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Baby Jesus reminds us of painful plight of migrants, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Christmas tree and Nativity scene are symbols of God’s love and hope, reminding us to contemplate the beauty of creation and welcome the marginalized, Pope Francis said.

Baby Jesus, whose parents could find no decent shelter and had to flee persecution, is a reminder of the “painful experience” of so many migrants today, he said Dec. 9, just before the Vatican Christmas tree was to be lit and its Nativity scene was to be unveiled.

A boat representing migrants is pictured in the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A boat representing migrants is pictured in the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Nativity scenes all over the world “are an invitation to make room in our life and society for God, hidden in the gaze of so many people” who are living in need, poverty or suffering, he told people involved in donating the tree and creche for St. Peter’s Square.

The northern Italian province of Trent donated the 82-foot-tall spruce fir, which was adorned with ceramic ornaments handmade by children receiving medical treatment at several Italian hospitals.

The 55-foot-wide Nativity scene was donated by the government and Archdiocese of Malta. It features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese attire as well as replica of a Maltese boat to represent the seafaring traditions of the island.

The boat also represents “the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats headed toward Italy,” the pope said in his speech in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

“In the painful experience of these brothers and sisters, we revisit that (experience) of baby Jesus, who at the time of his birth did not find accommodation and was born in a grotto in Bethlehem and then was brought to Egypt to escape Herod’s threat.”

“Those who visit this creche will be invited to rediscover its symbolic value, which is a message of fraternity, sharing, welcoming and solidarity,” the pope said.

The beauty of the pristine forests of northern Italy where the tree grew “is an invitation to contemplate the creator and to respect nature,” he said, adding that “we are all called to approach creation with contemplative awe.”

The Nativity scene and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until the feast of the Lord’s Baptism Jan. 9.

Archbishop Lauro Tisi of Trent, speaking at the tree-lighting ceremony as the sun set, told people in St. Peter’s Square that the towering tree had lived decades, decades that saw thousands of people from the region emigrate in search of work in the early 1900s. It’s unconscionable, he said, that people today refuse to welcome those coming from poorer places with the same needs and dreams.

Manwel Grech, a sculptor of religious statues from Gozo, Malta, won a contest to make the Nativity scene. It was dream to create art for the Vatican and have it exhibited in the square where thousands of people from around the world will see it.

With more than a dozen statues of people and a menagerie of animals and other elements in the scene, Grech is a bit of a traditionalist: Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus are his favorites among the resin sculptures.

He wanted Mary to have a peaceful face because “when you see Jesus, you relax,” he said, and he tried to give Joseph a look of pride.

Grech included several very Maltese touches in the Nativity scene: A traditional balcony decorated with a Maltese cross; a statue of St. George Preca, the country’s only canonized saint; and a “luzzu,” the traditional Maltese fishing boat, which also reminds people of the journeys of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

Between the Nativity scene and the Christmas tree, the Vatican placed the cross and chunks of the facade of the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy. The basilica was destroyed by an earthquake in October and dozens of other churches in central Italy crumbled or were heavily damaged. Money left at the Nativity scene by visitors will be donated to the church rebuilding effort in Norcia.

 

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

Bishop Barres, a former priest of Wilmington, named bishop of Rockville Centre, N.Y. — updated

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Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and appointed as his successor Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Bishop Malooly, Bishop John Barres and the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli laugh during the press conference about Bishop Barres' appointment as bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, May 28, 2009. at the Cathedral of St. Peter. The Dialog/Don Blake

Bishop Malooly, Bishop John Barres and the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli laugh during the press conference about Bishop Barres’ appointment as bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, May 28, 2009. at the Cathedral of St. Peter. The Dialog/Don Blake

Bishop Barres, 56, has headed the Diocese of Allentown since 2009. Bishop Murphy, who has been Rockville Centre’s bishop since 2001, is 76. Canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope when they turn 75.

The 1,200-square-mile Rockville Centre Diocese has a total population of over 2.9 million people, of whom 50 percent, or 1.45 million are Catholic.

The changes were announced Dec. 9 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Barres’ Mass of installation will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Agnes in Rockville Centre Jan. 31. Until that time, Bishop Murphy will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese.

In Wilmington, Bishop Malooly issued the following statement:

“We are very pleased and proud to learn that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown.

Bishop John Barres greets a priest friend after a press conference at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown on May 27, 2009. when Bishop Barres was named to Allentown. The Dialog/Don Blake

Bishop John Barres greets a priest friend after a press conference at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown on May 27, 2009. when Bishop Barres was named to Allentown. The Dialog/Don Blake

“Bishop Barres was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington in 1989, and served the people of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore faithfully for 20 years as a parish priest, vice-chancellor, and chancellor. He was my mentor in my first year as bishop of Wilmington and a wonderful companion and example to me of a dedicated priest and servant.

 “God has truly blessed the Diocese of Rockville Centre with a wonderfully talented servant-shepherd. I have no doubt that the people of Long Island, like the people of Allentown and Wilmington, will come to love this holy and cheerful man. We congratulate the clergy, religious, and laity of Rockville Centre, as Bishop Barres brings his dedication and enthusiam to Long Island.

“The faithful of the Diocese of Wilmington join me in offering our heartfelt congratulations to Bishop Barres on the occasion of this appointment. We pledge our continued prayers and affection.”

 

“It is my deep conviction that he will be a bishop for all of us without exception,” Bishop Murphy said of his successor in a statement. “He has shared with me his love of youth and his care for the elderly. He has a keen sense of parish life and has a special expertise in education. He has a deep love for the poor.”

Bishop Barres will support Catholic Charities, parish outreach as well as Catholic hospitals, he added.

Bishop Murphy also said Rockville Centre’s new bishop “will be a good neighbor to our brothers and sisters” in other Christian denominations as well as members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and the many civic and political leaders with whom the church works “in building up Long Island for future generations.”

He described Bishop Barres as “a man of prayer” above all.

Born in Larchmont, New York, Sept. 20, 1960, Bishop Barres was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., Oct. 21, 1989. On May 27, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Allentown. He was installed as that diocese’s fourth bishop July 30, 2009.

During his tenure in Allentown, he has initiated a pastoral planning process for parishes across the Diocese of Allentown. He has called on every parish to establish a parish council and has made support for Catholic schools a priority; enhanced evangelization and pastoral ministries; and encouraged use of social media to spread the Gospel and evangelize.

On the national level, he is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis and is the USCCB’s episcopal liaison to the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pa., offers a blessing at the end of a Mass he concelebrated with Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Dec. 9 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. Earlier in the day Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Murphy and appointed Bishop Barres as his successor. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pa., offers a blessing at the end of a Mass he concelebrated with Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Dec. 9 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. Earlier in the day Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Murphy and appointed Bishop Barres as his successor. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

He has a bachelor of sacred theology and a licentiate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington; he received his seminary formation at the university’s Theological College.

He has a licentiate in canon law and a doctor of sacred theology degree from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He has a bachelor of art’s degree in English literature from Princeton University and a master’s in business administration, focusing on management, from New York University’s School of Business Administration in 1984.

After his priestly ordination, he had assignments as associate pastor at two Delaware parishes, then went to Rome for further studies. After his return to the Wilmington diocese in 1999, he served as vice chancellor, then chancellor.

A native of Boston, Bishop Murphy was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston Dec. 16, 1964. He was named a Boston auxiliary bishop in 1995. St. John Paul II appointed him to Rockville Centre June 26, 2001.

 

 

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Parishes building, renovating with funds from Sustaining Hope for the Future campaign

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Dialog Editor

Sustaining Hope for the Future funds are helping to improve parish facilities throughout the diocese

It sounds like a Christmas list — a new rectory for St. John the Apostle Parish in Milford, a renovated parish hall for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bear, an air conditioning system for St. Bernadette in Harrington.

However, those renovation and building projects and others in process throughout the diocese are being delivered without Santa’s help. Read more »

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St. Matthew’s celebrates 75 years in Woodcrest

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Dialog reporter

Parish established in 1941 to serve growing population adjusts to change, but remains ‘vibrant’

WILMINGTON — Although it is not as large as it once was, St. Matthew’s Parish in the Woodcrest section of Wilmington can still draw a crowd.

