Posts Tagged ‘US’

Crowdfunding campaign aims to raise $1 million for Iraqi Christians

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2014 / 08:35 pm (CNA).- A Catholic lay organization has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise awareness and money to help persecuted Christians and other minorities in Iraq.

“How can common lay people of faith thro…

Singing nun’s Madonna cover: not like a prayer

Denver, Colo., Oct 22, 2014 / 08:02 pm (CNA).- Although it may have been well intentioned, an Italian nun’s choice of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” as her first single shows “radical impropriety” which wrongly ignores the original song’s intent to undermine the Virgin Mary and Catholic morals, one cultural critic has said.

Barbara Nicolosi, a Hollywood screenwriter and Catholic cultural commentator, suggested that Sister Cristina Scuccia’s choice of Madonna’s risqué song “reflects the lack of thought, seriousness and decorum that is predictable of so much of our societal and ecclesial life today.”

Sr. Cristina, an Ursuline nun, in early June won first place on the musical competition TV show The Voice Italy. She has now released a cover of the 1984 Madonna song as the first single of her new album.

Nicolosi noted the original song’s music video and its use of Catholic imagery was “widely condemned” among Catholics.

“It was clear that Madonna was ridiculing the Church’s reverence for the Blessed Virgin and so many lay people and clergy came out to speak against Madonna and the piece,” Nicolosi told CNA Oct. 22.

“That’s another reason why this is a weird piece for a Catholic nun to try and repurpose.”

Madonna’s stage performances of the song were “each more sexually vile than the others” and “geared to stimulate pornographic resonance.”

Sr. Cristina talked about her album in an interview with the Italian daily L’Avvenire, published by the Italian Bishops’ Conference. She said that she knew she would be criticized but said that she does not intend to “provoke or scandalize anyone.”

“If you read the lyrics and avoid any influence from the original, you discover that it is song about the capacity to love, about making people new, about rescuing them from their past,” Sr. Cristina claimed. “And that’s how I wanted to interpret it. For this reason we transformed it from a pop song into a romantic ballad (…) to something more like a lay prayer than a pop song.”

Her new album will go on sale Nov. 11 under the Universal record label. Her album includes a cover of the Alicia Keys song “No One.”

Sr. Cristina said she is “open to any criticism because we worked on this album with honesty and seriousness.” She said Madonna has not yet heard her version of Like a Virgin.

“I would like to see her face when she does and when they tell her a nun is singing it,” she added.

Asked whether Universal forced her to record the song, Sister Cristina said it was her own choice and that she is “happy” with the recording and with the music video.

“We wanted to convey serenity and poetry. I think we did.”

Nicolosi, however, was sceptical. She suggested that Madonna might “guffaw in dark wonder” at the nun’s cover of her song and ask, “are Catholics so dumb that they don’t know what I was doing?”

She suggested the music industry was exploiting the nun.

For Nicolosi, the nun’s effort to repurpose the Madonna song is “like a group of Israeli teenagers suddenly thinking it would be cool to put a swastika on their T-shirts.”

The original song specifically aimed at “mockery towards the Blessed Mother.”

“You don’t resurrect it to put a good spin on it,” Nicolosi said.
Sr. Cristina reflected on the fame that resulted from her appearance on The Voice Italy, capped by taking first place in early June.

“I feel small amidst all of this. I am 26 years old, I’m young, but I know I have a huge responsibility. I know I should give a testimony and I do so gladly because I am enthusiastic about having encountered Christ and I want everyone to encounter him.”

Sister Cristina said she “sometimes” regrets going on The Voice because of “the almost morbid curiosity of the media. Some photographers have chased me everywhere. I have even taken ‘mortal leaps’ to get to Mass without them seeing me.”

She explained that in response to the media coverage, “I closed myself in here in the community. I have kept silent and prayed a lot. I have concentrated because I had to renew my temporary vows. I have cared for the most important part of me: my spiritual life.”

Asked whether she thinks she will become a worldwide star, Sister Cristina said, “It’s not easy. What keeps my feet on the ground is belonging to a community that helps me and protects me. And knowing that I am an instrument in God’s hands, not a star. I know it’s hard to believe, but if I could hide I would do so gladly. I am an insecure girl full of fears. On stage I seem very confident, but inside I am trembling like a leaf.”

