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The story of a father who runs marathons with his disabled son

February 2, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Madrid, Spain, Feb 2, 2017 / 12:06 am (CNA).- Most fathers like to share their hobbies with their sons. But for José Manuel this proved a challenge – given that his fourth child Pablo suffers from a severe form of cerebral palsy.

Despite this, however, José Manuel had idea.

“I don’t remember when we began to run together. I know that the first time was in the summer. I was getting ready to go out for a run, but neither my wife nor children could stay to take care of Pablo. So I decided I could take him with me,” José Manuel Roas Treviño told CNA.

Even though José Manuel said he did not know if Pablo would like the experience or not, he quickly  demonstrated that he did: “He sat up straight in the chair and when he does that it means ‘okay,’ because it takes a huge amount of effort to keep sitting up straight.”

“We were running down a nearby bicycle lane and he was totally into it, he was laughing, shrieking, lifting up his arms. I was singing to him and he was laughing more and more. And I realized that what we were experiencing was very special.”

Pablo is 18 years-old and is affected by acute cerebral palsy, which makes him completely dependent on his parents, José Manuel and Maite. He cannot speak or walk, nor he will be able to in the future. But for his parents, Pablo far from being a burden, is a gift.

“I thank God every day for Pablo and for this life story that God is having us experience. Because when he was born, a wall certainly was raised up with all the limitations that appeared, because you were presented with a terrible life.”

“But for me, I live it every day in the first person, this still is surprising. God has given us a complex life story to live but he also helps us to go forward with it and to do it with hope, with a sense of humor.”

“Because I too have looked the other way from those who had children in their cars like Pablo and my heart just recoiled.”

José Manuel recalled the time he was preparing to become a special ed teacher. One morning in November of 1988 I sat down to study and the subject was cerebral palsy. At that instant I was frightened and I remember I literally said, “My God, what am I doing? You’re not preparing me to have a child like that, are you?”

“And I was so scared that that same day I quit preparing for those exams, and I started another major.”

José Manuel does not deny that the sufferings are “enormous, more than I had ever imagined” but he stressed that “it is suffering that you get much more out of than what you lose. God is near the weak, and Pablo is certainly the weakest there is.”

“We find in him things you don’t find anywhere else such as love and forgiveness of the purest sort.”

This father also commented that “there are very hard days, like I never in my life thought of, but it’s true that afterwards you discover who you are and also who God is, which is that which makes these impossibilities possible.”

That is why he insists that despite the difficulties his faith in God is stronger, thanks to Pablo.

“Yes, it’s precisely because of Pablo that we believe in God, because we are living the impossible. We’re a normal family that gets into fights everyday, and we’ve got our things…but where Pablo is concerned, our differences end. This is what unites us the most, and so for us Pablo is a blessing, he’s what draws us together.”

In addition, José Manuel emphasized how encouraging it is to see during races and marathons everybody wants to high five him, how the people applaud him during the race course and he lifts up his hands and laughs”… and he insists “It’s a miracle that we’re living and much more so to be able to share it with him.”

So far they has run six marathons: three in Seville, two in Madrid and one in New York, and he assures there are more races left to share.

For José Manuel and his entire family, having Pablo is “a true privilege, I say it with all my heart.”


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UK evangelicals affirm centrality of Reformation in their communities

February 2, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Feb 1, 2017 / 08:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An umbrella grouping of evangelical Christians in the United Kingdom has issued a statement marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which reaffirms that movement’s “enduring importance” for them.

“It is clear that many of the core distinctions that developed between Luther’s understanding and that of the Roman Catholic Church remain between modern-day evangelicals and Catholics,” Evangelical Alliance’s statement said. “In certain areas, however, there have been significant attempts to foster deeper understanding of the theological and ecclesiastical differences that distinguish each tradition, and to develop this understanding in a less conflictual way.”

The evangelicals also noted that particularly with regard to “evangelism and social and medical ethics” there has been “genuine collaboration and co-operation towards agreed ends.”

The Evangelical Alliance works with 81 denominations and 600 organizations in the United Kingdom which identify themselves as evangelical Christians, and aims to help them listen to and be heard by government, media, and society.

Their statement called the Reformation “not so much an innovation as a recovery.” After discussing the primacy of Scripture and Martin Luther’s understanding of justification, the alliance noted “the plurality of religious expression to which the Reformation gave rise,” which it said “can be seen in both positive and negative terms, and is a reminder that for all its necessity and for all its phenomenal achievements, the Reformation had consequences which were at times more complex, and in certain cases, less positive.”

