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Vatican to host world leaders to push for end to Syrian war


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei are among the key political experts invited by the Vatican for a one-day meeting aimed at promoting a cease-fire in Syria, the protection of Christians there and a transitional and unified government.

Residents search for survivors after what activists said were air strikes by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo Dec. 28. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei are among the key political experts invited by the Vatican for a one-day meeting aimed at promoting a cease-fire in Syria, the protection of Christians there and a transitional and unified government. (CNSphoto/Jalal Alhalabi, Reuters)

The Vatican meeting Jan. 13 will come ahead of major peace talks Jan. 22 in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition forces.

Sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the daylong Vatican “workshop” will seek to propose “a cease-fire to make humanitarian aid possible” in Syria; an end to “persecutions against Christians to encourage interreligious dialogue; a transitional authority to organize elections (and) a unified national government also responsible for the military sector and security;” as well as an end to human trafficking and prostitution in the war-torn nation.

The meeting’s title is “Syria: With a death toll of 126,000 and 300,000 orphans in 36 months of war, can we remain indifferent?”

The eight-page program, prepared by the sciences academy, gave a brief background of the Syrian conflict. It said U.S. calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down “put the U.S. in effective opposition to the United Nations’ peace initiative” put forth in early 2012.

“Russia argued that America’s insistence on Assad’s immediate departure was an impediment to peace. In this, perhaps Russia was right,” the booklet said.

However, while Russia backed U.N. peace initiatives, it also,with Iran, “supplied more and more sophisticated weapons to the regime” as the U.S. and other countries financed the rebels, it said.

The Vatican invited eight international experts and leaders to discuss the tragedy unfolding in Syria, the political stances of the major international players involved and possible solutions.

With opening remarks by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the invited speakers are:

• Blair, founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East: the U.N., European Union, Russia and the United States.

• ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a major figure in Egypt’s revolution against ousted Presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi.

• U.S. economist and adviser Jeffrey Sachs, who is active in the world fight against poverty and hunger.

• Thomas Walsh, a U.S. expert in interreligious peace building and security, international president of the Universal Peace Federation.

• Pyotr Stegny, a former diplomat and expert in Russian diplomacy and foreign policy in the Middle East.

• Joseph Maila, a Lebanese expert on the Middle East, Islam and politics.

• Miguel Angel Moratinos, a Spanish diplomat and member of congress who served seven years as the European Union special representative for the Middle East peace process.

• Thierry de Montbrial, a French economist and expert in international relations.

The workshop program outlined Pope Francis’ calls, prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace in the region. It credited Russian President Vladimir Putin with convincing U.S. President Barack Obama to not carry out its threat of military strikes on Syria in September in response to the reported use of chemical weapons against civilians by forces loyal to Assad.

With the upcoming “Geneva II” talks, the “resumption of the U.N. peace process, this time with the U.S. and Russia on the same side to prevent violence, might succeed in keeping al-Qaida at bay, a shared interest, and finding a pragmatic long-term solution for Syria’s complex internal divisions,” it said.

Meanwhile, a two-person delegation representing the Syrian government delivered a letter for Pope Francis from Assad. The letter was delivered Dec. 28 when the Syrians met at the Vatican with Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican foreign minister.

The Vatican confirmed the delegates gave the pope “a message” that illustrated the position of the Syrian government.

While the Vatican gave no details about the letter’s contents, Syria’s state-run SANA agency reported the message said Assad’s government was ready for peace talks but wanted foreign countries to stop supporting “the armed terrorist groups” in Syria.

The president also said in his message that he appreciated the pope’s Dec. 25 call for an end to the violence in Syria, the news agency said.

Assad told the pope “the crisis will be solved through national dialogue among the Syrians and under a Syrian leadership without foreign intervention as to enable the Syrians to determine their future and leadership through ballots,” SANA reported.

The January talks in Geneva are a follow-up to a meeting in June 2012 when international parties proposed a peace plan calling for a transitional government body in an effort to end a civil war that began in March 2011.

The conflict between Assad’s government and rebel forces has killed more than 100,000 people, driven 2 million refugees out of Syria and displaced more than 4 million inside the country.


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Milwaukee project makes, markets soaps to help former prostitutes


MILWAUKEE — Soothing aromas of peppermint, lavender, gingerbread and lemon verbena waft through the hallways of the Franciscan Peacemakers headquarters in Milwaukee.

