POPE INVITES THE FAITHFUL TO OPEN THEIR EARS AND HEARTS TO GOD’S WORD – NEWS ABOUT CHINA AND THE VATICAN – SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CHINA: CELEBRATIONS AS BISHOP SHAO ZHUMIN RETURNS TO WENZHOU

The China story continues as you will see below, including an interview with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Partolin on Vatican-China relations and then a story about a Chinese bishop released after 7 months of being held by Chinese officials. If you want to know what the issues are for the Catholic Church and the Vatican in China this is a short but must-read article.

There was also the weekly general audience today and Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass, highlighting the importance of the Liturgy of the Word.

POPE INVITES THE FAITHFUL TO OPEN THEIR EARS AND HEARTS TO GOD’S WORD

During his catechesis at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis told those present that Christians need to be constantly open to and challenged by the Word of God. By Linda Bordoni (for Vaticannews)

Pope Francis invited the faithful to place themselves in silent openness to God’s saving message as it resounds in the ecclesial assembly and is a fundamental aspect of God’s constant dialogue with his people.

The Pope’s words came on Wednesday during the general audience as he continued his ongoing catechesis dedicated to the Eucharist with a reflection on the Liturgy of the Word.

During Mass, he said, God speaks to his people through the Liturgy of the Word, and the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred Scriptures opens our minds and hearts to that living word.

“That’s why,” he explained, “personal choices regarding the readings are not acceptable.” He invited priests to use the readings listed in the Church’s Lectionary, and not replace them by reading from other sources – such as newspaper articles. This is something, he said, that favours ecclesial communion.“God’s Word is God’s Word! We can read the newspaper later on. In Church we read God’s Word. It is the Lord speaking to us.”

If you chat you cannot be listening to the Word of God

The Pope also reflected on the behavior of Church-goers pointing out that if one chats during Mass, one doesn’t hear God’s Word. He urged them to open their hearts in silence to be able to receive His message and then put its indications into practice.

“We need to listen! Since we do not live ‘by bread alone’, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, we need to be constantly open to, and challenged by, that word, in our lives as individuals and in our life as a Church. This is why we talk about the Liturgy of the Word as ‘the table of God’s Word’ that the Lord sets to nourish our spiritual life.”

Active participation

The Responsorial Psalm, Francis said, favors God’s dialogue with his people as it sets the meditative mood for the next reading and he invited the faithful to participate “at least in the response”. The Liturgical proclamation, he added, expresses and favors ecclesial communion and accompanies believers in their journey of faith.

We need good readers

Francis also reflected on the need for good readers and psalmists, whom, he said, must practice: “this favors an atmosphere of receptive silence” he said. “We know that the Lord’s Word is an indispensable aid to avoid getting lost: it lights up our path. …. How could we undertake our earthly pilgrimage, with all of its burdens and challenges without being regularly nourished and enlightened by God’s Word that resounds in the Liturgy?”
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In conclusion the Pope noted that it is not enough to listen only with ears, but with open hearts so that the Word can make its way inside us and make itself evident in our hands “as we carry out good works”.

NEWS ABOUT CHINA AND THE VATICAN

Cardinal Parolin, “Why we are in dialogue with China”

An interview with the Secretary of State who responds to the accusations made against the Holy See regarding the ongoing contacts, “We trust that the Chinese faithful, thanks to their spirit of faith, will know how to recognize that our action is animated by trust in the Lord and does not answer to worldly logic”


(From a La Stampa interview) – Several signals (including opaque operations, actual political manipulations, and even sabotage) indicate that important developments may occur in contacts between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The time is right to listen to an authoritative word, which will help to grasp what the Pope and the Holy See really have at heart. And with our Chinese brothers and sisters in mind, help to dispel suspicions and artificial fumes, to look at the ecclesial heart of the whole question, outside politicized narratives. For this reason, Vatican Insider interviewed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness.

Eminence, what can you tell us about the dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China?
“As it is well known, with the advent of “New China”, there were, for the life of the Church in that great country, moments of serious contrasts and severe suffering. Since the eighties, however, contacts have been established between representatives of the Holy See and of People’s China, who have known different seasons and alternating events. The Holy See has always maintained a pastoral approach, trying to overcome the contrasts and making itself available for a respectful and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities. Pope Benedict XVI well represented the spirit of this dialogue in his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, “the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities ” (n. 4). In Pope Francis’ pontificate, the ongoing negotiations move exactly along these lines: constructive openness to dialogue and fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church”.

What are the concrete expectations of the Holy See from this dialogue?
“First of all, I would like to make a premise: in China, perhaps more than elsewhere, Catholics have been able to preserve, despite the many difficulties and sufferings, the authentic deposit of faith, keeping firmly the bond of hierarchical communion between the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, as a visible guarantee of faith itself. In fact, communion between the Bishop of Rome and all Catholic Bishops touches the heart of the Church’s unity: it is not a private matter between the Pope and the Chinese Bishops or between the Apostolic See and civil authorities. Having said that, the main purpose of the Holy See in the ongoing dialogue is precisely that of safeguarding communion within the Church, in the wake of genuine Tradition and constant ecclesiastical discipline. You see, in China there are not two Churches, but two communities of faithful called to follow a gradual path of reconciliation towards unity. It is not, therefore, a matter of maintaining a perennial conflict between opposing principles and structures, but of finding realistic pastoral solutions that allow Catholics to live their faith and to continue together the work of evangelization in the specific Chinese context”.

TO READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE: http://www.lastampa.it/2018/01/31/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/parolin-why-we-are-in-dialogue-with-china-C8mlJsD0PDNsmsx7db6ZIJ/pagina.html

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CHINA: CELEBRATIONS AS BISHOP SHAO ZHUMIN RETURNS TO WENZHOU

He had been in the hands of the police for seven months. Pressure exerted to make him join the Patriotic Association (Click here for video: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Celebrations-as-Msgr.-Shao-Zhumin-returns-to-Wenzhou-(Video)-42977.html

Wenzhou (AsiaNews) – Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), recognized by the Holy See but not by the government, has returned to his diocese. On January 27th he was welcomed by the faithful with a celebration, prayers and a song specially composed for his return. The song praises him as “our dear bishop who leads us to Christ. Our bishop is the good shepherd … your name is always in our hearts “. (AsiaNews photo)

On May 18 he was taken from his diocese by public security forces and members of the Religious Affairs Bureau and held in Xining (Qinghai), 2500 km from Wenzhou, still under police escort. As of January 4 he is free to move and is no longer escorted by security personnel. Sources from the diocese had told AsiaNews that he would stop in Beijing at the hospital to be treated following an ear operation.

In all these months, police exerted psychological pressure on him to make him join the Patriotic Association, the Party body that wants a Church independent of the Holy See. Faced with his refusal, in early December, representatives of religious affairs asked him to sign a document with the four conditions for receiving government recognition. They include his support for the principle of an independent Church; support for self-nomination and self-ordination [of the bishops]; concelebration with an illegitimate bishop, not recognized by the Vatican; submission to the new religious regulations that will be launched next February. But again Msgr. Shao refused.


For decades the Catholic community of Wenzhou – about 130,000 faithful – has been divided between official and non-official communities: more than 80 thousand belong to the unofficial community. There are 70 priests, divided equally between the two communities. Msgr Shao, 54, despite being a member of the underground Church, is also appreciated by the official community.
Following the bishop’s abduction, the German ambassador to Beijing Michael Clauss spoke up for his release. Even the Holy See had expressed concern over its fate.

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE STATEMENTS ON CHINA, CHILEAN BISHOP – POPE TO UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH: I AM CLOSE TO YOU – WITH NEW APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION, POPE REFORMS CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION – POPE REVAMPS ECCLESIASTICAL UNIVERSITIES IN NEW APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION

Following today’s statements from the Holy See Press Office, I offer two stories – one from Sunday and the second from Monday’s press conference on a new papal document about pontifical universities – that I did not present in yesterday’s column due to the breaking news about and from China.

