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Pope Francis: Tree, creche inspire everyone to love and share

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God did not come to the world with arrogance to impose his might; he offered his powerful love through a fragile child, Pope Francis said.

The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter's Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony Dec. 19. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony Dec. 19. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Christmas tree and Nativity scene are reminders of this mystery of the Incarnation and they both carry “a message of light, hope and love,” he said Dec. 19, meeting the people who donated the centerpieces of the Vatican Christmas decorations.

The Italian city of Verona donated the Nativity scene, and the southern Italian city of Catanzaro donated the 82-foot white spruce tree, which both adorn St. Peter’s Square. The tree was lit and the scene officially unveiled during an early evening ceremony in the square Dec. 19.

Earlier in the day, the pope thanked the delegates for their generosity and highlighted the importance of the Christmas creche and tree for Christians, as they are a sign of how “God made man to save us and the light that Jesus brought to the world with his birth.”

But the Nativity scene and Christmas tree touch the hearts of everyone, “even those who do not believe because they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, calling all people of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity,” he said.

“They are an invitation to unity, harmony and peace; an invitation to make room, in our personal and social life, for God, who did not come with arrogance to impose his might, but offers us his omnipotent love through the fragile person of a child,” he said.

“Let us follow him, the true light, in order to not lose our way and to reflect, in turn, light and warmth upon those who are going through difficult and dark times,” he said.

A choir from Serrastretta near Catanzaro and the band of the Vatican gendarme corps were to provide traditional Christmas music, both sacred and popular, during the lighting ceremony.

After the Christmas lighting, Vatican officials were scheduled to flip the switch for the new 315-bulb LED lighting on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican said the new bulbs should save about 70 percent on the basilica’s lighting bill. A similar system, also set for its first illumination Dec. 19, was installed at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.

 

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OFM Franciscan order faces grave financial problems following ‘illicit’ activities

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — Ineffective budgetary oversight and “questionable” financial activities have plunged the Order of Friars Minor into significant debt and an extremely serious financial situation, its minister general said. Following an internal investigation into the order’s finances, U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, the superior, announced to all members of the order that its general curia “finds itself in grave, and I underscore ‘grave,’ financial difficulty, with a significant burden of debt.”

U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, embraces Pope Francis during his 2013 visit to Assisi, Italy. Ineffective budgetary oversight and "questionable" financial activities have plunged the Order of Friars Minor into significant debt and an extremely serious financial situation, Father Perry said. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, embraces Pope Francis during his 2013 visit to Assisi, Italy. Ineffective budgetary oversight and “questionable” financial activities have plunged the Order of Friars Minor into significant debt and an extremely serious financial situation, Father Perry said. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He attributed the situation to unapproved financial activity by some friars as well as non-Franciscans and said the curia had retained lawyers and contacted civil authorities. The announcement was published as an open letter on the order’s website Dec. 17. The announcement included a plea to Franciscan superiors around the world for “your understanding and for a financial contribution to help address the current situation, which involves also the repayment of significant debts.” An investigation begun in September discovered that “the systems of financial oversight and control for the management of the patrimony of the order were either too weak or were compromised, thus limiting their effectiveness to guarantee responsible, transparent management,” Father Perry wrote. The inquiry revealed that “there appears to have taken place a number of questionable financial activities that were conducted by friars entrusted with the care of the patrimony of the order without the full knowledge or consent of the former and current” leaders, he wrote. The general treasurer, identified by Italian media as Father Giancarlo Lati, has resigned as treasurer and as legal representative of the order, Father Perry said, and the Franciscans have informed the Vatican about the situation. People who were not Franciscans also seem to have played a “central role” in the illicit activity, he added. The “scope and magnitude” of such activities have put “the financial stability of the general curia at grave risk,” he said, and have warranted calling in “civil authorities to take up this matter.” Father Perry was elected minister general of the order in May 2013 with a mandate to serve until 2015, completing the six-year term of Spanish-born Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, who in April 2013 was appointed secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Father Perry had served as the order’s vicar general since 2009. Despite the shock of discovering how serious the situation is, he said, “we are encouraged by the example set by Pope Francis in his call for truth and transparency in financial dealings both in the church and in human societies.” “We must trust that by following a course of truth, God will lead us on the journey of conversion,” he wrote. Three Franciscans appointed to investigate the current situation will continue their work, he said; the Franciscan curia also is relying on the assistance of a “highly regarded group of lawyers.” Father Perry promised to make a complete report on the situation when the Franciscan general chapter meets in 2015.

