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Posted on 09/8/2023 15:10 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 8, 2023 / 11:10 am (CNA).
The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international peace committee on Thursday called for an end to the blockade of humanitarian supplies in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, warning of a looming “catastrophe” if the conflict continues and aid workers aren’t permitted to bring supplies to those within it.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a press release on Thursday that the now-nine-monthlong blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory in western Asia long claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has had a “devastating impact.”
The USCCB on Thursday noted that “since December 2022, Azerbaijan has blocked the Lachin corridor,” cutting off humanitarian supply chains in the region for nine months.
More than 100,000 ethnic Armenian Christians behind the blockade “find themselves trapped in Nagorno-Karabakh, facing dire shortages of food, medicine, and medical supplies, fuel, electricity, and other basic essentials to sustain life,” the bishops said.
Bishop David Malloy, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in the press release that the prelates were holding “strong hope for a resolution” to the conflict.
“With the continued impasse of this conflict and the mounting consequences of this blockade, let us all be of one mind and one accord in our prayers for those suffering from this conflict,” Malloy said, expressing hope “to see this impending humanitarian catastrophe averted and to see this conflict ultimately resolved through peaceful means.”
At the outset of increased hostilities in the region in late 2020, Pope Francis called for the warring factions to “perform concrete acts of goodwill and brotherhood that may lead to resolve the problems, not with the use of force and arms, but through dialogue and negotiation.”
Malloy at the time had noted that “the Caucasus is a far-off and little-known region to most Americans.” But, he said, “those who suffer are always close to Our Lord and to those who follow him.”
“I invite all Catholics and people of goodwill to join together in prayers for peace in the Caucasus,” the bishop said then.
Human-rights leaders have warned of the risk of “religious cleansing” posed by the larger conflict. This week New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith said the Azerbaijan government’s actions had raised the possibility of “genocide” in the region.
Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback warned earlier this summer that Azerbaijan forces were “working to make [the territory] unlivable so that the region’s Armenian-Christian population is forced to leave.”
The United States “must use every tool at its disposal to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Brownback said last month, adding elsewhere that the U.S. “must exert all the pressure and influence it has to save this endangered population from being starved and eventually driven from their homes.”
Posted on 09/8/2023 07:00 AM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
London, England, Sep 8, 2023 / 03:00 am (CNA).
On the eve of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a leading advocate for the persecuted Church said that awareness of religious persecution in the Western world is growing, thanks to the emergence of four new shrines dedicated to persecuted Christians in the last five years.
In an email interview with CNA on Sept. 7, Father Benedict Kiely, who founded Nasarean.org and is the force behind the shrines that all depict Mary, Mother of Persecuted Christians, said the fruits of the shrines are “manifold.”
“To have four shrines now, in three different countries [with] a focus on prayer for the persecuted in countries like Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, people are deeply moved that the shrines exist and people are praying for them,” he said. “It is educating people in the West that persecution exists and prayer is essential.”
The world’s first shrine to persecuted Christians was dedicated at St. Michael’s Church in New York City in 2018. It features an icon depicting the Blessed Mother dressed as a traditional Iraqi bride — Our Lady of Aradin (Eden) — which was created by an Iraqi Christian named Mouthana Butres, an iconographer and refugee who fled the Islamic State.
The second shrine was dedicated at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, in London, a year ago today, featuring an icon of Our Lady with the words “Mother of the Persecuted” written in Aramaic. The icon was painted by Sister Souraya, a Syrian nun of the Basilian order.
A third shrine emerged in October 2022 at St. John the Guardian of Our Lady in Clinton, Massachusetts. This particular icon of the Blessed Mother was painted by Deacon Ebrahim Lallo, a Syriac Catholic, who was forced out of his town of Bartella, Iraq, by ISIS in 2014.
Then on July 22 of this year, Christians in Sweden dedicated the world’s fourth shrine of Mary, Mother of Persecuted Christians, at the Holy Martyrs Syriac Catholic Church in Kista, Northern Stockholm. The shrine takes the form of an icon of Mary, Mother of the Persecuted, also painted by Sister Souraya.
