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Benedict XVI tells EWTN: ‘Thank you for your work’

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2017 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Members of EWTN’s Rome Bureau on Friday met Benedict XVI in the Vatican Gardens to explain their work and thank him for his service to the Church, while he in turn thanked them for their efforts.

“Thank you for your work,” the emeritus Pope said March 31 to the six persons present at the encounter, who represented the various programs produced at the bureau.


Had the immense blessing of mtg Benedict XVI today w some colleagues from @EWTN – I can only be #grateful!

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) March 31, 2017


EWTN’s Rome bureau has roughly 25 employees, producing both print and television news.

Members who attended audience were selected to represent each of the entities produced in the office, and included bureau chief Alan Holdren; office manager Emanuele Latini; head of production Pilar Piero; EWTN News Nightly producer Mary Shovlain; CNA correspondent Elise Harris; and ACI Prensa correspondent Alvaro de Juana.

The team met Benedict in the Vatican Gardens at 4:30 in the afternoon, when the emeritus Pope prays his daily rosary. He was accompanied by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household.

After finishing his prayer, Benedict removed his hat and stood up to greet the team.  

Benedict was clear and alert, and interested in each person as they approched him.

Leading the delegation, Holdren gave a brief introduction to the organization; the emeritus Pope marvelled at the size of the bureau.

Benedict greeted each member of the group individually, learning about their families and their work.

Holdren gave the Bavarian personal letters from all those present. He in turn offered each of them  a medal and commemorative cards of his 2012 visit to Lebanon, the last he took as Roman Pontiff.

He then gave the group his blessing and departed for his residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

The audience was granted to mark the one-year anniversary of the March 27, 2016 death of Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN.

She launched the network in 1981, and it today transmits programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400.

The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

Among the television coverage produced through the Rome office are EWTN’s 30-minute weekly news program “Vaticano,” as well as a portion of “EWTN News Nightly.”

In addition, there are eight correspondents who write print news for Catholic News Agency and two of her sister-agencies, ACI Prensa and ACI Stampa.


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Vatican official hopes Trump will ‘rethink’ some decisions

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2017 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thursday Vatican official Cardinal Peter Turkson said he hopes President Trump will reconsider some of the decisions he is making in office, particularly his recent executive order curtailing environmental protections – but that he is glad U.S. bishops are offering a “different voice.”

Diverse members of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference have already voiced opposition to some of President Trump’s actions, including on immigration, Cardinal Turkson told journalists Thursday morning.

“This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge. We hope that Trump himself will rethink some of his decisions,” he said.

Head of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Turkson spoke to journalists at a breakfast meeting March 30 on a conference the department will hold at the Vatican April 3 and 4.

Cardinal Turkson expressed his gratefulness for the U.S. bishops who are addressing President Trump’s policies, saying things are “a bit worrying,” although Trump is, in fact, just fulfilling the “promises made during the campaign.”

But “we are hopeful that things will change,” he said, especially when Trump begins to see “the dissonance between the reality of things” and promises made during his election campaign.

Otherwise, other world powers, like China, are ready to step in and fill the “space,” he said, noting that China is already making some efforts on climate control, especially given the large amount of smog and air pollution the country faces.

Pope Francis has been very vocal on the importance of protecting the environment throughout his papacy, publishing the first papal encyclical dedicated to the topic, Laudato Si, in 2015.

Shortly after its release he instituted the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to take place every year on Sept. 1.

In his message for the 2016 day of prayer, Francis said that care of creation should also contribute “to shaping the culture and society in which we live,” adding that economics, politics, society and culture “cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains.”

“Instead, they urgently need to be redirected to the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation.”

The dicastery’s upcoming conference, being held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of People), aims to discuss the question: “who is man?” the cardinal said.

The two-day conference includes sessions with presentations on the themes of the body and soul, man and woman, the individual and society, as well as testimonies on serving vulnerable populations.
The first day will include a presentation by Cardinal Turkson on the origins and perspective of the dicastery and another by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on “the Christian anthropological vision, the foundational concept of integral human development.”

The conference will also include time for dialogue and an audience with Pope Francis on April 4.

In other comments to journalists, Cardinal Turkson said that “immigration is like water flowing from the tap,” you can’t just try to dry up the water, you have to turn off the faucet.