Evangelical Alliance then noted that much progress has been made in reconciliation between the Catholic Church and ecclesial communities, especially in the last 100 years of the ecumenical movement.

Enumerating the main points of divergence between evangelicals and Catholics, the group listed the nature and authority of the Church; the papacy and papal infallibility; the sacraments; and Mariology.

Turning to points of convergence and co-operation, Evangelical Alliance noted creeds, evangelism and renewal, and the ethical issues of abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage.

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, stated that “It has been in the area of public policy especially that evangelicals and Catholics have come together over the last 40 years to put pressure on the government and work for the common good. In protecting the beginning and end of life this work has been particularly evident, as well as in many other areas that contribute to our wellbeing as a society.”


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German bishops say the divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion

February 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Cologne, Germany, Feb 1, 2017 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The German bishops have published their own guidelines on Amoris laetitia allowing, in certain cases, for divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

The decision by the German bishops’ conference comes on the heels of a similar announcement made by the bishops of Malta.

While the German bishops emphasized that access to the sacraments is a question of each individual case, the new guidelines do allow the “possibility of receiving the sacraments in these situations.”

Titled “The joy of Love, which is lived in Families, is also the Joy of the Church,” the guidelines issed by the permanent council of the German bishops’ conference were released Feb. 1 and bear the subtitle “An invitation to a Renewed Marriage and Family Pastoral Care in Light of Amoris laetitia.”

The German bishops’ conference’s permanent council meets five or six times a year, and “each [German] diocesan bishop has seat [sic] and vote in the permanent council and can send an auxiliary bishop as his representative to the meetings.

In the document, the German bishops said that accompanying couples in crisis, divorce, and remarriage is “a great challenge and an opportunity to bring the Church and her understanding of marriage.”

“For the question of the reception of the sacraments, the bishops do not see in Amoris laetitia a general rule or an automatism, but rather, they are convinced that discerned solutions which do justice to the individual case are required,” they said.

In regards to Amoris laetitia, the bishops said they will proceed “from a process of discernment, accompanied by a pastoral worker.”

However, they also clarified that “not all faithful whose marriage is broken and who are divorced and civilly remarried, can receive the sacraments without distinction.”

In a statement released alongside the guidelines, the bishops praised Amoris laetitia for its “pastoral and theological benefits” and for introducing what they called four pillars “of a pastoral approach to marriage and family pastoral care.”

These pillars are: marriage preparation; marriage accompaniment; strengthening the family as a place of learning the faith; and dealing with fragility through accompaniment, discernment, and integration.

While the first three pillars are covered in just one or a few graphs, the fourth is the core of the new guidelines.

The bishops acknowledge that marriage is indissoluble, but at the same time argue that specific attention should be given to persons’ individual situations and that judgements “which do not take into account the complexity of the various situations” should be avoided.

Referencing sections 296 and 297 of Amoris laetitia, the German bishops said that “with the guiding concepts” of accompaniment, discernment, and integration, those affected “must be helped.”

While accompaniment requires “encouraging people on the way of life and the Gospel,” they said discernment should not stop at what the objective moral situation of those affected is.

On this point, they referenced footnote 351 of Amoris laetitia, in which Pope Francis wrote: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, ‘I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy’. I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’.”

The German bishops’ conference commented: “At the end of such a spiritual process, which is always concerned with integration, not in every case will there be a reception of the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist.”

The bishops stressed that “the individual decision of whether one, under the respective circumstances, is able to receive the sacraments, deserve respect and recognition. However, the decision to receive the sacraments must also be respected.”

At the conclusion of the document the bishops encouraged those who want to pursue marriage and family life in the Church “to personally acquaint themselves with the groundbreaking text that is Amoris laetitia.”

A divided stance

Bishops from Germany who had already advocated admitting the divorced-and-remarried to Communion included Cardinal Walter Kasper; Cardinal Reinhard Marx; Bishop Franz-Josef Bode; and Archbishop Heiner Koch.

However, despite the factions of bishops who seem to be opening the door to a path to admitting divorced-and-remarried Catholics to Communion, many are still resistant to the idea, including some heavy-hitters who are themselves German.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, was one of four signatories of a letter containing five “dubia” submitted to the Pope in September asking him to clarify ambiguous parts of Amoris laetitia, and which was later published.

