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Missionary: Married priests in Amazon wouldn’t get to the root of the problem

October 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- A South American missionary to Angola who is participating in the Amazon Synod at the invitation of the pope has said the proposal to ordain as priests married men to solve the lack of evangelization in the Amazon is “illusory”.

“Is the lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Amazon a pastoral challenge, or rather is it the consequence of theological-pastoral options that have not yielded the expected or partial results? In my opinion, the proposal of ‘viri probati’ as a solution to evangelization is an illusory proposal, almost magical, which does not address the real underlying problem,” Fr. Martín Lasarte Topolanski, a Salesian priest, said in a text published by Sandro Magister Oct. 12 in his Settimo Cielo column at L’Espresso.

The Uruguayan priest and missionary in Angola is responsible for missionary efforts in Africa and Latin America for the Salesian congregation. Pope Francis included him among the 33 ecclesiastics he personally called to participate in the Synod on the Amazon.

The text published by Magister is a summary of Fr. Lasarte’s Aug. 12 article “Amazonia: Are ‘viri probati’ a solution?” published in Settimana News.

In his text, the missionary pointed out that the argument that ordaining married men as priests because it is hard to reach remote communities with the ministry “commits the sin of major  clericalism” because it sets aside the work of lay people, believing that the Church where “the ‘priest’ is not there doesn’t function. That’s an ecclesiological and pastoral aberration. Our faith, being a Christian, is rooted in baptism, not in priestly ordination,” he said.

As examples he gave Korea, Japan, Angola, and Guatemala, where the laity were essential.

He noted  that the Church in Korea got its start thanks to layman Yi Seung-hun, who was baptized in China and baptized other Catholics. “For 51 years (1784-1835) since its foundation the Church in Korea was evangelized by lay people, with the occasional presence of some priest. This Catholic community flourished and expanded enormously despite the terrible persecutions, thanks to the leadership of the baptized,” Lasarte said.

In the case of Japan, after the martyrdom of the last priest in 1644, priests did not return until 200 years later, finding “a living Church” made up of “hidden Christians.”

Regarding his 25 years of experience in Angola, the priest said that “when the civil war was over in 2002, I had the possibility of visiting Christian communities, which for 30 years did not have the Eucharist, nor did they see a priest, but they were strong  in faith and were dynamic communities guided by the ‘catechist,’ an essential ministry in Africa (…) A living Church, laity with the absence of priests.”

In Latin America he gave as an example “the Quetchi from central Guatemala (Verapaz), where despite the absence of priests in some communities the lay ministers also had living communities” where the evangelicals “were little able to penetrate.” He said that despite the shortage of priests “it is a local Church rich in indigenous priestly vocations” and “men and women religious congregations of totally indigenous origin.”

In that regard, he noted that in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis pointed out that the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life is often “due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract.”

“The Holy Father gives the key to the problem. It’s not the lack of vocations but the poor proposal, the lack of apostolic fervor, the lack of fraternity and prayer; the lack of serious and profound processes of evangelization,” the Salesian priest said.

Thus with regard to the question why after 200 to 400 years of evangelization vocations are lacking in the Amazon, the priest said that “one of the pastoral problems in various parts of Latin America, and in particular in Amazonia, is the insistence on the ‘old ways’. There is a great conservatism in various churches and ecclesial structures, I’m not referring just to pre-conciliar traditionalists, but to pastoral lines, mentalities, that remain stuck  in ’68 and in the 1970-1980 decade,” Lasarte pointed out.

The Salesian priest indicated three kinds of “Alzheimer pastoral ministry” which affect evangelization in the Amazon.

The first is “cultural anthopologism,” which originated after the 1971 Barbados Declaration, put together by 12 anthropologists, which “claimed that the Good News of Jesus is bad news for the indigenous peoples.”

Although “from this provocation emerged in various places a fruitful dialogue between anthropologists and missionaries, which served mutual enrichment,” in other places “it fell into a self-censorship, losing ‘the joy of evangelizing,” with “cases of religious that decided to not announce Jesus Christ, or give catechesis ‘out of respect for the indigenous culture,’” and that “they would limit themselves to witness and service” claiming that this “substitutes for the proclamation.”

The missionary recalled that in Evangelii nuntiandi Saint Paul VI said that “the Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.”

