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Benedict XVI tells EWTN: ‘Thank you for your work’

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2017 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Members of EWTN’s Rome Bureau on Friday met Benedict XVI in the Vatican Gardens to explain their work and thank him for his service to the Church, while he in turn thanked them for their efforts.

“Thank you for your work,” the emeritus Pope said March 31 to the six persons present at the encounter, who represented the various programs produced at the bureau.


Had the immense blessing of mtg Benedict XVI today w some colleagues from @EWTN – I can only be #grateful!

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) March 31, 2017


EWTN’s Rome bureau has roughly 25 employees, producing both print and television news.

Members who attended audience were selected to represent each of the entities produced in the office, and included bureau chief Alan Holdren; office manager Emanuele Latini; head of production Pilar Piero; EWTN News Nightly producer Mary Shovlain; CNA correspondent Elise Harris; and ACI Prensa correspondent Alvaro de Juana.

The team met Benedict in the Vatican Gardens at 4:30 in the afternoon, when the emeritus Pope prays his daily rosary. He was accompanied by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household.

After finishing his prayer, Benedict removed his hat and stood up to greet the team.  

Benedict was clear and alert, and interested in each person as they approched him.

Leading the delegation, Holdren gave a brief introduction to the organization; the emeritus Pope marvelled at the size of the bureau.

Benedict greeted each member of the group individually, learning about their families and their work.

Holdren gave the Bavarian personal letters from all those present. He in turn offered each of them  a medal and commemorative cards of his 2012 visit to Lebanon, the last he took as Roman Pontiff.

He then gave the group his blessing and departed for his residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

The audience was granted to mark the one-year anniversary of the March 27, 2016 death of Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN.

She launched the network in 1981, and it today transmits programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400.

The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

Among the television coverage produced through the Rome office are EWTN’s 30-minute weekly news program “Vaticano,” as well as a portion of “EWTN News Nightly.”

In addition, there are eight correspondents who write print news for Catholic News Agency and two of her sister-agencies, ACI Prensa and ACI Stampa.


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Vatican official hopes Trump will ‘rethink’ some decisions

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2017 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thursday Vatican official Cardinal Peter Turkson said he hopes President Trump will reconsider some of the decisions he is making in office, particularly his recent executive order curtailing environmental protections – but that he is glad U.S. bishops are offering a “different voice.”

Diverse members of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference have already voiced opposition to some of President Trump’s actions, including on immigration, Cardinal Turkson told journalists Thursday morning.

“This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge. We hope that Trump himself will rethink some of his decisions,” he said.

Head of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Turkson spoke to journalists at a breakfast meeting March 30 on a conference the department will hold at the Vatican April 3 and 4.

Cardinal Turkson expressed his gratefulness for the U.S. bishops who are addressing President Trump’s policies, saying things are “a bit worrying,” although Trump is, in fact, just fulfilling the “promises made during the campaign.”

But “we are hopeful that things will change,” he said, especially when Trump begins to see “the dissonance between the reality of things” and promises made during his election campaign.

Otherwise, other world powers, like China, are ready to step in and fill the “space,” he said, noting that China is already making some efforts on climate control, especially given the large amount of smog and air pollution the country faces.

Pope Francis has been very vocal on the importance of protecting the environment throughout his papacy, publishing the first papal encyclical dedicated to the topic, Laudato Si, in 2015.

Shortly after its release he instituted the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to take place every year on Sept. 1.

In his message for the 2016 day of prayer, Francis said that care of creation should also contribute “to shaping the culture and society in which we live,” adding that economics, politics, society and culture “cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains.”

“Instead, they urgently need to be redirected to the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation.”

The dicastery’s upcoming conference, being held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of People), aims to discuss the question: “who is man?” the cardinal said.

The two-day conference includes sessions with presentations on the themes of the body and soul, man and woman, the individual and society, as well as testimonies on serving vulnerable populations.
The first day will include a presentation by Cardinal Turkson on the origins and perspective of the dicastery and another by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on “the Christian anthropological vision, the foundational concept of integral human development.”

The conference will also include time for dialogue and an audience with Pope Francis on April 4.

