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Posted on 09/24/2023 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Boston, Mass., Sep 24, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).
An exhibition of powerful images documenting the lives of Catholics in rural China is now on view at Boston College, presented by the college’s Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History.
“On the Road: The Catholic Faith in China” — which has been extended through Dec. 22 — comprises 60 images taken between 1992 and 1996, when world-renowned photographer Lü Nan traveled on the road through 10 Chinese provinces to document the lives of Catholic villagers. Fifty images are on view at the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) Library Atrium; 10 are displayed at the O’Neill Library Gallery.
One of the most respected photographers in China today, Lü is considered unrivaled in his capacity to capture and reveal human dignity and the poignancy of the human condition, according to exhibition organizers.
“Lü Nan’s corpus of work is very striking,” said Ricci Institute Director M. Antoni J. Ucerler, SJ, a provost’s fellow and associate professor of history. “His focus, with this project and others, is to explore minorities and communities on the margins of Chinese society. Christians in general and Catholics in particular in remote rural areas, from Yunnan to Tibet, are the focus of this collection of photographs.”
Given that the exhibition subject is Christians in China, the Ricci Institute partnered with STM as its primary venue, Ucerler explained, and three STM students co-curated “On the Road.”
Amid the economic and social complexities of the time, “Lü witnessed nothing short of a miracle,” the curators note in an exhibition description: “people of deep faith, despite constant strife in everyday life, on the road to heaven.” This collection — arranged in five categories that depict different aspects of the life and faith of the people he encountered — is his “attempt to convey to the world the miracle he witnessed.”
The Ricci Institute, an internationally recognized research center for the study of Chinese-Western cultural exchange, collaborated on the Boston College display with Michael Agliardo, SJ, director of the U.S.-China Catholic Association in Berkeley, California, and Jamason Chen at Loyola University Chicago. Chen, who often represents and speaks on behalf of his friend Lü, will appear on campus this fall, at a date to be announced, to discuss the exhibition.
“The visual exploration of the profoundly human experiences of these Christian communities in rural China is very specific in terms of time and place. And yet these stark photographs speak eloquently of a common human condition and of the reality of a lived faith across cultures and borders,” Ucerler said.
He described each photograph as “a mini-meditation that invites the viewer to become attentive to and respectful of the message that it is conveying. Each image reveals the complex reality of the Christian faith well beyond the familiar confines of the Western world, while at the same time appealing to universal themes that are part of a shared humanity.”
Following a five-year affiliation with China Pictorial, Lü worked as an independent photographer and produced a trilogy of acclaimed works that made his international reputation. The second comprises the works in this exhibition; many of them have been displayed around the world and have been published in the book “On the Road” (Ignatius Press, 2021). Agliardo assisted Lü in its publication and wrote an afterword to the volume.
“During the period when Lü Nan shot ‘On the Road,’ he visited over 100 church buildings. However, the emphasis of his photographic journey is on how love and faith are practiced in the everyday life of the believers,” according to a description of the book. “His aim is to show that inner divinity is imbued in the everyday life of these believers, and that their time on earth is but a tempering trajectory: Through enduring the trials of life’s fortunes and mishaps, they are able to find true values in divine grace.”
At a campus opening event held last month, Ucerler said a theme that stands out for him is “transcendent hope through a deep faith in the midst of vulnerability.” The co-curators echoed that observation and shared their personal experiences of interacting with the work of the artist. Their reflections and thoughts on the exhibition all underscored the deep faith and hope of those portrayed by the photographer.
“The images depicted might be considered austere, showing poverty and suffering,” said co-curator Wen Jie Gerald Lee, MATM/MBA ’23, of Singapore. “But they communicate profound joy, contentment, peace, and purpose in spite of harsh living conditions.”
Ricci Institute intern and co-curator Zhangzhen Liang MTS ‘23 — who was a young girl when Lü visited her Chinese village for this series — hopes “the perseverance and faith expressed in these photos will empower all of us to move forward together, to live a rich and thriving life, and encourage us to become the light of the world.”
Doctoral student and co-curator Shinjae Lee ‘27, whose family moved from China to South Korea, concluded with a quote from Lü: “I hope that by looking into real life I find something fundamentally and enduringly human.”
The curators, who wrote the accompanying wall text, encourage exhibition visitors to record their reactions to these evocative images, by scanning a QR code available as part of the installation. These responses will be shared with other patrons.
“We sincerely hope that those who view this exhibit will experience a common bond with those who are depicted,” Ucerler said, “and allow themselves to be transported to these faraway communities so that they can learn something from their visual witness.”
According to organizers, in addition to Chen’s appearance, other events will be held in conjunction with the exhibition, and the “On the Road” volume is available at a discounted price.
“On the Road: The Catholic Faith in China” is co-sponsored by the Ricci Institute and Boston College Libraries, with funding from the EDS-Stewart Endowment for the Study of Chinese-Western Cultural History at the Ricci Institute.
This article originally appeared on Boston College’s website and is reprinted here with permission.
Posted on 09/24/2023 11:30 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Sep 24, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said Sunday that regardless of one’s stage of life, it is never too late to receive God’s love.
Speaking in his Angelus address on Sept. 24, the pope said that God is seeking us out at every hour of the day and that his “bighearted” love for us is not based on our merits.
“This is how God is: He does not wait for our efforts to come to us,” Francis said. “He does not give up if we are late in responding to him. On the contrary, he himself has taken the initiative and through Jesus came to us to show us his love.”
