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Dinners, deliveries and drives: how some Catholics are serving up Thanksgiving for the poor

Denver, Colo., Nov 19, 2017 / 07:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While many will gather for Thanksgiving this year around tables filled with food and family, the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul have set out to make sure that the poor and homeless will also experience a holiday filled with community.

“Society members work with people in poverty and the homeless 365 days a year. Our parish-based Conferences operate food pantries, dining facilities, and shelters year-round to help people in need with food and shelter,” said Dave Barringer, the National CEO of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“In addition to our year-round efforts, many St. Vincent de Paul Conferences and Councils do extra work around Thanksgiving,” Barringer told CNA.

The Society’s many councils and conferences across the country will be hosting or partaking in local efforts to serve the poor and homeless this Thanksgiving, Barringer said.

For example, the Society’s Baton Rouge Council in Louisiana annually hosts a Thanksgiving meal for the community’s poor and homeless. They usually feed more than 600 people at the St. Vincent de Paul location, and this year, they are also teaming up with the city’s Holiday Helpers to feed an additional 1,000 people.

“We’ll have our Thanksgiving meal at the St. Vincent de Paul dining room, but we’ll also be responsible for working with Constable Brown and taking over the Thanksgiving meal at the River center,” said Michael Acaldo, who works for the Baton Rouge Council, according to local news.

“That is such a fantastic tradition for our community. Over 1,000 people are served there. We serve over 600. When you put the two together, it’s a magnificent example of our community in action,” Acaldo continued.

In Arizona, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Phoenix Council also helps with the community’s annual turkey drive, in what locals calls “Turkey Tuesday.”

Every Tuesday before Thanksgiving, locals bring turkeys to designated grocery stores to give to donate them to those in need. Last year, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul received more than 26,000 donated turkeys, and they hope to break that number this year.

Additionally, a St. Vincent de Paul Conference in the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, Pennsylvania will be delivering 100 Thanksgiving dinners to families in need around the area, which will include turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy.

“People need an extra hand all year round – it is important to be there. But it’s common knowledge that people suffer around the holidays. Picture being alone this time of year. If we can help, we want to,” said John Nard, the president of the local Conference, according to local news.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic organization whose mission is to “end poverty through systemic change.” They offer tangible assistance to those in need through the councils and conferences found across the country, and are dependent on the support of the individuals involved with each conference.

Although feeding the hungry during the holidays is necessary, one of the main goals of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is to address the needs of the poor every day of the year.

“The holidays are a time when interest in caring for people in poverty is especially high. It is also a good time to invite people to carry on in that spirit of generosity and put their faith in action by helping people in need throughout the year,” Barringer said.

“People are hungry every day of the year.”

 

Pope: Are you afraid of God? If so, you don't really know who he is

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday cautioned against having a “mistaken” idea of God as harsh and punishing, saying this fear will end up paralyzing us and preventing us from doing good, rather than spreading his love and mercy.

“Fear always immobilizes and often leads us to make bad choices,” the Pope said Nov. 19. “Fear discourages us from taking the initiative, and encourages us to seek refuge in safe and guaranteed solutions, and so we end up doing nothing good.”

To go forward and grow on the path of life, he said, “we must not be afraid, but we have to trust.”  

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus address on the first-ever World Day for the Poor, which he implemented at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In his speech, the Pope turned to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, which recounts the parable of the talents. In the passage, a master goes on a long trip and entrusts three servants with different talents, but when he returns, only two have gained profit from it, while the third buried his out of fear.

This parable “makes us understand how important it is to have a true idea of God,” Francis said, noting that the third servant didn't really trust his master, but but feared him, and this fear prevented him from acting.

We shouldn't think that God is “an evil, harsh and severe master who wants to punish us,” the Pope said, explaining that if we have this “mistaken image of God, then our lives cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive.”

Fear, he said, paralyzes us and so is self-destructive. So when faced with the unfaithful servant in this parable, each of us is called to reflect on what our idea of God really is.