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Advent Calendar sponsored by: Mark D. Quinn AAMS, Financial Advisor, Edward Jones Inc.

December 19th, 2014 Posted in Featured

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Click here to go to the Advent Calendar:

Advent calendar sponsored by: Mark D. Quinn AAMS Financial Advisor 1407 Foulk Road Suite 101 Wilmington DE 1803 302-477-9828 mark.quinn@edwardjones.com https://www.edwardjones.com/en_US/find_financial_advisor/index.html

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Obama, Castro credit Pope Francis with urging U.S., Cuba to normalize relations

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis personally appealed to President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro this year to encourage both leaders to normalize diplomatic relations, a senior Obama administration official said.

Speaking on background, the official told reporters Dec. 17 that the pope followed up the personal appeals with letters to the U.S. and Cuban leaders, encouraging them to move forward on efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

American aid worker Alan Gross, third from right, disembarks with his wife Judy, fourth from left, from a U.S. government plane as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, outside Washington, after being released from a Cuban prison Dec. 17. The photo was tweeted by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (CNS photo/Reuters)

American aid worker Alan Gross, third from right, disembarks with his wife Judy, fourth from left, from a U.S. government plane as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, outside Washington, after being released from a Cuban prison Dec. 17. The photo was tweeted by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (CNS photo/Reuters)

The pope’s actions were part of a major diplomatic effort by the Vatican, which hosted direct talks between American and Cuban officials, the administration official said.

“That (letter) gave greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward,” the administration official said.

 

Pope Francis congratulated both governments for agreeing to establish diplomatic relations “with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.”

In a statement released after the announcement was made simultaneously by Obama in Washington and Castro in Havana, the Vatican confirmed the pope’s role in negotiations between the two countries.

The Vatican said it had invited Obama and Castro to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two parties.”

“The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the well-being of their respective citizens,” the statement said.

“The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens,” the statement said.

The pope had appealed to both countries for the release of Alan Gross, an American contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, who had been held in a Cuban prison for five years. Gross was released Dec. 17, hours before Obama announced that change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The administration official also said that a U.S. “intelligence asset” was being released after being held for 20 years in Cuba in exchange for three members of the Cuban Five, or Miami Five as they are also known.

The official declined to identify the U.S. spy.

The men were members of a Cuban intelligence network in Miami known as “La Red Avispa,” or “Wasp Network,” dispatched by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro in the early 1990s to infiltrate militant exile groups in South Florida, according to the Associated Press.

The policy changes included the lifting of restrictions on travel to Cuba; review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; allowing the sale of telecommunications equipment to Cuba; lifting of embargoes on Cuban products in the U.S.; and opening financial

The administration official told reporters that with the changes, the U.S. would continue to pursue efforts to promote democracy and strengthen human rights in Cuba.

“Openness is a better policy than isolation in advancing the things we care about in Cuba,” the official said.

The official laid out a timeline that indicated that talks between the U.S. and Cuba took about 18 months to evolve to the point where Obama announced a change in the American position regarding its Caribbean neighbor. The officials said talks mostly took place in Canada with one meeting occurring at the Vatican.

Obama said in a noontime address that the U.S. and Cuba would begin talks to normalize relations and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years. Diplomatic relations between the two countries ended in 1961.

The Vatican’s role in the process is linked to Obama’s visit to the Vatican in March. In a meeting with the pope, the administration official said, Cuba was “a topic of discussion that got as much attention as anything they discussed.”

“President Obama has enormous respect for Pope Francis and his personal engagement is important to us,” the official added.

Senior Vatican officials later received U.S. and Cuban officials together in October. The meeting gave representatives of both countries the opportunity to review details of their negotiations and formalize the exchange and transfer of the prisoners.

The administration official stressed that Gross’ release was a humanitarian gesture by the Cuban government and was not tied to the prisoner exchange.

The official said the Vatican was the only government directly involved in talks between the two countries. Canada hosted meetings between the two governments during, but Canadian officials did not participate.

The Cuban Five were arrested Sept. 12, 1998 by a heavily armed FBI SWAT team. They were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy to commit murder, acting as an agent of a foreign government, and other illegal activities in the United States and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. and other illegal activities. Each was sentenced to four life terms plus 75 years in December 2001.

They are hailed as national heroes in Cuba, according to AP.

The five appealed their convictions. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their convictions in 2005, but the full court later reversed the ruling, ending the five men’s bid for a new trial and reinstated the original convictions. In June 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Two were eventually released, one in October 2011 and the other in February of this year.

