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Pope demands action for failing fight against climate change

IMAGE: CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

By Paige Hanley

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite growing recognition of climate change as a legitimate and looming threat, current commitments to mitigate its effects and alter human behavior fall short of those needed to resolve the crisis in time, Pope Francis said.

"We must admit that this awareness is still rather weak, unable to respond adequately to that strong sense of urgency for rapid action called for by the scientific data at our disposal," the pope said in a message to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, COP25.

The conference was being held in Madrid Dec. 2-13, and the Vatican released a copy of the pope's message Dec. 4.

The conference aimed to take crucial steps in the U.N. climate change process and to identify effective strategies for implementing the Paris Agreement, a framework of action against climate change adopted by the U.N. Dec. 12, 2015.

However, studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "demonstrate how far words are from concrete actions," the pope said.

According to the intergovernmental panel, global temperatures and emissions continue to rise and humanity is not on course to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2020.

"We must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change," Pope Francis said.

The pope also affirmed that numerous studies show how curbing global warming is still possible.

This closing window of opportunity "calls us to reflect conscientiously on the significance of our consumption and production models and on the processes of education and awareness to make them consistent with human dignity," he said.

"We are facing a 'challenge of civilization' in favor of the common good and of a change of perspective that places this same dignity at the center of our action," the pope said.

He called on the current generation of international leaders and regular citizens to act, rather than allow the burden to fall on the next generations.

"We should give them the opportunity to remember our generation as the one that renewed and acted on -- with honest, responsible and courageous awareness -- the fundamental need to collaborate in order to preserve and cultivate our common home," Pope Francis said.

"May we offer the next generation concrete reasons to hope and work for a good and dignified future," he said.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Trust in Christ, not in psychics, sorcerers, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis scolded people who consider themselves practicing Christians, but who turn to fortunetelling, psychic readings and tarot cards.

True faith means abandoning oneself to God "who makes himself known not through occult practices but through revelation and with gratuitous love," the pope said Dec. 4 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope called out Christians who seek reassurance from practitioners of magic.

"How is it possible, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you go to a sorcerer, a fortuneteller, these types of people?" he asked. "Magic is not Christian! These things that are done to predict the future or predict many things or change situations in life are not Christian. The grace of Christ can bring you everything! Pray and trust in the Lord."

At the audience, the pope resumed his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, reflecting on St. Paul's ministry in Ephesus, a "famous center for the practice of magic." In the city, St. Paul baptized many people, and drew the ire of the silversmiths who made a business of crafting idols.

While the uprising of the silversmiths eventually was resolved, the pope recounted, St. Paul made his way to Miletus to deliver a farewell speech to elders of Ephesus.

The pope called the apostle's speech "one of the most beautiful pages of the Acts of the Apostles," and he asked the faithful to read chapter 20.

The chapter includes an exhortation of St. Paul to the elders to "keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock."

Pope Francis said that priests, bishops and the pope himself must be vigilant and "close to the people to guard them and defend them," rather than being "disconnected from the people."

"Let us ask the Lord to renew in us his love for the church and for the deposit of the faith which she preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the care of the flock, supporting in prayer the shepherds so that they may manifest the firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd," the pope said.

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Sister recalls vaudeville days and her family as 'Nine Dancing Donahues'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Brown

By Michael Brown

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) -- Sister Barbara Donahue, 90, was only 10 minutes into an interview about the vaudeville group made up of her and her siblings when she broke out in "The Donahue Song."

The ditty was written by her mom for the group, which became its signature piece, emphasizing the importance of family.

"We were just ordinary people trying to do extraordinary things," said Sister Barbara Donahue, who is a member of the Sisters for Christian Community.

She was talking to Catholic Outlook, Tucson's diocesan newspaper, as she looked back looking back on memorabilia from her childhood when she and her siblings were the "Nine Dancing Donahues."

Sister Barbara, who had her 90th birthday in September, lives at El Rancho Encanto assisted living center in Tucson. She was diagnosed recently with lung cancer. She's the last survivor of the troupe.

Born Sept. 14, 1929, she was the youngest of five boys and four girls growing up in Detroit. Her dad, Emmett, was a bricklayer by trade, but supported his family with his job at the Plymouth auto factory. Her mom, Ella, was the musical genius. She graduated from St. Aloysius School and played the organ in church.

