, Catholic couple says

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church continues to reflect on the pastoral needs of the family following the recent Synod of Bishops, there has emerged the need for marriage formation lasting well beyond the day a husband and wife take their vows.

Marriage preparation was one of many topics on the agenda for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded Oct. 19, with the synod fathers acknowledging the importance of improving marriage formation.

“There is a real need for the creation of a standard for the preparation and formation for marriage,” said John Noronha, a PhD candidate in bioethics at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum,  in an email interview with CNA Oct. 2.

John and his wife Ashley, both known for having hosted the EWTN series “Vatican Report’s Art & Faith,” moved to Rome shortly after their marriage in 2008.

He noted how the marriage preparation which is currently available “can range from non-existent to substantially formative,” depending on one’s diocese or parish. “Since the Church is universal there needs to be uniformity,” he said, “but also using the wisdom of subsidiarity and solidarity, certain fundamental norms and guidelines ought to be developed and followed to ensure that the couple is in fact ready, informed and fully prepared for the important and sacred sacrament of marriage.”

“The Church has the spiritual and practical wisdom, but just needs to find ways to reach out to families to share it.”

“Married couples and those considering marriage,” Ashley said in the same interview, “need support from the local church to offer guidance in how to form strong families that are built on sharing the love of the Lord with each other and their local communities.”

While acknowledging that some churches offer instruction to couples in the lead up to their marriage, she stressed that this “support should continue on after a man and woman take their vows.”

“The Church can nurture family life by teaching a Catholic family how to tie in their domestic culture with that of their local parish and the universal Church,” Ashley continued. She gave an example of a local Church which offered programs in “parenting, family counseling, and teen mentoring,” which resulted in an increase in parish activity “because people were able to build a strong parish life that then trickled down into how they formed their families.”
 
She also cited various grassroots initiatives which parishes can provide, including as “bible studies for couples and families, even simply reading Church documents together that explore family issues, like the Catechism, Theology of the Body, Familiaris Consortio and Mulieris Dignatatem.”

“By reading and sharing the Gospel and exploring the wisdom of the Church together,” Ashley continued, “married couples can bond more deeply in the love of Christ and enter deeper into the sacramental mystery of their commitment. Authentic Catholic culture will bloom in a family when it is nurtured and celebrated in tangible ways by the local church.”

Another element of preparation, said John, “should be to help the couple prepare for the role of being faithful and practicing Catholic parents.”

“For new parents it wouldn’t be easy to make a promise at their child’s baptism to bring up the child in the faith of the Church, if the parents do not know or haven’t practiced the faith after their wedding day.”

John stressed the importance of families being able to find the spiritual support they need at their local parishes.

“Families should be able to get support from the local church to know where to go to tap into the treasures of the spiritual wisdom of the Church and the writings of the church fathers. The local parish is a natural place where they can learn practical aspects of living together as a couple and a family and how to do that in an authentically Catholic way.”

The move from being an independent to being part of a family, John said, is “one of the most critical steps that a man and woman can take in their lifetimes.”

He expressed his hope that the synods will find “ways to explain the wisdom of the Church’s teachings on the family and family life in a way that is clear, concise and solidly grounded in scripture.”

“Stronger and well-formed families mean a stronger Church and a stronger moral society,” said Ashley.

“Stronger families mean that more people feel the love of Christ every day in their homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries.”
 

200,000 activists tell Europe: stand up for persecuted Christians

Rome, Italy, Oct 20, 2014 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- More than 200,000 people have signed a petition asking European leaders to offer “real help” for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the world.

Luca Volonté, a b…

Priest returning to Iraq: ISIS threatens the whole world

Rome, Italy, Oct 16, 2014 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iraqi priest who has chosen to return to his city, which lies just six miles from ISIS-controlled territory, said that in the midst of an increasingly desperate situation, the help of world powers is greatly needed.

