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24 HOURS FOR THE LORD

For the year 2020, Bishop Vann has agreed to a different approach for “24 Hours for the Lord.” As you...

CONNELLY TEACHER AND STUDENT AWARDED TOP MOCK TRIAL HONORS 

Cornelia Connelly school’s Mock Trial Teacher Coach Dorothy Morris, and student Tahlia Garcia (’21), won top awards at the Feb....

Northern Italian dioceses take drastic measures against coronavirus

IMAGE: CNS photo/Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the biggest two days of celebration and costume parades left, the famous pre-Lenten "Carnevale" of Venice was canceled as were Ash Wednesday services and even funeral Masses throughout the diocese.

The Archdiocese of Milan also issued a notice Feb. 23 suspending all public celebrations of the Mass until further notice in compliance with Italian Ministry of Health precautions to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy's civil protection service, announced Feb. 24 that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country had risen to 219, including five people who died. The majority of cases -- 167 -- were in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, whose capital is Milan. The Veneto region, whose capital is Venice, had 27 confirmed cases, he said.

Schools and museums in the two regions were closed, and school trips were suspended for all students throughout Italy.

Lazio, the region surrounding the Vatican, has had three confirmed cases, including a married couple from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Neither Lazio nor the Vatican had issued special precautions as of Feb. 24.

Auxiliary Bishop Franco Agnesi, vicar general of the Milan archdiocese, issued further instructions Feb. 24 saying that churches would remain open for private prayer and, although there should be no public celebration of the Mass, "funerals and matrimonies can be celebrated, but with the presence only of close relatives."

Milan's famed cathedral announced it would be closed to tourists Feb. 24-25 while awaiting further instructions from the health ministry and the archdiocese. However, it said, "the area reserved for prayer" would remain open, although no public Mass would be celebrated.

In a statement Feb. 23, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice announced that all public Masses and gatherings of the faithful were being suspended at least until midnight March 1. The ban included Ash Wednesday services and funeral Masses, although a priest would still be available to bless the body of the deceased in the presence of the person's closest family members.

The archdiocesan Lenten priests' retreat, which was to begin Feb. 27, also was postponed.

Archbishop Moraglia said pastors should try to keep churches open so that a few faithful at a time could make a quick visit for prayer. Within the historic center of Venice that probably would not be possible, he said, and he announced that the city's famed St. Mark's Basilica would remain closed.

At the same time, he said, the archdiocese's charitable activities would continue. Soup kitchens were to continue distributing free meals, but they would be packaged to go to avoid the risk of large numbers of people gathering in a dining hall. Public health officials will assist at dormitories for the homeless to ensure they remain open, he said.

The Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, also in the Veneto region, announced the suspension of Masses and public prayer services through March 1. The Franciscans who care for the basilica, which includes the tomb of St. Anthony, said they would keep the church open, but they asked pilgrims and tourists not to congregate in large numbers.

The Archdiocese of Turin, in Italy's Piedmont region, canceled all catechism classes and other public gatherings except for Masses. However, it ordered priests to empty all holy water fonts and distribute Communion only in the hand. As for the distribution of ashes Feb. 26, it said, "ashes will be placed directly on the head of the faithful without any physical contact and there will be no celebrations for children in order to safeguard their health."

 

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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]

HEART OF THE CAMPUS

What pulled Christianity out of the Dark Ages so many centuries ago? It was St. Benedict’s simple rule for the...

Gospel challenges believers to love without measure, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The only acceptable form of extremism for a Christian is an "extremism of love," Pope Francis said, concelebrating Mass with bishops from throughout the Mediterranean basin.

"'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference," the pope said Feb. 23 as he celebrated an outdoor Mass in central Bari, a city on the southern Italian coast.

The Mass, concelebrated by 60 bishops from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, marked the conclusion of a five-day meeting to address common concerns, including the need for peace, the care of migrants and refugees, the defense of religious freedom and the promotion of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue.

Pope Francis' homily did not directly address the themes of the meeting but focused on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers not to retaliate against those who harm them and to love and pray for their enemies.

"Pray and love: this is what we must do," Pope Francis said. "The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost, because the measure of Jesus is love without measure."

Jesus' commandment of love is not just a suggestion or even a challenge, the pope said. "It is the very heart of the Gospel."

"Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution," he said. "The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. It is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love."

Pope Francis said he knew some people would object and say, "That is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails, and people seem to be concerned only with themselves."

"So is Jesus' logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers?" the pope asked. "In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners."

In the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the pope said, God proved that "evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force."

