This Wednesday, August 15 is a special day for Catholics!

This coming Wednesday, August 15, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Be sure to tune-in to the podcast on Real Presence Radio https://yourcatholicradiostation.com/real-presence-live-podcasts to listen to an interview with Bishop John M. LeVoir talking about why this day is a Holy Day of Obligation and what it means for Mary to have been assumed into Heaven by God.

Real Presence Radio is the only Catholic radio station in the Diocese of New Ulm.

 

President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Issues Statement on Course of Action Responding to Moral Failures of Judgement on the Part of Church Leaders

August 1, 2018

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement noting the steps the U.S. Bishops Conference will take in addressing the failures of the Church in protecting the people of God.    

Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:

“The accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick reveal a grievous moral failure within the Church. They cause bishops anger, sadness, and shame; I know they do in me. They compel bishops to ask, as I do, what more could have been done to protect the People of God.  Both the abuses themselves, and the fact that they have remained undisclosed for decades, have caused great harm to people’s lives and represent grave moral failures of judgement on the part of Church leaders.

These failures raise serious questions. Why weren’t these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to Church officials? Why wasn’t this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?

Archbishop McCarrick will rightly face the judgement of a canonical process at the Holy See regarding the allegations against him, but there are also steps we should be taking as the Church here in the United States. Having prayed about this, I have convened the USCCB Executive Committee.  This meeting was the first of many among bishops that will extend into our Administrative Committee meeting in September and our General Assembly in November. All of these discussions will be oriented toward discerning the right course of action for the USCCB. This work will take some time but allow me to stress these four points immediately.

First, I encourage my brother bishops as they stand ready in our local dioceses to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the Church.  We should do whatever we can to accompany them.

Second, I would urge anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the Church to come forward.  Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement.

Third, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority.  One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.

Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.

Let us pray for God’s wisdom and strength for renewal as we follow St. Paul’s instruction: ‘Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).”

President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Statement Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

July 25, 2018

WASHINGTON — In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement. Originally published in 1968, Blessed Paul VI's letter promotes the whole human person in the context of marital love that respects both the spiritual and physical dimensions of man and woman, which is faithful, generous, and life-giving.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Fifty years ago, today, Blessed Paul VI issued the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. In it, he reaffirmed the beautiful truth that a husband and wife are called to give themselves completely to each other. Marriage reflects the love of God, which is faithful, generous, and life-giving. Through their vocation, spouses cooperate with God by being open to new human life.

Blessed Paul VI, who bore the criticism of Humanae Vitae with charity and patience, courageously affirmed that when we love as God designed, we experience true freedom and joy. He has also been proven correct in his warnings about the consequences of ignoring the true meaning of married love.

On this anniversary, I encourage all to read and prayerfully reflect upon this Encyclical, and be open to the gift of its timeless truths.

We wait in joyful anticipation for the canonization of Paul VI in October.”

For more information and resources on Humanae Vitae, please visit www.usccb.org/HV50.

WATCH VIDEO! Minnesota Knights of Columbus deliver wheelchairs to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala

SAN LUCAS TOLIMAN, GUATEMALA - The Minnesota Knights of Columbus and the Global Wheelchair Mission have teamed up to help bring wheelchairs to those who lack freedom of mobility.

On May 30, 2018, a small group from the Minnesota Knights of Columbus arrived at the Mission in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, to distribute 280 wheelchairs the group had donated. They spent a week distributing wheelchairs at Hospital Monseñor Gregorio Schaffer and made home deliveries to those who were unable to travel to the hospital. 

Group member Joe Konrardy said, "It was an honor to provide these wheelchairs as a gift from the Minnesota Knights of Columbus. We hope that they will allow many people and their families to have a better life through the gift of mobility."

The Global Wheelchair Mission purchases wheelchairs in bulk and delivers them by sea containers around the world.

They are distributed with the help of numerous non-governmental organizations, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis Clubs, and now the Knights of Columbus.

In 2003, the Knights of Columbus began participating in the Global Wheelchair Mission and sponsored 2,000 wheelchairs to be distributed in Afghanistan. Since then, Knights in the United States and Canada have sponsored the distribution of more than 57,000 wheelchairs in Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Oman, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, the United States, Canada and Vietnam.

“It’s not just a matter of politics, it’s a matter of humanity." Bishops sought to share journey with migrants, not join political fray

--------------------------
On July 1, 2018, a delegation of prelates from around the country physically stepped into the ground zero of the immigration debate when they arrived in the Brownsville-McAllen area near the southern border to meet with those affected by the policy.
"This is a sign that the bishops of the United States are concerned about the situation and the circumstances affecting people, not just those who live in Brownsville but all along the border," said the local bishop, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville during a July 1 interview with Catholic News Service. "This is a moment to completely understand the reality of the situation, to meet, speak with people who are living this reality. It's a message for the church." Watch video.

By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) — The journey for many of the new migrants entering the U.S. near the border town of McAllen involves a mix of hardship and blessings.

Having made the treacherous trip through the desert landscape and across the border, the lucky ones find themselves welcomed with food, water and human warmth at a Catholic-run humanitarian center in downtown McAllen.

But having just conquered the life-changing crossing, many of the migrants also find themselves immediately facing an unknown world and future ahead.

Though many bishops come to know many immigrants in the dioceses where they serve, except for the bishops along the border, few prelates witness that initial phase of the immigration journey that a group of bishops was privy to in early July.

They fed and spoke with a group of newly arrived immigrants to the U.S. at a Catholic Charities center and visited the controversial facilities where migrant children and teens have gotten their first taste of the U.S. — in detention — while temporarily separated from family. The bishops gave them rosaries and Bibles following a Mass they celebrated at one of the centers.

With their actions of charity and faith, they inserted themselves into the heart of the radioactive immigration debate the United States is experiencing, and one in which some Catholics remain aligned with political party ideology rather than with what the church is saying on the topic.

The way the bishops see it, they were simply answering the call of Pope Francis, to “share the journey,” a campaign started in September 2017 that called on Catholics and people of goodwill around the world to spend time with migrants, to come face to face with them, perhaps serve them in some fashion and hear their story.

Caritas Internationalis kicked off the campaign internationally last year and it is being promoted in the U.S. by groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services.

“The journey ahead is still a tough journey, a difficult journey,” said Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Rockville Centre, New York, one of the prelates on the trip.

