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Forgive your aggressors, pope tells victims of Colombia’s civil war

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Catholic News Service

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia — If just one victim of Colombia’s civil war forgives his or her aggressor, it can set off a chain reaction of hope for reconciliation and peace, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass Sept. 8 in Villavicencio, a city filled with those who fled their homes during the war and with former fighters trying to start over, Pope Francis pleaded for honesty and courage.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Catama field in Villavicencio, Colombia, Sept. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the beginning of the Mass, he held up two heroic examples of those who gave their lives to “rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness”: Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca, who was murdered by Colombian Marxist guerrillas in 1989, and Father Pedro Maria Ramirez, who was killed at the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948.

Pope Francis beatified the two at the Mass, which was celebrated in the middle of a broad field, typical of the area’s cattle ranching terrain.

In his homily, the pope acknowledged that, during 52 years of war, many at the Mass suffered horrors.

“How many of you can tell of exiles and grief,” he said.

The Christian call to reconciliation is not something abstract, the pope said. “If it were, then it would only bring sterility and greater distance.” It requires acknowledging the truth and letting victims speak.

And “when victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace,” he said. “What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope. And each of us can be that person.

“This does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts. This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices,” Pope Francis insisted. Reconciliation must be accompanied by a firm commitment to change the inequalities and behaviors that fueled the war for decades.

Celebrating Mass in an area known as the gateway to the Amazon, the pope said he could not ignore the need for reconciliation with the natural environment.

“It is not by chance that even on nature we have unleashed our desire to possess and subjugate,” he said. To the delight of many in the crowd, he quoted the famous Colombian singer and peace activist, Juanes: “The trees are weeping, they are witnesses to so many years of violence. The sea is brown, a mixture of blood and earth.”

     Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Blessed Romero ‘another brilliant star’ belonging to church of Americas

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Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Some thought this day would never arrive. Others hoped and some always knew it would.

On May 23, the Catholic Church, beatified Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, of El Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass, just a day after pleading and ordering soldiers to stop killing innocent civilians.

Priests carry the blood-stained shirt of Archbishop Oscar Romero during his beatification Mass at the Divine Savior of the World square in San Salvador May 23. (CNS photo/Lissette Lemus)

Priests carry the blood-stained shirt of Archbishop Oscar Romero during his beatification Mass at the Divine Savior of the World square in San Salvador May 23. (CNS photo/Lissette Lemus)

“Blessed Romero is another brilliant star that belongs to the sanctity of the church of the Americas,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, during the ceremony in San Salvador. “And thanks be to God, there are many.”

While those who persecuted him have died or are in obscurity, “the memory of Romero continues to live in the poor and the marginalized,” Cardinal Amato said.

His homilies often pleaded for better conditions for the poor, for a stop to the escalating violence in the country and for brotherhood among those whose divisions ultimately led to a 12-year conflict.

He’s not a symbol of division but one of peace, Cardinal Amato said.

In a message sent Saturday on the occasion of the beatification, Pope Francis said that Archbishop Romero “built the peace with the power of love, gave testimony of the faith with his life.”

Proof of that is the shirt he died in, soaked in blood, after an assassin’s single bullet took his life. Eight deacons carried the blood-stained shirt, now a relic, to the altar in a glass case. Others decorated it with flowers and candles during the Saturday ceremony. Several priests reached out to touch the case and later made the sign of the cross.

In a time of difficulty in El Salvador, Archbishop Romero knew “how to guide, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole church,” the pope said in his message. “His ministry was distinguished by a particular attention to the poor and marginalized. And at the time of his death, while celebrating the holy sacrifice, love and reconciliation, he received the grace to be fully identified with the one who gave his life for his sheep.”

The event, at the square of the Divine Savior of the World in the capital city of San Salvador, saw the attendance of four Latin American presidents and six cardinals including: Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, of Honduras; Leopoldo Brenes, of Nicaragua; Jaime Ortega, of Cuba; Jose Luis Lacunza, of Panama; Roger Mahony, of the U.S.; and Italian Cardinal Amato, as well as Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of Archbishop Romero’s cause.

Their excitement couldn’t have been greater than that of those like Father Estefan Turcios, pastor of El Salvador’s St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Soyapango and national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in El Salvador. Before El Salvador’s conflict, Father Turcios was imprisoned for defending the rights of the poor. Archbishop Romero helped free him.

