Pope urges Vatican communications to go digital amid ongoing reform

May 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 06:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, which is holding their first plenary assembly this week, that given a growing digital culture throughout the world, new media must become a primary platform for spreading the Gospel.

“Studying new ways and means to communicate the Gospel of mercy to all people, in the heart of different cultures, through the media that the new digital cultural context makes available to our contemporaries” is something that is “very much in my heart,” Pope Francis said May 4.

He spoke to members of his Secretariat for Communications, which was formed in June 2015 as part of his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, during their first plenary assembly.

The assembly is taking place May 3-5 at the Vatican and gathers members of the secretariat, which is headed by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano.

In his audience with the plenary participants, Francis said the word “reform” is something we shouldn’t be afraid of. To reform, he said, isn’t just “repainting” things, but is rather “giving another form to things, organizing them in a different way.”

“And it must be done with intelligence, meekness, but also…also, allow me the word, with a bit of ‘violence,’” he said, but stressed that its a “good violence to reform things.”

More than just merging the Vatican’s various communications entities, the secretariat has the task of building “a truly new institution” that has arisen from the need for a “so-called ‘digital convergence,’” he said.

Whereas in the past each form of expression had its own medium in either newspapers, books, photographs, television, radio and CDs, now all of these forms of communications, are transmitted “with a single code that exploits the binary system.”

In this context, he pointed to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which will officially join the secretariat next year, saying it “will have to find a new and different way to reach a number of readers greater to what it can achieve in paper format.”

As of now the paper operates primarily in daily and weekly print format, with a limited online presence in its various languages.

Pope Francis also turned to Vatican Radio, which broadcasts papal and Vatican news several languages throughout the world, saying the entity will need to be revisited “according to new models and adapted to the modern technologies and needs of our contemporaries.”

He made a point to emphasize the attention Vatican Radio has given to broadcasting in countries will little access to technology, such as certain countries in Africa, noting that services to these places “have never been abandoned.”

In addition to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Publishing House and the Vatican Typography office will also be merged into the greater working community of the secretariat, which is something the Pope said will require “availability to harmonize” with their “new productive and distributive design.”

“The work is great, the challenge is great, but it can be done. It must be done,” he said, stressing the need to for a willingness to work together as all of the changes and merges take place.

As the study commissions within the secretariat move forward in identifying new paths and proposals, the Pope told them to be “courageous” in the criteria they choose, asking that the guiding criteria be an “apostolic and missionary one, with special attention to situations of discomfort, poverty, difficulty.”

“In this way, it becomes possible to bring the Gospel to everyone, to optimize human resources, without replacing the communication of the local Churches and, at the same time, supporting the ecclesial communities most in need.”

He concluded his speech stressing the need to “not let ourselves be overcome by the temptation of attachment to a glorious past,” and encouraged members instead to make “a great effort of teamwork to better respond to the new communicative challenges that the culture of today asks of us, without fear and without imagining apocalyptic scenarios.”

Pope Francis established the Secretariat for Communications on June 27, 2015, with the promulgation of the motu proprio, “The current communication context.”

One of its primary responsibilities is the restructuring and consolidation of the Holy See’s various communications outlets, which were previously ran as individual offices.

The dicastery will eventually oversee Vatican Radio, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Typography, the Photograph Service, and the Vatican publishing house.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, previously head of Vatican Television, is prefect of the department. On April 12, 2017, the Pope named a group of 13 new consultors, including EWTN’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw


Grammy-winning producer guides Gregorian chant album

May 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

New York City, N.Y., May 4, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Christopher Alder, an 11-time Grammy winning music producer, first was asked to help create an album of Gregorian Chant, he was short on details.

“When I was asked to do this recording, I was only told, would you be free to do a recording in Nebraska?” he said in a promo video.

That’s because, tucked away in the low, rolling hills of eastern Nebraska is Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary, the international school for English-speaking seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a Roman Catholic group of priests dedicated to celebrating the traditional Latin Mass.

For their first album, the priests and seminarians chose to record the chants of the Requiem Mass, Latin for ‘rest’ – the funeral Mass in the Latin rite.

