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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
2 December 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




A reliquary containing what is believed to be a small fragment of Jesus’ crib is seen on 1 December 2019, in the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine, adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. Pope Francis gave the relic fragment to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the main churches and shrines associated with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: CNS /Debbie Hill)

As Advent approached, Pope Francis gave a small fragment of Jesus’ crib back to Catholics in the Holy Land.

In Bethelehem, West Bank, Franciscan Father Rami Asakrieh of St. Catherine Church welcomed the relic’s return and called it “a great blessing.”

“This is more blessings for this place,” he said. “You can’t imagine the great joy to have this blessing.”

On 22 November, experts from the Vatican Museums extracted a small fragment from the relic of what has been venerated as Jesus’ manger. The relic, given to the Vatican in the seventh century, has been kept in a chapel under the basilica’s main altar.

Pope Francis gave the relic fragment to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the main churches and shrines associated with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The relic arrived in Jerusalem on 29 November and was present during a Mass celebrated by the nuncio, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, in the chapel of Our Lady of Peace at the Notre Dame Center.

After the Mass and time for people to venerate the relic, the Franciscan friars carried it in procession to the Church of St. Saviour, where they recited vespers. The relic was transferred to Bethlehem on 30 November to be in place for beginning of Advent on 1 December.

“May the return to Bethlehem of this piece of holy wood arouse in us the profound desire to be bearers of God. Now it is our hearts that are a manger: the holy crib of God made man,” said Archbishop Leopoldo

Girelli, apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, at the handing-over ceremony to the Franciscan friars at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Center.

Reading a letter sent by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Archbishop Girelli said, “Pope Francis accompanies this gift with his blessing and with the fervid wish that the veneration of this illustrious relic can open the hearts of many men and women, adults and youngsters, the elderly and children, to receive with a renewed fervor of faith and love the mystery that changed the course of history. The Holy Father wishes, in particular, that the message of peace announced by the angels on the night of Christmas to the men loved by God, which for 2,000 years has rung out from Bethlehem, brings the gift of peace and reconciliation which our world needs more and more.”

Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, said the relic would be used to “rekindle faith in Jesus between the different Christian communities of the Holy Land.”

Local Catholics in Bethlehem had the opportunity to venerate the relic at Mass at St. Catherine’s on 1 December before the relic was put away until a proper location and protocol for it can be arranged.

Meanwhile, as Christmas approached, the opening hours of the Church of the Nativity adjacent to St. Catherine had been extended by three hours to 8 p.m. to accommodate the influx of pilgrims who sometimes had to wait up to four hours to go down to the grotto where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born.

On the first day of Advent, the wait was only about one hour.

“We are going to wait as long as it takes to go in,” said David Williams, 67, of Texas as he waited in line with his tour group and a local guide. “It is very exciting. This is what you read, and when you read it again after having been here there will be new insight.”

Local guide Jaber Saadeh, said that as a Christian he was happy to see the large number of pilgrims coming to Bethlehem.

“I feel so proud and happy to welcome them. We are a peaceful country,” he said.

Coming out from the grotto, Claudia Haita, 44, of Romania, said the wait had not been an issue. Having the opportunity to visit the grotto and say a prayer there had been “good for my soul as a Christian” and strengthened her faith, she said.

Another pilgrim who identified herself only as Maria said she had been overwhelmed by the experience.

“I had an overwhelming feeling of tears of joy but also a feeling of sadness because of the hurting of humanity, of the suffering. It is time to let that go,” she said.

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Bethlehem, West Bank.



Tags: Pope Francis Bethlehem

18 November 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis greets a woman as he arrives to eat lunch with the poor in the Paul VI hall as he marks World Day of the Poor at the Vatican on 17 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.

“The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love.”

Thousands of poor people and volunteers who assist them joined Pope Francis for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. After the liturgy and the recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis hosted a luncheon for 1,500 of them while thousands more throughout the city enjoyed a festive meal at soup kitchens, parish halls and seminaries.

Served by 50 volunteer waiters in white jackets, the pope and his guests in the Vatican audience hall enjoyed a three-course meal of lasagna, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with potatoes, followed by dessert, fruit and coffee.