"St. Aloysius was the root of all that happened," Sister Barbara said.

"Her early occupation was to play at the silent movies," she said about her mother. When the oldest child, Emmett Jr., turned 7, she put him to work as "an Irish tenor."

"When she would play, he would sing," Sister Barbara said.

Later, someone approached her and suggested that they form a family vaudeville group, and the "Nine Dancing Donahues" were born. After Emmett Jr. came Jack, Dennis, Thomas, Richard, Betty, Kay, Nancy and Barbara.

"Our sponsor was the Kennedy Milk Company," she said with a grin.

Her dad was the stage manager, Sister Barbara recalled. His greatest challenge was trying to keep the girls' shoes properly organized offstage as they switched between their tap and stage shoes.

The group was prominent in the Detroit area, especially among the Irish parishes. It broke up in 1945 when the U.S. entered World War II. Three brothers entered the military and Barbara entered the convent. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 16, taking the name Sister Mary Leah. She joined her current community after the Second Vatican Council.

In 1949, the University of Michigan sponsored a vaudeville show that included the siblings' group. Even though she was preparing for her vows, Sister Barbara said, she was allowed to return to join the reunion.

During their touring days, each child had a song. Hers was "Alice Blue Gown," from the play "Irene" as sung by 1930s' Hollywood star Alice Faye. She even has a photo of her singing in a blue gown at age 15.

Nancy and Kay sang "East Side, West Side," Sister Barbara recalled. That was usually preceded by her brother Denny singing "Ain't She Sweet?"

Whenever a local parish sponsored a fundraiser, the "Nine Dancing Donahues" was there in a pinch, she said.

The signature song, "The Donahue Song," became a family mainstay, so much so that those who marry into the family are not really members until they attend a special ceremony with the family at the Irish American Club in Detroit. Family members encircle the newcomer and sing "The Donahue Song."

"Then you are in the family," Sister Barbara said.

When Ella died Sept. 8, 1953, her obituary ran the following week in Billboard magazine, the entertainment industry periodical of record.

Sister Barbara marveled at the amount of detail she still remembers from her early days. "All this is extraordinary. I paid a lot of attention apparently."

The theater skills came in handy in ministry, especially during her time serving at the San Solano missions in the Tucson Diocese. "I was always regarded as a good teacher," she said.

She repeated a mantra she learned from her mother: "If you see a need, step up to it."

Sister Barbara said when she was growing up, people always knew the location of the Donahue house. A fire hydrant stood in front, so the city also placed a streetlight nearby to help first responders during nighttime emergencies.

"We were always out there playing baseball," she said.

More than seven decades after the troupe broke up, one memory was as strong as the day it started, said Sister Barbara, the last surviving member. "The wonderful part of this was family."

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Brown is managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Everyday Heroes: Fisherman attributes survival to heavenly intercession

IMAGE: CNS photo/Spirit Juice, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Andrew Butler

Jeffrey Rentegrado never expected that his career as a fisherman could put his life in danger. Nor did he know his faith -- and perhaps the intercession of the founder of the Knights of Columbus -- would save him from a deadly attack in his own home on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

"I'm very grateful to Father McGivney. I feel that he provided for me. He granted my prayers and that is why I survived," Rentegrado said.

Before May 27, 2009, Rentegrado and his wife, Ginalyn, had a routine typical for a fisherman's family. His day began at 2 a.m., when he made his way out to sea. When he came ashore with the catch, Ginalyn weighed and sold it.

But on that May evening 10 years ago, Rentegrado prepared to have dinner with his family when two gunmen stormed into the house. Aiming to seize control of Rentegrado's fishing grounds, they shot him 13 times in front of Ginalyn and their two children. One son, Reggie, also was shot.

Blood spilled from Rentegrado's mouth as he and his son were taken to a local doctor. The medic thought he was dead on arrival, but she found a pulse and sent him to the hospital.

The gunshot wounds should have been fatal, according to Dr. Roger Braceros, who treated Rentegrado at the hospital.

"With those 13 gunshot wounds, it seemed impossible for us to revive this patient," Braceros said.

But Rentegrado wasn't dead. He was conscious and heard a voice telling him to pray. He grabbed his rosary and turned to pray for the intercession of Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus.

Medics told Rentegrado's wife it was a hopeless cause. But she wouldn't listen.

"I said to my husband, just have faith, fight it out. You can do it," she said.

For his commitment to faith throughout this traumatic incident, Rentegrado is featured in "Everyday Heroes," a video series produced by the Knights of Columbus showcasing ordinary men acting in extraordinary ways, who are strengthened by their Catholic faith and membership in the Knights of Columbus.

Rentegrado underwent three surgeries in five hours. And, defying nearly everyone's expectations, he survived.

"Suddenly I remember opening my eyes and seeing my wife, Ginalyn. I was so overwhelmed my heart jumped," Rentegrado said.

Rentegrado now has a new appreciation for Knights' founder Father McGivney, who started the organization in part to keep families together. He established the Knights to band together men of faith, to help families stay together despite dangerous working conditions. So it's no wonder Father McGivney was watching over Rentegrado.

Father McGivney (1852-1890) was a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford who founded the Knights in 1882 in New Haven. The cause for his sainthood formally began in Hartford in 1997. He was declared to be a venerable servant of God in March 2008.

Now every day before going out to sea, Rentegrado makes the sign of the cross, asking the Lord for strength, endurance and protection. An active member of the Knights of Columbus, he has worked with his brother Knights to construct a parish hall and to serve their pastor whenever he calls.

For surviving that horrific attack 10 years ago, his wife calls him the "King of the Sea," or, thanks to the K of C, he's also the "K of Sea."

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Editor's Note: A video accompanying this story can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NVY2P-ijuU. To share your story of an everyday hero with the Knights of Columbus, contact [email protected]

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Great faith sprouts from small, humble actions, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God makes his presence known not by those who claim to have great faith but by those who are little and humble, Pope Francis said.

Priests, bishops and laypeople who "do not take on this path of littleness" will fall like the Christians of the past who "sought to impose themselves with force, greatness and by conquering," the pope said in his homily Dec. 3 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"The Kingdom of God sprouts in the small things, always in the small things, the small seed, the seed of life," he said.

Celebrating the memorial of St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits, the pope dressed in white vestments, which signify joy, innocence, purity and glory.

He reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus praises God for having hidden his divine revelation from the wise and instead "revealed them to the childlike."

Littleness, the pope said, is where "redemption, revelation, the presence of God in the world begins."

"The great ones present themselves as powerful. Let us think about Jesus' temptation in the desert, like Satan who presents himself as powerful, the lord of the whole world," the pope said. "Instead, the things of God begin by sprouting from a small seed. And Jesus speaks of this littleness in the Gospel," he said.

Christmas, he continued, also serves as a reminder of this since "we will all go to the creche where the littleness of God is" found.

True Christians "always starts from littleness" and in prayer, they "give thanks to God because we are little," he said.

"If, in prayer, I feel little, with my limits, my sins, like that publican who prayed at the back of the church, ashamed: 'Have mercy on me for I am a sinner,' you will go forward. But if you think you are a good Christian, you will pray like that Pharisee who did not leave justified: 'I give you thanks, God, because I am great,'" he said.

Pope Francis said his favorite sacrament to administer is the sacrament of confession, especially to children because "they tell you concrete facts."

The concreteness of one who is small. 'Lord, I am a sinner because I did this, this, this and this. This is my misery; this is my littleness. But send your spirit so that I will not be afraid of the big things, that I may not be afraid of you doing great things in my life,'" the pope said.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Defend dignity of persons with disabilities, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The dignity and rights of people with disabilities are increasingly threatened by a society that discriminates and views them as a burden, Pope Francis said.

In a letter marking the U.N.'s International Day of Persons with Disabilities Dec. 3, the pope said that humanity needs to "develop antibodies against a culture that considers some lives as class A and others as class B; this is a social sin!"

"Have the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against because of their disability, because unfortunately in some countries, even today, it is difficult to recognize them as persons of equal dignity, as brothers and sisters in humanity," he said.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities "aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life," according to the U.N. website.

