Pope Francis launches campaign to encounter and welcome migrants

September 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2017 / 12:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Wednesday announced a new initiative encouraging a “culture of encounter” and efforts to warmly welcome immigrants and refugees.

Sponsored by the global Catholic charities network Caritas Internationalis, the “Share the Journey” initiative is a two-year campaign dedicated to promoting both awareness and action on behalf of migrants and refugees, and helping them build connections with local communities.

“Don’t be afraid of sharing the journey. Don’t be afraid of sharing hope,” Pope Francis said during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 27.

According to Caritas, the project was launched as a response to Pope Francis’ frequent call for a “culture of encounter.”

The project also aims to shed light on both the challenges and effects of migration at every stage of the journey in order to promote a “shift in thinking” on the issue. It will have the support of the ACT Alliance, which is a network of 145 Christian agencies and a variety of other religious congregations and civil society groups worldwide.

As part of the project, Caritas will launch various action-based initiatives in the communities in which they are present throughout the world.

.@CardinalChito w/Caritas Internationalis at Vatican Press Office to launch #ShareJourney initiative. Learn more: https://t.co/GN5af8cdie pic.twitter.com/tPlnI1Hjx1

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) September 27, 2017

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, said he himself is an example of what young migrants can offer if given the opportunity.

“Whenever I hear news about the restrictions or even some moves that might affect children, minors (who are) migrants, I remember my grandfather, my maternal grandfather,” Cardinal Tagle told CNA.

“He was born in China and his mother was widowed, and she in her desperation didn’t know how to raise her child up into a decent life, so I suppose with a heavy heart, she decided to give away the child to an uncle, who was trying to do some trade in the Philippines.”

Cardinal Tagle explained that his grandfather never went back to China, but “thanks to people who received him, helped him, educated him, he was able to contribute to society.”

In addition to his work, “he was able to contribute a priest, a bishop, in my person,” Cardinal Tagle said. “So watch out. The children that we might be rejecting might be giving valuable contributions to society.”

The cardinal’s comments were made in reference to rising tensions surrounding the issue of migration in the U.S., where controversy has arisen over President Donald Trump’s travel ban, proposed border wall, and recent announcement of the phasing out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which has benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

In a press conference announcing the “Share the Journey” initiative, Cardinal Tagle said world leaders should remember that “we are all migrants. Nobody can claim to be a non-migrant, we are all passing in this world.”

With Cardinal Luis Tagle, pres of @iamCARITAS, for presentation of new “Share the Journey” project 4 #migrants & refugees pic.twitter.com/PNiJXEprfz

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) September 27, 2017

“Nobody is a permanent resident,” and no one can claim to “own the space they occupy,” he said, voicing his hope that there would be a universal “conversion of mind” on the issue.

Acknowledging the fear that some might feel at having foreigners enter their country, the cardinal said these fears often dissipate when people take the time to sit with immigrants and listen to their stories. “You will see that they are like you and me,” he said.

Recalling how his grandfather came to the Philippines as a “poor boy from China,” he said, “who would have thought he would have a cardinal for a grandson?”

Present alongside Cardinal Tagle at the press conference was Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, along the U.S. border with Mexico, as well as the director of Caritas Ethiopia, Bekele Moges, and three young migrants from Africa.

The migrants were Yancuba Darboe from Gambia, 21; Amadou Darboe from Senegal, 20; and Berete Ibrahima from Guinea, 23. Each of them left their homes due to poverty or a lack of opportunities and endured harsh conditions, including torture at the hands of traffickers, before eventually arriving in Italy and finding a fresh start.

In comments to CNA, Sr. Pimentel stressed the importance of getting to know migrants personally.

Meeting and speaking with migrants face-to-face is “so important,” she said, “because that’s what causes the transformation in us.”

Sr. Pimentel recalled the story of a woman who had come to visit one of the centers operated by Catholic Charities in Rio Grande Valley. The woman was “one hundred percent against” their work, believing that migrants shouldn’t be allowed into the country.

In response, the sister gave the woman a tour, and “took her to visit the families and the children and showed her the reality, and she met them personally.”

When the visit ended, the woman’s whole perspective had changed, and she encouraged Sr. Pimentel to continue the work they were doing. The woman’s husband even called the center later to express his shock at the change in his wife’s attitude toward the issue.

“So I believe if somebody can be transformed so fast because of the fact that they saw that mother, that infant, that child (and) we have it in our hearts to reach out to those we find suffering, we will help that person that needs our help,” she said.

Sr. Pimentel described current immigrant policy in the U.S. as “harsh.”

“All the administrations, even the previous administration, were very harsh in deporting a lot of the immigrants and making those detention centers for family units,” she said, adding that in her view, “it’s so unjust and so unfair for a family with children, with infants, to be placed in detention facilities.”

“Just like the previous administration, this administration is doing the same and probably harsher,” she said, stressing that placing families in such centers is “not humane,” because they are essentially being put “into prisons.”

Whether you call it a detention center or even a “child care center,” Sr. Pimentel said, the reality is that “they really are prisons and it’s very depressing, so children should not be in those conditions.”

Instead, the sister said there should be an alternative available where families are allowed to stay together with someone to help them in the immigration process while authorities “figure out whether they have a reason to be in the United States or not, but not keep them for months in facilities that are so depressing and inhumane.”

Sr. Pimentel voiced hope that the new Caritas campaign would help people to truly understand the plight of migrants and push for “laws in our countries that respect the dignity and human life of people.”

The process of breaking the stigma surrounding incoming migrants starts with individuals and the process of encounter, she reiterated.

“Find that immigrant, just one, find out who they are,” she said. “Find out why they left their country and try to understand that, try to put yourself in their shoes and see if that helps you understand better why an immigrant has to go through what they do and what should be your responsibility and response to that reality.”


New boys’ choir CD explores rich music of Mary

September 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Boston, Mass., Sep 27, 2017 / 06:03 am (CNA).- Boys’ choirs have been a tradition in the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, when men and women did not sing together in public, and boys’ higher-pitched voices were needed to round out the sound of sacred music used at Mass.

Today, the United States is home to just one Catholic boys’ choir school – St. Paul’s choir school in Cambridge, Mass. The school is open to boys in 4th-8th grade, who must audition to earn a spot in the renowned and rigorous program.

Having celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2013, and having produced their first CD, “Christmas in Harvard Square” in 2014, the school has enjoyed a recent uptick in interest and awareness of both their program and music.

Given the success of their first CD, the group decided to produce another CD entitled “Ave Maria,” with a wide variety of sacred music centered on the theme of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was released on Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary.

“(We) wanted to do something that would be ‘in season’ all year round, so something that honors Our Lady seemed like the perfect choice,” choirmaster John Robinson told CNA in e-mail comments.

“There is such an amazing richness of music that honors Our Lady,” he said. “Because Mary is so central to everything we believe, we felt that music that honors her can also show certain devotional aspects of other themes as well, so the recording has a wide range of subject matter.”

The 18 tracks selected for the CD cover a range of lesser-known as well as more popular pieces of sacred music, from Gregorian chant written in the 7th century to works written as recently as the 19th and 20th centuries.

The boys in the choir school have a small window of time to capitalize on their young voices – the younger boys in 4th and 5th grade go through a practice phase before joining the older choristers, usually around 6th grade.

Each piece in “Ave Maria” is meant to highlight the pitch range of the boys in the choir school, and each selection has its own story to tell in the context of both music and Church history.

“It’s always great to get behind each piece and learn about its context, especially some of the great stories in Church Music, like the creation of the Papae Marcellus Mass by Palestrina,” he said. “This piece was written to prove that polyphony (music in many parts) can still have clear words, and the piece actually influenced the direction of the Council of Trent.”  

The Council of Trent was called by the Catholic Church to examine possible adjustments of Church practices in light of the Protestant Reformation. One adjustment considered by the council was that all sacred music be clear and readily understandable, and not obscured by complex musical techniques. Palestrina’s Mass helped prove that polyphonic sacred music could be both beautiful and clearly understood.

Robinson said he has been encouraged by an increased awareness of boys’ choral music and sacred music, and he added that he hoped that the CD would appeal to a wide audience and foster a greater appreciation for Church music.

“We want everyone to hear this recording. Of course there are those who already love and know this kind of music, and it’s certainly great that they should listen to it, and hear that this tradition is alive and well,” he said. “It’s also really important that people who really haven’t had access to hearing this unique traditional sound should be able to hear it, and to realise that they can hear it every day of the week at St. Paul’s as well.”

The rich history of sacred music and its beautiful sound is something that has the power to unite people both to those who came before them, and to God himself, Robinson added.

“Traditional Sacred music is like a collection of beautiful prayers that we can pull out and join ourselves to. Whenever we sing this music at Mass there’s a real sense of togetherness with those who have gone before. There’s also a great sense of beauty, and appreciation of the gift of beauty. There’s a feeling of learning from those great composers, so honed in their Art, and of being part of something much bigger than us,” he said.

“It’s great to lose ourselves in the wonderful sounds that have been prayed in Church for hundreds and in some cases well over a thousand years. I hope that this shared heritage can be something that unites everyone, and points to Him who gave it to us.”

“Ave Maria” was released by AimHigher Recordings through their international distribution collaboration with Sony Classical. In addition to Robinson, some of the other people behind the album include multiple Grammy Award-winning Producer Christopher Alder, and Brad Michel, also a Grammy Award-winner.



When tempted to give up hope, turn to Jesus, Pope Francis says

September 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2017 / 03:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the enemies of hope that often lead us into discouragement and melancholy, and urged Christians to fight these temptations with the power of prayer.

One of these enemies, he said, is the “demon of noon,” which “wears us out with a busy life just as the sun rises,” but which “surprises us when we are least expecting it.” With this enemy, he said, “the days become dull and boring,” and nothing seems worthy of the effort of “hard work.”

“To have an empty soul is the worst hindrance to hope,” he said. “It is a risk from which no one can be said to be excluded; because to be tempted against hope can happen even when you walk the path of Christian life.”

“That’s why it is important to keep our hearts in opposition to the temptations of unhappiness, which certainly do not come from God,” he said. “And where our forces appear weak and the battle against anguish particularly tough, we can always turn to the name of Jesus.”

We can repeat this simple prayer, he said, found in the Gospels, and prayed by many Christians, which says: “‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner!’ A beautiful prayer.”

Speaking to those gathered for the weekly general audience Sept. 27, the Pope continued his catechesis on the theological virtue of hope.

He started by recalling the myth of Pandora’s Box, which tells the story of a curious woman who opens a box she’s been forbidden to open.

When she does so, all of the evils of the world are then released. But at the end of the story, there is a “glimmer of light,” the Pope said, because after all of the terrible things pour out of the box, Pandora spies one last thing remaining inside: hope.

“This myth tells us why it is so important for humanity to hope. It is not true that ‘as long as there is life there is hope,’ as it is commonly said. But it is the opposite: it is hope that sustains life, which protects, preserves and grows it,” he said.

The Pope also evoked the words of the French poet Charles Péguy, whose poem “The Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue,” is a lengthy reflection on hope. In his poem, he says that God is not astonished so much by the faith of human beings, or by their charity, but by their hope.

Quoting from a poem of Péguy, Francis continued: “Those poor children who see how things are and who believe that it will be better in the morning.”

“The image of the poet,” he said, “recalls the faces of so many people who are passing through this world – peasants, poor workers, migrants, in search of a better future…They fought for their children, they fought in hope.”

Hope is not a virtue of people with full stomachs, he continued. That is why, since the beginning, the poor are the first bearers of hope. Even at Christ’s birth the poor shepherds were the first messengers, Francis said.

Sometimes, growing up with everything you could want or need in life can actually be a misfortune, he said, because then you are not taught the virtues of expectation and patience built through hard work and effort.

The person who has been given everything may look young, but actually “autumn has already fallen on his heart,” he said.

Instead, hope is the “thrust in the heart” that encourages people to change, or to leave home to find a better situation in some cases. It is the push to welcome others, “the desire to meet, to know, to dialogue,” he said.

Hope also gives us the courage to share the journey of Christian life, he said, adding that“we are not afraid to share the trip! We are not afraid! We are not afraid to share hope!”


Why witchcraft can never be used to accomplish good

September 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 3

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2017 / 03:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Shortly after Donald Trump assumed the office of President of the United States, witches across the country began large-scale efforts to cast binding spells on him.

Amanda Yates Garcia, a self-identified witch known as the “Oracle of Los Angeles,” told Tucker Carlson of FOX News last week that the binding spells are not intended to harm Trump, but rather are intended to prevent him from causing any harm to others.

“Binding spells are a symbolic action used to harness the powers of the imagination and achieve a tangible result, eventually,” she said.

“I desire that Trump stop harming people that I care about and instituting policies that also harming me or people that I care about. My ultimate aim is that we protect the people that we love from having harm done to them,” she added.

But can witchcraft ever be used to accomplish something good?

Catholic theologian Dr. Anthony Lilles told CNA that even though the end result of witchcraft, magic or a spell may be some perceived good, these means are always an evil and are always below the dignity of the human person.

“Whether or not they’ve made a right judgment in the evil they want to prevent is one thing, but in Catholic moral tradition, we believe that you should never do evil that good might come from it,” he said.  

“The way the logic of magic works, you attempt to control elements either above human nature or below human nature, and in your effort to manipulate or control these things, you always end up controlled by them. Whatever you give your heart to, that’s what has control over you,” Lilles said.

“As Christians we give our heart to God, and because he is completely above us, he is able to lift us up. When you give your heart to anything else, you always lower yourself, and so it’s very bad for the person who practices magic, because it always diminishes their own dignity,” he added.

Another problem with magic and spells is that they operate on the level of imagination, rather than in the world of reality and truth, Lilles said.

“Reason orients us to discern things according to the truth, to respond to situations such as they really truly are,” Lilles said.

With magic, “it’s trying to stand with your human dignity on something a little bit more whimsical, something that can’t support it. A fantasy can’t support the dignity and greatness of what it means to be a human being, only God can be that foundation. Only the truth is firm enough ground for the greatness of who each one of us is as a human being.”

For these reasons, witchcraft, magic and superstition have always been condemned practices in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which teaches that human beings must rely humbly and completely on the will of God, Lilles said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church categorizes witchcraft and magic particularly as offenses against the First Commandment, which is: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

Witchcraft, magic and divination always stem from a desire to control and manipulate reality and situations in our lives, rather than humbly making our requests known to an all-powerful and all-loving God, Lilles said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, in paragraph 2115, that while God may choose to reveal future events to human being through the prophets or the saints, a right Christian attitude is “putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.”

The Catechism also notes that all forms of divination, magic and sorcery are to be rejected.

Anything “by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons.” (CCC 2117)

Witchcraft can be attractive because of its grasp at power and control, especially in a culture that has forgotten God, Lilles noted.

“In a culture that no longer knows God, that has forgotten to pray, that doesn’t have confidence in humility before the creator and redeemer of the world, there will be a spiritual vacuum, and nature abhors vacuums,” he said.

“So turning to the occult, turning to magic, turning to all kinds of practices that are beneath our dignity is something that we will see people more and more inclined to do as they attempt to fill that vacuum, a vacuum that only God can fulfill in a satisfactory way.”

But that shouldn’t overly worry Christians with a proper understanding of magic and divination. Lilles said that Christians should not dismiss the practices of magic or divination as fantasy or as having no power, but at the same time, they can rest in knowing that their God is more powerful than any of these practices.