“It has been an honor to work with The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as they are excellent ambassadors for this repertoire – they are intimately familiar with this music – thus its deeper meaning is inescapable throughout the album-and the care and excellence that they brought to recording this Requiem is an inspiration,” noted producer Alder and engineer Brad Michel, also a Grammy winner.

“They know this material intimately, as it rolls out of them as if it were poetry that one has recited countless times. They know it by heart, in every sense of the term because the text is being simultaneously believed and sung at the highest level,” Alder added.

The album is comprised of 20 tracks, mostly monophonic Gregorian chant, though it includes polyphonic motets by renowned 16th-century Italian composer Palestrina and a less well-remembered 18th-century composer, Giovanni Battista Martini, one of Mozart’s teachers.

Although most people know the Requiem via the celebrated version by Mozart, the composer was himself inspired by Gregorian chant, explained Fr. Zachary Akers, music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, in a press release.

“In this album we are hearing this type of music that was around long before Mozart, approaching the beginning of sacred music,” Fr. Akers said.

Fr. Garrick Huang, co-music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, noted that Gregorian chant is thought to have roots both in the ancient Western and Eastern cultures, creating a sounds that is a cross-section of many cultures.

The texts are sung, he added, “because it has always been part of human nature to express love and joy, despair and sadness – the gamut of emotions – in song. That said, the Requiem chant is not a performance for us. We say that we ‘sing’ the Requiem, but it’s more that we’re praying the Requiem.”

On their website, the Fraternity explains that they chose the Requiem Mass as their first recording because death “is so vivid to human experience, and the Requiem reflects that reality.”

While the music, and the black vestments of the priests during a Requiem Mass, inspire natural feelings of sadness and mourning, there is also present an element of hope.

“It’s not a morbid sadness because we have hope that God is merciful and that he will bring this soul to heaven,” Fr. Akers said.  

“The calmness of the chant reveals a spirit of rest or repose, which is what the very word requiem means,” the priests note on their site.

The album Requiem, produced in collaboration with De Montfort Music and Sony Classical, will be available May 12 on Amazon. De Monfort Music specializes in chant, polyphony and all areas of sacred music with a concentration on singing orders and communities well trained in this repertoire.


Denver archbishop signs petition to end 4/20 rallies

May 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 03:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After marijuana-themed rallies celebrating 4/20 left a downtown park trashed and threatened the safety of some civilians, Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila has signed a petition to put an end to the rallies.

“Some of the attendees at the recent 4/20 rally downtown demonstrated that they respect neither Civic Center Park, which is the community’s property, nor their fellow citizens of Denver,” said Archbishop Aquila after signing the petition.

“Coloradans should take pride in protecting our land, environment and people. Mayor Hancock has worked hard to promote these values, and I hope he will take them into consideration as he weighs the future of the 4/20 rally.”

April 20th (4/20) has become the unofficial holiday for cannabis enthusiasts, thought to be taken from an old police code that meant “marijuana smoking in progress.”

According to reports from The Denver Post, several thousand people attended a festival in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver for the annual 4/20 rally. The event included vendors, food trucks, the 4:20 p.m. marijuana exhale and a concert.

The event was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., but park cleanup was still underway at 10:30 p.m. when, according to a rally organizer, a man ran through the park slashing open trash bags with a knife and threatening the clean-up crew. In the morning, the park, a national historic landmark, was still littered with trash.


Nothing like waking up to seas of trash in the morning pic.twitter.com/Gqb0Fk52UA

— Danika Worthington (@Dani_Worth) April 21, 2017


Now, a petition, circulated by the Centennial Institute of Colorado Christian University, argues that Denver’s 4/20 rallies “have become unsafe, flaunting blatant illegal activity” and are “a threat to attendees and the people of Denver.” Besides the report of a knife-wielding man, gunshots were heard nearby at one point during the rally, according to the group.

They also complained that despite warnings, signs and the presence of police, marijuana was widely smoked in public. While possession and consumption of marijuana is legal in Colorado for anyone over the age of 21, it cannot be smoked in public, according to regulations in Amendment 64 to the Colorado constitution.  

