Catholic News Agency

Arlington, Va., Mar 25, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA).- Years before Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical was published, a Trappist monastery in Virginia went back to its spiritual roots by embracing environmental stewardship.

“This really is a re-founding,” Fr. James Orthmann of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Va. told CNA, a “real renewal and a re-founding, and in a real sense getting back to our traditional roots.”

Since 2007, the community has taken concrete steps be better stewards of the earth in the tradition of the Cistercian Order, while also reaching into the outside world to draw more Catholic men to their monastic life.

The abbey was founded in 1950 after a planned Trappist abbey in Massachusetts burned down. The Diocese of Richmond offered to accept the monks and they procured 1200 acres of pasture on the Shenandoah River in Northwest Virginia, just in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east.

However the community has shrunk along with the overall number of religious priests and brothers in the U.S., which has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1965. The community’s Father Immediate – the abbot of their mother house – suggested in 2007 they start planning how to sustain the abbey for the long-term.

The monks discussed their most important resources and “literally everybody talked about our location, our land,” Fr. James recalled. “As monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, we have a vow of stability. So we bind ourselves to the community and to the place that we enter.”



The Trappists have a long history of settling in valleys and caring for the land, dating back to their roots in the Cistercian Order and their mother abbey in Citeaux, France, founded in 1098. Monks at Holy Cross Abbey began farming the land in 1950 but as the community grew older, they leased out the land to local farmers and made creamed honey and fruitcake for their labor.

“We live a way of life that’s literally rooted in the land,” Fr. James explained. “The liturgical life reflects the succession of the seasons, and the more you become sensitized to that, the symbolism of the liturgy becomes so much more compelling.”

So what specifically have the monks done to become better environmental stewards? First, they reached out to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to author a study on how the abbey could be more environmentally sustainable in the Cistercian tradition.

A group of graduate students made the project their master’s thesis. The result was a massive 400-page study, “Reinhabiting Place,” with all sorts of recommendations for the monks. With these suggestions as a starting place, the monks took action.

First, they turned to the river. They asked the cattle farmer to whom they lease 600 acres of their land to stop his cattle from grazing in the river. This would protect the riverbanks from eroding and keep the cows from polluting the water, which flows into the Potomac River, past Washington, D.C., and eventually feeds the massive Chesapeake Bay.

They fenced off tributaries of the river and planted native hardwoods and bushes on the banks as shelter for migratory animals and to attract insects and pollinators to “restore the proper biodiversity to the area,” Fr. James explained. They also leased 180 acres of land to a farmer for natural vegetable farming.

Most of the abbey’s property was put into “conservation easement” with the county and the state. By doing this, the monks promise that the land will forever remain “fallow,” or agricultural and undeveloped, and they receive a tax benefit in return. The county provides this policy to check suburban sprawl and retain a rural and agricultural nature.

The community also switched their heating and fueling sources from fossil fuels to propane gas. They had a solar-fed lighting system installed in two of the guest retreat dorms, and they pay for the recycling of their disposable waste. The monks stopped making fruitcake for a year to install a new more energy-efficient oven and make building repairs.

The have even started offering “green burials” at Cool Spring Cemetery in the Trappist style.

Normal burials can cost well over $7,000 with embalming fluids and lead coffins that can be detrimental to the soil. A Trappist burial, by contrast, is “rather sparse” and “rather unadorned,” Fr. James explained. A monk is wrapped in a shroud and placed directly on a wooden bier in the ground.

The Trappist burials, while quite different from a typical modern burial, actually have an earthy character to them that’s attractive, Fr. James maintained.

After the “initial shock” at seeing such a sparse burial for the first time, “oddly enough, it’s very cathartic and you have a real sense of hope,” he said. The burials are “a lot less formal” and “people [in attendance] are more spontaneous,” he noted, and there’s “even a certain joyfulness to it.”

With their “green burials,” the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable container like a wooden coffin, and buried in the first four feet of the soil. By one year, just the skeleton may be left, but it’s a harkening back to the Ash Wednesday admonition, “Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”

And this contrasts with the complicated embalming process of normal funerals where chemicals like formaldehyde can seep into the ground.



The monks have already touched lives with their example of stewardship.

Local residents George Patterson and Deidra Dain produced a film “Saving Place, Saving Grace” about the monastery’s efforts to remain sustainable, for a local PBS affiliate station. The affiliate’s general manager had looked at the story and thought everyone needed to hear it.

The monastery has been an “example” to the county’s leadership with its care for the land, Patterson said. Dain, a retreatant at the monastery 15 years ago, is not Catholic but found her time at the abbey “inspiring” and as a lover of nature praises their sustainability initiative.

All in all, the communal effort for stewardship is “helping to renew our life,” Fr. James said of the community.

Papal statements on the environment have given a boost to their efforts. “There was a lot of supportive stuff from the time of Pope Benedict about the environment,” Fr. James recalled, particularly in his 2008 encyclical Caritas in Veritate which upheld the responsibility of man to care for the environment.

This “helped bridge” any gulfs that kept certain members of the community from fully embracing the sustainability initiative, Fr. James said.

Parts of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment Laudato Si are “so sophisticated in (their) grasp of environmental teaching,” he continued, and it’s quite a support to have popes promoting environmental stewardship amidst the bureaucratic tediousness of upgrading the abbey’s land and facilities.

“At the end of the day, I can open up Laudato Si and say to myself ‘Ah, this is worth it. We should keep doing this. I’m going to keep putting up with the nonsense to get this done’,” he said.

The community hopes too that it can be a sustainability model for developing countries that might not be able to afford high-tech and expensive solutions to environmental problems. Their facilities are simple by nature and not sophisticated, and the monks’ consumption is already low because they take a vow of poverty.

Plus, retreatants at the monastery can observe first-hand the changes made and consider what they can do in their own lives to be more caring for the environment.



