Will we go to the peripheries?

July 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Orlando, Fla., Jul 4, 2017 / 08:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Encountering Christ brings with it the responsibility of reaching out to those on the peripheries, Catholic leaders urged their fellow Catholics.

This service and need to bring with us the joy of the Gospel to all starts with those around us who are overlooked and reaches to the furthest ends of the globe.

“Jesus is already at the peripheries,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders. “The question for us today is whether he will be there alone or whether his disciples will be there with him.”

The Convocation of Catholic Leaders was a meeting of more than 3,500 Catholic leaders, priests and bishops from around the United States in Orlando, Florida. The theme for the meeting was “The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

Anderson highlighted the work of the Knights of Columbus around the globe in geographical peripheries like North Korea, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

“As missionary disciples, we must make the Universal Church a presence at the peripheries as the process of globalization continues,” he urged attendees.

“However,” he continued, “the most difficult challenge may not be reaching out to the world. The most difficult challenge may be in reaching out to our own neighbors.”

In ministering to those on the peripheries in one’s immediate area – in one’s parish, in one’s neighborhood, in one’s family – Catholics are challenged to go outside of themselves and be a living witness of Christ.

“Those who are closest to us are the ones who discern most clearly the authenticity of our witness.”

This care for the peripheries closest to us extends to the American Church at large as well, Anderson said.

“There is no other Catholic country in the world that has as much diversity as America,” he said, detailing the wide range of demographic, geographic and cultural experiences present in the Catholic Church in the U.S.

“We have the opportunity to do something so fantastic for Catholicism in the world and no other country has the opportunity to do something so fantastic.”

A life of missionary discipleship in one’s family or nation does not diminish the responsibility of U.S. Catholics to care for those on the peripheries worldwide.

“There is no reason the U.S government should ignore the plight of Middle Eastern Christians,” Anderson urged, emphasizing again the work of the Knights of Columbus in protecting Christians of the Middle East.  

Anderson’s speech was part of a larger session focused on the peripheries, a word used often by Pope Francis to refer to the outskirts of geographic and social boundaries. 

His comments were followed by a panel discussion on how the Church works in the peripheries in the United States and across the world.

Dr. Ansel Augustine, a campus minister at St. John’s University and former head of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry in the Archdiocese of New York, highlighted the gifts that black Catholics have to offer the Church at large in America.

“Sometimes when we talk about black Church or black Catholicism, it’s met with some kind of shock or even at times disgust, because normally when we hear the notion of the word ‘black,’ it’s with the connotation of negativity,” he said.

This connotation, along with the long history of how persons of African descent have been treated in the U.S., make the black Catholic Church part of the peripheries, he noted.

The black Catholic community also has many gifts to give the American Catholic Church. He pointed to the example of the five African American men and women whose causes for canonization are open: Venerable Pierre Toussaint and Venerable Henriette Delille and Servants of God Fr. Augustus Tolton, Sister Thea Bowman, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Julia Greeley.

“That’s important to us and that’s our story, our pain, our struggle,” he said.

“All we ask is that the Church that we love show us they love us back.”

Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, Executive Director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grand Valley spoke about her experience ministering to immigrants coming over the southern border. She explained that many people coming over have experienced hurt and pain by other people who are Catholic as well.

When reaching out to those people, she said, “you have to trust that God is with you.”

She also stressed the importance of placing Christ and love for the other person at the center of outreach to people in vulnerable situations.

“If our work isn’t grounded in the love of Christ, it quickly becomes about us,” she said.

Lastly, Sr. Pimentel explained what can be learned from people living and ministering in the peripheries.

“The people in the valley, somos familia (we are family). We take care of one another,” she said. “Welcome the immigrants in your communities. They need you.”

Fr. Paul Check, Rector of St. John Fisher seminary and former Executive Director of Courage, a ministry for Catholics who experience same-sex attraction, spoke about chastity.

“Chastity is part of the Good News of Jesus Christ,” and a message that is needed in the world, he said.

“Our Lord would not ask us to do something that is impossible,” he explained, “but he also told us that we would be a sign of contradiction in the world. That contradiction is not to be provocative, and certainly not to be belligerent, but it is to invite people to the fullness of Joy, that living the life of Christ lived in this world will bring.”

Persons who have lived one way of life and then, through conversion, have started living another way are an essential part of the Church’s evangelization and ministry to those on the margins.

Fr. Check encouraged all to “be bold in your charity and chastity for the kingdom and God’s grace will help you.”