“There have been people inspired by Romero for 35 years. How do you think they feel right now?” asked Father Turcios.

But just as he has devotees, Archbishop Romero has had detractors.

After his death, the Vatican received mounds of letters against Archbishop Romero, Archbishop Paglia, has said. And that affected his path toward sainthood, which includes beatification. But three decades after his assassination, Pope Benedict XVI cleared the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

In February Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, a person killed “in hatred of the faith” which meant there is no need to prove a miracle for beatification. In general two miracles are needed for sainthood — one for beatification and the second for canonization.

Father Turcios said by studying Blessed Romero’s life, others will discover all the Gospel truths that led him to defend life, the poor and the church, and do away with untruths surrounding his legacy.

During the country’s civil war that lasted from 1979 until 1992, some Salvadorans hid, buried and sometimes burned photos they had taken with or of Archbishop Romero, because it could mean others would call them communists or rebel sympathizers and put their lives in danger.

Though he still has some detractors, Father Turcios said, the beatification can help others understand the reality and truth that others have known all along: Archbishop Romero “was loyal to God’s will, was loyal to and loved his people and was loyal to and loved the church,” he said.

 

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Archbishop Romero to be beatified May 23 in El Salvador

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Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador May 23, said Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator or chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

The ceremony, which moves the murdered archbishop a step closer to sainthood, will be in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo. The archbishop said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, would celebrate the Mass.

A nun kisses the forehead of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador at the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. The archbishop was taken to the hospital with bullet wounds in the chest after being shot by four unidentified gunmen as he celebrated Mass in a chapel March 24, 1980. (Scan of CNS file photo)

A nun kisses the forehead of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador at the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. The archbishop was taken to the hospital with bullet wounds in the chest after being shot by four unidentified gunmen as he celebrated Mass in a chapel March 24, 1980. (Scan of CNS file photo)

“Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice,” Archbishop Paglia said March 11 at a news conference in San Salvador.

The archbishop called the beatification a gift for the world, but particularly for the people of El Salvador.

While Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause began in 1993, it continued for years as church officials combed through thousands of documents related to his life. The effort began moving forward under Pope Benedict XVI. In May 2007, he said: “Archbishop Romero certainly was a great witness to the faith, a man of great Christian virtue.”

The process advanced rapidly with the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the first Latin American pope in history. From the first moments of his papacy, he showed interest in declaring Archbishop Romero a saint.

Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, which meant there was no need to prove a miracle for his beatification. However, a miracle is ordinarily needed for canonization as saint.

Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country’s civil war. Archbishop Paglia said in early February that the two decades it took to obtain the decree were the result of “misunderstandings and preconceptions.”

During Archbishop Romero’s time as archbishop of San Salvador, from 1977 to 1980, “kilos of letters against him arrived in Rome. The accusations were simple: He’s political; he’s a follower of liberation theology.”

All of the complaints, Archbishop Paglia said, slowed the sainthood process.

However, promoters of the cause, he said, collected “a mountain of testimony just as big” to counter the accusations and to prove that Archbishop Romero heroically lived the Christian faith and was killed out of hatred for his words and actions as a Catholic pastor.

“He was killed at the altar,” Archbishop Paglia said, instead of when he was an easier target at home or on the street. “Through him, they wanted to strike the church that flowed from the Second Vatican Council.”

The archbishop announced the date of the beatification on the eve of the anniversary of the assassination of a close personal friend of Archbishop Romero: Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, the first priest executed by death squads, March 12, 1977.

Father Grande was a fiery champion of the poor and oppressed and used the pulpit to denounce actions of the government, death squads in his country, violence from the outbreak of civil war and military occupation of churches. His death had a profound impact on Archbishop Romero, who later said, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I, too, have to walk the same path.’”

 

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Life of newly beatified New Jersey nun called ‘recipe for holiness’

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Catholic News Service

NEWARK, N.J. — More than 2,200 people packed the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark Oct. 4 to celebrate the first beatification liturgy in the United States.

Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth from Bayonne, was given the title “blessed” in a joyful ceremony conducted in three languages — English, Latin and Slovak.

