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‘You are not forgotten,' Vatican cardinal tells seafarers on Sea Sunday

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2020 / 06:30 am (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal urged Catholics Sunday to exercise a “preferential option for the poor” for seafarers serving on the front line of the coronavirus crisis. 

In a July 12 message marking Sea Sunday, Cardinal Peter Turkson described how the pandemic had left hundreds of thousands of maritime workers stranded and even driven some to suicide. 

“The celebration of Sea Sunday, especially by Christians, should invite us all to exercising a ‘preferential option for the poor’ seafarers, a pledge to live in solidarity with them,” he wrote. 

Sea Sunday is usually observed worldwide on the second Sunday of July, but some regions will celebrate it at a later date because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Shortly after the message was released, Pope Francis referred to Sea Sunday following his Angelus address. 

“I extend warm greetings to all those who work on the sea, especially to those who are far from their loved ones and their country,” he said July 12.

His remarks followed a video message last month in which he told maritime workers that their many sacrifices during the pandemic had not gone unnoticed.

 

On this #SeaSunday, we entrust to the Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, all maritime personnel, fishermen, and their families. They have made many sacrifices – even during the lockdown – to continue working to provide us with food and other primary needs.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 12, 2020  

In his message, Turkson noted that this October marks the centenary of the charity Stella Maris, or Apostleship of the Sea, which supports seafarers across the world. The pandemic has forced the postponement to 2021 of centenary celebrations due to take place this fall in Glasgow, Scotland, the organization’s birthplace.

The prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said that while the virus had prompted entire countries to lockdown, seafarers were obliged to keep working despite the risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

“The maritime industry continued its operation, adding a multitude of challenges to the already problematic lives of the seafarers, and putting them on the front line in fighting against the coronavirus,” he wrote.

“Vessels that are transporting almost 90% of products that are badly needed to carry on our normal lives in these taxing circumstances such as medication and medical equipment, remain at seas.”

Turkson said that, “despite the fundamental role that seafarers play for the global economy,” lawmakers and governments had failed to address their needs during the crisis.  

“In this unprecedented situation crew members, who had already spent between six to 10 months on board, had to suffer the great inconvenience of having their employment period extended, with the consequent increase of personal fatigue and prolonged absence from loved ones and the comfort of homes,” he wrote.

“Estimates suggest that, every month, 100,000 seafarers who finish their contracts and look forward to flying home were prevented from doing so by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closure of borders and flights.”

The Ghanaian cardinal continued: “Accordingly, thousands of seafarers who were ready to leave for a new contract were stranded in hotels and dormitories around the globe, reduced to beggarly dependence on charitable institutions for their basic needs such as foods, toiletries, sim cards, etc.”

“Because of the absence of shore leave, and restricted port entry for ships visiting, seafarers on board the vessels suffer isolation, severe physical and mental stress that brings many crews on the verge of desperation and, unfortunately, committing suicide.” 

“We have reports of many seafarers with serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions which are unrelated to COVID-19. These still need emergency medical care in land-based national hospitals, which unfortunately were denied them or delayed until they had to be carried on stretchers.”

Even when workers reached their homelands, they had to undergo quarantine or face “discrimination or stigmatization” because they were seen as bears of the coronavirus, the cardinal said. 

He argued that seafarers were also suffering because “some unscrupulous shipowners, crewing agencies and managers” were using the virus as an excuse to ignore workers’ rights, including access to a proper wage and safe conditions.

He also noted that in the first three months of 2020 piracy attacks and attempted assaults on vessels had increased by 24%. 

“To all of the experiences above of the seafarers, which describe a dangerous form of livelihood, we must now consider the real threat of losing even this precarious livelihood, because it will mean for many the total loss of income and inability to assume social and domestic responsibilities, such as, payment of utilities bills, education of dependents, welfare of family,” he said.

Turkson recalled a personal message sent to seafarers by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In the April 20 message, Lim told workers: “I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not forgotten.”

The cardinal said: “You are not forgotten: the Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers will be with you in the next months when your resilience will be put to test and we will try to respond to your material and spiritual needs. We will be always at your side, raising your concerns, upholding your labor and human rights, and preventing discrimination.”

The cardinal’s message was accompanied by a prayer composed by the Dicastery and inspired by the message for Sea Sunday 2020. 

