Events at Major Catholic Institutions
Catholics across the United States will join a global “Wave of Prayer” that kicks off a campaign against hunger being launched by Pope Francis in a video released today at 3 PM Eastern time. The campaign is sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic relief and development agencies, led in the United States by Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA. It responds to the more than 840 million people around the world who suffer from hunger.
At noon local time (19 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern time) on December 10, a global wave of prayer will begin on the Pacific island of Samoa and will cascade around the world through each time zone as people pause from their daily routines to pray to end world hunger. The prayer will continue until it reaches the island again roughly 24 hours and 164 countries later.
Gatherings to pray for an end to world hunger will take place at many Catholic institutions across the county including Notre Dame University in Indiana, Purdue University, Fordham University, Manhattan College, and La Salle University in Philadelphia. In the Diocese of Cleveland, the prayer has been delivered to every parish. While at Catholic University in Washington, DC, Church leaders including Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, will join students and faculty to pray for an end to world hunger.
“CRS staff around the world will be joining with their local Church partners to pray in Latin America, Africa and Asia,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Catholic Relief Services Executive Vice President for U.S. Operations. “CRS will follow up on the launch by combatting hunger through innovative agricultural development programs around the world and by mobilizing more than 15,000 parishes and schools to address global hunger during Lent through the CRS Rice Bowl program.”
For 70 years, CRS has been answering the call to combat hunger globally. CRS has 164 sustainable agricultural projects in 34 countries, using innovative approaches that combine health care, literacy and microfinance with proven agricultural practices. CRS’ efforts are helping 26 million people feed themselves. For more information, visit http://crs.org/food-for-all/
Pope Francis concelebrated a daily Mass recently with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, offering prayers for peace, and renewing his call for religious freedom throughout the Middle East.
“‘Be strong, do not fear!’ Here are the consoling words that find their confirmation in fraternal solidarity,” the pope stated during his Dec. 9 homily, adding that “I am thankful to God for this encounter that gives me a way to reinforce your hope and our hope, because they are the same.”
With these words Pope Francis began the reflections of his morning Mass, which he celebrated in the Saint Martha guesthouse of the Vatican alongside Egypt’s Coptic Patriarch, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak.
Immediately turning his thoughts to the Coptic Catholics in the Middle East, the pontiff recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah in the day’s first reading, stating that “We feel that the encouragement for ‘the faint of heart’ is directed to so many in your beloved land of Egypt who are experiencing insecurity and violence, sometimes because of their Christian faith.”
Moving to the Gospel reading in which a paralyzed man was lowered through the roof by his friends in order to be healed by Jesus, the Pope highlighted how the passage presents “Christ who conquers the paralysis of humanity.”
However, the pope also noted that “the paralysis of consciences is contagious.”
“With the complicity of the poverties of history and of our sin,” he continued, this paralysis “can expand and enter into social structures and into communities to block entire peoples,” adding that on the contrary, “the command of Christ: ‘Arise, walk!’ can reverse the situation.”
“Let us pray with confidence that in the Holy Land and all the Middle East peace might be able to rise from the often recurring and sometimes dramatic breaks (in the peace process),” urged the pope.
“Rather, let hatred and divisions be ended forever! Let the peace agreements, often paralyzed by conflicting and obscure interests, be quickly resumed.”
“Let real guarantees of religious liberty be given to all,” he went on to say, “together with the rights of Christians to live peacefully in the places where they were born, in the native country they love as citizens of more than two thousand years, in order that they might contribute as always to the good of all.”
Recalling the flight into Egypt of the infant Jesus and the Holy Family, Pope Francis emphasized that they were welcomed into a “generous land,” and prayed that the Lord “watch over the Egyptians, that along the paths of the world they might seek dignity and security.”
Bringing his reflections to a close, the pontiff encouraged those present to “always go forward, seeking the Lord, seeking new paths,” and “new ways to come closer to the Lord.”
“If it necessary to open a hole in the roof in order for us to bring everyone closer to the Lord,” he stated, “may our creative imagination of charity bring us to do this: to find and to make new paths of encounter, paths of brotherhood, paths of peace.”
