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New structure for Vatican Press Office announced

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2019 / 07:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Friday that Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican communications department, has amended the organizational structure of the Holy See Press Office to include a senior advisor, two assistants, and an office manager.

The positions are in support of the press office director and will remain in place beyond the mandate of Alessandro Gisotti, who was named to the position on an interim basis after the sudden departure of Greg Burke and his vice director Paloma Garcia Ovejero Dec. 31.

The new appointees come from diverse geographic backgrounds, as two hail from the United States, one from Peru, and the fourth is French-Italian.

In comments to journalists Jan. 11, Gisotti pointed to this fact, underlining the “internationality” of the new supporting team, which he called “very, very important.” He said that collectively the new staff members come with significant experience working at Vatican Radio and have “a history of collaboration with the press office.”

Gisotti emphasized that there is no “Italian team” or any team of a particular nationality, saying, “we are trying to be the ‘Holy See team’ serving the Church and the Holy Father.”

Romilda Ferrauto will serve as senior advisor to the director. She told journalists Jan. 11 that while she cannot give official statements, she is at the disposal of Vatican journalists, and is happy to hear their concerns and perspectives.

Ferrauto has over 20 years’ experience at Vatican Radio, including as the manager of the French section. She also served as an assistant to the press office during the last five general assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

Sr. Bernadette M. Reis, a religious sister of the Daughters of St. Paul, joins the press office as an assistant to the director. Reis, who hails from the United States, is a journalist for Vatican News and a consultant for the Communication Commission of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).

Peruvian Raúl Cabrera Pérez, a long-time Vatican Radio journalist, was also appointed assistant to the director. Most recently, he collaborated with the information commission for the Synod of Bishops on Young People in October 2018.

American Thaddeus M. Jones, a member of the coordinating team in the Vatican News Portal Office and a former official of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, was appointed office manager.

Gisotti told journalists that as his leadership of the press office is for now “ad interim,” there will be no vice director appointment at this time.

He expressed his desire that the intermediary period would be a short one and that the Holy See Press Office would return to normal as quickly as possible, adding that, in reality, it will be a “new normal.”

For the future, another objective, he said, is to better coordinate with Vatican Media, the news branch of the Dicastery for Communications.

On the resignations of Burke and Ovejero, Gisotti noted that the former director is his friend, and that he has known Ovejero since she arrived in Rome, but that he had no comment on their exit or the reasons behind it.

He added that the two were with him the entire day following their resignation to assist in the transfer of duties.

Pope makes day trip to cloistered Poor Clares in Umbria

IMAGE: CNS photo/Holy See Press Office

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis left the Vatican Jan. 11 to visit a community of cloistered Poor Clare nuns in Umbria, the Vatican said.

The pope made the "private visit" to encourage the sisters and to share the Eucharist, prayer and a meal with them, said Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office.

In some ways, Pope Francis was repaying a visit. Members of the Poor Clares of Santa Maria di Vallegloria in Spello, about 100 miles north of Rome, had visited Pope Francis in August 2016 at his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

During the 2016 meeting, the pope personally gave the Poor Clares -- and symbolically all contemplative women religious -- in his document "Vultum Dei Quaerere" (Seeking the Face of God), which updated rules governing contemplative communities of women.

The Spello monastery traces its roots back to 560 when it was founded by several followers of St. Benedict; the community was re-formed in 1230 by two disciples of St. Clare of Assisi.

After a major earthquake in 1997, which heavily damaged the Church of Santa Maria di Vallegloria and the monastery, the sisters maintained their cloister by living in the garden first in tents then in portable homes. The church and monastery were reopened in 2011.


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Pope will go to Romania calling for unity, focus on the common good

IMAGE: CNS image/courtesy Holy See Press Office

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will make a three-day apostolic visit to Romania in late May, the Vatican announced.

Accepting invitations from President Klaus Iohannis and from Catholic leaders, the pope will visit the capital of Bucharest, the cities of Iasi and Blaj, and the Marian sanctuary in Sumuleu Ciuc in the Transylvanian region.

A detailed schedule for the trip May 31-June 2 will be released later, the Vatican said in a statement Jan. 11.

The theme of the visit is "Let's walk together," and the trip logo shows a group of faithful gathered together with an image of Mary behind them, representing her protection over "the people of God in Romania," the Vatican said.

"Romania is often called the 'garden of the Mother of God,'" a term also used by St. John Paul II during his visit there in 1999, it said.

It said Pope Francis' visit also will have this Marian aspect as an invitation to Christians to unite their efforts "under Our Lady's mantle of protection."

"The Holy Father has always called for the uniting of various forces, refusing selfishness and giving central importance to the common good. The Successor of Peter is going to Romania to invite everyone to unity and to confirm them in the faith."

The overwhelming majority -- almost 82 percent -- of Romania's 20 million inhabitants say they belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church. About 6 percent of the population identifies itself as Protestant and over 4 percent identify as Catholic, belonging either to the Romanian Catholic Church -- an Eastern rite -- or the Latin rite.

The trip will be Pope Francis' fifth in the first six months of 2019. He is scheduled to be in Panama Jan. 23-27 for World Youth Day; and he will go to Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5, to Morocco March 30-31 and to Bulgaria and Macedonia May 5-7.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope's Romania trip confirmed for early summer

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2019 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican confirmed Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Romania to the cities of Bucharest, Iaşi, and Blaj, and to a Marian shrine in eastern Transylvania, at the end of May and beginning of June.

The trip is set for May 31 to June 2 and will include a stop at a Marian shrine located in the Șumuleu Ciuc neighborhood of the city of Miercurea Ciuc, which is in a Hungarian ethno-cultural region of Romania.

CNA reported in November that Pope Francis had told the Romanian bishops during their ad limina meeting Nov. 9 that he would be visiting their country this year, though the precise date was not confirmed at the time.

Francis' visit to the country follows exactly 20 years after Pope St. John Paul II was the first pope to go to Romania in 1999.

The motto of the visit is “Let’s Walk Together.” The trip’s logo, in blue and gold, depicts a group of Romanian people walking beneath an image of Our Lady, which according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, evokes the Virgin Mary’s care and protection of the Romanian people.

The press office also noted that Romania has often been called “the garden of the Mother of God,” which is a phrase also used by Pope St. John Paul II during his visit to the country.

“The visit of Pope Francis takes up this Marian accent, inviting everyone to join forces under the protective mantle of the Madonna,” the statement continued.

As of 2011, the Catholics in Romania numbered 870,774; making up 4.3 percent of the population. The Catholic Church is the second largest denomination after the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The Romanian bishops’ conference is composed of 17 bishops, including both bishops of Roman Catholic dioceses and Greek Catholic dioceses, that is, dioceses of the Byzantine rite.

The pope will be in Romania just one week before the Feast of Pentecost, which is for many Romanian and Hungarian people an important day of pilgrimage to the Șumuleu Ciuc neighborhood.

The pilgrimage is made in commemoration of the Catholic Szekely population’s resistance to pressure from the Hungarian King John II Sigismund Zapolya to convert to Protestantantism. The group refused to abandon the Catholic faith and emerged victorious in a battle which took place on the Saturday before Pentecost in 1567.

Venezuelan bishops denounce Maduro's new presidential term as illegitimate

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 10, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Venezuela have said that Nicolas Maduro's swearing in for a second term as president Thursday is illegitimate.

“The claim to be initiating a new presidential term of office on 10 January 2019 is illegitimate in its origin and opens the door to the nonrecognition of the government, since it lacks democratic support in justice and law,” the Venezuelan bishops' conference wrote in a Jan. 9 exhortation issued at their plenary assembly.

They recalled their statement of July 11, 2018 that the presidential election held that May “was illegitimate, as is likewise the Constituent National Assembly established by the executive authority. We are faced with arbitrary rule, without respect for the guarantees laid down in the Constitution or the highest principles of the dignity of the people.”

Maduro was sworn in for his second six-year term Jan. 10 before the Supreme Court, instead of the opposition-controlled legislature, the National Assembly. The National Assembly has been superseded by the Constituent Assembly, formed in 2017 after contested elections.

The bishops wrote that “In this present political, social and economic crisis, the National Assembly, elected by the free and democratic vote of the Venezuelan people, is currently the sole organ of public authority with the legitimacy to exercise its powers with sovereignty.”

They recalled that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, has called for the restoration of the National Assembly, and they stated: “The vote of confidence that the Venezuelan people has conferred on it should now be recognised in the fulfilment of the duties of its deputies in devising and promulgating the laws which the country needs for the re-establishment of democracy and the return to decency and honesty in the administration of the public purse.”

The May 2018 presidential election was boycotted by the opposition, and faced claims of vote-rigging. Some opposition candidates were barred from running.

The National Assembly, which continues to meet despite its dissolution by the Maduro administration, has said it will not recognize Maduro's second term. The US and 13 other American countries have said they will no longer recognize Maduro's government.

Christian Zerpa, a judge of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, fled to the US this week to protest the inauguration, saying the May election “was not free and competitive.”

Among those attending the inauguration were Daniel Ortega and Evo Morales, the presidents of Nicaragua and Bolivia. The governments of El Salvador and Cuba have also expressed support for Maduro.

The bishops said they look forward to 2019 “as a favourable opportunity for the transformation for which the country is crying out – namely the restoration of the Rule of Law, according to the Constitution, and the rebuilding of Venezuelan society in dignity, freedom and justice for all. We wish to nourish the true hope of the people, sustained in the mystery of the Nativity, which celebrates the fact that the Son of God has become human and poor in order to make us more human and greater in mutual solidarity.”

Venezuela is in an “extremely grave situation”, they said, citing “the violations of human dignity, the disrespect of the common good and the manipulation of truth.”

“The Venezuelan people are living through a critical and extremely grave situation on account of the deterioration in respect for their rights and their quality of life, added to a growing poverty and the lack of anyone to whom they can turn. It is a sin crying out to heaven to seek to maintain power at all costs and presume to prolong the chaos and inefficiency of the last few decades. This is morally unacceptable! God does not will that the people should suffer by being subjected to injustices. Hence it is urgently necessary to heed the popular clamour for change, for a united effort to achieve the transition that has been hoped for and sought by the overwhelming majority.”

The majority of Venezuelans, the bishops said, reject “the politics of hunger, political persecution military and political repression, political prisoners, torture, corruption, inefficiency and ineffectiveness in public administration. As citizens and as institutions it is up to us to assume the responsibilities that belong to us to improve the present situation and rescue the country.”

“As Pope Francis says, we need to work together to find paths of 'concord' and understanding, of union among the Venezuelan people, of responses to the many problems and defence of human rights that will enable us to overcome the crisis and attend to the needs of the poorest.”

Noting the need to help “the least of our brethren,” the bishops said the Church is committed to helping “the weakest and most defenceless within the country to survive, and also those who have emigrated,” to “working for the defence and promotion of human rights” and to develop “training and organisation programmes that will enable the recovery of the democratic institutions and the rebuilding of the country in a peaceful manner.”

They thanked Pope Francis for “for his constant closeness and concern for our country,” and “the Churches and Governments of many different countries for their solidarity, and their concern for those of our countrymen who, as a result of the crisis, have felt forced to leave the country in search of better conditions of life.”

Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval.

Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.

An estimated 3 million people have fled the country since 2014.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

Inflation in Venezuela in 2018 was estimated by the National Assembly at 1.3 million percent.

Former Latin American leaders criticize pope's comments on Nicaragua, Venezuela

San José, Costa Rica, Jan 10, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Twenty former heads of state and government from Latin America have written a letter to Pope Francis finding fault with the wording of his Christmas blessing for Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Published in Spanish-language newspapers Dec. 6, the letter claims the pope’s Dec. 25 “Urbi et Orbi” blessing unintentionally minimized the oppression of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans at the hands of their governments.

The letter’s signatories, which include Nobel Peace Prize-winner and former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, said it was not doubted that Francis’ good faith and “pastoral spirit” was behind the message, but it “is being interpreted in a very negative way by the majority of Venezuela and Nicaragua.”

“Above all, there is currently, in these countries, a political dispute that demands understanding, tolerance between conflicting forces with different narratives within a normal or deficient democracy that today unfortunately does not exist there,” it continued.

In his blessing, Pope Francis had prayed that the Christmas season would allow Venezuela “once more to recover social harmony and enable all the members of society to work fraternally for the country’s development and to aid the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”

About Nicaragua, the pope asked that the inhabitants of the country “see themselves once more as brothers and sisters, so that divisions and discord will not prevail, but all may work to promote reconciliation and to build together the future of the country.”

The letter of the former Latin American political leaders stated concern that “the call for harmony on the part of your Holiness, given the current context, can be understood by the victimized nations that they should come to agreement with their victimizers.”

In the case of Venezuela, they added that “the government has caused the flight of 3 million refugees, which the United Nations predicts will reach 5.9 million in 2019.”

The letter gave their recognition of the pope’s deep concern for the suffering of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans and expressed their desire to meet with him “at an appropriate time.”

But Venezuelans, it said, “are victims of oppression by a militarized narco-dictatorship, which has no qualms about systematically violating the rights to life, liberty and personal integrity… and that has subjected them to widespread famine and lack of medicine.”

They also said that by the middle of the year, “there were 300 [Nicaraguans] killed and 2,500 wounded in a wave of repression.”

The letter was an initiative of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA network), which works to promote neoliberalism, trade agreements, and public education.

The full list of signees is: Oscar Arias, Costa Rica; Nicolás Ardito Barletta, Panamá; Enrique Bolaños, Nicaragua; Alfredo Cristiani, El Salvador; Felipe Calderón, México; Rafael Ángel Calderón, Costa Rica; Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica; Fernando De la Rúa, Argentina; Vicente Fox, México; Eduardo Frei, Chile; César Gaviria T., Colombia; Osvaldo Hurtado, Ecuador; Luis Alberto Lacalle, Uruguay; Jamil Mahuad, Ecuador; Mireya Moscoso, Panamá ; Andrés Pastrana A., Colombia; Jorge Tuto Quiroga, Bolivia; Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Costa Rica; Álvaro Uribe V., Colombia; Juan Carlos Wasmosy, Paraguay.

Canadian disability groups: 'Frightening implications' to expanding assisted suicide

Ottawa, Canada, Jan 10, 2019 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While many disability groups fought the initial push to legalize assisted suicide in Canada three years ago, they are having to fight again as efforts to expand access to assisted suicide to the disabled in the country continue.

In Canada, only those facing “foreseeable” death are eligible for assisted suicide.

This week, two people from Montreal, Jean Truchon, 49, and Nicole Gladu, 73, started their legal battle in the Quebec Superior Court to expand access to assisted suicide to people with disabilities and severe health problems. Both Truchon and Gladu “suffer from serious health problems that cause persistent and intolerable suffering,” their lawyer, Jean-Pierre Ménard, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

This court case, along with other efforts to open up access to assisted suicide to the disabled, has many disabled people and disability groups raising serious concerns about the implications of such a move.

"If this criteria of close-to-the-end — of foreseeable, natural end of life — is taken away, then you have put the entire handicapped and chronically ill population in harm's way," Gordon Friesen, who uses a wheelchair, told the CBC.

In February 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable suffering to kill themselves. It ordered Parliament to create a legislative response, and a bill was passed in June 2016 allowing assisted suicide for anyone facing “foreseeable” death due to an illness or condition.

Bruce Uditsky, CEO Emeritus of Inclusion Alberta, a disability rights group in Canada, told CNA that expanding access to assisted suicide to people with disabilities could potentially jeopardize thousands of lives, and would disincentivize initiatives to provide the disabled with the resources and support they need.

“I think it brings pretty serious implications, even frightening ones, that come out of these continuing efforts to expand who would be eligible for assistance in dying,” Uditsky said.

“Our view is that if it continues to be expanded, then it will threaten the lives of those with disabilities because the perception will continue to be made that somehow those are lives that are unworthy of continuing,” Uditsky said.

Some advocacy groups are leading national efforts to intervene, and to offer the “view that the current limitation on access is a necessary, justifiable and reasonable criteria,” Uditsky said.

Uditsky said he and many within the disability rights community have serious concerns about expanded access to assisted suicide, and how that would further disincentivize the government to create or fund supports and resources for people living with disabilities who want to improve their lives.

“It’s particularly troubling because assistance with dying as a health provision, you now have a right to that if you meet the criteria,” he said. “But we don’t have the rights for people with disabilities in Canada to have the supports they require to enjoy a life comparable to those without disabilities.”

“So we’re further along almost in demonstrating a right to be killed than we are in demonstrating the right to supports to live in your own home, to be employed, to be included in school, to have a career … and when we lag behind on those fronts, it’s a little easier to see why people would have lives of quite significant struggle and challenge.”

Amy Hasbrouck, a spokesperson for disability rights group Not Dead Yet Canada, told CNA that the opposition to assisted suicide from many in the disabled community is based on concerns that assisted suicide legislation discriminates against the disabled and puts vulnerable people at risk for coercion.

“People with disabilities who ask to die are considered to be making a ‘rational’ choice, whereas non-disabled people who express a wish to die are labelled as irrational, in need of suicide prevention intervention, and may even be deprived of their liberty to prevent them from killing themselves,” Hasbrouck told CNA in email comments.

“This double standard is based on the widely-held view that life with a disability is a fate worse than death,” she said.

She also shared Uditsky’s concern that offering assisted suicide to a vulnerable population disincentivizes the government and society in providing resources and life supports.

“The reasons most people ask for assisted suicide and euthanasia are associated with the onset of disability and the discriminatory public policies that shunts old, ill and disabled people into institutional settings, where we are deprived of control over every detail of our daily lives,” she said.

“A shift in funding priorities toward consumer-directed in-home personal assistance services, home modifications and community accessibility would go a long way toward dealing with the existential suffering expressed by people who do not want to be forced to live in an institution.”

There are no amount of safeguards that a government can put in place that would prevent people from being coerced into assisted suicide, Hasbrouck added.

Even “the strictest safeguards cannot predict or prevent all eventualities,” Hasbrouck said, and currently “none of the statutes … even comes close to preventing ineligible people from being euthanized, ensuring that doctors report every assisted suicide or euthanasia, protecting against abuse and exploitation by family members, or any number of hazards associated with allowing the state to establish criteria for who lives and who dies.”

Similar concerns were also raised in the recent case of a Canadian man, Roger Foley, who suffers from an incurable disease and claims that despite asking for home care, the medical team at an Ontario hospital would only offer him assisted suicide.

Since Quebec's assisted death law and the federal legislation came into force two years ago, 3,714 Canadians have died by assisted suicide, according to the CBC.

Besides those with disabilities, the Council of Canadian Academies is also currently reviewing whether assisted suicide should be provided to the mentally ill and to “competent minors.”

The Quebec Supreme Court case is expected to last several weeks.

Youth synod document says faith can combat relativism

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2019 / 11:59 am (CNA).- The Synod of Bishops released Thursday an English translation of the final document of the 2018 session on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. The document encourages young people to seek an authentic encounter with God, instead of adopting a morally relativistic outlook on life.

The document highlights the spiritual and religious experiences of young people around the world, both in and outside of the Church, noting that in many places “forms of alternative religiosity are on the rise.” It also held out the authentic Christian experience of many young people as a witness of faith and hope to their peers.

“The youth help to enrich what the Church is and not only what she does. They are her present and not only her future,” the synod fathers wrote.

The synod met for more than three weeks in October for its fifteenth ordinary general session, and published the original text of its conclusions on Oct. 27. The document was released in English by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on Thursday.

During the meeting, synod fathers were joined in Rome by young people and religious form around the world who participated in the session as auditors.

“The religious experience of the young is strongly influenced by the social and cultural context in which they live,” the document states.

The synod fathers noted that, while in some places the Church and faith were present as a “strong and lively community experience, in which the young participate with joy,” this was not so everywhere.

“In other areas of ancient Christian tradition, the majority of the Catholic population does not experience a real sense of belonging to the Church,” the document said. Instead, many young people were disillusioned with the very concept of religious practice.

Nevertheless, the fathers said, there remains a common pursuit for meaning and truth in the lives of young people everywhere.

Often, those averse to the idea of “religion” are still drawn to other forms of “spirituality.” While reflecting a search for the truth, the document warned that these efforts were often diverted into lesser kinds spiritual satisfaction and missed to opportunity for an authentic relationship with God.

“This attention [to the spiritual], though, can sometimes take the form of a search for psychological well-being rather than openness to encounter with the Mystery of the living God,” the fathers wrote.

The synod’s report highlighted the danger of moral and religious relativism replacing faith and a relationship with Christ through the Church.

“Particularly in some cultures, many see religion as a private matter and they choose from a variety of spiritual traditions those elements in which they find their own convictions mirrored.  There thus spreads a certain syncretism, which develops on the relativistic assumption that all religions are equal,” the report said.

When the faith is lived within a deeply relativistic culture, the fathers wrote, membership of the Church can be “accompanied and sometimes replaced by ideologies or by the cult of success in professional and economic terms, with a view to material self-fulfilment.”

“In Christian communities we sometimes risk proposing, even without intending it, an ethical and therapeutic theism, which responds to the human need for security and comfort, rather than a living encounter with God in the light of the Gospel and in the strength of the Spirit.”

The synod fathers echoed the recent work of Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame.

In his book "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers," Smith argued that the dominant religion among American teenagers is “moralistic therapeutic deism,” in which God is understood as a benevolent creator who, while wanting people to treat each other well, is generally uninvolved in their day-to-day lives.

This impersonal conception of God, Smith said, means that the “central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

Recognizing that the fullness of human fulfillment comes from an authentic personal experience of the living God, the synod fathers said that authentic communities of faith were needed to lead people out of moral and religious relativism.

“If it is true that life is awakened solely through life, it becomes clear that young people need to encounter Christian communities that are truly rooted in friendship with Christ, who leads us to the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit,” they wrote.

Such communities do exist, the synod report said, and that the active presence of many young people in the Church was an essential sign of life and the Church’s “present and not only her future”.

“Young Catholics are not merely on the receiving end of pastoral activity: they are living members of the one ecclesial body, baptized persons in whom the Spirit of the Lord is alive and active,” the fathers wrote, highlighting the work done by many youth in catechesis and liturgy, caring for the weak, voluntary work with the poor.

The syond report stressed that a lived reality of community was an important part of fostering an active faith and effective evangelization, noting that “movements, associations and religious congregations” within the Church offered young people particular “opportunities for commitment and co-responsibility.”

“In various contexts there are groups of young people, often from ecclesial movements and associations, who are actively involved in the evangelization of their peers through a transparent life witness, accessible language and the capacity to establish authentic bonds of friendship,” the report said.

“This apostolate makes it possible to bring the Gospel to people who might not otherwise be reached by ordinary youth ministry and it helps to mature the faith of those who engage in it.”

At the same time, the report conceded that there were still cultural barriers to overcome within the Church, highlighting “a certain authoritarianism and mistrust from older people and pastors” who could “struggle to share responsibility.”

The synod fathers particularly noted the frustrations of many young people in the Church concerning the role of women, saying that many “clamour for greater recognition and greater valuing of women in society and in the Church.”

“Many women play an essential part in Christian communities,” the report said, “but often it is hard to involve them in decision-making processes, even when these do not require specific ministerial responsibilities.”  

The synod fathers said that the absence of “the feminine voice and perspective” was something which “impoverishes debate and the Church’s journey.”

“The Synod recommends that everyone be made more aware of the urgency of an inevitable change, not least on the basis of anthropological and theological reflection on the reciprocity between men and women.”

While many young people had a healthy and sustaining relationship with the Church as a mother which leads them to Christ, the report noted that scandals and abuse within the Church contributed to the alienation of young people from the Church and from the sacraments.

The synod fathers warned that sincere attempts by young people to engage in with these issues could be misread, and that it was important to recognize both its true intentions and potential benefits.

“The young ask the Church to offer a shining example of authenticity, exemplariness, competence, co-responsibility and cultural solidity,” the report concluded.

“At times this request can seem like a criticism, but often it assumes the positive form of personal commitment to a fraternal, welcoming, joyful and committed community, prophetically combating social injustice.”


Parish Secretary

Saint Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village

Update: Bishops describe their retreat as inspiring, Spirit-filled

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although the weeklong retreat for U.S. Catholic bishops emphasized quiet reflection, several bishops spoke out on social media during the retreat and after it wrapped up Jan. 8 with positive reaction about it and to give shoutouts to the retreat leader, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has preached to popes and top officials of the Roman Curia for nearly 40 years.

One bishop said listening to Father Cantalamessa was akin to being in the presence of the early Christian theologians. "Clear, intensely filled with the Holy Spirit, and all for the Kingdom of God," Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Boulette of San Antonio said in a tweet. "Let us continue to pray for one another, our church and our world. A blessing to be here!"

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, tweeted that the retreat leader was a "true instrument of the Lord" and that the Holy Spirit was at work during the retreat.

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania, described Father Cantalamessa's talks and homilies as "powerful and engaging."

He tweeted that he was glad they had time to reflect and pray about their role as shepherds, stressing: "We must start there to be able to offer healing. I am taking this very seriously but feeling positive."

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Mark W. O'Connell said it was a "truly blessed experience" to be on retreat with Father Cantalamessa and fellow U.S. bishops.

"The Holy Spirit was powerfully present, and I was quite moved," he tweeted. He also thanked the pope for giving the bishops this gift.

Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980. The time of prayer Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago was planned largely in response to last summer's revelations of allegations of sex abuse that reached the highest levels of the U.S. church.

In a Jan. 8 column for Angelus News, the archdiocesan news outlet of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bishops' retreat leader focused "our attention on the vocation and responsibility of bishops in this moment in the church."

"We are praying together as a visible sign of our unity as bishops and our communion with the Holy Father. There is a collegial spirit here and a firm commitment to address the causes of the abuse crisis we face and continue the work of renewing the church," he added.

The archbishop said Father Cantalamessa asked them to "trust more in the Holy Spirit. We need to have confidence that we are always living in God's loving presence."

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a few blog posts about the retreat with some reflection about the retreat leader's message.

He said they heard about the need to emphasize in their preaching the fundamental belief in Jesus before delving into his message and teachings.

He also said Father Cantalamessa emphasized the need to root out "love of money" and all that it implies, including material possessions, honor or power.

"If this pursuit for 'money' needs to be rooted out from our Christian lives, then we need to embrace a true spirit of detachment," the bishop wrote, adding that he would add more to that topic in the days ahead.

The theme of the U.S. bishops' retreat was "the mission of the apostles and of their successors" drawing from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus "appointed 12 -- whom he also named apostles -- that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach."

Reflections from the retreat do not seem to be about the crisis in particular, maybe for a reason.

In an email to Catholic News Service weeks before the retreat, Father Cantalamessa said he would "not talk about pedophilia and will not give advice about eventual solutions; that is not my task and I would not have the competence to do so."

"The Holy Father asked for my availability to lead a series of spiritual exercises for the episcopal conference so that the bishops, far from their daily commitments, in a climate of prayer and silence and in a personal encounter with the Lord, can receive the strength and light of the Holy Spirit to find the right solutions for the problems that afflict the U.S. church today," he added.

In a Jan. 9 column for the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said the pope's intention for the retreat went beyond "this particular moment or challenge facing us bishops."

"We are not leaving this retreat with all the answers to the important questions facing the church in these days," he wrote, but he said the bishops now have a renewed sense of the importance of taking their cues from "Christ's spirit rather than our own efforts."

Another blessing from the week, he said, was being drawn closer to each other and to the pope.

"I have no doubt that just as the early church relied on Peter's unique ministry to meet the challenges of the day, so we will draw strength and insight from our unity with his successor," he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


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