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Analysis: USCCB elections and the Church's theological vision

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2019 / 04:46 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference fall meeting is unlikely to offer any surprises to Church observers watching the assembly. In fact, while the meeting will begin Monday, its only real surprise came weeks ago, when the list of candidates for the conference presidency and vice presidency was published.

The bishops will elect a new president Tuesday, almost certain to be Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, now the conference vice president. The uncertain question is who they’ll elect as vice president, but Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the military archdiocese are largely considered the front-runners, and one of them is likely to win.

But the surprise of the candidates’ list, released Oct. 21, is that nearly all the bishops eligible to be elected president or vice president are  typically classified, at least by secular media, as “conservative.”

Ordinarily, candidates represent a cross-section of the theological and socio-political perspectives within the conference. But this year, each of the candidates, save for one, has been described as a “conservative,” and, to some extent, the label fits. 

The categories of political sociology are not helpful in a Church context, because the modes of thinking and acting in the Church are very different from those of political partisanship.

Rather than speaking of “conservatives” and “liberals,” it is more accurate to say that the candidates for high office in the bishops’ conference can all be seen to represent the Communio school of post-Vatican II theological formation, instead of the Concilium school represented by Cardinal Blase Cupich and Bishop Robert McElroy.

The possible exception to this categorization is Bishop Dan Flores of Brownsville, who, as a rather well-read Thomist, does not fit neatly into either category. But in the contemporary theological landscape, a Thomist like Flores is generally thought to have common cause mostly with the Communio crowd. To borrow from political language, Flores might be spoken of as an “independent” who usually caucuses with the Communio school.

In short, though, the nominees are more uniform in theological perspective than is typical for slates of conference candidates.

Candidates are selected by nomination; each bishop is asked during the summer months of an election year to nominate candidates for office, and those who get the most nominations are in the running. The nominees they selected could be taken as a sign that most bishops hold to the Communio theological approach that defined the papacies of the St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, rather than the Concilium approach, which has enjoyed a resurgence in some quarters during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

It could also mean that any of the Concilium bishops who got a nomination declined it. There are, indeed, rumors that at least one archbishop who fits Concilium mold turned down the nod. But the idea that the U.S. bishops are mostly cut from the cloth of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and tend to think like those men, is hardly radical, and it makes sense they would mostly nominate bishops of a similar vein.

But the nominees’ slate does signify that a one-time tradition in conference elections is probably over, for good. It has long been customary that the conference elect its vice president as president, and it was once customary that the top job alternated between “conservative” and “progressive” bishops.

Both customs were interrupted in 2010. In that year, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was then considered to be a “conservative,” was elected president in a coup that saw the “progressive” vice president, Bishop Gerarld Kicanas, left out in the cold. Since Dolan’s election, two more mostly-conservative, Communio school bishops have been elected president of the conference.

Gomez, though naturally a bridge-builder and a man of modest temperament, falls rather squarely in the Communio school, and his successor is sure to as well. That will make five bishops of mostly similar theological orientation elected to lead the conference in a row. The unspoken custom of alternating between theological viewpoints seems to be dead.

Still, if the nomination of very similar bishops as candidates for the 2019 election signifies that the John Paul II Communio approach is the predominant viewpoint among the U.S. bishops, it’s not certain how long that will last.

There are two Americans on the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which plays a heavy role in nominating candidates to the episcopacy. One is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is 78 and will depart from the congregation in two years. Wuerl, leaving aside the personal disgrace in which he now finds himself, is regarding theologically as a moderate Communio bishop. The other is Cardinal Blase Cupich, who, with his language of “paradigm shifts,” is regarded most definitively as a Concilium figure.

If Cupich plays a principal role in the nomination of U.S. bishops, the American episcopacy will likely tend toward the Concilium school, even as the Communio crowd takes leadership posts at the conference. If the Concilium bishops eventually occupy 51% of the American episcopate, however, the tides will turn.

That future possibility, in fact, may well be the reason why no Concilium bishops are running to be conference president. If they expect that the composition of the conference might undergo significant change in the next decade, they might judge it better simply to bide their time.

The real difference of opinion between Communio and Concilium bishops concerns the interpretive lens through which the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and indeed the Magisterium of the Church more broadly, should be read. That theological debate will have implications for decades, and perhaps centuries. For a sense of how the debate is going, the leadership and composition of the U.S. bishops' conference may prove to be a pretty good litmus test.

 

Catholic couple brings the love of family to young people with mental illness

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- For Catholic couple Austin and Catherine Mardon, mental illness is personal.

