Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Vatican astronomer yawns at frenzy over Pope’s Big Bang words

Rome, Italy, Oct 30, 2014 / 03:26 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- A leading Vatican astronomer said that although some see Pope Francis’ recent words on the Big Bang as signifying a change in the Church’s stance on the issue, the pontiff in fact said nothing new.

“It is important to emphasize that Pope Francis was not saying anything new or ‘breaking with tradition’ as I saw one commentator put it,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. told CNA  Oct. 29.

Br. Consolmagno is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, which is an astronomical research and educational institution supported by the Holy See.

Storms of media reports initially arose following a speech Pope Francis gave at the unveiling of a bust of retired pontiff Benedict XVI for the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Monday.

In his speech, Pope Francis said that “The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it.”

He also touched on evolution, saying that the “evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Due to the explosion of headlines on the web saying that the Pope had officially endorsed a change in the Church’s position on these two theories, Br. Consolmagno said that it’s important remember that both theories came as a result of the work of a Catholic priest and a Catholic monk.

“The genetic basis of modern evolutionary theory is based on the work of Gregor Mendel, a Catholic monk; and the modern Big Bang theory was first proposed by Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest,” he said.

Br. Consolmagno explained that the theological basis for these theories can also be found in scripture, and cited St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians as one biblical source.

What Pope Francis said, he noted, is “completely consistent” with what numerous other popes in recent history have said, including St. John Paul II in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled “Truth Does Not Contradict Truth” and his 1988 Letter to Director of the Vatican Observatory on Science and Religion.

Pope Pius XII also spoke about these theories in his 1952 address to the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union.

An important thing to keep in mind surrounding these topics is that “The Church does not take ‘positions’ on matters of science,” the astronomer observed.

Therefore, “science is left free to propose explanations and descriptions of the working of the natural world, knowing that none of these descriptions are the final word and that all of them are based on the assumption of a rational universe whose very existence depends on the creative action of God.”

Confusion over Pope Francis’ words also arose when he said that “When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining God as a magician, with a wand able to make everything.”

After this statement the pontiff said that God allowed creation and created beings to develop throughout history according to the internal laws which God gave them at the beginning of creation, and because of this “God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things.”

In response to those who took the Pope’s words as meaning that God is not divine, Br. Consolmagno explained that all the pontiff said was that the Christian notion of God is not the same as other, pagan understandings of the divine being.

He referred to Pope’s use of the term “demiurge,” which comes from a gnostic tradition, and has been considered a heresy since ancient Roman times.

“This was the idea that God was some sort of ‘artisan’ who formed the universe out of pre-existing materials,” he said, which is basically the same notion as the pagan nature gods who were thought to oversee the activities of nature.

In light of this understanding, the astronomer said that what the Pope was most likely implying is that the Christian concept of God is “not a ‘nature God’” like that of the pagans.

Catholics, he continued, “embrace the idea of natural laws to explain how nature works – science – precisely because we do not confuse the actions of those laws with the actions of God.”

God is the reason why the universe exists, time and space included, and why it has laws, the religious brother observed, saying that science merely seeks to describe how these laws function.

Helpful resources for understanding these theories, he said, can be found in the Vatican Observatory’s 2009 book “The Heavens Proclaim, Astronomy and the Vatican” as well as the recent “Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?” which is authored by both himself and physicist Father Paul Mueller.

Italian diocese laments suicide of priest who admitted abuse

Trieste, Italy, Oct 30, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Trieste has announced “with a spirit full of sorrow and dismay” that one of its priests, who had recently admitted to sexual abuse of a minor female, committed suicide on Tuesday.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste learned Oct. 23 “of a grave matter many years ago that involved a 13 year old girl” and Fr. Maks Suard, according to an Oct. 28 statement from the diocese.

Fr. Suard, 48, was a priest of the Slovenian community of the Trieste diocese, and was parish priest of the small church of Santa Croce, in the territory of the Carso Triestino. He had served as a parish priest in several parishes of the San Dorligo area since his ordination in 1995; he was involved in the Boy Scout movement, and also worked as a teacher of religion in local schools.

On Oct. 25, Archbishop Crepaldi met with Fr. Suard, and on that occasion “the priest had admitted his responsibilities” and consented to the canonical procedure which would have to be taken.