Kiely told CNA that the Church in Sweden came to dedicate its own shrine for a number of reasons. “Sweden has a large diaspora of Middle East Christians — from Iraq, Syria, Palestine. So obviously a good spot!” he said. “It also came to be through the Catholic composer (and Swedish American) Paul Jernberg, who wrote the first Mass for Persecuted Christians, which was performed at another shrine blessing in Clinton, Massachusetts. He is a friend of Cardinal [Anders] Arborelius, who happily agreed to [dedicate] the fourth shrine. It was a wonderful ceremony in the Syriac Catholic Church, Stockholm, and I’ve been told the shrine is a constant focus of prayer.”
When asked if any more shrines of a similar nature are expected to be dedicated in the near future, Kiely, told CNA he is very hopeful. “We have one or two possibilities at the moment, but I am eager to hear from any bishop who wishes to have one. The request and blessing of the bishop is essential!” he said.
Reflecting on the parts of the world where Christians are most at risk currently, Kiely told CNA that throughout Nigeria and much of Africa persecution is intense, adding: “We are [also] very worried about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where 120,000 Christian Armenians are being starved to death, as well as the Middle East [where] the status of Christians is that of second-class citizens.”
Posted on 09/7/2023 12:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Rome Newsroom, Sep 7, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).
Research in the archive of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome has uncovered a list of the names of thousands of Jewish people who found shelter from Nazi persecution in Catholic religious congregations in Rome from 1943-1944.
While some of the information was first published in 1961, the full documentation, particularly the lists of people hidden in the Catholic institutions, had been considered lost, a Sept. 7 press release explained.
The Nazis occupied Rome from Sept. 10, 1943, until June 4, 1944, when the city was liberated by the Allied forces. During that nine-month period, approximately 10,000-15,000 Jews faced persecution, and almost 2,000 Jews, including children and adolescents, were deported and murdered.
The newly rediscovered documentation references more than 4,300 people hidden by 100 women’s religious congregations and 55 men’s religious congregations during the persecution.
Of the 4,300 people referenced, 3,600 people are identified by name. A comparison with documents in the archive of the Jewish Community of Rome indicates that 3,200 of these were Jews.
The list of Catholic institutions and the number of people they had sheltered was published by a historian in 1961, but the list of names is newly recovered.
There is also information about where the 3,200 Jews were hidden and, in some cases, where they lived before the Nazi persecution.
“The documentation thus significantly increases the information on the history of the rescue of Jews in the context of the Catholic institutions of Rome,” according to a joint press release from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Jewish Community of Rome, and Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust Research.
The documentation was compiled between June 1944 and spring 1945 by Father Gozzolino Birolo, an Italian Jesuit.
The documents were presented at a workshop at the Museum of the Shoah in Rome on Sept. 7.
Posted on 08/31/2023 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Rome, Italy, Aug 31, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis’ Diocese of Rome expressed its support for anti-Mafia priest Father Antonio Coluccia and praised his courageous pastoral work following an attempt on his life in Rome.
“On behalf of the Diocese of Rome, I express to Father Antonio Coluccia and the men of his bodyguard my full solidarity for what happened on Aug. 29 in the Tor Bella Monaca neighborhood,” read a statement signed by the vicegerent of the Diocese of Rome, Bishop Baldassare Reina.
On Tuesday, Coluccia was participating in a march on the outskirts of Rome for law and order and against the Mafia when a man on a motorbike drove toward him and, when he recognized him, tried to run him over. Trying to protect the priest, a member of his bodyguard was injured. In the midst of the confusion, the Italian police fired a shot that hit the assailant in the forearm.
Tor Bella Monaca is a neighborhood with a heavy Mafia presence and is plagued with drug trafficking. Coluccia has been fighting against drug addiction and crime since 2012, when he transformed a villa confiscated from the Mafia into a drug prevention community.
The anti-Mafia priest
Italian magistrates consider the recent attack on Coluccia to be an “assassination attempt” organized by the Mafia. The priest is described by the youth of the neighborhood as jovial and committed to his community: “He talks to everyone, smiles, and gives a medal of the Virgin to whom he asks for advice.”
