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St. Louis archbishop praying for peace and justice in Ferguson

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ST. LOUIS — Residents of Ferguson “are struggling to find peace in the chaos” that has followed the shooting death of an unarmed teen by a police officer and “as people of Christ, we are struggling to find direction in the unrest,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis.

Protesters hold their hands in the air during an Aug. 16 demonstration against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The unarmed teen was shot and killed Aug. 9 by a police officer. (CNS photo/Lisa

Protesters hold their hands in the air during an Aug. 16 demonstration against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The unarmed teen was shot and killed Aug. 9 by a police officer. (CNS photo/Lisa

“We are all aware of the turmoil and tragedy our St. Louis community is experiencing,” he said in an Aug. 18 letter to Catholics of the archdiocese.

After visiting Ferguson, about 11 miles from downtown St. Louis, and offering prayers at a memorial there to 18-year-old Michael Brown, Archbishop Carlson said he has been observing and reflecting “through much prayer” on what has taken place on a daily basis since the Aug. 9 shooting, the events that have gone back and forth from peaceful protests to violence and looting.

Brown’s shooting has brought renewed attention to deep racial tensions in Ferguson and long-standing divisions between minorities and law enforcement. Brown was black, and the police officer who shot him is white.

President Barack Obama has sent U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson to assess the situation.

“I find strength in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,’” Archbishop Carlson said. “In all circumstances, but especially in these difficult times, we are all called to be instruments of peace through our words and actions.”

He quoted Pope Francis as saying: “All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace.”

Archbishop Carlson invited Catholics to attend an early evening Mass for peace and justice he planned to celebrate Aug. 20 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

He said that during the Mass, a special collection would be taken for funds to assist food pantries and parishes in the Ferguson area that offer assistance to those who have been affected by the looting and destruction of property.

He encouraged all parishes in the archdiocese to offer Masses “for peace in our community” and have other activities such as a Holy Hour or a parish rosary as part of the effort.

As Catholic schools start the new year, he has asked them to begin a daily rosary for peace and to offer special intentions during all school Masses.

He also noted in his letter that Catholic Family Services, an agency of Catholic Charities of the archdiocese, has made counselors available to any Catholic school that requests assistance. The agency has also publicized tips for parents and schools when dealing with crisis situations, he said.

“Pope Francis has encouraged us again and again to ask Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, to intercede for us in difficult circumstances,” Archbishop Carlson said, referring to a special Marian devotion of the pope.

He urged all in the St. Louis Archdiocese to join him in praying to Mary and her son, Jesus, “for peace and justice in our community.”

In an Aug. 13 statement, the new president of Jesuit-run St. Louis University joined the growing call for peace and dialogue.

“Like you, I have watched the events unfolding this week in the North St. Louis County suburb of Ferguson with shock and sadness,” said Fred P. Pestello. “First and foremost, we extend our deepest sympathies to Michael Brown’s family and friends during this heartbreaking time.”

He said the university would hold a nondenominational prayer service in coming days and also would host a forum to talk about the various issues fueling the situation in Ferguson.

“Given our commitment to justice, it also is imperative that we continue our efforts to shine a light on the issues of poverty, violence and racial disparity,” Pestello said.

“I ask that you please keep everyone affected by this tragedy — including our SLU colleagues who live in the Ferguson area — in your prayers,” he added. “There are many people who are deeply affected by this tragedy. We should seek ways to heal together.”

 

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Pope thanks people at audience for prayers for his family after deadly crash

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew’s wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience Aug. 20 for their prayers.

After each of the priests who translate the pope’s words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: “The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was 2 years old and the other several months.”

Pope Francis gives a blessing to the crowd during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 20. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis gives a blessing to the crowd during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 20. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The pope said that after the crash in the early morning hours Aug. 19, his 35-year-old nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, “is in critical condition right now. I thank you, I thank you very much, for your condolences and prayers.”

Memories, from the important to the light-hearted, took center stage at the pope’s audience with about 7,000 people gathered in the Vatican audience hall.