 

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Pope Francis turns 78, begins series of talks on the family

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — At his last weekly public audience of 2014, Pope Francis started a series of talks on the family with a reflection on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph as a model for all Christian families.

The pope spoke Dec. 17 after getting cheers, balloons and even a birthday cake as he arrived for the audience that coincided with his 78th birthday. He said his remarks were first of a series in preparation for the October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, which he described as the conclusion of a process begun at the October extraordinary synod on the same subject.

Pope Francis blows out candles on a birthday cake given by a seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 17. The pope turned 78. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blows out candles on a birthday cake given by a seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 17. The pope turned 78. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I have decided to reflect with you, in this year, on the very subject of the family, on this great gift that the Lord has given the world from the start, when he gave Adam and Eve the mission of multiplying and filling the earth,” the pope said.

The series of talks, which the pope announced at the previous week’s audience, Dec. 10, could amount to the most extensive papal teaching on the subject since St. John Paul II gave more than 120 audience talks on human sexuality, later compiled as his “theology of the body.”

If the first installment of Pope Francis’talks is indicative, they will be in his usual conversational and folksy style, in contrast to the philosophical meditations of St. John Paul.

In the talk, delivered a week before Christmas Eve, Pope Francis reflected that God chose to become man not “spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor” but as the son of a “pious and hardworking Israelite family” in a “forlorn village on the periphery of the Roman empire.”

Noting that the Gospels offer no details on Jesus’ youth and upbringing, the pope imagined the Holy Family’s daily life: “The mother cooked, kept house, ironed the shirts, did all the work of a mom. The dad, a carpenter, worked, taught his son to work.”

“It is not difficult to imagine how much moms could learn from Mary’s care for that son, and how much dads could benefit from the example of Joseph, a just man, who devoted his life to supporting and defending his child and wife, his family, in difficult periods. Not to speak of how much the adolescent Jesus might encourage kids to understand the necessity and beauty of cultivating their deepest vocation, and of dreaming big dreams,” Pope Francis said.

“The family of Nazareth calls on us to rediscover the vocation of the family, of every family,” the pope said: “to make love normal instead of hate, to make mutual assistance a common thing, rather than indifference or enmity.”

“This is the great mission of the family: to make a place for Jesus when he comes, to welcome Jesus in the family, in the form of children, husband, wife, grandparents,” he said. “Jesus is there. Welcome him there, that he might grow spiritually in that family.”

Thousands of tango dancers, mostly from Italy, flocked to St. Peter’s Square to wave their white scarves that said “A Tango for Pope Francis” and cheer along with tens of thousands of other people at the audience. Italian tango dancer Cristina Camorani organized a “Street Tango Flashmob” over the Internet, inviting people to what she hoped would become the “Biggest Milonga in the World.”

 

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Sydney archbishop: Darkness of siege cannot overcome Christ’s light

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Catholic News Service

SYDNEY — Hell has touched Sydney, but the darkness let loose on a terrorized city cannot overcome the light of Christ, the city’s archbishop said at a special Dec. 16 Mass after a lone gunman took 17 people hostage in a cafe, killing two before being shot by police.

The atmosphere in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, was somber as government leaders arrived for the special Mass. Among those in attendance were Peter Cosgrove, governor general of Australia, and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird.

Worshippers at Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral light candles for the victims of the Martin Place siege Dec. 16. Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney tried to help comfort the people of the city during the Mass. (CNS photo/Giovanni Portelli, The Catholic Weekly)

Worshippers at Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral light candles for the victims of the Martin Place siege Dec. 16. Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney tried to help comfort the people of the city during the Mass. (CNS photo/Giovanni Portelli, The Catholic Weekly)

“Today the heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocent hostages along with their tormentor, the injuries of four others and trauma to many more,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher said in his homily before the hundreds, Catholic and non-Catholic, who had gathered to pray.

“We went to bed hoping to wake to good news. But despite patient efforts to maintain calm and negotiate, there were, in the early hours of this morning, flashes of gunfire, intervention by our police to save lives, merciful escapes, but finally death.

“Hell had touched us.”

The café’s manager Tori Johnson, 34, was reported to have tried to wrest the gun off the self-styled Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis, but was fatally shot in the process.

Katrina Dawson, 38, a mother and respected barrister, was killed while trying to shield her pregnant friend.

“These heroes were willing to lay down their lives so others might live, imitating the sacrifice of Christ, who said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another,” Archbishop Fisher said.

