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Vatican astronomer: Outer space deserves care

Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, astronomer and Director of the Vatican Observatory, talks about new space frontiers, space travel and the need to take care of the entirety of our common home.

World nurses' congress to focus on unity in mission, faith

MonkeyBusinessImages/Shutterstock

Allentown, Pa., Jul 28, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

Held every four years, the upcoming World Congress of Nurses comes at a providential time for many Catholic nurses around the world whose professional skills, families and faith have been sorely tested by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, taking place Aug. 2-4 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA, is open to “nurses (students included) front-liners, innovators, educators, researchers, and policy makers,” according to its overall sponsor, the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, or CICIAMS (for the Comité International Catholique des Infirmières et Assistantes Médico-Sociales.)

“Our Congress days are filled with spiritual nourishment, inspiring speakers, and highlights of the amazing work that Catholic Nurses are accomplishing from the jungles of Malaysia to the streets of Poland and all points in between,” said registered nurse Janet Munday, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Catholic Nurses, USA, or NACN-USA, a CICIAMS member organization that is hosting this year’s gathering.

Reflecting NACN-USA’s mission to foster a network of nurses who can share their struggles, research, and best practices, the theme of this year’s congress is “United in Mission, United in Faith.”

“Nurses today need to have relationships with other nurses” so they ask each other about “those ethical situations” they commonly face while caring for sick and infirmed, Munday said.

Munday noted that a Catholic nurse’s faith can infuse all aspects of one’s professional life.

“We always like to elevate our nursing to be something related to the corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy, so it’s an elevation of our nursing practice aligned with our Catholic faith,” she said.

Munday said in the face of “widespread suffering” due to the pandemic “the love of Christ” has given many Catholic nurses the strength to continue under such extraordinary circumstances.

As Dr. Khosi R. Mthethwa, the President of CICIAMS, wrote on May 12, 2021 in a letter on the commemoration of the International Nurses and Midwives Year, “Although, we are different national groups facing different challenges, I have realized that the COVID-19 pandemic has united us in a special way.”  

At the same time, nurses face moral distress in an increasingly secularized culture. “The breakdown of the family is witnessed by school nurses,” Munday said. “The strain and pains of patients living with addiction and substance abuse is a heavy pack for behavioral health and emergency room nurses.  The lack of dignity toward life in all stages, also lays a heavy burden on nurses who answer the call to walk with others in their healthcare struggles and sufferings.” 

Pope Francis acknowledged these challenges in 2018 while speaking in the Vatican to members of the Federation of Professional Nursing Colleges, Health Assistants, and Child Wardens. He described those in the nursing profession as “promoters of the life and dignity of people.”

“The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable,” the pope observed. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body.”

Haiti's new Prime Minister promises elections

Haiti`s new Prime Minister Ariel Henry is pledging his government is working towards holding elections as quickly as possible, to regain stability and democracy, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Confession must be part of talks on worthiness to receive Communion, Nuncio says

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the July 28 online panel hosted by Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life / Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

The sacrament of confession must be part of the U.S. bishops’ discussions on worthiness to receive Communion, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States said on Wednesday.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, said at an online panel that the conversion of souls should be the bishops’ primary aim when teaching about reception of Holy Communion.

“The starting point cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One Who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” Archbishop Pierre said at an online panel discussion on Wednesday.

“By the way, there is a link between the two [sacraments],” the nuncio added.

Archbishop Pierre addressed a July 28 online panel discussion of “Communion, Catholics, and Public Life,” which focused largely on a draft Eucharistic document of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

At their recent spring meeting, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The meeting featured extensive debate both for and against moving ahead with the document at the time.

A proposed outline of the document covered various teachings on the Eucharist, including a subsection on worthiness to receive Communion – “Eucharistic consistency.”

That subsection received most of the attention at the bishops’ meeting. Some bishops opposed to drafting the document at the time argued that in addressing worthiness to receive Communion, the bishops would be seen as partisan players, rebuking Catholic politicians who oppose the Church’s teachings on abortion laws.

Some bishops critical of the motion also said that to pronounce who should and should not receive Communion would drive Catholics away from the Eucharist at a time when unity in the Church is needed.

Archbishop Pierre was asked about the episcopal deliberations on Wednesday. He admitted the difficulty the bishops faced in “discerning” what to do on the teaching document.

“The discernment is quite difficult, because there is always the danger to be overwhelmed by the tensions. And we know these tensions are quite often ideological tensions which may divide us,” he said.