Fr. Lasarte said that the second kind of “Alzheimer pastoral ministry” is “social moralism.” “In more than one place I have heard similar expressions from pastoral workers: ‘When people require services they come to us (the Catholic Church), but when they are looking for meaning to their lives, they go to others (evangelicals, etc.)’  It is evident and observable that the church that wants to be a ‘Samaritan Church’ has forgotten to be  a ‘Magdelene Church’, a Church providing services that doesn’t announce the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord,” he pointed out.

The missionary reaffirmed that the social commitment of the Church and the option for the poorest continues to be “a constitutive aspect of the evangelizing process” and a richness; but “the problem is when this kind of activity has absorbed the rest of the life and dynamism of the Church, leaving in the shadows, silencing, or taking for granted the other dimensions: kerygmatic, catechetical, liturgical, koinonia. We are in an unresolved tension of Martha and Mary.”

He said that the “great hemorrhaging” of Catholics toward evangelical communities has to do with several factors, certainly “the lack of a much ‘more religious’ pastoral ministry and a ‘less sociologized’ one has had a very great influence”.

“I visited a diocese where at the beginning of the 1980’s, 95% of the population was Catholic, today they are 20%. I remember the comment of one of the European missionaries that systematically had ‘de-evangelized’ the region: ‘We do not foster superstition but human dignity’…I think that says everything,” he said. “The Church is some places has been transformed into a grand manager of services (healthcare, educational, development, advocacy…) but little as a mother of the faith.”

Finally there is secularism. He said, “a church secularizes when its pastoral workers interiorize dynamics from a secularized mentality: the absence or a very timid, almost apologizing, manifestation of the faith.”

He said that the consequences “are reflected in vocational sterility or the lack of perseverance in the path undertaken, because of a lack of deep motivations,” since “no one leaves everything to be a social director, no one dedicates his existence to an ‘opinion,’ no one offers what is absolute in his life for what is relative, but only to the Absolute which is God.”

“When this theological, religious dimension is not evident, patent, and alive in the mission, there will never exist options for evangelical radicalness, which is an indicator that the evangelization touched the soul of a Christian community,” he pointed out.

To conclude his article, Lasarte said that a Christian community that “does not generate priestly and religious vocations, is a community carrying some kind of spiritual disease. We can ordain the ‘viri probati, the honeste mulieribus, the pueribus bonum, but the underlying problems will remain: an evangelization without the Gospel, a Christianity without Christ, a spirituality without the Holy Spirit.”

“Logically in a horizontal vision of the dominant culture, where God is absent or reduced to a few symbolic, cultural or moral concepts, it’s impossible to come to appreciate the fruitful spiritual and pastoral value of priestly celibacy as a precious gift from God and of a total and sublime disposition of love and service to the Church and to humanity.”

The Salesian missionary said that “there will only be able to be authentic priestly vocations when an authentic, demanding, free and personal relationship is established with the person of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this may be simplistic, but the way I see things, the ‘new path’ for the evangelization of Amazonia is the novelty of Christ.”

[…]

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US Secretary of State discusses international religious freedom threats

October 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Nashville, Tenn., Oct 15, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- In a speech on Christian leadership Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted international religious freedom threats, especially in China, Iran, and Iraq.

Pompeo spoke Oct. 11 in Nashville to the American Association of Christian Counselors, discussing Christian leadership in disposition, dialogue, and decision making.

“Before you can help others, you need to have the right approach to yourself,” he began in speaking of disposition. “How you carry yourself is the first arena of Christian leadership.”

Pompeo noted he keeps an open Bible on his desk, and tries to read it each morning. “I need my mind renewed with truth each day. And part of that truth … is to be humble.”

He also noted the importance of forgiveness in one’s disposition.

Turning to dialogue, Pompeo emphasized the importance of listening carefully and not rushing to judgement, but especially truth telling.

He noted that as Secretary of State “I’m especially telling the truth about the dire condition of religious freedom around the world. America has a proud history of religious freedom, and we want jealously to guard it here. But around the world, more than 80% of mankind lives in areas where religious freedom is suppressed or denied in its entirety.”

He said the Chinese Communist Party “is detaining and abusing more than one million Uighur Muslims in internment camps in the Xinjiang” and “Christian pastors today are being unlawfully arrested, beaten, detained inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. We need to speak about this.”