“Father Antonio has been carrying out his pastoral service for several years at the side of young people who experience the malaise of drug addiction, making his voice heard against those who continue to sow death and to sell deceit,” Reina said in an Aug. 30 statement posted on the diocesan website.
“Intimidating acts like the one committed yesterday won’t discourage Don Antonio in his sensitive mission. … The time we have to live in, with the increasingly rampant diffusion of toxic substances, requires a concerted effort so that the dignity of human life is affirmed, children are guaranteed healthy and safe environments, and the educational challenge is taken seriously, aware of the immense treasure of young people for the present and for the future of our society,” said Reina, who is also an auxiliary bishop of Rome.
The mission to the drug trafficking scene
“The aggression won’t stop me. I will continue my fight, which I am carrying out against the crime that controls the drug trafficking sites in San Basilio, Quarticciolo, and Tor Bella Monaca,” Coluccia told the minister of the interior, Matteo Piantedosi, and the chief of the Rome police, Vittorio Pisani, who called him to check on him shortly after he was attacked.
In September 2021, the title of “honorary policeman” was awarded to Coluccia because the parish priest had distinguished himself by fighting crime with the Gospel in hand. For more than 25 years, Coluccia has fought on the peripheries of Italy, in the slums, and, after dark, on the streets where cocaine and crack are trafficked.
Each night he chooses a different area, shows up “to attract the kids and get them to play, to talk to the young people” and he uses a megaphone for prayers and music. “Mine is a street ministry,” he told Vatican News in 2022. “We must defend these people: These young people who die from overdoses belong to us as the Church. And we can ask ourselves if we have been unable to be close to them at times.”
Blessed Pino Puglisi, the anti-Mafia priest
Coluccia said he finds inspiration in the life of another priest: Father Pino Puglisi, beatified on May 25, 2013. Pope Francis recently commemorated the 30th anniversary of the death of the priest assassinated by the Mafia in Palermo, a “martyr of faith,” and his commitment to the poor and to young people to get them out of the world of crime.
Pope Francis praised the work of Puglisi and emphasized the importance of working together to build a just and fraternal society.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 08/31/2023 16:28 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
CNA Newsroom, Aug 31, 2023 / 12:28 pm (CNA).
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, Germany, on Aug. 30 emphasized the importance of the Catholic television network EWTN.TV when he celebrated holy Mass with the station’s staff and blessed the newly equipped studio in Cologne.
Woelki emphasized the far-reaching importance of EWTN, not only for those who work there but also for the viewers whose faith is strengthened by the broadcasts.
“Time and again, I hear how grateful people are for the daily broadcasts of holy Mass,” Woelki said, according to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. EWTN is the parent company of CNA.
The cardinal’s homily, which commemorated St. Heribert, archbishop of Cologne from 999 to 1021, focused on the vision of a united, peaceful, and free Europe.
“EWTN.TV makes an important contribution to the new evangelization and the promotion of the Christian perspective in Europe,” the German prelate noted.
The Catholic television network EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) was founded in 1981 by Poor Clare Mother Angelica in Birmingham, Alabama. With a starting capital of just $200 and a garage as its first studio, the network has grown into a worldwide media apostolate that now reaches more than 350 million homes. Since 2000, EWTN has also been broadcasting from Germany and is funded by donations.
The station focuses on broadcasting worship services, proclamations of faith, and catechetical programs. Most recently, EWTN provided extensive coverage of World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, which took place Aug. 1–6. In addition to broadcasting via satellite, cable, and internet, the network also operates social media channels and broadcasts numerous special programs via YouTube.
Posted on 08/30/2023 16:15 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 30, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).
Finnish lawmaker Päivi Räsänen is on trial this week for “hate speech” and “ethnic agitation” after publicly sharing in 2019 her biblical, religious views on marriage as between one man and one woman.
Räsänen, 63, is being tried for violating Finland’s hate speech laws by using Bible verses to express her support for traditional marriage.