In other comments to journalists, Cardinal Turkson said that “immigration is like water flowing from the tap,” you can’t just try to dry up the water, you have to turn off the faucet.

This can only be done through long-term plans that promote projects in the countries migrants are fleeing and “prevent the need of people to emigrate,” he said.


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In North Carolina, more changes for disputed bathroom law

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Raleigh, N.C., Mar 31, 2017 / 09:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- North Carolina has modified its law on gender identity and the use of bathrooms and locker rooms, after facing pressure from LGBT activists and their allies in business, sports and entertainment.

But some say the changes take the wrong path.

“Every North Carolinian deserves to have their privacy respected in intimate settings like locker rooms and restrooms,” said Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, March 30.

“One of government’s essential duties is to protect the citizens it governs, not to create uncertainty about whether showers and locker rooms will still be safe for women and girls,” she said. “North Carolina’s economy is booming, so the state should not let the NCAA and others dictate the state’s policies and sell out their citizens’ interests based on flat-out lies about an economic doomsday that never happened.”

Fiedorek charged that the legislature “failed families by giving into hypocritical bullies.”

The repeal bill removes the portion of the 2016 law H.B. 2 that had said that in public buildings and schools, people must use the restrooms and locker rooms that align with the biological sex on their birth certificate, rather than their self-perceived “gender identity.”

Supporters of the 2016 law said distinctions on the basis of sex are necessary for private areas such as restrooms and shower facilities. They warned that the ordinance would allow any biological male into the women’s restrooms, which could lead to instances of assault.

The law drew protests from influential corporations and entertainment figures, while the Obama administration’s Justice Department, operating under a new interpretation of anti-discrimination law, contended that it violated civil rights protections on the basis of sex.

The National College Athletics Association had moved its 2016-2017 championship events out of the state because of the bill.

H.B. 2 was passed in response to a Charlotte City Council Ordinance that would have, among other provisions, allowed individuals to use restroom facilities based on their self-perceived “gender identity.”

The 2016 measure had been signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, who was defeated in the 2016 elections by Democrat Roy Cooper. Gov. Cooper had promised to repeal the law.

The new governor, who is seeking anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, said the latest legislation was not his preferred solution.

The new modifications passed the House 70-48 and the Senate 32-16. It reserves to the state legislature the right to regulate bathroom access. It also bars local governments from passing any new nondiscrimination ordinances or amendments applying to private employment and public accommodation until the year 2020.



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Pope Francis makes surprise ‘Year of Mercy’-style visit

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2017 / 09:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Although the Jubilee Year of Mercy has officially ended, Pope Francis today made a surprise “Mercy Friday” visit to a center for the blind and visually impaired in Rome – showing that he doesn’t think works of mercy are just for special occasions – or years.

Continuing his tradition of performing a spiritual or corporal work of mercy on one Friday a month during the Church’s Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, the Pope went in the afternoon of March 31 to the St. Alessio-Margherita di Savoia Regional Center for the blind in Rome.

According to a March 31 communique from the Vatican, the Pope wished to make this visit as a “follow-up” to the private visits of the Jubilee.

This particular act of mercy, the communique stated, was to guests of the center, which organizes activities “aimed at social inclusion of the blind and visually impaired.”

During his visit, the Pope met with the different guests, some of whom have been blind from birth and others who have no vision or impaired vision due to a serious disease. Some of the guests have multiple disabilities.

Among the guests there are around 50 children who attend the center to receive practical training in life skills and in navigating daily activities, as well as 37 elderly people who are permanent residents of the facility.

Francis also greeted the president and director general of the center, the medical staff and volunteers.

Before leaving, he left a gift and signed a parchment for the center’s chapel, in memory of his visit. He returned to the Vatican around 6:00 p.m.

Pope Francis kicked off his monthly works of mercy in January 2016 by visiting a retirement home for the elderly, sick, and those in a vegetative state, and a month later traveled to a center for those recovering from drug addiction in Castel Gandolfo.

Other visits throughout the year included refugees, children, formerly sex-trafficked women, former priests, infants and the terminally ill.

