Catholic News in the Americas

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 25, 2017 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Unidentified persons set off an explosive today at the headquarters of the Mexican Bishops' Conference (CEM) in Mexico City. No one was injured, according to a conference spokesman.

A security camera video shared by Bishop Ramon Castro of Cuernavaca shows footage from inside the building of the moment the explosive went off outside the facilities.

“The headquarters of the Mexican Bishops' Conference has been attacked with a three cylinder explosive device,” Bishop Castro said.

“I believe this reflects the situation in Mexico,” he added.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">La sede de la Conferencia Episcopal Mexicana ha sufrido un atentado con bomba molotv de 3 cilindros.Creo que eso refleja la situación de Mex <a href="https://t.co/YTtPq3HoBJ">pic.twitter.com/YTtPq3HoBJ</a></p>&mdash; Mons. Ramón Castro (@MonsRamonCastro) <a href="https://twitter.com/MonsRamonCastro/status/889872150546366464">July 25, 2017</a></blockquote>
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The conference’s press office director, Aramando Cavazos, explained in a statement that “today in the early hours of the morning, around 1:50 a.m., an unknown type of explosive device was placed at the main door of the CEM building.”

He indicated the explosion only caused “material damage to that door” and said that “no one outside or inside” was injured.

“The pertinent investigations are taking place, as apparently this is not the first case occurring in that area of Mexico City,” he said.

Posted: July 25, 2017, 8:30 pm

Santiago, Chile, Jul 25, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- This Aug. 15 will mark 90 years since the Sacramentine Sisters of Don Orione were founded to offer something very particular for the salvation of the world: their blindness.

They are a community of blind nuns consecrated to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and wear a distinctive white habit, a red scapular, and a white Host embroidered on the chest.

“I intend to offer with this new branch of the religious family, as a flower before the throne of the Blessed Virgin, so that she herself, with her blessed hands, offer it to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” Saint Luigi Orione told them when he founded the order in Italy Aug. 15, 1927.

This branch of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity (LMSC) has as its mission, according to its constitutions, to offer to God “the privation of sight for those who do not know the truth yet so that they may come to God, the light of the world.”

In addition they seek to support with Eucharistic Adoration and sacrifice “the apostolic action of the LMSC and the Sons of Divine Providence,” the two congregations founded by Saint Luigi Orione.

The congregation is present in Italy, Spain, the Philippines, Kenya, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

They have been in Chile since 1943 and currently there are three sisters there: Sr. María Luz Ojeda, Sr. Elizabeth Sepúlveda, and Sr. María Pía Urbina, who is on mission in the Philippines at the moment.

These sisters attend computer classes to be able to bring before the Blessed Sacrament the numerous petitions they receive from many faithful through their Facebook account, where they offer to pray for each intention they receive.

Sr. María Luz Ojeda had an accident when she was a child which left her with severe vision problems which gradually increased until at 30 years of age she completely lost her sight.

“Sometimes I personally thank God, since because of this I was able to enter the congregation. Before the Blessed Sacrament I often tell the Lord: 'this is my means of helping you save souls,' and I'm happy,” Sr. María Luz told CNA.

The religious sister explained that “every day in our prayer and Adoration we present to the Lord the poverty, sufferings, and sorrows of humanity.”

“Perhaps what I am going to say may seem like I'm claiming too much  but I am going to have this to present to the Lord on the day he calls me, that I helped him save souls,” Sr. María Luz said.

The sisters dedicate each day of the week for a special intention: Mondays for the sick, Tuesday for young people, Wednesdays for peace, Thursdays for vocations, Fridays for the elderly, Saturdays for children, and Sundays for families.

Posted: July 25, 2017, 12:08 pm

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jul 24, 2017 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- When Matt Hohler was in college in 2010, he was a reluctant Catholic - and not a coffee drinker. 

That year, his mom gave him a trip to a college Catholic conference as a Christmas gift. It was a conference with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, which annually draws several thousands of college students seeking to know more about their faith. 

Hohler was not thrilled. 

“I remember being a bit sour about it,” he told CNA. “I remember thinking I don’t really wanna go, I thought it wasn’t cool.” 

But he went anyway, had a great time, and came back with a pull on his heart to go on a FOCUS mission trip to Honduras, “even though I remember not even knowing where Honduras was at the time,” he recalled. 