Of course, he said, Jesus "raises the bar" to a level that seems humanly impossible, but that is where prayer comes in.

"Ask God for the strength to love," he said. "Say to him: 'Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you.'"

"Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide," Pope Francis said. "Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity."

 

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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]

Mediterranean must be crossroad of peace, dialogue, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic communities of every nation on the Mediterranean Sea must work together to promote peace, to aid migrants and refugees and to defend religious freedom, Pope Francis told bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries.

"Amid deep fault lines and economic, religious, confessional and political conflicts, we are called to offer our witness to unity and peace," the pope said Feb. 23 as he joined 60 bishops from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa at the end of a five-day meeting in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, spoke before Pope Francis, noting how for centuries the Mediterranean has been the crossroads of "cultural, commercial and religious exchanges of every kind, but it also has been a theater of wars, conflicts, political and even religious division."

"At the present time, rather than diminishing, these seem to be increasing," the archbishop said. "The destiny of entire populations has been subjugated to the interests of a few," he continued.

Pope Francis, in his speech to the bishops, condemned the "growing attitude of indifference and even rejection" of the poor and migrants by "those who, caught up in their own wealth and freedom, are blind to others."

"Fear is leading to a sense that we need to defend ourselves against what is depicted in demagogic terms as an invasion" of migrants and refugees, the pope continued.

Departing from his prepared text, he said he was frightened by the content and tone of speeches by some political leaders who "sow fear and then hatred" in a way similar to what the Nazis did in the 1930s.

"The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations merely serves to justify violence and to nurture hatred," he said. And rather than building institutions that promote equal opportunity and educate everyone to work for the common good, "the international community has been content with military interventions."

Dialogue and understanding are essential to life in a globalized world, he said. "All too often, history has known conflicts and struggles based on the distorted notion that we are defending God by opposing anyone who does not share our set of beliefs."

"Extremism and fundamentalism deny the dignity of the human person and his or her religious freedom, and thus lead to moral decline," the pope said, urging the bishops to "speak out to demand that government leaders protect minorities and religious freedom. The persecution experienced above all -- but not only --by Christian communities is a heart-rending fact that cannot leave us indifferent."

Working for the common good of all God's children is part of preaching the Gospel, the pope said, which is why Catholics must "act tirelessly as peacemakers."

"The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups," he said.

And regarding "the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," Pope Francis warned of "the danger of inequitable solutions," which many read as a reference to a plan announced in late January by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under the plan, Israel would annex part of the West Bank and the Palestinians would be given limited sovereignty.

Pope Francis also spoke of the "serious sin of hypocrisy" seen when "so many countries talk about peace but then sell weapons to countries that are at war. This is called the great hypocrisy."

"War, by allocating resources to the acquisition of weapons and military power, diverts those resources from vital social needs, such as the support of families, health care and education," he said.

In other words, the pope said, war "is genuine madness; it is madness to destroy houses, bridges, factories and hospitals, to kill people and annihilate resources, instead of building human and economic relationships. It is a kind of folly to which we cannot resign ourselves: war can never be considered normal or accepted as an inevitable means of settling differences and conflicts of interest."

Many of the victims of those wars or conflicts, those fleeing religious persecution and those seeking a safe and dignified life for their families attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

"The number of these brothers and sisters -- forced to abandon their loved ones and their lands, and to face conditions of extreme insecurity -- has risen as a result of spreading conflicts and increasingly dramatic environmental and climatic conditions," the pope noted.

"We can never resign ourselves to the fact that someone who seeks hope by way of the sea can die without receiving help," Pope Francis said.

 

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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]

Jean Vanier had 'manipulative' sexual relationships with six women

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jean Vanier Association

By Philippe Vaillancourt

MONTREAL (CNS) -- Jean Vanier, founder of the ecumenical L'Arche communities that provide group homes and spiritual support for people with intellectual disabilities, used his status to have "manipulative" sexual relationships with at least six women, concludes an internal investigation commissioned by the organization.

The investigation reports "sincere and consistent testimony covering the period 1970-2005" from six adults, none of whom had disabilities.

These women report Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, the report says. Vanier, who died in 2019, asked the women to keep their relations secret.

The report says the women reported similar facts, although they did not know each other or about their parallel histories.

L'Arche International promised "a thorough and independent investigation" in order "to better understand our history, to improve our work in preventing abuse and thus to improve our own current policies and practices." In particular, the organization wanted to shed light on the environment surrounding Father Thomas Philippe, Vanier's spiritual director, who had sexually abused adult women who were not disabled; the organization learned about it in 2015, 22 years after the priest's death. In a church trial in the 1950s, the priest was banned from exercising any public or private ministry.

