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Seniors at St. Mark’s create interactive children’s book

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Some members of the Future Educators Association at St. Mark’s High School are getting a head start on their careers in teaching. Three Spartan girls created an interactive children’s book for a competition at the Delaware FEA Conference, which was held in December at Delaware State University in Dover.

Their book, “Bedtime with Benny,” earned them second place in the children’s literature category. Read more »

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Celebrating a Blue Ribbon year: Mount Aviat Academy commemorates its ‘school of excellence’ honor from the U.S. education department

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Dialog reporter

 

CHILDS, Md. — Tucked away in Childs, Md., the students, faculty and staff at Mount Aviat Academy usually perform their work in relative peace and quiet.

But things got a little bit more hectic and loud on Jan. 16, when the school community celebrated being named a 2014 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. Read more »

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Young people find ‘amazing’ atmosphere, high energy at pro-life rally, Mass

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WASHINGTON — Just as the sun rose Jan. 22, thousands of Catholic teenagers and young adults from across the country poured into the Verizon Center to meet other pro-lifers, pray for the unborn and celebrate the joy of being alive at the annual Youth Rally & Mass for Life.

Many, like Megan Holzmeister, who attends a Catholic high school in Kansas City, Kansas, found that the combination of prayer, song and celebration kept them wide awake in the early morning hours.

Students from St. Anthony School in Washington hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and attend Mass before taking part in the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Students from St. Anthony School in Washington hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and attend Mass before taking part in the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“The atmosphere is amazing,” she said. “With all the young kids, it keeps it fun and upbeat, and it’s a great opportunity to meet people.”

Before the Mass, several youths in brightly colored, coordinated sweatshirts joined the long Dunkin Donuts line before hopping into the equally long line for the sacrament of penance.

Others took pictures in the photo booths, and then tweeted them out along with hashtag #Mass4Life or hashtag #iStand4Life to show an online witness.

Young adult Grace Duffley and her adopted brother, Chris, serenaded the crowd with “Hold Me” by Toby Mac and Jamie Grace, and then Chris, who is autistic and blind, sang and played “Open the Eyes of My Heart” on the piano.

The youth leadership team, consisting of teens from youth groups in parishes around the archdiocese, led the Verizon Center in praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the main celebrant at the Mass, was joined by hundreds of priests and religious as well as dozens of bishops who traveled with their young people to Washington.

He remarked that between the Verizon Center, the DC Armory, and some 14 churches in the archdiocese, “we’ll have some 30,000 energetic young people representing the next generation. These young people are saying, ‘Let us embrace every mother, let us embrace every child, let us embrace all life.’ That’s a great message.”

In his homily, Father Mario Majano, a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Takoma Park, Maryland, said he considered a true hero to be someone who spoke up for the truth again and again. He gave an example of a woman who had three crisis pregnancies and chose life every time.

In one instance, her child was conceived in rape, and another child had the possibility of being born deformed because of the cancer treatment she was undergoing at the time. However the child was born healthy and grew up alongside her two siblings.

“So thanks, Mama,” said Father Majano, looking over to his mother in the crowd. Everyone stood and applauded.

Eleventh-grader Abby Durniat from Atlanta said in an interview that she was pro-life because the doctors told her parents to abort her twin sisters, believing they would have mental disabilities. Her parents refused, and her sisters were born without any disabilities.

“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” Abby said, looking over at her sister Ally. Even though her sisters were born healthy, Abby said she believes in the value of a human life no matter what obstacle or disability faces a child.

“I babysit a girl with Down syndrome, and she’s so important to me. Even when children have disabilities, they’re still kids, they’re still going to be a life that’s important,” she said.

After the rally and Mass, the participants headed over to the National Mall for the annual March for Life, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Mary Archer and Seth Tavera, students at The Catholic University of America, were there selling T-shirts that featured a pro-life quote from Pope Francis. The proceeds from the sales were going toward the students’ mission trips to Costa Rica, Belize and Jamaica.

Archer and Tavera also were there with around 300 to 400 other Catholic University students to show their support for life. “Life is an inalienable right and it’s a tragedy that abortion is legal,”said Archer. “Plus, who doesn’t love little babies?”