“…marijuana was allowed to be consumed openly and publicly by many attendees, even in the presence of children and infants. Marijuana was also consumed on stage by performers with no action by law enforcement,” the petition states.

The petition, released last week, directly asks Mayor Michael Hancock to terminate future 4/20 rallies in the city of Denver, and “concludes that the organizers do not have the safety or well-being of Denver residents in mind.”

The petition can be found at: http://www.ccu.edu/centennial/media/420-rallies-petition/



The Green Pope isn’t who you think it is.

May 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There once was a Pope called “The Green Pope.”

He earned the title from both the religious and the secular alike, because he wrote frequently about the environment and asked all Catholics to be better stewards of God’s creation.  

Under this pope’s pontificate, the Vatican became the world’s first sovereign state to become carbon-neutral, meaning that all of the small country’s greenhouse gas emissions are offset by renewable energies and carbon credits, thanks to extra trees and solar panels. He also made use of a more energy efficient, partially electric popemobile.

No, “The Green Pope” is not Pope Francis.

It’s his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, which may come as a surprise to those who believe Benedict’s legacy was his staunch conservatism.  

During the World Day of Peace celebration in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI chose the theme “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.”

“We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment,” he said.

Drawing on the wisdom from his own predecessors, including Pope John Paul II, Pope Leo XIII and Pope Paul VI, Benedict in his message implored his flock to view climate change and care for creation as an extension of the Church’s care for humanity. He also addressed the phenomenon of “environmental refugees” several years before Francis noted the environment’s contribution to the current refugee crisis.

“Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees’, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?” Benedict asked in his message.

“All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development,” he added.

This was not the only time Pope Benedict addressed the environment and climate change. In Sydney in 2008, he told the young people of World Youth Day in his opening remarks that care for creation and care for humanity are interconnected.

“The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection on the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable,” he said.

He even managed to work the topic into his 2007 apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis”, on the topic of Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church.

In the letter, in a section entitled “The sanctification of the world and the protection of creation”, Pope Benedict XVI noted that even the liturgy reminds the faithful of the importance of God’s creation when “the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition over the bread and wine, ‘fruit of the earth,’ ‘fruit of the vine’ and ‘work of human hands,’” he wrote.

“With these words, the rite not only includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but also leads us to see the world as God’s creation, which brings forth everything we need for our sustenance. The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit. Rather, it is part of God’s good plan, in which all of us are called to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ,” he added.  

His writings on the topic were so prolific and profound that he is quoted numerous times in Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si”.

Like Benedict and his other papal predecessors, Pope Francis noted that an ecology of the environment was directly related to a proper human ecology.

“There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then ‘our overall sense of responsibility wanes,’” Pope Francis wrote in “Laudato Si”, quoting Benedict XVI.

Care for creation, or for “our common home”, as Francis often calls it, will most likely continue to be one of the primary concerns of his pontificate. Besides his encyclical, Pope Francis frequently speaks about climate change and the environment in various audiences, including when he became the first pope to address the United States Congress last fall.

But the important intellectual and practical groundwork laid by his predecessors, and particularly by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, cannot be overlooked.


This article was originally published Oct. 11, 2016.


US bishops support petition for religious freedom executive order

May 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday sent out a text message alert urging Catholics to sign a petition calling on President Donald Trump to issue an executive order protecting religious freedom.

The petition, hosted by Human Life Action, encourages the president to sign such an executive order, which is rumored to be in the works for Thursday.

Religious freedom advocates have warned that, due to various mandates and rules issued during the Obama administration, religious institutions that uphold traditional marriage or do not cooperate with abortions and contraceptive use could soon face federal action if no executive order is issued to protect them.

A draft of such an executive order was leaked earlier this year, but was reportedly scuttled due to the efforts of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

An executive order could help mitigate the effects of the HHS birth control mandate, which caused hundreds of religious non-profits and other employers to sue the federal government claiming the mandate forced them to violate their consciences.

The Trump administration has not yet stopped defending the mandate in court, although White House advisor Leonard Leo told Axios recently that the administration was not planning to defend the mandate indefinitely, but was rather still considering the best “litigation proof” route for lifting the mandate’s burden on religious employers.