Carolyn Woo, former president and CEO of Catholic Charities explained how CRS goes about its work of ministry and service even in the most difficult of situations. In many countries where CRS serves, governments are hostile to Christians and Catholics.
Maintaining a Catholic identity in countries hostile to Catholics and Christians

“In some countries conversion is punishable by death,” Woo said, adding that in some cases, proselytizing actions could risk the lives of the people CRS serves as well as those of local lay faithful, priests and bishops.

Despite these challenges, “we have to go to serve and there can be no conditions.”

In countries all over the world, regardless of the state’s beliefs, CRS ministers. In some cases, this example of Christian life has resulted in changing perceptions among the public about what it means to be Christian, accompanied by a “sense of solidarity and trust for American Catholics,” she said.

In this, Woo continued, CRS sees its ministry as a form of evangelization.

“What does evangelization really mean? For us it means making real God’s love. The truth is God loves everyone all the time, and this love is very real.”


Charlie Gard will not be transferred to Vatican Hospital

July 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 7

Vatican City, Jul 4, 2017 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The London hospital where Charlie Gard is living his last days has refused a transfer request from the Pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu in Rome for legal reasons.
“This is sad news,” said Mariella Enoc, President Bambino Gesu, often referred to as the “Pope’s Hospital.” The hospital had offered to transfer Charlie to their facilities from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London (UK), where the child and his family are currently staying.
London and and European courts have ruled that Charlie must be pulled from life support and that he will not be allowed to die at home.
Charlie Gard is a 10-month old suffering a rare, terminal, genetic illness. His parents have lost several legal battles in the fight to prolong the life of their son, including a request to send him to the United States for experimental treatment.  
Enoc told Italian media on July 4 that he had offered the transfer after being contacted by Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates.
He added that he wanted to offer the family his support especially because of the Pope’s backing of the family.
On Sunday, July 2, the Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke issued a statement in which Pope Francis called for respect for the will of Charlie Gard’s parents.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the story of Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a July 2 statement issued by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”
On June 30, the day the Charlie’s life support was initially scheduled to be disconnected, the Pope also used his Twitter account to send a clear pro-life message in the infant’s favor.
The hospital in London agreed to allow Charlie’s life support to continue for a few more days, to allow the family more time with their son.



Cardinal DiNardo: To be active, we have to learn to be contemplative

July 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Orlando, Fla., Jul 4, 2017 / 02:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Contemplation is the most active thing we can do if we want to work for the Lord, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said in his homily on July 4.
Which might seem counter-intuitive, considering that he was addressing hundreds of bishops and thousands of Catholic leaders gathered in Orlando, Florida for the final Mass of the Catholic Convocation.
But contemplation is action, the Cardinal of Galveston-Houston said, and the Gospel of John shows us this.
In John 17, Jesus prays aloud for the apostles and for the Church to his Father during the Last Supper. He prays for their unity and for those they will evangelize, those they will meet once they are sent on mission.
The 12 apostles, gathered at the table, are “mute”, observing and listening to Jesus, Cardinal DiNardo noted.
“On this (4th of July) day of barbeques and fireworks, bands and parties, the Gospel text is striking…the most single contemplative chapter in the New Testament is read for us and proclaimed to us as we’re going forth,” he said.
“Today, Jesus lets us overhear his intimacy with the Father,” Cardinal DiNardo said, the Father on whom he leans during his mission and during his passion and death.
He also pointed out another passage in the Gospel of John, during the multiplication of loaves, during which Jesus teaches his apostles another lesson about mission.
During the passage, found in Chapter 6, the apostles see the great crowds gathered around Jesus and despair at how they are going to feed them.
“Jesus says – you give them something to eat. What do the apostles do?” Cardinal DiNardo asked.
“It’s apostolic, it’s gone on ever since. What do they do? They whine,” he said, laughing.
“We don’t have enough, we don’t have bread,” the apostles say.  
“Jesus responds – not wagging a finger of disapproval of their less than excellent conduct, but he just looks at them and says, just give me what you have.”
“Jesus gives so much power to his friends, it’s amazing how he lets us work,” he said.  
From their meager offerings, Jesus is able to feed the multitudes. In the same way, we are called to offer what we can to the Lord, and expect that he will multiply our efforts, he added.  
“Imagine the gallons we’ll have leftover if we do it at the Lord’s word,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

And learn to distinguish the different between true action “and just running around,” he added. 

“We are in a very significant time in our church in this country – and this reminds me of how contemplative we’re going to be if we want to be active. Never are you more active than when the word of God is overpowering you. You are seated there, in God’s loving grace, and you realize how much God can let you do.”



