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Fifty years ago, Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion

Denver, Colo., Apr 25, 2017 / 03:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- April 25 marks 50 years since Colorado became the first state in the U.S. to legalize abortion. In a statement released Tuesday, the bishops of Colorado called for continued prayers and efforts to build up a culture of life in the state.

“Amid celebrating the joy of Christ’s resurrection, we pause to remember the dark shadow cast over Colorado 50 years ago,” said a statement from the Colorado Catholic Conference.

“As we reflect on the fiftieth anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Colorado, we express immense sympathy for the victims of this horrific assault on human dignity.”

Colorado was the first state in the nation to decriminalize abortion. The initial legislation, signed into law April 25, 1967, allowed abortion in certain limited cases: rape, incest, or a prediction of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother.

Sponsored by legislator Dick Lamm, the abortion bill was signed by Governor John Love, who stressed at the time that no medical facility or professional would ever be required to participate in an abortion.

“I am certain that the operation provided for will occur only in hospitals, subject to a severe test of accreditation, which will successfully prevent anything approaching abortion clinics,” he added at the time, according to the Associated Press.

Six years later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade would declare abortion to be a constitutional right nationwide. The Colorado ruling also paved the way for other states, such as California, Oregon and North Carolina, to follow suit.

What began as a limited law in Colorado is now a much broader legalization, which allows for abortion throughout an entire pregnancy.

While the Colorado bishops lamented the past 50 years of legalized abortion within the state, they also highlighted the numerous pro-life efforts that are aiding pregnant women.

“We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to those throughout Colorado who serve the pro-life cause in immeasurable ways,” the bishops said.

“We are encouraged and uplifted by the great number of young people that have taken up the cause of protecting and defending life with passion and enthusiasm. We honor the incredible work of pregnancy centers and agencies that provide vital counseling, pre- and post-natal care, housing and material support to those women in need of such care.”

The bishops also underscored the importance of offering support to women without condemnation, while at the same time remaining firm in the “denunciation of abortion.” They encouraged the faithful to become active supporters of life by helping pregnant women or pro-life organizations.

“During this Easter season, we are called to be men and women of the Resurrection – messengers of hope and life to a world often filled with affliction and suffering,” they said.

“May God give us strength to continue our efforts in Colorado to promote a culture that recognizes the dignity and beauty of every human life from conception to natural death.”

 

Trump administration will continue defending HHS mandate in court

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2017 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With President Donald Trump’s administration signaling that it is not dropping the HHS mandate cases against religious non-profits, plaintiffs are concerned that the action does not reflect promises made during the presidential campaign.

“The government has a chance to do the right thing here. It got it wrong for five years in these cases, almost six years,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents many non-profits in HHS mandate cases.

“And they can do the right thing by dropping their appeals that are in favor of the mandate, and admitting that they were wrong on the issue of the contraceptive mandate, as applied to religious non-profits,” Rassbach told CNA Tuesday.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had promised Catholics relief from the HHS mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some early abortion drugs. In a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference last October, he pointed to his opponent Hillary Clinton’s support for the mandate, and said “that is a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump Administration.”

After Trump’s election, the plaintiffs challenging the mandate widely expected that the new administration would drop the government’s appeal of the lawsuits, which federal circuit courts may re-examine in the coming months.

Instead of dropping the cases, however, the administration indicated that it intends to take the next step in the litigation process. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department had asked a federal appeals court for 60 extra days to negotiate an agreement with East Texas Baptist University and several other plaintiffs challenging the mandate. The Supreme Court last year had instructed the Obama administration to negotiate with the plaintiffs as the next step in the litigation process.

The Becket Fund said that the same lawyers that litigated the cases on behalf of the Obama administration are still on the mandate cases now under the Trump administration.

The HHS mandate was formed under the Affordable Care Act, which required preventive coverage in employer health plans. Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services interpreted this to include coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and drugs that can cause abortions.

After a wave of criticism from religious employers to the original mandate, the Obama administration announced an “accommodation” whereby objecting non-profits would tell the government of their opposition, and their insurer or the third party administrator for the plans would be notified separately to include the coverage.

Many non-profits – including Catholic dioceses and the Little Sisters of the Poor – said that the process still forced them to cooperate in immoral behavior against their consciences. Some critics voiced concern that the cost of coverage would still end up getting passed along to the objecting employers in the form of higher premiums.

Hundreds of non-profits and other plaintiffs filed lawsuits over the mandate, even with the accommodation. Among these plaintiffs is EWTN Global Catholic Network. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

A number of those cases made their way to the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell. Plaintiffs in the case include East Texas Baptist University, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Archdiocese of Washington, and other dioceses, schools, and charities.

In March of 2016, the Court asked both the plaintiffs and the government to submit briefs explaining whether a compromise could be reached that provided for cost-free contraceptive coverage for employees and yet still respected the religious freedom of the objecting non-profits.

That request, which came after oral arguments and in the middle of the case, was almost unprecedented in its timing.

After both parties outlined ways where they believed both goals could be achieved, the Supreme Court last May sent the cases back to the federal circuit court level, vacated the previous decisions of those courts, ordered the government not to enforce the fines against plaintiffs for not complying with their demands, and instructed the courts to give the parties time to find a solution they could agree on.

“Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage’,” the Court stated.

“We anticipate that the Courts of Appeals will allow the parties sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, one of the plaintiffs in the cases, said in August that the federal government had “an extremely aggressive interpretation” of the Supreme Court’s instructions and was “apparently trying to take over” the diocese’s health plans.

 

Pope Francis refuses bullet-proof vehicle for Egypt trip

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2017 / 10:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will not use a bulletproof vehicle during his trip to Egypt this weekend, despite recent terror attacks against Christians in the country, according to Reuters.  

"The Pope will use a closed car to move around, but not an armoured one," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed yesterday. "That's how he wanted it."

This is not the first time Pope Francis has done so - he typically prefers to travel in more open vehicles, or ones that are not bulletproof, because he feels that allows him to better interact with the people on the streets.

Pope Francis will be traveling to Cairo, Egypt, April 28-29 for his first international trip of the year. Interfaith dialogue with Muslims and showing solidarity with persecuted Christians will be main priorities of the trip.

His trip comes after several recent attacks on Christian in the country.

In December, a bombing at Cairo's main Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens of others, most of them women and children.

On Palm Sunday, the bombing of two Coptic churches killed 43 and injured more than 100 others.

Last week, gunmen attacked security forces near the famous St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert, killing a police officer and injuring three others. This attack and the church bombings were all claimed by ISIS.

Egypt’s president has declared a three-month state of emergency in the country following the Palm Sunday attacks. Despite the risk, the Vatican announced earlier this month that the Pope’s trip to Egypt would continue as planned.

Pope Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their visit at the Vatican Feb. 6. The Pope had also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, after his visit to the Vatican in the spring of 2016, marking a thaw in Vatican-Muslim relations in Egypt.  

During his trip, Pope Francis will meet with the Grand Imama state officials, leaders of Egypt’s Catholic Coptic and Orthodox Coptic churches, and Catholic priests and religious of the country.

They lost everything in Peru's floods. Now they're asking for Bibles.

Lima, Peru, Apr 25, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop José Antonio Eguren of Piura and Tumbes, Peru visited the inhabitants of one of the areas most affected by the recent floods in northern Peru, who asked him to help them get some Bibles.

According to the Archdiocese of Piura, a group of victims from the Pedregal Chico settlement in Baja Piura approached the archbishop last week and asked him for some Bibles because the ones they had were lost in the flood.

“They said that the Word of God is essential for them and for the continuity of their family catechetical programs and ongoing catechesis they have implemented in their village,” said a news brief from the archdiocese.

Archbishop Eguren promised to get the Bibles and assured the victims that “the love of God does not abandon them nor has he forgotten them.”

The archbishop, accompanied by volunteers and authorities from the charitable group Caritas, brought three tons of food supplies for the more than 300 families in this area, who were hard hit by the Piura River overflowing in recent weeks.

The river waters obliterated homes, workshops, plazas, ranches and farm fields, completely flooding the village and reaching a level of five feet.

To save their lives, the villagers had to leave everything behind and flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Much of the village has been buried under a thick layer of much. Some 80 percent of the homes have been demolished, while rice and cotton fields have been destroyed.

Today, the almost 1800 inhabitants of this village, devoted mainly to farming and handicrafts, “spend the day in makeshift and uncomfortable tents, without basic services, living together with sickness and extreme poverty,” the Archdiocese of Piura reported.