Another reason for an executive order would be the protection of health care providers and crisis pregnancy centers from mandates that they perform abortions or cover them in employee health plans, according to religious freedom advocates.

Currently, the Weldon Amendments bars federal funding of states that force employers to provide abortion coverage for employees. But after California ruled that health care plans – including those of churches and religious organizations – had to include coverage for elective abortions, the head of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided last summer that the state had not violated the Weldon Amendment.

Also at stake is the tax-exempt status of schools and other religious institutions which teach that marriage is one man and one woman.

In 2015 oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, President Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli said that the ability of these colleges to retain their tax-exempt status if same-sex marriage is the law of the land is “certainly going to be an issue.”

Another way an executive order could protect religious freedom would be to protect federal contractors, and dioceses and churches that provide military chaplains, from having to comply with mandates that they support same-sex marriage.

The Russell Amendment had upheld this freedom and was included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House, but was removed by Senate Republicans so the bill could pass the Senate.

“Any Executive Order should make it clear that religious freedom entails more than the freedom to worship but also includes the ability to act on one’s beliefs,” the U.S. Bishops’ Conference stated earlier this year on the need for an executive order.

“It should also protect individuals and families who run closely-held businesses in accordance with their faith to the greatest extent possible.”



Demolished cross in India sparks outrage among Catholics

May 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Mumbai, India, May 3, 2017 / 03:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite being located on private property, a 122 year-old cross was demolished late last month in a suburb of Mumbai, sparking legal action from the archdiocese.

“This is gross misuse of authority and the archdiocese, in collaboration with various representative bodies, will legally pursue the matter,” archdiocesan spokesperson Father Nigel Barrett told Matters India in an April 30 article.

Local civic officers had demolished the cross a day before, inciting an angry response from the Catholic community. A makeshift cross was established hours later.

In 2016 the Allahabad High Court issued a directive calling for the removal of all religious structures which infringe upon any public roads, ranging from highways to pathways. The ruling is meant to restrict religious activities hindering the flow of traffic on public roads.

The court ordered any religious structure raised before 2011 to be removed within two months, and those issued before would need to be moved to private land or removed in six months. However, the cross was already located on private property.

Assistant municipal commissioner Sharad Ughade had sent notice to the church on April 26 that the cross would be demolished, referring to the ruling. In response, the owner of the land that the cross was located on provided documents that proved the land was private.

Father Barrett said that legal action was on its way over the destruction of the cross, decrying that the proper documentation was seemingly ignored by civic authorities.

The representative for the area’s state legal assembly, Ashish Shelar, met with all affected parties on May 2. According to Mid-Day, he said the cross was included on a list of illegal structures which interfere with the development plan of the city.

He said the cross was mistakenly added to the list “without proper homework.”

Moving forward, he said the plan would be to reexamine the documents of the demolitions completed so far, to give all religious structures on the list a month to be relocated. Shelar also granted the request for a Christian cemetery to be built in Malad, a suburb on the other side of Mumbai.

Thirty-two temples and six crosses have also been removed since the court order, according to the Times of India.


Why a spike in religious hate crimes should worry all of us

May 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Civic and religious leaders this week addressed a disturbing rise in religious hate crimes in recent years, especially harassment and violence perpetrated against Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs.

“While it is clear that Sikh Americans are not alone in experiencing a rise in hate crimes, the experience of our community is important to understand how dangerous this current era of inflammatory rhetoric promises to be if action is not taken,” Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh physician, said in his May 2 written testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, a Sikh doctor, and the civil rights division at the Justice Department on “responses to the increase in religious hate crimes” in the U.S.

“Crimes against Jews are the most common religious hate crimes and they have increased,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the committee, noted, but Islamophobic incidents rose the sharpest amongst all religious groups with a 67 percent spike from 2014 to 2015 according to FBI statistics.

Although overall hate crimes, including crimes based on race, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity, went down in number from 2000 to 2015, religion-based hate crimes went up 23 percent from 2014 to 2015, Eric Treene, special counsel for religious discrimination at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, pointed to FBI statistics.