This can only be done through long-term plans that promote projects in the countries migrants are fleeing and “prevent the need of people to emigrate,” he said.


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Pope Francis makes surprise ‘Year of Mercy’-style visit

March 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2017 / 09:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Although the Jubilee Year of Mercy has officially ended, Pope Francis today made a surprise “Mercy Friday” visit to a center for the blind and visually impaired in Rome – showing that he doesn’t think works of mercy are just for special occasions – or years.

Continuing his tradition of performing a spiritual or corporal work of mercy on one Friday a month during the Church’s Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, the Pope went in the afternoon of March 31 to the St. Alessio-Margherita di Savoia Regional Center for the blind in Rome.

According to a March 31 communique from the Vatican, the Pope wished to make this visit as a “follow-up” to the private visits of the Jubilee.

This particular act of mercy, the communique stated, was to guests of the center, which organizes activities “aimed at social inclusion of the blind and visually impaired.”

During his visit, the Pope met with the different guests, some of whom have been blind from birth and others who have no vision or impaired vision due to a serious disease. Some of the guests have multiple disabilities.

Among the guests there are around 50 children who attend the center to receive practical training in life skills and in navigating daily activities, as well as 37 elderly people who are permanent residents of the facility.

Francis also greeted the president and director general of the center, the medical staff and volunteers.

Before leaving, he left a gift and signed a parchment for the center’s chapel, in memory of his visit. He returned to the Vatican around 6:00 p.m.

Pope Francis kicked off his monthly works of mercy in January 2016 by visiting a retirement home for the elderly, sick, and those in a vegetative state, and a month later traveled to a center for those recovering from drug addiction in Castel Gandolfo.

Other visits throughout the year included refugees, children, formerly sex-trafficked women, former priests, infants and the terminally ill.

In December 2016, Pope Francis said in an interview with the official website for the Jubilee of Mercy that he would be making “different gestures” of mercy once a month on Fridays during the Holy Year.



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Pope Francis prays for Iraq as number of civilian deaths rise

March 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 29, 2017 / 04:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the battle for major ISIS strongholds heating up in Iraq, Pope Francis has voiced his closeness to the country, praying for the safety of people on the ground, particularly civilians caught in the crosshairs of the fighting.

“My thoughts go out to civilians trapped in the western districts of Mosul and displaced because of the war, to whom I feel united in suffering, through prayer and spiritual closeness,” he said during his March 29 general audience.

“While expressing deep sorrow for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all the call to engage with every effort in the protection of civilians as an imperative and urgent requirement.”

During the audience, which took place in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope greeted a delegation of Iraqi Superintendents representing various religious groups accompanied by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.  

“The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies in this mosaic which is unity in diversity, strength in union, prosperity in harmony,” he said, encouraging them to go forward on this same path.

Francis also asked for prayers for Iraq that they might find reconciliation and harmony and “peace, unity and prosperity” among their different ethnic and religious groups.

His appeal followed a sharp rise this week in the number of reported civilian deaths in U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as ground forces backed by the strikes are closing in on two of the Islamic State’s main urban strongholds: Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

According to the Washington Post, the reports have fueled accusations that the U.S. and its partners may not be acting with sufficient regard for the safety of civilians.

During his main address to pilgrims, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the theme of hope, drawing attention to the close connection that exists between the virtue of hope and the virtue of faith.

“Great hope is rooted in faith, and as such is able to go beyond all hope,” he said, “because it is not based on our word, but the Word of God…When God promises, he accomplishes what he promises.”

“I’d like to ask you a question,” the Pope said. “We, all of us, are we convinced of this? Do we believe that God loves us and that everything he has promised us will be brought to fruition?”

All we have to do is have an open heart, and God will teach us how to hope and will do “miraculous things.” The only price, he said, is to “open our hearts to faith and he will do the rest.”

To illustrate the point, Pope Francis drew on the Old Testament story of Abraham and his wife Sarah, quoting the words of St. Paul in the Letter to Romans, that Abraham “believed, hoping against hope.”

Despite the advanced age of he and his wife Sarah, Abraham, “did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body as dead (he was almost a hundred years old) and the dead womb of Sarah,” who was barren.

We are also called to live this experience and example of faith, Francis said, adding that Abraham, “who, even before the evidence of a reality that seems destined for death, trusts in God, ‘fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to bring to completion.’”

