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Maternity leave: Why the pope wants the church to be a loving mother

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Mother’s Day came early this year at the Vatican.

A number of feast days over the Advent and Christmas seasons gave Pope Francis a fresh opportunity to pay homage to the world’s mothers and insist further on how and why he wants the entire church to become more maternal.

But who is this archetypal mother figure the pope upholds? Pope Francis pointed to a few of his favorite biblical heroines, praising the seemingly contradictory qualities of each: Read more »

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Let Jesus cleanse you of your sins, Pope Francis urges

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian faith and a moral life are responses to God’s mercy and not the result of “titanic” human effort, Pope Francis said.

In meetings and Masses March 7-8, the pope repeatedly returned to the theme of the church as an agent of God’s mercy and to the benefits of returning to confession during Lent.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Communion and Liberation lay movement, Pope Francis met March 7 with more than 80,000 members who filled St. Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading to it.

Pope Francis speaks as he meets with parishioners during a visit to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish on the outskirts of Rome March 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks as he meets with parishioners during a visit to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish on the outskirts of Rome March 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Belonging to a Catholic movement or any other church group is supposed to help Catholics live a Christian life and reach out to others, he said. If instead it becomes a “brand-name spirituality” and an identity that excludes others, it is just another organization.

“Focused on Christ and the Gospel, you can be the arms, hands, feet, mind and heart of a church that goes out,” he said. “The path of the church is to go out in search of those far off in the peripheries, to serve Jesus in every person who is marginalized, abandoned, without faith, disillusioned with the church or a prisoner of their own selfishness.”

The only way to share the faith with others is to have first experienced the grace of God’s mercy, he told the crowd. “Only one who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly knows the Lord.”

When one has sinned and experienced God’s forgiveness, he said, he or she is filled with the desire to change and to live differently. “The Christian moral life is not a titanic self-willed effort by a person who decides to be consistent and is able to do so after some kind of solidarity challenge.”

Instead, Pope Francis said, living a moral life is the ongoing response to “a surprising, unpredictable mercy, a mercy that is, in fact, unjust according to human terms, from the God who knows me, knows my betrayals and yet loves me anyway, prizes me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me and waits for me.”

The mission of the church is to be a sacrament of that mercy in the world, he said. The path of the church is “to demonstrate the great mercy of God.”

Pope Francis reminded the Communion and Liberation members that he had told new cardinals in February, “The way of the church is not to condemn anyone for eternity,” but “to pour out God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.”

In his Angelus address at the Vatican March 8 and during his homily at a Mass that evening at Rome’s Church of St. Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, the pope returned to the theme of mercy.

At both events, he used the Gospel story of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple as a call to Catholics to allow Jesus to cleanse their hearts, especially during Lent and particularly through the sacrament of penance.

People should ask themselves: “Would I allow Jesus to do a bit of cleansing in my heart?” he said at the Angelus. The Gospel story demonstrating Jesus’ anger could make people afraid, he said, “but Jesus will never beat you; Jesus cleanses with tenderness. Mercy is his way of cleansing.”

During Mass in the parish, Pope Francis repeated the last lines of the Gospel story: Jesus “knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.”

“Jesus knows everything that is in our hearts. We cannot fool Jesus,” he said. “We cannot stand before him and pretend to be saints.”

Honesty is the best policy, he said. Stand before Jesus and tell him that while you do some good things, you are also a sinner. “If you tell him, ‘I’m a sinner,’ it won’t frighten him.”

Just like the temple that Jesus entered in the Gospel story, “inside of us there is dirt, there are the sins of selfishness, arrogance, pride, lust, envy, jealousy,” he said. “Open your hearts to Jesus’ mercy. Say to him, ‘Jesus, look at all this dirt. Come, cleanse it. Cleanse it with your mercy, with your sweet word; cleanse me with your caress.’”

 

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In eastern Ukraine, church has ‘returned to catacombs,’ spokesman says

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Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland — Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, a quarter-century after it was re-legalized with the end of communist rule.

“In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said Father Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman.

A man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Catholic tent church in 2013 during anti-government protests in Kiev. Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych and other Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, a quarter-century after it was re-legalized with the end of communist rule.(CNS photo/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA) S

A man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Catholic tent church in 2013 during anti-government protests in Kiev. Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych and other Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, a quarter-century after it was re-legalized with the end of communist rule.(CNS photo/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA) 

“It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation. But after a couple of decades of freedom, we again look set to lose our freedom,” he told Catholic News Service Dec. 18.

The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a Jan. 1 deadline for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register.

Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”

Earlier in December, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told Austria’s Kathpress news agency that Crimea’s five Ukrainian Catholic parishes would find themselves “outside the law,” along with the territory’s Latin Catholic, Muslim and breakaway Orthodox communities.

“It’s ironic we’ve just been celebrating the 25th anniversary of our legalization in the former Soviet Union, but our right to legal activity will soon be withdrawn in various parts of our country,” Archbishop Shevchuk told Kathpress Dec. 12.

“There’s clearly no religious liberty already in Crimea and the occupied territories of the east, and I hope the international community will deploy its resources to restoring freedoms in the affected areas,” he said.

Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after Russia annexed the region in March. Most church parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.

Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity warned Dec. 11 of a “humanitarian catastrophe” this winter, with 490,000 people now registered as refugees, and 545,000 displaced abroad, mostly in Russia.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church makes up around a tenth of Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants. It was outlawed under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, when many clergy were imprisoned and most church properties seized by the state or transferred to Russian Orthodox possession.

 

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Pope Francis proclaims ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ — 50,000-word ‘exhortation’ is his vision for the church

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In his first extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis lays out a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelization in a positive key, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.

“Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), released by the Vatican Nov. 26, is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope wrote the new document in response to the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, but declined to work from a draft provided by synod officials.

Pope Francis’ voice is unmistakable in the 50,000-word document’s relatively relaxed style, he writes that an “evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral,” and its emphasis on some of his signature themes, including the dangers of economic globalization and “spiritual worldliness.”

The church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” he writes. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

Inspired by Jesus’ poverty and concern for the dispossessed during his earthly ministry, Pope Francis calls for a “church which is poor and for the poor.”

The poor “have much to teach us,” he writes. “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

Charity is more than mere handouts, “it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,” the pope writes. “This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”

Yet he adds that the “worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. … They need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith.”

Pope Francis reiterates his earlier criticisms of “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” which he blames for the current financial crisis and attributes to an “idolatry of money.”

He emphasizes that the church’s concern for the vulnerable extends to “unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us,” whose defense is “closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

“A human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development,” the pope writes, in his strongest statement to date on the subject of abortion. “Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

The pope writes that evangelization entails peacemaking, among other ways through ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. He “humbly” calls on Muslim majority countries to grant religious freedom to Christians, and enjoins Catholics to “avoid hateful generalizations” based on “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism,” since “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Pope Francis characteristically directs some of his strongest criticism at his fellow clergy, among other reasons, for what he describes as largely inadequate preaching.

The faithful and “their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies,” he writes: “the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them.”

The pope devotes several pages to suggestions for better homilies, based on careful study of the Scriptures and respect for the principle of brevity.

Pope Francis reaffirms church teaching that only men can be priests, but notes that their “sacramental power” must not be “too closely identified with power in general,” nor “understood as domination”; and he allows for the “possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the church’s life.”

As he has done in a number of his homilies and public statements, the pope stresses the importance of mercy, particularly with regard to the church’s moral teaching. While lamenting “moral relativism” that paints the church’s teaching on sexuality as unjustly discriminatory, he also warns against overemphasizing certain teachings out of the context of more essential Christian truths.

In words very close to those he used in an oft-quoted interview with a Jesuit journalist in August, Pope Francis writes that “pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed,” lest they distract from the Gospel’s primary invitation to “respond to the God of love who saves us.”

Returning to a theme of earlier statements, the pope also warns against “spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the church, (but) consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being,” either through embrace of a “purely subjective faith” or a “narcissistic and authoritarian elitism” that overemphasizes certain rules or a “particular Catholic style from the past.”

Despite his censures and warnings, the pope ends on a hopeful note true to his well-attested devotion to Mary, whom he invokes as the mother of evangelization and “wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones.”

 

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Church should fear ‘sin of her members,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME –– The church should fear the sin of its own members more than hatred against Christians, Pope Benedict XVI said.

While the church has suffered from persecution throughout its history, it “is supported by the light and strength of God” and will always end up victorious, he said.

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Wisconsin bishops urge people to keep guns out of church

November 3rd, 2011 Posted in National News Tags: , , , ,

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s bishops have urged Catholics not to take weapons to church even though a new state law went into effect Nov. 1 allowing those with permits to carry concealed weapons.

In a statement issued Oct. 31 to the state’s Catholics, the bishops said they were not mandating that parishes prohibit concealed weapons but advised parishioners to “seriously consider not carrying them into church buildings as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces.”

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