In the meantime, an update regarding the photos I published last Thursday that showed “sky writing” above the Vatican – planes whose chemtrails created large Xs in the sky. The Vatican gendarmerie wrote that, while what I saw was not indeed dangerous or strange, they wanted to thank me for my email in this regard and for being alert to what they described as “the wakes of condensation from the planes” that could have (and did) cause concern for some people. I was told that what appeared to be the optical illusion of planes flying right over Vatican City (which IS a no-fly zone) was caused by the extreme altitude of the planes, making it seem they were directly over the Vatican. Obviously, the Vatican has wonderful systems in place that can monitor people, movements and objects.

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE STATEMENTS ON CHINA, CHILEAN BISHOP

1. From Holy See Press Office this afternoon (my translation from the Italian):
“As a follow up to some information that recently arrived regarding the case of Bishop Juan de la Cruz of Osorno, Chile, the Holy Father has decided that Bishop Charles J. Scicluna, archbishop of Malta and president of the College that examines appeals (in matters of delicta graviora) in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will go to Chile to listen to those who have expressed the desire to present elements in their possession.”

2. Statement from Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke:
“With reference to widespread news on a presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China, I am able to state the following:

“The Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention. It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy”.

POPE TO UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH: I AM CLOSE TO YOU

(Vatican News) On Sunday afternoon Pope Francis paid a visit to the basilica of Santa Sofia, home to Rome’s Greek-Catholic Community of Ukrainians, to thank the community that lives in Rome and to pray at the tomb of Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Stepan Czmil. (Vatican photo)

The Pope exchanged greetings with the Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and in his address recalled the great models of Cardinal Josyp Slipyi, Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Stepan Czmil, and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, former Major Archbishop of the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine.

Francis also paid a visit to the crypt to pray at the tomb of Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Czmil. Describing the bishop as “a person who has done me so much good,” the Pope explained that when he was a boy in Argentina, the bishop taught him, “to serve at Mass, to read your alphabet. From him I learned the beauty of your liturgy, from its stories the living testimony of how much faith has been tried and forged in the midst of the terrible atheistic persecutions of the last century.”

In his address, Pope Francis noted the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the suffering of the people there and said, “I am here today to tell you all that I am close to you: close with my heart, with my prayers, and when I celebrate Mass.” He then prayed that the weapons of war would be silenced.

The Holy Father also noted the numerous Ukrainian women of great faith, courage and charity, telling them, “you are precious and you bring to many Italian families the proclamation of God.”

WITH NEW APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION, POPE REFORMS CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION

On Monday, the Vatican released the text of Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium (The Joy of Truth), on Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties.

By Christopher Wells (Vatican News)

Pope Francis has issued a new Apostolic Constitution, Veritatis gaudium, revising the norms governing Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties – that is, institutions granting pontifical degrees in fields such as theology, philosophy, and canon law, as well as numerous other disciplines.

Updating Sapientia christiana

The new document updates the previous Apostolic Constitution, Sapientia christiana, issued in 1979 in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Since its promulgation, Sapientia christiana has been amended three times, and other normative texts have been published, including the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

In addition, the Holy See has entered into various agreements concerning higher education and the awarding of academic degrees. The work of producing a new Apostolic Constitution that takes account of these changes was entrusted by Pope Francis to the Congregation for Catholic Education.

In a press conference introducing Veritatis gaudium, the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, said the Holy Father had encouraged their work in an address on 13 February 2014: “The 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration [Gravissimum Educationis], the 25th anniversary of Ex corde Ecclesiae and the updating of Sapientia christiana, lead us to reflect seriously on the many formational institutions around the world and on their duty to be an expression of a living presence of the Gospel in the field of education, of science and of culture.”

Cardinal Versaldi said Pope Francis made the decision to issue a new Apostolic Constitution after being presented with the revision of Sapientia christiana. The new Constitution, he said, indicates the meaning and the basic criteria for a renewal and a revival of ecclesiastical studies, especially in light of the “missionary” orientation of the Church, as described in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

What’s new

Following Cardinal Versaldi’s presentation at the press conference, the secretary of the congregation, Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani highlighted some of the most important innovations in the Veritatis gaudium. In particular, he mentioned the significance of bringing all ecclesiastical universities and faculties into line with the Holy See’s Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Quality in Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties (AVEPRO). Archbishop Zani also noted the guidelines governing relations between ecclesiastical academic institutions and their civil counterparts.

Notably, Archishop Zani said Veritatis gaudium makes provisions for “distance learning,” the possibilities for which have increased significantly since the publication of Sapientia christiana. The new Constitution also includes regulations concerning migrants and refugees, requiring ecclesiastical institutions to adopt procedures to provide for those who may not possess the required documentation for admittance.

The full text of the Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium can be found on the Vatican website.

POPE REVAMPS ECCLESIASTICAL UNIVERSITIES IN NEW APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION

An excellent summary of Veritatis gaudium was done by my EWTN colleague, Elise Harris:

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2018 / 06:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis released a new apostolic constitution calling for a “radical” reform to the nature and curriculum of ecclesiastical universities and institutions.

“The primary need today is for the whole People of God to be ready to embark upon a new stage of Spirit-filled evangelization,” the Pope said in the document, “Vertatis Gaudium.”

This new stage of evangelization, he said, “calls for a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform. In this process, a fitting renewal of the system of ecclesiastical studies plays a strategic role.”

Signed Dec. 8, 2017, and published Jan. 29, 2018, the 87-page document is Francis’ is titled “Veritatis Gaudium,” meaning “the joy of truth.”

The document deals specifically with ecclesiastical universities and faculties, which, differing from regular Catholic universities, offer Vatican-approved degrees required to teach in seminaries or at pontifical universities.

It consists of two parts dedicated to general norms and specific norms, and also contains an appendix and norms of application. The document is meant to “update” previous norms, and abrogates any prior rules which contradict the new ones laid out by Pope Francis in Veritatis Gaudium.

The document abrogates any contrary norms established by John Paul II’s 1979 Apostolic Constitution “Sapientia Christiana,” issued after a careful study of the Second Vatican Council’s decree “Optatam Totius” on ecclesiastical studies. However, John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae” is not impacted , as it deals specifically with Catholic colleges and universities, rather than ecclesiastical academic entities.

Criteria

In the foreword for his new constitution, Pope Francis, who has often spoken of the importance of education, said that while offering a great contribution to the Church’s life and mission, Sapientia Christiana “urgently needs to be brought up to date.”

“While remaining fully valid in its prophetic vision and its clarity of expression, the constitution ought to include the norms and dispositions issued since its promulgation, and to take into account developments in the area of academic studies in these past decades,” he said.

“There is also a need to acknowledge the changed social-cultural context worldwide and to implement initiatives on the international level to which the Holy See has adhered.”

Francis noted that the world is currently living not only a time of change, but it is also experiencing “a true epochal shift, marked by a wide-ranging anthropological and environmental crisis,” such as natural, social and financial disasters which are swiftly reaching “a breaking point.”

This reality, he said, requires “changing the models of global development and redefining our notion of progress.” However, a great problem in doing this is the fact that “we still lack the culture necessary to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths.”

Because of this, he said that on the cultural level as well as that of academic training and scientific study, “a radical paradigm shift” and “a bold cultural revolution” are needed which involve a worldwide network of ecclesiastical universities and faculties which are capable of promoting the Gospel and Church Tradition, but which are also “ever open to new situations and ideas.”

