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How the rosary helped Jim Caviezel play St. Luke

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- “Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel told CNA that he relied on scripture, daily Mass and the rosary to portray holiness on the big screen in “Paul, the Apostle of Christ.”

The film, which premieres March 23, depicts the persecution of the early Christians in Rome under Emperor Nero, along with an imprisoned Saint Paul conveying a message of hope at the end of his life.

“I thought that that was one of the greatest parts of the script,” Caviezel told CNA. “Here is a beat up old man in prison, facing execution. How can this man be a light to the world?”

“But it’s often through our struggles, our trials, our tragedies that triumph comes,” the Catholic actor said.

Caviezel plays the role of Saint Luke, who regularly visits Paul in prison to document his story while composing the Acts of the Apostles. The audience sees Luke serving the early Christian community in Rome as a physician, spiritual leader and writer.

“He [Luke] mentioned the Virgin Mary more than any other writer,” reflected Caviezel on portraying the Gospel evangelist, “I use the rosary to focus, to pray.”

“I go to Mass every day and the Eucharist is Christ in me,” Caviezel continued, “Everything that I do is always with heaven’s help. It directs my path. It guides me. It is where I got my talent from. What I give back to God from what he has given me … he just multiplies it and blesses it in ways that I never thought possible.”

Caviezel says that he also has “a great devotion to the patron saint of actors, Saint Genesius.”

The role of Paul is played by British actor James Faulkner, who previously had supporting roles in “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey.”

“Well I’m happy to admit that Jim is a much more devout Christian than am I, and I drew from his faith whenever possible,” said Faulkner, who was raised in the Church of England.

Faulkner told CNA that playing Paul changed him as he “read and reread Paul’s letters” in preparation for the role.

“Do I have more humility? Yes. Do I have more love for my fellow man? Yes. Is there a possibility of redemption even for myself? Yes, there is,” reflected Faulkner.

Behind the scenes, “Paul, the Apostle of Christ” felt different than his previous experience on the set of “Game of Thrones,” Faulkner said.

“Being placed in a much simpler environment, and feeling entirely supported by those around you, and loved by those around you, I found to be an extraordinary experience.”
Conversion and forgiveness are major themes of “Paul, the Apostle of Christ,” Caviezel said.

“The greatest controversy of this film is forgiving at all costs, and that doesn’t mean weakness or the acceptance of evil. It means meeting evil face-to-face … that’s the hardest thing,” he said.

“Some of the most powerful dialogue centers around what true courage is,” continued Caviezel, “Courage is ardent love. Love creates change by igniting a passion in each one of us. One person at a time.”

The film is dedicated to the world’s persecuted Christians. “We were writing this script through those heavy intense times with ISIS and the problems that are going on in Syria and the Middle East,” executive producer Eric Groth told CNA. He said his team also reflected “on the martyrs of the centuries who have laid down their lives” in guiding the actors of the film.

“Paul, the Apostle of Christ” was written and directed by Andrew Hyatt, who previously directed the film, “Full of Grace,” about the Virgin Mary’s last days on earth. Both films were produced by the Catholic group ODB Films, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

ODB Films says it is “dedicated to fostering an encounter with Christ through artfully made, spiritually rich films.”

Groth told CNA he hopes that Catholics will reach out and invite friends to the film who are not familiar with the Biblical story.

“I want them to reach out and take someone who might be struggling in their life and go to see a non-cheesy, Christian film that looks at faith through a very human lens and through a very real lens.”



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Scicluna meets with alleged victims of abuse by Marist Brothers

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Santiago, Chile, Feb 28, 2018 / 01:08 pm (CNA).- A Vatican investigator has met with some alleged victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Marist Brothers in Chile.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the pope’s envoy to Chile who is investigating accusations of negligence against Bishop Juan Barros in other abuse cases, met with alleged victims of abuse by Marist Brothers on Feb. 27, apparently broadening the scope of his mandate in the country.

In August 2017, the Marist Brothers reported that a member of the congregation had admitted to abusing 14 boys in Chile.

Earlier this year, the Marist Brother began a canonical investigation of allegations of sexual abuse in Chile by some of its members.

In a Feb. 26 press release, the congregation invited “those who want to testify or who have information that may contribute to the development of this inquiry” to contact the canonical investigator, Fr. David Albornoz Pavisic.

Pavisic is a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. In January, he was appointed to lead the canonical investigation of the Marist Brothers accused of abuse at the Alonso de Ercilla Institute and the  Marcelino Champagnat School, located in Santiago.

One of the victims from the Marist case was Isaac Givovich who told the local press that “We are  Catholics and are thankful today for [Scicluna’s] gesture toward us.”

“We believe this is one more step for justice to be done, what’s left for us is to hope that there will be justice and reparation so there can be reconciliation,” he said.

