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‘Tale of two synods’ emerged from Vatican, says USCCB president

By Mark Pattison/Catholic News Service — October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was just one event, but “a tale of two synods” emerged from it, according to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Speaking to reporters Nov. 10 after the morning session of the USCCB’s annual fall general assembly in Baltimore, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, acknowledged the differences in the synod experienced by the bishops participating in it and news accounts disseminated outside the synod.

Bishops applaud

CNS photo/Bob Roller
Bishops stand and applaud Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago Nov. 10 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., will in mid-November succeed Cardinal George, who is struggling with cancer.

Those differences were highlighted by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in remarks delivered during the assembly’s morning session.

“There must have been two synods,” he said, and the participating U.S. bishops “happened to be at the wrong one.”

From what he said he had heard and read about the synod, one synod was “confrontational and divisive,” “hijacked by left-wing dissenters intent on eluding doctrine,” with proceedings “smothered by new Ottavianis, dug in to resist the fresh breeze” of change, Cardinal Dolan said, referring to Italian Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani known for his opposition to the changes being brought about in the church during the Second Vatican Council.

“Too bad we missed that one,” Cardinal Dolan added. “The one we were at was hardly as spicy (and) juicy.”

The synod Cardinal Dolan said he attended “was a synod of consensus. This synod was led by a pope with a radical charism for attentive listening,” he said of Pope Francis, adding the only time the pope spoke was in “reciting the Angelus — twice.”

At this synod, “we listened to married couples who found God’s love in one another and their kids,” Cardinal Dolan said. “At this synod, we listened to bishops form Africa who said the (church’s) teaching on marriage, so widely dismissed in the First World, was enhancing their culture. ... We saw brother bishops asking how we can expedite and simplify marriage (annulment) cases.”

It was at this synod, Cardinal Dolan said, that “life-giving marriage” was the focus of “meeting the most urgent vocation crisis of the times.”

Archbishop Kurtz, in addressing his fellow bishops, noted that each one of the 62 paragraphs that constituted the final “relatio,” or report, of the synod met with majority approval — and all but three of the paragraphs with approval by at least two-thirds of those voting.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, at a news conference following the morning session, said Pope Francis had asked that the “votation” be published along with the text to indicate the degree of accord shared at the synod.

Archbishop Kurtz said there were 12 documents in all to be considered at the synod before the final “relatio” was discussed: the first two “relatios” — one offered at the synod’s beginning and a second draft issued mid-synod — plus separate documents produced by each of 10 small working groups.

“The work of the second ‘relatio’ was the work of the small groups,” Archbishop Kurtz told reporters.

Cardinal Wuerl added that press covering the synod and those bishops participating in it “have different perspectives.”

“So many people tend to reflect now in terms of sound bites,” he said. “In the church, we’re learning to speak a little more crisply, but our teaching is not reducible to sound bites.”

He noted it took some time for the final “relatio” to be translated into English from the official Italian. But he urged the bishops to wait for the translation, noting that the final “relatio” serves as the “lineamenta,” or outline, for next year’s world Synod of Bishops.

Archbishop Kurtz said the Vatican was holding a meeting later in November to construct a system of reflection for bishops’ conferences to use in seeking input from dioceses to be used in preparation for next year’s synod.

Liturgical items top agenda at USCCB general meeting in Baltimore

By Mark Pattison / Catholic News Service — Liturgical matters will take center stage on the agenda of action items at the fall general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be held Nov. 10-13 in Baltimore.

There will be five liturgical items up for consideration. All are subject to amendments from bishops. All but one require approval of two-thirds of the bishops, followed by final approval from the Vatican.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the USCCB, will deliver his first presidential address. He was elected to a three-year term last November. As is customary, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, also will address the assembly.

During the meeting, the bishops will choose a new secretary-elect for the USCCB and vote for the chairmen-elect of five committees.

A number of presentations will be made, including one on underserved communities and Catholic schools and another on a recent pilgrimage of prayer for peace in the Holy Land.

The bishops also will conduct the canonical consultation on the sainthood cause of Father Paul Wattson. Father Wattson was an Episcopal priest who co-founded the Society of the Atonement, also known as the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, to further Christian unity. He was received into the Catholic Church, as were all men and women in the society at the time, and devised the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, still observed each January.