It read: “Holy Virgin Mary, sign of the maternal face of God, with filial confidence we turn to you in the current pandemic. Keep in your Immaculate Heart the seafarers, the fishermen and their families, who with their work are ensuring the human family with food and other basic needs.”

“Sign of the closeness of the Father, support them in their trials and protect them from all dangers: isolation and severe physical and mental stress, long periods spent on board ships, distance from their family, friends and from their own country, fear of contamination, piracy attacks and attempted attacks, armed robberies.” 

“Sign of the mercy of the Son, help Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers to listen to the people of the sea, trying to respond to their material and spiritual needs, standing by their side, raising their concerns, upholding their labor rights and preventing discrimination.”
 
“Sign of the fruitfulness of the Spirit and advocate of seafarers, bring unscrupulous ship-owners, crewing agencies and managers back to the way of justice who, using the excuse of the pandemic, dismiss their obligations towards seafarers. Let us stand in solidarity with those who have lost their income.” 

“Sign of consolation and sure hope, tenderly embraces coronavirus victims, especially the seafarers who committed suicide.”

“Star of the Sea, pray for us. Amen!”

‘You are not forgotten,' Vatican cardinal tells seafarers on Sea Sunday

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2020 / 06:30 am (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal urged Catholics Sunday to exercise a “preferential option for the poor” for seafarers serving on the front line of the coronavirus crisis. 

In a July 12 message marking Sea Sunday, Cardinal Peter Turkson described how the pandemic had left hundreds of thousands of maritime workers stranded and even driven some to suicide. 

“The celebration of Sea Sunday, especially by Christians, should invite us all to exercising a ‘preferential option for the poor’ seafarers, a pledge to live in solidarity with them,” he wrote. 

Sea Sunday is usually observed worldwide on the second Sunday of July, but some regions will celebrate it at a later date because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Shortly after the message was released, Pope Francis referred to Sea Sunday following his Angelus address. 

“I extend warm greetings to all those who work on the sea, especially to those who are far from their loved ones and their country,” he said July 12.

His remarks followed a video message last month in which he told maritime workers that their many sacrifices during the pandemic had not gone unnoticed.

 

On this #SeaSunday, we entrust to the Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, all maritime personnel, fishermen, and their families. They have made many sacrifices – even during the lockdown – to continue working to provide us with food and other primary needs.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 12, 2020  

In his message, Turkson noted that this October marks the centenary of the charity Stella Maris, or Apostleship of the Sea, which supports seafarers across the world. The pandemic has forced the postponement to 2021 of centenary celebrations due to take place this fall in Glasgow, Scotland, the organization’s birthplace.

The prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said that while the virus had prompted entire countries to lockdown, seafarers were obliged to keep working despite the risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

“The maritime industry continued its operation, adding a multitude of challenges to the already problematic lives of the seafarers, and putting them on the front line in fighting against the coronavirus,” he wrote.

“Vessels that are transporting almost 90% of products that are badly needed to carry on our normal lives in these taxing circumstances such as medication and medical equipment, remain at seas.”

Turkson said that, “despite the fundamental role that seafarers play for the global economy,” lawmakers and governments had failed to address their needs during the crisis.  

“In this unprecedented situation crew members, who had already spent between six to 10 months on board, had to suffer the great inconvenience of having their employment period extended, with the consequent increase of personal fatigue and prolonged absence from loved ones and the comfort of homes,” he wrote.

“Estimates suggest that, every month, 100,000 seafarers who finish their contracts and look forward to flying home were prevented from doing so by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closure of borders and flights.”

The Ghanaian cardinal continued: “Accordingly, thousands of seafarers who were ready to leave for a new contract were stranded in hotels and dormitories around the globe, reduced to beggarly dependence on charitable institutions for their basic needs such as foods, toiletries, sim cards, etc.”

“Because of the absence of shore leave, and restricted port entry for ships visiting, seafarers on board the vessels suffer isolation, severe physical and mental stress that brings many crews on the verge of desperation and, unfortunately, committing suicide.” 

“We have reports of many seafarers with serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions which are unrelated to COVID-19. These still need emergency medical care in land-based national hospitals, which unfortunately were denied them or delayed until they had to be carried on stretchers.”

Even when workers reached their homelands, they had to undergo quarantine or face “discrimination or stigmatization” because they were seen as bears of the coronavirus, the cardinal said. 

He argued that seafarers were also suffering because “some unscrupulous shipowners, crewing agencies and managers” were using the virus as an excuse to ignore workers’ rights, including access to a proper wage and safe conditions.

He also noted that in the first three months of 2020 piracy attacks and attempted assaults on vessels had increased by 24%. 

“To all of the experiences above of the seafarers, which describe a dangerous form of livelihood, we must now consider the real threat of losing even this precarious livelihood, because it will mean for many the total loss of income and inability to assume social and domestic responsibilities, such as, payment of utilities bills, education of dependents, welfare of family,” he said.

Turkson recalled a personal message sent to seafarers by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In the April 20 message, Lim told workers: “I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not forgotten.”

The cardinal said: “You are not forgotten: the Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers will be with you in the next months when your resilience will be put to test and we will try to respond to your material and spiritual needs. We will be always at your side, raising your concerns, upholding your labor and human rights, and preventing discrimination.”

The cardinal’s message was accompanied by a prayer composed by the Dicastery and inspired by the message for Sea Sunday 2020. 

It read: “Holy Virgin Mary, sign of the maternal face of God, with filial confidence we turn to you in the current pandemic. Keep in your Immaculate Heart the seafarers, the fishermen and their families, who with their work are ensuring the human family with food and other basic needs.”

“Sign of the closeness of the Father, support them in their trials and protect them from all dangers: isolation and severe physical and mental stress, long periods spent on board ships, distance from their family, friends and from their own country, fear of contamination, piracy attacks and attempted attacks, armed robberies.” 

“Sign of the mercy of the Son, help Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers to listen to the people of the sea, trying to respond to their material and spiritual needs, standing by their side, raising their concerns, upholding their labor rights and preventing discrimination.”
 
“Sign of the fruitfulness of the Spirit and advocate of seafarers, bring unscrupulous ship-owners, crewing agencies and managers back to the way of justice who, using the excuse of the pandemic, dismiss their obligations towards seafarers. Let us stand in solidarity with those who have lost their income.” 

“Sign of consolation and sure hope, tenderly embraces coronavirus victims, especially the seafarers who committed suicide.”

“Star of the Sea, pray for us. Amen!”

Pope Francis: ‘If we want, we can become good soil’

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis urged Catholics Sunday to reflect on whether they are receptive to the Word of God. 

In his Angelus address July 12, he meditated on Sunday’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus recounts the Parable of the Sower. In the parable, a farmer scatters seed on four types of terrain -- a path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil -- only the last of which successfully produces grain. 

The pope said: “We can ask ourselves: what type of terrain am I? Do I resemble the path, the rocky ground, the bramble bush?” 

“But, if we want, we can become good soil, ploughed and carefully cultivated, to help ripen the seed of the Word. It is already present in our heart, but making it fruitful depends on us; it depends on the embrace that we reserve for this seed.” 

Pope Francis described the story of the sower as “somewhat the ‘mother’ of all parables,” because it focuses on a fundamental element of the Christian life: listening to the Word of God. 

“The Word of God, symbolized by the seeds is not an abstract Word, but is Christ himself, the Word of the Father who became flesh in Mary’s womb. Therefore, embracing the Word of God means embracing the personage of Christ; of Christ Himself,” he said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See Press Office. 

Reflecting on the seed that fell on the path and was immediately consumed by birds, the pope observed that this represented “distraction, a great danger of our time.” 

He said: “Beset by lots of small talk, by many ideologies, by continuous opportunities to be distracted inside and outside the home, we can lose our zest for silence, for reflection, for dialogue with the Lord, such that we risk losing our faith, not receiving the Word of God, as we are seeing everything, distracted by everything, by worldly things.”

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, he turned to the rocky ground, where the seeds sprang up but soon withered away. 

“This is the image of those who receive the Word of God with momentary enthusiasm, though it remains superficial; it does not assimilate the Word of God,” he explained. 

“In this way, at the first difficulty, such as a discomfort or disturbance of life, that still-feeble faith dissolves, as the seed withers that falls among the rocks.”

He continued: “Again -- a third possibility, that of which Jesus speaks in the parable -- we may receive the Word of God like ground where thorny bushes grow. And the thorns are the deceit of wealth, of success, of worldly concerns... There, the word grows a little, but becomes choked, it is not strong, and it dies or does not bear fruit.” 

“Lastly -- the fourth possibility -- we may receive it like good soil. Here, and only here, the seed takes root and bears fruit. The seed fallen upon this fertile soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, safeguard it in their heart and put it into practice in everyday life.”

The pope suggested that a good way to counter distraction and to distinguish the voice of Jesus from competing voices was to read the Word of God daily.

“And I return once more to that advice: always keep with you a handy copy of the Gospel, a pocket edition of the Gospel, in your pocket, in your purse ... and so, every day, read a short passage, so that you become used to reading the Word of God, understanding well the seed that God offers you, and thinking about the earth that receives it,” he said.

He also encouraged Catholics to seek help from the Virgin Mary, the “perfect model of good and fertile soil.”

After reciting the Angelus, the pope recalled that July 12 was Sea Sunday, an annual observance marked throughout the world, saying: “I extend warm greetings to all those who work on the sea, especially to those who are far from their loved ones and their country.”

In improvised remarks, he added: “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened,”

The pope appeared to be referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to sign a decree July 10 turning the ancient former Byzantine cathedral back into an Islamic place of worship.

Addressing pilgrims gathered in the square below, who stood apart in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, he said: “I greet with gratitude the representatives of the Pastoral Ministry for Health from the Diocese of Rome, thinking of the many priests, women and men religious and lay people who have been, and remain, at the sides of the sick, in this time of pandemic.”

Pope Francis: ‘If we want, we can become good soil’

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis urged Catholics Sunday to reflect on whether they are receptive to the Word of God. 

In his Angelus address July 12, he meditated on Sunday’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus recounts the Parable of the Sower. In the parable, a farmer scatters seed on four types of terrain -- a path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil -- only the last of which successfully produces grain. 

The pope said: “We can ask ourselves: what type of terrain am I? Do I resemble the path, the rocky ground, the bramble bush?” 

“But, if we want, we can become good soil, ploughed and carefully cultivated, to help ripen the seed of the Word. It is already present in our heart, but making it fruitful depends on us; it depends on the embrace that we reserve for this seed.” 

Pope Francis described the story of the sower as “somewhat the ‘mother’ of all parables,” because it focuses on a fundamental element of the Christian life: listening to the Word of God. 

“The Word of God, symbolized by the seeds is not an abstract Word, but is Christ himself, the Word of the Father who became flesh in Mary’s womb. Therefore, embracing the Word of God means embracing the personage of Christ; of Christ Himself,” he said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See Press Office. 

Reflecting on the seed that fell on the path and was immediately consumed by birds, the pope observed that this represented “distraction, a great danger of our time.” 

He said: “Beset by lots of small talk, by many ideologies, by continuous opportunities to be distracted inside and outside the home, we can lose our zest for silence, for reflection, for dialogue with the Lord, such that we risk losing our faith, not receiving the Word of God, as we are seeing everything, distracted by everything, by worldly things.”

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, he turned to the rocky ground, where the seeds sprang up but soon withered away. 

“This is the image of those who receive the Word of God with momentary enthusiasm, though it remains superficial; it does not assimilate the Word of God,” he explained. 

“In this way, at the first difficulty, such as a discomfort or disturbance of life, that still-feeble faith dissolves, as the seed withers that falls among the rocks.”

He continued: “Again -- a third possibility, that of which Jesus speaks in the parable -- we may receive the Word of God like ground where thorny bushes grow. And the thorns are the deceit of wealth, of success, of worldly concerns... There, the word grows a little, but becomes choked, it is not strong, and it dies or does not bear fruit.” 

“Lastly -- the fourth possibility -- we may receive it like good soil. Here, and only here, the seed takes root and bears fruit. The seed fallen upon this fertile soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, safeguard it in their heart and put it into practice in everyday life.”

The pope suggested that a good way to counter distraction and to distinguish the voice of Jesus from competing voices was to read the Word of God daily.

“And I return once more to that advice: always keep with you a handy copy of the Gospel, a pocket edition of the Gospel, in your pocket, in your purse ... and so, every day, read a short passage, so that you become used to reading the Word of God, understanding well the seed that God offers you, and thinking about the earth that receives it,” he said.

He also encouraged Catholics to seek help from the Virgin Mary, the “perfect model of good and fertile soil.”

After reciting the Angelus, the pope recalled that July 12 was Sea Sunday, an annual observance marked throughout the world, saying: “I extend warm greetings to all those who work on the sea, especially to those who are far from their loved ones and their country.”

In improvised remarks, he added: “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened,”

The pope appeared to be referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to sign a decree July 10 turning the ancient former Byzantine cathedral back into an Islamic place of worship.

Addressing pilgrims gathered in the square below, who stood apart in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, he said: “I greet with gratitude the representatives of the Pastoral Ministry for Health from the Diocese of Rome, thinking of the many priests, women and men religious and lay people who have been, and remain, at the sides of the sick, in this time of pandemic.”

Pope Francis expresses sadness after Hagia Sophia is declared a mosque

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2020 / 04:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis expressed his sadness Sunday after Turkey’s decision to convert the former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

In improvised remarks after reciting the Angelus, the pope recalled that July 12 is Sea Sunday, when the worldwide Church prays for seafarers. 

“And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened,” he said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See Press Office.

The pope appeared to be referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to sign a decree July 10 turning the sixth-century edifice into an Islamic place of worship.

The presidential decree was signed within hours of a court ruling Friday, which declared unlawful an 80-year-old government decree which converted the building from a mosque into a museum.

The pope’s comments followed the publication of articles in the Orthodox Christian media asking why the Vatican had not commented on the decision. 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, has said that the building’s prior status as a museum made it “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

In a June 30 homily, he said that Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, belongs “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity.”

Pope Francis expresses sadness after Hagia Sophia is declared a mosque

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2020 / 04:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis expressed his sadness Sunday after Turkey’s decision to convert the former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

In improvised remarks after reciting the Angelus, the pope recalled that July 12 is Sea Sunday, when the worldwide Church prays for seafarers. 

“And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened,” he said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See Press Office.

The pope appeared to be referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to sign a decree July 10 turning the sixth-century edifice into an Islamic place of worship.

The presidential decree was signed within hours of a court ruling Friday, which declared unlawful an 80-year-old government decree which converted the building from a mosque into a museum.

The pope’s comments followed the publication of articles in the Orthodox Christian media asking why the Vatican had not commented on the decision. 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, has said that the building’s prior status as a museum made it “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

In a June 30 homily, he said that Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, belongs “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity.”

News anchor-turned-Catholic vocations director embarks on 'Tour de Priest'

Jackson, Miss., Jul 12, 2020 / 03:53 am (CNA).- This Sunday, a Catholic priest will embark on a 320-mile, 5-day bike ride to recruit young men and women for the Church.

Father Nick Adam had to be creative when he was assigned to be the director of vocations for the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, in the midst of a global pandemic.

“How do I reach people? How do I reach people?” Fr. Adam recalled repeatedly asking himself while the shelter-in-place order was in effect.

Since he had evenings free, he began riding his bike on the Natchez Trace Parkway. He soon realized that the parkway, which connects the entirety of his diocese, could be the perfect solution.

“It checks a lot of boxes. It allows me to connect with a wide variety of people (and) allows me to have a presence on Facebook and Instagram,” Adam told CNA. He is planning to document his trip on social media, allowing anyone to follow along with his journey.

As a former sports and news anchor, Adam has a gift for communication.

“Media and connecting with people in creative ways has always been part of my call,” he said. “I need to embrace those gifts for communication that [God] gave me.”

The priest admitted that bike riding does not come as naturally to him.

“People have looked at me like I’m crazy sometimes, especially because I’m not in the best shape of my life, but I have been training,” he said.

Still, Adam says that the fact that the ride will be a challenge is integral to his mission.

“Just completing something like this shows people that they can strive for something great,” he said. “That’s the Catholic idea, that’s the Catholic project, to bring about the kingdom of God. And it’s going to be hard and it's going to be challenging, and you’re going to want to quit, but with the Lord’s help, you are not going to quit.”

Adam said the trip is also an important remedy for misconceptions that many young people have about the priesthood.

“It shows people that priests are normal people that do normal things and that are capable of physical exertion,” he said.

Along his route, Adam will stop in parishes, meet with seminarians, and celebrate Mass, which will be live-streamed on his social media platforms. He wants to connect with young people, whether that be in-person or over his virtual interface.

Although Adam will stay in rectories of parishes overnight, between Jackson and Natchez there is “no ecclessial place to stay,” and he will instead spend the night at a campground. Young college students and others discerning a call to the priesthood and religious life will camp out with him.

Adam hopes that he can lay the groundwork for “a culture of vocations” in the diocese of Jackson among these young people.

Although it is the largest diocese East of the Mississippi, the Jackson diocese has always been served by mission priests. There were so many Irish priests in the diocese that when he was little, Adam thought being Irish was a requirement for the priesthood. Now most of the missionary priests come from Mexico, Latin America, and India.

“We have very few native Mississippians who are priests for our diocese,” he said. “My dream, and I think our call, is to create a presbyterate that again honors those who have evangelized our communities, but do that by filling our parishes with men who grew up in the state.”

He hopes that this trip, which he calls his “tour de priest,” will encourage young people to enter seminaries and convents in order to discern their calling.

The bike that will take him across the diocese is itself an artifact of several vocations.

“It’s been passed down, I think, from a baptist minister, to a Catholic monsignor, to a Catholic priest, finally to me as a seminarian. I mean, it’s got to be like 20 years old,” he said. “But it’s still rolling.”

 

Gomez asks for prayers after fire at 'spiritual heart of Los Angeles'

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 08:15 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has expressed his “terrible sadness” after a fire at a 249-year-old mission church founded by St. Junípero Serra, and asked for prayers for the local Catholic community.

Gomez said that the fire at “our beloved Mission San Gabriel Arcángel” early Saturday morning had caused severe damage to the California Historic Landmark.

“The damage is extensive — the roof is destroyed and much of the old church is ruined,” the archbishop reported in a letter released the evening of July 11. “It is terribly sad. Thanks be to God, nobody was hurt.”

The church had been scheduled to reopen on July 18, having been closed for some weeks following the coronavirus pandemic. Gomez called the mission, founded by St. Serra in 1771, the “historic cornerstone and the spiritual heart of Los Angeles and the Catholic community here.”

“The family of God was born in this region when St. Junípero Serra and his brother Franciscans established the mission on September 8, 1771,” Gomez said.

“It was families from this mission, who in turn founded Los Angeles ten years later, on September 4, 1781, walking nine miles west from the mission, crossing the Los Angeles River, and establishing El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula, named for the little chapel where St. Francis of Assisi first heard the call of Jesus Christ.”

The archbishop said that “to this day,” the parish at the mission “continues to be a shining expression of the beautiful diversity that God intends for his human family.” A special appeal fund has been established by the archdiocese.

“So, join me please in praying in this sad moment for our brothers and sisters at Mission San Gabriel. May they know the comfort and consolation of our loving Father and the solidarity and care of the entire family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

Local firefighters said they responded to an initial alarm at 4:24 a.m. By the time they arrived, smoke and flames were visible from outside the church and more than 50 firefighters were needed to bring the flames under control.

Adrian Marquez Alarcon, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that because of renovations underway at the church ahead of its 250th anniversary, historic paintings and artifacts had been removed and were not in the building at the time of the fire.

No cause has yet been determined for the four-alarm fire, and local firefighters have said that the structure of the mission will have to be secured before a forensic investigation can begin.

The San Gabriel mission was the fourth mission founded by St. Junípero Serra, a Franciscan priest who founded a trail of missions across California, helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity, and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

An advocate for native people and a champion of human rights, Serra was often at odds with Spanish authorities over the treatment of native people, from whom there was an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

Serra was canonized by Pope Francis during a visit to the United States in 2015.

Despite Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, images of the saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past.

Arrest made in Florida Catholic church burning

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 07:14 pm (CNA).-  

A Florida man has been arrested after he reportedly admitted to crashing a minivan into a Catholic Church and then setting it on fire.

Stephen Anthony Shields, 24, of Dunnellon, Florida has been charged with attempted murder, arson, burglary, and evading arrest, after he was apprehended by police July 11.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported Saturday morning that deputies were called at about 7:30 am to Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, which was set aflame while parishioners inside prepared for morning Mass.

According to a Saturday evening statement from the sheriff's office, Shields poured gasoline in the church’s foyer and ignited it, after crashing his minivan through the parish's front door. Shields then drove away in the minivan, leading officers on a short chase before he was stopped.

According to local media, Shields told police he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but is not currently taking prescribed medication. He said that he awoke on Saturday morning with a “mission,” and that he purchased the gas at a nearby gas station, according to Ocala-News.

