THE CHURCHES OF NORCIA ARE GONE!

THE CHURCHES OF NORCIA ARE GONE!

From the Benedictine Monks of Norcia –

Dear friends,

How can I even begin to describe the scene we witnessed yesterday in Norcia?

It was like those photographs of bombed-out churches from the Second World War. It reminded me of all those ruined monasteries one sees passing through the English countryside. It was an image of devastation. All the churches in Norcia are on the ground. Every single one. The roofs caved in on all of them; they are no more. What remains of them are a few corners, a facade, a window with the sun coming through from the wrong side. Inside are “bare ruin’d choirs” as Shakespeare wrote of the destroyed monasteries in his time.

The Church of the Madonna Addolorata in Norcia, crumbled to the ground. Notice the still-standing inscription above the door, which bears the words from the Book of Lamentations: Missit ignem in ossibus meis. (He hath sent fire into my bones.)

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The wonder, the miracle, is that there were no casualties. All the fear and anxiety following the first few earthquakes now seem a providential part of God’s mysterious plan to clear the city of all inhabitants. He spent two months preparing us for the complete destruction of our patron’s church so that when it finally happened we would watch it, in horror but in safety, from atop the town.

The Basilica of San Benedict, Norcia.

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Is it over yet? We do not know. These are mysteries which will take years — not days or months — to understand. We watch and pray all together on the mountainside for Norcia and for the world. The priests go into town to visit the sick and the homeless. We are grateful for your prayers, as ever.

In Christ,

Fr. Benedict

Subprior

ELECTION NOVENA STARTS TODAY

ELECTION NOVENA STARTS TODAY

The novena is designed to help Catholic Americans choose for whom to vote according to their conscience

The Knights of Columbus is urging its members and other US Catholics to pray a novena from October 30 to November 7, the eve of election day.

“The Church teaches that Catholics are called to form their consciences based on Church teaching and vote in accordance with that well-formed conscience,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who is CEO of the international fraternal organisation based in New Haven.

“Pope Francis has said in reference to the US election that we should ‘study the proposals well, pray and choose with your conscience,’ and this novena is designed to help Catholic Americans do that,” Anderson said in a statement.

The Knights’ novena — nine consecutive days of prayer — asks for the intercession of Mary, the mother of Jesus, under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Individuals, families, councils and parishes are all invited to participate, the Knights said.

Mary Immaculate is the patroness of the United States. In 1791, Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore, the first bishop of the United States, dedicated his diocese to her. The first US diocese, it covered the entire country. In 1846, the US bishops reaffirmed that dedication and Pope Pius IX ratified it in 1847.

The text of the novena is as follows: “Most Holy Trinity: Our Father in heaven, who chose Mary as the fairest of your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose Mary as your spouse; God the son, who chose Mary as your mother, in union with Mary we adore your majesty and acknowledge your supreme, eternal dominion and authority.

“Most Holy Trinity, we put the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present the country to you. Through her we wish to thank you for the great resources of this land and for the freedom which has been its heritage.

“Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our president and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy, born of justice and charity. Have mercy on capital and industry and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of our mother, have mercy on the sick, the tempted, sinners — on all who are in need.”

According to the Knights, the prayer was written for the 1959 dedication of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, which includes a bell tower known as the Knights Tower. The Knights of Columbus donated money for the tower’s construction.

TWO TEAMS, TWO BISHOPS AND THE WORLD SERIES: A WIN-WIN SITUATION

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE OF THINGS….

TWO TEAMS, TWO BISHOPS AND THE WORLD SERIES: A WIN-WIN SITUATION

Bishop Lennon puts up Cleveland-style feast against Archbishop Cupich Chicago deep dish pizza up for Catholic Charities

Cleveland, Ohio (October 27, 2016) – The leaders of the home Catholic dioceses for the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians have bet food from local vendors on the outcome of the 2016 World Series of Major League Baseball.

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Archbishop Blase J. Cupich has promised enough Chicago deep dish pizzas and baked goods to feed more than 100 guests of the Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center in Cleveland, if the Cubs lose the World Series. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, known as the home of the best deep dish in Chicago, again has joined with the archbishop to deliver their pizza for charity. Misericordia will supply an assortment of baked goods for dessert from their Hearts & Flour Bakery.