The alleged acts with Vanier took place in Trosly-Breuil, France, where L'Arche was founded in 1964 and where Father Philippe and Vanier lived almost permanently until their deaths. All the testimonies mention the same procedure: The women received an invitation to go to Vanier's room, under the pretext of receiving spiritual direction.

In a letter addressed to members of L'Arche communities around the world, which was due out Feb. 25 but leaked to the media earlier, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney, respectively international officer and vice international officer, presented the main conclusions of the investigation entrusted to the British consulting firm GCPS Consulting, which specializes in situations involving children or vulnerable persons. Members of L'Arche were informed last June that such a process had begun.

The investigation reveals the depth of the relationship between Vanier and Father Philippe and says Vanier lied when he said he was unaware of the canonical sanctions against his mentor.

A Feb. 22 statement from Tina Bovermann, executive director of L'Arche USA, said that as a "member of a group of followers of Philippe, starting in the 1950s, Jean Vanier not only subscribed to Philippe's theology, which the Catholic Church deemed heretical. He also shared sexual practices, similar to those of Philippe, with several women. The inquiry found no evidence that these specific relationships were not consensual. It is clear that Jean Vanier enabled Philippe to be involved in the L'Arche community in Trosly until his death in 1993, and thus potentially failed to prevent further abuse."

The six women mentioned above were not part of this founding group, the survey notes.

"When we read the investigation report, we were devastated," said Louis Pilotte, L'Arche Canada national director. "For most L'Arche leaders, it is a shock. For all of us, it's a situation we couldn't have imagined."

"There is no testimony, neither in this investigation, nor in the one concerning Father Philippe, that refers to relationships with people in a situation of disability," Pilotte emphasized.

"The impact of this news will be devastating," Pilotte added. "The shock will be felt far beyond L'Arche and the Catholic community. Jean was a figure recognized everywhere, in all religions."

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Contributing to this story was Francois Gloutnay in Montreal.

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Vaillancourt is editor of Presence info, Montreal. Gloutnay is a reporter with Presence.

 

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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 clears way for beatification of Salvadoran Jesuit, companions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

The Vatican announced Feb. 22 that Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of a fellow Jesuit, Salvadoran Father Rutilio Grande, and two companions who were murdered en route to a novena in 1977 in El Salvador.

Papal recognition of their martyrdom clears the way for their beatification, although the Vatican did not announce a date for the ceremony.

"The announcement of the beatification of Father Rutilio Grande has been expected for many years," said Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a relative of the slain priest, in an email to Catholic News Service. "Today the news is received with jubilee and joy. That a man of such humble origins be recognized for his surrender to God, his love for the poor, and his efforts to achieve justice, is an example."

Father Grande died March 12, 1977, near his hometown of El Paisnal in rural El Salvador after being shot a dozen times or more along with elderly parishioner Manuel Solorzano and teenager Nelson Rutilio Lemus, who were accompanying him to a novena for the feast of St. Joseph. Their bodies were found lifeless in an overturned Jeep the priest was driving.

Though born in the Salvadoran countryside, Father Grande was educated as a member of the Society of Jesus, mostly in Spain and Belgium and other parts of Latin America, but later returned as to work among his native country's poor and rural masses. The mission teams he organized taught peasants to read using the Bible, but also helped rural workers to organize so they could speak against a rich and powerful minority that paid them meager salaries and confront the social maladies that befell them because they were poor.

With a team of Jesuit missionaries and lay pastoral agents, Father Grande, who was the pastor of a church in the neighboring town of Aguilares, evangelized a wide rural area in El Salvador from 1972 until his assassination by death squads. As was the case with the assassination of St. Oscar Romero and tens of thousands of other Salvadorans, no one was ever charged with his death or that of his parishioners.  

"His death in the company of Manuel and the young Nelson Rutilio demonstrates his solidarity with the most needy of his beloved country," said Sister Pineda, a theologian and professor at Santa Clara University in California, who wrote the book "Romero and Grande: Companions on the Journey."

The book explores the life of Father Grande and his close friend, the archbishop of San Salvador, who would later become St. Romero, canonized in 2018. St. Romero would die a similar death three years later, martyred as he celebrated Mass. Some say that when Father Grande died, St. Romero took up the mantle in speaking for the poor, and others, including Pope Francis, believe that the murder of Father Grande led to a moment of conversion for the conservative archbishop, who later became popularly known as the voice of the poor.

Others believe St. Romero already was on a path of conversion because he had seen oppression as an auxiliary bishop in a different rural area where he served.

