Wed, 17 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis met in private Jan. 16 with survivors of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy, a Vatican spokesman said. Greg Burke, the spokesman, said the pope met with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile. "The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening. The private setting, he added, allowed the group to speak freely with the pope "and recount their sufferings. Pope Francis "listened, prayed and cried with them," Burke said. Also present at the press conference was Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference. Bishop Ramos addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile. Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. "Bishop Barros is bishop of Osorno and was named by the pope. All bishops have the right and responsibility to participate at the events. That was the only reason why" he was present, Bishop Ramos said. Earlier in the day, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church." Burke said it was significant the pope addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse during his meeting with government authorities "because normally he speaks about it when meeting with bishops or priests." "The fact that he spoke there means that it is an evil not only for the church but for society," Burke said.
Tue, 16 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis arrived in Santiago, the first stop on a seven-day, six-city visit to Peru and Chile, where he will take his message of hope to people on the margins of society. Arriving in Santiago after more than 15 hours in the air, Pope Francis was greeted by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a young Chilean girl. He told the crowd he was happy to be in Chile, and he blessed the workers at the airport before being transported to the papal nunciature, where he will stay the three nights he is in Chile. On Jan. 17, the pope will travel to Temuco and meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community. Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country's return to democracy in the late 1980s. "Chile won't be too difficult for me because I studied there for a year and I have many friends there and I know it well, or rather, well enough. Peru, however, I know less. I have gone maybe two, three times for conferences and meetings," the pope told journalists aboard the papal flight. There was no mention of increased security for the Chilean visit. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago. Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, "The next bombs will be in your cassock" and spoke of the Mapuche cause. Before flying to Peru Jan. 18, Pope Francis will visit Iquique, where he will celebrate Mass on Lobito beach. In Peru Jan. 18-21, will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. He will also meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity. In both countries, he will work to restore trust and encourage healing after scandals left many wounded and angry at the Catholic Church. Shortly after take-off from Rome, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, distributed a photo card the pope wished to share with journalists aboard his flight from Rome. The photo depicted a young Japanese boy shortly after the bombing in Nagasaki, waiting in line, carrying his dead baby brother on his back to the crematorium. On the back of the card, the words "The fruit of war" were written along with Pope Francis' signature. Before greeting each of the 70 journalists, the pope said that he found the photo "by chance" and "was very moved when I saw this." "I could only write 'the fruit of war.' I wanted to print it and give it to you because such an image is more moving than a thousand words," he said. Responding to a journalist's question about nuclear war, Pope Francis said: "I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things." The Peru-Chile trip is Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope.
Tue, 16 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis, in his first formal speech in Chile, asked forgiveness from those who were sexually abused by priests. Addressing government authorities and members of the country's diplomatic corps Jan. 16, the pope expressed his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church." "I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensure that such things do not happen again," he said. Preparations for Pope Francis' visit to Chile Jan. 15-18 were overshadowed by continuing controversy over the pope's decision in 2015 to give a diocese to a bishop accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse perpetrated by a notorious priest. The pope's appointment of Bishop Juan Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno sparked several protests -- most notably at the bishop's installation Mass -- due to the bishop's connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. The protests against the pope's appointment of Bishop Barros gained steam when a video of Pope Francis defending the appointment was published in September 2015 by the Chilean news channel, Ahora Noticias. Filmed during a general audience a few months earlier, the video showed the pope telling a group of Chilean pilgrims that Catholics protesting the appointment were "judging a bishop without any proof." "Think with your head; don't let yourself be led by all the lefties who are the ones that started all of this," the pope said. "Yes, Osorno is suffering but for being foolish because it doesn't open its heart to what God says and allows itself to be led by all this silliness that all those people say." Survivors of abuse and their supporters planned a conference and protests around the pope's arrival. But Pope Francis made his way to La Moneda, the presidential palace, and was welcomed by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Thousands were gathered in the square outside the palace, chanting "Francisco, amigo, Chile esta contigo" ("Francis, friend, Chile is with you"). Despite the jovial atmosphere at outside La Moneda, there were serious signs of protest in Santiago. Chilean media reported vandalism at Divine Providence Parish, not far from O'Higgins Park, where the pope was to celebrate Mass later in the morning. Vandals spray painted the words "complice" ("accomplice") and "papa arde" ("burn, pope") on the facade of the church below a banner welcoming Pope Francis. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago. Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, "The next bombs will be in your cassock" and spoke of the cause of the Mapuche indigenous group. "How are you? Where you able to rest?" Bachelet asked the pope when he arrived at the palace. "Perfectly," he responded. The two leaders stood as the national anthems of Chile and Vatican City State were played before entering the courtyard of the palace where about 700 members of the country's government authorities and of the diplomatic corps welcomed the pope with a standing ovation. In his speech to the country's political leaders, Pope Francis emphasized the need for officials to listen to the people and to value their experiences, cultures, sufferings and hopes. Included in the pope's list were "children who look out on the world with eyes full of amazement and innocence and expect from us concrete answers for a dignified future." At that point he told the officials, "I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church." The pope's acknowledgement of the crimes of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy was met with a loud applause from the government authorities ...
Mon, 15 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need. "The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection," the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, "the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord." Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland's national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass. While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914. After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter's Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that "for pastoral reasons" the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019. According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution. In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus' response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. "Come and you will see," Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other. "His invitation 'Come and see!' is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals," the pope said. "It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her." For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. "It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future," he added. For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself "without prejudices to their rich diversity," understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential. 'In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?" Pope Francis asked. "It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences," the pope said. That is one reason why "we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves." People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers "will disturb the established order (or) will 'steal' something they have long labored to build up," he said. And the newcomers have their own fears "of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure." Both set of fears, the pope said, "are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view." Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially "the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker."