He signed up for the trip, and the week he spent with FOCUS teaching catechesis in Honduras “was mind-bending to say the least.” 

What struck him most was the Honduras people’s extreme generosity amidst the experience of extreme poverty. 

“They just gave everything they had, and they had nothing,” Hohler said.

That fascination with Honduras and desire to help those in need continued to grow, and eventually Hohler returned for a year to volunteer as an English teacher, a job he found through a connection from the trip. 

That year, he came home for Christmas break and was hanging out at grandma’s house before the rest of the family arrived.  

While they waited, Hohler’s grandmother pulled him into a hallway, where there had been a statue of the Virgin Mary for as long as Hohler could remember. 

“She said, ‘There have been times in our lives where I swear we didn’t have enough money, and we put money under the statue of Mary, and we’d come back and there would be more money than before,’” Hohler recalled. 

She told him to always remember to put God first, and handed her grandson $1,000 with simple instructions: “Go do something good with it.” 

When he returned to Honduras, the search for that “something good” led Hohler to Sr. Maria, a Catholic nun who has dedicated her life to serving her community near Lake Yojoa, Honduras. Her nutrition-focused organization, Casa de Angeles, provides 100+ children at risk of malnutrition with lunches every day throughout the school year. 

As Hohler spent time with Sr. Maria and the children, he realized that many of the kids’ impoverished families were coffee farmers, who were still making insufficient wages despite promises of markups after their coffee gained labels like “organic” and “fair-trade.” (He also started to drink, and love, coffee.)

Hohler, along with like-minded friend Robert Durrette, decided to do what they could to get a fairer wage for small-scale coffee farmers in Central and South America. And that’s how coffee start-up Levanta Coffee began. 

Taken from the Spanish reflexive verb “levantarse,” Levanta means to wake up, but it can also mean to rise up. 

“By waking up each morning with a cup of Levanta Coffee, you’re giving hard-working coffee farmers from Honduras and Peru the opportunity to lift themselves up economically,” the businesses’ Kickstarter page explains. 

The business model of Levanta cuts out nearly all of the middlemen involved in the process of most coffee sales – including fair trade coffee – that takes away from the profits that actually end up in farmers’ hands. 

“We too used to think that ‘Fair Trade’ was the best way to support small scale farmers. We sipped our coffee believing we were helping farmers like Daniel and Rosa earn a good living. Problem is, that just wasn't true,” Hohler and Durette explain on their Kickstarter. 

“‘Fair trade’ offers 20 cents more per pound of coffee, but very little of that extra money actually makes it back to small-scale farmers. Although they had been promised higher prices and better returns on their hard work, many coffee farmers are still struggling to put food on the table. In the best-case scenario, farmers might get a few hundred extra dollars per year. This translates into an income of $2,000-$4,000 a year for the average farmer who is often providing for a family of 4-6 people,” they noted. 

The Levanta model will provide a 50 percent higher payment that will end up directly in the hands of the small-scale coffee farmers in both Honduras and Peru, where the pair has launched their startup. 

“Essentially what we’re doing is taking a page out of what a lot of humanitarian aid is doing now, in terms of direct transfers. Rather than investing in aid in terms of professionals or food, or whatever it be, a lot of studies have found that just by giving them more cash and allowing them to make their own decisions, it’s actually allowing for more and more development,” Hohler explained.

In exchange, Levanta Coffee asks their farmers to share their personal stories with coffee drinkers around the world. 

Co-founder Robert Durrette said he believes “the stories of the farmers we have partnered with is crucial to sparking change in the coffee industry. You will learn about their hardships and struggles, but also their successes – all while we deliver you better coffee.”

“It gives you the opportunity to look at the coffee you drink in a more personal way, and you’ll know exactly how this is being impactful,” Hohler said. “We’ll be following up year after year, making sure it’s the right model, being really transparent and really inviting people into this story so they can experience it.” 

The pair launched their Kickstarter on July 18th, and have already seen great results, with $32,348 of their $35,000 goal having been raised at the time this article was written. If they make their stretch goal of $50,000, they can partner with a third coffee producer. 

It hasn’t always been easy – Hohler said he was questioned by several well-meaning friends and family about when he would “get a real job.” But he’s stuck to his decision, saying that he feels it’s a call from God to put his faith into action. 

“The thing I wanted to do with my faith was to show it through action, and be an example of my faith in the way that I live, creating good in the way I live my life rather than telling someone what they should be doing,” he said. 

“Evangelization through action is what I wanted to do.” 

Learn more about Levanta Coffee, and the coffee farmers involved, on their Kickstarter page or by following them on Instagram or Facebook.

Posted: July 24, 2017, 11:11 pm

Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 21, 2017 / 01:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Venezuela's bishops have organized a day of prayer and fasting amid ongoing riots throughout the country as opposition to President Nicolas Maduro hardens.

They have called on the people to use the penitential practices July 21 to ask God “to bless the efforts of Venezuelans for freedom, justice and peace.”

With the help of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they voiced their hope in a July 13 statement which could be dubbed their manifesto on the current crisis that the effort would help so that “peace and fraternal coexistence may continue being built in the country.”

The day of prayer and fasting follows two similar initiatives, one of which took place Aug. 2, 2016, and the second May 21, 2017.

The bishops urged all faithful to participate in the day, in order “to not let themselves be robbed of the hope that makes possible, with the help of God, what is impossible; to communicate hope and to be protagonists in this historic moment and in the future of our country.”

In order to draw attention and support for the event, those who are participating are promoting it on social media with the hashtag #OracionporVenezuela – in English #PrayerforVenezuela.

The day of prayer and fasting comes amid ongoing violent protests prompted by an opposition-organized July 16 referendum in which roughly 7.6 million Venezuelans voted in rejection of the national, socialist government.

Sunday's unofficial referendum led to violence in several areas across the country, which so far has lead to the deaths of at least three people.

As voters were waiting to cast their ballot near the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Caracas' Catia area, shots rang out, leaving one man dead. When people fled into the parish for refuge, where Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino had been celebrating Mass, the doors were locked, barring the people and the cardinal from leaving.

According to reports, yesterday two more young men were killed in Valencia during a 24-hour strike that blocked businesses and public transport, bringing the death toll in anti-government protests to nearly 100 since April.

In addition to yesterday's 24-hour strike and the ongoing protests, a large opposition-backed demonstration is scheduled to take place July 22 in a show of support for parliament's election of new magistrates.

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

A layperson living in Venezuela, who preferred to speak on terms of anonymity due to safety concerns, told CNA July 21 that the day of prayer and fasting is “a light” for the country amid the darkness of the current crisis.

“It seems like a very banal, fragile and simple action in front of yesterday's strike and tomorrow's demonstration,” the source said. However, “it's not only political power or social change that can change the world, but also the awareness of our relationship with God.”

“So a prayer and a fast is something very powerful which are often trivialized,” they said, and, quoting St. John Paul II, added that 'a prayer and the sacrifice of an unknown person in any unknown place can change the world.'”

The source said there has been an “exaggerated” response to the demonstrations on the part of the government, but that amid the violence, the day of prayer and fasting – which ranges from organized initiatives from parishes to personal commitments – is a chance to make “our true need” burn brighter.

It is reported that at least 300 people have been arrested for protesting the government in recent days.

In terms of the international community, the source said politicians are doing what they can, but asked Catholics to unite with Venezuelans in prayer, “but also and above all in communion, which means to be interested and aware of what is happening here.”

What the bishops are asking for is justice and social peace, they said, asking for prayer that “it can be true justice and peace … This is not an alternative, it's part of life. Not only to make a protest, but to pray, to pray for peace.”

Posted: July 21, 2017, 7:17 pm

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 19, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maximiliano Acuña is a garbage collector in Buenos Aires who earlier this year was injured in a serious accident that left him without legs.

On Tuesday, he was surprised to receive an unexpected phone call from Pope Francis.

The Pope offered words of encouragement, 33-year-old Acuña told the Argentine Morfi Television program.

On March 22, the father of five children had been collecting garbage in a Buenos Aires neighborhood when he was struck by a car going some 80 miles an hour.

As a result of the accident, both of his legs had to be amputated.

A Buenos Aires legislator, Gustavo Vera, decided to tell Pope Francis what happened in an e-mail, in which he explained that the “doctors' prognosis was for the worst.”

“In the best case scenario, he was expected to be in a vegetative state or to have serious neuronal damage, and in the worst case it was going to be the end for him,” Vera told the Holy Father.

However, Acuña surprised doctors when he came out of the coma on the third day. Two days later, he was moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room. “In a few weeks he was already home with his five children,” Vera related in his message to the Pope.

This July 18, Acuña was getting ready to be honored at a ceremony at the Buenos Aires Legislature when he got a special call.

“I'm Pope Francis. A friend (Vera) sent me a letter, and I was moved and struck by how much strength you have,” the voice said on the other end of the line. “Always go forward, because you're an example.”

Acuña recounted these words with emotion at a ceremony in front of hundreds of other garbage collectors.

Now, Vera is working with the general secretary of the Truckers Union, Pablo Moyano, to propose that March 22 be declared “Waste Collectors' Day,” in tribute to this young collector.

“God gave me my life back, because they removed both legs, but everything that is happening to me is beautiful,” Acuña said.

“I always believed in God, I always went to church, praying everyday asking him for work, and that he take care of me day by day.”

“God exists,” Acuña continued. “I want to give everyone this message, that God exists and that he has given me a new opportunity.”

 

Posted: July 19, 2017, 7:53 pm

Denver, Colo., Jul 19, 2017 / 08:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Facebook has restored more than 25 Catholic pages in Portuguese and English that were blocked yesterday, citing a malfunction in the system.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, a Facebook spokesperson said, "The pages were reestablished. The incident was a malfunction of the spam detection mechanism in our platform. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

Between the night of July 17 and the morning of July 18, Facebook unpublished more than 25 pages in at least three languages - English, Portuguese and Spanish - without giving an initial explanation to page administrators.

The blocked Catholic pages each had between hundreds of thousands and 9 million followers.

Hours after CNA and other media published a story about the blocked pages, around 1 a.m. in the morning July 19, all blocked pages had been returned to normal.

In statements collected by ChurchPop.com, Carlos René, administrator of the page "Papa Francisco Brazil," said that the page was available again "without notification. I just realized that it was already on the air."

While Facebook has now clarified the incident, the site did not immediately provide an explanation to page administrators for the restorations. The owners and administrators of sites such as "Father Rocky," "Catholic and Proud," and "Jesus" and said they simply realized that their pages had returned after seeing their accounts were back online.

In 2016, Facebook came under fire for allegedly censoring trends to news deemed "conservative."

On that occasion, Mark Zuckerberg rejected the allegations of censorship, and met with conservative U.S. leaders to assure them Facebook's neutrality.

In the past, user accounts have also been inadvertently blocked on Facebook due to system glitches, or numerous complaints against the page in a short time period. In these cases, Facebook restored the accounts after reviewing their content.

 

Update 9:02 pm: A previous version of this story said that at least 25 pages in Portuguese and English with up to 6 million followers had been unpublished. The story has been updated to reflect that additional pages in English and Spanish had been unpublished before being restored, one page with 9 million followers. We regret the error.

Posted: July 19, 2017, 2:10 pm

Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 18, 2017 / 04:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas has repudiated Sunday's attack on a referendum in which the vast majority of participants expressed their opposition to the constituent assembly called by President Maduro.

The July 16 attack was carried out by armed groups in support of the nation's socialist government.

Venezuela's government plans to hold a constituent assembly which would have the authority to write a new constitution and to dissolve the country's legislature, which is controlled by the opposition.

More than 7.6 million people across Venezuela are believed to have voted against the assembly in Sunday's unofficial referendum, which was organized by the opposition.

The referendum led to violence in several areas across the country.

The Archdiocese of Caracas said the attack with shots fired against those in line to vote is “an unacceptable attack on the people and on Cardinal Urosa.”

After Mass, the cardinal and the priests were told that pro-government groups were harassing those who were participating in the consultation, which was taking place near Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Caracas' Catia area.

After the shots that forced several hundred people to enter the church and which left one person dead and several injured, “the violent group continued to harass those who took refuge in the church and the the church doors had to be locked to protect them. The attackers prevented those inside from leaving the parish church.”

The news release by the Archdiocese of Caracas noted that “in view of the seriousness of the situation, the cardinal then called a priest to ask for support from the authorities. For his part, the pastor of the church, Fr. Tovar, spoke with some of those belonging to the group that was outside the church to ask them to end the siege of the people who had taken refuge inside the church. He reiterated to them that the parish facilities had not been provided for the consultation of the people. However, nothing came of it.”

The release of those inside the church occurred after the intervention of the authorities of the National Bolivarian Police, who spoke with Cardinal Urosa in order to evacuate those who were in the church with guarantees for their safety.

The statement also “totally repudiates the attack by armed groups against the citizens who were peacefully participating in the consultation of the people on the Constitutional Assembly, as well as subsequent siege of all the people who were in the parish church.”

The Venezuelan Bishops' Conference posted on Twitter photos of a number of bishops participating in the consultation, including Cardinal Urosa and the conference's president, Archbishop Diego Padrón Sanchez of Cumana, who told CNA that yesterday's consultation was “successful with the massive as well as peaceful and democratic participation of the Venezuelan people,” which wants “peaceful as well as constitutional ways to get out of the crisis.”

The archbishop added that the people do not want a reform of the constitution but “a change in the system that is governing us and which is ultimately the cause of all the ills from which the country is suffering.”

“A change of the system, not just one person for others, but a change of the total system which also includes the person.”

Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities in Venezuela, such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.
Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

 

Posted: July 18, 2017, 10:28 pm

Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 17, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Armed civilians who support the Venezuelan regime opened fire against a large crowd of protestors who were participating in a symbolic referendum in Caracas on Sunday.

The incident forced hundreds to seek refuge inside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church where they stayed until the local archbishop Cardinal Jorje Urosa Savino mediated their safe exit. One person died from gunshot wounds and several others were injured.

Swaths of locals who oppose the current leadership called for a “consultation of the people” on July 16 to protest President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite the country's constitution on July 30. Some 7 million people participated in Sunday's protest.

In the wake of Nicolas Maduro succeeding former socialist president Hugo Chavez after the latter died from cancer in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval.

Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office.

On July 16, Cardinal Urosa had celebrated Mass in the church located in the Catia section of Caracas. The incident took place following the service.

Father Erick Tovar, pastor of Our Lady of Carmel Church, told CNA that “the voting process was going on just fine. The crowd coming from Catia was huge. There was a celebration because of the fact that they could express themselves."

Unfortunately, he continued, and “in the lackadaisical sight of the National Guard and the National Police, they started shooting. One person died and several were injured.”

The shots forced many to enter the church and in order to obtain their safe exit the Archbishop of Caracas intervened.

“We had gotten all the people out of the church. The cardinal did not want to leave till everyone who was there had left,” Fr. Tovar said. “These are the final abuses of the regime."

In concluding the Angelus prayer this Sunday at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he is keeping the people of Venezuela in his prayers.

Posted: July 17, 2017, 7:53 pm

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 14, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The recent massacre of over two dozen prisoners in a central penitentiary in the state of Guerrero, Mexico may have been part of a ritual of the Santa Muerte cult.

On July 6, in what was thought to be a quarrel between inmates or an attempted riot, 28 prisoners were murdered inside the Las Cruces jail in Acapulco. Some of the dead were beheaded.

Citing documents from state and federal officials, the Mexican newspaper Reforma alleged that “the prisoners were executed in the middle of a ritual to Santa Muerte,” lead by drug traffickers of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco.

While other federal sources, such as Roberto Alvarez Heredia, security spokesman for Guerrero state, have refused to comment on the cultic ritual aspect of the massacre, state authorities confirm that the killings began because of “constant dispute between rival groups inside the prison,” Alvarez said in a statement. Officials have also confirmed the presence of explosives and firearms inside the prison.

So far, 22 bodies have been returned to families. The prison houses over 2,000 prisoners. Following the killings, state police will still retain control of security in the prison, with addition support coming from National Police and Mexican Army forces.

The Santa Muerte, or “Holy Death,” is a rapidly growing folk devotion in Mexico and Latin America, marked by a skull adorned with various forms of decoration – including imagery traditionally associated with Catholic saints such as veils or hearts.

Beginning in the 1960s, the cult has found great acceptance among drug trafficking cartels and other sub-cultures outside of mainstream Mexican society. The Santa Muerte is also associated with practices of witchcraft and prayers for specific favors, including retribution.

According to the FBI, some variants of the Santa Muerte devotion surrounding the drug culture, cartels and trafficking promotes “extreme” behaviors and criminality, including ritualistic killings.

In 2013, the Vatican condemned devotion to Santa Muerte, equating it to “the celebration of devastation and of hell.”

Posted: July 14, 2017, 12:01 pm

Montevideo, Uruguay, Jul 13, 2017 / 12:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For many people, a warm meal is a way to come together, celebrate, and spend time with friends and family. For homeless people living on the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay, it’s an experience that’s rare. But about 500 young people in the city are working to change that.

Every night, especially in wintertime, around 16 groups coming from universities, parishes, and movements in the archdiocese go out to distribute more than 1900 meals to the city's homeless residents.

The volunteers get together in late afternoon to cook, using donations from parishioners, businesses and the young people themselves. When night comes with its low temperatures, they set out to meet the most needy.

One of these groups is the Luceros Movement, made up of more than 100 volunteers who gather Mondays and Wednesdays at the Virgin of Carmen and Saint Therese Parish to prepare more than 100 meals.

This group came about after a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Salta, eight years ago.

After returning from the pilgrimage, the young participants formed a growing prayer group, and started to “make chocolate milk and some sandwiches to hand out to the people on the street,” Juan José Malvárez told the Catholic Church's TV channel (ICM) in Montevideo.

“It’s common, if you live in Montevideo, that when you leave your house, on your block or the next, there's somebody sleeping or living on the street. It's shocking,” explained Felipe Silva.

“The food is really just a means, it's a vehicle,” Silva said. “It's important to fill the belly, but a lot more important to fill the hearts of these people.”

The name “Luceros,” which means “bright stars,” came out of the experience in Salta.

“It's to be a light in the night, to not hold back the lamp so it can be raised high, to shine down light. It's to be little lights that illuminate the darkness,” Silva said. The Virgin of Salta speaks about this a little: “you will soon see how you will be transformed into little lights that will illuminate,” he noted.

The spirituality which they have maintained over the years leads the volunteers to pray a Rosary under the title of the Immaculate Mother of the Divine Eucharistic Heart of Jesus before heading out.

Another group, “Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Kettles,” hails from Mary Queen of Peace Parish. It came about after some of their members decided to continue the works of service they had been performing in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Their group goes out on Wednesdays and Saturdays, despite the cold and rain, to carry out this apostolate. Agustin Yurdan told ICM that everyone works together to prepare the food. Some peel and chop the vegetables, while others stir the stew in the kettles.

“We try to be there as much as the people want us to be. Sometimes they need to talk for an hour, and we stay there for an hour. Other times, they grab the warm plate and take off,” he explained.

Gabriel Muscarelli from the Sembradores (Sowers) group, told ICM that their apostolate began 16 years ago as a family initiative. They began with 30 meals and now they distribute around 200, in addition to clothing, personal hygiene products, lightweight material for shelters, and sacramental preparation aids.

“We go out with physical food which is necessary. But it's much more necessary to bring that hope which is Christ risen in our lives,” Muscarelli said. “And that is what motivates you to face the entire reality of human existence.”

Posted: July 13, 2017, 6:32 am

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 6, 2017 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Authorities are investigating the murder of another Catholic priest in Mexico who was bound and stabbed to death in his room.

According to local media, Father Luis López Villa, parish priest of San Isidro Labrador in Mexico State, was found dead in his room shortly after 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
 
The suspects, who entered the rectory after breaking into the church, made enough noise to raise the suspicions of neighbors, who alerted church staff to the incident.

When the staff arrived, they found the 71-year-old priest dead in his room with his hands and feet tied and a stab wound in his neck and chest.

The suspects have not yet been identified.

Fr. Villa is the 18th priest to be murdered in Mexico in the last six years, with many more having been assaulted or kidnapped. In May, a priest was stabbed at the conclusion of Mass in Mexico City’s Cathedral, though he survived the attack.  

Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico, sent his condolences "of the Diocese of Nezahualcóyotl and of the whole Church in the country for the murder of the priest."

Cardinal Rivera said he offered his prayers in solidarity with the other bishops of the country, and prayed "to God our Lord for the eternal rest of the priest and the conversion of those who perpetrated this damnable deed."

The Mexican Cardinal also urged the authorities to ensure that “this heinous crime does not go unpunished."

 

Posted: July 6, 2017, 9:31 pm

Ottawa, Canada, Jul 6, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Responding to a Canadian politician who called abortion a central aspect of the country's human rights efforts, a local bishop said the procedure is in fact deeply harmful – especially to women.

“While the Catholic Bishops of Canada share your concern for advancing the respect and dignity of women…we feel the need to point out, with all due respect, that your statement above is erroneous, confusing, and misguided,” Bishop Douglas Crosby, president of the Canada's Catholic Conference of Bishops, said in a June 29 letter.  

The letter comes in response to a recent speech given by Canada's Minister in Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, to the House of Commons.

“Women's rights are human rights,” she said June 6. “That includes sexual reproductive rights and the right to safe and accessible abortions. These rights are at the core of our foreign policy.”

Bishop Douglas Crosby cited other major issues involving women's rights that Freeland failed to mention, such as Canada's economic partnerships with countries that allow societal oppression and outright brutality against women.

“Female infants are murdered for not being male; (countries) in which women earn less than men for the same job or where they do not enjoy the same privileges under the law, including the right to education or protection from rape, physical violence.”

He then said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision last year to pledge $650 million in support of abortion and reproductive rights globally showed misguided priority. He compared this to the nearly $120 million pledged in response to severe food shortages, striking heavily in many parts of Africa.

The bishop noted Freeland's statement in her speech that “it is clearly not our role to impose our values around the world. No one appointed us the world's policemen.”

Yet imposing the 'value' of abortion rights offends the views of many cultures around the world and domestically, he said. Belief in an unborn child's right to life – held by Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, and even non-believers of good will – should be respected, the bishop added.

In his letter, Archbishop Crosby agreed with Freeland's emphasis on Canada's vital role in global progress, but said it must respect the rest of the world's opinions and be conducive to the human person, both woman and child.

“If Canada’s foreign policy needs a stable ground it cannot possibly be abortion advocacy and ‘sexual reproductive rights.’ And if the dignity of women is to have a universal moral foundation it cannot be based on principles that override the rights of the unborn child.”

Posted: July 6, 2017, 6:01 am

Panama City, Panama, Jul 4, 2017 / 08:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Archdiocese of Panama released the official theme song of the next World Youth Day, to be held in Panama Jan. 22-27, 2019.

Reflecting the Marian theme of the upcoming international youth gathering, the song is named for the passage in Luke where Mary agrees to be the Mother of God with the words, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The song was introduced at a special event on July 3 by Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama.

"We are excited to make it available today to the young people of the world, so that when they sing, they prepare themselves joyfully and ready to let themselves be transformed by God,” he said.

The refrain of the song, which is in Spanish, is the words from the Gospel of Luke: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word."

The song begins: “We are pilgrims who come here today from continents and cities; we want to be missionaries of the Lord to carry his word and message.” Other lyrics include: “I am your servant, I am your daughter, I am your son.”

The anthem was written and composed by Abdiel Jiménez. In the first recorded version, the production and arrangement were by Aníbal Muñoz with the collaboration of Carlos Samaniego and Ricky Ramírez.

At World Youth Day celebrations, the theme song is typically used throughout the week as a way to tie the different events together and unite those present. At the last World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, the song was in Polish.

World Youth Day in Panama will be held January 22-27, 2019. This is a change from the usual July dates of the event, which the archbishop said was for reasons primarily linked to the country’s climate and weather.

Archbishop Ulloa made the announcement during a Jan. 20 news conference in the country's capital, Panama City, during which he also reiterated the gratitude of the Panamanian Church to Pope Francis for choosing Panama to host WYD in 2019.

The Pope announced Panama as the setting for the next WYD at the closing Mass of the last World Youth Day, held July 26-31, 2016, in Krakow.

“I am happy to announce that the next World Youth Day – after the two that will be held on the diocesan level – will take place in 2019 in Panama,” the Pope said making the July 31 announcement.

In a news conference after the announcement, the country’s bishops said the decision is a reflection of his attention to the peripheries and voiced their hope to be a “bridge” for those who come from all continents.

 

Posted: July 4, 2017, 2:46 pm

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 2, 2017 / 04:03 pm (CNA).- The doctors at the Children's Hospital in San Miguel, Argentina, find no explanation for the quick recovery of Martin Chain – a three-year-old boy who fell from the ninth floor when he was playing on the balcony of his apartment.

The June 7 accident left the boy on the verge of death. However, he only took 20 days to recover and shows no signs of long-term complications.

“I was working when I got a voice mail from my husband Maximo. He was screaming. He told me that  Martin had fallen off the balcony,” the child's mother, Florencia Núñez, told the local Clarin newspaper.

The day of the accident, Martin's father was fixing something to eat when the little boy went by himself out to the balcony and climbed up onto the railing while playing. Martin then fell almost 100 feet down to the courtyard of the building with nothing breaking the impact.

“As he peered out, Maxi saw Piti (Martin) face down, lying on a patch of wet ground amid debris. And he saw him move,” Núñez said.

The father rushed down to Martin and brought him to the Children's Hospital in Tucuman, where he received immediate care. The doctors were stunned to see the little boy was conscious and crying, but without any broken bones.

However, Martin still suffered from trauma to the abdomen and skull, as well as a pulmonary contusion which caused breathing problems for him. For weeks he was under an induced coma, connected to an artificial respirator and feeding tubes.

Florencia said that in face of her son's serious condition, “we didn't stop praying and Piti gradually began to get better. One day while I was singing to him a song to the Virgin, he finally woke up.”

From that moment, Martin began to recover. He first went to intermediate care, then they took him off the respirator and he was finally discharged.

“He just has a few problems walking, but it's nothing permanent. With physical therapy he can make a 100 percent recovery,” hospital director Cristina García de Alabarse, told Clarin.

“He will have to continue with a psychologist, and physical checkups for a while, but we don't expect he'll have major problems long term. It's incredible.”  

Despite being “a woman of science,” Garcia says she has never heard “of a similar case, it is, at the least, unusual that a person could fall from such a height and have so few aftereffects.”

“There are times that for us professionals, there's nothing left but to put ourselves in God's hands. I'm Catholic and I believe that miracles exist. Something happened there,” she said.

Posted: July 2, 2017, 10:03 pm

Lima, Peru, Jun 30, 2017 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- An Argentine diocesan official has clarified that the local archbishop did not deny a sacramental Catholic wedding to Argentinian soccer player Lionel “Leo” Messi and his girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo.
 
Rather, the archbishop forbid that a Catholic wedding for the couple be celebrated in a casino chapel, per Church norms.
 
Some reports about the couple’s wedding, such as those from the international sports media company AS, had claimed that “The Archbishop forbids Messi and Antonella to marry in the Church.”
 
However, the Episcopal Delegate of Communication for the Archdiocese of Rosario, Fr. Rubén Bellante, told CNA that “neither the family of Messi nor the bride asked for a place in any parish in the city of Rosario, nor in the Cathedral either.”
 
“At no time did Archbishop Eduardo Eliseo Martín deny the possibility of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said.
 
Messi, star of Barcelona FC soccer team and one of the best players in the world, had a civil marriage ceremony at the City Center Casino Complex, south of Rosario, Argentina on June 30 with 260 guests. The wedding was attended by well-known soccer figures and celebrities (such as Shakira) from various parts of the world.
 
Messi met Antonella when he was just 5 years old, but officially their relationship started in 2008. The couple has two children: Thiago, age 4, and Mateo, age 1.
 
The archbishop intervened in the Messi’s wedding only when he was made aware that the couple was planning to construct a chapel in a casino and to have a priest facilitate the ceremony, Fr. Bellante said.
 
The Archbishop banned the priest from facilitating a marriage at the casino. This is in keeping with Church tradition, as it is rare for the Church to approve requests for a Catholic marriage ceremony outside of a Catholic church.
 
Fr. Bellante added that Archbishop Martin suggested that a sacramental marriage for Messi may have been possible in a private house, if such a thing had been requested and were necessary for reasons such as security.
 
However, Messi himself never made requests to any parish in the archdiocese for a sacramental marriage, the priest said.
 
Fr. Bellante added that Archbishop Martín “would be happy” to provide Messi with the Sacrament of Marriage if it were requested and held in an approved place.
 
“(T)he doors remain open and the truth is that the archbishop told me yesterday: If, when they return to Rosario next year for their vacations...want to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, it would be offered with pleasure,” he said.

Posted: June 30, 2017, 11:05 pm
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