On the first day of the meeting, the bishops will concelebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore in honor of the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Baltimore was the first diocese founded in the United States. The bishops had similarly marked the bicentennial of the U.S. hierarchy in 1989 with a Mass at the basilica.

The liturgical items up for consideration:

— A revised translation of the ritual book “Dedication of a Church and Altar,” used whenever a new church is built or when a new altar is made. The revised English translation incorporates the modifications from the Code of Canon Law as well as bringing the translation into conformity with the Roman Missal, Third Edition.

— A first-ever official English translation of the ritual book “Exorcisms and Related Supplications,” revised after the Second Vatican Council, and promulgated in Latin in 1999 with an amended version in 2004. The main part of this book is the rite of major exorcism and includes an introduction outlining criteria for its use, which is always the decision of the bishop alone. While this text affirms the reality of evil in the world, it even more so affirms the sovereignty of Jesus to overcome any and all evil.

— A supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours of an English translation of the prayers used for the feast days of saints who have been added to the general calendar since 1984.

— Modifications to the Revised Grail Psalms, originally approved in 2010 by the Vatican. The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship recommended improving the translation and its “sprung rhythm” to make proclamation and singing easier.

The fifth liturgy-related item would authorize rewriting for later approval guidelines from its 1995 document “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities” in light of medical developments and increased awareness of challenges faced by Catholics today, such as gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease.

Other action items to be addressed by the bishops include the 2015 USCCB budget, the 2016 diocesan assessment and a proposal to proceed on a revision to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”

In USCCB elections, Archbishops Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services have been nominated as secretary-elect. The five committees seeking chairmen-elect, and their bishop-nominees, are:

— Committee on Communications: Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas.

— Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church: Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington.

— Committee on Doctrine: Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit.

— Committee on National Collections: Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California.

— Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

The secretary-elect and the chairmen-elect will serve one year in that capacity and then begin a three-year term.

The bishops also will vote on members for the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Relief Services, the USCCB’s international aid and development agency, as well as hear a presentation by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the CRS board, and CRS president Carolyn Woo on CRS’ work on capacity building.

Other presentations scheduled for the USCCB meeting:

— Underserved communities and Catholic schools, presented by Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.

— The pilgrimage of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, presented by Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

— USCCB engagement with the church in Africa, presented by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.

— The observance of the Year of Consecrated Life and the “Guidelines for the Reception of Ministers in the United States, Third Edition” and plans for their implementation, presented by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

— A status report on the 2013-16 USCCB strategic plan, “The New Evangelization: Faith, Worship, Witness,” presented by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, USCCB secretary,

— Separate reports by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and the USCCB working group on the life and dignity of the human person.

Texas nurse released from NIH, thanks God and doctors for recovery

By Catholic News Service — Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who was the first person known to have contracted the Ebola virus in the United States, thanked God, her family and her medical team for her recovery Oct. 24.

Pham held a news conference in Bethesda after she was declared virus-free and released from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Nina Pham
CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Dallas nurse Nina Pham at the Oval Office in Washington Oct. 24. Pham contracted Ebola while treating a man who later died of the disease. She was admitted to a clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesd a, Md., and visited the White House after she was discharged from NIH.

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today. I would first and foremost like to thank God, my family and friends,” she said. “Throughout this ordeal I have put my trust in God and my medical team.

“I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate,” added Pham, 26, who grew up in Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Fort Worth, Texas, and where she and her family have been longtime members.

She was “thankful for everyone involved in my care,” she said, “from the moment I became ill and was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Health Dallas up to today,” when she was being discharged from NIH.

After she was released from the hospital, she paid a visit to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.

Pham was involved in the care of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan prior to his death Oct. 8. Duncan contracted Ebola in his home country of Liberia and had traveled to the Dallas hospital where he was being treated.

The Centers for Disease Control initially said Pham’s contact of the virus was likely a protocol breach, but the nurse is said to have worn the required protective gear and is believed to have followed the hospital’s procedures.

