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Bridgeport bishop says lifelong 'path of beauty' began with his parents

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- “Other than faith,” Bishop Frank Caggiano reminisced, “the gifts of how I was raised and who I was raised by are the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.”

“The most inspiring people in my life were my two parents, without a doubt,” Caggiano added. “Without a doubt.”

Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a delegate to the 2018 Synod of Bishops, discussing young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. He told CNA that his own youth was shaped by the lessons of his parents.

“My father was a longshoreman. My father unloaded ships. My father had a third-grade education. He did not speak English very well. And yet at a time when in the docks of Brooklyn it was common to steal, my father never came home with a blessed thing.”

“The two things my father spoke about always were integrity and respect,” the bishop said.

“A warrior, a courageous witness, ‘you got to stand by your guns, even if it costs you your life’- That was my father.”

While he praised his father, Caggiano, 59, minced no words about his mother: “My mother was a saint...Simple as that.”

He told CNA that while both parents taught him lessons he continues to carry, he brought especially his mother’s inspiration to Rome this month, where his short synod speech emphasized beauty.

“All of this animation in my mind about beauty began with my mother,” he said.

Beauty “was the engagement of the heart in faith. It was the piety. It was the gentility. It was-- the house itself-- you knew the seasons of the Church’s year in my house. It was the ritual. It was the traditions that we had. In my mind, all of that is wrapped up in beauty. The conveyance of meaning apart from that written word-- that’s beauty. And that was my mom.”

During his synod speech, Caggiano said bishops “must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”

He told CNA that beauty is an important way to evangelize contemporary young people who “wonder whether or not they are lovable or loved.”

“When you encounter beauty it reflects back who you are,” he said. “Beauty is the encounter with the insight that you are beautiful.”

“The most beautiful image of the Lord is the Lord crucified, because he looks back and says ‘in my physical ugliness and my suffering—that is what you are worth.’ That’s what we’re missing.”

Caggiano said that beauty-- in liturgy, art, music, poetry, and in new forms and mediums offered by digital technology-- captures hearts.

“Try to imagine the first time you fell in love. The two immediate responses to falling in love are ‘I want to know about this person,’ and ‘I want to spend time with this person.’”

“If we can have the moment of being captivated by Christ,” he said, “and then encounter the path of goodness and the path of truth- then you begin a lifelong journey.”

The bishop said that the ongoing Vatican synod cannot by itself prescribe the best ways to evangelize young people through beauty. His hope is that the synod will encourage dioceses and episcopal conferences to experiment with ways to evangelize with beauty.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which Caggiano has led since 2013, has focused on finding ways to reach young people through “the power of image” on social media, along with an online catechetical institute that aims to marry intellectual formation with images and video, and by offering pilgrimages for young people.

"Pilgrimages for young adults are a powerful way to engage with beauty," the bishop told CNA. He said that the diocese has received grants allowing young people to go to the Holy Land and on other pilgrimages even if they are unable to pay for the trip.

Caggiano said that donors support those trips because they see the fruit. He shared the story of a young woman who accompanied him to the Holy Land, and despite beginning the trip uncertain about faith, began going to Mass daily, and had a powerful conversion to deeper faith.

“Pilgrimage is an act of beauty.”

Beauty, Caggiano said, must also characterize Catholic liturgy. He said that after a diocesan synod three years ago, a small commission begin revising sacramental norms and liturgical policies in the diocese, with careful attention to the importance of beauty. A new policy document is set to be released later this year.

“It will cause a great stir,” he said, because it will call attention to ways in which greater reverence is needed in the diocese.

He told CNA that “how we conduct ourselves at the liturgy can reveal” something about what priests and other ministers believe about the importance of worship.

To foster a greater spirit of reverence among priests, Caggiano is planning to launch next month the “Confraternity of St. John Vianney,” an association of priests, including himself, who will commit to celebrating Mass daily, regular public and private participation in adoration of the Eucharist, and regular sacramental confession.

He said plans for the group are still developing, and that he hopes it will grow “organically.”

“We are going to sit before the Lord and let him be our teacher.”

“There is a natural stance that flows from a spirituality that is embedded in the belief in the real presence,” he said, adding that he aims to help priests develop deeper Eucharistic spiritualities.