Her trial will take place on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
In the 2019 tweet that landed Räsänen in her current legal troubles, she criticized her denomination for embracing LGBTQ+ ideology, asking how these views could be reconciled with Scripture. In the tweet, she referenced Romans 1:24-27, which clearly states that homosexual activity is against God’s will.
#kirkko on ilmoittanut olevansa #seta n #Pride2019 virallinen partneri. Miten kirkon oppiperusta, #raamattu sopii yhteen sen kanssa, että häpeä ja synti nostetaan ylpeyden aiheeksi? pic.twitter.com/cnjAQCrOc2— Päivi Räsänen (@PaiviRasanen) June 17, 2019
Along with Räsänen, a Finnish Lutheran bishop named Juhana Pohjola is also being tried for hate speech for publishing a pamphlet written by Räsänen that advocated for the biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage.
Though they were unanimously acquitted by a Finnish District Court in 2022, prosecutors appealed their acquittal to the Helsinki Court of Appeal.
Now, the two are facing tens of thousands of Euros in fines and possibly two years in prison if they are found guilty. Additionally, the court could also rule to censor Räsänen’s publications.
Räsänen and Pohjola are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF).
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said in a press release last week that “the relentless prosecution” of Räsänen has not only consumed four years of her life but “also intimidates others into silence.”
“In a democratic society, everyone should be free to share their beliefs without fear of state prosecution,” Coleman said. “Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and endangers democracy.”
Räsänen, who is a mother of five and grandmother of 10 as well as a member of Finland’s Parliament, told EWTN’s Tracy Sabol in a Monday interview that despite facing renewed persecution, she trusts “that this whole process is in God’s hands” and that she is confident that she will once again be acquitted of the hate speech charges.
U.S. lawmakers defend Räsänen
Fifteen U.S. lawmakers, led by Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, signed onto an Aug. 8 letter in support of Räsänen and all Christians’ right to free speech.
The strongly worded letter was addressed to Rashad Hussain and Douglas Hickey, Biden’s U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom and the U.S. ambassador to Finland, respectively.
“The prosecutor,” the letter said, “is dead set on weaponizing the power of Finland’s legal system to silence not just a member of Parliament and Lutheran bishop but millions of Finnish Christians who dare to exercise their natural rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion in the public square.”
The lawmakers further said that Räsänen’s case holds greater significance for all Christians throughout the Western world.
“History will remember this case for either stopping the madness or as the beginning of the end as the West declares open war on Christianity,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that “the selective targeting of these high-profile individuals is designed to systematically chill others’ speech under the threat of legal harassment and social stigmatism.”
In a Tuesday tweet, Roy said that “no American, no Finn, and no human should face legal harassment for simply living out their religious beliefs.”
All 15 lawmakers who signed the letter are Republican members of the House of Representatives.
‘Christian teachings on trial’
According to a Tuesday ADF statement to the media, “Christian teachings [are] on trial” in Finland.
ADF said that “core Christian teachings” were attacked during the district trial in early 2022 and that “finding Räsänen guilty would be a grave violation of human rights, significantly damaging free speech in Finland.”
Tony Perkins, president of one of the U.S.’s leading religious advocacy groups, Family Research Council, also said in a Tuesday tweet that “it is not just Päivi and Bishop Pohjola on trial” but that “the Bible and the ability to live by the word is on trial.”
It's time to pray again for Päivi Räsänen.— Tony Perkins (@tperkins) August 30, 2023
After a unanimous acquittal in 2022, Päivi will be on trial this week at the Finnish Court of Appeal. No one should be charged with criminal “hate speech” for simply tweeting a Bible verse. It is not just Päivi and Bishop Pohjola on… pic.twitter.com/VWf7iw4hAK
In her Monday “EWTN News Nightly” interview, Räsänen said her trial directly challenges the rights of Christians to freely express deeply held religious beliefs and that “if something like that could happen in Finland it can happen in any country.”
Posted on 08/29/2023 14:34 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Rome Newsroom, Aug 29, 2023 / 10:34 am (CNA).