Dr. Singh, in his written testimony, told of how Sikhs are only one of many religious groups in the U.S., yet violence against them is representative of a worsening in religious bigotry.

Singh was violently beaten by a mob on the streets of New York City in 2013. As he lay awaiting treatment for his injuries in the hospital, he learned that the Muslim woman lying next to him in the emergency room wearing a hijab, or a religious headscarf, was attacked by the same group of young men.

“They threw a bottle of urine at her face, cutting her nose,” he said. Yet reporters who documented Singh’s attack in a story did not mention the assault on the Muslim woman because, in Singh’s words, “they said it would complicate the story, which was about a professor and doctor who was ‘mistakenly’ attacked in his own neighborhood.”

“We cannot accept this premise,” he insisted in his Tuesday testimony. “There is no such thing as a ‘mistaken’ hate crime. No one should ever be targeted. The only mistake is thinking otherwise.”

The attack, he continued, was only the latest incident in a rash of harassment and violence against Sikhs in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“Some of our fellow Americans,” Singh said, “call us ‘ragheads and towelheads,’ or ‘ISIS and Al Qaeda.’”

“Ominously, the Sikh Coalition has consistently found that a majority of Sikh students in our nation’s public schools experience bias-based bullying and harassment,” he added. “Some of our children are accused of being ‘terrorists.’ Others have had their turbans ripped off.”

Sadly, these attacks are part of a larger landscape of “threats, arson, assault, and murder” against Muslims, Jews, Hindus, African-Americans, and LGBTQ persons, he said.

“We seem to be backsliding into a new nativist era. This endangers us all,” he said.

Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts rose in 2016 in the presidential election and have continued in 2017, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, explained in his testimony.

Anti-Semitic incidents rose by over one-third in 2016 with “1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions,” according to the ADL 2016 audit of incidents.

The campaign only intensified tensions that had already been aggravated, he added.

“And anti-Semitic abuse has soared on social media,” he noted, as “hateful, anti-Semitic invective” flourished on the mediums during the election season as well as harassment of Jewish journalists by white supremacists including the use of “triple parentheses, to publicly ‘tag’ Jews online.”

The election “featured harshly anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Semitic dog whistles,” he said, “and fostered an atmosphere in which white supremacists and other anti-Semites and bigots feel emboldened and believe that their views are becoming more broadly acceptable.”

President Trump’s “initial reluctance to address rising anti-Semitism” has helped normalize this bigotry, Greenblatt said, and some of his supporters played a direct role in it.

“Much of the vandalism and harassment used slogans sourced from the Trump campaign such as ‘Make America Great Again,’” he said. Incidents during and after the election – anti-Semitic graffiti and assault – were perpetrated with expressed support for Trump.

In addition, in the election there were “stereotyping of many groups, including women and immigrants, threats to ban Muslims from entering or living in the country, pronouncements that Islam ‘hates’ America, mocking of disabled people, and political candidates attacking one another based on their physical appearance,” he said.

Dr. Singh said he “was horrified to hear our President last weekend telling thousands of people at a rally that immigrants are snakes waiting to bite America,” he referred to Trump’s words at a recent rally in Harrisburg, Pa.

“Words matter, and when political leaders divide and dehumanize us, this lays the groundwork for hate to infect our society,” he stated.

All this has not only continued in 2017, but the number of incidents has spiked sharply, Greenblatt said.

He noted 161 bomb threats against Jewish synagogues or buildings so far and three reported desecrations of Jewish cemeteries.

“The bomb threats against JCCs, schools, ADL offices, and other community institutions in dozens of states across the country attracted very considerable attention,” he said, “causing evacuations, significant service disruptions, program cancellations, and deep community anxiety.”

Some of the threats were graphic in nature, warning of a “bloodbath” or the decapitations of Jews in explosions.

Action must be taken to stem these incidents, witnesses insisted. Preventative measures could include mandatory reporting laws for hate crimes, a federal inter-agency task force on hate crimes, and public officials speaking out against bigotry.

Dr. Singh shared how his son will soon enter Kindergarten, yet according to statistics, will probably be the victim of bigotry.

“These young years are formative, and how children are treated tells us so much about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be,” he said.