“The access to the very heart of God, which is ours by faith, far exceeds any magical power that someone might have,” he said.

“The creator of heaven and earth has implicated himself in our lives and in our own personal plights, and he is able to accomplish so much more than any power or force or element in this world below. All we have to do is make a humble cry and he is there, and that’s the truth we stand by.”  

Father Vincent Lampert, an exorcist for the archdiocese of Indianapolis, told the National Catholic Register in February that the best antidote to magic and spells for Catholics is frequenting the sacraments.

“You can’t stop someone from placing a curse, but as a Christian, if you are you praying to God and going to him, the curse will have no power,” Father Lampert said.

Dr. Lilles echoed his sentiments.

“We don’t need to grasp at control or try to manipulate things, whether by magic or other means. What we need today is trust in God, and if we trust in him, everything is going to be ok. That’s why prayer is so important. Prayer is the school of trusting God.”  



Ratzinger Foundation unveils new prize, announces American winners

September 26, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2017 / 01:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s Joseph Ratzinger Foundation unveiled a new prize called “Expanding Reason,” aimed at promoting dialogue between the sciences and philosophy and theology in scholarly work.

Four Americans – Darcia Narvaez from the University of Notre Dame and Michael Schuck, Nancy C. Tuchman, and Jesuit Fr. Michael J. Garanzini from Loyola University – are among this year’s winners.

“Expanding Reason,” the name of the prize, “is a central idea in the teaching and in the work of Joseph Ratzinger (who would become Pope Benedict XVI) because he’s a man of intelligence, he’s a man of reason, of the search for truth,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, former director of the Holy See Press Office, told EWTN Sept. 26.

President of the Ratzinger Foundation, Fr. Lombardi said the idea for the prize came about as a way to encourage work in the direction of dialogue between science and philosophy, and science and theology – “in research and also in the organization of courses in the university.”

“Confidence in human reason is the basis for a dialogue between the different fields of human knowledge. And this is necessary to find also the direction, the answer, to big questions of life, of death, of people and of the history of mankind,” he continued.

The prize has two categories: one for research-based books or works and another for professors working directly with students. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony at the Vatican Sept. 27.

Organized in collaboration with the University of Francisco de Vitoria of Madrid, the prize had more than 300 applicants, which Fr. Lombardi said is “much more than we expected,” but shows that there is space and a desire for this discussion.

Of these 300 applicants, four winners were chosen, two under each category. Two applicants were also given honorable mention.

Of the four winners, one was Darcia Narvaez, a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame since 2000. Her work, “Neurobiology and the development of human morality: evolution, culture and wisdom,” investigates the foundation and origins of human morality in child development.

The other American prize recipients are Michael Schuck, Nancy C. Tuchman and Jesuit Fr. Michael J. Garanzini from Loyola University. They won as a group under the teaching category for their work “Healing Earth,” an online manual of environmental science, ethics, spirituality and action promoting awareness of environmental problems.

The other winners were Claudia Vanney and Juan F. Franck of Buenos Aires, Argentina for their scholarly work: “Determinism or indeterminism? Big questions from the sciences to philosophy” and Dominican Sr. Laura Baritz of Hungary for “the keteg Teaching Program and mission.”

Benedict XVI insists “on the need to have a broad and open view of reason and its exercise in seeking the truth and the answer to fundamental questions about humanity and its destiny,” Fr. Lombardi said in a press conference Sept. 26.

“This idea is fundamental to the dialogue between the Church and modern culture, between sciences and philosophy and theology, and hence also a fundamental idea for the way of thinking of the university and its function.”

The Ratzinger Foundation also announced that the seventh annual Ratzinger Prize will be awarded on Nov. 18 this year.

Also an award of the Ratzinger Foundation, the Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

The foundation’s international conference, also in its seventh year, will take place in Costa Rica from Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2017. Organized in collaboration with the Catholic University of Costa Rica, this year’s theme is “Laudato si: For the ‘care of the common home’ a necessary conversion to Human Ecology.”