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Pope clears way for beatification of Salvadoran Jesuit, companions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

The Vatican announced Feb. 22 that Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of a fellow Jesuit, Salvadoran Father Rutilio Grande, and two companions who were murdered en route to a novena in 1977 in El Salvador.

Papal recognition of their martyrdom clears the way for their beatification, although the Vatican did not announce a date for the ceremony.

"The announcement of the beatification of Father Rutilio Grande has been expected for many years," said Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a relative of the slain priest, in an email to Catholic News Service. "Today the news is received with jubilee and joy. That a man of such humble origins be recognized for his surrender to God, his love for the poor, and his efforts to achieve justice, is an example."

Father Grande died March 12, 1977, near his hometown of El Paisnal in rural El Salvador after being shot a dozen times or more along with elderly parishioner Manuel Solorzano and teenager Nelson Rutilio Lemus, who were accompanying him to a novena for the feast of St. Joseph. Their bodies were found lifeless in an overturned Jeep the priest was driving.

Though born in the Salvadoran countryside, Father Grande was educated as a member of the Society of Jesus, mostly in Spain and Belgium and other parts of Latin America, but later returned as to work among his native country's poor and rural masses. The mission teams he organized taught peasants to read using the Bible, but also helped rural workers to organize so they could speak against a rich and powerful minority that paid them meager salaries and confront the social maladies that befell them because they were poor.

With a team of Jesuit missionaries and lay pastoral agents, Father Grande, who was the pastor of a church in the neighboring town of Aguilares, evangelized a wide rural area in El Salvador from 1972 until his assassination by death squads. As was the case with the assassination of St. Oscar Romero and tens of thousands of other Salvadorans, no one was ever charged with his death or that of his parishioners.  

"His death in the company of Manuel and the young Nelson Rutilio demonstrates his solidarity with the most needy of his beloved country," said Sister Pineda, a theologian and professor at Santa Clara University in California, who wrote the book "Romero and Grande: Companions on the Journey."

The book explores the life of Father Grande and his close friend, the archbishop of San Salvador, who would later become St. Romero, canonized in 2018. St. Romero would die a similar death three years later, martyred as he celebrated Mass. Some say that when Father Grande died, St. Romero took up the mantle in speaking for the poor, and others, including Pope Francis, believe that the murder of Father Grande led to a moment of conversion for the conservative archbishop, who later became popularly known as the voice of the poor.

Others believe St. Romero already was on a path of conversion because he had seen oppression as an auxiliary bishop in a different rural area where he served.

The official recognition of martyrdom means Father Grande and his companions will be beatified without a miracle being attributed to them, though Pope Francis has, in the past, been quoted as saying that Father Grande's first miracle was St. Romero.

Beatification is a step before sainthood; in order for Father Grande and his companions to be canonized, a miracle would have to be attributed to their intercession.

"For me, the beatification of Rutilio means that the persecuted Latin American and Salvadoran church is being recognized," Salvadoran Bishop Oswaldo Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango, El Salvador, told CNS in an audio interview via WhatsApp. "His commitment to Medellin, his commitment to the poor, especially the peasants who were being badly mistreated in the Aguilares region, where he worked, led him to become a Jesus in that land."

A 1968 conference in Medellin, Colombia, adapted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council toward the needs of the Latin American church, emphasizing pastoral care for the poor majorities of the region. Father Grande, along with many others, followed that direction with his work among the peasants and that sometimes led him to publicly speak out against their oppression.

"The beatification is a great joy for everyone, for peasants, for the oppressed, for those who experienced violence," said Bishop Escobar, who serves in a largely rural area, one that also saw the killing of many Catholic peasants and clergy. "As I like to say, when they canonized Romero, Romero did not go to heaven alone. Behind Romero, many martyrs followed: all the murdered and persecuted (Salvadorans). It's the same with Rutilio. He is being beatified with two peasants, two laypeople, a symbol of many who were martyred."

Despite many falsehoods spread about the Jesuit priest, including that he was a subversive and took up arms, the truth survived, and he is being recognized for his commitment as a pastor to his people, the bishop said.

For others, the beatification is more personal, as well as spiritual. Ana Grande, the Jesuit's niece and an executive at a nonprofit in California, said she was overcome with joy at the news and hoped that through the intercession of soon-to-be Blessed Grande and St. Romero, El Salvador, which still suffers from great violence, corruption, poverty and other social ailments, would heal and the people's hope and faith would be renewed.