CLICK HERE to continue reading: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-revamps-ecclesiastical-universities-in-new-apostolic-constitution-77172

IS THE VATICAN SELLING OUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA? A CARDINAL SAYS ‘YES’ – CARDINAL ZEN ON THE BISHOPS OF SHANTOU AND MINDONG – THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CHINA: A LOOK BACK AT HISTORY

Depending on where you are in your day – just starting it at work or ending it at home – you will need either a double espresso or a large glass of Cabernet to digest the news that follows.

I was devastated a week ago when I read the Asia News report that bishops in the underground Church in China, loyal to Rome, had been asked to step aside to make room for bishops appointed by the Chinese government. That couldn’t be! Why ever would the Vatican take such a step, if it did?

The confirmation came today via Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus of Hong King, who wrote a lengthy report on his Facebook page, and that was picked up by Asia News: See below for that entire report by the cardinal.

Why is this all so important to me? What is the background in Catholic Church-China relations? Continue reading…

IS THE VATICAN SELLING OUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA? A CARDINAL SAYS ‘YES’

For years I have followed news of the Church in those regions of the world where it was (is) being persecuted. In the late 70s and the 80s, my attention turned to Eastern Europe and the communist countries. I was in Hungary in 1983 as the guest of a bishop and wrote a long series of stories for the National Catholic Register about the Catholic Church in this country where about 60% of the populace professed to be Catholic.

At the time, the best place, if you will, to be a Catholic was Poland, the worst place was (then) Czechoslovakia. Hungary was somewhere in the middle of those poles.

In ensuing years I focussed on the Middle East and, in ways large and small, on China and even Vietnam, which I visited in 2013. In fact, as I write, I have an invitation to return to Vietnam next month, and have not been able to finalize that, although I cherish the idea of going back. I felt my 2013 trip had some unfinished business – maybe I can have a miracle happen.

I have been to both mainland China and to Taiwan. I was in Beijing in 1995 with the Holy See delegation for the United Nations international conference on women. The delegation spent almost three weeks in Beijing, taking off only a few hours in that time to visit the city as tourists.

Three photo ID badges were issued to attendees, carrying only in color: one color for official delegates, a second color for NGOs and the third was for the media. We wore these every waking moment of our day.

Two things about our time in Beijing – about being a Catholic in Beijing – that
I’ll never forget:

We each had our own room in the hotel, of course, but the entire delegation had a big suite where we’d conduct our business, and the first business of the day was always Mass at 7 am. We left the door slightly ajar as we knew that Chinese police officials were watching our every move and listening to our every word from the corridor outside the suite – we wanted to show them we had nothing to hide. Naturally, however, at any other moment outside of a U.N conference, Mass in a hotel room could have invited enormous negative consequences!

Theoretically, per hotel policy, we were not to have computers in our rooms, Not only did I have a computer but I was to be the go-between for messages from the Vatican Secretariat of State and our delegation so I also had a printer in my room.

I know my room was visited by the police as I stole an idea from police movies. I actually took a piece of hair, licked both ends and put it over my closed door when I left the room to go to our office suite. It was gone when I came back!

Second thing: We were told we could visit the cathedral in Beijing where Jesuit Fr. Matteo Ricci was buried but it was suggested we go two or three at a time, but not the entire delegation at one time, lest this look like a “statement” from the Pope, the Vatican or the Catholic Church. A wise idea – why invite trouble?

There is a lot more I’d like to say now about China and a lot as well about my 12-day visit to Taiwan in 2001 but time is short before I have another appointment.

My main reason for dedicating this column today to China – and not to all the amazing news from the weekend (the papal visit to the church for Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Francis’ Mass yesterday at St. Mary Major before the restored Marian icon Salus populi romani and his plea at the Angelus for the people of Afghanistan as they once again undergo a massive terrorist carnage, a new papal document today, etc.) – is because of the extremely unsettling news coming from China via Cardinal Joseph Zen and AsiaNews.

First, here is a link to the story several days ago from Asia News that suggested the unthinkable: that the Vatican was asking legitimately ordained bishops in China from the so-called “underground Church,” loyal to Rome to step aside to make room for bishops appointed by the Chinese government! http://www.asianews.it/news-en/The-Vatican-asks-legitimate-bishops-to-step-aside-in-favour-of-illegitimate-ones-42896.html

And here’s the torpedo of confirmation that arrived today via Cardinal Zen who posted this on his Facebook page which was brought to our attention by AsiaNews and is now the headline heard around the world:

CARDINAL ZEN ON THE BISHOPS OF SHANTOU AND MINDONG

The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong confirms the information published in recent days by AsiaNews and reveals details of his conversation with Pope Francis on these topics: “Do not create another Mindszenty case”, the primate of Hungary whom the Vatican forced to leave the country, appointing a successor in Budapest, at the will of the communist government of the time.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Below we publish the article that Card. Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, posted today on his blog, regarding the events reported by AsiaNews where a Vatican prelate asked the bishops of Shantou and Mindong, underground and recognized by the Holy See, to step down to leave their place to two illegitimate and excommunicated bishops.

Monday, 29 January, 2018
Dear Friends in the Media,
Since AsiaNews has revealed some recent facts in the Church in mainland China, of legitimate bishops being asked by the “Holy See” to resign and make place for illegitimate, even explicitly excommunicated, “bishops”, many different versions of the facts and interpretations are creating confusion among the people. Many, knowing of my recent trip to Rome, are asking me for some clarification.

Back in October, when Bishop Zhuang received the first communication from the Holy See and asked me for help, I send someone to bring his letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with, enclosed, a copy for the Holy Father. I don’t know if that enclosed copy reached the desk of the Holy Father. Fortunately, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai was still in Rome and could meet the Pope in a farewell visit. In that occasion, he brought the two cases of Shantou and Mindong to the knowledge of the Holy Father. The Holy Father was surprised and promised to look into the matter.

Given the words of the Holy Father to Archbishop Savio Hon, the new facts in December were all the more a shocking surprise to me.When the old distressed Bishop Zhuang asked me to bring to the Holy Father his answer to the message conveyed to him by the “Vatican Delegation” in Beijing, I simply could not say “No”. But what could I do to make sure that his letter reach the Holy Father, while not even I can be sure that my own many letters did reach him.

To make sure that our voice reached the Holy Father, I took the sudden decision of going to Rome. I left Hong Kong the night of 9th January, arriving in Rome the early morning of 10th January, just in time (actually, a bit late) to join the Wednesday Public Audience. At the end of the audience, we Cardinals and Bishops are admitted to the “bacia mano” and I had the chance to put into the hands of the Holy Father the envelop, saying that I was coming to Rome for the only purpose of bringing to him a letter of Bishop Zhuang, hoping he can find time to read it (in the envelop there was the original letter of the Bishop in Chinese with my translation into Italian and a letter of mine).

For obvious reasons, I hoped my appearance at the audience would not be too much noticed, but my late arrival in the hall made it particularly noticeable. Anyway, now everybody can see the whole proceeding from the Vatican TV (by the way, the audience was held in Paul VI Hall, not in St. Peter’s Square and I was a little late to the audience, but did not have to “wait in a queue, in a cold weather”, as some media erroneously reported).

When in Rome, I met Fr. Bernard Cervellera of AsiaNews. We exchanged our information, but I told him not to write anything. He complied. Now that someone else broke the news, I can agree to confirm it. Yes, as far as I know, things happened just as they are related in AsiaNews (the AsiaNews report “believes” that the Bishop leading the Vatican Delegation was Msgr. Celli. I do not know in what official capacity he was there, but it is most likely that he was the one there in Beijing).

In this crucial moment and given the confusion in the media, I, knowing directly the situation of Shantou and indirectly that of Mindong, feel duty-bound to share my knowledge of the facts, so that the people sincerely concerned with the good of the Church may know the truth to which they are entitled. I am well aware that in doing so I may talk about things which, technically, are qualified as “confidential”. But my conscience tells me that in this case the “right to truth” should override any such “duty of confidentiality”.