The official recognition of martyrdom means Father Grande and his companions will be beatified without a miracle being attributed to them, though Pope Francis has, in the past, been quoted as saying that Father Grande's first miracle was St. Romero.

Beatification is a step before sainthood; in order for Father Grande and his companions to be canonized, a miracle would have to be attributed to their intercession.

"For me, the beatification of Rutilio means that the persecuted Latin American and Salvadoran church is being recognized," Salvadoran Bishop Oswaldo Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango, El Salvador, told CNS in an audio interview via WhatsApp. "His commitment to Medellin, his commitment to the poor, especially the peasants who were being badly mistreated in the Aguilares region, where he worked, led him to become a Jesus in that land."

A 1968 conference in Medellin, Colombia, adapted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council toward the needs of the Latin American church, emphasizing pastoral care for the poor majorities of the region. Father Grande, along with many others, followed that direction with his work among the peasants and that sometimes led him to publicly speak out against their oppression.

"The beatification is a great joy for everyone, for peasants, for the oppressed, for those who experienced violence," said Bishop Escobar, who serves in a largely rural area, one that also saw the killing of many Catholic peasants and clergy. "As I like to say, when they canonized Romero, Romero did not go to heaven alone. Behind Romero, many martyrs followed: all the murdered and persecuted (Salvadorans). It's the same with Rutilio. He is being beatified with two peasants, two laypeople, a symbol of many who were martyred."

Despite many falsehoods spread about the Jesuit priest, including that he was a subversive and took up arms, the truth survived, and he is being recognized for his commitment as a pastor to his people, the bishop said.

For others, the beatification is more personal, as well as spiritual. Ana Grande, the Jesuit's niece and an executive at a nonprofit in California, said she was overcome with joy at the news and hoped that through the intercession of soon-to-be Blessed Grande and St. Romero, El Salvador, which still suffers from great violence, corruption, poverty and other social ailments, would heal and the people's hope and faith would be renewed.

"For years we have prayed that the beatification of our uncle, Father Grande, come at a time to encourage our Salvadoran community, to keep lifting their voices," she said to CNS via Twitter. "I can only imagine the feast Romero and Rutilio will have as they join the communion of saints."

 

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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]

SAINT PROFILE: POLYCARP

This disciple of St. John the Apostle was appointed bishop of Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey), perhaps by John. Representing the Asia...

Recording artist Dana headlines Lenten program on Great Catholic Music

IMAGE: CNS photo/Living Bread Radio

By

CANTON, Ohio (CNS) -- Great Catholic Music, a free Catholic music platform with over 16,000 downloads, is partnering with Irish Catholic recording artist Dana this Lent to bring listeners the hourlong program "The Stations of the Cross," airing every Friday of the penitential season.

The program will air at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Eastern time). The program will consist of spoken reflection and prayer accompanied by music sung by Dana. Listeners can catch the program at GreatCatholicMusic.com, on Alexa devices or on the outlet's free mobile app for Android and Apple devices.

"This recording of the Stations of the Cross will help you meditate deeply on Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. The use of the harp, beautiful prayerful vocals, and added effects provide the contemplative background music," Dana said in a statement.

She made this album with her brother-in-law, the late Father Kevin Scallon, to allow Catholics "a chance to walk with Christ."

"We could not think of a better program to help our listeners prepare for Easter than Dana's 'The Stations of the Cross,' said Chris Cugini, spokesperson for Great Catholic Music. "The stations are one of the most sacred prayers for Catholics to reflect upon during the Lenten season."

The national sponsor for this program is CatholicBook.net, an online Catholic retailer that is celebrating 30 years of business. The album can be purchased through its online store.

As listeners tune in during this program, they will be praying the stations with thousands of others from around the world, according to a Great Catholic Music news release announcing the Lenten program with Dana.

"Offering the consistent programming for all listeners is important for Great Catholic Music as its goal is to unite all people in Christ through the melodies for the soul," the release said. "In Stations, Father Kevin Scallon's soothing voice and Dana's haunting sung prayers give a clear mental picture of each station. Each time you hear it, you will walk alongside Jesus on his final journey to Calvary."

Great Catholic Music was formed in March 2019 by Living Bread Radio in Canton to help Catholics learn more about the music tradition of the church. The platform allows listeners from anywhere in the world to stream Catholic music that can be used for praise and worship or meditative prayer.

Its founders call the station "revolutionary" and note it is "100% listener supported."

All of Great Catholic Music's offerings, like the special Lenten program, can be streamed online at GreatCatholicMusic.com, on the app available on Apple and Android devices, or through smartspeaker technology, like Alexa.

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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]