• NOTRE DAME — A Marian procession and May crowning will took place Sunday, May 1, at the University of Notre Dame. The procession started at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto behind the Sacred Heart Basilica and ended at Geddes Hall with a crowning ceremony, blessing and reception.

    “Mary is the most inculturated person in the Church because she is the the mother of all people,” said John Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame. “We are so happy to restore the gift of this beautiful tradition honoring Mary, the Mother of God, for whom this university was named.”

    A statute of Mary was blessed at the Grotto and processed through campus accompanied by prayer and song. The procession traveled to the Coleman-Morse Center and then passed by the Main Building on the way to the Geddes Hall Chapel where Mary was crowned and enshrined. A final blessing was offered by Holy Cross Father Terry Ehrman and a reception followed in Geddes Hall.

    “Events like this nourish the Catholic imagination,” said Cavadini. “A May crowning and procession is a beautiful way to participate in a devotional practice that makes the faith more accessible, and it offers an inspiring spectacle for those who want to know more.”

    The Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame connects the intellectual life of the academy to the pastoral needs of the Catholic Church. Dedicated to forming faithful Catholic leaders at all levels of Church life, the institute partners with dioceses, parishes and schools to offer programming and resources in theology education, faith formation and leadership development.

    Posted on May 3, 2016, to:

  • By Junno Arrocho Esteves

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Sharing and celebrating the joy of faith with thousands of Catholic teenagers from around the globe was a rare moment that not many people are able to experience, a U.S. teen said.

    “It was a different atmosphere than what I’m used to, but it’s good because it shows that the beauty of the Catholic Church is there,” Emily Sullivan told Catholic News Service April 25.

    Emily, her brother Ryan and parents Matt and Susan, came from North Carolina to participate in the Year of Mercy celebration for young teens April 23-24 in Rome.

    Both siblings, who are preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation, said that despite the language barrier, they were able to join in singing and praying during the April 23 youth rally at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

    “It was awesome; the energy was insane,” Emily said. “The people knew all the lyrics and they were jamming out. So we came up with a couple of words that we could sing along. It was really cool to be in that atmosphere.”

    To see so many Catholic teens in one place was “definitely encouraging,” she added.

    For Ryan, attending the April 24 Mass in St. Peter’s Square was the highlight of his pilgrimage. “It was great seeing the pope,” and “meeting other people and seeing the city” was “all good,” he told CNS.

    “We will make our confirmation in two weeks so it was definitely great to see the history of the church and (meet) other people who are Catholic because where we live, there’s not as big of a following,” Emily said.

    In his homily, Pope Francis told the more than 100,000 teens present that happiness “is not an ‘app’ that you can download on your phones” and that love leads to true freedom, which is a gift that comes from “being able to choose good.”

    The pope’s message, Emily said, encouraged people “to go back to the church at the end of the day, not your phone.”

    Their mother Susan told CNS she hopes that attending the jubilee event will give her children a “fuller and richer experience” as they prepare to receive confirmation in two weeks.

    “It was really important for me and for them to have this experience,” she said. “To be that close (to Pope Francis) as he was celebrating Mass was truly, I hope, a life-changing experience for them that reaffirms their faith.”

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    Pope Francis smiles as he attends an Earth Day celebration April 24 at Villa Borghese Garden in Rome.

    Dive into world’s problems with courage, pope says

    VATICAN CITY — Dive into the world’s problems with courage and help people turn their lives of desolation into abundance and hope, Pope Francis said.

    “You must take life as it comes. It’s like being the goalie in soccer — grab the ball wherever they kick it,” he told people gathered in a Rome park for an Earth Day event.

    “We must not be afraid of life, afraid of conflict,” he said April 24, because it is only by confronting challenges head-on and together that they can be solved.

    Making a surprise late afternoon visit to Rome’s Villa Borghese park, the pope spoke to more than 3,000 people attending a four-day event sponsored by the Focolare Movement and Earth Day Italy.

    In conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day April 22, the Focolare Movement tried to create a “village” in the park in the center of Rome to promote ways for people to live together in friendship and solidarity and with respect for the environment.

    After listening to some of the speakers talk about their experiences helping others, Pope Francis said their work was a “miracle” in which they helped transform “deserts into forests.”

    The arid, lifeless world of the desert can be found “in all of our hearts,” in cities, on the margins of society and even in exclusive, gated communities — “it’s terrible, the desert is there, too,” he said.

    “But we must not be afraid to go into the desert in order to transform it into a forest,” bringing about abundant life, even if it is a bit “messy.”

    “But that’s the way life is,” he said.

    The only way to understand the world’s problems — and feel compassion — is to get close to those in need, the pope said.

    “It’s a risk, but it is also an opportunity, for me and for the person I draw near to.”

