VATICAN INSIDER PAYS TRIBUTE TO CARDINAL TAURAN – PRIESTS AND MARRIAGE PREPARATION

There have been quite a few repercussions around the world following remarks by Cardinal Kevin Farrell who has said in several interviews that priests have “no credibility for marriage preparation.” I have received emails about this and have seen posts on Facebook by priests who have expressed their incredulity at this statement by the head of the Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life.

A particularly eloquent response to the cardinal’s remarks was written by Fr. Roger Landry for the National Catholic Register, and I offer you his thoughts on the subject. I know many priests will thank him.

VATICAN INSIDER PAYS TRIBUTE TO CARDINAL TAURAN

This week in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider,” I want to pay tribute to the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, a man I got to know both during and after the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service. As you probably know, he died on July 5 in the United States after years of struggling with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.

What you’ll hear today is my interview with him shortly after Pope Benedict’s 2009 trip to the Holy Land. What most amazed me as I listened to our conversation was how timely the Cardinal’s message still is today. I know you’ll agree as you listen to this most able and astute diplomat as we discuss his work, especially relations with Muslims.

Here are some photos from the day in 2009 that Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders at the al-Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, Jordan. I covered that event and, as you will see, the women journalists had to be dressed in a certain manner to enter. You’ll see Cardinal Tauran in several of these photos.

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PRIESTS AND MARRIAGE PREPARATION

(National Catholic Register) COMMENTARY: Rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.
By Father Roger Landry

One of the duties of parish priests is to prepare couples for the sacrament of matrimony. Many priests love this work. Others admit they find parts of it taxing. But almost all parish priests do it, dedicate quite a lot of time to doing it, and, like other aspects of priestly work, try to do it well.

That’s why it came as quite a shock earlier this month when Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect for the Vatican’s Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, which is in charge of the Church’s universal care for the family, declared that priests are basically incompetent to do this work.

In an interview printed in the July/August edition of Intercom magazine, published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Farrell made headlines when he said, “Priests are not the best people to train others for marriage. They have no credibility. They have never lived the experience. They may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day … they don’t have the experience.”

This was not the first time he has alleged universal priestly ineptitude with regard to marriage preparation. Last September, at a conference in Belfast, he emphasized that priests have “no credibility in this area” because they have “no credibility when it comes to living the reality of marriage.” What is needed, he said, is accompaniment by other married couples “who have walked in [married couples’] shoes.”

He implied that his comprehensive assertions might be partly autobiographical extrapolations because, he said, he didn’t “have a clue” when his own nieces and nephews asked him some questions about marital difficulties. “I have no experience of that, and the majority of priests don’t have that experience,” he said.

But in the Intercom interview he also contended that priests’ lack of competence and credibility is matched by a lack of commitment. Basing himself on his previous experience as the bishop of Dallas, he said, priests, with all of their duties, “are not going to be interested in organizing marriage meetings.”

Priests who are in fact interested in organizing meetings with couples to help them get ready for the sacrament of marriage found his comments disheartening and disturbing. Many married couples likewise found them bewildering.

Earlier this month I was in Lubbock, Texas, giving four talks at the “Diocesan Family Camp” on how marital love is free, full, faithful and fruitful. Several of the married couples present, in the wake of Cardinal Farrell’s comments, sent me emails thanking me once again for my work and saying that they found my talks, and Bishop Robert Coerver’s opening keynote, credible, helpful and attuned to the realities of marriage and family life. I similarly got emails from various couples I’ve prepared for marriage over the last 19 years, saying how grateful they were for what they received from the hours we spent together.

It’s one thing to make the obvious point that effective marriage preparation involves not just parish priests but well-trained married couples, something that happens in most parish, diocesan and online marriage-preparation courses in the United States. Cardinal Farrell’s regrettable emphasis, however, was not to encourage lay involvement, but to undermine priests’ involvement and credibility – as if, because they’ve never been married, priests have nothing to contribute. This led Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin humorously to tweet, “It seems fair to ask, then, if a celibate cleric has sufficient ‘credibility’ to lead a dicastery devoted to laity, family and life.”
Cardinal Farrell’s comments made me wonder how familiar he is with St. John Paul II’s works on marriage, which take up his objections and persuasively refute them.

In the opening words of the introduction to his book Love and Responsibility, for example, the future pope took up the objection:
“There exists a view that only married people may speak about marriage, and that only persons who experience love between a man and a woman may speak about such love. This view demands personal and direct experience as the basis for speaking in a given field. Thus, priests, religious and celibate persons cannot have anything to say on matters of love and marriage.”

