Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 18, 2017 (CNA) - As fears of deportation threaten to keep many immigrants home from a prayer service on Sunday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is calling on citizens and legal residents to attend the event in support.
“As a Church that herself bore the cross of hatred toward immigrants, our Catholic past is a compelling reason to welcome the immigrants and refugees among us today,” the archbishop said in his latest CatholicPhilly column.
“These persons and families need our help. They are not strangers but friends. And how we treat them will prove or disprove whether we take our Christian discipleship seriously.”
A statement from the archdiocese noted that Archbishop Chaput is planning to lead a prayer service for immigrants and refugees at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 4:00 p.m. on March 19.
However, the statement noted, “because of recent ICE actions to detain and deport the undocumented, immigrants may avoid the very service intended to show them the Church’s support.”
Archbishop Chaput called on all Catholic citizens and legal residents in the Greater Philadelphia area to attend the prayer service in a demonstration of solidarity for the immigrant community in the region.
He also addressed the broader issue of immigration in his column for the archdiocesan paper.
“For immigrants and refugees now in the United States, or who hope to come here in the near future, recent weeks have been a steady diet of anxiety and confusion,” he said, pointed to the legal battle on travel bans that has created uncertainty for those seeking to flee persecution or be reunited with their families.
Inside the U.S., renewed deportation efforts have left children traumatized and families torn apart, he added.
The archbishop acknowledged the complexity of immigration policy, noting that there are good people on both sides of the issue. It is important not to demonize those who hold different views, he said, pointing to the polarization that has been created among families, friends and colleagues.
But true immigration reform must balance government’s duty to ensure national security with the country’s rich history of welcoming newcomers, particularly the oppressed, Archbishop Chaput said. “The U.S. bishops have repeatedly called for deep immigration reform aimed at meeting both goals.”
The archbishop outlined key ways that the Church in Philadelphia offers social services, legal aid and pastoral care to immigrants. “The Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees coordinates a network of priest chaplains, religious sisters and lay leaders who provide for the spiritual and material needs of persons from places like Indonesia, Haiti, West Africa, Vietnam and Brazil,” he said.
“Our ministry to Hispanic Catholics likewise provides support for Catholic immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America,” he continued. “These are faith communities that enrich the devotional life of our whole Archdiocese. We do and always will welcome all Catholics to worship and fellowship with us, regardless of their legal status. They’re our family in Jesus Christ, first and foremost, and being undocumented diminishes neither their dignity nor personhood.”
Meanwhile, Catholic Social Services offers low-cost legal services to help with visas, permanent residency documents, work authorization, and citizenship. The organization also works in other ways to resettle refugees, connecting them with housing, employment opportunities, schools and medical care.
Furthermore, the U.S. bishops’ conference has offered a grant as part of its Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees initiative. The money is being used to create a coalition of resources, parish-based groups and independent Catholic organizations working to support immigrants and refugees.
Recalling that many times, “Catholics originally came to this country as poor, often non-English-speaking immigrants seeking a better future,” Archbishop Chaput reminded his local Church of past discrimination against their community by the “bigoted Nativist movement whose adherents torched Catholic churches in urban areas all along the East Coast.”
With this in mind, he said, it’s important to remember that those seeking a home in the United States are God’s children in need of help from Christ’s disciples.
Hagatna, Guam, Mar 18, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The practices of the Neocatechumenal Way in Guam have drawn attention from the island's coadjutor archbishop, who has said its members are to stop forming new communities for a year, in the interest of healing divisions in the archdiocese.
Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes of Agaña cited “a growing sense of distress about the multiplication of small communities in some parishes and about some of the differences in the way the Mass is celebrated among the small communities of the Neocatechumenal Way.”
The movement must celebrate Mass at a consecrated altar and members of the congregation who receive the Blessed Sacrament must consume it as soon as they receive it, the archbishop said in a March 15 pastoral letter to his flock on the northwestern Pacific island, a U.S. territory.
The Neocatechumenal Way is a new ecclesial movement that focuses on post-baptismal adult formation in small parish-based groups. It is estimated that the movement contains about 1 million members, in some 40,000 parish-based communities around the world.
Archbishop Byrnes was appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of Agaña in October 2016 to replace Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who was relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority in June 2016 after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused minors.
Archbishop Apuron is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has also been accused of mishandling control over Guam's seminary, reportedly using it as a Neocatechumenal seminary rather than a diocesan seminary, which led to the withdrawal of all Samoan students.