“They just ask that we don't forget about their situation and that we help them so they can recover.”

“They are people of deep faith and despite everything they have suffered they have not lost hope or the desire to go on, since they're sure that with the help of the love of God, their desire to work and our aid they will be able to again see their people better off than before,” the news brief concludes.  

 

 

Pope's Egypt trip a sign of solidarity with suffering Christians

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ meeting with the Coptic Orthodox leader, Pope Tawadros in Cairo on Friday will be an important sign of solidarity with Christians who suffer and die for their faith in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

That’s the view of Msgr Gabriel Quicke who heads the office for dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches at the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity.

Last week he accompanied Cardinal Kurt Koch and Pope Francis’ private secretary to Egypt with a personal message of condolences in the wake of two bomb attacks on churches in Alexandria and Tanta, north of Cairo. The twin attacks on Palm Sunday, claimed by so-called Islamic State militants, left at least 45 people dead and dozens of others injured.

Msgr Quicke says the Coptic Pope was deeply “touched by that sign of spiritual attention” and closeness to the suffering Christian communities. Speaking to Philippa Hitchen, he says Pope Francis’ encounter with Tawadros will be an important “continuation of the ecumenical path towards full and visible unity” of the Churches.

Listen

Msgr Quicke recalls that in 2015, following the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, the Coptic bishop in Italy, Msgr Barnaba asked if Pope Francis could send a message of solidarity with the Coptic community. On Palm Sunday, he said, following the latest attacks, the Holy Father asked him to accompany Cardinal Kurt Koch, together with his own private secretary, to Egypt with a message of condolences.

It was a very brief visit, with an overnight stay at the Apostolic nunciature in Cairo, followed by an early morning journey to Alexandria to the residence of Pope Tawadros there.

Spiritual closeness to victims

The Catholic delegation brought a message of condolences and solidarity, expressing Pope Francis “spiritual closeness in prayer, in heart and mind” to all those affected by the attacks. Msgr Quicke says the Coptic leader was “very touched emotionally, by that sign of spiritual attention” and  asked “to express his closeness as well” recalling that during their meeting in Rome in 2013, “they promised one another to pray for one another every day”.

Ecumenism of blood

During that encounter in the Vatican, shortly after both men were elected, Msgr Quicke notes that Pope Francis spoke forcefully about “the ecumenism of blood” of the Coptic martyrs. He repeated the phrase following the beheadings in 2015, stressing that “they are not persecuted because they are Orthodox” or Copts, but “because they are Christian”. Citing the early Christian author from Carthage, Tertullian, he said “as the blood of the [first] martyrs became the seed for the growing of the Christian Church, [so] the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed nowadays for the unity of Christians”.

Strengthen solidarity among Christians

During the brief visit to Cairo, Msgr Quicke says he sensed that “not only the Coptic Orthodox Church, but all Christians, the whole Muslim community and all Egypt is waiting for the visit of the pope”. Although the encounter between two popes will be an important “continuation of the ecumenical path” towards Christian unity, the papal trip will also be an opportunity for the Holy Father to meet with the small Catholic community “ to strengthen the bonds of solidarity and fraternity between all Christians”. 

(from Vatican Radio)

What your local parish and the new hipster bar have in common

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2017 / 03:16 am (CNA).- It’s a story seen across the nation – a neighborhood formerly known for rundown houses, empty shops and limited resources now finds flocks of millennials coming to the area’s trellised cafes and bars for brunch and drinks on weekends.

What formerly made the neighborhood “sketchy” or caused outsiders to steer clear is now marketed as a selling point of its “character” to new investors and residents.  

It’s a change called “development” by many of the investors seeking to move in, and called “gentrification” by some who are skeptical of the impact that the rapid inflow of money has on longtime residents of a neighborhood.

Yet, many of these conversations about the challenges – and opportunities – of gentrification have left out the institutions at the heart of many of these neighborhoods: the churches.

“It’s been a mixed blessing,” said Fr. Michael Kelley of St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1901, St. Martin’s is located in the middle of the Bloomingdale neighborhood of D.C. In recent years, the predominantly African-American neighborhood has experienced rapid economic change, as investors have started paying higher prices for land in the area, and new shops, bars and other amenities have sprung up in the middle of what used to be a major drug market.

