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British Catholic schools remove ‘mother,’ ‘father’ from admission forms


Catholic News Service


MANCHESTER, England — The terms “mother” and “father” will be banned from Catholic schools’ admissions forms in England and Wales following a complaint the terms discriminated against gay and stepparents.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles disputes on behalf of the government, upheld the objection of a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London. Read more »

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Pope meets with sick children and children of Italian inmates


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Sometimes, Pope Francis said, the most important thing parents of a seriously ill child can do is to keep asking God, “Why?”

A child of 2 or 3 years will torment his or her parents with a continual series of “whys,” the pope said. The little ones are not looking for answers as much as they are seeking the attention of mom or dad.

Pope Francis helps a girl say a few words during a meeting with children of Italian prisoners in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis helps a girl say a few words during a meeting with children of Italian prisoners in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“We can ask the Lord, ‘Why, Lord? Why do children suffer? Why this child?’ The Lord will not respond with words, but we will feel his gaze upon us and this will give us strength,” Pope Francis told the parents of 20 seriously ill children.

The pope met the children and their parents the evening of May 29 in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta, his Vatican residence; the group participated in a Catholic-sponsored pilgrimage to the Marian shrines at Loreto and Lourdes.

Admitting, as he has before, that “many times in my life I’ve been a coward,” he told the parents he is in awe of their courage and heroism.

Parenting a seriously ill child, he said, “is a journey of courage, the path of the cross.”

A little girl named Mascia greeted the pope on behalf of the children, who were from 2 to 14 years old, and assured him of the prayers of the group he met in 2014, some of whom are now “in heaven.”

One of the fathers, Andrea Maria, told the pope about his wife’s difficult pregnancy and how doctors had recommended an abortion. They refused, he said, because he and his wife felt God was calling them to an even greater love.

“A problem can never, ever be resolved by getting rid of someone,” the pope said. “That’s what the Mafia does: ‘There’s a problem, get rid of him.’”

Pope Francis told the parents that just as the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a mystery, so, too, is the suffering of children.

“You might ask, ‘But you are a bishop who studied a lot of theology, don’t you have anything else to say?’ No,” the pope said. “The Trinity, the Eucharist, the grace of God, the suffering of children are all mysteries.”

Pope Francis says he often thinks about Mary at the moment when “they gave her the dead body of her son wounded, spat upon, bloody, dirty. What did she say? ‘Take him away’”? No. She embraced him, caressed him. Even Mary did not understand. In that moment, she remembered the words the angel had said, ‘He will be king, he will be great, he will be a prophet.’”

Mary, he said, must have felt confused and even betrayed.

“Do not be afraid to ask God why, to challenge him,” the pope told the parents, but “keep your hearts open to receive his fatherly gaze. The only thing he might be able to say is, ‘My son suffered, too.’”

Pope Francis was back with another group of children the next morning. The Italian youngsters, some of whom were born in prison and all of whom have at least one parent in jail, were treated to a special train trip thanks to the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Flying and dreaming were the themes of their activities and their fast-paced conversation with the pope. They began their meeting with him by flying kites in the cleared parking lot next to the Vatican audience hall.

Some of the little ones got up before dawn to board in the train in Bari, a town in southern Italy. Encouraging all the kids to gather close around him, he invited the exhausted ones to take a little nap on the rug where his chair was.

The pope asked them, “Is it true that you flew today?” They shouted, “Yes.” And he said, ‘One of you explain to me. How did you fly?” A little boy said, “By dreaming.”

Pope Francis asked the children if they could describe a child who is unable to dream. They said such a person would be unhappy and would have a heart of stone.

Catching the pope’s attention, one little girl said a heart hardens or becomes ice when “we don’t listen to the Word of God and to Jesus.”

“Never stop dreaming,” the pope told the children. “And, like she said, never stop listening to the word of Jesus because listening to the word of God makes one great; it enlarges your heart and helps you to love everyone.”


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Pope calls on parents to take active role in their children’s education


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Parents must not exclude themselves from their children’s lives and, despite what some “experts” may say, they must take an active role in their children’s education, said Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 20.

“It’s time for fathers and mothers to come out of their exile, because they have exiled themselves from their children’s education, and to fully assume again their educational role,” he said.

Pope Francis gestures as he greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures as he greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Continuing a series of talks about the family, the pope said its “essential characteristic” is its “natural vocation to educate children so that they grow in responsibility for themselves and for others.”

But, faced with numerous experts who tell them how their children should be raised, many parents have withdrawn their involvement in their children’s education, and this is “very grave,” he said.

“Critical intellectuals of all types have silenced parents in a thousand ways to defend the younger generation from the damages, real or imagined, of education in the family,” he said. “The family has been accused, among other things, of authoritarianism, favoritism, conformism and affective repression that generates conflict.”

The result is a “divide between families and society, between families and schools,” he said.

“The educative partnership between society and family is in crisis because mutual trust has been undermined,” the pope said.

Tensions and disagreements between parents and teachers are a symptom of the crisis, he said, and children bear the brunt of it.

He also spoke of the multiplication “of so-called experts, who have taken over the role of parents, even in the most intimate aspects of education,” convincing parents their only role is to “listen, learn and adapt.”

Parents then “tend increasingly to entrust to the experts even the more delicate and personal aspects of their children’s lives, setting themselves off alone in a corner,” he said.

In trying to demonstrate how “things have changed,” the pope told a personal story about when he said a bad word to his fourth-grade teacher, who promptly called his mother. When his mother came to school the next day, she made him apologize to the teacher and then disciplined him when he got home.

Today instead, he said, parents will reprimand a teacher who tries to discipline their child.

The pope said it is obvious the current situation is not good or harmonious, since it tends to put families and schools in opposition rather than in collaborative relationships.

In addition, he said, “puzzled by the new demands made by children” and the complexity of life, many parents are “paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake.”

“Educating children is difficult for parents who see them only in the evening when they return home tired from work,” he said. “It is even more difficult for parents who are separated, who are weighed down by their circumstances.”

He urged separated parents to “never, never, never take a child hostage” by speaking ill of the other parent. He recognized that being separated is “a trial” but added that “children must not be the ones to carry the weight of this separation or to be used like hostages against the other spouse.”

The advice the apostle Paul gives to both children and parents in his Letter to the Colossians, that children obey their parents in all things and that parents not exasperate their children by “commanding in a bad way” so as not to discourage them, is “a wise rule,” he said.

To exasperate a child is to ask them to do things they are not able to do, the pope explained. Rather, children must be accompanied and “grow without being discouraged, step by step,” he said.

He also exhorted families to practice patience.

“Even in the best of families, there is the need to put up with each other,” he said. “But that’s life. Life is not lived in a laboratory, it’s lived in reality.”

“Wonderful” Christian parents “full of human wisdom” demonstrate that good education in the family is the “spine of humanism,” he said. Their “radiance compensates for the gaps, wounds and voids of fatherhood and motherhood” that many children experience, he added.

If families were able to recover their pride in being the primary educators of their children, he said, “many things would change for the better, (both) for uncertain parents and for disappointed children.”


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Be amazed by God’s great gift of children, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Becoming a mother or father is a gift from God, but women and men have a duty to embrace that gift and be astonished by its beauty, Pope Francis said.

When people recognize that every child is unique and wanted by God, they will be “amazed by what a great miracle a child is,” he said Dec. 28, the feast of the Holy Family.

Pope Francis kisses a child during a meeting with an Italian association for large families to mark the the feast of the Holy Family in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 28. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

Pope Francis kisses a child during a meeting with an Italian association for large families to mark the the feast of the Holy Family in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 28. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

During an audience with an Italian association for large families, the pope said, “Dear parents, I am grateful for the example of your love of life that you safeguard from conception to its natural end, even with all of life’s difficulties and burdens, which unfortunately the government doesn’t always help you bear.”

The pope greeted the multiple generations present at the audience, who came from all over Italy, as well as other parts of Europe, and asked them how early they had to get up that morning to get to the Vatican.

“Six o’clock? Five o’clock? Aren’t you tired? Well, I’ll put you to sleep with my speech!” he joked.

Holding the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph up as a model for all the world’s families, the pope said, “maternity and paternity are a gift from God, but welcoming that gift, being astonished by its beauty and making it shine in society, that is your task.”

“Each one of your children is a unique creature who will never be repeated in the history of humanity,” he said.

“A child is a miracle” that changes the lives of his or her parents, he added.

While each family is “a cell” that together builds the body of society, large families are “a hope for society,” he said, they are “richer, more alive,” and governments should recognize the importance of “investing in” large families.

He asked that Italy, with its low birthrate, pay greater attention to creating and carrying out policies that offer real support for families.

The pope, who is one of five children, said having lots of siblings “is good for you” and better equips new generations with what it takes to share and be united, which is especially needed “in a world often marked by selfishness.”

Just a bit later in the day, the pope again highlighted the family, especially the role grandparents play, before praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Close loving relationships between the younger and older generations are “crucial” for both society and the church, he said.

The Holy Family is a simple but powerful model as it radiates “a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, the light of truth for every human being, for the human family and for individual families,” he said.

That light “encourages us to offer human warmth” to those families that, for whatever reason, are struggling with “a lack of peace, harmony and forgiveness,” he said.

When parents and children live out their faith together, “they possess an energy that allows them to face even difficult trials, as the Holy Family’s experience demonstrates,” for example, in their flight to Egypt, he said.

People should be reaching out with concrete support to families, “who are living through more difficult situations because of illness, lack of work, discrimination, the need to emigrate,” the pope said. He then led those gathered in the square for a moment of silence and prayer for all families who are facing hardship.


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