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Anglican and Catholic rites for reburial of King Richard III


Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — One of England’s last Catholic kings was reburied three years after his skeleton was discovered in a coffin beneath a parking lot.

King Richard III, the last monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty and the last English king to die in battle, was originally buried by Franciscan friars in Leicester, a city in the Midlands, after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Read more »

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English cardinal urges priests to keep their family synod views out of the press


Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster urged priests to end debating the upcoming synod on the family in the press after more than 450 priests published a letter calling on the Catholic Church to retain the prohibition on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving holy Communion.

“Every priest in England and Wales has been asked to reflect on the synod discussion. It is my understanding that this has been taken up in every diocese, and that channels of communication have been established,” Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said in a statement March 25.

“The pastoral experience and concern of all priests in these matters are of great importance and are welcomed by the Bishops. Pope Francis has asked for a period of spiritual discernment. This dialogue, between a priest and his bishop, is not best conducted through the press,” the statement said.

Set to appear in the March 27 edition of the London-based Catholic Herald, the priests’ letter explained that it was written partly to counter “confusion” over the moral teaching of the Catholic Church as a result of some synod fathers pushing for a relaxation of the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.

It was signed by 461 priests and also appeared on the website of the weekly magazine March 24.

“We wish, as Catholic priests, to restate our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the word of God and taught by the church’s magisterium for two millennia,” the priests wrote.

“We commit ourselves anew to the task of presenting this teaching in all its fullness, while reaching out with the Lord’s compassion to those struggling to respond to the demands and challenges of the Gospel in an increasingly secular society,” the letter continued.

“Furthermore we affirm the importance of upholding the church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony,” the letter added.

The priests concluded their letter by urging all participants of synod on the family Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican “to make a clear and firm proclamation of the church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.”

Signees included parish priests, members of religious orders and prominent English theologians Dominican Father Aidan Nichols and Father John Saward.

One signatory, Father John Johnson, who serves as the dean of Wigan in northern England, told Catholic News Service March 25 that it would be a “scandal to the community” to allow people who have deserted their spouses to set up home with another partner to publicly receive Communion.

“It is a very delicate matter … but you can’t teach the indissolubility of marriage if you allow all and sundry to go to Communion,” he said.

The final report of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family last October committed the church to “further theological study” on whether divorced and remarried Catholics could have access to Communion as well as “fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion.”


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Gunmen fire on police guarding Catholic church in Pakistan

March 25th, 2015 Posted in International News Tags: , , , ,


LAHORE, Pakistan — Unidentified gunmen opened fire on policemen guarding a Catholic church, police officials said.

Asif Khan, a local township police officer, confirmed the March 24 attack outside of St. Peter Church in the southern Pakistani city, reported the Asian Catholic news portal ucanews.com.

“Two masked men riding a motorbike fired on policemen who were deployed outside the church,” Khan said. “Police retaliated, after which the assailants sped away.”

Two passersby were injured in the crossfire, but no other injuries were reported, Khan said, adding that police had obtained closed circuit television footage from the church and have launched an investigation.

Local media reported that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed police to submit a report of the incident.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said he was aware of the incident and that no church or school staff were injured in the attack.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Christian rights activist and lawyer, condemned the attack.

“It is unbelievable how militants fired at the church guards and managed to flee,” Gill said. “We urge the government to beef up security at churches.”

He added that twin suicide bombings in Lahore earlier in March had created a sense of fear and insecurity within the Christian minority community.

The bombings, which left 14 dead and more than 70 others injured, also sparked riots in which two men thought to be associated with the bombers were beaten to death in a rare display of violence on the part of Christians in Pakistan.


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Pope’s day in Naples: Saint’s blood liquefies, cloistered sisters ‘break free’


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — At the end of Pope Francis’ spontaneity-filled meeting with priests, seminarians and religious in the cathedral of Naples, the vial of dried blood of the city’s patron saint appeared to miraculously liquefy.

After Pope Francis blessed the congregation with the reliquary holding the vial, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples announced, “As a sign that St. Januarius loves the pope, who is Neapolitan like us, the blood is already half liquefied.”

Nuns greet Pope Francis during his meeting with religious at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Nuns greet Pope Francis during his meeting with religious at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The thousands of people present in the cathedral applauded, but the pope insisted on taking the microphone. “The bishop said the blood is half liquefied,” he said. “It means the saint loves us halfway; we must all convert a bit more, so that he would love us more.”

The blood of the fourth-century martyr is Naples’ most precious relic. The townspeople gauge the saints’ pleasure with them by awaiting the blood’s liquefaction three times a year: in the spring during celebrations of the feast of the transfer of the saint’s relics to Naples; Sept. 19, his feast day; and Dec. 16, the local feast commemorating the averting of a threatened eruption of Mount Vesuvius through the intervention of the saint.

When Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2007 and the blood did not liquefy, Msgr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, custodian of the relic, told reporters the miracle had never occurred when a pope visited on a day other than the feast day.

Entering the cathedral, Pope Francis’ white cassock and his arms were yanked repeatedly by priests, seminarians and nuns wanting to touch him or attract his attention.

Calmed reigned briefly after the pope reached the altar, but then Cardinal Sepe told the pope that, in accordance with canon law, he had given formal permission for the nuns in Naples’ seven cloistered convents to go out for the day.

The nuns, who had been seated in the sanctuary, broke free, running to the pope, surrounding him, hugging him, kissing his ring and piling gifts on his lap.

“Sisters, sisters, not now, later!” the cardinal shouted over the microphone to no avail. “Look what I have done,” he said, exasperated. “And these are the cloistered ones, imagine what the non-cloistered ones are like! Ay. They’re going to eat him alive.”

When order was restored, Pope Francis stood with several sheets of paper and told the congregation, “I prepared a speech, but speeches are boring.” So, he put the papers aside, sat down and began talking about how Jesus must be at the center of a consecrated person’s life, about life in community, about poverty and mercy.

“The center of your life must be Jesus,” he said. Too often, people, including priests and religious, have a difficulty with a superior or a confrere and that problem becomes the real center of their lives, robbing them and their witness of joy.

Addressing seminarians, he said, “if you do not have Jesus at the center, delay your ordination. If you are not sure Jesus is the center of your life, wait a while in order to be sure.”

Money definitely cannot be the center of the life of a priest or nun, he said. Even a diocesan priest, who does not take vows of poverty, must make sure “his heart is not there” in money.

The pope told the story of a religious woman he knew in Argentina who was so concerned about raising money for her school that she subconsciously preferred the company of people with money. One day, in the faculty room, she fainted. In the teachers’ attempt to revive her, the pope said, one suggested putting “a 100 peso note” under her nose to revive her, “but the poor woman was already dead and this was the last word said about her when no one knew if she had died or not.”


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Scotland cardinal renounces duties, rights of office


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis accepted Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s decision to renounce all “duties and privileges” associated with being a cardinal.

The former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to sexual misconduct, will no longer exercise the role of a cardinal, including by serving as a papal adviser, a member of Vatican congregations and councils, and as an elector of a new pope, the Vatican press office said.

A written statement from the College of Cardinals, published March 20, said, “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by his eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer.”

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, told journalists the resignation was “not a punishment resulting from a process” or any formal proceedings against the cardinal, but rather it came from the cardinal himself after a long period of prayer and reflection “in dialogue with the Holy Father.”

While he will no longer be invited to attend consistories and other gatherings of cardinals, including an eventual conclave for the election of a new pope, Father Benedettini said, he retains his faculties as a priest and retired bishop.

The College of Cardinal’s statement also said Pope Francis expressed his pastoral concern for all Catholics in Scotland and encouraged “them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation,” the Vatican statement said.

In his own statement, released through the Scottish bishops’ conference, Cardinal O’Brien again apologized “to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland.”

“There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry,” said his statement released March 20.

“I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way. I will continue to play no part in the public life of the church in Scotland; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way,” the cardinal wrote.

The cardinal stepped down as archbishop in February 2013, after the Observer, a British weekly national newspaper, carried a story detailing complaints of three priests and one former priest who alleged Cardinal O’Brien had made sexual advances toward them.

The cardinal initially denied the allegations but, less than a week later, he issued a public apology for his actions. He did not attend the March conclave that elected Pope Francis because, he had said, he did not want media attention to be on him rather than on the process of electing a new pope.


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Pope recognizes miracle needed to declare the Little Flower’s parents saints


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved a miracle so that, for the first time, a married couple can be canonized together.

The canonization ceremony for Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, is likely to take place during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October.

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, are pictured in a combination photo created from images provided by the Sanctuary of Lisieux in France. Pope Francis is expected to canonize the couple during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October. (CNS photo/courtesy of Sanctuary of Lisieux)

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, are pictured in a combination photo created from images provided by the Sanctuary of Lisieux in France. Pope Francis is expected to canonize the couple during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October. (CNS photo/courtesy of Sanctuary of Lisieux)

Pope Francis signed the decree March 18, the Vatican said, although it provided no details about the miraculous cure said to have taken place through the couple’s intercession.

However, the promoters of the sainthood cause said the miracle being studied involves a little girl in the Archdiocese of Valencia, Spain. Born prematurely and with multiple life-threatening complications, Carmen suffered a major brain hemorrhage, which could have caused irreversible damage. Her parents prayed for the Martins’ intercession. The little girl survived and is healthy.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes had said in late February that “thanks be to God, in October two spouses, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, will be canonized.”

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin were married in 1858. The couple had nine children, but four of them died in infancy. The five who survived, including St. Therese,all entered religious life. Zelie Martin died of cancer in 1877, at the age of 45; her husband died when he was 70 in 1894.

The couple was beatified in 2008. They are believed to be the first parents of a saint to be beatified, highlighting the important role parents play in their children’s human and spiritual upbringing.

The next step toward canonization is for the pope to hold a consistory with cardinals present in Rome to announce the decision to proceed with the ceremony during the world Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 4-25. A Vatican official said that meeting probably would be in June.

Before opening the October 2014 meeting of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis venerated the relics of St. Therese, her parents and another couple, Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi; the relics were brought to Rome specifically for prayers during the bishops’ discussions about family life.


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St. Vincent de Paul members abducted in Syria


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been unable to confirm the number of its members abducted in Syria, as well as where they are being held.

“We’re waiting for news,” Helene Afriat, communications officer for the International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris, told Catholic News Service March 13. She added that communication with people in the Mideast was “very difficult.”

She also said the Society has not been able to verify or confirm reports that those kidnapped were being threatened with decapitation and their children were being held in cages.

The Society announced on its website March 4 that “several colleagues,” along with “women and children,” were kidnapped in the province of Hassakeh in northeastern Syria.

The website announcement called for prayers and said, “At the moment we have no details, also the greatest caution is required on sharing this dramatic information.”

In an interview more than a week later, Afriat said nothing had changed.

“The surrounding villages have been evacuated, the people have fled, communication is very difficult and we have not been able to establish contact with our volunteers and correspondents working locally,” she said. “The people who reported these recent kidnappings were unable to give us more precise details.”

She said it is likely those abducted, all local Christians, might not have made their Society of St. Vincent de Paul membership known to their captors, so as not to “aggravate their already dramatic situation” and increase the threat to their lives because of their association to an international organization. She said the abduction took place between Feb. 28 and March 1.

Afriat also warned of the danger in circulating unverified claims.

“Given that human lives are threatened, we are exercising great caution in matters of information, and we will only communicate proven facts, so as not to present any additional threat to the lives of these people who are being held hostage,” she emphasized.

She said due to the numerous abductions of Christians in Syria by Islamic State militants in recent weeks, the Society presumed its members were also abducted by Islamic State, but this information had yet to be confirmed. She also said it was unclear whether the members were kidnapped from the city of Hassakeh during a brief incursion or from surrounding villages.

The city of Hassakeh is located less than 12 miles from the front and remains Syrian territory, under the control of the Kurds, said Afriat. However, the surrounding area sees daily fighting between Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants.


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Representatives of 50 nations say Christians’ survival in Middle East at risk


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a joint statement, representatives of more than 50 countries have recognized that Christians are particularly endangered in the Middle East, and they called on the international community to reaffirm the human right to freedom of religion.

The violence carried out by terrorist groups “creates the risk of complete disappearance for the Christians” in the region, they said.

The statement, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva March 13, was sponsored by the delegations of the Holy See, Lebanon and Russia. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Iraq and Israel were among the 52 signatories.

Ongoing conflicts in the region have been “disastrous for the entire population” and have “seriously threatened” the existence of “many religious communities,” the statement said. People continue to fall victim “to barbaric acts of violence” and “churches and ancient shrines of all religions have been destroyed.”

But the statement then zeroed in on the Christian situation.

“Christians are now especially affected,” said the statement. “These days even their survival is in question.”

“There are more and more reasons to fear seriously for the future of the Christian communities that have more than 2,000 years of existence in this region, where Christianity has its full place and began its long history,” the statement said.

The signatories called on the international community to support the human rights of Christians and other religious and ethnic communities in the Middle East and to work toward building “a culture of peaceful coexistence.”

“A future without the different communities in the Middle East will run the risk of new forms of violence, exclusion and the absence of peace and development,” they warned.


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Archbishop Romero to be beatified May 23 in El Salvador


Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador May 23, said Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator or chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

The ceremony, which moves the murdered archbishop a step closer to sainthood, will be in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo. The archbishop said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, would celebrate the Mass.

A nun kisses the forehead of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador at the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. The archbishop was taken to the hospital with bullet wounds in the chest after being shot by four unidentified gunmen as he celebrated Mass in a chapel March 24, 1980. (Scan of CNS file photo)

A nun kisses the forehead of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador at the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. The archbishop was taken to the hospital with bullet wounds in the chest after being shot by four unidentified gunmen as he celebrated Mass in a chapel March 24, 1980. (Scan of CNS file photo)

“Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice,” Archbishop Paglia said March 11 at a news conference in San Salvador.

The archbishop called the beatification a gift for the world, but particularly for the people of El Salvador.

While Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause began in 1993, it continued for years as church officials combed through thousands of documents related to his life. The effort began moving forward under Pope Benedict XVI. In May 2007, he said: “Archbishop Romero certainly was a great witness to the faith, a man of great Christian virtue.”

The process advanced rapidly with the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the first Latin American pope in history. From the first moments of his papacy, he showed interest in declaring Archbishop Romero a saint.

Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, which meant there was no need to prove a miracle for his beatification. However, a miracle is ordinarily needed for canonization as saint.

Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country’s civil war. Archbishop Paglia said in early February that the two decades it took to obtain the decree were the result of “misunderstandings and preconceptions.”

During Archbishop Romero’s time as archbishop of San Salvador, from 1977 to 1980, “kilos of letters against him arrived in Rome. The accusations were simple: He’s political; he’s a follower of liberation theology.”

All of the complaints, Archbishop Paglia said, slowed the sainthood process.

However, promoters of the cause, he said, collected “a mountain of testimony just as big” to counter the accusations and to prove that Archbishop Romero heroically lived the Christian faith and was killed out of hatred for his words and actions as a Catholic pastor.

“He was killed at the altar,” Archbishop Paglia said, instead of when he was an easier target at home or on the street. “Through him, they wanted to strike the church that flowed from the Second Vatican Council.”

The archbishop announced the date of the beatification on the eve of the anniversary of the assassination of a close personal friend of Archbishop Romero: Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, the first priest executed by death squads, March 12, 1977.

Father Grande was a fiery champion of the poor and oppressed and used the pulpit to denounce actions of the government, death squads in his country, violence from the outbreak of civil war and military occupation of churches. His death had a profound impact on Archbishop Romero, who later said, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I, too, have to walk the same path.’”


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Cardinal Burke: New evangelization fails if truths of marriage not upheld


Catholic News Service

CHESTER, England — The new evangelization of Western societies will fail unless the church succeeds in transmitting its teachings on marriage and the family to Catholics, said a U.S. cardinal.

The success of efforts to convincingly preach anew the Gospel in secularized societies rests on the ability of Catholics to faithfully abide by the church’s teachings, said Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta, gives a speech on marriage in Chester, England, March 6. Cardinal Burke warned his audience that the great project of the new evangelization would fail unless Catholics were soundly grounded in the teachings of the church on marriage and the family. (CNS photo/Simon Caldwell)

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta, gives a speech on marriage in Chester, England, March 6. Cardinal Burke warned his audience that the great project of the new evangelization would fail unless Catholics were soundly grounded in the teachings of the church on marriage and the family. (CNS photo/Simon Caldwell)

He said the obedient Christian witness of faithful married couples was critical to the renewal of the church and society and said Catholics must be willing to suffer in their efforts to uphold the truth of marriage.

“The challenge which confronts the whole church confronts particularly the church in the first cell of her life, which is the family,” he said in a March 6 speech, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ on Holy Matrimony.”

“If we can’t get it straight with regard to the truth about marriage and the family, we really don’t have much to say about anything else,” Cardinal Burke told more than 150 people at a meeting organized by Voice of the Family, an initiative of Catholic laity in support of the 2014-2015 Synods of Bishops on the family.

“Through sound family life, our society will be transformed,” he added. “Without a sound family life, it will never be transformed.”

The cardinal said it was clear “that if a new evangelization is not taking place in marriage and in the family, then it will not take place in the church or in society in general.”

“At the same time, the marriages transformed by the Gospel are the first and most powerful agent of the transformation of society by the Gospel,” he added. “The witness of the family is, therefore, at the heart of the new evangelization.”

The cardinal said there was “nothing more important” than safeguarding and fostering the truth about marriage and the family.

Without naming anyone, he criticized church figures who, he said, “will obscure the truth of the indissolubility of marriage in the name of mercy, who condone the violation of the conjugal union by means of contraception in the name of pastoral understanding and who, in the name of tolerance, retain silence on the very integrity of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.”

In a talk that lasted more than an hour, the cardinal cited the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI, but made scarcely mention of the teachings of Pope Francis.

In October, Cardinal Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis and a distinguished canon lawyer, emerged as a prominent critic of the proceedings of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

Shortly afterward, he was removed from his position as head of the Vatican’s highest court amid “legal restructuring,” a decision Pope Francis said had been made before the synod.


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