Jaime Concha, who also attended the meeting, said that “this is a day to be happy because new avenues to justice and truth are opening up, I leave happy and satisfied because our struggle represents many others and is bearing fruits of truth and justice.”

This article was originally published by our Spanish-language partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Cardinal Zen calls China deal ‘suicide,’ blames papal advisors

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2018 / 09:56 am (CNA).- In a recent blog post Cardinal Joseph Zen has issued another harsh critique of the rumored Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops, calling it an act of “suicide” and a “shameless surrender” to the communist government.

However, he said the problem isn’t necessarily the Pope, who “is optimistic and full of love, and is eager to visit China.”

Rather, he faulted the Pope’s advisors for what he said is a “bad deal,” saying they are “obsessed” with an “Ostpolitik” solution to the issue of episcopal appointments which “compromises without limits,” yet gains little in return.

Pope Francis, he said, “has never had direct knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party and, moreover, is poorly informed by the people around him.”

Specifically, Zen pointed the finger at Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who he said was in the “diplomatic school” of his predecessor Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who served as Vatican Secretary of State from 1979-1990.

Zen said Casaroli was “obsessed with Ostpolitik,” and called it “a sort of political compromise.”

He also said the late Cardinal Ivan Dias, formerly Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, had also been influenced by Casaroli. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples oversees the administration of the Church in areas designated ‘mission territories’ around the world.

Dias, who died last summer, had a “marvelous curriculum,” having been Archbishop of Bombay for nearly a decade and was familiar with the situation in Asia as a whole, Zen said.

However, the problem is that both Dias and Parolin “were perfectly in tune with the application of Ostpolitik in China, and [played] a double game against the instructions of Benedict XVI.”

Ostpolitik was the name given to the political process of pursuing the normalization of relations between the fractured German government in the late 1960s. Specifically, it aimed to patch the division between the Federal Republic of Germany of West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic of East Germany, which were split after the end of World War II in 1945.

Since then, the term Ostpolitik has also been used to describe the efforts made by Pope Paul VI to engage, through dialogue, compromise, or agreements, with Eastern European countries run by communist regimes.

Although Dias retired at the age of 75 and Parolin was named as nuncio to Venezuela in 2009, Cardinal Zen said that ever since Parolin’s re-entry into the Vatican scene as Pope Francis’ Secretary of State in 2013, he has continued to promote Casaroli’s political approach to China.

Parolin, he said, is kind and is “gifted with an extraordinary diplomatic art,” but nonetheless continues “to be obsessed with Ostpolitik…[he] willingly offers his collaboration, giving the desired information and sparing the worrying parts.”

In his view, Zen said those who back the deal want “compromise without limits, they are already willing to completely surrender.”

Based on what Pope Francis has told him and Archbishop Savio Hon, who was born in British Hong Kong and is currently apostolic nuncio to Greece, Zen said it’s clear that the Pope “didn’t know the details” of the planned deal.

“We all know that the indications of the Roman Curia are necessarily approved by the Pope,” he said, adding that faithful from the Chinese continent “do not complain about the Pope due to certain misunderstandings.”

“If he signs any deal they want, we can only accept it, without protest,” he said. “But before the eventual signing, it is our right to make the truth about things known, because this can change the direction and avoid serious dangers for the Church.”

Cardinal Zen’s latest critique was published in Chinese on his blog Feb. 24, and was translated and published in Italian on the blog of veteran Vatican analyst Sandro Magister.

The post centers on a conversation Zen had with a priest from continental China, Fr. Geng Zhanhe, responding to different points Geng apparently made in support of the deal.

Rumors of the proposed agreement have been gaining steam in recent weeks, with sources close the situation saying the accord is “imminent” and could come as early as this spring. If the deal is reached, the Vatican is expected to officially recognize seven bishops who are out of communion with Rome, including 2-3 whose excommunications have been explicitly declared by the Vatican.

Most notably, the new deal would also apparently outline government and Vatican roles in future episcopal selection. The details of the deal would reportedly be similar to the Vatican’s agreement with Vietnam, in which the Holy See would propose three names, and the Chinese government would choose the one to be appointed bishop.

Currently every bishop recognized by Beijing must be a member of the patriotic association, and many bishops appointed by the Vatican who are not recognized or approved by the Chinese government have faced government persecution.

In his blog post, Cardinal Zen criticized the fact that as one of two Chinese cardinals, he has not been made aware of the contents of the agreement. “Certainly they can’t make public all the contents of the negotiation,” he said, but as one of the two cardinals for China, “would I not have the right to know the contents?”

Yet even if the contents of the deal were commonly known, “should we just wait and hold hands and make critiques only once it’s been accomplished?”

Zen said the “democratic election” of new bishops in China by the “illegitimate episcopal conference” would mean that it is really the government who elects the prelates, so the “final word” of the Pope “cannot save his function; the formality of maintaining pontifical authority will hide the fact that the real authority to name bishops will be placed in the hands of an atheist government.”

