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In latest appointments, Pope names new members of Roman Rota

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2017 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Pierangelo Pietracatella and Fr. Hans-Peter Fischer are the newest members of the Roman Rota, and mark the latest in a string of appointments Pope Francis has made this summer as part of his ongoing effort to restructure the Roman Curia.

Hailing from the northern Italian diocese of Toronta, Fr. Pietracatella, a member of the Rota, has been named as its new Chief of Office.

Fr. Fischer, a priest of the archdiocese of Freiburg, located in Germany's black forest region, has been named an auditor of the Rota. He is the current rector of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Campo Santo, located in the Vatican.

Composed of various auditors, the Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, the other two being the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.

The Roman Rota is the Vatican's court of higher instance, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church.

Among its responsibilities is the trying of appeals in marriage annulment cases. The annulment process was streamlined by Pope Francis in December 2015, giving the possibility of a stronger role to local bishops and cutting the automatic appeal of initial judgments, among other things.

Announced in a July 20 communique from the Holy See, the appointments to the Rota are the latest carried out by Pope Francis in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

Earlier this month the pontiff made waves by choosing to not renew the 5-year term of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his stead, the Pope Francis on July 1 named Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, former secretary of the congregation, to take the helm.

Just over two weeks later, on July 18, he tapped the congregation's undersecretary, Father Giacomo Morandi, to take Ladaria's place as secretary. The priest was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere, however, the date of his episcopal consecration has not yet been set.

These latest appointments by Pope Francis are significant, since they represent many of the curia officials had been named by Benedict before his resignation.

While Francis has made several of his own appointments since his election, the terms of the officials named by Benedict are now coming to an end, giving way for a curia that is shaped more by the mind of Francis as he moves forward in his process of Church reform.

Bishops to Trump: Don't abandon young people to deportation

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Undocumented young people brought to the U.S. by their parents contribute to American society and deserve continued protections from the Trump administration, said the U.S. Catholic bishops this week.

“These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas said July 18.

Young people who qualify under the program are “contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes,” said the bishop, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was implemented in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security to address the situation of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age. It provides more than 750,000 youth with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization to work legally in the U.S.

Bishop Vasquez urged the Trump administration to continue the program and “to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.”

In late June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, with the attorneys general of nine other states, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding the Trump administration end the DACA policy. The letter threatened to amend a lawsuit against another deportation deferral program in order to target the policy, Politico reports.

Bishop Vasquez, however, addressed the young people and their families: “the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you.”

“We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God,” he said. “We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country. We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

Bishop Vasquez also said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is not a permanent solution and called on Congress to find a legislative solution for these youth “as soon as possible.”

“My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth,” he said. “Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.”

According to Politico, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a gathering of 20 Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he can’t guarantee the Trump administration will defend the DACA policy in court. Attorneys have told him the program wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

 

 

Is the single life a vocation? Maybe we're asking the wrong question.

Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- From a young age, Catholics are taught to pray about and discern their vocations – whether they're called to marriage, to the religious life, to the priesthood, or consecrated single life.  

This can leave the lay single person feeling that they are in a vocational limbo of sorts, and it's become a topic of much heated and emotional debate in the Catholic blogosphere: have these people missed their vocation? Is the lay single state, chosen or by default, a vocation?

But actually, at the end of the day – does it matter?

Fr. Ben Hasse is a vocations director for the Diocese of Marquette, Wisc. He said addressing the topic of singleness in the Church can be difficult because of the emotions surrounding the issue.

“I have quite a few friends who would like to be married, so there's a much more emotional investment in the question because there’s more people who find themselves single” rather than having specifically chosen it, he said.

Recognizing the emotional weight of the topic, Fr. Hasse noted that there are many aspects to addressing the question of vocation and singleness that need to be taken into account, and that it can be difficult – and dangerous – to make generalizations about a population in the Church that is actually very diverse.

Being specific about singleness

Fr. Hasse said that he has found it’s helpful as a pastor to approach singleness very specifically – whether it's a college student who hopes to marry someday, or a widower who lost her husband last month, being single encompasses a wide variety of people and circumstances.

“Everybody will be single for at least part of their life. Nobody is born as a priest or married to someone or a consecrated religious, so everyone will pass through being single,” he said.

“It's important to distinguish between people who are single because that's kind of where you're at when you're 16, versus someone who has really felt God calling them to give their life in service to the Church as a single person,” or various other circumstances.

