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Pope Francis will visit a prison on Holy Thursday

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will wash the feet of prison inmates and say Mass at their penitentiary.

The Pope will visit Paliano prison south of Rome the afternoon of April 13. He will make a private visit and say the Mass of the Last Supper, Vatican Radio reports.

For Holy Thursday in 2013, just after becoming Pope, Francis visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center in Rome and celebrated Mass there. This occasion was notable for being the first time a Pope included females and non-Christians among those whose feet he washed.

At the time, liturgical law permitted only men’s feet to be washed in the Holy Thursday ceremony.

In January 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments modified the Roman Missal to allow for women’s feet to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass.

The decision was made in concert with Pope Francis.

In a letter to the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Pope Francis wrote: “For some time I have been reflecting on the rite of the washing of the feet, which forms part of the Liturgy of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the intention of improving the ways in which it is put into practice, so that we fully express the meaning of the gesture made by Jesus in the Upper Room, his gift of self until the end for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity.”

The Roman Missal’s text was modified to say that “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers”, while it had previously read: “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers”.

Many parishes around the world had already been including women in the ritual for years; the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship made the practice licit.

In 2014, Pope Francis said the Holy Thursday Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

In 2015 he visited Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday Mass.

For Holy Thursday in 2016 Pope Francis visited a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a municipality just north of Rome. He washed the feet of refugees, who included Muslims, Hindus, and Coptic Orthodox Christians.

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Catholic Church grows as Americas, Europe trail in priestly vocations

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 11:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to Vatican statistics released Thursday, the Church in the Americas lags behind globally when it comes to the number of seminarians per number of Catholics.

In 2015, the Americas had 53.6 seminarians per one million Catholics, trailing just behind Europe with 65.0 seminarians per million Catholics. This is in comparison to Asia’s 245.7 and Africa’s 130.6 seminarians per million Catholics.

The Americas’ low seminarian rate occurs despite the continent’s hold on the highest percentage of baptized Catholics in the world – 49 percent.

These and other statistics, released by the Vatican April 6, are contained within the 2017 Pontifical Yearbook, and the 2015 “Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.” These volumes, compiled by the Central Office of Church Statistics and edited by the Vatican Press, are being distributed in bookstores now.

In terms of clergy, although the number of bishops grew relative to the number of Catholics, globally, the number of priests declined in 2015, in contrast to an upward trend from 2010-2014.

According to the report, the decline is largely attributable to the geographical areas of Europe and North America.

The percentage of priests in the world did increase by 0.83 percent between 2015 and 2010. With priests, Africa and Asia show a sustained growth dynamic, while the Americas remained almost stationary in that period. Europe and Oceania recorded negative rates of growth.

If considered with regard to the relationship between the size of the geographic areas and the rest of the world it shows that the relative weight of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America, all grew from 2010-2015, while Oceania and Middle East Asia remained stationary.

North America and Europe declined in the same period, which explains why the world-wide decline in priests in 2015 is largely attributable to these two areas.

Overall, Catholics grew globally from 1.272 billion in 2014 to 1.285 in 2015 – representing almost 18 percent of the population.

This “confirms the positive trend in the number of Catholics in the world, especially in the African continent, whose relative weight continues to increase over time,” the report states.

The significance of the Catholic Church in Africa continues to be confirmed as the number of baptized Catholics in the continent grew from 15.5 to 17.3 percent of all Catholics globally.

The growth in Catholics in the Americas and Asia is also important – up 6.7 percent in America and 9.1 percent in Asia – although these numbers fit with overall demographic development in the two continents, according to the report.

On the other hand, Europe’s contribution to the world’s Catholics made a sharp decline from 23.8 percent in 2010 to 22.8 in 2015.

In the period from 2010-2015, there was also a significant growth in the number of bishops, deacons, lay missionaries and catechists, although this is in contrast to a decline in professed religious brothers and sisters.

The priestly vocation crisis is particularly critical in America, the report noted, where the ratio between Catholics and priests exceeds 5,000 Catholics per priest. The ratio in Europe is weakened, with 1,595 Catholics per priest, though this is the most positive ratio in absolute terms.

In Asia the situation improved slightly, from 2,269 to 2,185 Catholics per priest, and Africa is stable with around 5,000 Catholics per priest.

After reaching a peak in 2011, the overall number of seminarians has undergone a gradual decline. Africa is the only continent not to experience this decline, making it the region with the greatest potential in the vocation crisis, the report explained.

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Vatican approves special Fatima feast day for the Traditional Latin Mass

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican office which governs the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite has given priests permission to say a special Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima this year, noting the importance of the apparition’s centenary.

In an April 5 decree the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei gave permission for any priest of the Latin Rite to celebrate a votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 13, 2017 – the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal.

The decision was made because “many of the Christian faithful who are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite have a particular and fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima” and out of a wish “to encourage the devotion of the faithful to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima,” according to a translation of the decree made by Gregory DiPippo, editor of New Liturgical Movement.

The permission is significant because in the extraordinary form, May 13 is the third class feast of St. Robert Bellarmine – which means Our Lady of Fatima cannot normally be celebrated.

In the ordinary form, meanwhile, May 13 is already an optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima.

If a Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart is celebrated on May 13 in the extraordinary form, it may include a commemoration of St. Robert Bellarmine, as per the rubrics of the Roman Missal of 1962.

The Marian apparitions at Fatima are among the most famous of Mary’s appearances. On May 13, 1917, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto – age 9 and 7 – and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were taking their sheep to graze when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary.

After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary then appeared to the children on the 13th of every month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer.

Francisco and Jacinta died in 1919 and 1920, respectively, and were beatified in 2000. The path to their canonization was opened in March, when a second miracle attributed to their intercession was recognized by the Pope.

Lucia became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005. Her cause for beatification is open.

In 1930, the Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Blessed Paul VI in 1967, and later by St. John Paul II and by Benedict XVI.

St. John Paul II had a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. After a harrowing assassination attempt in 1981, he credited his survival to her miraculous intervention. As a sign of his gratitude, he placed the bullet from the failed assassination in her crown.

Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage to the Fatima shrine for the centenary of the apparition next month.

He will visit the chapel of the apparitions and bless candles there on May 12. The following day, he will say Mass in the square before the shrine and greet the sick. He is also scheduled to meet with Portugal’s bishops, president, and prime minister.

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Philly archbishop praised for revamping city’s Catholic schools

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 6, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic schools in Philadelphia have seen a revitalization in finances and quality of education thanks to the initiative of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, says a group that collaborated with him on the effort.  

“While fund-raising certainly helped, the faith and wisdom of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was equally important,” the Faith in the Future foundation said.

“He recognized the passion of lay leaders – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – for these schools and he empowered them to take action.”
 
The archdiocese began a partnership in 2012 with the Faith in the Future to increase fundraising and new leadership in overseeing Catholic school management.

“We need to have ongoing interest on the part of the donor community – not only Catholics but people who share our commitment to education – the ongoing support of the archdiocese of course, and our people and our pastors are all included,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said at the time, according to the Catholic Philly.

The foundation is now in charge of 17 high schools and four special education schools. The program started off in 2012 with nearly 13 million dollars in donations and has increased to 19.4 million in 2016. In a recent column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the group’s leaders lauded Archbishop Chaput for his part in the growing success of the city’s Catholic schools.

Faith in the Future works to fund the school’s operational deficits then reinvests the surpluses into new programs. The organization also oversees improvements to operations and market strategies to further promote enrollment.

In the beginning of 2012, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was planning on closing 44 elementary schools, four high schools, and displacing nearly 24,000 students. Among other challenges, the archdiocese felt heavy financial strains from organizational issues and abuse scandals.

“The resources simply don’t exist. Many of our parishes are financially strained. The archdiocese itself faces serious financial and organizational challenges that have been developing for many years and cannot be ignored,” Archbishop Chaput had told the Catholic Standard & Times.

As part of the revamping initiative, many schools have undergone significant transformation. West Catholic was reborn as West Catholic Preparatory High School, and has since doubled its enrollment – adding engineering and technology programs as well as a partnership with Drexel University. The U.S. Department of Education also accepted Our Mother of Consolation into the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which is an award recognizing academic excellence. Both schools were originally among those slated to close.

The foundation’s CEO, Samuel Carter, said that only three schools are now running on deficits. Carter noted they have accumulated a surplus over the past three years, and funds are being channeled back into new technologies and programs.

In a February 2016, Faith in the Future announced that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will extend their contract until 2022. At the announcement, Carter pointed to an information system that tracked the market analysis of potential students in order to better market the school’s qualities. He also discussed the increased strategies for access to assisted funding from areas like BLOCS or the Maguire Foundation, according the Catholic Philly.  

Besides increased funds by donors and better school organization, expansions to the EITC and OSTC of Pennsylvania’s tax systems have made tuition assistance more readily available for families. Both of the programs apply tax breaks or credits to businesses who provide a charitable donation. Businesses are able to receive 75-90 percent state tax credit for any amount up to $750,000.

Last year, Philadelphia’s Catholic school system saw 93 percent of their graduates attend college, and more than half were awarded with at least one scholarship. As reported by Catholic Philly, Archbishop Chaput expressed his gratitude for the foundation, the lay community’s involvement, and the Catholic identity guiding the schools.

“The foundation’s zeal for excellence in management, guided by a strong Catholic identity, has served our high schools and schools of special education exceptionally well. I’m confident the foundation will continue to strengthen our educational system for the benefit of the region’s children,” the archbishop said.

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Bishops of Paraguay call for peace after riots, fire at Congress building

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Asunción, Paraguay, Apr 5, 2017 / 07:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Bishops of Paraguay made an urgent appeal for peace after hundreds of demonstrators set fire to the National Congress building in Asuncion on the night of March 31.

In a statement signed March 31, the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference urged that there “be no more wars between brothers! Let us always work for peace!”

The violent demonstrations in Asuncion occurred when a group of legislators approved a constitutional amendment which would allow the reelection of the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes.

In a surprise move, and holding the vote behind closed doors, 25 senators supported the controversial measure. The opposition has called the measure illegal, a coup d’état.

So far, the riots have left at least one dead, many more injured – including legislators, police and protesters – and 200 people arrested.

“At this critical time for our homeland, we Bishops of Paraguay make an urgent appeal for peace,” the Bishops’ Conference stated in their communiqué.

“We observe with sorrow the public confrontation and want to call on everyone: the authorities and the people. Let’s not use violence, protect everyone’s life, so the demonstrations don’t turn into a battlefield. Let us respect life!”

The bishops urged both the citizens and government to look “not only at the motivations for your actions but also the consequences, and act with due common sense.”

“We urge the leaders and political representatives to win the people’s trust with concrete gestures of encounter, dialogue and transparency, respecting the process in which freedom and the possibility to act are not constrained by the urgency of political procedures,” they continued.

Finally, the Paraguayan bishops encouraged a dialogue between all parties because “peace requires the culture of encounter, the search for the common good, national unity.”

“We want a fraternal country where we work for that daily peace, as Pope Francis exhorted at the beginning of his visit to our country in 2015. Let’s make it possible. Let’s not let this get out of hand. ‘A family divided cannot stand,’” the bishops concluded.

Pope Francis, attentive to what is happening on the continent, said in his Sunday Angelus message that he is following “with close attention everything that is going on in Venezuela and Paraguay. I pray for their people, very beloved by me, and I invite everyone to persevere tirelessly, avoiding all violence, in the search for a political solution.”

After the pope’s message, the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, posted a message on his social media in which he proposed holding immediate discussions with a representative of the Bishops’ Conference, the opposition, the political parties, the legislature, and the executive branch.

“I value immensely that His Holiness is following attentively the events in my homeland and I share his conviction that violence can never be the way to work for the good. Political solutions must be made within the institutional framework,” the president said.

Meanwhile, the Paraguayan bishops thanked “the Pope for his love and concern for the situation our homeland is going through right now.”

“At the same time, we welcome with hope the call made on television by the President of the Republic for a dialogue among the political actors, among whom are included the Paraguayan Bishops Conference,” they added.

“We recognize the value of this call as a response to the Pope’s request for the search for political solutions which is the responsibility of all actors of the representative bodies of our Nation.”

The statement signed by the President of the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela Mellid, also indicates that in this effort they must avoid “all violence.”

 

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Maryland bishops join fight against human trafficking

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Baltimore, Md., Apr 5, 2017 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maryland’s bishops united in voicing their concerns over the evils of human trafficking, announcing their sponsorship of a statewide initiative aimed at raising awareness of the issue.  

“The evil of human trafficking is an international, national and local scourge, and a grave violation of the dignity and freedom of all its victims,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington said in an April 3 statement.

“As people of faith, this grave injustice cries out for a response.”

According to the U.S. State Department, upwards of 800,000 victims of trafficking are brought through the U.S. borders every year. Up to 17,500 individuals are also trafficked into the country annually. Globally, the number spikes into an estimated 20 million victims, according to the International Labor Organization.  

The bishops lamented that the state of Maryland also sees a number of trafficked victims, due to Interstate 95, which acts as a hub to other cities, especially with the Baltimore Washington International airport nearby.

The bishops’ statement, titled Proclaiming Liberty to Captives, highlighted the duty of Christians to “break the yoke of modern-day slavery,” by raising awareness and supporting organizations that aid victims.

Many efforts are already in place, which rescue trafficked victims and prosecute the perpetrators, such as Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Force, who rescued almost 400 victims from trafficking in 2014.

The bishops voiced their support of these initiatives, and also announced their own sponsorship of regional trainings that will raise awareness of human trafficking around the state.

“The Catholic bishops in Maryland pledge to devote the resources of the Church to support, unify and expand these efforts wherever possible,” the bishops stated.

“To assist in those efforts, the Catholic Church will sponsor regional trainings throughout the state beginning in the spring of 2017, at which we will bring together national, state and local experts who will provide participants with effective tools for combating human trafficking in our local communities.”

As many victims are not aware of their own captivity, the bishops underscored the importance of these new training programs that would help individuals recognize and identify the signs of a trafficked victim.

“Perhaps the most distressing aspect of human trafficking is the cloak of silence gripping its victims,” the bishops said, noting that many victims are vulnerable, poor, or runaways.

“Often, victims are not even aware they are being exploited,” they said, and asked that Catholics in Maryland attend the new training sessions “to recognize, set free, embrace and empower our brothers and sisters who are victims of human trafficking.”

The Maryland bishops are not alone in their concern over the staggering number of human trafficking victims. Pope Francis has also spoken out against the evils of trafficking, calling the injustice a “shameful wound.”

The Holy Father also used his 2015 World Day of Peace address to speak out against trafficking, asking individuals to not “become accomplices to this evil,” but to “have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ.”

“Our commitment to addressing this issue reflects the commitment of the world-wide Church and especially Pope Francis, who from the start of his papacy has spoken passionately about this ‘plague on the body of contemporary humanity,’” the bishops said.

The Maryland bishops urged local communities to learn more about human trafficking awareness through the new training programs, and also asked individuals to pray for the end of trafficking.

“We urge Catholics in Maryland to take advantage of these trainings in order to shine a light on this issue.”

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