The comforting, inviting smells coming from the piles of handmade soap bars, waiting to be wrapped with “Gifts for the Journey” labels, are a sharp contrast to the tough, harsh ways of the organization’s neighborhood.

Joy Stadther wraps soaps handcrafted by Franciscan Peacemakers Dec. 9 at the ministry’s headquarters in Milwaukee. The soaps and other bath products are sold to help fund the program that helps women engaged in prostitution. (CNS photo/Allen Fredrickson, Catholic Herald)

Outside, poverty is evident, with boarded-up homes and littered roadways. Franciscan Peacemakers, located inside St. Martin de Porres Church, is an oasis, a safe haven from the streets.

The sale of the soaps, bath teas and bath “bombs,” a fizzy mixture for soothing baths, is a business venture, intended to raise money for Franciscan Peacemakers and its mission. But the products also are symbolic of the work taking place at the church.

Franciscan Peacemakers, founded 18 years ago by two Capuchin priests, Fathers Robert Wheelock and Michael Sullivan, is an outreach to women, men and children who engage in prostitution on the streets of Milwaukee.

The current heads are Deacon Steve Przedpelski, director, and Carmen Mojica, a certified social worker. They drive around the surrounding neighborhoods where street prostitution is active. They try to meet people’s basic needs, offering food, first aid and personal care items. Perhaps more importantly, they listen to their stories, often tales of sexual abuse as children and feelings of being unloved and feeling hopeless.

Deacon Przedpelski, a deacon at St. Gabriel Parish in Hubertus, took over the ministry 12 years ago when the Capuchins left. Within a year, he hired Mojica and the two make daily rounds in their “office,” a white 2004 Ford Freestar van with 302,000 miles on it. The name “Franciscan Peacemakers” is printed boldly on the side. Mojica also coordinates a regular support group for the women.

While they know they are making a difference in the lives of the women they meet, Deacon Przedpelski admitted he struggled with feeling they could do more.

A visit three years ago to Thistle Farms & Magdalene, a similar ministry started by an Episcopal priest in Nashville, Tenn., impressed him. But he realized it can tap the deep pockets of Nashville’s country music circle.

“I was reluctant to venture into something like this because how would we build the type of capital to build this kind of program,” he told the Catholic Herald, which covers the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.

But when one of Peacemakers’ former clients “who by all appearances was doing really well” committed suicide on Good Friday 2012, Deacon Przedpelski felt compelled to do more.

“Not from the standpoint that we could have prevented (the suicide), but the whole thing got me thinking, what we were offering wasn’t enough. What more could we do?” to offer life-transforming skills, he said.

Gifts for the Journey, a bath products venture, was born. Funds from sales will help support Clare Community, a homelike environment that will house three women by mid-January, Deacon Przedpelski hopes.

Clare Community will feature a shared kitchen and living space for three women who enroll in its two-year program. Mojica, who will direct Clare Community, explained that the program offers healing of the mind, spirit and body. The women who will live in the community must commit to working on an education, must be employed and will complete levels such as novice and postulant prior to graduation.

The women will be employed through Gifts for the Journey, helping with the soap-making process and selling the products at farmers’ markets and parishes.

With no experience in the soap business, Mojica experimented with the first batch of soap. The first batch “did not go so well,” said Mojica, but in the months that have followed, they’ve learned about scents, oils, the cold process with lye and now know what makes a good soap.

Deacon Przedpelski said, as with any new business, he expected to lose perhaps 40 percent during its first year. But income has far surpassed his expectations. He noted proudly that Gifts for the Journey will at least break even, and in fact, might make a little money.

In addition to selling the products online at www.giftsforthejourney.com and at two farmers’ markets, they’ve embarked on the “Franciscan Peacemakers preaching tour.” During visits to parishes, Deacon Przedpelski explains the mission and then they sell the products after Masses.

After 17 years in the ministry, Deacon Przedpelski admitted the work can be depressing.

“Most of the people we work with will die as a result of the streets, and people don’t like hearing that. But we call it a success when we have relationships with individuals,” he said. In an average week, they distribute 400 to 500 lunches, thanks to support from about 40 parishes, and make contact with 20-30 women.