With such conviction, I am going to share with you also the following:
In the afternoon of that day, 10th January, I received a phone-call from Santa Marta telling me that the Holy Father would receive me in private audience in the evening of Friday 12th January (though the report appeared only on 14th January in the Holy See bulletin). That was the last day of my 85 years of life, what a gift from Heaven! (Note that it was the vigil of the Holy Father’s departure for Chile and Peru, so the Holy Father must have been very busy).(JFL: The cardinal turned 86 on January 13)

On that evening the conversation lasted about half an hour. I was rather disorderly in my talking, but I think I succeeded to convey to the Holy Father the worries of his faithful children in China.

The most important question I put to the Holy Father (which was also in the letter) was whether he had had time “to look into the matter” (as he promised Archbishop Savio Hon). In spite of the danger of being accused of breach of confidentiality, I decide to tell you what His Holiness said: “Yes, I told them (his collaborators in the Holy See) not to create another Mindszenty case”! I was there in the presence of the Holy Father representing my suffering brothers in China. His words should be rightly understood as of consolation and encouragement more for them than for me.

I think it was most meaningful and appropriate for the Holy Father to make this historical reference to Card. Josef Mindszenty, one of the heroes of our faith. (Card. Josef Mindszenty was the Archbishop of Budapest, Cardinal Primate of Hungary under Communist persecution. He suffered much in several years in prison. During the short-lived revolution of 1956, he was freed from prison by the insurgents and, before the Red Army crashed the revolution, took refuge in the American Embassy. Under the pressure of the Government he was ordered by the Holy See to leave his country and immediately a successor was named to the likings of the Communist Government).

With this revelation, I hope I have satisfied the legitimate “right to know” of the media and of my brothers in China.

The important thing for us now is to pray for the Holy Father, very fittingly by singing the traditional song “Oremus”: Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco, Dominus conservet eum et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
————————————-
Some explanations may still be in order.
1. Please, notice that the problem is not the resignation of the legitimate Bishops, but the request to make place for the illegitimate and even excommunicated ones. Many old underground Bishops, though the retirement age law has never been enforced in China, have insistently asked for a successor, but have never received any answer from the Holy See. Some others, who have a successor already named, may be even already in possession of the Bulla signed by the Holy Father, were ordered not to proceed with the ordination for fear of offending the Government.
2. I have talked mainly of the two cases of Shantou and Mindong. I do not have any other information except the copy of a letter written by an outstanding Catholic lady, a retired University professor well-acquainted with affairs of the Church in China, in which she warns Msgr. Celli against pushing for the legitimization of “bishop” Lei Shi Ying in Sichuan.
3. I acknowledge myself as a pessimist regarding the present situation of the Church in China, but my pessimism has a foundation in my long direct experience of the Church in China. From 1989 to 1996 I used to spend six months a year teaching in the various Seminaries of the official Catholic community. I had direct experience of the slavery and humiliation to which those our brother Bishops are subjected.
And from the recent information, there is no reason to change that pessimistic view. The Communist Government is making new harsher regulations limiting religious freedom. They are now strictly enforcing regulations which up to now were practically only on paper (from the 1st of February 2018 attendance to Mass in the underground will no longer be tolerated).
4. Some say that all the efforts to reach an agreement is to avoid the ecclesial schism. How ridiculous! The schism is there, in the Independent Church! The Popes avoided using the word “schism” because they knew that many in the official Catholic community were there not by their own free will, but under heavy pressure. The proposed “unification” would force everybody into that community. The Vatican would be giving the blessing on the new strengthened schismatic Church, taking away the bad conscience from all those who are already willing renegades and those others who would readily join them.
5. Is it not good to try to find mutual ground to bridge the decades-long divide between the Vatican and China? But can there be anything really “mutual” with a totalitarian regime? Either you surrender or you accept persecution, but remaining faithful to yourself (can you imagine an agreement between St. Joseph and King Herod?)
6. So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.
7. Some expert on the Catholic Church in China is saying that it is not logical to suppose a harsher religious policy from Xi Jinping. However, we are not talking about logical thinking, but the obvious and crude reality.
8. Am I the major obstacle in the process of reaching a deal between the Vatican and China? If that is a bad deal, I would be more than happy to be the obstacle.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CHINA: A LOOK BACK AT HISTORY

Since diplomatic ties between the Holy See and China were broken off in 1951, attempts have been made to close the breach between the two. In recent years, however, with both the disappearance in China of a number of Catholic priests and bishops, some of whom were taken for questioning and released, while others are still to be heard from, and the illegitimate ordination in China of bishops without a papal mandate, relations have soured.

In any discussion between the Catholic Church and China, the nomination of bishops and religious freedom in mainland China are always the issued at the top of the agenda.

For years, the Holy See has always asked that Catholics – and others – be allowed to freely profess their faith, free of constraint or interference from the Chinese government and that it be allowed to name and ordain its bishops, without government approval or interference.

China asks that the Holy See break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan – which it considers part of the Peoples’ Republic of China and a renegade province (whereas Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China). It also asks the Holy See not to interfere in China’s internal affairs – which, for China, includes the naming of bishops.

The Vatican has suggested that, when all conditions were right (religious freedom in China, the Catholic Church could pursue its mission unfettered, name its own bishops and run its own affairs), it would break off relations with Taiwan and set up an embassy in Beijing. It will not, however, compromise on the naming of bishops.

On March 24, 2006, there was a consistory to create new cardinals, including Joseph Zen, archbishop of Hong Kong. Fr. Dominic Chan, vicar general of Hong Kong, was in Rome, and he greeted Pope Benedict several days after the consistory. He reported that he told the Pope the diocese supports Cardinal Zen and all the work he does for the Church in China and to promote religious freedom.

Fr. Chan asked the Pope if he would visit Hong Kong and China, to which Benedict XVI replied, “a visit would be good” but “it depends on God’s will.”

The day of the consistory Cardinal Zen introduced Hong Kong newspaper owner, Jimmy Lai to the Pope who asked him to come to China and “to bring love and democracy.” The cardinal also presented another layman as a Hong Kong legislator fighting for democracy, to which the Pope allegedly told him, “Continue.”

No Pope has ever been to mainland China. For such a trip to occur, many obstacles have to be cleared: Popes usually undertakes trips to countries with whom they have diplomatic relations: the Holy See and mainland China – the Peoples’ Republic of China – do not have such ties. In addition, they must be invited by both the national government and the country’s Episcopal conference.

Since that invitation in March 2006 there have been numerous
illegitimate ordinations in China carried out by the government-approved Patriotric Catholic Church. The Vatican almost every time released a statement, deploring the illegitimate ordination, saying it “hopes such incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

The Vatican explains that “an ordination conferred without the pontifical mandate, that is, without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church concerning the appointment of bishops” is illegitimate. In fact, Canon 377, Para 1 of the Code of Canon Law says: “The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those who have been legitimately elected.”

One Vatican statement about an illegitimate ordination noted that this “was just the latest of the illegitimate episcopal ordinations which have been distressing the Catholic Church in China for many decades, creating divisions in diocesan communities and tormenting the consciences of many ecclesiastics and faithful. This extremely grave series of acts … undermines the fundamental principles of (the Church’s) hierarchical structure.”

In June 2006 a Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli visited China. Though he used to work for the Secretariat of State, was for a while the secretary of APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and then for several years headed the late Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Celli has been for years an expert on relations between Rome and Beijing and has visited China many times. He has also been to Vietnam on missions for the Holy See.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a “Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated persons and Lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China.” It began:

Greeting

1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven … We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).

These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of communion that unites us spiritually.