Sr. Cristina said she would not leave her singing career behind “because I have a great gift: my voice. And I can’t hide it, I should use it for a greater good. For the community. And my insecure side also helps me—with the other sisters—to always be a few steps behind and to not let it go to my head.”

In accord with her vow of poverty, Sister Cristina said, the funds from the sale of her record “will be used to finance the charitable projects of the congregation, for our home in Brazil but also for a project in my own land of Sicily, where there is no lack of poverty. I would also like to help other associations.”

Sister Cristina said that going on TV was justified by Pope Francis’ encouragement to show that the Church is “alive” and should “go out and encounter people.”

“And later each person should put his own talents at the service of the community, even at the risk of going against the tide.”

Sr. Cristina also considered whether she could be an instrument of true beauty or whether her fame would become a stumbling block in the Year of Consecrated Life.  

“I feel I am a humble instrument that hopes to be useful to the Church in such an important year for consecrated life. I have been asked to participate in an event at the Vatican. If they think I can be of use, I will be happy to contribute,” she said.

Nicolosi suggested that Sister Cristina is “attracting attention mainly as a spectacle.”

“Of all the things that we would want to witness to the modern world through religious life, an esteem and appropriation of banal bubble-gum music is not high on the list.”

She said that pop culture is “never going to be a sphere appropriate to religious.” Citing the Second Vatican Council, she said that secular culture is “the realm of the laity.”

Holy See to UN: Share the riches of outer space

New York City, N.Y., Oct 22, 2014 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The exploration of outer space can deepen our faith in God and our understanding of the world, and its benefits should be shared with all.

This was the message of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the Special Political and Decolonization Committee on Oct. 17.

“Since the earliest days of human history, humanity has looked to the sky with wonder, longing to understand celestial realities and their meaning in relation to humanity itself,” Archbishop Auza said.

“The Holy See believes that faith is capable of both expanding and enriching the horizons of reason; thus, it rejoices in the marvelous progress of science, seeing it both as a product of the enormous God-given potential of the human mind and as manifestation of the vastness and richness of creation.”
St. John Paul II had written in his encyclical Fides et Ratio — on the relationship between faith and reason — about how the two are complementary, and both help lead man to God.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves,” the late Roman Pontiff wrote.

In Archbishop Auza’s address, after discussing the relation between faith and reason, he stressed the need to share the economic and scientific benefits of space exploration to benefit the poor around the world, and not just the elite nations which invest in outer space projects.

An important part of sharing the good of this resource, the archbishop continued, is the commitment to the peaceful use of outer space.

“To this end, the ongoing discussion on the development of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities represents a positive step toward furthering a fairer and safer use of outer space,” he said. “It would undoubtedly help toward preventing an arms race in outer space and, consequently, toward averting a new, grave threat to international peace and security.”

The information that satellites can provide, including monitoring the state of various environments, tracking water cycles and other atmospheric conditions, should be put to use for the benefit of all.

“If we do not work together, there will be no winners, only losers,” the archbishop said.
Furthermore, satellites can help spread information even to the “far-flung areas” of the earth, and can help decrease illiteracy throughout the world, though the power of sharing information should not be abused either.
“However, care must be taken that this outer space technology does not become an instrument of dominion and a vehicle to impose certain cultures and values on others.”

Finally, Archbishop Auza asked that the environment of outer space be preserved for the benefit of future generations as well.

“It is the Holy See’s belief that we are only its temporary stewards, with the unwritten but morally compelling responsibility to preserve it for future generations.”

This is not the first time someone in a Church leadership position has spoken about the intergalactic realm. In a homily in May, Pope Francis considered what would happen if aliens ever came to the Vatican, and whether or not they should be baptized.

“Who are we to close doors?” Pope Francis said.

No matter how unpredictable or impossible the workings of the Holy Spirit might seem, the Pope said, the Catholic Church is one of “open doors.”

“When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way’.  Who are we to close doors?”

The Pope was connecting the hypothetical situation to the reading of the day, in which the early Christians who had been Jews were hesitant to present the Gospel to those who were Gentiles and therefore previously considered “unclean.”

In 2010, one of Benedict XVI’s astronomers, Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., said an alien could be baptized if it were determined to have intelligence, free will, freedom to love and to make decisions, which characterize beings with eternal, personal souls.

“But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it – when you add them up it’s probably not a practical question,” Br. Consolmagno told The Guardian.

Would he ever baptize an alien?

“Only if they asked.”