The first instance of its kind in Sydney threatened to “harden our hearts,” the archbishop said, with the risk “that we become cynical, suspicious of our neighbors, or worse, that we turn on them.”

But he said that “the darkness need not overcome the light,” as witnessed by the calls for calm from a multitude of different religious, ethnic and political leaders; the spontaneous tributes appearing in Martin Place, where the incident occurred; and the instinct to unite in praying to God.

“Indeed, the Christmas-Easter-Christian message is: It cannot! There is something greater than hatred and violence. There is love, that humble, self-donative love that comes in the shape of the Christmas babe, the prince of peace.”

Archbishop Fisher reminded the congregation that the ostensibly peaceful birth of Jesus occurred against a background of darkness, with the Gospel accounts showing “all was not quite as it ought to be.”

“There’s suspicion about the pregnancy; the husband considers divorcing his wife; a mother nearing labor is required to travel a great distance; there’s no room at the motel for them; the child is delivered in the squalor of a cowshed; in the temple the proud parents are warned of trouble ahead; the family must flee as refugees to a strange land; meanwhile the king’s men kill the rest of the little children,” the archbishop said.

“Christ is threatened from the moment of his birth until the violence of this world finally catches up with him on the cross,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“And our world today is every bit as mixed up as it was at the first Christmas. There’s plenty of talk of human rights, the dignity of the person, equal respect and care. We are replete with resources, technology and know-how to help people through troubled times.

“Yet innocent people are threatened the world over, and a little bit of what is commonplace in the region of Christ’s birth has even come to Martin Place. Christmas, we think, is supposed to be different, but in a sense it was always like this.”

Many would be wondering why God allowed the siege to happen, something Archbishop Fisher said was a function of a misuse of people’s God-given free will.

“The God who saves still leaves men free. They choose whether to be of good will or not,” he said.

“The Christ-child proposes peace, again and again; he gives us the wherewithal to be reconciled and live peaceably with our neighbors; but in the end we choose whether to live in his kingdom, by his values,” he said

 — By Robert Hiini

 

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Vatican report calls U.S. women religious to continued dialogue

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A massive, detailed Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious ended with a call to the women themselves to continue discerning how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders’ founding ideals while facing steeply declining numbers and a rapidly aging membership.

Sister Agnes Mary Donovan, coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, speaks as Sister Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, listens during a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference for release of the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious. The 5,000 word report summarizes problems and challenges the women see in their communities and thanks them for their service. The visitation was carried out between 2009 and 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Sister Agnes Mary Donovan, coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, speaks as Sister Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, listens during a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference for release of the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious. The 5,000 word report summarizes problems and challenges the women see in their communities and thanks them for their service. The visitation was carried out between 2009 and 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although initially seen by many religious and lay Catholics as a punitive measure, the apostolic visitation concluded with the publication Dec. 16 of a 5,000-word final report summarizing the problems and challenges the women themselves see in their communities and thanking them for their service to the church and to society, especially the poor.

The visitation process, carried out between 2009 and 2012 with detailed questionnaires and on-site visits, mainly by other women religious, “sought to convey the caring support of the church in respectful, sister-to-sister dialogue,” says the final report by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The process attempted to help the Vatican “and the sisters themselves to be more cognizant of their current situation and challenges in order to formulate realistic, effective plans for the future,” said the report, signed by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the congregation for religious, and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary.

In summarizing the results, the congregation called for special attention in several areas, including: formation programs for new members; the personal, liturgical and common prayer life of members; ensuring their spiritual practices and ministries are fully in harmony with church teaching “about God, creation, the Incarnation and redemption” in Christ; strengthening community life, especially for members living on their own or with just one other sister; living their vow of poverty while wisely administering financial resources; and strengthening communion within the church, especially with the bishops and Vatican officials.

The Vatican, the report says, “is well aware that the apostolic visitation was met with apprehension and suspicion by some women religious. This resulted in a refusal, on the part of some institutes, to collaborate fully in the process.”

“While the lack of full cooperation was a painful disappointment for us,” the congregation writes, “we use this present opportunity to invite all religious institutes to accept our willingness to engage in respectful and fruitful dialogue with them.”

“A number of sisters conveyed to the apostolic visitator a desire for greater recognition and support of the contribution of women religious to the church on the part of its pastors,” the report says. “They noted the ongoing need for honest dialogue with bishops and clergy as a means of clarifying their role in the church and strengthening their witness and effectiveness as women faithful to the church’s teaching and mission.”

