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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Benedict XVI thanks Pope Francis for his focus on mercy at unprecedented Vatican ceremony

Benedict XVI thanks Pope Francis for his focus on mercy at unprecedented Vatican ceremony
by Associated Press
posted Tuesday, 28 Jun 2016

Benedict XVI pictured in 2010
Benedict XVI pictured in 2010

The 65th anniversary of Benedict XVI's ordination as a priest was celebrated at the Vatican with the retired pope and Pope Francis in attendance

Benedict XVI endorsed Pope Francis’s mercy-filled ministry Tuesday during an unprecedented Vatican ceremony featuring a reigning pope honouring a retired one on the 65th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

Francis had invited the entire Roman Curia to celebrate Benedict’s anniversary, and prelates turned out in force for the rare occasion of being able to greet each man in white. The audience took place in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the same marble and fresco-filled room where Benedict bid a final farewell to his cardinals on February 28, 2013, becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign.

While Pope Francis presided over the ceremony, it was Benedict XVI who stole the show with an off-the-cuff, mini-theology lesson sprinkled with Greek and Latin that showed that the mind of the German theologian is still going strong at 89.

Benedict thanked Francis for letting him live out his final years in the beauty of the Vatican gardens, where he said he felt “protected.”

“Thank you, Holy Father, for your goodness, which from the first moment of your election has struck every day of my life,” Benedict XVI said, speaking without notes. “We hope that you can go forward with all of us on this path of divine mercy, showing us the path of Jesus toward God.”

Pope Francis has recently dismissed new questions about the implications of Benedict’s resignation by insisting that there is only one pope – himself – and that Benedict pledged his obedience on the day he resigned.

He told reporters on the weekend he felt that Benedict XVI “had my back” and was continuing to help the Church through his prayers. He added he had heard that Benedict had even sent away some nostalgic faithful who had come to him complaining about the “new pope.”

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Pope Francis entered the Clementine Hall to applause from the gathered cardinals and went straight to embrace Benedict, who stood up and removed his white skullcap in a sign of deference. They embraced several more times during the ceremony.

Benedict listened intently as Francis addressed him – as “Your Holiness” – lauding his 65 years of service to the Church and saying his decision to retire to a life of quiet prayer to a small monastery in the Vatican gardens was a very “Franciscan” thing to do.

The monastery “is nothing like those forgotten corners where today’s ‘throwaway culture’ tends to put those who lose their strength with age,” Pope Francis said. “Quite the contrary!”

The monastery, the Pope said, is similar to the Porzinuncola, the small chapel in Assisi where his namesake St Francis founded his order and then spent his dying days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Consecrated life - A revolution of tenderness

Consecrated life and mercy- A revolution of tenderness
2016-02-02 L’Osservatore Romano

What is the relationship between consecrated life and mercy? Since the foundation of consecrated life is Christ "consecrated persons profess that Jesus is the model in whom every virtue comes to perfection" (Vita Consecrata, 18). Caterina Ciriello writes that this idea becomes vital to being witnesses of the image of Jesus, the Incarnation of the Father who is mercy. Ciriello adds that in Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis writes that "the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness". This is material for deep reflection.

Monday, June 6, 2016

SWEDEN / Faith: St. Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad canonised for saving Jews

Swedish nun Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad canonised for saving Jews
5 June 2016
From the section Europe
Image copyright REUTERS Image caption: Swedish Minister of 
Culture Alice Bah Kuhnke attended Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad's 
canonisation in the Vatican

A nun who saved Jewish families during World War Two has been made the first Swedish saint in more than 600 years.

Pope Francis canonised Roman Catholic convert Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad at a ceremony in St Peter's Square on Sunday.

Ms Hesselblad hid Jewish families in the convent in Rome where she was the mother superior.

The Pope also canonised Polish monk Stanislaus Papczynski for supporting the poor in the 17th Century.

He founded the first men's religious order dedicated to the Virgin Mary's immaculate conception.

How does someone become a saint?

Ms Hesselblad, a Lutheran who converted to Catholicism, is only the second Swede to become a saint, following Saint Bridget 625 years ago.
The canonisation ceremony was witnessed by a 
large crowd in St Peter's Square

A former nurse, she is credited with saving at least 12 Jews during the war, concealing families inside her Rome convent for about six months before the war ended.

She also won praise for promoting better relations between Catholics and non-Catholics and for encouraging both Christians and non-Christians towards the church.

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance centre honoured her as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 2004, an award given to non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust.

Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad died in Rome in 1957, aged 87.

Psalm 37:1-8

Ps 37:1-8
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and [a]cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
7 [b]Rest in the Lord and wait [c]patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

Friday, June 3, 2016

MISSION / Mongolia: Priests on horseback build the church from scratch

How priests on horseback built the Mongolian church from scratch
by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith
posted Thursday, 2 Jun 2016

Bishop Wenceslao Padilla confirms a boy at Good Shepherd Catholic Parish in Ulan Bator, Mongolia (CNS)

Intrepid missionaries in East Asia have something to teach Western Catholics

Good news from an unexpected and little known quarter of the Universal Church: the first native Mongolian priest is shortly to be ordained.