Seated on the stage, among the visiting bishops, was a delegation representing the players and coaches of the soccer team that has been the pope’s favorite since he was a small child. They brought along the massive Copa Libertadores trophy testifying to their Aug. 13 win in the championship of Latin American clubs. They also brought a copy of the trophy for the pope to keep.

Greeting Spanish-speakers at the audience, Pope Francis gave a special shoutout to the team, “the champions of America,” and a team “that is part of my cultural identity.”

On the flight back from Seoul Aug. 18, an Argentine journalist asked the pope what he thought about his team winning.

“San Lorenzo is the team my whole family cheered for,” the pope responded. “As children we went, even mom went” to their games. “I remember as if it were today the 1946 season when San Lorenzo had a brilliant team and were champions.”

As is customary at the first general audience after a foreign trip, Pope Francis shared reflections on his Aug. 14-18 visit to South Korea.

“The meaning of this apostolic visit can be summarized in three words: memory, hope and witness,” he said.

The church, he said, “is the custodian of memory and hope. It is a spiritual family in which the adults transmit to the young the flame of faith received from their ancestors; the memory of the witnesses of the past become a new witness in the present and hope for the future.”

Pope Francis said that his beatifying 124 Korean martyrs and meeting young people from many countries gathered for Asian Youth Day, brought memory, hope and witness together.

“Youths are people seeking something worth living for, and martyrs give a witness of something, or rather someone, for whom it is worth giving one’s life,” he said. “This reality is love, it’s God who became flesh in Jesus.”

The pope also spoke about how Christianity came to Korea in the 1700s through young laypeople reading about Christ, traveling abroad to be baptized, then baptizing others, initially without priests. The young people tried to live like the earliest Christians did, “practicing fraternal love that overcame every social distinction” and promoting sharing and care for the poor.

“The history of the faith in Korea demonstrates how Christ does not annul cultures; he does not suppress the journey of peoples who through centuries and millennia have sought the truth and practiced love for God and their neighbors,” he said. “Christ does not abolish that which is good, but brings it to completion.”

On the other hand, he said, Christ does “combat and defeat” evil, which sows division between peoples and “generates exclusion because of the idolatry of money.”

During the audience, the pope prayed again for reconciliation and reunification between North and South Korea, and he asked people to continue to pray “for all persecuted Christians in the world, particularly in Iraq, and for those non-Christian religious minorities who equally are being persecuted.”

Greeting his visitors, Pope Francis singled out a French couple and their six children who traveled on foot to Rome on a pilgrimage with two donkeys. “They didn’t let the donkeys inside?” he asked them. The animals were outside, tied to scaffolding on a Vatican building.

 

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U.S. nuns’ leadership group restates hope to resolve issues with Vatican

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Members of the national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said their “deepest hope” is to resolve the issues between them and the Vatican doctrinal congregation in a way that honors LCWR’s mission and integrity.

The board issued the statement after the close of LCWR’s annual assembly Aug. 12-15 in Nashville.

The leaders of orders of women religious took part in the assembly under the continuing doctrinal assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which cited “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life.”

The assessment called for the organization’s reform to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

In Nashville, LCWR’s officers updated the members on their work with the bishops delegated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to implement a mandate of reform. Following discussion of the update, the members offered direction to the LCWR national board and president for their work with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, appointed in 2012 to implement the doctrinal assessment by providing “review, guidance and approval, where necessary” of LCWR’s work.

After the assembly was over, LCWR’s national board of 21 members took part in a three-day meeting that began with a one-hour session with Archbishop Sartain. The meeting was held in executive session and not open to press coverage.

The group in the statement issued afterward reiterated members’ belief that “ongoing conversation with church leadership is key to building effective working relationships that enable both women religious and church leaders to serve the world.”

“We will continue in the conversation with Archbishop Sartain as an expression of hope that new ways may be created within the church for healthy discussion of differences,” the statement added.

