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Pope at Mass: ‘Pray for leaders despite their mistakes’

(Vatican Radio) As Christians we must pray for our elected leaders, even if we don’t agree with their politics. That was Pope Francis’ message during Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Monday, as he reflected on the readings for the day.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Pope Francis took as his starting point the First Reading from St Paul’s Letter to Timothy, where he asks that “supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings” be offered “for kings and for all in authority”. In the day’s Gospel, a Roman leader, the centurion, prays that his servant be healed.

Recognize one’s subordinate position

“This man felt the need to pray,” the Pope noted, because “he was aware that he did not have everything under his control”. He knew that above him was another who was really in charge. The centurion had soldiers as subordinates but he was also aware of being a subordinate. This awareness led him to pray.

“If leaders do not pray, they close themselves off in a self-referential circle or in that of their party, a circle from which they cannot escape”, said Pope Francis. It is important to be aware that we are all subordinate to someone more powerful. And those who are more powerful than political leaders, he suggested, are both the people who gave those leaders their power, “and God from whom their power comes through the people”. Political leaders pray, said the Pope, when they are aware of being a subordinate.

Leaders must pray

Pope Francis went on to talk about the importance of prayer for a leader. “It is the prayer for the common good of the people with whom they have been entrusted.”

He then recalled a conversation with a political leader who spent two hours before God every day, despite being tremendously busy. A leader must ask God, said the Pope, for the grace to govern well like Solomon, who asked not for riches and gold but for the wisdom to govern.

The Holy Father said political leaders must ask the Lord for the same wisdom. “It is very important for leaders to pray, asking the Lord not to take away the awareness of being subordinate and not to find strength in a little group or in myself.”

To those who would object on grounds of agnosticism or atheism, Pope Francis said: “If you cannot pray, confront yourself with your conscience, with the wisdom of your people, but do not remain isolated with the small group of your political party.” This is what leads to becoming self-referential.

Prayer for leaders

In the First Reading, St Paul invites us to pray for kings, “so that we can live a calm and peaceful life,” the Pope said. He pointed out that when political leaders do something we don’t approve of, they are either criticized or praised, but often we simply claim we didn’t vote for them and pretend we don’t really care what they do. But Pope Francis said we must not leave abandon our leaders.

“We need to accompany them with our prayer”, he said. “Christians must pray for their leaders”, even if they do “bad things”. In this case, the Pope continued, they need prayer even more: “Pray, and do penance for leaders. Intercessory prayer is such a wonderful thing, as Paul says. It is to be done for all kings, for all persons in positions of power. Why? ‘So that we can live a calm and peaceful life.’ When a leader is free and can govern in peace, the whole population benefits.”

Examination of conscience

Pope Francis concluded by asking those present to make an examination of conscience regarding their prayer for leaders.

“I ask you this favor: every one of you take five minutes, no more. If you are a leader, ask yourself: ‘Do I pray to the One who gave me power through the people?’ If you are not a leader, ‘Do I pray for my leaders? Yes, for this one and that one, yes, because I like them; but for that one, no.’ They need it so much more for this reason! ‘Do I pray for all leaders?’ And if you find in your examination of conscience before Confession that you have not prayed for your leaders, bring it to Confession. Because not to pray for leaders is a sin.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Take in more refugees, not fewer, bishops urge White House

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration is reportedly planning to further reduce the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in the coming fiscal year, drawing concern from the U.S. bishops and others.

“We’re strongly urging the administration, the President, to set a Presidential determination of at least 75,000 [refugees],” Matt Wilch of the Office of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNA of reported changes to the number of refugees the U.S. plans to accept in the 2018 fiscal year.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration is planning to further reduce the number of refugee admissions for the 2018 fiscal year, “according to current and former government officials familiar with the discussions.”

For the 2017 fiscal year, the Obama administration had planned to take in 110,000 refugees after accepting 85,000 in 2016, including more than 12,000 Syrian refugees.

However, in a March executive order, President Donald Trump ordered a four-month halt to U.S. refugee admissions so that the resettlement program could be reviewed for its security. He set a cap on refugee admissions for the fiscal year at 50,000, well short of the 110,000 originally planned.

In addition, Trump barred most travel from six countries for 90 days – Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Sudan.

