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Pope to diplomats: It’s painful to see rights violated

January 8th, 2018 Posted in Vatican News Tags:

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Because everyone has a right to life, liberty and personal security, nations must find nonviolent solutions to conflict and difficulties, Pope Francis said.

A culture of peace “calls for unremitting efforts in favor of disarmament and the reduction of recourse to the use of armed force in the handling of international affairs,” he said Jan. 8 in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

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Religious killed in Algeria will be recognized as martyrs

January 4th, 2018 Posted in International News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A bishop, seven Trappist monks and 11 other religious men and women killed by extremists in Algeria in the 1990s will soon be recognized as martyrs, the postulator for their causes said.

The decree for their beatification should be published sometime in January, Trappist Father Thomas Georgeon said Jan. 1 in an interview with Mondo e Missione (World and Mission), a monthly magazine and website run by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

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Complex world needs clear essentials of Gospel, pope tells theologians

December 29th, 2017 Posted in Vatican News Tags:

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In an increasingly complex world of unprecedented scientific and technological challenges, theologians must communicate what is essential about life and help Christians proclaim God’s merciful, saving grace, Pope Francis told a group of Italian theologians.

The theologians’ task requires being “faithful and anchored” to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and continuing the council’s focus on the church “letting itself be enriched by the perennial newness of Christ’s Gospel,” he said.

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Violent death befells 23 church workers worldwide in 2017

December 29th, 2017 Posted in Vatican News

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The majority of Catholic Church workers violently killed in 2017 were victims of attempted robberies, the Vatican’s Fides agency said, with Nigeria and Mexico topping the list countries where the most brutal murders were carried out.

The agency said 23 people working for the church worldwide — 13 priests, one religious brother, one religious sister and eight lay persons — died violent deaths in 2017; that number was down from 28 people killed in 2016.

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Pope urges bishops to exercise authority as judges in annulments

November 27th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized, Vatican News Tags: , ,

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A diocesan bishop is the sole judge in the streamlined process for handling marriage annulments, Pope Francis said.

The simplified process “is not an option that the diocesan bishop can choose, but rather an obligation that derives from his consecration and from the mission received,” making the bishop the sole and exclusive authority in charge throughout the three phases of the briefer process, the pope said.

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At Mass, Jesus seeks to bring others with him to salvation, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — If people really understood that participating at Mass is witnessing Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, then maybe they would stop taking pictures, talking, making comments and acting as if it were some kind of show, Pope Francis said.

“This is Mass: to enter into Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and ascension. When we go to Mass, it is as if we were going to Calvary, it’s the same,” the pope said Nov. 22 during his weekly general audience. Read more »

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War brings only death, cruelty, pope says at U.S. military cemetery

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Catholic News Service

 

NETTUNO, Italy (CNS) — “No more, Lord, no more (war)” that shatters dreams and destroys lives, bringing a cold, cruel winter instead of some sought-after spring, Pope Francis said looking out at the people gathered for an outdoor Mass at a U.S. war memorial and cemetery.

“This is the fruit of war: death,” he said, as the bright Italian sun lowered in the sky on the feast of All Souls, Nov. 2. Read more »

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Pope says space station crew like a ‘tiny U.N.’ with peaceful diversity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — One perk that comes with floating aboard the International Space Station is NASA arranges for occasional calls with celebrities to keep the astronauts’ spirits high during their monthslong flights.

Pope Francis speaks from the Vatican to astronauts aboard the International Space Station Oct. 26. The pope connected for about 25 minutes to astronauts 250 miles above the earth. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Before his first space mission began this year, Catholic astronaut Mark Vande Hei of Falls Church, Virginia, requested a call from Pope Francis, and Oct. 26 his wish upon a star came true.

The pope linked up live from the Vatican with the six-man crew as they orbited 250 miles above Earth.

“Good morning, good evening,” the pope told the crew at 3 p.m. Rome time “because when you are in space, you never know” what the real time is.

During their 20-minute link-up, Pope Francis asked five questions about how their unique perspective from the frontier of the universe has changed or enriched them and what lessons they could share with people back on Earth.

Saying society today is very individualistic, but what is needed is collaboration, the pope asked them how the ISS is an example of that collaboration.

Flight engineer Joseph Acaba of Inglewood, California, said it is the diversity of each individual that makes the team stronger.

“We need to embrace who we are as individuals and respect those around us, and by working together we can do things much greater than we could do as individuals,” he told the pope.

Pope Francis said they were like a tiny United Nations, in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Thanking them for their work, he said they were “representatives of the whole human family” working on such an important project in space.

When the pope asked what brought them joy during their long mission, Commander Randolph Bresnik from Fort Knox, Kentucky, told the pope that it was being able to see every day “God’s creation maybe a little bit from his perspective.”

Bresnik, a Baptist, said, “People cannot come up here and see the indescribable beauty of our earth and not be touched in their souls.” His fellow crewmembers were also Christians: two Russian Orthodox and three Catholics.

“We see the peace and serenity of our planet as it goes around 10 kilometers (six miles) a second, and there are no borders, there is no conflict, it’s just peaceful,” Bresnik said. “And you see the thinness of the atmosphere and it makes you realize how fragile our existence here is.”

The commander said he hoped the beautiful images they capture from space and their example as international crewmembers successfully working together would be an inspiration and a model for the rest of the world.

The pope said he was struck by Bresnik’s awareness of the fragility of the earth and humanity’s capacity to destroy it, but also the hope and inspiration the astronauts could feel.

When asked by the pope what has surprised them most about living in the ISS, Vande Hei said it was how differently things looked from such a unique perspective. He said it was also “unsettling” to be in constant rotation and have to orient himself by deciding himself what was “up” or “down.”

“This is truly human thing, the ability to decide,” the pope replied.

When asked what made them want to become astronauts, Russian flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy said his grandfather was his biggest inspiration because he had been the chief engineer on the Soviet team that built Sputnik, the first artificial satellite successfully launched into earth’s orbit. “So for me, it is a great honor to continue what he was doing to fulfill his dreams,” said Ryazanskiy.

After Pope Francis asked for their thoughts about Dante Alighieri’s verse in the Divine Comedy that love was the force that “moves the sun and the stars,” Russian flight engineer Alexander Misurkin said only love gives you the strength to give yourself for others.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli said he hoped that someday people like the pope, “not just engineers, physicists,” but poets, theologians, philosophers and writers “can come here to space, which will certainly be (the case) in the future, I would like for them to be able to come here to explore what it means to have a human being in space.”

It was the second time a pope has called ISS crewmembers; Pope Benedict XVI spoke with 12 astronauts in 2011, praising them for their courage and commitment and for their comments on how science can contribute to the pursuit of peace and the protection of a fragile planet.

Nespoli was present on the ISS for both calls. Among the small number of personal possessions the devout Catholic is allowed onboard, he keeps a prayer card of St. Padre Pio and an olive branch he received from Pope Francis as a reminder of the importance of taking care of earth “our common home.”

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Church must welcome people living with disabilities, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church must be welcoming and creative in finding ways to not let people’s physical, psychological or intellectual limitations keep them from encountering God, Pope Francis said.

“The church cannot be ‘mute’ or ‘tone deaf’ when it comes to the defense and promotion of people with disabilities,” he told differently abled individuals, their families and pastoral workers and professionals who work with them.

Pope Francis greets a French nun with Down Syndrome during an audience with catechists and people with disabilities at the Vatican Oct. 21. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Words and gestures of outreach and welcoming must never be missing from any church community, so that everyone, particularly those whose journey in life is not easy, can encounter the risen Lord and find in that community “a source of hope and courage,” he said Oct. 21.

The pope spoke during an audience with 450 people taking part in a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The gathering Oct. 20-22 was dedicated to sharing best practices in engaging and catechizing persons living with disabilities, a topic Pope Francis had specifically asked the council to look into, conference organizers told Catholic News Service.

Fortunately, the pope told the group, there has been progress over the past decades in recognizing the rights and dignity of all people, especially those who are more vulnerable, leading to “courageous positions on inclusion” so that “no one feels like a stranger.”

However, attitudes that are often “narcissistic and utilitarian” still abound, marginalizing people with disabilities and overlooking their human and spiritual gifts, he said.

Also still too pervasive is an attitude of refusal of any potentially debilitating condition, believing it would be an obstacle to happiness or the full realization of oneself, he said.

It’s an attitude, the pope said, that is seen in today’s “eugenic tendencies to kill unborn children who display some form of imperfection.”

But “in reality, all of us know many people who, even with their serious frailties, have found, even with difficulty, the path of a good life, rich in meaning,” he said, and “we know people who are outwardly perfect” yet full of despair.

“It’s a dangerous deception to believe in being invulnerable,” he said, since vulnerability is part of the essence of being human.

Two participants from the United States, who were part of the conference organizing committee, and a father of a young woman with Down syndrome told CNS that the usual approach of “special programs” for people with particular needs should change because they can become a form of segregation.

For example, Sister Kathleen Schipani recalled how dark and lonely it was going to an empty school late every Wednesday night for a parish program meant for children with disabilities.

Sister Schipani, who leads the office for persons with disabilities and the deaf apostolate at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the model they are pursuing is to have one parish religious education program for everyone, but with options for smaller breakout groups, one-on-one instruction or other methods that can address individuals’ particular needs.

Janice Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability based in Washington, D.C., said too much focus on providing special programs also has meant some people get turned away from their neighborhood parish because the church doesn’t have a program accommodating a specific disability.

“The first thing is welcome the person,” she said, and speak with them; the church is more than a collection of programs, it’s about relationships with each other and with God. “It’s not so much having the skills or having the professionals, it’s knowing the person and then just an ordinary way of expressing how they belong to the church” in catechetical formation, participating in the liturgy in some way or parish activities, said Sister Schipani, a member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Also, a policy for creating media should be that it is planned from the start with everyone in mind, so that a video, for example, has both visual captions and audio narration since digital platforms “can get less accessible” if they rely too much on one style or format, said Benton.

Not only do people with disabilities miss out on support and the sacraments, the whole church community loses by not including their differently abled brothers and sisters in Christ, said Blase Brown, whose 31-year-old daughter, Bridget Mary, runs ButterfliesForChange.org and is a public speaker about life with Down syndrome.

“The gifts she has to share, particularly at the level of her faith” he said, are “an untapped, beautiful” resource. The question he always asks, he said, is why don’t dioceses put more focus on “how day-to-day parish life, religious education, schools, liturgy” can include people with various disabilities rather than come up with activities that sideline them.

Being together, he said, is “the highest level of respect.”

There might be some disruption or distraction when people with disabilities are more widely welcomed, he said, just like when a baby cries from the pews. “This is who we are, we are people. This is living. This is life. Everybody belongs at the table and sometimes somebody is going to be disruptive and you deal with it,” said Brown, who lives in the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

Sister Schipani said priests can make all the difference by setting the tone and the example for the rest of the parish. Priests can talk from the pulpit and parish bulletins can explain about being welcoming, patient and comfortable with families with children and adults with disabilities. Ushers, too, can help by “modeling really wonderful ways of welcoming and including and giving people choices” about seating arrangements, she added.

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Former head of Vatican hospital guilty of abuse of office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court found the former president of the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital guilty of abuse of office for using donations belonging to the hospital’s foundation to refurbish a Vatican-owned apartment used by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

Giuseppe Profiti, second from right, former president of Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, and Massimo Spina, right, former treasurer of the hospital, are pictured during their sentencing at the Vatican court Oct. 14. Profiti was found guilty of illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation. He was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail and a 5,000 Euro fine. Spina was absolved of the charges. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Originally charged with embezzlement, Giuseppe Profiti was sentenced to one year in jail and fined 5,000 euros ($5,900) on the reduced charge, but the sentence was suspended. The three-judge tribunal dismissed charges against Massimo Spina, the hospital’s former treasurer. The judgments were handed down Oct. 14.

The original indictment said Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Spina extracted 420,000 euros for non-institutional ends from 2013 to 2014 by using hospital foundation money to refurbish Vatican property in order to benefit a construction company owned by Gianantonio Bandera. The company, Castelli Re, went bankrupt in 2014.

Profiti argued in court that the money had been an investment because the apartment’s refurbished areas were to be used for fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

Vatican prosecutor, Roberto Zanotti, said in closing arguments that the deal reflected “opacity, silence and poor management” in the way Vatican assets were handled.

Cardinal Bertone, who was not asked to appear in court, had said he paid 300,000 euros from his own savings for the work; however, the hospital foundation also paid the construction company 422,000 euros. Cardinal Bertone also donated 150,000 euros to the hospital because of the loss they incurred.

Bandera had been asked to provide a six-figure “donation” to the hospital foundation, according to trial testimony. Spina testified he tried to get the “donation” from Bandera, but Bandera cited financial difficulties with the bankruptcy.

It’s not the first time Profiti faced charges of financial crimes.

He had been sentenced to six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of taking bribes and kickbacks at a different job. As president of Italy’s Liguria region, he was found guilty of the impropriety when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

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