It also said the “ongoing conversations between CDF and LCWR may model a way of relating that only deepens and strengthens our capacity to serve a world in desperate need of our care and service.”

In his remarks during the opening session, Archbishop Sartain told the 800 women in the audience he was there “to be with you as a brother and a friend.”

“We come because the Lord has called us and the Lord has sent us,” he said. “That is what unites us in our faith. … I know this is fertile ground for us to discuss our love of God.”

LCWR has about 1,400 members who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The members represent about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the country.

 

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Pope requests prayers for his relatives killed, injured in car crash

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Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis (CNS)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer Aug. 19 after he learned that two of his little great nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition.

The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months, and Joseph Bergoglio, 2 years.

According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope’s late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator.

The crash occurred in the early morning hours on the highway between Rosario and Cordoba.

 

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Airborne pope says he would consider going to war zone for peace

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis said the use of force can be justified to stop “unjust aggressors” such as Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq, but he declined to endorse U.S. military airstrikes against the militants and said such humanitarian interventions should not be decided on by any single country.

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope also said he was willing to travel to the war zone if necessary to stop the violence.

Pope Francis made his remarks Aug. 18 during an hourlong inflight news conference on his way back from South Korea.

In response to other questions, the pope acknowledged a need to lighten his work schedule for the sake of his health; said he might make a combined visit to the U.S. and Mexico in 2015; and explained why the Vatican is still studying whether the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero should be beatified as a martyr.

The pope’s words on Iraq came a week after his representative in Baghdad welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to use military force against Islamic State positions.

Asked about the airstrikes Aug. 11, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio: “This is something that had to be done, otherwise (the Islamic State) could not be stopped.”

That statement surprised many because, since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Vatican has stressed that military interventions for humanitarian purposes should have the support of the international community.

When a reporter on the plane asked Pope Francis whether he approved of the airstrikes, he replied:

“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war, stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: ‘Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?’ But only that, nothing more.”

The pope said his recent appeal to the U.N. to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway in Iraq” was one of a series of measures he had considered with Vatican officials, including his decision to send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to the region to meet with church and government officials and refugees.

“In the end we said, should it be necessary, when we get back from Korea I can go there,” he said. “At this moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am willing.”

Asked whether he was keeping an excessively busy schedule, the pope admitted that “one of my neuroses is that I am too attached to my habitat,” so he has not taken an out-of-town vacation since 1975.

The pope said he regularly takes the equivalent of a vacation, however, by taking it easier at home: “I change pace, I read things I like, I listen to music, I pray more, and that makes me rested.”

But he admitted his decision to call off a planned June 27 visit to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, one of several appointments he had canceled due to illness, came after “very demanding days. Now I should be a bit more prudent.”

The pope showed little concern for his longevity, however, predicting with a laugh that his pontificate would last “two or three years, and then to the house of the Father.”

In the meantime, to guard against the temptation of pride in his immense popularity, “I try to think of my sins, of my mistakes.”

Asked about other possible foreign travel, besides officially announced trips to Albania in September and Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January, Pope Francis said he had received invitations to Spain and Japan but that nothing had been decided yet.

The pope said he would gladly visit China “tomorrow,” even though the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since shortly after the China’s 1949 communist revolution. The two sides have struggled over issues of religious freedom, including the pope’s right to appoint bishops, and Chinese authorities have frequently arrested Catholics who reject government control of the church.

“We respect the Chinese people,” the pope said. “The church asks only the liberty to do its work, no other condition.”

Yet the pope made clear the church should not accept a rigid separation between religion and politics. On four of his five days in South Korea, he wore a yellow-ribbon pin commemorating the approximately 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, a gesture some interpreted as support for demands by victims’ families that the government appoint an independent investigation of the disaster.

The pope recalled: “I took (the pin) out of solidarity with them, and after half a day, somebody came up to me and said, ‘You should take it off; you need to be neutral.’ I answered this way: ‘Listen, with human pain you can’t be neutral.’ That’s how I feel.”