In accord with St. John Paul II’s 2001 motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, abuse cases – which are among the “delicta graviora”, or “more grave crimes” – must be forwarded to and investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The policy sped up and made more effective the Vatican’s handling of such cases, which had been previously been handled by the Congregation for Clergy.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can choose either to take over the case or authorize a diocesan trial, in which case the outcome must be forwarded to the congregation.

After Archbishop Crepaldi had explained to Fr. Suard that he had to undergo the procedure, the priest “with humility and serenity of spirit, asked for two days during which he could prepare a resignation letter and a written statement in order to ask forgiveness from God, the Church, and the girl for the evil committed,” the diocese stated.

The archbishop agreed, and arranged to meet with Fr. Suard the afternoon of Oct. 28, at which time he would officially notify the priest of his suspension and of the beginning of the canonical procedure.

Archbishop Crepaldi “had informed Fr. Suard that he was going to arrive at around 4 pm,” and he got to the parish priest’s house around 4.30 pm. He found the rectory door locked, and received no answer to his repeated phone calls to Fr. Suard.

He called the parish sacristan, who opened the rectory; once in the house, the bishop found the body of Fr. Suard, who had committed suicide by hanging.

According a source in the Diocese of Trieste who spoke with CNA under condition of anonymity, the story of Fr. Suard was widely rumored locally, but until now no one had taken any measure.

Archbishop Crepaldi had moved “as soon as he had gotten to know of the case, thus himself breaking a sort of wall of silence in the diocese.”

This would be the reason why, the source maintained, “Fr. Suard wanted that the bishop himself would have found his corpse.”

It is still unclear whether Fr. Suard left any written document, as he had said he intended to do.

“The priest’s case had to follow its path, according to canonical and civil law, which would have perhaps helped him, in time, to a desirable human and Christian recovery, with respect to law,” the diocesan statement said.

“This curia, distraught by the unexpected and dramatic repercussions of this story, entrusts the soul of the priest to the prayers of those of goodwill and to the mercy of the heavenly Father.”

Ukrainian dignity and determination, as a nation votes for change

Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct 29, 2014 / 12:02 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- Travelling to Ukraine as the country prepared to go to the polls Oct. 26, Neville Kyrke-Smith of Aid to the Church in Need found a people traumatized by recent events and conflict, bu…

Ebola orphans and other woes: What the Church in West Africa faces

Rome, Italy, Oct 28, 2014 / 05:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A health adviser for a top global Catholic relief agency stressed the Church’s key efforts on the Ebola front in West Africa: helping people overcome panic and avert devastating social stigmas by providing accurate information.

“Much of the work has been to educate people about the facts surrounding Ebola, because there’s so much fear and panic and misinformation that goes out among the people,” Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo told CNA on Oct. 20.

A special adviser on health for Caritas Internationalis, the priest observed that in the areas most affected by the disease – namely Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the Catholic Church has been “a credible witness” where people go to get good information.

Most of the facts are given by churches during Mass, as well as by Caritas and other Catholic organizations who offer special training to priests, religious and lay catechists on how to talk about the virus.

Msgr. Vitillo offered his comments after addressing the United Nations conference in Geneva last week during an Oct. 20 Caritas Internationalis briefing.

The information on how to prevent the spread of Ebola that the Church gives is basic, he said, and involves simple, practical procedures such as hand-washing, keeping three feet away from people, not touching those who already show symptoms of Ebola, and above all avoiding direct contact with the bodies of those who have already died of Ebola.

A lack of knowledge about Ebola has led to numerous social problems, including the ostracization of infected persons – or those suspected of being infected – by their own families, the abandonment of children orphaned as a result of Ebola, as well as pastoral problems for priests who want to visit the sick.

“During my visit to Liberia, priests shared with me that their healthy parishioners did not want them to visit the sick – they were afraid that priests would be infected themselves and transmit the disease to others,” Msgr. Vitillo explained.

Priests, as well as pastoral staff members and other charitable agencies, have had to remind parishioners that the Church “was mandated by Jesus to serve all in need,” and have strongly urged them to “avoid any tendencies toward stigmatizing or discriminating” against anyone affected by Ebola or who is living with or near someone that is infected.

The priest then recounted the story of a doctor who had contracted Ebola while caring for infected patients at the Catholic Hospital in Monrovia. Although she made a full recovery, her neighbors still barred her from returning to her own home.

Only when the local pastor arranged for her to give her testimony in her parish did the parishioners begin to understand that she had recovered and therefore developed an immunity to the disease, so she posed no threat.