She was kept in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian. Pham received a blood transfusion Oct. 12 from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who had been working with Ebola patients in Liberia when he contracted the virus in the summer. He recovered in an Atlanta hospital.

On Oct. 16, she was transported to NIH.

Pham is a 2006 graduate of Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth. When the school community found out she contracted Ebola, it organized a rosary service at the school’s chapel.

The pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, Father Jim Khoi, also asked for prayers for her. “She knows that everybody knew to pray for her, especially in this difficult time,” he told The Dallas Morning News daily paper shortly after Pham was found to have the virus.

“Her mom is very calm and trusts everything to God’s hands,” he noted.

Pham’s apartment was thoroughly cleaned after tests confirmed she contracted the disease. Her dog, Bentley, was put into isolation to be cared for and tested for Ebola. The dog has since been found to be virus-free. Pham said she looked forward to returning to Texas and being reunited with her family and her dog.

A second nurse who contracted Ebola, Amber Vinson, also has been declared virus-free, but news reports said she would remain in treatment in Atlanta until further notice. On Oct. 23, a U.S. doctor who just returned from treating Ebola patients was found to have Ebola and he is now in isolation at a New York City hospital.

In Arizona, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers announced Oct. 24 the community would offer a novena of intercession for protection from Ebola in conjunction with St. Theresa Catholic Church in Phoenix.

The novena was to begin Oct. 28 and continue for nine consecutive Tuesdays. Each evening service, lasting 30 to 40 minutes, was to have “a different theme of deliverance,” a news release said.

It said the novena is built on a prayer service featuring the solemn chanting of the “Haec Est Praeclarum Vas,” which was sung by the Crosiers in the Middle Ages to ward off the threat of the bubonic plague. That chant continued daily for centuries thereafter in Crosier communities.

“Given the widespread concern and fear of this deadly virus, we invite people to come together and pray for protection. We are drawing on an age-old Crosier tradition of reflection and intercession to Our Lady of Protection,” said Father Robert Rossi, a member of the Crosier Community of Phoenix and chair of the community’s Apostolic Presence Commission.

“The Crosier mission is to accompany people in their suffering, to stand with them and assure them that God has not abandoned them but is bringing about new life in some mysterious way,” he said. “We touch suffering with hope.”

Father Chuck Kieffer, pastor of St. Theresa, added: “While this type of prayer service is rooted in our ancient traditions, it is very relevant to what’s happening today.”

Hundreds flock to US shrine to celebrate first feast of St John Paul II

By Adelaide Mena/Catholic News Agency/EWTN News — Hundreds of pilgrims and faithful from all states of life flocked to the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to celebrate the late pope and recently canonized saint’s first universal feast day.

“To be able to celebrate in the presence of a saint on their first feast day, I think is just a point of great grace for the local church and all the pilgrims that come here,” said Father Jonathan Kalisch, O.P, chaplain of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, to CNA Oct. 22.

This presence, he said, was apparent in the large and diverse crowd who came to participate in a feast day Mass at the shrine.

At the Mass, there were “over 550 young people, the elderly, there were Polish pilgrims, the consecrated, the sisters, there were male religious,” Father Kalisch explained. “ When I was celebrating the Mass, I thought, ‘he’s brought them here.’”

Father Kalisch gave the homily at the first celebration of the Feast of Saint Pope John Paul II at the saint’s shrine in Washington, D.C. A relic of St. John Paul II’s blood, as well as a bloodstained piece of his cassock from the 1981 attempt on his life, are present for veneration at the shrine.

St. John Paul II served as pope for more than 26 years, from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was canonized earlier this year, on April 27; the Oct. 22 observance of his feast is the anniversary of his papal inauguration.

The Mass was preceded by a recitation of the rosary and followed by a screening of a documentary on the saint’s visits to North America and the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Veronica McGraw, a high school student from Alexandria, Va., is learning about the newly canonized saint in her high school classes and said she has come to better understand his teachings and example.

“I really love his love for the human person and the dignity he has for everybody: how every person is made in the image of God and has immeasurable worth,” she said.

Joey Ledonio, another high school student, said he was impressed by the international effect of St. John Paul II’s papacy through his travels and meetings with world leaders. Also striking, Ledonio said, were the sheer number of “all of the people he canonized” during his papacy.