In December 2016, Pope Francis said in an interview with the official website for the Jubilee of Mercy that he would be making “different gestures” of mercy once a month on Fridays during the Holy Year.



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This Mexican bishop met with gang leaders to protect threatened priests

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Chilpancingo, Mexico, Mar 31, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A bishop in Mexico’s Guerrero state, which suffers the most from drug- and gang-related violence, recently met with gang leaders in order to protect priests who were receiving death threats.

Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa told Radio Fórmula March 27 that since he came to the diocese in June 2015 his great concern has been to “promote peace, harmony, dialogue.”

“When I saw that some priests had been threatened by them, including one quite seriously, I took up the task of going to go see these people (the gang leaders) and talking with them,” he said.

Bishop Rangel related that he made the contact through third persons, and in his meetings he told the leaders of these gangs that “with the death (of a priest) we’re not going to be able to settle anything,” and that the situation in Guerrero will only deteriorate.

“As a bishop I must seek dialogue and peace,” he said.

He clarified that he has not met with all the violent groups present in the area and that there is a need “to engage in dialogue.” He recalled that “almost all of Guerrero is in the hands of drug traffickers” and that the solution also involves social development of the poorest population, with whom the authorities need to get involved.

Regarding the  local authorities’ request for him to provide them information on these groups, the bishop pointed out that “I’m doing my pastoral work. I’m the bishop, I’m not the prosecutor. I think it’s up to him to investigate.”

“I’m a simple instrument of dialogue, of reaching out, because it’s not my obligation to bring people in or report on people. If they have opened up with me, if they’ve been sincere with me, I have to be loyal to them,” he said.

Fr. Benito Cuenca Mayo, spokesman for the Chilpancingo-Chilapa diocese, told CNA that more than one priest “has been caught up in this situation of the lack of security” and therefore the bishop “had to reach out to some crime group to dialogue with them.”

“Thanks to those meetings for dialogue he’s had with them, it has been possible to not have these lamentable incidents of death threats against some of our brother priests,” Fr. Cuenca said.

The spokesman noted that since his arrival at Chilpancingo, one of Bishop Rangel’s main pastoral actions “was to get to know the actual situation in the diocese and slowly he became more and more advised that violence in fact was a very delicate issue to address.”

In this regard, he recalled that more that once the bishop has stated his willingness to be an intermediary between the authorities and the criminal groups to bring about peace in the area, provided that “the parties to the conflict agree”

“A lot of progress would be made in the process of pacification in this area of Guerrero, but it’s not easy, it is a very delicate issue,” Fr. Cuenca pointed out. “He is willing to be an intermediary, which he has stated more than once.”

Earlier this month, the attorney general of Guerrero, Xavier Olea, acknowledged that the crime rate has gone up in Guerrero due to organized crime.

According to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, in January there were 165 murders throughout Guerrero, while in February, the number was 175, making this state the most violent in the country.


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Scientists: Jesus’ tomb faces major risk of collapse

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Jerusalem, Mar 31, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Having just undergone an extensive restoration, the site of Jesus’ tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is at risk for significant structural failure if nothing is done to reinforce its foundations, scientists have said.

“When it fails, the failure will not be a slow process, but catastrophic,” Antonia Moropoulou, chief scientific supervisor with the National Technical University of Athens, told National Geographic in an exclusive interview.

A team of scientists with NTUA just recently completed a year-long restoration of the site believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. National Geographic has been extensively covering the restoration process.  

During the restoration process, the team of scientists determined that The Edicule (Latin for “little house”), a small shrine within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that encloses Jesus’ tomb, was resting on an unstable foundation of tunnels, channels, rubble and crumbling foundation mortar.  

According to the Gospels, the body of Christ was laid in a new tomb hewn out of rock, in which no one had ever been buried. The Gospel of Mark details that the women who went to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body instead found that he had risen.

Veneration of Christ’s burial place dates back to St. Helena in the fourth century, who discovered and identified the tomb. St. Helena’s son, Emperor Constantine, built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 326 and enshrined the tomb.

