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Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 3, 2015

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Pope Visits Crypt to Pray for Past Popes

Francis Follows Tradition of Praying for Departed Predecessors on Solemnity of All Souls

Pope Francis has prayed for his departed predecessors and all the deceased

Last night, the Holy Father visited the crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica and prayed privately for the repose of the souls of his predecessors who have passed away, reported Vatican Radio.  The Pope’s moment of prayer has become a custom in commemoration of the faithful departed.

Yesterday, the universal Church celebrated All Souls’ Day.

Several popes are buried beneath St. Peter’s, including Benedict XV, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and of course, St. Peter. Archeologists identify the site of the Apostle St. Peter’s tomb as under the basilica’s main altar.

One of the most visited tombs is Pope John Paul II’s. His remains rest where Blessed Pope John XXIII was buried for 30 years. Not long after his beatification, John XXIII’s remains were moved to St. Jerome’s altar to enable a greater number of faithful to visit it.

Not all pontiffs are laid to rest in the Vatican Grotto. For example, Pope Leo XIII, who passed away in 1903, asked he be buried in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The first two days of November mark the Solemnities of All Saints and All Souls, respectively, and the whole month gives special attention to our care and concern for the dead. (D.C.L.)

Pope’s Homily at Mass for Cardinals, Bishops Who’ve Died This Year

“One who serves, saves”

At 11:30 this morning, Pope Francis presided over a Eucharistic Celebration at the Altar of the Chair of the Vatican Basilica, in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops deceased during the course of the year.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s homily.

* * * 

Today we remember the Brother Cardinals and Bishops deceased in the last year. On this earth they loved the Church, their Bride, and we pray that they might enjoy full joy in God in the Communion of Saints.

We also think again with gratitude of the vocation of these sacred Ministers: as the word indicates, it is first of all to minister or to serve. While we ask for them the reward promised to “good and faithful servants” (cf. Matthew 25:14-30), we are called to renew the choice to serve in the Church. The Lord asks this of us, who, like a servant, washed the feet of His closest disciples, so that we would also do as He did (cf. John 13:14-15). God was the first to serve us. Jesus’ minister, who comes to serve and not to be served (cf. Mark 10:45), cannot but be in turn a Pastor ready to give his life for his sheep. One who serves and gives, seems to be a loser in the eyes of the world. In reality, by losing one’s life one finds it again. Because a life that is despoiled of itself, losing itself in love, imitates Christ, overcomes death and gives life to the world. One who serves, saves. On the contrary, one who does not live to serve, is of no use to live.

The Gospel reminds us of this. “God so loved the world,” says Jesus (v. 16). It is, truly, about concrete love, so concrete that He took our death upon himself. To save us, He reached us where we had ended, alienating ourselves from God giver of life: in death, in a sepulcher without exit. This is the abasement that the Son of God underwent, bending down as a servant to us to assume all that is ours, to the point of opening wide the doors of life.

In the Gospel Christ compares himself to the “raised serpent.” The image refers to the episode of the poisonous serpents, which attacked the pilgrimaging people in the desert (cf. Numbers 21:4-9). The Israelites that were bitten by the serpents, did not die but stayed alive if they looked at the bronze serpent that Moses, by order of God, had raised on a pole. A serpent saved from serpents. The same logic is present in the cross, to which Christ refers speaking to Nicodemus. His death saves us from our death. In the desert serpents inflicted a painful death, preceded by fear and caused by venomous bites. In our eyes death also always seems dark and anguishing. As we experience it, it entered the world because of the devil’s envy, Scripture tells us (cf. Wisdom 2:24) Jesus, however, did not flee from it but took it fully upon himself with all its contradictions. Now we, looking at Him, believing in Him, are saved by Him. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life,” Jesus repeats twice in the brief passage of today’s Gospel (cf. VV. 15.16).