Austin has schizophrenia, Catherine has PTSD, and together they foster children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Austin and Catherine have been married since 2003. Both are writers, and their experiences have led them to devote themselves to working on behalf of people with mental illnesses, many of whom, they said, end up without a family and living on the street.

The Mardons met Pope Francis after the general audience Nov. 6. They were inducted, in 2017, into the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, a papal Order of Knighthood, for their work on behalf of the disabled.

A native of Oklahoma, Catherine told CNA she has always remembered what one of her childhood teachers, a Carmelite nun, once said: “We don’t help people because they’re Catholic, we help people because we’re Catholic and we're called to do it.”

“Look around,” she said. There are people in need of love and support all around, but “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” to reach out.

Austin, a Canadian, is an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.

A scientist by education, Austin was part of a NASA meteorite recovery expedition to the Antarctic in the 1980s at the age of 24. Unfortunately, the extreme difficulties of the expedition affected him mentally and physically.

Despite these challenges, he earned master’s degrees in science and education and published more articles and books, before being diagnosed at age 30 with schizophrenia, which he manages with medication.

He has since also obtained a PhD in geography and continued to publish and speak extensively in the fields of science, mental illness and disability.

Catherine was previously a lawyer focused on social justice issues, including death row appeals. She also helped the homeless and people with AIDs, and her work brought her into contact with many people struggling with mental illness.

“I have helped people that most other ordinary people didn’t want to be in the same room with,” she said.

After testifying in a case, Catherine was brutally attacked, leaving her with physical injuries, a traumatic brain injury, and PTSD. She was no longer able to practice law.

But Austin and Catherine have taken their sufferings and transformed into an opportunity to help others.

“When I got hurt and couldn’t practice law anymore, I didn’t just sit on a beach or curl up in a corner somewhere. I started taking care of people. Because that was something I could do, including [helping] a couple of kids who had Fetal Alcohol [Syndrome],” Catherine said.

The difference between Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they said, is that there is no treatment, because it is caused by permanent brain damage before birth.

The best thing for someone in this situation is early identification and intervention, Austin said, “to give them coping mechanisms to manage it, teach them techniques.”

“It’s almost like teaching someone who is blind or deaf how to maneuver around a world that they can’t quite perceive,” he said.

Catherine and Austin discovered, however, that many children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome do not get early intervention. In many cases, due to poor family situations or a loss of their parents, they end up in foster care, and then, when they age out of the system, on the streets.

So, the Mardons started taking some of these teenagers and young adults into their home. They also reach out to other young adults suffering from mental illness. They throw parties for them and invite them over for the holidays.

“The most important thing when it comes to dealing with the disenfranchised is first you have to recognize their equal human dignity. And secondly, you have to take them where they are,” Catherine said.

People automatically expect the mentally ill to be scary, she said. “They’re humans.”

“They want to be invited to Sunday dinner... They want somebody to remember their birthday. They want somebody to invite them to Christmas.”

The Mardons encourage others to find ways to support young people with mental illness, especially, they said, older adults who either do not have children or whose children are grown.

Young adults leaving the foster care system are in need of the kind of support a family would offer, they said. While there are charities to provide financial support and resources, these individuals often miss out on the practical advice of a loved one and the chance to form healthy relationships with others.

“Somebody’s got to take care of them,” Catherine said.

Austin said what he would like Catholics - both priests and laity - to understand about mental illness is “that today there are effective treatments,” through both medication and therapy.

He added that some Catholics think mental illness is a character flaw that can be solved by prayer. This is a dangerous misconception, he warned.

“We don’t say that you should pray instead of take medication for your heart, but many Christians and Catholics believe that [mental illness] is a character flaw…It’s not a character flaw,” he emphasized.

Austin often speaks on the topic, and he said his faith always informs his advice for people with mental illness or for their family members.

“I think that faith without action can be very hollow,” he added, “but then action without faith can sometimes be misguided.

Catholic couple brings the love of family to young people with mental illness

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- For Catholic couple Austin and Catherine Mardon, mental illness is personal.

Austin has schizophrenia, Catherine has PTSD, and together they foster children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Austin and Catherine have been married since 2003. Both are writers, and their experiences have led them to devote themselves to working on behalf of people with mental illnesses, many of whom, they said, end up without a family and living on the street.

The Mardons met Pope Francis after the general audience Nov. 6. They were inducted, in 2017, into the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, a papal Order of Knighthood, for their work on behalf of the disabled.

A native of Oklahoma, Catherine told CNA she has always remembered what one of her childhood teachers, a Carmelite nun, once said: “We don’t help people because they’re Catholic, we help people because we’re Catholic and we're called to do it.”