After the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church expressed “great pain and concern” at Pope Francis’ recent video message to young Russian Catholics, the Vatican said that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Tuesday that “the pope intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote what is positive in Russia’s great cultural and spiritual heritage, and certainly not to glorify imperialistic logic and government personalities.”
The statement came in response to concern from Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church over Pope Francis’ words referring to “the great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great and enlightened Russian empire of much culture and much humanity.”
Pope Francis made the comment while speaking off the cuff during a live video conference with Russian youth on Aug. 25.
Before the final blessing, Pope Francis said: “Do not forget your heritage. You are heirs of a great Russia. The great Russia of saints, of kings. The great Russia of Peter II [a likely reference to Peter I], Catherine II, that great and enlightened Russian Empire of much culture and much humanity. Never deny this heritage, you are the heirs of the great Mother Russia, carry on with it, and thank you, thank you ... for your way of being and for being Russian.”
The remarks were made in Italian after the pope’s question-and-answer session with the youth, before the blessing, and were not included in the available livestream nor in the official transcript of Pope Francis’ speech released on Aug. 26 by the Holy See Press Office.
The pope’s words were published on the Moscow Archdiocese’s platform cathmos.ru at the conclusion of the youth event on Aug. 27.
Pope Francis referenced Russian czars who expanded the Russian empire in centuries past and whom President Vladimir Putin previously invoked in justifying the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian major archbishop responded with alarm. “We hope that these words of the Holy Father were spoken spontaneously, without any attempt at historical evaluations, let alone support of Russia’s imperialist ambitions,” Shevchuk said.
“There is a danger that these words could be taken as supporting the very nationalism and imperialism that has caused the war in Ukraine today — a war that brings death and destruction to our people every day,” he added.
The apostolic nunciature in Ukraine later released a statement “firmly rejecting” the interpretation that “Pope Francis might have encouraged young Russian Catholics to draw inspiration from historical Russian figures known for imperialistic and expansionist ideas and actions that negatively impacted neighboring populations, including the Ukrainian people.”
The Vatican embassy added that the words of the Roman pontiff are to be understood in the context of Pope Francis being “a staunch opponent and critic of any form of imperialism or colonialism across all peoples and situations.”
The Archdiocese of Moscow told CNA that it stands with the clarification provided by the Holy See Press Office.
In Pope Francis’ video conference with the young Russian Catholics, the pope urged them to be peacemakers and “bridge builders.”
“I wish you, young Russians, the vocation to be artisans of peace in the midst of so many conflicts, in the midst of so many polarizations on all sides, which plague our world,” he continued.
“I invite you to be sowers, to sow seeds of reconciliation,” he said, “little seeds that in this winter of war will not sprout for the moment in the frozen ground, but which in a future spring will blossom.”
Posted on 08/28/2023 20:45 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 28, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).
Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, the prelate of Opus Dei, said the institution he has led since January 2017 “does not want to be an exception” in the Catholic Church.
The prelate gave his comments June 27 to El País Semanal in a weekend supplement to the Spanish newspaper, which was published Aug. 26 in a report titled “Opus Dei at the crossroads.”
When asked if Pope Francis, with the reforms he has ordered for Opus Dei, has decided to dissolve the “specificity” of the institution, the prelate said he amiably disagrees and that “the specificity of Opus Dei rests on its charism or spirit rather than on its legal trappings. At its core is the universal call to holiness through work and the ordinary realities of life.”
“For the rest, Opus Dei does not want to be an exception,” he noted.
The fact that until now “The Work” has been “the only personal prelature that could have been perceived as something ‘exceptional,’ but of course it’s not that: On the contrary, I think it would be very good if there were other personal prelatures that contributed to the evangelization of numerous areas especially in need of Christian inspiration,” Ocáriz remarked.
Opus Dei means “the work of God” in Latin, which is why its members refer to the institution as “The Work.” Its emphasis or charism is sanctification through daily work. It is made up of priests, celibate laymen who are called numeraries and associates, and supernumeraries who are married members.
Founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá on Oct. 2, 1928, and erected as a personal prelature on Nov. 28, 1982, by St. John Paul II, since March 2022 Opus Dei has been at the center of a series of reforms determined by Pope Francis.