Hundreds flock to US shrine to celebrate first feast of St John Paul II

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2014 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of pilgrims and faithful from all states of life flocked to Washington, D.C.’s St. John Paul II Shrine on Wednesday to celebrate the late Pope and recently canonized saint’s first universal feast day.

“To be able to celebrate in the presence of a saint on their first feast day, I think is just a point of great grace for the local Church and all the pilgrims that come here,” said Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P, chaplain of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, to CNA Oct. 22.

This presence, he said, was apparent in the large and diverse crowd who came to participate in a feast day Mass at the shrine.

At the Mass, there were “over 550 young people, the elderly, there were Polish pilgrims, the consecrated, the sisters, there were male religious,” Fr. Kalisch explained. “ When I was celebrating the Mass, I thought, ‘he’s brought them here.’”

Fr. Kalisch gave the homily at the first celebration of the Feast of Saint Pope John Paul II at the saint’s shrine in Washington, D.C. A relic of St. John Paul II’s blood, as well as a bloodstained piece of his cassock from the 1981 attempt on his life are present for veneration at the shrine.

St. John Paul II served as Pope for over 26 years, from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was canonized earlier this year, on April 27; the Oct. 22 observance of his feast is the anniversary of his papal inauguration.

The Mass was preceded by a recitation of the rosary, and followed by a screening of a documentary on the saint’s visits to North America, and the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Veronica McGraw, a high school student from Alexandria, Va., is learning about the newly canonized saint in her high school classes, and said she has come to better understand his teachings and example.  

“I really love his love for the human person and the dignity he has for everybody: how every person is made in the image of God and has immeasurable worth,” she said.

Joey Ledonio, another high school student, said he was impressed by the international effect of  St. John Paul II’s papacy through his travels and meetings with world leaders. Also striking, Ledonio said, were the sheer number of  “all of the people he canonized” during his papacy.

Brendan Peifer, also a teen from Virginia, said that what stood out to him about the late Pope’s service and teaching is “his focus on love.”

As a young person, though, Peifer said he was also grateful for the saint’s focus on reaching out to youth: “He was really concerned with the future of the Church and the future of the world.”

Fr. Kalisch highlighted the Pope’s witness to “the vocation to sacrificial love” in his homily, pointing to the tragedies John Paul II suffered in his early life with the loss of his family, as well as his ministry to young people and families and work as bishop and later Pope in standing for truth and freedom.

The chaplain also spoke later of the Pope’s love, and its demonstration in those who were present to celebrate his first feast day at the shrine.

“To see this outpouring of devotion: I was just personally moved to see everybody there and to celebrate today,” he said. “No doubt he wanted them there.”

Above all, though, recognizing the late Pope for his holiness is what was at the core of the feast day celebrations, Fr. Kalisch said.

“It’s just a great joy to be able to call him a saint.”

The USSR’s Catholic martyrs suffered, but they suffered for God

Denver, Colo., Oct 22, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic victims of the Soviet Union’s cruel anti-Christian persecutions faced execution, exile and arbitrary imprisonment for their faith – and now a new website tells their stories.

“The persecution of the Church was immediate. It started within a couple weeks of the October Revolution,” Geraldine Kelley told CNA Oct. 10.

“It was brutal. It focused first of all on the confiscation of church property and the arrest of the hierarchy, (then) the decrees that prohibited teaching religion to anybody under the age of 18.”

Kelley helped translate the entries for the “Book of Remembrance: A Martyrology of the Catholic Church in the U.S.S.R.” The book documents 1,900 biographies of Roman and Eastern Catholic clergy and laity persecuted under Soviet communism from 1918 to 1953, when Joseph Stalin died.

The book, now available at the website of the University of Notre Dame’s library, records the fate of victims who were shot and “simply liquidated,” as well as those sent to the prison camps who did not survive. The fate of some victims is unknown.

Some survived, including the “small class of priests” who were able to exit the Soviet Union for other countries and continents.

Like other religious believers in the Soviet Union, Catholics who did not suffer outright persecution could still face severe social penalties. Being known as a believing Catholic could result in career penalties, the loss of one’s job, or similar threats to family members, Kelley said.

The “Book of Remembrance” biographies were collected by Father Bronislaw Czaplicki and Irina Osipova for a martyrology commission of the Apostolic Administration for Catholics of North European Russia.

The Polish-language first edition was published in 2000, drawing on archives from Soviet state security organs. Kelley voiced hope that the publication of the book on the internet would help bring renewed attention to the martyrs.