Caggiano said the synod of bishops has helped him to develop other pastoral ideas he has been considering. His goal, he said, is to help young people to better know Jesus Christ.

“An encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can be truth, beauty, or goodness.”

“It’s the middle path, the way of beauty, that I think is the most interesting. It’s the glue between the two. So what’s going to capture a young person’s imagination? That’s the question in my mind.”

“The path of beauty,” he concluded, “can be a path of awakening.”


'Repairing God's House': Maryland parishes hold days of adoration

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Two churches in Maryland have held days Eucharistic adoration with prayers for healing from the recent scandals that have plagued the Church. St. Andrew Apostle Church in Silver Spring, along with Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, hosted a 24-hour “Day of Prayer: Repair My House” October 4-5.

About six weeks before the event, the pastors of the two parishes were discussing how to respond to the recent sexual abuse crisis and it effects both on them as priests and on their parishioners. According to Fr. Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew’s, “we both kind of came to this conclusion: repair my Church, repair my Church.”

Following that conversation, a program of events were held in the parishes centered around prayer, fasting, and adoration.

Since the outbreak of the recent scandals over the summer, many bishops, including Pope Francis, have called for the Church to collectively practice penance and fasting.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope issued his Letter to the People of God in which he said it was “essential” that the whole Church acknowledge and respond to the wounds inflicted by the abuse crisis.

“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”

Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.

“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.

“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”

Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.

“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”

The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.

“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”

Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.

The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.

The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics  “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”

Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.

Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.

He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”

Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.

“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”

Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.

Pope Francis at canonization Mass: 'Jesus is radical'

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 05:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- "Jesus is radical,” Pope Francis said in his homily at the canonization of Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, and five other new saints.

“He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart,” the pope told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 14.

Christ “gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange?” the pope asked.

Francis officially recognized Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, Vincent Romano, Francesco Spinelli, Nunzio Sulprizio, Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, and Maria Katharina Kasper as saints at the Mass.

“All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind. May the Lord help us to imitate their example,” Pope Francis said at their canonization.

Oscar Romero, who was beatified by Pope Francis in El Salvador in 2015, was the archbishop of the nation's capital city of San Salvador. He was shot while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980, during the birth of a civil war between leftist guerrilla forces and the dictatorial government of the right.

An outspoken critic of the violence and injustices being committed at the time, Romero was declared a martyr who was killed in hatred of the faith for his vocal defense of human rights.

Saint Oscar Romero “left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his homily Sunday.

“Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?” the pope asked.

Pope Saint Paul VI, like St. Paul, his namesake, “spent his life for Christ’s Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor,” Francis said.

As pope, Paul VI oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Pope St. John XXIII, and in 1969 promulgated a new Roman Missal. He died in 1978, and was beatified by Pope Francis Oct. 19, 2014.

Apart from his role in the council, Paul VI is most widely known for his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published in 1968 and reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception in wake of the sexual revolution. This year marks the 50th anniversary the encyclical.

“Pope Saint Paul VI wrote: ‘It is indeed in the midst of their distress that our fellow men need to know joy, to hear its song,’” Pope Francis said.

“Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way. The saints have travelled this path,” he continued.

The pope encouraged Catholics to imitate the saints’ detachment,  “Is Jesus enough for us or do we look for many worldly securities?”

“Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, the yearning for status and power, structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world,” he said.

“Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from ‘complacency and self-indulgence,’” he continued.

“The problem is on our part: our having too much, our wanting too much suffocates our hearts and makes us incapable of loving,” the pope said.

At the Sunday Angelus following the Mass, Pope Francis greeted Queen Sofia of Spain and the presidents of Chile, El Salvador, Panama, and Italy, who attended the canonization Mass.

The canonizations took place midway through the 2018 Synod of Bishops on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment from Oct. 3-28.

Analysis: Will bishops push for clarity on the synod’s procedural rules?

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 06:13 pm (CNA).- Recent changes to canon law have left some bishops attending the 2018 Synod of Bishops uncertain about the meeting’s procedural rules. Unanswered questions about the synod’s norms could have significant effect on how the meeting’s final documents are regarded in the Church, and by the synod fathers themselves.

The synod’s undersecretary, Bishop Fabio Fabene, told reporters in early October that because of changes Pope Francis made to synod policies Sept. 15, the Vatican had not yet decided on the exact rules for this month’s synod.

Asked whether synod participants would be able to vote on individual provisions of the document as they have in prior meetings, Fabene said it would depend on what emerged from the synod, adding that “as we move along, we will decide.”

But two weeks into the gathering, decisions about the synod’s procedural and voting rules have not yet been announced. Several synod fathers have told CNA they are confused about the rules, or uncertain about how the synod’s voting process will actually work.

In the absence of clear norms, some observers have begun to ask whether the 2018 synod will prove to be an authentic consultation of the world’s bishops, or an exercise only in the appearance of “synodality.”

Synods are meetings of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope. The discussion at a synod is framed around an instrumentum laboris- a working document- developed before the meeting by a small working committee of Vatican officials and diocesan bishops.

During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document, and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text, or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.

The 2018 synod, a meeting of 267 bishops and other Church leaders, is tasked with developing a document on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.  

The modern form of synods in the Latin Catholic Church began with the 1965 promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolica sollicitudo. That document established some processes and procedures governing the work of a synod, as did revisions made in 1969 and 1971. The 1983 Code of Canon Law gave additional clarity.  

But the 2006 rescript Ordo synodi episcoporum established the most detailed procedural rules for every aspect of a synod of bishops, among them the election of members; the appointment, work, and authority of the general secretariat and general relator; and the voting on proposals (modi) and documents, including the points to be included in the final report.

Ordo synodi episcoporum required that modi and documents be voted on according to a procedure allowing bishops to make additional amendments, and delineating specific cases when a 2/3 majority of voting bishops would be required, and others cases that would require only an absolute majority (50 percent+1) of bishops.

According to those procedural rules, synod fathers were able to vote on proposals made for amendments or additions to the document, and eventually to vote on their approval of the document as a whole; those votes would require 2/3s majorities.

Though these procedural norms were tweaked in recent years, they remained largely intact. But on Sept. 15, they were abrogated- revoked- when Pope Francis promulgated a new document governing synods, the apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio.

Episcopalis communio eliminates nearly all specific procedural norms pertaining to the synod, including the established procedures for proposing amendments and for voting, and sets no specific approval thresholds for documents generated by the synod.

Instead of establishing specific rules, the September document calls on the General Secretary for Synod of Bishops, now Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, to issue instructions on those matters, and “regulations for each Synod Assembly."

No such instructions or regulations seem to have been issued for the current synod, at least not publicly.

The general rules promulgated in September do explain that the synod should seek “moral unanimity insofar as this is possible” on a final document written by the drafting committee, and that “approval of the members” should be obtained before that document is presented to the pope, who is newly able to promulgate it directly as an expression of his ordinary magisterium.

Neither “moral unanimity” nor “approval by the members” are defined in the document, nor are they technical terms in canon law. At the moment, the General Secretary is able to interpret them according to his own judgment, and is bound to seek “moral unanimity,” whatever he decides that to mean, only insofar as he judges it to be possible. While the document says that particular law can determine how approval is to be sought, that particular law is precisely what has not yet been issued.

Nevertheless, Baldisseri has given some indication of how he understands the idea of “moral unanimity.”

“It is a matter of achieving a consensus that clearly goes beyond 50 percent. However, there is no legal definition. Moral unanimity is not defined by numbers,” he said Sept. 17, according to La Croix International.

Baldisseri and other Vatican officials have declined to indicate how much more than 50 percent would indicate “moral unanimity” among the bishops.

In the absence of particular regulations, the General Secretary is no longer obliged to hold votes on modi proposed to the drafting committee, as he was under the policies of the 2006 norms.  He must now only hear from the discussion groups before deciding how to proceed, with a considerable amount of latitude.

Absent regulations to the contrary, the General Secretary is at liberty to conduct, for example, only one yea or nay vote on a final synod document prepared by the drafting committee, without opening the floor for debate, or holding votes on particular sections or proposals offered by the bishops.

Furthermore, because of the September document’s caveat that moral unanimity might be unobtainable, the General Secretary may consider the document to be approved with anything more than 50 percent of votes, regardless of whether the bishops are obviously divided on controversial questions. Subsequent to such a vote, he may present a document to the Holy Father for approval as a part of the Church’s ordinary magisterium.

The procedures used at the 2018 synod are likely to be used again at the 2019 Special Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region, and in synods subsequent to that as well.

Cardinal Wifrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, told CNA Oct. 13 that in his estimation, the synod is proceeding along the same course as the previous eight synods he has attended. He added that while he has trust in the synod process and in organizers, he is uncertain about how voting will work in the later stages of the meeting. Napier mentioned that the process used in past synods, the one governed by the 2006 norms, “worked quite well.”   

Although Pope Francis has technically abrogated them, it still seems reasonable that the pope might intend for the procedural norms established by prior law to largely govern the proceedings of this synod, even if Baldisseri’s remarks are decidedly more circumspect. Certainly, the meeting has proceeded to this point according to the ordinary way of doing things. But the synod fathers have good reason to seek clarity.

As Napier told CNA Saturday: “It’s when we get into the hall [for final deliberations] that I think that process still has to be explained to us more clearly.”

It seems unlikely that many synod fathers will be content with the ambiguous answers offered thus far by synod organizers. Few are likely to consider it fair if they are asked to continue working, getting closer to final deliberations, with no real understanding of the meeting’s rules. And observers, especially the pope’s critics, are likely to begin questioning the legitimacy of the synod’s proceedings if it is not governed by a clearly defined process.

It could also become a detriment to the credibility of the synod, and even the communion of the synod fathers, if voting rules were to become a point of division and rancor at the last minute. For those reasons, synod fathers may judge it better that norms be discussed and promulgated as soon as possible, so that the final deliberations are not clouded by discontment or confusion about the rules.

To some observers, the most critical issue is not just that the rules be clarified, but that those rules reflect a genuinely “synodal” approach to the assessment of recommendations to the pope.

Questions have been raised frequently during this synod about whether the final texts are already a fait accompli, devised mostly by curial officials before the meeting began, and likely to be passed with only very few modifications from the synod fathers. If the synod fathers are not permitted to vote on sections of the documents in isolation, or to meaningfully propose amendments, there will be an ongoing debate about whether the final texts reflect the authentic consensus of the synod fathers themselves. Pope Francis is likely eager to avoid such a debate.

Of course, doctrine isn’t determined democratically, and the function of this synod is only to advise. But some observers say that if the pope has convened the synod to hear the views of the participating bishops, taking a real measure of consensus should matter. It seems clear that if the pope wants to ensure he is getting advice from the synod hall, instead of from the permanent secretariat, he may decide to insist that Baldisseri take a meaningful measure of episcopal reactions to each aspect of the proposed synodal documents.

The bishops most in support of the pope’s efforts to reform the synod are likely to begin advocating for clarity, and for the regulations called for by the September document, as soon as possible. The promulgation of those regulations, along with open debate and the possibility for synod fathers to amend procedure by majority vote, would likely quell the critics who argue that the September norms make the synod a less democratic affair.

There is no norm in Episcopalis communio allowing for democratic objections to procedural law, unlike the 2006 synod norms that allowed for bishops to raise objections to procedures, and to resolve “questions of procedure” through the vote of an absolute majority. Still, it is reasonable to expect Pope Francis, who has been widely praised for active and collaborative engagement with the synod, to communicate the synod’s voting rules with enough time to allow for open and free discussion about them among the synod fathers.

When he established the synod of bishops, Pope Paul VI told bishops that his ministry depended upon the “consolation of their presence, the help of their wisdom and experience, the support of their counsel, and the voice of their authority.” In the week ahead, the wisdom and experience of the 2018 Synod of Bishops seems likely to be deployed to help the pope fairly and transparently govern the synod process itself.

Napier: Parishes should learn from youth synod, and synod should hear African voices

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 12:04 pm (CNA).- A prominent South African cardinal said Saturday that the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment can be a model for the way that Church leaders engage with youth in parishes and dioceses around the world.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durbin also called for revisions to a synod working document he called “Eurocentric,” saying that the synod’s work must take into account the situation of young people and the Church in other parts of the world, noting especially the needs of the Church in Africa.  

The bishops meeting for the Oct. 3-28 synod are not only talking “about young people, but we’re talking with them and to them,” Napier said at on Oct. 13 press conference. He praised the conributions of 34 young people invited by Pope Francis to be active participants in a meeting predominantly comprised of bishops.

The cardinal said that those young people are active participants in the synod, offering short speeches, called interventions, just as bishops do, and participating in the small discussion circles that will help to shape the synod’s final report.

“More important than just their being in the synod hall is their presence and participation in our small groups,” he said.

The cardinal said that this is the eighth time he has participated in a synod of bishops, and that the participation of young Catholics in this synod makes it a very different experience from those he has previously attended. He added that the “proactive involvement” of Pope Francis in the synod process has also made the experience unique.

Napier said that he hopes the active involvement of young people at the synod will become a model of the Church’s engagement with youth.

For most Catholics, “the daily face of the Church is the face of the priest.” For that reason, synod fathers should encourage parish priests to listen and actively engage young people in parish life and planning in the same way the synod has.

Napier also said that the synod’s working document is written from a "Eurocentric" perspective.

African delegates to the meeting, he said, should “present the African reality much more clearly from our perspective.”

He noted that the document does not sufficiently recognize the impact of mass migration from Africa on the continent’s countries. Africa is losing some of its most gifted young people to migration, he said, because of the exploitation of natural resources and the environment.

“Those who would have been living off the land are now unable to do so” so they migrate, he said, because of the effect of deforestation and aggressive mining techniques.

He also decried the economic conditions that lead to child labor in Africa, saying that because children are put to work at a young age, they “are not getting the education they need in order to have a good start at life.”

Because of corruption within many African governments, “this cycle of exploitation just continues.”

The cardinal said there is another African reality that is not reflected in the synod’s working document.

"While many young people in the West are leaving Jesus, or at least his Church, and they’re doing this for a variety of reasons…in Africa there is a very different kind of phenomenon and that is that young people are looking for Jesus and looking for answers to their problems” in the Church.

The growth of Christianity among young Africans, he said, has important lessons for more developed nations.

The Seven in Heaven: Meet the new saints to be canonized this weekend

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 06:00 am (ACI Prensa).- Meet the seven people Pope Francis will officially recognize as saints of the Catholic Church on Sunday.

Below are brief biographies on each of their lives, as well as photos of each saint's banner currently on display at the Vatican.

Blessed Pope Paul VI

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 and ordained a priest in 1920, he did graduate studies in literature, philosophy, and canon law in Rome before beginning to work for the Vatican Secretariat of State. In 1954, he was named Archbishop of Milan, and in 1958 was made a Cardinal by Pope John XXIII. As a Cardinal, he helped to arrange the Second Vatican Council and chose to continue the council after he became Pope.

Montini was elected as Pope Paul VI in 1963 at age 65, not long after the start of the second Vatican Council. This was a difficult time for the Church and for the world, as the “Sexual Revolution” was in full swing and the struggle for civil rights in the United States in particular was at its peak. Paul VI is perhaps most noted for his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which served as the Church’s official rebuke to artificial contraception, prohibiting its use.

Paul VI died in 1978 and Pope Francis beatified him in 2014.  

Blessed Oscar Romero

Born in 1917 in El Salvador, Romero was auxiliary bishop of San Salvador for four years before being elevated to Archbishop in 1977. He was an outspoken defender of the rights of the poor in El Salvador, who were being terrorized by right-wing military death squads mainly because of protests over the extreme economic inequality in the country in the 20th century.

His weekly homilies, broadcast across the country on radio, were a galvanizing force for the country’s poor as well as a reliable source of news. In addition to speaking out against the government’s actions El Salvador, he also criticized the US government for backing the military junta that seized El Salvador in 1979, and even wrote to Jimmy Carter in February 1980 asking him to stop supporting the repressive regime.

In March 1980, Romero was assassinated, likely by a right-wing death squad, while celebrating Mass.

Pope Francis beatified Romero in 2015.

Blessed Vincent Romano

Born in 1751 and ordained a priest in 1775, Romano had studied the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori and developed a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He spent his whole life as a priest in Torre del Greco and was known for his simple ways and his care for orphans. He worked to rebuild his parish, often with his bare hands, after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1794. He died in December 1831 of pneumonia and was beatified by Paul VI in 1963.

Blessed Francesco Spinelli

Born in Milan in 1853, Spinelli entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1875. He began his apostolate educating the poor and also served as a seminary professor, spiritual director, and counselor for several women's religious communities. In 1882, Fr. Spinelli met Caterina Comensoli, with whom he would found the Institute of the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. The sisters dedicated themselves to Eucharistic adoration day and night, which inspired their service to the poor and suffering.

He died in 1913. Today his institute has around 250 communities in Italy, Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Colombia, and Argentina. Their ministries include caring for people with HIV, orphans, drug addicts, and prisoners.

St. John Paul II beatified him in 1992.

Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio

Born in Pescosansonesco, Italy in 1817, Sulprizio lost both of his parents at age six and was brought up by an uncle who exploited him for hard labor. Fatigued and often given dangerous assignments, he developed gangrene and eventually lost his leg. Despite his tremendous suffering, he would reportedly make statements such as: “Jesus suffered a lot for me. Why should I not suffer for Him? I would die in order to convert even one sinner.”

He recovered from the gangrene and dedicated himself to helping other patients before his health deteriorated again. Sulprizio died of bone cancer in 1836, when he was only 19 years old.

Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1963.

Blessed Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa

Born in 1889 in Madrid, Spain, Nazaria was the fourth of 18 children. Growing up, her family was indifferent and sometimes even hostile to her desire to enter religious life, but later she led several family members back to the Church when she entered the Franciscan Third Order. Her family moved to Mexico in 1904, and Nazarie met sisters of the Institute of Sisters of the Abandoned Elders, who inspired her to join their order. In 1915, she chose to take perpetual vows with the order in Mexico City and was assigned to a hospice in Oruro, Bolivia for 12 years.

Beginning in 1920, she felt a call to found a new order dedicated to missionary work. In June 1925, she founded the Pontifical Crusade, later renamed the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church, with the mission to catechize children and adults, support the work of priests, conduct missions, and to print and distribute short religious tracts. Many opposed her work, but Nazaria pressed on. Her order cared for soldiers on both sides of the 1932-35 war between Paraguay and Bolivia, and she herself survived persecutions in Spain during the Spanish Civil war. She died in July 1943, and four years later Pope Pius XII finally granted papal approval to the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church, which by that time had spread throughout South America and begun work in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Cameroon.

Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1992.

Blessed Maria Katharina Kasper

Born in Dembach, Germany in 1820 as Catherine Kasper, she attended very little school because of poor health. Despite this, she began to help the poor, the abandoned, and the sick at a young age. Her mother taught her household chores, as well as how to spin and weave fabric. After her father died when she was 21, Catherine worked the land as a farm hand for about 10 cents a day. Her helpfulness toward others attracted other women to her, and she felt a call to the religious life, but knew she needed to stay and support her mother, who was in poor health.

After her mother died, Catherine started, with the approval of the bishop of Limburg, Germany, a small house with several friends who also felt the call. In 1851 she and four other women officially took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and formed the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Catherine, known in the religious community as Mother Mary, served five consecutive terms as superior of the house and continued to work with novices and to open houses for their order all over the world. Today there are 690 sisters in 104 houses in Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Mexico and India.

She died of a heart attack in February 1898, and Pope Paul VI beatified her in 1978.


All photos, Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

American pastor released in Turkey after years in detention

Ankara, Turkey, Oct 12, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A Turkish court has released Pastor Andrew Brunson after two years’ detention, leaving him free to return to the United States. The court declared him free to leave on Oct. 12.

Pastor Brunson, a 50-year-old member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, has lived in Turkey for over 20 years. He has led a small congregation in the city of Izmir.

The pastor, a native of North Carolina, spoke before the court decision, saying “I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” Reuters reports.

He had been detained for two years on terrorism and espionage-related charges. The charges concerned alleged links both with Kurdish militants and with backers of the imam Fethullah Gulen, whose movement Turkish authorities blame for a 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey is seeking Gulen’s extradition from the U.S., and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan once suggested Brunson be swapped with Gulen.

Both Brunson and U.S. officials said the charges against him were false. In July Turkish officials moved Brunson to house arrest for health reasons, and he lived at home with his wife Norine.

His cause had significant support from the Trump administration and other political leaders.

“I am overjoyed that Pastor Andrew Brunson is finally free from his cruel and unjust imprisonment and house arrest, and is coming home safely to the U.S.,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and co-chairs the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

“For almost two years he was the victim of efforts by President Erdogan and the Turkish state to crack down on religious freedom as he languished in prison—and was then transferred to house arrest in July—on absurd charges of espionage and supporting a terrorist group, while his family suffered enormously,” Smith said.

Witnesses had told the court that testimony attributed to them was inaccurate.

The pastor was convicted in a Turkish court on Friday of aiding terrorism but instead of facing a sentence of three years or longer, he was sentenced to time served due to good behavior. The court ordered his immediate release.

U.S. officials said they had reached an agreement with Turkey’s government to secure his release.

Ismail Cem Halavurt, Brunson’s defense attorney, said the pastor was going to leave the country but added “I hope he is able to come back.”

“He is someone who absolutely loves Turkey,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

Halavurt said Brunson will spend two days in Germany before returning to the U.S.

Brunson’s case has been a priority of the Trump administration, which imposed sanctions on Turkey to try to secure his freedom. The diplomatic tensions over the pastor’s treatment have been blamed for a sell-off against the Turkish currency in international markets, which in turn worsened Turkey’s financial crisis.

Other U.S.-Turkey tensions include differences over Syria and Iran and the Turkish government’s planned purchase of military equipment from Russia.

His release comes head of the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, and white Evangelical Christians are a key part of the Republican base.

U.S. President Donald Trump mentioned the pastor several times on Twitter on Friday, finally announcing “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!"

Trump’s sentiments were echoed by Vice President Mike Pence.

“We thank God for answered prayers,” Pence said on Twitter Oct. 12. He praised the efforts of the U.S. State Department to help the pastor and his family.

Rep. Smith praised those who worked successfully for Brunson’s release.

“The United States must now hold the perpetrators of his unjust imprisonment accountable by maintaining and strengthening targeted sanctions on complicit Turkish officials,” he said.

U.S. officials had sought a release of Brunson that included others detained in Turkey: Serkan Golge, a Turkish-American scientist, as well as three Turkish citizens who had been employed at U.S. diplomatic missions, the New York Times reports.

U.S. bishops hope Wuerl’s resignation is a step toward healing

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several U.S. bishops responding to the official resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. expressed hope Friday that the decision would bring healing for survivors of clerical abuse.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Wuerl Oct. 12, while asking the cardinal to continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington on an interim basis until a permanent successor is appointed.

The Pope received a personal request from Wuerl to accept his resignation on Sept. 21, and officially accepted it during the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Cardinal Wuerl has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

Though Wuerl has denied wrongdoing, he said in September that he would ask Francis to accept his resignation “so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh issued a statement expressing hope that the Cardinal’s resignation would bring healing to victims of abuse.

“For as long as I have known Cardinal Wuerl, he has advocated for those within the church [sic] and beyond who need the opportunity for a better life,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “I pray that the acceptance of his resignation today by Pope Francis will continue to bring about healing in the hearts and lives of victims of abuse and all those in the Church.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington thanked Wuerl for his nearly 52 years of service as a priest and offered prayers for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I convey my prayerful support to His Eminence and to all the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Burbidge wrote in a statement.

“At this time in the life of our Church, all bishops are called, as Cardinal Wuerl has done, to acknowledge any failure to protect God’s children, to express deepest apologies to victims of sexual abuse and to renew our commitment to assist them in their healing process in any way possible,” he added.

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles was asked about Wuerl’s resignation at an Oct. 12 Vatican press conference.

“I know Cardinal Wuerl; I think he discerned something in good conscience...I'm sure he did what he felt was right for the good of the Church, and I'm sure that the Pope saw it from that perspective too,” Barron said. “So that is all I can really say at the moment.”

The Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report detailing decades of abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses put Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 to 2006, under close scrutiny.

Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made against them.

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.


A synod summary from the Polish synod fathers – Oct 12

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment is being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28.

CNA plans to provide a brief daily summary of the sessions, provided by the synodal fathers from Poland.

Please find below the Polish fathers' summary of the Oct. 12 session:

The themes discussed today were oriented by the search for general concepts that could give a new meaning to the entire document. Among them, that of the family appeared.

“It is necessary to write a new document, based on the Instrumentum Laboris,”  said the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, summing up this day of the Synod’s work in discussion groups.

“The family is an institution that resembles the Church. The Church as a family must constantly accompany Her children. Just as no two vocations are ever exactly alike, but all are different, so too parents, in relation to their children, have to ask each day what they should do to bring them up well, to lead them to the fullness of the life towards which faith is advancing,” emphasized Archbishop Gądecki.

The family’s role in the life and the discernment of the young person’s vocation was also highlighted by Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, who recalled that, according to the values declared by Polish youth, it is precisely the family which is the most important factor.

“Young people esteem the family in itself and if they are helped to understand the family’s value, then starting from it, one can lead them to faith, to God, who is the Creator of the family. We want to lead young people not only to truly live their youth but to discover Jesus Christ. In order to reach Him, one must first meet them in places that are important to them. Such places are friendship, work, freedom, and the family, which comes first,” said Archbishop Ryś.

Archbishop Ryś also spoke about the question of vocations.

“A vocation, in the broad sense, touches the eternal design of God in relation to every human being. Speaking about vocations, we want to say, first of all, that every person is needed and is eternally wanted by God, that God needs everyone. The fact of coming into being is accompanied by a call, that is a vocation.”

The head of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Gądecki, also noted that, in the course of today’s work, attention was drawn to the fact that the document lacks an acknowledgement that in order for it to be Christian, a young person’s calling must necessarily be connected with the cross.

Too often an excessively light vision of the lives of young people is presented, one which omits their worries and their engagement with the transcendental.

Eastern European bishops want a focus on Eucharist, fatherhood in Youth Synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2018 / 03:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Eastern European bishops asked the Synod of Bishops in Rome for a greater focus on the importance of the Eucharist, the liturgy and fatherhood in the final Synod document during their interventions this week. 

These issues were raised by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk Belarus and Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics of Riga, Latvia at the synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28. Synod fathers periodically have the opportunity to give interventions lasting 3-5 minutes. 

In his prepared intervention on Oct. 10, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz asked the Synod fathers to emphasize the importance and centrality of the Eucharist in the final document.
Referencing the the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz noted that though the document has “great pastoral value,” it mentions the Eucharist only twice and the sacraments only eight times.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that Eucharist is fundamental to the Catholic faith, and gave an example of how the Eucharist has drawn Belarusian youth deeper into their faith.  

Because Belarus borders the Baltic States, Belarusan youth traveled to Lithuania and Latvia to take part in the recent Papal visit on Sept. 22-25. 
The Archbishop recalled that 2,000 Belarusian faithful, half of them young people, traveled to Pope Francis’ Mass in Kaunas Sep. 23, while only 500 took part to the meeting with the youth scheduled in Vilnius Sep. 22.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that those young people recognized the importance of the Mass, as well as of meeting the Holy Father. 
He added that the Church needs not just “horizontal efforts...we need vertical efforts,” meaning that the Church must not only be “a comfortable place for everyone, it must above all be a place of strong spiritual formation.”
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz also remarked on the need to give more value to spiritual things in the final document, and backed those who raised the issue of the importance of liturgy.
“We should always remember that liturgy is source and climax of Christian life, and at the same time we must recognize that we lost this truth, and celebrations of Eucharist are turned into theater,” he said. 
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz underscored that “our duty, as shepherds, is to revive the true spirit and beauty of liturgy,” and voiced his support for the proposal that the Congregation for the Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments draft a new document on the importance of adherence to liturgical norms.

“Young people admire good liturgy, and our duty is to fulfil their wish,” he said. 
Fatherhood was the center of Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics’ intervention during the first week of the Synod. Though his intervention received much consensus, the issue was not included in the minor circles reports.
Archbishop Stankevics noted that fathers are crucial for the transmission of the faith, as “data show that when a father is seriously involved in faith issue, there is a 75 percent probability that (his) children will follow him, while when only the mother is involved in the faith, there is just a 15 percent chance that (her) children will follow.”
Likewise, “when a mother converts, the family converts after her in 17 percent of cases, while when a father converts, the family will convert in 93 percent of cases.”
Archbishop Stankevics said that Catholics must look past the “stereotype that education to faith must be entrusted to mother,” as “in God’s plan, man defends (his family) not only from concrete dangers, but also from spiritual and ideological dangers.”

Therefore, he said, “it is the father’s task to care for his family’s relationship with God and encourage (his) wife and children in practicing the faith.