Patriarch Sidrak also spoke for a moment during the Mass, expressing his joy at celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Pope, and stressing that the Egyptian Church needs the “paternal support” of the bishop of Rome during this sensitive time in history.
Also offering a prayer for peace, the patriarch asked that “the light of the Holy Nativity might be the star that reveals the path of love, of unity, of reconciliation, and of peace, gifts of which my Land has such great need.”
Asking for Pope Francis’ blessing, Patriarch Sidrak affirmed to the pontiff that “we eagerly await it in Egypt.”
On a day dedicated to celebrating the Mother of God, Pope Francis made a special trip in Rome to pray before a traditional statue of Mary.
“Enkindle in all of us a renewed desire for holiness: may our words glow with the splendor of truth, may our works resound with the song of charity, may purity and chastity live in our bodies and in our hearts, may our lives express the presence of all the beauty of the gospel,” he prayed on Dec. 8.
Pope Francis had crossed the city to Piazza di Spagna, where on the top of a tall ancient Roman column stands a statue of the Virgin Mary under the title of “Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.”
On the eighth of December every year, the Catholic Church celebrates the solemn feast of Mary’s conception without sin. It is customary for the Pope to pay an annual visit to the image, which was originally dedicated in 1857.
The pontiff stood at the base of the column, which was surrounded by flowers. He bowed his head as a choir sang and asked for Mary’s intercession under her various titles.
“Help us to attentively listen to the voice of the Lord: let not the cry of the poor ever leave us indifferent, may the suffering of the sick and of those who are in need not find us inattentive, may the solitude of the elderly and the weakness of children move us, may every human life be loved and respected by all,” the pontiff asked, accordiing to a Catholic News Agency report.
“Don’t let us forget the meaning of our earthly journey: may the noble light of faith illumine our days, the consoling strength of hope orient our steps, the consoling warmth of love animate our heart, may our eyes always remain fixed there, in God, where there is true joy.”
After his prayers in Piazza di Spagna, Pope Francis was scheduled to travel by car to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, which houses the Byzantine Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani” or “Protectress of the Roman People.” The Pope has gone to pray before this image before, and had it brought to St. Peter’s Square in September during a prayer vigil for peace.
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis focused his Sunday Angelus message on the importance of Mary as a model for the Christian life.
“The Virgin Mary is not far from this love (of God): all of her life, all of her being is a ‘yes’ to God,” he said to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8.
“Let us look at her, and let us look to her,” encouraged Pope Francis, “in order to be more humble, and even more courageous in following the Word of God, to receive the tender embrace of her son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope, and peace.”
Mary’s ‘yes’ to God “was certainly not easy for her!” he exclaimed. “When the angel called her ‘full of grace’ she remained ‘troubled,’ because in her humility she felt unworthy before God.”
Despite her concerns, “Mary listens, obeying interiorly and responds, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word’.”
This witness serves as an example for every Christian. “With great joy the Church contemplates Mary as ‘full of grace’,” Pope Francis explained. He encouraged the crowds to repeat with him, “full of grace!”
Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, but “we too… are chosen by God to live a life of holiness, free from sin. It is a project of love that God renews every time we come close to him, especially in the sacraments,” the pope said, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
“Mary sustains us in our journey towards Christmas, because she teaches us to live this time of Advent in waiting for the Lord.”
Pope Francis recalled Mary’s humble origins.
“The Gospel of Luke presents us with a young girl from Nazareth, a little place in Galilee, on the periphery of the Roman Empire and also on the periphery of Israel. Yet upon her was the gaze of the Lord, who chose her to be the mother of His Son.”
“The mystery of this young girl from Nazareth, which is in the heart of God, is not irrelevant to us,” reflected the pontiff. “In fact, God places his gaze of love on every man and every woman.”
The pope noted that the second Sunday of Advent this year falls on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
“On this feast day, then, contemplating our Immaculate Mother, we also recognize our true destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love.”
The pontiff then led the crowds in the traditional Angelus prayer. Afterward, he greeted the pilgrim groups present. He said that he was particularly close to the Church in North America, which on Sunday “recalls the foundation of its first parish, 350 years ago, ‘Notre Dame de Quebec’.”