“And he seeks us at all hours of the day, which, as St. Gregory the Great states, represent the different stages and seasons of our life up to old age (cf. Homilies on the Gospel, 19).”
“For his heart, it is never too late; he is always looking for us and waiting for us.”
The pope spoke from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square one day after he gave a strong condemnation of euthanasia on his return flight from Marseille in southern France, saying there is such a thing as “bad compassion.”
Pope Francis spent two days in the French city, where he spoke at a meeting of young people and bishops called Mediterranean Encounter with a message that the deepening migrant crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean is “a reality of our times” that calls for wisdom and a collaborative response from European nations.
“Dear brothers and sisters, today we celebrate World Migrant and Refugee Day, under the theme ‘free to choose whether to migrate or to stay,’ as a reminder that migrating should be a free choice and never the only one possible,” he said on Sunday.
Reflecting on his trip to France, Pope Francis said that the challenge of creating communities that can welcome and integrate migrants was “at the heart” of the Mediterranean Encounter event.
“It is necessary that every man and every woman be guaranteed the opportunity to live a dignified life, in the society in which they find themselves. Unfortunately, misery, wars, and climate crisis force so many people to flee,” he said.
“Therefore, we are all called to create communities ready and open to welcome, promote, accompany, and integrate those who knock on our doors.”
Pope Francis also offered thanks to the Italian bishops’ conference for its efforts to assist migrants in Italy.
In his Angelus message, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Matthew about a landowner who gives all of his laborers the full daily wage, even those who were employed late in the day and worked only one hour.
The pope noted that the “ultimate meaning of the parable” is that of “God’s superior justice.”
“Human justice says to ‘give to each his own according to what he deserves,’ while God’s justice does not measure love on the scales of our returns, our performance, or our failures: God just loves us, he loves us because we are his children, and he does so with an unconditional and gratuitous love,” Pope Francis said.
“Brothers and sisters, sometimes we risk having a ‘mercantile’ relationship with God, focusing more on our own skill than on the generosity of his grace,” he said. “Sometimes even in the Church, instead of going out at all hours of the day and extending our arms to all, we can feel like the first in our class, judging others far away, without thinking that God loves them too with the same love he has for us.”
After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis extended an invitation to all to attend an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, Sept. 30, to pray for the upcoming Synod on Synodality assembly.
“May Our Lady help us to convert to God’s measure: that of a love without measure,” he said.
Posted on 09/24/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Sep 24, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
Before leaving on a pilgrimage to Poland earlier this month, Father Michael Niemczak wanted to solicit prayer intentions to bring with him. The U.S. priest with Polish roots was heading overseas to attend the Sept. 10 beatification of the Ulma family, the first time an entire family has been advanced toward sainthood together.
So Niemczak created a simple Google form where anyone, anywhere, could submit a prayer intention to bring with him to Poland. He ended up getting more than he bargained for.
Thanks in part to the publicity provided by a CNA story about Niemczak ahead of his trip, the priest found himself with 1,137 intentions to pray, sent in by Catholics from around the world.
Niemczak, a priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and coordinator of propaedeutic formation at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, is a relative of the Ulma family; his great-grandfather, Jan Niemczak, was a cousin to Wiktoria Ulma, the matriarch.
The Nazis brutally executed the devoutly Catholic family of Wiktoria; her husband, Józef; and their seven children in 1944 for hiding eight Jews in their home outside the village of Markowa in southeast Poland. The family’s beatification Mass was attended by some 30,000 people in the family’s village of Markowa in southeastern Poland. Beatification in the Catholic Church is one step before canonization, when a person recognized for special holiness is officially declared to be a saint.
The priest said it was clear to see that all of Poland was excited. Even before he arrived in Markowa, Niemczak saw large signs advertising the beatification in big cities like Krakow.
An entire country seemed to be celebrating, he said, “all because one family chose to live out their Christian life, in what I’m sure for them felt like an ordinary way.”
Niemczak said he was worried that he wouldn’t have time to pray each intention he received individually. But God provided a solution.
Early on the morning of the beatification Mass — about 5 a.m. — Niemczak took a bus ride with fellow pilgrims to the Mass site. His choice to take the early bus resulted in the priest gaining several hours to himself to “offer up every single intention before the altar.”
Many of the prayer intentions, he said, pertained to Catholics asking that loved ones return to a practice of the faith. Niemczak said he also prayed fervently for the seminarians he teaches back home.
Among the nine Ulma family members killed was Józef and Wiktoria’s seventh child, who was not given a name before the Nazi killings. The Vatican has confirmed that Wiktoria went into premature labor when she was killed and the baby was born at the time of her death. The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints clarified Sept. 5 that the child was a newborn, adding that it received a “baptism of blood” and was therefore included among the martyrs.
Niemczak said it was moving to him that the feast day chosen for the family, July 7, is the day of Józef and Wiktoria’s wedding anniversary, the “birthday of the family.” The Ulmas’ beatification is a “great witness to the unity of a family … that a family is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Niemczak previously told CNA that while discerning the priesthood as a young man, the stories he heard about the Ulmas “set the tone” for the kind of faith he wanted to live, and he found himself desiring to live out his priestly vocation “as heroically as they lived out” their vocation as parents.
“It’s easy to read these stories and think of the figures in them as very distant in time and space … To think, oh man, they must have been like some superhuman people. I couldn’t possibly do that. But then when you hear that it’s your family members, there’s something striking in that,” Niemczak said.
