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Pope: overcome spiritual desolation through prayer, not pills or drink

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said silence and prayer is the way to overcome our darkest moments, rather than resorting to pills or alcoholic drinks to escape from our woes. His comments came during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated on Tuesday at the Santa Marta residence. 

Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:


Taking his cue from the day’s first reading where Job was living through a spiritual desolation and was giving vent to his sorrows before God, the Pope’s homily focused on these dark moments of spiritual desolation that all of us experience at some point and explained how we can overcome them. He said although Job was in deep trouble and had lost everything he did not curse God and his outburst was that of “a son in front of his father.”

All of us sooner or later experience a spiritual darkness

“Spiritual desolation is something that happens to all of us: it can be stronger or weaker … but that feeling of spiritual darkness, of hopelessness, mistrust, lacking the desire to live, without seeing the end of the tunnel, with so much agitation in one’s heart and in one’s ideas…  Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live: ‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us… whether strong or not ….. to all of us. (We need to) understand what goes on in our hearts.”

Pope Francis went on to pose the question: “What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?.” Noting that some people would think of taking a pill to sleep and remove them from their problems or drinking one, two, three or four glasses” he warned that these methods “do not help.” Instead, today’s liturgy shows us how to cope with this spiritual desolation, “when we are lukewarm, depressed and without hope.”

The Pope said the way out from this situation is to pray, to pray loudly, just as Job did, day and night until God listens.

“It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength! ‘Lord, my soul is surfeited with troubles. My life draws near to Hell. I am numbered among those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength.’ How many times have we felt like this, without strength?  And here is the prayer. Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments. ‘Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments that are really crushing us. This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.”

Silence, closeness and prayer is how to help those who are suffering

The importance of silence, being close and using prayer was stressed by Pope Francis who said that was the correct way for friends to behave when faced with those who are undergoing dark moments, warning words and speeches in these situations can do harm.  

“First of all, we must recognize in ourselves these moments of spiritual desolation, when we are in the dark, without hope and asking ourselves why. Secondly, we must pray to the Lord like today’s reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. ‘Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ Thirdly, when I draw close to a person who is suffering, whether from illness, or whatever other type of suffering and who is experiencing a sense of desolation, we must be silent: but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses.  And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.”

The Pope concluded his homily by asking the Lord to grant us these three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.”

Watch a video report of the Pope's Mass:

(from Vatican Radio)

Holy See: Peace of nuclear deterrence "a tragic illusion"

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican told the United Nations on Monday “nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion.”

“Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

He was speaking at an event marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

“Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation,” the Vatican diplomat said.


The full statement of Archbishop Auza can be found below


Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza

Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

at the High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote

The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

New York, 26 September 2016


Mr. President,

The  Holy  See  fervently  hopes  that  this  annual  commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will contribute to breaking the deadlock that has beset the United Nations’ disarmament machinery for far too long now.

In February 1943, two years and a half before the Trinity test, Pope Piu XII had already voiced deep concern regarding the violent use of atomic energy.  After Hiroshima and Nagasaki  and  given  the  totally uncontrollable and indiscriminate consequences of nuclear weapons, Pope Pius XII demanded the effective proscription and banishment of atomic warfare, calling the arms race a costly relationship of mutual terror. The Holy See has maintained this position ever since the advent of nuclear weapons.

My delegation believes that nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or  on the threat of total annihilation. The Holy See believes that peace cannot be solely the maintaining of a balance of power. On the contrary, as Pope Francis affirmed, “Peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for human rights, the participation of all in public affairs  and the building of trust between peoples.”

Lasting peace thus requires that all must strive for progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.

The Holy See has been a Party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since the very beginning, in order to encourage nuclear possessing States to abolish their nuclear weapons, to dissuade non-nuclear possessing States from acquiring or developing nuclear capabilities, and to encourage international cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear material. While firmly believing that the NPT remains vital to international peace and security and regretting deeply our collective failure to move forward with a positive disarmament agenda, the Holy See will continue to argue against both the possession and the use of nuclear weapons, until the total elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved.

Indeed, the Holy See considers it a moral and humanitarian imperative to advance the efforts towards the final objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Disarmament treaties are not just legal obligations; they are also moral commitments based on trust between States, rooted  in  the  trust  that  citizens place in their governments. If commitments to nuclear disarmament are not  made in good faith and consequently result in breaches of trust, the proliferation of such weapons would be the logical corollary.

For our own good and that of future generations, we have no reasonable or moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a global problem and they impact all  countries and all peoples, including future generations. Increasing interdependence and globalization demand that whatever response we make to the threat of nuclear weapons be collective and concerted, based on reciprocal trust, and within a framework of general and complete disarmament, as Art. VI of the NPT demands. Moreover, there is the real and present danger that nuclear weapons and other arms of mass destruction would fall into the hands of extremist terrorist groups and other violent non-state actors.