With the advent of Gifts for the Journey and the opening of Clare Community, Deacon Przedpelski has reason to be hopeful.

“I feel like today we’re in a position to make a bigger difference than we have,” he said, adding the business “is going way better than anyone anticipated.”

“Across the diocese, there are people from a wide range of the political spectrum who do this work, because of their belief in the Gospel,” he said, adding that as Pope Francis teaches, they are motivated by following Jesus’ example, not by any political agenda.


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Istanbul residents recall former neighbor Angelo Roncalli, future saint


ISTANBUL — A large, beige-colored building sits on a corner of a semi-quiet street in Istanbul’s Sisli district.

The stone structure once housed Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who lived in Istanbul from 1935 to 1944 as the Vatican’s apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece.

In 1958, Archbishop Roncalli became Pope John XXIII; he will be canonized April 27 along with Blessed John Paul II.

“Many foreign tourists come from all over to look and they take photos,” said Neriman Reyhan, a Muslim, who lives across from the future saint’s former Istanbul residence on the street now called “Papa Roncalli.”

Reyhan, 82, told Catholic News Service the “street used to be called Ocelik” but it was renamed to honor the pope.

“He must have been a very good man,” Reyhan said of Archbishop Roncalli, who also served as administrator of Istanbul’s Latin-rite vicariate.

Istanbul’s present-day apostolic vicar, Bishop Louis Pelatre, said historical accounts concur that Archbishop Roncalli “was a good, saintly man,” and apparently very modest during his Turkey tenure.

“He wasn’t considered so important. He would go to ministries and sometimes wait all day to see someone, but if he was unable to meet the person he wanted, he never got discouraged. He would leave his card,” Bishop Pelatre said, relaying stories he had read and also heard from “the very few persons living” who had met Archbishop Roncalli in Turkey more than 70 years ago.

“There is hardly anyone left now though, most have departed or are on their way,” the priest said during an interview at his home, a former school, next door to Archbishop Roncalli’s residence. He said this residence has been mostly vacant since 1960, the year the Vatican and Turkey established official ties and papal ambassadors were moved permanently to the Turkish capital, Ankara.

“It’s now the pontifical nuncio’s residence when he visits from Ankara, but he doesn’t come much, and it remains mostly closed. Sometimes people come asking for the key and we tell them to call Ankara,” Bishop Pelatre said.

The bishop said he attended the ceremony for the renaming of the street to “Roncalli,” in 2000, three months after Blessed John Paul II beatified his predecessor.

As apostolic delegate to Turkey, Archbishop Roncalli had helped the Jewish underground to save thousands of refugees in Europe, Bishop Pelatre said, adding that the former pope was renown among Catholics and non-Catholics alike for convening the Second Vatican Council, which led to reforms that included stronger emphasis on ecumenism and a new worldly approach.

“I think for the Muslims here, as well as for many Christians, that when (Blessed John XXIII) was beatified, it was as if he had already become a saint,” Bishop Pelatre said. He said the street-naming event to mark the beatification had been organized by local government officials, and that many of the city’s Muslims, Christians and “especially Jews” had been present.

“For me it is something wonderful, because all levels of society rendered him homage. He had friends everywhere,” he said.

Jean Andriotti, 90, is one of the rare Istanbul natives who remembers meeting and greeting Archbishop Roncalli.

He said he grew up attending French Mass and praying to saints at Istanbul’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, where Archbishop Roncalli routinely celebrated Mass.

He “had a very strong Italian accent and sounded very funny when he spoke to us in French, and it made all of us boys laugh very hard. But, of course, we were only teenagers,” said Andriotti, who now lives with his Italian wife, Amelia, in a Catholic retirement home near the cathedral.

Andriotti said it was too early to decide whether he would be adding Blessed John XXIII to the list of saints he now prays to on Sundays in the chapel on retirement home grounds.

“He is not a saint yet,” he said. “Let’s wait until that happens and talk then.”


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Response to ‘On Eagle’s Wings’ humbling for composer


Catholic News Service

HONOLULU — Father Jan Michael Joncas has composed more than 300 liturgical songs, but his name is widely known for the one that tops a list of favorites: “On Eagle’s Wings.”