The pope said he “would like” to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015. He also noted that Obama and the U.S. Congress have invited him to Washington, D.C., and that the secretary-general of the United Nations has invited him to New York.

“Maybe the three cities together, no?” he said, adding that he could also visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on the same trip, “but it is not certain.”

Asked about the beatification cause of the late Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, an outspoken advocate for the poor who was killed in 1980 during his country’s civil war, the pope said theologians still need to clarify if he was killed because of his faith.“For me, Romero is a man of God,” the pope said. “But the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”

Pope Francis also reported progress on a future encyclical on ecology, saying that Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, had delivered a first draft just a few days before the pope’s departure for South Korea.

The pope said the draft encyclical was about one third longer than his 50,000-word apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” but that it would be shortened by removing the more debatable scientific hypotheses or relegating them to footnotes.

“An encyclical like this, which must be magisterial, must rely only on certainties,” he said. “Because if the pope says the center of the universe is the earth, not the sun, he errs.”

 

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Pope tells Asians to witness to Christ in all aspects of life

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Catholic News Service

SEOSAN, South Korea — Pope Francis told young Asian Catholic leaders to witness to Christ in everything they do.

Young women wait for Pope Francis to arrive to celebrate the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Young women wait for Pope Francis to arrive to celebrate the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

During his homily Aug. 17 on the muddy grounds of Haemi Fortress, Pope Francis urged more than 40,000 people, including young Catholic leaders from 22 Asian countries, to “reflect God’s love.” He reminded them it was their “right and duty to take part in the life of (their) societies.”

“Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life,” the pontiff said. He also urged them to discern “what is incompatible with your Catholic faith … and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death.”

Young people are always choosing their social lives over other things, and this makes it complicated to “grow up in their faith also,” said Montira Hokjareon, a youth coordinator in Thailand’s Udon Thani diocese. She said it was especially hard for young Thai Catholics to practice their faith in a predominantly Buddhist country where less than half of 1 percent of the population is Catholic.

Hokjaroen, 34, was one of 20 participants who had lunch with Pope Francis Aug. 15. She told Catholic News Service it was good he nudged the youth leaders to evangelize, “because I think the people will learn (about) Jesus through us.”

Rain threatened the closing Mass for Asian Youth Day, which, unlike the massive international World Youth Day events, focuses more on youth leaders. At one point, the wind whipped off the pope’s cap.

Pope Francis emphasized the theme of this year’s gathering, “Asian Youth Wake Up, the Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You.”

“It’s no good when I see young people who sleep,” said the pontiff. “No. Wake up! Go! Go!”

Haemi Fortress was where thousands of Catholics were killed during a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1700s laypeople formed the church based on Catholic writings that they got ahold of from China. The original founders pledged loyalty to God rather than the Korean king, which was socially unacceptable. The government pursued them for carrying out Catholic rites and baptisms, killing 10,000 faithful in the century beginning in 1791.

A day before the closing Mass, Pope Francis beatified 124 of the founders of the Korean Catholic Church, moving them a step closer to sainthood.

Michael Hwang of Seoul said being on these grounds was “exhausting emotionally,” because his ancestors were among those executed. But he said he was glad to be a part of Asian Youth Day because it brought him closer to other Catholics from Asia.

The pope said “to wake up and a lot of people can come together, and we could be like one nation,” said Hwang, a 17-year old high school student.

Hwang said his friends are not Catholic, “but I think Catholicism is a great thing and I can tell to my friends about how (being) Catholic is great, and this event will be a great background to teach or tell other people.”

Stephen Borja of Manila, Philippines, told CNS the founding of the church in Korea “is such a unique story, and it really touched me. How passionate they were about receiving the faith, standing up for it, even giving up their lives for it.”

Borja, 34, works with the youth commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He said the pope’s words inspired him to show his faith to others, which is still a challenge in his predominantly Catholic country.

The three characteristics the pope identified for the church in Asia are “holier, more missionary and humbler,” he said. “Those are words I would carry with me and also with my work in the church.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at an altar made up of 16 wooden crosses that locked together like wooden blocks and were decorated by the youth. Readings and intercessions were in Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and other languages.

“As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the church, you are also a necessary and beloved part of the church’s present,” said the pope.

He told young Asian to build “a church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.”
— By Simone Orendain

 

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Pope Francis calls on Catholics to dialogue with China, other Asian societies

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Catholic News Service SEOUL, South Korea — Speaking at the execution site of anonymous Korean martyrs, Pope Francis told Catholic bishops and young laypeople from across Asia to evangelize their continent through dialogue and openness, even with others suspicious or intolerant of the church. But he also urged them to challenge aspects of their cultures incompatible with Christian values.

Pope Francis delivers the homily during the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis delivers the homily during the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope spoke Aug. 17 at Haemi Castle, about 60 miles south of Seoul, where thousands of Catholics were imprisoned and tortured during the 19th century, and at a nearby shrine commemorating those killed. It was the last full day of his visit to Korea, the first of his pontificate to Asia. “On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all,” Pope Francis told several hundred Asian bishops, leaders of the church in a region that is only 3 percent Catholic. The pope then offered an example of his desired approach. “In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all,” the pope said. His statement was most obviously an overture to China, which has not had formal relations with the Vatican since shortly after the country’s 1949 communist revolution. It was the latest of Pope Francis’ several diplomatic gestures to Beijing since the start of his trip to Korea. During the papal flight from Rome Aug. 14, he sent a telegram of prayers and greetings to China’s President Xi Jinping. Two days later, in a question-and-answer session with young people, the pope notably declined to answer a man from Hong Kong who asked how to help Catholics in China, where he said “control and oppression” were increasing as the church on the mainland grew. China requires Catholic communities to register with the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, which has ordained bishops without the approval of the pope, and Chinese authorities have frequently arrested Catholics who reject government control. Speaking with reporters after the pope’s speech, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, noted that the Vatican does not have diplomatic relations with several Asian countries, including North Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei and Bhutan. “This offer of the pope of dialogue is related to all these lands, and not just China, even if China is the biggest, as we know,” Father Lombardi said. In an off-the-cuff addition to his original text, Pope Francis evoked the attitude he hoped such countries would adopt to the church: “These Christians don’t come as conquerors, they don’t come to take away our identity. They bring us theirs, but want to travel with us.” “Some will ask for baptism, others will not, but we will always travel together,” the pope said. Fittingly, Pope Francis started the day by baptizing a Korean man, Lee Hojin, in a brief ceremony at the nunciature in Seoul where the pope has been staying. Lee, whose son was among more than 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, met the pope Aug. 15 along with other family members and survivors of the disaster. He told the pope he had been preparing for two years to become a Catholic and now wanted the pope to baptize him. Lee took the baptismal name of Francis. The pope has shown special concern for the Sewol case; for three days in a row, in a remarkable departure from papal custom, he has worn a yellow-ribbon pin commemorating the victims. Pope Francis told the Asian bishops that dialogue required “empathy and sincere receptivity,” but also, as a “fundamental point of reference,” a clear sense of “our identity as Christians.” “If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what it is that he asks of us,” he said. The pope said Christian identity is constantly tempted by the “spirit of the world” in a number of ways, including relativism, which leads people to “forget that in a world of rapid and disorienting change, there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The pope returned to the theme of Christian identity, though without using the term, when he addressed more than 40,000 Asian Youth Day participants at the event’s closing Mass later in the day. “The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, the way, the truth and the life,” he said. “You have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life. “You see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage,” he told the young people. “You can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death.”

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800,000 watch as Pope Francis beatifies 124 Korean martyrs

August 18th, 2014 Posted in Featured, International News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis placed 124 Korean martyrs on the last step toward sainthood in a beatification Mass Aug. 16 that brought elation to the 800,000 people in attendance.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the beatification Mass of Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 martyred companions in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the beatification Mass of Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 martyred companions in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The sun was searing as Bishop Francis Ahn Myong-ok of Masan, president of the commission for the beatification, asked the pope to pronounce the martyrs blessed. After hearing a brief collective biography of 124 of the original founders of the Korean Catholic Church, Pope Francis pronounced the formula of beatification.

With his words, trumpets blared and a huge swath depicting a watercolor of the newly blessed martyrs in heaven was unfurled on the side of a large building facing the square where the faithful gathered. People laughed and cheered as the image also popped up on the giant video monitors along the more than one-mile stretch.

“It was very great to see Papa Francis,” Sophia Moon, 26, told Catholic News Service. “He was very touching to us because in Korea there have been very hard times and there were (people who became martyrs).”

The 124 were killed for their beliefs, setting off a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Korean government went after about 10,000 faithful who pledged filial piety to God, not the king of Joseon. Among this group was Paul Yun Ji-Chung, the very first Korean to be executed for his faith after he buried his mother using Catholic rites that completely went against the norms of the heavily Confucian society.

In his homily, the pope said, “So often we today can find our faith challenged by the world, and in countless ways we are asked to compromise our faith, to water down the radical demands of the Gospel and to conform to the spirit of this age.”

“Yet the martyrs call out to us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation to him and his eternal kingdom. They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for,” he said.

Seyeon Jeong, 26, said she had an 18th-century ancestor who “actually sacrificed himself as a Catholic” but was not among the newly blessed.

“I was born a Catholic and I have been living as a Catholic, but through this Mass I can actually realize the meaning, I mean the full meaning of what the sacrifice meant here,” she said. “I could actually feel my ancestor’s spirit.”

Pope Francis credited the martyrs with showing the “importance of charity in the life of faith,” since their belief in the “equal dignity of all the baptized” led them to challenge the “rigid social structures of their day.”

Moments before the Mass, the pope greeted the faithful as he traveled via popemobile along the stretch from Seoul’s City Hall to Geongbok Palace, the backdrop of a temporary altar. Geongbok is described by South Korea’s tourism bureau as the grandest of the Joseon-era palaces.

Among those who attended the Mass were about 300 U.S. military personnel and 400 family members of the victims of the Sewol ferry accident, which left more than 300 dead in April.

The Sewol group had been protesting at the square for weeks, demanding that a special law be passed for an independent investigation into the accident. They were determined to remain during the beatification Mass in hopes of an encounter with the pope. After days of negotiations, the committee handling the pope’s visit granted access, and they got their wish.

When Pope Francis swung by on the popemobile, many called out to him, pointing at the family members and one grieving father who had been on a hunger strike for more than a month.

Kim Young-oh, father of a teenage girl who died in the capsized ferry, told CNS the pope grabbed his hands and, because a fence separated them and he could not hug the pope, he laid his forehead twice on the pope’s hands.

Kim said he asked to give him a letter and the pope nodded and tucked it into his cassock.

“I was really prepared to meet the pope and (spell) out that there is a strong need for this bill, and we’re really fighting for this bill,” said Kim through an interpreter. “After this long time on this (hunger) strike I kind of succeeded (by) meeting the point person. I saw real hope.”

— By Simone Orendain

 

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Asian youths inspired after pope challenges them

August 16th, 2014 Posted in Featured, International News

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DANGJIN, South Korea — About 6,000 young people from 30 Asian countries had Pope Francis all to themselves for several hours Aug. 15.

The youths said they felt inspired after Pope Francis went off script to answer questions from pre-selected participants, watched a re-enactment of a modern-day prodigal son and also sat down to lunch with a small group at the Asian Youth Day conference in the Daejeon Diocese.

Pope Francis gestures as a young man takes a selfie during a meeting with Asian youth at the Sanctuary of Solmoe in South Korea Aug. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures as a young man takes a selfie during a meeting with Asian youth at the Sanctuary of Solmoe in South Korea Aug. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The tent at the Solmoe Holy Ground crackled with music, cheering and the excitement of teens and young adults. Pope Francis said he would stay beyond the allotted time so he could answer young people’s questions.