In the midst of these changes, St. Martin’s has remained committed to its mission of hospitality and outreach to the larger community – both new residents and old residents. “We work hard to be a good neighbor,” Fr. Kelley said.

Their efforts to help their neighbors have actually been a factor in making the area enticing for the investors now moving into Bloomingdale. Local Christian pastors, working together and with the city, helped to diminish the drug trade and offer aid to those with addictions, the priest explained. In a way, the churches began a process that gentrification finished.

However, new residents don’t always give credit to the vital role the parishes have historically played in the communities – and still do to this day.  

“You all just really need to move your church, you’re getting in the way of what we’re doing here,” new residents have told Fr. Kelley and other Bloomingdale pastors. The priest recalled one interaction with a new homeowner who criticized the churches’ presence in the area. “I remember saying to someone, ‘How long have you been here?’”

“Oh I moved in about six months ago,” the man responded.

“I’ve been here for 24 years,” Fr. Kelley told the new resident. “I remember when people were shooting up heroin in my backyard, breaking into my house and stealing our TVs and computers. I remember when there were drive-by shootings every night and I almost got hit once. I lived here when it was a very dangerous place to be.”

“If it wasn’t for the churches being here as the anchors of the community, you wouldn’t have the community to move into that you have today.”

“Development” by any other name

Gentrification is a broad term for the movement of wealthier residents into an existing urban area, a demographic shift which changes a district’s character and culture, often affecting neighborhoods that have previously been home to ethnic minorities or immigrants.

The result: historically working-class neighborhoods are transformed into up-and-coming “hipster” or “arts” districts, and eventually, to high-demand – and usually high-rent – neighborhoods.  

The gentrification process can be characterized by an increase in median income and housing prices, as well as a decrease in the neighborhood’s proportion of racial minorities. Crime rates often drop, while investments in high-end businesses and infrastructure often soar.

Sociologists argue over the root causes of this phenomenon and the ways in which it is different, historically, from other kinds of demographic changes in cities. What is undeniable, however, is that the shift from primarily minority, lower-class neighborhoods to majority white, upper-class districts brings challenges for long-term residents as well as the benefits of increased resources and new businesses.

As an integral part of many developing neighborhoods, local parishes are also feeling the strain of these changes.

New Mission Territory

Fr. Mark Doherty is an associate pastor at St. Peter’s in the Mission District, San Francisco's oldest neighborhood, and an area of the city that has been predominantly Hispanic for decades.

He told CNA about the changes the Mission District is facing as millennial tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and programmers for startups like Dropbox and Airbnb have bought up properties in the neighborhood.

“The young tech professionals, they want to live in the city, and a certain number of them – the more hipster type – want to live in the Mission District” because of its “grungier” feel, Fr. Doherty explained.

But the stark economic divide is making life, and parish ministry, more challenging for the Latin American immigrants who have called the neighborhood home for generations.  

Many members of St. Peter’s are facing housing issues due in part to the arrival of wealthy property-owners and tenants looking for luxury accommodations, Fr. Doherty explained.

“You have a fair number of first-generation arrivals who are having to move because property owners are either selling the buildings or redesigning them to make them more appealing to the younger set of professionals that are coming in.”

Parish ministry has also been impacted as the changing neighborhood demographics have, in a sense, turned St. Peter’s back into mission territory.

Most of the parishioners at St. Peter’s are Mexican-American and speak Spanish as their first language. “Our time is mostly dedicated to meeting the sacramental needs of theses first-generation immigrants who live in the neighborhood,” Fr. Doherty said, citing Masses, weddings, baptisms, quinceaneras and funerals as among the focuses of parish resources.

“That means that the other folks who are moving in – the young tech professionals who now make a substantial part of the neighborhood – it means we don’t have nearly the kind of time available or the resources at hand to try to engage that population.”

“These young professionals who have moved into the neighborhood generally have no connection to the Church whatsoever, and more generally seem to have none or very little religious experience or background to speak of,” Fr. Doherty continued.  “It means that engaging them is very, very challenging and it comes down to one-on-one encounters more than anything else.” 

While these personal encounters “have the opportunity to become significant and deep,” the priest said, they take a significant amount of time and effort – a difficulty in a large parish with an already-established community and many sacramental needs.