Turning to the Old Testament, Francis noted how in Exodus God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Even in the New Testament, Jesus always demonstrated that God is not “a severe and intolerant master,” but a father full of “love and tenderness, a father full of goodness,” Francis said, and because of this, “we can and must have immense trust in him.”

Jesus, he said, shows us his generosity in various ways, through his words, actions, and his welcome towards all, especially toward sinners and the poor and vulnerable. But also with his admonishments, “which show his interest in us so that we do not waste our lives uselessly.”

This, the Pope said, is a sign of the great esteem God has for us, and having this knowledge ought to help us to take responsibility for our every action.

Concluding, Pope Francis said parable invites us to have “a personal responsibility and fidelity which become capable of continually placing ourselves on new roads, without burying the talent, which is are the gifts that God has entrusted to us and of which he will ask us to account for.”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope made a series of appeals, the first of which was for the World Day for the Poor. He prayed that the poor and disadvantaged would be “the center of our communities” not just on special occasions, but always, “because they are the heart of the Gospel, in them we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and challenges us through their sufferings and their needs.”

He also drew attention to beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey yesterday in Detroit, saying the friar was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, who distinguished himself with an untiring service to the poor.”

“May his witness help priests, religious and laity to live with joy the link between the announcement of the Gospel and the love for the poor.”

Francis also offered special prayers for those living “a painful poverty” due to war and conflict, and renewed his appeal to the international community “to commit every possible effort in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East.”

He prayed especially for Lebanon, particularly for the country's stability, “so that it may continue to be a message of respect and sharing for every religion and for the entire world.”

A final appeal he made was for the crew of an Argentine military submarine, who have been missing for several days without a trace.

After concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis made his way to the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, where he had lunch with some 1,500 poor and needy in town for the World Day of the Poor.

Before the meal, Francis said a blessing for the food and for everyone there, asking the Lord “to bless us, to bless the meal, to bless those who prepared it, to bless all of us, our hearts, our families, our desires and our lives, that he give us health and strength. Amen.”

He also offered a blessing for all those eating in other soup kitchens throughout Rome. “Rome is full of these today,” he said, and asked for “a greeting and an applause” for the thousands of others participating in the event.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PopeFrancis</a> says blessing before eating lunch, prays for the cooks, the guests, their families &amp; charity organizations in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rome?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rome</a>: asks that they receive &quot;health &amp; strength&quot; <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldDayofthePoor?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldDayofthePoor</a> <a href="https://t.co/jRrW0dN3xc">pic.twitter.com/jRrW0dN3xc</a></p>&mdash; Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href="https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/932212710749691905?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 19, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

Humble disciple, tireless servant: Solanus Casey beatified in Detroit

Detroit, Mich., Nov 18, 2017 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Detroit’s beloved Father Solanus Casey has been beatified, with Pope Francis calling him “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, tireless in serving the poor.”

“The life of our Blessed is an exemplary page of the gospel, lived with human and Christian intensity. It is a page to read with dedication and emotion... and to imitate with fervor,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, who read the Latin-language letter from Pope Francis officially declaring the priest to be blessed.

“In raising this Capuchin to the altars. Pope Francis points him out to the whole Church as a faithful disciple to Christ, the Good Shepherd,” the cardinal said in his homily. “Today the Church and society still need the example and the protection of Father Solanus.”

“Brother and Sisters, let us repeat together: Blessed Father Solanus, pray for us,” he told a crowd of of 60-70,000 gathered for the Nov. 18 Beatification Mass at Detroit’s Ford Field stadium.

Beatification is the final step before possible canonization. Blessed Solanus Casey’s feast day will be July 30.

The Capuchin priest was born to Irish immigrants in Wisconsin on Nov. 25, 1870 and given the baptismal name Bernard Francis. He worked various jobs before entering the Franciscans.

He was ordained a “simplex priest,” meaning he could say Mass but not preach publicly or hear confessions. He was very close to the sick and was highly sought-after throughout his life, in part because of the many physical healings attributed to his blessings and intercession. He was also a co-founder of Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929. He served as porter, that is, doorman, at Detroit’s St. Bonaventure Monastery.

At the Mass on Saturday were many bishops, priests, 240 Capuchin friars and about 350 members of the Casey family present, from both the U.S. and Ireland. There were also many poor people in the congregation.

Paula Medina Zarate, the Panamanian woman whose 2012 cure from illness was attributed to the blessed’s intercession, bore a relic of Solanus Casey in his opening procession.

Br. Richard Merling, O.F.M, Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Guild, spoke at the beginning of Mass. He recounted Blessed Solanus Casey’s last words: “I am offering my suffering that all might be one. If only I could see the conversion of the whole world... I give my soul to Jesus Christ.”

Cardinal Amato said the beatification was an historic event for the Detroit archdiocese, for the Capuchin Franciscans, and for the American Church. He compared Casey to Blessed Stanley Rother, the missionary priest beatified in September in Oklahoma City.

While Blessed Stanley had died a martyr in Guatemala in hatred of the faith, “Blessed Solanus Casey attained holiness here, in the United States of America, ascending every day the steps of the ladder that takes one to the encounter of God through serving one’s needy neighbors,” said the cardinal. He did not see the poor as an obstacle, but as a way to light his path to “the splendor of God.”

“Faith, hope and charity were for him, the seal of the Trinity in our souls,” Cardinal Amato said. “Their practice was the effective antidote to atheism, despair and hatred that pollutes human society.”

The cardinal said Solanus Casey’s Irish family had “profound Catholic convictions” that made faith for him “a very precious inheritance for facing the difficulties of life.”

Blessed Solanus had a sense of the presence of God’s providence, “not only in prayer, liturgy and study, but also in the daily events of family life.” The cardinal noted Casey’s prayer in front of the tabernacle, his devotion to Mary, his recitation of the rosary, and his reception of the sacraments which gave him “security and courage to face the future.”

“His favorite sons were the poor the sick, the indigent, the homeless,” said the cardinal. “He always fasted in order to give them their own lunch.”

There was a time when Solanus Casey’s Depression-era soup kitchen ran out of food when hundreds were still hungry. The priest simply came forward and prayed the “Our Father,” and soon a baker knocked at the door with a large basketful of bread and other supplies.

“When the people saw this, they began to cry with emotion,” said the cardinal. “Fr. Solanus simply stated: ‘See? God provides. No one will suffer, if we put our trust in divine providence’.”

The cardinal acknowledged a defect in Casey’s life: he was a bad musician.

“For this reason, after his first failure in the community, with simplicity and humility, in order not to disturb his neighbors on Sunday evening, he went to the chapel and played Irish religious songs in front of the tabernacle,” Cardinal Amato said. “The Lord listened to him patiently, because our blessed was lacking in music, but not in virtue.”

At the close of Mass, Fr. Mauro Johri, general minister of the Capuchin Franciscans, said the beatification is  “A day of celebration for Capuchins throughout the world”

Archbishop Allen Henry Vigneron of Detroit asked Cardinal Amato to thank Pope Francis on behalf of the archdiocese’s faithful.

“Please let him know that we are grateful beyond measure that he has judged father Solanus worthy of the rank of ‘blessed’,” the archbishop said. “Tell him we are committed anew to imitate Blessed Solanus by witnessing to Christ’s mercy. The field hospital of mercy is open her in Detroit.”

The close of the Mass included prayers for the canonization of Blessed Solanus Casey.

Friendship and from-scratch food served up at Fr. Solanus’ soup kitchen

Detroit, Mich., Nov 18, 2017 / 12:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s a Franciscan custom to give food - even if that’s just a simple sandwich - to anyone who comes to the door hungry.

Beloved Capuchin friar and doorkeeper Father Solanus Casey, set to be beatified Nov. 18, knew the custom well, and had a desire to feed anyone who came to the door of St. Bonaventure monastery in Detroit.

"They are hungry; get them some soup and sandwiches," Fr. Solanus would often tell his fellow friars.

The need became especially great in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. That’s when Fr. Solanus had the idea to start a soup kitchen down the street from the monastery, where he could send anyone who came to the door looking for food.

