Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis: God's law brings freedom

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2020 / 06:26 am (CNA).- God gives the grace both to follow his law exteriorly and to accept it in one’s heart, which is what gives true freedom from passion and sin, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

“Let’s not forget this: living the Law as an instrument of freedom, which helps me to be freer, which helps me not to be a slave to passions and sin,” the pope said Feb. 16.

In his catechesis before the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke about the difference between “formal compliance” and “substantive compliance” with the law, which is to accept the law also in one’s “the center of the intentions, decisions, words, and gestures of each of us.”

“Good and bad deeds,” he said, “start from the heart.”

The pope explained that “by accepting the Law of God in your heart, you understand that when you do not love your neighbor, you kill yourself and others to some extent, because hatred, rivalry and division kill the fraternal charity that underlies interpersonal relationships.” This is also true of gossip, he added.

Jesus knows it is not always easy to live the Ten Commandments in this way, “for this reason he offers us the help of his love,” Francis assured.

“He came into the world not only to fulfill the Law,” the pope continued, “but also to give us his Grace, so that we can do the will of God, loving him and our brothers.”

“Everything, everything we can do with the grace of God!”

Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, encourages his followers to have a correct understanding of the law, Francis explained.

“Jesus wants to help his listeners to have a correct approach to the rules of the Commandments given to Moses, urging us to be available to God who educates us to true freedom and responsibility through the Law,” he said.

“It is about living [the law] as an instrument of freedom.”

Pope Francis said: “It is a matter of trusting and entrusting ourselves to him, to his grace, to that gratuitousness that he has given us and to welcome the hand that he constantly extends to us, so that our efforts and our necessary commitment can be supported by his help, full of goodness and of mercy.”

According to the pope, war is also an example of succumbing to one’s passions.

He recalled the death of an 18-month-old girl, who died of cold in a refugee camp in Afrin, Syria Feb. 14.

War has many consequences. “This is the result of passions,” he said. “People who make war cannot control their passions.”

“Today, Jesus asks us to progress on the path of love that he has shown us, and which starts from the heart,” he said.

“This is the way forward to live as a Christian. May the Virgin Mary help us to follow the path traced by her Son, to reach true joy and spread justice and peace everywhere.”

 

Date set Cardinal Pell's last chance appeal hearing

Sydney, Australia, Feb 15, 2020 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- Australia’s High Court has set a date for the final appeal of Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted in 2018 on five charges of child sexual abuse.

The cardinal’s final appeal in the Australian judiciary will be heard March 11 and 12 by the High Court, according to Australian media reports. Pell lost an initial appeal in Victorian courts in August 2019.

Pell’s attorney’s are expected to argue before the High Court that his conviction should have been overturned because it was based upon uncorroborated testimony of only one complainant.

That complainant said that he and another choir boy were sexually abused by Pell after Sunday Mass while the cardinal was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

According to the complainant, Pell exposed himself and forced the two choir boys to commit sex acts upon him, while the cardinal was fully vested in his Sunday Mass garb, almost immediately after Mass in the priests’ sacristy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The complainant also said that Pell fondled him in a corridor in 1997.

The other apparent victim died in 2014, and was unable to testify in the proceedings. In 2001 had denied to his mother that any abuse occurred while he was a member of the choir.

The cardinal was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.
 
Pell, 78, has maintained his innocence, with his defense making central the argument that the alleged crimes would have been, under the circumstances, “simply impossible.”

The conviction has divided opinion in Australia and internationally. The cardinal’s defenders have contended that the sacristy abuse allegations are not possible given the high traffic after Mass and the obstructing nature of the Mass vestments.

Pell is expected to face a canonical proceeding once a final disposition has been reached in Australia. If convicted in a canonical court of sexually abusing children, the cardinal would almost certainly be laicized.

The cardinal is incarcerated in HM Prison Barwon, a maximum-security prison southwest of Melbourne that holds some notorious crime bosses.

 

McCarrick was a 'devourer of souls,' former priest secretary tells parish

Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- A priest who was the personal secretary of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick said he is sickened by manipulative fundraising tactics employed while McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington. The priest called McCarrick a “manipulator” and a “devourer of souls.”

“For a portion of my priesthood, I worked directly for the foremost fund-raiser in the Church – in the whole Church, the universal Church.”