Pope Francis concluded by asking everyone to join him in prayer later Sunday afternoon at the Piazza di Spanga, at the base of Rome’s famous Spanish Steps. There, he will follow an ancient tradition of praying at the base of a monument to Mary to mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The pope ended his remarks by wishing the crowds a good feast day and a good lunch.
Children at the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome – known locally as the “Pope’s Hospital” — are enthusiastic about Pope Francis’ Christmas visit, scheduled for Dec. 21.
In statements to CNA, the president of the hospital, Giuseppe Profiti, said news of the visit has been “joyfully welcomed by the personnel and has spread quickly among the young patients and their families as well.”
The Holy Father’s visit responds to the call of these children, who sent drawings to the Pope for his inaugural Mass on March 19 inviting him to come to the hospital.
The pope is very popular among the children at the hospital, who know many details about his life, his home country of Argentina, his words and homilies, and his favorite soccer team.
The pontiff has received letters from many of the children.
“Dear Pope Francis,” reads one letter, “I would like to ask you to pray for all the sick children, not only for those at this hospital but for those all over the world. All children ought to be at home and not in the hospital.”
During a recent visit to a parish on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis said that if he could perform one miracle, it would be “to heal children, because it pains me to see children suffer.”
The papal visit continues an esteemed tradition dating back to 1958, when Pope John XXIII visited the hospital for the first time. Four years later, he returned to show his concern for the children.
Pope Paul VI visited the hospital in January 1968. Eleven years later, Pope John Paul II continued the tradition. Pope Benedict XVI visited the hospital in September 2005, during the first three months of his pontificate, in order “to bear witness to the love of Jesus for children.”
The Bambino Gesu hospital was built in 1869 and is the oldest pediatric hospital in Italy.
Pope Francis released his message for the World Day of the Sick Dec. 7, emphasizing the important role of hope both for those who suffer and for their caregivers.
“When we come together, with tenderness, with those who have need of care, we carry the hope and the smile of God in contradiction to the world,” said the pope’s message.
Because of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, Pope Francis explained, “we are placed in this world before the mystery of God’s love for us, which fills us with hope and courage: hope, because in the design of God’s love even the night of suffering opens to the Easter light; and courage, to confront every adversity in his company, united to Him.”
In becoming man and taking on human suffering, Jesus transformed and reshaped our experience of pain.
Suffering and death “no longer have the last word,” but now united with Christ, “the negative can become positive.”
“Jesus is the way, and with his Spirit we can follow him. As the Father has given his Son for love, and the Son has given himself for the same love, we too can love others as God has loved us, giving our lives for our brothers,” encouraged the pope.
It is through “the strength of Baptism and of Confirmation (that) we are called to conform ourselves to Christ,” he added.
With the grace of these sacraments, we can submit to the “test of authentic faith in Christ” which is “the gift of self to spread love of neighbor, especially to those who don’t merit it, to those who suffer, to those who are marginalized.”
The pontiff then went on to point to two examples of extraordinary Christian love: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and St. John the Apostle, who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary.
St. John “makes us go back to the sources of faith and love, to the heart of God who ‘is love,’ and reminds us that we cannot love God if we don’t love our brother.”
Mary suffered greatly hearing the prophetic words of Simeon, who told her that “a sword would pierce her heart,” yet “with strength (she) remained at the foot of Jesus’ cross. She knows how to take this path and this is why she is the mother of all the sick and the suffering,” explained Pope Francis.
Moreover, continued the Pope, Mary is “the mother of the crucified and risen one: she remains near to our crosses and accompanies us in our journey towards the resurrection and the fullness of life.”
The twenty-second Day of the Sick will be observed on Feb. 11, 2014.
Pope Francis said he entrusts the day “to the intercession of Mary, in order to help the sick to live their suffering in communion with Jesus Christ, and to support those who care for them.”
Pope Francis met with members of an international organization that promotes human dignity, warning them against a “false model” of humanity.
“Unfortunately, in our time, so full of so many hopes and achievements, there are powers and forces that end up producing a ‘throw-away culture’; and this tends to become a common mentality,” said the pontiff on Dec. 7. “The victims of this culture are its most weak and fragile humans — the unborn, the poor, the elderly sick, severely disabled…those who risk being ‘thrown away,’ expelled by a mechanism that must be efficient at all costs.”