The 2030  Agenda for Sustainable Development calls upon all of us to embark on the implementation of the daunting ambition to better every life, especially those who have been and are left behind. It would be naïve and myopic if we sought to assure world peace and security through nuclear weapons rather than through the eradication of extreme poverty, increased accessibility to healthcare and education, and the promotion of peaceful institutions and societies through dialogue and solidarity.

Mr. President,

No one could ever say that a world without nuclear weapons is easily achievable. It is not; it is extremely arduous; to some, it may even appear utopian. But there is no alternative than to work unceasingly towards its achievement.

Let me conclude by reaffirming the conviction that Pope Francis expressed in his December 2014 message to  the  President  of  the  Vienna  Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons: “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Cardinal Parolin: Religion important for peace in Colombia

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Monday celebrated a Liturgy of the Word in Cartagena to mark the signing of the Final Agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebels which aims to end decades of conflict which have left nearly 250,000 people dead, and displaced millions of others.

In his homily, the Cardinal said Pope Francis has followed “with great attention” and encouraged  “the efforts of recent years in search of harmony and reconciliation.”

“The Pope has always encouraged respect for human rights and Christian values, ​​which are at the center of the Colombian culture,” Cardinal Parolin continued.

The Cardinal said he hoped the signing of the Agreement would “ease the pain of those many people who have been humiliated and oppressed by the violence [of the conflict], stop hatred, and change the course of history to build a better future with strong and just institutions.”

“The safest way to begin a better future is to reconstruct the dignity of those who suffer, and to do this you need to approach them without delay, to the point where you can identify with them,” – Cardinal Parolin continued – “In fact, the root causes of this conflict which in recent decades has torn apart this country can be found in the wounds of the heart.”

He concluded his remarks by speaking of the importance of religious institutions for the peace of the nation.

“Religions lead to listening, to understanding and to recognizing the reasons for and the value of the other,” – Cardinal Parolin said – “Faith is opposed to harming the dignity of the person which causes the tearing of the civil fabric, and is not contrary to secularism, understood as respect for the various fields of competence belonging to the civil and spiritual realities.”

The Cardinal continued by saying “secularism has need of faith as a necessary reference point for coexistence and for respect.”

“The Catholic Church, in particular, promotes peaceful social coexistence, in accordance with the spiritual tradition of the people of Colombia, without claiming that all belong to the same religious confession,” – he said – “It offers points of reference so that individuals and communities are able to find and illuminate the common good.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Details of Pope Francis' visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan

(Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16th pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to the neighbouring republic of Armenia last June.


The Pope is scheduled to leave the Vatican on Friday morning, headed for the Georgian capital Tbilisi. His first encounter there will be with the president, with government authorities and representatives of civil society gathered at the imposing presidential palace. From there he goes on to meet the country’s Orthodox leader Patriarch Elia, who was also on hand for Pope John Paul II’s visit to the newly independent nation back in 1999.

The final event on Friday will be a visit to the Syro-Chaldean church of St Simon the Tanner, one of three different rites making up the small Catholic community in the former Soviet nation. The pope will join Syro-Chaldean bishops from around the world there to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq.

Pope Francis begins the following day with Mass at a stadium in Tbilisi named after one of Georgia’s most famous footballers. Significantly, a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate will also be present at the Mass, a sign of growing friendship despite the many doctrinal difficulties that continue to divide leaders of the two Churches.

In the afternoon, the Pope will meet with priests, religious and seminarians at one of the two Catholic parishes in the capital, before greeting several hundred disabled and vulnerable people being cared for by members of the Camilian order.  The Pope’s final event in Georgia will be a visit to the patriarchal cathedral in the nearby ancient city of Mtshketa, listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

On the final day of the trip, Pope Francis flies from Tbilisi to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan where he’ll celebrate Mass for the tiny Catholic community at the only parish church run by the Salesian order. In the afternoon he’ll make a courtesy visit to the president and meet the region’s Muslim leader, Sheik  Allashukur Pashazade, before taking part in an interfaith encounter with representatives of all the other religious communities in the country.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope receives President of Democratic Republic of Congo

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis received Monday in audience in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, His Excellency Joseph Kabila, who subsequently met with His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

In a statement, the Holy See's Press Office said during the "cordial discussions,"  the good relations between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were evoked, "with particular reference to the important contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of the nation, with its institutions in the educational, social and healthcare spheres, as well as in development and the reduction of poverty. In this context, mutual satisfaction was expressed for the signing of the framework Agreement between the Holy See and the State, which took place on 20 May this year."

Particular attention was paid, the comunique continues, "to the serious challenges placed by the current political challenge and the recent clashes that have occurred in the capital. Emphasis was placed on the importance of collaboration between political actors and representatives of civil society and religious communities, in favour of the common good, through a respectful and inclusive dialogue for the stability of peace in the country."

Finally, the Parties focused on the persistent violence suffered by the population in the east of the country, and on the urgency of cooperation at national and international levels, in order to provide the necessary assistance and to re-establish civil co-existence.

Watch a video report of the Pope's meeting with President Kabila:

(from Vatican Radio)

From homeless to meeting the Pope – a story of inspiration

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Tanya Cangelosi never imagined that she would one day be bringing homeless people on pilgrimages to Rome. And Shyla Montoya never thought that she would someday go on a pilgrimage to Rome. But earlier this month, that is exactly what they did. And what’s more, the pair was even able to meet Pope Francis. On Sept. 7, in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis stopped to speak with the two women after giving his usual Wednesday General Audience. Cangelosi, who started her own homeless ministry in Denver, handed him a collage she had made with photos of “our homeless kids,” as she calls them. Pope Francis held the photo: “he didn't just hand it off, he really looked at it,” Cangelosi said. Montoya is the third person from the homeless community selected to go on pilgrimage to Rome through Denver Homeless Ministries (DHM). The first was Clarissa “Glitterbear” Salazar in 2014 and the second was Derrick Yearout – known as “Tree” on the streets. That she would take homeless people on pilgrimage to Rome was the “furthest thing from my mind,” Cangelosi told CNA. As an organization committed to providing awareness of homeless persons in the Denver community and providing opportunities to serve them as both equals and friends, DHM offers the pilgrimage as a way to inspire those committed to bettering their lives. According to Cangelosi, however, the effects of the trip aren't always seen right away. “Maybe things don't make a difference for 3 or 4 years down the line,” she said. Sometimes it needs time to sink in, and that's okay. “It's the hardest thing I've done in my life,” she said. “I just do what the Lord asks me.” Montoya, 22, said she was pleased to meet the Pope, and that for her, the trip to Rome was not just for herself. She uploaded pictures to social media throughout the pilgrimage for all of her friends – who she calls her street “family” – following along back in Denver, Colorado. The trip was “not just for me,” Montoya said. “That's really important for me. I would bring everybody (along) if I had the chance.” Growing up, Montoya never knew her father, and went back-and-forth between living with her birth mother and great-grandparents until she was six, when her mother died. After that she was raised by her great-grandparents. When she was 14, her great-grandfather died, and heartbroken, she ran away from home. She lived in a group home for a while. Eventually, when she wanted to return home, she wasn't allowed to because of her great-grandmother's age. So she was put into the foster care system. She eventually ran away again and lived by couch hopping until she went back to the group home. She got back in touch with her family, and her great-grandmother – who she calls “mama” – inspired her to go back to school. But when she was 18 and her great-grandmother died, she, in her own words, “relapsed,” didn't go to school, and fell into a “depression.” “I started stealing. Eventually, I lost everything – again. I still had my apartment, but I didn't know how to survive,” she wrote in a statement prior to the Rome pilgrimage. “Struggling for food and clothes, and drinking a lot, I was lost. But something hit me. The Holy Spirit, I think. Something made me completely stop doing all the bad things I was doing.” “I started going to school. One step at a time, I picked everything up, piece by piece.” Montoya, now age 22, has an apartment and said she loves her job working at Auntie Anne's pretzel shop. Starting next year, she plans to study social work at a college in New York City through a program that helps pay for higher education for those who grew up in foster care. She said she has dreamed of living in New York City ever since she was a little girl. Going to Rome, on the other hand, “never crossed my mind.” “Not a day goes by that I don't reminisce on the past,” she said. “With every struggle that I faced and that I am facing today, I'm not negative about life. I always have a smile on my face and it's rare when I don't believe that everything happens for a reason.” Despite the challenges to this year's Rome pilgrimage, Cangelosi said God's “calling me to do it again next year.” In the meantime, though, Montoya said she is grateful for the experiences she's had in life, if only because she's learned from them. Everything “definitely made me open my eyes and appreciate life and everyone who walks in it,” she said. “Because even though sometimes I may not like them, I always remind myself that the sky isn't the limit because there's footprints on the moon.”  

Pope Francis: Feeling hopeless? Don't drink - pray!

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 02:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Feelings of spiritual desolation, or a lack of will to live, should be combated with prayer, not with sleeping pills or alcohol – things that only distract us from the problem – Pope Francis said Tuesday. “We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us… whether strong or not,” the Pope said in a homily Sept. 27. We need to “understand what goes on in our hearts.” Offered on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the Pope said Mass at Casa Santa Marta for the Vincentian Sisters the Daughters of Charity, who serve at the house. In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day's first reading, which is from the Book of Job, saying “Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live.” “‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?” the Pope asked. Instead of giving in to this despair, or trying to distract ourselves from our problems by taking sleeping pills or drinking “one, two, three or four glasses” of alcohol, which “do not help,” Francis said we should pray. “It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength!” Pope Francis stated. “Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments.” Quoting the day's Psalm, he said to pray, “Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.” “This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments,” the Pope continued. “This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.” Pope Francis emphasized that spiritual desolation is something that happens to everyone and said that the first step is to recognize within ourselves when we are having these moments of hopelessness or when we don't understand why something is happening. And then, he said, “we must pray to the Lord like today's reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. 'Let my prayer come before you, Lord.'” Offering advice for when we encounter a person who is suffering or experiencing a sense of desolation, the Pope said we should be silent; “but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses. And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.” Francis' homily concluded with his asking the Lord for the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation, and also the grace “to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.”

Pope taps parish priest as new bishop of Lubbock

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 07:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has named Msgr. Robert Milner Coerver, a parish priest from the Diocese of Dallas, as the new bishop-elect for Lubbock, Texas. Msgr. Coerver, pastor of St. Rita Parish in Dallas, will be taking over for Bishop Plácido Rodríguez, who has been leading the diocese since 1994, but who will now retire after having reached the normal age limit of 75. Born June 6, 1954, in Dallas, Msgr. Coerver grew up as part of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish before beginning his studies in philosophy at Dallas’ Holy Trinity Seminary. He was then sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome to study theology, where he was also enrolled in courses at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Pontifical Gregorian University. The bishop-elect was ordained a priest June 27, 1980, for the diocese of Dallas, and in 1981 received a Licentiate in Spiritual Theology from the Gregorian University. Later, in 1990, he obtained a Masters’ degree in Counseling and Guidance from Texas A & M University – Commerce, formerly known as East Texas State University. After his ordination, Msgr. Coerver served as assistant pastor at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Dallas as well as St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Plano until 1985. For the next 11 years he served as a spiritual director at Holy Trinity Seminary on the campus of the University of Dallas. In 1996 he moved fulltime into diocesan ministry, serving as a spirituality consultant for various programs in the diocese. In July 1997, he was appointed Director of the Office of Sacramental Life for the diocese, and in 2003 was named Director of Priestly Life and Ministry. He was given the title “Chaplain to His Holiness” by St. John Paul II in 2004, allowing him to be addressed as “Monsignor,” rather than “Father.” On March 16, 2005, Msgr. Coerver was named as pastoral administrator of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Rockwall, Texas. One year later he was named pastor of the parish, where he served until 2010, when he was appointed to his current position as pastor of St. Rita Parish in Dallas. Since 2008, Msgr. Coerver has also served as a member and Chairman of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Dallas. Details on the day and time of his episcopal ordination have yet to be announced.

For the Council of Cardinals, curia reform is an experiment in flexibility

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- How does Pope Francis carry forward the reform of the Roman Curia? Gradually, step by step, by trial and error, according to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, who serves as secretary of the Council of Cardinals.   Bishop Semeraro delivered his evaluation of the work of the Council of Cardinals in a lengthy article for the Italian Catholic monthly “Il Regno,” published Sept. 19. There, the bishop provided the criteria that led the Council of Cardinals to their suggested reform of the Roman Curia. The keywords to understand the reforming method are pastoral conversion, decentralization, and subsidiarity. Curia reform is already underway, the bishop said. There is unusual flexibility in the new management of the Vatican departments, known as dicasteries. At present, the newest dicasteries’ rules are approved on an experimental basis but without a time limit. Usually the Church places a time limit on experimental rules. This decision allows adjustments and improvements as soon as any are needed. Bishop Semeraro linked the Council of Cardinals’ actions to the “needs for a pastoral conversion” that Pope Francis stated in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.   The bishop reviewed Pope Francis’ instructions that established the Secretariat for Communications, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and the Dicastery for Integral Human development. According to Bishop Semeraro, these show that Curia reform has a twofold meaning. “First of all,” the bishop said, “the reform wants to make the Curia relevant to the current times, to better meet the needs of men and women.” Secondly, the reform aims at “making the Roman Curia more compliant to its task, that is, collaborating with the ministry of the successor of Peter.” For Bishop Semeraro, the diverse backgrounds of the cardinals on the Pope’s advisory council bring much experience to their task. He considered the demographics of the Council of Cardinals. Five are diocesan bishops from India, Europe, Africa, and North and South America. Two are bishops emeriti, one of whom currently heads a Vatican dicastery. There are two cardinals who have served as apostolic nuncios. Of these, one is now Secretary of State and the other is president of the Vatican City State Administration.   How often does the Council of Cardinals meet? To date, the council has gathered 16 times, usually for three consecutive days and with two meetings per day. That makes a total of 93 meetings.   The council started to consider a reform based on Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.   Bishop Semeraro explained that the council made a systematic reading of Pastor Bonus, starting from the section about the Vatican Secretariat of State and continuing with the descriptions of congregations and pontifical councils. At first, the cardinals made a general overview and then went more in depth into topic.   “Some of the issues needed more and more meetings of reflection. When the study was finalized, the council made some specific proposal to the Holy Father,” Bishop Semeraro recounted.   At the Vatican, the traditional method is to study a general juridical and ecclesiological setting first in order to make concrete decisions afterward. The Council of Cardinals is doing exactly the opposite, operating by trial and error.   Bishop Semeraro noted that there was an early proposal to establish a moderator of the curia to coordinate the functions of the Roman Curia, a role that already exists in the separate administration of the Diocese of Rome. The council then suggested that Pope Francis drop the proposal.   The reform in general aims at reorganizing the Roman Curia. While the different names of congregations and political councils might suggest categories of two separate and unequal classes, this is not the case.   “The different names are about a different exercise of their power,” Bishop Semeraro explained. To avoid this impression, he added, the new dicasteries are labeled simply as “dicasteries,” since this terminology already is considered a synonym for both congregations and pontifical councils at the Vatican.   Bishop Semeraro also explained the rationale behind the establishment of the two new dicasteries on Laity, Family and Life and on Integral Human Development.   The Laity, Family and Life dicastery is born out of the need “to consider and value with ever more awareness the status of lay people within the Catholic Church.”   The cardinals wanted to emphasize the role of the laity with an institutional response in the Church’s administration, a response on a par to the consideration given to bishops, priests and religious brothers and sisters.   After that, the cardinals also thought that family could be properly linked to laity, and consequently to life. The proposal aimed “to keep these issues united in the Church’s organization and pastoral work,” Bishop Semeraro said. Similarly, the Pope wanted to name a dicastery for Integral Human Development from the merging of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, and Healthcare Workers and the human development-focused Pontifical Council Cor Unum, given the goals of Catholic social teaching.   This way, the dicastery works to avoid a situation in which major social principles remain “mere general indications that do not question anyone.” Bishop Semeraro noted that the Pope himself wanted to take over temporarily the responsibility for the office of migrants and refugees. This choice underscores a specific focus on the world emergency, while his desire for temporary responsibility might be read “as a hope that this emergency will soon be solved.”

Body of third priest kidnapped in Mexico found

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2016 / 07:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Less than a week after two Catholic priests in Mexico were found murdered after having been abducted from their parishes, the body of a third slain priest, Fr. José Alfredo López Guillén, has been found. Fr. López Guillén, pastor of Janamuato in Mexico’s central state of Michoacan, was taken from the rectory of his parish by unknown persons Monday, Sept. 19. His car had been found overturned on a road nearby. According to a message written on the archdiocese’s Facebook page, the priest had been killed several days before his lifeless body was found near the town of near Puruandiro. His abduction occurred on the same day that authorities found the lifeless bodies of previously-kidnapped Fathers Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Juárez de la Cruz, in the Diocese of Papantla, in Veracruz state. According to the Catholic Multi Media Center, 15 priests have been killed in Mexico in less than four years. The majority of the killings have taken place in areas plagued by drug violence, which continues to terrorize country and frequently targets priests, since the Catholic Church is one of the most vocal in speaking out against cartel crimes and activities. Pope Francis, who has often condemned drug related crime and violence in Mexico, voiced his closeness to the country’s bishops in his Sunday Angelus address. He offered his support to the commitment of the Church and of civil society in Mexico to “in favor of the family and of life, which in this time require special pastoral and cultural attention throughout the world.” “I also assure of my prayer for the dear Mexican people, so that the violence which has in these days also affected some priests, ceases.” In a video posted on YouTube Sept. 22, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia, capital of Michoacan and one of the most troubled cities in Mexico, said that “after sharing in the enormous pain over the murder of two young priests in the Diocese of Papantla in Veracruz, today we are suffering anguish firsthand over the disappearance, the kidnapping of one of our priests.” The cardinal offered prayers for the kidnapped priest and asked that the captors would “respect his person and his life, so that he can return soon to the exercise of his ministry.” “We join in prayer for his family members and parishioners who are going through this distressing time,” he said, and prayed for peace, for respect for life, and for the conversion “of those who dedicate themselves to doing evil.” “Our community suffers the death, the anguish of any one of our faithful. In this case, it's a good man, dedicated to doing good and who is peaceful. This barbarity is in no way justifiable, I ask for your prayers.”

Pope Francis: The truth can't be forced on people

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2016 / 07:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God is shared with the world through love and authentic relationships, not by forcing the truth on people, Pope Francis said Sunday. “God is proclaimed through the encounter between persons, with care for their history and their journey. Because the Lord is not an idea, but a living person,” the Pope said in his homily at the Mass for the Jubilee of Catechists Sept. 25. “His message is passed on through simple and authentic testimony, by listening and welcoming, with joy which radiates outward.” Referencing St. Paul's first letter to Timothy, Pope Francis called the Resurrection the “beating heart which gives life to everything.” “The Lord Jesus is risen, the Lord Jesus loves you, and he has given his life for you; risen and alive, he is close to you and waits for you every day. We must never forget this.” Nothing is more important than the fact that the Lord is risen, the centerpiece of our faith, he explained. But we cannot keep it to ourselves. “We are called always to live out and proclaim the newness of the Lord’s love: 'Jesus truly loves you, just as you are. Give him space: in spite of the disappointments and wounds in your life, give him the chance to love you. He will not disappoint you,'” Francis said. “It is by loving that the God-who-is-Love is proclaimed to the world: not by the power of convincing, never by imposing the truth, no less by growing fixated on some religious or moral obligation,” he continued. In the day's Gospel, a rich man doesn't notice the poor Lazarus outside the door to his house, his spiritual blindness and worldliness are like a black hole that “swallows up what is good, which extinguishes love, because it consumes everything in its very self.” “Today’s callousness causes chasms to be dug that can never be crossed,” Francis said. “And we have fallen, at this time, into the sickness of indifference, selfishness and worldliness.” The Lord asks us, today, to meet and help all of the Lazaruses we encounter. We cannot delegate to others, “saying: 'I will help you tomorrow; I have no time today, I’ll help you tomorrow.' This is a sin,” he said. “The time taken to help others is time given to Jesus; it is love that remains: it is our treasure in heaven, which we earn here on earth.” After Mass, the Pope led pilgrims in the Angelus, and expressed his solidarity with the bishops of Mexico in supporting the efforts of the Church in favor of family and life. On Saturday an estimated 215,000 people marched through the streets of Mexico City to oppose President Enrique Pena Nieto's push to legalize same-sex marriage. Pope Francis also offered his prayers for the Mexican people in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of two priests whose bodies were found Sept. 19 – the same day a third priest was kidnapped. The Pope also spoke of the beatification of Engelmar Unzeitig, a German priest killed in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, and greeted all of the deaf people present on the “World Day of the Deaf,” encouraging them to do their part to make the world better.  

Love can be only response to evil, Pope tells attack survivors

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2016 / 09:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the face of the devil's assaults, we must respond as God would, promoting respect for others and extending love and forgiveness to those who have harmed us, Pope Francis said in a Saturday audience with survivors of the terror attack in Nice, France in July. “When the temptation to turn in on themselves, or to answer hatred with hatred and violence with violence is great, authentic conversion of heart is necessary,” he said Sept. 24. “This is the message that the Gospel of Jesus addressed to all of us.” Pope Francis received the nearly 1,000 survivors of the July 14 attack in Nice in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican. After his speech he greeted them each one by one. Eighty-six people were killed and over 400 were wounded in the Nice terror attack in July after a Tunisian man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, intentionally drove a large truck through the crowded seafront Promenade des Anglais. The crowds had been celebrating Bastille Day, which marks the day of France’s independence and is traditionally the country’s biggest public holiday. “I wish to share your pain, a pain that becomes even stronger when I think of the children, even entire families, whose lives have been torn suddenly and dramatically. To each of you I assure my compassion, my closeness and my prayer,” the Pope told those gathered. “The Church remains near and accompanies you with great mercies,” he said. “With its presence next to you in these moments so heavy to deal with, she asks the Lord to come to your aid and to put in your hearts feelings of peace and brotherhood.” In his speech, Pope Francis praised all those who went to the aid of the wounded, the victims, and their families, after the attack, both Catholic and organizations of other religions. “I am glad to see that among you interreligious relations are very much alive, and this can only help to alleviate the hurt of these dramatic events,” he said. “In fact, establish a sincere dialogue and fraternal relations among all, particularly among those who confess one and merciful God, it is an urgent priority that those responsible, both political and religious, should seek to encourage and which everyone is called to implement around him.” Pope Francis also met with the Hospital Sisters of Mercy Sept. 24, praising them for their dedication to serving the sick and dying, regardless of race or religion. “In front of the weakness of the disease can be no distinctions of social status, race, language and culture; Everybody grows weak and we must trust the other,” he said. “You dedicated your life above all to the service of brothers and sisters who are in hospitals, who thanks to your presence and professionalism will feel better supported in the disease,” the Pope said. “And to do this there is no need for long speeches: a caress, a kiss, stand by in silence, a smile.” “On that hospital bed always lies Jesus, present in the person who is suffering, and it is he who asks for help from each of you.”