"For years we have prayed that the beatification of our uncle, Father Grande, come at a time to encourage our Salvadoran community, to keep lifting their voices," she said to CNS via Twitter. "I can only imagine the feast Romero and Rutilio will have as they join the communion of saints."

 

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Brahms: The Boy II

Recording artist Dana headlines Lenten program on Great Catholic Music

IMAGE: CNS photo/Living Bread Radio

By

CANTON, Ohio (CNS) -- Great Catholic Music, a free Catholic music platform with over 16,000 downloads, is partnering with Irish Catholic recording artist Dana this Lent to bring listeners the hourlong program "The Stations of the Cross," airing every Friday of the penitential season.

The program will air at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Eastern time). The program will consist of spoken reflection and prayer accompanied by music sung by Dana. Listeners can catch the program at GreatCatholicMusic.com, on Alexa devices or on the outlet's free mobile app for Android and Apple devices.

"This recording of the Stations of the Cross will help you meditate deeply on Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. The use of the harp, beautiful prayerful vocals, and added effects provide the contemplative background music," Dana said in a statement.

She made this album with her brother-in-law, the late Father Kevin Scallon, to allow Catholics "a chance to walk with Christ."

"We could not think of a better program to help our listeners prepare for Easter than Dana's 'The Stations of the Cross,' said Chris Cugini, spokesperson for Great Catholic Music. "The stations are one of the most sacred prayers for Catholics to reflect upon during the Lenten season."

The national sponsor for this program is CatholicBook.net, an online Catholic retailer that is celebrating 30 years of business. The album can be purchased through its online store.

As listeners tune in during this program, they will be praying the stations with thousands of others from around the world, according to a Great Catholic Music news release announcing the Lenten program with Dana.

"Offering the consistent programming for all listeners is important for Great Catholic Music as its goal is to unite all people in Christ through the melodies for the soul," the release said. "In Stations, Father Kevin Scallon's soothing voice and Dana's haunting sung prayers give a clear mental picture of each station. Each time you hear it, you will walk alongside Jesus on his final journey to Calvary."

Great Catholic Music was formed in March 2019 by Living Bread Radio in Canton to help Catholics learn more about the music tradition of the church. The platform allows listeners from anywhere in the world to stream Catholic music that can be used for praise and worship or meditative prayer.

Its founders call the station "revolutionary" and note it is "100% listener supported."

All of Great Catholic Music's offerings, like the special Lenten program, can be streamed online at GreatCatholicMusic.com, on the app available on Apple and Android devices, or through smartspeaker technology, like Alexa.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Fla. diocese declares Safe Haven Sunday to focus on harms of pornography

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of St. Petersburg

By

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CNS) -- Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg has declared Feb. 23 as Safe Haven Sunday, a day when parishes in the diocese set aside time to address "the pervasive problem of pornography and its devastating effects on marriages and families."

According to a Feb. 19 news release, the special Sunday designation is part of Freedom From Pornography, an initiative tthe Diocese of St. Petersburg launched in 2016 to combat the growing problem of pornography.

This is the diocese's second Safe Haven Sunday, and the goal is to make each home "a safe haven" from pornography. Under an overall theme of "Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children," this year's observance will focus on "Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure."

"Pornography is detrimental to both the physical and spiritual life of each individual and the greater community," Bishop Parkes said in a statement. "The use of pornography by anyone in the home deprives the home of its role as a safe haven and has negative effects throughout a family's life and across generations."

In February 2018, the Florida House approved a measure declaring pornography a public health risk and called for education, research and policy changes that would protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography. The bill said pornography "can exacerbate mental and physical illnesses and promote deviant, problematic or dangerous behaviors."

With its pastoral initiative, "the Catholic Church in west central Florida is responding to this crisis that dehumanizes women and children and normalizes violence," the St. Petersburg diocesan news release said. Statistics show that about 30% of people are exposed to pornography before age 12, it noted.

In February of this year, the Alabama Senate unanimously passed a resolution also declaring pornography a public health risk. More than a dozen other states have acted similarly.

For Safe Haven Sunday, the St. Petersburg Diocese is partnering with Covenant Eyes, a company that creates faith-based resources and tools to prevent exposure to pornography and to overcome pornography use and addiction.

They will offer resources, available in English and Spanish, that are focused on education and prevention, such as books, prayer cards, software to filter out pornography and practical tips to create safer digital environments.

Since it launched the launch of Freedom From Pornography initiative, the diocese has held educational events and training programs to equip Catholics to protect themselves from pornography and to "seek assistance and healing" from using pornography.

