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Baptism is first step on path of humility, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In asking to be baptized, Jesus exemplifies the Christian calling to follow along the path of humility and meekness rather than strutting about and being a showoff, Pope Francis said.

Addressing pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Jan. 12, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the pope said that Christ's humble act shows "the attitude of simplicity, respect, moderation and concealment required of the Lord's disciples today."

"How many -- it's sad to say -- of the Lord's disciples show off about being disciples of the Lord. A person who shows off isn't a good disciple. A good disciple is humble, meek, one who does good without letting himself or herself be seen," Pope Francis said during his midday Angelus address.

The pope began the day celebrating Mass and baptizing 32 babies --17 boys and 15 girls -- in the Sistine Chapel. In his brief homily before baptizing the infants, the pope told parents that the sacrament is a treasure that gives children "the strength of the Spirit."

"That is why it's so important to baptize children, so that they grow with the strength of the Holy Spirit," he said.

"This is the message that I would like to give you today. You have brought your children here today so that they may have the Holy Spirit within them. Take care that they grow with the light, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, through catechesis, through helping them, through teaching them, through the examples that you will give them at home," he said.

As the sounds of fussy children filled the frescoed chapel, the pope repeated his usual advice to mothers of infants, encouraging them to make their children comfortable, and to not worry if they start to cry in the chapel.

"Don't get upset; let the children cry and scream. But, if your child cries and complains, perhaps it's because they feel too hot," he said. "Take something off them, or if they are hungry, breastfeed them; here, yes, always in peace."

Later, before praying the Angelus with pilgrims, Pope Francis said that the feast of the Lord's baptism "reminds us of our own baptism," and he asked the pilgrims to find out the date they were baptized.

"Celebrate the date of your baptism every year in your heart. Do it. It is also a duty of justice to the Lord who has been so good to us," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Seasoned musician inspires people to sing, raise voices 'in honor of God'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Cothran, courtesy of Tonya Taylor-Dorsey

By Gina Christian

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- With the start of the new year, a seasoned Philadelphia musician is taking on a new challenge as director of the Philadelphia Catholic Gospel Mass Choir.

Tonya Taylor-Dorsey was appointed to the post by the Philadelphia Archdiocese's Office for Black Catholics, effective Jan. 1.

Established for the 2014 World Meeting of Families, the ensemble features voices from the archdiocese and neighboring dioceses. The choir has participated in parish revivals, the U.S. bishops' listening sessions on racism and the annual "Soulful Christmas Concert" at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition, the choir regularly performs at archdiocesan observances such as the St. Martin de Porres Mass and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer service.

For Taylor-Dorsey, who has more than three decades of experience in parish music, the role once seemed unlikely for someone who was raised Presbyterian -- and who "didn't sing in the church choir growing up."

"I wanted to be a concert pianist," she said, citing "Fanfarinette" from Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Suite in A Minor" as her favorite piece to play.

Taylor-Dorsey's musical ambitions led her to study at Michigan State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Diploma in hand, she returned to her native Philadelphia, and shortly thereafter landed a job as music director at St. Peter Claver in Center City until the parish was closed.

In 1993, she started a 13-year appointment as choir director at Our Lady of Hope parish in Philadelphia, during which time she staged annual concerts and produced a recording of the Hope Singers.

When she became the choir director at St. Martin de Porres Parish in 2006, Taylor-Dorsey decided to make her lifelong commitment to Catholicism official, joining the church under the guidance of then-pastor Father Edward Hallinan.

"During our first meeting, he asked me, 'Why aren't you Catholic?'" she recalled in an interview with CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocese's online news outlet. "Actually, I felt like I was Catholic even before I converted."

In college, she had studied the Mass, finding beauty in the order of the liturgy. As her career developed in Catholic parishes, she realized that she felt increasingly at home.

"I thought to myself, 'I'm playing at this church for two Masses each Sunday, but I wouldn't be buried from here if I died,'" she said.

Father Hallinan also encouraged Taylor-Dorsey to attend the National Black Catholic Congress, which gathers participants from a number of African American Catholic organizations. Participating as a new Catholic in 2007, she was eager to connect with fellow believers, but lamented the lack of musical presentations at the conference. Eventually, she created her own, delivering workshops on sight reading and music ministry.

During the organization's 12th conference in 2017, Taylor-Dorsey was the first woman to direct the congress's liturgical music, conducting a 100-voice choir at its daily Masses while writing musical scores for the accompanying string orchestra.

In the process, she realized that although she enjoyed performing herself, her talents "really were in composition, in writing and arranging," she said.

In fact, Taylor-Dorsey may be best known for her original piece "Everybody Needs Someone," which was presented in concert at the Juilliard School by alumnus and pianist Peter Dugan.

Her composition "God's Angel" was featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper after she dedicated a 2012 performance of the song -- originally written after her mother's death -- to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A number of Taylor-Dorsey's vocal works have been sung throughout the United States.

Despite such musical prestige and prowess, though, she said she strives to "refresh and renew" her choirs, giving all participants a chance to grow musically and not simply "letting a few people do solos."

Selections for the Sunday liturgies at St. Martin de Porres are carefully chosen by Taylor-Dorsey in close collaboration with the parish's pastor, Father Stephen Thorne, who also is a consultant for the National Black Catholic Congress.

In addition to her preparations for Sunday Mass, she also is in the process of setting the Book of Psalms to music, while managing the Tonya Dorsey and New Vision foundation, which since 2008 has awarded more than 140 scholarships in the arts to school-age children.

Though practiced and prolific, Taylor-Dorsey remains focused on the true source of her artistic inspiration.

"I give 100% credit to God," she said. "There are songs that I write where I truly could not tell you the process involved."

Taylor-Dorsey's joy in music is central to her ministry, which she says is a simple one: "I want to encourage people to sing and raise their voices in honor of God."

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Christian is senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Update: Pope sets special day to honor, study, share the Bible

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The newly established "Sunday of the Word of God" is an invitation to Catholics across the world to deepen their appreciation, love and faithful witness to God and his word, Pope Francis said.

By papal decree, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time -- Jan. 26 this year -- is to be observed as a special day devoted to "the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God."

A day dedicated to the Bible will help the church "experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world," the pope said in the document establishing the special Sunday observance.

Dioceses and parishes have been invited to respond with creative initiatives, helpful resources and renewed efforts for helping Catholics engage more deeply with the Bible at church and in their lives.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said added emphasis on the importance of the word of God is needed because "the overwhelming majority" of Catholics are not familiar with sacred Scripture. For many, the only time they hear the word of God is when they attend Mass, he told Vatican News Sept. 30, when the papal document, titled "Aperuit Illis," was published.

"The Bible is the most widely distributed book, but it's also perhaps the one most covered in dust because it is not held in our hands," the archbishop said.

With this apostolic letter, the pope "invites us to hold the word of God in our hands every day as much as possible so that it becomes our prayer" and a greater part of one's lived experience, he said.

In his letter, Pope Francis wrote, "A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers."

"We need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness," he wrote.

Sacred Scripture and the sacraments are inseparable, he wrote. Jesus speaks to everyone with his word in sacred Scripture, he said, and if people "hear his voice and open the doors of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain ever with us."

Pope Francis urged priests to be extra attentive to creating a homily each Sunday that "speaks from the heart" and really helps people understand Scripture "through simple and suitable" language.

The homily "is a pastoral opportunity that should not be wasted," he wrote. "For many of our faithful, in fact, this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God's word and to see it applied to their daily lives."

Pope Francis encouraged people to read the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, "Dei Verbum," and Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation on the Bible, "Verbum Domini," whose teaching remains "fundamental for our communities."

The pope also suggested pastors provide parishioners with the Bible, a book of the Gospels or other catechetical resources, "enthrone" the Bible in order to emphasize the honor and sacred nature of the text, bless or commission lectors of the parish and encourage people to read and pray with Scripture every day, especially through "lectio divina."

"The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privileged few. It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words," the pope wrote.

"The Bible is the book of the Lord's people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division toward unity" as well as come to understand God's love and become inspired to share it with others, he added.

The celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God also "has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity," he wrote. The third Sunday in Ordinary Time falls during that part of the year when the church is encouraged to strengthen its bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity.

The document was published on the feast of St. Jerome, patron saint of biblical scholars and doctor of the church, who said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." The title, "Aperuit Illis," is based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

The pope said it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth without the Lord who opens people's minds to his word, yet "without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his church in this world would remain incomprehensible."


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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Survivors' group, archbishop back journalist sued by Sodalitium members

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paola Ugaz

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A network of clergy abuse survivors has joined calls for an end to lawsuits against a journalist who investigated alleged sexual abuse and financial irregularities within a controversial Catholic group.

In an open letter released Jan. 9, the Ending Clergy Abuse organization, also known as ECA, expressed concern regarding five lawsuits against Peruvian journalist Paola Ugaz by several members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

The lawsuits, the ECA said, are a form of "judicial harassment" meant to punish Ugaz for exposing alleged criminal activities within Sodalitium.

"It is true that we recognize the legitimate right of every person who feels that his or her honor was damaged to take legal action," the group said. "However, it is unlawful for anyone to abuse this right. In the abusive case of legal actions against Paola Ugaz, it is clear the intention is not to seek justice but to silence her."

Ugaz and fellow journalist Pedro Salinas co-authored a book titled, "Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados" ("Half Monks, Half Soldiers"), which detailed the alleged psychological and sexual abuse, as well as corporal punishment and extreme exercises that young members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae were forced to endure.

A 2017 internal investigation found that Luis Fernando Figari, who founded Sodalitium in 1971 and headed it until 2010, and three other high-ranking former members abused 19 minors and 10 adults.

"I thank ECA with all my heart for this support because it comes at the right time and gives me a lot of encouragement to keep going," Ugaz told Catholic News Service Jan. 9.

She also received the support of Peruvian Archbishop Carlos Castillo of Lima who said Ugaz was "a journalist of great importance." The archbishop challenged the members of the group who are suing her, saying: "If those Christians truly believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, they must stop" the lawsuits.

In an interview Dec. 14 with RPP, the Peruvian radio and television company, Archbishop Castillo said he was concerned that the continuing lawsuits against Ugaz by members of Sodalitium were an attempt "to cover up the truth."

"If we want to use trickery, power, social or economic relationships or influence to hide the terrible things we do, then we are not true Christians and we do not give a witness of service, which is what Jesus came to do," the archbishop said.

By suing Ugaz, he added, members of Sodalitium "are delaying too much to confront and solve something that is very serious, which is the destruction of people in our country, our middle class, who they have damaged psychologically and humanly. This isn't possible! This must change and they cannot shackle the truth."

Ugaz told CNS she also has received "support and solidarity" from Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, apostolic nuncio to Peru.

Archbishops Castillo and Girasoli, she said, "have been following this wave of persecution against me. I am infinitely grateful to both for their solidarity with my work as an investigative journalist."

The lawsuits against her, she alleges, are being used to hamper her investigations and prevent the publication of a new book detailing financial irregularities within Sodalitium. She hopes to publish the book this year.

Ugaz told CNS she has been harassed publicly and received numerous letters threatening further lawsuits against her by Sodalitium members due to her investigative reports as well as her participation in an Al-Jazeera documentary, titled "The Sodalitium Scandal."

"There is no doubt in my mind that this new lawsuit (filed in December) is related to my investigation into Sodalitium's finances," she told CNS. "All the complaints that have been made have the same objective: to harass me, to intimidate me, to take up my time in responding to the complaints, to show me that responding to Sodalitium will drain my finances and that I stop concentrating on my current investigation."

Both Ugaz and Salinas were sued in 2019 by Archbishop Jose Eguren Anselmi of Piura, a professed member of Sodalitium since 1981. The prelate later dropped the lawsuit against Salinas in April and Ugaz in August after facing considerable backlash by the public and the Peruvian bishops' conference.

Citing Pope Francis, the country's bishops distanced themselves from Archbishop Eguren's lawsuit and said the church needs the help of journalists and survivors of clergy sex abuse to overcome the current crisis.

Ugaz said she admires the pope's efforts to combat clergy sex abuse as well as his closeness with survivors who have also supported her throughout her ordeal.

"My answer to Sodalitium's lawsuits will always be the same: more and better journalism," she said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Love is never indifferent to other's suffering, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Most Christians would agree it is wrong to hate someone, but it is also wrong to be indifferent, which is a camouflaged form of hatred, Pope Francis said.

Real love "must lead you to do good, to get your hands dirty with works of love," the pope said Jan. 10 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Commenting especially on 1 John 4:19-21, Pope Francis said the Bible "does not mince words." In fact, he said, the Bible tells people, "If you say you love God and you hate your brother or sister, you're on the other side; you're a liar."

If someone says, "I love God, I pray, I enter into ecstasy, and then tosses aside others, hates them, doesn't love them or simply is indifferent to them," the pope noted, St. John doesn't say, "You're wrong," but "you're a liar."

"The Bible is clear because being a liar is the devil's way of being. He is the Great Liar, the New Testament tells us; he is the father of lies. That's the definition of Satan the Bible gives us," the pope said.

Love "is expressed by doing good," he said.

A Christian does not get points for just standing by, he said. Love is "concrete" and faces the challenges, struggles and messiness of everyday life.

Indifference, he said, "is a way of not loving God and not loving neighbor that is a bit hidden."

Pope Francis quoted St. Alberto Hurtado, who said, "It is good not to do evil, but it is evil not to do good."

On a truly Christian path, one does not find those who are indifferent, "those who wash their hands of problems, those who don't want to get involved to help, to do good," he said. "False mystics are not there, those with hearts distilled like water who say they love God but forget to love their neighbor."


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Copyright © 2020 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 [email protected]

Archdiocese of New York to Raise Funds for Puerto Rico Assistance

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has written today to the priests of the archdiocese, asking that they raise funds in their parishes to help provide relief to Puerto Rico in the wake of the earthquakes that struck the island this week.

Executive Director

The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture

Cardinal Dolan to Celebrate Mass at Parish Targeted by Vandals

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, will celebrate the 5:15 p.m. Mass at Saint Patrick Church, located at 137 Moseman Road, Yorktown Heights on Saturday, January 11, 2020.

Venezuelan bishops denounce contested election of legislative speaker

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 9, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- The presidency of the Venezuelan bishops' conference warned Wednesday that the disputed election of Luis Parra as president of the National Assembly is "contrary to all constitutional legality."

Parra was elected head of Venezuela's de jure legislature Jan. 5 by pro-government lawmakers, while opposition legislators were blocked from entering the chamber. It is the latest in a crisis over the government of Venezuela.

Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, blackouts, and hyperinflation. Some 4.5 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.

The Venezuelan bishops' presidency said Jan. 8 that Parra's election was "a shameful event" that "has replanted in the souls of Venezuelans reasons for hopelessness and a greater sense of helplessness."

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó and 100 other opposition legislators were blocked Jan. 5 by Venezuelan National Guard troops from attending a vote in the legislature, where Guaidó was standing for re-election as its leader. Parra was elected instead, without a quorum, by pro-government lawmakers and some opposition politicians. Parra had been expelled last month from the Justice First party over alleged corruption.

Telesur, a state television network in Venezuela, said Parra was elected with 140 votes. The National Assembly has 167 seats.

Guaidó had declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, after president Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, having won a contested election in which oppositon candidates were barred from running or imprisoned. Guaidó and the Venezuelan bishops held Maduro's second term to be invalid, and the presidency vacant.

He said that according to the Venezuelan constitution, when the presidency falls vacant, power is assumed by the president of the National Assembly.

On Jan. 5, Guaidó and opposition legislators held their session of the National Assembly at the headquarters of El Nacional, a Caracas daily. At that session, Guaidó was re-elected president of the legislature by about 100 lawmakers.

Then on Jan. 7,  Guaidó and 100 of his fellow opposition lawmakers accessed the National Assembly only after a half-hour stand-off with National Guardsmen who had cordoned the building. Pro-government legislators left when the opposition entered, and power to the building was cut.

Venezuela's bishops said that the events of Jan. 7 were "a new abuse of power ... which implies a hijacking of more than one democratic institution."

They indicated that the recent events are "a new manifestation of the totalitarian ideology of those who hold political power. They have promoted and protected the non-recognition of the lack of autonomy of the legitimate National Assembly; and, at the same time, they intend to recognize leadership invalidly elected against all constitutional legality ”.

The bishops urged members of the armed forces to place themselves “on the true side of the Constitution and of the people to which they belong and swore to defend."

Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, said Jan. 7 that Parra's election as speaker was an “invalid appointment” which pro-government lawmakers had done by “violating all norms of the assembly.”

Archbishop Azuaje's statement was read at the opening of the Venezuelan bishops' plenary assembly.

He said that because Parra's National Assembly presidency is invalid, “it will be the responsibility of the true leadership elected by vote and according the  norms of the National Assembly, to continue to examine deeply how to  resolve the main problems afflicting the people.”

Archbishop Azuaje asked citizens to be aware because what is behind the crisis the country is undergoing is “power, as it is conceived and put into practice. Today, power as dominion is gaining ground against the truth.”

He called for “a new history based on the common good and on freedom.”

The opposition gained control of the National Assembly in a December 2016 election, and in 2017 Maduro formed a pro-government legislature, the Constituent Assembly, to supersede it. The Venezuelan bishops do not recognize the Constituent Assembly as legitimate or valid.

In 2018, Venezuela's annual inflation rate was 1.3 million percent; late in 2019, the IMF forecast an inflation rate of 10 million percent for that year.

Priest in Mexico hospitalized after being kidnapped, shot

Tlaxcala, Mexico, Jan 8, 2020 / 02:46 pm (CNA).- A Mexican priest who had been kidnapped is in the hospital in serious condition after having been discovered released on the side of a highway with four gunshot wounds.

Fr. Roly Candelario Piña Camacho, a Piarist priest from the Diocese of Tlaxcala, was found wounded on the side of the México-Puebla federal highway Jan. 6, the diocese said.

Local media reports did not specify when the priest was kidnapped, but said his family members paid the unspecified ransom request to his captors. He had suffered four gunshot wounds and was transported to a local hospital, where the National Guard is offering protection against further violence, according to reports.

In a Jan. 7 statement, the Diocese of Tlaxcala said that the priest is “in serious condition.”

“The Diocese of Tlaxcala expresses its solidarity and spiritual closeness to Father Roly, the Piarist community and his family. We pray for an end to the violence and for human life to be respected,” the statement says.

The Mexican bishops called for prayers for the priest’s recovery.

“We join in prayer for the swift recovery of Fr. Roly Candelario Sch.p (Piarist) and deeply deplore the violent situation the country is going through,” the bishops’ conference said on Facebook.

More than two dozen priests have been murdered in Mexico in the past decade, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center, which tracks violence in Mexico.