Brendan Peifer, also a teen from Virginia, said that what stood out to him about the late pope’s service and teaching is “his focus on love.”

As a young person, though, Peifer said he was also grateful for the saint’s focus on reaching out to youth: “He was really concerned with the future of the church and the future of the world.”

Father Kalisch highlighted the pope’s witness to “the vocation to sacrificial love” in his homily, pointing to the tragedies John Paul II suffered in his early life with the loss of his family, as well as his ministry to young people and families and work as bishop and later pope in standing for truth and freedom.

The chaplain also spoke later of the pope’s love, and its demonstration in those who were present to celebrate his first feast day at the shrine.

“To see this outpouring of devotion: I was just personally moved to see everybody there and to celebrate today,” he said. “No doubt he wanted them there.”

Above all, though, recognizing the late pope for his holiness is what was at the core of the feast day celebrations, Father Kalisch said.

“It’s just a great joy to be able to call him a saint.”

Pope Francis’ closing synod speech received with standing ovation

Catholic News Association/EWTN News — Pope Francis’ address at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family, delivered Saturday, was met with a four-minute standing ovation on the part of the bishops attending the Vatican meeting.

In the Oct. 18 speech, the pope thanked the bishops for their efforts, and noted the various temptations that can arise in such a synod setting. He encouraged the bishops to live in the tension, saying that “personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St. Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace.”

Pope Francis leaves synod hall
Bohumil Petrik/CNA
Pope Francis departs the Vatican's Synod Hall Oct. 16.

“Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the ‘supreme law,’ the ‘good of souls’ (cf. Can. 1752).”

In conclusion, looking forward to the 2015 synod, which will also be on the family, Pope Francis said, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address, according to the provisional translation provided by Vatican Radio:

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[The Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]

Thank you, and rest well, eh?

Family synod midterm report stirs controversy among bishops

By Francis X. Rocca / Catholic News Service — The official midterm report from the Synod of Bishops, which uses strikingly conciliatory language toward divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and same-sex unions, has proven highly controversial inside and outside the synod hall, with some synod fathers saying it does not accurately reflect the assembly’s views.

Following a nearly hourlong speech Oct. 13 by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, who, as the synod’s relator, has the task of guiding the discussion and synthesizing its results, 41 of the 184 synod fathers present took the floor to comment the same morning, the Vatican said.

According to the Vatican’s summary of their remarks, which did not quote bishops by name in accordance with synod rules, a number of synod fathers objected that Cardinal Erdo’s text lacked certain necessary references to Catholic moral teaching.

“In regard to homosexuality, there was noted the need for welcoming, with the right degree of prudence, so as not to create the impression of a positive valuation of that orientation,” the summary said. “It was hoped that the same care would be taken in regard to cohabitation.”

Bishops also remarked on the midterm report’s scarce references to the concept of sin, and encouraged the assembly to emulate the “prophetic tone of Jesus, to avoid the risk of conforming to the mentality of today’s world.”

Regarding one of the synod’s most discussed topics, a proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, at least one bishop argued that it would be “difficult to welcome some exceptions without in reality turning it into a general rule.”

Some members of the synod made their objections public.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, told Catholic World Report that the midterm report “advances positions which many synod fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept. Clearly, the response to the document in the discussion which immediately followed its presentation manifested that a great number of synod fathers found it objectionable.”

Cardinal Burke accused leaders of the synod of giving the public a distorted image of the proceedings, almost all of which are closed to the press.

“All of the information regarding the synod is controlled by the General Secretariat of the synod, which clearly has favored from the beginning the positions expressed” in the midterm report, the cardinal said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the approach at work, which is certainly not of the church.”

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, Poland, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, told Vatican Radio that Cardinal Erdo’s speech was not acceptable to many synod fathers, because it departed from the theology of St. John Paul II and reflected an ideology hostile to marriage by seeming to approve of same-sex couples raising children, among other ways.

The midterm report “should be an incentive to fidelity, family values, but instead seems to accept everything as it is,” the archbishop said.

The controversy over the report prompted the synod’s General Secretariat to issue a statement Oct. 14, lamenting that a “value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature” and emphasizing that it is a “working document, which summarizes the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the synod.”

