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Today’s news dispatch: Dec. 10, 2015

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Pope’s Morning Homily: Let God Embrace You

At Casa Santa Marta, Says God Welcomes Us Like a Parent Welcomes a Child Who’s Had a Nightmare

During morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis spoke of God’s love and encouraged the congregation to allow themselves to be “embraced by God’s mercy.»

The Holy Father based his homily on a passage from Isaiah in which we are told that God chose His people out of love. He explained that he chose them “not because they were big and powerful but because they were the smallest and most wretched of all.»

He compared God’s love to that of a mother or father when they speak to their child after he or she has woken after a nightmare. Just as our parents reassured us, saying, “don’t be scared, I’m here,” so God says “do not be afraid of your sins, I love you; I am here to forgive you.»

“This is the mercy of God,» the Pope explained.

Pope Francis exemplified the extent of God’s mercy by referring to the passage in Matthew in which Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.»

He went on to say, “We are all so nervous when something does not go to plan; we scream and shout, we are impatient… He, however, says ‘Calm down; yes, you’ve made a mistake but don’t worry, don’t be afraid. I forgive you.'»

The Pope concluded by inviting those present to ask God to “renew in all people faith in our Father and in his mercy.»

This report is from Vatican Radio.



In Baghdad’s ‘Camp Virgin Mary,’ Displaced Iraqi Christians Get Their Own Chapel

The benefactors and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the Church—one we have to take care of

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

* * *

Father Luis Montes is glad and he has reason to be: “We have just consecrated a new chapel. It was high time that our refugees got their own small church. This gives them back a piece of the home they have lost. And the people can now go to Mass without risking their lives,” the Argentine missionary said

For five years now, the missionary, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, has been living in Baghdad, one of the most dangerous places on earth. “There were 128 bomb attacks in Baghdad in October alone,” he told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, adding: “It’s hardly surprising that the people are afraid of leaving their homes to go to Mass.” 

Father Montes is in charge of a camp housing 135 displaced Iraqi Christian families. He said: “Because of the danger it was important that the Church came to them in the camp.” 

Most of the residents of the camp—which is named after the Virgin Mary—are Syriac Catholics. They fled northern Iraq when the city of Qaraqosh was overrun by ISIS in the late summer of 2014. The majority of these faithful are bent on leaving Iraq for the West. “None of them still harbor hope that they will be able to return to their hometowns. After all, there are no signs of liberation. And furthermore, the people have lost their faith in Iraq and in the Arab world in general,” Father Montes explained.

The process of obtaining a visa for a Western country has only gotten harder in the wake of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris. The people are living in limbo. 

Said Father Montes: “The people are suffering. Not all have found work here. In particular the fathers of the families feel useless. However, when I look at our people, I am still looking into happier faces than those in the West. They still have their faith in God. This supports them and fills them with confidence.” 

Father Montes refers to the new chapel as “our little container church.” There will be a vigil liturgy according to the Syriac Catholic Church every Saturday night. “I only saw thankful faces at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that benefactors in the West are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the Church—one we have to take care of.” 

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)



FORUM: The Marriage Tribunal – An Apostolate of Mercy

Helping people to know how God calls them to live is a part of the Church’s essential mission … And effective this week, as we enter the Year of Mercy, we will offer the tribunal process to all who need it, without requiring payments or assessing fees

This is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.

* * *

Marriage is God’s first gift to humanity. “In the beginning” God created one man and one woman, and he joined them together, instructing them to be fruitful and multiply. God created us for families, in his own image, through the gift of marriage.

Marriage is a life-long partnership of spouses, which exists to form families in the procreation and education of children, and to assist the spouses in the pursuit of holiness. Marriage is a permanent and exclusive union, which, when the spouses are baptized, is a sacramental union, in which Christ’s presence is manifested in grace.

Marriage is the fruit of choice—of consent. When a man and woman commit themselves to one another, and publicly manifest that choice in accord with the law of God, they become husband and wife—one flesh, joined for the remainder of their lives.

Consenting to marriage is a beautiful and serious choice. Marriage is a choice that must be free, honest, and mature. You need not be a saint to choose mar
riage, but you must be an adult: a person capable of making an unencumbered and rational decision. And consent requires intending what marriage really is: a choice for marriage cannot exclude the choice to be faithful, or open to children, or committed for life.

It should be obvious to all that we live in a culture that is not conducive to healthy marriages. The media devalues fidelity, permanence, and fertility. We are accustomed to egocentric instant gratification. The culture of death erodes the integrity of families, and that problem compounds with each generation: children who grow up without healthy families as role models are unlikely to form healthy families of their own. Today, for many reasons, there are people who intend to choose marriage but are not mature enough to do so, free enough to do so, or prepared enough—personally, intellectually, emotionally and morally—to do so.

Some sociologists believe that a marriage that begins in 2015 has a nearly 50% chance of ending in divorce.

Only exceptional circumstances justify divorce: married people are called to offer the sacrifices of their vocation, even in hardship, unless the gravest circumstances require separation. But, of course, there are couples that do separate. And for centuries, the Church has offered a legal process to determine whether those couples actually contracted marriage: this process is commonly referred to as the annulment process, or the tribunal process.

The tribunal process uses the accounts of both husband and wife, and the testimony of witnesses and experts, to determine whether both parties were fully capable of consenting to marriage, and whether they consented to marriage without excluding its most essential goods and properties. The tribunal asks questions about the very beginning of a marriage, in order to judge whether the consent supplied on the day of the wedding sufficiently established marriage. 

The tribunal does not find fault or assess blame: it simply considers whether the words of consent corresponded to the object and capacity of the spouses’ wills. This process is a kind of mercy for the couple, because it clarifies the truth about their lives. Knowing the truth, and living in accord with the truth, brings us to freedom.

The tribunal process requires legal, theological, and psychological experts to evaluate the situation of broken marriages. It requires gathering testimony and facts. It must be undertaken carefully, fairly, and professionally. The process is not without significant costs. 

But clarifying the truth about marriage is an apostolate of mercy. Helping people to know how God calls them to live is a part of the Church’s essential mission. Inviting divorced Catholics to know and live as disciples of Jesus, in the full communion of the Church, is a privilege, and a grace. 

The Diocese of Lincoln has long believed that every child should be welcomed at Catholic schools, regardless of his ability to pay. We have long offered counseling to families, couples, and individuals, even when they are unable to afford it. We provide food, clothing, job training and housing to those who cannot pay. And effective this week, as we enter the Year of Mercy, we will offer the tribunal process to all who need it, without requiring payments or assessing fees.

Each year, fees cover roughly 15% of our tribunal’s budget. We hope that those who utilize the process might offer freely some contribution for the Church’s work. But we will no longer assess fees of any kind for the legal processes of the diocesan tribunal. We offer the tribunal as a court of justice, and a prophet of mercy, without any consideration of cost. I pray that those who are searching for the truth might avail themselves of the Church’s judgment.

The Year of Mercy requires that each of us help the world to live according to the will of God. May our tribunal assist in that process, and may our witness to the gift of marriage, given freely by the Lord, call families to holiness, sacrifice, and charity.



Summary of Vatican’s New Document on Catholic-Jewish Relations

The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable: a Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic-Jewish Relations on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of ‘Nostra Aetate’

The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has published today the document “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable: a Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic-Jewish Relations on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of ‘Nostra Aetate’ (No. 4)”.

The text consists of a Preface and seven chapters, entitled:

“A brief history of the impact of ‘Nostra Aetate’ (No.4) over the last 50 years”,

“The special theological status of Jewish-Catholic dialogue”,

“Revelation in history as ‘Word of God’ in Judaism and Christianity”,

“The relationship between the Old and New Testament and the Old and New Covenant”,

“The universality of salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s unrevoked covenant with Israel”,

“The Church’s mandate to evangelise in relation to Judaism”, and

“The goals of dialogue with Judaism”.

“Fifty years ago”, says the Preface, “the declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’ of the Second Vatican Council was promulgated. Its fourth article presents the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people in a new theological framework. The following reflections aim at looking back with gratitude on all that has been achieved over the last decades in the Jewish–Catholic relationship, providing at the same time a new stimulus for the future. Stressing once again the unique status of this relationship within the wider ambit of interreligious dialogue, theological questions are further discussed, such as the relevance of revelation, the relationship between the Old and the New Covenant, the relationship between the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ and the affirmation that the covenant of God with Israel has never been revoked, and the Church’s mandate to evangelize in relation to Judaism. This document presents Catholic reflections on these questions, placing them in a theological context, in order that their significance may be deepened for members of both faith traditions. The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection prepared by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on current theological questions that have developed since the Second Vatican Council. It is intended to be a starting point for further theological thought with a view to enriching and intensifying the theological dimension of Jewish–Catholic dialogue”.

The first chapter explains that great steps have been taken in the dialogue over the last fifty years, and from a detached co–existence we have arrived at a deep friendship. The Conciliar declaration “Nostra aetate” (No.4) definitively clarified, for the first time, the theological position of the Catholic Church with respect to Judaism; the document has had a profound impact on many levels.

With regard to the special theological status of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, the second chapter affirms that due to the Jewish roots of Christianity, the dialogue with Judaism cannot in any way be compared with the dialogue with the other world religions. Jesus can only be understood in the Jewish context of his time, even though as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God he transcends that historical horizon.

God reveals himself in his Word, he communicates with humanity. For Jews, this Word is present in the Tor
ah; for Christians, the Word of God is incarnated in Jesus Christ. However, the Word of God is indivisible and calls people to respond in such a way that enables them to live in the right relationship with God, as explained in the third chapter.

The relationship between the Old and New Testament and the Old and New Covenant is the subject of the fourth chapter. There is an indissoluble unity between them, even though the two Testaments are interpreted differently by Jews and Christians on the basis of their respective religious traditions. For Christians, the Old Testament is to be comprehended and interpreted in the light of the New Testament. The Old and the New Testament are part of the one and only history of the covenant between God and his people, even though the New Testament is to be considered as the fulfilment of the promises of the Old.

The fifth chapter emphasises that through Jesus Christ – and through his death and resurrection – all people have a part in salvation, all are saved. Although Jews cannot believe in Jesus Christ as the universal redeemer, they have a part in salvation, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. How that can be possible remains an unfathomable mystery in the salvific plan of God. 

The sixth chapter considers the Church’s mandate to evangelise in relation to Judaism. While in the dialogue with Judaism Catholics bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ, they refrain from active attempts at conversion or mission towards Jews. The Catholic Church does not envisage any institutional mission towards the Jews.

In the seventh and final chapter, it is concluded that engaging in fraternal dialogue, Jews and Catholics must learn to understand one another better, to seek reconciliation increasingly, and to commit themselves together to promote justice, peace and the care of creation, and to make every effort to oppose anti–Semitism. They must intensify their cooperation in the humanitarian sphere in assisting the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalised, in order to become, together, a blessing for the world.

The full text of the document can be consulted at: 




Pope Offers Condolences at Death of 2 Cardinals

Cardinals Carlo Furno and Julio Terrazas Sandoval Both Died Dec. 9

Pope Francis has sent telegrams of condolences to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, following the death on 9 December of Cardinals Carlo Furno, Grand Master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, aged 91, and Julio Terrazas Sandoval, archbishop emeritus of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, aged 79.

In his telegram to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope expresses his deepest condolences to the College of Cardinals and recalls Cardinal Furno’s long and valuable collaboration in the Holy See, especially as apostolic nuncio, archpriest of the papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, and Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Francis asks that the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Salus Populi Romani, welcome the cardinal in His eternal peace.

In his telegram to Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina, the Holy Father unites his prayers with those of the pastors, clergy and faithful of Santa Cruz de la Sierra that the Lord grant His light and peace to the cardinal who, “with the light of faith and the strength of hope, stayed faithful to the ministry he received, and with generosity and courage devoted his life to the service of the Gospel, justice and peace”. In this moment of inevitable human suffering, when the mystery of the Lord’s coming brings hope, he invokes the maternal intercession of Our Lady.



Pope to Suspend Intra-Italy Trips During Jubilee

Pontiff will have increase of activities at Vatican

The Pope’s secretary of state has announced that during the Jubilee of Mercy, which began this week and extends through November 2016, the Holy Father will not make pastoral visits within Italy. This is due to the intensification of activities during the jubilee, including a monthly audience to be held on Saturdays.

A visit to Milan was already on the schedule for May 7, but that has been postponed. This was confirmed by Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan. The visit will be posponed for 2017.



Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals Begins 12th Meeting

Gathered in Rome till Saturday


This morning, Pope Francis’ 12th meeting with the Council of Cardinals (“C9”) began in Vatican City. The meeting will continue until Saturday.

The Holy Father created the C9 to advise him in the governance of the Church, and particularly on plans for reforming the Apostolic Constitution “Pastor Bonus” on the Roman Curia.

They last met in September.

The Council of Cardinals consists of the following nine prelates: Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston; Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy; Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.


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