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N.Y. archdiocese merging 112 of its 368 parishes into 55

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — In a long-awaited but nonetheless stunning announcement, the Archdiocese of New York said Nov. 2 it would merge 112 of its 368 parishes into 55, effectively shuttering at least 31 churches by Aug. 1, 2015.

Twenty-four of the merged parishes will continue to celebrate scheduled Masses and sacraments at two sites.

St. Mary of the Assumption Church in the Staten Island borough of New York is seen Nov. 2. Founded in 1877, St. Mary is one of more than 30 churches the New York Archdiocese will close by August 2015 as part of a reorganization initiative that will merge 116 parishes into 56. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

St. Mary of the Assumption Church in the Staten Island borough of New York is seen Nov. 2. Founded in 1877, St. Mary is one of more than 30 churches the New York Archdiocese will close by August 2015 as part of a reorganization initiative that will merge 116 parishes into 56. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said the painful reorganization is a necessary adjustment to historic parish infrastructure that will strengthen the Catholic Church in the archdiocese. “The parish is the people and the people have to be cared for. What’s most important is the faith continues, the Eucharist continues and the sacraments continue,” he said.

The cardinal spoke to Catholic News Service and Catholic New York together after the mergers were announced. He said All Souls’ Day was a fitting time to break the news because the feast and the decisions are not about dying, but rising.

“It’s about what Pope Benedict said, ‘The vine has to be pruned once in a while if it’s going to grow,’” the cardinal said, “and it’s about what Pope St. John Paul II said, ‘We’re into mission and not maintenance’ and it’s about what Pope Francis said, ‘The church is not about building structures. It’s about welcome, love, mercy, service, embracing and inviting. It’s about going ahead and not getting bogged down in the past.’”

The cardinal said the math shows an awkward, lopsided distribution of parishes that is inconsistent with Catholic population, especially in Manhattan. He said 25 percent of the parishes of the archdiocese are located in that borough, yet only 12 percent of the Catholic population is there. In Manhattan, 28 parishes will merge to form 13 and nine sites will no longer hold weekly Mass, although they may be used on special occasions.

Cardinal Dolan said the process was not an easy one and the announcement caused understandable anger and hurt. “We know there’s going to be a lot of tears, a lot of shouts, a lot of cussing and we need to be patient with people and listen to them, but there’s a lot of trust and growth and strength that come out of this.”

The mergers are the culmination of a five-year pastoral planning process known as Making All Things New, which sought input from 368 parishes clustered into 75 groups, as well as a 40-person advisory committee, the archdiocesan priests’ council and archdiocesan staff.

Cardinal Dolan said the restructuring is not the result of a shortage of priests, but from a shortage of the faithful. “They’re not coming anymore and we have to get them back.”

He said a Catholics Come Home program planned several years ago was canceled because some pastors “are so oppressed by bills and maintenance that we can’t do mission. We’ve got to be talking about how to fill the buildings and not how to keep them up, insure them and tuck-point them.”

“We have to turn from being shepherds to being fishermen and (the mergers) will free us up to do that. We will have better utilization of priests, trained lay ministers, religious women and men who are involved in leadership who aren’t going to have to spend all their time propping up places and are going to be better used at, granted, fewer, but much more vigorous and solid parishes,” he said.

Cardinal Dolan said people at the parishes that will receive new parishioners are “probably breathing a sigh of relief,” because they’re “still at home.” But in the 31 parishes that will no longer have regular Masses, he said, “that’s where the sting is and that’s where the tears are because those 31 sites will be more or less shuttered after Aug. 1. On rare, extraordinary occasions … those parishes could every once in a while, have a Mass. But in general, literally, the people have to move.”

The changes will be completed by Aug. 1, 2015. The cardinal likened the merger process to a family whose grown children convince their parents to sell a home that is too large for them. “You don’t say, ‘You don’t need this house anymore and it’s costing a bundle to keep it going’ and then have the movers pull up. You want to give people time.”

