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.

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POPE FRANCIS: WE CAN ASSERT WITH MAGISTERIAL AUTHORITY THAT THE LITURGICAL REFORM IS IRREVERSIBLE – AMATRICE, ONE YEAR LATER

Papal tweet August 24: Humanity needs hope in order to live and needs the Holy Spirit in order to hope.

A lot to ponder in this talk today by Pope Francis. I can’t wait to talk to some officials and experts in liturgy about the content, in particular because the Holy Father did not go into specific detail about change, what stays, what was perhaps on the way out and should go – or might stay – etc.

POPE FRANCIS: WE CAN ASSERT WITH MAGISTERIAL AUTHORITY THAT THE LITURGICAL REFORM IS IRREVERSIBLE

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis gave an important address on the liturgical reform on Thursday, speaking to participants of the 68th Italian National Liturgical Week.

The liturgical reform, he said, did not “flourish suddenly,” but was the result of a long preparation. It was brought to maturity by the Second Vatican Council with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, “whose lines of general reform respond to real needs and to the concrete hope of a renewal; it desired a living liturgy for a Church completely vivified by the mysteries celebrated.”

The direction marked out by the Council, the Pope continued, found expression in the revised liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Paul VI. But “it is not enough to reform the liturgical books; the mentality of the people must be reformed as well.” The reformation of the liturgical books was the first step in a process, he said, “that requires time, faithful reception, practical obedience, wise implementation” on the part first of the ordained ministers, but also of the other ministers, and indeed, of all who take part in the liturgy.

Today, Pope Francis said, “there is still work to do in this direction, in particular rediscovering the reasons for the decisions made with the liturgical reform, overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, partial receptions, and practices that disfigure it.” He said that this is not a question “of rethinking the reform by reviewing its choices, but of knowing better the underlying reasons [for it]… [and] of internalizing its inspirational principles and of observing the discipline that governs it.”

The Supreme Pontiff insisted, “After this magisterial, and after this long journey, we can assert with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”

Reflecting on the theme of this year’s Liturgy Week – “A living Liturgy for a living Church” – Pope Francis dwelt on three points:

1)The liturgy is “living” in virtue of the living presence of Christ; Christ is at the heart of the liturgical action.

2)The liturgy is life through the whole people of God. By its nature, the liturgy is “popular” rather than clerical; it is an action for the people, but also by the people.

3) The liturgy is life, and not an idea to be understood. It brings us to live an initiatory experience, a transformative experience that changes how we think and act; it is not simply a means of enriching our own set of ideas about God.

The Church, Pope Francis said, “is truly living if, forming one single living being with Christ, it is a bearer of life, it is maternal, it is missionary, going out to encounter the neighbour, careful to serve without pursuing worldly powers that render it sterile.”

The Holy Father concluded his reflection by noting that the Church in prayer, insofar as it is catholic, “goes beyond the Roman Rite” which, although it is the largest, is by no means the only Rite within the Church. “The harmony of the ritual traditions, of the East and of the West,” by means of the same Spirit, gives voice to the one only Church  praying through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, to the glory of the Father, and for the salvation of the world.”

AMATRICE, ONE YEAR LATER

It certainly sounds like the today’s papal tweet applies to the people of Amatrice and nearby towns!

Today marks the first anniversary of the tremendous 6.2 quake that killed 299 people last year in central Italy, in particular the charming town of Amatrice which was basically razed to the ground. The entire rebuilding process will be very, very long, as you see in the photos below and the accompanying article. Posted August 23 on www.thelocal.it

One year after an earthquake struck the Amatrice region – and less than 24 hours after another struck the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples – Italy on Thursday will remember the 299 victims killed in the August 23rd, 2016, disaster that still haunts the country.

Survivors will hold a candle-lit procession in the early hours, even as Ischia island to the south, recovers from Italy’s latest quake — and critics again criticize the government for failing to shore-up the nation’s poorly constructed buildings. (photo afp April 2017)

It was well before dawn on August 24, 2016 when a 6.0-magnitude quake razed much of Amatrice and the surrounding region, killing families in their beds or trapping them in dust-filled cavities in the rubble.

Children in their pajamas were pulled lifeless from the debris, one youngster having used up the last of the oxygen tunnelling in the wrong direction in a futile bid to reach safety.

There was more to come. Shell-shocked locals suffered three more violent quakes, on October 26 and 30 and January 18 — the last one sparking an avalanche that would wipe out a hotel and kill 29 people. (photo afp: April 2017)

Damage to homes, schools, hospitals and churches in the region are estimated at 23.55 billion euros ($27.7 billion).

Hours before dawn on Thursday, relatives of the 239 victims who died in Amatrice on the 24th will meet at 1:30 am to remember their loved ones with candles and prayers.

At 3:36am the moment the earthquake struck, a bell will toll 239 times, before a memorial mass is held.

Other commemorations are planned for Wednesday or Thursday in devastated hamlets nearby, from Accumoli to Pescara del Tronto, whose mayor recalled this week “we didn’t know where to put all the dead”.

Continue reading here: https://www.thelocal.it/20170823/italy-prepares-to-remember-2016-amatrice-earthquake-victims

 

A PRIEST EXPLAINS THE HARD TRUTH OF WHY THE CHURCH IS IN DECLINE

No papal activities today, except for daily morning Mass, nor was there any current or breaking news from the Vatican – not even a daily press office bulletin. So, without further ado – or distractions, I offer a “must read” column of the day. I left the bold as I found it.

I wanted to share this insightful piece with you from Fr. Bill Peckman’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/frbill.peckman1/posts/10208973153114644) that came to my attention via ChurchPOP and my EWTN colleagues:

A PRIEST EXPLAINS THE HARD TRUTH OF WHY THE CHURCH IS IN DECLINE

I spend a lot of time, reading, and prayer on why the Church is decline in this country.

The influx of immigrants from Latin America hides the number decline. Even with this influx, every measurable indicator is down: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, priestly ordinations, numbers of men’s and women’s religious, children in parochial schools and religion programs. It is grim.

How did we get here?

The major error was ditching the transcendent. We domesticated God. We became functional Arians. (This doesn’t mean racist, that would be Aryans.) It means we act as if Jesus was merely human, that He is a guru, self-help teacher, social worker extraordinaire.

To be sure, I am not talking about every parish. But as a Church in this country, we took our eyes off the ball.

Mass started looking less like the worship of God and more like a pep rally. Our churches stopped looking Catholic and were overrun by iconoclasts. We went from churches that exuded Catholic belief visually, to ubiquitous sacred spaces that looked more like theaters.

Some places ran with the theater aspect. Worship transformed to entertainment. What I got out of it became much more important than what I put into it.

By ripping out the transcendent heart out of worship, we reduced Mass. It is little wonder that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist plummeted. It is little wonder that priestly vocations plummeted. While the generation that ushered these things love them, the subsequent generations fled in droves.

With worship emptied of the transcendent, Catholic life soon followed. Devotional life in parishes dried up. Parish churches became Mass stations. It has been heartening to see a rise in Eucharistic Adoration.

With the focus off the transcendent, awareness also plummeted. Confession lines disappeared. Families shrunk as we started contracepting ourselves out of existence. The loud din of children gave way to seas of gray. Accommodation of the secular culture went largely unchallenged. Causes replaced action. The works of mercy declined as a false idea of social just rose in its place.

In this mileau, it was easy for people to leave. Without the transcendent, we offer nothing more than any fraternal order. Without the transcendent, objective morality withers. With our eyes off the ball, 78% of Catholics simply quit coming to Mass. Without the source and summit that is the Eucharist, the Catholic life dies. It is starved to death.

But those who leave, even if they go nowhere else, still have that longing. Many identify that as “spiritual but not religious.” There is still an unrequited longing for the transcendent. If they cannot find it with us, they will look elsewhere, even if that means cobbling something together themselves. We can sneer and belittle them at our own peril. The fact they aren’t drawn to a pep rally isn’t on them – it is on us.

How do we turn this around?

Lets start with focusing back on the transcendent again. In our structures, our worship, our music, our preaching, and our teaching.

This doesn’t mean we ignore the immanent. Not at all! The lessons from the transcendent must find a home in our lives. If God has placed a longing for Him, then that must be the focus at Mass. If we don’t focus on God there, we will leave people no choice but to look elsewhere.

Let us then, having established the prominence of God in our lives, revel in our being counter cultural. We are in the world but not of the world. We are yeast, light, salt, and whatever other transformative description Jesus uses to describe His people.

If we look and act the same as the secular culture around us, then we can hardly be a witness to the throngs of people who are searching for something to fill that God sized hole in their souls. After all, St. Augustine reminds us that our hearts are restless until they rest in Christ.

Our eyes need to be on the ball. Our eyes need to be on Christ. Not on the congregation. Not only the priest. They need to be on Christ.

My duty as a priest, as a pastor of souls, is to be sure the focus is on Him