The shelf on which Christ’s body was laid is the central point of veneration, which has been encapsulated by a 3-by-5 foot marble structure – the Edicule – since at least 1555.

Part of the reason for the unstable foundation is because the site was built on the remains of a limestone quarry that was once used to house tombs of upper class Jews.

Throughout the early history of the Christian church, various shrines surrounding the tomb of Jesus were built and subsequently destroyed, depending on who was in power.

The Edicule and the surrounding rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, complete with massive 22-ton pillars, rests on this unstable foundation of rubble and tunnels today. The site sees nearly 4 million visitors a year.  

While the structural integrity of the site has been a concern for almost 100 years, National Geographic reports, disputes between the three main Christian groups that control the site – the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Patriarchates of Jerusalem and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land – and a lack of funds prevented much restoration progress from being made.

Now, scientists are working with Church authorities to determine the best plan for restoration work on the foundation, which is estimated to cost 6 million euro and would take about 10 months.
Archeologists are also hoping to take advantage of the process, which would expose important archeological sites for the first time in centuries.

Scientists on the restoration team with NTUA are compiling the latest data into a report, which will be given to Church authorities of the three main Christian groups, who must reach an agreement before the process moves forward.

“This work is a collective work,” Moropoulou said. “It doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to all humanity.”


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Priest visits church destroyed by ISIS: This is from the devil

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Mosul, Iraq, Mar 31, 2017 / 12:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The desolation of a burned Iraqi church left Argentine-born missionary Father Luis Montes with the firm conviction that Satan is at the root of the attacks, and Christians must pray for the conversion of ISIS.

“The one who is behind everything is the devil, behind ISIS and the rest of the jihadist groups, and behind the people who support them, some by a similar fanaticism and others for various interests,” the priest said upon visiting the heavily damaged Church of Saint George in Bartella, recently freed from the Islamic State group.

Fr. Montes said that these forces are in reality attacking Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the human race. “But since they cannot harm him, they attack his churches, his faithful, in memory of him,” he said.

“It really shakes you up to see a sacred place burned, vandalized, desecrated,” he said on his Facebook page March 24. “You’re left speechless seeing what you already knew from photos and testimonies. It makes your blood run cold.”

“To see the floors, the walls, the ceilings full of soot, the pews thrown any which way, statues broken, scattered, trampled, the sacred books reduced to ashes, you perceive in a very powerful way the hatred that caused this, the hatred that can be summed up in a sentence: the rejection of Christ and his Cross.”

He stressed that “the same hatred that attacks the temples of Christ, attacks the living temples which are the Christians.”

Fr. Montes acknowledged that the Islamic State group “attacks everyone who does not think like they do,” but he said Christians are persecuted because Christ was the first one persecuted.

Seeing a destroyed church brings sadness, pain, and anger, but also “a holy pride, because they are persecuting us for belonging to Christ,” the priest reflected. “Jesus told us that when this happens, let us rejoice, because our reward will be great in Heaven.”

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The priest’s March 23 visit to Bartella and Qaraqosh came at the invitation of Archbishop Alberto Ortega, apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan. The traditionally Christian towns were seized by the Islamic State group two years ago and only recently freed by Iraqi military troops.

Father Montes is a missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word. He has been on mission in Iraq for more than five years. Those who doubt that Christians are persecuted should visit these towns, he said.

Despite the great pain left in the wake of ISIS, the priest said he also found grace.

“It was a deep joy which led me to pick up some keepsakes of that place: a stone, a cover of a burned missal, a piece of some destroyed statue, all symbols of the grace that God grants us for being persecuted for his Son.”

“So much destruction must move us to pray for the persecutors,” Fr. Montes said, calling them “the foolish followers of the greatest loser in history.”

“The devil makes noise and instills fear but he is the great failure,” he explained. “When he succeeded in killing the Son of God, he lost the power he had, and now, when evil seems to be more victorious, in reality it is when it most defeats itself, because God ordains everything for the good of his chosen ones.”

The priest urged the faithful “to pray for those who follow the devil, so they may convert and live, because God is capable of calling them to Himself and awaits our prayers to give us the glory of being partakers in his victory.”