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10 POCKETS OF PRAYER FOR THE NEW YEAR

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A FAITH FOCUS ON CAMPUS

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Pope wants abuse summit to lead to clarity, action

IMAGE: CNS photos/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the upcoming meeting on protecting minors, Pope Francis wants leaders of the world's bishops' conferences to clearly understand what must be done to prevent abuse, care for victims and ensure no case is whitewashed or covered up.

"The pope wants it to be an assembly of pastors, not an academic conference -- a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering," Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Jan. 16.

The Feb. 21-24 meeting on the protection of minors in the church "has a concrete purpose: The goal is that all of the bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors," Gisotti said, reading from a written communique in Italian and English.

"Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response," he said.

The pope announced in September that he was calling the presidents of the world's bishops conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders to the Vatican to address the crisis and focus on responsibility, accountability and transparency.

Gisotti said, "It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried."

He acknowledged the "high expectations" surrounding the meeting and emphasized that "the church is not at the beginning of the fight against abuse."

"The meeting is a stage along the painful journey that the church has unceasingly and decisively undertaken for over 15 years," he said.

In a separate communique, the Vatican press office said the meeting's organizing committee met with Pope Francis Jan. 10. The committee members are Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The members informed the pope about their preparations for the gathering, which will include plenary sessions, working groups and moments of common prayer and "listening to testimonies."

Pope Francis has asked Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the former director of the Vatican press office, to moderate the plenary sessions.

The meeting will include a penitential liturgy Feb. 23 and a closing Mass Feb. 24, Gisotti said.

"Pope Francis guaranteed his presence for the entire duration of the meeting," the communique said.

The organizing committee has already informed participating bishops that they should prepare for the gathering by meeting with survivors of abuse.

"The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured," said the committee in a letter released to the public by the Vatican Dec. 18.

Without "a comprehensive and communal response" to the abuse crisis, the committee said, "not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world."

The members also had sent participants a questionnaire so they could "express their opinions constructively and critically as we move forward, to identify where help is needed to bring about reforms now and in the future, and to help us get a full picture of the situation in the church."

Pope Francis, they had said, "is convinced that through collegial cooperation, the challenges facing the church can be met. But each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency and holding everyone in the church accountable."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Lord's Prayer is reaching out for father's loving embrace, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To pray well, people need to have the heart of a child -- a child who feels safe and loved in a father's tender embrace, Pope Francis said.

If people have become estranged from God, feel lonely, abandoned or have realized their mistakes and are paralyzed by guilt, "we can still find the strength to pray" by starting with the word, "Father," pronounced with the tenderness of a child, he said.

No matter what problems or feelings a person is experiencing or the mistakes someone has made, God "will not hide his face. He will not close himself up in silence. Say, 'Father,' and he will answer,'" the pope said Jan. 16 during his weekly general audience.

After greeting the thousands of faithful gathered in the Paul VI audience hall, the pope continued his series of talks on the Lord's Prayer, reflecting on the Aramaic term, "Abba," which Jesus uses to address God, the father.

"It is rare Aramaic expressions do not to get translated into Greek in the New Testament," which shows how special, important and nuanced "Abba" is in reflecting the radical and new relationship God has with his people, the pope said.

St. Paul, he said, wrote to the Romans that they were now "children of God, for you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'"

Jesus teaches his disciples that "Christians can no longer consider God a tyrant to be feared," but instead feel a sense of trust growing in their hearts in which they can "speak to the creator, calling him 'Father,'" the pope said.

The term "Abba," the pope said, "is something much more intimate and moving that simply calling God, 'father,'" It is an endearing term, somewhat like "dad," "daddy" or "papa."

Even though the Lord's Prayer has been translated using the more formal term, "Father," "we are invited to say, 'papa,' to have a rapport with God like a child with his or her papa."

Whatever term used, it is meant to inspire and foster a feeling of love and warmth, he said, like a child would feel in the full embrace of a tender father.

"To pray well, one must have the heart of a child, not a heart that feels adequate" or self-satisfied, he said.

People must imagine this prayer being recited by the prodigal son after he has been embraced by his father, who waited so long, who forgave him and only wants to say how much he missed his child, Pope Francis said.

"Then we discover how those words take on life, take on strength," he said.

People will then wonder, "'How is it possible that you, God, know only love? That you don't know hate? Where inside of you is revenge, the demand for justice, the fury over your wounded honor?' And God will respond, 'I know only love.'"

The father of the prodigal son also displays the maternal qualities of forgiveness and empathy, the pope said. Mothers especially are the ones who keep loving their children, "even when they would no longer deserve anything."

"God is looking for you even if you do not seek him," he said. "God loves you even if you have forgotten him. God sees a glimpse of beauty in you even if you think you have uselessly squandered all of your talents."

"God is not just a father, he is like a mother who never stops loving" her child.

At the end of the general audience, in preparation for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25, Pope Francis said, "ecumenism is not something optional."

The purpose of the week of prayer and encounter, he said, is to foster and strengthen a common witness upholding "true justice and supporting the weakest through concrete, appropriate and effective responses."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

POPE WANTS ABUSE SUMMIT TO LEAD TO CLARITY, ACTION

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At the upcoming meeting on protecting minors, Pope Francis wants leaders of the world’s bishops’ conferences...

Visiting bishops see 'incomprehensible complexity' of Holy Land situation

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Mazur via catholicnews.org.uk

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Visiting with Christian communities in northern Israel and the northern Palestinian Territories has helped bishops participating in the annual Holy Land Coordination see "the great need" to promote an understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, said Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, Ireland.

"There is ... a need to devise ways for both people to understand that, ultimately and finally, for the common good of all, a permanent and sustainable solution is needed," said Bishop Treanor. "The kind of issues at stake here are not easily resolved, but some kind of solution has to be found. It is difficult to know when that will be achieved."

"It does not make sense that people living in such close proximity should be a source of conflict," he added.

He said every generation has the responsibility to take the necessary steps to promote mutual respect and understanding. Based on the Irish experience, he highlighted the important role the international community plays in finding solutions to such conflicts.

"The kind of problems faced here ... are part of the human condition," Bishop Treanor said. "An emphasis must be on the role of the international community. The world has become more interdependent ... and the international community must be involved so that people may live in peace and harmony."

The annual Holy Land Coordination includes bishops from North America, Europe and South Africa. Based this year in the northern Israeli city of Haifa Jan. 12-17, it has focused on the challenges and opportunities for Christians in Israel. The bishops visited Christian hospitals, schools and villages in Israel. They also met with Christian religious leaders, Christian mayors from Israeli towns, members of the Israeli Knesset, academics and internal refugees from the Melkite Catholic village of Ikrit.

The diverse meetings have helped highlight the "incomprehensible complexity" of the situation, said Bishop Treanor.

"We have also seen people working for peace and justice and the promotion of mutual understanding. Those are the ingredients for a sustainable solution and hope," he said.

On Jan. 13, the bishops celebrated Mass at the Church of the Visitation in the northern Palestinian village of Zababdeh and visited the Jenin refugee camp and a school run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.

The school has been adversely affected by the U.S. government's withholding of funds to UNRWA, noted Archbishop Timothy Broglio, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

"The cutoff of USA aid is a very aggravating factor, which makes life more difficult," he said, noting that class sizes have increased to about 45 students per classroom and job training and job promotion programs had to be closed. "Those are innocent people caught in a battle."

Job promotion is critically important in helping young Christians remain in the Holy Land, he said.

He also noted the importance of meeting with the Christian community in Israel to learn about their perspective.

"They are Israeli citizens and do form a bridge. They can be loyal members of Israel as well as loyal members of our faith tradition," he said.

Archbishop Broglio said that while Christians in Israel have opportunities, they also face challenges and discrimination such as the newly passed Nation State Law, which recognizes Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people." Opponents say the law reduces non-Jews to second-class citizens.

The bishops' visit also inspires hope in the local Christian community that people abroad care about them and that will advocate for them to their governments.

In his homily at the Church of the Visitation in the West Bank, South Africa Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town told parishioners that the bishops understood the challenges they face and the importance of their presence in the Holy Land.

"We know and understand the difficult circumstances in which you live, and we also understand the important vocation you have of keeping the flame of Christianity alight in the place of the Messiah's birth, ministry, death and resurrection," he said.

Catholics cannot remain silent in the presence of untruth, injustice, hatred and violence, Archbishop Brislin said.

"The promotion of truth, love, justice and peace are integral to the mission of the church. In the presence of untruth, injustice, hatred and violence we cannot remain silent. We have an obligation to witness to the kingdom. We cannot be silent, nor can we be neutral," he said.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Update: Parish of teen who escaped abduction credits power of prayer

IMAGE: CNS photo/FBI handout via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For nearly three months, parishioners at St. Peter Catholic Church in Cameron, Wisconsin, were praying for the safe return of one of their own -- 13-year-old Jayme Closs.

When parishioners heard the news that she had escaped her abductor Jan. 10 and was safe, their prayers switched to gratitude.

The parish sign said, "Praise God Welcome Home Jayme," after its Mass times listing. It joined dozens of messages that had sprung up in signs and storefronts across the Wisconsin town and neighboring towns cheering the teen's safety.

"Our prayers have been answered and God is good," parishioner JoAnn Trowbridge told the local NBC affiliate, WEAU, after Jan. 13 Mass at St. Peter. She also said she thinks their prayers may have been answered because "God got sick of us nagging him."

St. Peter, in the Diocese of Superior, is where Jayme attended religious education classes and Mass with her parents, James and Denise, who were murdered Oct. 15, 2018. Their funeral Mass was celebrated at the church Oct. 27.

Superior Bishop James P. Powers said in a Jan. 11 message to priests and parish leaders that he hoped all parishes would add a "thanksgiving petition to God" during Masses that Jayme was found alive and safe. He said that during her nearly three-month captivity, she had to endure "God knows what kind of physical and mental torture as we kept her in our prayers asking for her safe return."

"We now want to keep her in our prayers asking God's healing touch on her body, mind and spirit," he said in a message posted on the Facebook page of the Catholic Herald, Superior's diocesan newspaper.

Jake Patterson, 21, has been charged with couple's murder and with kidnapping Jayme, both of which he has confessed to, according to a criminal complaint released Jan. 14 by the Barron County District Attorney.

Jayme was found in the town of Gordon, about 70 miles from her home in Barron, when she escaped the cabin in the woods where she had been held for 88 days and met a woman walking a dog who took her to a nearby home and called police.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters when he announced the teen's return that she was back through the "hope and the prayers in this community and what everybody did."

He also primarily praised the teen saying: "She took that first step. Taking that step was just unbelievable." He said when people talk about this kind of situation with their kids they need to advise them: "Never give up hope, keep your prayers alive. When you get into a situation, you never give up."

Jayme is currently staying with an aunt. Her grandfather told The Associated Press that she is "in exceptionally good spirits."

St. Peter Church will hold a special service of Thanksgiving for her return Jan. 20.
During the parish's Jan. 13 Mass, parishioners prayed for Jayme and her family and for all who had searched for the teen while she was missing.

They said they want her to know of their support in the weeks, months and years ahead, particularly that she can "handle this and get her life back together," as one parishioner put it.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.