“In time the lines grew to more than 2,000 people waiting for their single meal of the day. The friars knew they had to do more,” the Capuchins explain on their soup kitchen website.

To expand their ability to feed and serve people, the friars turned to the Secular Franciscans in their community. Together, they worked to gather, cook and serve meals at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which is still operating out of multiple locations in Detroit today.

The soup kitchen just down the street from the monastery is a rebuilt version of the original site founded by Fr. Solanus Casey.

Today, Alison Costello is the head chef at the soup kitchen, and she runs a tight ship. Friday, November 17 may have been the day before Fr. Solanus’ beatification, but it was a bustling day at the soup kitchen just like any other.

Coney dogs were on the menu, along with mixed green salad and roasted potatoes. Once Chef Alison got a breather, she sat down with CNA to talk about her philosophy as the head chef.

“This is a holy place, you have to treat it like a church,” Costello told CNA. So there are some rules: Don’t cuss. Dress modestly. Recycle.

A practicing Catholic herself, Costello came onto the staff of the soup kitchen about 17 years ago, “burned out” from the hectic hours of the regular restaurant industry. She was familiar with the Capuchins and saw the soup kitchen chef role as an opportunity to serve those in need.

“I knew I had to boost up the nutrition levels of the food here because most of our folks have a compromised immune system,” she said, “and I have to be culturally sensitive at the same time.”
 
While the guests at the soup kitchen are a diverse crowd, the majority at this particular location are African Americans, who tend to have similar genetic health problems and nutritional concerns.

“So when I started, I knew I couldn't’ just serve brown rice, I had to serve white rice as well. Or our salad couldn’t be just iceberg, it turns out that our guests really liked the bitter greens, and so I brought in spring mix salad. Our soups started to be made from scratch, and I make purees, which they had never seen, like I make a roasted red pepper puree,” Costello said. Her puree is very popular with the guests.

She has told other chefs that it doesn’t matter “if people are paying customers or they’re sitting there smelling (badly), they deserve to eat well.”

Talk to almost anyone at the Capuchin soup kitchen, and they’ll tell you the reason they continue to come there, whether as a guest or as a volunteer, is because of the community atmosphere.

Frank Shorter, who was pouring water into vases on Friday, said he originally started volunteering at the soup kitchen as part of a probation program, but he stayed because he got “addicted to helping people” and enjoyed the friendly environment at the kitchen.

Margie Coleman is a longtime volunteer with the soup kitchen, whose husband is a parishioner at Sacred Heart parish in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit.

“I love working with the people, it’s always a good time, I’m having a blast,” Coleman told CNA.

“You never know what you’re going to run into here, and I keep learning new tips and tricks for cooking, and I’m just having a good time. It’s all about service and giving back to the people,” she added. “Fr. Solanus was all about helping his fellow man, and I feel the same way.”

Margie’s husband Mark often works right alongside her in the kitchen. He said Fr. Solanus’ example teaches us that you don’t have to be academically smart to make a difference in the world.

“I got the sense that he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the closet,” because he struggled with seminary classes, Mark said. “But he actually was a much more powerful light, once you kind of dug into him, which I think is a real testament to him as an individual. Just because you’re not the brightest person in the world doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful impact on the world.”

Today, the Capuchin soup kitchen not only serves food, it also provides showers to those who need them, as well as social services. It is connected to a Capuchin-run urban farm, which provides much of the produce for the kitchen.

“People should come experience it for themselves,” Costello said, “and what a community this is and what a witness the friars are. I have enjoyed every day...that I’ve been here, the camaraderie, the family, we have our family here,” she said, thinking of guests or volunteers that they’ve grown close to over the years.

Costello added that she was “honored” to follow in Fr. Solanus’ footsteps at the kitchen. The quality she most admires in the friar’s legacy is his humility.

“I think Solanus would want people to know you can be an extraordinary person by doing ordinary things,” she said.

Legion of Christ responds to 'Paradise Papers' claims of offshore accounts

Rome, Italy, Nov 18, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Reports about the Legion of Christ’s offshore accounts date to the time of its disgraced founder and do not apply to the religious institute today, a spokesman has said.