In addition, it says, “some spoke of their perception of not having enough input into pastoral decisions which affect them or about which they have considerable experience and expertise.”

The current Year of Consecrated Life, the congregation says, should be “a graced opportunity for all of us within the church — religious, clergy and laity — to take those steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation, which will offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion to all.”

The former prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Franc Rode, ordered the visitation in 2008, saying its aim would be to study the community, prayer and apostolic life of the orders to learn why the number of religious women in the United States had declined so sharply since the 1960s.

Almost a year into the study, Cardinal Rode told Vatican Radio that the investigation was a response to concerns, including some expressed by an unnamed “important representative of the U.S. church,” regarding “some irregularities or omissions in American religious life. Most of all, you could say, it involves a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain ‘feminist’ spirit.”

As the process began, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. women religious, questioned what its officials considered a lack of full disclosure about what motivated the visitation.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s investigation of the LCWR, begun in 2008, was a separate process; in 2011, the congregation ordered a reform of the organization, saying “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world.”

At a news conference presenting the report Dec. 16, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life invited both the president of the LCWR and the chairwoman of the smaller U.S. Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious to address the media. They were joined by Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitor appointed by the Vatican.

The congregation’s final report says that while apostolic visits are “a normal instrument of governance” designed to “assist the group in question to improve the way in which it carries out its mission in the life of the church,” the visitation of U.S. women religious “was unprecedented” in many ways.

“It involved 341 religious institutes of both diocesan and pontifical right, to which approximately 50,000 women religious throughout the United States belong,” the report says. Only communities of cloistered nuns were excluded.

While not news, the report presents striking statistics: “Today, the median age of apostolic women religious in the United States is in the mid- to late-70s. The current number of approximately 50,000 apostolic women religious is a decline of about 125,000 since the mid-1960s, when the numbers of religious in the United States had reached their peak.”

“It is important to note, however, that the very large numbers of religious in the 1960s was a relatively short-term phenomenon that was not typical of the experience of religious life through most of the nation’s history,” the report says. “The steady growth in the number of women religious peaked dramatically from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, after which it began to decline as many of the sisters who had entered during the peak years left religious life, the remaining sisters aged and considerably fewer women joined religious institutes.”

Citing a wide variety of founding principles, ministries and community sizes, the congregation’s final report notes an overall trend of “aging and diminishment” in the number of members.

Most religious communities, it says, “are expending considerable spiritual and material energies in the area of vocation promotion,” but many of them are obtaining results “not commensurate with the expectations and efforts.”

“Vocation and formation personnel interviewed noted that candidates often desire the experience of living in formative communities, and many wish to be externally recognizable as consecrated women,” it says, in an apparent reference to the wearing of traditional habits. “This is a particular challenge in institutes whose current lifestyle does not emphasize these aspects of religious life.”

The congregation’s report does not make specific recommendations other than urging the entire church “to offer fervent prayer for religious vocations” and to ask religious communities to ensure they provide “a solid, theological, human, cultural, spiritual and pastoral preparation” for religious life

 

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Morning homily: Self-righteous rebels are doomed, repentant sinners are saved, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Only the repentant heart that is humble, open to correction and trusts completely in God will be saved, Pope Francis said.

Those whose hearts are proud, self-righteous and deaf to God’s voice and correction are doomed, the pope said Dec. 16 at his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta

Pope Francis greets a boy as he arrives to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Rome Dec. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a boy as he arrives to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Rome Dec. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

, where he lives.

“The people who are humble, lowly and trust in the Lord, they are the ones who are saved, and this is the way of the church, right? It has to go down this path, not the other one, which doesn’t listen to the voice (of God), doesn’t accept correction and doesn’t trust in the Lord,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

The pope’s homily focused on the day’s readings, first from the Book of Zephaniah (3:1-2, 9-13), in which the Lord condemns the “rebellious and polluted” city, which does not hear or trust in God and accepts no correction. God will remove “the proud braggarts” and leave behind “a people humble and lowly,” the reading says. The Gospel reading from St. Matthew (21:28-32) shows Jesus asking the chief priests and elders to decide who is more obedient to God’s will: the son who refuses, but then repents and goes as commanded to work in the vineyard, or the son who agrees right away but does not go.

The two readings, the pope said, talk about judgment, salvation and condemnation.

“When we see a holy people of God that is humble, whose wealth is in its faith in the Lord, in its trust in the Lord,” he said, “they are the ones who are saved.”

The Gospel account of the two sons, he said, can be seen today with Christians who declare that they are “pure” just because they go to Mass and receive Communion.