Wed, 10 Jan 2018
From hosting an international symposium on disarmament to ratifying a United Nations treaty on banning nuclear weapons, the Holy See under Pope Francis is reenergizing the Catholic Church’s long-standing opposition to nuclear arms. “Everyone, however, must realize that, unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or — and this is the main thing — ultimately to abolish them entirely. Everyone must sincerely cooperate in the effort to banish fear and the anxious expectation of war from men’s minds.” — Pope St. John XXIII , Pacem in Terris , 1963. “The Church’s position has been pretty straightforward. The pope is reemphasizing the tradition calling for the world to get rid of nuclear weapons, that these weapons are a violation of Church teaching,” said Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Love, who attended a November conference on disarmament at the Vatican and worked with the Holy See last year to negotiate the U.N. treaty on the prohibition of nuclear arms, told Our Sunday Visitor that Pope Francis is trying to help people to understand those weapons’ destructive nature and why they should be banned. Addressing the international symposium on Nov. 10, Pope Francis did not just condemn the threat of using nuclear weapons. He categorically declared their very possession is immoral. “They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity,” Pope Francis said. Conditions not met At first glance, the pope’s words can be seen as a development, even a departure, from Pope St. John Paul II’s 1982 statement that possessing nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterrence can be morally permissible. However, that ethic of deterrence was always based on the condition that the nations in possession of nuclear arms intended to move forward from deterrence to disarmament. “We do not perceive any situation in which the deliberate initiation of nuclear war, on however restricted a scale, can be morally justified. Non-nuclear attacks by another state must be resisted by other than nuclear means.” — U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops , “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” 1983 More than three decades later, the world’s nuclear powers, including the United States, have not disarmed themselves. In fact, the U.S. is spending more than $1 trillion to modernize its nuclear stockpile. “Billions have been spent on these weapons of mass destruction, which must never be used,” said Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace. Colecchi, who attended the Vatican symposium with Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, told OSV that the Catholic Church under Pope Francis is rearticulating its position on nuclear weapons with a renewed sense of urgency and to move past the conditional ethic of deterrence articulated by John Paul II. “The Holy See is trying to move the needle, to pressure the nuclear powers to take their responsibility seriously to get rid of such weapons,” Colecchi said. Gerard F. Powers, coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, told OSV that the Holy See has sought to delegitimize nuclear weapons, with the aim toward total disarmament, since the dawn of the nuclear age. “Pope Francis’ statement was significant because it’s the clearest statement by a pope that explicitly condemns not only nuclear use but also the mere possession of those weapons,” Powers said. Analyzing nuclear arms through the lens of the Church’s “just war” tradition, analysts told OSV that the use of those arms is immoral because they are so catastrophic. The “just war” tradition holds that the ...
Tue, 09 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Less than a week before embarking on a seven-day visit to South America, Pope Francis said he would go to Chile and Peru as a pilgrim and share the Gospel's message of hope and joy. "I want to meet with you, look into your eyes, see your faces and experience God's closeness, his tenderness and mercy that embraces and consoles us," the pope said in a video message released by the Vatican Jan. 9. The pope will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. He then will fly to Peru and from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. In his message, Pope Francis said he was familiar with the history of both countries and was grateful for the people's faith and love for God, particularly in caring for those "discarded by society." "The throwaway culture has invaded us more and more," he said. "I want to share in your joys, your sorrows, your difficulties and hopes and tell you that you are not alone, that the pope is with you (and) that the whole church embraces you." Pope Francis also said he hoped to share with the people the experience of the peace that comes from God through Christ's resurrection, which is the foundation of peaceful coexistence in society and "heals our miseries." "To feel God's closeness makes us a living community that is capable of moving with those who are at our side and take firm steps toward friendship and brotherhood. We are brothers and sisters who go out to meet others to confirm one another in the same faith and hope," the pope said. The Peru-Chile trip will be Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, and in September 2017, he visited Colombia.
Mon, 08 Jan 2018
The Pope's Monthly Prayer Intentions January 2018 Evangelization: Religious Minorities in Asia That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practise their faith in full freedom. Reflection Religious liberty is a hallmark of our American system. In Canada and the United States, such liberty is enshrined in law. It is protected legally, if not always in practice. The situation we enjoy here in the United States and in Canada is not the case universally. In places across Asia, as we sometimes see in our own societies, violations of religious freedom by individuals, groups, and institutions are of great concern to all humanity. The Second Vatican Council, in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, insisted that all people have the right to religious freedom. This includes immunity from coercion on the part of individuals, groups and any other influence: no one is to be forced to act in a manner against his beliefs, in private or public, within reasonable limits. A Catholic vision of the right to religious freedom is grounded in the dignity of the human person, that dignity being known through reason and the revealed word of God. As it is enshrined in law, it is a civil right, but it is firstly a God given right. Cf. Dignitatis Humanae para 1. This vision of the human person, made in the image of God, our Catholic “anthropology,” is one of the most important contributions Catholics and other believers can bring to public dialogue and discourse, to the debate in the public square. In this month’s intention, the Holy Father asks us to pray for the freedom of those in Asia to exercise this fundamental freedom, one which many of us here in Canada and the United States might take for granted. Points for Meditation Am I free to exercise my own religion as I see best? Do I restrict the rights of others to practice their religion in my personal, social, or work life? How do I bring the values of my faith to private and public discourse? What is the difference between the two? Scripture Ex 20:2-3 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. cf. Dt 6:13 “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Courtesy of Apostleship of Prayer
Mon, 08 Jan 2018
FIUMICINO, Italy (CNS) -- On the eve of Epiphany, when most Italian children wake up to find gifts and candy, Pope Francis visited a pediatric hospital outside Rome. The pope arrived at the Palidoro Bambino Gesu Hospital at about 3 p.m. Jan. 5 and visited the various wards where about 120 children are receiving treatment, according to the Vatican press office. The pope greeted the children and "exchanged some words of comfort with the parents who are caring for their children in their tiring and painful trials," the statement said. Visiting the hospital, Pope Francis was "continuing the experience of the Mercy Fridays," visits he made to hospitals, orphanages and other care facilities during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy.