At his appointment, Archbishop Byrnes was given all the faculties, rights, and obligations of the Archbishop of Agaña.
“In the conversation with Pope Francis last October, he appealed to me in a particular way to do what I can to bring some healing to the divisions existing in the Archdiocese of Agaña,” he wrote in his pastoral letter.
“I realize that a number of factors have contributed toward the divisions. I cannot deal with them all at once hence what I outline below represents a beginning.”
He presented his decisions regarding the Neocatechumenal Way “in the context of the pastoral change entrusted to me by the Holy Father.”
Archbishop Byrnes will appoint a priest delegate to to review the Neocatechumenal Way's catechetical directory and to ensure its catechists are sufficiently formed.
He is also regulating the liturgies of the Neocatechumenal Way in his local Church, to foster clarity and unity.
“The sooner we have unity and universal adherence as an archdiocese to the norms established by the Church in celebrating the body of Christ during the sacred celebration of the Mass, the sooner we shall be on the path to reconciling with one another and bring healing to our divided diocese,” Archbishop Byrnes said.
Since the Neocatechumenal Way says Mass on Saturday evenings, the coadjutor archbishop stipulated that all Masses on Saturday evenings be said at a consecrated altar. This norm will go into effect April 2.
He also directed that if the Neocatechumenal Way's Mass is one of a parish's regularly scheduled Masses, its special character be noted in the bulletin; if the Mass is in addition to a regularly scheduled Mass on Saturday evening, a portion of its collection should go to the parish; and that the pastor has the authority to direct how many additional Masses may be said.
Archbishop Byrnes also directed that, in accord with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the celebrant of a Mass must consume the Body and Blood of Christ prior to distributing Communion, and that communicants are to consume the Body and Blood as soon as they receive the host or chalice, without any delay. These norms take effect March 26.
The archbishop recognized the good that the movement has brought to many people’s lives and he noted that it is recognized and approved by the Holy See.
However, it is imperative that it adhere to liturgical norms, he said, and this adherence “will only enrich the fruits of the Neocatechumenal movement.”
Fr. Paul A.M. Gofigan, rector of Dulce Nombre De Maria Cathedral-Basilica, told the Pacific Daily News that when the movement aims to start a new community, it offers testimonials at churches.
“Many have been very offended that the non-Neos have become a captive audience because these testimonials have been inserted into the Mass,” he said.
Since the Neocatechumenal Way was founded, the group has sometimes been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into the Masses it organizes. These include practices such as lay preaching, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting, and the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.
Vatican City, Mar 18, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - In what will be his first international trip of the year, Pope Francis will be traveling to Cairo, Egypt, April 28-29, showing that interfaith dialogue is a priority.
He will visit the country in response to an invitation from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, as well as Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the bishops of the local Catholic Church, a March 18 Vatican communique announced.
While the full program for the Pope's the trip will be published shortly, he will almost certainly visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which has recently partnered with the Vatican to discuss combatting religious justification for violence in a warming of relations between the two.
The Pope’s trip will likely focus largely on inter-faith dialogue and Catholic-Muslim relations – especially in combating Christian persecution – continuing dialogue from a seminar Vatican officials attended in February.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, along with the council's secretary and the head of their Office for Islam, traveled to Cairo Feb. 24 to participate in the special seminar at Al-Azhar University.
They discussed the theme “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”
Persecution of Christians has long been an issue in Egypt, with a recent spike in attacks causing even more reason for alarm.
There have been 40 reported murders of Christians in Egypt in the last three months, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said in a statement Feb 28.
Twenty-nine were killed in a bombing at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in December. The Islamic State took credit for the bombing and released a video threatening to target Christian “crusaders” in Egypt.
Since the video’s release, more Christians have been killed in Egypt and hundreds have reportedly fled their homes in the Sinai region in the north of the country after several murders there, the group In Defense of Christians said.
Egyptian society was also profoundly shocked by the beheading in Libya of 20 Orthodox Coptic faithful and a companion by Islamic State militants in February 2015.
Pope Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their ad limina visit at the Vatican Feb. 6, during which they also gave a report on the state of the Church in their country.
The Pope had also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, who occupies a prestigious place in the Sunni Muslim world.
Al Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican May 23, 2016 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas.
Since then relations have continued to move forward at a surprisingly fast pace, leading to the Oct. 21 announcement from the Vatican that sometime this spring the Holy See and the Al-Azhar Mosque and adjunct University will officially resume dialogue.
Francis’ visit to Cairo and to the University in April will likely mark the official resumption of this dialogue.