“Look around,” she said. There are people in need of love and support all around, but “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” to reach out.

Austin, a Canadian, is an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.

A scientist by education, Austin was part of a NASA meteorite recovery expedition to the Antarctic in the 1980s at the age of 24. Unfortunately, the extreme difficulties of the expedition affected him mentally and physically.

Despite these challenges, he earned master’s degrees in science and education and published more articles and books, before being diagnosed at age 30 with schizophrenia, which he manages with medication.

He has since also obtained a PhD in geography and continued to publish and speak extensively in the fields of science, mental illness and disability.

Catherine was previously a lawyer focused on social justice issues, including death row appeals. She also helped the homeless and people with AIDs, and her work brought her into contact with many people struggling with mental illness.

“I have helped people that most other ordinary people didn’t want to be in the same room with,” she said.

After testifying in a case, Catherine was brutally attacked, leaving her with physical injuries, a traumatic brain injury, and PTSD. She was no longer able to practice law.

But Austin and Catherine have taken their sufferings and transformed into an opportunity to help others.

“When I got hurt and couldn’t practice law anymore, I didn’t just sit on a beach or curl up in a corner somewhere. I started taking care of people. Because that was something I could do, including [helping] a couple of kids who had Fetal Alcohol [Syndrome],” Catherine said.

The difference between Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they said, is that there is no treatment, because it is caused by permanent brain damage before birth.

The best thing for someone in this situation is early identification and intervention, Austin said, “to give them coping mechanisms to manage it, teach them techniques.”

“It’s almost like teaching someone who is blind or deaf how to maneuver around a world that they can’t quite perceive,” he said.

Catherine and Austin discovered, however, that many children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome do not get early intervention. In many cases, due to poor family situations or a loss of their parents, they end up in foster care, and then, when they age out of the system, on the streets.

So, the Mardons started taking some of these teenagers and young adults into their home. They also reach out to other young adults suffering from mental illness. They throw parties for them and invite them over for the holidays.

“The most important thing when it comes to dealing with the disenfranchised is first you have to recognize their equal human dignity. And secondly, you have to take them where they are,” Catherine said.

People automatically expect the mentally ill to be scary, she said. “They’re humans.”

“They want to be invited to Sunday dinner... They want somebody to remember their birthday. They want somebody to invite them to Christmas.”

The Mardons encourage others to find ways to support young people with mental illness, especially, they said, older adults who either do not have children or whose children are grown.

Young adults leaving the foster care system are in need of the kind of support a family would offer, they said. While there are charities to provide financial support and resources, these individuals often miss out on the practical advice of a loved one and the chance to form healthy relationships with others.

“Somebody’s got to take care of them,” Catherine said.

Austin said what he would like Catholics - both priests and laity - to understand about mental illness is “that today there are effective treatments,” through both medication and therapy.

He added that some Catholics think mental illness is a character flaw that can be solved by prayer. This is a dangerous misconception, he warned.

“We don’t say that you should pray instead of take medication for your heart, but many Christians and Catholics believe that [mental illness] is a character flaw…It’s not a character flaw,” he emphasized.

Austin often speaks on the topic, and he said his faith always informs his advice for people with mental illness or for their family members.

“I think that faith without action can be very hollow,” he added, “but then action without faith can sometimes be misguided.

Francis prays for reconciliation as South Sudan struggles to form coalition government

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 05:08 am (CNA).- During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis led Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for peace and reconciliation for South Sudan, whose leaders are locked in disagreement as they try to form a government after a peace deal was struck last year.

“I address a special thought to the dear people of South Sudan, whom I will have to visit this year,” he said Nov. 10. “The South Sudanese people have suffered too much in recent years and await with great hope a better future, especially the definitive end of conflicts and lasting peace.”

“I invite you all to pray together for this country, for which I have a special affection,” he added, leading Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for the intention.

Formerly warring South Sudanese leaders, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar, are in the midst of trying to form a power-sharing government in the country after signing a peace deal in September 2018.

The coalition government was supposed to be formed by Nov. 12, but a 100-day extension was granted Nov. 8, because of ongoing disagreement on key issues.

The country’s Catholic bishops have called the tenuous peace accord in South Sudan “fatally flawed,” because it does not address the root causes of the conflict. The deal was signed following a five-year civil war which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

South Sudan’s civil war also left 2.1 million people internally displaced, and caused another 2.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations.

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled a spiritual retreat he held at the Vatican in April for the South Sudan political leaders, including Mayardit and Machar.

During the retreat, the pope made headlines when he performed the unprecedented gesture of kneeling down and kissing the feet of several of the South Sudanese leaders.

The pope said Nov. 10 he wishes to renew his “invitation to all the actors of the national political process to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a spirit of true brotherhood.”

“I therefore urge those responsible to continue, without tiring, their commitment to an inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good of the nation,” he continued, adding that he hopes the international community will also help South Sudan on the path to national reconciliation.

Pope Francis also asked for prayers for Bolivia, whose national election, held last month, is being reviewed for irregularities.

“I urge all Bolivians, especially political and social actors, to await the results of the election review process, which is currently underway, with a constructive spirit of peace and serenity,” he stated.

In his message before the Angelus, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading. In the passage from Luke, a group of Sadducees question Jesus about whose wife a woman will be after death if she was married, consecutively, to seven brothers, bearing no children by them.

But “Jesus does not fall into the trap,” Francis said. Jesus explains to the Sadducees that “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

With this answer, Jesus invites us to think about how the earthly dimension we live in now is not the only dimension, the pope said. “There is another, no longer subject to death, in which it will be fully manifested that we are children of God.”

“It gives great consolation and hope to hear this simple and clear word of Jesus about life beyond death; we need it so much especially in our time, so rich in knowledge of the universe but so poor in wisdom about eternal life,” he added. “Life belongs to God, who loves us and cares so much about us.”

“May the Virgin Mary help us to live every day in the perspective of what we affirm in the final part of the Creed: ‘I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,’” he concluded.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis noted the Nov. 9 beatification of Maria Emilia Riquelme y Zayas in Granada, Spain.

She was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and of Mary Immaculate, he said, adding that she “was exemplary in the fervor of Eucharistic adoration and generous in service to the most needy.”

He asked for a round of applause for the new blessed and for St. Bartholomew Fernandes of Braga, who was canonized in July through an “equivalent canonization,” also sometimes called “equipollent” or “confirmation of cultus,” which is when a pope chooses to waive the usual requirement of a miracle for canonization, because of the holy person’s established life of virtue and their long-standing veneration as a saint.

Francis prays for reconciliation as South Sudan struggles to form coalition government

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 05:08 am (CNA).- During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis led Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for peace and reconciliation for South Sudan, whose leaders are locked in disagreement as they try to form a government after a peace deal was struck last year.

“I address a special thought to the dear people of South Sudan, whom I will have to visit this year,” he said Nov. 10. “The South Sudanese people have suffered too much in recent years and await with great hope a better future, especially the definitive end of conflicts and lasting peace.”

“I invite you all to pray together for this country, for which I have a special affection,” he added, leading Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for the intention.

Formerly warring South Sudanese leaders, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar, are in the midst of trying to form a power-sharing government in the country after signing a peace deal in September 2018.

The coalition government was supposed to be formed by Nov. 12, but a 100-day extension was granted Nov. 8, because of ongoing disagreement on key issues.

The country’s Catholic bishops have called the tenuous peace accord in South Sudan “fatally flawed,” because it does not address the root causes of the conflict. The deal was signed following a five-year civil war which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

South Sudan’s civil war also left 2.1 million people internally displaced, and caused another 2.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations.

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled a spiritual retreat he held at the Vatican in April for the South Sudan political leaders, including Mayardit and Machar.

During the retreat, the pope made headlines when he performed the unprecedented gesture of kneeling down and kissing the feet of several of the South Sudanese leaders.

The pope said Nov. 10 he wishes to renew his “invitation to all the actors of the national political process to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a spirit of true brotherhood.”

“I therefore urge those responsible to continue, without tiring, their commitment to an inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good of the nation,” he continued, adding that he hopes the international community will also help South Sudan on the path to national reconciliation.

Pope Francis also asked for prayers for Bolivia, whose national election, held last month, is being reviewed for irregularities.

“I urge all Bolivians, especially political and social actors, to await the results of the election review process, which is currently underway, with a constructive spirit of peace and serenity,” he stated.

In his message before the Angelus, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading. In the passage from Luke, a group of Sadducees question Jesus about whose wife a woman will be after death if she was married, consecutively, to seven brothers, bearing no children by them.

But “Jesus does not fall into the trap,” Francis said. Jesus explains to the Sadducees that “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

With this answer, Jesus invites us to think about how the earthly dimension we live in now is not the only dimension, the pope said. “There is another, no longer subject to death, in which it will be fully manifested that we are children of God.”