The hymn by Father Joncas, 62, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was named by hundreds of voters as their No. 1 liturgical hymn in a 2006 poll sponsored by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

Father Jan Michael Joncas, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has composed more than 300 liturgical songs, but he is widely known for the one that tops a list of favorites: “On Eagleís Wings.” Father Joncas is pictured in a 2009 photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Spirit)

Since “On Eagle’s Wings” was written in 1979, it has become a staple at Sunday Masses, funerals and memorial events as a reminder of God’s uplifting presence in times of sorrow.

“Most people associate me with this single piece,” Father Joncas told the Hawaii Catholic Herald via email.

Father Joncas said the song came about when he was visiting a friend at the major seminary in Washington. One evening, Father Joncas’ friend got word that his father had suffered a fatal heart attack. Father Joncas wrote “On Eagle’s Wings” in the days that followed and it was was sung for the first time publicly at the friend’s father’s wake service.

The song is based on Psalm 91, its lyrics drawing from the Scripture’s descriptions of God’s protection and providence. Lyrics include the lines “You need not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,” and “For to his angels he has given a command to guard you in all of your ways.”

Although there are no mentions of eagles in Psalm 91, the song’s chorus uses the metaphor to depict God’s high, secure places the verse describes. “And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.”

“I have been humbled by the number of times people have spoken or written to me about how God has used the song to bring them comfort and peace,” Father Joncas said.

The song’s colorful imagery is woven together by a melody with airy highs and a crescendo refrain. Father Joncas said the verses were meant to be sung by a cantor capable of handling the wide range of notes. Congregants would join in singing the simpler chorus.

“I have been amazed to find congregations singing the entire thing, because I think the verses are somewhat difficult,” said Father Joncas, who, with fellow composer Marty Haugen, participated in a liturgical arts conference in Honolulu in the fall.

The priest has been composing new material recently, after his recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome. The illness paralyzed him in 2003, but he has recuperated well.

Haugen, 63, wrote “Shepherd Me, O God” in the mid-1980s. It is cherished by many Catholics for its treatment of Psalm 23, which begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Speaking by phone from his home in Minnesota, he explained that depicting “shepherd” as an action instead of a noun brought forth the now famous song.

“I have never met a shepherd,” Haugen said. “My wife was finally the one who suggested … make it a verb. That sort of was a breakthrough.”

Haugen, who is not Catholic but has worked in Catholic parishes, was living at an ecumenical retreat center in Washington State with his family when he was commissioned to do a version of Psalm 23. Haugen said he knew it would be a challenge.

“It’s hard to write something that everybody knows the text to,” he said.

The retreat center community held vespers every night. Haugen said they would regularly integrate his new music into prayer time. That winter, with little else to do on snowed-in evenings, the community helped critique his work. “Shepherd Me, O God,” Haugen joked, is the one of several versions he wrote that received the least amount of criticism.

“That piece, like everything I wrote up there, went through the grill of the community,” he said. “I think that’s really valuable.”

“You don’t really know if a piece is going to be helpful or not until a congregation has sung it a number of times and they’ll tell you,” he added.

“Shepherd Me, O God” stays close to the words of the psalm, with verses such as “Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore.” Haugen’s tight lyrical adherence to Scripture comes from a pastoral studies degree he earned at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

“If you’re writing liturgical music, your two main sources are the rite and the Scripture,” he said. “The more you can know about both, the more you feel you have something to offer when you start to write.”

In a song such as “Shepherd Me, O God,” where the words are already familiar to many, Haugen said “the melody is at the service of the text.”

“You want people to remember the music because if they remember it, then they’re remembering the words,” he said.


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Rocky meets Raging Bull in ‘Grudge Match’


Catholic News Service

It’s Rocky versus Raging Bull as Sylvester Stallone climbs into the ring with Robert De Niro for “Grudge Match.”

This comedy about retired boxing rivals working to get back into shape in preparation for their long-deferred final showdown amuses intermittently. But its theme of family reconciliation is undercut by the misuse of a child actor’s age-appropriate innocence to forward some of the script’s frequent sex jokes as well as by dialogue chockablock with foul vocabulary.

Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star in a scene from the movie “Grudge Match.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.(CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

As an ESPN-style opening montage informs us, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) were the outstanding fighters of their Reagan-era heyday. Each managed to score a single victory over the other. But, on the eve of a scheduled tie-breaker, Razor inexplicably announced his retirement, leaving fans to speculate for decades over what might have been.