— By Zoey Di Mauro

 

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More than $4.7 million pledged to Annual Catholic Appeal  

January 22nd, 2015 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese Tags:

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Special to The Dialog

Pledges more than $380,000 over last year’s target, parishioners’ generosity came amid major campaign

Catholics opened their hearts and pledged more than $4.7 million to the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal to support the work of diocesan ministries and offices in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, surpassing last year’s target by almost $382,000.

The appeal’s success came even though its same pool of potential donors also gave more than $31 million to Sustaining Hope for the Future, a campaign aimed at helping the Diocese of Wilmington to get back on its feet following the 2011 bankruptcy settlement that resolved 150 claims of survivors of sexual abuse by priests. Read more »

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Archbishop Kurtz asks pro-life marchers to be ‘holy, kind and brave’

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Catholic News Service WASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference Jan. 22 exhorted the thousands of Catholics at the closing Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life to be “ambassadors for life.” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, said to the worshippers, “Think of what an ambassador is … someone who represents to others a great case.” I

A young woman prays the rosary during the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A young woman prays the rosary during the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In this instance, the archbishop said, the case is the good news of Jesus Christ. “Today, you and I are being chosen as ambassadors for life, to stand up for life on the 42nd anniversary of the tragic decision of Roe v. Wade,” which permitted legalized abortion virtually on demand nationwide, Archbishop Kurtz said.

The Mass took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The prayer vigil started at mid-afternoon Jan. 21 with confessions, followed by the opening Mass which attracted more than 11,000 people. After the Mass, activities continued overnight which included a rosary, night prayer, more opportunities for confession and a series of Holy Hours, followed by adoration with morning prayer and benediction before concluding with the morning Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kurtz.

In the Old Testament reading for the morning Mass, Samuel became a noted ambassador when God spoke to the young man three times one night while in the temple, where he was being raised. Once his mentor, Eli, figured out the source of the voice, he advised Samuel to respond if he heard the voice again. When he did, Samuel replied, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”

“Before we are sent out, Jesus always asks us to come and follow him,” Archbishop Kurtz said. In many situations, the ambassador does not know what he or she will confront, he added. But what Jesus wants of his ambassadors is for them to be “holy and kind and brave.”

When Pope Francis was in the Philippines, “he called the encounter with Christ key,” Archbishop Kurtz said. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, according to the archbishop, was so moved with the pope’s remarks that he said, “We want to accompany you, Holy Father. We don’t all want to go to Rome with you. … We want to go to the Philippines” and accompany the people “who have no voice.”

Archbishop Kurtz spoke of his recent visit to Haiti to observe the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the principally Catholic, and extremely poor, nation. Part of that visit included the rededication of St. Francis Hospital, which had been destroyed in the quake.

He recalled that when workers came upon the rubble, “the image they couldn’t get out of their mind was the overturned incubators.”

The tragedy claimed 300,000 lives, including those of children, but to see the incubator-dependent babies fatally trapped in the incubators must have been heartbreaking to see, according to the archbishop. In the same way, “something touches our hearts when a child in the womb dies,” he said.

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Cardinal O’Malley reveals an ‘Oprah moment’ and abortion myths at Prayer Vigil for Life

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Evoking a phrase long associated with the civil rights movement, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston told an overflow crowd in Washington that “we shall overcome” in the fight against abortion.

Quoting Pope Francis in his homily Jan. 21 during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Cardinal O’Malley said, “The church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for a better world.”

He added, “In our country, people have come together in the fight to overcome racism” and other social ills. “The quest for human rights and solidarity brought together people of faith to ‘repair the world,’ to use the Jewish expression.”

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley gives the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley gives the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Now, Cardinal O’Malley said, the fight is for the right to life, “and we shall overcome,” he said to applause from a crowd of more than 11,000 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Without saying so directly, Cardinal O’Malley’s use of the phrase as the linchpin for his homily might have come from a phone call from Oprah Winfrey.

The cardinal and some priests were eating dinner at a diner near the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston when the call came. “I presumed it was a telemarketer,” Cardinal O’Malley said, but Winfrey called to thank him for some comments he had made in an earlier blog posting about the movie “Selma,” of which she was one of the producers and had a featured role.

The comment focused on “how every person was made in the image and likeness of God,” Cardinal O’Malley said, a point often made in the pro-life movement.

The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, used his sermon to take apart some “American mythology” about abortion. The three biggest myths, he said, are that abortion is a woman’s issue, that most Americans “are pro-choice, pro-abortion,” and that “young people are overwhelmingly in favor of the pro-abortion position.”