“It gives great consolation and hope to hear this simple and clear word of Jesus about life beyond death; we need it so much especially in our time, so rich in knowledge of the universe but so poor in wisdom about eternal life,” he added. “Life belongs to God, who loves us and cares so much about us.”

“May the Virgin Mary help us to live every day in the perspective of what we affirm in the final part of the Creed: ‘I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,’” he concluded.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis noted the Nov. 9 beatification of Maria Emilia Riquelme y Zayas in Granada, Spain.

She was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and of Mary Immaculate, he said, adding that she “was exemplary in the fervor of Eucharistic adoration and generous in service to the most needy.”

He asked for a round of applause for the new blessed and for St. Bartholomew Fernandes of Braga, who was canonized in July through an “equivalent canonization,” also sometimes called “equipollent” or “confirmation of cultus,” which is when a pope chooses to waive the usual requirement of a miracle for canonization, because of the holy person’s established life of virtue and their long-standing veneration as a saint.

Corpus Christi bishop donates bone marrow to save a mother's life

Corpus Christi, Texas, Nov 9, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- This week, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi reflected on bone marrow donations and the life of the mother whom he helped save.

Before he became a bishop, Michael Mulvey joined the Be the Match Registry, the world’s largest register for bone marrow transplants (BMT), which is run by the National Marrow Donor Program.

After the organization discovered a match, South Texas Catholic reported, Mulvey, 70, traveled to San Antonio to make a peripheral stem cell donation. He had matched with a mother who had been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer.

Although Mulvey has never met the woman, he said he was humbled by the experience and expressed gratitude to be able to contribute to the well-being of this mother and her family.

“Knowing that because of the life I have been given by God – I was able to give back and make a big difference in this person’s life, in the life of her children and her family is something I have thought of quite often,” he told South Texas Catholic Nov. 5.

Mulvey said he was introduced to Be the Match in 2004, while he was a priest of the Diocese of Austin. There, he had met Leticia Mondragon, a donor development and engagement specialist with GenCure who partners with Be the Match.

“When I was assigned in Austin years ago, one of our very charitable and active parishioners was signing up people for Be the Match,” said Bishop Mulvey, according to South Texas Catholic. “I appreciated her commitment and dedication to this cause, and after hearing more about the registry, I signed up.”

BMT replaces unhealthy bone marrow with healthy marrow from an outside source. The procedure is used to cure cancers in the blood as well as diseases in the bones and immune system. Among other illnesses, BMT has been used for leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease.

According to South Texas Catholic, Mondragon said the process to sign up is more convenient than in the past, noting that people may apply through their smartphone.

Unlike blood donations, a match for BMT does not focus on blood type, but ethnicity. Mondragon expressed hope that the new system will add more “people of all ethnic backgrounds” to the registry.

She stressed the importance of BMT donors, stating that life-threatening disorders are discovered every few minutes, and thanked the bishop for his contribution.

“Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer or blood disorder, such as leukemia or lymphoma,” said Mondragon, according to South Texas Catholic.

“We are thankful Bishop Mulvey wanted to share his story because it is so important that we have leaders like him promoting our global life-saving mission,” she further added.

Bishop Mulvey described the experience not only as an opportunity for charity but as a spiritual encounter.

“St. Matthew says what you have received as a gift, give as a gift,” said Bishop Mulvey, South Texas Catholic reported. “We must always remember that everyone’s life is a gift and true gratitude is expressed when you are willing to give back and share what you have.”

Pope urges Catholics to meet the poor and speak to them with love

Rome, Italy, Nov 9, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Go out to meet the poor, listen to them, and speak to them with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said Saturday at Mass in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

The Mass, celebrated on the Feast of the Dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, opened a special week dedicated to the poor, which will culminate in the commemoration of the World Day of the Poor Nov. 17.

“May the Lord rejoice in seeing us on the move, ready to listen with his heart to his poor who cry to Him,” the pope said Nov. 9.

“Meet others, enter into dialogue with them, listen to them with humility, gratuitousness and poverty of heart.”

“I invite you all to live all this not as a heavy effort, but with a spiritual lightness,” he said. “Instead of getting caught up in anxieties of performance, it is more important to widen the perception to grasp the presence and action of God in the city. It is a contemplation that comes from love.”

Addressing the people of Rome in particular, Francis said: “May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast day with the bishops, priests, religious, and lay people of Rome. The Nov. 9 feast, celebrated by the entire Church, marks the day the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated as the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in 324.

A Latin inscription in the Church reads: “omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” meaning, “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”

Before Mass, the pope stopped briefly outside the church at a plaque which honors victims of poverty.