However, in its “re-founding” efforts, the community has also explored ways to attract more vocations to the abbey.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve lost most of our seniors first to illness, aging, and then death. So in a sense, the community has a whole new profile right now,” Fr. James said. The abbey was founded to be “separate” from the cosmopolitan world, but young men are not actively seeking out the monastic life like they did in the 1950s and 60s.

So the community created a new website and continuously update it with new posts. They started hosting “immersion weekends” where men come and live with the monks for a weekend, praying with them. They expanded their local profile in the community by hosting teenagers to earn their school community service hours. “Only two students had realized we existed here,” Fr. James recalled in a telling moment.

“We’re reaching out to men of all ages, and it’s probably even more likely, given the limits of our way of life, that nowadays it’s going to be older men who are coming to this vocation,” Fr. James admitted. “This way of life and its limits make much more sense to people who have tried their quote-unquote dream, have been disillusioned by the result, and they’re yearning for something more.”

What distinguishes Holy Cross Abbey and the Trappist way of life? Their vocation to community life, Fr. James answered, “the silence, the discipline of silence, and daily familiarity with the Scriptures.”

The monks follow an intense daily schedule of prayer, contemplation, and work that includes 3:30 a.m. prayer and a “Great Silence” beginning at 8:15 p.m. They don’t leave the abbey grounds and don’t own private property.

“It’s a lifestyle that very much will develop one’s interiority, spirituality, relationship with God,” he said. “It’s a vocation of adoration, done in community, and offered to the world around us through hospitality here in this place.”

And the modern world offers special challenges to a man discerning this vocation, he admitted.

“There’s not much in the pop culture to invite a person to even think about interiority. And in fact it can be rather threatening to people,” he said. “Initially,” when one begins to seriously cultivate an interior life, “it’s the negative stuff that comes up.”

However, “with guidance you realize that’s the negative face of very important, unrecognized resources. And our vulnerability is perhaps the greatest resource we have in life. (Even if) that’s not the message you’d get from watching Oprah.”
 
This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 2, 2015.
 

Posted: March 25, 2017, 9:20 pm

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2017 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a significant show of unity, officials from every Vatican department – including at least half a dozen cardinals who head various dicasteries – attended a recent Rome seminar on safeguarding minors.

“I actually come from a dicastery that takes up the issue of human rights and justice,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. 

As head of an office that deals with human rights, awareness of what’s going on in the realm of abuse prevention is “very crucial,” he told CNA, stressing that “it’s so very important that we try to be on the same page with this commission and what they do.”

Every department of the Roman Curia was represented in some way at the March 23 seminar, an indication of its importance in the eyes of Vatican officials.

It is rare for the cardinals who head dicasteries to attend events outside of those hosted by their own department – more often, they send representatives to attend. The presence of several cardinals at Thursday’s event further indicated that the Vatican is seeking to place an emphasis on this issue, especially given that the one-day event was not specifically aimed at members of the Curia, but at a wider audience.

Joining Cardinal Turkson at the gathering was Cardinal Kevin Farrell, president of the Vatican’s mega-department for Laity, Family and Life.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley hosted the event in his capacity as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and the seminar was also attended by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; and Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Cardinal Turkson said that in the case of his own department, he sent the official charged with the topic of international law, human rights, family law and other related topics, but also decided to come himself because it is “essential to see the new things that are being said about this issue.”

“There’s no pastor who is not interested in this issue, especially if he’s a bishop, because there was a way that bishops used to deal with this issue,” he said, noting that often times, priests were simply sent to treatment centers and then put into another parish once they had completed the program. 

“Now the understanding about this is deeper,” he said. “The impression in those days was that people could go to treatment centers and get help, but that was all false.”

“So it’s good to deepen our understanding about this, very, very, very deeply and very well,” he said, explaining that he came not only to support Cardinal O’Malley, a longtime friend, but also to learn and hear updates on the issue.

Cardinal Farrell agreed. “It’s important for the Church to be here because…if you look back on the history of probably the last 20 years, it’s the greatest obstacle to preaching the Word of God and the credibility of doing what we’re supposed to do,” he told CNA.

Sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and the Pontifical 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.  

It included presentations by several members and collaborators of the commission, including Kathleen McCormack, chair of the PCPM Working Group on Education of Families and Communities. It also featured presentations by representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, as well as Australia and Italy.

The event fell just weeks 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.

According to Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, head of the Center for Child Protection and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, hearing and including the voice of survivors was a key point in the discussion during their plenary, which begins March 24.

In March 23 comments to CNA, Fr. Zollner said “we need to be informed by survivors and victims, we need to listen to them, and we need to take into account what has been and is their experience.” 

Regarding the involvement of survivors in the process, he noted that Collins herself said in an interview that “a certain set of skills” is needed if a survivor wants to participate in any kind of panel or commission.

“So we will see, together with survivors, what this set of skills should look like,” he said, but cautioned that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. From his perspective as someone who travels around the world trying to raise awareness on the issue, in many countries “people are not so used to speaking out about this.”

“Even if they are a survivor and victim, in some parts of the world this is still taboo and we need to help people come out of that,” he said, explaining that when their mandate is up at the end of the year, the commission will re-visit their structure and development process “so that our journey continues.”

But in the meantime, he praised the seminar as a key step, saying it was a “very successful event,” particularly in “drawing many high-ranking members of the Curia, including a number of cardinals, and (with) all the dicasteries represented.”


Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.
 

Posted: March 24, 2017, 9:32 pm

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2017 / 01:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Being disconnected from the values of the past – which upheld the human person and the family – has placed us in a new era of crises, Pope Francis told European leaders. However, he noted, there is hope.

“Europe finds new hope when man is the center and the heart of her institutions,” he said March 24. “I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union.”
 
“Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family,” he continued, “whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts.”

Europe finds this new hope, he emphasized, “When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society. When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens. When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them. When she defends life in all its sacredness.”

Pope Francis met with 27 European Union Heads of State and Government, as well as Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament; Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; and Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission at the Vatican.

