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XX Sunday - August 20, 2017

Is 56: 1, 6-7 : Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32:  Mt 15: 21-28

Anecdote:Never give up!”:  Many years ago in Illinois, a young man with six months schooling to his credit ran for an office in the legislature. As might have been expected, he was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed in that too, and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady, they became engaged – and she died. He had a nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated in a race for the Senate. He ran for President and finally was elected. That man was Abraham Lincoln.     Today’s Gospel episode of healing gives us the same message in a more powerful way.

 Introduction: All three readings today speak of the expansive and universal nature of the “Kingdom of God,” although salvation was offered first to the Jews Although God set the Hebrew people apart as His chosen race, He included all nations in His plan for salvation and blessed all families of the earth in Abraham (Gn 12:1-3). By declaring through the prophet Isaiah (the first reading), “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction among human beings on the basis of race, caste or color.  Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) rejects all types of religious exclusivity: "Let all the peoples praise You, O God; …For You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth, so that Your saving power may be known among all the nations." In the second reading, Paul explains that, although the Jews were the chosen people, God turned to the Gentiles who received mercy through their Faith in Jesus. In the Gospel story, Jesus demonstrates that salvation was meant for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman as a reward for her strong Faith. Thus, Jesus shows that God's mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.

The first reading explained, (Is 56: 1, 6-7): The third part of the book of the prophet Isaiah (chapters 56-66), was written mainly for the Jews who were returning from the Babylonian exile to join their relatives who had been left behind in Judea. But today’s lesson is primarily addressed to those Jews who, after the Exile had officially ended, still chose to remain in Babylon as Jews among the Gentiles. In this passage, the Lord God not only pleaded with these people who preferred exile to the labor of returning to the Promised Land to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, but also tried to make them understand the role the Gentiles would have in their restored kingdom. Though in the past all who came to the God of Israel were required to accept the Law and the Covenant, God’s concern for those outside that Covenant led Him to a new and radical solution. “The foreigners,” the Lord God declared through Isaiah, “who join themselves to Yahweh, ministering to Him, loving the name of Yahweh and becoming His servants . . . them I will bring to My holy mountain and make joyful in My house of prayer . . . for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Thus Isaiah's prophecy consoled those Jews who had married Gentiles by assuring them that their God was equally interested in the people of other nations and in the descendants of Abraham. In short, the prophet reports, everyone has a part to play in God’s plan — even those who don’t belong to the “true religion.”

In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) the Psalmist sings God’s blessing on the people of Israel and calls on all nations and peoples to praise God. The Psalm is a response to Yahweh’s declaration in the first reading that the Gentiles will be accepted at the altar of Yahweh.

Second Reading (Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32) explained: In Romans 9 – 11, Paul asks how God could apparently go back on His promise  to Abraham that Abraham's descendants would always be God's chosen people. Paul answers his own question by explaining that it had been God's plan he should turn to the Gentiles and bring them into the Covenant. Frustrated by the slow pace of Jewish conversions, Paul devoted his preaching mission to the Gentiles.  Thus, God’s secret plan to invite all people into the Covenant would be revealed and completed. Paul was convinced that the Jewish nation would eventually accept Christ because God's ”irrevocable” call, given to them through Abraham, was a call to eternal salvation. Paul's failure to convert his fellow-Jews serves as a model for us who must accept failure in our own lives, especially when it concerns our loved ones who refuse what we judge to be to their advantage. 

Gospel exegesis: The significance of the miracle: The Gospels describe only two miraculous healings Jesus performed for Gentiles:  the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:10-12) in Capernaum, and the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman which we hear today. The encounter with the Canaanite woman took place outside Jewish territory in Tyre and Sidon, two coastal cities, twenty-five and fifty miles north of Galilee in present-day Lebanon.  The story of this miracle is told by Mark (7:24-30) as well as by Matthew (15:21-23).  Both miracles foreshadow the extension of the Gospel, the Good News, to the whole world.   The woman in the today’s miracle belonged to the old Canaanite stock of the Syro-Phoenician race.  The Canaanites were regarded as pagans and idolaters and, hence, as ritually unclean.  But this woman showed “a gallant and an audacious love which grew until it worshipped at the feet of the Divine, an indomitable persistence springing from an unconquerable hope, a cheerfulness which would not be dismayed” (Fr. James Rowland).  By granting the persistent request of the pagan woman, Jesus demonstrates that his mission is to break down the barriers and to remove the long-standing walls of division and mutual prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles. God does not discriminate but welcomes all who believe in Him, who ask for His mercy and who try to do His will.