This style of God, which saves us by serving us and annihilating himself, has much to teach us. We would expect a triumphant divine victory; instead, Jesus shows us an extremely humble victory. Raised on the cross, he allows evil and death to rage against Him while He continues to love. It is difficult for us to accept this reality. It is a mystery, but the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility is altogether in the strength of love. In Jesus’ Easter we see at the same time death and the remedy to death, and this is possible because of the great love with which God has loved us, because of the humble love that abases itself, because of the service that is able to assume the condition of the servant. Thus Jesus not only took away evil, but He transformed it into good, not in appearance, but in essence, not on the surface, but at the root. He made of the cross a bridge to life. We can also conquer with Him, if we choose helpful and humble love, which remains victorious for eternity. It is a love that does not cry out and does not impose itself, but is able to wait with trust and patience because — as the Book of Lamentations reminded us — “it is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (3:26).

“God so loved the world.” We are led to love what we feel we are in need of and desire. God, instead, loves the world to the end, namely us, as we are. In this Eucharist He also comes to serve us, to give us the life that saves from death and fills with hope. While we offer this Mass for our dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops, we ask for ourselves what the Apostle Paul exhorts us: “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2); love of God and of our neighbor, more than of our needs. We must not be concerned about what we are lacking down here, but about the treasure up there; not for what is useful to us but what is really useful. May the Lord’s Easter be sufficient for us, to be free of the anxiety for ephemeral things, which pass and vanish into nothing. May He be enough, in whom are life, salvation, resurrection and joy. Then we will be servants according to His heart: not functionaries that serve, but loved children that give their life for the world.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Tuning Out at the Homily

And More on Extending the Hands

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Is listening to the Sunday homily necessary to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation? Sometimes for personal reasons I do not feel inclined to listen to the homily of a particular priest as I feel very strongly about his sincerity and because he doesn’t practice what he preaches. — R.C., Mumbai, India 

A: Canon law obliges the celebrant to prepare and deliver a homily at each Sunday Mass, or at least entrust the deacon or another priest to do so. To wit: 

«767 §1. Among the forms of preaching the homily is pre-eminent; it is a part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or to a deacon; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian living are to be expounded from the sacred text throughout the co
urse of the liturgical year.

Ǥ2. Whenever a congregation is present a homily is to be given at all Sunday Masses and at Masses celebrated on holy days of obligation; it cannot be omitted without a serious reason.

«§3. If a sufficient number of people are present it is strongly recommended that a homily also be given at Masses celebrated during the week, especially during Advent or Lent or on the occasion of some feast day or time of mourning. 

Ǥ4. It is the duty of the pastor or the rector of a church to see to it that these prescriptions are conscientiously observed.

«768 §1. It is necessary that those who proclaim the word of God to the Christian faithful are first of all to propose those things which one ought to believe and do for the glory of God and for the salvation of humankind.

«§2. They are also to impart to the faithful the teaching which the magisterium of the Church proposes concerning the dignity and freedom of the human person, the unity and stability of the family and its duties, the obligations which men and women have from being joined together in society, and the ordering of temporal affairs according to God’s plan. 

“769. Christian doctrine is to be proposed in a manner accommodated to the condition of its listeners and adapted to the needs of the times.»

Therefore, except for a grave cause, the homily should not be omitted on a Sunday. Since, as canon law says, it forms part of the liturgy, then it is the duty of the preacher to prepare and deliver it as best he can. From the point of view of the faithful it is their religious duty to do their best to understand and embrace that teaching insofar as it conforms to Catholic truth, which, we presume, is the case at hand.

As canons 768-769 make abundantly clear, the subject matter of the homily is expounding the teaching of Christ and its applications in the magisterium. It is not about the qualities of the preacher, although these obviously have some effect on the efficacy of the message.

I am in no position to judge if a preacher in Mumbai practices what he preaches, and indeed only God can truly judge the human heart. I know for certain that I, as a priest, never fully practice what I preach. Indeed every time I stand at the pulpit, or give advice in confession, I am acutely aware of my own inadequacies and failures to live up to the challenge of the Gospel. And yet I am convinced of the truth of the message and strive to communicate it to the best of my abilities. I can only presume that most priests share this experience. 