“To realize every family has saints in it, every family has sinners in it, every heart is capable of great holiness and great wickedness. And so it just was a very arresting thought to think, oh wow, within just a couple of generations, there were these saintly figures so close to my family tree.”
Niemczak’s trip included stops at holy sites in Krakow, Our Lady of Częstochowa Shrine, the Divine Mercy Shrine, and several days spent staying with family in addition to the beatification Mass. He also visited the grave of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Polish priest martyred by communists in 1984. He said it was powerful for him to celebrate these figures — Popiełuszko and the Ulmas — who “stood up to oppressive regimes, strengthened by the Catholic faith and their love for others.”
“Greater inspiration to live out my vocation,” he said.
Posted on 09/23/2023 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Aboard the papal plane, Sep 23, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis condemned euthanasia and abortion as actions that “play with life” and said there is such a thing as “bad compassion” during a press conference aboard the papal plane from Marseille to Rome on Saturday.
“You don’t play with life, neither at the beginning nor at the end. It is not played with!” he told journalists Sept. 23, as he returned from a two-day trip to Marseille, in southern France, to speak at a meeting of young people and bishops called Mediterranean Encounter.
“Whether it is the law not to let the child grow in the mother’s womb or the law of euthanasia in disease and old age,” he said, “I am not saying it is a faith thing, but it is a human thing: There is bad compassion.”
Aboard the plane, Pope Francis was asked by a French journalist whether he had spoken about euthanasia in his private conversation with France’s President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day.
The French government is currently preparing to pass a controversial bill on end-of-life issues that could legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in the country. The vote, which was postponed because of the pope’s visit, will be held Sept. 26–28.
Francis said he did not address the topic of euthanasia with Macron on Saturday but that he had expressed himself “clearly” on the issue when the French president visited him at the Vatican last year.
Macron, who made changing the end-of-life framework one of his campaign promises, declared his “penchant” for the Belgian model in April 2022.
Pope Francis said it is not just an opinion that life should be safeguarded and warned that it is easy to fall into an idea that pain should always be prevented, even through what some might consider a “humanistic euthanasia.”
Instead, science has made great strides in helping people to control pain with medication, he noted, repeating that “you don’t play with life.”
In his comments, Francis also recommended, as he has on other occasions, that people read the 1907 dystopian science fiction novel “Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson.
The author, he said, “shows how things are going to be in the end, [when] you take away all the differences, and also you take away all the pain, and euthanasia is one of these things... gentle death, selection before birth…”
Pope Francis has condemned euthanasia throughout his papacy, including referring to it as “a sin against God.”
On the feast of our Lady of Fátima on May 13, the pope expressed his sorrow over the legalization of euthanasia in Portugal, which he called “a law to kill.”
He has also been firm about the need to provide the very ill and dying with palliative care, which seeks to improve the quality of life of people suffering from severe illnesses.
“We must accompany people towards death but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide,” he said in 2022.
Posted on 09/23/2023 17:10 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Sep 23, 2023 / 13:10 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis told those gathered Saturday at a Mass in Marseille, France, to be Christians who “leap for joy” in the face of life’s challenges — with hearts ready to encounter the Lord and others.
“We want to be Christians who encounter God in prayer, and our brothers and sisters in love; Christians who leap, pulsate, and receive the fire of the Holy Spirit and then allow ourselves to be set afire by the questions of our day, by the challenges of the Mediterranean, by the cry of the poor — and by the ‘holy utopias’ of fraternity and peace that wait to be realized,” the pope said Sept. 23.
Pope Francis was in the port city of Marseille in southern France Sept. 22-23 to take part in the Mediterranean Encounter, an ecumenical gathering of approximately 120 young people and 70 bishops from 30 countries.
The pope addressed the “Rencontres Mediterraneennes” on Saturday morning before celebrating Mass in the afternoon for an estimated 50,000 people in Marseille’s Vélodrome Stadium.
In his homily, Francis recalled the words of the French priest St. Vincent de Paul, who exhorted Christians to “‘soften our hearts and make them aware of the sufferings and miseries of our neighbor. We should beg God to give us that spirit of mercy which is the very Spirit of God himself,’ to the point of recognizing that the poor are ‘our lords and masters.’”
Taking inspiration from the Gospel read at Mass, he reflected on the passage from St. Luke, in which Mary, pregnant with Jesus, goes to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with St. John the Baptist.
When Mary “enters Elizabeth’s house, the child [Elizabeth] is carrying, recognizing the arrival of the Messiah, leaps for joy and begins to dance as David had before the Ark,” Francis said.
He explained that Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth teaches us to be Christians who “leap in the face of life” and whose hearts are filled with compassion and mercy for others — recognizing, too, that the Lord often works in our lives through other people.
The greater metropolitan area of Marseille, which lies in the Provence region of France, is almost 70% Catholic, with around 742,000 Catholics in a population of just under 1.1 million.
Francis’ 27-hour visit to the city included a Marian prayer with clergy, a moment of reflection for migrants lost at sea, and a private visit with the poor. He also spoke with France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne.
The immigration crisis in Europe and especially the Mediterranean region was the main theme of the pope’s speeches during his visit. According to the French government, during a 30-minute private meeting, Francis and Macron also addressed the situations in Ukraine, Africa, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
A lively crowd awaited Pope Francis for Mass in the Vélodrome Stadium on Sept. 23. Attendees in the stadium seating, including the concelebrating priests, passed the time by doing “the wave” before the pope’s arrival and the start of Mass.