“He was a master of the art, and knew every technique and tactic to its finest point. He paired with that an extraordinary, even preternatural sense of people, what they wanted and what they needed,” Monsignor K. Bartholomew Smith wrote Feb. 15 on a blog he maintains for parishioners of St. Bernadette’s parish in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“My stomach churns at the recollection, and not only because of how successful he was at this; but also because of what he obtained by this. He received the gratitude, the affection, and the emotional dependence of untold numbers of people high and low, rich and poor, because he made himself the bestower of the approval that they craved, told them that they were good and God Himself was grateful to them, and delivered them from the authentic demands of Jesus and His Gospel.”

“This is what their giving purchased, and what his fundraising obtained.  But he took more from them than just their donations, for he was a ravening manipulator of human affections, and a devourer of souls,” Bartholomew added.

The priest, who was ordained in 1998, was McCarrick’s private secretary in the early 2000s, before being appointed to serve in a similar role for Cardinal William Baum, who was then living in Rome.

Smith told his parishioners that “you would be hard pressed to find a person in our Archdiocese, Catholic or not, who did not fall for [McCarrick’s] seduction to some degree, or at some time.  We all want approval; we all enjoy gratitude. He offered Divine approval and God’s own gratitude, and many were the ones who did his bidding to obtain it.”

McCarrick, Smith wrote, “was a master of convincing folks of the pernicious delusion that God Himself needed, approved, and in fact was grateful to them for the difference that they were making in the world. This, in one line, is the snake-oil song of the ecclesiastical fundraiser, and he was the all-time virtuoso chanter and enchanter.” 

“Many good works were accomplished in this manner, and benefits from them still accrue to this day. But the cost, the cost in human lives and dignity, the cost to the integrity of the Faith, the cost to the fabric of the Church, is only recently become apparent to all,” Smith added.

Smith’s remarks came in the context of the annual archdiocesan appeal. He told his parishioners that because of his experience with McCarrick, “I beg your indulgence if I eschew fundraising techniques, and avoid tactics with proven records of success.”

“Instead of a fund raiser, I am charged by God to be a faith-raiser,” the priest added.

McCarrick served as Archbishop of Washington from 2000-2006, capping an ecclesiastical career in which he had also been the Archbishop of Newark, the Bishop of Metuchen, and an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York.

In June 2018, a report emerged that McCarrick had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. That report was followed by a torrent of sexual abuse, coercion, and harassment allegations against McCarrick made by priests, former seminarians, and laypeople. McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in Feb. 2019.

Catholics in the U.S. are awaiting a Vatican report on McCarrick that is the result of an internal investigation into the former cardinal’s ecclesiastical career. While the report was initially expected to be released in the early weeks of 2020, Cardinal Blase Cupich told EWTN News this week that it might be released in March, but the exact date of release is still under consideration by Pope Francis.

 

Hong Kong, Singapore cancel public Masses amid coronavirus

Hong Kong, China, Feb 15, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- All public Masses in Hong Kong are canceled through Feb. 28 amid the threat of the spreading of coronavirus.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator and bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, announced Feb. 13 that all public Masses from Feb. 15-28 would be suspended.

The Archdiocese of Singapore has taken a similar step, suspending all public Masses from Feb. 15 until further notice.

Hong Kong is home to around 500,000 Catholics out of a total population of over 7 million, while in Singapore Catholics make up 300,000 of the city-state’s 5.6 million people.

“The Church, being a member of society, has the duty to maintain public hygiene and promote the common good. Therefore, Parish Priests, the other parish clergy and the faithful are to strictly comply,” Tong said, adding that follow-up measures would be announced before Feb. 28.

Tong encouraged the faithful to watch Sunday Mass online, make a spiritual Communion, reflect on the Sunday liturgical text, read the Bible, or say the rosary each Sunday.

He also suggested that the faithful watch ferial Masses online, or make or Lenten devotions or spiritual exercises, such as the rosary, the Angelus, and daily prayer.

“Parish churches and affiliated chapels are to remain open to the faithful for personal prayers and visits to the Blessed Sacrament,” Tong said.

“Parish churches may also arrange for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament daily or on specific days, so that individual members of the faithful may take part and pray that the coronavirus infections will be contained as soon as possible.”