Fast forward to the present and a raucous confrontation between the two old enemies goes viral on the web, and puts dollar signs in the eyes of down-on-his-luck promoter Dante Slate (Kevin Hart). Though reluctant to have anything to do with The Kid, steelworker Razor, who squandered his fortune soon after retiring, needs the cash Dante is offering, while The Kid, a successful car dealer, is determined to prove he was the true champ.

So they get ready to rumble.

Besides their professional competition, Razor and The Kid have unresolved personal issues fueling their mutual antagonism: Back when they were first duking it out, The Kid had a one-night stand with Razor’s true love Sally Rose (Kim Basinger) that resulted in the couple’s breakup, and in the birth of Sally’s now-grown son BJ (Jon Bernthal).

Despite Sally’s warnings that The Kid is a louse, BJ wants to get to know his dad and wants his young son Trey (Camden Gray) to spend time with grandpa as well. So he agrees to put his own knowledge of the sweet science to work as The Kid’s trainer.

Here Director Peter Segal and screenwriters Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman introduce a troubling aspect to the proceedings less predictable than the flow of vulgarity that prevails throughout.

Trey’s ignorance of such matters as the obscene interpretation that can be put on his father’s initials is played on extensively. And the boy is later made to intrude on the aftermath of a casual sexual liaison. His proximity to such talk and behavior is, needless to say, more unsettling than humorous. It lends an unsavory air to the picture as a whole.

The film contains mature themes, including promiscuity, pugilistic violence, an off-screen nonmarital encounter, much sexual humor, about a dozen uses of profanity, a single bleeped instance of the F-word and pervasive crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


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‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ hard to pin down

December 30th, 2013 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” receives its title, the name of its main character and his principal attribute, a tendency to engage in extravagant daydreams, from a classic 1939 short story by humorist James Thurber. But there the similarities pretty much end.

Ben Stiller and Sean Penn star in a scene from the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. (CNS photo/Fox)

This is the second time Thurber’s wry yarn, itself too brief, perhaps, to be adapted for the screen as anything but a short film, has been made into a feature that retains little resemblance to its source material. In 1947, Thurber’s work was given the golden-age Hollywood treatment by director Norman Z. McLeod, and emerged as a song-and-dance vehicle for Danny Kaye.

Turning to the new version, helmed by and starring Ben Stiller, it’s hard to say what we have. This strange blend of comedy, drama and travelogue is, by turns, claustrophobic and sprawling, puerile and sweetly emotional. Early scenes showcase humor about awkward workplace situations and executive bullies; later ones present a serious study in self-realization.

At least the outline of the plot is fairly easily sketched: Soft-spoken, office-bound photo editor Walter Mitty (Stiller) takes great pride in his work for a fictionalized version of Life magazine, a publication whose credo, inscribed on a lobby wall, he has learned by heart. But otherwise his existence is so mundane that he frequently escapes into fantasies. These often revolve around his imaginary romance with Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), the fetching co-worker for whom he secretly pines.

When a crucial negative sent in from the field by Life’s leading photographer, and Walter’s idol, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) goes missing, Walter is facing unemployment unless he can recover it. Thus begins a series of globetrotting expeditions that will transform Walter’s delusions of grand adventure into reality.

One of the movie’s most enjoyable subplots charts Walter’s interaction with recent divorcee Cheryl’s teen son, Rich (Marcus Antturi). A former skateboarding whiz, Walter gains Rich’s attention and respect by giving him skating tips, and later brings him back an appropriate memento from one of his far-flung journeys. When circumstances suggest a possible reconciliation between Cheryl and her ex, moreover, Walter respectfully steps back from his timid wooing of her.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum lies Walter’s caricatured relationship with Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott). This locker-room bully of an executive has no patience for his easily abashed subordinate’s woolgathering. Yet he holds Walter’s professional future in his callous hands. In fact, Ted is such an irksome overgrown adolescent that Walter imagines various forms of revenge against him ranging from a crushing insult to a violent beating.

To the degree that the unstable proceedings have a moral core, it can be found in Sean. Mellow, weather-beaten, appreciative of nature and of Walter’s steady, self-effacing work behind the scenes, Sean is part New Age guru, part dispenser of social commentary on behalf of the unsung 99 percent.