The leaders met in Rome for celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community and is one of the two most important treaties in the modern-day European Union (EU).

In the speech, the Pope warned against having a short memory about Europe’s past – both the good and the bad – and as in previous speeches, urged a return to the roots, in this case the fundamental and founding values of the EU.

In a change from previous meetings of a similar nature, however, Francis took a very hopeful attitude toward Europe’s future, saying that while Europe is undergoing its own modern crises – in economics, migration, the institution, and the family – these don’t have to be solely destructive.

“The term ‘crisis’ is not necessarily negative,” he said. “It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured.”

“The word ‘crisis’ has its origin in the Greek verb krino, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess. Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it. It is a time of challenge and opportunity.”

For Europe to move past these present crises, leaders must refocus around the centrality of the human person, solidarity, the pursuit of peace, and openness to the future and the world, he said.

The spiritual and human values present in Europe’s past are the way forward in what is becoming an increasingly valueless society, one that is very different from even just 60 years ago.

“Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigor, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism,” Francis said.

The Pope gave several examples of how Europe’s hope can be renewed. One major way is by investing in the future through opportunities for young people to receive a good education and to have real possibilities in the work force, he said.

In the speech, the Pope referenced at length the history of Europe, such as the “tragedy of walls and divisions,” and the efforts made to “tear down that wall” that “divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic,” separating families as well.

He also quoted at length from addresses of founding fathers of the EU at the signing of the Treaties of Rome in 1957, including Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paul-Henri Spaak; Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Luns; Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Joseph Bech; German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer; and French Minister of Foreign Affairs Christian Pineau.

Addressing “the grave crisis of immigration,” Francis said that the issue poses deep question, that is primarily cultural, and that is: “What kind of culture does Europe propose today?”

“The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals. Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.”

“Yet the richness of Europe,” he continued, “has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life. Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world.”

The Pope had strong words against modern forms of populism, which he said solidarity is the antidote to. He defined solidarity as entailing “the awareness of being part of a single body” while also involving “a capacity on the part of each member to ‘sympathize’ with others and with the whole.”

“When one suffers, all suffer,” he said, referencing 1 Corinthians 12:26.

Without Christianity, the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice “would prove largely incomprehensible,” Francis said. “In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots.”

Posted: March 24, 2017, 7:04 pm

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2017 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch received a strong voice of support Thursday from a lawyer at a major religious liberty firm, who said that he shows a record of consensus building and protecting religious freedom for all.

In addition to ruling on some high profile cases, Gorsuch also defended the religious freedom of religious minorities and prisoners, “some of the most politically powerless in our society,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Smith testified about Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Gorsuch sits on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was nominated by President Donald Trump in February to be an associate justice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In her testimony, Smith pointed to Gorsuch’s ruling in favor of a Native American inmate’s request to have access to a sweat house at his prison, for religious use.

Gorsuch wrote in that Yellowbear case, “While those convicted of crime in our society lawfully forfeit a great many civil liberties, Congress has (repeatedly) instructed that the sincere exercise of religion should not be among them – at least in the absence of a compelling reason. In this record we can find no reason like that.”

He also was “a remarkable consensus-builder,” Smith added, “in an area of jurisprudence that can be quite contentious.”

Smith said she studied 40 religious freedom cases where Gorsuch, appointed to the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush, either wrote an opinion or took a position. She found that “judges appointed by a Democratic president agreed with him in 80 percent of those cases.”

Where Gorsuch authored an opinion in a religious freedom case, she added, he “produced a unanimous decision every single time.”

“My assessment is that Judge Gorsuch, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, would be a jurist committed to protecting this vital freedom,” Smith said of religious liberty. “None of his religious liberty opinions has ever been reversed by the Supreme Court.”

Judge Gorsuch was a Marshall Scholar who received his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University, studying under Natural Law scholar John Finnis while there. He clerked for Supreme Court justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy before working as the principal deputy associate attorney general at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

In 2006, President Bush appointed Gorsuch to the Tenth Circuit. In his time on the circuit, he weighed in on major religious freedom cases including those of Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor against the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate.

He was nominated by President Trump on Feb. 1 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Senate Democrats, however, have announced their intent to hold up his confirmation through filibuster, which would require the votes of 60 senators to override.

Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, have not yet announced if they will invoke the “nuclear option” where the Senate rules would be altered to allow for a simple majority vote in the 100-seat chamber rather than a three-fifths, or 60-seat, vote.

Smith, in her testimony on Thursday, also pointed to Gorsuch’s rulings in recent prominent religious freedom cases.

As a judge, Gorsuch wrote a concurrence with the majority decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, and joined the dissent in the case that went against the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, saying they were exempt from the contraceptive mandate, which “substantially burdened” their religious exercise and was not the “least-restrictive” means of ensuring access to contraceptives.

Later, in the middle of deciding the Little Sisters case, the Court called for the nuns and the government to outline alternative ways of allowing cost-free coverage of contraceptives while respecting the religious freedom of the nuns. After both parties submitted their answers, the Court sent the case back to the lower courts and instructed the parties to come to an agreement.

Ultimately, Smith said, Gorsuch’s record makes it clear that he will uphold the religious liberty of all people.

“His jurisprudence demonstrates an even-handed application of the principle that religious liberty is fundamental to freedom and to human dignity,” she said, “and that protecting the religious rights of others – even the rights of those with whom we may disagree – ultimately leads to greater protections for all of our rights.”

 

Posted: March 24, 2017, 6:06 pm

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2017 / 08:56 am (CNA).- A new report by the Pew Research Center has found that the overwhelming majority of Americans support paid family and medical leave for workers.

More than 80 percent of adult Americans surveyed believe that women should have paid maternity leave, and just under 70 percent support paid paternity leave.

When it comes to paid leave for new fathers, there are significant generational differences. Of those under 30 years of age, 82 percent believe dads should get paid leave after a birth or adoption. Support drops to 76 percent among respondents from 30-49 years of age, and 59 percent for those 50 and older.