The parish celebrated its 75th anniversary Dec. 3 with a Mass and gala dinner. Father Michael Darcy, who arrived as pastor in June, said they were hoping to have 100 people attend the dinner, but more than 250 responded. Read more »

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‘We need your immaculate gaze, heart, hands, feet,’ pope prays on feast of Immaculate Conception

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Although she was just a humble young woman from a small town, Mary’s total “yes” to God was “the most important ‘yes’ of history” and overturned Adam and Eve’s prideful “no,” which unleashed sin into the world, Pope Francis said.

“With generosity and trust like Mary, may each of us say this personal ‘yes’ to God today,” Pope Francis prayed Dec. 8 as he recited the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

A wreath of flowers placed by a firefighter adorns a statue of Mary overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Rome's firefighters have observed the tradition every year since 1857. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A wreath of flowers placed by a firefighter adorns a statue of Mary overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Rome’s firefighters have observed the tradition every year since 1857. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Even when they do not say “no” to God, human beings can be experts in saying, “yes, but …” to God, the pope said.

“To avoid saying ‘no’ outright to God, we say, ‘Sorry, but I can’t,’ ‘Not today, but maybe tomorrow,’ ‘Tomorrow I will be better, tomorrow I will pray, I’ll do good tomorrow,’” he said. But in responding that way, “we close the door to what is good and evil profits.”

Nevertheless, Pope Francis said, God keeps trying to reach out and save us. And through the “yes” of Mary, he became human, “exactly like us except for one thing, that ‘no,’ that sin. This is why he chose Mary, the only creature without sin, immaculate.”

In the late afternoon, the pope made his traditional visit to a statue of Mary erected in the center of Rome, near the Spanish Steps, to celebrate the official church recognition that Mary was conceived without sin.

Thousands of Romans and tourists crowded around the statue where people had been laying flowers all day. Early Dec. 8, Rome firefighters with a truck and ladder hung a wreath of white flowers from the outstretched arms of the statue.

Pope Francis composed a prayer to Mary for the occasion and read it, standing under the statue’s watchful eyes.

He offered special prayers for children who have been abandoned and are exposed to exploitation, for all families who give life and contribute to society, often in hidden ways, and especially for those who are underemployed or unemployed.

“We need your immaculate gaze,” he told Mary, in order to “rediscover the ability to look at people and things with respect and recognition and without selfish interests and hypocrisy.”

“We need your immaculate heart to love unconditionally, without any aim besides the good of the other, with simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and ploys,” he said.

“We need your immaculate hands to caress with tenderness, to touch the flesh of Jesus in our brothers and sisters who are poor, sick, despised, to help up those who have fallen and steady those who waver.”

“We need your immaculate feet to set out to meet those who cannot take the first step, to walk along the paths of those who are lost, to go and find those who are alone,” he prayed.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Hope teaches us to smile amid darkness, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is not the same as being optimistic about the future, but is knowing that whatever dark or frightening things are going on in one’s life, God is there offering protection and light, Pope Francis said.

Holding his general audience in the Vatican audience hall decorated with Nativity scenes and Christmas ornaments from the state of Queretaro, Mexico, Pope Francis announced Dec. 7 that he was beginning a series of audience talks about hope.

Pope Francis passes a baby in a onesie as he arrives for his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 7. At his audience the pope began a new series of talks about hope. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis passes a baby in a onesie as he arrives for his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 7. At his audience the pope began a new series of talks about hope. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Especially during Advent and in preparation for Christmas, he urged people to read the second half of the Book of Isaiah, “the great prophet of Advent, the great messenger of hope.”

The audience began with a reading of Isaiah 40, which starts: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”

When the prophet was writing, the pope explained, the people of Israel were in exile, they had “lost everything — their homeland, freedom, dignity and even their trust in God. They felt abandoned and without hope.”

Isaiah not only proclaims God’s love and fidelity, but calls on those who still have faith to offer consolation to others and help them “reopen their hearts to faith.”

The desert, literally and figuratively, “is a difficult place to live, but it is precisely the place where one can walk to return not only to one’s homeland, but to God, return to hoping and smiling,” the pope said. “When we are in darkness and difficulty, it’s hard to smile.

“Hope teaches us to smile,” the pope said. “One of the first things that happens to people who withdraw from God is that they are people without smiles. They might be able to laugh out loud, tell one joke after another and laugh but their smile is missing.”

“When we are with a baby, a smile comes spontaneously because a baby is hope,” he said. “We smile even if it’s a bad day because we see hope.”

Hope does not come with power or wealth, but with trusting in God, the pope said. It is knowing that “God, with his love, walks with us. I hope because God is alongside me. And this is something all of us can say. I have hope because God walks with me, he walks alongside me and holds my hand.”

The key players in the Christmas story, he said, prove that “history is not made by the powerful, but by God together with his little ones, those small and simple people whom we find around Jesus, who is about to be born: Zachariah and Elizabeth, who are old and marked by sterility; Mary, the young virgin engaged to Joseph; the shepherds, who were despised and counted for nothing.”

They had hope, the pope said, and they turned the dark and twisted paths of life around them into “a highway on which to walk toward the glory of the Lord.”

“There’s no denying that there is a crisis of faith in the world today,” he said. “People say, ‘I believe in God. I’m Christian.’ ‘I belong to that faith.’ But their lives are far from being Christian, far from God. Religion, faith has turned into an expression.”

Those who believe must convert, constantly turning their hearts to God and “following that path toward him. He awaits us.”

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Sals hold off William Penn, win basketball home opener

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Two teams that look quite a bit different than they did last season met Tuesday night at Salesianum, and the host Sals proved to be a step ahead of William Penn, topping the Colonials, 58-48. It was the home opener for Salesianum and the first game overall for Penn.

William Penn, returning just one starter from last season’s team that went 18-4, was able to move the ball in the first half but did not have the shooting touch, trailing by 16 at the break, 30-14. The Sals, meanwhile, were hot from the outside, sinking three three-pointers along the way. One of those belonged to senior Mike Kempski, who had eight points, all in the second. Read more »

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Panel: Genocide, wars, indifference will make Mideast Christians extinct

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, according to panelists at a Dec. 5 interfaith forum in New York.

A concerted multilateral effort to establish a safe haven for them while rebuilding their devastated homelands is preferable to massive permanent resettlement to other countries, including the United States, they said.

Men walk in rubble Nov. 13 near St. Mary's Catholic Church and St. Elias Orthodox Church after a bombing in Damascus, Syria. Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, said speakers at a Dec. 5 panel discussion in New York. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

Men walk in rubble Nov. 13 near St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Elias Orthodox Church after a bombing in Damascus, Syria. Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, said speakers at a Dec. 5 panel discussion in New York. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

Twelve speakers at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture event explored “The Crisis for Christians in the Middle East,” with a particular focus on vulnerable Christian minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Christians formed the majority in the Middle East until the Crusades in the 12th-14th centuries, but “the past thousand years haven’t been good in many ways,” said Jack Tannous, assistant professor of history at Princeton University.

Tremendous violence perpetrated against Christians led to widespread conversion, he said, and long periods of stasis have been punctuated by large-scale persecution and followed by immigration.

As a result, many Christians were effectively exterminated from the lands where they lived for centuries, said Michael Reynolds, associate professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University.

Genocide is the accurate description for the fate of Christians, especially in areas controlled by the Islamic State, speakers said.

Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said she appreciated that Christians were included in the March 17 genocide declaration by Secretary of State John Kerry, even if the inclusion, she added, was made with difficulty by the current administration and because “it’s popular to talk about minority religions.”

Kerry said the atrocities carried out by the Islamic State group against Yezidis, Christians and other minorities were genocide.

“Today we are witnessing the world’s indifference to the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East and Africa,” said Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and former U.S. ambassador to Austria. Referencing the Holocaust, he said, “Since 1945, genocide has occurred again and again. ‘Never Again!’ has become hollow. You can’t just declare genocide and say the job is done. You have to back it up with action.”

“Jews know what happens when the world is silent to mass slaughter. We learned it the hard way,” Lauder added.

“People turn off the Middle East because it’s so horrible,” Arriaga de Bucholz said, but having the U.S. declare genocide helps bring attention to the situation and opens the potential for action.

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said his organization works with the Eastern churches throughout the Middle East, an area not fully understood or appreciated by those in the Latin church. The charitable and health care efforts particularly by women religious in largely Muslim areas have been well-received, and Christians and others have gotten along well, he said. Nonetheless, there is much outright suffering and persecution, he said.

“Syria is an absolute mess, but the church is still there,” Msgr. Kozar said. Lebanon is at or close to capacity with refugees. Jordan has the greatest concentration of refugees in the world, but its camps are plagued with extortion and a gangland mentality. Christians are considered third-class citizens in Egypt and still suffer reprisals after the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood. Christians in Kurdistan and Iraq face different challenges.

“We are accompanying Christians who believe that somehow Our Lord will accompany and sustain them. We try to bring a reasonable stability,” he said.

Msgr. Kozar and other speakers underscored the deep historic and cultural connection of the Christians to their lands. “There is a tug of war between the goodwill of people here in the West who want to welcome and adopt (the refugees) and presume it’s best to extract them from where they are, and the church leaders and most of the people who want to stay” in the region and return to their countries when it is safe to do so, Msgr. Kozar said. “Family, faith, and church and connected.”

Nina Shea, director of the center for religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, said the current administration’s lack of a religious test for aid dooms tiny minorities and the new administration must make sure Christians and other minorities get their fair share of aid destined for Syria and Iraq.

Also, the United Nations needs a plan to protect minorities. “Otherwise, they will become extinct,” she said.

Retired U.S. Gen. Raymond Odierno, former chief of staff of the U.S. Army, said during his lengthy leadership service in Iraq, he never had a specific mission to protect Christians. He said that was likely because there were bigger problems and if the U.S. singled out Christians, it might be interpreted by the Iraqis as trying “to force our religion on Iraq.”

Odierno said the new administration should be prepared to have a position on what happens to Christians when the fighting wanes in Syria. He advocated a multinational effort to establish a safe haven to protect Christians “until governments can receive them and place them back where they belong, or else, they’ll dwindle.”

The effort will only work if it is multinational and supported by the United Nations, he said. A solo effort by the United States would create a larger problem for Christians because it would look like the U.S. was unilaterally protecting Christians.

Odierno also suggested relocating Christians from the Ninevah Plain of Iraq to Kurdish-controlled areas during what he said could be a 10- to 20-year rebuilding process before they could return home. He could support a no-fly zone there if there’s a threat and if Russia participated, he said.

Odierno said it’s unclear if the U.S. and Russia can work together to protect Christians and he has not spoken to anyone in Russia, “but I believe we should be able to develop common ground on this.”

He said, “It’s up to us as a nation that supports all religions to assist when any religion is being attacked. We should be there and take a look at it … we may be judged 50 years from now.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said when bishops visit him from the Middle East, “they don’t say a lot, but unfailingly cry and plead not to be forgotten. They feel desperate, alone and isolated.” He wore a Coptic pectoral cross, a gift to him from Egypt, and he displayed an icon of the Martyrs of Libya.

“We have a God who is calling us to a sense of justice, advocacy and charity. We cannot forget these people,” he said.

The event was organized by the Anglosphere Society, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the traditional values of English-speaking peoples, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of New York and the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture.

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Priest-historian: 75 years later, Pearl Harbor remains ‘such a powerful event’

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Catholic News Service

A Catholic military chaplain and historian says the attack on Pearl Harbor, even 75 years later, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it is “such a powerful event.”

Pearl Harbor survivors Clark Simmons of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Aaron Chabin of Bayside, N.Y., look at the water after throwing a wreath into the Hudson River during a 2015 ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York marking the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

Pearl Harbor survivors Clark Simmons of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Aaron Chabin of Bayside, N.Y., look at the water after throwing a wreath into the Hudson River during a 2015 ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York marking the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

As the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack neared, Father Daniel Mode detailed the effect of the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian outpost.

“Before that, we were debating whether to get involved with World War II or not. We were basically a neutral country, trying not to get engaged in it. It (the attack) changed the tenor, and the president’s resolve,” Father Mode told Catholic News Service. “It brought our country together to fight a common threat.”

Speaking from the Pentagon, where he works for the chief of chaplains, Father Mode said he can see a parallel between Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terror attacks.

“They’re both cataclysmic events that galvanized our country,” he said. “One was more obviously targeted toward the civilian population, one toward the military population,” the priest added, “but both certainly were defining moments in our country.”

As a child, young Daniel Mode lived at Pearl Harbor for four years while his father was on duty in the Navy.

“I vividly remember as a young kid — fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade — going to the (USS) Arizona Memorial. As an altar server, I served Mass. It made a great impact on me. It was probably the seeds that were planted in my heart as I discerned my vocation to the priesthood. Pearl Harbor has made an amazing impact on my life.”

The lesson to be learned from Pearl Harbor, he said, is “always vigilance, to be vigilant. To use all sorts of opportunities for diplomacy, opportunities for peaceful engagement, to use all those opportunities ahead of time to engage with populations of other countries, but to be ever vigilant. We want to be friends, right? We have to have friends all over the world. But we have to be aware that not everyone wants to be our friend.”

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, 24 years ago, Father Mode has spent most of his ordained ministry in the Navy Reserve, and the last 12 years in full-time chaplaincy, where he has attained the rank of commander. He’s now six months into a three-year stint at the Pentagon, where his work, among other things, includes collecting data on all the work performed by chaplains.

Father Aloysius Schmitt, the first U.S. chaplain killed in World War II, is pictured in an undated photo. He died during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 while helping others escape his ship, the USS Oklahoma. Nearly 75 years after his death, the remains of Father Schmitt, a native of St. Lucas, Iowa, and graduate of Loras College, were identified and came home to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for burial Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Witness files)

Father Aloysius Schmitt, the first U.S. chaplain killed in World War II, is pictured in an undated photo. He died during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 while helping others escape his ship, the USS Oklahoma. Nearly 75 years after his death, the remains of Father Schmitt, a native of St. Lucas, Iowa, and graduate of Loras College, were identified and came home to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for burial Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Witness files)

He took a brief break from that work in October when he was selected to represent the Chaplain Corps at a funeral Mass in Dubuque, Iowa, in October for Father Aloysius Schmitt, a chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, who pushed a dozen men out a narrow porthole to safety during the attack at the cost of his own life as the ship was sinking. He was the first U.S. chaplain to die in World War II. It was only recently that his remains had been positively identified.

“It amazed me, too, that 75 years later, it would be an amazing occasion that gathered so many people together, but that it made national news,” Father Mode said.

Another heroic World War II chaplain Father Mode identified was Father Joseph O’Callahan, a Jesuit priest who was the Catholic chaplain aboard the USS Franklin, then a troop transport ship about 50 miles from the coast of Japan in March 1945, five months before the war ended. Father O’Callahan was awarded the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor, for organizing rescue and firefighting parties, leading men below deck to soak magazines that had threatened to explode, which would have catastrophically increased the death toll beyond the 800 who did perish, and administer last rites.

“He certainly comes to mind as a hero,” Father Mode said. “He did not die. He served, he went back to (the College of the) Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, to continue teaching math, which is what he did as a Jesuit priest. He is buried in the Jesuit cemetery at Holy Cross.”

Father Mode does not confine his historical research to World War II. For his master’s thesis in history, he wrote a book on Father Vincent Capodanno, a Navy Reserve chaplain who died while serving with the Marines in Vietnam in 1967, was affectionately called “the ‘grunt padre’ for his ability to relate well with soldiers and his willingness to risk his life to minister to the men.” “Grunt” is slang for a member of the U.S. infantry. The cause for his sainthood was formally opened in 2006.

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Vatican commission launches child protection website

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VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has launched a beta version of its website in English and has included its template for local guidelines on preventing sexual abuse, resources for a day of prayer for the victims and survivors as well as a mailing address to contact commission members.

The website — www.protectionofminors.va — eventually will include versions in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French, the commission said in a statement Dec. 6.

Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals identified the protection of children and young adults as one of the church’s priority needs and suggested in December 2013 that he create a commission to advise him and assist dioceses and religious orders around the world in drawing up guidelines, handling accusations and ministering to victims and survivors.

Pope Francis named the first members three months later and appointed as president Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

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