Trustful persistence rewarded.  Jesus first ignores both the persistent cry of the woman and the impatience of his disciples to send the woman away. He then tries to awaken true Faith in the heart of this woman by an indirect refusal, telling her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  But the woman is persistent in her request. She kneels before him and begs, "Lord, help me."  Now Jesus makes a seemingly harsh statement, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." The term "dogs" was a derogatory Jewish word for the Gentiles. Dogs were regarded by the Jews as unclean, because they would eat anything given to them, including pork. The woman noticed, however, that Jesus had used the word kunariois--the word for household pets – rather than the   ordinary Greek word for dogs - kuon.   She also observed that Jesus had used the word for dogs in a joking way – a sort of test of the woman's Faith.  So she immediately matched wits with Jesus. Her argument runs like this:  Pets are not outsiders but insiders.  They not only belong to the family, but are part of the family. While they do not have a seat at the table, they enjoy intimacy at the family's feet.  Hence, the woman replied: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" (v. 27), expressing her Faith that Jesus could and would heal her daughter.  Jesus was completely won over by the depth of her Faith, her confidence and her wit and responded exuberantly, "Woman, great is your Faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish." We notice that the woman was refused three times by Jesus before he granted her request and finally, the fourth time, her persistence was rewarded and her plea was answered.  This Gospel episode is an account of a woman who got more from the Kingdom of God than she hoped for. The woman came to Jesus asking for one miracle and she got two. This is really a double miracle, for the daughter was exorcised of her demonic possession and received a new life, and the mother, through her experience with Christ, found a new life as well. The greatness of this woman's Faith consists in: a) her willingness to cross the barrier of racism; b) her refusal to be put off or ignored because of her position in life and c) her humility in admitting that she did not deserve the Master’s attention and time.

Life messages: #1) We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence.  Although the essential parts of prayer are adoration and thanksgiving, the prayer of petition plays a big part in most people’s daily life. We cannot provide, by our unaided selves, for our spiritual and temporal needs. Christ himself has told us to ask him for these needs: "Ask and you shall receive." Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have the "great Faith” we need to be able to receive all that Christ wants to grant us in response to our requests. We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we ask for, but rather what God knows we need, what He wants for us and what is really best for us.  What we need most is to receive the peace and security that come from being in harmony with God's will for us.  As Christians, we also know that our particular requests may not always be for our good, or for the final good of the person for whom we are praying. In that case, the good God will not grant what would be to our, or their, eternal harm. But if the prayer is sincere and persevering, we will always get an answer – one which is better than what we asked for. Hence let us trust that every time we pray for something, the answer is already on its way before we even asked God. We just need to trust God’s timetable and infinite wisdom that he will answer us according to His will and purpose.

#2) We need to pull down our walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love: Very often we set up walls which separate us from God and from one another. Today's Gospel reminds us that God's love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are. In other words, God’s care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation to the hearts of all who live, and God’s House should become a House of prayer for all peoples. It is therefore fitting that we should pray that the walls which our pride, intolerance and prejudice have raised, may crumble. Next, we have to be grateful to God for all the blessings we enjoy. As baptized members of the Christian community, we have been given special privileges and easy access to God's love.  But we also have serious responsibilities arising from these gifts. One of these responsibilities is to make clear to others, with true humility and compassion, that God's love, mercy and healing are for them also because they too are the children of God.(Fr. Antony Kadavil)

(from Vatican Radio)

In Ontario, legal assisted suicide could kill conscientious objection

Toronto, Canada, Aug 18, 2017 / 02:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Conscience protections for Catholic hospitals and other organizations could soon come under fire in the Canadian province of Ontario, with one assisted suicide group saying they may challenge this legislation in court.

Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, warned that it becomes very difficult to defend objections to assisted suicide once it becomes legal.

“Of course our position would be that there should be no requirement for faith-based institutions to be involved in assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the deacon said. “It’s appropriate that not only the institution, but the individuals should be protected as well.”

“I think that conscientious objection in Canada, unfortunately, hangs by a thread,” he told CNA Aug. 17. “There are many of us fighting for this right, but the concern is that in a society where killing a patient is seen to be a compassionate and merciful act, then those who refuse to do it are by definition uncompassionate and uncharitable.”

“When you legalize euthanasia, and killing becomes moral, then that quickly becomes the norm, and those who deviate from that are seen to be outliers and unprofessional in their approach,” he added.

More than 630 people have killed themselves in Ontario under legal assisted suicide, but not at Catholic hospitals, CBC News reports. In Ontario, the law requires hospitals, hospices and long-term care centers that will not take part in assisted suicide to transfer the patient to a facility that will.

But Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of pro-assisted suicide group Dying With Dignity Canada, claims that the current Ontario law “gave an opt-out to basic and essential health care to hospitals that don't want to provide for the dying.” She said transferring patients may not be easy for people nearing the end of life, the older, the frail, and those already in pain.

Gokool’s group presently says individual doctors or nurses should be able to choose not to take part in assisted suicide, but organizations should not be able to do so.

For Deacon Worthen, however, the rights of individuals and of facilities are linked “very closely together.”

“Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals spend their whole lives being at the beds of the sick, with the point of view of helping them, supporting, them, helping them with their pain. To ask the same individuals then to participate in the deaths of those patients strikes me as being totalitarian and inhumane,” he said.

“No individual should be forced to go against their conscience, especially in something as personal and emotional as the taking of human life.”

Similarly, Deacon Worthen backed the right of faith groups to have facilities to provide health care according to their faith, culture and tradition.

“In order for that facility to have that ethos or mission, it needs to be able to be free to follow the tenets of its faith without any coercion from the state,” he said. “A diverse society would require that.”

Deacon Worthen added that there are good inherent reasons to oppose assisted suicide, dating back to the ancient physician Hippocrates.

When people find themselves wanting to end their lives, he said, “the doctor should be there to provide the support that that person needs, so that they can feel that life is worth living, as opposed to agreeing with them, and participating in ending their lives.”

Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said he is confident there is sufficient access to assisted suicide.

“We're obviously monitoring it very, very closely and currently don't have those concerns in terms of access,” he said, noting that many assisted suicides take place outside an institutional setting. Hoskins said “about half of medical assistance in dying happens at home.”

Dying With Dignity Canada is also challenging rules against freedom-of-information officers releasing the names of facilities that do or do not assist in suicides. The present policy differs from the Alberta province, which requires public health institutions that do not assist in suicides to publish data each week showing how many patients are transferred for medically assisted suicide.

Deacon Worthen also warned of cases where physicians pressured patients into ending their lives, where they had not already made the decision to do so.

“We’ve heard stories where health care practitioners are already suggesting assisted suicide to patients, and even encouraging that, and discouraging family members from aiding the person continuing their lives,” the deacon said.

At least one Canadian medical school has incorporated the issue of conscientious objection to assisted suicide into its admission process. One applicant was asked by an actor to help them commit suicide. When the student recoiled from this, the actor continued to press until finally the student assented.

Some are reportedly advocating that conscientious objectors to assisted suicide should not be allowed in medical school.
 

 

Pope Francis sends condolences for ‘cruel’ Barcelona terror attack

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday sent a telegram expressing his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack on Barcelona, in which at least 13 people died and more than a hundred were injured.

Listen to our report:

Pope Francis expressed his “deepest sympathy” for the victims of Thursday’s terrorist attack on Barcelona “Las Ramblas Boulevard” with a telegram to the city’s Archbishop, Cardinal Juan José Omella.

The telegram was signed by Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin.

Pope Francis condemned the “blind violence” manifested in the attack, saying it is “a grave offense to the Creator”.

He prayed for those who “lost their lives to such an inhuman act”.