The initiative has a website, http://www.dosp.org/freedom-from-porn, with all manner of resources to combat pornography, including a list of counselors who work with people to help them recover from addiction to pornography.

The diocese said the idea for Safe Haven Sunday was inspired by the U.S. bishops' November 2015 pastoral letter "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography."

"Being exposed to pornography can be traumatic for children and youth. Seeing it steals their innocence and gives them a distorted image of sexuality, relationships, and men and women, which may then affect their behavior," the bishops wrote. "It can also make them more vulnerable to being sexually abused, since their understanding of appropriate behavior can be damaged."

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Deaf survivors call on Vatican to release documents on abusers

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- Three former students at a school for the deaf in Argentina traveled to Rome to demand Pope Francis and Vatican officials release records on priests who abused them and other students.

Speaking to journalists at a news conference in Rome Feb. 20, Daniel Sgardelis, who was abused at the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in La Plata, Argentina, said he wants an international law that would force "the Vatican to stop covering up, to definitively change the situation."

"We need this to change. Enough!" Sgardelis said through an interpreter. "It's been a long time -- 50 years -- and it's still the same. We are victims and there is still a long way for this to change. We need for them to give us evidence."

Sgardelis was accompanied by Ezequiel Villalonga and Claudia Labeguerie, two survivors of the institute's sister school in Mendoza. Their interpreter, Erica Labeguerie, is Claudia's sister.

The survivors were in Rome after a recent visit to U.N. headquarters in Geneva, where they informed the U.N. Committee Against Torture about their sufferings at the schools.

They also told the U.N. committee that although Pope Francis and the Vatican had been informed of abuses that occurred at the institute's schools in Italy and Argentina, no concrete action has been taken to release the names of abusers.

"I went to the United Nations to denounce the abuses and tortures I suffered, and I need the pope to end this," Villalonga said. "And I also need him to give the evidence and the photos (of the abusers), because in Argentina we have not received justice."

Lucas Lecour, an attorney for the survivors, told Catholic News Service Feb. 20 that members of the U.N. committee assured him they would investigate and would respond "very soon."

"I have understood that there will be good resolutions against the Holy See, above all, calling for an end to covering up and an adequate reparation for the victims," Lecour told CNS.

The first Institute for the Deaf was founded in Verona, Italy, in 1830 by Venerable Antonio Provolo, a priest who developed a method of teaching deaf people to communicate by mimicking words through lip reading and vibrations of the throat and chest.

He also founded the Society of Mary for the Education of the Deaf-Mute as well as the Sisters of the Society of Mary for the Education of the Deaf-Mute. Both religious congregations established schools in other parts of the world, including Argentina.

The female congregation arrived in Argentina and established the first institute in La Plata in 1924. Several decades later, in 1995, another institute was established by Italian Father Nicola Corradi in the western province of Mendoza.

Although Father Corradi is now imprisoned for the abuses at the school in Mendoza, allegations against the priest date back to 1970, when he taught at the Provolo Institute in Verona.

Despite the allegations, the Society of Mary transferred him to teach at their school in La Plata, Argentina, along with several other priests accused of abuse in Verona.

While the visual and vibrational method pioneered by Venerable Provolo was meant to help deaf people talk, survivors said it was used instead to silence victims at the institute's schools in Verona and Argentina.

Students were prohibited and even physically abused if they attempted to use sign language, which left many unable to communicate the sexual abuse they encountered to their families or authorities.

According to The Washington Post, survivors said there was only one hand gesture they were taught by the abusive priests at the institute: an index finger to the lips to demand their silence.

Sergio Salinas, another attorney for the survivors, explained to journalists in Rome that the method taught by the schools was based on the belief that "deaf people are abnormal, while those who could hear are normal."

Many survivors, he said, learned sign language after leaving the school. However, it is still challenging to learn to communicate and thus difficult to describe the abuse or identify their abusers.

"Sign language must be respected as a human right, and the deaf community must be respected," Salinas said.

"We suffered a lot, we weren't allowed to speak in sign language, we felt that we weren't listened to," Labeguerie told journalists. "But now we are survivors and we have learned and we know our rights. And that is why we went to the United Nations. We need this to stop."

In late November, Father Corradi and Argentine Father Horacio Corbacho were each sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for sexually abusing an estimated 20 children at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza.

The institute's gardener, Armando Gomez, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for sexually abusing students.