The English poet and Anglican clergyman George Herbert in his verse “The Church Porch” has an interesting reflection on preaching: «Judge not the preacher; for he is thy Judge: If thou mislike him, thou conceiv’st him not [you do not understand him]. God calleth preaching folly. Do not grudge / To pick out treasures from an earthen pot. The worst [preachers] speak something good: if all want sense, God takes a text, and preacheth patience.» 

In other words, it is the content of the preaching, even if defective, that is important and not the preacher. One interpreter of the poem explains it thus: 

«The media is not the message. Look for the jewel. The earthen pot […] does not matter. See what is important. Accept it. God uses everything for His purpose. Your response to the preacher judges you rather than his message. The preacher is your Judge, the litmus test by which you are judged. If you dislike him, you will not listen or understand God’s message. Even a fool may speak knowledge to the wise. You refuse God’s knowledge out of prejudice. This, too, is a judgment. Even the worst preacher, as a person, student and speaker, has a lesson to teach. Whatever the text for the day that the preacher may mar, God chooses his own text and preaches patience so that the sermon saves those who believe regardless of the preacher.»

St. Paul has a similar idea in his epistle to the Philippians 1:15-18: 

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."

I can only recommend to our correspondent that he also rejoice like St. Paul.

* * *

Follow-up: How Far to Extend the Hands at Mass

Pursuant to our October 13 column on extending hands at Mass, several readers commented and made further queries.

Regarding the hypothesis that the norm for the priest to extend hands might have been an oversight, a Dominican priest comments, referring to the rite of that venerable order: «I agree that it should have been abolished as the priest is not praying for the people but with them. And in the 1960 Dominican Rite Holy Week Missal (Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum Instauratus, Romae: Ad S. Sabinae, 1960), p. 67, in the rubrics of Good Friday (the only place where the people joined the priest in the Pater at that date in our rite), it says that the priest recites ‘item iunctis manibus’ — the ‘item’ is there because the rubric for the invocation of the prayer was also ‘iunctis manibus.’ Obviously some Dominican rubricist understood the logic of the gesture. Sadly, in the last edition of our Missal (1965), the rubric is changed to ‘extensis manibus.’ So someone must have dedicated to mimic the bad logic of the modified Roman Missal.»

Other readers asked if the deacon can extend his hands during the Our Father and if the rite is optional where permitted.

The answer to this depends on the country. In those countries where the bishops’ conference, with the approval of the Holy See, has allowed the faithful to extend their hands during the Our Father, this obviously includes the deacon. In countries where the practice does not exist for the faithful it does not apply to the deacon.

However, outside of Mass, if a deacon presides at a communion service in the absence of a priest, he may extend his hands at the prescribed moments. 

In all countries where it has been approved it is an option and neither faithful nor the ministers, other than priests, are obliged to carry it out.

* * * 

Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Pope Francis to Visit Central African Republic as Herald of Peace

Archbishop says Pontiff desires to ‘meet his brothers and sisters and in a certain way to share their insecurity’

This report is contributed by Oliver Maksan of Aid to the Church in Need.

* * *

The pending visit of Pope Francis is arousing high hopes in the Central African Republic. «The Pope is coming to invite the people to rebuild a country where there is love and fraternity,» said Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, the troubled nation’s capital.

The Pope is due to visit Central African Republic Nov. 29 and 30, 2015, bringing hope to a country that has yet to fully recover from the violence unleashed two years ago by a coup staged by an extremist Muslim rebel alliance called Seleka.

«From the beginning Pope Francis has put himself forward as the poor people’s Pope. Here in the Central African Republic we are a very poor Church. We have gone
through very difficult times,» Archbishop Nzapalainga told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, adding that «through his words, we believe, we hear the voice of Christ calling to us and speaking to our conscience so that we can confess our sins and the terrible crimes that have been committed. For that is the way of reconciliation.» 

The prelate continued: “It’s as if we were sitting on top of smouldering embers. So many people still have weapons. A small spark would suffice to reignite the blaze.» However, he said he is not concerned about the Pope’s safety: «God is our first protector. And the Pope is coming in the name of Christ. It is Pope Francis’ wish to meet his brothers and sisters and in a certain way to share their insecurity. He wants to experience and get to know people’s reality.» 

The archbishop believes the papal visit will be crucial to heal Christian-Muslim relations in the country, saying: «During the Pope’s visit Muslims and Christians will come together like brothers and sisters. After all, we believe in one God despite everything. The Pope’s visit is an invitation to rediscover this fraternity.» 

Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of Alindao—in the very region where Seleka launched their uprising—explained that the fight against poverty and the healing of the people’s deep wounds were the two prime tasks of the Church in his country. Early on, rebels targeted the the Church’s infrastructure, the bishop said. Rectories, health centers and Caritas facilities were looted. Furthermore all the vehicles of the diocese were stolen, including those critical for providing medical care to outlying villages.

«The Christian community suffered a great deal because many priests were forced to leave their parishes. The rebels stole everything. The people therefore had nothing left to keep themselves alive,» the bishop said. A rebuilding effort has only barely gotten underway, in part thanks to the presence of international peacekeeping forces.

Over the weekend, there were more attacks in Bangui, resulting in hundreds more people fleeing their homes.

Reuters reported that at least 90 people have died violently since late September.

During his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis called on the Central African Republic’s warring parties to put an end to the violence, and expressed his desire to open the Holy Door in Bangui Cathedral.

The Holy Father expressed “strong worry” for the “painful episodes of the past days that have worsened the situation in Central African Republic.”

In addition to urging all the people of CAR to be «witnesses of peace» and to «work for reconciliation,» Francis reminded those in the «afflicted» and «tormented» nation of his closeness to them.

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)


Pope: He Who Serves, Saves

At Mass for Deceased Cardinals, Bishops, Invites Faithful to Imitate Christ the Servant

When we serve, we participate in Christ’s saving mission, says Pope Francis.

The Pope said this today in St. Peter’s Basilica, as he presided at Mass for the souls of cardinals and bishops who died during this last year.

«On this earth they loved their bride the Church, and we pray that in God they may enjoy full joy in the communion of saints,» he said. “As we ask that they be rewarded as ‘good and faithful servants’, we are called up to renew our decision to serve the Church. … Those who serve and give may be seen to ‘lose’ in the eyes of the world, but in reality, losing life, they rediscover it. A life given away in love, imitates Christ: it defeats death and gives life to the world. He who serves, saves. On the contrary, he who does not live to serve, does not serve to live.»

“This is how the Son of God lowered Himself to us, stooping like a servant to us to take on all that is ours, to the point of throwing open the doors to life. … This style of God, Who saves us by serving us and annihilating Himself, has much to teach us. We imagine a triumphal divine victory; instead Jesus shows us a very humble victory. Raised on the cross, He lets evil and death beset him, while He continues to love. For us it is difficult to accept this. It is a mystery, but the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility, consists entirely in the strength of love. … In this way Jesus not only takes away evil, but also transforms it into good. He does not change things with words, but with actions; not in appearance, but in substance; not on the surface, but at the root. He transforms the cross into a bridge to life. We too can be victorious with Him, it we choose dutiful and humble love, that remains victorious for eternity. It is a love that does not shout and does not impose itself, but rather knows how to wait with trust and patience since, as the Book of Lamentations reminds us, “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”.

“As we offer this Mass for the our dear brother cardinals and bishops, let us ask for ourselves what the apostle Paul exhorts us to do: ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’. May the resurrection of the Lord be enough to let us be free of the worries of ephemeral things, that pass and vanish into nothing. May He be enough for us, He in whom there is life, salvation, resurrection and joy. Then we will be servants according to His heart, not functionaries who offer their services, but rather beloved children who give their life for the world”.

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-homily-at-mass-for-cardinals-bishops-who-ve-died-this-year

Holy See Pavilion Wins Prize at Expo Milan 2015

Best reflected the theme «Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life»

The Holy See’s Pavilion at the Expo Milano 2015 won the first prize for pavilions under 2000 square metres that best represented the theme of the Expo: «Feeding the planet. Energy for Life.»

The Expo ended October 31, after running in the northern Italian city for 6 months. “It is the recognition of the spirited work done during these six months,” said Msgr. Luca Bressan, who serves as an Episcopal Vicar for the Archdiocese of Milan. “It also shows that the communicative power of Pope Francis has been able to make inroads in the large public square which was the world Expo.”

Monsignor Bressan accepted the award from the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), which promotes the Universal Expositions.

The Pavilion of the Holy See  expounded on the double meaning of food as nourishment for both the body and the
soul, developing the two biblical quotes «Not by bread alone» and «Give us this day our daily bread,» which were translated into 13 languages on the outside of the Pavilion.

A video tour of the Holy See Pavilion is available at this link.

Inside the Pavilion, five scenes represented the following four themes: Ecology, the economy-fair trade, education and religion-theology.

The exhibition also featured two classic works of art: Tintoretto’s Last Supper and Rubens’ Institution of the Eucharist.

During the Exhibition, 1.8 million people visited the Holy See’s Pavilion, and 150,000 Euros were collected for women and children in Middle Eastern refugee camps. The Pavilion also distributed 1 million magnets bearing the picture of Pope Francis, as well as 10,000 copies of Laudato Si’.

The next Universal Expo will take place in 2020 in Dubai.

Daniel and the Great Unveiling

«When Jesus came preaching precisely the kingdom of God, we should not be surprised that people took him to be announcing the fulfillment of the Daniel prophecy. But was this in the mind of Jesus himself?»

Toward the end of the liturgical year, we Catholics hear at Mass from the mysterious, often confounding, and utterly fascinating book of Daniel. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that the book of Daniel had an extraordinarily powerful influence on the first Christians, providing them a most important template for understanding the significance of Jesus. Daniel is, of course, an example of apocalyptic literature, which in the common understanding means that it has to do with the end of the world. Well, yes and no. The word «apocalypse» carries the sense of unveiling, literally taking back the kalumna (veil). This is why, when the early translators rendered the term in Latin, they chose «revelatio«(removing the velum, unveiling). Apocalyptic books, therefore, reveal something of decisive significance. They display a hidden truth, indeed raising the curtain on a new world.

The book under consideration is famous, of course, for its memorable narratives of Daniel in the lion’s den, of the three young men who are thrown into the furnace but who survive through God’s grace, of the handwriting on the wall, and of the rape of Susannah. But it is also a book of visions, dreams, and their interpretation, for Daniel is something like Joseph in the book of Genesis, an inspired solver of puzzles. In the second chapter of the book of Daniel, we hear of a dream dreamt by King Nebuchadnezzar. In his night vision, the king saw a statue made of a variety of substances: its head of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, and its feet of clay. He then saw a stone, not hewn by a human hand, crash into the statue and shatter it to pieces. 


None of the king’s wise men and soothsayers could interpret the dream, but Daniel, an Israelite from the community of exiles, was able to read it. The statue constructed of various substances stood, Daniel explained, for a series of kingdoms that would follow one upon the other. The destruction by the stone, not made through human intervention, indicated that the final kingdom would be established by God alone. In the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel, this truth is reinforced. We are told that Daniel himself had a dream of four great beasts coming up out of the sea, the first like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard, and the fourth a terrible animal with ten horns and teeth like iron. Then, as the dream continued, the «Ancient of Days,» the Lord God, took his throne and thousands ministered to him, and the four beasts were disempowered. Next Daniel saw «one like the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.» Arriving at the throne of the Ancient of Days, he was given «dominion, power and glory» and told that all nations would serve him. Once again, we have a reference to the four kingdoms that will succeed one another and then a final kingdom, not of purely human origin, that will come to be.   


When will all of this take place? Here we have to look at chapter nine of the book of Daniel, which recounts, not a vision, but a direct angelic revelation. Daniel had received the tradition from the prophet Jeremiah that the restoration of Jerusalem and Israel would happen seventy years after the Babylonian exile, but that time had already passed. The angel Gabriel (keep him in mind for later in the Biblical story) tells the prophet that this means «seventy weeks of years,» which comes out to seventy times seven years, or 490 years.


Now if we put this all together, we conclude that pious Jews, studying the book of Daniel, would be expecting four wicked kingdoms to rise and fall before the final kingdom would be ushered in. Further, they would be anticipating that this consummation would occur around five hundred years after the Babylonian Captivity, which took place between 587 BC and around 500 BC. So now consider pious commentators in the first century. They had seen four great kingdoms emerge: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. More to it, they knew they were living just around five hundred years after the Captivity. The upshot was that Messianic expectation was especially fevered among Jews as the first century got underway. 


And therefore, when Jesus came preaching precisely the kingdom of God, we should not be surprised that people took him to be announcing the fulfillment of the Daniel prophecy. But was this in the mind of Jesus himself? Recall that when he stood before the Sanhedrin at the climax of his life and was directly asked whether he was the Messiah, Jesus replied, «I am, and you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.» He was, of course, directly citing the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel, announcing himself as the human/divine figure, who would be given dominion over all the nations. The next day, over the cross of Jesus, Pontius Pilate, representative of the fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire, placed a sign announcing that the new and final king had arrived: «Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.»


This, in a word, is the apocalypse, the great revelation: a kingdom, not made by human hands, has come, a kingdom that succeeds a series of fallen polities, a dominion that will last forever. What is this kingdom? It is not one more political or social arrangement. It is Christ himself and the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. The emergence of the Church of Jesus signals the end of the old world and the beginning of a new one.  It is the pulling back of the veil.

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

All Have a Calling to Community Life

Subsidiarity Is at the Heart of Catholic Social Teaching

As the Third Global Forum on Local Development recently met in Turin, Italy, we are reminded that we all have a calling to community life.  

Pope Francis, in addressing participants in the Forum, urges us all to consider that “political and economic action are a prudential activity, guided by the perennial concept of justice.”

He emphasizes that “real men and women” have to be taken into consideration before “any plan or program”
— men and women who are equal in dignity to those in authority and who “live, struggle and suffer.” They must, he said, “be the masters of their own destiny.”

We must be free to exercise our own self-determination.  

This notion is the principle at the heart of understanding our role in relation to God and our fellow man.  This very idea is one of the most fundamental tenets of Catholic Social Teaching and is called subsidiarity.  The concept of subsidiarity provides that it is wrong to take away from an individual what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community.

We learn from the Catechism that “certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man; they are necessary to him.  To promote the participation of the greatest number in the life of a society, the creation of voluntary associations and institutions must be encouraged.”  The challenge that we face is in balancing the responsibilities and decision-making in these important institutions of society.

What the Holy Father has reminded us is that we must always be respectful of human dignity and that as Pope Pius XI taught in Quadragesimo Anno, “every social activity ought of its very nature furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.”

Indeed it is impossible to promote the dignity of the human person without recognizing and supporting those communities and institutions to which each of us gives life—our families, our social and cultural institutions.  Each of us has a unique place and role to play through what Pope Saint John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis calls the “creative subjectivity of the citizen.”

So as we seek to assist those brothers and sisters to develop ways to grow their economies and improve their quality of life, we must be ever mindful of not usurping local wisdom and insight instilled to facilitate genuine participation in life.  The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes underscores that the primary characteristic of subsidiary is participation.  Participation is what the Catechism refers to as a “duty” to be fulfilled consciously by all, with responsibility and with a view to the common good.

In our quest to be generous and assistive, we must remember that we must never rob our brothers and sisters of the opportunity to fulfill their calling to community.

Pope Expresses Condolences for Fire in Bucharest Nightclub

In Telegram, Shares His ‘Deep Sorrow’ for Many Lives of Young People Lost

Pope Francis has sent his condolences for the tragic fire at a nightclub in Bucharest, which claimed 32 lives, and left over 130 others injured, mostly young people.

In a telegram sent to President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on the Pope’s behalf, Francis expressed his «deep sorrow» for the incident that occurred Friday evening.

The Holy Father also assured victims’ loved ones, government authorities and the whole nation of his spiritual closeness and commended «to the mercy of the Lord the many who died” in the fire.

Below is a ZENIT translation of the telegram.


To His Excellency Klaus Werner Iohannis

President of the Republic of Romania


The Pope expresses deep sorrow for the tragic accident which occurred in the nightclub in Bucharest in which many young people lost their lives, and, in ensuring his spiritual closeness to the victims’ families, to the government and to the whole country, he commends to the mercy of the Lord the many who died in the dramatic event.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

Irish Bishops to Legislators: In Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Debate, Think of Children’s Rights

Open letter recalls: «Religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, is the best and ideal place for children»

Here is an open letter sent Monday by the Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland to members of the Legislative Assembly on the debate on ‘same-sex’ marriage.

* * *

Dear Member of the Legislative Assembly,

Today, Monday 2 November, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly will debate a motion calling on the Northern Ireland Executive ‘to table legislation to allow for same-sex marriage’. 

As pastors and teachers we have a responsibility to offer guidance to members of the Church and to participate with other citizens in debating the values and laws that ensure the authentic common good of society.

In public debate about the nature of marriage and the family it can sometimes be lost that the Church’s first words to all who experience homosexual attraction are those of love, understanding and a desire to journey supportively with all who follow Jesus with a sincere heart.  The Church teaches that every person must be welcomed with respect for their dignity and with care to avoid «any form of unjust discrimination»(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 2003, n.4).

In the context of the forthcoming Assembly debate, we wish to express our particular concern that the motion presented provides no detail whatsoever of the scale or scope of the legislation being proposed.  It is also completely silent on the vital issue of respect for individual religious conscience and protections for Churches and other religious groups.  Those who vote in favour of this motion have no way of knowing what the full consequences of such a vote will be.  What will be the impact for services provided by Churches and other faith groups that offer vital support to marriages and families in all kinds of distress and thereby contribute to the well-being of children and society?  The failure of legislators to provide any form of protection for Catholic Church-related adoption agencies that have had to close in recent years is a stark warning to all who value the wide range of social and pastoral services that Churches provide.  The motion being debated in the Assembly fails completely to protect the future of these services and their right to operate within the religious ethos from which they were founded and continue to provide a valued service to communities.

We ask you especially as a legislator to keep the rights and welfare of children to the forefront of your considerations when voting on the forthcoming motion.  Religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, is the best and ideal place for children.  The proposed motion before the Assembly effectively says to parents, children and society that the State should not, and will not, promote any normative or ideal family environment for raising children.  It therefore implies that the biological bond and natural ties between a child and its mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or for society.  As Pope Francis stated recently, “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity” (16 April 2014).  We also reiterate the objective truth, affirmed by the recent Synod on the Family, that “there is no foundation whatsoever to… establish an even remotely analogous correspondence between homosexual unions and God’s plan for marriage and the family« (Synod 2015, 
Relatio Finalis, n.76).  

The truth about marriage derives from its intrinsic nature as a relationship based on the complementarity of a man and woman and the unique capacity of this relationship alone to generate new life.  This truth does not change with the shifting tides of historical custom or popular opinion.   

Finally, we appeal to members of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to give urgent priority to the many other issues that impact on children, marriage and the family in our society, including the continued failure to lift the distressing levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland, which are among the highest in Western Europe, and the immense stress being caused to many individuals, families and marriages because of proposed welfare cuts and the long term social disadvantage to which so many in Northern Ireland continue to be subjected.

With respect and encouragement for your important work as a public representative.

Yours faithfully,

+Eamon Martin

Archbishop of Armagh

+Anthony Farquhar

Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor

+John McAreavey

Bishop of Dromore

+Liam MacDaid

Bishop of Clogher

+Donal McKeown

Bishop of Derry

+Noël Treanor

Bishop of Down and Connor

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