But polling over the past 20 years, according to Cardinal O’Malley, shows “women have consistently been more pro-life than men.” By supporting abortion, he said, “men rationalize their irresponsibility” and push women to abort their unborn child, “threatening to abandon her if she ‘chooses’ to gives birth. … An abortion is a bargain compared to monthly child-support payments.”

On the second myth, Cardinal O’Malley quoted outgoing NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keegan said “there is a large intensity gap” among supporters of legal abortion and their foes.

And young people, the cardinal added to applause, “are the most pro-life segment of the American people.” Five years ago, the Gallup organization “declared pro-life is the new normal,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Congratulations, young people — you’re normal.”

“We shall overcome indifference only by love,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “We must press on with the full assurance that we shall overcome.”

Worshippers did not seem bothered by the mixture of light rain and fluffy snowflakes that descended on Washington the afternoon of the Mass. Nor did they seem thrown by the Mass starting a half-hour earlier than in past years. The shrine was filled to the brim; even an hour before the scheduled 6:30 p.m. starting time.

More than 1,000 bishops, priests, seminarians, novices and servers took part in the 42-minute entrance procession. And they all had a chair on which to sit in the shrine’s massive sanctuary — which itself has the interior space of a medium-sized suburban church. There also was sufficient seating space in the sanctuary for several dozen nuns and select laypeople.

After the Mass, confession was offered from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in Our Lady of Hostyn Chapel in the lower level of the national shrine.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik led those who stayed on in the National Rosary for Life in the Crypt Church. Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, led a night prayer in the church with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, as homilist.

 

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‘Still Alice’ avoids depicting Alzheimer’s realities

January 22nd, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

The real depredations of Alzheimer’s disease and its toll on the families of the afflicted are not on display in the flawed drama “Still Alice.”

“Iris,” the 2001 film that starred Judi Dench as British novelist Iris Murdoch, was particularly frank about the effects of the illness, both mental and physical. It also highlighted the special tragedy when someone who has built a career as a communicator falls prey to the affliction.

Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore star in a scene from the movie "Still Alice." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Sony)

Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore star in a scene from the movie “Still Alice.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Sony)

“Still Alice,” which stars Julianne Moore as Columbia University linguistics professor Alice Howland, should, by contrast, carry the label “Sanitized for your protection.” Everyone involved is highly attractive, articulate, compassionate and virtually devoid of any flaws that would mark them as human.

What’s left is a sensitive and appealing performance by Moore as Alice’s mind fades from early onset Alzheimer’s; her character has just turned 50. As for the rest of the story, adapted by directors and co-writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland from Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel, it has plot holes large enough to accommodate a Mack truck.

Quite sensibly, for instance, Alice’s three children undergo genetic testing. Daughter Anna (Kate Bosworth) tests positive. That turn in the drama leads nowhere.

Another daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart), seems to be making bad choices both in her romantic life and as a budding stage actress. What happens next? We’re not told.

Husband John (Alec Baldwin) bears every crisis with a preternatural calm, even when he’s planning to pull up stakes from New York and move to a job at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. Surely he must have strong emotions about his wife’s illness. But, if so, they’re never shown.

Having always been defined by her intellect and adept use of language, Alice is sometimes reduced to making speeches about her frustration. “Sometimes I can see the words hanging in front of me and I can’t reach them, and I don’t know what I’m going to lose next.”

She learns to get by using her cellphone as a reminder of tasks, and the online game “Words With Friends” to shore up her vocabulary.

Alice has also made a video giving her future self instructions on how to take her own life. Her eventual attempt to do so goes awry. Yet any moral or even dramatic ramifications from this line of conduct are ignored in the movie’s final, and perhaps most glaring, default.

The film contains mature themes, including suicide, a few references to body functions and fleeting crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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State of the Union speech hits on numerous social justice themes

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SCatholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama hit on numerous themes that resonated with Catholic advocates for social justice issues.

Among the items included in Obama’s policy agenda in the president’s annual speech before a joint session of Congress were what Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, called the “bold ideas” of proposals to enable students to have two years of community college education without paying tuition; to expand paid leave to working parents and to make home ownership more accessible.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, look on as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in front of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 20. During his address, Obama mentioned his shift in policy toward Cuba, quoting Pope Francis, who said diplomacy is the work of "small steps." (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, look on as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in front of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 20. During his address, Obama mentioned his shift in policy toward Cuba, quoting Pope Francis, who said diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

In a statement, Father Snyder said such proposals are “what is needed to break up the status quo that leaves so many on the sidelines.”

But Father Snyder also said he thinks the country needs further discussion about how to address the plight of the 45 million people who live at or below the poverty line.

Obama’s speech made little mention of such poverty, though he did raise the issues of affordable child care and raising the minimum wage. He challenged members of Congress who oppose raising the minimum wage: “If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Father Snyder said on that topic, “for those living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. We urge the president and both chambers of Congress to bring their best ideas to the table about building a nation that enables everyone to achieve their full potential.”

Obama made several references to “middle-class economics,” what he described as “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success, we want everyone to contribute to our success.”

Obama elaborated, saying middle-class economics “means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change … helping folks afford child care, college, health care, a home, retirement.”

Father Snyder said that “we often hear about the need to support the middle class,” adding “it’s important to remember that there are millions of individuals and families who are still seeking to escape the cycle of poverty in America.”

“The percentage of individuals and families living at or below the federal poverty line remains roughly where it was when our nation’s War on Poverty was launched more than 50 years ago,” Father Snyder said. “People of good will can have disagreements about the strategies to achieve a future without poverty, but what we cannot do is let divided government or differences of opinion prevent us from working together to strengthen pathways out of poverty for those in need.”

Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said in a statement that Obama’s speech was “an eloquent call to renew our nation’s values. Are we to continue as a country where only the super-rich do well, or one where we all have a fair shot?”

The statement focused on Obama’s call to change the tax code “so all pay their fair share,” which the group said “exacerbates an economy of exclusion.”

Network echoed Obama’s call for a higher minimum wage, for equal pay for women, his support for immigration reform, access to child care, maternity leave, health care and “a dignified retirement,” but added that “some portions of the speech concerned us.”

The statement raised concerns about Obama’s support for new trade agreements, saying “the trade agenda has been fueled by the business community, which is rarely focused on the impact of trade policies on people in local communities.

“Catholic sisters working in places like Mexico and Central America have seen firsthand how bad trade deals harm families and communities,” the Network statement said. “Unjust trade agreements have fueled migrations in our hemisphere, creating crises on our borders and disruptions in our nation. Any trade initiative deserves a full discussion where all voices are considered, but fast track would short-circuit this need.”

Obama also referenced Pope Francis in remarks about foreign policy, specifically a new approach to Cuba announced a month earlier. Obama called the longstanding trade embargo and severed diplomatic relations “a policy that was long past its expiration date.” He said shifting back toward official diplomacy and more openness “has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.”

“As his Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of ‘small steps,’” Obama said. “These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.”

 

 

 

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Poverty stems from unjust economic system, not big families, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Families who have lots of children do not cause poverty, Pope Francis said.

The main culprit is “an economic system that has removed the human person from its focus and has placed the god of money” as its priority instead, he said Jan. 21.

A woman holding her daughter takes a selfie with Pope Francis during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan.21. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

A woman holding her daughter takes a selfie with Pope Francis during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan.21. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope dedicated his general audience talk to a review of some of the highlights from his visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines Jan. 13-19.

Speaking to some 7,000 people gathered in the Paul VI audience hall, the pope recalled his second apostolic journey to Asia after visiting South Korea last August.

He said he wanted to encourage Catholics in their faith and missionary zeal as well as promote interreligious dialogue, peace, unity and social development by highlighting the important role families and young people should play.

Meetings with families and young people in Manila were a major high point on his trip, he said, because they showed how “healthy families are essential to the life of society.”

“It gives consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a blessing,” he said.

He criticized as “simplistic” claims that high birth rates caused poverty.

Rather, an economic system that creates “a culture of disposal,” where men, women and children are excluded “is the main reason for poverty, not large families,” he said to applause.

He reiterated the importance of showing “the beauty of the family in God’s plan” and defending it from the many threats and new forms of “ideological colonization that attack its identity and mission.”

On the flight back from Manila to Rome, the pope told journalists Jan. 19 that “for the people who are the poorest, a child is a treasure” and “God knows how to help them.”

But he also underlined that being a good Catholic did not mean married couples “had to be like rabbits,” that is, have children “one after the other” without any sense of responsibility.

Through dialogue with each other, their pastors and church groups, each couple can seek to discern its own “parental responsibility” and recognize there are “licit” means, through natural family planning, to be “prudent” and generous in welcoming life, he said on the papal plane.

In his audience talk Jan. 21, Pope Francis said another important message he highlighted on his trip to Asia was that “taking care of the poor is an essential element of our Christian life and witness.”

This entails “refusing every form of corruption because corruption steals from the poor and demands a culture of honesty,” he said to applause.

The main motivation for his trip to the Philippines was to meet with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban and “pay homage to the local people’s faith and ability to recover,” he said.

He again prayed for an “innocent victim” of local storms, the 27-year-old Catholic Relief Services worker, Kristel Padasas of Manila. She had worked with a recovery project for victims of Typhoon Haiyan and died Jan. 17 after the papal Mass in Tacloban when high winds blew over scaffolding.

Meanwhile, he said the importance of reconciliation was the focus of his trip to Sri Lanka, which is seeking to rebuild unity after its 26-year-long civil war ended in 2009.

The nation’s different religions have “a significant role” to play in fostering a spirit of cooperation and helping bring healing with “the balm of forgiveness,” the pope said.

Dialogue, respecting human dignity and involving everyone in seeking solutions and promoting the common good are critical, he said he told government officials.

But the high point of that trip, he said, was canonizing “the great missionary,” St. Joseph Vaz.

The pope said he hoped the new saint’s “holiness and love for the other would continue to inspire the church in Sri Lanka, in its apostolate of charity and education.”

He said St. Vaz is a model for all Christians who are “called today to propose the saving truth of the Gospel in a multireligious context, with respect for others, with perseverance and humility.”

Before the general audience, in the lobby of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence, Pope Francis received two lambs who had been blessed earlier in the day in Rome’s Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, where they were placed on the altar over the martyr’s tomb.

Every year on the feast of St. Agnes, the pope blesses two lambs raised by Trappist monks on the outskirts of Rome.

The wool of the lambs blessed on the feast day is woven by a community of nuns and becomes the fabric for the “pallium,” a circular stole, which the pope gives each June to new archbishops from around the world.

 

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‘American Sniper’ takes aim at celebrity warrior

January 21st, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

For those seeking an insight into an individual veteran’s perspective on the Iraq War, director Clint Eastwood’s sober drama “American Sniper,” which stars Bradley Cooper as real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, will likely hit home.

Yet moviegoers in search of a bigger-picture moral assessment of that conflict, or of armed clashes in general, may come away disappointed.

Kyle Gallner and Bradley Cooper star in a scene from the movie "American Sniper." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Kyle Gallner and Bradley Cooper star in a scene from the movie “American Sniper.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Drawing on Kyle’s 2012 memoir (written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice), Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall trace the expert sharpshooter’s rise to celebrity status among his comrades. They also track his emergence as a prime target for enemy insurgents who eventually put a price on the Texas native’s head.

Determined to safeguard his fellow fighters, who dub him “the Legend,” Kyle insists on returning to combat through four grueling tours of duty. But his exposure to the moral and emotional pressures of urban warfare predictably exacts a psychological toll and places a strain on his relationship with his loving wife, Taya (Sienna Miller).

Scenes set during Kyle’s childhood show his forceful dad instilling the belief that people can be divided into three basic categories: predatory wolves, vulnerable sheep and protective sheepdogs. From the adult Kyle’s point of view, it’s enough to know that there are villains on the loose in Iraq, and innocent victims potentially at their mercy, for his chivalrous course of conduct as an aspiring member of the third grouping to become apparent.

While Eastwood successfully conveys Kyle’s personal heroism, his film avoids engaging the larger issue of whether the geopolitical cause to which Kyle repeatedly and resolutely lent his skills was an ethically valid one. In purely cinematic terms, moreover, the picture alternates between effectively displaying the consequences of Kyle’s scaring battlefield experiences and weakly relying on dialogue that can only hint at these same wounding repercussions.

Taken on its own terms and considered as a whole, however, Eastwood’s movie reliably escorts viewers through both the agonizing instantaneous dilemmas and the longer-term complexities that confronted the courageous warrior on whom its action centers.

The film contains stylized violence with some gore, a scene of torture, a premarital situation, some sexual humor and references, several uses of profanity and constant rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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