Support for paid family leave was a rare issue of agreement between both candidates in the last presidential election, although Democrats and Republicans have general disagreement on the extent to which the government should be involved in ensuring this benefit.

The study, based on two surveys conducted late last year, found that there is currently a drastic difference in leave opportunities between higher and lower income workers.

Some 60 percent of leave takers with annual household incomes from $30,000 to $74,999 received at least some pay when they took family or medical leave. The same is true for 74 percent of those with incomes of $75,000 or more. But that number drops to 37 percent for leave takers with incomes under $30,000.

For those who take unpaid or partially paid leave, the shortfall in income often proves to be a significant financial strain. The report found that 41 percent of people in this situation cut their leave short, 37 percent took on debt, and 33 percent put off paying bills.

Among lower-income workers who took unpaid or partially paid parental leave, nearly half went on public assistance to cover lost income.

Meanwhile, a little more than half of those who took parental leave said they took less time off than they needed or wanted to take. Lost income was the top reason cited, followed by concerns about the impact that additional leave would have on their jobs.

One in four women who took maternity leave in past two years say it negatively impacted their job or career.

Another area of strong agreement: about three-quarters of respondents believed that employers who offer paid leave are more likely to attract and keep good workers than employers who do not offer paid leave.

 

Posted: March 24, 2017, 2:56 pm

San Jose, Calif., Mar 24, 2017 / 06:38 am (CNA).- A priest in California has been found guilty of diverting $19,000 in donations to his personal account.

Father Hien Minh Nguyen, 57, was found guilty on 14 counts of bank fraud by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman of San Jose, CBS San Francisco reports.

The donations, made between 2005 and 2007, had been intended for the Vietnamese Catholic Center in San Jose. Fr. Nguyen had served as the center’s director from 2001-2011. He has also served as a pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, now called Our Lady of La Vang.

The priest previously pleaded guilty to tax evasion for the years 2008-2011. He faces sentencing for all convictions on June 30. He could face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each bank fraud account, and a maximum sentence of five years for each tax evasion count.

Fr. Nguyen has been a priest of the Diocese of San Jose since 1995. He has been on a personal leave of absence since December 2013. Fr. Nguyen was born in Vietnam and fled to the U.S. as a boy during the Vietnam War.

 

Posted: March 24, 2017, 12:38 pm

San Salvador, El Salvador, Mar 24, 2017 / 02:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his role as Vicar General, Monsignor Ricardo Urioste was one of the closest collaborators of Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for the faith in 1980 and beatified two years ago.

And this monsignor has some stories to tell.

Among the most fascinating involve details surrounding the day Romero was killed, what the late archbishop really thought about the controversial and problematic Liberation Theology, and the fact that the martyr’s insides hadn’t decomposed when they were exhumed three years after his death.

Archbishop Romero was brutally killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980 – a time when El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. In February 2015, Pope Francis officially recognized his death as having been for hatred of the faith and gave the green light for his beatification.

Msgr. Urioste, who currently heads up the Archbishop Romero Foundation, said that during the time the martyr lived, whenever “he preached, spoke, was a pastor, they accused him of being communist, Marxist, a politician, and a thousand things."

However, he noted how after 12 years of extensive study on the life and writings of the archbishop, the Vatican never found anything that supported these claims.

In an interview with CNA, Msgr. revealed some the of the lesser known facts surrounding the new blessed, as well as his continuing legacy on the Church and the world at large.

What happened on the day Archbishop Romero died

Msgr. Urioste can easily recall the day that Archbishop Romero was killed, saying that it was “an ordinary day of work” for him.

In the morning the archbishop had a meeting with a group of priests, and then they ate lunch together. After the meeting he went to confession with his usual confessor, which was a priest named Fr. Segundo Ascue.

Once he confessed, Archbishop Romero went to celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass in San Salvador’s hospital of Divine Providence, which was staffed by nuns. The Mass, Mons. Urioste recalled, had been widely publicized throughout the diocese.

While he was celebrating Mass in the hospital’s chapel, the archbishop was shot in the chest from outside.

Msgr. Urioste said that after getting a phone call informing him of what happened, “I immediately went to the hospital, and he was already taken to the polyclinic. A television set arrived, they interviewed me, and after I went to the hospital where he was."

He recalled how as the sisters were going to embalm Archbishop Romero’s body, he told them “please be careful not to drop his insides anywhere, but that they pick them up and bury them, and they did, burying them in front of the little apartment he had in the hospital where he lived."

Three years later, on the occasion St. John Paul II’s visit to the country, the nuns of the hospital “made a monument to the Virgin in the same place where we had buried (Romero’s) insides.”

“When they were digging they ran into the box and the plastic bag where they had placed the insides, and the blood was still liquid and the insides didn't have any bad smell,” he revealed.

“I don't want to say that it was a miracle, it's possible that it's a natural phenomenon, but the truth is that this happened, and we told the archbishop at the time (Arturo Rivera y Damas), look monsignor, this has happened and he said 'be quiet, don't tell anyone because they are going to say that they are our inventions,'” he said.

However, “Pope John Paul II was given a small canister with Archbishop Romero’s blood,” he noted.

Msgr. Urioste recalled that when John Paul II arrived to San Salvador, the first thing he did “was go to the cathedral without telling anyone. The cathedral was closed, they had to go and look for someone to open it so that the Pope could enter and kneel before the tomb of Archbishop Romero.”

John Paul II asked during his visit that no one manipulate the memory of Archbishop Romero, Msgr. Urioste recalled, and lamented how “they politicized him.”

“The left had politicized him, putting him as their banner. And the right politicized him, saying things that are untrue about the bishop, that are purely false, they denigrated him.”

One of the things that the Church in El Salvador wants, Msgr. Urioste said, is that “the figure of the archbishop, known now a little more than he was before, is a cause for reflection, a motive for peace, a motive for forgiveness, a motive for reconciliation with one another, and that we all have more patience to renew ourselves and follow the paths that Archbishop Romero proposed to us.”