All three were accused by 10 former students of 25 acts of aggravated sexual abuse that occurred between 2004-2016, the Buenos Aires Times reported in November.

Several school staff members working at the school, including Japanese Sister Kosaka Kumiko, also were arrested for sexual abuse or for covering up the abuse that occurred in the school.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Philippine bishops release additional guidelines to fight coronavirus

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ezra Acayan, Reuters

By Ryan Harms

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Amid continuing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, Catholics in the Philippines have been asked not to kiss or touch the cross when they venerate it on Good Friday, April 10.

Instead, they should "genuflect or make a profound bow" before the cross during the veneration of the cross, according to updated liturgical guidelines issued Feb. 20 by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and posted on Twitter.

Already in January, the bishops' conference advised priests to distribute the Eucharist in communicants' hands rather than their mouths, to place protective cloths over the screens of confessionals and to change the holy water in church fonts regularly. The conference also asked the faithful not to hold hands during the "Our Father" and not to shake hands during the sign of peace.

In the new guidelines, which the bishops' conference said it "strongly recommends" following, priests were asked to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, by "dropping or sprinkling a small portion of blessed ash on the crown of the head of the faithful," rather than rubbing them on the person's forehead.

The World Health Organization reported that as of Feb. 19, there were more than 75,000 cases of coronavirus, but fewer than 1,000 of the cases involved people outside of China. Three cases of the coronavirus have been documented in the Philippines, with one resulting in death, according to WHO.

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Almsgiving: An overshadowed Lenten pillar has something to say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Georgina Goodwin for Catholic Relief Services

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When it comes to the three pillars of Lent, almsgiving is a little bit like the middle child, not always getting the attention that prayer and fasting do.

The word hardly rolls off the tongue and people don't talk about it as they might discuss what they are giving up for Lent or how they might be praying more or reading spiritual books during the 40 days before Easter.

A February editorial in America magazine described almsgiving as the "under-practiced, under-encouraged Lenten discipline" and pointed out that in the magazine's 110-year-old archives, a search for prayer and fasting in article titles had thousands of examples but a similar search for almsgiving yielded just two results.

Almsgiving is defined as donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God." The practice of giving to help those in need runs through all the major faith traditions.

Christians might have good reason not to talk about their almsgiving practices since biblical warnings are pretty clear on guidelines of keeping this practice quiet.

For example, in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus has this to say: "When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others."

But out of sight in this case should not mean out of mind.

The Old Testament is full of reminders about the need to give alms and a passage from the Book of Tobit goes a step further by saying "almsgiving saves from death and purges all sin."

So, if believers know that they should give, why isn't this discipline more of a Lenten topic of conversation?

Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, said one possibility is that so much of the religious practice of Lent is shaped by images that represent what people are trying to do with their faith -- ashes, for example, or fish on Fridays.

"Almsgiving is not easily recognizable," nor does it necessarily demonstrate religious devotion as prayer and fasting do with their focus on personal holiness, he said.

He pointed out that the practice of giving to those in need was not recognized for its spiritual value even in the New Testament. Jesus spoke about being asked: "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" and his response was if they did this for "the least of these" they also did it for him.

Since the Second Vatican Council, Father Morrill said, the church has made more of an effort to connect worship and prayer to moral activity, and many Catholics have made the connection that fasting is not just to be pious but should have practical measures: taking the money that would have been spent on food or drink, for example, and setting that aside to give to the poor.

That is the whole idea behind Catholic Relief Services' Rice Bowl, the small cardboard box for collecting donations to help those supported around the world by CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. Since its inception in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl has raised nearly $300 million. Last year, nearly 14,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in the program.

One of the suggestions on the website is to follow meatless recipes it provides from around the world and to put the money saved from not buying meat into the Rice Bowl.

Deacon Nicholas Szilagye, writing in a 2018 issue of Horizons, the online newsletter of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, linked almsgiving to the other Lenten disciplines by describing it as "fasting from our income and material possessions" and saying it translates "prayers into love for each other by giving to the needy in the name of Christ."

He stressed the practice is not an optional one, but one that is required of believers, but he also lamented that it "seems to get the least attention among the three" Lenten disciplines.

The deacon suggested that people create an almsgiving plan that doesn't necessarily need to be about giving money but also could be a donation of time, energy or talents to those in need.

"Let's make almsgiving an encounter with God during Lent through the face of the poor," he wrote.

Similarly, Father Morrill stressed that when rooted in faith, the practice of caring and providing for those in need is a way of "knowing this is how you encounter and know God."