Indeed, the satisfaction viewers derive from this shape-shifting movie, which, although not suitable for teens, involves relatively little that would be problematic for adults, will depend in large part on how much they share Walter’s admiration for Sean.

Those who don’t can always curl up at home for a profitable half hour or so reading or rereading Thurber’s masterwork. It’s a comic gem that, in all but name, has yet to be set against the backdrop of the silver screen.

The film contains brief but harsh violence, at least one use of profanity and a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG, parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.


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Pope: Don’t forget ‘hidden exiles,’ elderly marginalized by own family

December 30th, 2013 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Just as people must never ignore the plight of today’s immigrants and refugees, they must also remember today’s “hidden exiles,” the elderly and other relatives who are abandoned or forgotten by their own families, Pope Francis said.

A pilgrim holds a cut-out of Pope Francis as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 29, the feast of the Holy Family. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

“One sign for knowing how a family is doing is to see how they treat children and their elderly” relatives, the pope said at his noon blessing at the Vatican Dec. 29, the feast of the Holy Family.

Remembering how Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to live in exile, seeking escape in Egypt, Christians must also think about the tragedy of “migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation, who are victims of human trafficking and slave labor,” he said before praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“But let us also think about the other ‘exiled,’ I would call them the hidden exiles, those exiled by their own family: the elderly, for example, who sometimes are treated as a burden,” he said.

The pope said today’s families should be inspired by the Holy Family’s simplicity and way of life, so they, too, can become “communities of love and reconciliation where one experiences tenderness, helping one another and mutual forgiveness.”

God wanted to be born in a human family and “wanted to have a mother and father, like we” have, the pope said.

Jesus also wanted to belong to a family that had to go through many hardships “so that no one would feel excluded from God’s loving closeness.”

The Holy Family’s forced exile shows that “God is where people are in danger, where they suffer, where they flee, where they experience rejection and abandonment,” he said.

But God is also where there is hope, hope in returning to one’s homeland, in being free and being able to build a life of dignity for oneself and one’s family, he said.

The pope reminded people that the key phrases for cultivating peace and joy in one’s family are “May I; thank you; and I’m sorry,” so that everyone treats each other with respect and generosity.

Families must also recognize how important they are for the church and society, he said.

“The proclamation of the Gospel, in fact, is promoted above all by families so that it then reaches the different areas of daily life.”

After the Angelus, the pope underlined how the family will take center stage during the next consistory or consultation with the College of Cardinals in February and at an October Synod of Bishops, whose work, he said, he was entrusting to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

The pope created a special prayer for the world’s families, which he recited to the crowd gathered in the square.

The prayer, dedicated to the Holy Family, asks for their intercession to help today’s families be places of love, prayer and healing; be free from violence and division; and be mindful of the sacredness and beauty of the traditional family.


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Court orders Phila. priest released from prison


PHILADELPHIA — A panel of judges for a Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the decision on a priest’s conviction in handling a clerical abuse case and ordered his release from prison.

The decision, announced Dec. 26, involves Msgr. William Lynn, former secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Msgr. Lynn has served 18 months of a 2012 prison sentence of three to six years after being found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony.

Msgr. William Lynn, former secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, walks from the courthouse in 2012 as the jury deliberates in his sexual abuse trial in Philadelphia. A panel of judges for a Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the decision on Msgr. Lynn’s conviction in handling a clerical abuse case and ordered his release from prison. (CNS photo/Tim Shaffer, Reuters)

Prosecutors had argued that the priest had reassigned abusive priests to new parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in his diocesan role as clergy secretary. However, Msgr. Lynn’s attorneys argued that Pennsylvania’s child-endangerment law at the time applied only to parents and caregivers, not to supervisors, which was Msgr. Lynn’s role.

The Superior Court’s 43-page opinion described Msgr. Lynn’s conviction under the state’s original child endangerment law of 1972 as “fundamentally flawed.”

It noted that the original meaning of the statute, revised in 2007, required a person who was not a parent or guardian of the endangered child to “at least be engaged in the supervision, or be responsible for the supervision” of the child. The court said the “evidence was insufficient” to demonstrate that Msgr. Lynn “acted with the intent of promoting or facilitating” child endangerment.