Other prelates with German roots who have been outspoken against the proposal to admit the divorced-and-remarried to Communion include Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI; Cardinal Paul Cordes; Bishop Stefan Oster; Bishop Konrad Zdarsa; Bishop Gregor Hanke; Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer; Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann; Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt; Archbishop Ludwig Schick; and Cardinal Joachim Meisner.

In addition, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has on multiple occasions maintained that Amoris laetitia is in continuity with Church teaching.

In an interview with Italian monthly Il Timone published the same day the German bishops’ guidelines were released, the cardinal stressed that “it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris laetitia according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching.”

“This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine,” he said, stressing that Amoris laetitia “must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.”

Having so many bishops split off with their own interpretations “does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine,” he said, adding that the Pope’s magisterium is able to be interpreted only by him or by the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation.

“The Pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the Pope; this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church,” he said, telling the bishops “who are talking too much” to first “study the doctrine (of the councils) on the papacy and the episcopate.”

As someone who teaches the Word of God to others, a bishop must himself “be the first to be well-formed so as not to fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind.”

Cardinal Müller pointed to Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II’s 1981 exhortation on the Christian family in the modern world, in which the Polish Pope stipulated that the divorced-and-remarried who for serious reasons cannot separate, in order to receive absolution in confession which would open the way to receiving Communion, must take on the duty to live in complete continence.

This aspect of the text, Cardinal Müller said, “it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”

Confusion on this point, he said, stems from a failure to accept  St. John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor, which taught that there are intrinsically evil acts, that absolute truths exist across various cultures, and urged sharp caution against moral relativism and the misuse of conscience to justify false or subjective morals.

For Christians, “marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride,” he said, adding that “this is not, as some said during thesynod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the Pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”

The prelate then suggested that in order to quell the confusion generated by the differing interpretations of Amoris laetitia, everyone ought to study the Church’s doctrine, beginning with Scripture, “which is very clear on marriage.”

He advised against “entering into any casuistry that can easily generate misunderstandings, above all that according to which if love dies, then the marriage bond is dead.”

“These are sophistries: the Word of God is very clear and the Church does not accept the secularization of marriage,” he said. The task of priests and bishops, then, “is not that of creating confusion, but of bringing clarity.”

Cardinal Müller stressed that amid the ongoing debate, “one cannot refer only to little passages” present in Amoris laetitia, but must read the document “as a whole, with the purpose of making the Gospel of marriage and the family more attractive for persons.”

“All of us must understand and accept the doctrine of Christ and of his Church, and at the same time be ready to help others to understand it and put it into practice even in difficult situations.”

Anian Christoph Wimmer contributed to this report.


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Krakow’s new archbishop talks St. John Paul II and Divine Mercy

February 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Feb 1, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The archdiocese that once sent St. John Paul II to the papacy has a new archbishop: Marek Jedraszewski. The archbishop has special memories of the sainted Pope and the Divine Mercy devotion he brought to the world.

“Thanks to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later St. John Paul II, the message of mercy became very important for the world. And this is a message really close to Pope Francis, too,” Archbishop Jedraszewski told CNA.

Krakow is a major center of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy devotion, based on private revelations of Jesus Christ to St. Faustina Kowalska. It hosts Sister Faustina’s convent and a shrine dedicated to Divine Mercy. St. John Paul II was himself a devotee and a popularizer of the Divine Mercy.

But the devotion itself began in the Archdiocese of Lodz, Archbishop Jedraszewski’s previous assignment.

“It is really symbolic that I am coming from Lodz, where the Divine Mercy devotion began, to Krakow, where the devotion flourished. In the Lodz cathedral, Sr. Faustina saw Jesus who told her to enter the convent in Warsaw. The beginning of her spiritual life started in Lodz.”

For this reason, he added, “I feel committed to prolong this mission of mercy in Krakow, even to welcome all of the people coming to Krakow to pray over Sr. Faustina tombs, and actually touch the places Sr. Faustina lived.”