In his homily, the pope explained that to leap in the face of life means “to feel that something is moving in our heart” — the opposite of “a flat, cold heart, accustomed to the quiet life, which is encased in indifference and becomes impermeable.”
“Such a heart becomes hardened and insensitive to everything and everyone, even to the tragic discarding of human life, which is seen today in the rejection of many immigrants, of countless unborn children and abandoned elderly people,” he said.
Francis said this indifference can mean people “suffer cynicism, disenchantment, resignation, uncertainty, and an overall sadness,” while with faith, instead, “we can recognize God’s presence in everything.”
“Faced with the mystery of life and the challenges of society, those who believe have a spring in their step, a passion, a dream to cultivate, an interest that impels them to personally commit themselves. They know that in everything the Lord is present, calling and inviting them to witness to the Gospel with meekness, in order to build a new world, using the gifts and charisms they have received,” he said.
Pope Francis closed his homily by invoking the protection of Mary over France and all of Europe and by quoting the poem “The Virgin at Noon,” by French poet and dramatist Paul Claudel, who died in 1955.
“I would like to offer this prayer using the words of Paul Claudel,” the pope said: “I see the church, open. ... / I have nothing to offer and nothing to ask. / I come, Mother, only to look at you. / To look at you, to weep for happiness, knowing that / I am your son, and that you are there. ... To be with you, Mary, in this place where you are. ... / Because you are there, always / Simply because you are Mary / Simply because you exist / Mother of Jesus Christ, thanks be to you.”
Posted on 09/23/2023 12:41 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Sep 23, 2023 / 08:41 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Saturday told an interreligious youth conference in Marseille, France, that the deepening migrant crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean is “a reality of our times” that calls for wisdom and a collaborative response from European nations, not “alarmist propaganda."
Speaking at an event called the Mediterranean Encounter, the pope said the “stifled cry of migrant brothers and sisters” is turning the Mediterranean Sea from “the cradle of civilization” to the “graveyard of dignity.” More than 20,000 people have died on Central Mediterranean migration routes since 2014. At least 441 perished in the first three months of this year, the worst quarterly spike since 2017.
The large port of Marseille can’t be closed, the pope said, but other ports have closed to migrants. “And,” he lamented, “there were two words that resounded, fueling people’s fears: ‘invasion’ and ‘emergency.’”
“Yet those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome,” the Holy Father insisted.
“As for the emergency, the phenomenon of migration is not so much a short-term urgency, always good for fueling alarmist propaganda, but a reality of our times, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and that must be governed with wise foresight, including a European response capable of coping with the objective difficulties.”
The need for a pan-European response has been one of the pope’s most repeated pleas. People can’t be left in what he calls the concentration camps of Libya nor allowed to drown in the Mediterranean; but certain countries, particularly Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, and Spain, cannot alone bear the brunt of the burden. He suggested that perhaps a Mediterranean bishops’ conference should be established to facilitate ongoing regional dialogue.
“The ‘mare nostrum’ [our sea] cries out for justice, with its shores that, on the one hand, exude affluence, consumerism, and waste, while on the other there is poverty and instability,” Pope Francis said. “Here also the Mediterranean mirrors the world, with the South turning to the North, with many developing countries, plagued by instability, regimes, wars, and desertification, looking to those that are well-off, in a globalized world in which we are all connected, but one in which the disparities have never been so wide.”
Pope Francis arrived Friday in Marseille, a coastal city in the Provence region of southern France. The main purpose of his visit was to attend the Mediterranean Encounter, a gathering of young people of various creeds with bishops from 30 countries focused on migration issues. The event concludes on Sunday, which is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Earlier on Saturday, the pope attended a private meeting with people experiencing economic hardship at a Missionaries of Charity convent in the city. After his address at the youth conference, he met with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palais du Pharo, a palace in Marseille built in 1858 by Emperor Napoleon III for Empress Eugénie.
You can watch highlights of the pope’s first day in Marseille in the EWTN video below.
📹HIGHLIGHTS | After landing in Marseille, France, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. He also met local religious leaders at a memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea. #PopeinMarseille pic.twitter.com/1sW1eBsSb8— EWTN Vatican (@EWTNVatican) September 22, 2023
‘Our sea’ is a ‘place of encounter’
In his conference speech, Pope Francis referred to a legendary love story from the beginnings of the city of Marseille to insist that coexistence between peoples, even if it’s difficult, is above all a source of joy.
“Founded by Greek sailors who came from Asia Minor, legend traces it back to a love story between an emigrant sailor and a native princess,” the pope said, noting that from its very beginnings, Marseille has been a city that “gives a homeland to those who no longer have one.”
There is a long history of conflicts in the Mediterranean as well, the pope acknowledged.
“Let us not ignore the problems,” he said, “yet let us not be misled: The exchanges that have taken place between peoples have made the Mediterranean the cradle of civilization, a sea overflowing with treasures … Our sea — mare nostrum — is a place of encounter: among the Abrahamic religions; among Greek, Latin, and Arabic thought; among science, philosophy, and law; and among many other realities. It has conveyed to the world the lofty value of the human being, endowed with freedom, open to the truth and in need of salvation, who sees the world as a wonder to be discovered and as a garden to be inhabited, under the imprint of a God who makes covenants with men and women.”
The pope reflected that if one looks at the map, his host city “almost seems to draw a smile between Nice and Montpellier. I like to think of it that way, as ‘the smile of the Mediterranean,’” he said, which brought warm applause from his hosts.