Auxiliary Bishop John J. O’Hara, director of the Making All Things New process, said the archdiocese would provide guidance, direction and support to pastors to help them shepherd their people in the mergers. He said the transition to the new parishes will likely be marked by prayer services, liturgical expressions and the procession of items from the old church to the shared site.

Cardinal Dolan said the process is not new and it’’s not over. “If you read the Acts of the Apostles, you see the church has been in pastoral planning mode since day one, on Pentecost Sunday.”

While he did not anticipate another wave of mergers, he said there are parishes whose input is still being considered.

Addressing the larger picture, he said, “Everybody with an ounce of common sense in the United States is in strategic pastoral planning mode,” which involves mergers in some areas and building new churches and schools in others.

 

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Woman’s suicide called tragedy, symbol of ‘culture of death’

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Brittany Maynard, a young California woman who was suffering from terminal brain cancer and gained national attention for her plan to use Oregon’s assisted suicide law, ended her life Nov. 1. She was 29 years old.

“We are saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for other people with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example,” said Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life, in a Nov. 2 statement.

“Our prayer is that these people will find the courage to live every day to the fullest until God calls them home,” she said. “Brittany’s death was not a victory for a political cause. It was a tragedy, hastened by despair and aided by the culture of death invading our country.”

Several days before Maynard’s suicide, Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample urged Maynard and others in similar situations: “Don’t give up hope!”

“We are with you. As friends, families and neighbors we pledge to surround you with our love and compassion until the sacred moment when God calls you home,” he said in a statement issued just before the feasts of All Saints on Nov. 1 and All Souls on Nov. 2.

He said assisted suicide offers the illusion that humans can control death.

“It suggests that there is freedom in being able to choose death, but it fails to recognize the contradiction,” the archbishop said. “Killing oneself eliminates the freedom enjoyed in earthly life. True autonomy and true freedom come only when we accept death as a force beyond our control.”

Oregon became the first U.S. state to allow doctors to prescribe lethal overdoses. Voters approved the Death With Dignity Act in 1994 and then reaffirmed it three years later. Since then four other states have since passed similar laws — Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

The Oregon law says a patient must be of sound mind and must prove to a doctor he or she is a legal resident of the state. The patient must swallow the lethal drug without anyone’s help.

At the start of 2014, Maynard, a newlywed, learned she had brain cancer. A few months after she underwent two surgeries, doctors delivered the news that the cancer had returned and that most patients die from such tumors in about a year. She decided against further treatment.

Maynard and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved to Oregon, to become legal residents of the state and thus able to take advantage of its assisted-suicide law.

On Nov. 1, as she had planned, she took a legal overdose. AP reported she died at home peacefully in “in the arms of her loved ones,” quoting Sean Crowley, a spokesman for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices.

At one point Maynard, who would have turned 30 Nov. 19, said she might postpone taking her life to see how the disease progressed, but she stuck with her original plan. In interviews she said her husband and other family members accepted her decision to end her life.

Archbishop Sample in his statement said: “Cutting life short is not the answer to death.”

“Instead of hastening death, we encourage all to embrace the sometimes difficult but precious moments at the end of life, for it is often in these moments that we come to understand what is most important about life,” he said. “Our final days help us to prepare for our eternal destiny.”

Across the country in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, a 30-year-old Catholic seminarian facing the same disease as Maynard wrote a poignant essay in mid-October responding to Maynard’s announced decision to end her life.

Philip Johnson called her story heartbreaking and one “that really hit home,” because he was 24 when doctors told him he had inoperable brain cancer. The news came when he was “beginning an exciting career as a naval officer with my entire life ahead of me. I had so many hopes and dreams, and in an instant they all seemed to be crushed.”

“I have lived through six years of constant turmoil, seizures, and headaches. I often changed hospitals and doctors every few months, seeking some morsel of hope for survival. Like Brittany, I do not want to die, nor do I want to suffer the likely outcome of this disease,” he wrote. “I do not think anyone wants to die in this way.”