“The only solution is to return the people to their homes. This is the only solution. How to do it, this depends on the great international powers, because the world needs to intervene,” Fr. Ghazwan Yousif Baho told CNA Oct. 4.

ISIS “is a full threat not only for the Christians of Iraq or our brother Muslims, or this fundamentalist current, but it’s a threat for the whole world. So the world needs to intervene in one way or another.”

Fr. Baho is the parish priest in Alqosh, Iraq as well as a guest professor at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome, where he teaches two months out of the year. While in Rome, he also serves as pastor in the city’s Sts. Joachim and Ann parish.

He was present in Rome to accompany an Iraqi couple, Mubarack and Agnese Hano, to an audience Pope Francis held with elderly and grandparents on Sept. 28. This weekend he will return to Alqosh, which sits only 10 kilometers – around six miles – from the ISIS-controlled city of Qaraqosh.

The militant Sunni Islamist organization was among the rebels fighting in the Syrian civil war. In June it spread its operations to Iraq, taking control of Mosul and swaths of territory in the country’s north and west, as well as in northern Syria.

It has now declared a caliphate, which is defined as an Islamic state controlled by a religious and political leader known as a caliph or “successor” to Muhammad.

In Syria on Aug. 13, ISIS seized a string of towns located northeast of Aleppo and near the Turkish border, including Akhtarin. On Aug. 11 it had seized the Iraqi town of Jalawla, located 90 miles northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province.

All non-Sunni persons have been persecuted by the Islamic State – tens of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have fled the territory.

“I am not in favor of war, but right now war is a fact. If they continue conquering territory, someone must stop them…the great powers of the world need to intervene, not only the Americans and the British, but all,” Fr. Baho insisted.

“They are a threat to humanity. They are creating hate toward humanity. This needs to stop. We as Christians need to stop them with love, but if they are killing people without reason, it’s difficult.”

Fr. Baho then referenced an Oct. 2-4 summit held at the Vatican with the nuncios to the seven nations of the Middle East, during which Pope Francis and Vatican officials spoke with them about possible responses to ISIS, as well as how to provide humanitarian aid to displaced persons.

“All of the nuncios of that area also live this situation and know very well what is happening. I hope that they make the voice of the poor persecuted people heard, and of all those who don’t have a voice in Iraq or in the other areas, like Syria.”

Right now the situation of all those who have fled ISIS’ violent attacks since their initial June 10 launch in Iraq “has become much, much more difficult than before,” Fr. Baho observed.

Some having been out of their homes for nearly two months or more, many of the refugees are currently living in tents on the street in camps, and winter is approaching.

In addition to the loss of houses and work, children are now beginning to lose their schooling, he explained, because the year is starting and they have nowhere to go.

“Life in refugee camps for these people…one can stand it for one day, two days, 10 days.But after two months, what hope is there for them? It’s true that some help arrives from Caritas, from the U.N., and from so many other organizations. But life in a tent is not a normal life.”

Fr. Baho pointed out how the situation is especially problematic for women, children and the elderly, so their primary concern now is not that they have lost everything, but simply to find a place to live.

“They have lost their work, their houses, their money that they have in the bank that right now they can’t get. So in this situation the people are desperate.”

“We don’t want to leave our land,” he said, but if this situation continues the way it is, “in one month people will begin to lose hope in a future in Iraq.”

Although hopes rose with American and British military intervention, “we have learned in these two months that if we don’t see with our own eyes, and we don’t return to our own cities, there is little hope,” the priest observed.

Further intervention, he said needs to happen on several different levels, the first being to help thousands of refugees who are living “in difficulty.”

“There are thousands. In Iraq maybe more than a million refugees. Christians are more than 100,000. But also our brother Muslims who are not in favor of this current of ISIS, also they find themselves as refugees in Iraq. So the first intervention is to help these ones…everyone, not only some organizations.”

A second intervention would be to stop the advancement of ISIS, “but not only block them, drive them out,” the priest explained.

We also need to create “a way of changing this mentality of hatred toward humanity, to create a mentality of love,” he said, noting how this is the mission that every Christian throughout the world is called to.

“They create hate. We need to create love. This is our war as Christians; not war with weapons but war of creating a society of love, a culture of love, a culture of accepting the other even if he is different.”

“This is very important for us,” he said, however “blocking their advancement depends on world powers.”

[Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series of two interviews with Fr. Ghazwan Yousif Baho. The first story can be found here.]
 

LGBT activist group hopes to influence family synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2014 / 12:48 am (CNA).- The start of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family has triggered a wave of activism from well-funded LGBT activist groups in the U.S. who are targeting “outspoken” Catholic bishops in hopes of ch…

To Archbishop Kurtz, synod a confidence boost for married couples

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2014 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Synod on the Family is an opportunity to assure married couples they can succeed at marriage despite the many challenges facing them, according to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville.

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Vote or let Bosnia stay mired in instability, bishop warns

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oct 9, 2014 / 02:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the run-up to national elections, the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina are encouraging the nation’s citizens to vote for the rule of law, in hopes of bringing the country out of the instability which sparked violent protests earlier this year.

“We need more justice, reconciliation and willingness to work together. We bishops have therefore invited everyone to go to the polls to cast their vote for law and justice and to make sure the country does not get stuck in this disastrous situation,” Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 7.

Bosnia and Herzegovina will hold national elections Oct. 12, for both members of the bicameral parliament and for the three-member presidency.

The Bosnian presidency is a four-year term, with a rotating chairmanship among the members. One member of the presidency is elected from each of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s main ethnic groups: a Bosniak, a Croat, and a Serb.

Ethno-religious tensions have historically contributed much to instability in the country.

Following its independence upon the break-up of Yugoslavia, the country was embroiled in the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995 in which genocide and ethnic cleansing took place.

The Muslim Bosniaks constitute some 48 percent of the population; Orthodox Serbs 37 percent; and Catholic Croats 15 percent.

Bishop Komarica is concerned that the instability in his country could radicalize some factions there.

“There are people here who could exploit the instability,” he said. “And we mustn’t ignore the dark clouds arising to the south east. Destructive, radical forces from the Arab world can very easily settle and flourish here.”

He said that Bosnians “are living in an absurd situation.”

“Bosnia-Herzegovina is not moving forward, either politically or economically. The country has a number of constitutions which obstruct one another. The number of ministers is astronomical, an indulgence which no other nation allows itself. The people are longing for a new organization of the state.”

In February, protestors in several cities, including Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Sarajevo attacked government buildings, setting fire to them. Hundreds were injured, and police used rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons to quell the protests.

Srecko Latal, of Social Overview Service in Sarajevo, told The New York Times in February that “we haven’t seen violent scenes like this since the war in the 1990s. People are fed up with what has become total political chaos in Bosnia, with infighting over power, a dire economic situation and a feeling that there is little hope for the future. The protests are a wake-up call for the international community not to disengage from Bosnia.”

Bosnians’ complaints include existing unemployment – between 40 and 50 percent – and the protests were sparked by factory closings in Tuzla. Unemployment rates are higher among the youth, with nearly 75 percent unable to find work. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s per capita GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, is less than $9,000.

In Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 72 – tied with Brazil, Serbia, and South Africa – out of 175 rankings. Its ranking suggests it is slightly more corrupt than Bulgaria and Tunisia, and slightly less corrupt than Italy and Romania.

In the face of these problems, Bishop Komarica stressed his country’s need for political reform, urging the greater international involvement, particularly from the European Union – which Bosnia and Herzegovina is trying to join.
 

Vatican to the world: Displaced immigrants deserve your attention

Geneva, Switzerland, Oct 9, 2014 / 12:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Noting an alarming increase in forcibly-displaced migrants around the world, the Holy See has asked the United Nations to take a more proactive role in working to prevent displacements.

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