For example, a single 19-year-old college student is probably not necessarily living a vocation of singleness in any settled way, Fr. Hasse said, but a person in their 40s who finds joy in serving Christ in their everyday circumstances of work and life “is not someone I would say lacks a vocation.”

“It would be different from the way we usually use the word because it wouldn't be defined, and made concrete by vows or promises,” he said.

“But the single accountant or school teacher could certainly live their life and see the work of their hands as something they're offering to God, and live that in a very spiritually fruitful way, and I wouldn't say – now here's a person without a vocation.”

Your vocation is given at baptism

Jason Coito, Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that most of the debates surrounding singleness and vocation rely “on a very narrow definition of vocation, or confuses the term with what we refer to as 'states in life,'” he said.

He said when we become fixated on discerning our state in life, referred to in the Church as the primary vocation, “...we become so focused on the ranking of them, rather than looking at each day or the bigger picture and saying, here are all of these components of my life, now how am I called to live the promise of my baptism and of my life, and how do these things work together?”

It can be helpful instead to refocus these debates and conversations on the universal vocation to holiness that each Christian receives at their baptism, Coito said.

“I think this helpfully reframes the conversation and then asks us, 'How is God calling me to make a response to Him and to my brothers and sisters from within the state in life in which I find myself?'”

This respects every vocation, because it's a question anyone can answer on any given day in their life, regardless of their state in life, he said.  

“You do have a vocation. All baptized Catholics are called to live their lives as disciples of Jesus. This is the foundational call of our lives as Catholics,” he said.

“If you feel deeply called to get married, and you have prayerfully discerned and confirmed this call, then until you meet the person you feel called to get married to, you continue to live out your baptismal call, open to the people and circumstances that God puts in front of you each day. For those who are married, we do pretty much the same thing, except that we do this out of the sacramental relationship we have with our spouse,” he said.

In Lumen Gentium, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI wrote about the universal call to holiness each Christian has:

“Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”

Fr. Hasse reiterated the importance of the baptismal call to holiness, and said that this call is not something to “settle for,” but rather should be the primary focus of our lives as Christians.

“The call to holiness is not some second-string operation,” he said.

“It's not like – wow I really wish I had something important to work towards, but since I don't, sanctity will have to tide me over until the beatific vision.”

“So I think a reappropriation of the universal call to holiness, which is deeply, profoundly significant, it’s the one that matters in a sense, and we're all called to that,” he said.

The big lie: You are incomplete until you've made vows

Coito noted that one of the worst patterns of thinking that a Catholic can fall into when thinking about vocation is to believe that they are somehow less-than or incomplete until they are married, or are a priest or in a religious order.

When he taught high school religion, Coito said he would ask his students to recall the famous line from Jerry Macquire, when he tells his love interest (played by Renee Zellweger): “You complete me.”

“I would always tell them that from a Catholic perspective, that's ridiculous. It wasn't as though before marriage you were incomplete, or that a priest before his ordination is incomplete. God already made us whole and entire,” he said.

“We've been given everything as human beings that God intends us to have, so to begin to think of ourselves as somehow unfinished...we can joyfully be living out our vocation already right now.”

Part of this mentality has seeped in from the culture, he said, which tends to romanticize love and to view marriage as another achievement or milestone in life, rather than as a sacrament.

“I think it's important to address the mentality that if I'm not married or in a community or ordained that I’m this sort of 'Catholic arrested development' or 'suspended animation,'” he said.

The belief that marriage or religious life will also magically make us completely fulfilled is also a mentality that can set people up for disappointment, he noted.

“It ends up being a Disney sort of (mentality) of happily ever after, but it's much more Paschal mystery than happily ever after,” he said.   

Finding fulfillment: It's about self-gift

The reasons that there are more single people in the Church now than in other times in recent history are many and varied – an emphasis on education, a culture that values individualism, higher rates of divorce and economic factors are just some of the many reasons there are more singles in the pews.

But this doesn't mean that human nature has changed – we are still made for love, self-gift and service, Fr. Ben Hasse said.

“Trying to schedule events in our lives that will make us happy at some point that doesn't really work,” he said. “Happiness is richest and fullest kind of as a by-product of gifts of love and of service.”