    Helping others must be “free” without expecting anything in return, he said. The Christian sense of “gratuity” is not to be forgotten “in this world where it seems if you don’t pay, you can’t live.”

    Some people will look withdrawn or worried, he said. They are missing “a smile, tenderness” because they lack a kind of friendship or fellowship among people in the community.

    Posted on April 27, 2016, to:

  • A boy holds his teddy bear as Pope Francis leads a meeting with refugees at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, April 16, 2016.

    MYTILENE, Greece (CNS) — Pope Francis’ five-hour visit to Greece ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18.

    The Vatican had kept secret the pope’s plan to invite the members of three Syrian families to fly back to Rome with him April 16. Rumors began swirling in the Greek media a couple hours before the flight took off, but it was confirmed by the Vatican only as the 12 were boarding the papal plane.

    The Vatican Secretariat of State made formal arrangements with the Italy and the Greek governments to obtain the legal permits needed for the refugees to live in Italy, a Vatican statement said. The Vatican will assume financial responsibility for the families, who will be assisted by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio.

    All 12 in the group, the Vatican added, had arrived in Greece prior to March 20, the date a European Union agreement with Turkey went into effect for returning most asylum seekers to Turkey. The children are between the ages of 2 and 17.

    After spending the morning with desperate refugees interned in a camp in Greece, Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders turned their attention and prayers to the sea, the final burial place of hundreds who died trying to get to Europe.

    Just since January, the International Organization for Migration said, more than 150,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece and 366 people died attempting crossing the Aegean Sea to the country.

    “Though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is know, loved and cherished,” Pope Francis prayed to God April 16 in Mytilene, a city on Lesbos, the island on which more than half the refugees have landed.

    “Wake us from the slumber of indifference,” the pope prayed, “open our eyes to their suffering and free us from the insensitivity born of world comfort and self-centeredness.”

    In his prayer, Pope Francis insisted “we are all migrants, journeying in hope” toward God in heaven.

    Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece stood alongside Pope Francis on the waterfront at the Mytilene harbor on the bright spring day. They, too, offered prayers for those who have died making the crossing and joined the pope in blessing laurel wreaths that were tossed into the sea.

    Recognizing the generosity and sacrifice of the Greek government and Greek people, who had tried to assist hundreds of thousands of refugees despite an ongoing economic crisis, the pope told them, “You are guardians of humanity for you care with tenderness for the body of Christ, who suffers in the least of his brothers and sisters, the hungry and the stranger, whom you have welcomed.”

    With hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq and fleeing extreme poverty and persecution elsewhere, Pope Francis acknowledged that Europeans and their governments naturally could feel overwhelmed. The fact that the newcomers speak different languages and have different religions and cultures adds to the challenge.

    But the migrants “are living in trying conditions, in an atmosphere of anxiety and fear, at times even of despair, due to material hardship and uncertainty for the future,” the pope said.

    While the concerns of governments are “understandable and legitimate,” he said, one must never forget that “migrants, rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all persons who have faces, names and individual stories.”

    Greece, and to a lesser extent Italy, are on the frontlines of the refugee influx and are forced to bear much of the burden for welcoming, housing and screening them as other European countries close their borders or make entry difficult.

    Pope Francis, though, called on Europe to live up to its claim of being “the homeland of human rights.”

    “Whoever sets foot on European soil ought to sense this, and thus become more aware of the duty to respect and defend those rights,” the pope said.

    He praised the people of Lesbos for showing that “in these lands, the cradle of civilization, the heart of humanity continues to beat; a humanity that before all else recognizes others as brothers and sisters, a humanity that wants to build bridges and recoils from the idea of putting up walls to make us feel safer. In reality, barriers create divisions instead of promoting the true progress of peoples, and divisions sooner or later lead to confrontations.”

    __________

    ‘It makes you weep,’ pope says of refugees’ stories

    ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM GREECE (CNS) — When an aide suggested Pope Francis offer to fly some Syrian refugees back to Rome with him, the pope said he agreed immediately because it was “an inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

    In the end, he said, 12 Syrians — members of three families, including six children — had all the necessary papers from the Greek and Italian governments in time to fly with the pope April 16.

    The fact that the 12 are all Muslims did not enter into the equation, the pope said. “I gave priority to children of God.”

    Two Christian families originally had been on the Vatican’s list, too, he said, but their papers were not ready in time.

    Spending about half an hour answering reporters’ questions, Pope Francis insisted his visit to Greece with Orthodox leaders was not about criticizing a recent agreement between the European Union and Turkey to return to Turkey those entering EU territory without legal permission.

    “What I saw today and what you saw in that refugee camp — it makes you weep,” the pope told reporters.

    “Look what I brought to show you,” the pope told them. He held up some of the drawings the children in the camp had given him. “Look at this,” he said, “this one saw a child drown.”

