Pope: Lent breathes live into world asphyxiated by sin

By Junno Arocho Esteves
ROME (CNS) – Lent is a time to receive God’s breath of life, a breath that saves humanity from suffocating under the weight of selfishness, indifference and piety devoid of sincerity, Pope Francis said.
“Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters,” the pope said March 1 during an Ash Wednesday Mass.
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass after making the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill.
After receiving ashes on top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, the pope distributed ashes to the cardinals, his closest aides, some Benedictines and Dominicans.
He also distributed ashes to a family and to two members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten “station church” pilgrimage in Rome.
Lent, he said, is a time to say “no” to “all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.”
The church’s Lenten journey toward the celebration of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection is made on a road “leading from slavery to freedom” and “from suffering to joy,” he said.
“Lent is a path: It leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.”
The ashes, while a symbol of humanity’s origin from the earth, the pope said, is also a reminder that God breathes new life into people in order to save them from the suffocation of “petty ambition” and “silent indifference.”
“The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt,” the pope said.
The Lenten season, he continued, is a “time for saying no” to the asphyxia caused by superficial and simplistic analyses that “fail to grasp the complexity of problems” of those who suffer most.
“Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good,” the pope said.
Instead, Pope Francis said, Lent is a time for Christians to remember God’s mercy and “not the time to rend our garments before evil but rather make room in our life for the good we are able to do.”
“Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity,” the pope said.
(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Trump signs new executive order on refugees, excludes Iraq from ban

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Donald Trump’s new executive order temporarily banning refugees from certain majority-Muslim countries, signed March 6, now excludes Iraq from the ban.
Iraq had been one of seven nations in the original order, issued Jan. 27 but the implementation of which was blocked in the courts. The new order will not take effect until March 16.
Citizens of four of the countries still part of the ban – Iran, Libya, Somalia and Syria – will be subject to a 90-day suspension of visa processing. This information was given to Congress the week prior to the new executive order. The other two countries that remain part of the ban are Sudan and Yemen.
Lawful permanent residents – green card holders – are excluded from any travel ban.
While the revised executive order is intended to survive judicial scrutiny, those opposed to it have declared plans to mobilize their constituencies to block it. Church World Service and the National Council of Churches announced March 2, that they will unveil a new grass-roots ecumenical initiative in support of refugees.
Catholic immigration advocates were on tenterhooks waiting for the revised executive order, the issuance of which had been long promised but slow in coming.
Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, told Catholic News Service that he had seen communications from “senior White House officials” that would retain the ban, but indicated the indefinite ban on Syrians would be lifted.
Religious preferences found in the would be original order would be erased, but green-card holders would be exempt from the ban. O’Keefe said. The halt of refugee admissions to “determine additional security vetting procedures” would stay in place, he added, and the number of refugee admissions would be cut for the 2017 fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, from 110,000 to 50,000; an estimated 35,000 have already been admitted since October, according to O’Keefe.
“Some will argue that simply sectioning out the seven Muslim-majority countries is a form of religious discrimination,” O’Keefe said. “What is clear here is that’s it’s within the prerogative of the president to lower the threshold of refugee admissions.”
One effect of the order would be to further strain the refugee-processing system at its biggest point. “The bulk of the system and the biggest part of it are those countries like Lebanon, Turkey, which are taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees,” O’Keefe said. “When we don’t do our part, it’s tough for us to tell other countries to make the sacrifices we need to play their part. The risk of the system collapsing and of governments that are already strained not being willing to keep their doors open is very serious, and we’re very worried about that.”
In Syria, he added, “some people have been (refugees there) for five, six years. They’ve had the hope of resettlement in the United States as one of the things that keeps them going.”
Kim Pozniak, CRS’ communications director, spent a week in mid-February in Amman, Jordan, where untold thousands of refugees are living – two and three families at a time – in small apartments in the city.
“I’ve met with people that are worse off than they were three years ago (when she last visited), simply because they’ve started losing hope,” Pozniak told CNS. “One woman, for example, said they’re so bad off they’re considering moving back to Syria.” Pozniak said the woman’s sister, who still lives in Syria, told her “Look, even if it’s so bad that you have to eat dirt, don’t come back here.”
Even without a ban, the uncertainty can eat away at people, Pozniak said. “I talked with one 74-year-old woman who together with her son has been in the resettlement process in the United States. They had the interview with UN (High Commissioner for Refugees), the interview with the Embassy, had the iris scan taken, now they have no idea when they’ll be resettled. They’re never given an answer as to when, where, how, and that’s the really frustrating part – being in limbo and not knowing where you’re going to be next.”
A Pew Research Center poll released Feb. 27 found Catholics opposing the ban, 62 percent-36 percent. White Catholics were very narrowly in favor, 50 percent-49 percent, while Hispanic and other minority Catholics opposed the ban 81 percent-14 percent.
Members of black Protestant churches (81 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (74 percent) also opposed the ban. Protestants overall supported the ban, 51 percent-46 percent, with 76 percent support from white evangelicals. The Pew survey interviewed 1,503 adults by phone Feb. 7-12.
(Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.)

National and World News

NATION
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Michael Novak, a Catholic philosopher, theologian and author who was highly regarded for his religious scholarship and intellectual independence, died Feb. 17 at his home in Washington. He was 83. His daughter Jana Novak told The Washington Post the cause of death was complications from colon cancer. No funeral arrangements were announced. Since last August, Novak had been a faculty member of The Catholic University of America’s Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics in Washington. He joined the business school’s Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship last year as a distinguished visiting fellow. He taught special topics in management and gave a series of lectures on campus on the topic of human ecology.

Novak studied at Catholic University in 1958 and 1959 and had lectured at the university several times prior to last year’s appointment. John Garvey, the university’s president, remembered him as “a man of great intellectual honesty. Unlike some scholars, Michael Novak made it a point to reflect on new and different topics, always with a fresh and dynamic perspective,” Garvey said in a statement. “We are immensely grateful that he could end his academic life as he began it, as a member of our community.”

Religious sisters hand beads to a man and child Feb. 19 from the Krewe of Femme Fatale float during a parade in New Orleans. Twenty Sisters of the Holy Family boarded the float, the first time in Mardi Gras history that a women's religious congregation participated as a group on a Carnival float. Over their habits they wore a T-shirt honoring Mother Henriette Delille, who founded their congregation in 1842. (CNS photo/Christine Bordelon, The Clarion Herald) See NEW-ORLEANS-PARADE-SISTERS Feb. 8, 2017.

Religious sisters hand beads to a man and child Feb. 19 from the Krewe of Femme Fatale float during a parade in New Orleans. Twenty Sisters of the Holy Family boarded the float, the first time in Mardi Gras history that a women’s religious congregation participated as a group on a Carnival float. Over their habits they wore a T-shirt honoring Mother Henriette Delille, who founded their congregation in 1842. (CNS photo/Christine Bordelon, The Clarion Herald) See NEW-ORLEANS-PARADE-SISTERS Feb. 8, 2017.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – For the past 50 years, Patti Gallagher Mansfield has kept the Champion Wiremaster stenographer’s notebook, 5-by-8 inches, safely tucked away among her most cherished, sacred items in her dresser drawer. The notebook has 80 ruled pages. It cost 25 cents. One was given to each of the 25 students from Duquesne University and La Roche College who attended a weekend retreat in February 1967 at The Ark and The Dove Retreat House just outside of Pittsburgh.

Between the slightly faded, tan covers are page after page of Mansfield’s handwritten reflections in blue ballpoint pen of the mysterious things that happened on that three-day retreat, a weekend that ultimately changed the course of the Catholic Church worldwide.

“Who would have ever imagined – 80 pages, Patti Gallagher – that what I would record in this notebook would have any significance to over 120 million Catholics all over the world?” Mansfield, now 70, said. “It is amazing.” The weekend – now called the “Duquesne Weekend” – is acknowledged as the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in the United States, which has spread throughout the world. The Charismatic Renewal centers on the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in which God’s Spirit renews and fills a person with grace. Mansfield talks about releasing the graces already conferred through baptism and confirmation.

WORLD
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) – Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver called on Catholics to respond to a drug overdose crisis that had been sweeping the city, “cutting across every segment of society, devastating families and communities.” In a pastoral letter released Feb. 16, Archbishop Miller said that following Jesus’ teaching would require Catholics to “scrutinize the sign of the times” and, in Vancouver, “these signs are calling the church to address today’s lethal crisis of drug overdoses.” A report released by the British Columbia Coroners Service revealed that 914 people died of illicit drug overdoses in 2016; those statistics prompted the provincial government to declare a public health emergency. That number represented an 80 percent increase in overdose deaths from the previous year. Archbishop Miller said three factors contributed to the overdose crisis: overprescription of opioid painkillers, social isolation and mental illness.

OXFORD, England (CNS) – Church leaders and organizations in Africa, Europe and the United States said it would be disastrous if U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order telling companies they no longer had to disclose whether their firms use “conflict minerals” from Congo. Western firms have been accused of working with violent gangs in Congo to obtain minerals used for producing mobile phones, laptops and other consumer objects, and of allowing trade in resources to perpetuate human rights violations.
In the United States, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee wrote the acting head of the National Security Council urging Trump not to suspend the rules related to Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. “Congolese die every day in the illegal mines and at the hands of the armed groups that destroy communities in order to expel them from potential mining sites,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, committee chairman.
“The estimated death toll in the Congo is the highest since the end of World War II. The international community, including our own nation, nongovernmental agencies and the church, provides emergency assistance to displaced and traumatized persons and families – assistance that has real financial costs that do not appear on the balance sheets of corporations.”

Pope, cardinal advisers discuss tribunals, Curia offices

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis and members of the international Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance discussed the functions of the Vatican tribunals that handle marriage, appeals and indulgences.
Meeting with Pope Francis Feb. 13-15, the Council of Cardinals also continued its discussion of the process of selecting bishops and received updates on economic and communication reform initiatives.
Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the tribunals studied by the council included: the Apostolic Penitentiary, a church court that deals with indulgences; the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, the Catholic Church’s highest appeals court; and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court that deals mainly with marriage cases.
Continuing their examination of individual offices, the cardinals also looked at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Garcia Ovejero also read the statement that the cardinals issued Feb. 13 assuring the pope of their “full support for his person and his magisterium.”
At a separate meeting with the press Feb. 15, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, a council member, said that while the council “didn’t want to make it a great thing,” the cardinals saw the need to express their support for the pope.
“I think it was the time to repeat from our group (that) we are supporting the pope, we are going together with him,” Cardinal Marx said.
“We have discussions in the church, normal discussions, tensions; it will (always be) like this. But in a time like this, it is also clear for us as Catholics that loyalty to the pope is substantial for the Catholic faith and for Catholic believers.”
Although the statement said the cardinals’ support was offered “in relation to recent events,” no specific events were mentioned.
The statement came just a few days after a fake version of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was emailed to Vatican officials and a week after posters were put up around Rome questioning the pope’s mercy in dealing with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other groups over which the pope had placed special delegates.
“I will not add to it,” Cardinal Marx said when asked regarding the recent events. “We reflected (on) the sentence and so I will leave at that. We had the text and we said that’s enough. And I say today, it’s enough,” he told journalists.
The Council of Cardinals will meet again April 24-26.
In addition to Cardinal Marx, the council members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

Pope: Dream, prophesy, don’t focus just on survival

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – When religious orders focus on survival rather than on sharing the joy and hope of faith in Jesus, they end up being “professionals of the sacred, but not fathers and mothers,” Pope Francis said.
“The temptation of survival turns what the Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening, potentially disastrous,” the pope told consecrated men and women who joined him Feb. 2 for Mass on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life.
Speaking as a fellow member of a religious order, Pope Francis urged religious to keep alive the faith, hope and audacity of the men and women who founded the orders to which they belong.
“We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream,” he said during the Mass, which began with the blessing of candles celebrating the presentation of Christ as the light of the world.
The feast day Gospel reading from St. Luke tells the story of Mary and Joseph bringing the newborn Jesus to the temple in fulfillment of the law. The elderly and pious Simeon and Anna are in the temple and rejoice when they see Jesus, recognizing him as the Messiah.
Simeon and Anna, the pope said, testified that “life is worth living in hope because the Lord keeps his promise.”
The pope said religious have inherited Simeon and Anna’s hymn of hope from their founders and elders, who “had the courage to dream.”
Hope in the Lord and the prophetic announcement of his presence “will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival” and of preserving institutions above all else, said the pope, a member of the Jesuit order.
“The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions,” he said. “It makes us look back to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today.
“A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to ‘domesticate’ them, to make them ‘user-friendly,’ robbing them of their original creative force,” Pope Francis continued. “It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives.”
The temptation of survival, he said, “turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness.”
Like Mary and Joseph, religious are called to bring Jesus into the midst of his people, the pope said. “Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive.”
All Christians, but especially those consecrated with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, are called to be the leaven of the Gospel in the world, he said.
“Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on the defensive or motivated by fear,” he said, “but with our hands on the plow, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown among weeds.”
“Putting Jesus in the midst of his people,” he said, “means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”

Pope to bishops: Defend children from abuse

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Stand up and protect children from exploitation, slaughter and abuse, which includes committing to a policy of “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse by clergy, Pope Francis told the world’s bishops.
Wake up to what is happening to so many of today’s innocents and be moved by their plight and the cries of their mothers to do everything to protect life, helping it “be born and grow,” he said in a letter sent to bishops commemorating the feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28. The Vatican press office published the letter and translations from the original Italian Jan. 2.
Just as King Herod’s men slaughtered young children of Bethlehem in his “unbridled thirst for power,” there are plenty of new Herods today – gang members, criminal networks and “merchants of death” – “who devour the innocence of our children” through slave labor, prostitution and exploitation, he said. Wars and forced immigration also strip children of their innocence, joy and dignity, he added.
The prophet Jeremiah was aware of this “sobbing and loud lamentation” and knew that Rachel was “weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled since they were no more.”
“Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence,” Pope Francis said.
“Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears,” and the Gospel writers “did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive.”
Christmas and the birth of the son of God aren’t about escaping reality, but are a way to help “contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbors, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that that sad chapter in history is still being written today.”
Given such challenges, Pope Francis told the world’s bishops to look to St. Joseph as a role model.
This obedient and loyal man was capable of recognizing and listening to God’s voice, which meant St. Joseph could let himself be guided by his will and be moved by “what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.”
“The same thing is asked of us pastors today: to be men attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and hence more sensitive to what is happening all around us,” he said.
Like St. Joseph, “we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand.”
The church weeps not only for children suffering the pain of poverty, malnutrition, lack of education, forced displacement, slavery and sexual exploitation, the pope said, she weeps “because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests.”
“It is a sin that shames us,” he said, that people who were responsible for caring for children, “destroyed their dignity.”
Deploring “the sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power,” the church also begs for forgiveness, he said.
“Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to ‘zero tolerance,’” he said.
The pope urged the bishops to remember that Christian joy doesn’t ignore or sugarcoat reality, but “is born from a call” to embrace and protect life, “especially that of the holy innocents.”
He asked they renew their commitment to be shepherds with the courage to acknowledge what so many children are experiencing today and to work to guarantee the kind of conditions needed so their dignity will be respected and defended.

Obispos pidieron oraciones por los migrantes

WASHINGTON (CNS) – La Iglesia Católica de Estados Unidos pidió que este año la fiesta del 12 de diciembre en honor a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe fuera un día de oración enfocado en los inmigrantes y refugiados. Con este propósito se llevaron a cabo servicios de oración y misas especiales en diversas diócesis del país, ya que La Virgen de Guadalupe es la patrona de toda América.
“Cuando se acerca la Navidad y especialmente en esta fiesta a Nuestra Madre, estamos recordando cómo nuestro salvador Jesucristo no nació en la comodidad de su propio hogar, sino más bien en un pesebre desconocido”, expresó recientemente en un comunicado el cardenal Daniel DiNardo de Galveston-Houston, quien es presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB).

A member of of Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboy Club) of Wadsworth, Ill., carries a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he makes his  way to the the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Ill., as part of a pre-celebration for her Dec. 12 feast day. The feast celebrates the appearance of Mary to indigenous peasant St. Juan Diego in 1531 near present-day Mexico City. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) See GUADALUPE-RIDERS-SHRINE Dec. 7, 2016.

A member of of Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboy Club) of Wadsworth, Ill., carries a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he makes his way to the the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Ill., as part of a pre-celebration for her Dec. 12 feast day. The feast celebrates the appearance of Mary to indigenous peasant St. Juan Diego in 1531 near present-day Mexico City. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) See GUADALUPE-RIDERS-SHRINE Dec. 7, 2016.

La intención del día de oración fue de hacer tiempo para depositar ante un Dios misericordioso las esperanzas, miedos y necesidades de todas aquellas familias que han venido a los Estados Unidos buscando una vida mejor. “Muchas familias se preguntan cómo podrían afectarlas los cambios en la política migratoria”, dijo el arzobispo José Gómez de Los Ángeles, vicepresidente de la USCCB, en un reciente comunicado. “Queremos que sepan que la iglesia está con ellos, que ofrece oraciones en su nombre y que está monitoreando constantemente los acontecimientos a nivel diocesano, estatal y nacional para abogar eficazmente por ellos”.
La USCCB instó a los católicos que no pudieran asistir o no tuvieran cerca un servicio de oración o misa el 12 de diciembre, a que “ofrezcieran sus oraciones donde quiera que estuvieran”. La oficina de Servicios de Migración y Refugiados de la USCCB desarrolló un rosario bíblico titulado “Unidad en la Diversidad” que contiene oraciones para migrantes y refugiados. El mismo puede obtenerse en el portal de internet de la oficina de Justicia para los Inmigrantes: http://tinyurl.com/hldg3o9.
“A todas aquellas familias que están separadas y lejos de su hogar, viviendo tiempos de incertidumbre, nos unimos a ustedes en oración pidiendo consuelo y alegría en esta temporada de Adviento”, añadió el cardenal DiNardo.

National Migration Week – set for January – honors most vulnerable

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world’s migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said.
“Children are the first among those to pay the heavy toll of emigration, almost always caused by violence, poverty, environmental conditions, as well as the negative aspects of globalization,” he said.
“The unrestrained competition for quick and easy profit brings with it the cultivation of perverse scourges such as child trafficking, the exploitation and abuse of minors and, generally, the depriving of rights intrinsic to childhood as sanctioned by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he said.
The pope made the comments in a message on the theme of “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless” for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees 2017; the text was released at the Vatican Oct. 13.

The World Day for Migrants and Refugees is observed Jan. 15. In the United States, National Migration Week will be celebrated Jan. 8-14. Click here for a listing of events celebrating the week in the Diocese of Jackson. migration week
In his message, the pope called for greater protection and integration of immigrants and refugees who are minors, especially those who are unaccompanied.
Minors are especially fragile, vulnerable and often invisible and voiceless – unable to claim or unaware of their rights and needs, he said.

A child sits on railroad tracks near a makeshift camp for migrants in late March at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of in Idomeni, Greece. Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world's migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Armando Babani, EPA) See POPE-MIGRANTS-MESSAGE Oct. 13, 2016.

A child sits on railroad tracks near a makeshift camp for migrants in late March at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of in Idomeni, Greece. Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world’s migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Armando Babani, EPA) See POPE-MIGRANTS-MESSAGE Oct. 13, 2016.

In particular, they have “the right to a healthy and secure family environment, where a child can grow under the guidance and example of a father and a mother; then there is the right and duty to receive adequate education, primarily in the family and also in the school,” the pope said. Unfortunately, “in many areas of the world, reading, writing and the most basic arithmetic is still the privilege of only a few.”
“Children, furthermore, have the right to recreation,” he added. “In a word, they have the right to be children.”
Christians must offer a dignified welcome to migrants because every human being is precious and “more important than things,” the pope said. “The worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable, as in the case of child migrants.”
He urged long-term solutions be found to tackle the root causes of migration such as war, human rights violations, corruption, poverty, environmental injustice and natural disasters.
In so many of these scenarios, Pope Francis said, “children are the first to suffer, at times suffering torture and other physical violence, in addition to moral and psychological aggression, which almost always leave indelible scars.”
Among the many factors that make migrants, especially children, more vulnerable, and need to be addressed are: poverty; limited access to the means to survive; “unrealistic expectations generated by the media”; poor literacy; and ignorance about the law, culture and language of host countries, he said.
“But the most powerful force driving the exploitation and abuse of children is demand. If more rigorous and effective action is not taken against those who profit from such abuse, we will not be able to stop the multiple forms of slavery where children are the victims,” he said.
Immigrant adults must cooperate more closely with host communities “for the good of their own children,” he said.
Countries need to work together and communities need to offer “authentic development” for all boys and girls “who are humanity’s hope,” he said.
Saying inadequate funding often “prevents the adoption of adequate policies aimed at assistance and inclusion,” the pope said that instead of programs that help children integrate or safely repatriate, “there is simply an attempt to curb the entrance of migrants, which in turn fosters illegal networks” or governments forcibly repatriate people without any concern “for their ‘best interests.'”
While nations have the right to control migration and protect and safeguard their citizens, Pope Francis said it must be done while carrying out “the duty to resolve and regularize the situation of child migrants,” and fully respecting the rights and needs of the children and their parents “for the good of the entire family.”
The pope praised the “generous service” of all those who work with minors who migrate, urging them to “not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”
Speaking to reporters at the Vatican press office, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said Christians cannot be xenophobic and they cannot refuse to help welcome immigrants.
While it is impossible for one country “to receive everyone,” he said, that doesn’t mean the problem will be solved by telling immigrants to leave or saying that no one may come.
“It’s a problem that needs to be solved, seek a solution,” he said.
Unfortunately, the cardinal said, people tend to be self-centered and bothered by the presence of “the other.” People prefer to keep to their “ivory tower, their gilded cage and do not want any disturbance” or threats to “the beautiful things we have.”
“This is egoism. This is not human or Christian,” he said.
(Editor’s note: look in the next Mississippi Catholic for a story about what Catholic Charities is doing here in the Diocese of Jackson for migrants, refugees and immigrants.)

 

Pope: resistance to God is normal, but you must admit it

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Struggling against God is normal because following his way toward redemption always comes with some kind of cross to bear, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.
When feeling hesitant or unwilling, “don’t be afraid,” just plead with God – “Lord, with great strength come to my aid. May your grace conquer the resistance of sin,” he said Dec. 1.
During morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, the pope examined the ways people are resistant to God’s will because of their own sinful nature and the work of the devil.
A “good” kind of resistance, he said, is the kind that is misguided but open to God’s grace of conversion. For example, he said, like Saul, who had believed he was doing God’s will by persecuting Christians, but eventually listened to Jesus and did as he told him.
However, the more dangerous forms of resistance, the pope said, are the kind that are “hidden” and mask people’s real intention of never embarking on the path of conversion or of not going all the way.
Everyone has experienced this kind of resistance, he said. “It’s stopping, it’s not fighting against. No. It’s to stand still; smile, maybe, but you don’t move. To resist passively, in hiding.”
Hiding behind “empty words” is a form of resistance, the pope said. This can be seen in the parable of the two sons sent to work in the vineyard, which showed that those who voice opposition, but eventually do as they are told, will be saved, not the “diplomatic” ones, who say, “Yes, yes,” but never do as they are told.
It’s the spiritual form, he said, of the falsity seen in the Italian novel, The Leopard, when a character pretends to go along with and promote change in order to keep the status quo alive.
Another bad kind of resistance, he said, is marked by constant justification where “there is always a reason to oppose” any change God indicates.
“A Christian has no need to justify himself,” the pope said, because “he has been justified by the Word of God.”
And finally, there is resistance marked by accusing others so you never have to look at yourself, your own sins and need for conversion, he said.
By pretending to not be in need of conversion, the person resists God’s grace, he said, like the Pharisee who thanked God he was so virtuous and not at all like the robbers, adulterers and tax collectors.
It’s important to recognize the resistance in one’s heart – not hide it – but let it melt away so that God’s grace can do its work, the pope said.
Resistance to grace can be a good sign, he said, “because it tells us that the Lord is working in us” and wherever the Lord is, “there will be a cross, big or small.”
“It’s resistance to the cross, the resistance to the Lord that brings us redemption,” when we turn to God for help, he added.