If Francis were to sign the agreement tomorrow, Zen said he “could not criticize it,” even if he doesn’t understand the decision. But until then, “I have the duty to speak with a loud voice according to my conscience, I have the right to reiterate that this is a bad agreement!”

He noted that China is increasingly tightening its grip on religious activity in general, and pointed to a new crackdown put into place Feb. 1 which, among other things, bans anyone under 18 from attending religious services. It’s also forbidden to hold any sort of youth group activity or summer camp, even if it’s not held at a church.

Asking why the Chinese government is suddenly becoming so strict with the clandestine Church after looking the other way for many years, Zen said this is because “the Holy See is helping the authorities of the government to do this.”

Responding to the argument that if a deal is not reached the Chinese government would increasingly appoint illegitimate bishops, eventually leading to schism, Zen said having the government control the Church in China independently of the Holy See is already schismatic.

“Will it be [schismatic] with only an increased number of illegitimate bishops?” he asked. “Would it not still be worse if the Pope were to bless the bishops chosen by the government and the Church is controlled by the government?”

Zen then referred to a comment made by Fr. Geng reflecting that while it might seem unjust to ask legitimate bishops to step down in favor of those who are illegitimate, which the Vatican has done in at least two cases, it was also unjust for God the Father to ask his only Son to die on the cross.

“It’s true that the Father sacrificed the Son, but it was man who crucified him,” Zen said, and pointed to the verse in scripture when Jesus told Pilate that “those who handed me over have the greater sin.”

“All those who made him die sinned,” Zen said. “Certainly Christ could forgive them, but they didn’t become apostles.”

“Don Geng,” he said, referring to the priest and his acceptance of the deal, “does not know how to distinguish between abject sale and suffering oppression, voluntary suicide and the wound suffered, shameless surrender and unhappy failure. How sad!”



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Papal advisers focus on reducing cost, accelerating response to abuse

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2018 / 08:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In their latest round of meetings, Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals discussed several key topics related to episcopal conferences, the need to lower costs inside the Vatican, and efforts to speed up procedures dealing with cases of abuse.

This week’s meetings took place Feb. 26-28 at the Vatican. All members were present except for Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who is in Australia facing charges of past sexual abuse.

Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived late due to weather. As usual, Pope Francis was present for all sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he holds the weekly general audience.

According to a Feb. 28 Vatican communique, the Council of Cardinals – made up of nine prelates from around the world who advise the Pope on matters of Church governance and reform – focused specifically on the theological statue of episcopal conferences.

The cardinals based their discussion on Evangelii Gaudium 32, which states that “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

In this spirit, it was suggested that John Paul II’s 1998 motu propio “Apostolos Suos” on the theological and judicial nature of episcopal conferences be re-read, thinking of “the healthy decentralization” of which Pope Francis often speaks.

Discussion also touched on human resources and keeping an eye on containing costs within the Vatican.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich spoke on the topic of human resources and presented the ongoing work of the Council for the Economy, which falls under the umbrella of the wider Secretariat for the Economy.

Specifically, the council is currently studying proposals to outline the skills of a “control-room” of-sorts for human resources.

According to the Vatican communique, Marx in his presentation also referred to the “positive progress” being made in the area of presenting the Vatican balance sheets, of maintaining costs and reducing the Holy See’s deficit.

In this regard, he said the council has decided to draw up guidelines for the institutions of the Holy See, aimed at reducing cost.

Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski also spoke during the meeting about the progress of the third department of the Secretariat of State, which is tasked with managing the Pope’s diplomatic corps, who are stationed throughout the world. The department, headed by Pawlowski, is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff.”

Though he’s not a member of the Pope’s advisory council, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the dicastery for Integral Human Development, was also present to give an update on the progress of his office and its activities.

Specific mention was made of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the cardinals discussing different options to accelerate the process for handling cases of the sexual abuse of minors that come their way.

Other topics discussed were the Congregations for Oriental Churches and the Evangelization of Peoples.

The next round of meetings for the Council of Cardinals is set to take place in Rome April 23-25.


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Pope Francis taps Helena bishop as new head of Las Vegas diocese

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2018 / 05:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop George Leo Thomas, who until now has led the Diocese of Helena, will be taking the reins in Las Vegas, bringing with him broad pastoral experience and expertise in psychology, mental health issues, mission work and prison ministry.

In the Feb. 28 announcement from the Vatican, it was noted that Bishop Thomas of will be taking over for Bishop Mons. Joseph Anthony Pepe, who has led the Diocese of Las Vegas since 2001, but is now stepping into retirement.

Thomas, 67, was born May 19, 1950 in Anaconda, Mont. as the second oldest of five children. He was raised in Butte where he attended Catholic school, graduating from Christian Brothers High School in 1968.