The most recent, issued Aug. 8, equates personal prelatures with public clerical associations that have the power to incardinate clerics.
A little over a year ago, on July 22, 2022, with the motu proprio Ad Charisma Tuendum (“to protect the charism”), the Holy Father transferred the competencies in matters of personal prelatures from the Dicastery for Bishops to the Dicastery for the Clergy and determined that the prelate, currently Ocáriz, will not be a bishop although he maintains the honorary title of monsignor.
Blessed Álvaro del Portillo and Javier Echevarría, the first two successors of St. Josemaría at the head of Opus Dei, were appointed bishops by St. John Paul II.
The perception outside of Opus Dei
The prelate also pointed out to El País Semanal that “most of the people who know us appreciate us. Especially when they know about the work that is done: social, educational ... when they come into contact with people individually, because these are the realities. Even when they think otherwise.”
Then there are other environments, he continued, “in which there may be more criticism, due to prejudice: due to a conception that one has of the history of the Church and of its role in the world that can lead to a nonpositive assessment.”
It is understandable, then, “that there are aspects that do not fit the way of thinking of some people. But that’s pluralism. The only important thing is to respect each other: We can always collaborate,” he added.
Position in face of criticism
Regarding the criticism that Opus Dei receives, Ocáriz commented that “mistakes and personal inconsistencies are part of life. Criticisms help to improve when they are well-founded and come from knowledge of reality.”
“I would like the variety of Opus Dei people to be better perceived from the social and cultural point of view. Sometimes the focus is on a person of public importance and not on a hundred others who have difficulties making ends meet.”
In the opinion of the 78-year-old Spanish prelate, “in some cases a stereotyped reading has been made of Opus Dei, based on clichés, which don’t help understanding a broader and more plural reality.”
“I would also like to see greater understanding that Opus Dei people are free and responsible. Their merits or mistakes in their professional performance or in civil life, for example, must be attributed to him or her, as it happens with any other Catholic,” he noted.
The prelate of Opus Dei stressed that “the opinions or decisions of a politician on the left or the right are his and his alone, not attributable to the Church or to an institution; these are realities that move on different planes. Historically, this mechanism of attributing personal performance to belonging to a spiritual path has fostered misunderstandings that continue to this day.”
Opus Dei is currently present in almost 70 countries and is made up of more than 93,000 lay members, of whom 57% are women and 43% men, in addition to 2,095 priests.
Fighting between progressives and conservatives in the Church?
Regarding the “fight” between conservatives and progressives in the Catholic Church, Ocáriz recalled that “the pope was asked a similar question, and he pointed out that it was a worldly interpretation, alien to the religious dimension. I think that too often there is a tendency towards a reading of reality in terms of power and polarization, with groups that oppose each other and don’t understand each other.”
However, the prelate explained that “in the Church the logic that must prevail is that of service and collaboration. We all row in the same boat, open to being helped to improve.”
And about the “old conflict” that the Spanish newspaper mentioned between Jesuits and members of Opus Dei, the prelate noted that “personally I can tell you that I am a former student of the school of the Society of Jesus in Madrid, and I am very grateful for the formation and the example I received from the Jesuits.”
A prayer request from the prelate
The reform ordered by the pope, which includes the modification of the statutes of The Work, led to holding a world congress in Rome in April in which 126 women and 148 men participated, of whom 90 were priests.
“The motu proprio of Aug. 8 must also be taken into account when adapting and updating the statutes of the Work … For this reason, I now renew the request for prayers that I already addressed to you a few months ago, so that this work comes to fruition,” Ocáriz wrote in a letter to the members of Opus Dei two days after the publication of the papal document this month.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 08/27/2023 09:00 AM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Dublin, Ireland, Aug 27, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).
On the Emerald Isle, which draws many tourists for its green, unspoiled landscapes, Catholic bishops are in the process of becoming pioneers in the implementation of the encyclical Laudato Si’. They have set a goal for their dioceses and parishes throughout the island: “Return 30% of Church grounds to nature by 2030.”