In his homily, Pope Francis entrusted pastoral workers with helping their communities to reach those in the city who are far from the faith and far from the Church.

“But, in doing this service, bring this awareness, this trust, into it: there is no human heart in which Christ does not want and cannot be reborn,” he said.

“In our lives as sinners, we often find ourselves turning away from the Lord and extinguishing the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!”

He said it is the “heart of the ministry” of a priest to help his community “to always be at the feet of the Lord to listen to the Word; to keep it away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; to guard the foundation and the holy  root of the spiritual building; to defend it from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to make it deviate from the way of the Gospel.”

The Gospel and Jesus Christ must be the foundation of the Church, he said, pointing out that priests, in wisdom, know that while something else could probably bring more worldly success or quicker gratification, it would “inevitably involve the collapse, the collapse of the whole spiritual building.”

He encouraged Rome’s priests and bishops to “know the neighborhoods of the city like no other” and to “cherish the faces, smiles, and tears of so many people in your heart.”

Addressing pastoral workers, the pope said sometimes one has to act strongly and make radical changes, like many saints have done.

“Some of [the saints’] behaviors, incomprehensible through human logic, were the result of intuitions aroused by the Spirit and intended to provoke their contemporaries and help them understand that ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts,’ [as] God says through the prophet Isaiah,” he said.

 

Pope urges Catholics to meet the poor and speak to them with love

Rome, Italy, Nov 9, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Go out to meet the poor, listen to them, and speak to them with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said Saturday at Mass in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

The Mass, celebrated on the Feast of the Dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, opened a special week dedicated to the poor, which will culminate in the commemoration of the World Day of the Poor Nov. 17.

“May the Lord rejoice in seeing us on the move, ready to listen with his heart to his poor who cry to Him,” the pope said Nov. 9.

“Meet others, enter into dialogue with them, listen to them with humility, gratuitousness and poverty of heart.”

“I invite you all to live all this not as a heavy effort, but with a spiritual lightness,” he said. “Instead of getting caught up in anxieties of performance, it is more important to widen the perception to grasp the presence and action of God in the city. It is a contemplation that comes from love.”

Addressing the people of Rome in particular, Francis said: “May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast day with the bishops, priests, religious, and lay people of Rome. The Nov. 9 feast, celebrated by the entire Church, marks the day the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated as the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in 324.

A Latin inscription in the Church reads: “omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” meaning, “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”

Before Mass, the pope stopped briefly outside the church at a plaque which honors victims of poverty.

In his homily, Pope Francis entrusted pastoral workers with helping their communities to reach those in the city who are far from the faith and far from the Church.

“But, in doing this service, bring this awareness, this trust, into it: there is no human heart in which Christ does not want and cannot be reborn,” he said.

“In our lives as sinners, we often find ourselves turning away from the Lord and extinguishing the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!”

He said it is the “heart of the ministry” of a priest to help his community “to always be at the feet of the Lord to listen to the Word; to keep it away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; to guard the foundation and the holy  root of the spiritual building; to defend it from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to make it deviate from the way of the Gospel.”

The Gospel and Jesus Christ must be the foundation of the Church, he said, pointing out that priests, in wisdom, know that while something else could probably bring more worldly success or quicker gratification, it would “inevitably involve the collapse, the collapse of the whole spiritual building.”

He encouraged Rome’s priests and bishops to “know the neighborhoods of the city like no other” and to “cherish the faces, smiles, and tears of so many people in your heart.”

Addressing pastoral workers, the pope said sometimes one has to act strongly and make radical changes, like many saints have done.

“Some of [the saints’] behaviors, incomprehensible through human logic, were the result of intuitions aroused by the Spirit and intended to provoke their contemporaries and help them understand that ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts,’ [as] God says through the prophet Isaiah,” he said.

 

Theology in 'dialogue with cultures' renews humanity, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2019 / 06:40 am (CNA).- When theology and philosophy engage with cultures in creative ways, they become a powerful tool for renewing humanity with the Word of God, Pope Francis said Saturday, during the awarding of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize.

“This is true for all cultures: access to redemption for humanity in all of its dimensions should be sought with creativity and imagination,” the pope said Nov 9.

He quoted St. Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, which says, “Evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.”

“It is a duty for theology to be and remain in active dialogue with cultures, even as they change over time and evolve differently in various parts of the world,” he said. “It is a condition necessary for the vitality of Christian faith, for the Church’s mission of evangelization.”

“All the arts and disciplines,” Francis said, “thus cooperate in contributing to the full growth of the human person, which is to be found ultimately in the encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, the revelation of the God who is love.”