“This false model of man and of society effects a practical atheism (by) denying, de facto, the Word of God that says, ‘let us make man in our image, according to our likeness,’” Pope Francis explained to the members of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute.
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, the insitute’s honorary president, said the group was founded in 2008 in the European Parliament “with the goal to protect and promote human dignity based on the anthropological truth that man is born in the image and likeness of God.”
The cardinal spoke briefly at today’s meeting with the pope, saying, “to evangelize the very culture itself is the activity and ambition of this institute.”
“We work with all people of goodwill. We are firmly ecumenical in our approach, respectful and tolerant of those with another (or) different faith; but we celebrate with joy our uncompromising inspiration by the holy Word of God, and Catholic social teaching.”
Pope Francis’ remarks focused on similar themes. He reflected on the need “to let ourselves be questioned by this Word” of God.
“If we allow it to approach our personal and social awareness, if we let it be part of discussions and our ways of thinking and acting, criteria, priorities, and choices, then things can change,” the pope encouraged.
“The power of this Word puts limits on anyone who wants to become dominant, abusing the rights and dignity of others,” he continued. “At the same time, it gives hope and comfort to those who are not able to defend themselves, (and) to those who do not have intellectual and practical means to affirm the value of their suffering, of their own rights, of their lives.”
The pontiff encouraged the group’s initiatives, emphasizing the importance of a Christian presence in the political sphere.
“It is necessary to raise awareness and training, so that the lay faithful, in all conditions, and especially those who engage in the political field, are able to think according to the gospel and the social doctrine of the Church and act consistently, dialoging and collaborating with those who, with sincerity and intellectual honesty, share, if not the faith, at least a similar vision of man and of society and its ethical consequences,” he said.
Ben Harnwell, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute’s founder, was part of today’s audience with Pope Francis.
Harnwell told CNA that he started the organization five years ago because he saw the need to “create a way, in the political sphere, of dialoguing with Christian politicians.” He hoped to “create an environment in which politicians could be Christian” without being dismissed simply because of their religious beliefs.
Not expecting to meet Pope Francis personally, Harnwell was both surprised and thrilled to find himself shaking the pontiff’s hand.
“It’s incredible to talk to someone who is known by everyone, the acknowledged successor of Peter, and yet find a man of such humility, and a visible embodiment of the gospel. It’s really a once in a life time experience,” he said.
What struck Harnwell most of all, however, was the “transmission of joy embodied in Pope Francis.”
The pope took time to meet with many more people than originally planned at today’s event. “The generosity of time, the freshness that he brought to each introduction — he’s the pope, but that generosity of spirit is the visible embodiment of what we’re trying to do,” reflected Harnwell.
“The work of the institute has been an uphill push, but today has been unbelievable. Everyone has said, ‘this is far more than what we were expecting.’”
Harnwell also discussed institute members who fight to uphold human dignity in politics.
“We can hold the line,” he said, “but people come here and get filled up with the joy and hope of being Catholic.”
Harnwell said today’s meeting with the pope has “reinvigorated” the institute’s members to continue their fight.
Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity who had gathered to discuss the theme, “Announcing Christ in the digital age.”
““The internet is a widespread reality, complex and in continual evolution, and its development re-proposes the ever-present question of the relationship between faith and culture,” the pope said Dec. 7 to the participants of the council’s 26th plenary assembly.
“Already during the first centuries of Christianity, the church wanted to face the extraordinary heritage of the Greek culture. Facing a very profound philosophy and an educational method of exceptional value, but soaked in pagan elements, the (early Christian) Fathers were not closed to debate, but on the other hand neither did they surrender to compromise with certain ideas contrary to faith,” the pope explained, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
“They knew, rather, to identify and assimilate the more elevated concepts, transforming them from the inside by the light of the Word of God.”
The pontiff linked this approach to that of St. Paul, who wrote, “examine everything and keep what is good.”
“Between the opportunities and the dangers of the network, it is necessary to ‘examine everything,’ conscious that we will find counterfeits, dangerous illusions, and snares to be avoided,” he cautioned.
“But, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will also discover precious opportunities to lead mankind to the luminous face of the Lord.”
Pope Francis then explained the challenges in digital communications faced by the church.
“Amongst the possibilities,” he noted, “the most important regards the announcement of the gospel.” Moreover, “it’s not sufficient to acquire technological competence, although that is important.”
Rather, at the crux “it is a matter, first of all, of meeting real women and men, often injured or lost, in order to offer them real reasons for hope.”
This announcement of the gospel cannot happen apart from “authentic and direct human relationships” which then lead to “a personal meeting with the Lord.” Therefore, concluded the ppe, “the internet is not enough, technology is not sufficient.”
“This is not to say that the presence of the curch on the internet is useless; on the contrary, it is indispensable to be present, always with evangelical style,” he noted.
It is necessary because the internet “has become for everyone, especially for youth, a kind of environment of life.” The Church’s presence there can serve “to awaken the irrepressible questions of the heart, about the meaning of life, and to indicate the way that leads to Him who is rest, the divine mercy made flesh, the Lord Jesus.”
The ppe closed his audience by thanking the members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity for their work.
“Dear friends, the curch is always in a journey, to search again for new ways to announce the gospel. The contribution and witness of the lay faithful reveals itself more every day to be indispensable.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, said the death of Nelson Mandela marked the passing of an era and an icon, Dec. 6, the day after the South African and world leader died in his homeland. His statement follows.
Christians, people of faith and all people of good will mourn the news of Nelson Mandela’s death, the passing of an icon and an era.
In his struggle against apartheid rule, Nelson Mandela was a light for peace and equality in his country and for the whole world. His years of imprisonment exemplified the suffering experienced by so many who seek justice. As president of South Africa, Mandela sought to undo the structures that marginalized and impoverished people – work Pope Francis is now challenging the entire world to imitate.
The prayers of the bishops of the United States are with the Mandela family and with the people, the Church and the bishops of South Africa. We thank God for his brave witness and for all men and women who work against injustice and seek, in the words of Pope John XXIII, “to make the human sojourn on earth less sad.”
Church urges respectful, compassionate care for pregnant women and their children
ACLU claims ‘baseless’ and lawsuit ‘misguided’
Catholic healthcare ministries show ‘fierce devotion to life of each patient’
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the U.S. bishops for their “Ethical and Religious Directives” (ERDs) “misguided” and promised to defend Catholic teachings “in season and out.” He issued the statement Dec. 6. Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received from the media a complaint prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the case of Means v. USCCB. Though the complaint has not yet been served, the Conference will offer a public response.
It is important to note at the outset that the death of any unborn child is tragic, and we feel deeply for any mother who suffers such pain and loss. We cannot speak to the facts of the specific situation described in the complaint, which can be addressed only by those directly involved. The suit instead claims that our document titled “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (ERDs) encourages or requires substandard treatment of pregnant women because it does not approve the direct killing of their unborn children.
This claim is baseless. The ERDs urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy. Regarding abortion, the ERDs restate the universal and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on defending the life of the unborn child—a defense that, as Pope Francis recently reminded us, “is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 213). This same commitment to the life of each human individual has motivated Catholics to establish the nation’s largest network of nonprofit health care ministries. These ministries provide high-quality care to women and children, including those who lack health coverage and financial resources. The Church’s rejection of abortion also mirrors the Hippocratic Oath that gave rise to the very idea of medicine as a profession, a calling with its own life-affirming moral code.
The Church holds that all human life, both before and after birth, has inherent dignity, and that health care providers have the corresponding duty to respect the dignity of all their patients. This lawsuit argues that it is legally “negligent” for the Catholic bishops to proclaim this core teaching of our faith. Thus, the suit urges the government to punish that proclamation with civil liability, a clear violation of the First Amendment.
A robust Catholic presence in health care helps build a society where medical providers show a fierce devotion to the life and health of each patient, including those most marginalized and in need. It witnesses against a utilitarian calculus about the relative value of different human lives. And it provides a haven for pregnant women and their unborn children regardless of their financial resources. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will continue to defend these principles in season and out, and we will defend ourselves against this misguided lawsuit.