He received a degree in literature from Carroll College in 1972 before entering St. Thomas Seminary in Washington as a student with the Archdiocese of Seattle. He obtained a master of divinity degree there before being ordained to the priesthood May 22, 1976 in Seattle.

After his ordination, Thomas served in several parishes, including Holy Family Parish in Kirkland and St. James Cathedral in Seattle, where he had been ordained. He also served as parish administrator for Sacred Heart Parish in Bellevue and Holy Innocents Mission in Duvall.

In addition to his pastoral positions, Thomas was also the prison chaplain for the King County Jail and the Seattle City Jail for 12 years. He was chairman of the board of directors for Catholic Community services for 10 years, and also served as chaplain for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Seattle.

Thomas then entered graduate school at the University of Washington in 1981, where he received a master’s degree in counseling and mental health.

In 1986, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy with an emphasis in Pacific Northwest mission history. His dissertation, titled “Catholics and the Missions of the Pacific Northwest,” was given the university’s Gordan C. Lee award.

A year later, Thomas was appointed chancellor and vicar general for the Archdiocese of Seattle. He held the positions for 17 years before being named apostolic administrator for the diocese in 1997, following the death of Archbishop Thomas Murphy.

Thomas was appointed auxiliary bishop for Seattle two years later in 1999, and in March 2004 was tapped to head the Diocese of Helena.

He speaks Spanish and is also a member of the Bishops for the American College in Louvain and  Native-American Catholics committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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The first Christian altar was the cross, Pope Francis says

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2018 / 04:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that having Mass centered around the altar in commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice is meant to remind faithful that the cross is the first Christian altar on which Christ made his own offering.

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Church uses various signs to “continually makes present the sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the cross,” the Pope said Feb. 28, adding that “this was the first Christian altar.”

“When we draw close to the altar during Mass, our memory goes to the altar of the cross where the first sacrifice was made,” he said, and encouraged Catholics to reflect on this when they go to Mass.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims attending his general audience, which this week was divided into two areas due to the cold temperatures in Rome – the main group was in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, while the overflow watched the audience from inside St. Peter’s Basilica, instead of the square outside, where chairs are still dusted with white from Monday’s rare snowfall.

The Pope focused on the Liturgy of the Eucharist as part of his ongoing catechesis on the Mass, noting how during this part the priest celebrating imitates several gestures that Jesus made during the Last Supper: the presentation of the gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, the breaking of the bread and Communion.

During the presentation of the gifts, Francis said members of the congregation should bring the bread and wine to the priest, “because they signify the spiritual offering of the Church gathered there for the Eucharist.”

Even if they don’t bring their own bread from home as was the custom in the past, “the rite of the presentation of these gifts preserves their spiritual value and meaning.”

In ordination Masses for priests, the bishop gives the new priest the bread and wine, saying “receive the offering of the holy people for the Eucharistic sacrifice,” which is important to remember, Francis said, because in the bread and wine is offered “the commitment of the faithful to make themselves, obedient to the divine word, a sacrifice pleasing to God the omnipotent Father for the good of all his holy Church.”

“Thus, the lives of the faithful, their suffering, their prayer, their work, are united to those of Christ and to his total offering, and in this way they take on a new value.”

While our own offering is small, “Christ needs this little bit – like what happened in the multiplication of the the bread – to transform it into the Eucharistic gift which nourishes and unites everyone in his body which is the Church,” he said.

In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope noted that God asks us for little, “but he gives us a lot. In daily life he asks us for good will, for an open heart, he asks us to want to be better, and in giving himself in the Eucharist, he asks us for these symbolic gifts, which then become his body and blood.”

A concrete image of the prayer and offerings made during Mass is the use of incense, he said, noting that the perfumed smoke is symbolic of these gifts rising to heaven.

“By incensing the offerings, the cross, the altar, the priest and the people, the priest visibly manifests the offertory bond that unites all these realities to the sacrifice of Christ,” he said, and told attendees to remember that “the first altar is the cross, and on the altar we bring the small gifts we have.”

Francis then noted that after placing the bread and wine on the altar, the celebrant asks God to accept the gifts that the Church has offered, which signifies “the wonderful exchange between our poverty and his wealth.”

“In the bread and wine we present him with the offering of our lives, so that it is transformed by the Holy Spirit in the sacrifice of Christ and becomes with him one offering pleasing to the Father,” he said.

The gift of self made in the Mass, he said, can help bring light to one’s daily activities and relationships, as well as the suffering and joy that might be encountered. This, he said, will help Christians “to build and earthly city in the light of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis closed his audience urging faithful not to forget the altar in Mass always refers to “the first altar of the cross. And to the altar we bring the little we have in our gifts, the bread and wine, which then becomes the abundance that Jesus gives us.”