Tong added that all other Church-related activities, with the exception of weddings and funerals, are to be suspended as well.

In Singapore, Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye wrote in a Feb. 14 pastoral letter that “the cancellation of Masses does not mean that Catholics can excuse themselves from fulfilling the obligation of keeping the Day of the Lord holy.”

“They should try to follow the broadcast of the Mass on YouTube or CatholicSG Radio,” he added. He asked that people please check the archdiocesan website for the broadcast's time.

“Following the broadcast of the Mass will help you to receive the Lord spiritually,” he said. “You can also gather as a family for the Liturgy of the Word by spending time in prayer, reading the Word of God of the Sunday Liturgy and interceding for the world that this Covid-19 virus will be contained and eradicated. Even if you cannot gather together as a family to worship, you should individually spend at least half an hour in quiet time to pray and especially read the Word of God.”

Originating in Wuhan in China's Hubei province, the new strain of coronavirus can cause fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

As of Feb. 13, authorities worldwide have diagnosed more than 63,000 cases of COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, and more than 1,300 people have died. Most of the reported cases are in China, but it has spread to over two dozen countries worldwide.

In Hong Kong, there are at least 50 cases of the disease and one death reported. As of Friday, Singapore has recorded 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19, TodayOnline reports, with 17 discharged from hospital and six in intensive care.

Several countries, including Italy, have suspended flights from Hong Kong, which has an open border with mainland China.

Hong Kong last week issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering from mainland China, NPR reports. The city has set up a large number of mass quarantine camps to isolate victims, many in residential areas, which have led to protests.

The New York Times reports that about 7,000 medical workers in Hong Kong have gone on strike, demanding that Hong Kong fully close the border with the mainland.

Schools in Hong Kong remain closed until March 16 and the government has given its 176,000 government employees the option of working from home until Feb. 23.

The Vatican has sent between 600,000 to 700,000 face masks to three provinces in China since Jan. 27, according to the Global Times. Pope Francis prayed for people infected by the coronavirus during his Sunday Angelus prayer on Jan. 26.

Next ordinary synod of bishops to be held in 2022

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2020 / 11:03 am (CNA).- The next ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops is to be held in the fall of 2022, according to a press release from the Vatican on Saturday.

The theme has not yet been decided, but will be up to Pope Francis, who was presented with three possible options by the council of the general secretariat of the synod in a meeting last week.

An ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops is usually convoked by the pope every three years to discuss a matter of importance to the Church in general.

The last ordinary assembly was the 2018 synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

A Feb. 15 statement said the pope chose to call the next ordinary assembly for 2022, at a space of four years instead of three from the previous one, “so as to ensure greater involvement of the whole Church in the preparation and celebration of the next Ordinary Synod.”

The most recent synod of bishops was the 2019 Amazon synod. A special assembly of the synod, it focused on a specific geographical area of the Church, in this case, the Amazon region, which spans nine countries in South America.

The third type of synodal meeting the pope can call is an extraordinary general assembly, which is organized in the case of an urgent matter.

The secretariat of the synod of bishops consists of a council led by Secretary General Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Pro-Secretary General Bishop Mario Grech.

The secretariat met Feb. 6-7 for the purpose of communicating to Pope Francis ideas for the next synod and to discuss the work carried out since the 2018 youth synod.

The Feb. 15 statement did not indicate what themes were proposed to Pope Francis, but said the three were decided last year through consultations with bishops’ conferences, synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, dicasteries of the Roman curia, and the Union of Superiors General.

The secretariat also released a message Feb. 15, stating it discussed the issue of migration, saying it reflected “among other things, on consequences of the migratory phenomenon taking place in different regions of the planet.”

Considering the many complications and difficulties migrants and refugees can face, including the risk of trafficking, forced prostitution, and abuse, the council of the secretariat said it “wishes to recall that the Church, while deploring the reasons that cause such a massive movement of people, is called to offer comfort, consolation and welcome to all those who are suffering in one way or another.”

Synods of bishops convened by the pope serve a mainly consultative role, as indicated in the Code of Canon Law.

Their main purpose is to foster unity between the pope and the bishops around the world, and to offer their input as the pope considers questions pertaining to the Church’s activity in different parts of the world, on issues of faith and morals, and “in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline.”