The migrants have to settle in, find work, learn the language and, in some cases, face “the biases,” he said.

“There’s always that fear,” Bishop Brennan said in a July 1 interview with Catholic News Service after the visit to the respite center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen. “I know it’s not easy, but I think the people I met today are driven by a sense of a hope-filled future. They want to build their lives up, they want to provide for their families. The children are actually looking forward to school.”

Bishop Brennan, along with USCCB president Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, took part in the visit to the center, along with local Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Aviles, also of the Brownsville Diocese. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles joined the group July 2 and celebrated Mass at one of the facilities with the children and teens.

To explain the situation to Catholics and others opposed to the presence of the migrants and to how they entered the country, Bishop Brennan said he focuses on the humanity of the situation. But it is important to listen to all sides of the situation, he said.

“Even people who would want to be tougher on the (immigrants), we all share that sense of humanity,” said Bishop Brennan. “I think there is compassion, but we have to acknowledge people’s fears and acknowledge them as valid. We have to start meeting everyone where they are and recognizing those fears and concerns.”

The border between the U.S. and Mexico is divided by this tall fence in Hidalgo, Texas, shown in a July 3 photo. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

There are solutions to bring about security at the border in ways that are humane and that’s what Bishop Brennan said he wants to get across. And those who may be voicing their stance against the migrants, “they’re not heartless,” Bishop Brennan said, but they might be reacting to other factors.

“You see chaos in the world around you and that worries you and that’s why the bishops have been so strong about comprehensive immigration reform, it’s not just fancy words,” he said. “We have to look at the whole picture and when we look at the whole picture, it’s not as complicated as it seems.”

Seeing the whole picture involves talking to some of the immigrants, he said.

Bishop Bambera said he heard repeatedly from those he met in Texas about the fear they were facing and the urgency to leave to protect their lives or the lives of their children from imminent danger. It was a story repeated, too, to Cardinal DiNardo, when he spoke with the recent arrivals.

His hope, Cardinal DiNardo said in July 2 interview with CNS, was to “let all Catholics in our country know that we welcome immigrants. … You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue and the church stands with those at the margins.

For the bishops, whose actions and words are amplified and often publicly scrutinized, “sharing the journey” when it comes to immigration meant sharing a story that some in their flock resist hearing because of the political rhetoric surrounding the issue. But the prelates tried to direct the attention away from the politics of it and directed it toward its human cost and why the church cares about it.

“It’s not just a matter of politics, it’s a matter of humanity,” said Archbishop Gomez during a July 2 news conference closing the prelates visit.

The origin of the trip began in early June when Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, called on his fellow bishops at a meeting in Florida to organize the visit to the border “as a sign of our pastoral concern and protest against this hardening of the American heart,” a phrase he has used to refer to the anti-immigrant atmosphere and harsh sentiments toward immigrants in the country.

At that time, the Trump administration had just implemented a policy separating migrant children from parents, if they were caught crossing the border illegally. The Trump administration has since rescinded the policy but some of those who were separated remain apart and authorities were scrambling to reunite those who were separated.

Regardless of the political implications, some like Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, maintain that the life and death implications and damage to families by the Trump administration’s policies merits the involvement of the church.

“The visit to the border was an important step, but bishops across the country need to be loud and clear that President Trump and his administration should not prosecute asylum-seekers who are fleeing for their lives, detain them indefinitely, and deny them due process protections,” he said. “This is a moment in which the Catholic community should be united in their opposition to the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, as it undermines family unity, a core principle of Catholic teaching.”

Copyright ©2018 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Send questions about this site to cns@catholicnews.com

Pope Francis denounces silence in the face of injustice towards migrants

By Courtney Grogan

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis called on Catholics to speak out in the face of injustice towards migrants at a Mass commemorating the fifth anniversary of his trip to Lampedusa at St. Peter’s Basilica July 6.

“The Lord promises refreshment and freedom to all the oppressed of our world, but he needs us to fulfill his promise . . . He needs our voice to protest the injustices committed thanks to the silence, often complicit, of so many,” said Pope Francis in his homily at the Mass for Migrants.

According to Francis, the silence is multifaceted. He spoke of “the silence that thinks ‘it has always been done this way’” and “the silence of ‘us’ as opposed to ‘you’” among the “many silences.”

“Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy,” the pope continued, calling for migration policies “concerned for the good of one’s own country, while taking into account that of others in an ever more interconnected world.”

The pope stressed that a just migration policy is one at the service of “every person involved,” meaning it is “a policy that provides for solutions that can ensure security, respect for the rights and dignity of all.”

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Amos, Pope Francis said, “How many of the poor are trampled on in our day! . . .  Among them, I cannot fail to include the migrants and refugees who continue to knock at the door of nations that enjoy greater prosperity.”

Both refugees and their caregivers attended the Mass marking five years since the pope’s visit to Lampedusa, an Italian island 90 miles from the coast of Tunisia. The island serves as the first destination for many African migrants en route to Europe.

Pope Francis prayed for those who died in the attempt to get to Lampedusa by boat from Africa. Over 20,000 people have lost their lives trying to reach the island in the past 30 years.

Part of the pope’s homily was given in Spanish because he said he wanted to speak directly to the people of Spain, who have rescued many migrants from the Mediterranean Sea.

In June, Spain welcomed a boat with more than 600 migrants after the humanitarian vessel had been denied entry in Italy. SOS Mediterranée and Doctors Without Borders operated the boat that had rescued migrants on small vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.

Pope Francis compared Spain’s efforts to the parable of the Good Samaritan, noting that the Good Samaritan did not ask the beaten man along the path for “his reasons for traveling or his documents... he simply decided to care for him and save his life.”

The pope repeated again words he spoke in Lampedusa during his July 2013 visit recalling the victims lost at sea:

‘‘Where is your brother? His blood cries out to me’, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us.”

Chairmen of U.S. Bishops’ Migration Committee and Religious Liberty Committee Express Disappointment with Supreme Court’s Ruling in Travel Ban Case

June 27, 2018

WASHINGTON—On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Trump v. Hawaii, which involves a challenge to President Donald Trump’s Proclamation No. 9645 restricting travel from several predominantly Muslim-majority countries.  The Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling upheld the travel ban.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, issued the following joint statement:

“The travel ban targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country’s core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.  We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling because it failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government.  The Catholic Church takes a strong stand against religious discrimination, and we will continue to advocate for the rights of people of all faiths, as well as serve migrants and refugees through our various ministries.”

The USCCB, Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court advocating that the travel ban be struck down as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  The full text of the brief is available online: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/usccb-scotus-amicus-brief-20180330-as-filed.pdf

Bishop LeVoir announces new pastoral assignments; two retirements

At the recommendation of the Priests Personnel Board, Bishop John M. LeVoir has made the following appointments:

Effective April 18, 2018
Dcn. Michael McKeown appointed to exercise the ministry of permanent deacon at the Church of St. Mary in Sleepy Eye and to assist in the Divine Mercy Area Faith Community under the direction of Msgr. Eugene Lozinski.

Effective June 26, 2018
Sr. JoAnne Backes, OSB, to retire from ministry as pastoral administrator and return to her Benedictine community in St. Joseph, Minn.
 

Fr. Anthony Hesse appointed pastor of the Church of St. John in Morton and the Church of St. Catherine in Redwood Falls, in addition to his current duties as pastor of the Light of the World Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Lucan, the Church of St. Mary in Seaforth, the Church of St. Anne in Wabasso, and the Church of St. Mathias in Wanda.

Fr. Jeffrey Horejsi appointed pastor of the Shepherd of Souls Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. John in Darwin, the Church of St. Philip in Litchfield (including the Church of St. Gertrude in Forest City), and the Church of Our Lady in Manannah.

Fr. Dennis Labat appointed parochial vicar (senior associate pastor) of the Our Lady of the Prairie Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Michael in Milroy, the Church of St. Mary in Tracy, and the Church of St. Paul in Walnut Grove, and the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Marshall in the Bread of Life Area Faith Community.

Msgr. Eugene Lozinski appointed pastor of the Church of St. Paul in Comfrey and the Church of the Japanese Martyrs in Leavenworth, in addition to his current duties as pastor of the other parishes in the Divine Mercy Area Faith Community, the Oratory of St. Joseph in Clements (canonical), the Church of St. Michael in Morgan, and the Church of St. Mary in Sleepy Eye, and chancellor of the Diocese of New Ulm.

Fr. Mark Mallak appointed parochial vicar (senior associate pastor) of the Church of St. Michael in Milroy and the Church of St. Mary in Tracy in the Our Lady of the Prairie Area Faith Community, and the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Marshall in the Bread of Life Area Faith Community, with responsibilities for the Spanish Mass in Marshall and Hispanic ministry.

Fr. Gerald Meidl appointed parochial vicar (senior associate pastor) of the Holy Cross Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Gregory the Great in Lafayette, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm, the Church of St. Mary in New Ulm, the Church of St. John the Baptist in Searles, and the Church of St. George in West Newton Township.

Fr. Robert Mraz appointed parochial vicar (senior associate pastor) of the Light of the World Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Lucan, the Church of St. Mary in Seaforth, the Church of St. Anne in Wabasso, and the Church of St. Mathias in Wanda, and the Church of St. John in Morton and the Church of St. Catherine in Redwood Falls.

Fr. Bruno Santiago, OSB, appointed parochial administrator of the All Saints Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Andrew in Fairfax, the Church of the Sacred Heart in Franklin, the Church of St. Willibrord in Gibbon, and the Church of St. Francis de Sales in Winthrop.

Fr. Paul Schumacher to retire from full-time active ministry and stay living in the rectory at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Winsted, while providing limited pastoral assistance as needed.

Fr. Mark Steffl appointed pastor of the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Marshall in the Bread of Life Area Faith Community, and the Our Lady of the Prairie Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Michael in Milroy, the Church of St. Mary in Tracy, and the Church of St. Paul in Walnut Grove.

Fr. Joseph Steinbeisser appointed pastor of the Heart of Jesus Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Mary in Bird Island, the Church of St. John in Hector, the Church of St. Aloysius in Olivia, and the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Renville.

Fr. Craig Timmerman appointed pastor of the Church of St. James in Dawson, in addition to his current duties as pastor of the other parishes in the Good Teacher Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Peter in Canby, the Church of St. Eloi in Ghent, the Church of St. Edward in Minneota, and the Church of St. Leo in St. Leo, and assistant director of the diocesan Office of Vocations.

Fr. Paul Wolf appointed pastor of the Church of St. Anastasia in Hutchinson and the Church of St. Boniface in Stewart, with responsibilities in the St. John Paul II Area Faith Community, which includes the Church of St. Pius X in Glencoe, the Church of the Holy Family in Silver Lake, and the Church of the Holy Trinity in Winsted.

 

 

 

 

 

Archdiocese reaches joint reorganization plan; $210 million for survivors largest settlement of its kind

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has reached a consensual plan with a committee representing clergy sexual abuse survivors to resolve its bankruptcy, offering $210 million for restitution to claimants. The settlement is the largest ever reached in a bankruptcy case related to clergy sex abuse.

by Maria Wiering - Catholic Spirit

"By means of this consensual plan, the archdiocese and its parishes bring definitive resolution to this matter in a way that avoids further litigation and expense, and that allows the local Church to carry on with its mission of spreading and living the Gospel Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda during an afternoon press conference announcing the agreement May 31 at the archdiocese’s central offices in St. Paul.

Archbishop Hebda expressed gratitude for the survivors who have come forward.

“Without their courage and persistence, today could not be possible,” he said. “I’ve been humbled by their willingness to share their stories with me. To those of you who have done so, I thank you for that gift. I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you — your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases, your faith. Relationships with family and friends, relationships in your parishes and communities were harmed. Lives were forever changed. The Church let you down, and I’m very sorry.”

At an earlier press conference May 31, St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented most of the abuse survivors, also announced the settlement, calling it “a story of trauma to triumph.”

“This is some affirmation, as well as accountability,” he said of the plan while standing with several sexual abuse survivors, their advocates and other attorneys, many of whom wiped away tears throughout the press conference. “This all represents hope, help, healing, and … courage in the pursuit of truth.”

Speaking at Anderson’s press conference, Jamie Heutmaker, a survivor who is part of the Unsecured Creditors Committee, which represents survivors in the bankruptcy process, expressed his gratitude for people who have supported him in the nearly five decades since he was abused.

“Today is a great day for us and all survivors,” he said. “There’s still work to be done, but we’ve obviously done some really good work here, which I’m really proud of.”

The consensual plan includes more than $50 million in increased funding from the archdiocese’s previous plan of reorganization, which offered $156 million for restitution. The additional funds came from insurers, archdiocesan funds and parish contributions. The approximately $170 million contribution from insurers is the largest contribution from insurance carriers in the history of Catholic bankruptcy settlements, according to Anderson’s office.

Pending court approval, the plan’s $210,290,724 settlement, minus administrative expenses including unpaid attorneys’ fees, will be administered for survivor restitution through an independent trustee. As part of the plan, parishes will receive a channeling injunction which ends all litigation against them arising from this matter.

The funds will be available for distribution upon its approval by Judge Robert Kressel, who is overseeing the archdiocese’s bankruptcy proceedings.

Archdiocesan leaders hope the bankruptcy can be completely resolved within a matter of months.

Lengthy process

The consensual plan was the result of years of mediation between the archdiocese, insurers, parishes and representatives of survivors. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in January 2015 amid mounting claims of clergy sexual abuse going back decades against priests and others associated with the Church in the archdiocese. Archdiocesan leaders said reorganization would ensure abuse survivors would be equitably compensated while the archdiocese continued its mission. Mediation began immediately.

In May 2016, the archdiocese filed a plan of reorganization, initially offering $65 million for abuse survivor remuneration. Over the following months, that amount increased to $156 million, primarily through additional insurance company settlements.

As part of its bankruptcy, the archdiocese sold its three chancery buildings on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, as well as a fourth property it owned near Northfield. It later moved its offices to St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood to rental property.

In August 2016, the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee filed a separate plan for the archdiocese’s reorganization, asserting that the assets of 187 parishes in the archdiocese’s boundaries, three Catholic high schools and the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota should be merged with the archdiocese’s assets in a plan for reorganization. Kressel later ruled that the other organizations’ assets did not legally require consolidation. The UCC appealed the ruling twice, but it was upheld by the U.S. District Court in December 2016 and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2018.

While 11 other U.S. dioceses had filed for bankruptcy related to claims of clergy sexual abuse between 2004 and the archdiocese’s filing, the archdiocese’s reorganization was the first to include competing plans. In March 2017, both plans were sent to creditors, including abuse claimants, for a balloting vote. Abuse claimants voted overwhelmingly for the UCC plan, while other claimants voted overwhelmingly for the archdiocese’s plan. The decision for plan approval ultimately rested with Kressel.

In December 2017, Kressel denied both plans and ordered the archdiocese and UCC to return to mediation with the goal of reaching a consensual plan. In a memorandum explaining his decision, Kressel expressed concern about the eight abuse claimants who had died between then and when the archdiocese entered bankruptcy in January 2015, and about others who might die as the reorganization process “drags on.”

The archdiocese, insurance carriers, parish representatives and UCC returned to mediation, ultimately arriving at the consensual plan May 30.

Speaking at the archdiocese’s press conference, Tom Abood, chairman of the Archdiocesan Finance Council and the Reorganization Task Force, said that arriving at the consensual plan required more than18 full days of in-person mediation before final arrangements could be directly negotiated. He said the proposed plan would be finalized within the next several days, “turning this agreement into definitive documentation for Judge Kressel’s consideration.”

“We will do everything we can to bring this to a formal conclusion as soon as possible,” he said.

Besides the archdiocese, 14 U.S. dioceses and two religious orders have filed for bankruptcy as a result of abuse claims. Among them are the Minnesota dioceses of Duluth and New Ulm. Bishop Donald Kettler of St. Cloud announced in February that his diocese plans to file for bankruptcy in the future.

Focus on survivors, protecting children

During the archdiocese’s bankruptcy process, 453 people — 342 men and 111 women — filed sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese, according to Kressel’s December 2017 memorandum. Most claims were against priests, but some were also against religious brothers and sisters, deacons, and lay teachers and coaches. More than 67 percent of claims were from the 1960s and 1970s. Twenty people claimed they were abused in 1990 or later, with three claims of abuse that occurred after 2010.

In 2013, the Minnesota State Legislature passed the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which lifted for three years the statute of limitations on sexual abuse civil suits. In December 2013, the archdiocese disclosed the names of 34 priests with abuse claims against them; 30 of the claims had been substantiated. At that time, the archdiocese was facing 14 lawsuits involving 23 claimants alleging they were abused as a minor by a clergy member who at one time had an assignment in the archdiocese.

As of May 31, 2018, the archdiocese has listed 61 priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor within the archdiocese. It also lists others who have served in the archdiocese with substantiated claims of sexual abuse elsewhere.

Among the first group’s names is Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest of the archdiocese who sexually abused three brothers in 2010-11 while assigned to Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. He was dismissed from the clerical state in 2015 and is incarcerated in Wisconsin for charges related to the abuse. In June 2015, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filed civil and criminal charges against the archdiocese, alleging it failed to protect children in the Wehmeyer case.

Ten days later, Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché resigned their leadership in the archdiocese, citing the need to give the archdiocese a new beginning amid its challenges. That day, Pope Francis named Archbishop Bernard Hebda to oversee the archdiocese as an apostolic administrator, later naming him its permanent archbishop.

The RCAO and the archdiocese reached a settlement agreement on the civil charges in December 2015, resulting in the archdiocese fulfilling certain child protection obligations under the ongoing oversight of the RCAO. At the time, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi called the mandated child safety policies “unprecedented,” and, according to the archdiocese, they continue to be the national standard for protecting children and vulnerable adults.

In June 2016, the RCAO dropped the criminal charges against the archdiocese and amended the settlement agreement. The archdiocese’s ongoing child protection efforts are being executed in collaboration with the RCAO and are reviewed every six months by a Ramsey County judge. At each review, the judge has found the archdiocese substantially compliant with the agreement, which includes routine audits of parishes employing safe environment procedures and protocols. At the most recent review in January 2018, the judge said she saw examples of the archdiocese “not only honoring the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement.”

Instrumental to the archdiocese’s child protection efforts has been its Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment under the direction of Judge Tim O’Malley, who was hired to structure the fledgling office in 2014. He has worked closely with Choi, other RCAO officials and law enforcement as the archdiocese has implemented and adhered to its safe environment policies. During his press conference, Anderson commended O’Malley and his colleague, former Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension head Michael Campion, saying that their internal reviews “have never before been done in that way, with that kind of rigor.”

During the archdiocese’s press conference, Archbishop Hebda thanked Kressel; attorneys, including Anderson and his colleague Mike Finnegan, and the archdiocese’s attorneys at Minneapolis-based Briggs and Morgan; Magistrate Arthur Boylan and Paul Van Osselaer, mediators in the bankruptcy process; and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the archdiocese’s priests, faithful, staff and volunteers, including Abood.

The resolution of the bankruptcy means another step toward providing justice to survivors, Archbishop Hebda said, but he emphasized that the archdiocese’s work to protect children is not complete.

“While today marks the end of a very difficult period for many, today really signals a new beginning,” he said. “The completion of the bankruptcy process allows pursuit of a new day that has many realities — atonement, healing and restoration of trust.”

He later added: “I sure hope that for those who have been harmed in the past, that this brings closure for them. We’ve been working with them really carefully to try to formulate this [plan] in a way that benefits them to the maximum. I’m hoping that it will. I know they’ve taken great comfort from the fact that we’ve done so much to do everything that we can to prevent that from happening to another young person. For most of the survivors I’ve met, that’s the No. 1 goal that they have — making sure that what happened to them never happens to another young person.”

In his comments, Abood thanked Archbishop Hebda for his leadership during the bankruptcy process.

“He set our course in this matter, he immersed himself in the detail, he kept us focused on a fair and just resolution to this matter,” he said. “He never lost sight of the objective of moving towards a day, another step toward healing, for both survivors and the Church.”

Pope to canonize Blesseds Paul VI, Oscar Romero in Rome Oct. 14

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will declare Blesseds Oscar Romero, Paul VI and four others saints Oct. 14 at the Vatican during the meeting of the world Synod of Bishops, an institution Blessed Paul revived.

The date was announced May 19 during an “ordinary public consistory,” a meeting of the pope, cardinals and promoters of sainthood causes that formally ends the sainthood process.

During the consistory, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, formally petitioned the pope “to enroll in due course among the saints” six candidates for canonization “for the glory of God and the good of the whole church.”

Each of the candidates, the cardinal told the pope, gave “a convinced and coherent witness to the Lord Jesus. Their example continues to enlighten the church and the world in accordance with the perspective of mercy that your Holiness never ceases to indicate and propose.”

Briefly giving a biographical sketch of the candidates, Cardinal Amato said that during El Salvador’s civil war, Archbishop Romero, “outraged at seeing the violence against the weak and the killing of priests and catechists, felt the need to assume an attitude of fortitude. On March 24, 1980, he was killed while celebrating the Mass.”

Reviewing the facts of Blessed Paul’s life, Cardinal Amato highlighted how, as a high-level official in the Vatican Secretariat of State during World War II, the future pope “organized charitable assistance and hospitality for those persecuted by Nazism and Fascism, particularly the Jews.”

Pope Francis then certified that he had solicited the opinion of the cardinals, who agreed that “these same blesseds should be proposed to the whole church as examples of Christian life and holiness.”

Blessed Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated one day after calling on the government to end its violation of the human rights of El Salvador’s people.

While Catholics inside and outside El Salvador recognized him as a martyr immediately, his sainthood cause was stalled for years as some church leaders debated whether he was killed for his faith or for his politics.

As Pope Francis told a group of Salvadoran pilgrims in 2015, even after his death Blessed Romero “was defamed, slandered, his memory tarnished, and his martyrdom continued, including by his brothers in the priesthood and in the episcopate.”

In February 2015 Pope Francis signed the formal decree recognizing Blessed Romero’s martyrdom; the Salvadoran archbishop was beatified three months later in San Salvador.

The Salvadoran bishops’ conference and many Salvadorans had hoped Pope Francis would preside over the canonization in San Salvador, particularly because of the difficulty and expense of traveling to Rome. Others, however, argued that holding the ceremony at the Vatican makes it clear that Blessed Romero is a saint for the entire church, not just for the church in El Salvador.

Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez told TV2000, the Italian bishops’ television station, that he hoped Pope Francis would make a brief trip to San Salvador in January to pray at the tomb of by-then St. Oscar Romero. The pope will be in Central America for World Youth Day in Panama.

Blessed Paul VI, who was born Giovanni Battista Montini, was pope from 1963 to 1978. He presided over the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation. He also wrote “Humanae Vitae,” a 1968 encyclical on married love, the 1975 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi” on evangelization and “Populorum Progressio,” a 1967 encyclical on social development and the economy.

Speaking in 2013 to a group of pilgrims from Brescia, Italy, Pope Paul’s home diocese, Pope Francis said his predecessor had “experienced to the full the church’s travail after the Second Vatican Council: the lights, the hopes, the tensions. He loved the church and expended himself for her, holding nothing back.”

And, beatifying Pope Paul in 2014, Pope Francis noted that even in the face of “a secularized and hostile society,” Pope Paul “could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom — and at times alone — to the helm of the barque of Peter while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Pope Francis referred to him as “this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle,” who demonstrated a “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church.”

The other men and women to be canonized include: Father Francesco Spinelli of Italy, founder of the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Father Vincenzo Romano, who worked with the poor of Naples, Italy, until his death in 1831; Mother Catherine Kasper, the German founder of the religious congregation, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; and Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, the Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church.

 

Federal appeals court affirms parish assets separate from archdiocese

May 1, 2018

by Maria Wiering,

Minneapolis — A federal appeals court upheld two lower court rulings that the assets of Catholic institutions, including parishes, are separate from those of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and that they cannot be consolidated with archdiocesan assets in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The April 26 ruling came from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thomas Abood, chairman of the archdiocese's Reorganization Task Force, welcomed the ruling April 30.

"We are pleased that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a meritless legal argument by claimants' counsel that has been directly responsible for delaying the resolution of the archdiocesan bankruptcy and has given rise to the erroneous claim -- now rejected for the third time in this litigation -- that the archdiocese has undisclosed assets which it has not made available to its creditors in its bankruptcy," Abood said in a statement.

"I hope all abuse survivors, reassured by the court's decision, will soon be able to choose the path of settlement and closure on this aspect of their quest for justice and healing," he said.

In 2016, the Unsecured Creditors Committee, which represents more than 400 sexual abuse claimants, filed a motion for the assets of 187 parishes in the archdiocese, three Catholic high schools and the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota to be merged with the archdiocese's assets in a reorganization plan.

Judge Robert Kressel, who is overseeing proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, denied the motion in July 2016. The creditors committee appealed the decision to U.S. District Court, which, in December 2016, upheld the ruling. The committee then appealed that decision to the appeals court, which heard the case in December.

A three-judge appeals court panel said in its ruling that the committee had "failed to plausibly allege sufficient facts to negate the nonprofit non-debtor status of the targeted entities" and, therefore, they are entitled to legal protections and "cannot be involuntarily substantively consolidated with (the archdiocese)."

"We understand the committee's sincere attempts at recovery for a class of creditors who have suffered greatly by clergy abuse," the ruling said. "However, global consolidation of all entities in the archdiocese is not authorized by the bankruptcy code. There are remedies available in the bankruptcy code to address specific abuses by (the archdiocese) or other entities, if they exist. Substantive consolidation of all related entities, however, is not one of those remedies."

The ruling does not affect the more than 100 parishes facing lawsuits for clergy abuse outside the bankruptcy.

Ordination Class of 2018: CARA Report Gives Reasons for Hope and Areas for Growth

WASHINGTON (USCCB.org) - According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate's (CARA) annual survey, in the Ordination Class of 2018, almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.

The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2018, 430, is a lower number from 590 in 2017.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gives reason for hope as well as provides areas for future growth.

"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future. It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assist them in the discernment process."

Father Ralph B. O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat, cited the significance of encouraging vocations awareness: "One of the most encouraging statistics to see in this study is that 86 percent of those to be ordained to the priesthood this year were encouraged to do so by someone in their life (most frequently a parish priest, friend or another parishioner). A similar percentage was reported in February in the most recent survey of those solemnly professed. This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response."

The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate gathered the data for "The Class of 2018: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood." CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 78 percent of the 430 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 334 respondents include 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

Among the survey's major findings:

The majority of responding ordinands are Caucasian (seven in ten) and were born in the United States (three in four). One in four is foreign-born. By comparison, since 1999, on average each year, 30 percent of responding ordinands were foreign-born.

The four most common countries of birth among the foreign-born are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia. On average, foreign-born responding ordinands came to live in the United States 12 years ago at the age of 23.

On average, responding ordinands first considered priesthood when they were 17 years old. Responding ordinands were scheduled for ordination on average 18 years later (at the age of 35). Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has fluctuated only slightly each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 35.

Between 39 and 47 percent of all responding ordinands attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling. Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) participated in a religious education program in their parish for seven years, on average.

Nearly half of responding ordinands (45 percent) report that they completed a college or university undergraduate degree before entering the seminary. The most common fields of study are social science, theology or philosophy, business, or liberal arts.

Two in three responding ordinands (64 percent) reported full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary. One in twenty responding ordinands served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves. About one in eight responding ordinands (13 percent) reported that one or both parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.

Regarding participation in parish ministries before entering the seminary, nearly three fourths of responding ordinands (74 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. Nearly three in five (57 percent) served as lectors. Around half served as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (46 percent). One in three served as catechists (38 percent), in campus ministry or youth ministry (35 percent), or as confirmation sponsors/godfathers (31 percent).

In regard to participation in vocation programs before entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (46 percent) reported participating in "Come and See" weekends at the seminary or the religious institute/society.

Nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation.

One-half of responding ordinands (51 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or a family member (other than parents).

The full report can be found online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/class-of-2018/ordination-class-of-2018.cfm.

Benedict XVI celebrates 91st birthday with his brother

Rome, Italy, Apr 16, 2018 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI turned 91 on Monday, celebrating “with his brother Georg in a calm and familiar climate,” according to a Vatican statement.

This evening, members of the Swiss Guard band are scheduled to perform in the Mater Eccelsiae monastery in honor of the pope emeritus.

Pope Francis offered Mass in the morning for Benedict XVI, and sent him a greeting afterward, the Vatican said.

Benedict XVI was pope from 2005 to 2013. He shocked the world when he announced his resignation Feb. 11, 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength. On Feb. 28, he stepped down from the papacy. A conclave was called to name his successor, and on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis was elected.

Rumors regarding the retired pontiff’s health have arisen numerous times since he stepped down from the papacy, with reports that his death is imminent repeatedly denied by those close to him over the past five years.

Last year, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, said in an interview with EWTN that despite some physical ailments, the former pope was “in good spirits, very clear in his head and still has a good sense of humor.”

In a letter published Feb. 7 this year in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”

Pope Francis issues exhortation praising the ‘middle class’ of holiness

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation in which he aims to “repropose” the universal call to holiness – which he says is the mission of life for every person.

Published April 9, Gaudete et exsultate, or “Rejoice and be glad,” is Francis’ third apostolic exhortation. It is subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world.”

The 44-page exhortation explains that holiness is the mission of every Christian, and gives practical advice for living out the call to holiness in ordinary, daily life, encouraging the practice of the Beatitudes and performing works of mercy.

Francis mentioned the holiness “in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’”

Francis said that all Catholics that, like the saints, “need to see the entirety of your life as a mission,” and explained that this is accomplished by listening to God in prayer and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance in each moment and decision.

“A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness,” he stated, explaining that this path has its “fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him.”

Using the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Francis wrote that “holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full.” As a result, the measure of our holiness stems not from our own achievement, but “from the stature that Christ achieves in us.”

Therefore, Pope Francis said, to walk the path of holiness requires prayer and contemplation alongside action; the two cannot be separated.

The pope also touched on what he calls the “two enemies of holiness” – modern versions of the heresies of Pelagianism and Gnosticism, saying that these lead to “false forms of holiness.”

In the modern form of Gnosticism, Francis said, one believes that faith is purely subjective, and that the intellect is the supreme form of perfection, not charity.

This can lead Catholics to think that “because we know something, or are able to explain it in certain terms, we are already saints,” he said, when really, “what we think we know should always motivate us to respond more fully to God’s love.”

In contemporary Pelagianism, he said the common error is to believe that it is by our own effort that we achieve sanctity, forgetting that everything in fact “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16).”

The pope explained that “the Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative,” and that even our cooperation with the gift of divine grace is itself “a prior gift of that same grace.”

Some may be asked, through God’s grace, for grand gestures of holiness – as can be seen in the lives of many of the saints, Francis said – but many people are called to live the mission of holiness in a more ordinary way, and in the context of their vocation.

However large or small one’s call seems, Francis said that acts of charity are always undertaken “by God’s grace,” not as people “sufficient unto ourselves, but rather ‘as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’ (1 Peter 4:10),” he said.

The pope offered several practical recommendations for living out these “small gestures.” In addition to the frequent reception of the sacraments and attendance at Mass, he said that in the Beatitudes Jesus explains “with great simplicity what it means to be holy.”

He also said that a way to practice holiness is through the works of mercy, though he warned that to think good works can be separated from a personal relationship with God and openness to grace is to make Christianity into “a sort of NGO.”

The saints, on the other hand, show us that “mental prayer, the love of God and the reading of the Gospel” in no way detract from “passionate and effective commitment to their neighbors.”

The pope highlighted several qualities he finds especially important for living holiness in today’s culture, including: perseverance, patience, humility, joy, a sense of humor, boldness, and passion.

Boldness and passion, he said, are important in order to avoid despondency or mediocrity, which he said can weaken us in the ongoing spiritual battle against evil.  

In the journey toward holiness, “the cultivation of all that is good, progress in the spiritual life and growth in love are the best counterbalance to evil,” he said, emphasizing that the existence of the devil is not a myth or an abstract idea, but a “personal being that assails us.”

“Those who choose to remain neutral, who are satisfied with little, who renounce the ideal of giving themselves generously to the Lord, will never hold out” against temptation, he stated.

“For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach,” he listed.

About the importance of prayer on the path to holiness, the pope said that though “the Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, at work, through others and at every moment… we simply cannot do without the silence of prolonged prayer.”

“Naturally, this attitude of listening entails obedience to the Gospel as the ultimate standard, but also to the Magisterium that guards it,” he stated, “as we seek to find in the treasury of the Church whatever is most fruitful for the ‘today’ of salvation.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States bishops' conference, praised the exhortation in a statement released Monday, saying: “In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear – he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be – that is ‘to be holy, as He is holy’ (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple – by God’s grace and power, we are called to become saints.”

 

Don’t be afraid of shame, open hearts to God’s mercy, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Feeling ashamed of one’s sins does not mean wallowing in guilt, rather it is the gateway all men and women can use to experience firsthand God’s tender mercy and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

Christians should be grateful for shame because it “means that we do not accept evil, and that is good,” the pope said April 8 at an outdoor Mass in St. Peter’s Square commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday.

“Shame is a secret invitation of the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil,” the pope said. “The tragedy is when we are no longer ashamed of anything. Do not be afraid of being ashamed! Let us pass from shame to forgiveness!”

Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated every year on the Sunday after Easter, was added to the universal church calendar by St. John Paul II in 2000. The Polish pope was a longtime devotee of the Divine Mercy devotions of St. Faustina Kowalksa, whom he beatified in 1993 and canonized in 2000.

As Pope Francis celebrated the Mass, a painting of Jesus inspired by St. Faustina’s visions was near the altar. The image, perched on top a bed of white roses, depicts Jesus with one hand raised in blessing and the other pointing to his heart emanating red and white light.

As the sounds of the Sistine choir filled the air, Pope Francis stood and bowed reverently in front of the painting before incensing it three times.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John which recalled the apostle Thomas’ disbelief at Christ’s resurrection.

Despite Thomas’ initial lack of faith, Pope Francis said, Christians should learn from his example and not be content with hearing from others that Jesus is alive.

“A God who is risen but remains distant does not fill our lives; an aloof God does not attract us, however just and holy he may be. No, we too need to ‘see God,’ to touch him with our hands and to know that he is risen for us,” the pope said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd after celebrating Mass marking the feast of Divine Mercy in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Like Thomas and the disciples, he explained, Christian men and women can only understand the depth of God’s love by “gazing upon” Jesus’ wounds.

Although “we can consider ourselves Christians, call ourselves Christians and speak about the many beautiful values of faith,” he said, “we need to see Jesus by touching his love. Only thus can we go to the heart of the faith and, like the disciples, find peace and joy beyond all doubt.”

There are several “closed doors” that must be opened in order to experience this love and to understand that God’s mercy “is not simply one of his qualities among others, but the very beating of his heart,” Pope Francis said.

The first step, he said, is seeking and accepting God’s forgiveness which is often difficult because “we are tempted to do what the disciples did in the Gospel: to barricade ourselves behind closed doors.”

“They did it out of fear, yet we too can be afraid, ashamed to open our hearts and confess our sins,” the pope said. “May the Lord grant us the grace to understand shame, to see it not as a closed door, but as the first step toward an encounter.”

Another closed door is remaining resigned to one’s sins, he said, so “in discouragement, we give up on mercy.”

Through the sacrament of reconciliation, Christians are reminded that “it isn’t true that everything remains the way it was,” and absolution allows them “to go forward from forgiveness to forgiveness.”

The final door, Pope Francis said, is the actual sin that is “only closed on one side, our own,” because God “never chooses to abandon us; we are the ones who keep him out.”

However, he added, confession allows for God to work his wonders and “we discover that the very sin that kept us apart from the Lord becomes the place where we encounter him.”

“There the God who is wounded by love comes to meet our wounds. He makes our wretched wounds like his own glorious wounds. Because he is mercy and works wonders in our wretchedness,” the pope said.

Copyright ©2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Death doesn't have the final word, Pope Francis says on Easter

By Elise Harris

VATICAN CITY, Apr 1, 2018 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his Urbi et Orbi Easter blessing, Pope Francis said Jesus' death and resurrection provide hope to a world marred by conflict, proving that modern tragedies such as war and violence won't have the final say.

“We Christians believe and know that Christ’s resurrection is the true hope of the world, the hope that does not disappoint,” the Pope said April 1, Easter morning.

Like the parable Jesus told of the grain of wheat which has to die before bearing fruit, Francis said that “it is the power of the grain of wheat, the power of that love which humbles itself and gives itself to the very end, and thus truly renews the world.”

“This power continues to bear fruit today in the furrows of our history, marked by so many acts of injustice and violence,” he said, and pointed to the plight of migrants and refugees, and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.

He asked for peace throughout the world, especially in the “long-suffering” nation of Syria, “whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war.”

“This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course, that humanitarian law may be respected” in order to facilitate access to aid, and to allow those who have been displaced to return to their homes.

Pope Francis also prayed for the Holy Land, which in recent days has seen an increase in violence, for Yemen and for the entire Middle East, “that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

“May our brothers and sisters in Christ, who not infrequently put up with injustices and persecution, be radiant witnesses of the risen Lord and of the victory of good over evil.”

He also prayed for those who yearn for “a more dignified life,” specifically children and those from areas in Africa that suffer from hunger, violence and terrorism, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

Francis also prayed for the process of peace and dialogue on the Korean peninsula, and for Ukraine, that humanitarian aid would be able to reach the people and that recent steps to promote peace and harmony in the nation would be “consolidated.”

Turning to Venezuela, Pope Francis said citizens are living “in a kind of foreign land within their own country,” and prayed that with the grace of the resurrection, the nation would be able to find “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Prayers were also offered for children who lack education as a result of war, for elderly who have been “cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not productive,” and for world leaders, that they “may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.”

Pope Francis closed his address repeating the question the angel posed to the women who came to the tomb and found it empty, asking: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

“Death, solitude and fear are not the last word.” he said. “There is a word that transcends them, a word that only God can speak: it is the word of the resurrection.”And by the power of God’s love, “it dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty.”

 

MCC: Some firearms regulations could serve common good

by Matthew Davis

ST. PAUL (March 8) - As gun control advocates have focused on the Minnesota State Capitol in the weeks following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the Legislature has delayed gun regulation bills. Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins doesn’t anticipate the state’s legislative response to gun control to change this session.

“Gun-violence restraining orders for persons struggling with mental illness has a very small chance of moving forward,” Adkins said. “But it is more likely that the political response to school shootings will be calls for more funding for mental illness treatment and counseling in schools, as well as more funding for school security measures.”

Adkins does not believe political efforts to curb gun violence by addressing mental illness alone will suffice. The MCC has been tracking bills in the House and Senate regarding firearms possession and background checks. All of the bills were introduced in 2017, prior to the Florida shooting. While opposition to gun control legislation often stems from a defense of the Second Amendment, Adkins said it’s important to look at the issue “in terms of rights and responsibilities.”

Just because “shootings begin with wounds in the heart does not mean we are impotent to enact gun control measures to make people safer,” he said. “We have to protect people with prudent laws while we bind the wounds of hurting people and address the social and cultural factors that nurture gun violence.”

The Second Amendment allows for the right to bear arms and has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow for self-defense. “The right to self-defense is part of the natural law, and the use of force one applies in self-defense can be effective force,” Adkins said. “You don’t have to bring a butter knife to a gun fight.

“But the natural right to self-defense and the civil right to own a gun come with duties and responsibilities to the common good,” Adkins continued. “In particular, the public has a responsibility to ensure that those who exercise gun ownership can do so responsibly. Therefore, tools like background checks and gun-violence restraining orders for people with mental illnesses are legitimate regulations of gun ownership.”

He added that the Legislature can also legitimately enact “bans on certain classes of weapons that are meant for military personnel, or that can endanger large groups of people in the wrong hands” because of the right to life. He also noted that “improvements in gun technology can make weapons more dangerous, but also much safer.”

“Legislatures must balance these considerations in their particular social, cultural and geographic contexts,” Adkins said. “There is not necessarily one over-arching set of gun regulations that should apply in all places and at all times.”

Note: The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. MCC supports the ministry of our state’s Catholic bishops by:

  • Working with political and community leaders to shape legislation that serves human dignity and the common good
  • Educating Catholics and the public about the ethical and moral framework that should be applied to public policy choices
  • Mobilizing the Catholic community to make its voice heard in the public arena

For further information about MCC visit https://www.mncatholic.org/

Chairmen Call Faithful to Prayer and Action Urging Congress to Enact the Conscience Protection Act

March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

The joint statement follows:

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy. Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans. Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion. Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.

We call on all the faithful to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week especially on Monday, March 12 with the message that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life. Your calls and emails to your Members of Congress really do make a difference, so please act now to protect conscience rights!”

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.  Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at https://www.humanlifeaction.org/take-action?vvsrc=/campaigns/49865/respond.

The USCCB has also created a video available on its YouTube channel and Facebook.com/USCCB.

For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions go to www.usccb.org/conscience

 

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Urges Immediate “Humane Solution” for Dreamers after Monday’s Supreme Court Decision

February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON — On February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the government's request to hear its "appeal before judgment" on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) cases. Accordingly, the lower court injunctions in the California and New York, DACA cases remain in effect nationally and DACA renewals remain available to those who currently have DACA status.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:

"Monday's Supreme Court decision does not reduce the urgency of finding an immediate legislative solution for Dreamers, people who were brought to the United States as children and have known only our country as their home. The anxiety and uncertainty that Dreamers and their families face remain unabated. Monday was our National Call-in Day for Dreamers, when thousands of Catholics urged their leaders in Congress to protect Dreamers. These faithful took action because they recognize that protecting these young people from deportation is an issue of human life and dignity, and that a legislative solution is necessary to make that protection durable. My brother Bishops and I continue to call upon Congress to work towards a bipartisan and humane solution as soon as possible."

Pope on first Sunday of Lent: Now is the time for conversion

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2018 / 09:10 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Lent is a time to face our temptations and be converted by the Gospel, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on the first Sunday of Lent.

His reflections were based on the passage in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days.

Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for his mission on earth, the Pope said.

While Jesus has no need of conversion himself, he must go to the desert out of obedience to God the Father and "for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation."

“For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual ‘training’, of spiritual combat: we are called to face the Evil one through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life,” he continued.

Immediately after he is tempted, Jesus goes out of the desert to preach the Gospel, which demands conversion from all who hear it, the Holy Father said.

“(Jesus) proclaims, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel!’ — believe, that is, in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our life we always have need of conversion — every day! — and the Church has us pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently oriented toward God, and we must continually direct our mind and our heart to Him."

Lent is the time to have the courage to reject anything that leads us away from God and repent, Francis noted, “but it is not a sad time!”

“It is a joyful and serious duty to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our ‘old man,’ and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism,” he said.

During Lent, we must listen to the call of Christ and be converted, recognizing that true happiness lies in God alone, Francis said.

He concluded his address with an appeal to Mary:

“May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lent with fidelity to the Word of God and with incessant prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living the days with the desire to welcome the love that comes from God, and that desires to transform our life, and the whole world.”