Pope Francis addressed members of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation in the Vatican's apostolic palace during the award ceremony for the 2019 edition of the prestigious Ratzinger Prize.

The Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology or philosophy in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

The winners of the 2019 prize are Catholic intellectual Charles Taylor and Jesuit priest and theologian, Fr. Paul Béré.

Béré is the first African to win the prestigious Ratzinger Prize. A lecturer at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he received the prize for his work on the figure of the prophet Joshua.

From Burkina Faso, Béré spoke in September on the need for an “Africanness” within the Catholic approach to addressing regional problems.

“Africa can find a solution to all its problems within, what we [Africans] simply need is the slightest desire to share the solutions across the continent,” Beré told ACI Africa Sept. 28 at the Nairobi tri-party conference on the status of the evangelization mission in Africa.

Beré is a member of several African theological associations and of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). He has also participated as an expert in several synods of bishops.

After the announcement that he had won the prize, he told Vatican News: “I think this is an encouragement for all theological work done in Africa.”

Pope Francis Nov. 9 praised Beré as a “renowned scholar of Sacred Scripture” and he expressed his appreciation and encouragement for all those who are “committed to inculturation of the faith in Africa through their original and deepened study.”

Contemporary African theology is still young, but it is “dynamic and full of promise,” the pope said. “Father Béré provides an example of this by his work on the interpretation of Old Testament texts in a context of oral culture, thus bringing to fruition the experience of African culture.”

Dr. Charles Taylor, 88, is an award-winning Canadian Catholic philosopher, who has taught at Oxford and at the University of Montreal and McGill University.

His focus has been in the areas of history of philosophy, most especially political philosophy and the philosophy of social science. One of Taylor’s many notable contributions was to the topics of religion, modernity, and secularization.

“During his years of active research and teaching, Professor Taylor has covered many fields, but he has particularly devoted his mind and heart to understanding the phenomenon of secularization in our time,” Francis noted.

“Secularization effectively poses a significant challenge for the Catholic Church, indeed for all Christians, and for all believers in God,” he said, adding that a priority of Benedict XVI’s pontificate was to “proclaim God anew” during a time “when that proclamation seems to be on the wane for a large part of humanity.”

The pope said, “few scholars in the present day have posed the problem of secularization with the breadth of vision as has Professor Taylor.”

“We are indebted to him for the profound manner in which he has treated the problem, carefully analyzing the development of Western culture, the movements of the human mind and heart over time, identifying the characteristics of modernity in their complex relationships, in their shadows and lights.”

Taylor’s work invites Catholics to seek “new ways to live and express the transcendent dimensions of the human soul,” he continued, which allows them to engage with secularization in the West “in a way that is neither superficial nor given to fatalistic discouragement.”

“This is needed not only for a reflection on contemporary culture, but also for an in-depth dialogue and discernment in order to adopt the spiritual attitudes suitable for living, witnessing, expressing, and proclaiming the faith in our time,” he stated.

Despite coming from very different backgrounds and continents, the two honorees of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize have dedicated themselves to seeking “the way to God and the encounter with Christ,” Francis said.

“This,” he added, “is the mission of all who follow the teaching of Joseph Ratzinger as theologian and Pope, to be “‘co-workers of the truth.’”

The honorees of the Ratzinger Prize are chosen by Pope Francis, based upon the recommendations of a committee composed of Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Cardinals Angelo Amato, Kurt Koch, Gianfranco Ravasi, and Luis Ladaria, who are heads of offices in the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis said Nov. 9, that “we are all grateful” for the teaching of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “and for his exemplary service to the Church, demonstrated by his reflections, his thought and study, his listening, dialogue and prayer.”

“His aim was that we might consciously retain a lively faith despite the changing times and situations; and that believers could give an account of their faith in a language that can be understood by their contemporaries, entering into dialogue with them, together seeking pathways of authentic encounter with God in our time,” he said.

“This has always been a keen desire of Joseph Ratzinger the theologian and pastor, who never closed himself off in a disembodied culture of pure concepts, but gave us the example of seeking truth where reason and faith, intelligence and spirituality, are constantly integrated.”

Theology in 'dialogue with cultures' renews humanity, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2019 / 06:40 am (CNA).- When theology and philosophy engage with cultures in creative ways, they become a powerful tool for renewing humanity with the Word of God, Pope Francis said Saturday, during the awarding of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize.

“This is true for all cultures: access to redemption for humanity in all of its dimensions should be sought with creativity and imagination,” the pope said Nov 9.

He quoted St. Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, which says, “Evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.”

“It is a duty for theology to be and remain in active dialogue with cultures, even as they change over time and evolve differently in various parts of the world,” he said. “It is a condition necessary for the vitality of Christian faith, for the Church’s mission of evangelization.”

“All the arts and disciplines,” Francis said, “thus cooperate in contributing to the full growth of the human person, which is to be found ultimately in the encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, the revelation of the God who is love.”

Pope Francis addressed members of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation in the Vatican's apostolic palace during the award ceremony for the 2019 edition of the prestigious Ratzinger Prize.

The Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology or philosophy in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

The winners of the 2019 prize are Catholic intellectual Charles Taylor and Jesuit priest and theologian, Fr. Paul Béré.

Béré is the first African to win the prestigious Ratzinger Prize. A lecturer at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he received the prize for his work on the figure of the prophet Joshua.

From Burkina Faso, Béré spoke in September on the need for an “Africanness” within the Catholic approach to addressing regional problems.

“Africa can find a solution to all its problems within, what we [Africans] simply need is the slightest desire to share the solutions across the continent,” Beré told ACI Africa Sept. 28 at the Nairobi tri-party conference on the status of the evangelization mission in Africa.

Beré is a member of several African theological associations and of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). He has also participated as an expert in several synods of bishops.

After the announcement that he had won the prize, he told Vatican News: “I think this is an encouragement for all theological work done in Africa.”

Pope Francis Nov. 9 praised Beré as a “renowned scholar of Sacred Scripture” and he expressed his appreciation and encouragement for all those who are “committed to inculturation of the faith in Africa through their original and deepened study.”

Contemporary African theology is still young, but it is “dynamic and full of promise,” the pope said. “Father Béré provides an example of this by his work on the interpretation of Old Testament texts in a context of oral culture, thus bringing to fruition the experience of African culture.”

Dr. Charles Taylor, 88, is an award-winning Canadian Catholic philosopher, who has taught at Oxford and at the University of Montreal and McGill University.

His focus has been in the areas of history of philosophy, most especially political philosophy and the philosophy of social science. One of Taylor’s many notable contributions was to the topics of religion, modernity, and secularization.

“During his years of active research and teaching, Professor Taylor has covered many fields, but he has particularly devoted his mind and heart to understanding the phenomenon of secularization in our time,” Francis noted.

“Secularization effectively poses a significant challenge for the Catholic Church, indeed for all Christians, and for all believers in God,” he said, adding that a priority of Benedict XVI’s pontificate was to “proclaim God anew” during a time “when that proclamation seems to be on the wane for a large part of humanity.”

The pope said, “few scholars in the present day have posed the problem of secularization with the breadth of vision as has Professor Taylor.”

“We are indebted to him for the profound manner in which he has treated the problem, carefully analyzing the development of Western culture, the movements of the human mind and heart over time, identifying the characteristics of modernity in their complex relationships, in their shadows and lights.”

Taylor’s work invites Catholics to seek “new ways to live and express the transcendent dimensions of the human soul,” he continued, which allows them to engage with secularization in the West “in a way that is neither superficial nor given to fatalistic discouragement.”

“This is needed not only for a reflection on contemporary culture, but also for an in-depth dialogue and discernment in order to adopt the spiritual attitudes suitable for living, witnessing, expressing, and proclaiming the faith in our time,” he stated.

Despite coming from very different backgrounds and continents, the two honorees of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize have dedicated themselves to seeking “the way to God and the encounter with Christ,” Francis said.

“This,” he added, “is the mission of all who follow the teaching of Joseph Ratzinger as theologian and Pope, to be “‘co-workers of the truth.’”

The honorees of the Ratzinger Prize are chosen by Pope Francis, based upon the recommendations of a committee composed of Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Cardinals Angelo Amato, Kurt Koch, Gianfranco Ravasi, and Luis Ladaria, who are heads of offices in the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis said Nov. 9, that “we are all grateful” for the teaching of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “and for his exemplary service to the Church, demonstrated by his reflections, his thought and study, his listening, dialogue and prayer.”

“His aim was that we might consciously retain a lively faith despite the changing times and situations; and that believers could give an account of their faith in a language that can be understood by their contemporaries, entering into dialogue with them, together seeking pathways of authentic encounter with God in our time,” he said.

“This has always been a keen desire of Joseph Ratzinger the theologian and pastor, who never closed himself off in a disembodied culture of pure concepts, but gave us the example of seeking truth where reason and faith, intelligence and spirituality, are constantly integrated.”