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‘Priest for a Day’ is a ‘Make-a-Wish’ come true for 11-year-old boy


ST. LOUIS — Make-A-Wish requests often involve meeting athletes, attending sporting events or traveling to amusement parks or beaches.

When it came time for 11-year-old Brett Haubrich of St. Mark School in Affton to make his wish, he not only listed none of those things but had no request at all.

“He didn’t want anything,” explained his mother, Eileen. “They had to keep asking him, ‘What would you like to do? Do you want to meet anybody? What do you want to be when you grow up?’”

Father Nicholas Smith helps Brett Haubrich, a sixth-grader at St. Mark School in Affton, Mo., who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, with his vestments before Mass on Holy Thursday, April 2, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. At the invitation of St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Brett took his place beside the altar at the cathedral as "Priest for a Day." (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

Father Nicholas Smith helps Brett Haubrich, a sixth-grader at St. Mark School in Affton, Mo., who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, with his vestments before Mass on Holy Thursday, April 2, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. At the invitation of St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Brett took his place beside the altar at the cathedral as “Priest for a Day.” (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

The answer to the last question became part of his wish, what Make-A-Wish calls “wish enhancement” to complement the main wish. Turns out he wants to be a priest, a doctor or an engineer, in that order.

So, on Holy Thursday, at the invitation of St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Brett took his place beside the altar at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as “Priest for a Day.”

Brett, a sixth-grader who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, served two Masses — the chrism Mass and the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper — and held the book for Archbishop Carlson for prayers after the homilies. At the evening Mass, he joined 11 seminarians whose feet were washed by Archbishop Carlson and his parents brought up the offertory gifts.

He also joined Archbishop Carlson for two meals; a luncheon with archdiocesan priests and deacons after the chrism Mass and a dinner with seminarians at the archbishop’s residence before the evening Mass.

Best of all, he wore a collar provided by a seminarian from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.

When asked about his favorite part of the day, Brett was unequivocal in his answer.

“The whole thing,” he said as he waited for his dad, Conrad, near the Cathedral Basilica sanctuary with his mom and older sister Olivia after the chrism Mass. “It was really neat for them to let me do this stuff.”

And cool, too, a term he used often in describing the day.

“Just a really cool experience,” he told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

His actual wish is cool, too.

“Eating mangoes on a beach,” his mother said. That trip will come later.

Brett’s interim “Priest for a Day” request didn’t surprise his family.

“For years, he has loved the Mass and been religious,” said his mom. “He has such a good heart. He’s a very caring boy.”

Brett is the second oldest of Eileen and Conrad’s four children. He has served at his school church and at his parish, St. Martin of Tours in Lemay, which is visible from the back door of his house only a short walk away.

He likes the smell of incense, enjoys confession and likes “Communion, and the songs, too.”

Communion — the Eucharist, the living presence of Jesus Christ — stands out. “I like receiving the body and the blood” of Christ, he said.

When Brett and his family told several priests about his desire to be a priest for a day, they offered several options. He could shadow a priest for a day, spend the night at a rectory with his dad or serve Saturday morning Mass at the cathedral.

When Father Nick Smith, master of ceremonies at the cathedral, was asked if Brett could serve at a Mass his initial response was
“no way,” followed quickly by “we can do way better than that.”

They did.

Father Smith suggested that Brett serve the two Masses on Holy Thursday — the chrism Mass, which is for priests, and that night’s Mass, “which is always about the Eucharist.” Archbishop Carlson, who was with the priest when he got the request, immediately joined in with other ideas for the day — having Brett attend the seminarians’ dinner and participate in foot washing.

Father Smith prepared an itinerary and delivered it in person to Brett along with a letter signed by Archbishop Carlson asking for Brett’s help at the Masses.

“I handed it to him, and when he got to the first line, ‘I’m making you a priest for a day,’ his eyes got as big as half-dollars,” Father Smith said.

Brett admitted to being a little nervous heading into Holy Thursday, but the events went off like clockwork. Wearing the collar, Brett processed down the center aisle with priests, deacons and seminarians at the chrism Mass — at which Archbishop Carlson blessed the oils to be used throughout the archdiocese for sacraments for the next year — and took his spot near the altar.