    “Really, today is a day to weep,” he said. Holding up another picture, he pointed to the top and said, “The sun is crying. If the sun is able to cry, we should be able to shed at least one tear” for those children who will carry the memory of suffering with them.

    Asked specifically about immigration to the United States and how it relates to what he had called a “catastrophe,” Pope Francis insisted “it’s a global problem” and that Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence also deserve the world’s concern and assistance.

    On other questions during the inflight news conference:

    — Pope Francis confirmed he had met U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders that morning as the pope was leaving his residence. Sanders and other participants at a Vatican conference were staying in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope lives.

    “It was polite” for Sanders, who knew when the pope was leaving, to go downstairs to greet him, the pope said. “If someone thinks greeting someone is to get involved in politics, I recommend he see a psychiatrist.”

    — The pope was asked to settle the debate about his postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family and whether the document opened new possibilities for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion under some circumstances.

    “I could say, ‘Yes. Period,’ but that would be too short a response,” the pope said. “I recommend everyone read the presentation made by Cardinal (Christoph) Schonborn” at the Vatican news conference presenting the document. The cardinal, archbishop of Vienna, had said the document represented “true innovations, but no break” with church tradition.

    Still, the pope said, much of the news media focused so much on the question of Communion for the divorced that they skewed the public’s perception of the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Synod of Bishops.

    “Since I’m not a saint, this annoyed me and then saddened me,” the pope said. “Don’t they understand that the family throughout the world is in crisis?”

    “The family is the foundation of society,” Pope Francis said. The great problems include a reluctance by young people to marry, extremely low birth rates in Europe, unemployment, poverty — “those are the big problems.”

    Posted on April 20, 2016, to:

  • Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., center, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and law professor Helen Alvare at George Mason University are seen behind studio glass April 8 in Washington prior to the start of a discussion about Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on family life.

    By Dennis Sadowski

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love and the family invites the church to see the daily struggles of families as an opportunity to encounter people the way Jesus encountered people with mercy throughout his life, Catholic observers said.

    Because of its length — 256 pages — and the depth to which the pope explores love, marriage and church teaching on the family, the document deserves to be unpacked with patience and careful discernment for mercy to take root in the Church’s response to real human needs, Catholic leaders told Catholic News Service.

    The exhortation, “’Amoris Laetitia’ (The Joy of Love), on Love in the Family,” was Pope Francis’ reflection on the discussion, debate and suggestions raised during the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Synod of Bishops on the family.

    Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted Pope Francis’ repeated calls of the importance of clergy taking time to get to know individual circumstance and discuss with people how they can discern God’s teaching for their lives.

    The pope points to “dialogue, which requires both speaking and listening, and discerning to help people see what their next step is” as key to his call for mercy, Archbishop Kurtz, a member of both synods, said in an interview after participating in an online news conference at USCCB headquarters.

    The archbishop said the pope is attempting to help people encounter Jesus and through that encounter feel the love of God. “There is that sense of being very intentional because we carry with us the capacity to walk with people to Christ. And he’s saying husbands and wives, you also have that potential,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

    “We all share that responsibility to conversion about what does it mean to deepen our sense and let Christ shine more clearly through so people don’t see the rule (of the church), they see the person of Jesus coming through,” he explained.

    During the news conference, Archbishop Kurtz described the exhortation as a “love letter to families” that invites all people to “never stop growing in love.”

    “It is also a love letter calling the church, the family of God, to realize more and more her mission to live and love as a family,” he said.

    Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family, Life and Youth, said the exhortation invites the church to heal wounds that families experience because of poverty, human trafficking, immigration, domestic violence and pornography.

    “We also have room to grow and improve and we welcome the pope’s encouragement for the renewed witness to the truth and beauty of marriage of a more tender closeness and families who are experiencing real difficulties,” Bishop Malone said.

    Both prelates said the exhortation builds on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as well as Pope Francis’ post-conciliar successors, Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and invites ministers to welcome people who may have turned away from the church because they feared their status — as single parents or being in same-sex relationships, or being divorced and civilly remarried — would mean they are unwelcome in the church.

    “I think the call is for the whole church, the bishops, the priests, the lay leadership, but also each family to be able to say ‘God has given me such beauty in my family and things with his help can be much more. I think that’s what he is talking about the grace that is at work in each one of our lives,” Archbishop Kurtz said in response to a question.

    Helen Alvare, professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, who was the third news conference participant, described the document as balancing the natural longing for marriage in society with a “raw appreciation for how bad the situation can be on the ground.”

    The pope acknowledges misperceptions about church teaching on sex, that some perceive marriage as evil so avoid it, the fear of raising children, and ideas that marriage has become an “empty ritual,” Alvare said.

    She also identified the pope’s deep concerns for children, whose rights are often overlooked because of the challenges facing many families.