His doctors have told him that as the disease progresses he likely will gradually lose control of his bodily functions as a result of paralysis and incontinence. “It is very likely that my mental faculties will also disappear and lead to confusion and hallucinations before my death,” Johnson said.

“This terrifies me, but it does not make me any less of a person,” he continued.

“My life means something to me, to God, and to my family and friends, and barring a miraculous recovery, it will continue to mean something long after I am paralyzed in a hospice bed,” he said. “My family and friends love me for who I am, not just for the personality traits that will slowly slip away if this tumor progresses and takes my life.”

He noted that he has lived longer than expected, which is its own miracle.

Johnson added: “I know exactly what she is going through. I still get sad. I still cry. I still beg God to show me his will through all of this suffering and to allow me to be his priest if it be his will, but I know that I am not alone in my suffering. I have my family, my friends, and the support of the entire universal church. I have walked in Brittany’s shoes, but I have never had to walk alone. Such is the beauty of the church, our families, and the prayerful support that we give to one another.”

 

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A statement from the Catholic Bishops of Maryland: End of Life Decision Making for the Faithful

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The month of November, which begins with the celebration of the companion feasts of the Solemnity of All Saints and All Souls Day, offers a time for our community of faith to pray in a special way for those who have passed to eternal life. As we remember the saints in heaven, and the souls of all those who have gone before us, this time of year also offers us an opportunity to consider important questions we might face at the hour of our own or a loved one’s death.

On a spiritual level, we pray that our journey of faith each day will lead us to a deeper awareness that this life on earth is transitory, and that our true selves will not be fully revealed until we have passed through death into eternity with God. As we more fully grasp this essential reality, we see more clearly the truth of Pope Francis’ words: “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” Read more »

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Pope Francis to open Vatican interfaith conference on traditional marriage Nov. 17

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — A month after closing a Synod of Bishops on the family stirred by controversy over divorce, same-sex unions and other nonmarital relationships, Pope Francis will open an interreligious conference dedicated to traditional marriage.

A month after closing a Synod of Bishops on the family stirred by controversy over divorce, same-sex unions and other nonmarital relationships, Pope Francis will open an interreligious conference dedicated to traditional marriage. (CNS/Jon L. Hendricks)

A month after closing a Synod of Bishops on the family stirred by controversy over divorce, same-sex unions and other nonmarital relationships, Pope Francis will open an interreligious conference dedicated to traditional marriage. (CNS/Jon L. Hendricks)

The Vatican-sponsored gathering, on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman,” will take place Nov. 17-19 and feature more than 30 speakers representing 23 countries and various Christian churches, as well as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikhism. The conference will aim to “examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society,” according to organizers. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and the Rev. Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California, will be among the participants. Other Americans at the conference will include Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Henry B. Eyring,f irst counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Mercy Sister Prudence Allen, former chair of the philosophy department at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, whom Pope Francis named to the International Theological Commission in September. Other notable speakers will include Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of Great Britain, and Anglican Bishops N.T. Wright and Michael Nazir-Ali. Pope Francis will address the conference and preside over its first morning session Nov. 17, following remarks by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The conference was an initiative of Cardinal Muller, who proposed it to Pope Francis in November 2013, according to Helen Alvare, a professor at George Mason University School of Law in Virginia, who is handling press relations for the event. The conference is officially sponsored by the doctrinal congregation, and co-sponsored by the pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, for Interreligious Dialogue and for the Family. The heads of all four curia offices are scheduled to address the assembly. Topics of lectures and videos will include “The Cradle of Life and Love: A Mother and Father for the World’s Children” and “The Sacramentality of Human Love According to St. John Paul II.” Given its timing and subject matter, the conference is likely to invite comparisons with the Oct. 5-19 synod on the family. Several conference participants have already commented publicly on the earlier event. One of the synod’s most discussed topics was a proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Cardinal Muller was a leading opponent of that proposal. Archbishop Chaput told an audience in New York Oct. 20 that he had been “very disturbed” by press reports of last month’s synod, saying, “I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was of confusion,” though he added: “I don’t think that was the real thing there.” The archbishop will be host to the September 2015 World Meeting of Families, which Pope Francis is widely expected to attend. Rev. Warren was one of 48 Christian ministers and scholars who signed an open letter to Pope Francis and the synod fathers in September, urging the assembly to defend traditional marriage, among other ways, by supporting efforts to “restore legal provisions that protect marriage as a conjugal union of one man and one woman.” Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote a blog post in response to the synod’s controversial midterm report, which used remarkably conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships. Moore praised the document for suggesting that “we should not drive sinners away, but that we should receive them and nurture them toward Christ,” but said that the “church is not itself, though, to be made up of unrepentant people.”

