FRANCIS ADDRESSES SYNOD OF ARMENIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH – USCCB REPORTS INCREASE IN PRIESTLY ORDINATIONS

Pope Francis’ 18 million followers in 9 languages on Twitter saw this tweet today: Lord, give us the gift of tears, the ability to cry for our sins and so receive your forgiveness.

The Holy Father today welcomed President Andrej Kiska of the Slovak Republic. The audience took place before the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the then Czech and Slovak Federative Republic on April 19, 1990 following St. John Paul II’s visit to the country. (photo: news.va)

POPE FRANCIS - SLOVAKIA

FRANCIS ADDRESSES SYNOD OF ARMENIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

On April 12, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will preside at Solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the faithful of the Armenian Rite, in commemoration of the centenary of the “Medz Yeghern” (the “Great Crime”) – the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman government in what is now Turkey.

During Mass, the Holy Father will inscribe the great Armenian Saint Gregory of Narek among the Doctors of the Universal Church.

Ahead of this commemoration, Pope Francis on Thursday met with 20 bishops of the Patriarchal Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church, who will be present for Sunday’s Mass. In prepared remarks, the Pope prayed that Divine Mercy “might help us all, in love for truth and justice, to heal every wound and to hasten concrete gestures of reconciliation and peace among the Nations that have not yet reached a consensus on the reading of such sorrowful events.”

POPE FRANCIS - ARMENIAN PATRIARCh

In his address to the bishops, the Holy Father remarked that on Sunday they will “raise a prayer of Christian intercession for the sons and daughters of your beloved people, who were made victims a hundred years ago.”

Pope Francis greeted not only the many Armenians who travelled to Rome with their bishops, but also the many Armenians of the diaspora throughout the world,, “such as the United States, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, up to the Motherland.”

He recalled Armenians in those places that, during the Medz Yeghern were places of safety for Armenian Christians, but are now places where Christianity itself is threatened: “I think with particular sadness of those areas, such as that of Aleppo, that a hundred years ago were a safe haven for the few survivors. In such regions the stability of Christians, not only Armenians, has latterly been placed in danger.”

The Holy Father noted the long history of Christianity in Armenia, and its rich spiritual and cultural heritage going back to 301, when Armenia became the first Christian nation. Pope Francis called on the Bishops to “always cultivate a feeling of gratitude to the Lord” for the ability to keep the Faith even in the most difficult times. He reminded them that, if the Armenian people have, in a certain sense, shared in the Passion of the Lord, their suffering nonetheless contains the seeds of His Resurrection.

Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis also paid tribute to those who worked to relieve the suffering of the Armenian people during the “Great Crime,” notably Pope Benedict XV, the Pope at the time, who intervened with the Ottoman rulers to try to halt the massacres.

In closing, Pope Francis entrusted the ecumenical dialogue between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church to Saint Gregory of Narek, while recognizing that the shared sufferings of one hundred years ago have already produced a certain “ecumenism of blood.”

The ecumenical aspect of Sunday’s Liturgy was also highlighted by the Catholicos Patriarch of Cilicia, Nerses Bedros XIX. He noted that, in addition to the Armenian Catholic Bishops and faithful, representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church – including Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin and Catholicos Aram I of Antelias – will also be present for the Liturgy, along with the president of the Republic of Armenia. (sources: VIS, Vatican Radio)

USCCB REPORTS INCREASE IN PRIESTLY ORDINATIONS

An April 7 post on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) notes that the ordination class of 2015 shows an increase in the number of ordained, and says this “reflects positive impact of support from families, Catholic schools, and parish priests.” http://www.usccb.org/news/2015/15-055.cfm

The reports states that the 2015 class of men ordained to the priesthood reports that they were, on average, about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood and encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest, as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent). On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 15 years before entering seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.

The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2015, 595, is up from from 477 in 2014 and 497 in 2013.

The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) gathered the date for “The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.” CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 69 percent of the 595 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 411 respondents include 317 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, from 120 different dioceses and archdioceses, and 94 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gave reason for hope but also provide areas for further growth.

“It is encouraging to see the slight increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”

Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary. Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”

Among the survey’s major findings: •  The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.

  •  Two-thirds (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, they are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14 percent of responding ordinands). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are less likely to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
  •  One-quarter (25 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside of the United States.
  •  Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  •  More than half completed college (60 percent) before entering the seminary. One in seven (15 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).
  •  Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate higher than that of all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45 percent, compared to 7 percent among U.S. Catholic adults
  •  Six in ten ordinands (61 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Four percent of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in six ordinands (16 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces
  •  Eight in 10 (78 percent) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51 percent) reporting service as a lector. One in seven (14 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  •  About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
  •  Almost half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.
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