Francis compared the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee, which at the time of Christ also had “a concentration of various populations, beliefs, and traditions.” It was in that “multifaceted and in many ways unstable context” that Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes and taught that God is the Father of all.
“Here then is the answer that comes from the Mediterranean: This perennial Sea of Galilee urges us to oppose the divisiveness of conflicts with the ‘coexistence of differences,’” he said.
This sea has a vocation to be a “laboratory of peace.” And this is a vocation sorely needed as “antiquated and belligerent nationalisms want to make the dream of the community of nations fade! Yet — let us remember this — with weapons we make war, not peace, and with greed for power we return to the past rather than building the future.”
For peace to take root, the pope said, we have to begin by listening to the poor, as Jesus did on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. “We need to start again from there, from the often silent cry of the least among us, not from the more fortunate ones who have no need of help yet still raise their voices.”
Flanked by bishops and other Christian leaders, the Holy Father centered his address on human dignity beyond the issue of migration, as he also took the occasion to condemn euthanasia and abortion. France is in the process of considering assisted suicide. Leaving his text, the pope lamented how babies are “confused with puppies” and recounted how a secretary told him about seeing a woman pushing a baby carriage, only to discover that it was a pet inside, not a child.
The poor must be “embraced, not counted,” Pope Francis said, “for they are faces, not numbers.”
“Indeed, the real social evil is not so much the increase of problems but the decrease of care,” the pope said.
“Who nowadays becomes a neighbor to the young people left to themselves, who are easy prey for crime and prostitution? Who is close to people enslaved by work that should make them freer? Who cares for the frightened families, afraid of the future and of bringing children into the world? Who listens to the groaning of our isolated elderly brothers and sisters, who, instead of being appreciated, are pushed aside, under the false pretenses of a supposedly dignified and ‘sweet’ death that is more ‘salty’ than the waters of the sea?
“Who thinks of the unborn children, rejected in the name of a false right to progress, which is instead a retreat into the selfish needs of the individual? Who looks with compassion beyond their own shores to hear the cry of pain rising from North Africa and the Middle East? How many people live immersed in violence and endure situations of injustice and persecution!”
He said this last situation describes the many Christians who are forced to leave their homelands or live without recognition of their rights.
Referring to himself, however, Pope Francis insisted that “this pope who came from the other side of the world is not the first to warn of it with urgency and concern.”
Instead, the Church has made this appeal for 50 years. He cited Pope Paul VI, who said: “The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance. And the Church, cut to the quick by this cry, asks each and every man to hear his brother’s plea and answer it lovingly.” And Pope Pius XII, who said: “the Holy Family in exile, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph emigrating to Egypt … is the model, example and support for all emigrants and pilgrims of every time and country, and of all refugees of whatever condition who, whether compelled by persecution or by want, are forced to leave their native land and beloved parents … and to seek a foreign soil.”
Human dignity must be paramount
Francis cited the “three duties” of the more developed nations listed by Paul VI: “mutual solidarity — the aid that the richer nations must give to developing nations; social justice — the rectification of trade relations between strong and weak nations; universal charity — the effort to build a more human world community, where all can give and receive, and where the progress of some is not bought at the expense of others.”
The Argentinian pope admitted that “welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating unexpected persons” is not easy, but he insisted that “safeguarding human dignity” must be the principal criterion, not “the preservation of one’s own well-being.”
“Those who take refuge in our midst should not be viewed as a heavy burden to be borne,” he said. “If we consider them instead as brothers and sisters, they will appear to us above all as gifts.”
Before his audience, he recognized that “history is challenging us to make a leap of conscience in order to prevent a shipwreck of civilization,” adding that the solution is “not to reject but to ensure, according to the possibilities of each, an ample number of legal and regular entrances.”
“We need fraternity as much as we need bread,” the pope insisted. “The very word ‘brother’ in its Indo-European etymology derives from a root associated with nutrition and sustenance. We will support ourselves only by nourishing with hope the most vulnerable, accepting them as brothers and sisters.”
Here, the pope referred to another tradition associated with Marseille: that it was evangelized by Jesus’ friends of Bethany, the siblings Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
“As Christians, who believe in God made man, in the one inimitable Man who on the shores of the Mediterranean called himself the way, the truth, and the life, we cannot accept that the paths of encounter should be closed, that the truth of Mammon should prevail over human dignity, that life should turn into death,” he said.
“Worship God and serve the most vulnerable, who are his treasures. Adore God and serve your neighbor, that is what counts: not social importance or vast numbers, but fidelity to the Lord and to humanity!”
Before he departs for Rome on Saturday evening the pope will offer Mass at the Vélodrome Stadium.
Posted on 09/23/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
Broadly speaking, it would be an understatement to say that the young men at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, are good at sports. Buoyed by numerous state championships in recent years, the school was recently voted the top sports school in the entire Sunshine State.
That competitive and excellence-seeking nature lends itself to a different kind of zeal, however — a zeal to bring souls to Jesus Christ.
Jimmy Mitchell, director of campus ministry at Jesuit and author of the new book “Let Beauty Speak,” told CNA that the “competitive nature of school” not only lends itself to great sports — and great academics — “but in a really cool way they can also, maybe not get competitive, but certainly ambitious when it comes to souls.”
Because of the school’s emphasis on peer-to-peer Catholic ministry, the young men at the school are encouraged to turn their talents and efforts toward the sharing of the faith with their classmates — and similar to their sports teams, the men of Jesuit have found success.