Francis said this is a “paradox,” yet at the same time is the strongest element of our hope. A hope, he said, which is “founded on a promise which from the human point of view seems uncertain and unpredictable, but which does not fail even in the face of death.”

“The God who reveals himself to Abraham is the God who saves, the God who has come out of desperation and death, a God who calls to life,” he said. “In the story of Abraham all becomes a hymn to God who frees and regenerates.”

And we recognize and celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promises in the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter, he explained.

Hope, then, is not something we can possess based on “human reassurance,” but “it occurs where there is no hope, where there’s nothing left to hope for, just as it did for Abraham, in front of his imminent death and sterility of his wife Sarah.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, today we ask the Lord for the grace to remain founded not so much on our safety, on our own strength, but on the hope drawn by the promise of God, like true children of Abraham,” he concluded.


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Vatican official honors Mother Angelica with Mass at St. Peter’s

March 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2017 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Rino Fisichella celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of Mother Angelica, saying the nun changed the face of the New Evangelization by riding the digital wave and using to communicate the Gospel in a fresh and appealing way.

“Before John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelization, (Mother Angelica) was able to do it concretely with television, the new way of communicating the Word of God,” Archbishop Fisichella told CNA March 27.

Because of this, he said Mother “was a New Evangelist, she concretely did the New Evangelization” alongside another major saintly personality in the U.S. at the time: Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose cause for canonization has been opened.

“Fulton Sheen and Mother Angelica, for the whole Church they are the image, the icon of what the New Evangelization through the new media of communications means,” he said.

Head of the Vatican’s Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Fisichella celebrated Mass March 27 at the altar of St. Joseph inside St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the one-year anniversary since Mother Angelica’s death.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded EWTN in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She died March 27, 2016 – Easter Sunday – after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years-old.

In his homily for the Mass, which was concelebrated by former Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi and attended by journalists from various media outlets as well as Hungarian Ambassador to the Holy See Eduard Habsburg, Fisichella praised Mother as someone whose legacy would continue to last.

A year after her death, “we try to remember her words, her preaching – because it was (a type of) preaching – her witness and the work she did for the Church,” he said.

“The mystery of death raises questions in all of us, but it’s still a mystery,” he said. “We live and we are in front of a death to give sense to our lives.”

He pointed to the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the day’s first reading, who said that “no longer shall there be an old man who does not round out his full lifetime.”

“I think this word of the prophet can also be applied to Mother Angelica,” he said, explaining that “the sense of our lives, the sense of her life was determined by an encounter. She encountered Jesus Christ in her life, and for this reason she consecrated her whole life to Christ.”

Because of this Mother Angelica was above all “a woman of faith,” he said, and recalled an expression Mother herself frequently recited: “my dear friends, faith is what gets you started; hope is what keeps you going; love is what brings you to the end.”

Mother Angelica, he said, “was sustained by faith, she was a witness of hope, but love moved her entire life.”

Pointing to a passage from the day’s Gospel from John in which a nobleman, after learning that Jesus healed his son, “believed through the Word what Jesus had spoken to him, and he went his way.”

“I think that is beautiful to reflect on Mother Angelica’s life with this expression,” Fisichella said. “She believed through the Word that Jesus spoke to her, she believed and there is no other reason.”

“She believed and all that she created was a consequence of this faith, of this encounter of faith. And then she went her way, and her way is what today millions of people can watch, can listen to, can reflect on.”

EWTN, he said, is not just a television network, but “a work and consequence of this vocation, of this encounter of Mother Angelica with Christ.”

“This was her vocation, this she understood as the gift that Jesus himself gave to her. And she did it in a very strong way,” he said, noting how she was able to communicate the Gospel on TV “sine glossa,” meaning “without adding” or interpreting.

At times Mother even caused trouble with people, he said, explaining that “every time we announce the Gospel, we give trouble to someone.” But what Mother did was offer “a challenge.”

It was above all a challenge “to find the sense of your life, especially in a culture in which indifference and atheism is, it seems to be, in first place for many people,” he said.

Referencing another passage from Isaiah that says “‘they shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyard they plant,” the archbishop said Mother Angelica continues to live through EWTN’s witness.

“Mother Angelica’s vocation continues to give witness to the world of today, with your ability, capacity, will, to announce the Gospel of the Lord,” he told employees of the organization attending the Mass.

