Catholic News in the Americas

Mexico City, Mexico, May 22, 2017 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mexican Bishops' Conference offered prayers for journalists as they face increased violence in their efforts to uncover truth.

“The Mexican Bishop's Conference expresses its support and solidarity with journalists throughout Mexico, facing violence attacks in the exercise of their profession,” the bishops said in a May 21 statement.

According to the international journalist advocacy group Reporters without Borders, an estimated 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since the year 2000. This makes Mexico the third most deadly country in the world for journalists, after Syria and Afghanistan, and ahead of Iraq.

So far in 2017 alone, six journalists have been murdered in Mexico.

The most recent was Javier Valdez, shot dead May 15 in Culiacan, Sinoloa. The journalist, a correspondent for “La Jornada” in Sinaloa, had done in-depth reporting on drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico.

In their statement, the Mexican bishops recalled Pope Francis' words that the journalist “has a very important role and at the same time a very great responsibility.”

“Freedom, in the form of expression, is a gift bequeathed by God, so no one has the right to take it away from anyone…there is nothing to justify an attack on that freedom,” they stated.

“We join in prayer that the Lord Jesus may console and alleviate the suffering and the worries that overwhelm the entire profession that today is afraid to do its work, since we are aware that the aggression is being directed at people who are members of the media in general: reporters, cameramen, editors, bureau chiefs, managers, among others.”

The Bishops of Mexico stressed that “hatred and resentment must not be the protagonists in the history of salvation, which is why we speak out in readiness to continue working strenuously to establish peace in our nation.”

“We are aware that only through actions of solidarity is it possible to heal society,” they said.

The Mexican Bishops' Conference reiterated the commitment of the Church in the country to spiritually accompany “the families of the victims of those who have suffered attacks, extortion, kidnappings, murders, because of their reporting work, as a consequence of the social deterioration that prevails in our country.”

“Before God, no one's work is unimportant, especially when it comes to the search for and dissemination of the truth which clearly allows the Kingdom of God to be built up.”

The bishops also called on the civil authorities to ensure “that everyone can exercise their profession in freedom and security, to fight the impunity and corruption which is striking and wounding our country so much.”

“Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, save our homeland an preserve our faith,” they concluded.

Posted: May 22, 2017, 9:22 pm

Fatima, Portugal, May 21, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA).- The photo of a baby dressed up as the pope at the Fatima Shrine rocked social media during Pope Francis' pilgrimage to Portugal for the centenary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

But what many do not know is the moving story behind this tender picture.

Diego Guerreiro is from the Portuguese city of Pinhal Novo, located some 25 miles from the capital, Lisbon. He was born prematurely at 33 weeks, weighed three pounds eleven ounces and measured 16 inches.

Speaking to Tvi24, his mother Carla said that after the birth she could not see her baby. “They had to immediately resuscitate him and take him away to the intensive care unit,” she said.

The little one “had trouble breathing. None of the doctors could explain why he was struggling to breathe so much,” said Carla, who has another seven-year-old son.

She said that Diego was in the Santa Maria Hospital for 76 days, where he experienced both many improvements and setbacks in his health. The baby spent half that time in neonatal intensive care with respiratory assistance.

MiniPope is doing the rounds on social media. Born premature, mother promised to bring him to #Fatima100 if he lived. Grandma made costume

— Filipe d'Avillez (@Favillez) May 12, 2017 The evening of the day he was to be discharged, Diego again had a severe reversal and was returned to intensive care. At that time, Carla asked Pope Francis to intercede for her son and promised that when the pontiff went to Fatima on May 12-13, she would bring the baby to the shrine.

On Thursday May 11, they arrived at Fatima and spent the night in their car in order to go to the Shrine at 8:00 a.m. the following day. They got a place near the security barrier installed along the route where the popemobile would pass.

For this occasion, the mother and the grandmother had the idea of dressing him up like Pope Francis. They both searched the Internet for a pattern that “would be easy to make” and the grandmother sewed the outfit.

To complete the ensamble, Carla put around his neck a rosary that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave to the baby's father when he was at the Fatima Shrine as part of the security detail of the pontiff.

Diego is still having problems, with his mother saying “actually he can faint at any moment.” Meanwhile, she remains steadfast and alert to help her son when needed.

Posted: May 21, 2017, 9:02 am

San Salvador, El Salvador, May 19, 2017 / 01:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A nearly 40 year-old murder case was reopened this week to properly prosecute the suspected killer behind the Salvadorian archbishop's martyrdom.

Because of an amnesty law that prohibited the prosecution of criminal acts stemming from the El Salvador Civil War, the alleged murderer of Archbishop Oscar Romero was never convicted of any crime. The law was lifted last year by the country’s constitutional court, reopening cases from 1980 to 1992.

Judge Ricardo Chicas reopened the case on Thursday and ordered that charges be sought against the main suspect, whose case was dismissed in 1993 because of the amnesty law.

Alvaro Rafael Saravia was a soldier and is the main suspect tied to a right-wing death squad who killed the priest at a hospital in San Salvador. Blessed Romero was killed while saying mass at the hospital’s chapel. The archbishop was well known for preaching against the country’s poverty and corruption from the pulpit.

Social and economic inequality of the 1970s resulted in demonstrations and rebellions against the El Salvador government. The protests were encountered by government repression, leading to death squads and forced disappearances. Pro-government forces fought against left-wing guerilla groups from 1979 to 1992.

The El Salvadoran Civil War claimed an estimated 75,000 lives before a peace agreement was established in 1992.

Many of the clergy spoke against El Salvador’s inhumane practices, and many Catholic leaders faced backlash once they denounced the government. Blessed Romero especially decried both the social injustices which heavily oppressed the poor and the military's oppressive tactics.

Blessed Romero became exceedingly outspoken once a close friend and teacher to the archbishop was gunned down by military forces on the way to Mass. Before he died in 1980, 30 priests in his archdiocese were either murdered or expelled from the state, and many more lay faithful were subject to the same fate.

Investigation into Archbishop Romero’s canonization officially opened in 1993, but was delayed until the early 2000s because of complex politics and false reports. In January of 2015, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints unanimously recognized the priest as martyr due to the hatred towards the faith identified within the act, and Pope Francis approved for the beatification a month later.

Posted: May 19, 2017, 7:14 pm

Toronto, Canada, May 18, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Legalized euthanasia must still be fought – and that fight requires a broad argument that can persuade people of all beliefs, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller told a Canadian audience May 15.

Euthanasia is not only wrong in itself, but its legalization creates “toxic and deadly pathologies that disproportionately afflict the weakest members of society,” the cardinal told the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute at a gathering at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.

A clear understanding of legal assisted suicide’s individual and social wrongs is needed to persuade Canadians to take the steps to reverse the “dangerous legal error” of the Canadian Supreme Court and Parliament, which recently legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide nationwide.

He voiced confidence that all persons of good will should be able to see “the profound and inevitable social harms that fall disproportionately on the weak and vulnerable when euthanasia is legalized.”

“The goodness of a society can be measured by how well it treats and protects its weakest and most vulnerable members,” he said. “Nations that legalize euthanasia fail to care rightly for the least of our brothers and sisters.”

In Cardinal Mueller's view, the prudential argument against euthanasia is the most powerful argument in a pluralistic society that can persuade people of all religious beliefs, including those without religious beliefs.

He found an example of such persuasion in early 1990s New York. A commission called the New York Task Force on Life and Law had been convened by then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. The commission began its work expecting to recommend legal assisted suicide.

“But when they studied the question carefully and dispassionately, they quickly realized that the toxic and deadly social pathologies that would inevitably accompany legalization were too grave and severe to justify such a course of action,” he said.

“The committee recommended that assisted suicide and euthanasia should remain illegal, because decriminalizing these practices would inexorably lead to: grave and lethal new forms of fraud, abuse, coercion and discrimination against the disabled, poor, elderly, and minorities; deadly forms of coercion by insurers and faithless family members; corrosion of the doctor-patient relationship; an eventual shift to non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia; and widespread neglect of treatment for mental illness and pain management.”

The cardinal cited the commission's own words:

“We believe that the practices would be profoundly dangerous for large segments of the population, especially in light of the widespread failure of American medicine to treat pain adequately or to diagnose and treat depression in many cases. The risks would extend to all individuals who are ill,” it said. They would be most severe for those whose autonomy and well-being are already compromised by poverty, lack of access to good medical care, or membership in a stigmatized social group.”

The commission said the risks of legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia for marginalized groups are “likely to be extraordinary” given that the health care system and society “cannot effectively protect against the impact of inadequate resources and ingrained social disadvantage.”

According to the cardinal, the New York task force was particularly struck by the situation in the Netherlands at the time, where there was one case of killing without consent for every three or four who died in consensual euthanasia. The commission projected that if euthanasia were similarly practiced in the U.S., about 36,000 people would die in voluntary euthanasia per year and another 16,000 would be victims of non-consensual euthanasia.

As an example of involuntary euthanasia, the cardinal cited reports from the Netherlands in which “a doctor surreptitiously euthanized a nun over her objections, and justified it on the grounds that she was mistaken about her best interests due to an irrational and superstitious commitment to religious belief.”

In U.S. states where euthanasia has been legalized, there have been cases of insurance companies that offer to pay for assisted suicide drugs rather than pay for costly medical treatment. Family members have also pressured patients into choosing suicide.

The cardinal distinguished assisted suicide and euthanasia from aggressive pain treatment, which aims to eliminate suffering through potentially risky means, not to kill the patient.

He said assisted suicide or direct killing are deceptively described as “aid in dying.” This is “a fabricated expression whose only rhetorical function is to conceal the very nature of the death-dealing action it describes.”

“The use of euphemism or obscure terminology in issues involving life and death should always alert us to an effort to hide the truth,” Cardinal Mueller said.

He countered justification for assisted suicide that claims that euthanasia only affects the patient and people are entitled to choose the time and manner of their death.  

“Anyone who has ever experienced the suicide of a loved one or even a casual acquaintance knows the profound effects this can have on entire communities,” he said, citing the demonstrated risks of suicide spreading like a “contagion.”

Euthanasia is not self-contained, as it affects families and communities and alters the medical community’s relationship to patients and the public.

Suicidal patients are often not in a position to exercise autonomy, and suicidal desires often depart once mental illness and pain are effectively treated.

“This is true even among the terminally ill,” he said.
The cardinal defended doctors and nurses who could face coercion for refusing to participate in euthanasia.

“ No one who trains and takes an oath to care for the sick should be pressed into ending the lives of the very people that they have promised to serve,” he said, saying that refusal to aid in euthanasia “represents basic fidelity to the very medical art that the physician professes.”

Cardinal Mueller said church teaching on euthanasia is accessible and enduring.

“The Catholic Church has long recognized that every human being, no matter his or her condition or circumstance, is possessed of inalienable and equal dignity,” he said. “This beautiful truth about the human person and his matchless worth is intelligible and self evident to every person of good will, regardless of faith tradition.”

The cardinal cited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia, which said that making an attempt on the life of an innocent person opposes God’s love for the person.

While there are psychological factors that diminish or remove moral responsibility, to take one’s own life is “often a refusal of love for self, the denial of a natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one's neighbor, to various communities or to the whole of society.”

Posted: May 18, 2017, 6:02 am

Mexico City, Mexico, May 17, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mexico archdiocese's newspaper Desde la Fe wrote an editorial decrying the “disastrous situation in Mexico” as the country ranks number two in a report on the world's most violent nations.

In its recent analysis, the International Institute for Strategic Studies ranked Mexico second on a list of the incidence of violent homicides.

The institute said that in 2016 Mexico was one place above Iraq and one place below Syria, with 26,000 deaths linked to cases of violence.

The Catholic weekly warned that “the collateral consequences” of the violence the country is going through “can already be seen in the victims of crimes, who have suffered serious violations of their human rights or injuries to their physical integrity and heritage.”

“Mexico began to create lost generations, the result of an undeclared war; with thousands as victims, whose situation in the justice system is far from having a satisfactory solution,” the editorial wrote.

Desde la Fe also emphasized the “high incidence of disappearances in the country,” citing the National Registry of Data on Lost or Missing Persons which stated that as of October 2016 there were approximately 30,000 missing persons. The Mexican states recording the highest percentage of disappearances are Tamaulipas, México, Jalisco and Sinaloa.

“Our history is at a very painful turning point,” Desde la Fe wrote.

It noted that the Mexican Bishops' Conference said that victims and persons gone missing by violence “are a serious problem that neither the authorities, the Church, nor civil society can ignore” and they need “a public pronouncement go along with their indignation.”

The victims and missing persons, the editorial added, “also expect to know the truth and have effective reparation of the harm done, things that don't have clarity or consistency in the Mexican State, which seems rather broken in the face of fear and terror.”

Desde la Fe recalled the study “We are all missing the disappeared” – published by the Mexican Bishops' Conference and the Mexican Institute on Christian Social Doctrine earlier this month – which described some of the measures taken by the Church in the country to assist victims of violence.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City pointed out that “what the study demonstrates is worrisome since it reveals that in Mexico we live in a state of disaster.”

Posted: May 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

Mexico City, Mexico, May 17, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Mexican priest is in “delicate but stable” condition after being stabbed in the neck Monday evening at Mexico City’s cathedral, according to government and church authorities.

Father José Miguel Machorro Alcalá, 55, was stabbed in the neck and torso May 15 at the conclusion of saying Mass at the cathedral.

Witnesses reported that it appeared the attacker's intention was to slit the priest’s throat.

Authorities detained a suspect at the scene who had reportedly attempted to flee the cathedral. The suspect has been identified as John Rock Schild, who identified himself as an artist from the United States. He is believed to be about 30 years of age.


Afortunadamente la policía detuvo al agresor!

— Padre José Aguilar (@PadreJosedejesu) May 16, 2017  

At a news conference, the lawyer of the Archdiocese of Mexico, Armando Martínez, asked for prayers for the priest and said the motive for the attack was still unclear.

"We cannot talk about terrorism, we cannot talk about motives, because we obviously have no significant facts," he said.

In a radio interview Tuesday morning, archdiocesan spokesman Hugo Valdemar said the attack occurred as Fr. Machorro was blessing the congregation with holy water. He said the priest suffered severe injuries to his neck and near his lung.

Fr. Machorro was transferred by helicopter to a private hospital. He was operated on, and is now stable but in intensive care, according to the Mexico City archdiocese.

Masses at the cathedral are continuing at regularly scheduled hours.

The attack is one of many recent attacks against priests in Mexico. Drug trafficking has led to increased murder and kidnapping in the country. In recent years, 17 priests have been murdered and many others have been kidnapped or assaulted.


Posted: May 17, 2017, 12:04 pm

Mexico City, Mexico, May 15, 2017 / 03:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four representatives from Courage International, Inc. – a Catholic ministry which supports those who experience homosexual inclinations in choosing chastity – participated in the Mexican Bishops’ Conference plenary assembly last month.

Courage was among a handful of apostolates at the April 25-28 plenary assembly, which took place in Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico State.

“The accompaniment that Courage provides is a gift of Divine Providence, and it offers what very few of us do: that spiritual and human companionship which helps our brothers and sisters on their path to holiness and a real experience of faith,” said Bishop Ramón Castro of Cuernavaca, México.

“It is very important that, with enthusiasm, courage, and the Gospel in hand, we enlighten the lives of many brothers and sisters who need to be accompanied along this path.”

Fr. Philip Bochanski, executive director of the organization, was present at the assembly, along with Fr. Don Wainwright, Courage-Latino coordinator and the chaplain who initiated the apostolate in Mexico, and Rossana Goni, coordinator for Courage-Latino and EnCourage in the United States.

Andres, a Courage member from Chihuahua State, also attended and addressed the bishops’ conference, saying “the Church has been in my life through Courage.”

“I know now that I am not alone. I have my brothers in the apostolate who listen to me, correct me and help me; I can talk about all of this without feeling judged and I am able to find friendships which help me to grow in all matters of life,” he said.

Started in 1980, Courage now has more than 100 chapters and 1500 members in 14 countries. A companion group, EnCourage, supports families and friends of persons with homosexual inclinations. Both groups have received canonical status in the Church as a diocesan clerical public association of the faithful.


Posted: May 15, 2017, 9:50 pm

Caracas, Venezuela, May 11, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Garbage dumps have become “a regular place for people to eat” in Venezuela, says a local priest lamenting the nation's increasingly dire economic and political crisis.

“There's a lot of suffering,” Fr. Victor Salomon, a priest who works in the Archdiocese of Caracas, told CNA.

“This has been something commonly seen. It is really something very painful because the people are really in great need.”

Riots have spiked in Venezuela in recent years, resulting from unemployment, food and medicine shortages, and President Nicolás Maduro's authoritarian policies.

Price controls in 2003 caused inflation rates to sky rocket on basic necessities, baring the access of food and medicines to the people. Poor socialist policies have effected an estimated 160 products, and while they remain affordable on the shelf, they are soon swept off and sold on the black market at a triple digit inflation rate.

Violent riots have fluctuated since the death of the previous president Hugo Chavez in 2013, but gained even more traction after opposition leaders were arrested last year and Maduro's attempt for more power by dissolving the legislature in March of this year.

Speaking to CNA, Fr. Salomon said that repression has intensified since President Maduro announced the convocation of a Constitutional Assembly.

In that regard, he said that “some very painful scenes have come out, for example armored vehicles running over some of the protesters, or even people from the National Guard with a repression never seen before, firing at point blank range at those who are protesting. It's really very painful.”

The priest said that Venezuelans do not want more violence, shortages or “more violations of the constitution and human rights.”

Pope Francis recently sent a message to the country's bishops, urging them to continue promoting a culture of encounter.

“Dear brothers, I wish to encourage you to not allow the beloved children of Venezuela to allow themselves to be overcome by distrust or despair since these are evils that sink into the hearts of people when they do not see future prospects,” the Pope said May 5.

“I am persuaded that Venezuela's serious problems can be solved if there is the desire to establish bridges, to dialogue seriously and to comply with the agreements that were reached.”

Posted: May 11, 2017, 9:02 am

St. Catharines, Canada, May 10, 2017 / 10:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic school district in southern Ontario has responded to complaints after its cancellation of a play about gender identity for elementary students because of age-appropriateness concerns.

The play was created and performed by Carousel Playhouse, a company with which the Niagara Catholic District School Board, which serves the St. Catharines-Niagara area, has partnered for 45 years.

The play in question, Boys, Girls and Other Mythological Creatures, was booked in five elementary schools in the school district. But after one performance last week the other schools cancelled their performances, all citing scheduling conflicts.

Carousel Players artistic director Jessica Carmichael published an open letter on the theater’s website last week, stating that she feared the cancellations were “based on misinformation, grown out of fear, intolerance, transphobia, homophobia and misogyny.”

The Niagara Catholic District School Board responded this week, saying that the play was cancelled because school professionals believed the material of the play was inappropriate for a primarily elementary school audience.

The school argues that the content and storyline of the play was not fully disclosed in the advertising, and that it was marketed as a fairytale play rather than as a play about an 8 year old boy who questions his gender identity.

According to the school district, the description of the play stated: “Deep in Simon’s basement is a secret world of imagination and adventure - where a young prince can transform into mythological creatures! Simon invites new neighbour Abby to help save a princess in a battle against a fire-breathing dragon. Meanwhile, in reality, Simon’s older brother Zach’s not so sure about all this dressing up and fairy tale business…A thoughtful and hilarious new play about our ability to transform!”

Because of the previous relationship with the company, the district did not review the play beyond the description.

“Following the first performance of the play, it was brought to the attention of the Program Department that the play was not age-appropriate for a predominantly primary audience. Further, it was not originally presented as a play about gender identity and the contents of the play required both pre-performance and post-performance discussion with students to prepare and discuss how the play’s message aligns with various curriculum expectations, including the Health and Physical Education Curriculum,” the district said.

“The decision to defer showing the play ... was to afford time for further discussion and preparation with age-appropriate students and how the message links to curriculum expectations. It is unfortunate that Carousel Players did not provide a synopsis of the play that fully disclosed the content and storyline.”

In an interview with a local radio program, Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco said that the district is fully inclusive and compliant with education guidelines, and that is has a responsibility to decide what is age appropriate for its students. He added that because of the misadvertising, teachers and school officials did not have time to inform parents ahead of time of the play’s content.

“We have a responsibility to students and their families first, to ensure that we teach and provide opportunities such as presentations and plays that are age appropriate and consistent with our Gospel values,” he said. “...our staff felt that the play went beyond the description and the expectations, and it was beyond the accepting of differences.”

“It’s important to remember that there’s no expectation or requirement to have this play performed in our schools to meet any curriculum requirements … and we have the ability to decide if it’s performed or not,” he added.

Crocco said that additional conversations would be needed with the Carousel Players about the miscommunication about the play’s storyline and content.

In their statement, the district board said that it will continue to ensure a “safe, inclusive and accepting climate of respect, dignity and trust, consistent with the Gospel Values.”

It added that it still plans to work with Carousel Players in the future.

“It is our hope that with this learning opportunity for both Carousel Players and Niagara Catholic, we can engage Carousel Players in a further discussion about future offerings, how we can design pre- and post-discussions with students, inform parents about the content of the play and ensure that it is a rich and safe learning opportunity for all students. We look forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with Carousel Players in the future.”

Posted: May 11, 2017, 4:04 am

Regina, Canada, May 7, 2017 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Saskatchewan government has said it will seek a temporary exemption to block a judge’s ruling that could force up to 10,000 students out of Catholic schools because they are not Catholic.

“We support school choice, including public, separate and faith-based schools,” Premier Brad Wall said, adding, “We will defend school choice for students and parents.”

He responded to a ruling that barred taxpayer funding for non-Catholic students at Catholic schools. Besides the Catholic schools, the ruling could affect 26 other faith-based schools, including a school for Muslim students.

Premier Wall said that the use of the exemption, called a notwithstanding clause, will protect the rights of students and parents “to choose the schools that work best for their families, regardless of their religious faith.”

The notwithstanding clause allows Canadian provinces to create laws that operate in spite of charter rights that the laws appear to violate. The temporary use of the clause can be renewed every five years.

On April 20, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh ruled that any provincial government funding would violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the state’s duty of religious neutrality, and equality rights.

The decision concerned a lawsuit between a public school division and the Christ the Teacher Catholic Separate School Division.

It challenged the creation of a separate school division in 2003 in the village of Theodore, 130 miles northeast of Regina, before the village’s public school closed.

Some parents of non-Catholic students decided to send their children to the local Catholic school instead of busing them to a public school in another town.

The local public school division filed a legal complaint against the Catholic school division and the provincial government in 2005. The complaint charged that the funding was unconstitutional and wrongly put the Catholic school in the role of a public school. Funding of non-Catholic students at the Catholic school constituted discrimination against public schools, the complaint said.

The complaint also charged that a new school division was wrongly created to prevent the public school from closing.

The ruling was to have taken effect in July 2018.

Leader of the Opposition Trent Wotherspoon backed the government’s use of the notwithstanding clause, but said the government should have mediated a solution during the long period in which the case was considered by the courts.

The notwithstanding clause was last invoked in the year 2000, when Quebec used the clause in laws involving religious schools and schools for indigenous students. The Alberta province also invoked the clause.




Posted: May 7, 2017, 9:28 am

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, May 5, 2017 / 09:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the Cuban bishops' ad limina meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday, one of the nation's bishops commented that the island is eagerly awaiting change.

“Cuba is waiting for change. Some changes happen faster than others, but we Cubans, whatever our personal ideas may be, realize that the people can live in better spiritual and material conditions, and that things must change,” Archbishop Dionisio García Ibáñez of Santiago de Cuba told Vatican Radio May 4.

“They are economic and social changes, which necessarily go together … There are cultural changes which are rather rapid, especially among the youth who have familiarity with digital means of communication and have another mode of thinking. This makes the world come to Cuba and come to know better its reality. Political change is also to be expected: it is the structures, and above all the legal one, which have to change.”

Cultural change has been the most visible effect of the opening between the United States and Cuba, Archbishop García commented, saying that “there are now more possibilities for travelling abroad, and tourists can more easily come to Cuba. Although it is still limited, the population has a greater access to new communications technologies and this produces a cultural change which is the condition for any other change, because it makes it possible for persons to chance their own criteria for judgement.”

He said there has been a change for the Church in that “there is a better understanding of religion, and the people can express their own faith.”

“Cubans are a religious people, but we also see there is little faith formation. For us bishops, it is a difficult problem to face. However, we are a creative Church which has been close to its people and who is now witnessing their faith.”

Archbishop García also noted that  “we have vocations, although there are not enough. Thanks be to God, we have fidei donum missionaries, both diocesan and religious, but we still need more. But I would like to say that any missionary who come to Cuba and who wishes to work, has much to do because he finds receptive persons.”

An important and positive change for the bishops has been an easing of permits for visas and residency for missionaries, he added: “The situation has changed a lot. I can say that now there are no more obstacles than before, because when a bishop asks for an entry visa for a missionary he does not encounter problems.”

Asked about the buildings the Church is recovering, the bishop said that “this process has just begun. It's already a positive thing. In certain dioceses they have returned some buildings, but it's a slow process.”

“We are working with the state in order that, after 50 years in which the population has grown, we might be able to have the places for worship that we need.”

While they wait for this to move forward, the archbishop explained, “we have houses of prayer, that is, the faithful make their homes available for their communities to gather there. There aren't parish churches with their pastoral buildings, but nevertheless the Church lives.”

Posted: May 5, 2017, 3:04 pm

Lima, Peru, May 3, 2017 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a radio interview for the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, a cardinal from Peru discussed the sanctification of work and outlined a typical day in his own life.

“How many hours does a cardinal work?” asked journalist Miguel Humberto Aguirre. “I think all of them,” replied Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima.

In his weekly Saturday radio program on station RPP April 29, Cardinal Cipriani said that his day usually starts at 5:00 a.m. and normally ends around 10 or 11 at night.

He said that he gets up “early to be able to pray because there's a moment for prayer, for the Divine Office where there won't be phone calls or interruptions. So you try to do it first thing in the morning. Very early, I go into the chapel and many times I celebrate Mass” at that time.

Then, the archbishop continued, “comes work itself, and part of the work is to be informed about what's going on in the country and the world, that is, to read news about the Pope, things about Peru,” and other topics.

Then comes “the office like anybody else: people who want me to bless their house, people who are going to get married, people with some difficulty, times to meet with priests who want to talk, I go to a hospital to bless a facility, I talk with a person who has a problem in their home life, and so on.”

Cardinal Cipriani also said that an important part of his daily work is that spent “praying the Rosary or reading a little theology to keep up to date.”

“I also have to go and attend social obligations. Sometimes a family invites you to some anniversary.” In the end, he reflected, “you spend the entire day serving. My time is for others, I don't have my own time.”

“That's the way it is for everybody,” he continued. “In the case of a married man, your time is for your wife, your children and your grandchildren, you don't close yourself off.”

At the end of the day, he said, “to relax a little bit, I watch NBA basketball.” The cardinal himself was part of Peru's national basketball team in the 1960s.

The cardinal also touched on the idea of sanctifying our work, pointing to St. Joseph as the patron in this regard.

The first key in seeking to sanctify work is to perform one’s tasks well, whatever they may be. “So right now we're working on the radio, let's do it right,” he told the radio host as an example. “May the people listen to us and say ‘it helped me, it was well done, it gave us some insights, it's been inspirational for us’.”

Similarly, he went on, “the person who plays soccer should play it well, try to score goals, try to win. The person who's in Congress should try to make proper laws, study the issues, attend your meetings. Do you work well.”

“We spend a lot of time engaged in our work, whether it's at the office or at home. From the time we have breakfast and get ready, and then when we come back home and take care of the kids. We have to find God there,” he emphasized.

The second key to sanctifying work is found in the virtues, Cardinal Cipriani said.

“And you who are working, how to do you live out honesty, joy, generosity, justice, patience?” he reflected. “Do you do your work because the boss is looking, or do you do it knowing that you must do it well?”

“I sanctify myself if I do the work well, and if I do it before my Creator and my Father,” he emphasized.

Posted: May 3, 2017, 6:06 am

Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2017 / 12:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the context of their 103rd Full Assembly, the Mexican Bishops Conference released a statement on the suffering on migrants, calling for efforts to fight corruption and promote a dignified life.

In a communiqué released April 27, the Mexican bishops said that “we hear in the suffering of the migrant the voice of God which, like a cry, is calling out to our hearts and invites us to action.”

It is the cry, they said, “of those driven by poverty or violence to leave behind their homes, to work honestly and contribute to the development of the country they have come to, but on their way and even in their destination, they are obliged to live in the shadows, suffering isolation, mistreatment, racism and exploitation.”

“The cry of those who are detained… the dramatic cry of the children and their parents who see their family ripped apart by deportations.”

It is “the cry of maladjustment and the helplessness of those repatriated who have to start over their lives. These are truncated lives and dreams. These are traumas and resentments that can fuel violence.”

“The cry of all of them is the cry of all of us as a Church. It's our cry! And, if we are human, it ought to be everyone's cry,” the Mexican bishops said.

They emphasized that the suffering of migrants “requires us to overcome the isolation of individualism that makes us vulnerable…we will only respond to this cry when we work together for a decent life for everyone.”

Everyone should have access to “an education that forms persons and citizens,” as well as “the opportunity for a decent job and a fair wage,” they added.

“And so it is urgent to fight corruption and impunity in any environment, since these things destroy trust, limit commitment and inhibit development,” they said.

“Although some voices are sowing pessimism and discouragement, we Christians are encouraged by the light of the Risen Christ, who has conquered evil and death,” the Mexican bishops said.

They noted that “the efforts of many men and women encourage us with their personal integrity, their family life and their creative service for their neighbor, (they) make it possible for this Mexican society to not remain in darkness.”



Posted: May 2, 2017, 6:35 am

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 30, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA).- Esmeralda Solís Gonzáles is a young Mexican woman who was crowned last year as a beauty queen in her native town – and now she's joined the Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament.

Twenty-year old Gonzáles has watched her story go viral over the last week on social media over a post on the Miss Mexico Facebook page.

Esmeralda was born April 12, 1997 in Valle de Guadalupe, Jalisco State, to a Catholic family. She currently resides at the convent of the Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament of Cuernavaca in Morelos State, after leaving her career as a nutritionist.

“You really don't know what religious life is until you're within it. So far I have been able to see from another perspective what the world is and what it offers you,” Esmeralda told CNA.

“I was very happy with everything I had, but it does not compare with the happiness that God now places in my heart.”

The young postulant met the Poor Clare Missionaries some five years ago at 14, when her concern for a religious vocation “was awakening” through “vocational days, missions and camps.”

In addition, she pointed out how it was hardly a month after this process of discernment concluded  when on March 2017 she gave her first yes to her vocation on the Feast of the Annunciation.

“God's timing is perfect. During this time (of discernment) he allowed me to have some experiences such as being a beauty queen, and other experiences, which forever left their mark and which allowed me to learn a lot for what was to come later.”

The discovery of the vocation to which she had been called was always present in her life like a “little thorn,” Esmeralda said.

“I realized that I had to make room in my life to know what it was that God had planned for me. In the process of discerning my vocation there was also fear and doubts, but the love that Our Lord was showing every day made me overcome any feeling of discouragement,” she said.

Esmeralda said she had discovered that God was calling her “to serve him in a radical way,” that is, changing her “life to embrace the cross of Christ and live it more closely.”

“I have been in religious life very little time, but I truly have been very happy,” she said.

In order to discover her vocation, Esmeralda spent a lot of time in prayer and charity, “knowing from the outside or from the world” what this change would involve.

“Change is hard for the family because it involves detachment, but I have always had the the support of my parents, siblings and true friends. Even though I could have developed myself in some other setting, I feel that if the Lord needs me then I can bear fruit in a different way,” she told CNA.

Esmeralda had a few words for young people and said that in any vocation they will find difficulties, “but if you go and take God's hand, you'll always be able to take the next step.”

“In religious life every new day is a new beginning and a new opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. This involves making a lot of sacrifices but they are always rewarded with happiness,” she said.

The young novice also said that it is true that “the reality and the supposed happiness that the world sells  is very attractive” but “it is necessary to fix your eyes on what lasts.”

“You mustn't be afraid. If God is calling you, he'll take care of everything. All you need to do is receive him with a lot of peace, joy and confidence. I believe fear is a big excuse that is responsible for truncating the true happiness that only God can offer,” she said.

The Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament are a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right founded by Blessed María Inés Teresa Arias in 1945 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

The spirit of the Institute is Eucharistic, Marian, priestly, missionary, and is centered on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The missionaries work in clinics, youth groups, preschools and schools, university dorms, centers for the spiritual exercises, missions, among others. They are present in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, the United States, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Russia, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Vietnam and India.

Posted: April 30, 2017, 9:02 am

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 28, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Italian priest Sante Babolin said that Satan is behind several recent attacks in various parts of the world against the Virgin Mary, noting that she is a powerful advocate for him during exorcisms.

“In my experience – so far I have performed 2,300 rites of exorcism – I can say that the invocation of the Most Holy Virgin Mary often provokes significant reactions in the person being exorcized,” he told Mexican weekly Desde la Fe.

Fr. Babolin, who also taught at the Gregorian University in Rome, said that “in face of the failure of the onslaught by non-believers, now, in order to offend and confound the Catholic people, the Virgin Mary, whom the devil hates, is being attacked.”

Desde la Fe noted the recent events of the Spanish drag queen Borja Casillas, who masqueraded as the Virgin Mary and mocked her in a performance, as well as a woman who dressed up as the Virgin Mary and simulated an abortion during a protest in Argentina.

The Italian exorcist said that “as proof of this hatred” of the devil toward the Mother of God, “while I was insistently invoking the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the devil answered me: 'I can't stand That One (Mary) any more and neither can I stand you any more.'”

Fr. Babolin also noted that “the Second Vatican Council declares that Mary, daughter of Adam, in accepting the divine message, became the Mother of Jesus, and embracing with her whole heart and without the hindrance of any sin the saving will of God, consecrated herself totally, as the servant of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son.”

The priest pointed out the passage in the book of Genesis – which is evoked in the Rite of Exorcism – where God says to the serpent that “she will crush your head.”  

In this ritual, he said, the exorcist says to the devil: “Most cunning serpent, you shall no more dare to deceive the human race, persecute the Church, torment God's elect and sift them as wheat (...) The sacred Sign of the Cross commands you, as does also the power of the mysteries of the Christian Faith (...) The glorious Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, commands you; she who by her humility and from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception crushed your proud head.”

Fr. Babolin also said that “the strongest reactions” of the devil during the exorcism occur “when references are made to her apparitions.”

Because of this, he frequently pronounces the name of Holy Mary with her titles of Lourdes, Fatima or Guadalupe. In the latter case, he said, “I use this formula: 'Holy Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Tepeyac.'”

The exorcist warned that “the instrument the (the devil) normally uses to trap us is money, since it offers the possibility of satisfying the impulses that converge in pleasure and power.”

Satan “subjugates us to himself manipulating the truth and offering us his dazzling light, showing us his version of 'freedom' and promising us the instant gratification of our whims.”

“As far as interpersonal communication, the sense of sight overtakes the sense of hearing; and consequently the image over the word; that is to say, desire precedes reflection,” he said.

Fr. Babolin encouraged Catholics to denounce attacks on the faith as well as to organize and participate in prayer events, pray the Rosary, and participate in Masses at places where offenses were committed.

Posted: April 28, 2017, 9:02 am
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