“Reactions of fear and panic can be observed among many people in local communities,” Msgr. Vitillo observed, noting how some family members “reject their relatives who become sick because there is an almost automatic presumption that these people have been infected by the Ebola virus.”

The priest then recounted another story from his visit to Liberia earlier this year, this time of a family who had abandoned their 90-year-old grandfather because he was showing symptoms of Ebola.

Even when the man’s test results came back negative, the family still refused to take him home, and he died before being transferred to a facility run by a group of religious sisters.

What the monsignor dubbed as “Ebola orphans” are also rejected by their families, and are often abandoned in treatment centers. Catholic institutions are working to provide care for these children until their relatives understand the situation and are able to take responsibility for them, he said.
“The trauma of multiple losses in families and of strong fear, panic, and misinformation may be felt in society long after the epidemic has ended,” Msgr. Vitillo noted. The effects of the outbreak will be “very deep and multifaceted and will be long-lasting.”

He recalled how at a Special Briefing on Ebola held in Washington, DC on Oct. 9, president of World Bank Dr. Jim Kim predicted that if the international community does not act more quickly, the economic impact could reach close to $32.6 billion before the end of 2015.

Despite the fact that Sierra Leone experienced tremendous economic growth last year, the situation has now reversed due to Ebola, the priest said. The infrastructure Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, “is at the point of collapsing.”

Already weak from recurring wars and “abject poverty,” the countries are headed for catastrophe if the economic impact is as high as predicted, he said, adding that the situation is worsened by the numerous school closures.

Children who are not in school are at greater risk of falling into petty crime or being manipulated or abused, Msgr. Vitillo went on. Health infrastructure in these countries was already “quite weak and now is unable to respond to the crushing demands of Ebola care, routine health care and other health emergency situations.”

However, despite the challenges the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the Ebola fight, and has provided an essential role in maintaining continuous care, he said. In Liberia 14 of the 16 Catholic health clinics remain open while many of the governmental or other private health facilities are closed.

“So it’s continuing its care for the sick beyond Ebola to make sure we can take care of those who have other illnesses or who are victims of automobile crashes and things like that,” he said.

Caritas is currently making an effort to reopen the Catholic hospital in Monrovia, which closed after it lost nine of its staff members to Ebola.

“Now we’re working on making sure that we have careful prevention methods and facilities before people get into the hospital, and we want to re-open that facility as soon as possible.”

The Ebola epidemic is continuing to devastate parts of West Africa. The World Health Organization said that nearly 5,000 deaths had been reported as of Oct. 19, but the true numbers could be as high as 15,000.

Cardinal Parolin: Without its Christian roots, Europe won’t help the world

Montecassino, Italy, Oct 27, 2014 / 12:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The European Union could be significant and helpful in solving crises around the world, but its common effort should lie in its Christians roots which are somewhat forgotten, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Friday.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State spoke to CNA Oct. 24 during a visit to the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino. The event coincided with the appointment of a new abbot for the community, and its reorganization, and commemorated the 50th anniversary of Bl. Paul VI’s visit to the first community of the Order of St. Benedict.

When he visited Montecassino in 1964, Bl. Paul VI read his apostolic letter Pacis nuntius, proclaiming St. Benedict a patron of Europe and acknowledging the monk’s work in building a common European identity.

Cardinal Parolin lamented that 50 years later, it seems “there is no more wish for ‘Europe’ as there was 50 years ago.”

He underscored that the European Union could be one of the most important actors in the world arena, but added that it needs to “speak with one voice,” and look back to its common roots.

“I believe that Europe is suffering of the common loss of historical memory, which forbids us to remember where we hail from and what are the deep roots of this Europe.”

In his analysis of the Middle East situation and plight of Christian there given during the Oct. 20 consistory, Cardinal Parolin had also blamed on the international community – including the European Union – for having remained silent as the situation worsened.

“Europe should find one voice … we believe that the problems of the Middle East should be solved by the Middle Eastern countries, but we also believe that Europe can help those countries in their purpose, since we know that a big part of this conflicts comes from outside the Middle East.”

And Europe should “even more” give its contribution in “solving the Ukraine situation, trying to put together the interests of everyone,” Cardinal Parolin said.

The cardinal suggested that Europe’s inability to solve such problems as those in Ukraine and the Middle East stem from its tendency to remove its Christian roots from the public square.