500 years from Reformation: Grace remains key issue

By Aaron Williams
For Lutherans across the world, this past October 31 was more than just your average Halloween. It was on Oct. 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Now, the countdown has begun leading up to the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s split with the Catholic Church and the start of modern-day Protestantism.

Williams

Williams

This year is a good opportunity for all Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, to join together in prayer for unification so that “all may be one” (John 17:21) as our Lord intended of his church from the beginning. But, this anniversary also provides for Catholics a moment to reflect on those differences which still cause separation. Especially for we who live in a overwhelmingly Protestant area, it can be helpful to know where the Catholic Church stands on significant issues which divide us from our protestant brothers and sisters.
One such issue is the matter of grace. Grace is not something most Christians often give much thought, but it is a word which we, perhaps deafly, hear preached, read in scripture, or sung in hymns. So, what is “grace”?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2003) states, “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us.” Grace is that gratuitous gift of God which purifies us and assists us in living the Christian life. Understanding the role of grace requires us to ask why we need grace in the first place and to answer that question we have to consider the role of sin in our lives.
For Catholics, all sin has its root in the original sin of Adam and Eve. God commanded them, “You must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…lest you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). But, we know that Adam and Eve did eat of this fruit and so they and all their children died. The church teaches that the guilt of the same sin of our first parents has been passed down from generation to generation, so that all humanity shares in this guilt. This sin was so significant that it damaged the very nature of humankind so that we were no longer able to do good works.
But, God the Father, in his infinite mercy, gave up his only Son and by the sacrifice of Christ on calvary, grace entered the world — grace enough that for all who are baptized, the guilt of original sin is totally wiped away and human nature is restored to its justified state. Men and women are made sons and daughters of God and are therefore holy and able to freely choose to do good works with the help of God’s grace.
Luther, however, did not share this view. It was his argument that human nature was so harmed by Adam and Eve’s sin that Christ’s sacrifice only served to declare all of us “justified” — even though we remained guilty of sin and incapable of doing good works. For Luther, humankind is incapable of freely choosing to do good things and even though every man and woman is sinful and their nature is turned towards evil, those who have faith in Christ will still be saved on the last day.
His view is similar to that of a child who, instead of sweeping the house, pushes the dust under a rug. For Luther, God does not restore our nature to its previous state but simply declares us “justified” — so that we appear holy from the exterior, while are still guilty of original sin interiorly.
Catholics, however, are so confident that baptism regenerates us from our sinful state that we insist even the smallest among us (infants) be baptized, even though they may not understand what it means at the time. It is a sacrament which fundamentally heals our nature interiorly and not simply from an external appearance.
For Catholics, baptism gives us the gift of faith, by which we may be saved. And since we are all made a part of the Mystical Body of Christ in baptism, all of us are capable of doing good works because we are enabled by Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Martin Luther, a German monk and key figure in the Protestant Reformation, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. Pope Francis will visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Crosiers) See VATICAN-LETTER-SWEDEN AND SWEDEN-TRIP-REFORMATION Oct. 20, 2016.

Martin Luther, a German monk and key figure in the Protestant Reformation, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. Pope Francis will visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Crosiers) See VATICAN-LETTER-SWEDEN AND SWEDEN-TRIP-REFORMATION Oct. 20, 2016.

Moreover, since Christ enables us to do good works and all Christ’s works are pleasing before the Father, our own works can merit us a greater capacity for grace. This is not to say that Catholics think of salvation as if it is “bought” by good works. Humankind is justified once and for all by Christ’s sacrifice through baptism, but after that initial grace of justification, each of us is able to merit more grace to assist us in living a virtuous life and to have a greater capacity to experience God in heaven. Thus, St. Paul writes, “God will render to each according to his works” (Romans 2:6). After baptism, God gives more grace to each person according to the works they do through Christ, because everything that Christ does is pleasing to the Father.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it would be good for each of us to reflect on those things which make us Catholic — our theology, our liturgy, our faith in the leadership of the church. There are so many blessings in our faith which so few of us understand. Maybe this year each of us can buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and commit to reading a little bit each day. And most importantly, we should each pray that “all may be one” once more.
(Aaron Williams is a third-year theologian studying at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He and his classmate, Nick Adam, will be ordained to the the transitional diaconate in the Spring.)