Archbishop Jedraszewski leads the archdiocese that at one time was headed by Cardinal Wojtyla, elected Pope John Paul II in the 1978 conclave. The archbishop recalled his friendship with the late Pope.
The new archbishop of Krakow said that their relationship started back in 1975, when he was living at the Polish College in Rome to study philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

“Cardinal Wojtyla used to come often to Rome, and stayed at the same college,” he said. “Cardinal Wojtyla was really interested in young Polish students, he spent much time with them, and so he did with me,” he recounted. “As I was studying philosophy, a subject he was very fond of, there were many possibilities to talk and discuss with him about philosophy.”
After Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope, Archbishop Jedraszewski kept a personal correspondence with him, “in particular when I was appointed bishop, since John Paul II always wanted Polish bishops who passed in Rome to spend a lunch or a dinner with him.”
The installation Mass of Archbishop Jedraszewski came in a favorable moment for Polish Catholicism. The latest figures of the Polish Church’s yearbook show a slight increase in the numbers of Sunday Mass attendance, as well as the number of communicants. About 40 percent of Poles attend daily Mass, while about 17 percent receive Holy Communion each Sunday.

The research also stressed the strong commitment of lay people in the Church. In Poland there are some 60,000 organizations involving about 2.5 million people.
Archbishop Jedraszewski told CNA that World Youth Day 2017 was “a convincing testimony that Poland cannot be considered a de-Christianized country.”

He noted that the statistics indicate growth not only in the traditionally devout southern Poland, but also in Lodz, a “highly secularized area.”

He concluded that “in the end, we may say that there is an increase of faith in Poland. On the other hand, it is true that challenges given from the secularizing trends are big.”
Archbishop Jedraszewski raised the issue of secularization with Pope Francis, during the Polish bishops’ meeting with the pontiff July 27. During that meeting, Pope Francis stressed the danger of gender ideology.

The archbishop also saw this approach to gender as a threat. He said Benedict XVI had affirmed gender theory as more dangerous than Marxist and Communist ideology because “it breaks with the anthropological vision of what the man his according the work of the Creator God.”
“God created the man as male and female, while gender ideology does everything possible to cancel differences between man and woman,” Archbishop Jedraszewski said. “This is absurd from a biological point of view, and it does not deals just with the human being: gender ideology has dramatic consequences in social life and in current culture.”
In the end “we cannot be open to this ideology, that is profoundly against God the Creator and against everything Christ himself taught us.”


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Eggs and anti-Catholicism hurled at churchgoers in Scotland

January 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Edinburgh, Scotland, Jan 21, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A 12 year-old boy has been charged with threatening and abusive behavior following an incident on Tuesday at a Catholic Church in Scotland.

A “gang of youths” threw raw eggs and hurled “anti-Catholic abuse” at Fr. Kevin Dow and his parishioners outside St John and St Columba’s Church in Rosyth, 14 miles northwest of Edinburgh, as the churchgoers were leaving Mass the evening of Jan. 17.

Local media report witnesses said about 10 children around age 12 were involved in the incident, which is being treated by authorities as a hate crime. Scottish police said they responded to the complaints and that investigation is ongoing.

People with additional information have been encouraged to contact the authorities.

“It’s dreadfully sad that in today’s Scotland we still have young people who seem to be brought up or encouraged from elsewhere to be anti-Catholic and to do so in an open, intimidating and violent way,” Fr. Dow said following the attack.

There have been several similar incidents in the Scotland in recent years.

In July 2016 young people shouted anti-Catholic chants at a visiting priest in Broxburn, west of Edinburgh.

And in May 2015, a parish in Livingson, also west of Edinburgh, was extensively spray-painted with anti-Catholic graffiti.

Scotland has experience significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country’s largest religious community.

When the moderator of the Church of Scotland, John Chalmers, met with Pope Francis in February 2015, he told CNA that such an encounter “means almost the end of that sectarian divide.”


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This Spanish prison ministry is helping rehabilitate inmates

January 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Madrid, Spain, Jan 21, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The prison ministry founded by a Spanish Jesuit in the 1960s has had such fruits as a group of inmates donating their own money to help the needy at Christmas, according to the head of the foundation.

At Christmas of 2015, a group of prisoners in the Estremera prison in Madrid did their own food drive to buy non-perishable food with their own money from the prison store, Lola Navarro, president of the Father Garralda-Horizontes Abiertos Foundation, told CNA.

“All the prisoners who participated agreed to deliver the more than 220 pounds of food to the Fr. Garralda Foundation to help those they were thinking of, because they knew that there are people who needed it more than they did.”