He performed flawlessly.

Or as Archbishop Carlson put it: “He did pretty well.”

By Dave Luecking


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Washington Letter: Religious freedom debates and laws have a roller coaster history


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — It started with hallucinogenic peyote and a couple of guys in Oregon who were fired after they used it in a religious ritual.

Over the course of 25 years, the U.S. debate over religious rights moved from there to the current social and political uproar about Indiana’’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and whether it would give legal cover to those who might discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Within hours of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act March 26, critics slammed the legislation as going further than the federal version of the same law does and said it would enable individuals and businesses to claim a religious right to discriminate in ways not foreseen in other versions. Highly publicized protests and boycotts of Indiana and Indiana-based businesses were launched. Read more »

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Commentary — Dialogue is essential for peaceful relationships


According to the New York Times, during a White House luncheon in 1954 Winston Churchill said, “To jaw-jaw [talk-talk] always is better than to war-war.”

While clearly not a pacifist, the United Kingdom’s World War II prime minister had seen upfront the absolute horror of war, and became convinced that tirelessly striving to resolve disputes through respectful dialogue was always preferable to war. Read more »

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Mideast groups seek protected zone for minorities in Iraq, Syria


Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan —A call for an area to protect Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq is gathering pace even as April marks the centenary of the 1915 genocide of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians.

“We have met with representatives of four of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Britain, France and Russia — and submitted our request for a temporary protected area to be set up for Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities in Iraq and Syria,” said Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council in Syria.

“Our issue is how to protect these people,” said Ishak, a prominent Syrian Christian political leader. He said his council and other organizations concerned about the future of religious minorities caught in the crosshairs of volatile conflicts in the Middle East “want a U.N. resolution drafted and passed that will provide for their protection.”

“We are asking for a temporary protected zone. This is different and separate from resolving the Syrian or Iraq question,” Ishak told Catholic News Service. “People are taking the call very seriously.”

“Representatives of 60 countries spoke in favor of the protected area at a U.N. General Assembly meeting. But Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria aren’t for it,” Ishak said of the March 27 meeting.

Ishak’s own Assyrian forefathers were victims of the 1915 massacre of Syriac-speaking Christians that took place in Turkey. Forced into exile, they took up shelter near Hassakeh, in northeastern Syria.

“There have been three massacres on the same people in one century,” said Father Emanuel Youkhana, who heads the Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, CAPNI. The group provides practical aid to Syrian Christians displaced by the recent Islamic State attacks along the Khabur River.

“The grandfathers of these Assyrians survived the Christian genocide of 1915 under the Ottoman Turks, referred in our language as ‘Seyfo’ or sword,” he told CNS by telephone from Iraq.

“We lost one-third of our population in 1915. Around 700,000 Assyrians from different denominations, including the Church of the East, Chaldeans, Syriac Orthodox, and Syriac Catholics were massacred,” he said.

Some 1.5 million Armenians also were killed in the onslaught.

Those Assyrians who survived fled to the northern Iraqi town of Dohuk, a province of Mosul, which became part of the new state of Iraq and a member of the League of Nations in 1932.

Father Youkhana recounted that on Aug. 6 and 7, 1933, another “massacre and the first genocide in the new Iraq took place in Simele, near Dohuk, against Christian Assyrians.” Those who survived fled to the Khabur River region of northeastern Syria.

Fast forward some 80 years. Islamic State began its sweep of Christian towns along Iraq’s Ninevah Plain last Aug. 6. And during this past February, it attacked the Christian towns along the Khabur, setting off another flight of Christians escaping for their lives. Around the same time, the militant group destroyed priceless, historic Assyrian artifacts in Iraq.

Father Youkhana has urged the international community to stop this “open-ended persecution,” saying it had a moral obligation to do so.

“If our history is being destroyed and our historical sites demolished, our present is targeted and we have been massacred, can we have a future?” Father Youkhana asked.

Others are also expressing deep concern over the recent violent attacks against Christians in the Middle East and their diminishing numbers, saying more help by the international community is needed quickly.

“Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world are disappearing in the very lands where their faith was born and first took root,” noted the Washington-based Center for American Progress. “Christians have migrated from the region in increasing numbers, which is part of a longer-term exodus related to violence, persecution, and lack of economic opportunities stretching back decades,” the center said in a report published in March.

John Michael of the Assyrian Democratic Movement told Britain’s Catholic Herald that “the West is arming and supporting the central government in Iraq, the Kurdish peshmerga, the Shiite militias, but no one is supporting the Assyrian Christians.”

“The Assyrians are totally ignored and being left to their own devices with no means to defend themselves against the evil barbarians” of the Islamic State, he said in an article published Feb. 24. “How much longer will this persecuted minority have to suffer before those in positions of power act to protect them? Or should we all remain silent whilst a massacre unfolds in the ancestral lands of the Assyrian Christians?”


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Pope Francis says children are never a mistake, calls adults to love them


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Children are never a “mistake” and no sacrifice is too great for an adult to make so that children can feel their worth, Pope Francis said.

During his weekly general audience in a chilly, but sunny St. Peter’s Square April 8, the pope continued his series of talks about the family, dedicating a second catechesis to children. He described the great suffering and difficulties many children around the world experience as “a Passion.”

Pope Francis arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 8. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 8. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Children are the greatest blessing God has bestowed upon men and women, he said. Yet, many children are “rejected, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and of their future,” the pope noted, adding that it is shameful when people say it is “a mistake” to bring a child into the world.

“Please, let’s not unload our faults on children,” he said. “Children are never a mistake.”

The hunger, poverty, fragility and ignorance of some children “are not mistakes” but “only reasons for us to love them even more, with more generosity,” he said.

Pope Francis wondered aloud about the value of international declarations of human and children’s rights if children are then punished for the mistakes of adults.

“All adults are responsible for children and for doing what we can to change this situation,” he said.

“Every marginalized and abandoned child, who lives by begging on the street for every little thing, without schooling or healthcare, is a cry to God,” he said. Their suffering is the result of a social system, created by adults, he added.

Children who are victims of such poverty often “become prey to criminals who exploit them for immoral trade and commerce or train them for war and violence,” he said.

Even in rich countries, “many children live dramas that scar their lives heavily” due to family crises or inhuman living conditions, he said. They suffer the consequences of “a culture of exaggerated individual rights” and become precocious, he added. And often, they absorb the violence they are exposed to, unable to dispose of it, and “are forced to become accustomed to degradation,” the pope said.

“In every case, these are childhoods violated in body and soul,” the pope said. “But none of these children is forgotten by the Father in heaven. None of their tears are lost.”

The pope also said children, too often, suffer the effects of their parents’ precarious and poorly paid work or unsustainable work hours. Children, he said, “also pay the price of immature unions and irresponsible separations; they are the first victims.”

He underlined the social responsibility of each person and government toward children.

The pope offered a reflection on the Scripture passage when Jesus calls the children to him so that he can bless them, Matthew 19:13-15. “How beautiful was the trust of these parents (to bring their children to him) and this response of Jesus,” he said.

The pope said many children with serious problems benefit from “extraordinary parents, ready for every sacrifice and generosity.” The church must accompany these parents in their efforts, he said.

“The church places her maternal care at the service of children and their families,” he added. “It brings God’s blessing to the parents and children of this world, maternal tenderness, firm reprimand and strong condemnation. Brothers and sisters, think carefully: You don’t mess with the lives of children.”

He concluded by inviting his listeners to imagine a society that bases itself on the principle that “no sacrifice on the part of adults would be considered too costly or too great, anything so as to avoid that a child thinks they are a mistake, that they have no value and that they are abandoned to the wounds of life and to the arrogance of men.”

“How beautiful such a society would be,” the pope said.

– – –

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150408_udienza-generale_en.html.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150408_udienza-generale_sp.html.


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White House Easter prayer breakfast welcomes cross-section of Christians


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Quoting Pope Francis and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama observed that the celebration of Easter puts other concerns into context.

“With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our savior,” Obama said at the annual event in the East Room. “We reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that he absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that he endured so that we might receive God’s light.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, right, talks to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, during an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington April 7. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, right, talks to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, during an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington April 7. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Speaking to an audience of Christian religious leaders from around the country, Obama added that “even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our savior.”