“This is why we have heard about the risk of instrumentalization of the sacraments, and indeed, of the Eucharist,” he continued, noting “how to remain firm, faithful to the message of the Gospel and avoid any kind of ideological war.”

After the Nuncio spoke on Wednesday, two U.S. bishops participated in the online dialogue on Communion – Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

As current chair of USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Rhoades is currently in charge of drafting the teaching document on the Eucharist.

The idea for the document surfaced shortly after the election of President Joe Biden. A USCCB working group was established in November 2020 to deal with challenges of a Catholic in the White House – Biden – who contradicted Church teaching on life and marriage issues. Biden supports taxpayer-funded abortion and the redefinition of marriage, among other policies contrary to Church teaching.

The bishops’ working group recommended a teaching document on the Eucharist, to inform Catholics – especially Catholic politicians – of the need to conform their lives to Church teaching in order to receive the Eucharist worthily and avoid giving scandal.

Bishop Rhoades on Wednesday said the Eucharistic document is meant to be “a teaching document,” one “that would focus more broadly on the Eucharist as the source and summit of our identity as Catholics.” It is addressed to all Catholics and is not a political statement, he said.

Regarding worthiness to receive Communion, the Church already has taught that discipline in canons 915 and 916 of the Code of Canon Law, he said on Wednesday. Canon 915 states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

The document, Rhoades emphasized, “will not be establishing national norms or a national policy” on admittance to Communion.

Bishop Rhoades added that it is the teaching of the Church that, in order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, a Catholic must “assent to the deposit of faith that’s contained in Scripture and Tradition that the Apostles entrusted to the Church.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Tobin on Wednesday expressed some criticism about the decision to draft the document at the current moment. “This document was born in some confusion,” he said, warning that it would be received by many Catholics as a partisan gesture.

Cardinal Tobin noted that the USCCB established a working group and drafted a document on worthiness to receive Communion after the election of Joe Biden. They did not do so right after the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, he said, taking more than a year to set up any such working group during Trump’s presidency.

Part of the USCCB’s reason for setting up the working group in 2020 was Biden’s professed Catholic faith, and the added possibility of scandal with a Catholic in the White House contradicting Church teaching on grave moral issues.

Bishops should be consulting not only among themselves, but with the lay faithful on the Eucharistic document, Tobin said.

“I think what we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist,” Cardinal Tobin said, “not one that, like it or not, is perceived as a political action.”

Cardinal Tobin was also asked about recent reports on the use of the gay dating and “hookup” app Grindr by clergy and seminarians.

The Catholic news website The Pillar on July 20 published its investigation claiming that, according to records of app signal data, the cell phone of the USCCB’s associate general secretary regularly emitted Grindr data signals during parts of the years 2018-2020. The secretary in question, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, became USCCB general secretary after the bishops’ November 2020 meeting. He resigned his post shortly before The Pillar published its investigation.

The Pillar has since published stories saying it reviewed data of Grindr app usage at rectories in the Newark archdiocese, and at the Vatican. The Archdiocese of Newark responded last week that it would investigate the allegations.

Cardinal Tobin on Wednesday said that priests could not be using the apps after having taken vows of celibacy, but also noted the “ethics” surrounding the gathering of the phone app data.

“All of us as Catholics take promises,” he said, noting vows made related to the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, and Holy Orders. “We should keep our promises, and we should repent when we don’t keep our promises,” he said.

For priests who have taken vows of celibacy, having a dating app on their phone “is asking for trouble,” Tobin said.

He also noted the “very questionable ethics around the” gathering of phone app data, and added that the information The Pillar shared with the Newark archdiocese “is very general.” Tobin would not comment further on the story.

A ‘true living medieval experience’: Catholic University students replicate Notre Dame cathedral architecture

Professors and students stand in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at The Catholic University of America's campus, to begin building truss number six of Notre Dame Cathedral in France. / Patrick G. Ryan, university photographer

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 15:03 pm (CNA).

Students and professors at the Catholic University of America (CUA) are building a full-scale truss replicating that which was destroyed in a 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

On the lawn in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., students and professors at the university are working with the architecture non-profit Handhouse Studio to create a wooden truss, a roofing framework. The truss has the same specifications as one of the hundreds of trusses destroyed in the devastating April 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

“The making of this in front of the Basilica is magic.” said Tonya Ohnstad, visiting professor at the university’s school of architecture and a leader in construction effort, to CNA in a July 27 phone interview. 

The truss, which will be approximately 45 feet wide and 35 feet tall when finished, is being constructed in partnership with Handhouse Studio during a 10-day workshop. Ohnstad compared the rebuilding of the truss to a “true living medieval experience.” 

The workshop began on Monday morning when 30 White Oak trees donated from neighboring Virginia forests arrived at the university campus, along with a crane. Traditional timber framers, carpenters, faculty, students, and alumni have been participating in the project, using the methods and materials of the original medieval builders of Notre Dame.

“It's so incredible,” Ohnstad said, “I wish everyone could come and see the way they would have seen the construction of these important buildings with people working, all of the embodied energy of the humans, and everything people are pouring into these logs that would then be part of the church.”

An architecture graduate student involved in the effort, Sam Merklein, told CNA that his class contributed research into different joints, sketches, and dimensions of the truss; the students worked in collaboration with the Notre Dame architects in France.

“It's amazing to see all the drawings that detail all the different components of the building,” Merklein said, “but then also just to be able to say that we're helping to reconstruct a cathedral that is hundreds of years old and has had so much work put into it throughout the century is amazing.”

The university’s architecture department is teaching a related course on the history and reconstruction of the cathedral, which includes a public lecture series featuring experts from many fields.

Ohnstad’s architecture class on the cathedral, which began at the end of June, prepared for four weeks before the timber arrived on campus. She told CNA her team is rebuilding the sixth truss out of the hundreds of trusses that held up the cathedral. 

When asked if the truss will be used in the actual rebuilding of the cathedral, Ohnstad told CNA it has not been decided yet. She called the truss building a “gesture of global solidarity” to show the French that “we're in this with them, we want to help them reconstruct it, and that we hope that they will take a truss from us and put it in Notre Dame.” 

Ohnstad told CNA that she is collaborating with the group Charpentiers sans Frontières (“Carpenters Without Border”). As the team at CUA could have slightly different measurements and estimates than the team in France, the truss could be ruled out from being used in the Cathedral for that reason. 

However, when finished, the truss will be raised in front of the basilica for display on August 3 at 5:30 p.m. At the event, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington will come to bless the structure. 

The truss will then be raised for display on the National Mall on August 5, in partnership with the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center and with the support of Preservation Maryland. 

The National Building Museum also found interest in the truss, and will be exhibiting the structure within its “Great Hall” for sight seeing from August 6 to September 16.

“I think it's really amazing that across the Atlantic we're able to help out with the cathedral,” Merklein said, “and whether or not the timber framers here are going to send over a truss into the cathedral, or if it's just going to be a symbolic effort and gesture, I think it’s a really great experience and something I'm proud to work on.”

Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela calls Holy Year ‘a time of grace and encounter’

Santiago de Compostela cathedral / artem evdokimov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 09:05 am (CNA).

The Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela emphasized the graces of the current Jubilee Year at the shrine of St. James the Apostle, in a homily on Sunday, the saint’s feast day.

In his July 25 homily, Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela called the Holy Year "a time of grace, healing and encounter," according to Vatican News.

In Barrio’s homily, he highlighted the unifying benefits to praying to St. James.  He said that the saint could help the people of Spain maintain a “fraternal coexistence.” 

The feast of Saint James the Apostle fell on a Sunday this year, which means that pilgrims may gain an indulgence by visiting through the cathedral’s Holy Door. The beginning of the Jubilee Year of Compostela in Spain launched on December 31, 2020, and was set to continue for a year. However, because of the pandemic, Pope Francis decided it would continue through 2022.

This theme of this year’s jubilee is “Come out of your land! The Apostle is waiting for you!” 

The name comes from Pope Francis’s letter to Archbishop Barrio last year in which he wrote: "Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, we leave our self, those certainties to which we cling, but with a clear objective in mind, we are not wandering beings, always revolving around ourselves without getting anywhere.” 

“It is the voice of the Lord that calls us and, as pilgrims, we welcome it in an attitude of listening and seeking, undertaking this journey to meet God, others and ourselves,” the pope wrote.

Barrio made references to the coronavirus pandemic by praying for all victims, frontline workers and the deceased. “The mission of the Church,” he said, “is to lead people to God, but also to urge all people of goodwill to become aware of the root from which evils come, so that they may remedy the injustices and deplorable conditions in which many people live.”

The archbishop prayed that through the intercession of St. James, people would find hope and embrace “the liberating novelty of Christianity to give credible answers” to existential questions. 

Barrio said that Western civilization is in need of Christ because it has an “impoverished soul” which sees life as meaningless. Christianity gives all hope, he said, because it offers “love and solidarity” through the charity of God, “who abandons no one.”

During a Holy Year, when the feast of Saint James falls on a Sunday, the Holy Door in the cathedral remains open for the whole year, and pilgrims can gain a plenary indulgence for themselves, for someone who is ill or for a deceased person. 

To do so, pilgrims must visit the cathedral and fulfill the general conditions for receiving an indulgence: going to confession, receiving Communion, praying for the pope’s intentions, and possessing an interior detachment from sin.

Pilgrims have been making the journey to Santiago de Compostela for more than a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of James the apostle. The tradition of the Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela dates back to 1122, when Pope Callixtus II first allowed for a plenary indulgence for pilgrims to the shrine. 

The cathedral was completed in 1211 and houses the relics of St. James in its crypt. It is the destination of the “Camino de Santiago” pilgrimage route.

Guatemala: Bishops decry dismissal of anti-graft prosecutor

The Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala (CEG) voice their opposition to the firing of leading anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, highlighting that the move will cause “irreparable damage” to the justice system of the country.

5 things you need to know about Blessed Stanley Rother

Blessed Stanley Rother during a carnival. Courtesy of Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Archives.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 28, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Not much is popularly known about Blessed Stanley Rother, the small town Oklahoma native who was declared blessed in September 2017 by the Catholic Church.

One of the newest blesseds, he became a priest and missionary at a parish in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. He served the local Tz’utujil people at the time of the Guatemalan civil war, where he was on a hit list and eventually assassinated on July 28, 1981.

These are five things you need to know about this American on the path to sainthood who died 40 years ago today.

  1. Blessed Stanley Rother is the first American-born martyr. 

Aside from the North American Martyrs, such as Isaac Jogues, Blessed Stanley Rother is the only martyr associated with the United States. And he is the only martyr born in the United States. 

  1. He translated the New Testament into the Tz'utujil language. 

Stanley struggled academically in the seminary, especially with Latin, and eventually switched seminaries. Despite his seminary struggles, He learned both Spanish and Tz’utujil while in Guatemala where his desire to serve led him to learn the languages to connect with the people he was serving. 

  1. He was a jack of all trades.

Though not academically gifted, Blessed Stanley Rother possessed skills as an electrician, plumber, and farmer, which he used to aid his people by repairing machinery and helping them implement new techniques to better their farming. He also built many buildings for the community, such as a school, hospital, and a Catholic radio station. 

  1. Blessed Stanley Rother came back to his Guatemalan parish, saying “A shepherd cannot run from his flock.”

Blessed Stanley Rother faced danger to his own life in Guatemala, since his name was on a hit list. For safety, he returned to Oklahoma, where he said these words.  He went back to Guatemala for Holy Week to serve his parishioners despite the danger. Less than four months later, he was killed.

  1. Blessed Stanley Rother’s Tz’utujil parishioners have his heart. 

“At the parish, his presence is everywhere — his heart and his blood are in the church, the room that he was killed in has been converted into a chapel in his honor, the parochial school has been named after him. Blessed Rother is well-known all over town,” said Fr. Josh Mayer, a priest of the diocese of Gallup, following a visit to Guatemala in 2019 on Rother's feast day.

After Blessed Stanley Rother’s martyrdom his body was returned to Oklahoma for burial. His Guatemalan parishioners enshrined his heart, however, since they wished to keep a part of their beloved priest.

UN Refugee Convention protecting the rights of refugees for 70 years

70 years from the landmark UN Refugee Convention, the number of refugees in the world are the highest ever seen. A UNHCR Representative talks about the lasting value of the Convention.

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I Ex 34:29-35

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands,
he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the LORD.
When Aaron, then, and the other children of Israel saw Moses
and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become,
they were afraid to come near him.
Only after Moses called to them did Aaron
and all the rulers of the community come back to him.
Moses then spoke to them.
Later on, all the children of Israel came up to him,
and he enjoined on them all that the LORD
had told him on Mount Sinai.
When he finished speaking with them,
he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him,
he removed the veil until he came out again.
On coming out, he would tell the children of Israel
all that had been commanded.
Then the children of Israel would see
that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant;
so he would again put the veil over his face
until he went in to converse with the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm 99:5, 6, 7, 9

R.     (see 9c)  Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God,
    and worship at his footstool;
    holy is he!
R.     Holy is the Lord our God.
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    and Samuel, among those who called upon his name;
    they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
R.     Holy is the Lord our God.
From the pillar of cloud he spoke to them;
    they heard his decrees and the law he gave them.
R.     Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God,
    and worship at his holy mountain;
    for holy is the LORD, our God.
R.     Holy is the Lord our God.

Alleluia Jn 15:15b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys 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.