Coming off the disruptions wrought by COVID-19, Jesuit High School had 22 students convert during the 2020-2021 school year through its RCIA program — an unprecedented number that both continued and elevated a trend.
Since 2010, a total of 104 students have been baptized and received into the Church at Jesuit, Mitchell reported. Fifty-seven of those were during the last three school years alone, and 33 of those converts are current students on campus, he said.
Mitchell said as a campus minister, his goal is “a kind of personal care and personal approach to every student, like they’re the only person on planet Earth.”
“If we can catch them young and love them better than anybody else, it’s going to have a massive impact,” Mitchell said.
‘A brotherhood with eternal consequences’
Father Richard Hermes, SJ, now president of the school for over a decade and a half, told CNA that there’s “nothing more important” to him and to the school than promoting the faith and leading the young men to God.
“The boys are working hard in school and teachers are doing a great job, and the kids are having a lot of success on the field. But there’s also, in the middle of it, this great thing happening in terms of spiritual renewal,” Hermes told CNA.
Retreats, whether abroad or closer to home, are a big part of the school’s ministry to the students. In 2021 the school brought a group of over 100 young men on a pilgrimage to Europe that coincided with the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius’ conversion and the 400th of his canonization. (The school provides scholarship assistance to allow students of all financial backgrounds to go on the retreats.) This year a large group of students went to Lourdes.
“I think all of that really solidifies a lot of guys in their faith [and] helps guys open up to the faith. It produces converts, too,” Hermes said.
Mitchell previously told CNA that a key factor in the campus’ “dynamic, orthodox, authentically Catholic culture” is the availability of the sacraments. Mass is offered daily, along with regular Eucharistic adoration and opportunities for confession.
The school itself seeks to emphasize beauty, Mitchell said, with the crown jewel being the multimillion-dollar Holy Cross Chapel, a Romanesque edifice dedicated in 2018. Hermes said the school prizes “beautiful, noble, dignified liturgies … trying to create an atmosphere of prayer and make the Masses and the other liturgical services as dignified and solemn as you can.”
But beauty can only do so much on its own. It’s the face-to-face, brotherly support that makes the difference when it comes to producing converts, Mitchell said.
“This is a brotherhood with eternal consequences. With eternal significance,” he said.
‘Wherever I looked, I could see witnesses to the faith’
Diego Mejia, a Jesuit senior and president of peer ministry, told CNA before arriving at the school, despite being introduced to the faith by his parents at a young age, he did not consider himself Catholic and had “no understanding” of the Catholic faith.
That said, Mejia said he had always been inspired by people who gave themselves entirely to their causes, whether it be a doctor fighting to cure diseases, or an environmentalist fighting for what he or she believed in. He says he found many such people at Jesuit, giving themselves wholly over to their belief in Christ.
“Jesuit did everything for me with bringing me back to the faith, which my parents had introduced me to when I was in elementary school, but which I had strayed away from when I was in middle school,” Mejia said.
“I saw people just wholeheartedly giving themselves over to this faith that they had found and to the life that the faith proposes for them.”
At Jesuit, groups of eight to 10 students convene regularly during lunch periods to discuss their faith, engaging in vulnerable conversations about their struggles and sharing wisdom and counsel with each other.
Mejia said the school’s peer ministry groups were a key factor in his eventual intellectual embrace of the faith — complimenting what he was learning in theology class — as well as the fostering of an environment where he felt supported in his faith by his peers.
“Discipleship created this environment for me where I’d come in during lunch with my friends and we just have conversations. And simply by reflecting on where we stood in our own faiths and hearing testimonies from one another, and then also in discussing different topics and different things related to the faith, I was able to really grow in my own faith,” he explained.
“And I was able to take what I learned in my theology class and bring it then into my heart … Wherever I looked, I could see witnesses to the faith. And these witnesses inspired me.”
Jake Killian, a fellow senior and student body president, told CNA that despite being raised Catholic, his faith was more of a “Sunday thing” than an integral part of his life. But arriving at Jesuit changed his outlook.
“Once I got to Jesuit, it turned from a once a week thing on Sunday to a true, actual relationship,” he said.
“I learned so many different ways to pray, and one of my favorite ones was probably Liturgy of the Hours … so many opportunities on campus to be formed.”
Killian said one of the reasons for this was simply the emphasis that the school puts on faith formation. He, too, spoke about how the yearly retreats have impacted him, mentioning the seriousness with which the retreats are treated, as a special and privileged time to build friendships and deepen faith.
“It’s pretty hard to ‘miss’ the faith. Our chapel is literally right in the middle of campus, and it’s an incredible environment … [but] it’s not forced on kids. I feel like you’ve got to buy into it, but with the culture on campus, it’s kind of hard not to,” he said.
The 17-year-old Killian said at this time in his life, he wants to go to college, possibly to play soccer. He said he has come to understand the importance of finding and joining a Catholic community in college, in order to not lose what he has cultivated at Jesuit.
“The thing I hear a lot is that if you’re able to make it to Mass the first week [of college], that’s a huge first step, because usually when kids don’t make it to Mass their first week in college, they don’t really find a time to go, ever,” he said.
Mejia said he is still discerning his next steps, mulling over religious vocations as well as various options for college. He says he’s seen firsthand at Jesuit how important brotherly accountability is to maintaining the faith and plans to continue seeking out that accountability while in college and beyond.
“I myself and many of my friends have learned that if we’re going to continue our faith in college and thereafter, we’ll have to find other like-minded people with whom we can pursue our faith … [and] I’ll have to continue growing my intellect, and my understanding of the faith and reasoning at every step of the way so that I can continue on believing and adhering to the doctrine which our faith lays out.”
Mitchell commented that forming the young men to be strong in their faith after they leave Jesuit and enter the wider community is a major focus.
“Even young people are coming from rock-solid Catholic homes, devout parents, great parishes — if at a certain point they don’t start to see the faith lived out in really cool and attractive ways, especially by their friends, it’s really challenging for them to stay committed to that faith in college and beyond,” he noted.
Hermes further confirmed that teaching the students how to live as solid Catholic men in a collegiate atmosphere is an “important part of our mission.” Amid what Hermes sees as a scourge among young people comprising “a general collapse of faith, the affliction of pornography, mental anxiety, mental depression, mental health issues,” Hermes said the school takes care to attend to the students’ mental health along with their spiritual health. And the results have been positive.
“We’re seeing more and more of these guys becoming leaders in the Church, whether in college, during their college years, or beyond. They’re making a real impact on the Church,” Hermes said.
“They’re leaving here with a mentality of being at the service of the Church, and [their faith’s] not just dying here after they get the diploma.”
‘Unapologetic and uncompromising’
Perhaps surprisingly, although there will always be a few students who don’t ultimately embrace the faith, most of the young men who come into the school as non-Catholics “don’t really come fighting the faith too much,” Hermes said.
“Most of our students come here either without any knowledge of the faith or without any experience of it, and relatively little practice of it,” he explained.
“So just introducing them to God and to the Catholic Church, to the Lord Jesus, to the sacraments, to Sunday Mass, confession, Eucharistic adoration, that’s obviously a challenge both in the theology classroom and then in retreats and campus ministry.”
The school features a “rock-solid theology department” that aims to provide truth combined with “unapologetic and uncompromising” love, Mitchell said. Teachers at the school can and do set an example of true devotion, Mitchell said, spending time on their knees at the adoration chapel, modeling prayer and faith for the young men.
“The deeper [the teachers’] interior lives run … the more the pursuit of holiness is sort of normalized … the more accessible it seems to everybody, you know?” he said.
Mitchell said he has heard about other schools starting RCIA programs and hiring full-time campus ministers, seeking to replicate Jesuit’s success. But Mitchell said it is vital to recognize that conversions and deepening of faith are really the Lord’s work — it’s always at his initiative that a person comes to believe.
The students at Jesuit appear to have bought into the idea of cooperating with God’s plan to bring more people into the Church.
“There’s a desire, I think, among many of our student leaders in this particular senior class to use their platform, if you want to call it that, to use their influence, to use their leadership ultimately for God’s glory and for the salvation of souls,” Mitchell said.
Posted on 09/23/2023 08:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 23, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
As one of the most well-known modern saints in the world, the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina — more commonly known as Padre Pio — has been the source of many alleged miracles over the years.
Last year, “EWTN News In Depth” correspondent Mark Irons had the opportunity to meet with various people who were impacted by the legacy of Padre Pio, including a woman who received an extraordinary healing that would later result in the creation of The National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania.
Born in the Southern Italian town of Pietrelcina under the name Francesco Forgione before taking the name Padre Pio in the Franciscan order, he was known for having a variety of supernatural gifts. One of these gifts was the stigmata — the spontaneous appearance in the body of wounds resembling those of Christ crucified. He also could read people’s hearts, heal the sick, and bilocate.
Despite word of his gifts spreading, Padre Pio was not well known by many U.S. Catholics during the mid-20th century. However, this began to change after the healing of Vera Marie Calandra, a 2-year-old girl who had suffered congenital urinary tract problems that left her with a dire prognosis.
For medical providers, her imminent death seemed all but sealed — even in the eyes of Dr. C. Everett Koop, a surgeon involved in her care who would later become the U.S. Surgeon General under the Reagan administration.
While Koop helped remove Calandra’s bladder to provide her comfort, he likewise advised her parents to make preparations for her funeral. However, that day did not come to pass — as told by Calandra herself when recounting the story to “EWTN News In Depth.”
“[Koop] said, ‘You need … to come to terms with this now, you can’t hang on to this dying child,” Calandra recounted. “And my mother went home, and she didn’t accept it.”
Calandra described how her mother, a devout Catholic, picked up a book someone had given to her about Padre Pio and heard an inner voice as she read the book that told her to bring her daughter to Italy without delay.
Quickly arranging for the trip, Calandra’s mother was able to bring her daughter to Italy, waiting in a packed corridor with others for the priest. It was then, Calandra described, that Padre Pio approached.
“And their eyes locked,” Calandra said. “That’s when she made her promise: make a miracle so that all will believe. He took his wounded hand, covered in his half-glove … pushed it up in front of her face, and she was able to kiss his hand.”
After Padre Pio touched each of them individually on their heads and blessed them, Calandra and her mother went back home to the U.S.
Afterward, during a follow-up X-ray with Koop, an extraordinary discovery was made: They found a bladder in the exact location where her previous one was removed.
“He could not explain that himself,” Calandra said. “And he just said ‘there’s a ‘rudimentary … bladder,’ [later saying] ‘whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.’”
While Padre Pio passed away soon after Calandra’s healing, her mother dedicated the rest of her life in thanksgiving to the friar and to making his name known, ultimately building The National Centre for Padre Pio near their home in Pennsylvania — with the focus of leading souls to Christ.