Congratulations to the Reverend Joseph Enkh. May he be the first of many Mongolians to be ordained, and may his ministry bring joy and consolation to God’s faithful people in Mongolia. Fides carries the story here. It also reports that there are about 1,000 faithful in Mongolia, which is remarkable, as the Church has only been functioning in the country since 1992.

There is more information on the local church in Mongolia from the ever-useful Wikipedia, which can be found here.

I have something of an interest in the Mongolian Church as one of my former students from Africa, a Consolata Missionary, was sent there on ordination. He was an Italian, and the third priest to go there, if memory serves, and thus something of a pioneer. Setting up a church from scratch is quite a task, and it was entrusted to, among others, priests trained in Africa, because they would be familiar with just how this is done.

How missions are started is quite instructive, particularly for people like us, who live in England many centuries after St Augustine first landed in Kent. In Mongolia, there were some resident foreign Catholics, working in embassies and for aid organisations, and thus at the beginning there was a congregation for the missionaries to say Mass for.

But apart from this, the first missionaries to arrive back in 1992, when the country opened up to the world, would have been regarded as very strange, almost like visitors from another world.

The most important thing for any mission is to establish a way into the culture of the country it aims to evangelise. This means in the very first place learning the language, which can be quite hard. It also means trying to understand the mindset of the people whose language you learn. Mongolia presents particular challenges. There are cities, but much of the population is very thinly spread out over the vast territory, which consists of wide grasslands.

The Mongols are of course, historically, a nomadic people, and superb horsemen. Missionaries from Africa know about pastoralist cultures, and would very soon cotton on to the necessity of learning to ride. Given that the population is in many places not sedentary, it makes little sense building churches outside the main cities. The priest and the catechist, as in the territory of the Maasai, need to be on the move, with the people they aim to evangelise, so where the people are, they can be too.

One favoured strategy of missionaries in this situation is to open not a church, but to a bore hole and water trough to which people from miles around will bring their animals to drink, and when waiting to water them, will engage with the missionaries. Once a trough is built, it will become a focal point for the pastoralists. After the trough come other useful institutions such as clinics, and sometimes schools.

No doubt these are the sorts of things that the small band of Catholic clergy in Mongolia will be familiar. And when Fr Joseph Enkh is ordained, he will, doubtless, spend many an hour on horseback riding across those vast empty spaces in search of his countrymen, eager, I am sure, to tell them the Good News. May he be granted many receptive listeners, thorough the grace of God.

Does this have any lessons for England today? Well, yes. At a time when not so many come to church, we need to move from sedentary to mobile, and, rather than waiting for people to come to us, go to where they are to be found. Water troughs will not be appropriate, but there may well be some similar strategy more fitted to contemporary Britain.

Gender Politics: Transgender toilets are a reality shock for the Left

Transgender toilets are a reality shock for the Left, and the stress is showing
by Robert Wargas
posted Friday, 3 Jun 2016

Visitors walk past a men's bathroom at the 
Statehouse in Boston (AP)

The latest skirmish has revealed the inner contradictions of identity politics

Here in the United States, the transgender toilet wars are heating up. The latest battle concerns not Christians, however, but the political Left: The director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s chapter in Georgia has resigned, citing the organisation’s support for allowing transwomen (i.e. those who “identify” as female) in women’s bathrooms.

For Maya Dillard Smith, the director in question, the ACLU’S stance was simply hypocritical. In a statement, she said the left-leaning organisation was guilty of serving as a “special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights”.

Apparently Smith had taken her young children into a public toilet and had to endure the presence of “three transgender young adults over six feet with deep voices”, who entered after them.

“My children were visibly frightened”, Smith said, “concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer”.

Under decree from President Barack Obama, public schools must allow transgender people to use the toilet corresponding to the gender with which they identify. The ACLU has supported Obama’s decision, which is based on Title IX, a section of U.S. federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs receiving federal funding. The ACLU has even sued the governor of North Carolina, whose state passed a law requiring that people in government buildings use bathrooms matching the sex on their birth certificates.

As we can see, the contradictions of identity politics are finally beginning to manifest themselves in these kinds of public skirmishes. Now we have not just Christians and conservatives fighting the Left in the culture war, but the Left fighting itself. It was bound to happen.

Here’s why. The Left assigns victim status to certain groups. In practice, this means one must never oppose, question, criticise, contradict, or blame the victim group. It also means one must always support whatever protective legal measure is proposed in the name of their group rights, regardless of how strongly it goes against established culture, custom, or law.

What happens, then, when the interests of two victim groups (in this case, women and transgender people) conflict with one another? The normal solution would be to shift blame to the official oppressor, which among left-wing culture warriors is the white, heterosexual Christian male.

But in cases like this, that isn’t so easy. There’s a big difference between an abstract question – “Should transgender women be allowed in female bathrooms?’ – and a concrete scenario: that is, being a female, walking into a bathroom and having a deep-voiced person with the wrong anatomy follow you in. The first is a moral debate that costs you nothing to have; the second is a very real circumstance with which you or your children may have to contend. And when liberals finally do contend with it, even they start to question their own wisdom.

Often you’ll find that liberals act very conservative when no one is watching.