“Today the Legion of Christ does not own offshore companies nor does it own resources in offshore companies,” Legionaries of Christ spokesman Father Aaron Smith told Vatican Insider.

“The companies, in Bermuda, Panama, Jersey and Virgin Islands, to which the articles refer, were created at the time when Father Marcial Maciel was general manager and then were closed,” he said.

According to Smith, the offshore companies were managed “in compliance with the law and were not shell companies used for illegal activities.”

Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli, writing at Vatican Insider, summarized several reports on the topic

These reports drew on the Paradise Papers, a collection of 13.4 million documents on various entities’ offshore finances that were reputedly obtained in a computer hack of the offshore law firm Appleby. The collection covers six decades, through the year 2014.

The documents were leaked to a German newspaper and shared with a network of journalists, including the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The documents began to be released Nov. 5.

Based on these documents, the Italian television program Report and the weekly magazine L’Espresso had reported that the International Volunteer Services company had been set up in Bermuda to protect the millions in revenues from the Legion’s education institutes. The alleged $300 million in revenues were said to come from the fees of more than 160,000 students around the world.

The first offshore company created, The Society for Better Education, was reportedly founded in July 1992. L’Espresso claimed the money was “secretly moved abroad and managed by Father Maciel personally, who rigidly controlled his collaborators.” The offshore network’s Rome address was the headquarters of the Legion in Italy.

L’Espresso had said that the Caserta Children’s Village would have suffered a $33 million loss through money going abroad.

Smith, however, said it was false to claim that over $300 million had been channeled annually through the International Volunteer Services company.

His comments contradicted L’Espresso's claim that the Legion’s offshore network had not been fully closed. It had claimed that some companies that opened in the 1980s in Panama are still registered, as are some in the British crown dependency of Jersey off the coast of France.

Smith cited a 2014 statement from the Commission for the Study and Review of the Economic Situation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ which said there was “no misappropriation of money or other irregularities in the annual audit.”

Legionaries-backed activities today “have societies that allow them to operate in compliance with the laws in force in those countries where they carry out their pastoral mission,” Smith said.

The educational institutions “have no relations” with offshore companies and work “transparently,” are audited, and “comply with the legal and tax provisions of the respective countries,” Smith said.

He denied any links between the Caserta Children’s Village and offshore companies.

The Legion of Christ was long the subject of critical reports and rumors before it was rocked by Vatican acknowledgment that its charismatic founder, Fr. Maciel, lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The Vatican congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.
 
From that point, Pope Benedict carried on a process of reform for the Legion of Christ, a process continued under Pope Francis.

As of 2016, the institute had 963 priests, 1,650 male religious, and 121 parishes. Its associated lay movement is Regnum Christi.

Compassion is the heart of healthcare, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to health workers and organizations, saying compassion is the heart of what they do, and stressed the need for a more equitable distribution resources and services throughout the world.

“A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget its raison d’être, which is compassion,” the Pope said Nov. 18.

This includes the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff volunteers and all others able to “minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety,” he said, and stressed the importance for healthcare workers to focus not just on good organization, but on listening, accompanying and supporting the people they care for.

Compassion, Francis said, is “a privileged way to promote justice,” since empathizing with what others are experiencing allows us to not only understand their struggles, hardships and fears, but also “to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.”

“Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.”

Pope Francis sent his message to participants in the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.

The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.

Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.

In his speech, he quoted from the Vatican's new Healthcare Charter, released in February, which states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development.”

The Church, he said, continuing the quote, “proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

To this end, he praised the participants for establishing the new platform, which he said will concretely address the challenges faced in healthcare in different geographical and social settings.

Francis said this task is something that belongs in particular to healthcare workers and their organizations, since they are committed in a special way to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, “for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.”

This not only depends on the services provided, but also on the economic, social and cultural factors in decision making processes.

He also stressed the need to eradicate the structural causes of poverty, “because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”

Welfare projects should only be considered temporary responses, he said, explaining that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

Francis also offered a special word to representatives of pharmaceutical companies present, and who were invited to Rome  to address the topic of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.

Again quoting from the Vatican's healthcare charter, he said that while scientific knowledge and research on their part have their own laws to abide to, “ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both.”

He also advocated for healthcare strategies that pursue the common good and that are “economically and ethically sustainable.”

Pope Francis closed his message thanking participants for their “generous commitment,” and gave his blessing.

Pope: not everything technically possible is morally acceptable

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field have limits, and should be founded above all on the good of the human person.

“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” the Pope said in his prepared remarks Nov. 18.

“Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” he said, adding that in the words of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the true measure of progress “is that which is aimed at the good of every man and the whole man.”

Pope Francis spoke on the last day of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Nov. 15-18 plenary titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” and which took place inside the Vatican's old synod hall. Some 54 members and consultors of the council, including prelates and laity, participated.

Discussion touched on anthropological changes in three key areas: medicine and genetics, neuroscience, and the progress of autonomous and thinking machines.

In his speech, the Pope noted how each of these scientific and technical developments have prompted some to think humanity is on the cusp of a new age and level of being superior to what came before.

The questions these advancements raise are “great and serious,” he said, and the Church is paying close attention, but with the desire to put the human person and the issues surrounding it at the center of her own reflections.

In the bible the course of man's anthropological progress can be seen from Genesis to Revelation, he said, developing around the “fundamental elements” of relation and freedom.”

Relation consists of three dimensions: relation to material things such as land and animals, relation to the divine and relation to other beings, where as freedom is expressed in autonomy and in moral choices.

This understanding of anthropology is still valid today, Francis said, but at the same time, today we also realize that “the great fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are not rarely put into question on the basis of a greater knowledge of the complexity of the human condition and the need for further investigation.”

Anthropology is the source of our self-understanding, but in modern times, it has become a “fluid and changing horizon” in light of increasing socioeconomic changes, population shifts, increasing intercultural interactions, globalization and the “incredible” discoveries of science and technology.”

Francis said that in response to this situation, we must first give thanks to the scientists who work in favor of humanity and all of creation through their research and discoveries.

Science and technology have helped to deepen in our understanding of the human person, he said, but cautioned that “this alone is not enough to give a response.”

In this regard, he said it's necessary to draw on the “treasures of wisdom” conserved in the various religions traditions, in “popular wisdom”  and in literature and the arts, while at the same time rediscovering the perspectives offered by philosophy and theology.

He stressed the need to overcome the “tragic division” between the humanistic-theological culture and the scientific culture, saying there must be greater dialogue between the Church and the scientific community.

The Church, he said, offers key talking points for this dialogue, the first of which is the centrality of the human person, “which is considered an end and not a means.” Secondly, the Church reminds the world of the principle of the “universal destination of goods,” which includes knowledge and technology.

“Scientific and technical progress serve to benefit all of humanity and their benefits can't go to the advantage of the few,” Francis said, adding that new inequalities based on knowledge that increase the divide between the rich and the poor must be avoided in the future.

Pope Francis closed his speech saying the major decisions on the direction of scientific research and investment “are assumed by the whole of society and not dictated solely by the market or by the interest of a few,” and thanked participants for the “precious service” to the Church and to humanity.

What does the Church really teach about nuclear war?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican conference discussing “A World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” held Nov. 10-11, is the latest step in a long-term commitment from the Holy See to work for nuclear disarmament, which itself is considered by the Vatican to be a step toward the goal of integral disarmament.
 
The conference was held after 120 nations voted this July to pass the UN’s Comprehensive Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The treaty prohibits signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and prevents them from using these weapons. To date, only three countries have ratified the treaty.
 
The Holy See actively took part in the treaty’s negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty
 
The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the United Nations, although with “enhanced powers.” That means that the Holy See can take part in the negotiations of treaties, but does not usually have the right to vote.
 
For the July 7 vote on the nuclear treaty, the Holy See was accepted by the UN to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty. This was the first time the Holy See has been afforded such a status at the UN, which Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” described as a milestone during the treaties ratification ceremony Sep. 20.
 
This diplomatic initiative shows the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
 
In fact, the Holy See has understood for decades the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.
 
During the Second World War, Pius XII understood that new scientific developments could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.
 
Pope Pius XII’s concerns were expressed in three different speeches delivered at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences between 1941 and 1948.
 
Talking on Nov. 30, 1941, Pius XII said in the hands of men, science can be a double edged weapon, able to heal and kill at the same time. The Pope also said that he was following “the incredible adventure of the men committed to research on nuclear energy and nuclear transformation” thanks to Max Planck, Nobel Prize Laureate in 1918, who served as member of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.
 
Pope Pius XII warned about nuclear danger again, in a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy that took place Feb. 21, 1943. On that occasion, the Pope warned that because of the development of nuclear weapons, “there could be a dangerous catastrophe for our planet as a whole.”
 
Finally, in a speech delivered to the Pontifical Academy for Science on Feb. 8, 1948, the Pope talked about the atomic bomb as one of the “most horrible weapons the human mind has ever conceived,” and asked: “What disaster should the humanity expect from a future conflict, if stopping or slowing the use of always more and more surprising scientific inventions would be proven impossible? We should distrust any science whose main goal is not love.”
 
Like Pius XII, St. John XXIII urged the need for an “integral disarmament” in his encyclical Pacem In Terris, and the Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et Spes stressed that “power of weapons does not legitimate their military and political use.”
 
Speaking at the UNESCO June 2, 1980, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly mentioned the “nuclear threat” on the world that could lead to “the destruction of fruits of culture, products of the civilization built in centuries by generation of men who believed in the primacy of the spirit and did not spare efforts nor fatigues.”
 
John Paul II noted the “fragile balance” of the world, caused by geopolitical reasons, economic problems and political misunderstandings along with wounded national prides. But, he said, this balance can be destroyed at any moment, following “a mistake in judging, informing, interpreting.”
 
He then asked: “Can we still be certain that breaking the balance would not lead to war and to a war that would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons?”
 
Benedict XVI also confronted the issue many times. It is especially noteworthy to recall what Benedict said in his May 31, 2009 Pentecost homily.
 
Benedict XVI stressed that “man does not want to be in the image of God any longer, but only in his own image: he declares himself autonomous, free.”
 
A man in such an “unauthentic relation” with God can become dangerous, and “can revolt against life and humanity,” as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies showed, the Pope said.
 
Pope Francis has warned many times about the risks of the nuclear proliferation. In a message sent to the UN Conference for the Negotiation of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Pope Francis stressed that “International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”
 
“We need – he added - to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security”.
 
The Holy See has followed a clear path on nuclear disarmament, which it continued with this month’s conference. The words of Pope Francis at the conference carry the legacy and tradition of the Church’s teachings on nuclear weaponry and its danger.

We can not “fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices,” the Pope said.  

“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.  For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.  International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.  Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.  They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family."

 

 

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.

 

Those close to the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey recall a humble, holy friar

Detroit, Mich., Nov 17, 2017 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Before a potential saint is beatified, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

Those promoting the cause of sainthood for a candidate must gather witnesses and testimonies, writings and documentation of the candidate's life.

Throughout the process, evidence is brought before various tribunals (a type of court within the Church) both in the local diocese and in Rome, all of whom examine the life and works of the candidate and determine whether the miracles attributed to them are authentic, and whether their life constitutes heroic virtue, among other things.

It’s a process intentionally designed to take years, and those involved in the process come to know their candidate for sainthood in a particularly intimate way.

That has been the case for Fr. Larry Webber, OFM Cap, who currently serves as the vice postulator of the cause for Fr. Solanus Casey, who will be beatified this weekend.

The priest and Capuchin friar, who has officially worked on the cause for the past five years, said the work has led his own life to be marked by Fr. Solanus’ spirituality.

“It’s meant a lot to me” to work on the cause, Webber told CNA. “I hope I’ve always been a man of prayer, but certainly (this) has really deepened in me an appreciation for his spirituality and his faith which is marking my life.”