“Christian areas in northern Iraq that I’ve had the privilege to visit have been ravaged by ISIS, part of a greater trend of Christian persecution all across the Middle East,” he added.

Pompeo spoke of the State Departments efforts in recent years to emphasize religious freedom, saying, “we’ve hosted ministerials. We bring leaders from all around the world called the Ministerial on Religious Freedom at the State Department. We’ve told the world about these shortfalls and the success of nations when individuals are given their basic human dignity to practice their conscience, their faith, or to choose no faith if they so choose all around the world.”

Finally, the state secretary addressed decision making, focusing on faithful stewardship and intentional use of time.

“Decisions are a question of priorities, often … I am grateful that my call as a Christian to protect human dignity overlaps with America’s centuries-old commitment to the same mission in our foreign policy all across the world.”

Pompeo noted that “international organizations will try, from time to time, to sneak language into their documents claiming that abortion is a human right. And we’ll never accept that. We’ve worked diligently to find every dollar that might be going to that and we have worked tirelessly and successfully now to bring it nearly to an end.”

[…]

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El Paso bishop encourages Catholics to overcome racism with acts of inclusion

October 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

El Paso, Texas, Oct 15, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA).- Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso issued a pastoral letter Sunday reflecting on the area’s history of racism and encouraging Catholics to be a source of justice, after a mass shooting in the city some months ago.

Night Will Be No More was issued Oct. 13 “on the theme of racism and white supremacy to reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives.”

Bishop Seitz wrote that “God can only be calling our community to greater fidelity. Together we are called to discern the new paths of justice and mercy required of us and to rediscover our reasons for hope.”

An armed man opened fire at a shopping complex in El Paso Aug. 3, killing 22 and injuring more than two dozen. The shooter reportedly published a four-page document online in the hours before the attack, detailing his hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics.

“Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy,” said Bishops Seitz.

“I know God will never allow the hate that visited our community on August 3rd to have the last word. We must recommit ourselves to the hospitality and compassion that characterized our community long before we were attacked, with all the risk and vulnerability which that entails. We must continue to show the rest of the country that love is capable of mending every wound,” he added.

While a lack of gun control and mental healthcare contribute to mass shootings, the bishop said, he noted racism as the prime motivator for the attack in El Paso.

“This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color,” he said.

“This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization.”

He said that “the history of colonization can discern both the presence of a genuine Christian missionary impulse as well as the deployment of white supremacy and cultural oppression as tools of economic ambition, imperial adventurism and political expansion.”

The bishop asserted that “it was in the encounter between the Spanish colonists and Indigenous communities that fateful identities were co-produced and sinful notions of civilized versus uncivilized and the invention of the savage were born.”

He chronicled the history of racism and discrimination among various groups in the area.

“Older generations of El Pasoans still talk about entrenched attitudes against Latinos and how the system was stacked against them growing up. Latinos were excluded from political life by a closed network dominated by White, wealthy men. Latino children at school didn’t see themselves, not in the faces of their teachers or school leadership, but only custodial and cafeteria staff,” he said.

He called the wall on the US-Mexico border wall “a powerful symbol in the story of race” which “has helped to merge nationalistic vanities with racial projects.”

“It is not just a tool of national security. More than that, the wall is a symbol of exclusion, especially when allied to an overt politics of xenophobia … The wall deepens racially charged perceptions of how we understand the border as well as Mexicans and migrants. It extends racist talk of an ‘invasion’.”

For Bishop Seitz, the border wall “perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs.”

It is the responsibility of Catholics to defend the immigrant, he said. He pointed to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who asked Saint Juan Diego to build a church in her honor. In the image, Our Lady is depicted as a mestiza “who takes what is noble from each culture, elevates it and points out new ways towards reconciliation,” he said.

“Our Lady affirmed Juan Diego against dehumanization. And that affirmation came with a divine charge to make persistent petition before the authorities and build a temple.”

Likewise, he said Catholics must build a “Temple of Justice” through which solidarity, friendship, and charity may take place. He said the evil history of racism may be overcome with encounters of love.

