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Pope: Like expectant moms, live in joyful expectation of embracing God

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope isn’t about believing in something that may or may not come true, like hoping tomorrow’s weather will be pleasant, Pope Francis said.

“Christian hope is the expectation of something that already has been fulfilled and that certainly will be attained for each one of us,” that is, knowing Christ died and is truly risen so that all of humanity may gain salvation and live together with God, the pope said Feb. 1 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:4-11) and what it teaches about the Christian belief in life after death.

The early Christian community at Thessaloniki was firm in its belief in Christ’s resurrection, but trusting in one’s own resurrection and the resurrection of loved ones was a bit harder to grasp, the pope said.

Such doubts and uncertainty still exist today as “we all are a little afraid of dying,” he told those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall.

St. Paul, he said, writes words of encouragement, telling Christians to arm themselves against the onslaught of doubt and difficulties by “putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation.”

This kind of hope, the pope said, has nothing to do with wishing for “something nice,” something “that may or may not happen.”

“For example, people say, ‘I hope it will be nice weather tomorrow,’ but we know that it might be terrible weather instead.”

Christian hope isn’t like that, he said. It is belief in “a sure reality” because it is rooted in the real event of Christ’s resurrection and his promise of eternal life with him.

It’s knowing and seeing that “there is a door over there,” he said, pointing to the entryway into the Paul VI audience hall.

“There is a door. I hope to get to the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door. I am sure I will make it to the door. That is what Christian hope is like. Being certain that I am walking” with that destination, he said.

Christian hope is living like an expectant mother, the pope said.

“When a woman realizes she is pregnant, she learns to live each day in expectation of seeing her child’s gaze,” he said.

Everyone needs to learn to live each day with this same joyful anticipation – “to live in expectation of gazing at the Lord, of finding the Lord,” he said.

Learning to live in “sure expectation” isn’t easy, but it can be learned, he said.

“A humble, poor heart” knows how to wait, but it is difficult for someone who is “full of himself and his possessions.”

The pope asked everyone to repeat aloud with him St. Paul’s words (1 Thes 4:17) as a way to find peace and consolation, knowing that one day the faithful will be united with God and their loved ones: “Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

At the end of his main audience talk, the pope greeted members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which seeks to act upon the pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si’” and address climate change.

He thanked them for their dedication to “taking care of our common home during this time of serious social-environmental crisis.”

He encouraged them to continue to expand and strengthen their networks “so that local churches may respond with determination to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Judge Gorsuch nominated to fill Supreme Court vacancy

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February.

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump nominated him to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice Jan. 31 at the White House in Washington. If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the seat that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump nominated him to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice Jan. 31 at the White House in Washington. If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the seat that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Gorsuch is a man the country needs, Trump said in announcing his nominee the evening of Jan. 31. He added that his pick for the high court already has had bipartisan support. “Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline,” he said.

When Trump announced his choice at the White House, in the audience was Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of the late justice. One of the couple’s children also was present: Father Paul Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

In his remarks, Gorsuch said he was thankful for friends, family and faith giving him balance. He also said he was honored and humbled to be chosen as a nominee to the nation’s highest court. He described Scalia as “lion of the law” and said he misses him.

He said he respects the fact that Congress, not the courts, writes new laws. “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.”

Several news outlets reported that hundreds of demonstrators held a rally outside the Supreme Court building to protest Trump’s choice of Gorsuch. Pro-life organizations, however, were quick to praise the president’s selection of someone who they said will “carry on the legacy” of Scalia.

Gorsuch, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, is 49, making him the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years. He was born in Denver. He currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two daughters, he lived in the Washington area as a teenager when his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Gorsuch attended the Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School where he won a national debate championship.

Gorsuch has the typical qualifications of a high court justice. He graduated from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, clerked for two Supreme Court justices and also worked for the Department of Justice.

He also is an adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado and he wrote a 2009 book arguing against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Gorsuch hasn’t written a ruling specifically on abortion but he has strong views on religious liberty. He sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their challenge of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. And in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius, in June 2013, the 10th Circuit ordered the federal government to stop enforcement of the federal mandate against Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based Christian chain of retail arts and crafts stores. In his concurrence, Gorsuch said the contraception mandate substantially burdened the company’s religious exercise, a decision the Supreme Court later upheld.

Gorsuch is an Episcopalian. Scalia, who had been one of six Catholic members of the court, was often described as its most conservative voice and known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution’s intent.

“All too often, our efforts to protect unborn children and other vulnerable humans have been overridden by judges who believe they have a right to impose their own policy preferences,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a statement.

“We are heartened that Judge Gorsuch appears to share Justice Scalia’s view that federal judges are constrained to enforce the text and original intent of constitutional provisions, and on all other matters should defer to democratically elected lawmakers,” Tobias added.

Priests for Life, the American Life League, the Susan B. Anthony List and other groups echoed those sentiments.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, called Gorsuch “an exceptional choice.”

“In the coming days, we will mobilize the pro-life grass-roots nationwide and in key Senate battleground states to urge the Senate to swiftly confirm” she said in a statement. “Should pro-abortion Democratic Senators choose to filibuster this immensely qualified nominee, they do so at their own political peril.”

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Cape swims to sweep against Spartans

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Dialog reporter

 

MILLTOWN – Cape Henlopen’s late arrival delayed the start of the swim meet vs. St. Mark’s on Jan. 31, but the Vikings made sure the wait was worth it, as they swept the Spartans at the Western YMCA. The Cape girls won, 98-71, while the boys took a narrower victory, 90-79. Read more »

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Spartans withstand game-tying three, take down No. 8 Riders in overtime

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Dialog reporter

 

MILLTOWN – Within the span of a minute, St. Mark’s had seen its 37-36 lead over Caesar Rodney turn into a 42-37 deficit with less than two minutes left in regulation. But that Spartans clawed back to take a three-point lead, shook off the disappointment of seeing the Riders tie it, and reached down for a 57-55 overtime victory in nonconference boys basketball on Jan. 31. The Spartans ended CR’s seven-game winning streak.

Chris Ludman gave the Spartans that 37-36 lead with a 12-foot jumper from the key. The Riders’ Kairi Buie followed with an old-fashioned three-point play, and when St. Mark’s committed a turnover on its next possession, coach Nick Sanna kicked his water bottle in frustration. The bottle noisily bounced off a chair and rolled on to the court, and Sanna was assessed a technical foul. Caesar Rodneymade those two free throws and then another on the ensuing possession, giving the Riders the five-point spread. Read more »

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Bishop Barres, installed in Rockville Centre, thanks people of Wilmington diocese

January 31st, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News, Our Diocese

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Dialog Editor

When Bishop John O. Barres was installed Jan. 31 as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., after serving as Bishop of Allentown for more than seven years, he thanked the people of the Wilmington diocese, where he was ordained a priest in 1989. Read more »

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Catholic boys teams face big hoops hurdles this week

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For The Dialog

 

The boys’ schedule heats up as the weather gets colder this week. There are a lot of big matchups this week as the month of February begins. Read more »

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Trump’s banning of refugees called chaotic and cruel by church leaders – update

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This update to a story posted earlier adds comments from the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States brought an outcry from Catholic leaders across the U.S.

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

Church leaders used phrases such as “devastating,” “chaotic” and “cruel” to describe the Jan. 27 action that left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders, lawful permanent U.S. residents, be allowed into the country.

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops late Jan. 30 praised fellow prelates for “their witness” in speaking out against Trump’s actions and “in defense of God’s people,” and called on “all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

“The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, in a joint statement.

“The church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors,” they said.

“The refugees fleeing from ISIS (Islamic State) and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom,” they said. “Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith.”

Like all families, refugees “are seeking safety and security for their children,” they said. The U.S. “should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil” and also “must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm.” But the country “must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends,” the prelates said.

“Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present,” Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez said.

In Chicago, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29 statement that the past weekend “proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history.”

“The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values,” he said. “Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

“Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States,” Cardinal Cupich said. “They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action.”

“The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. It also establishes religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

“We are told this is not the Muslim ban that had been proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Ironically, this ban does not include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are excluded.”

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress in 2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent,” he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

“We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones,” he said.

He also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to protect the most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All “are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called attention to the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that “the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing.”

“The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need … for the strangers at our doors,” he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550 people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said the provisions of the executive action “violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.”

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said: “Welcoming those in need is part of America’s DNA.

“Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees, especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will make our country safer, but they shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of those fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust discrimination,” he said.

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Iraqi Christian leader visiting Mosul sees little future for Christians

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Catholic News Service

MOSUL, Iraq — As some residents of the city of Mosul celebrate their new freedom from the Islamic State group, an Iraqi Christian leader who visited the war-torn city said Christian residents are unlikely to return.

“I don’t see a future for Christians in Mosul,” said Father Emanuel Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East.

Father Emanuel Youkhana, an archimandrite of the Assyrian Church of the East, walks through the rubble of a demolished church in Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Father Emanuel Youkhana, an archimandrite of the Assyrian Church of the East, walks through the rubble of a demolished church in Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Father Youkhana, who runs Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, a Christian program for displaced Iraqis around the city of Dohuk, entered Mosul in a military convoy Jan. 27, the day Iraqi officials raised the national flag over the eastern part of the city. Islamic State seized the city in 2014, causing Christians and other minorities to flee.

Once inside Mosul, Father Youkhana moved about freely, talking to residents and soldiers. He visited two churches, both heavily damaged.

:The churches were used as warehouses by Daesh,” he said, referring to the terrorist group by its common Arabic name. “They used the churches to store what they looted from Christian and Yezidi villages, but as the end neared they sold the buildings to local contractors, who started tearing down the walls to reuse the steel inside. If the army hadn’t entered for another couple of weeks, the buildings might have been completely destroyed.”

One building, belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church, had not been completely swept for explosives, according to Iraqi soldiers in the area. The front of the building was painted with an Islamist slogan by the Islamic State, and a military commander told Father Youkhana his troops would gladly paint over it. Father Youkhana replied that it was not his church, so he had no authority to authorize the troops.

“And leaving it as is preserves the evidence of what Daesh did here,” he told Catholic News Service.

At another church, owned by the Assyrian Church of the East, the body of an Islamic State fighter poked out of a pile of garbage in front of the sanctuary.

Father Youkhana, who went to high school in Mosul, also photographed several houses that belonged to Christians, but had been given or sold to Muslim families by the Islamic State. While he doubts Christians will return, he believes they will be able to recover the value of their properties, notwithstanding attempts by the Islamic State to destroy local government records.

“Christians aren’t going to come back to stay. The churches I saw were not destroyed with bombs, but by the everyday business operations of the community. How can Christians return to that environment? It’s unfortunate, because Mosul needs their skills. Most Christians were part of the intellectual and professional class here, they were doctors and lawyers and engineers and university professors. But I don’t see how they can return,” he said.

Father Youkhana would make no predictions how long peace will last once the Islamic State is driven completely out of Mosul, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city. The Iraqi army units that expelled the Islamic State are largely Shiite Muslim. Several of the military’s armored vehicles sported flags of the Popular Mobilization Units, a Shiite militia, and Father Youkhana said he saw several examples of graffiti written by Shiite soldiers calling for violence against the Sunnis.

“Why do they do that?” he asked. “They are undermining their achievement. People are thanking them for liberating them, and in return they try to provoke them. Just because they have the upper hand now.

“They should think about sustainability,” he added. “The residents are welcoming you as a savior, so don’t wear out your welcome by provoking them.”

Father Youkhana also visited Qaraqosh, a Christian town 20 miles southeast of Mosul that he described as “a ghost town.” While Mosul was bustling with busy markets and people digging out from the rubble of war, the streets of Qaraqosh were eerily silent, with most houses blackened by fire but still standing.

He explored the remains of the Syriac Catholic cathedral, reportedly the largest church in Iraq. Blackened by fire, its courtyard was filled with the ashes of what had been the church’s library, as well as shell casings and bullet-ridden mannequins that the Islamic State apparently used for target practice.

Some Christian leaders are pushing for a quick return to Qaraqosh. One Christian member of the Kurdistan parliament said he is looking for $200,000 that would finance the return of 50 families, buying them the basic furniture and household items they need to re-establish themselves in their houses.

But Karim Sinjari, Kurdistan’s interior minister, told a visiting ecumenical delegation that neither the necessary security nor appropriate infrastructure are in place.

“I won’t stop them, but I would advise them not to go,” he said. “The conditions aren’t ready yet.”

Iraqi Christian leaders echoed his concern.

“Security is the most critical need we have,” said Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil. “Rebuilding our churches is the last thing we should think about. We want to first build houses for our people so they can live with dignity, and we need infrastructure in the villages. But all this is only possible if we can have security.”

“Unless there is security, whatever we build will be for Daesh, not for us,” said Syriac Orthodox Bishop Nicodemos of Mosul.

Some residents of Qaraqosh have returned, carrying weapons and wearing uniforms of the Ninevah Plain Protection Units, or NPU, a militia formed by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, an Iraqi political party allied with the Shiites. It operates in coordination with the Iraqi military, which has assigned it primary responsibility for protecting Qaraqosh and a nearby village.

Father Youkhana said he is troubled by the NPU’s role.

“They are trying to play politics as a big actor, when in reality they don’t have that power,” he said. “What little role they have is exaggerated in the Christian diaspora, where it starts to sound like a Hollywood movie. If you’re sitting in Phoenix, Arizona, or Sydney, Australia, you’re not aware of this.”

The NPU and other smaller groups “can offer a Christian cover to the Shia militias,” Father Youkhana said, “allowing them to say, ‘Look, we have the Christians on board with us. We are all the same.’ I’m sorry, but we are not all the same.”

Fadi Raad is tired of running from the Islamic State, so the 25-year-old Qaraqosh native joined the NPU and today patrols the streets of the town on the lookout for lingering terrorists.

“I’m here to defend my village, and because I want to save the Christians in Iraq. It’s difficult here now, but when the government and the NGOs repair all the houses, then the Christians will come back. The NPU is here to stay. It’s different now. If Daesh comes back, we will kill them all,” he said.

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Pope encourages Knights of Malta to continue path of renewal

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the Sovereign Military Order of Malta accepted Pope Francis’ intervention in their governance, the pope urged members to follow a path of renewal as they prepare to elect a new grand master.

Pope Francis talks with Fra Matthew Festing, grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, during a private audience with members of the order at the Vatican in this June 23, 2016, file photo. Festing has accepted Pope Francis' request that he resign following weeks of tensions with the Vatican over the dismissal of the order's former chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool) See FESTING-MALTA-RESIGN Jan. 25, 2017.

Pope Francis talks with Fra Matthew Festing, grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, during a private audience with members of the order at the Vatican in this June 23, 2016, file photo. Festing has accepted Pope Francis’ request that he resign following weeks of tensions with the Vatican over the dismissal of the order’s former chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool) 

In accordance with the pope’s wishes, the governing council of the order accepted the resignation Jan. 28 of Fra Matthew Festing as grand master and appointed Fra Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein to temporarily lead the chivalric order.

By “putting aside personal interests and dangerous ambitions,” members, volunteers and benefactors of the order can better dedicate themselves to the “noble and proven mission” of defending the faith and serving the poor, the pope wrote in a Jan. 27 letter to von Rumerstein, lieutenant ad interim of the order.

“The witness of an authentic Christian life makes accompanying the sick more accepted and effective, and charity toward the poor and vulnerable people of society more fraternal,” the pope wrote.

The Knights of Malta have 13,500 members, as well as 80,000 volunteers and 25,000 medical professionals providing relief and humanitarian aid in 120 countries.

Festing offered his resignation Jan. 24 at the behest of Pope Francis, who had established a commission to investigate his removal of the order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.

Festing refused to cooperate with the investigation and insisted the firing was a sovereign act outside the Vatican’s jurisdiction, although the knights take a vow of obedience to the pope.

Pope Francis said he would appoint a special delegate who, in close collaboration with von Rumerstein. will “specifically take care of the spiritual and moral renewal of the order,” especially the 50 or so members who have taken religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

“The special delegate will have the task of being my exclusive spokesman during the period of your mandate for all that relates to the relationship of the order with the Holy See,” the pope wrote.

The pope’s letter did not clarify how the special delegate’s responsibilities would intersect with those of the current cardinal patron of the order, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke.

According the order’s constitution, the cardinal patron “has the task of promoting the spiritual interests of the order and its members and relations between the Holy See and the order.”

Following the acceptance of Festing’s resignation, von Rumerstein expressed his gratitude to him for “the many good things he has done for our order.”

“We are grateful to Fra Matthew in his generous response to the request of the Holy Father to resign his position for the good of the Order of Malta,” he said.

He also thanked the pope and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, for “their interest in and care for our order.”

“We are grateful to the Holy Father for all his decisions so carefully taken with regard to and respect for the order, with a determination to strengthen our sovereignty. In this and all matters, we will not yield in our loyalty to the pope,” von Rumerstein wrote.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Iraqi patriarch: Fast track for Christian refugees will fuel tensions

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Giving priority to Christian refugees for settlement programs would be “a trap” that discriminates and fuels religious tensions in the Middle East, said Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic patriarch.

“Every reception policy that discriminates (between) the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East” and would be “a trap for Christians in the Middle East,” said Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.

A Yemeni and three children are seen in Sanaa, Yemen Jan. 26. Giving priority to Christian refugees for settlement programs would be "a trap" that discriminates and fuels religious tensions in the Middle East, said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.(CNS photo/Yahya Arhab, EPA)

A Yemeni and three children are seen in Sanaa, Yemen Jan. 26. Giving priority to Christian refugees for settlement programs would be “a trap” that discriminates and fuels religious tensions in the Middle East, said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.(CNS photo/Yahya Arhab, EPA)

The patriarch, speaking to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, commented on an executive action by U.S. President Donald Trump that temporarily stops from U.S. entry refugees from all over the world and migrants from seven countries in an attempt to review the screening process. The document asks that once the ban is lifted, refugee claims based on religious persecution be prioritized.

Patriarch Sako said any preferential treatment based on religion provides the kind of arguments used by those who propagate “propaganda and prejudice that attack native Christian communities of the Middle East as ‘foreign bodies’” or as groups that are “supported and defended by Western powers.”

“These discriminating choices,” he said, “create and feed tensions with our Muslim fellow citizens. Those who seek help do not need to be divided according to religious labels. And we do not want privileges. This is what the Gospel teaches, and what was pointed out by Pope Francis, who welcomed refugees in Rome who fled from the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims without distinction.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, said any policy that gave priorities to Christians “might revive some of these animosities and might even pit Christians against Muslims, and that (also) might generate contrary action from the Muslims against Christians.”

“This is a time when we don’t want to add to the prejudice, the biases and even discriminatory attitudes evolving in the world,” he told Catholic News Service in Beirut Jan. 30 at the Caritas Lebanon headquarters.

Emphasizing that he had not read the text of the executive action, but only news reports, the Philippine cardinal said announcing a ban being applied to specific countries was akin to “labeling them and the migrants coming from those countries as possible threats to a country. I think it is quite a generalization that needs to be justified.”

Cardinal Tagle, who has visited refugee settlements as part of his role as Caritas president, said he asks people who express reservations about receiving refugees and migrants, “Have you ever talked to a real refugee? Have you heard stories of real persons?”

“Very often, the refugee issue is reduced to statistics and an abstraction,” he said, and when people actually talk with refugees, “you realize that there is a human story, a global story (there) and if you just open your ears, your eyes, your heart then you could say, ‘This could be my mother. This could be my father. This could be my brother, my child.’

“These are human lives,” he said. “So, for people making decisions on the global level, please know that whatever you decide touches persons for better or for worse. And if our decisions are not based on the respect for human dignity and for what is good, then we will just be prolonging this problem — creating conflicts that drive people away.”

Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary for migrants and refugees at the Vatican’s new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told CNS in Rome that Christians are asked to reflect on the Good Samaritan and not to “react and act as if the plight of migrants and refugees is none of our business.”

People should focus on those seeking security and “take the trouble to find out the facts” — like how “migrants, far from being a drain, make a net contribution to the domestic economy — rather (than) swallow allegations which just trigger fear.”

Richer countries should not only welcome those who are fleeing, they “can do much more to help improve security and living, working, education and health opportunities in the refugee- and migrant-producing countries,” he said in a written statement.

More effort should be put into peacemaking and more resources dedicated to “helpful foreign aid.”

“The role of government is to enact its people’s values, keeping different factors in balance. National security is important, but always in balance with human security, which includes values like openness, solidarity, hope for the future,” the Jesuit priest said.

“The bottom line,” he said “is the centrality and dignity of the human person, where you cannot favor ‘us’ and ‘them,’ citizens over others.”

 

Contributing to this story was Doreen Abi Raad in Beirut.

 

 

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