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Pope Francis: The Zairean Rite is a “promising model” for the Amazon

Pope Francis praises the Zairean Rite in a preface he wrote for a new book published by the Vatican Publishing House.

WCC: 'Find hope in the birth of Jesus amid the covid-19 crisis'

A Christmas message released by the interim General Secretary of the World Council of Churches urges Christians to find hope in the good news of the birth of Jesus amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

Pope appoints new Bishop for Buffalo, USA

Bishop Michael William Fisher has been named as the fifteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, USA.

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Reading 1 IS 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7)  Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment. 
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save. 
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.




R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike. 
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. 
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Diocese of Pittsburgh announces its third round of parish mergers

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 06:08 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that it will initiate its third round of parish mergers early next year, reducing its current 107 parishes to 81.

The mergers will take effect January 4, creating 14 groupings of parishes from 40 current parishes. The merger is the most recent step in the diocese’s “On Mission for The Church Alive” initiative.

“This is a pivotal time for our diocese as we plan for the future of the Church of Pittsburgh,” Bishop David Zubik said in a Nov. 28 statement.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania is radically different than it was 100, 50, 20, even 10 years ago, yet the work of the Church and our call from God to bring His love to everyone continues as strong as ever,” the bishop said.

“As we address the challenges we face in the Church today, the witness of working and growing together reflects the unity of the Body of Christ that is essential to our mission.”

Among others, the new parishes will include Mary, Queen of Peace, which brings together the parishes of Saint Mary of the Mount and Prince of Peace; and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which brings together the parishes of Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Joseph, and Saint Margaret Mary.

Each merger is taking place following consultation with parishioners, and a request by the priest-administrator of each grouping, which was approved by the diocesan Priest Council and Vicars General.

The merger is the latest step in the “On Mission for The Church Alive” initiative, which is reorganizing what began as 188 parishes into what ultimately will be fewer than 60 parish groupings.

The diocese's strategic planning initiative began in 2015 in part as a response to declining Mass attendance, the financial struggles of some parishes, and fewer priests.

The situation was exacerbated by the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed sexual abuse allegations in six of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-rite dioceses, including Pittsburgh. CBS Pittsburgh reported earlier this year that since the report's release, Mass attendance had dropped 9% and offertory donations declined 11%.

In a letter to parishioners, Zubik stressed that the mergers, while difficult, are necessary to strengthen the local Church’s ministries and make them more effective for the future.

“This has not been a simple task. Jesus never promised that it would be easy to carry his message of love and mercy to others. He was clear that sacrifice would be necessary,” the bishop said.

“However, you are positioning your new parish for more effective ministry by addressing financial needs, sharing resources and allowing your clergy to focus on the spiritual work for which they were ordained,” he continued. “With your faith in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I invite you to warmly welcome and serve each other as you become one parish family.”

Laudato si’ bears fruit: from the Living Chapel, new trees for the world

A work of art constructed with plants, recycled material and musical harmony aims to reforest the planet, beginning in the heart of Rome, in support of the UN’s Trillion Tree Campaign. It is the Living Chapel in the Botanical Garden, a concrete fruit of the commitment to creation proposed by Pope Francis in “Laudato si’”. With us are Consuelo Fabriani and Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam.

March for Life gears up for pandemic conditions

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- With the annual March for Life scheduled to occur in January, how different might it look from previous years due to the ongoing pandemic?

The 48th annual March for Life is scheduled to take place on Jan. 29, 2021, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Normally attended by tens of thousands of pro-life demonstrators from all over the country, the 2021 March will be significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

CNA learned that the March for Life is working with the National Park Service and local officials to ensure a safe protest that will conform with “necessary guidelines.”

While the D.C. government does not have a special set of restrictions for protests, it has barred outdoor gatherings larger than 25 people, as of Nov. 25.

The city has also restricted travel from states where the current virus rate is more than 10 cases per 100,000 people. For travelers from these jurisdictions, they must get a negative test within 72 hours of traveling, and adhere to a mandatory mask policy, among other requirements. Travelers from Maryland and Virginia, and those visiting the city for less than 24 hours, are exempt.

Large protests have occurred in the city throughout the summer, most notably the Aug. 28 “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march attended by an estimated tens of thousands. That, too, was affected by the pandemic, as march organizers had to lower their in-person attendance estimate following the issuance of a permit by the National Park Service.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also had travel restrictions in place around the time of the march, altering travel plans of attendees. March for Life participants normally attend from all over the U.S., and may be traveling on busses and airplanes during the height of flu season.

During the March itself, attendees may have to comply with federal guidelines as closely as possible. According to the Washington Post, the August march reportedly required attendees to wear masks and undergo a temperature check before they entered the Mall. It is unclear if the same requirements will be made and enforced by the March for Life.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also listed recommendations for events and gatherings, including that all attendees wear masks, wash hands, cover their coughs and sneezes, and try to maintain a six-foot distance from other attendees.

The website of the March for Life says that the group will announce safety measures “closer to the March,” and will be promoting virtual participation for those who cannot attend in-person.