“There's almost a way where you can attend to the basic dynamics of seeking to live a life of holiness, and that's the actually the path that’s going to leave you more and more disposed to receive his call,” he said.

In particular, acts of service can be a key way to find fulfillment regardless of one's state in life, he said.

“Look for opportunities to give of yourself,” he said. “It's also a good way to meet other people who have a similar disposition...doing that has very real potential to fill one's heart, and leaves you more and more receptive to (God's) call.”

Soley utilizing acts of service as a way to find a spouse would be unhealthy, Fr. Hasse added, but serving alongside like-minded people, and finding others who share your values is a good way to find authentic community, in whatever form that may take.

What the Church has to say about single people

Pope John Paul II, who wanted to be known as ‘the Pope of the family’, wrote in his familial document “Familiaris Consortio” that those without a family must be able to find their family within the Church. In fact, the entire final section of this document is dedicated to single people.

This is a subject with which John Paul II would have been intimately familiar – by the age of 20, all of his immediate family on earth had passed away, and he surrounded himself with good friends that essentially became his family.

In the document,he wrote: “For those who have no natural family the doors of the great family which is the Church-the Church which finds concrete expression in the diocesan and the parish family, in ecclesial basic communities and in movements of the apostolate-must be opened even wider. No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'”

The Catechism of the Catholic also recognizes “the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors.” (CCC 1658).

Practical advice from single Catholics

Still, it can sometimes be difficult for single people to know where they fit in the Church. Parishes are often structured around family life, which can make it challenging for single people to find community.

Judy Keane is a 40-something single Catholic and author of “Single and Catholic,” a book in which she interviewed numerous single Catholics of a wide variety of ages, circumstances and backgrounds about their experiences in the Church.

“Mother Teresa once said that the greatest poverty is loneliness, and feeling discounted by society,” Keane said.

“So I would say (to married people in the parish): approach single people, connect with them, take that initiative to introduce yourself, not make them feel like because they don't have a spouse and children in the pew with them that they’re no less a member of the parish community,” she said.

MaryBeth Bonacci is a Catholic author and speaker who has often written on the topic of being a single Catholic. She said she loves it when people in her parish help her feel included in their families and lives.  

“Some people would say 'Oh well she wouldn’t want to go to a 1-year-old's birthday party.' Yeah I would!” she said. “We don't have our exciting singles lives that you think we have, I'm at home eating cottage cheese and watching Simpsons reruns, it’s not that exciting.”

Bonacci said she's also had a friend at her parish who told her she was invited to her family's dinner any time. And she didn't wait to make good on the invitation – she followed up with Bonacci every day.

“She would call me every day at 3:00 and say, am I setting a place for you? And I didn't go every night...but she actually called every day, and said if you want to come, we'll set a place for you, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that.”

She added that she appreciates when parishes make an effort to create a cohesive community, rather than always segregating people into groups according to their states in life.

Both Bonacci and Keane said that they especially have noticed that there are many single elderly Catholics who are alone, whether they’ve never been married or have since lost their spouse.

“If you're having a family Sunday dinner, why not try to befriend an elderly single person who may have lost their spouse and say we’re having our family dinner, would you like to join us?” Keane said.  

It's also important to remember that God acts in unexpected says, and oftentimes frustration with one's state in life stems from a place of thinking about vocation or God’s will too rigidly, Fr. Hasse noted.

“If I'm talking to someone who says well most of my friends seem to have found their vocation and I haven’t, what do I do? I usually say man, the saints are people that God caught in all kinds of unexpected situations and places,” Fr. Hasse said.

“So there's lots of precedent for thinking God has passed me by or hasn't answered my prayers” but then he shows up in unexpected ways, he said.

Be protagonists of change, Cardinal Sandri tells Ukrainian youth

Buchach, Ukraine, Jul 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the close of his recent trip to Ukraine, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri met with youth from the troubled country, telling them not to be discouraged by the challenges they face but rather to trust in the Lord and commit to changing society for the better.

The cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, began his July 15 speech noting that the youth “have had a thousand reasons to stay at home” rather than join him and his delegation for the annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Zarvanytsia, where the encounter took place.

Among these reasons are “the summer heart and the fatigue of the journey, but also and above all the interior ones,” he said, and pointed to the various doubts and questions they might have, such as “ why must I get on the road and march like a pilgrim, when when around me I see so much suffering and fatigue linked to the possibility of building a future?”