To speak Jesus’ language, the pope had said in his homily, one must not speak of oneself or follow one’s own interests but put the needs of others first.

“How many times, even when doing good, the hypocrisy of ‘I’ reigns: I do good, but so people will think I’m good; I help, but to attract the attention of someone important,” Pope Francis said.

Instead, he said, the Gospel encourages charity, not hypocrisy; “giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange.”

In order to excel at that, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.

“The poor are precious in the eyes of God,” he said, because they know they are not self-sufficient and know they need help. “They remind us that that’s how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God.”

“So,” the pope said, “instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them.”

“How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God’s heart,” Pope Francis said.

In the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the crowds ask Jesus when the world will end and how they will know. They want immediate answers, but Jesus tells them to persevere in faith.

Wanting to know or to have everything right now “is not of God,” the pope said. Breathlessly seeking things that will pass takes one’s mind off the things that last; “we follow the clouds that pass and lose sight of the sky.”

Worse, he said, “attracted by the latest ruckus, we no longer find time for God and for our brother or sister living alongside us.”

“This is so true today!” the pope said. “In yearning to run, to conquer everything and do it immediately, those who lag behind annoy us. And they are judged as disposable. How many elderly people, how many unborn babies, how many persons with disabilities and poor people are judged useless. One rushes ahead without worrying that the distances are increasing, that the lust of a few increases the poverty of many.”

The pope’s celebration of the World Day of the Poor concluded a week of special events and services for the homeless, the poor and immigrants in Rome.

The poor served by the city’s Catholic soup kitchens and Vatican charities were invited Nov. 9 to a free concert in the Vatican audience hall featuring Nicola Piovani, the Oscar-winning composer, and the Italian Cinema Orchestra.

From 10-17 November dozens of physicians, nurses and other volunteers staffed a large medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square. The clinic offered flu shots, physical exams, routine lab tests and many specialty services often needed by people who live and sleep on the streets, including podiatry, diabetes and cardiology.

As rain beat down on the square on 15 November, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the clinic and spent about an hour visiting with the clients and volunteers.

Afterward, the pope went across the street to inaugurate a new shelter, day center and soup kitchen for the poor in the Palazzo Migliori, a four-story, Vatican-owned building that had housed a community of women religious. When the community moved out, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, began renovating it.

The building now can accommodate 50 overnight guests as well as offering a drop-in center for the poor and housing a large commercial kitchen. Meals will be served at the building, but also will be cooked there for distribution to the homeless who live around two Rome train stations.

The Community of Sant’Edigio, a Rome-based lay movement that already runs soup kitchens and a variety of programs for the city’s poor, will manage and staff the shelter.

Watch a video about the lunch below:



Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty

7 November 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis meets with members of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus in the Vatican's Clementine Hall on 7 November 2019.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)


At a time when “situations of injustice and human pain” seem to be growing around the globe, Christians are called to “accompany the victims, to see in their faces the face of our crucified Lord,” Pope Francis said.

The pope spoke about the Gospel call to work for justice on 7 November when he met with about 200 people, Jesuits and their collaborators, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jesuits’ Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat.

Listing examples of places where Catholics are called to work for justice and for the safeguarding of creation, Pope Francis spoke about “a Third World War being fought in pieces,” human trafficking, the growing “expressions of xenophobia and the selfish search for national interests,” and the inequality between and within nations, which seem to be “growing without finding a remedy.”

Then there is the fact that “never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” he said, and that environmental destruction impacts the world’s poorest people most of all.

From the beginning, St. Ignatius of Loyola intended the Society of Jesus to defend and spread the faith and to help the poor, Pope Francis said. In establishing the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat 50 years ago, the Rev. Pedro Arrupe, then superior general, “intended to strengthen it.”

Father Arrupe’s “contact with human pain,” the pope said, convinced him that God was close to those who suffer and was calling all Jesuits to incorporate the quest for justice and peace into their ministries.

For Father Arrupe and for Catholics today, attention to society’s “discarded ones” and the struggle against the “throwaway culture” must be born of prayer and fortified by it, Pope Francis said. “Father Pedro always believed that the service of faith and the promotion of justice could not be separated: they were radically united. For him, all the ministries of the society had to respond, at the same time, to the challenge of proclaiming the faith and promoting justice. What until then had been a commission for some Jesuits should become everyone’s concern.”