The origin of this initiative, according to Bishop Martin Hayes, episcopal coordinator for the Laudato Si’ Working Group (LSWG) of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, stems from a COP15 gathering in December 2022 in Montreal (a U.N. conference on biodiversity) where participants agreed to “return 30% of land and sea to nature by 2030.” During the event, more than 190 nations came to an agreement after four years of negotiations.
The Irish Church immediately began to follow through.
“We thought it was a great development internationally and we wondered what it would be like if the Church did the same thing,” said Jane Mellett, the Laudato Si’ officer with the Irish Catholic organization Tròcaire and part of the 12-member Laudato Si’ Working Group, which was born in the wake of the 2015 encyclical.
After launching the project last March, the Irish bishops published resources to implement the proposal in July.
“When we talk about Church grounds, we talk about the green area around each parish church which is usually a public space,” Hayes explained. This could involve a vast territory, since in 2022, a survey conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) counted 1,355 parishes and more than 2,650 churches or Mass centers across the 26 dioceses of the country.
As the first concrete task, parishes are invited to form a group “to assess their parish grounds and map out an area with a view to returning 30% back to nature by 2030.” Hayes has advised them “to engage with local expertise from gardening centers and with horticulturalists.”
As a way of mapping for biodiversity, the Church proposes on its website a “Grounds Checklist” to help assess the properties. Parishioners are invited to list their natural resources — whether it’s a native hedgerow, natural stonewall, vegetable plot, compost system, or even an orchard or fruit bushes.
To make part of the Church grounds “a haven for pollinators and biodiversity,” simple and practical steps are detailed. For instance, the community can plant pollinator-friendly bulbs, install a bee hotel, create a tree nursery, sow shrubs and flower beds, promote alternative energy sources, or organize a recycling system.
Even in urban centers, Mellet said, “almost every church has some green space, and they could look at their car park, at window-boxes, to plant pollinator flowers not necessarily through grassland but in other ways.”
An ‘incredible step’ focused on the biodiversity crisis
In an interview with CNA, Ciara Murphy, who works as an environmental policy advocate within the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin, welcomed the bishops’ initiative as “an incredible first step.”
“It sounds like a simple task, but it’s actually a very important initiative because there is a lot of focus on emission and climate but this one focuses specifically on the biodiversity crisis,” she said.
The Irish bishops, she went on, “are showing very good leadership, proposing something that parishes and communities can really get behind.”
According to Murphy, many churches have a front lawn or a piece of land, and graveyards can be considered as well. “We can make them more biodiversity-friendly by trying to reduce pesticides or herbicides in the areas… It may even be as simple as putting a rainwater planter at the end of the gutter, or taking up a space in front of the church to plant some pollinators plants,” she explained.
Murphy, who is co-author of the recent book “The Parish as Oasis: An Introduction to Practical Environmental Care” with Kevin Hargaden, underlined that “grassroots work has already been done” in Ireland. She mentioned the “All-Ireland Pollinator Plan” — to which the bishops refer — in which faith-based communities are involved. Already, “there are a lot of examples around Ireland where people have made changes,” she asserted, giving the example of a church “where for every christening and every wedding, they gifted the parents ... a tree to plant in their home or family home.”
According to Mellett, there is a lot of interest in this new project.
“The National Biodiversity Data Centre is very happy about it; they said it will make a massive difference to local biodiversity around the country,” she said, adding that “raising awareness is no longer an issue for us; it’s on our news every day. What people want to hear is what they can do and how they can come together to do it.”
Five weeks to reconnect with ‘sa nadúr’
Mellett pointed out another event promoted by the Irish bishops: the upcoming Season of Creation, celebrated from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, established by Pope Francis as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
“In the past five years, the participation has grown massively. Each year we see an increase, many people go through Laudato Si’ courses, etc.”
On the homepage “Care for our Common Home,” the Catholic bishops offer a wide variety of resources for the Season of Creation focused this year on the theme “Let Justice and Peace Flow” (cf Amos 5:24).