The bishops were to work in small groups of about 20 each, discussing Cardinal Erdo’s speech and presenting their conclusions to the entire assembly Oct. 16.

Speaking to reporters Oct. 14, Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa, said his group had found in the midterm report “quite a lot of things which are expressed in a way which we certainly wouldn’t feel that are very helpful to giving a clear idea of where the church stands on some of the issues that are being raised.”

“Individual things that were said by individuals, may have been repeated a couple of times, are put in here as if they really do reflect the feeling of the whole synod. They’ve been picked up by the media then and made to be the message of the synod. I think that’s where the upset is,” he said.

The cardinal would not specify the statements or topics in question. When asked about media reports that Cardinal Erdo’s speech represented a new overture to divorced Catholics and homosexuals, he said, “That’s one of the reasons why there’s been such an upset among the synod fathers, because we’re now working from a position that’s virtually irredeemable. The message has gone out, ‘this is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying,’ and it’s not what we are saying at all.”

The cardinal said the midterm report accurately reflected bishops’ calls to drop “very harsh language that alienates people,” such as cohabitating couples, who act in conflict with church teachings, but he said Cardinal Erdo had not suggested the teachings themselves would change.

“My worry is that the message has gone out — and it’s not a true message — that this synod has taken up these positions, and whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we’re doing some damage control, which is certainly not what is in my mind,” Cardinal Napier said.

Don’t expect ‘sound bite solutions’ from synod, US cardinal says

By Elise Harris / Catholic News Agency-EWTN News — While there will not be any quick fixes unveiled at this year’s synod, a fair amount of talk can be expected on the application of the Church’s pastoral practice, predicted Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

“I think one of the things that’s a challenge is that this synod is not going to be offering sound bite solutions. It can’t,” Cardinal Wuerl told CNA Oct. 4.

“We live in a world that loves quick answers, quick fixes, sound bites that take care of having to think through something,” he said, but “that’s not what the church’s message is all about. It’s something much more beautiful than that, and it’s much more all-inclusive and all-enveloping than that.”

Synod meetings, which began this morning with an address by Pope Francis and the synod’s relator, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdö, are taking place over the next two weeks in Rome.

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family reflects on the theme, “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” the conclusions of which will form the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or working document, for the Ordinary Synod to take place in 2015.

Cardinal Wuerl is one of three U.S. bishops participating in this year’s synod. He is joined by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, who is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Although there will most likely be no immediate changes or decisions coming out of this year’s synod discussions, Cardinal Wuerl explained what can probably be expected is talk regarding “two areas in the life of the church: her teaching and the lived application, the pastoral practice.”

Teaching and pastoral practice, he explained, are “interrelated, but they’re not the same thing. We have to make sure that the teaching is clear, it’s unchanging because it comes to us from God, it comes to us from Jesus.”

“But the effort to live it in all of the human condition today, with all of the challenges and all of the things we have to face today, that’s the pastoral practice, that’s the application,” he observed. “I think we’re going to see a lot of discussion around that.”

Questions that arise will most likely include what to do in situations of dysfunctional families or broken marriages in which a remarried person is attempting to live their faith as best as possible, as well as questions surrounding mercy, the cardinal noted.

“That’s going to be the challenge. Trying to put all of that together in a way that is faithful to the teaching, faithful to the practice, and yet open to the spirit.”

Having the voices of so many from different states in life, including both consecrated and married persons, he said, is “a great opportunity for the Church to present all over again to the world the beautiful vision of marriage, the beautiful vision of family that is a part of God’s revelation.”

Cardinal Wuerl said during the free discussions he will emphasize how the church has “been at this for 2,000 years: proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ revelation of his Father.”

“What a beautiful story. God loves us, God brought into being all that is, created us, there’s a plan in life, he wants us to be happy, he wants us to be with him, and God will make the journey with us through life.”

And the family is one of the most concrete ways we experience God in our lives, he observed, noting how “the family is that wonderful expression of communion, of community, of people coming together.”

“But they come together out of a bond that is rooted in the marriage of the mother and father, and the generation of these children. It’s a beautiful story,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Wuerl explained that after doing a two-year evaluation of his diocese in Washington, the local church had many of the same concerns that will be raised during the synod, including how to help young people understand church teaching regarding marriage and family life.

“How do we help young people understand that human sexuality is a great and beautiful gift, it’s not just for casual entertainment? How you help people understand that a marriage and children should be the norm for how we carry out our life, even when we don’t live up to the norm?”

“I think that’s all going to be part of it… how do we help people, all of us, live as best we can that Gospel of Christ embraced by the mercy of God?”

The cardinal also said Pope Francis might pay a visit to the diocese of Washington next fall if he comes for the World Meeting of Families, set to take place in Philadelphia.

“I have invited him on a number of occasions now to include Washington in his visit, and I’m regularly told ‘we’ll see,’” he explained. “I’m hearing a little bit more now from voices in the Holy See saying ‘well that could be a very real possibility.’ It would be a great blessing.”

“A visit to Washington in a way is a visit to the country because it’s not only the center of the government of the United States, but so much of the Church is centered there,” Cardinal Wuerl pointed out.

“So it’s a natural, at least I keep telling him that. And I think it would be a great joy for the whole country if he visited the nation’s capital.”

Father Groeschel, beloved author, retreat master and preacher, dies

By Catholic News Service — Father Benedict J. Groeschel, who was a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a leading pro-life figure and popular author, retreat master and preacher, died Oct. 3 at St. Joseph’s Home for the elderly in Totowa after a long illness. He was 81.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Father Benedict. He was an example to us all,” said Father John Paul Ouellette, who is also a Franciscan friar and the order’s community servant.

Father Benedict Groeschel
CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz
Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and a leading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2008 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness.

“His fidelity and service to the church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come,” he said in a statement released Oct. 4 by the order’s community office in the Bronx, New York.

A wake was planned for Oct. 8 at St. Adalbert’s Church in the Bronx, with a wake to be held Oct. 9, followed by an evening vigil, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated for Father Groeschel Oct. 10 at Newark’s cathedral basilica, followed by burial at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark. The burial will be private.

“The Catholic Church and the Franciscan family lost a giant today,” said an Oct. 3 statement issued by Father Groeschel’s community.

The community of friars felt “mixed emotions,” it said. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Father Benedict but also relieved that God has set him free from the physical and mental suffering he has experienced over the past decade.”

“Father Benedict was a brother and a father to everyone he encountered. In a world often overwhelmed with darkness, he was a man filled with hope, a hope that he shared with both the rich and poor alike,” the statement said. “His love for others and deep desire to serve, sent him among poor families who were in need of assistance, young people trying to find their way, bishops faced with challenging decisions, priests and religious in need of an encouraging word, and the stranger who was far from God.

“Father Benedict was at home in every circumstance and every encounter.”

Over the past decade, despite his decline in health, Father Groeschel “continued to serve the church generously and with great fidelity,” according to his community.

In January 2004, Father Groeschel hovered near death after a car hit him in Orlando, Florida. After a yearlong recovery, he had to walk with a cane and experienced weakness in one of his arms. But he was able to resume his schedule.

In 2012, following a minor stroke and other health complications, he officially retired from public life and was welcomed by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa. Daily visits of family and friends were the highlight of his days along with spending time in the chapel, concelebrating Mass and making his daily Holy Hour.

Father Groeschel had published a number of books on spirituality and pastoral counseling and founded the Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for clergy. He taught at Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary.

At the time of his death, he was writing a memoir to be published by Our Sunday Visitor called “The Life of a Struggling Soul. He also wrote numerous articles for various periodicals including First Things and Priest Magazine.

In the 1970s, he headed the Office of Spiritual Development in the Archdiocese of New York. For more than 30 years he was a regular on various programs on the Eternal World Television Network. He was host of EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” television for many years.

His outreach to the poor was legendary — for decades he distributed food to hundreds of needy people in the South Bronx. His first assignment as a priest was as Catholic chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a residential facility for troubled children. After being there 14 years, he became founding director of Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, a retreat house primarily for Catholic clergy and religious. He was there for 40 years.