Shields also quoted scripture, especially the Book of Revelation, to officers, and telling them his objections to the Catholic Church, Ocala-News reported. He reportedly told officers that he understood the consequences of his action, nevertheless saying the arson was “awesome” and referring to himself as “king.”

In 2019, Shields was arrested after swinging a crowbar at a woman and saying he wanted to kill her. Shields said he wanted to kill the woman with his crowbar so he wouldn’t “dirty his blades,” according to Ocala-News.

In a July 11 statement, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said: “Our freedom of worship granted in the Constitution is a freedom that we all hold dear. My deputies and I are sworn to protect that right and will always ensure our citizens can worship in peace. I’m proud of my deputies for capturing this man so quickly and we appreciate the assistance from all of the state and federal agencies that worked alongside of us during this investigation.”

Earlier today, the Diocese of Orlando told CNA that Masses would resume in a nearby parish hall as ordinarily scheduled.

“We praise God that no one was injured. We join in prayer for Father O’Doherty, the parishioners of Queen of Peace Catholic Church, our first responders and the gentleman who caused this damage. May we come to know the Peace of the Lord,” the Orlando diocese told CNA Saturday afternoon.

In addition to its other liturgies, the parish is one of few in central Florida to offer the extraordinary form of the Mass, otherwise known as the Traditional Latin Mass, which is celebrated weekly by a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who drives to Ocala from a church in Sarasota.

The fire came at almost the same time that outside of Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Junipero Serra caught fire and was structurally destroyed.
 

Pope Francis advances cause of teen who died of bone cancer

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2020 / 05:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has recognized the heroic virtues of a 14-year-old Italian boy who died in 1963.

The pope advanced the cause of Angiolino Bonetta, along with four others, following a July 10 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

Bonetta was born on Sept. 18, 1948, in Cigole, northern Italy. A lively but virtuous boy, he excelled at school as well as at sports. 

When a pain developed in his knee, he attributed it to his athletic activities. But when he began to lose weight, his mother took him to hospital, where he was diagnosed with bone cancer, at the age of 12. He underwent chemotherapy and his leg was amputated. 

According to an account of his life in “Saints for the Sick,” a 2010 book by Joan Carroll Cruz, Bonetta remained cheerful and his acceptance of his illness inspired conversions. When a nun suggested that he should offer up his sufferings, he replied: “I have already offered all to Jesus for the conversion of sinners. I am not afraid; Jesus always comes to help me.”

To a woman who expressed sympathy on seeing him walking painfully on crutches, he said: “But don’t you know that at every step I could save a soul?”

When the cancer metastasized, increasing his agony, he turned for comfort to the Virgin Mary and received the Eucharist daily. He held tight to a crucifix and other holy objects, including a relic of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. He spent his nights praying the rosary for other patients who were sick in mind and body.

A photo from this time depicts him lying in bed, with his parents beside him. His hand is extended affectionately to caress his mother’s cheek.

“Saints for the Sick” reports that the day before his death, on Jan. 28, 1963, he told his mother: “I have made a pact with the Madonna. When the hour arrives, she will come to take me. I have asked her to permit me to make my purgatory on this earth, not in the other world. When I die, I will immediately fly to heaven.”

At the moment of his death, in the early hours, he was holding his crucifix and St. Bernadette relic, with his head turned towards a statue of Mary. 

Bonetta’s sainthood cause opened May 19, 1998. The diocesan phase of the process ended May 6, 2000. Following the decree announced July 11 Bonetta’s title will change from “Servant of God” to “the Venerable.”

Pope Francis also authorized decrees concerning four other causes during his meeting with Becciu Friday.

He recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Mariantonia Samà (1875-1953), a southern Italian laywoman who died following a life of great hardship, including 60 years of confinement to her bed. The move paves the way for her beatification.

He acknowledged the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Eusebio Kino (1645-1711), an Italian Jesuit explorer and cartographer who died in Mexico after extensive travels, including to present-day California and Arizona. He established 24 missions and visiting stations, and opposed the forced labor in silver mines imposed on Indigenous peoples by the Spanish. 

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Mariano José de Ibargüengoitia y Zuloaga (1815-1888), a Spanish priest who co-founded the Institute of the Servants of Jesus, and the Servant of God Maria Félix Torres (1907-2001), founder of the Company of the Savior.