Mon, 08 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just as the influence of the Holy Spirit is recognized when one does an act of charity, Christians also must recognize the presence of the devil when bullying occurs, Pope Francis said. "When we realize that we harbor within ourselves the desire to attack someone because they are weak, we have no doubt: It is the devil. Because attacking the weak is the work of Satan," the pope said in his homily Jan. 8 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The pope centered his homily on the day's reading from the First Book of Samuel, which recounts the verbal abuse Hannah endured because she was unable to conceive a child. Similar accounts in other Bible stories -- from Abraham's wife Sarah ridiculed by her servant to Job who was rejected by his wife after his misfortune -- are stories that Christians should take time to reflect on, the pope said. "I ask myself: What is within these people? What is it within us that pushes us to mock and mistreat others weaker than we are?" the pope asked. "It is understandable when a person resents someone stronger than them, perhaps because of envy … but toward the weak? What makes us do that? It is something habitual, as if I need to ridicule another person to feel confident; as if it were a necessity," he said. Pope Francis said that as a child there was a woman named Angelina in his neighborhood and she was constantly ridiculed by others, especially children, because of her mental illness. While people would generously give her food and clothes, local children would make fun of the woman and say, "Let's find Angelina and have some fun," the pope said. "Today we see it constantly in our schools -- the phenomenon of bullying, attacking the weak because 'you're fat or foreign or because you're black,'" he said. "This means there is something within us that makes us act aggressively toward the weak." Although psychologists may give a different reason as to why some are inclined to bully the weak, Pope Francis said he believed it was "a consequence of original sin" and the work of Satan who "has no compassion." "Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God's compassion," the pope said. "He is the one who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward."
Fri, 05 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A bishop, seven Trappist monks and 11 other religious men and women killed by extremists in Algeria in the 1990s will soon be recognized as martyrs, the postulator for their causes said. The decree for their beatification should be published sometime in January, Trappist Father Thomas Georgeon said Jan. 1 in an interview with Mondo e Missione (World and Mission), a monthly magazine and website run by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. A 10-year-long armed conflict between government forces and extremist Islamic rebel groups left tens of thousands of people dead, making the deaths of the 19 religious "a martyrdom in the midst of a sea of violence that devastated Algeria," he said. "To pay homage to these 19 Christian martyrs means also paying homage to the memory of all those who gave their life in Algeria those dark years" as they were killed "for their country and for their faith," the priest said. The conflict began in 1992 when the army canceled the general election that fundamentalist politicians looked ready to win and cracked down on the Islamic Salvation Front political movement. Human rights groups said at least 44,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the war between extremist rebels and Algerian government forces. The 19 Catholic priests and religious proposed for sainthood died between 1993 and 1996, and include Bishop Pierre Lucien Claverie of Oran, Algeria, who was killed with his driver by a remote-controlled bomb left by the bishop's residence, and seven Trappist monks, who had been kidnapped from the monastery of Tibhirine and beheaded by a group of Islamic terrorists trained by the al-Qaida network. The monks' story was treated in the film "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. The monks of Tibhirine knew that they were in danger and would likely be killed if they remained in Algeria. French Father Christian de Cherge, the slain prior of the monastery, had written in a letter nearly three years before his death that he and the other monks would willingly offer themselves as a sacrifice for the people of Algeria. Father de Cherge wrote, "When the time comes, I would like to be able to have that stroke of lucidity which would permit me to ask forgiveness of God and of my brothers in humanity, forgiving wholeheartedly, at the same time, whoever my killer might be.'' "May we meet each other again, happy thieves, in paradise, should it please God,'' he added. While different extremist Islamic revolutionaries were held responsible for the deaths of many of the religious, Catholic missionaries were largely respected by their Muslim neighbors. Bishop Claverie in particular was praised for his personal courage and long-standing efforts to promote dialogue between Muslims and Christians in the North African country. The bishop, who was born in Algeria to third-generation French settlers, contributed to the formation of the first human rights league in Algeria. He was a well-known advocate for peace and a critic of the Islamic rebels killing in the name of God. He told Vatican Radio in 1992 that Algeria's Christians, who are mostly foreigners, had good relations with Muslim moderates and intellectuals. He said the problem was among Muslims who were divided between fundamentalists and moderates. The violence escalating at the time arose from economic and political upheaval, and a cultural and "identity crisis" on the part of the Algerian people, he said after the murders of the Trappist monks. The church's mission in Algeria was to promote a peaceful meeting of Christians and Muslims, he said. Following Bishop Claverie's murder, St. John Paul II said that "his martyrdom must become the seed of love and the reason of hope." "In the face of violence that respects no one and nothing, Algeria more than ever needs peacemakers and brotherhood,'' the pope had said at his Sunday Angelus. "May God move the Christians and Muslims ...