This place would be a very different community if it wasn’t for the churches. -Fr. Michael Kelley

One parish that has seen some degree of success at merging different communities is St. Dominic’s in the Highland neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.

The old Victorian houses in the area had long been home to a large Vietnamese and Hispanic population, many of whom were parishioners at St. Dominic’s. But as housing prices have risen with the influx of technology companies, startups and other incoming industries, some long-time residents have had to move to other neighborhoods while a new young adult population moves in.

“The families who have been pushed out – they come back,” said Fr. Luke Barder O.P., parochial vicar for St. Dominic’s. He told CNA that some parishioners will “drive 30-40 mins to come to Mass.”

Since many of the longtime parishioners have remained engaged in the parish despite moving to new neighborhoods, St. Dominic’s has refocused its efforts on integrating and welcoming new residents into its existing parish ministries.

To refocus on its changing role in community, the parish has updated its mission statement, Fr. Barder said, and started targeting some ministries to the young adults in the area, including an Octoberfest beer festival and the Frassati Society, a group for fellowship and prayer.

“Families and homes go together”

The limited availability of affordable housing is an issue that the U.S. bishops have aimed to address for decades, said Dr. Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for U.S. bishops’ conference.

Reyes told CNA that within the Catholic Church, “for the last 10 years, housing has actually been one of the top three issues for community concerns and engagement, from the neighborhoods themselves.”

“The way the Church has always framed it is that families have the right to decent housing,” he continued. This drive to protect families – and to defend parishes as spaces in a community – has led the bishops’ conference to be explicitly involved in affordable housing initiatives since 1975.

In the document “The Right to a Decent Home,” the U.S. bishops lay out guidelines for Catholics on how to think about the need to ensure affordable housing. This concept was reinforced this past year in Pope Francis’ letter, “Amoris Laetitia,” in which the Pope asserted that “Families and homes go together,” and warned that housing difficulties may lead couples to delay starting a family.

Reyes pointed to efforts by the U.S. bishops’ conference to help ensure fair rents, promote the building of good housing and prevent homelessness.

In particular, he highlighted several initiatives by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty program of the bishops’ conference which has set up land trusts enabling local communities to own and control land in their neighborhood to keep it affordable for future generations.

Helping people – old and new

In Washington, D.C., St. Martin’s parish is still working hard to meet the needs of the predominantly African American community and its “very clear Black Catholic identity,” while also reaching out to the influx of white young adults.

“Our philosophy is: everyone is welcome; all gifts are needed; everyone can help build up the Church,” Fr. Kelley explained.

All parishioners are welcomed and encouraged to serve in all areas of parish life, from the gospel choir to the parish council. St. Martin’s is also looking at expanding childcare services and other ministries to accommodate the increasing population of young families.

At the same time, the parish has been careful not to stall its current ministries, particularly its role as the D.C. meeting location for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. In addition to hosting the meetings, St. Martin’s also subsidizes the cost of utilities and operations.

“Even though the neighborhood is changing, people are coming from all over to come to the meetings,” Fr. Kelley said, emphasizing their importance both as a ministry and as a catalyst for change in Bloomingdale.

The influx of new residents has brought some benefits to the community. With the help of new parishioners, the parish been able to help secure housing protections for current residents against rapidly skyrocketing rental and property prices. In the 1990s, Fr. Kelley recalled, a row house in Bloomingdale could be bought for less than 10,000 dollars. Today, the same house could go for nearly 1 million dollars.

New residents in the neighborhood have also helped to attract attention to Bloomingdale’s longstanding issue with sewage flooding during heavy rains.

“For a long time, no one responded to the problem and plight of poor black folks complaining that we’re getting sewage in our basement when it rains,” Fr. Kelley said. New residents, though, had the resources and know-how to place enough political pressure on the city to jump-start repairs on the aging sewer and waste system in the neighborhood.

Still, challenges do remain for the community, with some new residents failing to understand the history of the area, and some older residents feeling like they are not respected and do not have a voice in the neighborhood as it evolves.

In the midst of these continuing tensions, Fr. Kelley said the parish must resist the narrative of “us against them.”

“I want us as a Church to continue to be involved, to share the Good News of Jesus, to continue to welcome everyone who comes and to try to meet people’s needs as best we can with our resources,” he said. “Our basic principles are hospitality, generosity, using God’s abundance to make a difference in the neighborhood locally and in the larger community.”

“It’s not like I’m trying to keep anyone out,” Fr. Kelley said of St. Martin’s role among the neighborhood’s many changes. “If anything, I’m trying to connect people more.”

This article was originally published July 13, 2016.

Pope Francis sends video message ahead of Egypt visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of his Apostolic Journey to the country, saying the “world needs peace, love and mercy”.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:

Pope Francis began his video message to the people of Egypt with the traditional greeting in Arabic: “As-salamu alaykum! (Peace be with you!)”

He said he is “coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.”

The Pope thanked those who invited him, including the President, Patriarch Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, as well as all those people preparing for his arrival.

He said he would like his visit to “be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East”.

He called his interreligious and ecumenical visit “a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.”

Speaking about recent “blind violence” in the country, Pope Francis said, “Our world needs peace, love and mercy. It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.”

He went on to say “Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.”

Finally, Pope Francis extended a warm embrace to the Egyptian people of all religions, age, and means.

Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!)”

Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s video message:

Dear People of Egypt,

As-salamu alaykum!

Peace be with you!

With a heart full of joy and gratitude I will soon visit your beloved country, the cradle of civilization, the gift of the Nile, the land of sun and hospitality, the land where Patriarchs and Prophets lived, and where God, Benevolent and Merciful, the Almighty and One God, made his voice heard.

I am truly happy to be coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod (cf. Mt 2:10-16).  I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!

I greet all of you warmly and I thank you for your invitation to visit Egypt, which you call ‘Umm il Dugna – Mother of the universe!

I offer heartfelt thanks to the President of the Republic, to His Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II, to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and to the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, all of whom invited me.  I also thank each of you for opening your hearts to me, and in particular all those who worked so hard to make this journey possible.

I would like this visit to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.  I would also hope that my visit will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.

Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land.  Our world needs peace, love and mercy.  It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.  Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.

Dear Egyptian brothers and sisters, young and old, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor…  I embrace you warmly and I ask Almighty God to bless you and protect your country from every evil.

Please pray for me!  Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!). 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Gospel must be proclaimed with humility

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Tuesday for the intentions of his “brother,” Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II, whom he will be meeting in three days’ time as he makes an Apostolic Voyage to Egypt.

The day’s Mass commemorates Saint Mark the Evangelist, who is recognized as the founder of the patriarchate of Alexandria. “I offer this Mass for my brother, Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts,” Pope Francis said. He prayed for “the grace that the Lord might bless our two churches with the abundance of the Holy Spirit.

The Cardinal counsellors who make up the C-9 advisory group were among the faithful taking part in the Pope’s daily Mass.

In his homily during the liturgy, Pope Francis said the Gospel must be proclaimed with humility, overcoming the temptation of pride. The Holy Father spoke about the necessity for Christians of “going out to proclaim” the Good News. A preacher, he said, must always be on a journey, and not seek “an insurance policy,” seeking safety by remaining in one place. 

Listen: 

Jesus gave His disciples a mission: to proclaim the Gospel, “to not remain in Jerusalem, but to go out to proclaim the Good News to all. In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on passage from the Gospel of St Mark, which relates the story of the Great Commission. He said “the Gospel is always proclaimed on the journey, never seated, always on the journey.”

Going out to proclaim the Good News, never remaining stopped but always on the journey

Christians, the Pope said, need “to go out where Jesus is not known, or where Jesus is persecuted, or where Jesus is disfigured, to proclaim the true Gospel”:

“To go out in order to proclaim. And, also, in this going out there is life, the life of the preacher is played out. He is not safe; there are no life insurance policies for preachers. And if a preacher seeks a life insurance policy, he is not a true preacher of the Gospel: He doesn’t go out, he stays in place, safe. So, first of all: Go, go out. The Gospel, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, goes forth, always; on a journey, always. On a physical journey, on a spiritual journey, on a journey of suffering: we think of the proclamation of the Gospel that leads to so many wounded people – so many wounded people! – who offer their sufferings for the Church, for the Christians. But they always go out of themselves.”

But what is “the style of this proclamation?” the Pope asked. “Saint Peter, who was St Mark’s teacher, was perfectly clear in his description of this style”: “The Gospel must be announced in humility, because the Son of God humbled Himself, annihilated Himself.” This, the Pope said, “is the style of God”; there is no other. “The proclamation of the Gospel,” he said, “is not a carnival, a party.” This is “not the proclamation of the Gospel.”

The Gospel must be announced with humility, overcoming the temptation of worldliness

The Gospel, the Pope said, “cannot be announced with human power, cannot be proclaimed with human power, cannot be proclaimed with the spirit of climbing and advancement.” “This is not the Gospel.” All of us, then, are called to vest themselves with “humility, one towards another,” because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”:

“And why is this humility necessary? Precisely because we carry forward a proclamation of humiliation – of glory, but through humility. And the proclamation of the Gospel undergoes temptation: the temptation of power, the temptation of pride, the temptation of worldliness, of so many kinds of worldliness that they bring preaching or to speaking; because he does not preach a watered down Gospel, without strength, a Gospel without Christ crucified and risen. And for this reason St Peter says: ‘Be vigilant, be vigilant, be vigilant… Your enemy the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.’ The proclamation of the Gospel, if it is true, undergoes temptation."

Pope Francis said that if a Christian says he is proclaiming the Gospel “but is never tempted,” it means that “the devil is not worried,” because “we are preaching something useless.”

Let us ask the Lord that we might go out of ourselves in order to evangelize

For this reason, the Pope continued, “in true preaching there is always some temptation, and also some persecution.” He said that when we are suffering, the Lord is there “to restore us, to give us strength, because that is what Jesus promised when He sent the Apostles”:

“The Lord will be there to comfort us, to give us the strength to go forward, because He works with us if we are faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel, if we go out of ourselves to preach Christ crucified, a scandal and a folly, and if we do this with a style of humility, of true humility. May the Lord grant us this grace, as baptized people, all of us, to take the path of evangelization with humility, with confidence in Him, announcing the true Gospel: ‘The Word is come in the flesh.’ The Word of God is come in the flesh. And this is a folly, it is a scandal; but doing it with the understanding that the Lord is at our side, He works with us, and He confirms our work.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Australian bishops: Assisted suicide is the opposite of health care

Melbourne, Australia, Apr 25, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Proposals to legalize euthanasia in the Australian state of Victoria are based on “misplaced compassion,” the local bishops said.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons,” the bishops said April 18.

“We ask Victorians to continue to love and care for those who are sick and suffering rather than abandoning them to euthanasia or supporting them to suicide. Our ability to care says much about the strength of our society.”

Their pastoral letter was signed by the four bishops with dioceses in Victoria state, including Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne.

Lawmakers in Victoria aim to allow “assisted dying,” meaning both euthanasia and assisted suicide, in limited circumstances.

In 2016 a parliamentary committee recommended that Victoria advance towards legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Government endorsed the proposal and at present there is a consultation to determine how such laws can be made “safe.”

The bishops countered: “We should be clear – there is no safe way to kill people or to help them to their own suicide.” The commandment “You Shall Not Kill” is central to both biblical and civil law, they said, encouraging the Catholic faithful and others to pray and act against the bill.

“While it is never easy to face the end of life of a loved one, we cannot support this kind of legalization however it is described,” they continued.

“Assistance in our time of dying is something that we should all want for ourselves and for others – however, this should not involve a lethal injection or offering a lethal dose.”

Instead of legalizing assisted suicide, everyone should respond to the sick and the suffering with “truth and compassion,” the bishops said, affirming that everyone has the duty “to protect, nurture and sustain life to the best of our ability.”

The bishops cited Pope Francis’ Nov. 15, 2014 speech to Italian physicians, which contrasted the false compassion of assisted suicide with “the compassion of the Gospel” that accompanies us in times of need and the compassion of the Good Samaritan who “draws near and provides concrete help.”

According to the Victorian bishops, euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation has been “continually rejected” since a short experiment in Australia’s Northern Territory state.

“Why? Because when parliamentarians take the time to debate the issue fully and to consider all the consequences they realize that to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide would threaten the lives of vulnerable people,” the bishops said.

The bishops warned that the legislation could create a lower threshold of care and protection for the sick, the suffering and the vulnerable.

“Such a law would serve to exploit the vulnerability of those people, exposing them to further risk,” they said.

Even limited legalization would be a first step towards further expansion, the pastoral letter continued. Where assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legalized, their legality has been broadened to apply to children or psychological illness.

“In Holland, there is pressure to allow assisted suicide for people over the age of 70 who have simply become 'tired of life,'” said the bishops.

The bishop stressed the blessings the elderly provide for society. Care for them should be done in gratitude, as “part of a culture of love and care.”

The Victorian bishops thanked the government for its commitment to palliative care and encouraged more investment in this path instead of assisted suicide or euthanasia. They pointed to Catholic contributions in networks of hospice care, hospitals, aged care, and other services, encouraging further support for these.

Pope sends letter to Cardinal Rodé for Madonna of Scutari anniversary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a letter to Cardinal Franc Rodé, CM, his special envoy at the celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Madonna of Shkodra’s arrival in the Church of Genazzano near Rome, Italy.

The celebration takes place on 26 April at the National Shrine of Shkodra in Albania.

It commemorates the arrival of the Madonna of Shkodra at the Madonna of Good Council Church in Genazzano after the Albanian sanctuary was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1467.

Cardinal Franc Rodé is the Prefect-emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Please find below the Latin text of the Pope’s letter:

Venerabili Fratri Nostro

FRANCISCO S.R.E. Cardinali RODÉ, C.M.

Praefecto olim Congregationis pro Institutis vitae consecratae

et Societatibus vitae apostolicae 

Quingentesima et quinquagesima anniversaria memoria appropinquante adventus praeclarae imaginis Dominae Scodrensis in sacram aedem Genatiani, prope Romam, Matri Boni Consilii dicatam, fideles dilectae terrae Albaniae Beatam Mariam Virginem singulari cultu prosequuntur eaque intercedente Salvatori gratias agunt pro omnibus beneficiis saeculorum decursu acceptis. In archidioecesi potissimum Scodrensi-Pulatensi varia incepta suscipiuntur in praeparanda praecipua festivitate die XXVI mensis Aprilis celebranda. Mater Dei enim, cuius memorata icona peculiari splendore eminet, christifideles Albanienses difficilibus temporibus auxiliis est prosecuta apud Filium suum et Dominum nostrum divina dona efflagitans. De hac re sanctus Ioannes Paulus II clare est locutus qui in visitatione apostolica in Albaniam die XXV mensis Aprilis anno MCMXCIII in cathedrali Scodrensi lapidem benedixit novi sanctuarii aedificandi atque totum Albaniensem populum Matri Boni Consilii concredidit.

His rerum adiunctis diligenter consideratis Venerabilis Frater Angelus Massafra, O.F.M., Archiepiscopus Metropolita Scodrensis-Pulatensis atque Conferentiae Episcopalis Albaniensis Praeses, humanissime rogavit ut eminentem virum mitteremus, qui Nostras vices memorato die gereret Nostramque erga istum populum dilectionem manifestaret. Ad Te autem, Venerabilis Frater Noster, qui, Sloveniae clarus filius, olim pergrave munus Praefecti Congregationis pro Institutis vitae consecratae et Societatibus vitae apostolicae diligenter exercuisti, mentem Nostram vertimus atque Te hisce Litteris MISSUM EXTRAORDINARIUM NOSTRUM nominamus ad celebrationem quae die XXVI huius mensis Aprilis apud Sanctuarium Nationale Scodrense agetur.  

Sollemni ibidem praesidebis Eucharistiae atque Archiepiscopum Metropolitam aliosque sacros Praesules, sacerdotes, religiosos viros mulieresque, publicas auctoritates atque universos christifideles Nostro salutabis nomine. Optamus etiam ut de pondere Marialis cultus in historia Ecclesiae quae est in Albania loquens, omnes adstantes sermone tuo ad diligentiore usque modo viam per Mariam ad Iesum prosequendam cohortaberis.

Nos autem Te, Venerabilis Frater Noster, in tua missione implenda precibus comitabimur intercessionem ipsius Dominae Scodrensis invocantes atque beatorum martyrum Albaniensium Vincentii Prennushi et XXXVII Sociorum. Denique Benedictionem Nostram Apostolicam libentes Tibi impertimur, signum Nostrae erga Te benevolentiae et caelestium donorum pignus, quam omnibus celebrationis participibus rite transmittes.

Ex Aedibus Vaticanis, die XXII mensis Aprilis, anno MMXVII, Pontificatus Nostri quinto.

FRANCISCUS

(from Vatican Radio)