Official song of World Youth Day Panama released

July 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Panama City, Panama, Jul 4, 2017 / 08:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Archdiocese of Panama released the official theme song of the next World Youth Day, to be held in Panama Jan. 22-27, 2019.

Reflecting the Marian theme of the upcoming international youth gathering, the song is named for the passage in Luke where Mary agrees to be the Mother of God with the words, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The song was introduced at a special event on July 3 by Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama.

“We are excited to make it available today to the young people of the world, so that when they sing, they prepare themselves joyfully and ready to let themselves be transformed by God,” he said.

The refrain of the song, which is in Spanish, is the words from the Gospel of Luke: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The song begins: “We are pilgrims who come here today from continents and cities; we want to be missionaries of the Lord to carry his word and message.” Other lyrics include: “I am your servant, I am your daughter, I am your son.”

The anthem was written and composed by Abdiel Jiménez. In the first recorded version, the production and arrangement were by Aníbal Muñoz with the collaboration of Carlos Samaniego and Ricky Ramírez.

At World Youth Day celebrations, the theme song is typically used throughout the week as a way to tie the different events together and unite those present. At the last World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, the song was in Polish.

World Youth Day in Panama will be held January 22-27, 2019. This is a change from the usual July dates of the event, which the archbishop said was for reasons primarily linked to the country’s climate and weather.

Archbishop Ulloa made the announcement during a Jan. 20 news conference in the country’s capital, Panama City, during which he also reiterated the gratitude of the Panamanian Church to Pope Francis for choosing Panama to host WYD in 2019.

The Pope announced Panama as the setting for the next WYD at the closing Mass of the last World Youth Day, held July 26-31, 2016, in Krakow.

“I am happy to announce that the next World Youth Day – after the two that will be held on the diocesan level – will take place in 2019 in Panama,” the Pope said making the July 31 announcement.

In a news conference after the announcement, the country’s bishops said the decision is a reflection of his attention to the peripheries and voiced their hope to be a “bridge” for those who come from all continents.



Rebuilt from the ashes: The story of an American basilica

July 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Norfolk, Virginia, Jul 4, 2017 / 03:41 am (CNA).- An immigrant parish, burnt down, with only the crucifix remaining. A parish rebuilt, transformed and a key part in giving back to the community. In a sense, one parish’s story of struggle, pressure and rebirth is metaphor for the American Catholic experience.

St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Norfolk, Virginia, is the only black Catholic church in the United States that is also a basilica. Its dramatic history captures both the broader American Catholic history of persecution, growth and acceptance, but also a witness to the unique challenges faced by black Catholics over the centuries.

Founded originally as St. Patrick’s Parish in 1791, it is the oldest Catholic parish in the Diocese of Richmond, predating the foundation of the diocese by nearly 30 years.

“Catholicism was not legal to practice” in Virginia when the colony was founded, said Fr. Jim Curran, rector of the basilica. In much of Colonial America, before the Revolution and the signing of the Bill of Rights, churches that were not approved by the government were prohibited from operating, he told CNA.

The land originally bought in 1794 for the parish is the same ground on which the basilica today stands. From the beginning, according to the parish’s history, Catholics from all backgrounds worshiped together: Irish and German immigrants, free black persons and slaves.

However, by the 1850s, the parish’s immigrant background and mixed-race parish drew the ire of a prominent anti-Catholic movement: the Know-Nothings.

Largely concentrated in northeastern states where the immigrant influx was greatest, the movement rose and fell quickly. Concerned with maintaining the Protestant “purity of the nation,” it worked to prevent immigrants – many of whom were Catholic – from gaining the right to vote, becoming citizens, or taking elected office.

“I consider the Know-Nothings to be a sort of gatekeeper organization, by which I mean that they were both anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic at the same time,” said Fr. David Endres, an assistant professor of Church History and Historical Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

He told CNA that the Know-Nothing Party was able to bring together both pro- and anti-slavery voters in the mid-1800s, united in the common “dislike of foreign-born and Catholics.”

While most anti-Catholic activities took the form of defamatory speeches and public discrimination, the prejudice sometimes turned to violence and mob action, Fr. Endres explained.

The anti-Catholic discrimination and threats found their way to St. Patrick’s doorstep, where the Know-Nothings were unhappy that the pastor was allowing racial integrated Masses, said Fr. Curran.

The pastor at that time, Fr. Matthew O’Keefe, received so many threats directed against the Church and himself that police protection was required to stop the intimidation of the Catholics worshiping at the church, according to the locals.  

Despite the threats, however, Fr. O’Keefe did not segregate the Masses. In 1856, the original church building burned down, leaving only three walls standing. Only a wooden crucifix was left unscathed.