According to Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkodre-Pult, a bishop in Albania who is deputy president of the Council for European Bishops’ Conferences, Pope Francis addressed the issue in an off the cuff – and still unpublished – speech delivered Oct. 3 to the European bishops gathered in Rome for their plenary session.

“The Pope said: ‘I don’t understand why its Christian roots have not been acknowledged in the European constitution,’” Bishop Massafra shared with CNA shortly after the address.

Cardinal Parolin said, “the issue of Christian roots is not in the public agenda since the European Constitution is no longer under discussion,” but “we are always aware that Europe should build itself on its deep roots, though we are not giving so many public interventions on this issue.”

“That Christian roots be not forgotten is a warranty for a healthy laity in Europe. Christian roots are not just a historical memory of the past, they are still very current,” explained the Secretary of State.

Cardinal Parolin asked: “Where do human rights have their foundation? Where does solidarity have its foundation? These topics are of typically Christian inspiration, even if they have continued to evolve.”

In his Oct. 20 address to the consistory, Cardinal Parolin also praised to Iran’s efforts, and he stressed that Vatican-Iranian relations will continue to be fostered, despite continued concerns over the country’s respect for human rights.

“The more we open to reality, the more we open to the world, the more we build relations of community – I might say, in more lay terms, of cooperation – the more human rights will be developed in the nations,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Following Pope Francis’ push for a culture of encounter, the Secretary of State underscored that “dialogue must never end. Dialogue is the tool used by the strongest. Only who has patience and internal strength is able to dialogue.”

“There are no alternatives to dialogue, given that the only alternative is war, destruction, mutual destruction. Dialogue is indispensable.”

English bishop shares ‘never failing’ gift of the rosary with his diocese

Portsmouth, England, Oct 26, 2014 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Since prayers through the Blessed Virgin Mary “never fail,” Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth is commemorating this month of the rosary by giving every parishioner in his diocese a free recording of the Marian prayer.

“For we are now coming to the end of the month of October when, as in May, our hearts and minds customarily turn to the Woman but for whom we could not be here,” Bishop Egan stated in a pastoral letter to his diocese, read at all its parishes on Oct. 26, remembering the Blessed Mother as “the perfect mother of God … a model mother for us.”

“As you leave church today, I am offering you a free gift. It’s a CD for use at home or in the car … It will help you reflect on the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries of the Catholic faith, for the CD contains the rosary,” the Bishop of Portsmouth announced, hopeful that this recording would help the faithful grow in their spiritual life, just as the rosary has helped countless Christians in past centuries.

Calling Mary a true Christian disciple, Bishop Egan noted how she “devoutly followed Jesus in His public ministry, pondering in her heart everything He said, supporting Him from the foot of the Cross, and after the Resurrection praying with the early Church for the coming of the Holy Spirit.”

“No wonder Mary is the best loved member of the Church! No wonder Christians ever seek her powerful intercession!”

Bishop Egan went on to advise parishioners in the diocese to seek this intercession from Mary in the rosary, but adding they should not stop there. Urging them to maintain a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, the Portsmouth bishop suggested that they also answer to the call to evangelization.

“I hope you will find the CD useful. But why not install a Marian statue or icon in your home? Or hang a rosary from the rear-view mirror in your car? Or carry in your pocket a rosary-chaplet, a witness at work or in an airport security line?” he asked, stating that “the Church in our time is calling us to an evangelisation ‘new in its ardour, new in its methods and new in its expression’. This is why we need enormous creativity.”

Bishop Egan requested that his diocese pay special attention to prayer in the new liturgical year, noting that in prayer “we are meant to be taken out of ourselves, the words facilitating a person-to-Person encounter with God.”

“The rosary is like this, the repetitious words occupying our mouths so that our hearts and minds can be lost in the mystery,” Bishop Egan stated, hopeful that the rosary and the new Year of Prayer would encourage everyone to “become less inward-looking and more outward-looking.”

“In the weeks ahead, I invite you to contemplate Mary, filled with the joy of the Gospel, guiding people to Christ,” Bishop Egan stated.

“Indeed, as you pray the rosary, pray especially that the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit may disturb the hearts of those with little or no faith, that all may come to know, serve and love Jesus Christ in the full communion of His Body, the Church.”

Cardinal Nichols clarifies, dispels media portrayals of synod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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