Pope Francis said that when contemplating Jesus’ birth, St. Ignatius encouraged people to imagine that they were there as a lowly servant, helping the Holy Family in the poverty of the stable.

“This active contemplation of God, of God excluded, helps us discover the beauty of every marginalized person,” the pope said. “In the poor, you have found a privileged place of encounter with Christ. That is a precious gift in the life of the follower of Jesus: to receive the gift of meeting him among the victims and the impoverished.”

Pope Francis encouraged the Jesuits and their collaborators to continue to see Jesus in the poor and to listen to them humbly and serve them any way they can.

“Our broken and divided world needs to build bridges,” he said, so that people can “discover in the least ones the beautiful face of a brother or sister in whom we recognize ourselves, and whose presence, even without words, demands our care and our solidarity.”

While individual care for the poor is essential, a Christian cannot overlook structural “social evils” that create suffering and keep people poor, he said. “Hence the importance of the slow work of transforming structures through participation in public dialogue where decisions are made.”

“Our world is in need of transformations that protect life that is threatened and defend the weakest,” he said. The task is enormous and can cause people to despair.

But, the pope said, the poor themselves can show the way. They often are the ones who continue to trust and hope and organize to improve their lives and that of their neighbors.

A Catholic social apostolate should try to solve problems, Pope Francis said, but, above all, it should encourage hope and promote “processes that help people and communities to grow, that lead them to be aware of their rights, to use their abilities and to create their own future.”



Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty

24 October 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




In this image from January, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta, Pope Francis and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, leave an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Working for Christian unity and engaging in formal theological dialogues to promote it obviously raises questions about what the nature and mission of the church is.

In a project that took two decades of work by Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal theologians, the World Council of Churches in 2013 published a document summarizing the points of greatest consensus.

In late October, the Vatican gave the WCC its formal response to the document, which was called “The Church: Towards a Common Vision.”

The response, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and posted on its website, included input from Catholic theologians from around the world, bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

What is meant by “church” is a key ecumenical question as Christians work and pray for the unity Jesus wanted his followers to have, the Catholic response said.

Or, as the WCC document said, “agreement on ecclesiology has long been identified as the most elemental theological objective in the quest for Christian unity.”

In the Creed, Christians profess a belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” yet they differ on what Christ intended for his church, how it should be governed and how it should minister in the world.

“From a Catholic perspective,” the Vatican said, “the term ‘church’ applies to the Catholic Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. It also applies to churches which are not in visible communion with the Catholic Church but have preserved the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, remaining true particular churches. Other Christian communities which have not preserved the valid episcopacy and Eucharist are called ‘ecclesial communities’“ in official Catholic documents.

The Vatican said of the WCC document, “While it presents a remarkable degree of common thinking on a wide range of important issues, it does not claim to have reached full consensus, the full agreement on all issues which is necessary in order to achieve full visible unity among the churches.”

The text, however, does show common agreement on “significant ecclesiological doctrines,” the Vatican said. Further theological dialogue is needed and, especially, study of the WCC document by Christians of all denominations.

Of fundamental importance, the Vatican said, is the document’s affirmation that “certain aspects of church life are to be considered as determined by God’s will,” although the WCC did not find enough consensus yet to affirm that “the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyter and deacon” is one of those aspects. The Catholic Church, of course, believes it is.

Still, the Vatican said, the document “traces ordained ministry to the Lord’s choice of the Twelve” and, in that way, “promotes the view that certain aspects of the church’s order were willed and instituted by Christ himself.”

The Vatican praised the WCC document for recognizing that “the three essential elements of communion concern faith, worship and ministry or service” and for acknowledging that both Scripture and tradition are necessary sources for determining what “church” means.

While the document uncovers “greater common ground in ecclesiology” than many people would have imagined possible, the Vatican noted that it did not treat the papacy or the role and ministry of the pope, the successor of St. Peter.

Other “unresolved concerns include who may be baptized, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the relation of the Eucharist to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and churches who do not practice baptism or Eucharist,” the Vatican said.

Many modern developments within the Catholic Church, like a growing understanding of the church as a communion given life by the Trinity and an increasing emphasis on the need for “synodality,” also are recognized by other Christian communities and present in the WCC document, the Vatican response said.

“The most fundamental convergence is found in the affirmation that unity among Christians is vital for fulfilling the church’s mission of proclaiming the good news of reconciliation in the Lord and that this is a biblical mandate,” the response said.

The WCC also asked churches and Christian communities to look at areas in their lives that may need “renewal” in the light of the agreed principles and the commitment to Christian unity.

“The Catholic Church,” the Vatican said, “commits itself to respond to the call to grow in holiness,” to continue the process of renewal begun at the Second Vatican Council, “to being the church of the poor and for the poor,” to continue developing its “current practice of synodality,” and to strengthening laypeople in their role as missionary disciples.

While it is “painful,” the response said, the Catholic Church insists its members cannot celebrate the Eucharist with members of other churches. However, it said, “we will renew our commitment to do together whatever we can do together, even in the context of the liturgy.”

Those possibilities, the Vatican said, include the rite of washing the feet, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and celebrating prayer vigils and liturgies of the Word for major feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.



Tags: Ecumenism

16 September 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis greets bishops from Eastern Catholic churches during a meeting at the Vatican on 14 September 2019. Meeting some 40 bishops serving in Europe, the pope praised them for their fidelity to Rome and encouraged them to be more active in seeking Christian unity.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)


Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.

In heaven, he said, “the Lord will not seek an account of which or how many territories remained under our jurisdiction. He will not ask how we contributed to the development of our national identities. Instead, he will ask how much we loved our neighbor, every neighbor, and how well we were able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to those we met along the road of life.”

The pope met 14 September with about 40 bishops in Europe from Eastern Catholic churches; they included bishops from the Eastern-rite Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek and Slovak churches, but also those who minister to migrant communities from outside of Europe, including the Coptic, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic

Churches from the Middle East and the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches of India.

The multiple expressions of Catholic liturgy, spirituality and governance are a sign of the Catholic Church’s true unity, Pope Francis said. “Uniformity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but ‘symphonic,’ otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit.”

Preserving their Eastern identity while holding fast to their unity with Rome came at the price of martyrdom for many of the Eastern Catholic churches, the pope acknowledged. “This fidelity is a precious gem in your treasury of faith, a distinctive and indelible sign.”

Unity with the wider Catholic Church, he said, does not detract from the identity of the Eastern churches but “contributes to its full realization, for example, by protecting it from the temptation of closing in on itself and falling into national or ethnic particularisms that exclude others.”

While the Eastern churches have national roots and cultures, and in many cases have contributed to preserving local languages and identity, the churches are called to proclaim the Gospel, not a national identity, he said.

“This is a danger of the present time in our civilization,” the pope said, because one can see “particularisms that become populisms and seek to dictate and make everything uniform.”

At the same time, he said, the witness of the saints and martyrs of the Eastern Catholic churches calls Eastern Catholics today to purify their “ecclesial memory” -- for example, the memory of knowing the Orthodox did not experience the same level of persecution under communism -- “and to aspire to ever greater unity with all who believe in Christ.”

In a world where so many people sow division, he said, Catholics are “called to be artisans of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation and patient builders of a civilization of encounter that can preserve our times from the incivility of conflict.”

“The way shown to us from on high is made up of prayer, humility and love, not of regional or even traditionalist claims; no. The way is prayer, humility and love,” the pope said.

As churches that share a spirituality, liturgy and theology with the Orthodox churches, he said, the Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in promoting Christian unity.

Pope Francis encouraged shared academic programs, especially for priests “so that they can be trained to have an open mind.”

But it is especially in concrete service to others that Catholics and Orthodox should join together, he said. “Love knows no canonical or jurisdictional boundaries. It pains me to see, even among Catholics, squabbles about jurisdictions.”



Tags: Eastern Catholic Churches

12 September 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis is flanked by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, on 12 September 2019, during an audience with bishops who were ordained over the past year and were attending a course sponsored by the two congregations. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

New bishops need to prepare for a life filled with God’s surprises, with daily plans that change at the last minute and, especially, for a life dedicated to spending time with God and with the people, Pope Francis said.

“God surprises us and often likes to mess up our appointment books: prepare for this without fear,” the pope told about 130 bishops attending a course for bishops ordained in the past year.

Bishops exist to make tangible God’s love for and closeness to his people, the pope told them on 12 September. “But one cannot communicate the closeness of God without experiencing it every day and without letting himself be infected by his tenderness.”

Pope Francis told the new bishops that no matter what else is going on in their lives and ministries, they must spend time in prayer.

“Without this intimacy cultivated daily in prayer, even and especially in times of desolation and dryness, the nucleus of our episcopal ministry splits apart,” he said.

Without a strong relationship to God, the sower of every good seed, a bishop’s own efforts will not seem worth the effort, he said, and it will be difficult to find the patience necessary to wait for the seeds to sprout.

Closeness to God also leads directly to desire for closeness to God’s people, the pope said. “Our identity consists in being near. It is not an external obligation, but a requirement that is part of the logic of gift.”

“Jesus loves to approach his brothers and sisters through us, through our open hands that caress and console them, through our words pronounced to anoint the world with the Gospel and not ourselves,” Pope Francis said.

A bishop cannot simply “proclaim” his closeness to the people, the pope said. He must be like the good Samaritan: seeing people in need rather than looking the other way, stopping to help, bandaging wounds, taking responsibility for them and paying the cost of caring for them.

“Each of these requires putting yourself on the line and getting your hands dirty,” Pope Francis told the bishops.

“Being close to the people,” he said, “is trusting that the grace God faithfully pours out on us and of which we are channels, even through the crosses we bear, is greater than the mud we fear.”

And, he said, a simple lifestyle is part of a bishop’s mission because it is the first and clearest way to proclaim with integrity that “Jesus is enough for us and that the treasure we want to surround ourselves with is made up of those who, in their poverty, remind us of and represent him.”

Bishops must spend more time visiting parishes and other communities than they spend at their desks, and those visits should not be super-formal affairs, he said.

“What comes to mind are pastors who are so groomed that they seem like distilled water that has no taste,” he said. They must truly listen to people, rather than surrounding themselves with “lackeys and yes men,” he added.



Tags: Pope Francis

3 September 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis greets Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, at the Vatican 2 September 2019. The 47 bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations met the pope during their synod in Rome. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Before a synod, bishops must learn what their people want and think and need, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively, Pope Francis told the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Forty-seven bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations, including the United States, Canada and Australia, met the pope on 2 September during their synod in Rome.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, told Pope Francis that “every bishop and representative of our local communities has made his journey to Rome carrying with him the sufferings and hopes of the people of God entrusted to our pastoral care.”

The bishops, he said, want to be synodal -- walking together with their people -- “not only during our sessions but also when we return to our communities. Because, in fact, one cannot walk while seated!”

Speaking to the bishops, Pope Francis focused on Archbishop Shevchuk’s remarks and on how the Eastern Catholic churches, like the Orthodox churches, have a longer and uninterrupted history of decisions flowing from bishops’ synods.

“There is a danger,” the pope said, which is “thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of ‘synodality’ means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!”

While synod members must discuss matters and offer their opinions, he said, the purpose is not “to come to an agreement like in politics: ‘I’ll give you this, you give me that.’“

Bishops must know what their lay faithful, priests and religious think, the pope said, but it’s not a survey or a vote on what should change.

“If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synod,” he said. “If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synodality. In fact, there is no church.”

The vocation of the church is to evangelize, he said, and the Holy Spirit should help bishops gathered in a synod to do that better.

“Pray to the Holy Spirit,” the pope told the bishops. “Argue among yourselves” like early church leaders did at Ephesus but listen to the Holy Spirit.

“We don’t want to become a congregationalist church, but a synodal church,” he said. “Keep moving forward on this path.”



Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Catholic Church

30 August 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




In this image from 2012, Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India, is pictured at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In a step designed to quell ongoing controversies, the Vatican announced the appointment of a vicar for the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and Pope Francis conferred on him the personal title of archbishop.