Nick Gibboni, the executive director of The National Centre for Padre Pio, gave insight into how the center’s mission was lived throughout Padre Pio’s life on earth.
“People who would come to see Padre Pio and they would … almost throw themselves on Padre Pio,” Gibboni said. “[They would say], ‘I love you, I love you,’ and one of his more famous quotes was [to say], ‘No, you do not love Padre Pio because of Padre Pio, you love Padre Pio because I lead you to Jesus.’”
Ultimately, Gibboni emphasized that, to Padre Pio, it was all about leading souls to Christ through the Catholic Church — a legacy that continues to live on through the work of the center.
Watch the full “EWTN News In Depth” interview below.
This article was originally published by CNA on Oct. 9, 2022.
Posted on 09/22/2023 22:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 22, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).
Two civil society organizations have launched a mobile unit traveling the main streets of Mexico City with the message “Classrooms are for learning, not for indoctrination!” in order to make known “society’s complaint due to the illegal indoctrination promoted by the federal government.”
The campaign, led by the National Union of Parents (UNPF) and the CitizenGO platform, demands that educational institutions stop using the controversial school textbooks developed for the 2023-2024 school year by the Mexican government under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The organizations maintain that distributing the textbooks was illegal because they were changed without either the parents or the educational community having been consulted about the content as stipulated by Article 48 of the General Law on Education.
The online petition calls out López Obrador for ordering the distribution of the textbooks throughout the country in violation of a judicial order to halt printing the books until the consultation could take place in accordance with the law.
The petition calls the distribution of the textbooks “arbitrary, illegal, and authoritarian.”
Furthermore, the UNPF and CitizenGo make the accusation that the educational material has the objective of “forming party members for the [president’s] political cause. They don’t want to form Mexicans with values or competitive abilities to move Mexico forward,” the petition states.
At the kickoff event for the truck, Karla García Escudero, a representative of the National Union of Parents, and Edith Juárez from the Citizen Initiative platform said the truck will travel the streets carrying a message to “demand that our children be the center of scientific education and not a pretext for political, much less ideological, issues.”
They also announced that through the CitizenGO platform they are collecting signatures from all those who want to join this cause. “To date, there are more than 118,000 of us compatriots who have freely given our support” through various means.
They stressed that “as long as the federal government and state governments continue to act illegally,” parents and citizen organizations will continue “acting together through public complaints, through legal means, and with signature collection campaigns.”
“Children are the future of our country and they need to be educated on a scientific basis and not with ideological ideas. That’s why we are and will continue to fight together, parents and citizens,” the organizers said at a press conference.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 09/22/2023 22:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 22, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
Dominican Sister Lucía Caram, who lives in Spain but is Argentinian, said during a recent television program that she is in favor of homosexual couples being able to “marry in the Church.”
In the show called “Cuentos Chinos” (“Tall Tales”), host Jorge Javier Vázquez, who is openly homosexual, asked the religious: “Would you be in favor of gays getting married in the Church?” to which the nun responded: “I would be in favor of gays getting married in the Church because God always blesses love.”
In a previous comment, Caram also noted: “My best friend is gay. He’s Juan Carlos Cruz, who is a global LGTBI leader.”
Cruz is a Chilean activist and a victim of sexual abuse by the late Fernando Karadima, a priest who was dismissed from the clerical state.
In March 2021, Cruz was appointed by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors chaired by the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
When asked if two men who have sexual relations would be committing sin, Caram said: “I am not anyone to say that someone commits sin in anything. I think each person knows. To commit a sin… It is very complicated to want to do wrong. I am nobody to condemn anyone. And Jesus says we should not condemn anyone. So I would not condemn or say ‘this is a sin or this is not a sin.’ Not about anyone.”
The television host then asked if the nun would recommend two homosexual people to have sexual relations. “If they love each other… What do you want me to tell you! They do not have the vow of chastity that I have,” she responded.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church dedicates paragraphs 2357-2359 to chastity and homosexuality. The Church teaches that homosexual acts “are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
The Catechism also states that homosexual inclination constitutes for most people “a trial” and therefore “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” avoiding “all signs of unjust discrimination.” These people are called “if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
Finally, the compendium of the Church’s faith states that “homosexual people are called to chastity” and are encouraged to “by the virtues of self-mastery” with the support of disinterested friendship, prayer, and sacramental grace “to gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
After the nun’s response, the host of the program stated that Caram ought to be pope, to which she replied: “No. With Francisco we are very well. We have the best pope in history.”
When asked by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, sources at the Order of Preachers in Spain explained that “the friars of Spain do not have any type of legal or canonical authority over the sisters” and that they understand that “Sister Lucía’s opinions or her statements are not in the name of the order; they are personal.”
In 2017, Caram sparked another controversy on a television program by questioning a principal dogma about Mary, the Mother of God. The sister said she understands that it is “very difficult to believe, to adhere to the issue of Mary’s virginity.”
Furthermore, the Dominican stated on that occasion that the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph had the relationship of a “normal couple,” which involved “having sex and having the normal relationship of a couple.”
On that occasion, the federation of Dominican nuns of the Immaculate Conception, which encampasses monasteries from Spain, Argentina, and Chile, said in a statement that “her status as a contemplative Dominican is not compatible with her activity in the communications media especially in those where the most sacred truths of our Catholic faith are denied and ridiculed.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.