Often absorbed by the digital world, the faithful are encouraged to reconnect with nature — “sa nadúr” in Irish — by “listening, looking, feeling” and “appreciating God’s ‘book of nature.’” The bishops also recommend including a general intercession every Sunday during the Season of Creation and organizing a special blessing of family pets on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4.
For Murphy, these initiatives don’t stop there.
“In Laudato Si’, it’s really clear that environmental care is not an option, it’s an integral part of our faith,” she said, noting that the defense of the ecosystem “is a good space to link the biodiversity groups and the parish groups. It’s a lovely way to build communities and communication.”
“It’s not just a matter of managing the ground,” Murphy told CNA. “It can be also a kind of spiritual exercise to work in the garden, work in nature, trying to foster something better from what was there.”
Posted on 08/26/2023 17:45 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Rome Newsroom, Aug 26, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).
Young Russian Catholics attending a faith-sharing event in St. Petersburg had a special experience Friday: an interactive video exchange with Pope Francis, who urged them to be peacemakers and “bridge builders” with the courage to “replace fears with dreams.”
The hourlong, livestreamed conversation took place Aug. 25 during the 10th edition of the All-Russian Meeting of Catholic Youth in St. Petersburg’s Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria. The five-day event concludes Sunday.
Without referring directly to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Holy Father called on the youth to pursue peace “in the midst of so many conflicts” happening around the world.
“Dear young people, I do not want to preach a long sermon. I invite you to be bridge builders. Builders of bridges between generations, recognizing the dreams of those who have gone before you on the journey,” Pope Francis said, speaking in Spanish with the aid of a Russian translator.
“The alliance between generations keeps the history and culture of a people alive. I wish you, young Russians, the vocation to be artisans of peace in the midst of so many conflicts, in the midst of so many polarizations on all sides, which plague our world,” he continued.
“I invite you to be sowers, to sow seeds of reconciliation,” he said, “little seeds that in this winter of war will not sprout for the moment in the frozen ground, but which in a future spring will blossom.”
While only 18 youths from Russia participated in World Youth Day in Lisbon, approximately 400 young people from Russia and neighboring countries are attending the event in St. Petersburg. Some participants traveled more than 5,000 miles to participate.
“As I said in Lisbon: Have the courage to replace fears with dreams,” Pope Francis told the youth. “Replace fears with dreams. Replace fears with dreams. Be not stewards of fears but entrepreneurs of dreams. Allow yourself the luxury of dreaming big!”
The gathering extended the spirit of World Youth Day, preserving its legacy with youth testimonials, the pope’s message, and an interactive question-and-answer session. The Vatican later released the text of the pope’s address but not the Q&A exchange, which can be viewed through a livestream link posted by the event organizers.
Alexander Baranov, young Russian seminarian, shared his personal journey from involvement in Satanism and occult rituals to finding faith within the Church and a path to the seminary. Another participant, Varvara Molotilova, shared a testimony of her family’s faith journey. Influenced by her mother’s Catholic friend, Varvara’s parents embarked on a journey that included celibacy before marriage. Despite challenges, they persevered and eventually had eight children.
Questioned on interfaith marriage
The Q&A segment featured a range of questions, with the Holy Father responding in Italian.
A young Catholic woman who asked if she and her boyfriend who is Orthodox could get married in the Orthodox Church to form a family, because each is convinced that their Church is true.
Pope Francis answered: “Orthodox and Catholics, both are Christians. You are both Christians. Go ahead, go ahead respecting each other’s tradition. Do not force the story and then the Lord perhaps will show you or not along the way, but it is important to underline what is in common: We are both Christians. And this gives you a way to live a beautiful Christian family with a Catholic mother and an Orthodox father.”
When asked about his aspirations for the Catholic Church in Russia, Pope Francis said: “I see a Church united with other Christians,” emphasizing that “it is us who divides Christ, but he is one.”
Regarding the kind of diplomacy needed to bridge the gap in relations with Ukraine, Pope Francis said that “real diplomacy is unafraid of conflicts but does not exacerbate them.” True diplomacy is constructive.
CNA Rome Correspondent Courtney Mares contributed to this story.