At a press conference in September, announcing the theme of the March, Jeanne Mancini—president of the March for Life—said that it was still on, despite the ongoing pandemic.

“Listen, we marched during the blizzard of 2016, we’ve marched during government shutdowns, we marched after 9/11, we will march again this year,” Mancini said.

“We’ve marched for 47 years, and no sacrifice is too great to fight this human rights abuse of abortion.”

Other events traditionally surround the March, such as the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life held downtown on the morning of the March. In 2021, the rally will be held virtually and Mass will be live-streamed. The March for Life Expo has been canceled, and the annual Rose Dinner will be held virtually.

The theme of the 2020 March will be “Together Strong: Life Unites.”

Jeanne Mancini explained that “[t]his year, with a 2020 that’s been so unusual in many different ways, the idea of uniting together, and how each of us brings something different to the table, how the variety is beautiful and how together we’re stronger - it just seems like the right theme.”

Trump administration in Supreme Court over Census policy

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday on whether the Trump administration can exclude undocumented immigrants when apportioning congressional representatives based on a state’s population.  

The case of Trump v. New York is based on a July memorandum of President Trump to the Commerce Secretary, noting that undocumented immigrants were to be excluded from the apportionment of representatives to states, based on the 2020 Census.

According to the Constitution, the number of congressional representatives from a particular state depends upon the state’s population, which is tabulated by the Census. According to Article I, Sec. 2, The population is “the whole Number of free Persons” and “three fifths of all other Persons,” a reference to the practice of slavery in many states at the time. The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, states that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.”

Trump, however, has stated that his administration “will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully, because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government.”

The U.S. Bishops’ conference has repeatedly opposed the policy. 

In a statement on Monday, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee said that excluding undocumented immigrants from the count of total persons in a state “is counter to the Constitution and makes people feel invisible and not valued as human beings.”

“The Church’s teaching is clear: human dignity is most sacred, regardless of legal status,” stated Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C. “For that reason, we once again affirm the need to count all persons in the census, as well as in the apportionment of congressional representatives.” 

The state of New York challenged Trump’s order in court, arguing that excluding people from congressional representation based on their citizenship status was unconstitutional and unprecedented.

On Monday, acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued that the administration is still determining the number of undocumented immigrants, and which ones would be excluded from the apportionment count.

The court should wait and not rule against the decision, he said, as the state of New York has not suffered an injury but is only bringing up “possible future injuries.”

Justices asked Wall if the administration was planning on excluding all undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count, or only select classes such as those being detained in ICE facilities or given final orders of deportation by a judge.

With only a month left in the year, it would be a “monumental task” to count and exclude 10.5 million immigrants from apportionment, Justice Samuel Alito said. Wall admitted it would be “very unlikely” to identify every single undocumented immigrant residing in the U.S.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that, according to her understanding of Trump’s memo, the intent was to exclude all undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count, and that even if the administration included only certain categories of immigrants to exclude, those categories encompass a “substantially large” amount of people.

Justice Elena Kagan questioned why the administration needed the court to wait before ruling, asking Wall if the administration was working to count certain categories of immigrants, such as those who had final orders of removal, or were recipients of the DACA program.

“We can easily get to four to five million [immigrants] you have records on,” she told Wall. “You’re 30 days out, so it seems like you can know whether or not you can do matching.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett also questioned Wall, citing historical examples to argue that, at the time the Constitution was adopted, an inhabitant of the U.S. was considered a “dweller.” Undocumented immigrants, she said, have never been excluded from the Census as a category.

If an undocumented immigrant has resided in the U.S. for 20 years, she asked Wall, why they would not be considered a resident.

On the merits of the case, Wall argued, undocumented immigrants do not meet the test of being considered lawful residents.

New York’s solicitor general, Barbara Underwood, on Monday called the administration’s argument “flatly inconsistent.” The apportionment of representatives to a particular state has always included the number of people living there, including those ineligible to vote, she said.

People living in a state are not invisible, she said, despite their undocumented status. Their “presence requires attention from the government, and the need for representatives to give that attention,” she said.

Underwood told Chief Justice John Roberts that the state wanted the court to declare the policy in violation of the law and halt the transmission of information from the Commerce Department to President Trump about undocumented immigrants, as part of the Census report.

However, she admitted that a separate communication from Commerce to the President on undocumented immigrants would not violate an injunction from the court.

Underwood also answered Justice Barrett that, if President Trump ultimately decided only to remove some undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count, that would require further litigation from states.

Trump’s memo came after the Supreme Court in 2019 blocked an effort by his administration to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. After that ruling, the administration then demanded records from states, few of which complied with the request.

What is Advent, anyway? A CNA Explainer

Denver, Colo., Nov 30, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).- Advent began this year on Sunday, Nov. 30. Most Catholics, even those who don’t often go to Mass, know that Advent involves a wreath with some candles, possibly a “calendar” of hidden chocolates, and untangling strings of Christmas lights.

But Advent is more than that. Here are a few points that might help you have a great Advent this year:

What is Advent?

The people of Israel waited generations for the promised Messiah to arrive. Their poetry, their songs and stories, and their religious worship focused on an awaited savior, whom God had promised, over and over, would come to them to set them free from captivity, and to lead them to the fulfillment of all that God had chosen for them.

Israel longed for a Messiah, and John the Baptist, who came before Jesus, promised that the Messiah was coming, and could be found in Jesus Christ, God’s son, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Advent is a season in the Church’s life intended to renew the experience of waiting, and longing, for the Messiah. Though Christ has already come into the world, the Church invites us to renew our desire for the Lord more deeply into our lives, and to renew our desire for Christ’s triumphant second coming into the world.

Advent is the time in which we prepare for Christmas, the memorial of Jesus Christ being born into the world. Preparations are practical, like decorating a tree or stringing lights, but they’re also intended to be spiritual.

During Advent, we’re invited to enter more frequently into silence, into prayer and reflection, into Scripture, and into the sacramental life of the Church, all to prepare for celebrating Christmas.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the goal of Advent is to make present for ourselves and our families the “ancient expectancy of the sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming.”


Cool. So, it’s like four weeks long?

Advent is a slightly different length each year. It starts four Sundays before Christmas. But because Christmas is on a fixed date, and could fall on different days of the week, Advent can be as short as three weeks and a day, or as long as four weeks. Christmas is on a Friday in 2020, so Advent will be three weeks and four days long.


Ok, my priest keeps talking about Advent being the “new year.” But Advent is before Christmas. What’s the deal?

The Church’s feasts and celebrations run on a year-long cycle, which we call the “liturgical year.” The “liturgical year” starts on the first Sunday of Advent. So it’s a new liturgical year when Advent starts. But the Church also uses the ordinary calendar, so it would probably be a bit weird to have a “New Year’s Eve” party the night before Advent starts.

Still, if 2020 has been a hard year for you, and I bet it has, you can take some consolation in knowing that, for the Church, we're already in a new year. Good riddance, 2020!


And, Advent wreaths. Where do they come from? Is it true that they’re just pagan wreaths borrowed by the Church?

The Catholic Church has been using advent wreaths since the Middle Ages. Lighting candles as we prepare for Christmas reminds us that Christ is the light of the world. And the evergreen boughs remind us of new and eternal life in Christ, the eternal son of the Father. 

It is definitely true that Germanic people were lighting up candle wreaths in wintertime long before the Gospel arrived in their homeland. They did so because, well, candle wreaths in winter are beautiful and warm. That a Christian symbol emerged from that tradition is an indication that the Gospel can be expressed through the language, customs, and symbols of cultures that come to believe that Christ Jesus is Lord.


One candle is pink. Why?

There are four candles on the Advent wreath. Three are purple, and they are first lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, which we call Gaudete Sunday. On that Sunday, in addition to the pink candle, the priest wears a pink vestment, which he might refer to as rose. But rose, from this writer's perspective, is a shade of pink.

Gaudete is a word that means “Rejoice!” and we rejoice on Gaudete Sunday, because we are halfway through Advent. Some people have the custom of throwing “Gaudete” parties, and this is also a traditional day on which Christmas carolers begin caroling door-to-door.

The three purple candles are sometimes said to represent prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the three spiritual disciplines that are key to a fruitful Advent.


I like the Advent calendars that have chocolate in them. Do you know where they come from?

No. But I like them too. The chocolate is usually pretty waxy, but still. I think the idea is to build up anticipation by having only one little treat each day. But sometimes I eat them all in the first week. Oops.


Is it wrong to sing Christmas songs during Advent?

Wrong? No, not immoral or anything. But there are a lot of great Advent hymns and songs: “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “O Come Divine Messiah,” “Come Thou Fount,” “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding”

Wouldn’t you rather sing those than Rudolph? Or the theologically insipid “Mary, Did You Know?”


When should we put up our tree?

Look, when to put up the tree is a decision that families should decide on their own, through time-honored holiday traditions like, say, arguing about when to put up the tree. I’m not getting in the middle of that.

Some people put up their tree and decorate it on the first Sunday of Advent, to make a big transformation in their home and get them into “preparing for Christmas” mode. That seems cool.

Some families say especially that this year they “need a little Christmas.” I totally get it.

Some people put up the tree on the first Sunday of Advent, put on lights the next Sunday, ornaments the next, and decorate it more and more as they get closer to Christmas. That seems cool.

Some people put up the tree on Gaudete Sunday, as a kind of rejoicing, and decorate it in the weeks between Gaudate and Christmas. That seems cool

Basically, as you can tell, I’m not going to take a side on that question.


What does the word Advent mean?

Oh right. I forgot to mention that, I'm glad you asked. Advent comes from the Latin ad+venire, which means, essentially “To come to,” or “to come toward.” Ad+venire is the root of the Latin “Adventus” which means “arrival.”

So Advent is the season of arrival: The arrival of Christ in our hearts, in the world, and into God’s extraordinary plan for our salvation.


This explainer was initially published in November 2019. It has been updated to reflect, well, the 2020 of everything.


Pope spells out six points on which to build social rights

Pope Francis sends a videomessage to social justice judges of the American and African continents and urges them to base their material reshaping of social justice on six fundamental points.