Alms might not get their due, so to speak, because Christians are hesitant to say their efforts to help others somehow earns them something, the priest said. But really, he said, they should recognize the practice is "a way to join in the generosity of God" and show the love of God for all, which is "truest when given to the least."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Catholic Scout councils not affected by bankruptcy case, chairman says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Roytek, courte

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Boy Scout councils and units sponsored by Catholic parishes and other entities will not be affected by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed by the Boy Scouts of America, said the chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

Jim Weiskircher told Catholic News Service in an email late Feb. 18 that all local Scout councils and units will continue "business as usual, while monitoring the situation."

The Boys Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, Feb. 18 in an attempt to work out a compensation plan in response to hundreds of sex-abuse lawsuits.

The flood of cases involves several thousand men who claim to have been abused as scouts by scoutmasters and other leaders decades ago. The cases have been filed as some states changed statute-of-limitation laws.

Weiskircher wrote that the National Catholic Committee on Scouting does not plan to follow the route of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which as of Jan. 1 broke with BSA and introduced its own global youth program.

The withdrawal of 400,000 members was a blow to the BSA, dropping its membership below 2 million, the lowest since the World War II era. Membership peaked at more than 4 million in the 1970s.

The BSA website confirmed that local "unit meetings and activities, district and council events, other Scouting adventures and countless service projects will take place as usual" despite the bankruptcy filing.

"Local councils are legally independent, separate and distinct from the national organization," the website said. "No local council assets are directly affected by the Chapter 11 filing because the local councils are not filing entities."

Local councils "will have an opportunity to contribute" to a trust fund established by BSA to assist abuse victims, the website added.

Weiskircher said the Catholic Church and BSA "are committed to making their youth programs safe and that there are many safeguards in place."

"Unfortunately, some youth have been seriously hurt by unscrupulous adults in the past," he added. "Scouting under the auspices of the Catholic Church continues to be an excellent program to help young people to grow and develop the values that are central to Christian discipleship."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Eastern churches help Catholic Church be truly catholic, bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In January, when Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, published a book supporting mandatory priestly celibacy -- a book, which included an essay by retired Pope Benedict XVI -- it was "painful," said Bishop John M. Botean of the Ohio-based Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St George.

The majority of Bishop Botean's two dozen priests are married, he said, and the book seemed to question their vocations and ministry.

"The culture of married priests is still part of our culture, and our people, especially from Romania, expect it," the bishop told Catholic News Service and the National Catholic Reporter Feb. 18 during his "ad limina" visit to Rome.

The U.S. bishops' last round of "ad limina" visits was in 2012 with Pope Benedict XVI. At that time, Bishop Botean said, the Eastern Catholic bishops requested official recognition of their churches' tradition of married priests.

In the late 1800s, at the request of the Latin-rite bishops of the United States, who said they were worried about the confusion the practice caused, the Vatican prohibited married Ruthenian priests from living and ministering in the United States. And in 1929-30, the Congregation for Eastern Churches extended the ban to all Eastern-rite priests throughout North America, South America and Australia.

In the 1970s and 1980s, some Eastern Catholic bishops in North America sent married candidates for the priesthood to their churches' homelands for ordination. When they returned to minister in the United States or Canada, many of them received suspension notices from the Vatican.

By the mid-1990s, some Eastern Catholic bishops were ordaining married men in Canada and the United States, and while Vatican officials continued to restate the rules against it, eventually, the suspensions stopped.

But the bishops continued to ask for respect for their churches' traditions, including by officially allowing them to ordain married priests and to bring married priests from their homelands to minister in the United States and Canada.

The requirement of celibacy for priests in North America was "a huge, huge problem for us, and it just evaporated" in the first year of Pope Francis' pontificate when he dropped the prohibition, Bishop Botean said.

A married priesthood is not "a panacea," he said, explaining that besides financially supporting a married priest and his family, the church also must work out assignments and transfers that consider the fact that many of the priests' wives have careers and their children are in school.

"It's not in the code (of canon law), but a priest's wife has veto power" over assignments, "because you are not going to split people up or put the relationship at risk," he said.

Catholics cannot say they know their church unless they know at least something about the 23 Eastern Catholic churches that enrich the universal church with their own spiritualities, liturgies and disciplines, Bishop Botean insisted.

"A Catholic who wants to know the Catholic Church needs to know us because we are a part of it," he said.