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Praying for the dead, pope asks prayers for victims of war

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The early November feasts of All Saints and All Souls call Catholics to contemplate their ultimate destiny, hope in the eternal happiness of their beloved dead and remember the thousands of innocent people dying each day because of human evil and selfishness.

Pope Francis touches a statue of Mary as he leaves after celebrating Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome Nov. 1, the feast of All Saints. Relics of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II are seen near the statue. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis touches a statue of Mary as he leaves after celebrating Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome Nov. 1, the feast of All Saints. Relics of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II are seen near the statue. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Because human beings believe they are gods and the lords of creation, they discard the poor, the old and the young, they wage wars and persecute those who do not believe the way they do, Pope Francis said Nov. 1 as he celebrated an evening Mass at Rome’s Verano cemetery.

The pope told thousands of people gathered amid the tombs that before Mass he noticed a plaque commemorating the 1943 Allied bombing of the cemetery and thought, “That’s nothing compared to what is happening today.”

“Man has made himself lord of all, he thinks he’s god, he thinks he’s king,” the pope said. There is a whole “industry of destruction” with wars, pollution, “throwing away babies, throwing away the aged.”

As winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere, he said he was thinking of the thousands of people forced to leave their homes and flee to the desert, living “in tents, feeling the cold, without medicine, hungry” because of those who believe they are god. The pope presumably was talking about the situation in Syria and Iraq where Islamic State fighters continue to drive people from their homes.

God has given his children a blessing, the pope said: “hope. The hope that he will have pity on his people, that he would have pity on those who are in the midst of the ‘great tribulation’” described in Revelation 7:14.

The Beatitudes — Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the peacemakers — is the only path “that will lead us to an encounter with God,” he said. “Only that path will save us from destruction, from the devastation of the earth, of creation, of morals, of history, of the family.”

Earlier Nov. 1, reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said the November feasts are reminders that all the baptized, those living and those dead, are united in Christ forever.

“It is beautiful to have so many brothers and sisters in the faith who walk at our side, support us with their help and travel the same path toward heaven,” he said. “And it is consoling to know that there are other brothers and sisters who have already reached heaven, who await us and pray for us so that together we can contemplate for eternity the glorious and merciful face of the Father.”

Leading visitors in St. Peter’s Square in the recitation of the Angelus prayer again Nov. 2, Pope Francis spoke about All Souls’ Day and the importance of praying for the dead, both loved ones who have passed away, but also unknown people who have no one to mourn for or remember them.

“Today we are called to remember all of them, even those whom no one remembers,” he said. “Let us remember the victims of wars and violence, the many little ones of the world who have been crushed by hunger and poverty; let us remember the anonymous ones who now rest in collective graves.”

Offering a Mass for the deceased, the pope said, “is the best spiritual help we can give to their souls.”

After praying privately at the tombs of previous popes in the Vatican grottos the evening of Nov. 2, he celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Nov. 3 for the 10 cardinals and 111 bishops who died over the last year.

The deceased included Cardinal Edmund Szoka, former archbishop of Detroit and former head of the commission governing Vatican City State. He died in August at age 86.

“Our prayer,” the pope said, is enriched by the feelings, memories and gratitude for the witness of these people we have known and with whom we shared service in the church. “Many of their faces are before our mind’s eye, but all of them, each one of them is seen by the Father with his merciful love.”

 

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‘Live your life by faith,’ former NFL coach tells Catholic group

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Football may be Herm Edwards’ forte, but in a keynote address to Catholic school supporters in the Diocese of Sioux City, he talked about his Catholic faith and education.

The former NFL player and coach who is now an ESPN football analyst also drew some parallels between coaching and teaching.

Herm Edwards, an ESPN football analyst, is pictured as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006. The former NFL player and coach, who is a Catholic, spoke about his faith and education during an Oct. 12 dinner attended by supporters of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. (CNS photo/Larry Smith, EPA)

Herm Edwards, an ESPN football analyst, is pictured as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006. The former NFL player and coach, who is a Catholic, spoke about his faith and education during an Oct. 12 dinner attended by supporters of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. (CNS photo/Larry Smith, EPA)

“For a coach, you basically have four seconds to make a decision on what’s going to be done,” he told his audience at the Sioux City Convention Center. “You have to be able to adapt as a coach. That’s what teachers do. Teachers are able to adapt. They care about your children and my children.”

The No. 1 responsibility of a football coach, Edwards said, is “don’t allow the players to fail.”

“Teachers understand the students in their class,” said the speaker. “They adapt and make sure their students aren’t going to fail. That’s hard to do. Good teachers are good listeners. Good teachers make students ask why because the why in life gives you knowledge.”

As the father of daughters in second and third grade at a Catholic school, Edwards said he understands “the importance of Catholic education.”

He addressed 675 people who came from around the diocese to attend the 18th annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools held Oct. 12.

As Catholics, Edwards said, “we have an obligation to be people of service. We have to make sure we are people of humility and our lives and our actions match up.”

“We all need to pray. We all deal with our circumstances in our life,” he said. “When you truly believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and savior, it all works out. When your priorities are right, it isn’t hard to make a decision. Live your life by faith.”

The evening included the presentation of education awards to three teachers and three staff members from Catholic schools. Sioux City Bishop R. Walker Nickless and Dan Ryan, the diocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools, were the presenters.

In his remarks, Edwards praised the award-winners, telling the audience: “Don’t lose sight of what they do and how they make a difference in all of our lives.”
— By Katie Lefebvre

 

 

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Student and school news

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Ss. Peter and Paul students serve others

EASTON, Md. – The prekindergarten through second grades at Ss. Peter and Paul School in Easton, Md., made more than 100 autumn wreaths for Maryland’s recent “Day to Serve.”

The students prayed over the wreaths, which were made from paper plates, construction paper, tissue paper and gemstones. The wreaths were then delivered to residents at the Talbot Hospice House, the Pines Nursing Home, the Gardens Nursing Home and the Caroline Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

 

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Vatican Letter: Did Pope Francis get what he wanted from the synod?

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — Since the end of the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, news outlets have portrayed the outcome as a setback or loss for Pope Francis, even a “rebuke” to him. Journalists have pointed to the absence, in the synod’s final report, of an earlier version’s strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships. Commentators have also noted the relatively low support, as measured by bishops’ votes on the final document’s relevant sections, for continued discussion of whether to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Pope Francis greets cardinals at the conclusion of the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul VI in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 19. The Mass also concluded the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Blessed Paul, who served as pope from 1963-1978, is most remembered for his 1968 encyclical, "Humanae Vitae," which affirmed the church's teaching against artificial contraception. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets cardinals at the conclusion of the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul VI in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 19. The Mass also concluded the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Blessed Paul, who served as pope from 1963-1978, is most remembered for his 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” which affirmed the church’s teaching against artificial contraception. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In these respects, it is said, the synod rejected moves consistent with Pope Francis’well-known teachings on mercy. The pope never expressed his views at the synod; he kept silent throughout the two weeks of discussions. Yet there are good reasons to think he and the assembly were not of the same mind on these questions. Pope Francis had invited the author of the Communion proposal, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, and no one else, to address a gathering of the world’s cardinals on the family in February. And the synod’s controversial midterm report was the work of the pope’s handpicked team, who presumably would never have departed from the usual tone of official Vatican documents on moral teaching unless they had understood that to be what the pope wanted. So if they were right, the synod’s reaction must have disappointed him. But at the same time, the pope got just what he asked for: a more assertive synod. “Maybe it is time to change the methods of the synod of bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the meaning of synodality,” Pope Francis told an interviewer last year. Opening the synod’s first working session Oct. 6, the pope told participants, “Everyone needs to say what one feels duty-bound in the Lord to say: without respect for human considerations, without fear.” Recalling that some cardinals at the February meeting had reportedly hesitated to speak out for fear of disagreeing with him, Pope Francis said: “This is no good, this is not synodality.” The synod fathers took Pope Francis at his word. In their remarks on the floor of the hall and in their meetings as small working groups, bishops said the midterm report lacked necessary references to Scripture and traditional Catholic teaching, and they demanded extensive changes to the final report. For decades, critics have complained that the synod is not a true expression of the bishops’ collective authority, as rooted in Catholic tradition and reaffirmed by Second Vatican Council. They have characterized it instead as a mere advisory body to the pope. Had the bishops this October simply ratified what they assumed Pope Francis was proposing, it would have been hard to argue anything had changed. It was their very resistance to the pope’s perceived wishes that made their self-assertion convincing. Upon reflection, the pope could hardly have designed a better way to elicit an exercise of collective responsibility from this group, bishops named by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, during whose pontificates they had come to rely on the pope as the ultimate guarantor of orthodoxy, than to confront them with a document that seemed to take traditional teaching for granted. This is an irony that Pope Francis, who once taught psychology to high school students, was surely well prepared to appreciate, whether or not he anticipated it.

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Poverty was among synod’s main concerns, Philippine cardinal says

October 31st, 2014 Posted in International News

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Catholic News Service

MANILA, Philippines — Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said the Synod of Bishops on the family was more than a series of discussions on divorce and gay unions and that the impact of poverty on families, especially in Asia, was a major concern of participants.

“Poverty is really affecting the Filipino family in a dramatic way,” Cardinal Tagle told reporters at an Oct. 30 news conference.

The prelate explained that while he was in Italy he was part of a forum on families and afterward a number of contract workers from the Philippines approached him in tears. Cardinal Tagle said one worker told him, “If it weren’t for hardship I would never have left my wife and children behind.”

The Philippines is among the world’s top countries that sends workers overseas. More than 9 million Filipinos, about 10 percent of the Philippines population, live overseas and about half of them migrated for work, the government has reported.

Cardinal Tagle said migration was a major concern in synod discussions.

“Couples separate not because they’re mad at each other,” the cardinal said. “They separate because they love their family and they bear the pain of separation just to find jobs elsewhere. So we ask, ‘What kind of pastoral care can we give for the (contract) workers to remain faithful to their families … and what can we do for those left behind?’”

Cardinal Tagle pointed to financial insecurity as a hindrance to marriage and a burden on family life. Young people are delaying marriage because of a lack of jobs in the Philippines and elsewhere and thoughts that they could not support a family, he said, adding that for those who have work, the breadwinner is focused on hanging on to the job and “putting the family second.”

The bishops also credited grandparents and extended family members for their roles in raising children because of the economic stresses placed on nuclear families.