“Both cities have waited an eternity for this moment,” said Archbishop Cupich. “So while it will be a historic win for either side, we feel it’s only right to celebrate by giving back.” He added, “We are confident in our team and yet, I have to admit that I feel a bit guilty since in our tradition it is a sin to bet on a sure thing!”

Bishop Richard G. Lennon has answered the challenge by also offering to feed more than 100 guests of the evening supper program for the homeless, sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, if the Cleveland Indians are defeated. Italian Creations, of Lakewood, Ohio, has partnered with Bishop Lennon in his promise to deliver a Cleveland-style feast including pierogi, kielbasa, sauerkraut and green beans.

“Archbishop Cupich isn’t the only one praying for a win,” said Bishop Lennon. “If by some devilish mistake the Indians were to lose, we will hold up our end of the bargain and send some of Cleveland’s finest dishes to a Catholic Charities ministry in Chicago so they can join in the celebration.”

(http://www.dioceseofcleveland.org/worldserieschallenge2016/)

PS: I have to admit I am confused by the menu of Italian Creations: we don’t know those dishes here in Italy, but they do sound like Cleveland, rather than Italian specialties!

NEW EARTHQUAKE IN CENTRAL ITALY IS STONGEST IN 3 DECADES

NEW EARTHQUAKE IN CENTRAL ITALY IS STONGEST IN 3 DECADES

We turned our clocks back last night in Italy. As I write, it is 11:40am, Rome time. We await Pope Francis’ Angelus.

I felt this tremor very strongly as my bed was really moving and shaking. I was in bed and looked at my clock – it was 7:41 am –the shaking was stronger and lasted longer than the quake I experienced in late August so I knew it had to be worse at the epiocenter than it was in August.

There are many visitors in Rome, especially Italians, as it is a long “bridge” holiday weekend. November 1, Feast of All Saints, is a holiday in Italy and many people have also taken Monday off (the ponte or bridge), thus creating a four-day holiday weekend.

I took these photos while watching Italian TV: some are blurry as this was TV and people are running. You will see some nuns and some of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia and, in one picture, they are wearing stoles in the event they have to impart the sacraments, especially anointing the sick. You will also see a group praying in front of the destroyed basilica of St. Benedict

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It has just been reported on Italian TV that the buildings in Amatrice that had resisted the August 2016 quake have now been destroyed. The partially destroyed city hall tower has its clock still showing the time of that August quake – 3:41 am.

From TV reports –

–          Epicenter of 6.5 quake was again in Umbria – occurred at 7:41 am

  • –         Basilica of St. Benedict destroyed in Norcia – dates from 1300s
  • –         Quake felt as far away as Austria
  • –         Is the strongest quake in Italy in more than 3 decades – was said to be 8 times stronger than the August quake in central Italy and lasted much longer
  • –         Subway closed in Rome
  • –         Elevator falls in Rome apartment building
  • –         St. Paul’s basilica in Rome closed as firemen examining structure
  • –         San Lorenzo basilica in Rome closed as firemen check minor
  • –         Hospital in Cascia (St. Rita) evacuated
  • –         Roman Forum, Colosseum, all being checked for possible damage
  • –           The Quirinale Place, home to Italy’s president (who is in Italy on a State visit), normally opens to visitors on Sundays but is closed today as engineers check it for structural damage.
  • –          Many roads into the quake-struck region have been closed due , as are gas lines, etc.to falling rocks from adjacent hills and mountains. Dams and other similar structures are being checked

NEW QUAKE CAUSES DAMAGE, DESPERATION IN NORCIA

NEW QUAKE CAUSES DAMAGE, DESPERATION IN NORCIA

Here is the latest letter from Fr. Benedict, subprior of the Monks of Norcia, a town struck once again by Wednesday’s earthquake in central Italy:

Dear friends, I am hesitant to implore you all again for prayers and support. In the midst of so much suffering, one cannot help but feel a kind of embarrassment to invite your attention to our situation so soon after the first series of earthquakes in August. Since then, we monks have been trying to determine God’s will for our lives and community. Perhaps, at least for us, this second quake is God yelling even louder His will for our lives. We pray for understanding.   Over the past 24 hours, a powerful series of earthquakes passed through Norcia, once again graciously sparing the lives of the monks and inhabitants to Norcia. Unfortunately, however, it has brought many of the townspeople to the brink of despair and more damage than any of us can yet assess. As before, we are busy at work trying to respond to the crisis on multiple levels. Therefore, my time is short to update all of you, even though you each have found so much time to support us through your prayers and donations.

The Basilica fared the worst. Entire walls of decorative plaster crashed to the floor and the dome has begun to cave in. The roof collapsed in two places, leaving the ancient Basilica exposed to all the elements. Most dramatically, perhaps, the Celtic Cross which adorned the 13th century facade came crashing down.

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The 50% of the monastery which had been considered “habitable” after the August quakes has now been damaged far beyond what one might call safe livable conditions. At 10:30 PM last night, 5 of the town monks escaped to San Benedetto in Monte to join the 8 of us already here, where, after a common sip of Birra Nursia Extra, we camped out for a night of turbulence. After a few scant moments of sleep, we rose at 3:30 AM for Matins and started to accept once more that our life is not our own and God had altered our path once again, solidifying it here on the mountain top. Sadly, for the foreseeable future, this means it will no longer be possible for us to offer Mass in the crypt of the Basilica for the public. But, if God wills it, we will soon offer Mass here on the mountain.

In closing, and on a note of hope, I want to tell you about a special visitor we had this morning. In an act of both ecclesiastical solidarity and paternal support, and as the ground beneath us continued to tremble, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon, became the first Bishop to offer Mass in the private chapel of our modest dwellings. The Bishop was in Norcia to participate in the fifth annual Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage. (photo from Summorum Pontificum)

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Following the earthquake, the pilgrimage’s Norcia events were cancelled, and so the Bishop spent time with our community. He was able to join us for coffee and offered soothing words of support, which we in turn repeat and offer to all of those in the region affected by natural disaster: “God will bring good to you out of this suffering and this earthquake will become the cornerstone on which generations of monks will build their monastic life.”

POPE FRANCIS GRANTS PRE-TRIP INTERVIEW TO JESUIT JOURNAL

POPE FRANCIS GRANTS PRE-TRIP INTERVIEW TO JESUIT JOURNAL

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called making war in the name of religion “satanic” and a “blasphemy.”

His words came in an interview with the Jesuit Catholic journal La Civilta Cattolica ahead of his ecumenical apostolic trip to Sweden. The interview was conducted by Father Ulf Jonsson S.J., the director of the Swedish cultural journal of the Jesuits, Signum.

Pope Francis mentioned the recent interreligious meeting for peace in Assisi, which he called “very important.”

“All of us talked of peace and we asked for peace,” – the Pope said – “ We together said strong words for  peace, what the religions truly want.”

When asked about the suffering of the Christians in the Middle East, Pope Francis called the region “a land of martyrs.”

“I believe that the Lord does not leave his people on their own,” said the Holy Father. “He will not abandon them. When we read of the hard trials of the people of Israel in the Bible or remember the trials of the martyrs, we see how the Lord always comes to the aid of his people.”

The purpose of the trip to Sweden is to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and much of the discussion in the interview covered ecumenical affairs.

Speaking about the mutual enrichment possible between Christian communities, the Pope was asked what Catholics could learn from Lutherans.

“Two  words  come  to  my  mind:  ‘reform’ and  ‘Scripture’,” – Pope Francis said – “I will try to explain. The first is the word ‘reform’.  At the beginning, Luther’s was a gesture of reform in a difficult time for the Church. Luther wanted to remedy a complex situation.  Then this gesture —also  because  of  the  political  situations,  we  think  also  of  the cuius  regio  eius religio (whose realm , his religion) —became a ‘state’ of separation, and not a process of reform of the whole Church, which is fundamental,  because the Church is semper reformanda (always  reforming).”

“The second  word  is  ‘Scripture’,  the  Word  of  God,” – the Pope continued – “Luther took a great step by putting the Word of God into the hands of the people. Reform and Scripture are two things that we can deepen by looking at the Lutheran tradition. The General  Congregations  before  the  Conclave comes  to  mind and how the request for a reform was alive in our discussions.”

The Holy Father was later asked about how the ecumenical movement can move forward. He responded by saying “theological dialogue must continue,” and pointing to the Joint Declaration on Justification as an important point, but added “it will not be easy to go forward because of the different ways of understanding some  theological questions.”