Purpose of the Letter

2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have manifested “sometimes at the price of grave sufferings”[1], since “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless, some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause for concern.

Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, “the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history” [2] wants from you.

The Holy Father ended his Letter: “I pray that you, dear Pastors of the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, may rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials…”
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 27 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.

For complete text, click here: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/letters/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20070527_china.html

To understand the situation in China even today vis-a-vis the Catholic
Church, you will want to read Benedict’s entire letter

VATICAN INSIDER GOES TO CATHOLIC DISTANCE UNIVERSITY – PAPAL CONDOLENCES FOR VICTIMS OF HOSPITAL FIRE IN SOUTH KOREA – FRANCIS ADDRESSES PLENARY OF DOCTRINE CONGREGATION – PRESIDENT OF HAITI RECEIVED BY HOLY FATHER

VATICAN INSIDER GOES TO CATHOLIC DISTANCE UNIVERSITY

My guest this weekend in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is Marianne Mount, president of Catholic Distance University. She was in Rome from Charles Town, West Virginia, to attend a conference on Catholic Fundraising and Pilgrimage.

As the university’s website states, CDU programs integrate inspiring, Catholic content, always faithful to the Church’s teachings, with state-of-the-art learning management technologies that enable you to access your education in the comfort of your home or wherever you choose. Pope John Paul’s Apostolic Constitution Ex corde ecclesiae (from the heart of the church) is the foundational document and teaching for CDU.

CDU is an innovative, online university providing an accessible Catholic education for undergraduates, graduates, and non-degree seeking students. It has been a pioneer since 1983 using flexible, convenient distance technologies to bring high quality educational programs to each learner. (https://cdu.edu)

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

PAPAL CONDOLENCES FOR VICTIMS OF HOSPITAL FIRE IN SOUTH KOREA

The following telegram was sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis:

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of injuries caused by the outbreak of the fire in Sejong Hospital, Miryang, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy. He prays especially for the repose of the deceased and for the healing of those injured. The Holy Father offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this disaster, and upon all he willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation.

FRANCIS ADDRESSES PLENARY OF DOCTRINE CONGREGATION

This morning, the Holy Father addressed the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He thanked them for their work, especially “in the various questions that today call for an important pastoral discernment in, for example, examining cases related to graviora delicta and demands for release from the marriage bond in favorem fidei (the so-called Petrine privilege).

Graviora delicta is translated “more grave delict (or crime).” These are external violations against faith and morals or in the celebration of the sacraments. The Church considers such violations so serious that there is a special process to handle them.

The Pope highlighted “the study the congregation has undertaken on several aspects of Christian salvation, with the aim of reaffirming the meaning of redemption in reference to the neo-pelagian and neo-gnostic tendencies of today which are expressions of individualism that relies on its own forces for salvation.

He also mentioned their studies on the ethical implications of an adequate anthropology in the financial-economic field.

“You have also,” said Francis, “studied the delicate question of accompanying the terminally ill. Today’s process of secularisation, as its absolutizes the concept of self-determination and autonomy, has brought to bear in many countries a growing request for euthanasia as an ideological affirmation of the will and power of man over life. Thus, the voluntary interruption of life is seen as a ‘civilized’ choice…:We must always repeat that human life, from conception to its natural end, possesses a dignity that makes it intangible.”

An authentically pastoral action, said the Pope, is “very action where you take a person by the hand when he has lost the sense of his dignity and his destiny, and you lead him with trust to rediscover the loving fatherhood of God, his good destiny and the paths to build a more human world.”

ALSO FRIDAY The Holy Father welcomed members of the Pontifical Theological Academy as it celebrates its third centenary. It was founded by Pope Clement XI on April 23, 1718.

PRESIDENT OF HAITI RECEIVED BY HOLY FATHER

Pope Francis this morning received in audience President Jovenel Moïse of the Republic of Haiti, who subsequently met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

A press office statement noted that, in both meetings, “satisfaction was expressed at the good relations between the Holy See and Haiti. In addition, the common wish to strengthen collaboration was emphasized, in order to face various social problems, especially regarding young people, the poor and the most vulnerable, highlighting the significant contribution that the Church offers to the country in the sectors of education, healthcare and charity. Mention was then made of several matters of national and regional interest, focusing in particular on the persistent problem of emigration and the importance of dialogue to promote social cohesion and the common good.”

POPE PRESIDES AT ECUMENICAL VESPERS SERVICE – POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT RESTORED MARIAN ICON SUNDAY

POPE PRESIDES AT ECUMENICAL VESPERS SERVICE
By Christopher Wells (Vatican Radio and news)

As is traditional, Pope Francis presided over an ecumenical Vespers service at the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls for the conclusion of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The end of the Week coincides with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

The Song of Moses and Miriam

During the liturgical service, a cantor proclaimed a reading from the Book of Exodus, the “Song of Moses and Miriam,” which Pope Francis took as the starting point for his homily. The hymn was sung by the Israelites after they had been saved from the Egyptians by God, an event that many of the Church Fathers saw as an image of Baptism. “All of us Christians,” the Pope said, have passed through the waters of Baptism; and the grace of the Sacrament has destroyed our enemies, sin and death.” Precisely for this reason, he continued, together we are able to sing God’s praise.

Called to community

But, the Pope said, as with Moses, “our individual experiences bind us to an even greater story, that of the salvation of the people of God.” Saint Paul, he said, whose conversion is celebrated in this liturgical feast, likewise had a “powerful experience of grace,” and this experience led him “to seek out communion with other Christians.” This, the Pope said, is also our experience as believers: “As soon as we grow in the spiritual life, we understand ever better that grace reaches us together with others, and is to be shared with others.”

The Pope explained that in recognizing the Baptisms of Christians of other traditions, we acknowledge that they too have received forgiveness, and that God’s grace is at work in them too. “And even when divergences separate us,” he said, “we recognize that we pertain to the same people of the redeemed, to the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the only Father.”

United in suffering

Our growth in the spiritual life, however, is often a difficult one, the Pope said, and pointed to the suffering of Christians endured for the Name of Jesus. The Holy Father argued that “when their blood is shed, even if they belong to different [Christian] Confessions, together they become witnesses of the faith, martyrs, united in the bond of baptismal grace.”

Even with other religious traditions, the Pope said, “Christians today confront the challenges that demean human dignity: flying from situations of conflict and misery they are victims of human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery; they suffer hardships and hunger, in a world that is ever more rich in means and poor in love, where inequality continues to grow.” But, he said, Christians are called to remember the history of what God has done for us, and to help and support one another, and “to face every challenge with courage and hope, armed only with Jesus and the sweet power of His Gospel.”

POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT RESTORED MARIAN ICON SUNDAY

On Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 9 am, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major on the occasion of the feast of the Translation of the Salus Populi Romani icon that depicts the Madonna with the Child Jesus in her arms in a blessing position.

This solemnity, that takes place every year on the last Sunday of January, hopes to be a choral thanksgiving for the presence of the centuries-old sacred image in the Liberian Basilica, says a communiqué from the papal basilica.

Salus Populi Romani is among the most famous and venerated Marian icons and, as is well-expressed by its very name, is particularly venerated by Romans who, with trust invoke her protection in various moments of daily life and in especially critical moments.

After restoration –

Pope Francis is particularly devoted to her and, as happened immediately after his election to the papacy when he came to pay homage to her, he does so now on every one of his international trips.

The liturgical celebration will coincide with the exposition of the icon that has been restored following a delicate and challenging intervention done by the restoration laboratories of the Vatican museums and coordinated by Museum director, Dr. Barbara Jatta, with the supervision of a commission presided over by the archpriest of the Liberian Basilica, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.

The sophisticated technology of the research undertaken before the restoration and the extraordinary expertise of the Vatican restorers allowed for the recovery of the original beauty and the historical reality of this work that had been hidden by centuries of varnish, repainting and the effects from devotional use.

Thus, says the communiqué, the intimate conversation of souls is able to re-emerge without barriers in the intense look on the face of the Mother of God and our Mother.

POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT RESTORED MARIAN ICON SUNDAY

POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT RESTORED MARIAN ICON SUNDAY

On Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 9 am, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major on the occasion of the feast of the Translation of the Salus Populi Romani icon that depicts the Madonna with the Child Jesus in her arms in a blessing position.

This solemnity, that takes place every year on the last Sunday of January, hopes to be a choral thanksgiving for the presence of the centuries-old sacred image in the Liberian Basilica, says a communiqué from the papal basilica.

Salus Populi Romani is among the most famous and venerated Marian icons and, as is well-expressed by its very name, is particularly venerated by Romans who, with trust invoke her protection in various moments of daily life and in especially critical moments.

Pope Francis is particularly devoted to her and, as happened immediately after his election to the papacy when he came to pay homage to her, he does so now on every one of his international trips.

The liturgical celebration will coincide with the exposition of the icon that has been restored following a delicate and challenging intervention done by the restoration laboratories of the Vatican museums and coordinated by Museum director, Dr. Barbara Jatta, with the supervision of a commission presided over by the archpriest of the Liberian Basilica, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.

The sophisticated technology of the research undertaken before the restoration and the extraordinary expertise of the Vatican restorers allowed for the recovery of the original beauty and the historical reality of this work that had been hidden by centuries of varnish, repainting and the effects from devotional use.

Thus, says the communiqué, the intimate conversation of souls is able to re-emerge without barriers in the intense look on the face of the Mother of God and our Mother.

POPE FRANCIS WEIGHS IN ON FAKE NEWS, “A SIGN OF INTOLERANT AND HYPERSENSITIVE ATTITUDES” – POPE DECRIES “UNTHINKABLE, BARBARIC” TREATMENT OF YEZIDIS – AUDIENCE CATECHESIS FOCUSES ON PAPAL TRIP TO CHILE AND PERU, APPEAL FOR PEACE IN DRC

Today is January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists. In years past, the late Pontifical Council for Social Communications used to organize a Mass for journalists on this date at Santa Maria in Traspontina on Via della Conciliazione. It was always a well-attended event and members of the media were lectors and sang in the choir. I enjoyed going to those Masses and praying for our mission as journalists, and I hope they resume some day.

This year, officials of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications (SPC) assisted in organizing the annual meeting of Catholic journalists and Church communications professionals that took place this year in Lourdes, France. The SPC was co-organizer of the gathering with the Federation of the Catholic Media and SIGNIS. The theme this year was, “Media and Truth,” inspired by Pope Francis’ Message for World Communications Day 2018. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin addressed the media.

One year on this feast day, Cardinal John Foley, who headed the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for many years, gave a talk and, with his never-failing sense of humor and a touch of self-deprecation, pointed to three similarities between himself and St. Francis de Sales: “We were both bishops, both in communications and both of us were bald!”

POPE FRANCIS WEIGHS IN ON FAKE NEWS, “A SIGN OF INTOLERANT AND HYPERSENSITIVE ATTITUDES”

Today, feast of St, Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ Message for the 52nd World Day of Social Communications on May 13. It is entitled, “’The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.”

CLICK HERE FOR ENGLISH: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/01/24/0062/00120.html#en

It is a riveting read and, if I had the time, I’d email it to every major secular news organization. It does not take that long to read and you’ll find yourself saying every few lines, “right on, Holy Father!”

I don’t see how one could call oneself a serious journalist who strives for the truth and then disagree with what the Holy Father writes.

The following paragraphs of the papal Message best describe how I see my work, my mission as a journalist (mission being a word that Pope Francis also uses):

“The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectors of news.

“In today’s world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission. Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons. Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people’s lives. That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.”

POPE DECRIES “UNTHINKABLE, BARBARIC” TREATMENT OF YEZIDIS

At nine this morning in a small room of the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received in audience a representation of the Yezidi community in Germany. Here are his words to them in my translation:

“Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you fraternally and I thank you for this encounter through which I can ideally embrace all members of the Yezidi community, in particular all those who live in Iraq and Syria. My thoughts and prayerful solidarity go to the innocent victims of such unthinkable and inhuman barbaric actions. It is unacceptable that human beings are persecuted and killed because of their religious belief. Every person has the right to freely and without restrictions profess their own religious creed. Your history, rich in spirituality and culture, has been unfortunately marked by unspeakable violations of the fundamental human rights of the person: kidnappings, slavery, torture, forced conversions and murder. Your shrines and places of worship have been destroyed. The most fortunate among you have been able to flee, but leaving everything you had behind, including your dearest and most sacred possessions. In many parts of the world there are still ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians, persecuted because of their faith. The Holy See never tires of intervening to denounce these situations, asking for recognition, protection and respect. At the same time the Holy See exhorts people to dialogue and reconciliation in order to heal everyone.

“In the face of the tragedy that is taking place and harming your community, one sees how, as the Gospel says, from the heart of man can explode the darkest forces, capable of reaching the point of planning the annihilation of one’s brother, of considering him an enemy or even an individual who does not have human dignity. I also think of the members of your community who are still in the hands of terrorists; I sincerely hope that everything will be done to save them, as well as trying to find those who are missing and to identity and give a worthy burial to those who have been killed. The international community can no longer remain a silent and insert spectator in the face of your drama. I therefore encourage institutions and people of good will to contribute to rebuilding your homes and places of worship, and to make concrete efforts to creating ideal conditions for the return of refugees to their homes and to preserving the identity of the Yezidi community. God help us in building together a world where everyone can live in peace and fraternity.”

AUDIENCE CATECHESIS FOCUSES ON PAPAL TRIP TO CHILE, PERU, APPEAL FOR PEACE IN DRC

Following his meeting with the Yezidis residing in Germany, the Holy Father proceeded to the Paul VI Hall where he encountered a group of ill people, including a number of children suffering from leukemia from Terra dei Fuochi, an area in southern Italy, accompanied by their parents.

Francis then proceeded to St. Peter’s Square where the faithful heard a catechesis on the Pope’s just-completed trip to Chile and Peru. (AFP photo)

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the English language summary of the catechesis, “in my recent Apostolic Journey to Chile and Peru, I had the joy of encountering God’s pilgrim people and encouraging the growth of social harmony in respect for the rich diversity of those nations. In Chile, I stressed the importance of listening to the voices of all: the poor, the young and the elderly, the immigrant and the voice of the earth itself. I encouraged the Church in its path of purification and renewal, and, appealing to the example of Saint Alberto Hurtado, I encouraged educators to help the young to share in the building of a just and inclusive society.

“In Peru, I expressed my confidence that the nation’s environmental, spiritual and cultural riches can contribute to building unity and cooperation in meeting the grave challenges facing society. In my meeting with the Amazonian peoples, I stressed the importance of mutual respect and care for the natural environment. In Trujillo, hard hit by natural disasters, I invited all to work together in confronting the social problems of crime and the lack of education, employment and housing. In Lima, I concluded my visit to these two countries by appealing to the example of the saints and asking their intercession as the Church pursues the path of conversion and mission, and strives to be a messenger of unity, hope and peace for all peoples.”

After the catechesis in various language summaries, Francis expressed a heartfelt appeal for the deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: “Unfortunately, troubling news continues to come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, I renew my call for everyone to commit to avoiding all forms of violence. On her part, the Church wants nothing other than to contribute to the peace and to the common good of society.”

POPE TO DAVOS FORUM: HUMAN PERSONS, THEIR RIGHTS AND DIGNITY MUST BE AT CENTER OF ECONOMICS

Today is the feast day of Hawaii’s own St. Marianne Cope, also know as Saint Marianne of Moloka’i, for her decades spent in Hawaii – 30 years alone on Kalaupapa, Moloka’i with the victims of Hansen’s disease or leprosy. Marianne was born on January 23, 1838 and died August 9, 1918. She arrived in Hawaii in 1883 and began her mission on Moloka’i in 1888.

Her first grave on Kalaupapa –

A mosaic on a gatepost on Kalaupapa –

A statue in a Honolulu park-

An image in Our Lady of Peace cathedral –

Thus, 2018 marks 3 significant dates for St. Marianne: the 100th anniversary of her death, the 130th anniversary of her arrival on Kalaupapa and the 180th of her birth. The diocese of Honolulu will be celebrating these dates, as well as the 175th anniversary of Honolulu’s cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. Marianne’s remains were transferred here in July 2014, a ceremony I attended, videoed and wrote about.

St, Marianne was both the first beatification and the last canonization under Pope Benedict XVI.

Marianne’s mortal remains in a chapel of the Franciscan Sisters the day before her remains were placed in the cathedral –

In the cathedral –

Bishop Larry Silva and seminarians –

Bishop Silva and some of the Franciscan Sisters (and yours truly) –

In a spirit of ecumenism, St. Marianne is honored jointly with St. Damien of Moloka’i on April 15 on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

POPE TO DAVOS FORUM: HUMAN PERSONS, THEIR RIGHTS AND DIGNITY MUST BE AT CENTER OF ECONOMICS

Following is the Message sent by the Holy Father Francis to Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, taking place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 23 to 26 January, on the theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”:

To Professor Klaus Schwab
Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum

 

am grateful for your invitation to participate in the World Economic Forum 2018 and for your desire to include the perspective of the Catholic Church and the Holy See at the meeting in Davos. I thank you also for your efforts to bring this perspective to the attention of those gathered for this annual Forum, including the distinguished political and governmental authorities present and all those engaged in the fields of business, the economy, work and culture, as they discuss the challenges, concerns, hopes and prospects of the world today and of the future.

The theme chosen for this year’s Forum – Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World – is very timely. I trust that it will assist in guiding your deliberations as you seek better foundations for building inclusive, just and supportive societies, capable of restoring dignity to those who live with great uncertainty and who are unable to dream of a better world.

At the level of global governance, we are increasingly aware that there is a growing fragmentation between States and Institutions. New actors are emerging, as well as new economic competition and regional trade agreements. Even the most recent technologies are transforming economic models and the globalized world itself, which, conditioned by private interests and an ambition for profit at all costs, seem to favour further fragmentation and individualism, rather than to facilitate approaches that are more inclusive.

The recurring financial instabilities have brought new problems and serious challenges that governments must confront, such as the growth of unemployment, the increase in various forms of poverty, the widening of the socio-economic gap and new forms of slavery, often rooted in situations of conflict, migration and various social problems. “Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that –as is so tragically apparent–whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms” (Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014).

In this context, it is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family. “Economic freedom must not prevail over the practical freedom of man and over his rights, and the market must not be absolute, but honour the exigencies of justice” (Address to the General Confederation of Italian Industry, 27 February 2016). Economic models, therefore, are also required to observe an ethic of sustainable and integral development, based on values that place the human person and his or her rights at the centre.

“Before the many barriers of injustice, of loneliness, of distrust and of suspicion which are still being elaborated in our day, the world of labour is called upon to take courageous steps in order that ‘being and working together’ is not merely a slogan but a programme for the present and the future”(Ibid.).

Only through a firm resolve shared by all economic actors may we hope to give anew direction to the destiny of our world. So too artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee.
We cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions of people whose dignity is wounded, nor can we continue to move forward as if the spread of poverty and injustice had no cause. It is a moral imperative, a responsibility that involves everyone, to create the right conditions to allow each person to live in a dignified manner. By rejecting a “throwaway” culture and a mentality of indifference, the entrepreneurial world has enormous potential to effect substantial change by increasing the quality of productivity, creating new jobs, respecting labour laws, fighting against public and private corruption and promoting social justice, together with the fair and equitable sharing of profits.

There is a grave responsibility to exercise wise discernment, for the decisions made will be decisive for shaping the world of tomorrow and that of future generations. Thus, if we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented towards “true North”, represented by authentic values. Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.

I hope, therefore, that this 2018 meeting of the World Economic Forum will allow an open, free, and respectful exchange, and be inspired above all else by the desire to advance the common good.
In renewing my best wishes for the success of the meeting, I willingly invoke upon you and all participating in the Forum the divine blessings of wisdom and strength.

From the Vatican, 12 January 2018

CARDINAL O’MALLEY; POPE’S WORDS ‘A SOURCE OF GREAT PAIN FOR ABUSE VICTIMS’ – VATICAN NEWS TWITTER, JANUARY 20, 2018 – POPE APOLOGIZES TO SEX ABUSE VICTIMS, DEFENDS ACCUSED CHILEAN BISHOP

Today the United States observes National Sanctity of Human Life Day! As President Trump’s proclamation for this day says, we mark this “to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human’.”

That proclamation goes on to say, “Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.”

On another matter: In answer to a journalist’s question at the end of his time in Chile, some words pronounced by Pope Francis caused quite a bit of consternation for victims of clerical sex abuse.

In this regard, Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and a key papal advisor (one of the C9, that is, the Council of Cardinals that advises the Holy Father) released a statement that appeared in the online version of thebostonpilot.com. The cardinal was in Peru for another event but did concelebrate at Pope Francis’ final Mass in that nation.

The last story is again from thebostonpilot.com: it was reported by a CNS correspondent aboard the papal flight from Lima, Peru to Rome. The Pope landed about 2:15 this afternoon in Rome.

CARDINAL O’MALLEY; POPE’S WORDS ‘A SOURCE OF GREAT PAIN FOR ABUSE VICTIMS’

From The Boston Pilot, January 20, 2018:

(Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley released the following statement Jan. 20 after Pope Francis’s response to a journalist in which he defended the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to lead the Osnoro Diocese in Chile. Bishop Barros had been accused by abuse advocates of covering up abuse perpetrated his friend Father Fernando Karadima. — Ed.)

It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message “if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed” abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.

Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.

Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime. The Pope’s statements that there is no place in the life of the Church for those who would abuse children and that we must adhere to zero tolerance for these crimes are genuine and they are his commitment.

My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain. In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfilment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again.

VATICAN NEWS TWITTER, JANUARY 20, 2018

In a statement, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, says, “Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children.”

POPE APOLOGIZES TO SEX ABUSE VICTIMS, DEFENDS ACCUSED CHILEAN BISHOP

(From BostonPilot.com) ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PERU (CNS) — Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.

Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims’ accusations are credible only with concrete proof.  (CNA photo)

“To hear that the pope says to their face, ‘Bring me a letter with proof,’ is a slap in the face,” the pope said.

Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?” the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.

His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima’s victims who said the pope’s response made his earlier apologies for the church’s failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.

Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word “evidence,” not “proof.” The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was “not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart.”

“Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don’t have it,” he said. “Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous.”
However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was “personally convinced” of the bishop’s innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging.

Pope Francis said that while “covering up abuse is an abuse in itself,” if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, “I would be committing the crime of a bad judge.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes.

As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip.

Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope’s statement about Bishop Barros.

“Words that convey the message ‘If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” the cardinal wrote.

He also said, “Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O’Malley’s statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope’s remarks.

Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.

The movement’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement.

“He declared himself innocent of the charges against him,” Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. According to the information the pope has received, he said, “the verdict will be released in less than a month.”

Pope Francis also was asked about the status of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up in 2014. The three-year terms of its members expired in December and some have questioned whether child protection really is a priority when the commission’s membership was allowed to lapse.