The Vatican is changing how it verifies miracles

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2016 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Changes to the regulations for confirming alleged miracles during the causes of saints aim to preserve the scientific rigor of the examination and maintain its distinction from matters of theology, it was announced Friday. The changes, which were approved by Pope Francis Aug. 24, were announced by the Vatican Sept. 23. They concern the professional secrecy of the proceedings regarding presumed miracles and hold that a supermajority of two-thirds (five out of seven, or four out of six) of the votes from members of the Medical Board must be positive for the cause to continue to the next step. Previously, only a simple majority of medical experts acknowleding a supernatural healing was required. The changes also stipulate that the medical experts will receive their remuneration only through bank transfer – not cash. “The purpose of the Regulation can be none other than the good of the Causes, which can never neglect the historical and scientific truth of the alleged miracles,” Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, wrote regarding the changes. “Just as it is necessary for the legal checks to be complete, convergent and reliable, it is also necessary that their study be performed with serenity, objectivity and sure competence by highly specialised medical experts.” “This Regulation obviously concerns only the good functioning of the Medical Board, whose task appears increasingly delicate, demanding and, thanks be to God, appreciated both inside and outside the Church.” Archbishop Bartolucci added, “Always the Church is convinced that miracles of the saints is the 'finger of God,' which ratifies, so to say, the human judgement of their holiness of life.” “This vision is part of the mind of the Church and has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the ordinary magisterium to the pronouncements of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It is historically certain that miracles are always a decisive argument for the canonization of Servants of God,” he stated. The new wording is based on the regulations approved by Blessed Paul VI in 1976. The drafting of the new regulations was done by a special commission which began its work in September 2015. Besides the new requirements of a qualified majority and professional secrecy on the part of those involved, the president of the Medical Board is limited to one term and one reappointment (a total of 10 years in the position). Nor can a case be re-examined more than three times, and when a re-examination is made, there must be a nine persons on the Medical Board. Also, it is now the Under-Secretary of the Council who will undertake the functions previously under the rapporteur, who had been responsible for reporting on the proceedings of the meetings. In addition to the changes introduced, there were also adjustments made to procedural language. Since the 12th and 13th centuries the Church has continually revised the regulations under which a miracle is confirmed in cases of causes for beatification or canonization. The 1917 Code of Canon Law established access of the miracle to theologians only after the alleged miracle had been studied and verified by two expert doctors, aside from issues of philosophical and religious consideration. “And even today it is so: the scientific aspect remains distinct from the theological,” Archbishop Bartolucci affirmed. “Miracles are not marginal events of the Gospel or the causes of saints. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God in word and with 'messianic signs,' that he worked to make clear his identity and credibility to its mission and also to anticipate the final news of the redeemed world,” Archbishop Bartolucci said. “The same is true for saints,” he said. “Miracles, that they receive through their intercession, are a sign of God's presence in history and, at the same time, are the confirmation of their former high holiness, expressed first of all in the exercise of heroic Christian virtues or martyrdom.”