In his letter, the pope acknowledged that while "great progress" has been made in medicine and legislation, the influence of a throwaway culture leaves many disabled persons "feeling that they exist without belonging and without participating" in society.

"Making good laws and breaking down physical barriers is important," the pope wrote, "but it is not enough if the mentality does not change, if we do not overcome a widespread culture that continues to produce inequalities and prevents people with disabilities from actively participating in ordinary life."

Pope Francis said that discrimination and prejudice against persons with disabilities limits their access to education, employment and participation in society. He also said that service and commitment to those in need "determines the degree of a nation's civility."

"A person with disabilities, in order to build himself or herself up, needs not only to exist but also to belong to a community," he said. "I pray that each person may feel the paternal gaze of God, who affirms their full dignity and the unconditional value of their life."

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Update: Work on Wisconsin farm prepared slain brother for service in Guatemala

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Christian Bro

By Sam Lucero

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Before donning the habit of a Christian Brother in 1962, Brother James Miller wore the bib overalls of a Wisconsin farm boy.

While in his green work clothes, repairing a wall outside of the Casa Indigena De La Salle -- his religious community's school for indigenous boys in Huehuetenango, Guatemala -- Brother Miller, 37, was gunned down by three men Feb. 13, 1982.

Nearly 37 years after his death, Brother Miller will be beatified during Mass Dec. 7 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Huehuetenango. He will be the first American-born Christian Brother declared blessed.

To his friends and family, Brother Miller was a farm boy through and through. He was also a deeply spiritual man who grew to love the poor, indigenous people of Guatemala, who, like him, were close to the land.

"Jim was a man of faith. He lived and gave his life helping poor Indian boys learn the trade of farming so they could feed themselves," said fellow Christian Brother Stephen Markham, who grew up on a farm in Iowa and entered the Christian Brothers the same time as Brother Miller.

Born Sept. 21, 1944, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Brother Miller was the oldest of Arnold and Lorraine Miller's five children. His siblings include brothers Bill and Ralph, and sisters Pat Richter and Louise Shafranski. Their father operated a dairy farm that, at its peak, had 68 cows, said Ralph Miller, who today operates the family homestead in Ellis with his brother, Bill.

The siblings recall their eldest brother as full of faith.

"He always wanted to be a priest at the start," Ralph Miller said in a telephone interview. When Brother Miller was young, he used to play the role of priest and celebrate Mass.

"Jim made a tabernacle from an old clock and a monstrance from a tinker toy set," said Brother Markham. "When he was around 10 or 12 years old, he was halfway home from confession when he exclaimed, 'Oh, I forgot to say my penance.' So he knelt right down there on the road and prayed."

One of his duties on the farm was to tend to the chickens, said Brother Markham. "One day his brother Bill saw him kneeling over a hurt chicken and praying for it that it would not die."

Working with his hands and fixing things around the farm helped Brother Miller later on as a missionary, said Shafranski, his sister.

"Jim's background was a perfect fit," she said in an email. "Not only did he have a true calling to the Christian Brothers, but the fact that he started from a humble farm background ... gave him the knowledge to know how to fix things. It also kept him grounded to the basics of land, faith and family."

He attended grade school in his hometown of Ellis, then entered Pacelli Catholic High School in Stevens Point in 1958. It was at Pacelli where Brother Miller was introduced to the Christian Brothers, who staffed the Catholic high school.

After one year at Pacelli, he joined the junior novitiate. In September 1959 he was sent to Glencoe, Missouri.

"In one day, I left the state of Wisconsin for the first time, took my first train ride and saw a building over four stories high," Brother Miller wrote in a two-page autobiography for his religious community in June 1978.

He finished his novitiate in Winona, Minnesota, in 1963, earned a bachelor's degree at St. Mary's College, Winona, in 1966, and was sent to teach Spanish at then-Cretin High School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Brother Miller's first exposure to Central America was in July 1969, when he spent the summer in Bluefields, Nicaragua, studying Spanish. He returned to St. Paul, but made his way back to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, in March 1974. During his five years in Nicaragua, Brother Miller helped build an industrial arts and vocational education complex; served as principal of a government-owned high school, Instituto Nacional Bartolome Colon; and even volunteered as a local fire department chief.

"Since I have quite a bit of experience in building construction, the Nicaraguan government recently asked me to supervise the construction of 10 new rural grade schools being built in the region," he wrote in his autobiography. "I find a lot of satisfaction working among the very poor here in Nicaragua."

His association with the Nicaraguan government of Anastasio Somoza led to Brother Miller's departure after the Sandinista revolution in 1979. He returned to St. Paul and taught one more year at Cretin High School before being assigned to Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Brother Paul Joslin was president of the Christian Brothers community in Huehuetenango when Brother Miller arrived in January 1981.

"Brother James and I were the director and co-director of Casa Indigena," which housed about 150 indigenous youth from the Guatemalan highlands who were training to be teachers, said Brother Joslin.

Brother Miller, whose name in Spanish was Hermano Santiago, quickly found ways to put his fix-it skills to work, repairing plumbing and electrical problems at Casa Indigena.

In a telephone interview, Brother Joslin recalled the tense buildup of fear following reports of pending violence, and the disbelief when he received word of Brother Miller's murder.

The "preferential option for the poor," a pastoral challenge presented by the Latin American bishops in 1968, influenced the Christian Brothers to provide education to the indigenous children in Guatemala and also led to military retaliation, he said.

Just days before Brother Miller's assassination, the religious community was warned by a border patrol agent, whose office was located at a nearby army base, that members of a death squad were looking for one of the seven Christian Brothers in Huehuetenango.

"We were forewarned, but despite that, the decision that we made individually and collectively, was to remain in Huehuetenango for as long as possible," said Brother Joslin.

On the morning of his death, Brother Miller informed Brother Joslin that he would accompany students on a picnic to celebrate Valentine's Day. After returning, Brother Miller decided to fix a hole on a wall near the Casa Indigena entrance, just one block from the cathedral on a crowded shopping street.

"He had to get up on a ladder in order to do it," said Brother Joslin. While on the ladder, three men walking past the entrance, pulled out guns and shot him numerous times. Sister Madeleva Manzanares Suazo, a nurse serving at a nearby hospice, heard the gunshots and ran to find Brother Miller on the ground. He apparently died instantly.

"When this happened, I was in the brothers' house next to the school, which was one kilometer away from Casa Indigena," said Brother Joslin. "When I got there, I can't tell you how awful it was, the shock, but when I went to reach, to touch Santiago, there was a policeman standing there and he snapped at me and said, 'Don't touch him.'

"I did pick up the hat he was wearing ... and it was still full of sweat, as if he were still alive," added Brother Joslin.

The local bishop celebrated Mass the following day; more than 1,000 students, parents and friends of the Christian Brothers then processed to the local airfield.

Brother Miller's body was flown to Guatemala City, where two more Masses were celebrated. Brother Joslin accompanied the coffin from Guatemala to St. Paul, Minn., where Archbishop John Roach celebrated Mass Feb. 16 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

The body of Brother Miller was returned to Wisconsin for another Mass, then burial at St. Martin Cemetery in Ellis, one mile south of the farm where he was raised.

In a memorial written shortly after Brother Miller's death, Brother Markham said his friend "followed no other star but his own."

"He was proud of his farm background and never hesitated to share his farm stories, no matter who the audience," he said. "He loved his roots, he loved his family dearly."

In December 1981, during a visit to Minnesota, when Brother Miller had knee surgery, Brother Markham "asked Jim if he wasn't frightened by the thought of returning."

"Jim responded, 'You don't think about that, that's not why you're there. There's too much to be done. ' If it happens, it happens," Brother Markham wrote.

Brother Miller was one of more than 200,000 people killed during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. He was the second Catholic missionary from the United States murdered in Guatemala.

Father Stanley Rother, pastor of St. James the Apostle Parish in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, was shot to death in his rectory July 28, 1981. Pope Francis officially recognized Father Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, as a martyr for the faith, and on Sept. 23, 2017, Father Rother was beatified in Oklahoma City.

On Feb. 13, 2007, the 25th anniversary of Brother Miller's death, Casa Indigena, the center he called home, was renamed Centro Indigena Santiago Miller.

In an email, Shafranski recalled her brother telling her that he would return to Guatemala even though he faced danger.

"I could be kidnapped, tortured and killed, or I could simply be gunned down," she said he told her. "I knew Jim was very dedicated and committed to his students in Huehuetenango. There was no stopping him from going back."

Louise and Rich Shafranski will travel to Guatemala for the beatification Dec. 7. She is the only sibling who is able to attend.

"The one thing I hope people (remember) is that Jim was a real person. He was a son, brother, Christian Brother and friend," she said. "He had a hardy laugh, a ready smile, a quick wit, a good sense of humor, and was a genuine hard-working person. He was a man who felt happiness and sorrow, had great love for both family and the church. He loved working with his hands, and was through and through a little farm boy at heart."

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Lucero is news and information manager for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Church seeks what is best for those who are wounded, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sacrament of marriage cannot be "improvised," but must be prepared for, nourished and supported throughout the couple's journey, Pope Francis said.

Christian couples also must be helped to pursue their "particular vocation to become missionary disciples as spouses, witnesses of the Gospel in family life, at work, in society, wherever the Lord calls them," he said. And they must be given the space in parish ministries to fulfill that call.

The pope made his remarks Nov. 30, in a meeting with men and women enrolled in a course offered by the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal primarily responsible for hearing requests for marriage annulments. The course, held Nov. 26-30, was on safeguarding marriage and on the pastoral care of "wounded couples."

"The church will never be able to go on its way, turning its head away" from those couples facing crisis, he said.

"The church, when it encounters the reality of wounded couples, first of all cries and suffers with them," the pope said. "It draws near to them with the oil of consolation to sooth and to heal. It wants to take upon itself all the pain it encounters."

Helping those couples and dealing with their marriage cases can never be a merely impersonal and "bureaucratic" process, the pope said; rather, it involves "entering into" their lived experience and offering compassion.

The church's canonical and juridical processes are part of its mission "always and only to seek the good of those who are wounded, seek the truth of their love," he said.

The church has no other intention than "to support their just and desired happiness, which, before it being a personal good to which we all humanly aspire, is a gift that God sets aside for his children and that comes from him," the pope said.

The church, he said, must prepare and support couples so that marriage be "that which the Lord Jesus wanted it to be," a vocation and sacrament that fills both spouses with joy and with spiritual and human fulfilment.

Married couples are the "columns" of the domestic church, he said, and they are instrumental in the church's missionary mandate.

Marriage, he said, is a couple's vocation, calling them to "demonstrate the beauty of their belonging to him" and to show others how faith adds to their love, which in turn can be "the epiphany in the world of Christian hope offered by Christ."

 

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Pope saddened by deadly protests in Iraq

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alaa al-Marjani, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he was concerned and saddened following two months of protests in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

"I pray for the dead and the wounded; I am close to their families and to the entire people of Iraq, calling upon God for peace and harmony," the pope said Dec. 1 after praying the Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The pope's remarks came nearly four days after Iraqi security forces fired on unarmed protesters, leading to the deaths of 25 people and the wounding of dozens more, according to Amnesty International.

Since the protests began Oct. 1, an estimated 400 demonstrators have been killed. Protesters have expressed anger at government authorities for widespread financial mismanagement, corruption and increasing poverty in the country.

The protests resulted in the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi Dec. 1 and for calls by international observers for investigations into the killing of protesters.

Iraqi Cardinal Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic patriarch, expressed his "solidarity with Iraqi Shias and Sunnis" and his concern for those who died or were wounded in the protests, said a statement on the patriarchate's website. He asked all Catholics to pray for the country at Masses Dec. 1.

Cardinal Sako, in the statement posted Nov. 30, said he hoped that "the blood that has been shed as a price" for a free, dignified and secure life in Iraq, will be the seeds of an effort "to build a homeland of justice and independence, in which no one would be oppressed or treated unfairly."

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Call me 'Father': Pope's priestly vocation is his favorite gift

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of Maria Elena Bergoglio via Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In Caravaggio's painting of Matthew, the sinful tax collector being called by Jesus to "Follow me," Pope Francis sees the same unexpected, grace-filled moment found in his own call to the priesthood.

A 17-year-old Argentine student headed to a school picnic on Sept. 21, 1953, the feast of St. Matthew, Jorge Bergoglio felt compelled to first stop by his parish of San Jose de Flores.

It was there, speaking with a priest he had never seen before and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, he was suddenly struck by "the loving presence of God," who, like his episcopal motto describes, saw him through eyes of mercy and chose him, despite his human imperfections and flaws.

This gift from a "God of surprises," a God who offers unexpected, unlimited and unmerited mercy, would change the young man's life.

Four days before Pope Francis celebrates his 83rd birthday Dec. 17, he will celebrate 50 years as a priest -- a ministry he sees as being a shepherd who walks with his flock and yearns to find those who are lost.

Even though he served as auxiliary bishop, then archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, for more than 20 years, was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2001 and elected pope in 2013, he has said, "What I love is being a priest," which is why of all the titles he could have, "I prefer to be called 'Father.'"

So much of what Pope Francis experienced in life and his vocation -- with its many ups and downs -- influenced what he says today about the priesthood, what it means and what it should be for the church.

The main and overriding source of inspiration of who a priest must be is rooted in the figure of Jesus in the Gospels: What did he do? How did he react? What did he feel and say?

Jesus was always on the road and always attentive to the people he encountered, the pope told priests of the Diocese of Rome in 2014.

Like Jesus and the early apostles, the priest is a missionary, and this was part of the reason a 21-year-old Bergoglio chose to enter the Society of Jesus. "I was attracted to its position on, to put it in military terms, the front lines of the church, grounded in obedience and discipline. It was also due to its focus on missionary work," he said in a 2010 book-length compilation of interviews with Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti.

But there is a balance the priest must juggle that incorporates Jesus' compassion and that strong discipline, qualities he needed to do well both at school and at work, beginning with part-time jobs at the age of 13.

He swept floors in a factory, did administrative tasks, worked at a laboratory while specializing in applied chemistry in high school, and worked briefly as a bouncer.

The vocation of a priest, on the other hand, would be the exact opposite for Father Bergoglio; it would be drawing people close, not tossing them out, and not worrying about getting dirty in the process.

"Priests who are -- allow me to say the word, 'aseptic,' those 'from the laboratory,' all clean and tidy -- do not help the church," the pope told Rome's priests in 2014.

"Today we can think of the church as a 'field hospital,'" he said, because "there are so many people who are wounded by material problems, by scandals, also in the church. People wounded by the world's illusions. We priests must be there, close to these people," immediately treating those wounds with mercy before delving into the details.

A priest will reflect on and learn from his own mistakes, the pope has often said, and pray for the grace and courage needed to do what God wants, not what a closed, cold or proud heart desires.

In his many interviews, the pope has acknowledged his failings as a priest, Jesuit provincial, bishop and pope.

But within Christianity, there is "a theology of failure," according to a 1974 book with the same title written by U.S. Jesuit Father John Navone. The book and its theology, which emphasized God's patience, had an important impact on the future pope, who was going through a difficult, dark time after ending a six-year term in 1979 as a young provincial superior who struggled with stark divisions among his confreres.

"There was a blessed juncture between my theology and his crisis," Father Navone has said. "It was a kind of light in the darkness to him."

It is only by recognizing and admitting one's failures, the pope has said, then seeing that God still awaits, still offers mercy and forgiveness like the father of the prodigal son, that a priest will be able to see familiar wounds in others and share, in turn, that same undeserved mercy.

It's a form of "pastoral suffering" he told priests in Rome in 2014; "it means suffering for and with the person. And this is not easy! To suffer like a father and mother suffer for their children."

At a time when the priesthood continues to suffer, most visibly with the scandal of abuse and negligence by its members, the pope has continually offered priests a hopeful understanding of their vocation.

Change, transformation and holiness are painful, but "the Lord is purifying his bride and is converting all of us to him. He is making us experience the trial so that we may understand that without him we are dust. He is saving us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances. He is blowing his Spirit to restore beauty to his bride," he told Rome's priests in 2019.

In a letter to priests in 2019, he said, "Our age, marked by old and new wounds, requires us to be builders of relationships and communion, open, trusting and awaiting in hope the newness that the kingdom of God wishes to bring about even today. For it is a kingdom of forgiven sinners called to bear witness to the Lord's ever-present compassion. For his mercy endures forever."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]