Helping prisoners rebuild their lives, overcome addictions, and re-enter the workforce is a challenge that the Father Garralda-Horizontes Abiertos Foundation has been working toward for 40 years.

Navarro said Fr. Jaime Garralda began to work with prisoners and now serves, through his foundation, more than 200 people in prison, halfway homes for parolees, and with workshops on re-entering the workforce.

“Fr. Jaime Garralda, S.J., lived for 16 years in in a shanty town during the ’60s. Many women there wanted to visit their husbands or children who were in prison. Fr. Garralda and some volunteers began to accompany them and began a social action work in the prisons, also addressing all those realities related to the prisons,” Navarro explained.

“We also have the figure of the ‘volunteer resident’, or prisoners who are at the end of their sentence who help others in the prison achieve their goals so they can set out on an itinerary so their stay in the prison is as bearable as possible.”

She pointed out how this is “beautiful, because that person sees that you have helped them and now they’re the ones who get involved with the other prisoners to give back what was given to them, and the horizons that were opened up for them.”

The foundation has a rehabilitation center for prisoners who are addicted to drugs where more than 100 people live, with floors for HIV patients,  and they vouch for prisoners who meet certain requirements so they can request a supervised leave.

“We call this assistance “toward freedom”  because family members or friends need to give guarantees to ensure that the prisoner’s leave from prison meets some minimum conditions and also that he will return when his permission to leave expires. We vouch for certain people who have no one to turn to and we help make this transition as good as possible,” Navarro said.

She commented that her favorite program is one they do for the children of mothers who are in prison: “We organize camps for the children, outings with the mothers, workshops to lessen the prejudices created by prison, and we help mothers and children have a little more of a normal life, at least for a few days.”


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Concert marks one year after Pope’s historic synagogue visit

January 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2017 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One year after Pope Francis visited the Great Synagogue in Rome, the Hebrew Choir of Rome “Ha-Kol,” and the Choir of the Diocese of Rome joined together to give a concert Jan. 19 on the theme: “Sing to the Lord a new song.”

The Pope’s attention to Jewish-Christian dialogue continues to be welcomed by the Jewish community in Rome, and events such as the concert is one way they can contribute to that dialogue, Richard Di Castro, president of the Ha-Kol Choir Association, told CNA.

“I believe that music can speed up the dialogue between all cultures and among all religions, and is a common thread that is understood in all latitudes and in all parts of the world,” Di Castro said.
“All the more so, the privileged nature of the dialogue that Jews and Christians have at this time, events like this where we can share our traditions, our musical culture, helps considerably in the dialogue.”

The concert, which consisted of musical interpretations of the Psalms in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, took place just a few days after the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’ visit to the synagogue on Jan. 17, 2016.

Pope Francis was the third-ever Roman Pontiff to visit the Great Synagogue, following the example of his two predecessors. St. John Paul II visited in 1986 and Benedict XVI in 2010.

Di Castro said that he considers Pope Francis’ visit, as well as the visits of the other two popes, very important.

“All this is definitely welcomed with much attention, very welcomed by our entire community. Furthermore, I believe that Pope Francis has always shown a lot of attention to the dialogue between Jews and Christians, and this clearly was always perceived very positively by our community,” he said.

The reason the songs in the concert focused on the Psalms, he said, is because the Psalms are “something that binds us together, something common to the two religious traditions.”

This isn’t the first time the two choirs have collaborated on events, Di Castro pointed out, saying “there is nothing better than the dialogue of music that unites cultures” and helps people to know and understand each other better, and eliminate prejudice.

Jesuit Fr. Philipp Renczes, Director of the Centre for Judaic Studies and Jewish-Christian relations at the Pontifical Gregorian University, agreed.

Getting to know one another is the “first major step” to unity, he told CNA. “Because as Augustine says…we can only love what we know.”

It is essential, Fr. Renczes said, that “Christianity, being rooted in Judaism,” be in dialogue with Judaism. “It is a way for Christianity to be in continuity with itself.”

During his 2016 visit, Pope Francis referred to St. John Paul II’s reference to the Jewish people as the “elder brothers” of Christians, and said that “we all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us as his people.”

“Together, as Jews and as Catholics,” he continued, “we are called to assume our responsibility for this city, making our contribution, first of all spiritual, and favoring the resolution of our diverse problems.”

“I hope that the closeness, mutual understanding, and respect between our two communities of faith always continue to increase.”