“I think that (Romero’s) figure is going to contribute a lot to a better meeting and reconciliation in El Salvador,” he said.

What Archbishop Romero really thought about Liberation Theology

Despite the many accusations leveled against the archbishop of San Salvador, his Vicar General said that Romero “never had a Marxist thought or Marxist ideology in his mind.”

“If there had been, the Vatican, which has studied so much, would not have beatified him, if they had found that he had Marxist interests.”

The real backbone of his closeness to the poor, he said, was the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

“He was a servant of the Gospel, he never read anything from Liberation Theology, but he read the Bible.”

Msgr. Urioste noted that the archbishop's library, “had all these books from the early Fathers of the Church, from the current Magisterium of the Church, but (he) never even opened any of the books from Liberation Theology, or Gustavo Gutiérrez, or of anyone else.”

“He read the Bible and there he encountered a Jesus in love with the poor and in this way started walking toward him,” he said.

What set Archbishop Romero apart

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Archbishop Romero was “his great sense of work. He was an extremely hardworking man and devoted to his work day and night – until midnight and until dawn,” Msgr. Urioste said.

He recalled how the archbishop would begin to prepare his Sunday homilies the day before, and would always include three reflections on the Eucharist. When Romero preached, he made frequent reference to the Fathers of the Church, based his comments on Church teaching and related his thoughts to the country's current reality.

“A homily that doesn't have this relation with what is happening sounds the same here as in Ireland, in Paris, as anywhere,” the priest said.

He recalled how in Romero's time the government was “a ferocious military dictatorship, which had 'national security' as it's theme.”

Everyone who either sided with the poor or expressed concern for them “was accused of being communist, they were sent to be killed without thinking more. There were 70 thousand deaths like this in the country at that time,” Msgr. Urioste noted.

“The social economic reality was of a lot of poverty, of a great lack of unemployment, of low wages.”

Ultimately, Archbishop Romero’s beatification, the monsignor said, is “a triumph of the truth.”

It is a triumph, he said, of the truth of “who Archbishop Romero really was, what he did, how he did it, from the Word of God, from the Magisterium of the Church, in defense of the poor, who were the favored ones of Jesus Christ and who were were also the favored ones of Archbishop Romero.”

A verison of this article was originally published May 23, 2015.

Posted: March 24, 2017, 8:49 am

Detroit, Mich., Mar 24, 2017 / 12:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new television ad campaign launched by the Michigan Catholic Conference is featuring commercials that spotlight the hand of the Catholic Church in health, education, and charitable systems throughout the state.

“The Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services, education, and health care after the government itself,” stated David Maluchnik, vice president of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), in a recent press release.

“This advertising project aims to reinforce the notion that faith-based health care, charitable, and educational entities here in the state are an inclusive and diverse component of our local communities that serve all in the spirit of ‘loving thy neighbor,’” Maluchnik continued.

Entitled “Freedom to Serve,” the ad campaign is the product of collaboration between the Michigan Catholic Conference and the media firm Minus Red. The commercials were originally produced as three short films, and were extracted from the films for television commercials.

The goal behind the commercials is to underscore how the Catholic Church is “free to serve” the community in Michigan through various outlets, such as the fields of health, education and charity. Currently, there is a Catholic presence in 222 schools, 33 health centers, 88 social service centers, and 73 specialized homes.

These commercials are being shown on 28 cable and network stations throughout the state, and will run from February through May. There are currently two commercials, titled “Little Simple Things” and “Hands of Service in Healing.”

Each commercial tackles big issues such as palliative care and how organizations, such as Catholic Charities, are providing much-needed water for the city of Flint. One commercial notes that Catholic Charities is “one of the largest suppliers of water in Flint,” and that they give water away for free to those who need it.

While there are only two commercials on air currently, new ads will debut over the next few months that will spotlight Catholic health centers and Catholic school systems.

“For over one hundred years, the Catholic community in Michigan has played a vital role providing our most vulnerable brothers and sisters with the material and spiritual care necessary to uphold their dignity as human persons,” Maluchnik stated.

According to the press release, the Catholic school system educated about 52,000 students during the course of 2016. The Church has also provided various social services and charity work for over 480,000 citizens in the state. Additionally, Catholic health services in Michigan have cared for over 5.5 million individuals, “all without regard to race, religion, or income.”

“Catholic institutions are administered and staffed by persons who do not leave their faith at the doorstep when serving others – it is who they are from morning until night,” Maluchnik noted.

There are about 1.8 million Catholics in the state – 18 percent of the Michigan population. The Michigan Catholic Conference is hoping that these commercials will highlight the many ways the Catholic Church is serving the greater Michigan community, and also bring light to recent government mandates which have put up roadblocks to serving those in need.

More information about the “Freedom to Serve” project is available at www.CatholicsServe.com

 

Posted: March 24, 2017, 6:14 am

Cape Coast, Ghana, Mar 23, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Priestly formation isn't a just a job for the rector – it's a responsibility shared between the entire Christian community and seminarians themselves, said a Ghanaian bishop.

“It is the duty and the primary responsibility of parents to form or educate seminarians, while the seminarian himself has the onerous responsibility to be involved and committed to his own formation if he wants to become truly what God the Father has willed,” Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra said.

The archbishop delivered the keynote address the week of March 12 at gathering themed “Sixty Years of Priestly Formation for the Church in Ghana and the Universal Church – A Shared Responsibility.” The address was a part of the activities at St. Peter's Catholic Seminary in the Cape Coast to mark the 60th anniversary of Ghana's independence as a nation.

Archbishop Palmer-Buckle acknowledges that “the challenges are not to be underrated” but stressed it is the entire Christian community which must contribute. He said the challenges for a complete and concrete formation are to be kept in sight of “parents, guardians and society,” for the good of the “subject, the child or the student…and [the] Church as a whole.”