Journalism can't be a 'weapon of destruction', Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2016 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Emphasizing the importance of respect for human dignity, Pope Francis told journalists Thursday that their profession can never be used as a destructive weapon, nor should it be used to nourish fear. “Certainly criticism is legitimate, and, I would add, necessary, just as is the denunciation of evil, but this must always be done respecting the other, his life, and his affect. Journalism cannot become a 'weapon of destruction' of persons or even nations,” the Pope said Sept. 22 at the Vatican's Clementine Hall. “Neither must it nourish fear in front of changes or phenomena such as migration forced by war or by hunger.” He was meeting with Italy's National Council of the Order of Journalists, and he commented that “there are few professions which have such influence on society as does journalism. The journalist has a role of great importance, and at the same time a great responsibility. In a certain sense you write the ‘first draft of history' … introducing persons to the meaning of events.” While acknowledging the increased role of digital media, which has come at the expense of print journalism and television, the Pope said that “journalists, when they are professional, remain a key pillar, a crucial element for the vitality of a free and pluralistic society.” Pope Francis reflected on how journalism “can serve for the betterment of the society in which we live,” noting that it is indispensable for everyone “to stop and reflect on what we are doing and how we are doing it … even in the professional life there is a need for this, a bit of time to pause and reflect. Certainly, this is not easy in the realm of journalism, a profession which lives on continuous deadlines and 'expiration dates'. But, at least for a brief moment, let us reflect a bit on the reality of journalism.” He highlighted loving the truth, living with professionalism, and respecting human dignity as the three key elements in practicing a journalism which serves society. “To love the truth means not only to affirm, but to live the truth, to bear witness to it in one’s work. To live and work, then, with coherence in respect to the words that are used for an article in the paper or a television service. The question here is not one of being or not being a believer. The question here is being or not being honest with oneself and with others,” he said. Francis called relationship “the heart of every communication,” noting that “no relationship can stand and endure over time if it is based on dishonesty. I realize that in journalism today – an uninterrupted flow of events recounted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – it’s not always easy to arrive to the truth, or at least get close to it. Not everything in life is black or white. Even in journalism, one needs to know how to discern between the shades of gray in the events you are called to cover.” “Political debates, and even many conflicts, are rarely the result of a distinct, clear dynamic in which it is possible to recognise precisely and unequivocally who is wrong and who is right.” He said that “comparison and conflict are, indeed, born precisely from this difficulty of synthesis between different positions. This is the difficult and at the same time necessary work – we could also say mission – of a journalist: to arrive as close as possible to the truth of the facts and never to say or write what one knows, in their conscience, is not true.” Turning to his second point, living with professionalism, Pope Francis said this means, “beyond what we can find written in the codes of ethics, to understand, to internalize the profound sense of one’s work.” “From this arises the necessity of not submitting one’s profession to the logic of partisan interests, be they economic or political.” The Pope said that “the task of journalism – dare I say, its vocation – is therefore to nurture the social dimension of man, favouring the building of true citizenship.” Working with professionalism “means not only responding to the preoccupations, while legitimate, of one class, but keeping at heart one of the pillars in the structure of a democratic society,” he said. “We should always reflect that, throughout history, dictatorships – of every orientation and type – have always sought not only to take control of means of communication, but even to impose new rules on the profession of journalism.” Finally, Pope Francis noted that respect for human dignity is of particular importance in journalism because “even behind the simple account of an event there are feelings, emotions, and, ultimately, the lives of persons.” He recalled how he often speaks of gossip as a “terrorism” which kills with the tongue. “If this applies to individuals, with family or at work, it applies all the more to journalists, because their voice reaches everyone, and this is a very powerful weapon.” “Journalism must always respect the dignity of the person. An article is published today and tomorrow it is replaced with another, but the life of a person unjustly defamed can be destroyed forever.” He added that criticism and the denunciation of evil can be legitimate and, indeed, necessary, but always within a framework of respect for the person. Neither may journalism “nourish fear in front of changes or phenomena like migration forced by the war or by hunger,” Pope Francis exhorted. The Pope concluded, saying, “I hope that more and more journalism everywhere is a tool of construction, a factor for the common good, an accelerator of processes of reconciliation; that it may know how to reject the temptation of stirring up confrontation, with language that fans the flames of division, instead favoring the culture of encounter.”

How Catholics brought women's equality to a Cameroon clan

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2016 / 03:03 pm (CNA).- A region of Cameroon that traditionally believed women to have no value now sees them as equal to men, thanks to a lay Catholic apostolate in the area. “Before the coming of the Focolare Movement, the women had no say, but the movement has taught us a lot of things,” said Nicasius Nguazong, who is the Fon – similar to a king – of the Cameroonian chiefdom of Nwangong. Fon Nicasius and about 40 other pilgrims, including other heads of northwest Cameroonian clans, travelled to Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of the Focolare Movement first coming to the Bangwa people. They attended the Pope’s Wednesday General Audience, and several met with Pope Francis Sept. 21. Mafue Christina Fontem – whose role is similar to a queen – testified at a press conference afterward that her father, after meeting the founder of the Focolare Movement, a woman named Chiara Lubich, carried out a campaign for the higher education of women. “And because of that,” she said, “you will find that those of us who are here, his daughters, went to school, and you also have among us a granddaughter who is here from Germany.” “We had something in our tradition that we always said: ‘a woman is worth nothing’,” Mafue Christina reflected. “But with the coming of Chiara, women got emancipated.” The Focolare Movement, a Catholic lay apostolate, was originally founded by Chiara Lubich in 1943. It was begun during World War II as a path of spiritual and social renewal. Using the inspiration of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21, “May they all be one,” the movement now exists all over the world; it aims to create unity through the use of dialogue and relationships among individuals, peoples and cultures. Although it has Catholic roots, people of every age, vocation, religion and culture belong to the movement. “Before the coming of the Focolare Movement, they didn’t encourage education for girls because they thought that a woman’s place was in the kitchen,” Fon Nicasius said. But now, men and women share in the housework, instead of women doing everything, which used to include bending over to chop firewood while carrying babies on their backs, said Mafue Christina. “This comes from the teaching of the Focolare Movement of loving one another as Jesus has loved us,” she said. Mafue Christina told a story about a time when a woman left the house to go to the farm. When she returned, her husband had drawn a warm bath for her and invited her to take a bath and rest. She was very surprised, Mafue Christina said, “because it was not part of their culture. This was the culture of the disciple of love.” Speaking from a man’s perspective, Fon Nicasius said that now, even in their traditional councils, it is acknowledged that women have a say and they have been given positions of responsibility. He praised the efforts of Catholics in his country, saying, “The good works of the Focolare Movement and the Catholic Church cannot end in our own reign.”