Before the terms ended, he said, the members decided to recommend who should serve a second term and offering the names of possible new members.
The final list, he said, arrived on his desk a week before the trip began “and now it is going through the normal channels in the Curia.”

VATICAN INSIDER: ALVEDA KING ON MLK AND PRO-LIFE ISSUES – PRESIDENT PROCLAIMS JANUARY 16 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY – NEW HHS DEPARTMENT TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – PLENARY INDULGENCE GRANTED FOR MFL PARTICIPANTS

I am dedicating today’s column to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., given the enormous impact it always has on the city and our nation, and the even bigger issue it represents – the pro-life movement in America! You will find out how to gain a plenary indulgence by participating in the March, learn about President Trump’s participation, his proclamation of Religious Freedom Day and about the new department in the government for religious freedom.

By the by, President Trump has also proclaimed January 22 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day!!

Last year I participated in the March for Life and it was a thrill and an honor – I clearly remember ever moment of that day! Hope to do it again! I remember telling Teresa Tomeo, as we listened to Vice President Mike Pence address the rally, that I hoped next year (this year) for the 45th March for Life, we would have the just-inaugurated 45th president of the United States! And so it is – via a live White House linkup! http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/01/17/donald-trump-be-first-sitting-president-address-march-life

(Am watching White House feed now – 6:30 pm, Rome time, 12:30 noon in D.C.!)

In addition, my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider” will focus on pro-life issues with a special guest. So take your time to read these special reports and then to listen to VI – unless, of course, you are in D.C. and marching and, in that case, God sit on your shoulder! When you get some down time, then you can put your feet up, relax and ready today’s column!

There’s a lot to digest so take it easy. The prolife movement should be rejoicing this week!

VATICAN INSIDER: ALVEDA KING ON MLK AND PRO-LIFE ISSUES

As you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King Day in America and Friday, January 19, marked the 45th March for Life in Washington D.C., following the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in 1973. This weekend, therefore, seemed the perfect occasion to re-air the interview I did not long ago in Rome for Vatican Insider with Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and an ardent pro-life activist. I tell you more about her life, and background in that conversation.

Alveda King is a niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the founder of Alveda King Ministries. She is an American activist, author, former college professor and former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. Alveda currently serves as a Pastoral Associate and Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, the African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Among her many talents and ministries, she is also a voice for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, sharing her testimony of two abortions, God’s forgiveness, and healing.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

PRESIDENT PROCLAIMS JANUARY 16 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY

I think the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago would have loved the symbolism of January 16 being named religious Freedom Day – this year he would have been 81 on that day! He was a stirring and sterling voice that fought, taught and spoke against the incursions on religious freedom in our country in recent years!

Saying emphatically that “No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law,” President Trump’s proclamation was issued on January 16.

It begins: “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation. On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the many faiths that make up our country, and we commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of a State law that has shaped and secured our cherished legacy of religious liberty.”

“Today,” states the Proclamation, “Americans from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds remain steadfast in a commitment to the inherent values of faith, honesty, integrity, and patriotism. Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion. Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification. These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy. Therefore, soon after taking office, I addressed these issues in an Executive Order that helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference and the Department of Justice has issued guidance to Federal agencies regarding their compliance with laws that protect religious freedom. No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.

“The free exercise of religion,” writes the president, “is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity. Religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality. Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.”

You can read the full text from the White House here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-16-2018-religious-freedom-day/

There’s also this: President Donald J. Trump Proclaims January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-22-2018-national-sanctity-human-life-day/

NEW HHS DEPARTMENT TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new division at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work to ensure the protection of religious freedom and conscience rights for Americans, government officials announced Thursday.

The state should not force people to go against their integrated view of humanity,” said the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, at a Jan. 18 press conference.

This new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which falls under the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will focus on the enforcement of existing laws on rights of conscience and religious freedom. It will also provide an outlet to field Americans’ complaints of any discrimination they have experienced in the field of healthcare.

For examples, doctors or nurses who have been forced to participate in an abortion or an assisted suicide that violates their moral convictions will be able to file a complaint directly on the HHS website.

Sarah Hellwege, a nurse-midwife, spoke at the press conference announcing the new division. She said that she experienced discrimination in an interview process because of her membership in a pro-life medical association.

The number of these types of conscience complaints to HHS has increased dramatically since President Donald Trump’s election. Ten complaints were filed with HHS during the eight years of the Obama administration, whereas there have been 34 since November 2016.

Severino told EWTN News Nightly that he attributes this surge in complaints to “pent up demand” and that this new division has been established “to assess complaints, see which ones are meritorious, and to vindicate the interests of justice as the law requires.”

Also speaking at today’s announcement was Montse Alvarado, the Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who explained to CNA what this new division will mean for Catholic healthcare professionals across the country.

“For the past 10 years we have had attacks on conscience that manifested themselves particularly for the Catholic community in the area of healthcare and healthcare providers with individuals and institutions,” she said.
“Because Catholics play such a large role, they finally will have a place to bring their grievances to try to solve things and bring common sense solutions that are so important without having to resort to litigation. And if they do need to litigate them, they will have a partner in this division.”

Several other government officials and religious figures spoke at the press conference announcing the new division.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted a concern from his state of California, where a new law forces pregnancy centers to provide information about local abortion providers. This Supreme Court will hear this case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, this year.

Representatives from HHS cited President Trump’s executive order last May as an impetus for the new HHS division. The executive order called on all executive departments and agencies to “respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech” to the extent permitted by law. The order specifically requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services address conscience-based objections.

Earlier this week, President Trump recognized National Religious Freedom Day, saying in a Jan. 16 proclamation, “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”

When asked by EWTN News Nightly about the likelihood of the new department surviving in future administrations, Severino responded, “It would be very difficult to undo the division. This is a foundational civil right.

Everybody should be in favor of civil rights for all and that includes our first civil right, which is our right to free expression of religion and conscience. This is enforced through our laws that have been passed by bipartisan congresses and presidents in both parties that have been with us for decades. Those are not going to go away and we have to enforce those laws fully.”

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will enforce existing protection statutes over which the Office of Civil Rights already has authority. This includes the Weldon Amendment, which stipulates that states receiving federal funds cannot discriminate against health plans that do not cover or pay for abortions. The division will also enforce Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act on assisted suicide.

“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions,” said Severino in a press release.

For Americans who are concerned that they have experienced a violation of their conscience rights, Severino told CNA, “We are going to make it as user-friendly as possible, so that people know that the doors are open and that every complaint will be treated appropriately and given the attention it deserves and then those that require enforcement will be handled appropriately.”

“We encourage anyone who believes that their conscience rights have been violated in a healthcare context to reach out to us. They are free to file a complaint. To get more information from our website, just google ‘Office for Civil Rights HHS’ and just add the word ‘conscience.’”

PLENARY INDULGENCE GRANTED FOR MFL PARTICIPANTS

Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics participating in the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19 will be able to receive a plenary indulgence for doing so, the local Church has announced.

“In virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis… a plenary indulgence can be obtained under the usual conditions…by the Christian faithful who are truly penitential and compelled by charity, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life,’” announced a Dec. 20 letter from the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington.

The document was signed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, who together encouraged their brother bishops with the hope “that you will share this information with those entrusted to your pastoral care.”

Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the indulgence may be obtained “by participating in the National Prayer Vigil for Life or the other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life.”

Individuals who wish to obtain the plenary indulgence must engage in the events hosted by the March for Life in Washington, D.C.: the youth rally, Mass at Capital One Area, the adult and family rally at St. Matthews Cathedral, or the Prayer Vigil for Life at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In addition, the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence must be met: that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope’s intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.

The letter also noted that “the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home” are also able to receive the plenary indulgence so long as they “spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God.”

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven.