Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pope Francis: Martin Luther wanted to ‘renew the Church, not divide her’

Pope Francis greets the Rev Jens-Martin Kruse of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Rome during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican this week (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Pope Francis has told Lutheran pilgrims from Finland that Martin Luther’s intention 500 years ago “was to renew the Church, not divide Her”.

The Pope was speaking to a delegation of pilgrims led by the Lutheran Archbishop Kari Makinen of Turku. 

Their annual visit takes place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his address, Pope recalled his visit to Sweden last October marking 500 years since the start of the Reformation, saying it was a “significant step” that “gave us courage” for the ecumenical journey ahead.

“This joint commemoration of the Reformation was important on both the human and theological-spiritual levels,” he said.

“After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on. For this we are grateful.”

“At the same time we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults,” the Pope said. “In this spirit, we recalled in Lund that the intention of Martin Luther 500 years ago was to renew the Church, not divide Her.

“The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together,” he said.

The Pope concluded his address by thanking Archbishop Makinen for having brought his grandchildren to the audience. “We need the simplicity of children: they will show us the path that leads to Jesus Christ,” he said.

The theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs until next Wednesday, is “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us”.

The materials for the week, published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, say that, after 50 years of dialogue, “Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognising him as a ‘witness to the Gospel'”.

Germany’s Catholic bishops praised Luther as a “Gospel witness and teacher of the faith” in a document released last year.

Fr Silvano Garello, the Bengali ‘translator’ of the faith of the Church, has died Silvano Garello, a member of the Pious Society of Saint Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions, passed away two days ago at age 78 at his home in Dhaka.
With over 200 religious works translated from English and Italian, he was considered the Bengali ‘translator’ of the faith of the Church.

Thanks to his unique mission, he made Christian values ​​and writings accessible to Bangladeshis and inspired many young people, Catholics and Muslims, with his publications.

He had talked to AsiaNews about what had inspired his literary mission. "Words are fleeting; books remain,” he said. “Therefore, it is important to write books, especially those who speak of the Christian faith."

Fr Garello’s funeral was held today in the diocese of Khulna and his remains will rest in his adopted country.

He was born in Valdagno (Vicenza, Italy) on 31 December 1938 and ordained on 25 October 1964.

He studied missiology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and left in 1970 for what was then East Pakistan, which would become the independent nation of Bangladesh the following year.

Catholics paid tribute to him for his outstanding contribution and his great literary talent.

Pallob Rozario, a Catholic doctor, said he wanted to bid farewell "to the beloved Fr Garello, for his devoted love, commitment and passion for Bangladesh and its people."

For Fr Noren Baido, of the diocese of Khulna, "he was a holy priest for our laity."

During its 47-year mission, the Xaverian clergyman played a key role in spreading the Gospel and doctrine.

After a lifetime involved in various parishes, seminaries and Bengali studies, he decided in 2002 to devote himself to the dissemination of Catholic documents, writing brochures and booklets in Bengali on behalf of the National Social and Social Catechetical Training Centre in Jessore.

He also translated Vatican Council II papers, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and some papal encyclicals. Between 1986 and 1996, he edited the bimonthly Mogolbarta (The Good News).

Fr Bulbul Rebeiro, editor of the Catholic weekly Pratibeshi and head of the Christian Communication Centre, noted that “Fr Garello wanted to develop the talents of new writers and encouraged them to follow this path. He had also asked Card Patrick D'Rozario to open a library in every parish."

"I was inspired by the articles he wrote for Catholic publications,” said writer Khakon Corraya. “I am very grateful to him."

Pope: Christian life is a struggle, because the Father draws us to Jesus but "another pulls us the other way” life is a struggle, because "when the Father draws people to Jesus, there is another who pulls us in the opposite direction and sparks an internal war" and if you want to go forward, "you have to fight ! Feel the heart that struggles, so that Jesus will win”, said Pope Francis at Mass this morning in Santa Marta.

He was taking a cue from the passage of Mark's Gospel which tells of the great crowds that followed Jesus with enthusiasm and that came from all sides. This crowd "was spontaneous," said Francis, "not brought in buses, as we have seen many times when organizing events and many have to go to ‘prove’ their attendance, so as not to their job." These people "went because they felt something." "This crowd went to Jesus? Yes! Were [these people ]in need? Yes! Some were curious, but these were the ascetic, the minority ... But why was this crowd attracted to the Father, it was the Father that attracted people to Jesus. So much so that Jesus was not indifferent, like a static master said his words and then he washed his hands. No! This crowd touched the heart of Jesus. The same Gospel tells us: 'Jesus was moved, because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd'. And the Father, through the Holy Spirit draws people to Jesus. "
The Pope thus emphasized that the people were not moved by “apologetic arguments". No, "the Father must draw you to Jesus." On the other hand is "curious" that this passage of the Gospel that "speaks of Jesus, of the crowd, the enthusiasm" and love of the Lord, should finish with the impure spirits that shouted: "You are the Son of God!". "This is the truth; this is the reality that each of us feels when approaching Jesus. The unclean spirits try to prevent it, waging war against us. 'But, Father, I'm very Catholic; I always go to Mass ... But never, never have these temptations. Thank God, no! '. 'Pray, because you're on the wrong path!'. A Christian life without temptation is not Christian: it is ideological, is Gnostic, but it is not Christian. When the Father draws people to Jesus, there is another who pulls us in the opposite direction and wages war inside us! And this is why Paul speaks of the Christian life as a struggle: a daily struggle. A fight!” he said: That’s why Jesus came: “to destroy Satan's empire, the empire of evil”. He came to destroy its influence in our hearts, the Pope said. So while the Father is attracting you to Jesus, the spirit of evil is seeking to destroy that attraction.

The Christian life, he reiterated, "is a battle: either you let yourself be attracted by Jesus through the Father, or can you say 'I remain quiet, in peace'". If you want to go forward, "you have to fight! Feel the battle in your heart, so that Jesus will win. " 

"Let us ponder our own hearts: Do I feel this struggle within? : Between comfort and service to others, having fun or prayer and worship of the Father, between one thing and another, do I feel the struggle? The desire to do good or something that stops me, holds me back, am I ascetic? Do I believe that my life is moved by the heart of Jesus? If I do not believe this, I have to pray a lot to believe it, so that I may have this grace. Each of us should look at the state of our heart. And ask the Lord to be Christians who are able to discern what happens in our own heart and choose the right path on which the Father draws us to Jesus. "

Conversion is a prerequisite to ecumenism, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis embraces Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation-during a joint prayer service at the cathedral in Lund Oct. 31, 2016. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.For Pope Francis, personal conversion is pretty much the key to the Church’s success in all of her activities, from Church governance to pastoral work, from Curial reform to evangelization and dialogue.
He reiterated this point in a Jan. 19 speech to an ecumenical delegation from Finland, telling them that “true ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer.”

“If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another,” he said, and pointed to his trip to Sweden last fall for a joint-commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Francis noted that at one of the ecumenical events held during his visit both Catholics and Lutherans recognized that Martin Luther’s original intention “was to renew the Church, not divide her.” 

“The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together,” he said, and urged members of the delegation to pray fervently “so that we may experience this conversion which makes reconciliation possible.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Ecumenical Delegation of the Lutheran Church of Finland who traveled to Rome for their annual pilgrimage marking the feast of St. Henrik, the country’s patron.

The delegation traditionally makes the pilgrimage during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year runs Jan. 18-25 and holds the theme “Love of Christ pushes us toward reconciliation.”

In his speech, Francis said the joint-commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden was important “on both the human and theological-spiritual levels.”

After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, “we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on,” he said, and voiced his gratitude. However, at the same time “we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults,” he said, pointing to the current divisions among Christians.

Francis also said, as illustrated during his trip to Sweden, “theological dialogue remains essential for reconciliation” among Christians, Catholics and Lutherans in particular, but noted that this dialogue has already “advanced through steadfast commitment.”

“Thus, in that communion of harmony which permits the Holy Spirit to act, we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever closer to full and visible unity,” he said. 

He prayed particularly for the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is currently “working diligently” to find “a common sacramental understanding” of the Church, the Eucharist and ecclesial ministry.

Given the steps that have already been taken and those that are being made now, the Pope said the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 offers Catholics and Lutherans an opportunity to focus on the Gospel and to seek Christ together “with renewed vigor.”

He encouraged the delegation to make a similar commitment to the one made between the Catholic and Lutheran delegations in Sweden, promising to work together to serve the poor, needy and those who suffer persecution and violence.

By doing this, “as Christians we are no longer divided, but rather united on the journey toward full communion,” Pope Francis said.

He noted how 2017 also marks Finland’s 100th anniversary as an independent State, and prayed that the milestone would “encourage all the Christians of your country to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – as did Saint Henrik so zealously.”

Francis closed his address praying that the delegation’s pilgrimage would “contribute to further strengthening the good cooperation between Orthodox, Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and in the world.”

Pope: Catholics, Lutherans must continue to seek common ground

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 12. (CNS/Paul Haring)Although great strides have been made through 50 years of ecumenical dialogue, Catholics and Lutherans must continue to work toward becoming a full and visible sign of unity for the world, Pope Francis said.
A continued “communion of harmony” will allow Catholics and Lutherans to “find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the church,” the pope told members of a pilgrimage from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Jan. 19.

“I pray to the Lord that he may bestow his blessing on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is working diligently toward a common sacramental understanding of the church, the Eucharist and ecclesial ministry,” he said.

The pope met the Finnish delegation during the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. 

The theme chosen for the 2017 observance was: “Reconciliation: The love of Christ compels us.”

The week of prayer, Pope Francis said, urges Catholics and Lutherans to reconcile and “draw closer to one another anew through conversion.”

“True ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and redeemer. If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another,” the pope said.

Recalling his visit to Sweden last October to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the church, the pope said Luther’s intention “was to renew the church, not divide her” and that the joint commemoration “was important on both the human and theological-spiritual levels.”

“The gathering there gave us the courage and strength in our Lord Jesus Christ to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together,” he said.

Helping those who suffer persecution and violence, he added, can further unite Christians “on the journey toward full communion.”

In doing so, the pope said, Catholics and Lutherans can put their witness of faith into practice “through concrete acts of service, fraternity and sharing.”

Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Francis thanked Lutheran Archbishop Kari Makinen of Turku for bringing his grandchildren to the meeting.

“We need the simplicity of children; they teach us the way to Jesus Christ,” the pope said.

Bishops visiting Holy Land: Christians must oppose Israeli settlements

Bishops from the U.S, Canada and Europe walk through a street Jan. 16 in Hebron, West Bank. (CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops' Conference of England and Wales) Christians have a responsibility to oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, said bishops from the U.S., Canada and Europe.
“This de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians in areas such as Hebron and East Jerusalem but, as the U.N. recently recognized, also imperils the chance of peace,” said bishops who participated in the Holy Land Coordination Jan. 14-19.

“So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarizing social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity,” said the statement, issued Jan. 19, at the end of the visit.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, was among the 12 bishops who signed the statement. 

Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, represented Canadian bishops. 

The statement also was signed by representatives of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as well as bishops from the United Kingdom and other European countries.

During their visit, the bishops visited Hebron, West Bank, where the main market area is closed off to accommodate the security needs of some 800 Israeli settlers. 

Afterward, Bishop Cantu told Catholic News Service, “It becomes clearer that (the settlements) are not just about outlying settlements but something more systematic; more about infiltrating Palestinian land and forcing Palestinians out by making them so uncomfortable with such limited freedom they don’t want to continue living there.”

Three of the bishops also visited the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli blockade has made it difficult to get supplies for reconstruction of buildings destroyed by Israeli shelling. Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, Scotland, one of the bishops who visited Gaza, said he left feeling “sad and helpless” at the poverty and lack of basic commodities.

In 2006, a government led by Hamas was elected in Gaza. Israel, the United States and the European Union have listed Hamas — an Islamic political party with an armed wing — as a terrorist organization and have imposed economic sanctions against Gaza.

In their statement, the bishops said Christians had a responsibility to help “the people of Gaza, who continue to live amid a man-made humanitarian catastrophe. They have now spent a decade under blockade, compounded by a political impasse caused by ill-will on all sides.”

They also said Christians must continue to encourage nonviolent resistance, as encouraged by Pope Francis.

“This is particularly necessary in the face of injustices such as the continued construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land, including the Cremisan Valley,” the statement said.

The barrier is a series of cement slabs, barbed wire fences and security roads snaking across part of the West Bank. If completed as planned, the separation wall would stretch nearly 400 miles and restrict the movements of 38 percent of residents of the West Bank. 

Israel maintains that the barrier contributed significantly to a decrease in the number of terrorist attacks, while Palestinians contend that the barrier is simply another Israeli land grab, imprisons them and imposes travel limitations.

The bishops said that each year since 1998, they have called for justice and peace, “yet the suffering continues.”

“So this call must get louder,” their statement said. “As bishops, we implore Christians in our home countries to recognize our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.”

What is Opus Dei?


Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Ghost,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of all Saints.

V. Be merciful unto us, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful unto us, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.

V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Thy wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of uncleanness.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Thine inspirations.
Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation.
Through Thy Nativity.
Through Thy Infancy.
Through Thy most divine Life.
Through Thy labors.
Through Thine agony and passion.
Through Thy cross and dereliction.
Through Thy faintness and weariness.
Through Thy death and burial.
Through Thy Resurrection.
Through Thine Ascension.
Through Thine institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
Through Thy joys.
Through Thy glory.

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who saidst, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Grant, we beseech Thee, to us Thy suppliants, the gift of Thy most divine love, that we may love Thee with our whole heart, and in all our words and works, and never cease from praising Thee.

O Lord, give us a perpetual fear as well as love of Thy Holy Name, for Thou never ceasest to govern those Thou foundest upon the strength of Thy love. Who livest and reignest world without end.

R. Amen.

Bethlehem shrine’s treasures being restored

Bethlehem shrine’s treasures being restoredIt is revered by different Christian sects and draws more than a million visitors to the Holy Land every year, making it the biggest tourist attraction in the Palestinian territories. 
The Church of the Nativity, built by Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, sits in Bethlehem above what’s believed to be the birthplace of Jesus in one of the most politically divisive regions of the world.

The church is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic authorities, and all have monastic communities there.

Since 2013, Italian experts from the art restoration firm Piacenti SpA have been working with the Palestinian government to overcome cultural and religious differences and forge ahead with an ambitious restoration expected to cost $15 million when completed.

“For those who have faith, this is the place where God arrived on earth, born in a cave that really existed under this church,” Giammarco Piacenti, head of the project, told Religion News Service on a visit to Rome. “It was immediately venerated, so historically and archaeologically it is very important.”

Around 170 experts have been working on the restoration of the church’s ceiling, wooden architraves and walls for the past three years. 

During their research, they uncovered a mosaic angel, the seventh that still remains in the church, and cleaned and restored more than a million brilliantly colored tiny mosaic tiles.

“This work has been made possible thanks to the collaboration of people from different companies, with different backgrounds and skills,” Piacenti said. “It’s also involved people of different religions, nationalities and cultures.”

The church was completed on Constantine’s orders in 339 A.D. but later destroyed during conflict in the sixth century. 

A new basilica was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 565 A.D. and lined with colorful wall mosaics much later, during the 12th century.

“The design of the transept is an example of exceptional craftsmanship, and so too are the mosaics, the columns, the capitals and the architraves,” Piacenti said.

Over the years the structure has suffered from degradation and water infiltration. 

It was declared a U.N. World Heritage site in 2012 in a bid to save it from further decay and it’s also on the World Heritage endangered list.

But Piacenti said few realize it also withstood invasions, war and natural disasters.

“This church is a fortress that has survived attacks and 15 terrible earthquakes and it is still standing today,” he said.

Around two-thirds of the work is finished; funds are being sought to help restore the 50 columns and the floor mosaics and for the installation of fire prevention and lighting systems.

The restoration is being funded by countries including France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Morocco, as well as the Vatican. 

The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

O’Malley says autonomy can be a threat to the common good

Autonomy can be a force for good in the world, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, but it can also be “seriously threatening to human welfare and the common good.”
The Second Vatican Council endorsed autonomy in Gaudium et Spes, its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, when it defines that “created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use and regulated by men,” O’Malley said.

Yet Vatican II also criticized autonomy when it is “interpreted apart from moral limits and in isolation from any religious meaning,” the cardinal said. But “when work and creativity are located within a moral and religious framework, together they serve to enhance human dignity and social justice.”

O’Malley made his remarks at a conference, “Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work,” Jan. 10 at The Catholic University of America that was co-sponsored by the university’s Institute of Policy Research and Catholic Studies and the AFL-CIO.

As a young Capuchin priest in Washington, O’Malley said, he heard many tales of grief from immigrants in the nation’s capital. He recalled the situation of a domestic worker for a diplomat who not only harassed and abused her, but withheld her pay - and her passport, so she could not get another job. “Because he had diplomatic immunity, there was nothing we could do,” he said.

“St. John XXIII called for a country’s economic and social goals to include consideration of the international common good,” the cardinal said. “The church also recognized the need for international institutions and agreements to address the growing complexity of an interdependent world.”

The saint’s words carry over to the Vatican’s current inhabitant, Pope Francis. “In his words and actions, Pope Francis has been a strong public advocate for the dignity of labor, including making interventions when companies were intending significant elimination of jobs. He has argued strongly that in the midst of the forces of technology and globalization, people cannot be reduced to arguments for greater efficiency,” O’Malley said.

“The pope has stressed the need for equity, for fairness in our understanding of what constitutes a just economy and the role of workers.”

Bishop Robert J. McElroy of San Diego, who also addressed the two previous Erroneous Autonomy conferences in 2014 and 2015, spoke this time about “solidarity in society as the alternative pathway to the various forms of erroneous autonomy which flourish under different labels in American society but are linked by a radical individualism.”

He identified three such manifestations as “the sovereignty of markets,” “the technocratic paradigm” and nationalism.

“As Catholic social teaching has made clear in every moment of the modern era, free markets do not constitute a first principle of economic justice,” McElroy said.

St. John Paul II, in the encyclical Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year), “made it absolutely clear” that any market system be “circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious.”

McElroy said “the central myopia of the technocratic paradigm springs from the fact that it reduces complex realities of the human person and the universe to the plane of instrumentalization and scientific abstraction.”

He, too, cited Pope Francis’s own critique as that technocracy “moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race that in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive - a lordship over all.”

And while love of country is a virtue in Catholic social teaching, McElroy said, “the principle of solidarity requires that men and women of our day cultivate a greater awareness that they are debtors of the society of which they have become a part.”

He quoted St. John Paul, who said that “love of the motherland … has nothing in common with narrow nationalism or chauvinism.”

One question about the United States’ nationalistic trend that must be asked, according to McElroy: “Who are ‘the people’ in the United States? … Populist nationalism has often been exclusionary and nativist. The recent (presidential) campaign was deeply marred by exclusionary rhetoric.”

“The point of this conference is to dissect ‘erroneous autonomy,’ and I’ve spent a big part of my career doing just that,” said author and social analyst Thomas Frank, best known for his book What’s the Matter With Kansas? in dissecting the nature of Donald Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton in November.

“I admit it’s been a lot of fun poking holes in the things conservatives say,” he commented. “These guys blow off the facts when they feel like it, they swipe symbols from the other side, they illustrate arguments on economics with fairy tales. They will say anything. The reasoning you hear on their favorite radio shows seems like something from a brainwashing session at Lubyanka prison. It is preposterous. It is contemptible.

“But you know what it’s better than?” Frank said. “It’s better than nothing,” which he added was, in essence, the Democrats’ response to millions of Americans who felt left behind in the recovery from the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

Week of Guided Prayer can foster ecumenism

In the run-up to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an Irish sister has underlined how ‘Guided Prayer’ weeks are ecumenical events.

Sr Eibhlis Ni Uaithuas from the Office for Evangelisation and Ecumenism has been organising Weeks of Guided Prayer for parishes in the Archdiocese of Dublin since 2012. About 20 parishes avail of this service each year.

Typically, Sr Eibhlis and a group of trained Prayer Guides will spend a week in a parish. 

On Sunday night they meet with all those who are interested in doing the Week of Guided Prayer.

Christians from other churches in the area are also invited to take part in the week. 

On the Sunday night, the Prayer Guides explain, after an opening prayer, how to pray with scripture. Then each person is assigned a Prayer Guide. He or she will meet with this person one-on-one for half an hour each day from Monday to Friday. 

“Out of the conversation with the Prayer Guide comes the meditation for the following day’s reflection”, Sr Eibhlis told

The Week of Guided Prayer is a way of making a mini retreat in the midst of daily living and rooted in Ignatian spirituality. Those who take part (ideally Christians of more than one denomination) are invited to do two things every day for the week: firstly, to meet with their ‘Prayer Guide’ or ‘soul friend’ at an agreed time every day for 30 minutes, and secondly, to spend half an hour in personal prayer by taking some quiet time each day on their own at home.

“People really love it. They discover that scripture can speak to them”, said Sr Eibhlis. “It takes them where they are and brings them to a different place.” The Guided Prayer weeks are open to everyone. “One person who hadn’t been going to Mass or praying just came along after he saw an advertisement,” she recalled.

The Office of Evangelisation and Ecumenism has around 70 voluntary Prayer Guides, most of whom have been trained through the Manresa Spiritual Direction programme. They are lay men and women, religious sisters, brothers and priests who are trained and experienced to support people in their prayer life.

On the Saturday at the end of the Week of Guided Prayer, the participants assemble once again for a closing prayer session and evaluation. “It reminds me of the parable of the loaves and fishes,” says Sr Eibhlis, “so nothing gets lost”.

Impressions published on the Dublin archdiocese website bear witness to the strong positive effects the ‘mini retreat’ has on participants, some of whom describe it as ‘transformational’: “I found the experience of the week very rewarding. The readings became alive and I felt that I learned to pray them not just read them.”

“I never knew that the gospel could speak to my life.”

“I really enjoyed my time with my prayer guide. I looked forward to it every day.”

“I am going to continue taking time for myself to pray every day because it has helped me.”

Sr Eibhlis, who is also involved in the Ecumenical Bible Week, sees the Week of Guided Prayer as a means of ecumenical engagement. 

“We encourage parishes offering the Week to include their local Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian groups.” 

The parish of Kilcullen will run their Week of Guided Prayer from Sun 29 January to Saturday 4 February 2017.

St Louis archbishop foresees dire effects of proposed abortion law

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. Credit: Archdiocese of St. Louis. Giving civil rights protection to abortion would undermine respect for life and threaten the religious freedom of Catholic institutions, the Archbishop of St. Louis has said in a strong criticism of a proposed city bill.
“City ordinances should respect all people, including women facing unplanned pregnancies, unborn children, and people who desire to live their lives in accordance with their religious convictions,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said Jan. 10.

“Protection and care for human life at all stages of development from conception until natural death is a fundamental moral value shared by Catholics as well as many other people of faith,” he added.

The bill would add “reproductive health decisions” to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance concerning housing and employment. If the proposal becomes law, the city Civil Rights Enforcement Commission would be empowered to consider complaints.

Archbishop Carlson said the bill is “vague and ambiguous” and could pose “terrible consequences” for religious institutions.

“For example, a Catholic school or Catholic Charities agency could be fined by the City of St. Louis for not employing persons who publicly promote practices such as abortion,” he said. 

Catholic institutions could also be fined for refusing to cover abortion in employee health insurance plans.

“This proposed ordinance seeks to make St. Louis a sanctuary city for abortion, an act that kills innocent unborn children,” the archbishop added. “This is not what our city should stand for; rather, St. Louis should be a sanctuary for life and compassion, especially compassion for mothers and their developing children.”

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s proposed city ordinance, Board Bill 203, specifically protects decisions “related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device or medical service, including the use or intended use of contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of pregnancy.”

Archbishop Carlson charged that the bill would “force the people of St. Louis to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion.”

“This would be a flagrant violation of religious liberty and individual rights of conscience,” he said, urging St. Louis citizens to oppose the proposal.

Alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, the bill sponsor, said the amendment would clarify that women “should be free to make reproductive choices they want to make without consequences from their employer or landlord,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says.

According to Green, the bill would not limit a religious institution from firing an employee who advocates abortion.

Archbishop Carlson, however, was adamant, saying the Archdiocese of St. Louis “cannot and will not comply with any ordinance like Board Bill 203 that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business.”

“There is no room for compromise on such a matter. This is a matter of fundamental religious and moral beliefs,” he said.

The archbishop added that archdiocese would help provide spiritual and material assistance to all in need, “especially the poor and those women facing crisis pregnancies who feel they have no one else to turn to for help.”

The bill is pending before the Housing Committee, though no hearing has been set.

In Texas legislature, second thoughts about 'no-fault' divorce

Decision (marriage, divorce, annulment). Photo by George Hodan (CC0 1.0).Changes to divorce law are up for consideration in the Texas legislature, with supporters saying it is too easy to dissolve a civil marriage.
“There needs to be some type of due process. There needs to be some kind of mechanism to where that other spouse has a defense,” said Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth.

“I think people have seen the negative effects of divorce and the breakdown of the family for a long time,” he added, saying he thought his bill would help reverse the trend. 

The bill would remove insupportability, meaning “no fault,” as a grounds for divorce, the Austin-based NBC affiliate KXAN News reports. Rep. Krause had also filed the bill in the 2016 legislative session.

A spokesperson for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops said the conference supports legislation that discourages divorce, including the proposal to end “no-fault” divorce.

“No-fault divorce laws typically ease the divorce process, rather than encouraging spouses to seek spiritual guidance or professional counseling to enrich their marriage,” the spokesperson told CNA Jan. 12.

“However, in situations of domestic abuse or violence, Church personnel and services should be focused on providing safety and protection to those who are being abused or the victims of violence. No one deserves to be hurt, especially by a supposed 'loved one.' Any laws that support marriage must also recognize the right for a person to be safe in his or her own home.”

One skeptic of the proposal was Slav Talavara, a family lawyer, who told KXAN that about 90 percent of his divorce cases invoke “no-fault” grounds. He said disallowing those grounds would add the need to blame someone to an already difficult process. 

All 50 states allow some form of no-fault divorce. New York was the last state to legalize no-fault divorce, in 2010. In 17 states and the District of Columbia, divorce can be sought only on “no-fault” grounds.

Texas law recognizes six categories of “fault-based” divorces: adultery, cruelty, abandonment and a felony conviction, living apart for at least three years, or confinement to a mental hospital.

Rep. Krause has filed a separate bill to extend the waiting period for divorce from 60 days to 180 days in cases where the family includes a child under 18 years of age, a child still in high school, or an adult disabled child living in the household.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops supports that bill as well. A spokesperson said it would “provide more time for counseling and other support to protect marriages.”

Region in Russia stops abortions on Feast of the Holy Innocents

Image result for city of YaroslavlA region in Russia banned abortion for a day on Wednesday to commemorate the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The Russian Orthodox diocese in the city of Yaroslavl declared January 11 a “day of silence without abortions”, and said it was supported by the local health department.

A statement on the diocese’s website read: “The event is dedicated to the memory of Bethlehem children slaughtered by King Herod, who wanted to kill the newborn infant Christ. On this day it is forbidden to carry out abortions in all state medical institutions in Yaroslavl Region.”

Russia has the second highest abortion rate in the world, after China: in 2015, there were 930,000 abortions performed in the country — which excludes abortions performed outside the medical system.

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, supported a campaign last year calling for a total ban on abortion.