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    FORT WAYNE — Following First Saturday devotions, recitation of the rosary and Confessions, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass on Oct. 3 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, as part of the annual breakfast and celebration for the Worldwide Apostolate of Fatima in the diocese.

    A Marian procession to nearby Grand Wayne Center followed the Mass where more than 400 guests enjoyed breakfast and an address by Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho of Portugal, a religious sister from the Congregation of Aliança de Santa Maria and a medical doctor. She is the postulator for the Cause of Canonization of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and the vice postulator for their cousin Sister Lúcia Santos. The Blessed Mother appeared six times to all three Portuguese shepherd children at Fatima in 1917 when they were ages 9, 7 and 10, respectively.

    “I chose to celebrate today the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title ‘causa nostrae laetitiae,’ (‘Cause of Our Joy,’)” said Bishop Rhoades in his homily. “This is a beautiful and very meaningful title of Our Lady. The sorrow brought into the world by Eve’s disobedience has been changed into joy by the obedience of the New Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he continued.

    “My brothers and sisters, we are called to imitate the life of (the) first Christians who, together with Mary, were disciples filled with joy and the Holy Spirit,” he said. “The Acts of the Apostles tells us they were devoted to the teaching of the Apostles, shared in common prayer, in the Eucharist (the breaking of the bread) and in sharing their goods with those in need. These are the basics of our Christian life. Living this way brings true joy, not only to our hearts, but to others with whom we are called to share the joy of the Gospel.”

    “Pope Francis has lamented the fact that too often Christians look like they’re coming back from a funeral. … Too often we can turn people away from the faith by not showing them the joy of following Jesus, the joy of His Gospel, the joy of salvation.”

    In conclusion he said, “We can learn this joy from the saints, especially the Queen of All Saints, our mother Mary. …  She teaches us the surpassing joy of knowing, loving and serving her Son.”

    Following the annual breakfast, Sister Coelho spoke on how much Fatima is about passion and love toward the Blessed Mother and the Lord Jesus. She stressed by stories and example that “sometimes we have this attitude toward our stage of life, like I am Catholic but it is too painful or I am a nun but it is too hard. This is what our beautiful (Pope) Francis is telling us about when he is asking us not to have a funeral face, not to have a face like vinegar. … Little Jacinta, right before she died, said something like this: ‘If only I could fill the hearts of all (with) the fire that is burning within my own heart and makes me love the hearts of Jesus and Mary so very much.’”

    Sister Coelho continued, “I wish I could help to put this fire in your hearts that could help us so much to love Our Lady … as little Jacinta did. This is the aim of my talk: to try to encourage each one of us to grow in this fire of love towards Our Lady.”

    We have to look to the message of Fatima knowing it has two dimensions: mystical and prophetic, she related. “The mystical dimension means the aim of the message of Fatima is our intimacy with God. … We believe in Christ because someone spoke of Him to us. Does this make us people of faith? No, it makes us believers, until the moment when we personally experience Jesus as our Savior; then (we) become people of faith.”

    “And what is Fatima about?” she asked. “Is it making of people who believe in Jesus just because we heard … or because we experienced it? It’s about the men and women of the 21st century who experience God through the hands of Our Lady. … Fatima is a school of faith,” she stressed, “… to teach the young visionaries and then us the eternal truth, and the art of praying, believing and loving.”

    “The prophetic dimension is not guessing the future,” she continued. “Because of our intimacy with God we are able to read the circumstances of Easter with the eyes of God. … It is to see what is happening in the world through the eyes of God. Because of our mystical dimension we are able to fulfill the prophetic dimension,” she said. “Our Lady is telling us, please, be aware you are responsible for your brothers and sisters … for the history of salvation … for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend … for the history of your country and the history of the world.”

    “So why do we pray the rosary?” she continued. “It increases our union with Christ and proves to Our Lady we are connected with the history of salvation. So this is how we are to focus on the message of Fatima. Everything we do increases our intimacy with God and is an answer to God with me saying, ‘Yes, my Lord, I am responsible for my brothers and sisters.’ So, I pray the rosary. I keep the First Saturdays. I keep the Commandments. I try to be chaste and pure.”

    In her conclusion, Sister Coelho emphasized: “In the Fatima apparitions the Blessed Mother said, ‘God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.’ How do we know we have devotion to Mary? We trust her, we try to imitate her and we fulfill her requests. Is it simpler than this?” she asked. “No, it’s not!”



    Posted on October 6, 2015, to:

  • A delegate to the 2015 World Meeting of Families signs a poster drawing of Pope Francis by artist Mark Gaines Sept. 23 in Philadelphia. More than 17,500 participants from more than 100 countries registered for the four-day congress. Those numbers are expected to swell when Pope Francis joins the event Sept. 26-27. (CNS photo/Mark Makela, Reuters) See WMF-OPENING Sept. 23, 2015.

    ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — As the American Airlines plane taking him to Rome from Philadelphia took off, Pope Francis said he pictured the faces of all the people he met, and he prayed for them.

    At the end of his first-ever visit to the United States, the pope told reporters he “was surprised by the warmth of the people” and how they were “so loving. It was beautiful.”

    Spending close to 50 minutes with members of the media flying back to Rome with him Sept. 27, the pope said he also was struck by the sincere piety of people at his Masses and prayer services.

    Shortly after takeoff, Pope Francis responded to a dozen questions, including why he spoke with such compassion to U.S. bishops in Washington about what they went through in the aftermath of the clerical sex abuse crisis.

    “I felt a need to express compassion because what happened was horrible, and many of them suffered a lot,” the pope said. For “men of prayer, good pastors” the crisis was truly a “tribulation.”

    Sexual abuse occurs in families, schools and other environments, he said, but when the abuser is a priest it is “a kind of sacrilege,” because a priest’s job is to help a person grow in love of God and, instead, an abusive priest “squashes” his victims.

    An abusive priest “has betrayed his vocation, the call of the Lord, and those who covered these things up is also guilty; even some bishops covered this up. It was a horrible thing. And my words of comfort were not to say, ‘well, be tranquil, it was nothing,’ — no, no, not that. But it was such a bad time that I imagine they wept a lot.”

    Pope Francis said he understands survivors who feel they cannot forgive their abusers and those who have lost their faith in God because of it.

    “I pray for them,” he said.

    On another topic, a U.S. reporter referred to the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple because of her religious beliefs. The reporter asked Pope Francis to comment on the discussions in the United States regarding religious liberty and its possible limits

    Pope Francis said he had no idea of the specific case, but he insisted that “conscientious objection is a right — it is a human right.” If some rights can be denied in certain circumstances, he said, then it would turn into a situation where people were determining some human rights were more important than others.

    When asked further about the county clerk, the pope said since the official was a human being then that official should enjoy the full range of human rights, including the right to follow her conscience.

    Asked about the role of women in the Church, Pope Francis said not ordaining women does not mean the Church does not recognize how essential they are to its life and ministry, which is one of the reasons he highlighted the contributions of consecrated women.

    “The sisters in the United States have done marvelous things — in the field of education, in the field of health care. And the people of the United States love the sisters.”

    “I felt like I needed to thank them for what they have done,” he said.

    After participating in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and looking ahead to the opening Oct. 4 of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis was asked about his decision to streamline the process for declaring the nullity of marriages.

    He insisted the change was strictly juridical and not doctrinal. It is not “Catholic divorce,” he said. The annulment process needed reform because with automatic appeals “there were processes that lasted 10-15 years.”

    The annulment process does not dissolve a marriage, but rather investigates whether or not a valid sacramental marriage was present from the beginning, he said.

    The decision to issue the new rules for the process responds to a request made by the majority of bishops at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family last year, he said.

    The question of finding some sort of process or “penitential path” to readmit to the sacraments Catholics who have remarried without an annulment is something still on the synod’s agenda, he said. “It seems a bit simplistic to me to say they can receive Communion,” but it is an issue that needs further discussion.

    Another issue touched upon during his U.S. visit was migration. Pope Francis had told the U.S. Congress, “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War.”

    On the plane he told reporters that the world cannot pretend the crisis currently impacting Europe sprang up overnight. He said it was provoked by years of war and tensions in the Middle East and by decades of hunger and tensions in Africa, a continent that continues to be exploited by the world’s rich nations when some investment would create jobs and help people live dignified lives in their homelands.

    As for the idea of some European nations to start building walls or fences to keep migrants out, Pope Francis said the influx of newcomers needs to be handled intelligently, “but walls are not the solution.”

    Erecting walls, he said, “the problems remain and they remain with increased hatred.”

    Pushed to comment on his popularity, Pope Francis insisted he doesn’t feel like a “star” because of all the crowds that flocked to meet him. Besides, he said, stars tend to come and go.

    The pope is called to be “the servant of the servants of God — that’s a bit different than a star,” he said. “Stars are beautiful to watch; I like to gaze at them when the sky is clear. But the pope must be the servant of the servants of God.”

    Asked about the primary task facing the Church in the United States, the pope said, “The challenge of the Church is to be what it always was — close to the people, not detached,” he said.

    Posted on September 29, 2015, to:

  • By Cindy Wooden

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — The past, the promise and the potential of the United States must not be smothered by bickering and even hatred at a time when the U.S. people and indeed the world need a helping hand, Pope Francis told the U.S. Congress.