“In these moments of sorrow and pain,” the Pope “wishes also to offer his support and closeness to the many injured, to their families, and to all Catalan and Spanish society,” it read.

Turning to the future, Pope Francis said he raises his “prayers to the Most High that He help us continue to work with determination for peace and harmony in the world.”

Finally, the Holy Father imparted his Apostolic Blessing “upon all the victims, their families, and the beloved Spanish people”.

Please find below the official English translation of the telegram:

CARDINAL JUAN JOSÉ OMELLA Y OMELLA
ARCHBISHOP OF BARCELONA

FOLLOWING THE NEWS OF THE CRUEL TERRORIST ATTACK THAT HAS SOWN DEATH AND PAIN IN LAS RAMBLAS IN BARCELONA, POPE FRANCIS WISHES TO EXPRESS HIS DEEPEST SYMPATHY FOR THE VICTIMS WHO HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES TO SUCH AN INHUMAN ACT, AND OFFERS PRAYERS FOR THEIR ETERNAL REPOSE. IN THESE MOMENTS OF SORROW AND PAIN, HE WISHES ALSO TO OFFER HIS SUPPORT AND CLOSENESS TO THE MANY INJURED, TO THEIR FAMILIES, AND TO ALL CATALAN AND SPANISH SOCIETY.

THE HOLY FATHER ONCE AGAIN CONDEMNS BLIND VIOLENCE, WHICH IS A GRAVE OFFENCE TO THE CREATOR, AND RAISES PRAYERS TO THE MOST HIGH THAT HE HELP US CONTINUE TO WORK WITH DETERMINATION FOR PEACE AND HARMONY IN THE WORLD.

WITH THESE WISHES, HIS HOLINESS INVOKES UPON ALL THE VICTIMS, THEIR FAMILIES AND THE BELOVED SPANISH PEOPLE HIS APOSTOLIC BLESSING.

CARDINAL PIETRO PAROLIN
SECRETARY OF STATE OF HIS HOLINESS

(from Vatican Radio)

What an academic institute in Canada means for Ukrainian Catholics

Toronto, Canada, Aug 17, 2017 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A longtime institute on Eastern Christianity has played a pivotal role in restoring the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church after the fall of communism, and it now has a new home in Toronto.

Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saint Vladimir the Great of Paris, said the Sheptytsky Institute is “the window through which North America, especially Canada, can see the Eastern Christian world in all its diversity.” He was quoted in a report from St. Michael’s College.

The Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies now resides on the campus of the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. The institute becomes a part of the Toronto School of Theology, which has three Catholic graduate facilities as well as theological faculties representing the United Church of Canada and the Presbyterians.

Students seeking Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degrees through the institute may study topics including liturgy, church history, and systematic theology.

While the institute’s foundation is in the Ukrainian Byzantine tradition, it has an interest in all forms of Eastern Christianity, including Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, and Assyrian.

“We want to be a place that allows the Copts to tell their story at one of the great universities of the world – a story of martyrdom, a story of perseverance,” said Father Andriy Chirovsky, the institute’s founding scholar.

He founded the institute “to help the rebirth of our Church in North America” as well as to help other Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, he said.

Instructors from the institute began to teach in Ukraine shortly before the Soviet Union’s unexpected collapse. Their work continued after Ukraine became independent.

When the institute was founded in 1986, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was still illegal in its homeland. Harsh Soviet laws were enacted in 1939, at a time when the Church had 3,000 priests. In 1986, there were only 300 priests remaining. Their average age was 70 years.

After the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, Soviet rule mandated the forced liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but after the fall of the Soviet Union the Church witnessed rapid growth.

The Sheptytsky Institute’s director, Father Peter Galadza, said the number of Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests is once again at pre-World War II levels.

The institute’s namesake, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, is said to have predicted both the annihilation of his Church and its resurgence. His cause for beatification is being pursued.

Metropolitan Andrey was born to a polonized Ukrainian aristocratic family in 1865. He became metropolitan at the age of 36 and lived under seven successive governments before his death in 1944 at the age of 79.

Bishop Gudziak described Venerable Sheptytsky as “one of the greatest churchmen of the last hundred years.” His Church had 3 to 4 million members whose communities are now found across the entire globe: Siberia, Egypt, Western Canada, and Argentina. Metropolitan Andrey visited his flock in Western Europe and the Americas.

The institute that bears his name was founded at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and moved to St. Paul’s University in Ottawa in 1990.

Its new home is Windle House, a Victorian mansion built in 1897. The house includes offices for professors and administrators, a seminar room, a reading room, and a student lounge.

About 500 people attended the July 25 blessing and garden party that welcomed the center and rededicated Windle House. Attendees included Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto.

Cardinal Collins, a member of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, said the institute’s ministry reflects “the richness of the Catholic Church, the diversity and the beauty.”

Bishop Gudziak, who is also president of the Ukrainian Catholic University, said the institute will help advance the example of its namesake in meeting the challenges of the 20th century. In the bishop’s view, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has become “an unwilling expert” at “how to stand up to authoritarianism and totalitarianism.”

“Today there is, globally, an increase in authoritarian rule … Whether it’s for Christians of the Middle East, or Christians in the former Soviet Union, or Christians in the Far East, whether it’s people of good will in many countries and contexts today — the issue of human dignity, of human freedom, is foremost,” said Bishop Gudziak, according to The Catholic Register.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halych is the patron of the Sheptytsky Institute and a former student.

In the spring 2017 edition of the institute’s newsletter, he said the institute’s professors “have played an important role in forging a way forward for our Church in the world.”

“Our Church of Kyiv is now a global Church, with structures on five continents. It is incredibly significant that the Sheptytsky Institute will now be located at one of the world’s top research universities. This is a sign of our Church coming of age.”

He said the institute provided “invaluable assistance” to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, which was founded in 1994.

High court weighs constitutionality of Chile's abortion bill

Santiago, Chile, Aug 17, 2017 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the recent passage of a bill that would allow some abortions in Chile, the country's high court is considering whether or not the bill is a violation of the constitutional protections for unborn life.

Chile's constitutional court began discussion Aug. 16 on the unconstitutionality petition filed by legislators of Chile Vamos, a coalition opposed to the government of President Michelle Bachelet.

Bachelet has made relaxing abortion restrictions a priority of her administration.

Abortion has been illegal in Chile for nearly 30 years. The bill would allow the procedure in cases of risk to the life of the mother, fatal congenital or genetic pathology in the unborn child, or rape. It would allow for objecting doctors to refuse to perform abortions, except in cases when the mother’s life is in danger and there are no other available physicians.

Chile Vamos' petition against the bill maintains that it transgresses the constitution as well as penal and health regulations.

Angela Vivanco, the lawyer representing the 36 legislators before the high court, told La Tercera daily that one of the arguments presented refers to the personhood which characterizes the child in gestation, who therefore has “dignity, and merits constitutional protection.”

“There is a profound conviction by the legislators and in the constitutional history of Chile that here we are not protecting a mass of cells, but a person,” Vivanco said.

The constitutional court is hearing arguments for and against the bill Aug. 16 and 17, and is expected to hand down its decision Aug. 18.

The Chilean bishops' conference has addressed a document to the court with five legal observations on the abortion bill.

The bishops stressed the intrinsic value of life, the duty to protect the weakest, the principle of equality and non-discrimination, and freedom of conscience and religion.

It also addressed parental rights, as under the bill a minor under the age of 14 who is seeking an abortion could obtain authorization from a legal representative of her choosing, without any parental involvement.

This surfing school in Chile was created for kids with Down syndrome

Santiago, Chile, Aug 17, 2017 / 03:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sundays, Felipe Pereira is full of enthusiasm. That’s because on Sundays, the 21-year-old goes to Paradise Beach to enjoy the sea along with his friends and to learn how to surf.

For children and young adults with mental disabilities, this is more than a sport. It is the Waves of Hope free surfing school, based in northern Chile’s Antofagasta region.

The school is directed by Chilean surfing enthusiasts Claudio Morales, Catalina Daniels and Pablo Marín. They launched the program five years ago.

After knocking on a lot of doors, running pilot projects, consulting with specialists, and coming up with financing, they began their first class with six surfboards and six wetsuits.

Each Sunday from December to February, the three directors and other volunteers welcome up to 15 children with Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome and autism, giving them completely personalized classes adapted to each person’s condition.



Pereira is a very sociable young man who does folk dancing, goes swimming, and works in his school’s bake shop. He told CNA that what he likes most about the surfing classes is “getting on top of the surf board and catching the waves.”

“I like the sea. I really like to go,” he said. Pereira also liked his instructors, saying, “I like how nice they are to us, I love what they do.”

Instructor Catalina Daniels told CNA that her students “challenge you to change. You can’t go on being the same.”

“They are a tremendous example of how love is the driving force of the best things, the best times, the best efforts. Affectionate warmth is the best investment and with them it’s incredible,” she said.

Daniels also discussed the impact of faith, saying “the person who knows Christ, Jesus, who by his mercy came into your life, can’t be the same. You have to be better, more loving, more understanding, more tolerant, because they are.”

Surfing requires strength, balance, agility, and a lot of technique. But what is most important, the Waves of Hope founders recognize, is the relationship between the instructor and the student. This breaks down the barriers of discrimination to make way for integration.

Many Chileans have never spoken or shaken hands with a person with Down syndrome.

“So very motivated volunteers come, but the first day they don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to act, they try to help, but even they freeze up,” Daniels told CNA.

But the students laugh and tell jokes, and eventually, relationships are formed.

“They have an incredible time. They float, row, do group dynamics, take up the surfboard. They have demonstrated that they can do a lot, they have overcome many difficulties related to their condition,” Daniels said.

She explained that the problem is rooted in discrimination and the lack of proper integration.

“They were born struggling with frustration, they were born already disadvantaged,” she said of the students. “It was really hard getting support from the businesses. Why don’t we see girls with Down syndrome promoting products in advertising? Because the beauty of our students is an atypical beauty and no one wants it on their front page.”

“Chile is a country that creates handicaps,” she reflected, adding that trends to de-value family, school and the Church also cause problems for the disabled.

Daniels recommended that people draw closer to God: “to give love you have to be with the Creator of love…When you have love, you have to give it, you have to give it shape, make it real.”

Claudio Morales, another director, added that the volunteers are “the big winners” of Waves of Hope.

“Children with Down syndrome capture your heart in an incredible way,” he said. “I believe that all the volunteers have a changed way of looking at life.”

 

The article was originally published on CNA Feb. 7, 2017.

How the Pope's Paraguay trip inspired a children's charity

Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 17, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of Pope Francis' 2015 trip to Paraguay, a local charity was founded in order to help feed dozens of children whose parents struggle to make ends meet.

The “Pope Francis Children's Dining Hall” belonging to the Virgin of the Rosary Parish in the Diocese of Villarrica del Espíritu Santo in Paraguay, marked their first anniversary feeding almost 100 children of people who work part-time; and they hope to have many more anniversaries, giving love and care to the littlest ones.

Both the creation of the dining hall on Aug. 8, 2016, and its name are the fruit of Pope Francis' visit to Paraguay in July 2015, a tour in which he also visited Ecuador and Peru.

“Two years ago we had Pope Francis' visit which was very moving for many people. Because of  his  closeness to the people, we wanted to put his name on the dining hall,” parish priest Fr. Claudio Figueredo told CNA.

“The pope with the children is even seen on the logo and we always keep him in our prayers, for his ministry.”

The dining hall is located in the rural town of Natalicio Talavera with a population of about 7,000 and lies 112 miles from Asuncion. Some people work in “changas” – sporadic jobs – and mostly in the country's main crop, sugar cane.

“We started at zero. We had the house, but not pots, plates or utensils. Everything was borrowed. We started out with a stove and the first day five children came,” the priest said.

“There was a lot of leftover food. But already on the second day 30 children came and from there we steadily have between 60 and 90 children.”

Fr. Figueredo said that they began with the weekly lunches and two days with snacks. Today they are able to provide lunch and snacks every day and they also take care of the children while their parents work.

The children and adolescents cared for range from 1 to 15 years of age and their conditions include  malnutrition, respiratory illnesses, loneliness, and teen pregnancy; and so the social work provides medical care, catechesis, recreational activities and food assistance for families.