More than 150 years later, it is still unclear exactly who or what caused the fire, but since the days following the blaze, parishioners have had their suspicions.

“We don’t know for sure if they were the ones who burned it, but it’s widely believed, it’s a commonly held notion that it’s the Know-Nothings who burnt the Church,” Fr. Curran said.   

Fr. O’Keefe and the parishioners worked hard to rebuild the church, seeking donations from Catholics along the East Coast. A new church building was constructed less than three years after the fire and is still standing today.

After the church was rebuilt, the parish renamed itself in 1858 in honor of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. It claims to be the first church in the world named for Mary of the Immaculate Conception following the declaration.

In 1889, the Josephites built Saint Joseph’s Black Catholic parish to serve the needs of the black Catholic community, and the two parishes operated separately within several blocks of one another. However, in 1961, St. Joseph’s was demolished to make way for new construction, and the two parishes were joined, reintegrating – at least in theory – St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

But the merger was not popular with many of the white parishioners and conflicted with the segregation policies of local government institutions and public life, Fr. Curran said. “St Mary’s became a de facto black parish.”

During this demographic shift, many parishioners of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception had to draw deeply upon their faith. Black Catholics had to be stalwart, facing prejudice from both some white parishioners, who did not view them as fully Catholic, and some black Protestants, who did not support their religious beliefs.

“They were devoted, and still are,” the rector said. “You have to be very devoted to be a Black Catholic.”

This devotion and witness of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception was formally celebrated when, in 1991, Saint Pope John Paul II elevated the 200-year-old church to a minor basilica.

“Your black cultural heritage enriches the Church and makes her witness of universality more complete. In a real way the Church needs you, just as you need the Church, for you are a part of the Church and the Church is part of you,” Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed at the elevation.

Today, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception plays a vital role not only as the only Catholic basilica in Virginia, but also as an important anchor of the neighborhood. The basilica operates a “robust” set of outreach ministries to local families, including rent assistance and food aid, serving thousands of people.

“The Church standing proudly and beautiful in the midst of the poor is where we need to be,” Fr. Curran said.

He also pointed to the basilica’s history as an example of one way communities can aid churches affected by violence, such as the – such as the half dozen black churches across the South that have burned since late June.

“The reason why we were able to raise so much money so quickly was because there were so many people that were appalled at the burning of St. Patrick’s,” the rector said.

Tragic events like the burning of a church can actually help bring people together in a common cause, he continued.

“It unites people of faith. If people of faith who are appalled by this stand up and assist and let our voices be heard, we can do something wonderful.”

This article was originally published on CNA July 4, 2015.


Pope’s hospital in Rome offers to take Charlie Gard

July 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2017 / 08:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The president of the Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesu in Rome, also known as the “Pope’s Hospital”, has offered to transfer Charlie Gard to his facilities.
Charlie is a 10-month-old baby who suffers a terminal illness and will be disconnected from life support in the next days, against the will of his parents, but at the allowance of the European Court of Human Rights.
President of the hospital, Mariella Enoc, tweeted that the Holy Father’s own words in support of Charlie “sum up well the mission of Hospital Bambino Gesú”.
“For this reason, I have asked the health director to check with the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where the neonate is recovered, if there are sanitary conditions for an eventual transfer of Charlie to our hospital. We know that the case is desperate and that, until now, there are no effective therapies,” the statement said.
“We express our closeness to parents in prayer and, if this is their desire, we are available to welcome their child with us, for as long as he lives.”
Charlie has been diagnosed with mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease thought to affect just 16 children in the world. The disease causes progressive muscle weakness and can cause death in the first year of life.
Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, successfully conducted a fundraiser of more than $1 million to take their son to the United States for experimental treatment, but their request has been denied by the London hospital and by the courts.
On June 27, the European Court of Human Rights agreed with hospital and the British courts, finding the baby’s parents’ appeal “inadmissible.” The Gards were also banned from taking Charlie to die at home.
While Charlie’s life support was to be disconnected on June 30, Connie Yates announced on Facebook that the hospital authorities had agreed to allow the parents to have a little more time with their son.
On Sunday, July 2, the Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke issued a statement in which Pope Francis called for respect for the will of Charlie Gard’s parents.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the story of Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a July 2 statement issued by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”
On Friday, the day the Charlie’s life support was initially scheduled to be disconnected, the Pope also used his Twitter account to send a clear pro-life message in the infant’s favor.