He said that education of the faith begins in the home with families and children, but then continues onto the state, the church, and religious leadership.

Pope Francis has also expressed similar sentiments in a 2015 homily. He said the family is the “center of pastoral work,” and a “handing on of the faith” begins in the home and church.

The Pope also said that a priest “always remains of the people and the culture that have produced him; our roots help us to remember who we are and to where Christ has called us. We priests do not fall from above but are instead called by God, who takes us ‘from among men,’ to ‘ordain us for men.’”

In his address last week, Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said that the Holy Spirit is bestowed on everyone in the church, and it is therefore the responsibility of the entire church to nature vocations.

“As a shared responsibility, it begins with praying to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his vineyard. Then it follows with calling people and nurturing them to follow Christ in the priesthood and religious life.”

Posted: March 24, 2017, 2:01 am

Baltimore, Md., Mar 23, 2017 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal William Henry Keeler, who was Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007, has died at the age of 86, archdiocesan officials say.

He died early in the morning of March 23 at St. Martin's Home for the Aged in Catonsville, Maryland, a home administered by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The cardinal's funeral Mass will be held March 28 at Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, after which his body will be interred in the basement crypt at the city's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said in a statement that getting to know Cardinal Keeler was one of “the great blessings in my life.”

Archbishop Lori added that after he was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore in 2012 “I became more aware than ever of his tremendous ministry in the City of Baltimore and in the nine Maryland counties that comprise the Archdiocese.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, also offered his “prayers of gratitude for Cardinal Keeler’s return to the Lord he so dearly loved,” in a statement.

“As a priest, Bishop of Harrisburg, and Archbishop of Baltimore, the Cardinal worked to bring the hope of Christ to people’s lives. He also built bridges of solidarity to people of other faiths as a leader in ecumenism and interreligious affairs,” Cardinal DiNardo continued.

“Cardinal Keeler was a dear friend. The most fitting tribute we can offer is to carry forward his episcopal motto in our daily lives: ‘Do the work of an evangelist.’”

Cardinal Keeler was born in San Antonio, Texas March 4, 1931. After growing up and attending Catholic schools in Pennsylvania, he joined the seminary and then attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained there as a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg in 1955, at the age of 24.

During the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Keeler served as secretary to Bishop George R. Leech of Harrisburg. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Harrisburg in 1979, and in 1983 became bishop of the same diocese. In 1989 he was named the 14th Archbishop of Baltimore, the oldest diocese in the United States.

Archbishop Keeler was also elected as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1992, where he helped coordinate 1993’s World Youth Day celebrations in Denver, Colorado.

Archbishop Keeler was appointed a cardinal by St. John Paul II in 1994.

He retired in 2007, at the age of 76.

Cardinal Keeler was very involved in both interreligious and ecumenical activities, as well as the pro-life movement.

At the USCCB, he served as the moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations as well as the Chair for the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs between 1984 and 1987. He served on the International Catholic Orthodox Commission for Theological Dialogue, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches over the years. He also served twice as the Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

In Baltimore, Cardinal Keeler worked hard to secure funding for at-risk children and youth to attend Catholic schools in the archdiocese. Today, the fund that bears his name has awarded over 16,500 scholarships and has raised more than $70 million dollars in funding.

Other efforts of Cardinal Keeler include his hosting of both Sts. John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta during their visits to Baltimore, and his efforts to restore the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sean Caine, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, told CNA that “the cardinal served the Archdiocese of Baltimore for 18 years,” a feat which made him third longest -serving bishop in the historic see. “He did so with great distinction, great clarity of vision and fidelity to the Church.”

Caine continued to explain the cardinal’s meaning to the city and the deep significance of his leadership over those nearly two decades.

“He was probably best known for his work in interfaith and ecumenical relations, which probably drew him close to Pope St. John Paul II, and that relationship bore particular fruit for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

During the Holy Father’s 1995 visit to Baltimore, the Pope “was the first and only sitting Pope to visit the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Caine explained.

“He was a champion of Catholic education” and helped organize the local Catholic Charities’ comprehensive Catholic social services program, the Our Daily Bread Employment Center, Caine added. “It really is the cornerstone of Catholic Charities here in Baltimore.”

Archbishop Lori expressed that the city will feel the impact of Cardinal Keeler’s loss.

“Cardinal Keeler will be greatly missed,” Archbishop Lori wrote. “I am grateful to the Little Sisters for their devoted care for the Cardinal. May his noble priestly soul rest in peace!”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore asks that, in lieu of flowers, well-wishers make contributions to the Cardinal William H. Keeler Endowment Fund of the Catholic Community Foundation.

Posted: March 23, 2017, 11:10 pm

Glasgow, Scotland, Mar 23, 2017 / 02:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four centuries after the martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie, Catholics in Scotland have launched a campaign to mark the place in Glasgow’s city center where he was executed for preaching the Catholic faith.

The Order of the Knights of St. Columba, a U.K.-based Catholic fraternal organization, is backing the effort, the Scottish Catholic Observer reports.

“There should be something,” said the order’s Supreme Knight Charlie McCluskey. “He’s the only Scottish martyr and there’s not even a plaque. Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, whatever, this was an historic event in the history of the city that should be marked.”

John Ogilvie was born in 1579 to a family of Scottish nobles in  Banffshire. Raised a Calvinist, he converted to Catholicism in 1596 while at Louvain, Belgium, after being educated at Catholic institutions. He later joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in Paris in 1610. He requested he be sent back to Scotland, which had become deeply hostile to the Catholic faith.

He was betrayed by someone who posed as a Catholic, and was then imprisoned for treason. He faced torture by officials who sought the names of other Catholics, facing sleep deprivation and needles pushed under his fingernails.

The torture did not succeed. St. John Ogilvie did not betray the faithful, and he was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Glasgow Cross on March 10, 1615, which later became his feast day.

Pius XI beatified him in 1929, and he was canonized by Blessed Paul VI in 1976. He is the only post-Reformation Scottish saint to have been canonized.