Then he responded: “A lack of their own personal experience does not hinder them since they possess a very rich indirect experience proceeding from pastoral work … [where] they encounter precisely these problems so often and in such a variety of ways and situations that another experience is created, experience that is undoubtedly more indirect and ‘foreign,’ but at the same time much more extensive.”

Even though priests don’t have firsthand experience of marital life, St. John Paul underlined, they have a far more extensive secondhand experience than almost anyone because of their pastoral work hearing confessions, counseling couples, and sharing the joys and struggles of their married spiritual sons and daughters. They also have their firsthand exposure to the reality of family life from growing up in a family.

His Eminence, however, not only seems to have forgotten John Paul II’s insights, but also seems unaware of what Pope Francis has said about priests and marriage preparation.

Speaking to parish priests in the Vatican Feb. 25, 2017, Pope Francis commented, “In most cases, you are the first people to be approached by young people desiring to form a new family and marry in the sacrament of matrimony. And it is again you to whom married couples turn in crisis as a result of serious relationship problems, with a need to rekindle their faith and rediscover the grace of the sacrament. …No one better than you knows and is in touch with the reality of the social fabric of the territory and experiences the various complexities: unions celebrated in Christ, de facto unions, civil unions, failed unions, happy and unhappy families and young people.”

“With each person and in each situation,” the Pope continued, “you are called to be traveling companions who can offer witness and support. May your primary concern be to bear witness to the grace of the sacrament of matrimony and the primordial good of the family, vital cell of the Church and of society, by announcing that marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of the spousal union between Christ and the Church. Such witness is put into practice concretely when you prepare engaged couples for marriage, making them aware of the profound meaning of the step which they are about to take, and when you journey with young couples with attentiveness, helping them experience the divine strength and the beauty of their marriage through light and shadow, through joyful and difficult times.”

He went on to say that he wanted marriage preparation to be a “true catechumenate” that could accompany engaged couples similar to the way the Church for months accompanies adults preparing for the sacrament of baptism.

“This catechumenate,” he said, “is principally entrusted to you, parish priests. …I encourage you to implement it despite any difficulties you may encounter.”

Those are not the words of someone with a low estimation of the credibility, competence and commitment of priests with regard to the sacrament of matrimony.

I have had the joy to do clergy workshops on marriage preparation in various dioceses in the U.S. and Canada and to speak throughout the U.S. and beyond on John Paul II’s theology of the body. I have also had the chance to prepare several hundred couples for marriage.

I normally meet with couples cumulatively for about 10 hours because I’m convinced that in a culture that doesn’t support marriage as the lifelong, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman, this time is indispensable to help them build their marriage on the rock of faith.

In addition to Marriage Encounter or other pre-Cana programs I have them take, I give them 12 short essays to write, so that I can better meet them where they’re at and help bring them to where the Church hopes they’ll be on their wedding day. I give them videos to watch and websites to visit. I administer FOCCUS tests (a pre-marriage inventory) to them and review with them their responses.

Over the course of our conversations, we discuss their family backgrounds, how they met, how they determined the other was the “right one,” how the proposal happened, what marriage means, why Christian marriage is a sacrament, what role God plays in their relationship, what is distinctive about marital love, what they love about the other and how the other has shown love to them, what their desires are for children, how to grow in prayer and faith as a couple, how to forgive, and what marriage experts say are best practices on communication, finances and relations with in-laws.

We go over in depth the necessary intentions for a valid marriage. We cover the what and why of the Church’s teachings about natural family planning, adoption, infertility, cohabitation, contraception, in vitro fertilization and pornography. We even tackle what to do if they happen to fall in love with someone else.

In all of this, rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.

My chaste celibacy allows me to be more objective in talking about human sexuality in God’s plan than someone whose experiences are marked too much by personal experience.

My seminary training is likewise a plus. So many generous Catholic couples who volunteer to lead marriage-preparation courses, like my parents, certainly can talk effectively and eloquently about various practical realities of living a Catholic marriage, but, in general, they cannot speak to the theology and sacramentality of marriage the way priests can and couples deserve. Not even most permanent deacons can address the “tough issues” with regard to the Church’s moral teaching with the same clarity and confidence as priests. These priestly contributions are an indispensable service to couples who are often beguiled by our secular age to look at marriage in a desacralized way.

Most helpful of all, however, I think, is simply a priest’s presence and prioritized concern for the couple. Many young people, including Catholics, don’t know priests personally, because they see them only in chasubles. Many come to marriage preparation not practicing the faith, in one way or many, and have lots of unanswered questions and misconceptions that will impact their marriage and spiritual life overall if left unaddressed.

Over the course of the hours we have together, those questions can come up. Trust can build. The practice of the faith can return. Doubts about “credibility” can be overcome. Real evangelization or re-evangelization can take place.

When a priest shows how much he cares in making the time to get to know and form them, and then brings the fruit of that burgeoning friendship to their rehearsal, wedding homily, reception, future baptisms and more, it can have a favorable long-term influence on their relationship with all priests and with the Church.

I hope that the intense reaction that Cardinal Farrell’s unintentionally offensive remarks have provoked among priests and the faithful might lead him to reassess his conclusions.
I also hope that it will help him, and the dicastery he directs, to better support priests in the trenches in their important labor – together with married laypeople – in preparing couples not just for marriage, but for the sacrament of matrimony in its fullness.

The future of the Church depends on that crucial and ongoing work.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts.

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VATICAN INSIDER EXPLORES EXORCISM: PART II – VATICAN MESSAGE TO MUSLIMS AT RAMADAM

Pope’s Prayer Intention for June 2017: That national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade, which victimizes so many innocent people.

Moments before posting this column, I heard from Kathleen Beckman that her mother died unexpectedly on May 31 as she, Kathleen, was bringing her father to the hospital for some tests. There never are the right words on such an occasion to express the grief and loss of a parent so I simply ask that you remember Kathleen, her Dad, her siblings and, of course, her late Mother, in your prayers.

VATICAN INSIDER EXPLORES EXORCISM: PART II

Tune in this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Kathleen Beckman and Dr. Luis Sandoval who recently traveled from the Orange County Diocese to Rome to attend a course on Exorcism at Regina Apostolorum seminary.

Kathleen is well known to so many as a prolific author, engaging speaker and retreat master and founder of Foundation of Prayer for Priests. We recently collaborated on the newly-released book, “When Women Pray.”

Dr. Luis Sandoval is a Santa Ana physician who is board certified in psychiatry and family medicine and who also serves as an advisor to the Board of Directors for NAMI Orange County (NAMI: National Alliance for Mental Illness). The Diocese of Orange sponsored a forum on mental illness last February entitled, How do we respond to mental illness in  our community? I will talk to him about any possible connection between mental illness and a person who is possessed and undergoes an exorcism.

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 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=

VATICAN MESSAGE TO MUSLIMS AT RAMADAM

The following Message to Muslims is from the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and is entitled “Christians and Muslims: Caring for our Common Home.” It is dated May 19, 2017:

Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters,

We wish to assure you of our prayerful solidarity during this time of fasting in the month of Ramadan and the celebration of ‘Id alFitr that concludes it, and we extend to you our heartfelt best wishes for serenity, joy and abundant spiritual gifts.

This year’s Message is especially timely and significant: fifty years ago, in 1967, only three years after the establishment of this Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) by Pope Paul VI on 19 May 1964, the first Message was sent for this occasion.

In the years that have followed, two Messages have been particularly important: the Message of 1991, during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, entitled “The Path of Believers is the Way of Peace”, and the Message of 2013, in the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, entitled “Promoting Mutual Respect through Education”. Both Messages were signed by the Pontiffs.

Among the many activities of the PCID for promoting dialogue with Muslims, the most important and longstanding is this yearly Message for Ramadan and for ‘Id al-Fitr addressed to Muslims throughout the world. To share this Message in the widest way possible, the PCID is assisted by local Catholic communities, as well as Papal Representatives present in almost every country.

The experience of both our religious communities affirms the value of this Message for promoting cordial relations between Christian and Muslim neighbours and friends, by offering insights on current and pressing issues.

For this year, the PCID offers a theme related to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter “ Laudato Si’– On Care for Our Common Home”, which was addressed not only to Catholics and Christians, but to the whole of humanity. Pope Francis draws attention to the harm our lifestyles and decisions are causing to the environment, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings. There are, for example, certain philosophical, religious, and cultural perspectives that present obstacles which threaten humanity’s  relationship with nature. To take up this challenge involves all of us, regardless of whether or not we profess a religious belief.

The Encyclical’s title itself is expressive: the world is a “ common home”, a dwelling for all the members of the human family. Therefore, no one person, nation or people can impose exclusively their understanding of our planet. This is why Pope Francis appeals “ for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet…, since the environmental challengewe are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affects us all” (n. 14). Pope Francis states that “the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion” (no. 217).

What is needed is education, spiritual openness and a “global ecological conversion” to adequately address this challenge. As believers, our relationship with God should be increasingly shown in the way we relate to the world around us. Our vocation to be guardians of God’s handiwork is not optional, nor it is tangential to our religious commitment as Christians and Muslims: it is an essential part of it.

May the religious insights and blessings that flow from fasting, prayer and good works sustain you, with God’s help, on the path of peace and goodness, to care for all the members of the human family and for the whole of creation.

With these sentiments, we wish you once again serenity, joy and prosperity.

From the Vatican, 19 May 2017

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President

Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.l., Secretary

“TOGETHER, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS MUST SAY NO TO HATRED, NO TO REVENGE AND NO TO VIOLENCE!”

Pope Francis tweeted today. The time has come for new messengers of Christ, ever more generous, more joyful and more holy.

This will be a rather abbreviated column as, in the midst of busyness on so many upcoming projects – WHAM! –  I received an email with a pdf copy of my about-to-be-released book, “A Holy Year in Rome.” and that changed my afternoon agenda a bit! I was very moved and excited to check this out and I’m afraid I lost some time in exploring what promises to be (all modesty aside!) a real best seller! I’ll let you know very soon when and how it will be available!

Today’s projects included researching and writing some material for “At Home with Jim and Joy,” preparing for my three weekly radio shows and editing an interview for “Vatican Insider” this weekend.

Be sure to tune in tonight to “At Home” when I will be bringing news from Rome about Pope Francis’ amazing, just completed six-day, three-nation apostolic trip to Africa.  As you know, “At Home” airs Mondays and Thursdays at 2 pm ET.

One of Pope Francis’ most important moments in the conflict-ridden Central African Republic took place this morning when he met with Muslims at the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui. The sad thing about the CAR conflict is that is is a question of a Muslim-Christian conflict. The Pope’s remarks today were very important so I bring you Vatican Radio’s report on that encounter.

Hopefully the Holy Father will rest a bit tomorrow and then tell us all about his remarkable days in Kenya, Uganda and the Central Africa Republic at the Wednesday general audience.

By the way, things are progressing quite nicely in St. Peter’s Square for Christmas. I was briefly in the square this afternoon but did not have my camera so will return tomorrow to take some photos of the building of the Nativity scene – il presepio – in St. Peter’s Square, just in front of the obelisk, and the very colorful decorations on the Christmas tree which is to the right of the obelisk. In past years there have been only silver and gold-colored ornaments but this year they are multi-colored and delightful.

This seems to be an afternoon of gifts.  I just received a lengthy phone call from a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre regarding my investiture as a Lady into the Order on December 18 and 19!  I am very excited and also very humbled to have been invited into the Order, but more than anything I am overjoyed to be able to play some small part in helping Christians in the Holy Land that I love so much!

More later about all of these exciting events!

“TOGETHER, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS MUST SAY NO TO HATRED, NO TO REVENGE AND NO TO VIOLENCE!”

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday morning visited the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, meeting with the city’s Muslim community.

The Holy Father was welcomed to the mosque by the Grand Imam Nehedi Tidjani, along with four other Imam, who accompanied him to the podium.

CAR - Grand Mosque

In his address, Pope Francis recalled the recent violence which has rocked the country, saying “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.”

“We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives. Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace. Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years. […] Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, God salam.”

Recalling the upcoming national consultations, the Holy Father said, “We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.”

Below, please find Pope Francis’ prepared remarks to the Muslim Community of Bangui:

Address of Pope Francis

Meeting with the Muslim Community

Bangui, Central Mosque

30 November 2015

Dear Muslim friends, leaders and followers of Islam,

It is a great joy for me to be with you and I thank you for your warm welcome.  In a particular way I thank Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi for his kind words of greeting.  My Pastoral Visit to the Central African Republic would not be complete if it did not include this encounter with the Muslim community.

Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.  We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such.  We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives.  Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace.  Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.  They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.  Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, God salam.

In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment.  They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all.  I would like express my gratitude and appreciation for this.  We can also call to mind the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions, by welcoming them and defending them during this latest crisis in your country, as well as in other parts of the world.

We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.  It will prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right.

Dear friends, dear brothers, I invite you to pray and work for reconciliation, fraternity and solidarity among all people, without forgetting those who have suffered the most as a result of recent events.

May God bless you and protect you! Salam alaikum!