Now the administration may be reducing its refugee quota even further, to below 50,000.

The Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a written statement Tuesday that they were “troubled and deeply concerned” at reports that the administration was considering the reduction, which they called “inhumane.”

“We implore the administration to show mercy and compassion for those seeking refuge, and to advance the American value of freedom through providing safe harbor to those fleeing tyranny and religious persecution,” the bishops said.

The conference proposed a goal of 75,000 refugees instead. “We think it’s really time to get back to the serious business of saving lives, and we urge the administration to have the total this coming year be 75,000,” Wilch told CNA Thursday.

In 2016, then-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Dr. Robert George said the refugee resettlement program was secure, and that the U.S. should ultimately look to increase the number of Syrian refugees it resettles to 100,000.

A reduction in refugee admissions would come at a time when the number of displaced persons across the globe is at an all-time high, the group Human Rights First said.

“While ten percent of the world’s 21 million refugees are estimated to need resettlement, only about one percent have access to resettlement,” they said.

Furthermore, several countries neighboring Syria like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, are hosting the bulk of refugees fleeing the six year-long conflict there, the largest refugee crisis in the world, HRF said.

If the U.S. and other countries decide to accept fewer refugees, it could contribute to the destabilization of Syria’s neighbors who are already at or nearing capacity for hosting refugees.

“The United States’ refugee admissions program is not a zero-sum game; we are more than capable of providing safety to those fleeing violence and persecution around the world,” Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First stated.

Pope Francis: God’s love is shown in his forgiveness of our sins

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2017 / 09:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis spoke about the limitless love of God, and how it leads him to forgive us time and time again; something we must strive to do for others, no matter how many times they’ve sinned against us.

“The forgiveness of God is a sign of his overwhelming love for each of us; it is the love that leaves us free to move away, like the prodigal son, but that awaits our return every day; it is the enterprising love of the shepherd for the lost sheep; it is the tenderness that welcomes every sinner who knocks at his door.”

“Heavenly Father, our father, is full and full of love and wants to offer it to us, but he cannot do it if we close our hearts to love for others,” the Pope said Sept. 17.

Continuing, Francis pointed out how Jesus teaches us this in the Our Father, when he directly links the forgiveness we ask of God with the forgiveness we give to our brothers and sisters in the words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In his Angelus address Sunday Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, where St. Peter asks Christ: "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?"

To Peter, seven already seems like the maximum amount of times we should forgive the same person, Francis said. And maybe to us it seems like twice is already a lot.

But Christ's response is that we must forgive seven times seventy times, “that is to say always. You always have to forgive,” he said. Christ confirms this by telling a parable, the Pope continued, a parable which shows "the inconsistency of the one who was forgiven before and then refuses to forgive."

The king in the parable is a generous man who when his servant begs for forgiveness of a large debt he has compassion on him and forgives him.

The servant on the other hand refuses to forgive a much smaller debt of a fellow servant and "behaves in a ruthless way," having him thrown in prison.

"The incoherent attitude of this servant is also ours when we refuse forgiveness to our brothers," the Pope said. "While the king of the parable is the image of God who loves us with a love so abundant of mercy from embracing us, loving us and forgiving us continually."

“Since our Baptism God has forgiven us, remitting an insoluble debt: original sin. But that's the first time. Then, with unlimited mercy, He forgives us all the faults as soon as we show even a little sign of repentance," the Pope said. "God is so merciful."

When we are tempted to behave as the servant did toward his fellow servant, closing off our hearts to those who have offended us and come to apologize, we must remember the words of the Heavenly Father, he stated.

He told the ruthless servant: "I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?"

"Anyone who has experienced the joy, peace, and inner freedom that comes from being forgiven can open themselves to the possibility of forgiving in turn," he noted.

Concluding, Francis turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who he said "helps us to be more and more aware of the gratuitousness and greatness of the forgiveness received from God."

May she help us to become as "merciful as He is, the good Father: slow to anger and great in love."

The Brothers of Charity are clear: no euthanasia is possible in our hospitals

Brussels, Belgium, Sep 17, 2017 / 06:01 am (Church Pop).- Br. René Stockman says it clearly: the path to euthanasia is not viable for a Catholic hospital.