Kelley, who holds a doctorate in Slavic Languages and Literature, said “there were many, many more martyrs in the 20th century than in all the years of Christian history totaled up together.”

Although the Soviet Union’s Christians were primarily members of the Orthodox Church, the Soviet Union was also home for many Catholics due to the Russian Empire’s political control of Poland and other areas. Some citizens were Catholics descended from German colonists invited into Russia for political reasons.

Kelley said that historians of the Soviet gulag often approach the topic “in terms of the large numbers involved.” She preferred to examine the stories of individual persons, such as the housekeepers of rectories and choir directors.

“Who were these people? What kind of lives were they leading when this happened to them?”

Kelley became interested in the archives of persecuted Catholics after she heard of a community of Eastern Rite Dominican sisters founded in the 1910s in Moscow.

“I came across references to these sisters and wanted to know more about them. Who were they?”

One of the Dominican sisters was Mother Catherine of Sienna. She was born into a noble family in Moscow on Dec. 23, 1882 and given the name Anna Ivanovna. She married in 1903, and was received into the Catholic Church in Paris in 1908.

She later entered the novitiate for the Third Order Dominicans, in 1913, while her husband was ordained an Eastern Catholic priest in 1917.

On the night of November 12, 1923, she and nine other sisters were arrested on charges of leading a “counter-revolutionary” organization.

After being sentenced to several years in prison, she told her sisters: “Most likely each of you, having fallen in love with God and now following Him, has asked more than once in your heart that the Lord give you the opportunity to share in His sufferings. That moment has arrived. Your wish to suffer for His sake has now been fulfilled.”

Mother Catherine was released from prison in the early 1930s, only to be arrested again and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp. She died July 23, 1936 in a prison hospital.

The cause for her canonization was opened in May 2003. She is now recognized as a Servant of God, along with fifteen other Catholics who died for their faith under Soviet persecution.

Kelley said many of the Dominican sisters would have been in their early 20s when first arrested.

“They were sent to prison camps for three year to five year terms, and then after they would serve their term, they would find out that their term was extended. They would get released, and then get re-arrested. Some of these women were still serving in the camps when Stalin died in 1953. We’re talking 30 years.”

Although the sisters were scattered throughout the Soviet Union, Kelley found it “amazing” that they would still encounter each other over the years.

“When you think of how large the country is, and how many hundreds of thousands of people were sentenced, and how many prison camps there were, the fact that you would meet anyone you knew seems astounding to me,” she said.

Kelley has translated a book focusing on these Dominicans, Irina Osipova’s “Brides of Christ: Martyrs for Russia.”

Kelley voiced concern that the canonization cause for Servant of God Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova is losing momentum, given that it depends on the interest of the Catholic faithful, “and so few Catholics know of her.”

She said that Catholicism in the Soviet Union had difficulty surviving three generations of atheistic repression.

“Although we know with what enthusiasm the Church was able to rebound in Poland and in parts of Ukraine, that third generation of oppression made a big difference. The Church in Russia was much more thoroughly eradicated, liquidated, repressed, annihilated.”

Religious freedom deteriorating, but don’t despair, official says

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2014 / 12:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Although religious freedom conditions around the globe are worsening, Americans should see this fact as a cause for motivation rather than despair, said a leading scholar on the issue.


Minnesota dioceses sign abuse settlements, pledge to protect children

St. Paul, Minn., Oct 21, 2014 / 07:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two dioceses in Minnesota have reached undisclosed financial settlements with a victim of clergy abuse, promising to implement and abide by policies intended to protect children, and to report …

Remembering Helen Hull Hitchcock, ‘a true daughter of God’

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 21, 2014 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Helen Hull Hitchcock, a prominent Catholic speaker, author, and advocate for the Church’s teachings on women and liturgy, died at the age of 75 on Monday, Oct. 20, after suffering from a s…

Work, Pray, Love: Archbishop Chaput’s advice for modern Christians

New York City, N.Y., Oct 21, 2014 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious believers should acknowledge that they are now “strangers” in U.S. society, in part because of their own failures, but should nevertheless work for renewal and worship…

Why the bishop of Dallas sheltered a family on Ebola watch

Dallas, Texas, Oct 21, 2014 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When a Texas family feared to have contracted the Ebola virus was recently placed under quarantine, they found refuge from Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who offered them shelter in the name of …

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