To wild cheers, the pope asked the young people whether they were ready to be God’s witnesses.

“Are you ready to say yes? Are you ready?” he asked.

The crowd screamed, “Yes!”

Alexander John of Pakistan told reporters his heart started beating “double time” when he learned he was selected for the sit-down lunch with the pope. The youth minister from the Karachi archdiocese called the meeting a “dream come true.”

“He really made my day, he really made my life,” said John, 27.

Duc Dinh Nguyen, 28, told Catholic News Service that after he arrived in Seoul from Vietnam three years ago to get a degree in biology, he got swept up with how convenient life could be. “It made me (forget) God. I missed him.”

“After this event, my faith will be stronger,” he said.

After the Q-and-A session, a group of South Korean delegates danced to a pop song composed for the Asian Youth Day conference.

Lauren Kim said she “felt very blessed” when Pope Francis asked for a moment of prayer for the unification of North and South Korea.

“What impressed me the most was he said we have the same language,” Kim, a 19-year-old international relations major, told Catholic News Service. “And language has the power (to change the problems) we have in our divided nation. Especially I’m interested in solving those problems. I’m hoping I can use his knowledge and try to expand knowledge from what he told us.”

The Aug. 13-17 Asian Youth Day brought together youth leaders from about 30 countries to focus on formation and spiritual life. Solmoe Holy Ground is the birthplace of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean priest, who was executed for his faith during a time of persecution of 10,000 Catholics.

St. John Paul II canonized St. Andrew Kim and 102 other martyrs in 1984. The day after meeting the young people, Pope Francis was to beatify 124 martyrs at a Mass in Seoul.

— By Simone Orendain

 

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‘The Expendables 3,’ when two is not too much

August 15th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service There are many ways to keep yourself entertained while watching “The Expendables 3.” For instance, counting the wrinkles on the face of Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), the good guy-turned-war-criminal, during one of his many rants. Or marking off the minutes until Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) bellows, “We must get to the choppah!”

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in a scene from the movie "The Expendables 3." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material maybe inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in a scene from the movie “The Expendables 3.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material maybe inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Eventually, the only remaining entertainment factor is to marvel at how director Patrick Hughes and screenwriters Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt keep this second sequel’s shoot-’em-up formula, which harkens back to the 1980s, from crashing resoundingly onto the shores of ennui. The new development in this Expendables adventure, which is considerably less gory than its predecessors, is the addition of a youthful new breed of monosyllabic action heroes to bolster the reliable geezers. Early on, a weary Trench confesses to Barney (Stallone), “I’m getting out of this business — and so should you.” Well, not before a few last helicopter rides and machine-gun fusillades, as well as the valedictory blowing up of miscellaneous items. Barney’s last mission to Somalia to break Doc (Wesley Snipes) out of prison didn’t go well and ended up with the near-fatal shooting of Caesar (Terry Crews). So Barney is ready to quit. But Drummer (Harrison Ford), his CIA boss, asks him to assemble a new crew to bring Stonebanks before justice at The Hague. Barney and Napoleon (Kelsey Grammar) recruit flexible and muscular Luna (Ronda Rousey), Smilee (Kellan Lutz), Thorn (Glen Powell) and Mars (boxing champ Victor Ortiz). From then on, the only suspense is how long it will take for Barney’s old fighting team of Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lungren) and the always-reliable Trench to join them for the big showdown against Stonebanks in Romania. For comedy relief, they’re joined by the talkative and eager Galgo (Antonio Banderas), and Drummer cracks wise while flying a copter. It’s all slick, competent and sterile, as if its tropes had been perfected by mass-production techniques. The film has nothing new to say as it kills off anonymous bad guys over a period of 127 minutes. “You’re only old when you surrender,” Mars announces in his introductory scene. Nah, you can be old without surrendering, and, unlike these performers, also retain some dignity. The film contains frequent gun, knife and physical violence as well as numerous explosions, a few uses of profanity and pervasive crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. 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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