In the United States, there are 17 eparchies -- dioceses -- that belong to one of nine Eastern Catholic churches: the Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Maronite, Chaldean, Melkite, Syriac, Syro-Malabar, Armenian and Romanian Catholic Churches.

Except for the two U.S. Chaldean Catholic bishops who made their "ad limina" visits with the world's Chaldean bishops in 2018, the U.S. Eastern Catholic bishops were in Rome Feb. 16-22 for the visits, which include praying at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, visiting the offices of the Roman Curia and meeting with Pope Francis.

Each wearing the liturgical vestments of his own church, the bishops were scheduled to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy according to the rites of the Syro-Malabar, Armenian, Melkite and Ukrainian Catholic churches.

While the bishops were more familiar with each other's liturgies than most Catholics would be, they still were given booklets or sheets with all the prayers written out in English so they could concelebrate.

"You don't have to be an Eastern Catholic to enjoy the richness" of the Eastern liturgies, Bishop Botean said, highlighting as an example the harmonized plainsong sung by four Armenian seminarians at the bishops' liturgy Feb. 18 at the tomb of St. Peter.

Asked why the Catholic Church has so many different liturgies for celebrating the Eucharist, Bishop Botean responded, "Why do we have different languages?"

In the first centuries of Christianity -- without the internet or any other reasonably quick form of communication -- Christianity spread out from the Holy Land and took root in local communities with their languages and cultural expressions. Councils -- first of the apostles, then of the bishops -- were held to clarify the essential points of faith and doctrine, but a huge variety of religious expression flourished.

"Christianity has many forms outside of Western Christianity," Bishop Botean said. Too many people get stuck "thinking in binary, kind of 'Catholic-Protestant' terms," and miss the history and spirituality of the Christian East, which includes the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics.

People, including Eastern Catholics themselves, need to stop thinking of the Eastern Catholic churches as "cultural relics that somehow became appendages of the Roman church" and begin to see that they are integral parts of the Catholic Church and "instruments of the new evangelization," he said.

 

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Being meek does not mean being a pushover, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Those who are meek are patient, gentle and merciful, drawing people together and salvaging relationships, Pope Francis said.

Meekness entails tenaciously holding onto one's trust in and relationship with God and protectively guarding his gifts of peace, mercy and fraternity, the pope said Feb. 19 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall.

The pope continued a series of talks on the Eight Beatitudes by reflecting on the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land."

It seems strange that meekness and inheriting land are somehow related, the pope said.

But, he said, it is rooted in Psalm 37:3-11, which tells believers to trust in the Lord, refrain from anger, be patient and "make your righteousness shine" for then shall they "inherit the earth" and "delight in great prosperity."

The "land" the psalm refers to is something greater than some earthly territory, which is so often a source of conflict, war and aggression, the pope said.

"That land is a promise and a gift for the people of God," he said. It is heaven -- that "new earth" that God has made for his children.

"Therefore, the meek are those who 'inherit' the most sublime of territories," Pope Francis said. "They are not cowards, weak, looking for some fallback moral principle in order to steer clear of trouble. Far from it!"

Whether a person is meek is seen during moments of conflict, crisis or pressure, he said, since it's easy to seem meek when life goes smoothly.

"You see it in how they react to a hostile situation," when they are attacked or offended, he said.

Meekness is what Jesus displayed during his passion since, according to St. Peter, Jesus returned no insult, did not threaten and instead, "handed himself over to the one who judges justly."

The meek are those who know and trust in what God has offered and they do not want to lose it, the pope said.

"The meek are not people-pleasers but are Christ's disciples who have learned to defend a whole other land," he said. "They defend their peace, they defend their relationship with God and God's gifts, guarding mercy, fraternity, trust, hope."

"People who are meek are people who are merciful, fraternal, trusting and hopeful," he said.

To talk about meekness, the pope said, it is important also to talk about the sin of wrath.

"A moment of anger can destroy so many things; you lose control and you don't evaluate what is really important and you can ruin a relationship" with someone, sometimes irreparably, he said.

How many family members, he added, no longer speak with each other or are cold with each other because of anger, which always divides, while meekness, "gathers together."

"Meekness conquers many things. Meekness is able to win over hearts, salvage friendships and much more," he said.

It's natural to get angry, he said, but then people should "calm down, rethink it and get back on track and this is how you can rebuild with meekness."

"There is no earth more beautiful than the heart of another person," he said, "no land more wonderful to win over than that peace" reestablished with another, and this is the land the meek shall inherit.

 

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