People take photos of a portrait of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich following her beatification Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4. Blessed Miriam Teresa, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth who died at age 26 in 1927, is the first candidate for sainthood to be beatified in the U.S. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

People take photos of a portrait of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich following her beatification Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4. Blessed Miriam Teresa, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth who died at age 26 in 1927, is the first candidate for sainthood to be beatified in the U.S. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Blessed Miriam Teresa died in 1927 at age 26. Pope Francis paved the way for her beatification in December 2013 when he accepted that, through her intercession, Michael Mencer, a young New Jersey boy, was cured in 1963 of blindness caused by macular degeneration.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, was the principal celebrant of the liturgy. He was joined by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark; Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States; Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson; Bishop Kurt Burnette of Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; and six other bishops and more than 100 priest concelebrants.

The 20-minute processional included Mencer, now 58, and his family, members of Blessed Miriam Teresa’s family and hundreds of Sisters of Charity.

Blessed Miriam Teresa was born in Bayonne in 1901 to Slovakian immigrant parents. She was baptized and confirmed in the Byzantine Catholic rite. The young woman graduated with honors from high school and college, cared for her ailing parents until their deaths, and taught Latin and English in a high school run by the Sisters of Charity.

Although she hoped to join a contemplative order, Blessed Miriam Teresa was rejected because her poor eyesight made it impossible for her to sew vestments the nuns made to support themselves. She entered the Sisters of Charity in 1925.

At her Benedictine confessor’s request, Blessed Miriam Teresa anonymously wrote a series of articles on religious life, which he presented as talks to her fellow novices. Her health declined dramatically and she was allowed to make her final vows early, in anticipation of death.

After the young sister’s death May 8, 1927, her writings were published as a book, “Greater Perfection.” Father Benedict Bradley, the confessor, wrote: “I thought that one day she would be ranked among the saints of God and I felt it was incumbent upon me to utilize whatever might contribute to an appreciation of her merits after her death.”

Confidantes said Blessed Miriam Teresa described having a vision of Mary during college and an encounter with St. Therese of Lisieux while in the novitiate.

In 1945, the bishop of Paterson opened an examination into Blessed Miriam Teresa’s life and virtues; the Sisters of Charity established a prayer league in her honor; and, in 1954, the Paterson Diocese opened her cause.

In 1963, a sister in her community gave young Michael Mencer a small round prayer card with a strand of Blessed Miriam Teresa’s hair to bring home to his mother. The boy was rapidly losing his vision to juvenile macular degeneration and could no longer see what was in front of him.

As described by the lanky adult Mencer after the beatification Mass, he pulled the card out of his pocket on the walk home from school and was surprised to be able to clearly see the slender strand of hair. At home, he said it took a few minutes for his mother, a nurse, to understand he could see. “I have scars on my head from riding my bike into trees, but she kept me patched up,” he laughed, fingering his balding scalp.

Subsequent examinations by multiple ophthalmologists determined Mencer’s cure was medically inexplicable. Today, the middle-aged man wears glasses only for reading.

At the beginning of Mass, Cardinal Amato read a letter from Pope Francis declaring the Sister of Charity “blessed” by virtue of her “ardent adoration of the Most Holy Trinity” and “strenuous witness (that) is evidence of her evangelical love.”

The congregation burst into applause as a gold-framed oil portrait of the young sister was unveiled in the sanctuary and people in procession placed items on a table in front of it. Mencer carried a relic of Blessed Miriam Teresa and other members of her family, congregation and promoters of her cause brought flowers.

Deacon Stephen Russo intoned the Gospel in Slovak and English. In his homily, Bishop Serratelli said Blessed Miriam Teresa did the will of God with all her might. “Filled with the knowledge of sacred Scripture, she anticipated Vatican II’s emphasis on the word of God as the source of authentic spirituality for all,” he said.

“In our secularized age that often shuns solitude and silence, God is giving us, from among those who leave the world for Christ, a new blessed who was, in the words spoken at her death, a living ‘monstrance that silently showed forth our Lord to all who passed by,’” the bishop said.

Sister Barbara Connell, a Sister of Charity and one of Blessed Miriam Teresa’s promoters, told Catholic News Service the event was exhilarating. “I have difficulty wiping the smile off my face. You work so hard for something, it becomes part of your life and today it is a reality: She is declared blessed.”

Sister Connell said she hopes the beatification will help spread Blessed Miriam Teresa’s message that all people are called to holiness, wherever they are in their state in life. “If we do God’s will as we believe he wants us to do it that day, that is a recipe for holiness and that was Miriam Teresa’s recipe,” she said.