    Making history by being the first pope ever to address a joint meeting of Congress, Pope Francis was introduced to the legislators by the House sergeant at arms Sept. 24 as: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.”

    The pope introduced himself, though, as a son of the American continent, who had been blessed by the “new world” and felt a responsibility toward it.

    In a long speech, he gave the sense that he sees the United States as a country divided, one so focused on calling each other names that it risks losing sight of how impressive it can be when its people come together for the common good. That is when it is a beacon of hope for the world, he said.

    Pope Francis condemned legalized abortion, the death penalty and unscrupulous weapons sales. He called on Congress to “seize the moment” by moving forward with normalizing relations with Cuba. And, again referring to himself as a “son of immigrants” — and pointing out that many of the legislators are, too — he pleaded for greater openness to accepting immigrants.

    A reporter had asked the pope in July about why he spoke so much about the poor and about the rich, but rarely about the lives and struggles of the hard-working, tax-paying middle class. The result of a papal promise to correct that was the speech to Congress and through Congress to the American people.

    “I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and — one step at a time — to build a better life for their families,” the pope said.

    “These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society,” he said. “They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.”

    Showing he had studied the United States before the visit — something he said he would do during the Rome August break — he used four iconic U.S. citizens as relevant models of virtue for Americans today: Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

    “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton,” the pope said.

    Describing political service with the same tone used to describe a vocation to religious life — “you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you” — the pope recognized the weighty responsibility of being a member of the U.S. Congress.

    Dialogue, he said, is the only way to handle the pressure and fulfill the call to serve the common good, promoting a culture of “hope and healing, of peace and justice.”

    For the speech, Pope Francis stood in the House chamber in front of Rep. John Boehner, speaker of the House and a Republican from Ohio, and Vice President Joe Biden, president of the Senate. Both men are Catholics. Besides the senators, representatives and their invited guests, the attendees included members of the U.S. Supreme Court and members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

    Tens thousands of people watched the speech on giant screen from the Capitol’s West Lawn. Gathered hours before the pope’s morning visit, they were entertained by military bands.

    In his speech, Pope Francis gave strong support to several concerns of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic faithful, including defending the right of people to publicly live their faith and join political policy debates from a faith-based perspective.

    “It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society,” he said. The dialogue the country needs must be respectful of “our differences and our convictions of conscience.”

    “Every life is sacred,” he insisted, calling for the “global abolition of the death penalty” and the “responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

    Some U.S. politicians and pundits have expressed confusion or even anger over Pope Francis’ teaching about the damage provoked when money becomes a god and profits count more than people. The pope insists his words are straight out of Catholic social teaching.

    His speech to Congress included more of that teaching, delving deeper into the positive aspects of a market economy — as long as it is ethical and includes controls, solidarity and a safety net for the poorest and weakest members of society.

    “The creation and distribution of wealth” obviously is important for continued efforts to reduce poverty in the United States and around the globe, he said. “The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.”

    “Business is a noble vocation” when it seeks the common good, Pope Francis said. And today, he told legislators, the common good includes protecting the environment and taking bold steps “to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

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    Follow Wooden on Twitter @Cindy_Wooden.


    Read the transcript of the pope’s talk at the OSV website


    Posted on September 24, 2015, to:

  • By Cindy Wooden

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — Canonizing the 18th-century Spanish missionary, Blessed Junipero Serra, Pope Francis insisted a person’s faith is alive only when it is shared.

    Celebrating a late afternoon Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Sept. 23, the pope declared the holiness of St. Junipero, founder of a string of missions in California.

    Some people had objected to the canonization — like the beatification of the Spaniard in 1988 — because of questions about how Father Serra treated the native peoples of California and about the impact of Spanish colonization on native peoples throughout the Americas.

    Pope Francis mentioned the controversy only briefly, saying: “Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs, which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”

    Vincent Medina, who has questioned the wisdom of the canonization, read the first Scripture reading in the Chochenyo language of the Ohlone people of Northern California.

    Before the formal proclamation of the missionary’s sainthood, a choir and the congregation chanted a litany invoking the intercession of Jesus, Mary, the apostles and a long list of saints, including other saints who lived and worked in the United States, such as St. Frances Cabrini, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John Neumann and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first American Indian to be canonized. The canonization of St. Junipero, however, was the first such ceremony to be celebrated in the United States rather than at the Vatican.

    After the formal proclamation, Andrew Galvan, curator of Dolores Mission in San Francisco, brought a relic of St. Junipero up to a stand near the altar as a song was sung in Spanish accompanied by a drumbeat.

    Catholics in the United States and throughout the world are indebted to St. Junipero and thousands of other witnesses who lived their faith and passed it on, the pope said in his homily.