To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 30, 2017



Pope Francis donates 50,000 euros to Greek island struck by earthquake

July 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Athens, Greece, Jul 3, 2017 / 11:21 am (Church Pop).- Pope Francis has donated 50 thousand euros to the island of Lesbos, Greece, which is recovering from a June earthquake.

The donation comes just a few days after the Holy Father received a full report on the extent of the damage.

Archbishop Nikolaos Printezis, Bishop of Naxos, Andros, Tinos and Mykonos, said the Pope’s donation was a sign of the closeness of the Pontiff to the people who have suffered the consequences of the earthquake.

On June 12, a powerful earthquake measuring 6.3 hit the western coast of Turkey and the Greek island of  Lesbos , killing one person, displacing approximately 800, and destroying  infrastructure from the Turkish Aegean province, Izmir, to the Greek capital, Athens.

The earthquake’s epicenter was located about 50 miles northwest of the Turkish coastal city of Smyrna and nine miles south of Lesbos, according to the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC).

Pope Francis visited the island of Lesbos in 2016, as it is a main point of entry for thousands of refugees fleeing violence in places such as Iraq and Syria.

During that trip, Pope Francis brought back 12 Syrian refugees with him, selected by lottery, including six children. Their homes had been bombed, and the Vatican oversaw their resettlement.

Currently, there are 3,500 migrants on Lesbos awaiting the outcome of asylum applications or deportation. According to the New York Times, aid workers reported no damage or injuries at the refugee camps due to the earthquake.

In the coming days a Vatican representative will visit Lesbos and deliver the money donated by the Pope.



Rise in priest suicides prompts call for helpline in Ireland

July 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 3, 2017 / 04:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Besides a shortage of vocations, Irish priests are facing an even more harrowing kind of crisis.

At least eight priests in Ireland have committed suicide in the past 10 years, according to recent reports given at meetings of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), and many priests are sounding the alarm about a severe dip in morale and a mental health crisis among the country’s clergy.  

The drop in priestly morale has clergy calling for a confidential helpline to be set up for priests needing support.

At a recent ACP meeting, an attendee reiterated the request: “Our morale is affected because we are on a sinking ship. When will the ‘counter-reformation’ take place? We’re like an All-Ireland team without a goalie. We need a national confidential priests’ helpline. We’re slow to look for help.”

The concerns of a severe dip in the morale and well-being of priests in the country have been raised by the 1,000-member clerical group in at least three different meetings in the past few months.

Fr. Roy Donovan, a spokesman for the ACP, told IrishCentral in May that besides the priests who are speaking up, he believes many more elderly churchmen are suffering in silence, and don’t know where to go for help.

The factors for the crisis in morale and mental health are several-fold, priests have said.

Like much of the world, Ireland, once a thriving Catholic country, is facing a serious vocations crisis. In 2004, Ireland had more than 3,100 priests. By 2014, the last year data is available, the number had declined by more than 500, with 2,627 priests in the country, though the number of active priests is likely closer to just 1,900.

This shortage leads to a phenomenon called clustering, where several parishes are combined into one for lack of leadership, increasing priests’ workload and subsequent stress, and forcing many priests to work well beyond retirement years because of the lack of new vocations.  

“These men lived through a time when there were plenty of vocations and their churches were full at Mass, so there’s a loss of esteem. Also, in the past they would have had live-in housekeepers. Now most don’t and are on their own and so feeling a lot more isolated and lonely, as well as feeling nervous and more vulnerable,” Fr. Brendan Hoban, one of the founders of ACP, said during a meeting in November 2016.

Also, starting in the 1990s, the Catholic Church in Ireland was rocked by a sex abuse scandal that resulted in a massive decline in both vocations and in the faith of the laypeople.

Priests reported being disheartened by the declining faith in the people they serve, “who have so little contact with the church from First Communions to funerals,” according to minutes from the meetings.

Priests’ confidence “has been eroded when we see so many people going through the motions of faith,” they said.

Recently, the Church in Ireland has also been rocked by negative press regarding the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, and the Sisters there “did a disservice by not clarifying exactly what happened. They need to do so immediately. It makes our job impossible, especially as we face a storm on abortion next year,” the priests noted at a meeting.

Their requests included the hiring of a media person who could speak clearly for clergy and bishops in times of crisis. The country is also facing an ongoing, heated debate about whether or not to legalize abortion.

The priests also acknowledged that they need to be better about asking for help when they need it.

“We need to unmask and say ‘I need help!’ There is a great sense of ‘being alone,’ making our own way in the diocese. There is a lack of dialogue among priests in the diocese. Yet, people are fantastic and generous in parishes, if given half-a-chance.”