“Personally, I believe that enthusiasm must shift towards common prayer and the works of mercy — work done together to help the sick, the poor, and the imprisoned,” – Pope Francis said – “To do  something  together is a high and effective form of dialogue.   I also think about education.  It is important to work together and not in a sectarian way. There is a policy we should have clear in every case: to proselytize in the ecclesial field is a sin.”

The full text of the interview can be found on the website of La Civiltà Cattolica here: http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/articoli_download/extra/Interview_with_PF.pdf

TRAFFICKING IN HUMANS IS “MAJOR CHALLENGE OF OUR TIMES,” SAYS POPE

TRAFFICKING IN HUMANS IS “MAJOR CHALLENGE OF OUR TIMES,” SAYS POPE

This morning in the Consistory Hall Pope Francis received around a hundred members of the Santa Marta Group on the occasion of the third Conference of this international organization against human trafficking.

Launched in 2014 by Pope Francis and chaired by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, the Santa Marta Group is composed of police chiefs, bishops, religious sisters and representatives from civil society, and aims to forge relationships of trust between police and the Church, especially religious sisters, enabling this crime to be defeated and the victims to be accompanied, assisted, and ultimately reintegrated into society.

At a concluding press conference Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, one of the founding members of the group, and two survivors of human trafficking spoke of the progress that has been made over the past couple of years. (photo L’Osservatore Romano)

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Pope Francis, in his words to the group, described trafficking as “one of the major challenges of our time” and he praised participants for the important contribution they’re making to end this scourge of modern slavery.

The number of victims, he noted, keeps growing year by year and it’s essential both to support victims of trafficking, but also to tackle the complex problems that lead to their exploitation.

“Dear friends, I thank you and I encourage you to continue in your efforts. The Lord will know how to compensate for what is done to the least in today’s society. ‘I was hungry, I was thirsty’, and you helped me; Today He could also say, ‘I was abused, exploited, enslaved’, and you came to my aid. I continue to accompany you with my closeness and my prayer. And you too, please, pray for me.”

Cardinal Nichols told journalists the group had presented the Pope with the a report of positive developments in the 30 countries that are now part of the Santa Marta process.

Above all perhaps, what this report shows is that human slavery and trafficking is not so hidden as it used to be. There is an increasing awareness that this, in the phrase of the Holy Father, is an open wound in the flesh of humanity, and that voices that were once completely hidden are now being heard”.

Those voices include that of Nigerian survivor Princess Inyang, who was trafficked into Italy in 1999 and forced into prostitution, until she was able to escape, with help from a priest working in the northern city of Asti. She shared her story at the conference and called for deportation of the traffickers, as well as more education and skills training for vulnerable girls in her home country…

The women are vulnerable because of the poverty in Nigeria, the background of the polygamy system of the families, the non-employment, and now we know that the traffickers go into the rural areas to get these young women because of their serious problems”.

Another survivor, who also works to help others avoid the traffickers, is former Premier League player Al Bangura, originally from Sierra Leone. A keen footballer from an early age, he was tricked into going to England with promises of a dream career. He managed to escape the traffickers and now serves as ambassador for a UK based charity called Sport for Freedom.

With everything I’ve been through, I want to be out there to share my story, to educate kids and talk to parents who’re desperate for their kids to achieve….we also work with the Premiership… to make sure the kids are going in the rights direction and make sure we stop this slavery thing.”

Before the conference, Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns said, “At the first meeting of the Santa Marta Group in 2014 Pope Francis called for ‘the adoption of an effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity may always be respected.’  For such a strategy to work, all sections of Irish society have a role to play in confronting the secretive and pernicious activities of human trafficking and modern slavery.”

He also noted, continued, “Especially through our two key councils, for immigrants and for justice and peace, as well as with our aid agency Trócaire, Irish bishops are committed to raising awareness about this challenging and dreadful crime which targets the most vulnerable sector in our society.  The Santa Marta Group represents an opportunity to further develop the partnership work of the Church and law enforcement agencies that are engaged in tackling these issues both in Ireland and at the international level.

From Africa to Latin America, from Asia to Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, the conference heard many encouraging stories of success in combatting the trade in people for prostitution, forced labour or sale of their body parts. But as their report also underlines, there is much frustration too, coupled with a renewed determination to work more effectively together for an end to what Pope Francis himself describes as a “crime against humanity.” (sources; news.va, Vatican Radio, CCN)