Cardinal Tagle also reported on preparations for Pope Francis’ planned January visit to the Philippines. He said officials from the Vatican planned to visit in November to check on arrangements and that specific details of the trip would be released at the end of November of early December.

Cardinal Tagle also said the Philippine government is “very concerned” about security for Pope Francis during his Jan. 15-19 stay. The cardinal said the pope “deserves” the effort under way by the government and the military for his safety.

In September the Islamic State militant group that has occupied much of Syria and Iraq said it would target the pope, possibly during one of his overseas visits. In 1970, an attempt was made on Blessed Paul VI’s life during a visit to the Philippines. And in 1995, authorities uncovered a plot by al-Qaida members to assassinate St. John Paul II on his visit to the nation.

 

— By Simone Orendain

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All Christians called to spiritual ecumenism, pope tells charismatics

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Prayer and mission are the very breath of the Christian life, Pope Francis said.

“When we inhale, by prayer, we receive the fresh air of the Holy Spirit. When exhaling this air, we announce Jesus Christ risen by the same spirit,” Pope Francis told members of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

Pope Francis talks to members of an orchestra during a special audience with members of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships at the Vatican Oct. 31. The pope met with about 1,000 charismatic Catholics and their Protestant guests who were participating in a conference about the charismatic movement and new evangelization. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis talks to members of an orchestra during a special audience with members of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships at the Vatican Oct. 31. The pope met with about 1,000 charismatic Catholics and their Protestant guests who were participating in a conference about the charismatic movement and new evangelization. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope met Oct. 31 with about 1,000 charismatic Catholics and their Protestant guests who were participating in a conference about the charismatic movement and new evangelization.

Although most of his speech focused on the charismatic practice of prayers of praise, Pope Francis also encouraged prayers of intercession, “a cry to the Father, for our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted and murdered, and for the cause of peace in our turbulent world.”

The charismatic movement, which focuses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is by its nature an ecumenical movement, the pope said. Christian unity is “the test of the credibility of Christians and of Christ himself,” and Christian divisions make evangelization more difficult.

While theological dialogue is important in bringing about the formal unity of divided Christians, he said, “spiritual ecumenism” – “praying and proclaiming together that Jesus is Lord and coming together to help the poor” — is something to which all Christians are called. “This must be done.”

Despite their differences, the pope said, too many Christians already are united in one kind of ecumenism, the “ecumenism of blood.”

“For our persecutors, we are not divided — we are not Lutherans, Orthodox, Evangelicals, Catholics. For persecutors we are Christians; they are not interested in anything else,” the pope said. “This is the ecumenism of blood being lived today.”

Pope Francis also told the charismatics that as people who value the rich variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit they should not fear diversity. “Uniformity is not Christian,” he said.

Being united in Christ and in the church “does not necessarily mean doing everything together or thinking in the same way,” he said. “Unity in diversity is actually the opposite: it involves the joyful recognition and acceptance of the various gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to each one and the placing of the gifts at the service of all members of the church.”

Accepting the Holy Spirit’s diversity while allowing the Spirit to forge unity “means knowing how to listen, to accept differences and having the freedom to think differently and express oneself with complete respect toward the other, who is my brother or sister,” he said.

Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis referred to the day’s Gospel reading from Luke 14:1-6. The Pharisees, he said, were fanatics about uniformity and following the letter of the law. They were so extreme that “the Lord had to ask them, ‘But, then, is it possible to do good on the Sabbath or is it forbidden?’ This is the danger of uniformity.”

In his homily during his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, the pope had said the Pharisees’ attachment to the law “distanced them from love and justice.”

The path Jesus taught is one where love and justice lead to knowledge and discernment about how best to fulfill God’s law, Pope Francis said, according to Vatican Radio.

The Pharisees, the pope said, were always looking for new followers, but they did not know how to offer people hope and life-giving love. Pharisees are “closed-minded men, men who are so attached to the laws, to the letter of the law that they were always closing the doorway to hope, love and salvation.”

 

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