He also was the founder of St. Francis House in Brooklyn, New York, for older adolescents. In 1985, he and Chris Bell founded Good Counsel Homes for young pregnant women in need.

Born Robert Peter Groeschel July 23, 1933, in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was the eldest of six children. He graduated from high school in 1951 and 10 days later entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Joseph in Huntington, Indiana.

The following year, he professed temporary vows and took the name Benedict Joseph, after the Franciscan saint, St. Benedict Joseph Labre.

He professed his final vows in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He received a master’s degree in counseling from Iona College in 1964 and a doctorate in education, with a specialty in psychology, from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1971.

During his early years as a priest, he was invited to conduct a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity in India, which was the beginning of Father Groeschel’s long relationship with that community and his deep friendship with its founder, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other friars left the Capuchins to form a new religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in the South Bronx and dedicated to serving the poor. The community now numbers 115 members. A similar community for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, also was formed; it currently has 35 members.

Father Groeschel is survived by two sisters, Marjule Drury of Caldwell, New Jersey, and Robin Groeschel of Glendive, Montana, and one brother, Garry Groeschel of St. Petersburg, Florida, and nine nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brothers Ned and Mark.

Vatican spurns UN child committee’s call for changes to canon law

Catholic News Association/EWTN News — The Holy See has rejected the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child’s call for changes to canon law, and has formally criticized the group for a “grave misunderstanding” of the Holy See’s sovereignty.

In a response released Sept. 26, the Holy See delivered its comments on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of Child.

In January, the committee had discussed the written report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child submitted by the Holy See as one of the states that had signed the convention.

After a hearing held Jan. 16, the UN committee issued a report to which the Holy See responded in its Sept. 26 statement. The Holy See maintained that its treaty obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to Vatican City State and that its obligations do not touch on its relation with dioceses and religious orders throughout the world.

“The Holy See, in accordance with the rules of international law, is aware that attempting to implement the CRC in the territory of other states could constitute a violation of the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of States,” the response read.

The response also underscored that “the Holy See does not ratify a treaty on behalf of every Catholic in the world, and therefore, does not have obligations to implement the convention within the territories of other states parties on behalf of Catholics.”

The Holy See also criticized the fact that “the treaty body has plunged into canon law, which is a juridical system, however, not equivalent to that of States.”

The committee’s observations were published Feb. 7 and seemed meant to pressure the church to change its teaching on human sexuality.

For instance, the committee wrote with “regret that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity” of men and women; asked “the Holy See to review its position on abortion ... identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted”; urged the Holy See to “remove gender stereotypes from Catholic school textbooks ... which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.”

The committee also expressed “concern about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.”

The Holy See said that all of these pressures are beyond the text of the convention, and noted that it is “concerned about a lack of respect for the text of a treaty, which has been carefully drafted by States Parties, including the Holy See itself.”

According to the Holy See, the committee has put into action “a clear and open violation” of the ordinary meaning of the terms of the convention when the concluding observations “advocate for abortion.”

The response also addressed the committee’s promotion of “diverse forms of family” as a matter of principle, while “this expression is not found in the Convention nor it is defined.”

Nor is the word “gender” contained in the text of the convention, and it is “apparently employed to incorporate a larger ideological platform,” the Holy See noted.

The Holy See finally underscored that many of the recommendations “may also be viewed through the prism of religious freedom, in particular regard to the autonomy of religious communities to express their doctrine, manifest their faith and worship.”

The response delivered Sept. 26 insisted that the understanding and documentation provided by the Holy See had been biased by the committee, and that the “concluding observations include inaccurate statements that have no evidentiary foundation,” while “many materials presented by the Holy See, especially regarding child protection, were dismissed and ignored.”

Bishop Paul Sirba: Pilgrimage linked us to the Risen Lord and the saints

Bishop Paul SirbaSeventy-four pilgrims, two buses and a land rich in the story of the mercy of Jesus Christ. If the New Evangelization is about our encounter with the Risen Lord and our subsequent commission to share the Good News of Our Lord’s dying and rising with all we meet, then our pilgrimage to Poland and the Czech Republic formed us in the best of ways to be Christ-bearers to our world, so in need of the Lord’s mercy. Read more >>