But God wants something more, the pope said. He wants them to honestly open their hearts and courageously lay bare all of their sins.

Even people who generously give their lives in service to others, who work with the poor, help the church, there is still something missing that God wants: a list of their sins, the pope said.

“When we are able to tell the Lord, ‘Lord these are my sins, not the sins of that one or the other, these are mine. They are mine. You take them and that way I will be saved’; when we are able to do this we will be that beautiful people, a humble and lowly people, who trust in the Lord,” the pope said.

Among those invited to attend the morning Mass were the three women religious from the United States who were in Rome for the presentation of a final report ending a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious.

Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitor appointed by the Vatican, told reporters during a news conference about the report that the pope’s morning homily was “an awesome experience.”

She said the pope’s final comments about Jesus asking everyone to “give me your sins; I was very struck by that because we all have our shortcomings, all of our congregations, we’ve all come up short on many aspects in living our fidelity, and I thought that was a beautiful message to all of us.”

The Vatican’s final report calling on the women to discern how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders’ founding ideals was “very pastoral,” she said.

“It challenges each of us, every one of our congregations, to turn all of that over to Jesus so that he can work great things through us, and I think that was the message I received from the Holy Father this morning,” she said.

 

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Pope praises Our Lady of Guadalupe as great missionary of ‘our America’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Preceded by a procession of flags from the nations of the Americas and the recitation of the rosary in Spanish, Pope Francis and thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican.

Pope Francis prepares to use incense to venerate an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during her feast day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis prepares to use incense to venerate an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during her feast day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Argentina-born pope celebrated the Dec. 12 Mass to the sounds and rhythms of many of South America’s indigenous peoples; the principal sung parts of the Mass were from the “Misa Criolla,” composed 50 years ago by the late Ariel Ramirez. His son, Facundo Ramirez, conducted the choir that featured Patricia Sosa, a famous Argentine singer, as well as guitars and traditional instruments from the continent.

With St. Juan Diego’s vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, the pope said, Mary “became the great missionary who brought the Gospel to our America.”

In his homily, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would “continue to accompany, assist and protect our peoples” and that she would “lead all the children who are pilgrims on this earth by the hand to an encounter with her son Jesus Christ.”

“Imploring God’s forgiveness and trusting in his mercy,” the pope prayed that God would help the people of Latin America forge a future of hope, development and opportunity for the poor and suffering, “for the humble, for those who hunger and thirst for justice, for the compassionate, the pure of heart, peacemakers and those persecuted for the sake of Christ’s name.”

Mary’s “Magnificat,” her hymn of praise to God, he said, proclaims that God “overturns ideologies and worldly hierarchies. He raises up the humble, comes to the aid of the poor and the small, and fills with good things, blessings and hope those who trust in his mercy.”

Pope Francis said the day’s reading from Psalm 66, with its “plea for forgiveness and the blessing of the peoples and nations and, at the same time, its joyful praise, expresses the spiritual sense of this Eucharistic celebration” in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “for whom devotion extends from Alaska to Patagonia.”

The dark-skinned image of Our Lady of Guadalupe traditionally believed to have been miraculously impressed on Juan Diego’s cloak, the pope said, proclaimed to the indigenous peoples of the Americas “the good news that all its inhabitants shared the dignity of children of God. No more would anyone be a servant, but we are all children of the same Father and brothers and sisters to each other.”

Mary did not just want to visit the Americas, the pope said, the image on the cloak or “tilma” is a sign that “she wanted to remain with them.”

“Through her intercession, the Christian faith began to become the greatest treasure” of the American peoples, Pope Francis said, a treasure “transmitted and demonstrated even today in the baptism of multitudes of people, in the faith, hope and charity of many, in their precious popular piety and in that ethos of the people who show that they know the dignity of the human person, in their passion for justice, in solidarity with the poor and suffering.”

 

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Something for Joey: Seaford parishioner builds a chapel’s altar

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For The Dialog

 

SEAFORD – Bob Gay’s father was a Baltimore architect who helped design hospitals in Baltimore and Salisbury, Md. His grandfather, a German immigrant, was a cabinetmaker.

So after a career in sales, it came as no surprise that Gay combined his lifelong interest in woodworking with his father’s eye for design and detail.

With no training in carpentry or design, Gay began building things — a desk for a granddaughter; toys for underprivileged children; cradles and beds for dolls. And, for Our Lady of Lourdes Church, he’s built an altar, credence table, tabernacle, a giving tree; and stadium-style seating in the choir loft. Read more »

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