After a board of trustees decision to allow euthanasia in Belgian hospitals sponsored by the Brothers of Charity, the community’s general superior spoke with CNA about the issues at stake, and the possibility that the Brothers of Charity might discontinue sponsoring hospitals if things do not change.

The Congregation of the Brothers of Charity is a religious community of brothers founded in Belgium in 1807, with the mission to care for the poor, elderly and those affected by psychiatric diseases.

“It was immediately clear to our founder, Fr. Pierre Joseph Triest, that there was the need to combine the contemplative life of religious orders with a professional work on charity. But we are not social workers, though we work in professional ways. Mostly, through our social activity we help people to see how God shine in their lives.”

Pioneers in the field of psychiatric care, the Brothers of Charity are active in many part of the world. In Belgium, they sponsor 15 hospitals and care for about 5,000 patients.

The hospitals are managed by a civil corporation named after the Brothers of Charity, though the board of trustees includes only 3 Brothers of Charity out of 15 members.

This board made the decision to allow Catholic hospitals to permit acts of  euthanasia, in certain limited circumstances. The Brothers of Charity protested this decision, appealed to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Vatican responded by requesting that the corporation stop allowing euthanasia in their hospitals.

The board of trustees defied the Vatican request, and published a long statement in which they reiterated their view.

Br. Stockman explained to CNA that “the next step is a meeting with the authorities of the Vatican during the week of Sep. 25. We will then make our decisions in accordance with the vision of the Vatican.”

Asked if the Brothers of Charity could withdraw their sponsorship from the hospital, Br. Stockam said that “if there no change in the policies, it is a possibility.” If the 3 members of the organization leave the board of the hospital, it will no longer be considered a Catholic hospital.  

In their statement, the hospital board of trustees lamented the lack of dialogue and stressed they will “continue with the request of establishing a dialogue,” though they do not want in any way change their decision.

Br. Stockman commented that “there is only a request to dialogue on the way to implement euthanasia, and not on the fact of euthanasia as such.  I asked very clearly many times to first dialogue on euthanasia and the vision as such, in the hope coming to a consensus, but they refused to change their initial vision”.

The civil board has claimed that their decision is “consistent” with the doctrine of the Church, since “the text has come about starting from the Christian frame of thought as we apply it within the organization. In this, we always take into account the shifts and evolutions within society. We have considered the following elements: recognition of the exceptional, proportional view of ethics, deontological view and ideologization, and choice of conscience".

This view is completely rejected by Br. Stockman. “This is totally wrong and against the doctrine of the Church,” he underscored.

He then explained: “The whole issue starts with the refusal to see the respect of life still as absolute. For them, it became fundamental, on the same level as the autonomy of the patient and the relation in the care.  Therefore we cannot accept their statement. They take distance of the doctrine of the Church.”

Hermann van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister who is a part of the board of trustees, said that “the times when the Pope had the last word are far away.”

Brother Stockman explained to CNA that the Brothers of Charity appealed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith because the civil board of trustees “refused both our request and also the one of the Belgian bishops” to change their policies, and so “we had to appeal to the Holy See.”

The Holy See,  Br. Stockman recounted, “asked the hospitals to conform themselves with the doctrine of the Church about the absolute respect for life and not doing euthanasia to psychiatric patients.  After our request as general superior and council and after the statement of the Belgian Bishops, the civil corporation governing our hospitals in Belgium refused to adapt their vision.”

Br. Stockman affirmed that the Brothers of Charity would remain faithful to the Church’s teaching, despite serious civil pressure to the contrary.

“I am sure,” he said, “that the great majority of the brothers, also in Belgium, are against euthanasia, but the pressure on them is very high.  We have clear guidelines against euthanasia, that we developed already before this case.”

 

Pope urges Japanese Bishops to build on the memory of their martyrs

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Christians in Japan to face current challenges bearing in mind the witness of their many martyrs.

In a letter addressed to the Bishops of Japan, on the occasion of Cardinal Fernando Filoni’s pastoral journey to the Land of the Rising Sun, the Pope held up the memory of Japan’s many martyrs and ‘hidden Christians’ whom, he said, from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries lived clandestinely so as not to have to repudiate their faith.

Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has undertaken a pastoral journey to Japan lasting from 17 to 26 September. 

Japanese Christians facing current challenges

In the letter, the Pope pointed out that Japanese Christians are facing “the challenges that current times pose” and he invited them not to be “resigned”, nor to resort to “an irenic or paralyzing dialogue even although there are problematic situations that raise not few concerns.”   

Amongst the situations that arouse concern the Pope mentioned the “high rate of divorce” in Japan, “the number of suicides, even among young people”, the phenomenon of the ‘hikikomori’ – people who choose to live completely disconnected from society, “religious and spiritual formalism, moral relativism, indifference towards religion, an obsession for work and earning”.
    
It is also true, the Pope continued, that a society that is a frontrunner in economic development leaves many behind: the poor, the marginalized, the excluded – not only those who are excluded in a material sense, but also those who are spiritually and morally in need.

Need for constant renewal in the Church

Within this particular context, Francis pointed out that it is necessary and urgent that the Church in Japan be constantly renewed, always bearing in mind “Jesus’ mission which is salt and light”.

The Pope concluded pointing out that the true evangelical force of the Japanese Church stems from the fact that it has been a Church of martyrs and confessors of the faith, and this “is a great asset to be safe-guarded and developed.” 
   

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope at Angelus: ‘open your hearts to forgiveness'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged all Christians to open their hearts to forgiveness.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope said that to be able to build peace one must be able to forgive.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

“Forgiveness does not deny the injustice one has been subjected to, but it acknowledges the fact that the human being, created in the image of God, is always superior to the wrong that is committed” he said.

The Pope was reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day which narrates the “Parable of the unforgiving servant.”

Commenting on Jesus’ invitation to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times,” Francis said this means that Christians are called always to show forgiveness.

God wants to forgive us

“From the day of our Baptism, he said, God has forgiven us, remitting a terrible debt: the original sin. And then, with infinite mercy, he forgives all of our sins as soon as we show the smallest sign of repentance.”

Anyone – the Pope continued – who has experienced the joy of peace and interior freedom that comes from having been forgiven, can open himself to the possibility of forgiving.

And he pointed out that this teaching is also contained in “The Lord’s Prayer” which says:  ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’

God’s infinite love for us

God’s forgiveness, Francis said, is a sign of “His overflowing love for each of us”:  that love that gives us the freedom to stray – like the prodigal son – but that every day awaits our return with open arms; it is the love of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep; it is the tenderness with which each sinner is welcomed when he knocks at His door.

“The Lord is full of love and He wants to offer it to us, but he cannot do so if we close our hearts to loving others” he said.  

A special greeting for participants in a ‘Run for Peace’

Following the Angelus prayer Pope Francis had special greetings for participants of a just-ended “Run for Peace” with an itinerary that touched symbolic venues for the different religious confessions present in Rome.

“My hope is that this initiative of culture and sport may favour dialogue, cohabitation and peace” he concluded.    

 

(from Vatican Radio)

How do we fund sacred art in the Church? This priest has an idea

Wilmington, N.C., Sep 16, 2017 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The John Paul II Foundation for the Sacred Arts is rethinking how the Catholic Church should fund well-crafted art. But why is good art in the Church important in the first place?

“When a piece of art, a beautiful church, a flower or a sunset not only strikes the eye but pierces the soul and fills one with a sense of wonder, that is transcendent beauty – it goes beyond mere aesthetic enjoyment to hint at the truth and goodness of being itself,” Father Michael Burbeck told CNA.

Fr. Burbeck serves as founder and director of the foundation, which was launched in March of this year. He explained that his own encounter with Europe's beautiful architecture and sacred art brought him to convert to Catholicism and ultimately start the organization.

However, beautiful art requires money – and Fr. Burbeck's project aims to equip artists to create quality, Christ-inspired, original works.

“Works of transcendent beauty have the potential to awaken the soul to the wonder of God, and so are evangelical in their own right,” he said. “This is what we mean by transcendent beauty: the beauty that flows from the goodness and truth of being itself.”

On the group's website, Fr. Burbeck recalled on how beauty awakened this wonder of God, and enabled him to fall in love with the Church and with Jesus Christ.

Being able to stand before the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral created by Christopher Wren or Michelangelo's Madonna and Child and along with numerous images of the crucified Christ, the soon to be priest was motivated to give his life to the Church.  

“Because of beauty, I found the Catholic Church, fell in love with her, and was convinced of the truth of her teachings.”

When he met artist Cameron Smith, Father Burbeck said that the two discussed a “crowd-sourced, entrepreneurial model” which relied on the beauty of an artist's work to motivate donations.

“Either a work is 'popular' enough to be funded or it is not,” he said, explaining that the foundation's board of directors will choose which artists to give grants to based on if the “artist is capable of and intent on producing a work in keeping with our mission.”

He said their mission is Catholic art which spreads the Gospel through beauty, but cautioned against the modern trend to reduce “beauty” to a particular time period or type, such as Renaissance or Contemporary.

Fr. Burbeck also noted the problem with reducing art to self-expression, wherein an artist's attempt at honesty will often display a faulty idea of reality – one where his or her existence is “marked by brokenness and a lack of meaning.”

But as significant as these tendencies are in society today, the priest said the foundation is actually trying to combat two other problems: how art is treated in the church – namely, the dearth of original art – and the lack of funds to support faithful artists who create original works capable of moving viewers.

Unoriginal pieces of art, or catalog style as Fr. Burbeck described it, are not necessarily offensive but may be a poorly produced copy or a “mimic of existing works that may be competently executed but which fails to touch the soul.”

“That is why we partner with artists financially and promote works that are squarely in the great tradition, not copies, but drawing from the same inexhaustible well of beauty,” he said.

Fr. Burbeck foresees fundraising as a potential hurdle, but he also expressed an appreciation for the enthusiasm already taking place.

“Thankfully, there has been a great deal of excitement about the idea, it seems to fill an important niche, and we trust that the Holy Spirit is at work.”

Fr Tom thanks the world for their prayers

Rome, Italy, Sep 16, 2017 / 12:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian missionary released this week after 18 months of captivity, thanked Saturday all those who have prayed and made sacrifices on his behalf, saying he recommits himself to the service of God.

“With your prayers and sacrifices you have brought me from God and have brought me here,” he said Sept. 16. “I do not know how to thank you all. May the Lord God bless you and reward you and give you courage to go through whatever difficulties may come as we go on in this world.”    

“And one day we will all be together to praise God, that should be our aim, that is actually our aim. May that happen… We all rejoice, thank God for my freedom. I am at the service of the Lord God. Let him continue to use me as he wants.”

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who became known around the world through social media and news outlets as people prayed for his release, spoke to journalists during a press conference at the Salesian headquarters in Rome.

An Indian native, Fr. Uzhunnalil, 59, was kidnapped March 4, 2016 from a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden. In the attack 16 people were killed, including four religious sisters.

Throughout his 18-month captivity, several photos and videos of the priest were released, showing a thin Fr. Uzhunnalil with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release, saying that his health was deteriorating and he was in need of hospitalization.

In the press conference, Fr. Uzhunnalil emphasized that despite the great stress he was under and his inability to move about freely, being kept in one room, his captors did not physically harm him.

He was provided with adequate food and water and even some small amount of medical treatment for his diabetes. He went on to explain that if in any of the videos it appears that his captors hit him, it was not a real blow, but acting which they planned in advance, telling him it was to quicken a response from authorities.

Fr. Uzhunnalil said he has no knowledge of who it was that took him or what group they belonged to, but said that “God has been with me.”

“The whole world must have been praying, you all might have made sacrifices. The fruits of all (this) must be that they have not injured me right from the first day,” he said.

From the moment he was taken he was not afraid, he continued. “I said to myself: with the knowledge of God, nothing will happen to me. For Jesus has said, not a hair will fall from your head without the heavenly Father’s knowledge.”

“Those words, that phrase flashed in my mind. Maybe that’s what gave me strength, kept my mind serene, calm.”

In the press conference Fr. Uzhunnalil was calm, but did become emotional when he noticed the presence of a number of Missionary of Charity sisters, to whom he gave his condolences for the loss of their four religious sisters.

“I'm sure they feel the pain of their loss, but their loss is for themselves and for the world; I am sure that these four who have gone are in heaven,” he said.

Witnessing the death of those in his presence was a very traumatic moment for him. “He didn’t want to speak about that moment,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Sept. 14.

Cardinal Gracias had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Uzhunnalil soon after his arrival to Rome and was present when he met Pope Francis Sept. 13 after the Wednesday General Audience.

Pope Francis was himself very touched by Fr. Uzhunnalil’s expression of faith in their meeting, Cardinal Gracias said. The Holy Father told the priest: “The whole world has been praying for you, everybody has been praying for you.”

Fr. Uzhunnalil repeated over and over to the Pope that “Jesus is great, Jesus is great.”

In the press conference Fr. Uzhunnalil recounted a detail from the day he was kidnapped. After the initial attack and killings, which took place while they were having adoration in the chapel, the attackers covered his head and locked him in a car, and then left to re-enter the chapel.

At some point later he heard them return open the door of the trunk and place something heavy near his feet.

His hands weren’t tied, he explained, so he “lifted the cloth, just looked to make sure, and it was the tabernacle.” He knew that it contained consecrated Hosts from the Mass he had celebrated the evening prior.  

Although he did not have bread and wine with him in captivity, Fr. Uzhunnalil said he was still able to peacefully pray the Mass every day from memory. He said he would pray to God to spiritually give him the gifts of bread and wine for the Eucharist.  

Another line he said he prayed frequently was: “One day at a time, sweet Lord. Give me the grace to live this day. I thanked God for that day. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not sure, so give me the grace to live this day.”

While in captivity the Salesian lost more than 60 pounds, he said. But in the few days since his release has already gained back more than 11. He will, however, continue to remain in Rome for 8-10 more days for continued medical tests and recovery time before returning to India to see his family.

“I thank in the name of the Lord God even my captors who have been understanding to me and have not hurt me,” he said.

“It's God's intervention. And that is due to the prayers and sacrifices of all my brothers and sisters, all of you around the whole world, my own country, other countries, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, all men of good will. I'm sure each one has made sacrifices.”

“I don’t believe in arms,” he continued. “The best weapon against any enemy is love, prayer, forgiveness.”


Comments from Cardinal Gracias contributed by Elise Harris.

 

Fr James Martin disinvited from speaking engagement over protests

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2017 / 10:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. James Martin, S.J., an editor at America magazine, has been disinvited from speaking at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America, following pressure from online-based groups. 

Fr. Martin was invited to speak Oct. 4 on the theme of encountering Christ. However, the Theological College said that “since the publication of his book, Building a Bridge, Theological College has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation.”   

Fr. Martin’s most recent book has drawn criticism since its publication for its avoidance of discussing the Church’s teaching on celibacy and for its lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as LGBT who welcome Church teaching on continence and other issues. In August, Fr. Martin announced on Facebook that he is currently writing a revised issue of the book, which he says will address the feedback and critiques he has received. 

In addition to writing books and speaking, Fr. Martin has also been appointed to serve as Consultor to the Secretariat for Communication, and serves as editor -at-large of America Magazine. 

The Theological College explained that after receiving social media feedback on his writing, the school decided to withdraw its invitation, both in the “best interest of all parties” and “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy as Theological College celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding” at an alumni event focused on remembrance.

“In no way does this decision signal approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made over the recent weeks,” the school stated. 

In response to the decision by the seminary under its auspices, Catholic University of America president John Garvey stated his regret and concern at the situation. While the Catholic University retains some authority in some spheres over the Theological College, the seminary remains autonomous in any decisions related to priestly formation at the seminary, as well as over events which take place on seminary property.

In its statement, the university noted that the Theological College’s decision “does not reflect the University’s  policy on inviting speakers to campus,” nor the counsel the university gave to the seminary. The university also noted that it invited Fr. Martin to speak last year on campus. 

Garvey stated that the pressure placed upon the Theological College for Martin’s speech mirrors similar pressures placed upon other colleges for inviting more conservative speakers to their campuses.

“Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea,” Garvey said. “It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.” 

Pope Francis to the Missionaries of Sacred Heart: “Return to your first and only love”

(Vatican Radio)  “Show by your lives and by your works the passionate and tender love of God for the little ones, the underprivileged, the vulnerable and those whom our world has discarded.”  This was Pope Francis’ exhortation to the  General Chapter delegates of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart on Saturday here in the Vatican. 

In his remarks to the participants of the three week General Chapter who are  exploring the theme, “you have kept the good wine until now,” Pope Francis encouraged to return to their first and only love. The Holy Father went on to say,  “Keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ and learn from him how to love with a truly human heart, to care for the lost and hurting members of his flock, to work for justice and show solidarity with the weak and the poor.”

The Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) is an international community of religious priests and brothers who work to share the message of God’s love in the ever-changing social climate of our world. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart minister in more than 50 countries worldwide, with over 1,700 MSCs carrying on the legacy of their founder, Fr Jules Chevalier.

The full text of Pope Francis’ address to the General Chapter members is here below:

Dear Brothers,

          I offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your General Chapter, and I thank the Superior General for his kind words.  You have met to reflect on the life of your Congregation, and to pray and to discern together the paths that the Lord is pointing out to you.  In this way you will be able to give renewed fruitfulness and effective expression to the charism that the Holy Spirit bestowed on the Church through your founder, Father Jean Jules Chevalier.

          The motto you chose to guide the entire Institute in preparing for this Chapter is particularly significant: “You have kept the good wine until now” (Jn 2:10).  You have looked back with gratitude on the cherished legacy of projects and apostolic works that your charism has brought forth in the Institute’s life in these past one hundred and fifty years, thanks to the fidelity of your confreres who preceded you.  At the same time, you are fully aware of its continuing potential to benefit the Church and the world.  By listening to what the Spirit says to the Church today, and by your openness to the questions and concerns of our fellow men and women, you will be able to discover in your authentic charism the wellspring of renewed strength, courageous decisions and creative expressions of the mission you have received.  The changed situation of our world with respect to the past, and the new challenges it presents to the Church’s mission of evangelization, demand and give rise to new ways of offering the “good wine” of the Gospel to many people as a source of joy and hope.

          The original inspiration of your founder was that of spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Today you strive to foster this devotion and to make it bear fruit through a variety of works and activities that witness to the tender and merciful love of Jesus for all, especially those in greatest need.  For this reason, I encourage you, as I do so often with consecrated persons – “to return to your first and only love”.  Keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ and learn from him how to love with a truly human heart, to care for the lost and hurting members of his flock, to work for justice and show solidarity with the weak and the poor.  Learn from him to give hope and dignity to the destitute, and to go forth to all those places where people are in need of acceptance and assistance.  This is the first Gospel that the Church entrusts to you by sending you out as missionaries to the world: to show by your lives and by your works the passionate and tender love of God for the little ones, the underprivileged, the vulnerable and those whom our world has discarded. 

          Although your Institute, like many others, has seen a decrease in numbers in these past decades, the growth of vocations in South America, Oceania and Asia has proved comforting and offers hope for the present and the future.  So too the Christian formation of young people, yet another expression of your charism, will be ensured and increased by the works of the Institute.  How urgent it is today to educate and assist new generations to appropriate authentic human values and to cultivate an evangelical vision of life and history!  Many people consider this a true “educational emergency”; surely, it is one of the frontiers of the Church’s mission of evangelization, towards which the entire Christian community is invited to set out.  In continuity with the achievements and undertakings of those who have gone before you, I encourage you to undertake new initiatives also in this specific area of your apostolate.

          The Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart continues to count among its many members a good number of religious brothers.  In a Congregation religious brothers are a grace from the Lord.  I ask you not to yield to the temptation of clericalism that, as I have often remarked, alienates people, especially the young, from the Church.  May your common life be marked by true fraternity, which welcomes diversity and values the gifts of all.  Do not hesitate to continue and expand your communion with the laypersons who participate in your apostolate.  Let them share in your ideals and projects, and in the rich spirituality arising from your Institute’s charism.  With them, and with the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, you will form an ever greater and stronger “charismatic family”, one that will better demonstrate the vitality and relevance of your founder’s charism.

          May the Virgin Mary, whom you invoke under the title of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, keep you ever close to her Son, ready to do whatever he tells you, and may she protect you with her maternal intercession.  I accompany you, and all your communities with my blessing, and I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.  Thank you.

(from Vatican Radio)