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Bishops welcome efforts to defend unborn child of undocumented teen

Austin, Texas, Oct 23, 2017 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Texas' bishops have welcomed the decision of an appeals court delaying the government-assisted procurement of an abortion by an undocumented teenager who is under federal custody in the state.

However, a request for a review of the appeal has been filed, again opening up the question of whether the government will be forced to facilitate an abortion for the unaccompanied minor.

“Federal and Texas state officials are to be commended for defending the life of an innocent unborn child in a recent case involving an unaccompanied pregnant minor in federal immigration custody,” the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops stated Oct. 20.

They said a lower court’s Oct. 18 ruling allowing the girl to get an abortion would “require the government to facilitate and participate in ending the innocent life of the unborn child.”

“Indeed, this case, one of many brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has as its objective compelling others to perform, facilitate, or pay for abortion who do not wish to do so. This objective is unconscionable. No one —the government, private individuals or organizations — should be forced to be complicit in abortion,” the bishops urged.

The bishops’ statement came in response to an Oct. 20 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The case revolves around the question of whether the federal government will facilitate an abortion for a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as “Jane Doe.” Since September, the minor has been in federal custody in a Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under Texas law, minors must have either parental consent or a state permission to obtain an abortion. Doe received state permission Sept. 25, 2017. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has objected to transporting the minor to abortion appointments.

The government argues that since she is a minor in their custody, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teen, and also states it has an interest in not creating incentives for minors to cross international borders in order to obtain abortions.

On Oct. 20, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion. This overruled a Texas district court’s ruling that Doe should be allowed to access an abortion immediately.

Instead, the appeals court said, a sponsor must be found for the minor, and she must be released from federal custody into the custody of the sponsor. She would then be allowed to obtain the abortion by herself, with the sponsor taking her to and from the appointment. The government has until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor.

As of last week’s ruling, Doe is 15 weeks pregnant and has secured outside funding for the abortion. Abortion is prohibited in Texas after 20 weeks.

The ACLU, who is representing Doe, has filed an emergency petition asking for a full review of the case by all 10 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Trump administration has asked the appeals court to deny the petition, saying the court will review the case Oct. 31 if no sponsor is found. The administration also stated that the teen can return to her home country in order to seek an abortion.

Texas' bishops objected to the ACLU’s ongoing attempts to require cooperation in abortion, and noted that religious organizations, such at the Catholic Church, are involved in immigration efforts for unaccompanied minors and work with pregnant mothers.

They also decried the ALCU’s previous litigation seeking to bar the reception of funds from faith based-organizations, saying such actions are “thwarting the delivery of vital human services by organizations with the competence and experience to provide them.”

“As this case continues through the legal process, we pray for this young mother and her unborn child, so both may enjoy the protection and refuge the United States offers.”

'An idolatry that kills': Pope Francis on greed

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2017 / 10:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis preached Monday about the idolatry of money, which causes us to ignore those in need, allowing others to go hungry and die while we turn money and worldly possessions into false gods.

Today there are people who are greedy for more money and worldly goods, people who have “so much,” but walk by “hungry children who have no medicine, who have no education, who are abandoned,” he said Oct. 23 during his homily at Mass at the chapel of the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta.

This is “an idolatry that kills,” that makes “human sacrifices” to the god of money, the Pope said.

“This idolatry causes so many people to starve,” he stated, pointing to the example of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people who have been displaced from their home in Burma, also known as Myanmar, due to ethno-religious persecution.

There are 800,000 Rohingya people in refugee camps, the Pope said. And of these, 200,000 are children. They are “malnourished, without medicine,” he said.

“Even today this happens,” he emphasized, noting how our prayers against idolatry “must be strong.”

We should pray: “Lord, please, touch the hearts of these people who worship… the god of money. Touch also my heart so I do not fall into” the same thing, that I can see everything clearly, he said.

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group who reside in the Rakhine state of majority-Buddhist Burma. They have been denied citizenship for nearly 40 years, and their persecution by the government has intensified in recent years.

Pope Francis has spoken out on behalf of the minority many times in recent years. In November he will visit Burma, as well as Bangladesh, where he will undoubtedly speak out for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

In his homily, he reflected on the words of Christ in the day’s Gospel from St. Luke: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

God who ultimately puts a limit on our attachment to money, Pope Francis said, since at the end of life it becomes worthless.

Many men worship money and make money their god, he continued, but their life has no meaning. “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God,” Francis said, quoting from the Gospel of Luke.

God underlines this with “gentleness” in the end, he said. To make ourselves rich in what matters to God, “that is the only way. Wealth, [yes], but in God.”

Pope to Canadian youth: Let Christ lead you in the adventure of life

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a video message to participants in a youth forum in Canada, Pope Francis told young people to meet Jesus in prayer, letting Christ direct their lives – thus leading them on an incredible adventure.

“Young people, let Christ reach you,” the Pope said.

“Let Him speak to you, embrace you, console you, heal your wounds, dissolve your doubts and fears – and you shall be ready for the fascinating adventure of life, that precious and inestimable gift that God places every day in your hands.”

Continuing, the Pope encouraged young people to go “meet Jesus, be with Him in prayer.”

“Entrust yourselves to Him, give your whole life over to His merciful love, and your faith…will be the luminous witness of generosity and of the joy there is in following Him, wherever He should lead you.”

Pope Francis sent the 8-minute video message to youth participating in the Canadian National Youth Forum, which was held Oct. 22 on the theme of the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops, “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

The nationally televised forum was hosted by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and by Fr. Thomas Rosica, founder and CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network.

In his message, Francis told the youth not to let people destroy and exploit the world – a world that reveals its beauty when people work together, looking for the good of each person.

“I invite you to flood the places where you live with the joy and enthusiasm typical of your youthful age, to irrigate the world and history with the joy that comes from the Gospel, from having met a Person: Jesus, who has enthralled you and has drawn you to be with Him,” he said.

He also said he wanted to remind them of the Jesus’ words when his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, where do you live?” and he answered, “Come and see.”

Jesus says the same thing to us, inviting us to come to him, he said, asking: Have you heard his voice? Encountered his gaze? Though “din and dizziness seem to reign in the world, this call continues to resonate in your soul, to open it to full joy,” he stated.

In order to respond to this call, you must discern God’s plan for your life, the Pope continued, a plan he has for each and every one of you. Even in difficulty or failure, God, “rich in mercy,” is always giving you his hand to help pick you back up again.

The Pope noted that some of these words were part of the letter he wrote to young people in January when he presented the theme of the upcoming Synod.

He emphasized that the world and the Church are in need of courageous young people, who don’t run away from difficulty, but face trials with “hearts open” to others.

He asked that they would not ignore their peers’ cries for help. “I count on your willingness, your commitment, your ability to face important challenges and dare to make the future, to take decisive steps along the path of change,” he said.

Concluding, Francis voiced his hope that the meeting between young people of Canada would be like the meeting of the first disciples, and that it would open them up to the beauty of a life spent following the Lord.

“For this reason I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like you, to whom God turned His loving gaze,” he said.

“Let yourselves be taken by Mary’s, and let her guide you to the joy of saying a full and generous, ‘Here I am!’ Jesus watches you and awaits a ‘Here I am!’ from each of you.”    

 

Religions in Jerusalem must live in peace, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2017 / 04:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem on Monday, Pope Francis said that the different religions in Jerusalem must live together in peace, preserving dignity and rights so that suffering and violence can end.

“The Holy City, whose Status Quo must be defended and preserved, ought to be a place where all can live together peaceably; otherwise, the endless spiral of suffering will continue for all,” the Pope said Oct. 23.

He expressed his closeness to all those who have suffered due to the conflict affecting the Holy Land for many years. The uncertainty of the situation and the lack of understanding between different groups continue to create insecurity, he noted.

And this insecurity, along with a restriction of fundamental rights, causes people to flee from their land. “I invoke God’s help in this,” he said, “and I ask all those involved to intensify their efforts to achieve a stable peace based on justice and recognition of the rights of all.”

To do this, we must reject all violence, discrimination or intolerance against people of Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith and their places of worship, the Pope emphasized.

Pope Francis spoke during a meeting with His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, offering his greeting to all of the members of the various Christian communities in the Holy Land.

He explained that it is his hope that Christians in the Holy Land will continue to be recognized as an integral part of the society and that they may continue to contribute to the common good and the growth of peace.

“This contribution will be the more effective to the extent that there is harmony among the region’s different Churches. Particularly important in this regard would be increased cooperation in supporting Christian families and young people, so that they will not be forced to leave their land,” he said.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem had an audience with Pope Francis during a visit to Rome Oct. 22-25. He was accompanied by Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and Archdeacon Markos.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Theophilos III have met on two previous occasions: once during the Pope's pilgrimage to Jerusalem in May 2014 and again in June of the same year during an Invocation for Peace held in the Vatican Gardens.

In their meeting Monday, Francis said that we must continue to look toward the future and toward reconciliation, not letting ourselves get bogged down by past failures and mistakes. “I know that past wounds continue to affect the memory of many people,” he said.

“It is not possible to change the past, but, without forgetting grave failures of charity over the centuries, let us look to a future of full reconciliation and fraternal communion, and take up the work before us, as the Lord desires.”

The Pope explained that to not take up our work of reconciliation and communion today would be “an even graver fault,” because to do this would be to disregard “the urgent call of Christ.”

“May we not let the memory of times marked by lack of communication or mutual accusations, or present difficulties and uncertainty about the future, prevent us from walking together towards visible unity,” he continued.

We also shouldn’t let it keep us from praying and working together to serve those in need and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he said.

After their meeting, Patriarch Theophilos also met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

He also met with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“Here,” the Pope said, “I would reaffirm my heartfelt desire and commitment to progress on our way to full unity, in obedience to Jesus’ fervent prayer in the Cenacle ‘that they may all be one… so that the world may believe’ (Jn 17:21).”

He pointed out that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has been an active and constructive participant in the ongoing theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which he finds a “sign of hope on our journey.”

“How good it would be to say of Catholics and Orthodox living in Jerusalem,” he said, “what the Evangelist Luke said of the first Christian community: ‘All who believed were together… one heart and soul’ (Acts 2:44, 4:32).”

Concluding his speech, the Pope thanked Theophilos for his visit and reaffirmed his closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.

“I hope and pray that the day of a stable and lasting peace for all will soon come,” he said.

Why your 'sexy nun' costume isn't funny

Denver, Colo., Oct 23, 2017 / 03:53 am (CNA).- In 2015, the president of the University of Louisville issued an official apology, after a photo depicting him dressed in Mexican stereotypes for Halloween was criticized as insensitive and derogatory.

“I want to personally apologize for the recent incident and any pain that it may have caused our students, faculty, staff and the community. We did not intend to cause harm or to be insensitive,” President James R. Ramsey said in a statement at the time.

In 2016, a student was expelled from his fraternity at the University of Central Arkansas for posting a picture of himself in blackface for Halloween.

This year, many have voiced offense at a new “Anne Frank” costume.

Over the past few years, several colleges and universities have issued guidelines and warnings on insensitive Halloween costumes, asking students to steer clear of costumes that may offend cultures, races, or minority groups.

Seemingly still permissible, though, are the “sexy nun,” and “pregnant nun” costumes that inevitably show up in Halloween advertisements and stores this time of year, and are often absent from lists of potentially offensive and insensitive Halloween attire.

But is wearing a sexy nun costume any less offensive than donning a sombrero and fake mustache?

“This reflects a coarseness in the culture,” Sister Gilmary Kay of the Religious Sisters of Mercy told CNA.

“It’s not a surprise that such things exist….(but) it’s alarming, it’s such an offense against goodness and sacredness,” she said.

Not only do such costumes denigrate each woman who is a religious sister, they also denigrate God, she noted.

“It’s not that each sister is good, but what they represent is good. Consecrated persons are given to God alone, ‘consecrata’ means to be set apart for a holy purpose. As a culture, we should honor those things that remind us of goodness or high ideals, even if you’re not Catholic,” she said.

“So to disrespect a sister in that way, it’s a mockery of not just her or the Church, but ultimately God.”

The sad irony, Sister Gilmary added, is that Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day, and should be a time to remember the saints – many of whom were religious sisters and brothers – as examples and models to follow in our own lives.

Furthermore, just as it would be culturally offensive to denigrate figures like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Ghandi, it should be equally unacceptable to mock Catholic figures, she noted.

“I think of a figure like Martin Luther King, who has high ideals, people honor him – if he were depicted in costume with a KKK uniform or something, it’s so opposite of what he is and what he represents, that would be akin to sisters in this kind of dress or somehow showing that sexual perversity,” she said.

The reason that costumes depicting cultural and ethnic stereotypes cause so much offense and uproar is that those who know real people of those cultures and ethnicities see them as more than what a costume depicts, Sr. Gilmary added.

“I work with religious, I’m a religious, and that’s not religious,” she said. “These are people who love God, who’ve given their life for God, who aren’t looking to be in the spotlight in any way. And their goodness and selfless service – that kind of depiction, besides mockery... ultimately kind of comes back and just denigrates the person who wears them as well.”

Most sisters who see people in such costumes tend to pray for the person, Sr. Gilmary said. While Catholics and Christians have a right to be offended at such costumes, our faith calls us to move past offense, and to forgive and pray for people who mock the faith, she added.

“I think the people that do it really don’t understand what they’re doing,” she said. “We still have to forgive them and pray for them and hope they can come to a deeper understanding of what they’re doing and not do it, including those who make those costumes.”

In a way, Sr. Gilmary said, mocking the faith is kind of a “backhanded compliment,” because it means those who are doing the mocking see something true and substantial in Christianity.

“We stand for something, and there’s a substantial claim made if you hold to these things, and we believe those claims are from God,” she said. “And religious (sisters) try to live their life in a most radical way, so if that’s challenging to the culture, those people are the ones who will be mocked.”

“The Lord himself was mocked, and his disciples were mocked. And we look at how they responded,” she added.

“We’re praying for them, and we hope that they come and see the depth (of religious life). It’s like what the Lord said: you know not what you do. Because the ones they’re hurting are themselves.”   

 

Can the Beatitudes inspire great cinema? These filmmakers think so.

Dallas, Texas, Oct 22, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- Cinematic reflections on the Eight Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount will be the focus of a movie project that hopes to tap the power of beauty.

“God works through beauty, and beauty is the most direct way to impact a person’s heart and present to them the Good News of the Gospel,” said Anthony D’Ambrosio, founder of the Catholic Creatives online community.

“The Church was once the great influencer of culture through talented artists, painters, sculptors, philosophers and theologians,” D’Ambrosio continued. “The Church is no stranger to the power of beauty and should not be today.”

D’Ambrosio is executive producer of 8beats, a movie project which grew out of Catholic Creatives.

The series takes inspiration from Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowksi’s critically praised 10-part anthology “Dekalog.” Each entry in that series was a dramatic reflection on a theme drawn from each of the Ten Commandments.

The 8beats movie will bring together eight filmmaking teams from across North America who each have a story related to one of the Beatitudes

“Good art touches our deepest longings. This is universally true and that’s why we were attracted to the 8beats Project,” said filmmakers Sean Schiavolin and David Kang of Eccel Films. “As artists who happen to be Catholic, we want to tell the stories we want to see, stories that are hauntingly beautiful and embrace mystery with glimmers of grace.”

Schiavolin is the director and Kang is the screenwriter for the contribution from 8beats’ Southwest region.

Their section of the movie is a short drama set in Austin, Texas. A burlesque performer at the end of the night sings a lullaby to herself, as a night janitor secretly hears her song. The two then have a chance encounter with great consequences.

The drama draws on the Beatitude “Blessed are the Pure of Heart, for they shall see God.”

Some 8beats stories are fictional, while others are historical pieces. One depicts a woman with a long history of drug addiction on her first day of probation, when she makes a discovery that throws her life into question. Another story shows a truck driver crossing the Mojave Desert on his way to visit the graves of his wife and son. Then he encounters a child in need.

There is the story of a priest who struggles with his faith and alcohol addiction. He drives under the influence and kills a young man. His imprisonment forces him to examine himself, the human condition and the Church.

Its theme? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled.”

Yet another story portrays the Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette and companions as they winter near the Chicago River.

D’Ambrosio said he hopes 8beats will be “a moving work of cinema” that will help Catholic artists and evangelists recognize the need for artistic mentorship.

Cecilia Stevenson, a filmmaker and recent college graduate, said the 8beats project has already given her the chance to learn from people she described as “devout and talented.”

“This project is not just inspiring me to tell the gospel in my own way, it is teaching me about the Church and showing me that I have a place within it,” she said. “My hope is that 8beats communicates that to everyone: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the pure of heart, the merciful, the peacemakers…”

Filmmakers aim to reach filmgoers ages 20-35 who are non-religious but involved in the arts.

The idea for the project came about in March 2017. Filming began in September and is expected to finish by December. The film is aiming for a world premiere at the Catholic Creatives Summit in Dallas, Texas in March 2018, with a release in mid-2018 available in digital download and Blu-ray.

Producers hope to submit the final project to major film festivals in the U.S. and Canada.

The 8beats team aims to raise $200,000 for the project, half via indieGoGo and half via additional donations.

Other co-sponsors of the movie are Young Catholic Professionals and the Dallas-based Crossroads Initiative.

Pope offers clarifications on new process for liturgical translations

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2017 / 12:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter responding to questions raised by Cardinal Robert Sarah on the new process of translating liturgical texts from Latin into vernacular languages, Pope Francis offered several points of clarification.

The Pope discussed points regarding the approval of new translations and the relationship between translations and Latin texts.

He clarified that while in the past, it was the task of the Vatican's liturgical office to judge whether or not a translation is faithful to the original Latin, episcopal conferences themselves have now been given the faculty of “judging the goodness and consistency of one and the other term in the translations from the original, in dialogue with the Holy See.”

Dated Oct. 15, the Pope's letter was in response to one he had received from Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, at the end of September thanking the Pope for his recent motu proprio “Magnum Principium” (MP) on the translation of liturgical texts, and offering a commentary on how to interpret the motu proprio.

The motu proprio, published Sept. 9, granted episcopal conferences the task of both preparing and approving texts that had been “faithfully” translated from the original Latin, while cementing the role of the Apostolic See in confirming the translations approved by bishops.

In his commentary, Cardinal Sarah had argued that the new process for translating liturgical texts still follows the rules put into place with the 2001 Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (LA), which said the vernacular versions must faithfully reflect the language and structure of the Latin texts.

Sarah also looked at the role of the Holy See and bishops' conferences in both “recognizing” (recognitio) and “confirming” (confirmatio) modifications to liturgical texts, arguing that the term “recognitio” used in the new canons involves adaptions of texts, while “confirmatio” involves translations.

Because of this, the terms are different, even if they are “interchangeable with respect to the responsibility of the Holy See,” Sarah said. He also argued that the “recognitio” of liturgical texts implies a preliminary consultation with the Holy See before translation processes begin, with the “confirmatio” of the Holy See being the final step.

In his letter to Cardinal Sarah, the Pope thanked him for his commitment and for sending the commentary, but offered some simple “observations” on the commentary “which I consider to be important, especially for the proper application and understanding of the motu proprio and to avoid any misunderstanding.”

The first point Francis made was that his motu proprio Magnum Principium “abolished” the process for translating used by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments after LA was published in 2001. Magnum Principium, he said, “sought to change” this process.

The Pope said of the terms “recognitio” and “confirmatio,” that it cannot be said that they are “strictly synonymous or interchangeable or that they are interchangeable at the level of responsibility of the Holy See.”

The distinction between “recognitio” and “confirmatio,” he said, emphasizes “the different responsibility” that the Apostolic See and episcopal conferences have in liturgical translations.

“Magnum Principium no longer claims that translations must conform on all points to the norms of LA, as was done in the past,” the Pope said, explaining that because of this, individual numbers in LA have to be “carefully re-understood.”

He said this includes numbers 79-84, which deal specifically with the requirement for a vernacular translation to have the “recognitio” of Rome. These numbers, Francis said, “have been abrogated,” and “re-formulated” with the publication of MP.

The “confirmatio” of the Vatican, then, “no longer supposes a detailed word-by-word examination,” he said, except in obvious cases which can be brought to the bishops for further reflection. This, the Pope said, applies to texts such as the Eucharistic Prayers or sacramental formulas.

Pope Francis said the new norms imply “a triple fidelity,” first of all to the original Latin text, to the particular languages the text is translated into, and to the comprehension of the text by its recipients.

In this sense, the “recognitio” of the texts only implies “the verification and preservation of conformity” to the Code of Canon Law and the communion of the Church, he said.

Francis also emphasized that in the process of translating liturgical texts, there should be no “spirit of imposition” on bishops conferences of a translation done by the Vatican's liturgical department.

The Pope said “it is wrong to attribute to the 'confermatio' the purpose of the 'recognitio,'” which is to “verify and safeguard” in accordance with the law. He also stressed that the “confirmatio” is not “merely a formal act, but necessary for the edition of the translated liturgical book,” and is granted after the version has been submitted to the Apostolic See for a confirmation of the bishops' approved text.

Pope Francis closed his letter noting that Cardinal Sarah's commentary had been published on several websites, and asked that the cardinal transmit his response to the same outlets, as well as to members and consultors of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Venezuelan bishops denounce pro-government bias in elections

Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 22, 2017 / 06:02 am (ACI Prensa).- The Venezuelan bishops' conference has criticized bias by the National Electoral Council in favor of the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro during last Sunday's regional elections.

The regime took 18 out of 23 disputed governorships, amid allegations of fraud leveled by the opposition. The opposition won five states, an increase of two.

It had been expected that the opposition would win a majority of states, given the economic crisis and months of anti-socialist protests in which more than 120 people were killed.

Regional elections were held Oct. 15. The US State Department has said the elections were neither “free nor fair,” citing last-minute changes to polling station locations without public notice, manipulation of ballot layouts, and limited availability of voting machines in opposition neighborhoods.

The 18 newly elected socialist governors were sworn in by the constituent assembly Oct. 19, while the five governors of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable boycotted the event. Maduro has said the governors who will not be sworn in by the constituent assembly may not take office.

The constituent assembly is itself the product of contested elections, which took place July 30. The body has superseded the authority of the National Assembly, Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature.

The Venezuelan bishops stated Oct. 19 their denunciation of the National Electoral Council for “ignoring the appeals made by various national and international bodies, has once again shown itself to be a biased arbiter in the service of the governing  political party,” the bishops charged in an Oct. 19 statement.

Even though Venezuela's constitution indicated regional elections should have been held in October 2016, through the National Electoral Council the government delayed the date of elections.

According to various media, this was became the regime feared losing some of the 20 states they controlled, as their United Socialist Party of Venezuela had low approval ratings. At the same time, protests in recent months had become widespread in the county due to the social and political crisis.

In its statement, the bishops' conference pointed out that there were “multiple irregularities committed in the implementation of the electoral process: preventing political organizations from substituting candidates as provided by law, sending voters over to other polling stations at the last minute, the lack of neutral international observers, and voters being pressured into voting a certain way.”

“All this constitutes an obstacle to exercising one's right to vote and creates mistrust in the election processes,” they charged.

The bishops also referred to “the decision to create new authorities, preventing from taking office governors elected in those states that did not support the Maduro regime in the elections.” This “is clearly ignoring and mocking the will of the people on which  the legitimacy of any election rests,” they stated.

However, despite the irregularities that led to a “pro-regime advantage,” the bishops called on Venezuelans to not lose “credibility and confidence in the power of voting as the way to a peaceful and democratic solution for the urgent and momentous changes that the country requires … We cannot do without the electoral route. Let us not lose hope!”

The bishops stated that “it is indispensable to restore justice and ethics to the electoral system” so that citizens “can freely and confidently express themselves” and that in the future, “elections supervised by neutral international bodies may restore peace and tranquility to Venezuelan society.”

The bishops' conference reiterated “the primacy of the individual and his universal rights over and above ideologies, systems of government and special interests.” They  called upon “all institutions of social life to respect, defend and promote civil rights and to not become discouraged in claiming them,” and they urged citizens to “not be carried away by irrationality or fanaticism in the political controversy.”

“The people have the right to demand that the political leadership concern itself primarily with their most felt necessities, to know and experience them firsthand and to offer to the people a coherent plan for the country, founded on justice and the common good without exclusions,” they said.   

The statement concluded asking God to raise up hope in Venezuelans “in face of the serious problems affecting our society, which creates anxiety and discouragement in many hearts.”

“We commend ourselves to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto and we ask her to watch over us to that we can live in harmony, freedom and peace,” the bishops' conference stated.

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

The International Monetary Fund has forecasted an inflation rate of 2,300 percent in Venezuela in 2018.

Pope Francis: Putting God first doesn't mean avoiding reality

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2017 / 05:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke on the importance of both fulfilling our earthly duties and making God a priority, stressing that the two are never in opposition, but are complementary, with the primacy of God giving direction to our daily activities.

“The Christian is called to commit themselves concretely in human and social realities without putting God and Caesar into opposition, but by illuminating the earthly reality with the light that comes from God,” the Pope said.

Giving priority to God and having hope in him “do not lead to an escape from reality,” he said, but rather, “they make industrious that which belongs to him.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Oct. 22 Sunday Angelus address, which coincided with both World Mission Sunday and the feast of St. John Paul II.

In his speech, the Pope centered his reflection on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which the Pharisees question Jesus about whether or not it is just to pay taxes to Caesar.

This meeting constitutes yet another “face-to-face encounter” between Jesus and his opponents, the Pope said, noting that the “thorny” issue of taxes is supposed to be a trap.

However, rather than falling into it, Jesus offers a calm response and “takes advantage of the malicious question in order to give an important teaching, rising above the polemics and opposing sides.”

By looking at the image and inscription of Caesar carved onto the Roman coins and telling the Pharisees to “render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's,” Jesus on one hand says that paying taxes to the Roman emperor “is not an act of idolatry, but an act of duty to the earthly authority.”

On the other hand, in his reference to God, Jesus “recalls the primacy of God, asking to give him what is owed to him as the Lord of life, of man and of history.”

While the image of Caesar recalls our rights and duties as citizens of the state, the reference to God symbolically points to the image that is imprinted on every person, which is “the image of God,” the Pope said.

“He is the Lord of all, and we, who were created in his image, belong above all to him,” Francis said, adding that from the question posed by the Pharisees, Jesus derives a more vital and radical question for each one of us: “to whom do I belong?”

“To our family, our city, our friends, school, work, politics, or the state? Yes, certainly. But above all, Jesus reminds us, you belong to God,” he said, adding that the Lord is the one who has given us all that we have and are.

And therefore, in our daily lives “we can and must live them in renewed knowledge of this fundamental belonging and in the recognition of our heart to the Father, who created each one of us unique and unrepeatable, but always in the image of his beloved Son, Jesus,” he said. “It is a marvelous mystery.”

Pope Francis then led pilgrims in praying the traditional Angelus prayer. Afterward, he noted how yesterday Spanish martyrs Matteo Casals, Teofilo Casajús, Fernando Saperas and their 106 companions were beatified in Barcelona, and prayed that their “heroic example” and intercession would support Christians all over the world who today endure persecution and discrimination.

He also noted how Oct. 22 marks World Missionary Day, which was launched in 1926 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and is now promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Francis invited everyone to “live the joy of missionary witness to the Gospel” in their various states of life and urged faithful to support missionaries around the world either financially or through prayer.

To this end, the Pope announced that an “Extraordinary Missionary Month” will take place in October 2019 in order to “nourish the ardor of the evangelizing activity of the Church 'ad gentes',” or “to the nations.”

 

During Angelus, #PopeFrancis announced an Extraordinary Missionary Month for October 2019  in order to “nourish the ardor" of evangelization pic.twitter.com/3BNXxY2aF3

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) October 22, 2017


 

In an Oct. 22 letter marking the centenary anniversary of the publication of Pope Benedict XV's 1919 apostolic letter “Maximum Illud” on Catholic missions after the First World War, Pope Francis said the main aim for the missionary month is to foster “an increased awareness of the 'missio ad gentes' and taking up again with renewed fervor the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.”

Addressed to Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the letter noted that “Maximum Illud” had called on the Church to transcend national boundaries and bear witness, “with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission.”

The Pope voiced his hope that the 100th anniversary of Benedict XV's letter would be an incentive to “combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past.”

“Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel,” he said, and prayed that in “our troubled times” of war and conflict, the good news that “forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear,” would be proclaimed to the world “with renewed fervor, and instill trust and hope in everyone.”

He also prayed that the 2019 missionary month would “prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity.”

“May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us.”

In his comments after the Angelus, Pope Francis also offered prayers for peace throughout the world, specifically in Kenya, where there is ongoing debate over their recent presidential elections.

General elections took place in Kenya Aug. 8, and initial results showed that President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected with the majority vote. However, his main rival, Raila Odinga, refused to accept the result and fought it in the country's Supreme Court.

As a result, the vote was annulled and fresh elections scheduled to take place Oct. 17. However, the date of the new election was later changed to Oct. 26.

In his remarks, Francis prayed that Kenya would “know how to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the pursuit of the common good.”

Missionary work begins with everyone, cardinal says

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2017 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- In a press conference ahead of World Mission Day, Cardinal Fernando Filoni stressed the importance of missionary work, saying that it is a necessary aspect of the Christian faith, and that it must begin with each of us.

“In the Christian faith there is a pulse that gives life to the body. If the pulse stops, we enter into crisis, shock,” he said Oct. 20. This pulse of the Christian faith is missionary work, “and this pulse also begins with us.”

Head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Filoni emphasized that all Catholics are called to be a missionary in some way, not only religious men and women and priests, but also young people and all laity.

For example, the two patron saints of missions are St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who were both missionaries in completely different ways, he pointed out.

The former traveled to Japan to spread the faith, while the latter stayed within the confines of a monastery, yet they were both great missionaries, each in their own way, he said.

To these, Filoni said he hopes to someday add a third patron saint, Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, a French laywoman who in the 19th century founded the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.

“Jaricot is a laywoman who realized the role of lay people in missionary life,” he said. And she not only recognized the importance of active missionary work, but also of prayer.

One of her first initiatives was to create “a crown of prayer” for missionaries, because she knew that missionaries, who work at the “outposts” of society, could not survive without a network of prayer for support, he said.

Filoni spoke to journalists just two days ahead of World Mission Day, which falls on Oct. 22.

World Mission Sunday was begun in 1926 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and is now promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The Pope's message for the 91st World Mission Day was published by the Vatican earlier this year. Pope Francis said that World Mission Day “is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.”    
 
This is because “the world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Christ, through the Church, “continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.”

You can tell that mission is “deeply imbedded” in the Pope’s heart, Fr. Tadeusz Nowak, OMI, said in the press conference Friday.

Representing the Pontifical Missionary Societies, Nowak said that Pope Francis “would want all Christians to have this deep sense of longing to share the faith and allow others to encounter personally Jesus Christ risen from the dead.”