Thu, 04 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his ministry as archbishop of Manila and in his travels for Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said he is reminded of the true meaning of hope by people living in situations the world would see as hopeless. "The poor know the frustration of dreaming and working hard with not much result," Cardinal Tagle said. "They are betrayed by persons and institutions. But in their raw poverty, what is left for them is their humanity. They remind all of us that being human is our true and only wealth." While anyone can be tempted to see the fulfillment of hope in accomplishments, improved numbers and bigger bank balances, the poor celebrate the gift of life and praise the giver of life, the cardinal said in a written interview in early January. "This is the secret of their enduring and persistent hope, which those who enjoy comfortable living, yet complain unceasingly, should discover," he said. Cardinal Tagle, 60, will talk and preach about hope with parish, school and diocesan leaders at the opening session and Mass of the Mid-Atlantic Congress in Baltimore Feb. 15-17. Pride and self-sufficiency lie on the opposite end from the hope the poor witness to, he said. "Of the many challenges to hope, I consider pride the most dangerous. Pride weakens faith that gives assurance to hope. Pride makes me think I can do better than God. Pride makes me place my hope in myself. Pride makes me a pseudo-savior." "Whether personal or institutional, pride depletes hope," the cardinal said. In addition to serving as archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationals, Cardinal Tagle also is president of the Catholic Biblical Federation. Of course, the Bible is the book of hope, and "there are many Scripture verses or prayers that rekindle hope in me," he said. "But one that I 'run to' regularly is John 21:1-14," which tells the story of the disciples' miraculous catch of fish. The cardinal said he often turns to the story, and "when I have labored hard and long but still end up not catching anything, I know the risen Lord is close by, watching compassionately and calling my attention so that he could direct my action." The story also brings consolation, he said, because it is a reminder that mission and ministry are Jesus' work, and "my role is to work hard under his direction. The catch will be his, but I must be there with other collaborators to see the miracle, to haul the net to shore and to declare, 'It is the Lord!'" In that way, he said, "a seemingly hopeless situation becomes a space to return to my humble role and to witness to the true Lord." Cardinal Tagle's Bible probably falls open to that Gospel story on its own. His episcopal motto, "Dominus Est" -- "It is the Lord" -- is taken from that passage. The Gospel account was the focus of a retreat he facilitated as a priest. And it was the subject of his homily in 2011 when he was installed as the archbishop of Manila. Moving to Manila after 10 years as bishop of his home diocese, Imus, he said in the installation homily that the lesson of the passage -- that the Lord directs the catch -- is a message of hope for the church community as well as for individuals. "The Lord guards his church. He keeps watch with us on those long nights of confusion and helplessness in mission," the new archbishop said in 2011. "When, in spite of our good intentions and efforts, there are still the multitude of hungry people we cannot feed, homeless people we cannot shelter, battered women and children we cannot protect, cases of corruption and injustice that we cannot remedy, the long night of the disciples in the middle of the sea continues in us." The experience of the long night should make Christians "grow in compassion toward our neighbors whose lives seem to be a never ending dark night," he said, and it should remind Christians that even when things are not working out as planned, the Lord is near. The Gospel passage also is a call "to follow the Lord in ...
Wed, 03 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Fear and the shame of admitting one's own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognizing one's own faults, Pope Francis said. "It's difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins," the pope said Jan. 3 at his first general audience of the new year. "I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband's faults, then went on to her mother-in-law's faults and then the sins of her neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor told her, 'But ma'am, tell me, are you done?' 'No... Yes.' 'Great, you have finished with other people's sins, now start to tell me yours,'" he said. The pope was continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the penitential rite. Recognizing one's own sins prepares a person to make room in his or her heart for Christ, the pope said. But a person who has a heart "full of himself, of his own success" receives nothing because he is already satiated by his "presumed justice." "Listening to the voice of conscience in silence allows us to realize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided by choices that are contrary to the Gospel," the pope said. Confessing one's sins to God and the church helps people understand that sin not only "separates us from God but also from our brothers and sisters," he added. "Sin cuts, it cuts our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters, in our family, in society, in the community," the pope said. "Sin always cuts, separates, divides." The penitential rite at Mass also includes asking the intercession of Mary and all the angels and saints, which, he said, is an acknowledgement that Christians seek help from "friends and models of life" who will support them on their journey toward full communion with God. Christians also can find the courage to "take off their masks" and seek pardon for their sins by following the example of biblical figures such as King David, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman and St. Peter. "To take measure of the fragility of the clay with which we have been formed is an experience that strengthens us," Pope Francis said. "While making us realize our weakness, it opens our heart to call upon the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of Mass."
Wed, 03 Jan 2018
This July will bring the 50th anniversary of one of the most controversial Church documents in modern times — Humanae Vitae (“On Human Life”), Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reaffirming the Church’s condemnation of contraception. Its defenders see its issuance as an act of courage by the pope in the face of rampant sexual permissiveness. Pope Francis three years ago designated Paul VI “Blessed,” a step toward his possible future recognition as a saint. Critics dismiss the encyclical as a relic of outdated morality that Catholics can safely ignore. According to the polls, a large majority of U.S. Catholics do exactly that where contraception is concerned. One thing the defenders and the critics agree on: Humanae Vitae was a turning point, a watershed event in the life of the Church. To understand why, it’s necessary to understand some of the background that led up to its issuance. Traditional teaching Pope Paul’s encyclical was by no means the first time a pope had spoken against artificial birth control. Particularly noteworthy was Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubii (“On Christian Marriage”), dated Dec. 31, 1930. The document is a comprehensive presentation of Church teaching on marriage, but what it says about contraception was widely seen as an implicit response to a high-level Anglican Church statement from earlier that year giving limited approval to birth control. Pius XI said: “Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.” In the years that followed, Pope Pius XII repeated the condemnation of contraception a number of times. In an address in 1951, he said the teaching “is in full force today, as it was in the past, as it will be in the future also and always, because it is not a simple human whim but the expression of a natural and divine law.” Catholic theologians also uniformly upheld the teaching. There was no visible dissent within the Church. In his 1979 book “The Battle for the American Church,” Msgr. George A. Kelly quotes a report prepared in 1965 for the U.S. bishops saying Catholic theologians in the United States “have unanimously condemned contraception.” 'Humanae Vitae' on Christian Compassion “Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners? “Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer. “So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.” — Humanae Vitae , No. 29 “Nor is there any tendency in their published writings to defend the idea that the Church will or can change her substantial teaching on birth control,” added this document, which had been prepared in response to a Vatican inquiry. By the early 1960s, nonetheless, pressure for change was gradually growing, fed by widespread acceptance of birth control, a shift in government policy that saw public funds starting to flow to birth control at home and abroad, propaganda about an alleged “population explosion” and the appearance on the scene of oral ...
Tue, 02 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis began the New Year praying the world would demonstrate a marked increase in solidarity and welcome for migrants and refugees. "Let's not extinguish the hope in their hearts; let's not suffocate their hopes for peace," the pope said Jan. 1 before reciting the Angelus with a crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square. For the New Year's celebration of World Peace Day and the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Pope Francis had chosen to focus on migrants and refugees and their yearning for peace. "For this peace, which is the right of all, many of them are willing to risk their lives in a journey that, in most cases, is long and dangerous and to face trials and suffering," the pope told an estimated 40,000 people gathered in the square around the Christmas tree and Nativity scene. Pope Francis said it is important that everyone, including individuals, governments, schools, churches and church agencies, make a commitment to "ensuring refugees, migrants -- everyone -- a future of peace." Entrusting the needs of migrants and refugees to the maternal concern of Mary, the pope led the crowd in reciting a traditional Marian prayer: "Under thy protection we seek refuge, holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our needs, but from all dangers deliver us always, Virgin, Glorious and Blessed." Pope Francis had begun the day celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Marian feast, which he said was a celebration of "a magnificent truth about God and about ourselves: From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity." "To call Mary the mother of God reminds us," he said, that "God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb." God becoming human in the baby Jesus, the pope said, is an affirmation that human life "is precious and sacred to the Lord," so "to serve human life is to serve God." "All life, from life in the mother's womb to that of the elderly, the suffering and the sick, and to that of the troublesome and even repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped," he said. Pope Francis also drew people's attention to the fact that in the Gospel stories of Jesus' birth, Mary is silent. And the newborn Jesus, obviously, cannot speak. "We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib," he said. "Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savor the real meaning of life. As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. "May his lowliness lay low our pride; his poverty challenge our pomp; his tender love touch our hardened hearts," the pope prayed. Celebrating evening prayer Dec. 31 and offering thanks to God for the year that was ending, Pope Francis gave a special acknowledgement to people -- especially parents and teachers -- who are "artisans of the common good," working to help their families, neighbors and communities each day without fanfare. But, he said, people also must acknowledge that God gave humanity the year 2017 "whole and sound," yet "we human beings have in many ways wasted and wounded it with works of death, with lies and injustices. Wars are the flagrant sign of this backsliding and absurd pride. But so are all the small and great offenses against life, truth and solidarity, which cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation." The pope also led the midday Angelus prayer Dec. 31, the feast of the Holy Family. The Sunday Gospel reading recounted Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the temple "to certify that the child belongs to God and that they are the guardians of his life and not the owners," the pope said. Mary and Joseph experience the joy of seeing their son grow in wisdom, grace and strength, the pope said. "This is mission to which the family is called: to create the best conditions that will allow for the harmonious and full growth of children, so that they can live a life that is good, worthy of God and constructive for the world." ...
Wed, 27 Dec 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Those who recognize the Lord in the baby Jesus in the manger also should recognize his presence in children suffering today because of war, poverty and immigration, Pope Francis said. "Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay one's head," the pope said Dec. 25, praying that people would work together to make the world "more human and more worthy for the children of today and of the future." Standing on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on a clear, crisp Christmas day, Pope Francis spoke about the world's children before formally giving his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world). Christmas is a time to live again "the mystery of the God who comes, who assumes our mortal human flesh, and who becomes lowly and poor in order to save us," the pope said. "And this moves us deeply, for great is the tenderness of our Father." The shepherds, who were the first after Mary and Joseph to adore the newborn Jesus, are models for people today, teaching them to not be "scandalized" by his poverty and lowly birth, but to acknowledge him as Lord and learn to recognize his presence in others shivering in the cold, wrapped in rags and without a worthy home, the pope said. "We see Jesus in the many children forced to leave their countries to travel alone in inhuman conditions and who become an easy target for human traffickers," he said. "Through their eyes we see the drama of all those forced to emigrate and risk their lives to face exhausting journeys that end at times in tragedy." "We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians," he said, adding a plea for peace in Jerusalem and for a resumption of negotiations "that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders." "We see Jesus in the faces of Syrian children still marked by the war that, in these years, has caused such bloodshed in that country," Pope Francis said, adding prayers for a shared commitment to rebuilding the country with full respect for religious and ethnic differences. Children continue to suffer in Iraq, torn by war and conflict over the past 15 years, he said. And in Yemen, which has been "largely forgotten" by the world, conflict has led to a serious humanitarian crisis with hunger and disease, including a massive cholera outbreak, threatening more than 20 million people -- three-quarters of the nation's population. Pope Francis also prayed for the children and people of South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Central African Republic and Nigeria. "We see Jesus in the children worldwide wherever peace and security are threatened by the danger of tensions and new conflicts," he said, adding a prayer for the end of tensions and the threat of nuclear war with North Korea. Looking to South America, the pope said, "to the Baby Jesus we entrust Venezuela that it may resume a serene dialogue among the various elements of society for the benefit of all the beloved Venezuelan people." In Eastern Ukraine, where a "Christmas truce" went into effect Dec. 23, Pope Francis said, "we see Jesus in children who, together with their families, suffer from the violence of the conflict in Ukraine and its grave humanitarian repercussions; we pray that the Lord may soon grant peace to this dear country." But children suffer greatly not only because of war, conflict and migration. The pope also prayed for "the children of unemployed parents who struggle to offer their children a secure and peaceful future" and for "those whose childhood has been robbed and who, from a very young age, have been forced to work or to be enrolled as soldiers by unscrupulous mercenaries."
Wed, 27 Dec 2017
On his return flight to Rome from Bangladesh on Dec. 2, Pope Francis provided a glimpse of his hopes for 2018 when, asked by a journalist if he planned to visit India, he noted in his answer, “I hope to do it in 2018 if I’m alive!” The comment captures much of what the world might expect from Pope Francis in 2018 — bold willingness to set out and encounter those who are far away, but with the awareness that, especially with this pope, there likely will be surprises along the way. Francis themes Pope Francis has hinted at the issues and themes he could address over the course of the year. His message for World Day of Peace on Jan. 1 looks at “migrants and refugees — men and women in search of peace,” a theme that echoes the ongoing Share the Journey campaign, launched in 2017 as the pope’s global call for local churches to find ways to stand in solidarity with migrants. For World Day Vocations, April 22, Pope Francis looks ahead to the October Synod of Bishops focused on young people’s discernment of vocations. And perhaps most provocatively, his message for World Day of Communications, May 13, is “‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.” The Year Ahead ◗ Trip to Chile and Peru, Jan. 15-22 ◗ Fifth anniversary of his election as pope, March 13 ◗ Pre-synod meeting with young people, March 19-24 ◗ World Meeting of Families, Dublin, Aug. 21-26 ◗ Synod of Bishops on young people and vocations, Oct. 3-28 ◗ 82nd birthday, Dec. 17 The pope’s first overseas trip, to Chile and Peru from Jan. 15-22, will be his sixth trip to Latin America — preceded by Brazil in 2013; Bolivia, Paraguay and Cuba in 2015; Mexico (with a layover in Cuba where he met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill) in 2016; and Colombia in 2017. It’s inherently significant for this pope to be present to the region of the world where he was born and which he called home until his election at age 76. While he conducts his ministry as bishop of Rome almost entirely in Italian, which he learned from his parents and grandparents, Pope Francis still carries an Argentine passport, despite his native Argentina being one country he has yet to visit as pope. The pope’s time in Chile will include a visit to a women’s penitentiary in Santiago on Jan. 16, echoing meetings with prisoners he’s held on other foreign trips, including his 2015 visit to the United States. In Peru, his travels will include a Jan. 19 meeting with indigenous people of the Amazonian region, a gesture that has even greater significance in light of the October 2017 announcement that the Vatican will hold a Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region in 2019. Families and young people Another major event for the Church in 2018 is the Aug. 21-26 World Meeting of Families in Dublin. An international event held every three years, the meeting brings families together to pray and reflect on the importance of marriage and family in society. The theme of the 2018 meeting is “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” The anticipated participation of Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families would mark the first papal visit to the country since Pope St. John Paul II in 1979. Like the celebration of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015, this gathering once again would find the pope visiting a local Church that has been rocked by revelations of sexual abuse of minors. Amid official reports of thousands of children being abused over decades, Pope Benedict XVI even wrote a letter of apology in 2010 to the Catholics of Ireland. Also, as he did in 2015, Pope Francis will follow the celebration of the World Meeting of Families with a high-profile gathering of the Synod of Bishops. The Oct. 3-28 15th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will discuss the theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Brazilian Cardinal Sergio da Rocha, 58, will serve as relator general of the gathering, a central role of summarizing themes and discussions, which the ...
Thu, 21 Dec 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The people who work at the Vatican and in the Roman Curia are supposed to be "sensitive antennas" that faithfully transmit the desires of the pope and receive information from dioceses and Eastern Catholic churches around the world, Pope Francis said. Remembering that the Curia exists exclusively for the service of the Gospel, the pope and the church is the only way to counter "that imbalanced and degenerate logic of conspiracies or little cliques that, despite all their justifications and good intentions, represent a cancer," the pope said Dec. 21. Holding his annual pre-Christmas meeting with top officials of the Roman Curia and Vatican City State and with cardinals living in Rome, Pope Francis said he wanted to build on his previous talks about the reform of the Curia by focusing on its relationship to the world outside the Vatican walls. His reflections, he said, were based on principles and church laws governing the Curia, but also "on the personal vision I have tried to share" as the process of reforming the Curia has unfolded. The process began a month after he was elected in March 2013 and is ongoing, which brings to mind, he said, a saying attributed to a 19th-century Belgian cleric and Vatican statesman: "Carrying out reform in Rome is like cleaning an Egyptian Sphinx with a toothbrush." Still, he said, the process must continue for the good of the Curia itself, the good of the church and, ultimately, the good of the world. Pope Francis cited as a sign of the work left to be done the danger posed by "traitors of the truth or profiteers of the church's motherhood," meaning personnel hired to give their expertise to the Vatican, but who "let themselves be corrupted by ambition or by vainglory and, when they are delicately let go, erroneously declare themselves to be martyrs of the system, of the 'uninformed pope' or of the 'old guard' rather than reciting a 'mea culpa,'" in admitting their faults. Repeatedly in his talk, Pope Francis spoke of "diaconal primacy" or the primacy of service, which must characterize his ministry and the work of all in the Curia in imitation of Jesus, who came to serve and not be served. The focus of the Curia, he said, must be on service and not on self-preservation or maintaining areas of influence and power. Quoting a third-century Christian treatise, Pope Francis said the Curia, like a deacon, must be "the ears and the mouth of the bishop, his heart and his soul." Listening to the local churches and to the needs of the poor comes first, he said. "I don't think it's an accident that the ear is the organ for hearing, but also for balance." Looking more closely at the church's relation with the world outside itself, Pope Francis spoke about the new section he created in the Vatican Secretariat of State to oversee the training, assigning and ministry of Vatican nuncios and diplomats around the world. Vatican diplomacy has no "mundane or material interest," he said, but seeks only to build "bridges, peace and dialogue among nations." Pope Francis listed as diplomatic priorities "the importance of safeguarding our common home from every destructive selfishness; to affirm that wars bring only death and destruction; to draw from the past the necessary lessons to help us live better in the present, solidly build a future and safeguard it for new generations." Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue also are essential forms of outreach to the world, the pope said. The search for Christian unity, he said, "is a journey, but as my predecessors also repeated, it is a journey that is irreversible and with no putting the brakes on." "The Curia works in this area to promote encounters with our brothers and sisters," Pope Francis said, "to untie the knots of misunderstandings and hostility, to counter the prejudices and the fear of the other that have prevented us from seeing the richness of and in diversity and the depths of the mystery of Christ and of the church, which remain ...
Wed, 20 Dec 2017
With the death of Cardinal Law, my thoughts go back to the first time we met in the mid-‘50s, while seminarians at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Bernie had entered somewhat late in the formation process but quickly became integrated into our seminary community. He was bright, affable and already then demonstrated qualities of leadership and initiative. In my last year of theology, he lived across the hallway from me, and the next year was appointed deacon prefect of the theology community. We had some contact over the years after priestly ordination since he had relatives in the Walla Walla area in the Diocese of Spokane. Quickly he became known in his editorial work with the diocesan paper of standing up to racism and in his work with ecumenical and interreligious relations. I remember well his appointment as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, and soon after I had fairly regular contact with him as a brother bishop in the then NCCB/USCC. Obviously, his skills and talents were recognized as he was appointed the Archbishop of Boston. He is well known for his efforts of facilitating the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Cuba and his leadership role of initiating and encouraging the writing of the new catechism for the Church. I was deeply saddened by the tragedy of events that occurred during his ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston but also was moved by his statement in the letter of resignation: “To all those who suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and ask for forgiveness.” That last phrase of requesting forgiveness speaks of humility and an acknowledgement of human and pastoral failure. He also added a further comment at the time: “Then added to that was the knowledge that Boston and I personally have been responsible for placing upon bishops of this country an added burden. And I apologize to them for that.” His appointment by Pope St. John Paul II as Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major was controversial, but the Roman appointment helpfully made a clear personal, administrative and economic separation of him from the Boston archdiocese . He invited staff leadership of the USCCB and myself to have lunch in his apartment at the Basilica. Contrary to reports, the apartment was not luxurious as some pundits reported — to the contrary. He was most gracious, and we talked about old times at the Josephinum as well as what was going on in the United States. When traveling with Committee of the USCCB on Eastern Europe on a trip to Moscow and then to Krakow for the installation of the new Archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, I again met Cardinal Law. On the day before the installation of the archbishop, the cardinal invited me to go along with him and his secretary to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. At the entrance of the camps where there was the Carmelite Monastery, he asked to be dropped off there while the secretary and I visited the concentration camps. We picked him up on the way back to Krakow, but he never mentioned anything about this visit to the monastery. One can only imagine what must have been going through his mind and prayer. And now my friend and brother bishop, Bernie, has died. I would hope that at this moment of his death there would be a spirit of taking seriously what forgiveness is all about and how radically the command of the Lord to forgive can be very challenging especially when anger, trauma, bitterness and dashed expectations are involved. Our Church is always in need of redemption and so are all of us, I don’t care who we are. When someone asks for forgiveness, that request comes from the heart. Not to respond to that request from another leaves us fixated, enslaved, and spiritually weaker. Some months ago at the TED Conference in Vancouver, Pope Francis spoke in a video message about the need for a revolution of tenderness. That calls fits in so well after the Year of Mercy we recently experienced. We all know healing can take time, and ...
Wed, 20 Dec 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who had been one of the United States' most powerful and respected bishops until his legacy was blemished by the devastating sexual abuse of minors by priests in his Archdiocese of Boston, died early Dec. 20 in Rome at the age of 86. Before the abuse scandal forced his resignation in 2002, Cardinal Law had been a leading church spokesman on issues ranging from civil rights to international justice, from abortion to poverty, from Catholic-Jewish relations and ecumenism to war and peace. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston said in a statement Dec. 20, "As archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities." Cardinal O'Malley also recognized that his predecessor's death "brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people. I am particularly cognizant of all who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy, whose lives were so seriously impacted by those crimes, and their families and loved ones. To those men and women, I offer my sincere apologies for the harm they suffered, my continued prayers and my promise that the archdiocese will support them in their effort to achieve healing." Cardinal O'Malley said Cardinal Law would be buried in Rome, where he had his last assignment. According to the Vatican, his funeral Mass was to be celebrated the afternoon of Dec. 21 in St. Peter's Basilica with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presiding. Pope Francis, as is customary for cardinals' funerals, was to preside over the final rites at the end of Mass. In a brief telegram to Cardinal Sodano, Pope Francis extended his condolences to the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis said, "I raise prayers for the repose of his soul that the Lord God, who is rich in mercy, may welcome him in his eternal peace, and I send my apostolic blessing to those who share in mourning the passing of the cardinal, whom I entrust to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani," the title with which she is honored at Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major. Bernard Francis Law was born on Nov. 4, 1931, in Torreon, Mexico, where his father, a career Air Force officer, was then stationed. He attended schools in New York, Florida, Georgia, and Barranquilla, Colombia, and graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. He graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before entering St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana in 1953. He later studied at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson (now Jackson), Mississippi, in 1961. After serving two years as an assistant pastor, he was made editor of the Mississippi Register, the diocesan newspaper. At the same time, he held several other diocesan posts, including director of the family life bureau and spiritual director at the minor seminary. A civil rights activist, he joined the Mississippi Leadership Conference and Mississippi Human Relations Council. He received death threats for his strong editorial positions on civil rights in the Mississippi Register. His work for ecumenism in the Deep South in the 1960s received national attention, and in 1968 he was tapped for his first national post, as executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. In 1973 Blessed Paul VI named him bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He made headlines in 1975 when, amid an influx of Vietnamese refugees arriving in the United States, he arranged to resettle in his diocese all 166 refugee members of the Vietnamese religious order, Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix. Continuing his ecumenical work, he formed the Missouri Christian Leadership Conference. He was made a member of ...
Wed, 20 Dec 2017
Cardinal Bernard F. Law died Dec. 20 in Rome at the age of 86. He retired in 2011 after serving as the archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome since 2004. Tainted as the lead figure in the clerical sex abuse crisis in the United States, Cardinal Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after it was uncovered that, during his tenure, the Archdiocese of Boston mishandled and failed to report sexual abuse by clergy to civil officials. It is an understatement to say Cardinal Law’s legacy is complex. Arguably the most influential U.S. bishop of his generation, Cardinal Law also became the most infamous. While the majority of his ministry reflects the zeal of an evangelist and activist and clarity of a teaching bishop who spent his life in service to the Church, his name became synonymous with the systematic failure of many Church leaders who failed to adequately handle the clergy sex abuse crisis as it grew beyond their capacity to conceal. A 2003 report from Massachusetts’ attorney general showed that the Archdiocese of Boston — under Cardinal Law’s watch — manifested “an institutional reluctance to adequately address the problem and, in fact, made choices that allowed the abuse to continue.” At the time of his resignation, Cardinal Law wrote, “To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.” Formed by diversity Born Nov. 4, 1931, in Torreón, Mexico, Bernard Francis Law was the only child of Bernard and Helen (Stubblefield) Law. His father operated an airline company. Frequent moves throughout Latin America in his early years, on account of his father’s work, put him in contact with a variety of cultures and enabled him to grow up bilingual. Although Law began high school in Panama, he spent the last three years attending school in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where his father had taken up a job. As a student, most of his teachers and peers were black. This experience prepared him to serve later as a priest in the racially charged South of the 1960s. In his 1949 address as valedictorian at the Virgin Islands Charlotte Amalie High School, Law said, “the ugly marks of ignorance and prejudice are not rampant here as in other less fortunate places. ... Acceptance does not depend on race, color or creed. [One] is free to develop his innate abilities; he may aspire to any height.” As a young priest, Cardinal Law worked hard to advocate for these rights and the dignity of African-Americans in the segregated South. Related Reading The road to healing Cardinal Law’s vocation to the priesthood blossomed during his years as a student at Harvard University, where he was active in St. Paul’s Church, which tends to Catholics of the university community. On May 21, 1961, he was ordained a priest for service in the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson in Mississippi. He quickly rose to prominence within that local Church. One priest described him then as “extremely bright, engaging, personable, a man who got energized by work rather than tired and a great gatherer of diverse people.” As a priest, Cardinal Law held many positions in the then-statewide Mississippi diocese, most notably serving as editor of the Mississippi Register, the diocesan newspaper, which took on an unapologetically anti-segregation stance under his leadership. This resulted in, among other things, the loss of many subscribers. For his vocal support of civil rights, he was the recipient of death threats. His family’s status as immigrants in his early years formed him to have a heart for those seeking better lives in the United States. In the early 1970s, then-Bishop Law arranged to resettle a host of Vietnamese immigrants, all members of the Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer, in his Missouri diocese. Law purchased a seminary complex in Carthage, Missouri, from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate for $1 for use as the immigrant religious’ new home. Upwards of 100,000 people still gather there each August as ...