Noting that Pope Francis would be visiting Washington later this year, Obama went on to quote him, encouraging people to seek peace, serve the marginalized and be good stewards of God’s creation.

“He says that we should strive ‘to see the Lord in every excluded person who is thirsty, hungry, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith … imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper — whether in body or soul — who encounters discrimination.’”

Obama observed that this was how Jesus lived and loved. “Embracing those who were different; serving the marginalized; humbling himself to the last,” and that “this is the example that we are called to follow — to love him with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors — all of our neighbors — as ourselves.”

Gospel and pop singer Amy Grant performed her hit “Thy Word,” based upon phrases from Psalm 119, and the Howard Gospel Choir of Washington’s Howard University also sang.

Among the Catholic participants spotted in the room were Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington; Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association; Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Jesuit Father Tom Reese, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter; and White House staffers that included Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Other prominent faith leaders attending included the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners; Melissa Rogers, head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and her predecessor in the post, Joshua DuBois; the Rev. Al Sharpton; Bishop Vashti McKenzie, presiding prelate of the 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

Scripture readings and prayers were offered by an ecumenical assortment: Dominican Sister Donna Markham, incoming president of Catholic Charities USA, read one passage, while Coptic Orthodox Father Anthony Messeh of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church in Arlington, Virginia, read another. Formal prayers were offered by the Rev. Amy K. Butler of the Riverside Church in New York, and the Rev. Justin B. Fung of the District Church in Washington, while the Rev. Ann Lightner-Fuller of Mount Calvary African Methodist Episcopal Church in Towson, Maryland, provided a closing reflection.

In comments that started with jokes about his backyard being overrun the day before with thousands of participants in the Easter Egg Roll, and about getting teary-eyed as he contemplates his daughters growing up, Obama began to, as he put it, veer off track from the tone of joy and humility of the event. He said that he reflects on the Christian obligation to love, but that “sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.”

“Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed,” he said, “where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God.”

In introducing Obama, Vice President Joe Biden also referenced Pope Francis’ words, quoting from the pontiff’s homily at the Easter vigil, saying “we cannot live Easter without entering into mystery. To enter into mystery means the ability to wonder, to contemplate, the ability to listen to the silence and hear the tiny whisper amid the great silence by which God speaks to us.”

Biden, a Catholic, added that he thinks that’s “who we are as Christians, and quite frankly, I think that’s who we are as Americans. We’re constantly renewed as a people and as individuals by our ability to enter into the mystery. We live our faith when we instill in our children the ability to wonder, to contemplate, and to listen to that tiny whisper amid the great silence. We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country. We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better. We can always do better.”


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Sals drop 6-5 lacrosse decision to Virginia foe

April 7th, 2015 Posted in Our Diocese, Youth


Dialog reporter


WILMINGTON – Stephen Sheppard’s goal with 2:56 remaining gave Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School of Arlington, Va., a 6-5 victory over host Salesianum on Tuesday afternoon at Baynard Stadium. Salesianum tried valiantly to get the equalizer in the final minutes but was unable to sneak one past Knights goalkeeper Justin Fitzsimmons.

Sheppard took a pass across the crease and beat Sallies keeper Ryan Kern. Sheppard was bumped during the play and took the shot from his knees at a harsh angle. Read more »

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Mass. bishops oppose death penalty as punishment for Boston bomber — updated


BOSTON — As the trial of Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to the jury April 6, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts released a statement reiterating the church’s teaching on the death penalty.

If convicted, Tsarnaev could be sentenced to death or to life without the possibility of parole.

A man holds a sign reading "Death penalty is murder" March 4 outside the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston. Four nationally circulated Catholic publications called for abolishing the death penalty in the United States in a jointly published editorial March 5. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

A man holds a sign reading “Death penalty is murder” March 4 outside the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston. Four nationally circulated Catholic publications called for abolishing the death penalty in the United States in a jointly published editorial March 5. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty except “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor,” but such cases “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

In Tsarnaev’s case, the Massachusetts bishops said, the defendant “has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we … believe that society can do better than the death penalty.”


On April 8, the jury convicted Tsarnaev on all 30 counts against him, including the deaths of three spectators and a police officer who was shot as Tsarnaev and his now-dead older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, tried to get away. Tamerlan, 26, died when police shot him and his brother ran over him in the chaos.

Seventeen of the counts Tsarnaev has been found guilty of are eligible for the death penalty. Starting possibly as soon as April 13, the jury was to hear evidence on whether the 21-year-old should be put to death or receive a life sentence.


Tsarnaev’s trial in federal court in Boston began March 4, where prosecutors have presented evidence that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted the bombs that exploded April 15, 2013, near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The attack wounded more than 260 people and killed 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester; 29-year-old Medford native Krystle Campbell; and Lu Lingzi, 23, a Chinese national studying at Boston University.

Later, Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier was killed as the brothers attempted to escape from the Boston area.

From their opening statements, his lawyers admitted that Tsarnaev participated in the crimes.

Instead, in an apparent attempt to avoid the death penalty, the defense centered their arguments on demonstrating that older brother Tamerlan was the mastermind behind the plot and that then 19-year-old Dzhokhar was merely a follower.

In their statement, the bishops acknowledged the profound effect of the bombings and their aftermath has had on the Boston area.

“The Boston Marathon Bombing trial is a painful reminder of the harm that impacts many people even beyond those who are killed or maimed by violent criminal acts,” the bishops said in their statement.

The statement also addressed the specifics of the Tsarnaev trial and reiterated Catholic Church teaching on the use of the death penalty.

“Given that the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is being tried in federal court with the possibility of capital punishment, and that the bishops have testified against capital punishment in the past, we feel it is fitting to clarify the church’s teaching regarding the use of the death penalty,” it said.

Drawing on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the statement said, “The church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’ The church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God.”

The statement also quoted the March 20 remarks by Pope Francis to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, in which the pope called capital punishment “an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person.”

“When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized; they are already deprived of their liberty,” the pope said.

The bishops said with the defendant behind bars, the interest of protecting public safety has been fulfilled.

They added, “As the bishops of the United States said in their 2005 statement ‘A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death,’ ‘No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.’ We believe these words remain true today in the face of this most terrible crime.”

By Christopher S. Pieno and Gregory L. Tracy

Pineo is a staff writer and Tracy is managing editor at The Pilot, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston.



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Cardinal Njue calls Kenyans to prayer in wake of militants’ brutal college attack


NAIROBI, Kenya — The president of the Kenyan bishops’ asked Easter worshippers to pray for peace and security in their homeland after militants attacked a college campus days earlier.

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi also condemned the April 2 attack by the Somalia-based al-Shabaab militants at Garissa University College in which Christian students were targeted.

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya, delivers the homily during a special Easter Mass April 5 at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi for victims of the massacre at Garissa University College. Al-Shabaab militants raided the campus April 2, leaving at least 147 dead. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya, delivers the homily during a special Easter Mass April 5 at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi for victims of the massacre at Garissa University College. Al-Shabaab militants raided the campus April 2, leaving at least 147 dead. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)

After reading a message of condolence from Pope Francis to the congregation at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi, Cardinal Njue urged worshippers to commit themselves to praying for peace and security in the country.

“We need to constantly invoke God’s name, following common attacks in the country by the al-Shabaab militia group, including the most recent one at Garissa,” the cardinal said.

In his message, Pope Francis condemned the assault by Somali militants, calling it an act of “senseless brutality.”

“In union with all people of goodwill throughout the world, his holiness condemns this act of senseless brutality and prays for a change of heart among its perpetrators,” said the pope’s message in a statement sent by the Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Njue said the assault, which left 148 people dead, shocked the bishops’ conference and Bishop Paul Darmanin of Garissa in particular.

“I have assured the shocked bishop of the bishops’ support, through prayers and any other (means),” Cardinal Njue said.

He reminded Christians that Christ was persecuted and suffered for the sake of people’s sins and told them never to give up even in the face of terror.

“We as a nation are undergoing through many challenges and we must remain fixed to things above. Let us pray for the families and victims of Garissa terror attack and let their dead be a meaning to us.” Cardinal Njue said.