    St. Junipero “was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life,” Pope Francis said.

    A missionary’s life is exciting and brings joy, he said, because it is not sedentary or turned in on itself. Sharing the Gospel is the way to keep experiencing the joy it brings and keeps the heart “from growing numb from being anesthetized.”

    More than speaking about St. Junipero, Pope Francis spoke about keeping faith alive and joyful, calling on all Catholics to be missionaries.

    “Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual,” he told the crowd of about 25,000 people. “Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven.”

    Pope Francis insisted that Jesus does not given Christians “a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message, his presence.”

    Instead, Jesus embraced people as they were, even those who were “dirty, unkept, broken,” he said. Jesus says to believers today, like yesterday, “Go out and embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be.”

    “The joy of the Gospel,” the pope sad, “is something to be experienced, something to be known and live only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.”

    Before the Mass, Pope Francis made a short visit inside the basilica, where he briefly greeted families and men and women studying to be priests and sisters. They had waited inside for more than two hours.

    Parents like Margarita and Carlos Ramos, who brought their 7-year-old son Samuel to Mass, were in the pews, sharing a prayer before all started, while Secret Service snipers stayed alert in several balconies.

    “I like Pope Francis because he was born in Argentina; he is one of us. I would love to have the chance to be blessed by him. I´m telling everybody in my second grade class that I was sitting here the day he made Junipero Serra a saint.”

    “It is a historic moment,” said Sister Maria Virgen Oyente of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. She was in the line to get inside the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with a group of about 20 nuns. “We are very happy to be here. The line is long and is getting hot, but we are reading about Fray Junipero Serra, and that makes us feel better.”

    “My expectations for today are very high,” said St. John Vianney College seminarian Gustavo Santos. “Imagine what it is to be in the same place with your pastor, the vicar of Christ on earth, I can’t even describe it with my own words.”

    “I admire Pope Francis’ simplicity and mercy for the poor and vulnerable,” said Yoandy Gonzalez, born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, and currently attending St. John Seminary. “The pope teaches us all simple ways to truly live the Gospel as Christ every day.”

    - – -

    Contributing to this story was Constanza Morales.

    Posted on September 23, 2015, to:

  • By Cindy Wooden

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis introduced himself to President Barack Obama and all people of the United States as a “son of an immigrant family” arriving in the United States for the first time to learn from others and to share from his own experience.

    In a country the pope said he knows was “largely built” by immigrant families, he made his debut speech to Americans Sept. 23 on the South Lawn of the White House with some 20,000 people in attendance.

    Obama told him, “Our backyard is not typically this crowded,” but the attendance on a bright, sunny morning was a reflection of the devotion of U.S. Catholics “and the way your message of love and hope has inspired so many people, across our nation and around the world.”

    While obviously honored by the welcome, Pope Francis was clear in issuing several challenges, including by publicly voicing his support for the U.S. bishops’ defense of religious freedom. The bishops have objected to the Obama Administration’s efforts to force almost all employers, including many Catholic institutions, to fund contraception coverage in health insurance policies.

    “Mr. President,” the pope told him, American Catholics want “a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive,” one that safeguards individual rights and rejects “every form of unjust discrimination,” but also respects the deeply held religious beliefs of citizens and the moral and ethical obligations that flow from them.

    Obama, in his remarks, spoke about religious freedom as well, but referred only to the defense of Christians being persecuted and even killed for their beliefs around the world.

    The pope arrived in the United States from Cuba, and both he and the president spoke about efforts to normalize relations between the two countries after more than five decades of tension and estrangement.

    “The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom,” Pope Francis told the president.

    Although Pope Francis consistently has downplayed his role in encouraging and supporting Obama and Raul Castro’s talks, the president told him, “Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people, which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere and a better life for the Cuban people.”

    The crowd on the lawn applauded almost every line of the speeches of both Pope Francis and Obama. The pope, who claims his English is very rudimentary, read the speech in a clear English and used his hands to emphasize some points.

    Before moving inside for a private conversation, both leaders also spoke about the environment and, particularly, Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which urges nations and the international community to take concrete, serious action to slow climate change and help the poor, who are most impacted by environmental destruction.

    “Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the pope told the president. Now is a “critical moment” when it is still possible to make positive changes, but they must be made quickly.

    “Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them,” he said.

    The earth itself has been excluded from people’s concern just as the poor have, the pope said. “To use a telling phrase of the Rev. Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note, and now is the time to honor it.”

    Obama thanked Pope Francis for his encyclical, but spent most of his speech praising the pope’s leadership style.

    “Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example,” he said. “In these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency.

    “All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true and right,” the president said, but the call also gives people confidence that they need to “come together, in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free.”

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    Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

    Posted on September 23, 2015, to: