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In Detroit, families begin to see Sundays as a day of rest, togetherness

IMAGE: CNS photo/Melissa Moon, Detroit Catholic

By Michael Stechschulte

DETROIT (CNS) -- There's no such thing as the perfect Catholic family.

Days of joy, celebration and happiness can be followed by challenges, heartbreak and, at times, chaos brought on by contemporary hectic lifestyles.

At their best, however, Father Stephen Pullis, director of evangelization, catechesis and schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit, knows that Catholic families are full of life, love, faith, companionship and hope.

Recognizing everyday reality, the archdiocese has introduced a series of tools geared toward supporting parishes and helping families live their mission as the "domestic church."

Foremost among those tools is a new program designed by the archdiocese to help families reclaim Sunday as a day for God and for the family.

Called 52 Sundays, the program is a road map for families to live Sundays together in a countercultural, faith-filled way, Father Pullis told the 750 people who participated in the archdiocese's Parish Day of Renewal in November.

Spanning the 2020 calendar year, 52 Sundays includes a resource book and an online component to guide families through weekly exercises based on the Sunday Gospels. It also includes reflections on the saints, a specific prayer activity and a recipe for each week.

"The idea is to take this day that God has consecrated as sacred and to live that as a family," Father Pullis explained to Detroit Catholic, the archdiocese's online news platform. "We know that looks different for a young adult or a newly married couple, so we really focused on families who have kids at home."

The material focuses largely on family dialogue, giving families a chance to digest the material together and bounce ideas off each other.

The prevailing culture doesn't support family togetherness as it once did, let alone earnest conversations about faith, Father Pullis said.

"So much of how we learn as a family is in dialogue together. It's important that we take that time as a family to have that conversation," Father Pullis said. "This is a chance for families to make Sunday a day about the Lord."

Resources are available in English and Spanish at 52Sundays.com, and all of the material is available to download for free. Families also can follow along with each week's lessons and activities on the Unleash the Gospel Facebook page.

Given the archdiocese's decision in 2019 to cease scheduling sporting events on Sundays, Father Pullis said it is important for the church to offer an alternative for families to spend time together away from athletic fields or computer screens.

"We knew for a lot of families, sports were an obstacle to living Sunday as a day of rest set apart for God," Father Pullis said. "But there are lots of things that can distract us. It can be hard to think about, 'Well, what do we do now? Do we just stare at our screens all day? Do we just break off and be isolated in our own little world?' This takes each Sunday in 2020 and offers a resource to help the family reclaim that day."

In addition to 52 Sundays, the archdiocese's Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools has developed numerous resources to strengthen marriage and family life, including new guidelines for marriage preparation.

Parish Day of Renewal also featured training for parish staff and ministers on personal faith sharing, forming and organizing small parish-based groups, and offering "radical hospitality" for parish newcomers.

Oftentimes, the "least hospitable" interactions in a parish take place either in the pews or in the parking lot -- where people are most likely to become protective of "their" space, Father Pullis said.

On the contrary, "our parishes should be centers where people feel welcome, where we can share the joy and what it means to follow Jesus," he said.

Small groups are an effective way to do that, especially in larger parishes where it's impossible for parish staff to effectively minister to each individual.

Parishes must be mindful of the fact that newcomers might only give the parish one chance to make an impression -- which means every person serves as a potential ambassador.

"Every parish should be deliberate on how to welcome those who never come to church, who have not been there in years, who may cross the threshold with some trepidation," Father Pullis said. "The parish is really meant to be a leaven for the whole of the community."

Strong parishes are essential for growing the church, but they're also critical for strong neighborhood development, Father Pullis added.

"We see in a lot of places, especially in the city of Detroit, the difference a parish makes in the neighborhood," the priest said. "If we're not ready to be hospitable to those who show up at our door, how can we go out and share the Gospel with people where they are?"

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Stechschulte is editor-in-chief of Detroit Catholic, the online news platform of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

 

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Update: Leap year's extra day has a Catholic origin

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rosanna Aguilera, San Angelo Standard-Times via Reuters

By Donis Tracy

BOSTON (CNS) -- The extra day we get approximately once every four years is a way to adapt the calendar year to the astronomical year.

But did you know the present system of calculating the leap years was designed around fixing the date of Easter?

While the concept of the leap year has been around since ancient times, the current calendar year has its origins in the Catholic Church.

According to the Rev. James Weiss, associate professor of church history at Boston College, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII set about adjusting the calendar to bring the celebration of Easter to the time of year it was celebrated when it was introduced by the early church.

The Julian calendar -- used by the Roman Empire and named after Julius Caesar -- had followed the ancient Egyptian calendar and added an extra day every four years. However, Rev. Weiss explained, that was not in keeping with the astronomical calendar.

"Once every four years proved to be too many leap years, and over time, the calendar year did not match the astronomical year," he told The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese.

Pope Gregory determined the calendar was out of sync with the spring equinox by 10 days. This was significant to the church because the date of Easter was set by the Council of Nicaea in 325 as the Sunday after the first full moon of spring, and the start of spring was fixed as March 21. Without adjustment, the date of Easter would eventually drift into the summer.

So, on Feb. 24, 1582, Pope Gregory issued a papal bull titled "Inter gravissimas" in which he set about to correct the error. The new calendar -- which would be called the Gregorian calendar -- added an extra day to February every four years, unless the year is divisible by 100. Those years do not have a leap year. The exception to that rule is if the year is divisible by 400. So, following this rule, 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was.

Although this mathematically corrected the problem, Rev. Weiss continued, there was the problem of the 10 days that were "out of sync." Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain and Poland, he said, altered their calendars during the month of October, so that when people went to sleep Oct. 4, they awoke on what was then Oct. 15.

"To complicate matters, not all of Europe followed the Gregorian calendar," Rev. Weiss continued. "There was a huge confusion for a very long time with regards to the date, which introduced a kind of chaos into European dating."

Over the next 200 years, most European nations adopted the Gregorian calendar, he continued. The final country to switch to the Gregorian calendar was Turkey, which finally adopted the calendar in 1927.

Today, most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar. Some exceptions, such as Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan still use their traditional calendars to mark the years. Others, such as India, Bangladesh and Israel use both the Gregorian and their traditional calendars to mark the passage of time.

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Tracy is a contributor to The Pilot, archdiocesan newspaper of Boston.

 

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Papal academy invites tech giants to support ethical guidelines for AI

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Pontifical Academy for Life has invited the leaders of Microsoft and IBM -- two of the world's leading developers of AI software -- to sign a charter calling for an ethical framework and guidelines for the field of artificial intelligence.

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, and John Kelly III, executive vice president of IBM, were invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored event Feb. 28 dedicated to "human-centric artificial intelligence" and to sign a joint "Call for AI Ethics."

The appeal will ask that particular "ethical principles be present in AI products that they develop, sell and use," Father Paolo Benanti, a papal academy member and Third Order Regular of St. Francis, told reporters at a Vatican news conference Feb. 25.

As "an open framework," the appeal is meant to be "the start of a movement that brings together people of goodwill to cooperate so that ethical choices, legal standards and appropriate education efforts make civil society capable of facing this new season" of a world increasingly impacted by AI technology, said the theologian and expert in bioethics and ethics of technology.

It was hoped the document would inspire other stakeholders -- such as government bodies, NGOs, industry leaders and associations -- to become part of the movement to give guidance to the development and use of AI technology, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the pontifical academy, told reporters.

He said the appeal, which they will present to Pope Francis, was necessary given the great need for "a strong moral drive to humanize technology and not 'technologize' humanity."

"It is not an official text by the academy, but is a document of a shared commitment, proposed by us," offering a brief and concise set of guidelines "for an ethics of artificial intelligence," the archbishop said. The text of the document was to be released in full online at romecall.org Feb. 28.

Those guidelines will outline a number of commitments concerning ethics, rights and education, in a shared effort with all those who seriously wish "to better understand how to promote the good of humanity," he said.

The signing was to be followed by a scheduled audio-video link-up with Pope Francis, who was expected to address those present at the event.

The event was also to cap off the papal academy's general assembly Feb. 26-28 dedicated to studying the impact, challenges and safeguards of artificial intelligence in the fields of ethics, legal rights and health care.

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Pope: Christians with humility, not grand titles, are the greatest ones

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The most important members of the Catholic Church are not the ones who hold lofty titles and high positions but rather those who humbly serve others, Pope Francis said.

"Who is the most important person in the church? The pope, the bishops, the monsignors, the cardinals, the pastors of the most beautiful parishes, the presidents of the lay associations?" the pope asked in his homily during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae Feb. 25.

"No! The greatest one in the church is the one who becomes a servant for all, one who serves everyone, not the one who has the most titles," he said.

The pope reflected on the first reading from the Letter of James in which the apostle warns that "whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

A person, especially a Christian, who falls prey to worldliness and wants to be more important than others, lives a life "that always seeks to make compromises in order to climb higher, to dominate, to be greater," he said.

That worldly spirit that seeks to gain "more money and more power" leads to the wickedness of gossip, the pope added.

"Where does it come from? From envy; the envious one is the devil, we know that, the Bible says it," he said. "Evil entered the world due to the devil's envy. Envy is a seed that pushes you to destroy, to speak ill, to annihilate the other."

He also recalled the day's Gospel reading from Mark in which Jesus, addressing the disciples' earlier quarrel over who was the greatest among them, said, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

Christians, Pope Francis said, are called to follow the path laid out by Jesus and be humble servants of all.

"This is the path," the pope said. "The path against the spirit of the world is one: humility. Serving others, choosing the last place, to not climb."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

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High court to examine religious liberty, foster care by same-sex couples

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Becket Religious Liberty for All

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court announced Feb. 24 that in its next term it will examine if the city of Philadelphia can exclude a Catholic social services agency from the city's foster care program because the agency will not accept same-sex couples as foster parents.

In 2018, Philadelphia stopped using the foster program of Catholic Social Services of the Philadelphia Archdiocese over the agency's policy of not placing children with same-sex couples because such unions go against church teaching on traditional marriage.

A year later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit sided with the city, calling the agency's policies discriminatory.

"The city stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its nondiscrimination policies when administering public services," the ruling said. "Placing vulnerable children with foster families is without question a vital public service. ... Deterring discrimination in that effort is a paramount public interest," it added.

Catholic Social Services has contracted with the city on foster care since the late 1990s. Foster parents with the agency joined in the lawsuit against the city initially to seek an injunction to stop the city's policy.

The case, Fulton v. Philadelphia, takes its name from Sharonell Fulton, a foster parent who joined in the lawsuit against the city along with another foster parent, Toni Simms-Busch.

"CSS has been a godsend to my family and so many like ours. I don't think I could have gone through this process without an agency that shares my core beliefs and cares for my children accordingly," said Simms-Busch in a Feb. 24 statement.

"We are so grateful that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear our case and sort out the mess that Philadelphia has created for so many vulnerable foster children," she added.

In the initial lawsuit against Catholic Social Services, the city's Department of Human Services investigated if the agency refused to place foster children in LGBT households, even though over the course of its decades-long partnership with the city, neither the agency nor the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission ever received a complaint that LGBT individuals were denied placement of a foster child due to the Catholic agency's actions.

Becket, a religious liberty law firm, is representing the foster women defending the Catholic Social Services policy.

"I'm relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will weigh in on faith-based adoption and foster care," said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. "Over the last few years, agencies have been closing their doors across the country, and all the while children are pouring into the system. We are confident that the court will realize that the best solution is the one that has worked in Philadelphia for a century -- all hands on deck for foster kids."

A lawyer representing Philadelphia also issued a statement after the Supreme Court's announcement, saying the city would demonstrate to the nation's highest court that the appeals court ruling "affirming the city's ability to uphold nondiscrimination policies was correct."

Marcel Pratt, city solicitor, said this case is "ultimately about serving the youth in our care, and the best way to do that is by upholding our sincere commitment to the dignity of all people, including our LGBTQ community."

He also said the city of Philadelphia is proud of its "long-standing commitment to supporting freedom of religion and preserving equal access to services for all people -- regardless of their race, national origin, religion, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity."

The case is already gaining attention months before oral arguments, which could be in October.

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, said the case could have "profound consequences for the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the country. We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children."

"Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse," she added.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal adviser for the Catholic Association, a group that defends the church and religious liberty, conversely said: "Faith-based groups shouldn't be forced to abandon their deeply held religious and moral convictions in order to serve children in desperate need."

She said the court's decision to review Philadelphia's "intolerant and discriminatory action against the Catholic Social Services foster care program is a welcome first step toward reopening doors to loving and stable foster homes."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

‘POWERFUL WORDS OF UNDERSTANDING’: POPE BACKS INDIGENOUS IN AMAZON

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