 

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Spanish bishop, who was Opus Dei leader, beatified

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MADRID — A Spanish bishop who worked as an engineer before becoming first prelate of the Opus Dei movement has been beatified in his native Madrid.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Bishop Alvaro del Portillo was known for his “prudence and rectitude in evaluating events and people, his justice in respecting the good name and freedom of others, his fortitude in facing up to physical or moral difficulties, and the temperance shown in his sobriety and interior and exterior mortification.”

The prelature of Opus Dei announced that Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the successor to Opus Dei founder St. Jose Maria Escriva, will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. He is pictured in an undated photo.(CNS photo/courtesy of Opus Dei Information Office)

The prelature of Opus Dei announced that Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the successor to Opus Dei founder St. Jose Maria Escriva, will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. He is pictured in an undated photo.(CNS photo/courtesy of Opus Dei Information Office)

“He was not a talkative person, his engineer’s training gave him habits of intellectual rigor, conciseness and precision, enabling him to go straight to the essence of problems and solve them,” Cardinal Amato said at the Sept. 27 beatification Mass, held outdoors.

Blessed Alvaro, who died in 1994, succeeded St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as head of the personal prelature of Opus Dei. Beatification is a step toward sainthood.

Cardinal Amato told about 150,000 people from 80 countries that Blessed Alvaro had “a notable serenity and considerateness, a habit of smiling, understanding, speaking well about others and reflecting deeply before judging.”

“His humility was not harsh, showy or ill-tempered, but affectionate and cheerful — his joy was based on his conviction that he himself was worth very little,” Cardinal Amato said.

Born March 11, 1914, Blessed Alvaro studied and taught at Madrid University’s school of engineering, later working briefly for the Spanish government’s Bureau of Highways and Bridges.

He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and became one of its first three priests in June 1944. He had a doctorate in engineering but earned a second doctorate in philosophy and history, and a third in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

As secretary-general of Opus Dei, he served as an expert, or peritus, at the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and consultant for several post-conciliar commissions, before succeeding the late St. Josemaria as Opus Dei president.

Blessed Alvaro was appointed first prelate of the movement in 1982 and was consecrated a bishop in 1991 by St. John Paul II.

Blessed Alvaro’s canonization cause was launched in December 2002. In July 2013, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing his intercession in the cure of a Chilean newborn, Jose Ignacio Ureta Wilson, who inexplicably revived after a cardiac arrest lasting more than 30 minutes.

In a Sept. 27 letter, Pope Francis said Blessed Alvaro had been a “faithful collaborator” of St. Josemaria, adding that his first meeting with the Opus Dei founder had “definitively marked the course of his life.”

He said the bishop’s life and work were a reminder that “our poverty as human beings is not the result of despair, but of confident abandonment in God.”

 

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Magazine says California birth considered as miracle for Pope Paul VI

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Pope Paul VI, who led the church between the pontificates of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, may be beatified in October, an Italian Catholic magazine reported.

Credere, a magazine run by the Pauline Fathers, reported April 24 that the alleged miracle needed for Pope Paul’s beatification would be considered by the cardinal members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes May 5. The cardinals’ recommendation would be given to Pope Francis, who could order the publication of a decree recognizing the healing as a miracle.

Pope Paul VI offers a blessing at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport before boarding a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, in 1967. Pope Paul, who led the church from 1963 until his death in 1978, may be beatified in October, an Italian Catholic magazine reported. (CNS file photo)

The Italian magazine said the beatification Mass likely would be celebrated in October, probably Oct. 19, the final day of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

The miracle being considered involves the birth of a baby in California in the 1990s, although to protect the family’s privacy, the child’s name and city have not been released. Credere said the mother’s pregnancy was at risk, and with it the life and health of the baby. Doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy, but instead she sought prayers from an Italian nun who was a family friend. Praying, the nun placed on the woman’s belly a holy card with Pope Paul’s photograph and a piece of his vestment.

The baby was born healthy. For Pope Paul’s sainthood cause, physicians continued monitoring the child’s health up to the age of 12 and everything was normal, Credere reported.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, Pope Paul is probably best remembered for seeing the Second Vatican Council through to its end and helping implement its far-reaching reforms. He was elected in 1963 after the death of Blessed John and died Aug. 6, 1978.

 

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