Fisichella closed his homily with another quote from Mother, who said that “everything starts with one person. I don’t care if you are five or 105, God from all eternity, chose you to be where you are at this time in history, and he chose you to change the world.”

“We keep these words in our hearts and in our minds, like a new challenge one year after her death, to remember the task that everybody should have in this service to the Church,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are five or 105, what is important is that God, from all eternity, chose you.”

After the Mass veteran Vatican journalist Joan Lewis, Rome Bureau Chief for EWTN and former employee of the Holy See Press Office’s Vatican Information Service, recalled the moment when she was “commissioned” by Mother Angelica after accepting the job as bureau chief.

While Mother was already speechless after suffering a debilitating stroke, Lewis told CNA that she approached Mother, who was in a wheelchair, and knelt down so the two could look each other in the face.

“It was very moving for me because although she couldn’t talk, she blessed my ears, my mouth, my hands and my eyes, so that I would use all of those to do what she had done for so many years, which was to bring the Word of the Lord, the teachings of the Church to the world,” Lewis said.

“So it was her example, even when she couldn’t speak, that really infused in me the desire to go ahead and do her work,” she said, explaining that Mother Angelica was particularly inspiring for what she did as a woman.

“What a wonderful woman courage she was, of vision, of foresight, a person who just didn’t let obstacles get in her way,” Lewis said, noting that at the time, women in the United States often still hit “a glass ceiling.”

“If you were a woman, you couldn’t go any higher – you would hit this glass, but un-seen ceiling,” she said, but recalled that with Mother Angelica, “she never sensed that. There was never a barrier to whom or how she could tell the truth, and I try and remember that when I write.”

Referring to Archbishop Fisichella’s homily, Lewis said his decision to quote Mother’s phrase that “faith sets you out on the path, hope keeps you going, and love brings you to the end,” was particularly moving. “It just doesn’t get any better.”


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As abuse survivor leaves, Vatican group aims to listen better to victims

March 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2017 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a victim who suffered past clerical abuse resigned from the Vatican’s anti-abuse commission, the group is aiming for more effective ways to communicate with survivors and include them in its work.

According to a March 26 press release from the commission, members “unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors.”

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) met March 24-26 at the Vatican for their eighth Plenary Assembly since being formed by Pope Francis in Dec. 2013.

The session came less than one month after clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins resigned from her position on the commission, citing pushback from certain Vatican dicasteries, specifically from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as one of the main reasons for stepping down.

In a March 1 communique announcing her decision, the commission praised Collins as someone who has “consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of the victims/survivors to be a priority for the Church.”

In their latest meetings, commission members again voiced “strong support” for Collins and for “her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” the press release stated.

Members also expressed gratitude that Collins has agreed to continue working with the commission in their educational programs for new bishops and with other offices of the Roman Curia.

With relation on how to best include survivors as they go forward, the commission’s statement said that they are carefully considering several ideas that have been successfully implemented in other places for recommendation to Pope Francis.

In addition, the commission discussed the response to communications from survivors/victims directly to their office and other offices of the Holy See, agreeing that “acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing.”

They talked over the importance of responding “directly and compassionately,” while acknowledging that this is a major undertaking due to the volume of this type of correspondence the Holy See receives.

Each letter also requires a large amount of attention in order to give the specific resources and assistance necessary.

However, the commission agreed to send further recommendations on this matter to Pope Francis for consideration.

The latest plenary session of the PCPM immediately followed an educational seminar held March 23 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The event was co-hosted by the PCPM and the Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection.

The day-long educational seminar focused on what the local church and institutions are doing to combat abuse of minors specifically in schools and the home, and was attended by at least half a dozen heads of Vatican departments, with every Vatican department represented in some way.


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In Milan, Pope makes youth promise to never be a bully

March 25, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Milan, Italy, Mar 25, 2017 / 01:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In last meeting during his day trip to Milan, Pope Francis issued a harsh criticism of bullying in schools, asking youth to promise him and Jesus to never bully others, and telling teachers to be aware of the problem.

“There is an ugly phenomenon in education today: bullying. Please, be aware,” the Pope said during a March 25 encounter with youth in Milan.

He responded to a question posed by a catechist asking how to foster an open dialogue between educators, students and their parents. Among other points, he told teachers to watch out for bullying before addressing the youth about it themselves.

“I ask you, in silence: in your schools, in your neighborhoods, is there someone that you mock? That you make fun of because they look a little funny, because they are a little fat? That you like to embarrass and hit because of this?” the Pope asked.

“Think about this. This is called bullying,” he said, and asked the youth – many of whom will receive the sacrament of Confirmation this year – to use their Confirmation to “make the promise to the Lord to never do this” and to pray that it doesn’t happen in their schools, neighborhoods or parishes.

“Understood? Promise me: never, never make fun of, never mock a friend, a neighbor, etc. Do you promise this?” he said. Not satisfied with the strength of their answer, he again asked the youth the same question, which was then met with a roaring “yes”.

“Think in silence if you do this and if you are able to promise this to Jesus. Promise Jesus to never bully.”

Pope Francis spoke to a stadium filled with youth at the end of his March 25 daytrip to Milan.

The pope started his trip visiting the city’s impoverished “White Houses” complex greeting several of the families who live there, including a Muslim family.

He then headed directly to Milan’s cathedral where he met with the priests and religious before praying the Angelus and eating lunch with inmates at the city’s Casa Circondariale di San Vittore prison.

After lunch, he celebrated Mass at Milan’s Parco di Monza for the Feast of the Annunciation, traveling by car after to the Meazza-San Siro Stadium where he met with some 78,000 people, including catechists, volunteers and many of the 45,000 youth who have either received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 2017 or will receive it, along with their parents and family members.

After scripture readings and a series of performances by the youth, Francis responded to three of their questions, one of which was posed by a boy named Davide, one by a couple with three children and one by the catechist.

In his response to Davide’s question about what helped him to grow in friendship with Jesus when he himself was young, the Pope said it came down to three main things: his grandparents, playing with his friends and participating in groups at this parish.

Francis recalled how one grandfather had told him to “never go to bed without saying something to Jesus; tell him goodnight.” This reinforcement combined with the prayers he learned from his grandmothers and his mother helped reinforce the faith, he said.

“Grandparents have the wisdom of life, and with that wisdom they teach us to grow closer to Jesus,” he said, urging the youth to talk to their grandparents, “ask them whatever questions you want. Listen to what they say.”

Playing with friends also helps, he said, because in knowing how to play well with others, “without insulting each other,” you learn “to respect others, you learn to make a team, to work together, and this unites us to Jesus. So play with your friends!”

Parish life is also crucial, he said, and jestingly encouraged the youth to have the same excitement about Mass as they do about their groups and activities.

When answering the couple’s question on how they can transmit the beauty of the faith to their children without sounding boring, annoying or authoritarian, Pope Francis advised them to think of who helped them to grow in the faith.

He asked the stadium to take a moment and ponder the answer in silence, explaining that an important figure for him was the priest who baptized him and who was then present throughout his life until he entered the novitiate with the Jesuits.

“I never, never forget that priest. He was an apostle of the confessional; merciful, good, a hard worker. And so he helped me to grow,” the Pope said, explaining that he asked for this reflection because “our children watch us constantly; even when we are not aware.”

On this point, as he often has in the past, Francis warned against the damage it can do to children when they see their parents fight.

“You don’t understand the suffering a child experiences when they see their parents fight, they suffer. And when their parents separate, they pay the price,” he said, explaining that when parents bring a child into the world, “you must be aware of this.”

“We take responsibility to help this child grow in the faith,” he said, and suggested that the couple reach Chapters 1 and 4 of his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, a fruit of the 2014 and 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Dedicated to love in marriage and in the family, the Pope told them the chapters, particularly the first, would be helpful, and told them to never forget that “when you fight, children suffer and they don’t grow in the faith.”

He also stressed the importance of playing with their children and practicing the works of mercy together, which help nourish faith and family life.

Sunday’s are an especially good day to spend together as a family, he said, but noted that for some this is hard to do, since many have to work on weekends in order to provide for their families.

“Parents at this time can’t or have lost the virtue of playing with their children,” he said, explaining that whenever when he hears a parent complaining about their children’s behavior, he often asks if they take time to just sit and play with their children.

Many parents “don’t know how to respond,” he said, recalling how he once spoke with a father who only saw his children on the weekends, since he left for work while they were still asleep and came back after they were already in bed.

“It’s this life that takes your humanity,” he said, and told parents to “play with your children, and transmit the faith.”