Catholic News in Europe

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

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 23, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just a little more than a year away, the Archdiocese of Dublin released a video Wednesday inviting families from around the world to come together in Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in August 2018.

“I'm very pleased to have been asked to host this meeting, and to invite you to join with us in preparing for this event, and hopefully also to come to Dublin, to celebrate with families from all around the world,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin says in the video.

The next World Meeting of Families will be held Aug. 22-26, 2018. As the promo video, released March 22, says, it will include – “God-willing – having Pope Francis join us for the Festival of Families and the final Mass.”

Pope Francis’ visit to Dublin in 2018 will be a significant moment for Ireland, since it has been almost 40 years since their last visit from a Pope, Ireland’s ambassador to the Holy See, Emma Madigan, told CNA in January.  

The Archdiocese of Dublin is currently using the website to provide information about the event in English, as they work on launching a more comprehensive, multi-lingual site soon, which will also include ticket and registration information.

The theme of the 9th World Meeting of Families is “The Gospel of family, joy for the world.” As the video says, “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. Our Catholic Church is a family of families.”

“Our Holy Father Pope Francis is encouraging families from all across the world to come to Ireland in 2018 to celebrate family life. And to reflect on the importance of family in our lives,” Cardinal Kevin Farrell says in the video.

Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, as well as a Dublin native, Cardinal Farrell is one of the persons responsible for organizing the event.

The last World Meeting of Families, which took place in Philadelphia in 2015, was attended by around 18,000 people for the congress and somewhere around 800,000-900,000 for the final Mass with Pope Francis.

The last World Meeting of Families was a huge success, according to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. “The spirit of the whole city was strikingly positive,” he told CNA Sept. 29, 22015 in an interview following the event.

Dublin is looking forward to a similar event in 2018.

“Every society, every person, understands a universal bond, a bond that connects us: family,” the promotional video states. “We look forward to welcoming people from every corner of the world to our shores for the 2018 World Meeting of Families.”

Posted: March 23, 2017, 6:08 am

London, England, Mar 22, 2017 / 01:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Church and government leaders offered prayers in the aftermath of an attack in London on Wednesday afternoon.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the incident in Westminster this afternoon,” read a post on Twitter from the news page of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

“We pray tonight for the victims, their families, for all affected by this terrible attack and those who responded so bravely,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

Details surrounding the March 22 attack in Westminster remained unclear some four hours after an attacker in a car apparently plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. The assailant then reportedly crashed the car and attempted to enter the Parliament building with a knife before being shot by armed police.   

According to the Guardian, four people were killed, including one police officer 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.”

March 22 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.

While details surrounding the London attack remain uncertain, religious and national leaders offered condolences and prayers.

“Please join me in praying for the people of #London, especially those killed and injured today. St. George and St. Paul, pray for us,” said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln on Twitter.

“Terrible scene in London,” said U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in a post on Twitter. “Praying for the victims of this apparent act of terror. We stand with our friends in Parliament and Great Britain.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also released a statement offering prayers.

“On behalf of the United States, I express my condolences to the victims and their families,” he said. “The American people send their thoughts and prayers to the people of the United Kingdom. We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference.”

Posted: March 22, 2017, 7:30 pm

Münster, Germany, Mar 22, 2017 / 07:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Father Clemens August von Galen was consecrated Bishop of Münster in October 1933, he chose for his episcopal motto Nec laudibus, nec timore – neither by praises nor by fear, which summed up his ministry throughout Germany's Nazi period.

The motto was taken from the liturgy for episcopal consecration, which prays that the new bishop will love humility and truth, and not be overcome by either praise or fear.

Bishop von Galen wrote in his first pastoral letter that “Neither the praises of men nor fear of men shall move us. Rather, our glory will be to promote the praise of God, and our steadfast effort will be to walk always in a holy fear of God.”

During his entire episcopacy the bishop spoke up against the Nazis' euthanasia program and racial theories, and defended human rights and the cause of justice. He was among the most outspoken of Germany's bishops during that era, and assisted the writing of Pius XI's 1937 anti-Nazi encyclical Mit brennender Sorge.

He was made a cardinal in February 1946, just one month before his March 22 death, and he was beatified in 2005 by Benedict XVI.

Blessed von Galen's motto “would be a great motto to have for a bishop,” Fr. Daniel Utrecht of the Toronto Oratory told CNA. Fr. Utrecht is the author of The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis.

Fr. Utrecht was drawn to write about Blessed von Galen because he was a model bishop.

“I was telling some people about him during World Youth Day in 2005, and they said, 'We need bishops like this, why have we never heard of this guy? Someone should write a book about him',” he related.

The priest recalled reading in German a two volume work of Blessed von Galen's documents, letters, and sermons written as a bishop. “They became more and more fascinating, and there just wasn't much in English to read about him. I eventually came to the conclusion that it was up to me to write an English-language biography.”

Blessed von Galen was born into a German noble family in 1878, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Münster in 1904. As a priest he wrote on the origins and limits of state power, and the importance of voting as a responsibility for the common good rather than doing so for private interests.

In the later years of the Weimar Republic, Blessed von Galen supported the German Centre Party, which worked to present a Christian voice in defense of Catholic interests and human rights in the public square, and entered into coalition governments with other parties in an effort to balance power.

But the priest was unable to sway many of his acquaintances to support the Centre Party – other Catholics were arguing that the Nazi Party was most compatible with Catholic ideals.

Many bishops had barred Catholics from being members of the National Socialist movement. But when Hitler softened his antireligious stance and stated early in 1933 that Christianity would be prominent in Germany's rule, the bishops took him at his word and began allowing Catholics to join the movement.

But when Blessed von Galen was made a bishop later that year, he maintained his anti-Nazi beliefs. Within a year he clashed with government officials over the rights of Catholic schools and the Nazis' racial and anti-Jewish ideology.

He was most outspoken against the Nazi's involuntary euthanasia program, which under which the disabled, mentally ill, deformed, senile, those with Down syndrome, and the incurably sick were killed. The program began in 1939, and more than 70,000 people were euthanized under it.

Blessed von Galen led Catholic protest against euthanasia. He delivered three sermons in the summer of 1941 which condemned the program, as well as Nazi attacks on the Church, and raised public awareness of what has happening. After the sermons' delivery he was nicknamed “The Lion of Münster”, and they resulted in a Nazi propaganda minister, Walter Tiessler, recommending that he be executed.

The bishop remained outspoken against Nazi atrocities throughout World War II, and afterwards spoke up against injustices committed by the occupying Allied forces.

“I see plenty of parallels today,” Fr. Utrecht told CNA. “I hope that people reading the book get it for themselves.” Blessed von Galen's “example of courage and being able to speak out in defense of human life is of interest, very much of interest today, in the fight against abortion and euthanasia …  the defense of liberty, religious liberty, the defense of a place for religion in the public square is a very, very big lesson that he has for us.”

In addition to supporting Catholic witness to the value of human life in the face of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the dictatorship of relativism, Fr. Utrecht said that the cardinal can speak to Catholics facing political dictatorships as well.

The priest shared how during a recent trip to Germany he met a priest from Africa who is “very keen on making von Galen known to the Africans, because he said 'In many places we have totalitarian governments and not enough of the bishops speak out', – so he thought there was a great parallel there.”

Since Cardinal von Galen was beatified 12 years ago, there is a need to develop devotion to him, Fr. Utrecht reflected. “Greater devotion to him is the next step, not just locally, but worldwide.”

“There are plenty of people who do know about him and who are pushing devotion to him, but it needs kind of a new push, so I hope we can get a push, and not only there, but among English- reading people elsewhere.”

Posted: March 22, 2017, 1:04 pm

Palermo, Italy, Mar 22, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hollywood precedent notwithstanding, an Italian bishop has announced that known members of the mafia cannot be godparents for the Catholic sacraments of baptism or confirmation.

The diocesan decree came from Michele Pennisi, Bishop of Monreale, near Palermo in Sicily, Italy.

“The mafia has always taken the term godfather from the church to give its bosses an air of religious respectability, whereas in fact the two worlds are completely incompatible,” the bishop said in the announcement.

He admitted that it may be hard to enforce, given the secrecy of the mafia, the Guardian reported.

“If someone has not been convicted we cannot judge people on rumours, without proof,” he said, adding that he would not ban anyone willing to repent of their actions.

“If one of them admits to having done wrong, asks to be pardoned for the bad they have done, in that case we can discuss a path of conversion.”

Pennisi has been outspoken against the mafia before, and received death threats in 2008 after he banned Catholic funerals for known mobsters.

According to Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Bishop Pennisi made the decision after Giuseppe Riina, son of the notorious “boss of bosses” ‘Toto’ Riina, was allowed to act as a godfather at the Catholic baptism of his nephew.

“But the Christian godfather must guarantee the child’s education and upbringing in the faith and how can he do that if his life is in contradiction of the gospel, if it is violent and totally ruled by the god money. There is a total incompatibility here and we’ve got to be clear about that...” Bishop Pennisi said.

The move is just the latest in attempts by Church authorities to crack down on the notorious and influential groups in the country.

In 2014, Pope Francis said that members of one of the most notorious mafia groups, the “’nDrangheta” were excommunicated from the Church.

“The ‘nDrangheta represents the adoration of evil and total contempt for the common good...Those who in their lives have chosen this path of evil are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated...” he said at the time, according to the Irish Times.

This year, on March 21, Italy’s first “National Day for Remembrance and Commitment to Remembering the Victims of the Mafia”, Pope Francis sent a message to Mafia victims gathered in Locri, Italy, expressing his “spiritual closeness” to them.

The Holy Father said that he “hopes that the meeting will help to reflect on the causes of the numerous violations of law and legality, which in many cases lead to violence and criminal offenses.”

Pope Francis also assured his prayers for those who “fight the social problem of crime and corruption” and offered his apostolic blessing.

Posted: March 22, 2017, 9:02 am

Madrid, Spain, Mar 21, 2017 / 03:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent video ad released by the Down Federation seeks to increase awareness of persons with Down syndrome.

Through a series of videos and photographs, the campaign seeks to challenge the prejudices faced by persons affected by disability, noting that “with appropriate supports, they can carry out any goal that is proposed.”

The campaign was launched in advance of World Down Syndrome Day, which is celebrated all over the world on March 21, and aims to “increase social awareness regarding people with this intellectual disability.”

In the video, four famous Spanish actors – Jordi Rebellón, Vanesa Romero, Eva Isanta and Jesús Olmedo – sit with their eyes closed in front of people with Down syndrome. Little by little, they open their eyes, and break away from the “prejudices, stereotypes, doubts, misgivings and appearances” that the video says “create an invisible blindfold that prevents one from seeing reality.”

The Down Federation of Spain video closes by inviting Spaniards to “open your eyes and look at the person in front of you,” as a concrete way to “change the view of Down Syndrome.”

The video is part of a larger campaign the organization is launching under the theme: “Change your view on Down syndrome.” The group has also hosted a performance by dancers with Down syndrome as well as a chance for the public to read both discriminatory messages and positive messages received by individuals with Down syndrome.

“We want to encourage real change” in the way society views people with Trisomy 21, the genetic disorder that causes Down syndrome, the organization said in a statement.

Agustín Matía, manager of the Down Federation of Spain, told the Spanish newspaper La Razón that “the number of people with this syndrome has remained stable in recent years, between 34,000 and 35,000, but the trend is that this number will decrease, although their lifespans are increasing. There are already people in their 70s and 80s, but births are falling.”

According to previous interviews in 2015 by Matía, Spain has one of the smallest populations of persons with intellectual disabilities in the world, and the lowest rate of Down syndrome diagnoses to births on the planet. In the past, Matía has blamed the abortion of those prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 21 – along with societal biases – for these incredibly low rates.

“Disability is not assumed. Many people believe, when they see on the street some of these children, that they are unhappy, and it is the opposite. They are very wrong,” Mattia said in a statement on the group’s most recent project.

He also pointed to the need for support from the medical community when a couple is informed that they may have a child with the condition.  

Matía also argued that children with Down syndrome “should be integrated into normal schools with the supports they need.” This is something that rarely happens Spanish schools.


Posted: March 21, 2017, 9:19 pm

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 17, 2017 / 06:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Prayer, reparation and praising God are the focus of a new Benedictine priory in Ireland, which focuses especially on reparation for the sins of priests.

“It was never our predetermined plan to come to Ireland,” Silverstream Priory’s Father Benedict Andersen, O.S.B., told CNA. “But we believe that, through circumstances that we could never have foreseen, Divine Providence placed us here to play some sort of role, however modest, in the life of the Irish Church.”

Silverstream Priory is the home of the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

The priory is a former residence of the Visitation Sisters in Stamullen, a village about 22 miles north of Dublin. It is believed to be the first monastery established in Ireland’s County Meath since King Henry VIII suppressed them.

“The Reformation, which was ruthlessly enforced in Ireland, dealt a near fatal blow to the monastic life, and it almost seems as if certain contemporary forces and trends are conspiring to finish it off completely,” said Father Benedict, who hails from Colorado.

There are many Americans at the priory. The prior, Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, is from Connecticut. Tulsa, Okla. native Dom Elijah Carroll also comes from the U.S. The priory has a postulant from Toledo, Ohio and a priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. One member is from County Meath, while one novice is from Australia and another from Denmark.

According to Father Benedict, one of the glories of the Benedictine order is that their sole reason for existence is “the lifelong search for God in separation from the world, and the perpetual praise of God in the Sacred Liturgy.”

The monk himself was baptized Catholic as an infant in 1980. Both his parents came from very large Catholic families, but for various reasons they became estranged from the Church and began practicing an Evangelical, charismatic form of Christianity.

In his own words, Father Benedict “rebelled” against this upbringing by seeking the depths of ancient Christianity. He became an Orthodox Christian for his twenties and studied at an Orthodox seminary. He returned to full communion with the Church “as a positive desire to be in full communion with the principal Petrine See, ‘Old Rome’ (as the Orthodox call it), the Church of my baptism.”

Dom Kirby and Father Benedict moved to Ireland in 2012 as the only members of their Benedictine community, which began in Tulsa, Okla.

“I must say that we have been received very well, from the very beginning until now,” Father Benedict said. “While there are of course major differences, I feel very much at home.”

In Father Benedict’s eyes, contemporary Irish culture is heavily Americanized, “sometimes for good but increasingly, I’m afraid, for the worst.”

The monk sees an “immense cultural shift” following the unprecedented success of the Irish economy in the 1990s. He suggested this success “had the downside of greatly accelerating the decay of Irish Catholic faith and practice since the Second Vatican Council.”

The “horrors” of Ireland’s sexual abuse scandals by clergy gave an “incalculable blow” to the Church’s credibility, he added.

“This island was once dotted from east to west, north to south, with monasteries. The heartbeat of the Irish people was the heartbeat of the monastic round of prayer,” Father Benedict said.

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 Letter to the Catholics in Ireland noted the role of monasteries in promoting Eucharistic Adoration and their ability to revitalize priestly life through retreats.

“We have, as it were, our marching orders from the Holy See, and while we cannot physically leave the cloister, we are dedicated to an unseen, spiritual battle for the soul of this country, and specifically for its priests,” Father Benedict said.

The monks dedicate their time and energies to prayer, Mass and the eight hours of the Divine Office.

“Our approach to the faith and the spiritual life relies to a great extent on our study of the Scriptures (particularly the Psalter) and the Church Fathers, both Eastern and Western,” the monk explained. “Our monastic customs are thoroughly traditional, yet we are always aware of St. Benedict’s spirit of moderation and adaptation to various circumstances.”

The Benedictines of Silverstream Priory have adopted the charism of Mother Catherine-Mectilde de Bar, who founded the Benedictine Nuns of Perpetual Adoration in the 17th century.

“Mother Mectilde established her particular Benedictine family to adore the Blessed Eucharist in a spirit of reparation for offenses and abuses committed against the Sacrament of Christ’s love,” Father Benedict said. “As monks, however, we have a particular focus on reparation for the sins of priests which, especially of late, have so disfigured the Face of Christ in the eyes of the world.”

“Out of weakness and defeat, and yes, even sin and infidelity, can come power and victory,” he continued. “May God hold our country close once again to his Sacred Heart, beating in the Sacred Host.”

Bishop Michael Smith of Meath presided at the monastery’s canonical establishment Feb. 25, saying he was “delighted to recognize the unique presence of this new monastery.”

“Through their prayer, study and hospitality, the monks are ‘speaking to the heart’ and their quiet witness is a reminder that the Lord continues to provide the Church with new gifts and grace,” the bishop said, the newspaper The Irish Catholic reports.


Posted: March 17, 2017, 12:11 pm

Geneva, Switzerland, Mar 16, 2017 / 02:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Health care access is a human right, not just a matter of philanthropy, the Holy See told the United Nations last Friday.

“All our efforts must be directed to ensure human dignity, quality of health and life and to the building of a better world for the generations to come,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.

The archbishop spoke to the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 10, under general debate on access to medicines.

Archbishop Jurkovic said health is a fundamental human right that is “essential for the exercise of many other rights” and “necessary for living a life in dignity.”

“Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and of human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he added. “This is a moral obligation.”

He praised efforts to implement sustainable development goals related to medicine. These include support for research and development of vaccines and medicine for diseases that primarily affect developing countries, and support for affordable essential medicines and vaccines.

The archbishop voiced the Holy See’s appreciation for international agreements that provide legal pathways for affordable medicine and that help the most vulnerable meet their needs. He noted the need for treatments for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other epidemics.

“Access to affordable medicines no longer represents a challenge only for the least developed and other developing countries; it has also become an increasingly urgent issue for higher-income countries as well,” he said.

There are problems like antibiotic resistance worldwide and a lack of new medicines in developing countries in the face of budget constraints on health programs, the archbishop noted.

Archbishop Jurkovic said the Catholic Church makes a “major contribution” to health care around the world through local Churches, religious institutions, and private initiatives. These Catholic institutions run over 5,100 hospitals, 16,500 dispensaries, 600 leprosy homes, and 15,600 homes for the elderly, the chronically ill or disabled.

Citing firsthand information from these institutions in the most isolated and poorest parts of the world, the archbishop said that rights to health care are “far from being realized.”

“In order to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach, we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed,” he continued.

“If we fully intend to build a better world and future for the generations that will come after us, we must remedy and correct the misalignments and policy incoherence between the intellectual property rights of inventors, innovators or manufacturers and the human rights of human persons.”

“Pope Francis decries the selfishness and short-term thinking that sabotage progress on saving the environment, on peace building, and on public health crises as well,” Archbishop Jurkovic said. “He insists on dialogue ‘as the only way to confront the problems of our world and to seek solutions that are truly effective’.”

Authentic dialogue cannot allow the individual interests of countries or specific interest groups to dominate discussions, he told the United Nations.

Posted: March 16, 2017, 8:34 pm

Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2017 / 01:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Spain-based branch of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has issued an urgent appeal for aid to continue its “Drop of Milk” project, which benefits more than 2,800 children in the city of Aleppo, Syria.

This initiative began in 2015 among various Christian churches to provide milk every month for children under 10 years of age.

Even though the fighting has ended in eastern Aleppo, ACN reported that “living conditions remain deplorable.” Some 80 percent of the population of Aleppo is displaced, and 70 percent live below the poverty line, the group said in a statement.

Dr. Nabil Antaki, coordinator of the “Drop of Milk” project, has made an urgent appeal to keep it going.

“Every month we distribute milk to some 2,850 children: 2,600 get powdered milk and 250 servings of special formula milk for infants, including babies that can't be nursed by their mothers,” the doctor said.

The charitable group also highlighted the testimony of Georgina, one of the project’s beneficiaries, who is the mother of two daughters, 10 and 6 years old.

“Both Myriam and Pamela receive each month a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of powdered milk. Pamela's situation was critical after being struck in the back with shrapnel, and now that she's recuperating, she needs milk to get her health back. This project is very important for us, I want it to keep going,” the mother said.

Aid to the Church in Need highlighted that a child in Aleppo can get milk for an entire month for $7.50 and for a whole year for $89. The foundation has committed to maintain this project during 2017 at a cost of $239,000.

The pontifical foundation has been sending funds for diverse emergency projects and support to the Syrian churches since the start of the war. In 2015, they allocated $5.9 million for Syria.



Posted: March 16, 2017, 7:10 pm

Rome, Italy, Mar 16, 2017 / 02:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- This week Cardinal George Pell sat down with some 20 students from Harvard visiting Rome, with the goal of challenging them to both set firm ideals and to work hard to achieve them – something the Church can help with by providing a basic framework for moral leadership.

In a March 14 interview with CNA ahead of his speech, Cardinal Pell said the main point he would make to the students is “that they need a cause. They need a set of principles that they accept and follow and that they will be prepared to make sacrifices for.”

He stressed the importance of conveying the message that as future leaders “they need to be courageous and they need to be persevering. And if they can be strategists, take a long-term view, so much the better.”

Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, spoke just before giving his speech on Principled Leadership to a group of 20 people who are among Harvard University’s graduating class of 2017 and who traveled to Rome for a four-day “Harvard Vatican Leadership Summit.”

A student-led initiative, the event was held at the Pontifical Lateran University and hosted students from various backgrounds at Harvard, including the business, law, divinity, medical, and dental schools.

In addition to Cardinal Pell, other key figures participants have met with during the summit include Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; Vatican Secretary for Relations with the States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher; Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Integral Human Development; and Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

In his comments to CNA, Cardinal Pell outlined the key principles that ought to guide business and economic decisions, saying that no matter what, “you must be aware of the common good.”

“Think of the whole of society, not just the shareholders, not just the workers in the small group,” he said. “Have some real understanding of what justice is. Have a special sensitivity for those who are less fortunate, those who are poor.”

One of the most important things to have a constant awareness of is our responsibility toward future generations, he said, cautioning that one modern danger is that “people know more and more about less and less.”

An advantage of the Catholic Church in this regard, he said, is that it can help provide “a general scheme” into which specific principles, causes, and points of view can fit.

However, he stressed that despite the Church’s role in providing this scheme for various fields, particularly economics and business, it is above all a religious institution, and as such doesn’t embrace any one system in particular.

Reflecting on criticisms Pope Francis has at times voiced in reference to the current global market system, the cardinal stressed that the Pope “is a religious leader, he is not an economist.”

The Church, he said, “does not espouse socialism, much less communism or Nazism or the free market. It announces general principles and says this fits or that doesn't fit.”

“We should listen very seriously to everything the Pope says on economics,” he said, but emphasized that as Christians, we listen to him because “he is the successor of Peter, he teaches us things religious.”

In this sense the Pope is applying Gospel standards to the economic situation, Cardinal Pell said, adding that if he himself were to speak out on the topic, people wouldn’t necessarily need to take notes on the economic aspect, “but if I preach the Gospel, I hope people listen.”

Since not all of the students participating in the summit are Catholic, the cardinal voiced his hope that they would walk away with at least a better idea of the Church’s social doctrine.

He brought a compendium of the social doctrine of the Church for each of the participants, because it is “a coherent exposition on many, many important topics,” including “right and wrong, natural law, subsidiarity, the common good and different types of justice.”

The Catholic Church is “one of the few organizations that has an over-arching system of thought to make people think,” he said, explaining that “it is logical and coherent, it's an impressive piece of work.”

Cardinal Pell praised the idea of summit as unique, and “exactly what a Catholic university needs to be doing.”

“I think the Christian perspective brings flourishing, brings life, makes good societies, brings happiness, development,” he said. So to have a group of students from a university such as Harvard is “a wonderful thing. I think it'll be good for them and it'll be good for us.”

Okendo Lewis, a student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government who spent part of his childhood in Milan, was the one who initially thought of the summit and made it happen with the help of Mary Ann Glendon, who was a US Ambassador to the Holy See during the George W. Bush administration and who now teaches at Harvard Law School.

In comments to CNA, Lewis said part of why he wanted to offer students a Vatican perspective on leadership is because “there seems to be a crisis in leadership” throughout the world, “and Pope Francis very much speaks to many who are trying to figure out how to lead in these difficult times.”

“I definitely wanted this next generation of leaders, whether they’re in business or in medicine or in law, to learn from the wisdom of the Pope, but also the city and the Church, which has had two thousand years of experience,” he said.

Lewis said he initially had doubts about whether or not people would come, since it was already late when they started to advertise the trip. However, they received over 180 applications, and had to narrow it down to 20 spots.

“I think that speaks to the power of the Catholic Church and the interest there is in Pope Francis. So people were actually very enthusiastic to be here,” he said.

Lewis voiced his hope that the summit would become an annual event. This year’s theme of “How to Answer the Call to Serve” fits into what most of the university’s students hope to accomplish, he said, explaining that “they’re trying to figure out how to leverage their education and their studies to help meet the needs of society, how can they be student leaders.”

“So my hope is that this will become an annual tradition so that students across Harvard and hopefully across the United States, can come to Rome and learn from so many of the institutions here where there’s the pontifical universities, there are dicasteries, and certainly the Pope himself.”

Kiernan Schmidt, a student at Harvard Business School, told CNA he wanted to participate not only because of his Irish and Catholic background, but also because the idea of “how morality plays into the decisions we make” as leaders in various fields.

“The idea of examining how morality guides our leadership styles was really the main impetus,” he said, adding that Pope Francis’ challenge for global leaders “to reexamine what we’re doing for each other and how we think of ourselves as leaders” was also a key factor.

What had impacted Schmidt so far in the meetings they had with Vatican officials was “hearing humility from almost every level of leadership that we've met with.”

Another point of particular interest was gaining “a profound understanding that traditions and conditions in local Churches can be very different from what you hear in Rome.”

“I think that that adjusting of leadership and tactics in how we approach problems can be very different in the cultural context,” he said, noting that in their meeting with Archbishop Gallagher, the prelate told them that he not only explains Rome to the local Churches of where he goes, but he also “explains the local Churches to Rome.”

This “two-way dialogue” in the Church, Schmidt said, “was something that felt very new, very refreshing and very modern and also very true to the words we hear from Pope Francis, you know, approaching problems with humility and seeking to talk one to one.”

Posted: March 16, 2017, 8:50 am

Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2017 / 02:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When reports came out recently about Pope Francis’ decision to modify the penalties for several priests found guilty of abusing minors, the question arose as to whether the Pope was being too merciful in his decision.

Another concern was whether priests found guilty of abuse of minors would continue to be dismissed from the clerical state, or “laicized.”

To address these issues and clear up some of the grey area on this topic, CNA spoke with a canonist, Fr. Damián Astigueta, SJ.

A professor at the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University with a specialty in criminal proceedings, Fr. Astigueta offered insights on what dismissal from the clerical state is, why the Church doesn’t always choose to dismiss from the clerical state priests who are guilty of abuse, what those condemned to a life of prayer and penance actually do, the role of bishops in abuse cases, the lessening of sentences, and more.

What is dismissal from the clerical state?

While frequently used in the media, the term “laicization” doesn't really exist anymore among canonists, Fr. Astigueta said, and has been widely replaced by the term “loss of the clerical state.”

When a priest loses his clerical state, either because he requested it or because it was taken from him, he is “‘dismissed from the clerical state,’ because this is a juridical status,” Fr. Astigueta explained.

“He remains in a situation judicially as if they were a layperson. This is where the term ‘laicization’ comes from.”

He clarified that when this happens, it doesn’t mean that a priest is no longer a priest: “the sacrament of Holy Orders isn’t lost; it imprints an ontological sign on the being of the priest that can never be lost.”

What happens instead is that exercising the rights proper to the clerical state are prohibited, such as saying Mass, hearing confessions, and administering the sacraments; as are the obligations, such as that of reciting the Liturgy of the Hours and obedience to their bishop.

However, since a man dismissed from the clerical state remains a priest, there are times at which the Church continues to oblige him to act as a priest.

For example, if he finds someone in danger of death who asks for the sacraments, even though he is no longer in a clerical state, he “must hear (the person’s) confession because the most important thing is the salvation of that person.”

Fr. Astigueta also emphasized the importance of not misinterpreting the process to mean a “reduction to the lay state.” This phrase is not correct, he stressed, since it inaccurately treats laity “in a derogatory way, as if they were lesser.”

Why not all priests guilty of abuse lose the clerical state

For Fr. Astigueta, the answer to the question of why not all priests found guilty of abuse are dismissed from the clerical state has two primary components: not all acts of abuse are the same in terms of severity, and the situation of the priest himself varies.

“Why doesn’t the Church dismiss from the clerical state all abusers? Because not all abuses are the same entity,” he said. Even civil law recognizes a difference in severity between pedophilia – which involves prepubescent children – and ephebophilia – which involves mid-to-late adolescents. In other cases, there may be the appearance of consent with an older teen, he said, which can further complicate the matter. The penalty assessed to the priest takes these factors into account, he added.

When it comes to priests who are found guilty of abuse, there are different types of punishments, including dismissal from the clerical state, or a life of “prayer and penance,” depending on the situation.

“There are certain cases in which dismissal would be the just punishment,” Fr. Astigueta said.

But there are also cases – even with several instances of serious abuse that have caused a lot of damage – when the Church decides against this dismissal, he said, pointing to Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel as an example.

Fr. Maciel was a person “who was proven to have committed a series of very serious crimes, a person who when one knows what he did truly realizes they are in front of a very disturbed person,” the priest said. “Can a disturbed person be punished with the maximum penalty?”

At times the Church prefers to use a different system, prohibiting the person from ministry, particularly in public. Instead, the person is isolated at home, dedicated to prayer “and nothing more.” This means no visits from people, at times not even friends or their congregation.

In the case of Fr. Maciel, even his funeral, whch should have been large and public, was instead closed to the public.

“Is it a gilded prison? In a certain way, yes,” Fr. Astigueta said. However, he said the Church at times chooses this punishment, which is less strong, because at a certain point, “when I give a person a sanction that destroys them, it’s not a sanction, but revenge.”

Fr. Astigueta also spoke of the importance of mercy in the process, particularly when it comes to elderly priests and the Church’s own responsibility toward her members.  

Even in a tragic case when a child has been abused, “the Church is still a mother, and mercy is used for the victims and the priest,” he said, noting that abusers often have serious psychological problems that require treatment.

If a priest chooses to renounce his clerical state, he is often inserted into society without a problem; but when it comes to those who have been dismissed, it can be a lot harder, Fr. Astigueta said, explaining that there is a canon (c. 1350 §2) establishing “that there exists a duty of charity toward them.”

This means “helping them and taking care of them in the measure that the person lets themselves be helped,” he said.

If an 80-year-old priest is dismissed from the clerical state, “where do we send him? Can he find work? He’ll end up living on the street as a homeless man. How long will he last? He won’t last anything,” he observed.

To put a man on the street in this circumstance, unless he has relatives ready to take him on, “is practically to kill him.”

Often, despite the harm done, something good in the person remains, he said, explaining that because of this, sometimes a more just penance is to let him “live with his conscience.” While a life of prayer and reflection might sound comfortable, Fr. Astigueta asked: “reflecting with whom? With your memories before God, with your regrets.”

He noted that in order to avoid pressure from the media in these cases, the Church “is obliged at times to punish, in my view, more seriously than it should.”

Offering help to victims and bringing about justice is always the Church’s top priority when it comes to clerical abuse, but concern must also be shown to the sinner, he said, explaining that if the Church were to immediately dismiss from the clerical state every abusive priest, it could cause more harm.

“Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that if these people are thrown out on the street, I am leaving a possible serial killer,” Fr. Astigueta said, referring to pedophiles. The Church, he said, must also take this into account.

Fr. Astigueta stressed that when it comes to mercy in abuse cases, it “never goes against justice,” and that the first act of mercy is “to tell the truth.”

Once the truth is known, the measure in which the offender can be sanctioned must be taken into account “in order to avoid that the penalty is a revenge,” because this helps no one.

“The pain of the victim is never cured with revenge; the only way to heal the victim’s pain is forgiveness offered freely,” he said, noting that “this can never be forced on anyone; but certainly neither can the spirit of revenge be forced.”

What a life of prayer and penance actually means

Many priests found guilty of abuse, instead of being dismissed from the clerical state, are instead sentenced to a life of “prayer and penance.”

But while the sentence is fairly common, among elderly priests in particular, what it actually involves is at times a bit obscure to the public eye, and it can seem like the priest is getting off easy despite committing heinous crimes.

Fr. Astigueta explained that on a practical level, “the person is isolated, sometimes more, sometimes less.”

Often “the person is isolated, possibly without having direct access to the telephone or the TV, and must dedicate himself to reading, praying and walking around inside the house.”

At times the person might even be barred from leaving the house without permission, under pain of incurring further punishments.

He pointed to the recent case of Luis Fernando Figari, a layman and founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, who was found guilty of an extreme, authoritarian style of leadership as well as several accounts of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse.

As a punishment, the Vatican didn’t expel Figari from the community, but ordered that he live alone, and barred him from any contact with the community's members and from receiving people.

If a priest who receives this sentence doesn’t want to follow the rules, the Church in this case “can impose the full dismissal” from their clerical status, Fr. Astigueta said, noting that many priests who choose this life are people who “want to be helped and recognize that this penalty is a table of salvation for them.”
“It’s strong, yes, but at least I have something to eat and I can live my final years in peace,” Fr. Astigueta said, noting that in general it is elderly priests who end up in this situation, whereas younger ones with some sort of major mental health disorder are typically sent to a therapeutic communities.

At times they are able to celebrate Mass with others, but “always with the very clear ban that ‘from here, you cannot go away without permission.’”

The Church, Fr. Astigueta said, “is not a prison … it doesn’t have penitential system like a state, but someone must keep watch over those removed from ministry.”

And this implies “a very heavy duty for the Church, because who is the one that supervises? Who is responsible for him? It’s not so easy, it implies a lot of obligations.”

Fr. Astigueta also noted that there’s a different canonical process for lay founders such as Figari, versus priests who abuse.

“Technically speaking, the case of a layman doesn’t enter into the canon on abuses like the priests,” he said.

Clerics who commit sexual abuse are charged under a canon (c. 1395 §2) which criminalizes those offenses against the sixth commandment which are committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of 16.

But when it comes to the laity specifically, “this lack in the code must be thought of,” because unfortunately “the times are those in which we can’t only think about priest founders, but of many laity who have a position in the Church … who can abuse minors,” such as school directors or professors.

In these cases, he said, the Church applies a canon (c. 1399) which covers the situation in which the criminal “goes against a divine or ecclesiastical law with harm or danger of grave scandal.”

Cases in which the victims are mentally disabled must also be taken into consideration, he said, as well as many other forms of abuse “that should be considered crimes,” and are in many states.

The role of the bishop in cases of abuse

When it comes to the responsibility of bishops in abuse cases, Fr. Astigueta said that while expectations might have been murky in the past, they are clear now, and require the bishop to act immediately.

“When the bishop is informed, when he receives the news that an abuse has been committed, he has the obligation, a serious obligation, to intervene.”

A bishop must first intervene on a judicial level, alerting civil authorities, but also on the pastoral level, he said, explaining that the process looks different for every nation.

On a pastoral level, bishops must from the start turn their immediate attention to the victims “in order to welcome them and to help them understand that we are not against them and we are looking for the truth,” he said.

After the initial investigation has begun, the bishop may, but is not obliged to, apply a “precautionary measure,” which is a type of disciplinary measure enforced in order to avoid “the process from being polluted.”

Giving a theoretical example, Fr. Astigueta said a priest might try to pressure a victim into retracting their statement, so the bishop could decide to “distance” the priest from the process. This choice might also be made in situations where there is risk of a serious scandal, he said.

Once a priest is found guilty, the bishop will have to carry out the sentence, and it may even be the bishop himself to enforce the decree of dismissal from the clerical state with the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr. Astigueta explained.

Victims must be helped to live a “process of reconciliation, of accompaniment” and one in which they are made to feel that “they are part of the Church,” he said, but stressed that this is at a pastoral level, which must always remain separate from the judicial level.

Fr. Astigueta also spoke on cases of negligence on the part of a bishop, which Pope Francis in his 2016 motu proprio Come una madre amorevole established as grounds for removal from office.

The canon behind the rule (c. 1389 §2), the priest said, states that “A person who through culpable negligence illegitimately places or omits an act of ecclesiastical power, ministry, or function with harm to another is to be punished with a just penalty.”

The issue is also dealt with in a canon (c. 193 §1) which speaks of removal from office “for grave causes.” Removal from office, he explained, is “the act through which a person loses a series of rights which are part of an office.”

“So this person who was the bishop had rights and duties regarding the community. As he has not fulfilled them, this office is removed,” Fr. Astigueta said.

Removal in this sense can either be for disciplinary or penal reasons, Fr. Astigueta said, explaining that in the case of penal removal for negligence, the bishop is dismissed because “he didn’t act as he should have.”

While in the past bishops moved abusive priests around in part because they didn’t understand the severity of the problem, “today no one can say that they don’t know what abuse is and the magnitude of the problem.”

In cases of abuse, then, “it’s already so severe that there is no need for another cause, negligence is enough.” Part of this negligence, Fr. Astigueta explained, could be moving priests, not acting immediately, or letting time pass until more accusations arise: “Here we would have a case of negligence.”

Another instance, he said, would be failing to take precautionary measures against a priest accused of abuse, and it is later discovered that the priest had committed other abuses during that time. Other reasons for removal of office due to negligence could be that the bishop didn’t follow the protocol requested by the state.

He noted that there are a variety of situations, but “the Pope wanted to say that this negligence in itself so important because the damage to the other produced due to negligence, which is almost – even if it can’t be said in a clear way – an act of complicity due to negligence.”

Stronger punishment isn’t always the best way to prevent abuse

No matter the situation of the priest or the bishop, Fr. Astigueta stressed the importance of pursuing the just punishment given the particular situation, and warned against the temptation to immediately impose the maximum punishment – dismissal from the clerical state – on all cases.

To do so, he said, “would be an injustice, it would be a type of witch hunt, and this produces fugitives. If everyone is punished with the maximum, with this you resolve nothing.”

It’s a fact, he said, that all states which have attempted to toughen the penalties in order to prevent further crimes “have failed to do so.”

The only thing that actually makes the crimes diminish, he said, are preventative measures and “the consciousness of the people, the intervention of the people,” specifically through education.

“If the people within the Church were all to work so that there were a healthy environment, not one of suspicion, but healthy and prudent,” these delinquent act would diminish. “Not because the maximum penalty is applied.”

Posted: March 15, 2017, 8:50 am

Brussels, Belgium, Mar 15, 2017 / 12:12 am (CNA).- Responding to the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a hijab to work, the Court of Justice of the European Union has allowed a qualified ban on religious headscarves in the workplace.

“Nobody should be forced to choose between their religion and their profession,” said Adina Portaru, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International in Brussels. “A court claiming to be a champion of human rights should safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of conscience, religion, and belief rather than undermining it. Citizens’ deeply held convictions should be reasonably accommodated by their employers.”

The court ruled that it is not directly discriminatory for a workplace to ban “any political, philosophical or religious sign.” Any ban must be based on internal company rules requiring neutral dress.

Samira Achbita, a receptionist working at the 4GS security company in Belgium, filed the suit. She was fired in 2006 when she began to wear a headscarf to work after three years of working at the company, BBC News reports.

The company had followed an “unwritten rule” against overt religious symbols. It later made the rule explicit. The rule covered “any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction.”

The court said a neutral rule would include a ban on crucifixes, skullcaps and turbans.

For Portaru, the decision is “highly problematic.”

“It ultimately allows private businesses to implement rules which violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion,” she said. “It is the court’s duty to accommodate different convictions and beliefs rather than force a so-called neutrality.”

At the same time, the European Court of Justice said that national courts should determine that there is no particular disadvantage for people of a particular religion or belief unless it is “objectively justified by a legitimate aim” and workplace practices follow “appropriate and necessary” practices. It said the Belgian court would have needed to determine whether Achbita could have been offered another position not in sight of customers.

The court rejected specific treatment of religious individuals based on a customer’s complaint, as in a French case where a firm allegedly fired a design engineer after a customer complained about her Islamic headscarf.

Some forms of religious expression in Europe face legal penalties.

A ban on teachers wearing the headscarf was ruled unconstitutional in a German court in 2015. In Austria and the German state of Bavaria, full-face veils are banned in public.

In 2013, four Christian British Airways employees won a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled their employer engaged in illegal discrimination for telling them they could not wear their crosses.


Posted: March 15, 2017, 6:12 am

Amatrice, Italy, Mar 10, 2017 / 06:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy rebuild their monastery from the rubble caused by devastating earthquakes last year, they do so in the spirit of their founder, Saint Benedict.

“For us, it’s very symbolic, that is, being at the birthplace of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, St. Benedict being the founder of Western monasticism,” said Fr. Martin Bernhard, O.S.B. of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia.

He noted that St. Benedict (480-547) lived amidst “the collapse of the Roman empire” and the “collapse of society and structures.”

“Montecassino was destroyed once when he was there as abbot,” Fr. Martin added of St. Benedict, but the saint “didn’t give up, and he knew that the real answer was still the worship of God, that the primary thing he could do is just give back to God and to center our lives and build our lives around Him in a declining culture and world.”

“And I think in many ways we find ourselves in kind of a similar situation,” he told CNA. “So we find great consolation in that we have this opportunity in a way to follow the spirit of our founding father.”

Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, has been seriously damaged by earthquakes last year.

An earthquake rocked the region in August, causing 247 deaths in Italy. Then a 6.6 magnitude tremor in October caused massive damage to the town and the Benedictine monastery. The Basilica of St. Benedict was totally destroyed and the town was rendered unsafe to dwell in.

Norcia’s main street has re-opened for business but much of the town is still a “red zone” inaccessible to people, Fr. Martin noted. However, the monks’ brewery, which produces “Birra Nursia” has remained largely intact.

A Benedictine monastery had existed for centuries in the town until they were suppressed in 1810 by the Napoleonic laws of the time. In the year 2000, monks based in Rome returned and re-founded the monastery.

Now, the monks have moved outside of the town to a property two kilometers away, the site of an old Capuchin monastery. They lived in tents for several weeks before moving into shelters suitable for the winter months.

However, conditions are quite crowded in the two buildings of only 96 square meters where the 14 monks sleep, eat, and pray. Their biggest need is simply a more suitable place to live and pray as they rebuild the main monastery, especially if the community wants to grow. The basilica will probably take years to rebuild.

The whole ordeal has actually drawn the monks closer to God, however. “It’s been a very humbling and purifying process,” Fr. Martin said.

“The earthquake and kind of the destruction that we had seen of material things has really reminded us of the fact that we’re pilgrims here on earth, and that this world will pass away, and that the biggest, most glorious things man can build, one day they will come to dust, and it’s the soul that endures, and it’s God.”

“So even living in…more physically poor conditions, cold conditions due to winter, has really made us rely upon Him [God] even more,” Fr. Martin continued.

“There’s been a lot of graces for the monks of the monastery. There’s actually a great peace and joy among the monks despite the great trials and hardships.”

The monks started brewing beer in 2012 and sold “Birra Nursia” to support the monastery, and sales expanded into the U.S. in 2016. The monks brew two types of Belgian-style ales, “Blonde” and “Extra.”

While the brewery suffered little damage from the earthquake, the poor condition of the buildings surrounding it mean that the monks cannot yet use it for brewing. Beer is still available for purchase online, however, with proceeds going to the monastery rebuilding effort and 15 percent going to the needs of local residents “who lost their livelihood because of the earthquake.”

“We’re anxious to get back in there,” Fr. Martin said, noting that the monks hope to start small-batch brewing again soon. The beer is a pride of the town, he added.

“It’s very important for us, not only for financial reasons,” he said, “but also because of the sign and the symbol that it gives to the town and to the community.” Local restaurant owners who sell the beer have been asking the monks when they will start brewing again.

If the monks could come back to the town, that “gives a very tangible sign of hope to the town and to the people,” he added.

The community’s needs are both material and spiritual, he noted.

“I would say the town needs continued hope and faith, that is, the challenge for them now is to not lose that patience, perseverance, and endurance and to really trust in God and to move forward and trust that He has a bigger plan for, really, the care of their souls.”

In addition to the clean-up and rebuilding efforts, the town also needs “tourism,” he said, an important source of revenue for businesses before last year’s disasters but one that has been put on hold as many businesses have not yet re-opened.

Those interested in donating to the monastery’s rebuilding efforts can either do so at the website or through the purchase of Birra Nursia.

“We live in a Western world that has many struggles and trials, and in many ways is collapsing, at least perhaps morally. Now around us, very physically, it has collapsed,” Fr. Martin noted.

“And we now have an opportunity to renew our faith and to rebuild with that spirit of centering everything around the worship of God, the most important thing for us.”



Posted: March 10, 2017, 1:16 pm

Rome, Italy, Mar 10, 2017 / 02:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of musicians and pastors from around the world have signed a document urging parishes and publishers should take care to develop the Church’s rich musical traditions, not discard them.

They did so after outlining trends within the Church’s musical traditions in the past five decades that they deem harmful to the Church’s liturgical life and musical heritage.

The statement’s authors write that they “cannot avoid being concerned about the current situation of sacred music, which is nothing short of desperate, with abuses in the area of sacred music now almost the norm rather than the exception.”

The letter, entitled “Cantate Domino Canticum Novum”, or  “Sing a New Song Unto the Lord”, was signed by over 200 musicians, pastors, and musical scholars from around the globe, and published in six languages.

Its publication commemorates the 50th anniversary of the March 5, 1967 promulgation of Musicam sacram, a Vatican instruction on music in the liturgy. In their reflection on the “via dolorosa” of liturgical music in the past five decades, the musicians lay out the challenges facing liturgical music today – before offering some possible solutions.  

They highlight advice from Vatican II's constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which points to the Church’s musical tradition as a “treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.”

“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy,” the document continues, noting the link between a music’s holiness and its connection to the liturgy.

The document outlines several areas in which the preservation of the Church’s musical traditions has been ignored, or even, the authors state, opposed.

This break with the past makes any attempt to connect the Church to the future meaningless – because the context the tradition provides has been taken away. The letter’s authors liken this break to a “sort of spiritual Alzheimer’s,” that takes away not only musical and artistic memories, but theological and cultural ones, too.

In this regard, traditional elements of the liturgy such as the Mass propers and the Liturgy of the Hours have been overlooked. Meanwhile, secular music styles have had undue influence on the liturgy, and the commercial music industry has now reinforced these secular styles as the primary kind of music sold to parishes.

The letter warns that not only does the secularization damage the Church’s connection with the past and ability to grapple with the future, but it also “destabilizes the sense of adoration that is at the heart of the Christian faith” by effectively selling out to secular trends. By molding Church music to different secular trends, recent practices also endanger the Church’s ability to truly exalt and praise good cultural traditions, they note.  

“The secularism of popular musical styles has contributed to a desacralization of the liturgy, while the secularism of profit-based commercialism has reinforced the imposition of mediocre collections of music upon parishes,” the declaration states.

Instead of making culture, the “lack of commitment to tradition has put the Church and her liturgy on an uncertain and meandering path.”

The letter also pushed back against groups in the Church that have lobbied against repertoires that respect tradition and the guidelines set out by Vatican II, instead leaving “repertoires of new liturgical music of very low standards as regards both the text and the music.”

“If we desire that people look for Jesus, we need to prepare the house with the best that the Church can offer,” the letter said of this trend of deliberately sidelining chant and other traditional forms of liturgical music. “We will not invite people to our house, the Church, to give them a by-product of music and art, when they can find a much better pop music style outside the Church.”

Another contributing factor to the struggles facing liturgical music, they said, is clericalism, and some clerics' decisions to supersede the expert opinion of musicians and scholars of liturgical music in order to impose their own opinions.

Lastly, the authors of the letter pointed out that liturgical musicians and composers are undervalued, and often undercompensated for their efforts – which require education, expert skill, and years of training.  “If we pay florists and cooks who help at parishes, why does it seem so strange that those performing musical activities for the Church would have a right to fair compensation,” they ask.

The writers of the document point towards numerous ways of addressing these challenges. Their first suggestion is the reaffirmation of Vatican II’s support for Gregorian chant, other traditional chant forms, and modern sacred compositions that are inspired by the chant tradition, along with the reaffirmation of the pipe organ as the instrument of choice in the Church.

They also advocate for strong music education that focuses on traditional music for children, as well as for adult laity. They also ask that “the Church will continue to work against obvious and subtle forms of clericalism, so that laity can make their full contribution in areas where ordination is not a requirement.”

Lastly, they strongly encourage musical training of clergy and strong liturgical formation for liturgists. “Just as musicians need to understand the essentials of liturgical history and theology, so too must liturgists be educated in Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the entire musical tradition of the Church, so that they may discern between what is good and what is bad,” they write.

In addition, the authors encourage cathedrals and basilicas to hold at least one Mass a week in Latin in order to preserve the area’s link with the Church’s tradition, and for every parish to hold at least one fully-sung Mass a week.

Finally, the musical experts point out that many “Catholics think that what mainstream publishers offer is in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding liturgy and music, when it is frequently not so.”

They ask that publishers put aside profits and commercial incentives in order to emphasize and educate the Catholics in liturgical practices and doctrine.

Among the signers of the declaration are Bishop Rene Gracida, Emeritus Bishop of Corpus Christi; Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana; Aurelio Porfiri, PhD cand., organist of Santa Maria dell'Orto in Rome; Abbot Philip Anderson of Clear Creek Abbey; and James MacMillan, composer.

Posted: March 10, 2017, 9:50 am

Geneva, Switzerland, Mar 7, 2017 / 04:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations reiterated the Vatican’s defense of all human life in a meeting with UN Human Rights Council on the death penalty.

“My Delegation reaffirms that life is sacred ‘from conception to natural death,’ and recalls the words Pope Francis, that ‘even a criminal has the inviolable right to life,’” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic last Wednesday.

He cited the words of Pope Francis: “For a constitutional state the death penalty represents a failure, because it obliges a State to kill in the name of justice. But justice is never reached by killing a human being.”

The archbishop also expressed concern for possible failures in human justice which may bring about the death of the wrong person.

“In this regard, one should consider that human justice is fallible and that the death penalty per se is irreversible. We should take into account that capital punishment always includes the possibility of taking the life of an innocent person.”

He also said that there is “insufficient evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime.”

Globally, recent years have seen a trend against the death penalty.

Recent studies have shown a decrease in popular opinion of capital punishment. Some 80 percent of the American population favored the death penalty for convicted murders in 1995, but a 2010 poll by Lake Research Partners found that support had dropped to 39 percent.

Fighting this trend is the Philippines, which is considering reinstating the death penalty, after it had been abolished in the country’s 1987 constitution.

Archbishop Jurkovic addressed the need for different avenues aimed at rehabilitation and society’s safety while also respecting life.

“My Delegation believes that more humane measures are available to address crime, ensuring the victim the right to justice and giving the criminal the chance to reform,” he said.

The archbishop reemphasized the goal of ending capital punishment and said that the Vatican supports “as an interim measure, the moratoria established by the 2014 General Assembly resolution.” He ended with an encouragement for better prison conditions and fair trials, regardless of criminal status.


Posted: March 7, 2017, 11:17 pm
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