The cardinal called for a global response to terrorism and urged Kenyans not to look at Garissa massacre through a religious lens.

“Even in the wake of the insecurity in the country, we must remain united and not give a few people the impression that this is a war between Christians and Muslims,” Cardinal Njue says.

Meanwhile, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta April 4 announced three days of national mourning, in the wake of the attack.

In an address to the nation, Kenyatta cited those who have stood with the country as it dealt with the aftermath of the attack, including the United States, United Nations and Pope Francis.

Contributing to this story was Francis Njuguna and Walter Cheruiyot.


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Entering the mystery: Easter cannot be lived fully without humility, pope says

April 6th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To enter Christ’s empty tomb like the disciples and see that he has risen, Christians today also must “bend down,” Pope Francis said in his Easter message.

“Love has triumphed over hatred. Life has conquered death. Light has dispelled the darkness,” he told tens of thousands of rain-drenched pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square April 5.

Pope Francis carries a candle in procession as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries a candle in procession as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Rain fell and fell hard throughout most of the outdoor Mass. While most people had umbrellas, their flimsy plastic ponchos were no match for the wind and downpour. The ciboria used to distribute Communion to the crowd were covered with plastic wrap, only partially pulled back when the faithful approached.

Still, they stayed for the Mass and for the pope’s solemn Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

Pope Francis did not give a homily during the morning Mass, but his Easter message before the blessing picked up a theme he had begun at the Easter vigil the night before: The mystery of Easter cannot be understood and the Christian faith cannot be lived fully without humility.

“By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation,” Pope Francis said. “This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go toward the things that are above, toward God.”

To enter into the mystery of God’s love, he said, “we need to bend down, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.”

Obviously, he said, that often involves being countercultural. Instead of putting ourselves first, he said, “Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.”

“This is not weakness, but true strength!.” the pope said. “Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.”

As is traditional for the “urbi et orbi” message, Pope Francis offered prayers for an end to war and violence in specific countries, mentioning by name Syria, Iraq, the Holy Land, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Congo, Yemen and Ukraine.

In better news, the pope said, “in hope, we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to” in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The pope prayed that it would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

As he had at every Holy Week and Easter service, Pope Francis offered special prayers for persecuted Christians, asking that “Jesus, the victor over death,” would ease their suffering.

Pope Francis’ Easter celebrations began in the dark of a rainy night April 4 in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica. Hot embers glowed until the Easter fire was lit and with it the paschal candle. As a deacon carried the candle into the church, Pope Francis followed with a large taper.

Although only the pope and the deacon had candles, the basilica was aglow with smartphone and tablet displays as people tried to get photos. However, as the pope neared the front of the basilica, the congregation — mostly nuns, priests, bishops, cardinals and ambassadors close to the altar — was more disciplined and the impact of scattered lit candles grew.

While the pope was busy with the Easter liturgies, he sent Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, out to the city’s train stations, shelters and streets with Easter cards for the homeless. He handed out about 300 envelopes, each of which included an undisclosed amount of money.

During the Easter vigil Mass, Pope Francis baptized, confirmed and gave first Communion to 10 people, who ranged in age from 13 to 66. Four were Italian, three were Albanian and one each came from Cambodia, Kenya and Portugal.

Pope Francis rubbed the chrism oil all over their foreheads and, during the confirmation rite, tenderly gave each one a kiss on the right cheek.

The youngest of the new Catholics, Champa Buceti, a 13-year-old Cambodian, and Francesco Comegna, a 28-year-old Italian, brought up the gifts at the offertory.

As with his “urbi et orbi” message, Pope Francis’ homily during the Easter vigil, which lasted just over two and a half hours, focused on the humility required of Christians.

The only way to enter into the Easter mystery, he said, is with humility, “to come down from the pedestal of our ‘I’ which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness.”

“It is good for us, on this vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women” who went to Jesus’ tomb Easter morning to anoint his body, he said. Entering the tomb is to enter “into the mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.”

“We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about,” he said. “It is more, much more.”

Entering the mystery means being able “to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us.”

To enter the tomb and enter the mystery takes courage, the pope said. It “demands that we not be afraid of reality, that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions.”


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