McCluskey has suggested the saint be honored with a statue in an alcove on the Mercat Building, owned by Glasgow City Council, which overlooks the Glasgow Cross.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow spoke of the saint in his March 10 homily, Scotland’s Sunday Herald reports.

“He died here in our city. He is an honorary Glaswegian. He belongs to Glasgow. And above all, his blood was shed for Christ here in Glasgow,” he said.

The archbishop noted the national shrine to the saint at St. Aloysius Church and a famous painting of him in Glasgow’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

Archbishop Tartaglia said the saint’s example is important at a time when Catholics face “more subtle forms of restricting religious freedom.”

The Knights of St. Columba have made tentative inquiries to the Glasgow city council and reported finding no significant objections to the proposal. It aims to proceed if there is sufficient public support.

One of the campaigners to recognize the saint is John Patrick Mallon, who heads the Sancta Familia Media group based at Holy Family Church in Mossend in the Diocese of Motherwell. His group made a short film about the saint at the site of his martyrdom at Glasgow Cross.



“I was just really surprised there was nothing to mark it, not even a cross,” Mallon said. The social media campaign had “an amazing response” drawing the interest of hundreds of people.

The saint’s martyrdom inspired the transformation of the Pontifical Scots College into a seminary in 1616. Pope Francis discussed the saint in an April 14, 2016 address to students of the college.  

“The martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie, which was meant to silence the Catholic faith, instead was an impetus for its promotion and for defending the Church’s freedom to remain in communion with the See of Peter,” he said.

“We too are living in a time of martyrdom, and in the midst of a culture so often hostile to the Gospel,” the Roman Pontiff continued. “I urge you to have that same selfless spirit as your predecessors did. Love Jesus above all things!”

Posted: March 23, 2017, 8:31 pm

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 02:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday a Vatican event on the prevention of child abuse narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church's role.

Led by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, he told CNA at the March 23 event that Catholic schools are, of course, a very important part of the Church’s and Commission's ministry.

There are “60 million children in our care in Catholic schools and so this kind of a conference is extremely important for the ministry of the Church,” O'Malley said. “And we were very gratified that so many cardinals made time to be a part of this.”

The seminar was attended by five different cardinals in addition to O'Malley, including Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were also in attendance.

Additionally, every Vatican department was represented in some way.

Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, who heads the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is also a member of the commission, told CNA that it was a “very successful event, in drawing many high ranking members of the Curia, including a number of cardinals…all the dicasteries represented.”

“This is taking shape and the formation that we have offered to dicasteries has also been very fruitful.”

Sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and the Pontifical 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.  

It included a presentation by Kathleen McCormack, Chair of the PCPM Working Group on Education of Families and Communities, and presentations by representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, as well as Australia and Italy.

One participant, Fr. Luigi Gritti, a graduate of a CCP course on child abuse, told CNA that it was important that South America was a focus of the seminar, since the U.S. and Europe are usually the focus when discussing this issue.

“It tells you that the problem is present and acknowledged by the people, but also that something is being done to address the problem. So I think it's a good development,” he said.

The presentations on South America all highlighted the importance of including children: speaking with and listening to them, teaching them about what is safe and appropriate behavior from adults, as well as becoming familiar with the visual and verbal signs that could indicate the occurrence of abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual.

The presenters for each country explained the unique cultural challenges they face in preventing abuse and in handling allegations, as well as what policies are currently in place.

In the presentation on Australia, Francis Sullivan, CEO of Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said that in the end, the question of why the sex abuse crisis happened in our Church comes down to cultural problems and to corruption.

Australia’s sexual abuse crisis has been one of the most shocking and widely known in the Church. Feb. 6, Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its final three-week review of how the Catholic Church in Australia has responded to sex abuse allegations.

Referencing a quote from Pope Francis where he said that we don’t only need to reform the Church, but also the heart, he said that “child sexual abuse has broken the heart of the Church.”

“We have never fully appreciated that the decisions that our leaders made in order to facilitate and cover up (abuse), actually broke the heart of what it means to be Catholic, and we need to go back and fully confront that,” he said.

“Let’s not distract Church leaders from recognizing that this is a Church problem. Sure, it might happen in other institutions, sure, it happens in families. But the fact that it happened within the Catholic Church says something about the corruption within our Church… That we are not true to what we are meant to be.”

Friday the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors begins their next Plenary Assembly, and one of the central topics will be how to ensure that survivors and victims are always the first priority, O’Malley said in his introductory remarks.

“The assembly begins tomorrow and of course that is one of the things we'll be talking about,” he told CNA. A meeting of survivors is planned for June that the commission will also be involved in, he said.

Regarding the participation of survivors, Fr. Zollner told CNA that “we need to be informed by survivors and victims, we need to listen to them, and we need to take into account what has been and is their experience.”

Other topics at the Plenary Assembly will include how the commission will continue after the mandate concludes at the end of the calendar year, he said, and “we will see what are the structural steps, or the development, we will need so that our journey continues,” he said.

Posted: March 23, 2017, 8:22 pm

Charlotte, N.C., Mar 23, 2017 / 09:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new, epic narrative about the life of Mary, Queen of Heaven has just been released with the hope of drawing individuals closer to the Mother of God during the upcoming 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

“We wanted to tell the story of Fatima. But, what the story of Fatima is really is the story of a battle,” Rick Rotondi, Vice President of New Business at Saint Benedict Press, told CNA.

“That battle goes a long way back to the very beginning of the Bible, with enmity with the serpent. It’s a long story and that’s what we are trying to tell: the battle that Our Lady is engaged with in modern times,” he continued.

The new program is titled Queen of Heaven: Mary's Battle for You and was released by Saint Benedict Press only a few weeks ago. The video series is broken down into eight different segments, in a document-style format and is hosted by Leonardo Defilippis, a Shakespearean actor and founder of St. Luke Productions.

Throughout the segments, over a dozen theological experts such as Tim Staples, Fr. Dominic Legge, Dr. Carrie Gress, and Fr. Chris Alar weigh in on the life of the Mother of God. The videos also take viewers around the country to places like the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the World Apostolate of Fatima Shrine, and the St. John Paul II National Shrine, where parts of the program were filmed.

The program was created for group study in parishes, where individuals can come together and learn more about the Queen of Heaven as a parish. However, individual study is possible through the use of DVDs.

“As you go through the program, you are learning about the richness of the Marian devotions and how to incorporate them in your life. That full experience is reserved for the parishes, but individuals will have access to the DVD content and a book,” Rotondi said.

Rotondi, who is also one of the script writers and developers for the program, noted that the whole series took about nine months to complete, and is a unique program unlike any other.

The release of the series at the beginning of March “was very deliberate,” Rotondi explained, saying that the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima was the driving force behind its debut.

“Seventy-five percent of the content is a study of Mary in the Bible and Mariology, the study of Marian doctrine, and even Our Lady of Lourdes and Guadalupe. Twenty-five percent is Fatima,” Rotondi stated.

Since its release only a few weeks ago, Saint Benedict Press has received positive feedback about the series, and they hope it continues to grow.

“It’s in a number of parishes currently, and we are getting very favorable responses,” Rotondi said.

Moving forward, the material for Queen of Heaven is also going to be available in a Spanish edition this summer, and DVDs will be released later this year. A book will also be published this May.

Rotondi believes that the goal behind this new series is “to have a deeper love of Our Lady,” and he hopes this program will be able to draw individuals closer to the Mother of God.

“Our Lady always brings us to her Son. I think a lot of people who will watch this love our Lord already, but may have not yet considered Our Lady in these ways,” Rotondi said.

“The greatness of Our Lord is also revealed fully when you realize what a beautiful Queen he has.”

Posted: March 23, 2017, 3:02 pm

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis approved the second and final miracle needed to canonize Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the shepherd children who witnessed the Fatima Marian apparitions.

The Pope approved the miracle in a March 23 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he advanced six other causes, approving one other miracle, two causes for martyrdom and three of heroic virtue.

In addition, the Pope also approved a positive vote from members of the canonization causes for six martyrs who are already Blessed, but do not yet have a second miracle attributed to them.

However, the most significant of the causes approved is that of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the approval of the second miracle, the two may now be canonized Saints. It is likely Pope Francis will preside over their canonization himself while in Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary of the apparitions.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, were the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church.

The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 14, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness as well. She was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital and operated for an abscess in her chest, but her health did not improve. She died Feb. 20, 1920.

Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, teaching us that even young children can become saints.

In addition to Francisco and Jacinta, the Pope also approved a miracle for Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, allowing for his canonization.

Causes for martyrdom approved by the Pope – meaning they can be beatified – include Fr. Giuseppe Maria Fernández Sánchez and his 32 companions, who were priests and coadjutor brothers of Congregation of the Mission, as well as six laypersons from the Association of the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who were killed in hatred of the faith in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

Another martyrdom cause approved by the Pope was that of Servant of God Regina Maria Vattalil, a Poor Clare nun killed in hatred of the faith in 1995.

The martyrs who were already Blessed but may now be canonized based on the Congregation’s vote are: Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Matteo Moreira, layman, killed in hatred of the Faith in Brazil in 1645, and Cristoforo, Antonio and Giovanni, teenagers, killed in hatred of the Faith in Mexico in 1529.

He also declared the heroic virtue of the following people: Daniele da Samarate, a Capuchin priest; Macrina Raparelli, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Basiliane Daughters of St. Macrina; and Daniela Zanetta, a laywoman.

Posted: March 23, 2017, 12:44 pm

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After four people died in an apparent terrorist attack in London yesterday, Pope Francis has voiced his sorrow and solidarity for the victims and their families, entrusting them and the nation to God’s mercy.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy,” a March 23 letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read.

The Pope commended the souls of those who died “to the loving mercy of Almighty God,” and prayed for “divine strength and peace upon their grieving families,” while assuring of his prayer for the entire nation.

Francis’ letter comes the day after a deadly March 22 attack on London’s Parliament took the lives of four people.

During the attack, a car apparently plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the fence surrounding the Parliament building. The assailant then attempted to enter the Parliament building with a knife, stabbing one police officer before being shot by other officers on the grounds.

According to the Guardian, four people were killed, including the police officer who was stabbed and one man believed to be the assailant. About 20 others were reported injured, some severely.

Nearby government buildings were placed on lockdown while authorities worked to ensure the safety of the area. Scotland Yard said the attack is being treated “as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise.”

The incident marks the first mass-casualty terrorist attack in Britain since the 2005 bomb attack on London that claimed the lives of 52 people when four bombers blew themselves up in the city’s public transportation system.

March 22 also marks the one-year anniversary of the Brussels airport bombings that left more than 30 dead and 300 injured. Those bombings were declared the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium's history.

The use of a vehicle as a weapon yesterday’s London attack is reminiscent of the methods used last year by terrorists in Nice and Berlin.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, issued a March 23 statement to the priests and parishes of his diocese saying yesterday’s attacks “have shocked us all.”

“The kind of violence we have seen all too often in other places has again brought horror and killing to this city,” he said, and urged pastors to lead their people in prayer, particularly for the victims and their families.

He offered special prayers for victim Aysha Frade, who was killed by the car on Westminster Bridge and whose two young children attend the diocese’s St. Mary of the Angels Primary School.

He also offered special prayers for Frade’s husband and a group of French students who were injured in the attack, as well as police officer Keith Palmer, the officer who died, and his family.

“Let our voice be one of prayer, of compassionate solidarity and of calm,” the cardinal said.

“All who believe in God, Creator and Father of every person, will echo this voice, for faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a strength and a foundation on which we depend.”

Posted: March 23, 2017, 12:08 pm
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