“The dining hall is a place where (the children) meet each other and feel good. We do everything possible to take care of their needs,” the priest said.

Fr. Figueredo, who belongs to the Saint Michael the Archangel Congregation of Polish missionaries, came to Peru in 1976. He explained that the dining hall is sustained by donations from the faithful, other organizations and the Secretariat for Social Action of the government of Paraguay.

The house where the Pope Francis Children's Dining Hall is provided has been equipped little by little with what it needs to function. On other occasions contributions even come for recreation such as a portable pool used in summer or a projector for use throughout the year.

Fr. Figueredo explained that other income that helps pay for expenses is the sale of baked goods that they make in the same facility every afternoon.

“We struggle every day. Our parish is very poor. Every day it's hard to have what's needed, but by the grace of God and Providence, we never lack,” he told CNA.

With that enthusiasm and faith in God, the priest said that they are already thinking of developing some craft projects for the children they serve there, “something which could help them develop their talents.”

The Virgin of the Rosary Parish also supports the Virgin of the Rosary Home, where 12 elderly reside, as well as the Saint Anthony of Padua Soup Kitchen in Doctor Botrell town.

Pope Francis prays Angelus for Solemnity of the Assumption

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis reflected on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Angelus on Tuesday.

The feast of the Assumption, also known as Ferragosto, is an important religious and civil holiday in Italy, and thousands of faithful were present in St Peter’s Square to celebrate with the Holy Father.

In his remarks, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel reading, which relates the meeting of Mary with Elizabeth, and records Mary’s triumphant song of praise, the Magnificat. “The greatest gift that Mary brings to Elizabeth,” the Pope said, “is Jesus, who already lives within her – not in faith and hope, as in so many women in the Old Testament: Jesus has taken human flesh from the Virgin, for His mission of salvation.”

Elizabeth, the Pope said, had already received the joy of pregnancy, after having felt for so long the sorrow of not having a baby. Now, at the arrival of Mary, her joy “overflows and bursts from her heart, because the invisible but real presence of Jesus fills her senses.” That joy is echoed by Mary in the Magnificat, a song of praise for God, who accomplished His plan of salvation through the poor and humble.

God is able to do great things through the humble because, the Pope said, “humility is like an emptiness that leaves room for God.” The humble person “is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong.” He challenged the faithful to reflect on their own efforts to foster the virtue of humility.

In the house of Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, the Pope continued, “the coming of Jesus through Mary creates not only a climate of joy and fraternal communion, but also a climate of faith that leads to hope, to prayer, to praise.”

And we too, Pope Francis continued, desire these things for our homes. “Celebrating Mary Most Holy, Assumed into Heaven,” he said, “we would like her, once more, to bring to us, to our families, to our communities, that immense Gift, that unique Grace that we must always seek first and above all other graces that we have at heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!”

Mary, the Pope said in conclusion, “is the model of virtue and of faith. In contemplating her today assumed into heaven, at the final completion of her earthly journey, we give thanks that she always goes before us in the pilgrimage of life and of faith.” And, he said, “we ask that she protect and sustain us; that we might have a strong, joyful, and merciful faith; that she might help us to be saints, to meet together with her, one day, in Paradise.”

Following the Angelus, Pope Francis entrusted to Mary, as Queen of Peace, “the anxieties and sorrows of peoples who, in many parts of the world, are suffering on account of natural calamities, of social tensions or of conflicts.” He prayed, “May our heavenly Mother obtain consolation for all, and a future of serenity and of concord.”

(from Vatican Radio)

El Salvador cardinal says Facebook account posting Romero rumors is not his

San Salvador, El Salvador, Aug 14, 2017 / 04:13 pm (CNA).- A cardinal from El Salvador says that a Facebook account attributed to him is fake, and that he did not post about Pope Francis’ intent to travel to El Salvador for the potential canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

“This is Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chávez to clarify that I don't have an account either on Twitter or on Facebook,” the cardinal says in an audio recording released by the Archdiocese of San Salvador.

“There is an account that is being published under my name. I want you to know that it is an account that does not belong to me. So whatever is published there has nothing to do with me.”

Cardinal Rosa Chávez’s statement comes after reports that he had said on Facebook that Pope Francis is hoping to come to El Salvador for the possible canonization of Oscar Romero.

The Facebook post – in English – says, “Pope Francis has confirmed this evening his intention to come to [El Salvador] for the possible canonization of our blessed. I'll give more information in the next few days. God bless you all.”

Several media outlets, including the Italian ANSA network, Crux, and America Magazine, cited the Facebook post in reporting the Pope’s intent to travel to El Salvador. These stories were later retracted.

Although rumors have been circulating for some time that the Pope will travel to El Salvador for the possible canonization, no trip has been confirmed by the Vatican.

Archbishop Romero was killed due to hatred of the faith on March 24, 1980, in the midst of the birth of a civil war between leftist guerrillas and the dictatorial government of the right. He was beatified in El Salvador on May 23, 2015. His canonization cause is open, however, the final steps necessary for him to be declared a saint have not taken place.

 

Mexico City archdiocese counters allegations of sex abuse cover up

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 14, 2017 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Mexico has countered claims made by two former priests that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera covered up the actions of pedophile priests, calling the allegations an “orchestrated farce.”

The communications office of the Mexico City archdiocese reported that Cardinal Rivera had spoken to a Public Ministry official July 26, in response to the June 2 complaint filed by  Alberto Athié and José Barba.

Athié and Barba filed their complaint with the Attorney General of the Republic's Office, accusing Cardinal Rivera of the alleged cover-up of 15 pedophile priests. In the 1990s Athié had brought allegations against Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. Fr. Maciel was later removed from public ministry after it was verified he had committed sexual abuse and fathered several children.

The Archdiocese of Mexico indicated that Athié and Barba based their charges on a Dec. 19, 2016, news brief  published in El Universal “in which a meeting was made known that the cardinal had with journalists where the archbishop mentioned that during his administration as head of the Primatial Archdiocese of Mexico he had sanctioned 15 priests – not all for the crime of pederasty, but with other illicit acts classified in canon law.”

The archdiocese said that “the complaint against the Archbishop of Mexico was in the sense that he did not promptly report these cases to the authorities, for which they cavalierly accused him of covering up sexual abusers.”

It indicated that during his July 26  meeting with the Public Ministry agent, “the cardinal showed copies of the complaints filed by the Archdiocese of Mexico since 2010, as laid down by law, against alleged criminal acts within the Church.”

The archdiocese added that Cardinal Rivera “made it clear that from the time that Part 2 of Article 12 of the Law on Religious Associations went into effect Aug. 19, 2010, – which obliged ministers of worship and their representatives to inform the appropriate authority of the probable commission of crimes – he was aware, through some of his episcopal vicars, of the probable commission of six presumably criminal acts.”

According to the archdiocese, the cardinal instructed his episcopal vicars “immediately to notify the appropriate authorities, which was done, as attested by the copies he exhibited, and which demonstrated that he did not commit the crime of cover-up.”

The archdiocese also publicized the dates of the six complaints, along with the authorities to whom they were made, and the officials who made them.

Cardinal Rivera “explained that the other nine cases were prior to the cited law going into effect, and only one had to do with the crime of pederasty, and the accused is being criminally prosecuted with the information that the archdiocese provided to the authorities,” the Mexico City archdiocese stated.

“The other eight cases were for conduct penalized by canon law, such as financial fraud, mistreating an adult, breaking the seal of confession, and others that were made known to Church authorities,” it said.

The Archdiocese of Mexico stated that in response to “the express question of the Public Ministry agent, the Archbishop of Mexico acknowledged as his own the statement referred to in the news brief published by El Universal Dec. 19, 2016; clarifying that, however, since it was an impromptu interview, he failed to specify that not all the mentioned cases had to do with the crime of pederasty – as the former priests Alberto Athié and José Barba maliciously indicated.”

In addition, “he said that regarding the cases made known to the civil authorities, it was solely their responsibility to follow up on them, and of the ones the church authorities knew about, they were concluded with the suspension of priestly ministry, since in those cases the ecclesiastical sentence is given by the Pope and is made known through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”