“Why believe in God, when around me I see so much violence, when I hear the noise of war, when the steps that are asked of some of you are those of marching like a soldier? Why trust still, when it seems that a corrupt mentality cannot be stopped and the attachment to power is lived as personal gain rather than for the interests of the community and the building of the common good?” he asked.

As a consolation, Cardinal Sandri said the only answer he can give them is to “look at yourselves, as we are doing here from the stage, at your faces – tired, perhaps, but happy.”

The decision to make the pilgrimage is itself “the answer that your hearts and your lives have given to every doubt and every question, which can arise in youth as in adults,” he said.

“Your journey is the right attitude of the heart and of life, and it's also the most rational,” he said, explaining that “we walk with the mind, learning to study and reflect, cultivating intelligence and learning to discern what happens around us in the world.”

Pointing to the Annunciation, Cardinal Sandri noted that Mary's question to the angel, “I do not know a man” showed that Mary was not static, but involved in the story. This question, he said, “ became the engine to not stay closed in herself, but rather to go out, to go to her cousin.”

“The encounter with Elizabeth is a precious occasion for Mary,” he said, noting that when meeting her, Mary “explodes in a song of joy, which we call the Magnificat, which is the song of the poor ones of Israel, of those who regardless of everything continued to believe that the Lord had not forgotten his promises.”

In this song, he said, is the “great wisdom” of one who has learned to entrust themselves to God and to contemplate the great things he has done throughout history and which he continues to do them now.

Even in the “famous and beautiful” shrine where the meeting took place is part of the story of faith of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainians, he said.

As such, it serves as an invitation to learn about their tradition and discover that even today, God “continues to be close and make us participants and protagonists in the work of salvation that he continues to fulfill even for your people.”

Cardinal Sandri made a July 11-17 visit to Ukraine to participate in the national pilgrimage to the Shrine of Zarvanytsia, located 15 miles north of Buchach.

His visit falls in amid of ongoing upheaval in the country, where pro-Russian separatists in the east have been fighting government forces since April 2014. The conflict has killed nearly 10,000, and displaced millions.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine followed closely on the March 2014 annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, by Russia. Russia is also believed by Western governments to be assisting the rebels in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts; a claim denied by Moscow.

In his speech, Cardinal Sandri said he would carry with him the various celebrations and meetings he had while in Ukraine, particularly his visit to the eastern, conflict-ridden region of the country “so tried by the battles which have forced many of your brothers and sisters to flee.”

“I have seen the pain, but also many signs of hope, like many flames which slowly light a great fire,” he said, and pointed to the example of displaced persons who, despite their own situation, have begun to work with the local Caritas to “alleviate the pain and deprivation” of others in the same situations.

He pointed to the example of priests, both Greek-Catholic and Latin rite, who during the years of communism were imprisoned or deported.  

In addition to these, he also pointed to priests who “in recent episodes of war that have have bloodied your land have protected and saved as many as they could,” despite being in danger themselves.

As youth, who get the majority of their information through various forms of social media, the cardinal asked that they think of the suffering children in other parts of the world have to endure, such as the students and volunteers of the Jeremiah Educational Center of Faisalabad, Pakistan, who are persecuted “for their faith in Jesus.”

He also asked youth to consider stopping to pray the rosary, and in so doing, send “the embrace of Jesus” to the British infant Charlie Gard and his family, who are in the midst of a legal battle over treatment for the critically ill child.

“The exercise of intelligence to understand the present, prayer, charity and solidarity are ways in which you can also start to walk, like Mary,” he said.

Cardinal Sandri then told the youth to read and meditate on Pope Francis' message for the upcoming World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.

In his message, the Pope asks that youth “continue your steps not only remembering the past, but also having the courage in the present and hope for the future, to recognize your origins, to always return to the essential and to throw yourself with creative fidelity into the building of new horizons,” Cardinal Sandri said.

“You are the salt and light of this world; don't resign to thinking that things cannot change,” he said, telling them to “change society, where often the strongest and corrupt dominate, through a pure heart, faithful to God, faithful to the most authentic humanity.”

The cardinal also told attendees to “allow the oil of God's consolation to soothe the inner wounds of so many,” particularly young women manipulated into being surrogate mothers – which he called “a terrible practice” increasingly banned by countries – and those who have had abortions.

“Let us pray that they feel the desire for the caress of God's mercy and commit ourselves for a new surge of the defense of the dignity of women and children from every form of trafficking and exploitation,” he said.

Cardinal Sandri closed his speech asking the youth to also help their priests prepare for the upcoming synod of bishops in 2018, dedicated to “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

The cardinal noted how in the Pope's letter to youth, published alongside the initial outline of the synod discussion, Francis wrote: “Can things change? YES.”

“This cries from your young heart which does not bear injustice and cannot bend to the culture of waste, and neither can it believe in the globalization of indifference!” he said, quoting the Pope.  

“Even when you experience, like the Prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of your age, God encourages you to go where he invites you: do not be afraid, because I am with you to protect you,” Cardinal Sandri said, and entrusted the youth to the intercession of the Virgin Mary before giving his blessing.

Florida's abortion waiting period law awaits further testimony in courts

Tallahassee, Fla., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The attorney general of Florida has been given 60 days to gather evidence and testimonies in defense of a 2015 state law mandating 24-hour waiting periods for abortions.

The law's constitutionality is being challenged in the courts, and it has been on hold since its passage.

The decision was passed down by Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after a July 19 hearing that had been meant to re-evaluate the law. In February, the Florida Supreme Court had upheld a lower court’s decision to stay the law after its passage in June 2015.

Among the plaintiffs challenging the law are the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Gainesville Woman Care, an abortion clinic which started the lawsuit.

When the matter came before the state Supreme Court, they issued a stay on the law while they considered the law. The temporary injunction was issued in February.

In a brief filed last month, lawyers defending the statute on the state’s behalf said the state “must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.”

Opponents of the law argue it is an unconstitutional violation of the state’s right to privacy, and singles out abortion from other riskier medical procedures that don’t require a waiting period.

“No mandatory abortion delay in this country has ever survived strict scrutiny,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in a June 1 statement asking for a summary judgement on the case.

The Florida bishops' conference issued a statement supporting the law after its 2015 passage. They called it “good legislation” that “gives women one day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view the image of her unborn child’s ultrasound, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith.”

They also noted that 26 other states have such waiting period laws, and that Florida “already requires waiting periods before marriage, divorce, and the purchase of a handgun.”

Charlie Gard's family allowed permanent US residency

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the Gard family's legal battle in the U.K. to pursue experimental treatment for their infant son, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation granting them permanent residency in the states.

“We just passed amendment that grants permanent resident status to #CharlieGard and family so Charlie can get the medical treatment he needs,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said in a July 18 tweet.  

The amendment was passed after Republican congressmen Trent Franks and Brad Wenstrup proposed legislation in favor of an additional treatment for Charlie, who suffers from a rare mitochondrial disease which paralyzes muscles and causes brain damage.

“Congressman Bradwenstrup and I have proposed legislation to grant lawful permanent status in the U.S. to Charlie Gard and his family, so they can at least pursue their best hope for Charlie,” Rep. Franks told Fox News July 11.

Charlie Gard has made headlines over the past few months as U.K. courts denied his parents the right to transfer him to other hospitals for treatment. The Gard family appealed to the EU court and was denied a hearing.

Claiming that prolonging Charlie's life would cause unnecessary suffering, British judges had ruled that London's Great Ormond Hospital could remove life support without the consent of the parents. The hospital granted Charlie an extension on life support so his parents may have a few more moments with him.

During the extension, a team of seven medical experts told the hospital that unpublished data on an experimental drug suggest a treatment which may improve the condition of Charlie’s brain. One of the experts is a neurologist and a researcher located at the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome – a Vatican hospital who's request to transfer Charlie to their facility was also recently denied.

Additionally, a U.S. specialist in mitochondrial diseases speculated in a video last Thursday that the experimental treatment, nucleoside therapy, has a success rate of at least 10 percent and a potential high of 56 percent.

Since experts have submitted new data that advocates for Charlie’s possible recovery, the Great Ormond Hospital has asked the courts to reopen the baby’s case that Charlie be transferred to the U.S. for nucleoside therapy, which his parents have successfully fundraised over $1 million for.

Charlie was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome – a fatal disease which progressively weakens the muscles and causes brain damage. The genetic disease is very rare, and Charlie is thought to be only one out of 16 people in the world diagnosed with the disease.

Despite Charlie’s low potential for survival, his parents have received U.S. and Vatican support for their right to fight for his life.

A statement was issued July 2 on behalf of Pope Francis, saying that the pontiff “prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”

Pope phones trash man who lost legs in accident

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 19, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maximiliano Acuña is a garbage collector in Buenos Aires who earlier this year was injured in a serious accident that left him without legs.

On Tuesday, he was surprised to receive an unexpected phone call from Pope Francis.

The Pope offered words of encouragement, 33-year-old Acuña told the Argentine Morfi Television program.

On March 22, the father of five children had been collecting garbage in a Buenos Aires neighborhood when he was struck by a car going some 80 miles an hour.

As a result of the accident, both of his legs had to be amputated.

A Buenos Aires legislator, Gustavo Vera, decided to tell Pope Francis what happened in an e-mail, in which he explained that the “doctors' prognosis was for the worst.”

“In the best case scenario, he was expected to be in a vegetative state or to have serious neuronal damage, and in the worst case it was going to be the end for him,” Vera told the Holy Father.

However, Acuña surprised doctors when he came out of the coma on the third day. Two days later, he was moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room. “In a few weeks he was already home with his five children,” Vera related in his message to the Pope.

This July 18, Acuña was getting ready to be honored at a ceremony at the Buenos Aires Legislature when he got a special call.

“I'm Pope Francis. A friend (Vera) sent me a letter, and I was moved and struck by how much strength you have,” the voice said on the other end of the line. “Always go forward, because you're an example.”

Acuña recounted these words with emotion at a ceremony in front of hundreds of other garbage collectors.

Now, Vera is working with the general secretary of the Truckers Union, Pablo Moyano, to propose that March 22 be declared “Waste Collectors' Day,” in tribute to this young collector.

“God gave me my life back, because they removed both legs, but everything that is happening to me is beautiful,” Acuña said.

“I always believed in God, I always went to church, praying everyday asking him for work, and that he take care of me day by day.”

“God exists,” Acuña continued. “I want to give everyone this message, that God exists and that he has given me a new opportunity.”

 

Church leaders in China remain open to dialogue with Vatican

Fuzhou, China, Jul 19, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Catholic Church in China journeys toward a normalized relationship with the Holy See, one priest in dialogue with Chinese bishops has seen vast improvement in openness and dialogue on the part of leaders, both in the patriotic and underground Churches.

“That’s one very significant point, a growth in openness, a growth in the Christian churches. I think a second key change has been an openness of the Chinese to receive visitors to indeed dialogue with the Church here in Rome,” said Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, who has been in personal contact with many Chinese bishops over the last decade.

“We know that in the last year there's been an official delegation that has gone to Beijing, and members have come here to Rome to talk about this openness in reaching some sort of accord.”

“And certainly that is the wish of the Chinese bishops; they wish openness, they wish dialogue, they wish help to come from the Church in Rome, the Church in the United States, to help them particularly in the area of formation,” he said.   

Msgr. Figueiredo holds a doctoral degree in theology and is a spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was formerly a staff member of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

At the invitation of the bishops in mainland China, he has been part of a small team helping to lead theological forums for the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference in China for the last seven years.

The team, from the organization Caritas in Veritate International, includes Henry Cappello, the organization’s president, and Professor John Cavadini, director of the McGrath-Cavadini Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University.

The 7th Theological Forum is taking place July 13-20 in Fuzhou. In 2016 the meetings included 24 bishops, apostolic administrators, rectors, and spiritual directors of seminaries.

One day was devoted to the theological and spiritual formation of about 120 lay faithful from both the patriotic and underground Churches.

Another day was a group lecture at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.

During the week they also met with lay Catholic leaders, such as those organizing various small group faith-based communities, doing missionary and charity work in Beijing, and one community that just opened a center for senior citizens.

“We're surprised when we go there that in our meetings, we're not simply meeting with members of the official Church, but also the underground Church,” Msgr. Figueiredo said.

According to the report on the 2016 meetings, the bishops said they took great encouragement from Pope Francis and from the Year of Mercy.

They also expressed “great hope” for the normalization of relations between the Church in China and the Holy See. “It was notable to observe the deep desire of the bishops for this normal relationship, and their sadness caused by the difficulties in the past,” the report stated.

Other observations noted in the report were the “great strides” of evangelical communities in mainland China, while the Catholic Church in the country appears to be growing much more slowly.

Part of the reason for this could be the visible disunity of the Church in China between the patriotic and underground Churches, as well as the struggle between the Vatican and the Chinese government over control of bishop appointments.

China and the Vatican have been in the midst of talks for some time now to reach an agreement on the appointment of bishops, which would be the first major step toward normalizing relations between the two.

It would also hopefully lead to the eventual unification of the patriotic Church and the underground Church, whose bishops are not recognized by the state.

This unity would be major for the impact of evangelization in China, Msgr. Figueiredo noted.

“It is certainly the wish of Jesus Christ that we all be one. He prayed for that at the Last Supper, so disunity is always a scandal. It's a scandal to those who do not believe. And certainly the underground Church coming together with the official Church – there are many, many things already happening.”

“There's so much that can be done; there's a thirst to hear the Christian message, there's a thirst for Jesus Christ. And the evangelization efforts of the Roman Catholic Church can certainly be helped by this unity.”

China, with 1.4 billion people, isn’t just a huge country, he said, it’s also “a country that needs to be evangelized.”

He noted that we usually think of China as a country of Buddhists or of Taoists, as it has been historically, but in recent years there has been a huge growth in Christianity, mainly in evangelical ecclesial communities. Numbers of Catholics are growing as well, but at a much slower rate.

There are currently around 100 million Christians in China, he explained, and about 12 million Catholics, half of whom belong to the patriotic Church and half to the underground Church.

The bishops who participated in the 2016 forum, according to the report, identified the main underlying problems of the Church in China as a rapid decrease in priestly vocations and the lack of adequate formation for priests, seminary rectors, spiritual directors, and bishops.

The lack of adequate preparation for marriage and the lack of ongoing spiritual support and formation material for young married couples were also considered to be ongoing difficulties for the Church.

“Imagine if we got Catholics (in China) to unite in formation, and providing that formation to even one Church our evangelization efforts would be much, much greater,” Msgr. Figueiredo said.

The reason the group goes to China each year is to communicate with the bishops about what has been happening in the Vatican, “and really, to answer their questions, what they specifically need.”

He wanted to emphasize that the Chinese bishops want outside help from the Vatican and the U.S., “they desire for us to help them.”

He concluded by quoting Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State: “We wish the good of Chinese Catholics, both of the underground and the official Church, we wish the good of Chinese society, and we wish the good of the whole of society, particularly as we look for peace.’”

“Unity can only help those three different levels.”

 

Alexey Gotovskiy contributed to this report.

Archbishop Chaput: Civilta Cattolica got American Christianity wrong

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 19, 2017 / 10:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A prominent Catholic journal’s critique of American religion and politics got quite a bit wrong, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said yesterday.

Archbishop Chaput said the article was “an exercise in dumbing down and inadequately presenting the nature of Catholic/Evangelical cooperation on religious freedom and other key issues.”

Writing in a July 18 column at CatholicPhilly.com, he noted that Catholic-Evangelical cooperation was “quite rare” when he was a young priest.

“The divide between Catholic and other faith communities has often run deep. Only real and present danger could draw them together,” the archbishop said. “Their current mutual aid, the ecumenism that seems to so worry La Civilta Cattolica, is a function of shared concerns and principles, not ambition for political power.”

Prominent Jesuit-run journal La Civilta Cattolica on July 13 published an analysis piece co-authored by its editor, Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City.

The piece, titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism” made a number of claims, alleging that many conservative Christians have united to promote an “ecumenism of hate” in policies that contradict Pope Francis’ message of mercy.

The piece’s analysis of American Christianity noted various influences like Christian fundamentalism, the “dominionism” of Presbyterian thinker Pastor Rousas John Rushdoony, the Prosperity Gospel, inspirational writer Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, and the polemical lay Catholic site Church Militant. It attempted to link these figures and trends with political trends and figures like Republican strategist Steve Bannon and Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

Fr. Spadaro and Pastor Figueroa acknowledged that the erosion of religious liberty is “clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism,” but said religious freedom should not be defended “in the fundamentalist terms of a ‘religion in total freedom,’ perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.”

They claimed that “Evangelical fundamentalists” and “Catholic Integralists” are being brought together in a “surprising ecumenism” by “the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.”

Their article noted the American trend of “values voters” whose political decisions prioritize abortion, same-sex marriage, religion in schools and other matters. Both of these Catholic and Evangelical factions, they claimed, “condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.” They charged that this collaboration also advances a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations” and thus an “ecumenism of hate.” These religious and political trends, they said, were based on “fear of the breakup of a constructed order and the fear of chaos” and “painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism.”

In Archbishop Chaput’s view, the article’s description of attacks on religious liberty as a “narrative of fear” might have made sense 25 years ago, but now sounds “willfully ignorant.” He charged that the article ignored the fact that “America’s culture wars weren’t wanted, and weren’t started, by people faithful to constant Christian belief.”

“So it’s an especially odd kind of surprise when believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true,” the archbishop said.

Without mentioning him by name, Archbishop Chaput cited the words of Tim Gill, a Colorado-based multi-millionaire businessman and political strategist who has poured millions of dollars into LGBT activism. Gill was a major funder behind the successful effort to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, while in recent years his grant-making has focused on limiting religious freedom protections he considers discriminatory.

Gill told Rolling Stone magazine that he now aimed to “punish the wicked.”

“In other words, to punish those who oppose the LGBT cultural agenda,” added Archbishop Chaput, saying that conflicts over sexual freedom and identity involve “an almost perfect inversion of what we once meant by right and wrong.”

The archbishop said Catholics must treat all persons with charity and justice, including “those who hate what we believe.”

“It demands a conversion of heart. It demands patience, courage and humility. We need to shed any self-righteousness. But charity and justice can’t be severed from truth,” he said, citing St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and other biblical calls to “sexual integrity and virtuous conduct.”

For the archbishop, attempting to soften or detour around these calls would demean what Christians have always believed and “reduces us to useful tools of those who would smother the faith that so many other Christians have suffered, and are now suffering, to fully witness.”

Archbishop Chaput suggested that the article got points of American religion incorrect. American Baptists, for instance, see their faith as undermining the integration of Church and State.

“Foreign observers who want to criticize the United States and its religious landscape – and yes, there’s always plenty to criticize – should note that fact. It’s rather basic,” he said.

The archbishop praised religious liberty legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Becket, saying they are “heroes, not ‘haters’.”

“And if their efforts draw Catholics, evangelicals and other people of good will together in common cause, we should thank God for the unity it brings.”

His column said the La Civilta Cattolica article was “rightly criticized” and “unfortunate comments,” voicing a broader warning against misunderstanding the political and religious situation.

 

Facebook restores blocked Catholic pages, citing malfunction

Denver, Colo., Jul 19, 2017 / 08:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Facebook has restored more than 25 Catholic pages in Portuguese and English that were blocked yesterday, citing a malfunction in the system.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, a Facebook spokesperson said, "The pages were reestablished. The incident was a malfunction of the spam detection mechanism in our platform. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

Between the night of July 17 and the morning of July 18, Facebook unpublished more than 25 pages in at least three languages - English, Portuguese and Spanish - without giving an initial explanation to page administrators.

The blocked Catholic pages each had between hundreds of thousands and 9 million followers.

Hours after CNA and other media published a story about the blocked pages, around 1 a.m. in the morning July 19, all blocked pages had been returned to normal.

In statements collected by ChurchPop.com, Carlos René, administrator of the page "Papa Francisco Brazil," said that the page was available again "without notification. I just realized that it was already on the air."

While Facebook has now clarified the incident, the site did not immediately provide an explanation to page administrators for the restorations. The owners and administrators of sites such as "Father Rocky," "Catholic and Proud," and "Jesus" and said they simply realized that their pages had returned after seeing their accounts were back online.

In 2016, Facebook came under fire for allegedly censoring trends to news deemed "conservative."

On that occasion, Mark Zuckerberg rejected the allegations of censorship, and met with conservative U.S. leaders to assure them Facebook's neutrality.

In the past, user accounts have also been inadvertently blocked on Facebook due to system glitches, or numerous complaints against the page in a short time period. In these cases, Facebook restored the accounts after reviewing their content.

 

Update 9:02 pm: A previous version of this story said that at least 25 pages in Portuguese and English with up to 6 million followers had been unpublished. The story has been updated to reflect that additional pages in English and Spanish had been unpublished before being restored, one page with 9 million followers. We regret the error.