Archbishop Antony Kariyil had led the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Mandya, India, and served as secretary of the synod of bishops of the Eastern-rite church before his appointment as vicar was announced by the Vatican on 30 August.

The website Matters India reported that the synod, in agreement with the Vatican, created the post of vicar to the major archbishop to help deal with ongoing controversies involving Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the church.

The vicar was to have broad administrative powers and complete control over the financial affairs of the archdiocese, but the cardinal would retain the title of major archbishop and must be consulted on important decisions, the website said.

Matters India also reported that the synod lifted the suspension of the archdiocese’s two auxiliary bishops and transferred them to other dioceses: Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath will succeed Archbishop Kariyil in Mandya and Bishop Jose Puthenveettil will become auxiliary bishop of Faridabad. Both appointments were announced by the Vatican on 30 August.

In June 2018, Pope Francis had named an apostolic administrator to run the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly in an effort to put an end to infighting and financial controversies aggravated by disputed land deals approved by the cardinal.



Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

14 June 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Claudio Di Segni, a tenor and director of the choir at Rome's main synagogue, performs with the choir on 13 June 2019, during a concert at the synagogue marking the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Israel and the Holy See. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)

Plaintive pleas and rousing, rhythmic recognitions of God’s goodness filled the air at Rome’s main synagogue as Israeli and Vatican officials celebrated 25 years of formal diplomatic relations.

“A concert of sacred Jewish music in a highly symbolic place like the major synagogue of Rome highlights our special bond that is founded in our common root: the Bible,” Oren David, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service.

“Songs from the Psalms show that we have a common heritage, which is reflected in the biblical values that we share, and we want to bring attention to the special and unique bond between us,” said David, who hosted the concert on 13 June.

Nathan Lam, the cantor of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, was one of four cantors to perform at the concert. He said the singers, who are ordained for service and can preside at weddings and funerals, purposefully chose songs with texts common to Jews and Christians for the celebration.

Jews and Christians will interpret those texts differently, he said, “but the fact that we share them is a very important commonality.”

“I hope this leads to more and more dialogue, to more and more celebrations of relationships that are productive and good,” Lam said.

Celebrating 25 years of formal Vatican-Israeli diplomatic relations is not only about the relationship of two states. The ties were built on decades of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, which first focused on healing a relationship wounded by anti-Jewish church teaching and then moved on to common religious and moral teachings.

Celebrating what has been accomplished does not mean ignoring the sticky issues that remain on a diplomatic, political and religious level: for example, diplomats on both sides continue to try to negotiate an agreement governing church property ownership and taxation issues; the Vatican continues to call for international guarantees of Jerusalem’s status as a city sacred to Jews, Christian and Muslims; and Jewish religious leaders continue to press Catholic theologians involved in dialogue to discuss the religious significance of the land of Israel.

The Israeli ambassador and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the three issues in their remarks before the concert. But they both also insisted there was much more to celebrate than to worry about.

“In our relations, political and religious issues are intertwined, this is why they are so special,” the ambassador told CNS.

For Catholics, the “special” relationship includes recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews and that Christianity not only recognized the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Old Testament -- as part of God’s revelation, but Catholics adopted and adapted Jewish liturgy, including the chanting and singing of the Psalms.

“Our liturgy stems from the liturgy of the Jewish people,” said the Rev. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. “For example, reading texts, interpreting texts, giving sermons on texts -- that already can be found in Judaism, in Jewish liturgy and practice.”

“Jews and Christians are praying with the same texts,” he said, “but with a different interpretation” because Christians would read those texts in the light of their faith in Jesus.

Lam, the “chazzan” or cantor, prayed that those differing understandings would not overshadow the basic shared faith in one God, the creator of all, and -- to a lesser degree -- in the power of music to carry prayer and to touch hearts.

Like Christian sacred music, Jewish sacred music includes many styles influenced by the cultures the Jews were living in when the music was written. The cantor and choir of the Rome synagogue, who also performed 13 June, had a unique sound and style reflecting what the program described as the Jewish “Roman rite.”

The songs are sacred not because of their style, Lam said, but because the texts are the word of God, and the music upholds, reflects and emphasizes its content.

For Jews and for Christians, the Psalms have a special connection to liturgical music and not just because

they are written in a poetic form that makes it natural to chant or sing them.

Lam, who has been the cantor at Stephen Wise Temple for 43 years, said the Psalms seem to be growing in importance for both Jews and Christians “because the Psalms are a great source of comfort, knowledge, joy and wisdom.”

The central piece of the anniversary concert fittingly was Psalm 122 with its prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the world and, finally a personal, “I pray for your good.”

You can watch a related video from CNS below:



Tags: Vatican Jewish-Catholic relations

12 April 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis kisses the feet of South Sudan President Salva Kiir on 11 April 2019, at the conclusion of a two-day retreat at the Vatican for African nation’s political leaders. The pope begged the leaders to give peace a chance. At right is Vice President Riek Machar.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media via Reuters)


At the end of a highly unusual spiritual retreat for the political leaders of warring factions, Pope Francis knelt at the feet of the leaders of South Sudan, begging them to give peace a chance and to be worthy “fathers of the nation.”

“As a brother, I ask you to remain in peace. I ask you from my heart, let’s go forward. There will be many problems, but do not be afraid,” he told the leaders, speaking without a text at the end of the meeting.

“You have begun a process, may it end well,” he said. “There will be disagreements among you, but may they take place ‘in the office’ while, in front of your people, you hold hands; in this way, you will be transformed from simple citizens to fathers of the nation.”

“The purpose of this retreat is for us to stand together before God and to discern his will,” he said in his formal remarks on 11 April, closing the two-day retreat in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

The retreat participants included South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and four of the nation’s five designated vice presidents: Riek Machar, James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior. Under the terms of a peace agreement signed in September, the vice presidents were to take office together on 12 May, sharing power and ending the armed conflict between clans and among communities.

The retreat was the idea of Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, who attended the final part of the gathering. He and Pope Francis have been supporting the peace efforts of the South Sudan Council of Churches and, the pope said again on 11 April, they hope to visit South Sudan together when there is peace.

Pope Francis told the politicians and members of the Council of Churches that “peace” was the first word Jesus said to his disciples after the resurrection.

“Peace is the first gift that the Lord brought us, and the first commitment that leaders of nations must pursue,” he told them. “Peace is the fundamental condition for ensuring the rights of each individual and the integral development of an entire people.”

When South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of war, the people were filled with hope, the pope said. Too many of them have died or been forced from their homes or face starvation because of five years of civil war.

After “so much death, hunger, hurt and tears,” the pope said, the retreat participants “have clearly heard the cry of the poor and the needy; it rises up to heaven, to the very heart of God our father, who desires to grant them justice and peace.”

“Peace is possible,” the pope told the leaders. They must tap into “a spirit that is noble, upright, strong and courageous to build peace through dialogue, negotiation and forgiveness.”

As leaders of a people, he said, those who govern will have to stand before God and give an account of their actions, especially what they did or didn’t do for the poor and the marginalized.

Pope Francis asked the leaders to linger a moment in the mood of the retreat and sense that “we stand before the gaze of the Lord, who is able to see the truth in us and to lead us fully to that truth.”

The leaders, he said, should recognize how God loves them, wants to forgive them and calls them to build a country at peace.

Jesus, he said, calls all believers to repentance. “We may well have made mistakes, some rather small, others much greater,” but Jesus always is ready to forgive those who repent and return to serving their people.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “Jesus is also gazing, here and now, upon each one of us. He looks at us with love, he asks something, he forgives something, and he gives us a mission. He has put great trust in us by choosing us to be his co-workers in the creation of a more just world.”

Pope Francis expressed his hope that “hostilities will finally cease -- please, may they cease -- that the armistice will be respected, and that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted.”

Closing his prepared remarks with a prayer, he asked God “to touch with the power of the Spirit the depths of every human heart, so that enemies will be open to dialogue, adversaries will join hands and peoples will meet in harmony.”

“By your gift, Father, may the whole-hearted search for peace resolve disputes, may love conquer hatred and may revenge be disarmed by forgiveness, so that, relying solely on your mercy, we may find our way back to you,” he prayed.



Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Africa Interfaith





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