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Christ is victorious over all that divides people, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Easter is a feast that calls Christians to gather together, make a commitment to dialogue and to work for the common good, Pope Francis said.

In Italy and in other countries, Easter Monday is a day for relaxed family gatherings and picnics because “after having celebrated Easter, one feels a need to gather again with loved ones and friends to celebrate,” the pope said April 2, before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer at noon with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.  Read more »

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Black Catholics at congress urged to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray’

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — United by the words of the prophet of social justice, Catholic Church leaders urged black Catholics to become active, just disciples of Christ.

More than 2,000 converged on Orlando July 6-9 for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress where speakers — clergy, lay and religious — addressed a variety of topics and concerns facing black communities and families, while urging those present to take an active, enthusiastic role in living out the Gospel as just disciples of Christ.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

During his homily at the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Father Patrick Smith, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, spoke about the “ridiculous power of the Christ on the cross” and how our own suffering can be offered up to God as a source of healing for others.

It is important the community does talk about its struggles, the priest said, but it also must talk about the redemptive power of God on the cross. He added while “racism ultimately leads to death … a spiritual suicide in our souls,” the truths of the Gospel sets lives free.

“That is our anger, but also our source of hope,” he said. “You and I cannot appreciate the good news unless we first face and acknowledge the bad news.”

The roots of the Black Catholic Congress stem from 1889 with layman and journalist Daniel Rudd, who brought together 100 black Catholic men to exchange and discuss questions affecting their race for not just Catholic blacks, but blacks across the country, and unite for a course of action while standing behind the Catholic Church and its values.

The group met with President Grover Cleveland during its first congress. In meeting and uniting, Father Smith said the Catholic Church demonstrated and voiced how “black Catholic lives mattered,” just as other groups have done as they convened when a group has suffered, such as with the pro-life groups who proclaim unborn lives matter.

“Black Catholics are born from the same womb of the baptismal font,” Father Smith said, adding that those gathered for the congress did not convene to achieve higher status, but rather to insist on “inclusion” because black Catholics are equal members of the body of Christ.

“And also, more importantly, (we gather) to extort and challenge ourselves to do our part and accept the responsibility in our role in the Church that God has given us. … We gather to see how to effectively evangelize because eternal life is way too important.”

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offered the opening keynote address that focused directly on the theme of the congress taken from the prophet Micah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: Act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

His first point reaffirmed the united community of disciples of Christ and the need of inclusion of all “children of God.”

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes; he speaks to humanity invited to be disciples of Jesus. And we respond first and foremost to this,” Cardinal Turkson said. “For there is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us created in the image and likeness of God we seek to respond to. … God’s children all belong together. None are set aside, none should live on the periphery and none are excluded.”

To demonstrate the power of being a disciple of Christ, Cardinal Turkson spoke about the story from Exodus of the Israelites following Moses in the desert. He asked those gathered to envision facing the Red Sea with the waters of parted and a path sandwiched between two walls of water.

The cardinal joked “water is never concrete” and some might have questioned what would happen if there was a really big wind. But the example of the Israelites who choose to follow Moses and trust God to hold up the walls of water demonstrates the courage and attitude that modern-day Christians must hold to be baptized in Christ and become just disciples of Christ.

“That is what baptism is. It is not a nominal celebration. It is a decision to live dependent on making Jesus your everything,” Cardinal Turkson said, borrowing the words of St. Paul who said after his conversion, “The life I live now is no longer mine.” “Anyone baptized lives that life. … It is not until you surrender your life to Jesus that you will live as a just disciple of Christ.”

Justice, reconciliation and peace are tantamount to unite the church family of God. While Cardinal Turkson said challenges such as tribalism in Africa and racism and discrimination in America present struggles, the Catholic Church family is invited to live beyond divisions and live in communion as children of God.

“In this family of God we need to live justly,” he said. “When we respect the demands of our relationships, we are just.”

By Jean Gonzales, who is on the staff of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.

 

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Pope combines four Vatican departments into one for human development

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To promote Catholic social teaching and ensure appropriate assistance to vulnerable people, especially victims of war, refugees and the sick, Pope Francis has established a new office combing the responsibilities of four pontifical councils.

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In an apostolic letter given “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) and published by the Vatican Aug. 31, the pope said the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will merge the pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Migrants and Travelers, and Health Care Ministry.

The pope named Cardinal Peter Turkson, current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to serve as prefect of the new office, which will begin functioning Jan. 1.

In his letter signed Aug. 17, the pope said, “This dicastery will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”

According to the new statutes, the prefect will be assisted by a secretary and “at least one undersecretary.” Laypeople can be chosen for either role.

While Cardinal Turkson will lead the new office, a section dedicated to refugees and migrants will be led for the time being directly by the pope, who will “exercise it in the manner he deems appropriate,” the statutes state.

The new dicastery’s responsibilities include gathering news and information regarding areas of justice and peace and the protection of human rights, particularly in areas where people are plagued by violence, migration, slavery, torture and exploitation, the Vatican said.

The new office will work to “deepen the social doctrine of the church and ensure that it is widely known and put into practice and that social, economic and political relationships will be increasingly permeated by the spirit of the Gospel,” the press statement said.

Ensuring that local churches offer appropriate material and spiritual assistance to the sick, migrants, refugees and itinerant people also is part of the new office’s mandate.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integrating Human Development will have separate commissions for charity, ecology and health workers and will maintain a “close relationship” with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Vatican said.

Pope Francis approved the statutes “ad experimentum” (on a trial basis) for an unspecified period of time.

 

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