The court’s ruling, written by Judge Joseph D. Seletyn, also concluded that there was no evidence that Msgr. Lynn knew of the victim of sexual abuse at St. Jerome Parish or that he conspired with the accused priest’s plans to abuse the boy.

Prosecutors could appeal the Superior Court panel’s decision or ask the full Superior Court to rehear the case.

Msgr. Lynn’s lawyers told The Associated Press they will try to get the priest released from the state prison in Waymart by Jan. 2.

A statement from the Philadelphia Archdiocese said the Dec. 26 decision “does not and will not alter the church’s commitment to assist and support the survivors of sexual abuse on their journey toward healing or our dedicated efforts to ensure that all young people in our care are safe.”

The statement promised vigilance in child protection and said, “The reputation of the church can only be rebuilt through transparency, honesty and a fulfillment of our responsibility to the young people in our care and the victims and survivors who need our support.”

Msgr. Lynn, 62, who recommended priest assignments to the archbishop of Philadelphia and investigated claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy from 1992 to 2004, became the first official of the U.S. Catholic Church to be convicted of a felony for his responsibilities in managing priests, some of whom abused children.

His conviction was based on the case of former priest Edward Avery, who admitted he had sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy at his northeast Philadelphia parish in 1999. The former priest, laicized in 2006, is serving a sentence of two-and-a half to five years in prison. Earlier this year, Avery said he never touched the boy and only entered his guilty plea to get a lighter sentence.

The Seletyn opinion acknowledged one of the prosecutors’ central claims, which formed the main argument of Philadelphia grand jury reports in 2005 and 2011: that for decades archdiocesan administrators at the highest levels dealt poorly with child sexual assault by some clergy; and that administrators such as Msgr. Lynn appeared to prioritize the “disrepute” of the church over safeguarding children in the church.

But the judge said this was not the issue in the Msgr. Lynn case. Rather, the priest could not be charged, tried and convicted for his actions not to remove priests before they abused children according to a law written after the time in which he served.

A statement by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the group was “heartsick over this decision” and that “thousands of betrayed Catholics and wounded victims will be disheartened by this news.”


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Retired Pope Benedict visits Pope Francis for lunch

December 30th, 2013 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Three days after Pope Francis paid his predecessor a visit on Christmas Eve, retired Pope Benedict joined the pope for lunch at the Vatican guesthouse.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican Dec. 23. The monastery, located in the Vatican Gardens to the north of St. Peter’s Basilica, is where Pope Benedict is living. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The two shared the meal Dec. 27 at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives. According to a report by Vatican Radio, the pope and the retired pope were joined by their personal secretaries and by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, and U.S. Msgr. Peter B. Wells, assessor in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Pope Francis had invited Pope Benedict to lunch Dec. 24, when the pope visited the retired pope in his residence to offer Christmas greetings. Pope Benedict lives in the former Mater Ecclesiae convent, also in Vatican City State. During the pope’s visit, the two prayed briefly together and then spoke privately for about half an hour.

Following their private talk on Christmas Eve, Pope Francis greeted members of Pope Benedict’s household, including the consecrated women who assist him and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who also serves as prefect of the papal household under Pope Francis.

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Short-handed Ravens fall short in Classic opener


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – Freshman Hannah Garbowski scored 17 of her 18 points in the first half to propel Delaware Military Academy to a 44-38 win over St. Thomas More in the opening game of the 2013 Diamond State Classic, the girls’ high school basketball tournament held annually at the St. E Center. The game was part of the New Castle Insurance Cup bracket.
With her team trailing by a 6-2 score halfway through the first quarter, Garbowski set up shop on the left baseline, hitting two three-point shots and another field goal to give the Seahawks the lead at 10-6. They never trailed again, although short-handed St. Thomas More kept the game close throughout. Garbowski added nine points in the second quarter as DMA built a 30-24 halftime lead.
Neither team shot well in the second half, with each scoring just 14 points after the break. Alexa Schimp led the Ravens’ comeback attempt in the half, scoring 11 of her team’s 14 points. She tied Garbowski for scoring honors with 18. St. Thomas More played the game with just six players.
Alena Foley added 11 for DMA (4-1), which will play Harriton (Pa.) High School Saturday at 4 p.m. for the bracket championship. The Ravens (2-3) meet Caesar Rodney at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.

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