“I think many people who have had a devotion to Fr. Solanus over the years would say that,” he added. “There’s something about him that marks the way you pray, that marks your faith, that  leads you to a deeper relationship with God...especially in the Eucharist.”

The friars who lived with Fr. Solanus would often find him in the morning lying on the floor in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where he had spent all night interceding for the hundreds of people who had sought his prayers.

“His line was always, ‘Oh don’t worry, I sleep on the soft side of the floor,’” Webber said.
He added that while he admired Fr. Solanus’ “Irish wit”, he also admired his ability to sacrifice and be humble about it without being pretentious.

Sister Anne Herkenrath has also been close to the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey as one of his living relatives. She is the grand-niece of Fr. Solanus Casey, her grandfather was one of his brothers.

Herkenrath told CNA that she remembers first meeting Fr. Solanus as a teenager during a big family reunion. She had heard some stories about this holy uncle of hers whose intercession had healed people, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it all.

“Teenagers are sometimes skeptical about things like this, and I was a little skeptical about him,” she said. “I thought, who is this man? What’s he like? How do I act around him?

“Well he got (to the family reunion), and he was as normal as his brothers and sisters,” she said. “He was so normal that my (hesitation) just disappeared, I was very comfortable with him, and he was just one of us. He played ball with the younger kids, he talked with everybody, he was just normal.”

The family didn’t talk much about the specific favors attributed to Fr. Solanus, Herkenrath said. One of Solanus’ brothers, also a priest, had told the family that those matters were “between God, the Capuchins, and Solanus.”

It was only after his death that she became involved in his cause for canonization, and started learning more about his life. For her part, she helped gather some recordings of Fr. Solanus that her dad had made of him on some old 7-inch 78 rpm records - recordings of Solanus saying a prayer, greeting the family, reciting a poem, and singing and playing the violin.

“I’m still in awe of him,” Herkenrath said. “Again for his being so normal, and yet so in touch with God, so very in touch with God.”

One of the most striking characteristics of Fr. Solanus is his profound humility and acceptance of God’s will in all things, Webber said.

Never able to make good grades in seminary, which was taught all in Latin at the time, Fr. Solanus was only ever allowed to be a simplex priest for the order, meaning he wasn’t allowed to preach or hear confessions.

Instead he was assigned as the porter, the doorkeeper, at the time a lesser role usually reserved for novice friars.

But it was a job “he accepted it humbly, joyfully, and in that obedience and that humility, God transformed him into a saint,” Webber said.

“And I think many of us in our world today need that same lesson - humbly accept the reality you are given, joyfully serve the Lord in it, and he’ll make you holy.”

“(Fr. Solanus) once said to someone: ‘What does it matter where we are sent? Wherever we are, we can serve God,’” Webber added.

Another characteristic of Fr. Solanus that Fr. Webber said he admired was the friar’s pastoral ability to help people take life a little less seriously.

As an example, Webber recalled one story where some good friends of Fr. Solanus were returning from vacation, and they stopped by the monastery to say hello to the friar.

After chatting for a bit, the friends told Fr. Solanus that they were hungry, but they weren’t sure what they were going to eat, because the only thing they had left in their cooler were some hotdogs. It was Friday, and the Church at the time required the faithful to abstain from meat on that day every week.

“And (Fr. Solanus) said: ‘Well how long have those hotdogs been in there?’ And they said: ‘Oh about a day or two.’ And he said: ‘Oh don’t worry, they’re fish by now,’” Webber recalled.

“He had a good sense pastorally,” Webber noted, to take the faith seriously, but also, when appropriate, “not to take things overly seriously.”

Having a brother within his own community being beatified has also caused Webber to examine his own holiness and call as a Capuchin, he added.

“Being holy...it’s not just the vocation of Fr. Solanus, it’s the vocation of all of us,” Webber said.

“And if God has raised up one among us...that is being recognized for his holiness, that calls each of us to say, ‘Well, what do I need to be doing to be a little bit more holy?’”

Fr. Solanus Casey will be beatified on November 18th at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.