“God offers us the chance to build a new history where racism does not prevail. The ‘manifesto’ of hate and exclusion that entered our community can be countered with a manifesto of radical love and inclusion. I want to see an El Paso that addresses both the legacy of racism and one which builds more just structures to eradicate and overcome that history.”

He said there must be practical steps of inclusion and love, overcoming unjust political measures and the racism of the past. There needs to be a new history of human rights and bridge building, he said.

“It is not enough to not be racist. Our reaction cannot be non-engagement. We must also make a commitment to be anti-racists in active solidarity with the suffering and excluded,” he said.

“We must take active steps to defend the human rights of everyone in our border community and their dignity against dehumanization as we work to forge a new humanity. What racism has divided, with the help of God, we can work to restore.”

To combat racism, he said, measures need to be taken to ensure equal educational opportunities, universal health care, immigration reform, improved wages, and environmental protections. He also emphasized the role of priests and the importance of the sacraments, which communicate anti-racist themes.

“In [baptism] we celebrate the radical transformation and equality that comes from renewal in Christ. In the anointing with holy oils we proclaim a reverence for human life without distinction. The strength of these symbols should flow into our daily parish life and work for justice,” he said.

“Likewise, in our celebration of Mass, pastors can lead our people to a deeper consciousness of the weight of communal and historical sin that we bring to the table of the Lord in the penitential rite. We should ask ourselves carefully who is yet not present, and whose cultures are not yet reflected at the banquet of the Lord that we celebrate at the altar,” he asserted.

He also encouraged President Trump, members of Congress, and the jurists of the highest U.S. courts, “in the absence of immigration reform … to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border.”

[…]

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Newman scholar critiques Catholic universities

October 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Catholic universities should try to do more than run an assembly line of information for students who never learn to think, a prominent scholar told said this week, adding that many contemporary Catholic un… […]

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New York will get statue of Mother Cabrini

October 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

New York City, N.Y., Oct 15, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the state will erect a statue of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.

The announcement comes two months after a New York City public arts program decided they would not build a statue of Mother Cabrini, despite the saint topping a poll organized by the program. 

During a public nominations period for the She Built NYC program, Mother Cabrini received 219 nominations–more than double the number received by Jane Jacobs, who received the second-most nominations.

In an announcement at the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York on Oct. 14, Cuomo said 

“We’re also pleased to announce we’re going to build a statue to Mother Cabrini.”

The move was immediately welcomed by the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“I welcome the assistance the Governor is promising in erecting a statue for Mother Cabrini, which we hope is a monument to her for her work on behalf of immigrants,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn on Monday. 

Cabrini was the founder of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and opened and operated many schools and orphanages in New York City. She was canonized in 1946, the first naturalized American citizen to be declared a saint, and she is venerated as the patron of immigrants.

The Diocese of Brooklyn participated in the annual Columbus Day parade on Monday, marching with a float and banner in honor of the saint and calling for the erection of a statute in her honor.

“Almost all of our churches in Brooklyn have a statue of Mother Cabrini. It’s not another statue we’re talking about. It’s respect for immigrants,” DiMarzio said.

“We will work with Governor Cuomo’s office to make it happen.”

The state commission will work alongside the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Italian-American heritage organization the Columbus Citizens Foundation to construct the statue. Cabrini was an Italian immigrant who arrived in New York in the late 19th century. 

The She Built NYC program was created to increase the number of statues of women throughout the city. In mid-August, the program’s selection committee, led by Chirlane McCray, married to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and former deputy mayor Alicia Glen, announced that statues were to be built of Rep. Shirley Chisolm, Katherine Walker, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Billie Holiday, and Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias. They received the third, fifth, seventh, 19th, 22nd, 24th and 42nd-most nominations, respectively. 

Johnson and Rivera, who are both biological men who identified as “drag queens,” will appear on a statue together. 

In August, a spokesperson for Ms. McCray told CNA that the public nominations process was not intended to determine which women would be honored, but only to inform the judgment of the selection committee.

“Nominations made by the public were the foundation of this entire process – only those submitted were considered by the advisory committee and the City,” Siobhan Dingwall, press secretary for the Office of the First Lady in New York City, told CNA in a statement. 

In addition to the public nominations, She Built NYC also considered other factors, such as proposed locations, existing monuments, and site availability when deciding who and where to erect new statues.

[…]