    While the exhortation upholds church teaching on the sanctity of marriage and cites the importance of family life to the church, it calls people to do more than simply reiterate that teaching, but to put it into “pastoral motion,” Catholic leaders told Catholic News Service.

    John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America and an expert tapped to attend last fall’s Synod of Bishops on the family, said the document serves to help church leaders “form and equip families to that families can become the pastoral instruments of ministry and evangelization to families.”

    “He’s not diverging from the teaching of his predecessors. He’s saying ‘Let’s put this into pastoral application now,’” he said.

    Grabowski, who with his wife, Claire, lead a marriage ministry for couples in their parish, St. Ignatius in Ijamsville, Maryland, sees the need for such programs emerging from the exhortation. “We need to stop seeing marriage formation as ending at the wedding,” he said.

    The pope’s exhortation discusses how the church can be “honest, realistic and creative” in response to the needs of families, explained Jesuit Father Allan Deck, distinguished scholar in pastoral theology and Latino Studies at Loyola Marymount University.

    He said the pope’s emphasis on the need to be open to ongoing discussion within the church and its response to “real families” would serve all families.

    “He shows great sensitivity on the various positions people have in the church,” Father Deck told CNS. “He’s not moving back from his conviction that mercy and the attitudes that flow from mercy are at the foundation of the way the church needs to proceed because those are the qualities that we see in God.”

    Father Deck added that he sees the influence of the pope’s Latin American roots in the document. “That means in our dealing with people, the church needs to show an ability to step into other people’s shoes, to go where they are instead of immediately requiring them to come where we are,” he said.

    Jana Bennett, associate professor of theological ethics at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said she found the document signifies an important shift in the way the church thinks about moral theology. “We invited to think about pastoral discernment in a way that we’re not just looking at rules,” she said.

    At the same time, the pope is calling the church to be patient in how the exhortation is lived out or implemented in parishes, Bennett explained.

    “He’s calling us to be patient with families … that we’re all important,” she said.

    While Bennett said that Pope Francis’ immediate predecessors held up an ideal of family, the pontiff is calling the church to recognize that image, but to realize “that we’re not going to meet that ideal.”

    Father Paul Check, executive director of Courage International, which provides support for people who experience same-sex attraction, said the pope is calling the church to recognize the value of each person first.

    “It’s only by understanding who people are and who they are created to be by Christ that we can best accompany them,” he told CNS.

    He also said Pope Francis’ citation of “Humanae Vitae” (“On Human Life”), which affirmed Catholic moral teaching against artificial contraception, is important to note because it continues to uphold long-standing church teaching.

    Meanwhile, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, a member of both synods, said that with the huge number of references in the document to the two synods, “it’s clear that Pope Francis is trying to insert in the mainstream of Catholic theological thought and tradition the expressions of the challenges that the bishops say they are facing and what the bishops brought to this whole discussion.”

    “I don’t find anything surprising” in the document, he told CNS in Rome during a break from meetings, “but I welcome its welcoming tone addressed to everyone. He’s saying: ‘This is the faith of the church. Yes, it’s difficult to live. Yes, we know we don’t all live it as fully as we should. But we are still all part of God’s family, God loves us and we have to be making our way together.”

    Recognizing the complex variety of reasons why some people cannot and do not fully live up to church teaching on marriage and family life, Pope Francis provides no new rules for dealing with those situations. Cardinal Wuerl said Catholic theology and pastoral tradition “never had a one-size-fits all. The idea is that there is an ideal to which we are called, a level of perfection to which we are called — ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ How do that? That’s the one size that fits all, but along the way the church has always said the good pastor goes out in search of the lost sheep and surely that lost sheep is not someone who is following to perfection” the Christian ideal.

    “Jesus said, ‘Seek first the kingdom and everything else will be given to you.’ He didn’t say, ‘Until you have achieved the fullness of the kingdom, nothing will be given to you.’”

    “It’s a beautiful apostolic exhortation because it doesn’t say, ‘Here are the answers to everything.’”

    On the situation of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, the document “starts with this beautiful reminder, ‘You’re still part of the family.’”

    The document, he said, invites the divorced and civilly remarried to acknowledge church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and to honestly examine their situation and discover how they can grow closer to Christ.

    “I don’t see anything in the document that changes much of what we’re already doing in pastoral practice and that is you meet with people, you try to help them address their lived situation,” he said. “We’re not changing anything (in church teaching), but we’re not saying, ‘because you’re not perfect, this is no longer your home.’”

    Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden in Rome.

    Posted on April 13, 2016, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades stands between newly ordained Father Matthew Hovde, CSC and Father Dennis Strach, CSC, following their Ordination Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame.

    For more photos by Matt Cashore visit the photo gallery.

    Posted on April 6, 2016, to: