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December 14, 2017
Archive of October 12, 2017

'Miracle of the sun' broke darkness of Portugal's atheist regimes

Fatima, Portugal, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On “the day the sun danced,” thousands of people bore witness to a miracle that not only proved the validity of the Fatima Marian apparitions, but also shattered the prevalent belief at the time that God was no longer relevant, according to one theologian.

What crowds witnessed the day of the miracle was “the news that God, in the end, contrary to what was said in the philosophy books at that time, was alive and acting in the midst of men,” Dr. Marco Daniel Duarte told CNA.

If one were to open philosophy books during that period, they would likely read something akin to the concept conceived by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who boldly asserted in the late 1800s that “God is dead.”

Yet as this and other philosophies like it were gaining steam in the life and thought of society, the Virgin Mary appears and tells three small shepherds that “God is alive and still attentive to humanity, even though humanity is waging war with one another.”

Duarte, a theologian and director of the Fatima shrine museums, spoke about the cultural significance of the Miracle of the Sun given the atheistic thought prevalent in Portuguese society at the time.

In 1917, Portugal, like the majority of the world, was embroiled in war. As World War I raged throughout Europe, Portugal found itself unable to maintain its initial neutrality and joined forces with the Allies, in order to protect colonies in Africa and to defend their trade with Britain. About 220,000 Portuguese civilians died during the war; thousands due to food shortages, thousands more from the Spanish flu.

Compounding the problem, government stability in the country had been rocky at best following the revolution and coup d’état that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and subsequent establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910.

A new liberal constitution separating Church and state was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to omit the faith – which for many was the backbone of Portuguese culture and society – from public life.

Anti-Catholicism in Portugal had initially begun in the 18th century during the term of statesman Marquês de Pombal, and flared up again after the drafting of the new constitution.

Catholic churches and schools were seized by the government, and the wearing of clerics in public, the ringing of church bells, and the celebrating of popular religious festivals were banned. Between 1911-1916, nearly 2,000 priests, monks and nuns were killed by anti-Christian groups.

This was the backdrop against which Mary, in 1917, appeared to three shepherd children – Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, 9 and 7 – in a field in Fatima, Portugal, bringing with her requests for the recitation of the rosary, for sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a secret regarding the fate of the world.

To prove that the apparitions were true, Mary promised the children that during the last of her six appearances she would provide a “sign” so people would believe in the apparitions and in her message.

What happened on that day – Oct. 13, 1917 – has come to be known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” or “the day the sun danced.”

According to various accounts, a crowd of some 70,000 people – believers and skeptics alike – gathered to see the miracle that Mary had promised. After appearing and speaking to the children for some time, Mary then “cast her own light upon the sun.”

The previously rainy sky cleared up, the clouds dispersed and the ground, which had been wet and muddy from the rain, was dried. A transparent veil came over the sun, making it easy to look at, and multi-colored lights were strewn across the landscape.

The sun then began to spin, twirling in the sky, and at one point appeared to veer toward earth before jumping back to its place in the sky.

Duarte said the miracle was a direct, and very convincing contradiction to the atheistic regimes at the time, which is evidenced by the fact that the first newspaper to report on the miracle was an anti-Catholic, Masonic newspaper in Lisbon called O Seculo.

The Miracle of the Sun, he said, was understood by the people to be “the seal, the guarantee that in fact those three children were telling the truth.”

Even today, “Fatima makes people change their perception of God,” he said, explaining that for him, one of the most important messages of the apparitions is that “even if man has separated God from his existence, God is present in human history and doesn’t abandon humanity.”

With World War I raging, a war the likes of which the world had never seen, Mary appeared to tell the children that “that story can have another ending, when the power of prayer is stronger than the power of bullets.”

The Miracle of the Sun is also the heart of a special exhibition called “The Colors of the Sun” the shrine is offering for the duration of the centenary year of the apparitions, which focuses on the symbolic nature of the miracle and its cultural significance.

Displayed are “various objects, some older, others more contemporary, some more modern, some made of textile, others of organic materials, paintings, sculptures,” but which are all “placed with a narrative,” he said.

Beginning with a set of black umbrellas used by people who had gathered at the Cova de Iria (Cave of Iria) where Mary appeared Oct. 13, the exhibit aims to build a narrative of what people saw that day, and is supplemented with different works that express the various elements of Mary’s message to the children.

It also shows how the shrine developed over the years, showing the transformation of what used to be a small, simple chapel into what is now two basilicas: the Basilica of Nossa Senhora do Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) and Basilica da Santissima Trindade (Basilica of the Holy Trinity), with an open chapel in between where the statue of Our Lady of Fatima resides.

Pieces come from all over the world – some from the Fatima shrine, some from the State of Portugal, and some even hail from Germany and France.

One of the highlight pieces is a giant heart made by Joana Vasconcelos, a well-known Portuguese artist who crafted the piece entirely out of red plastic ware, such as spoons and forks.

“It’s material that isn’t important for anyone, but which after everything is united, forms the image of a heart and can be the image of reparation,” Duarte said.

The exhibit closes with white parasols, rather than umbrellas, in order to show the fruit of the miracle, Duarte said, adding that it can also signify “the presence of God, the Eucharistic Christ.”

In this sense, the parasols “can be for us a symbol that also we can be God’s tabernacles and can be the place where God dwells,” he said. “This is the true shrine that God wants. The shrine of Fatima is precisely the image of what God wants: to dwell among men.”



This article was originally published on CNA May 12, 2017.

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A Boston mall chapel will house the relics of three saints

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Relics of St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. John Paul II will be coming to a Boston mall’s Catholic chapel, and a local priest hopes they will help mall patrons encounter the reality of Christian love.

“Our hope is that these relics will be a source of spiritual wealth for the Church of Boston,” Father James Doran, O.M.V., told CNA. “We hope that all the faithful who live and work in Boston and all those who travel there will know that right in the heart of the city they have access to the two greatest treasures the Church possesses: the Sacraments and relics of the saints.”

Father Doran is director of the St. Francis Chapel at Boston’s Prudential Center mall. The mall, located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, hosts more than 75 shops and restaurants.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley will celebrate an Oct. 16 Mass there just after noon as part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, who run the chapel. Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri founded the oblates in Turin in 1817.

The Mass will launch public veneration of the relics, which will remain at the mall chapel.

Father Doran reflected on the character of the saints whose relics the chapel will house.

“These three saints in particular encountered modernity with the full force of Christian love, sometimes in confrontation but also in invitation,” he said. “The mall is a place where encounter and exchange happens, not just of material goods but personal goods even more importantly.”

“With the relics of these saints here we hope the faithful will find a place for contemplative refreshment, gospel formation and the challenge to take up in full freedom the responsibility and privilege of finding God in all things and living by the movements of the Holy Spirit and His gifts and not by blind market forces,” the priest continued.

St. Maximillian Kolbe had served as a missionary priest in Japan and ran a printing press in the face of Nazi occupation. In August 1941, he volunteered to take the place of an innocent husband and father about to be executed at a concentration camp.

The Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska saw apparitions of Christ and brought the devotion of the Divine Mercy to the world.

The pontificate of St. John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, included the collapse of the Soviet Union and the effort to evangelize around the world.

“What we learn from these great saints is especially relevant for our modern times, that is, to not be afraid,” Dolan commented. “Clearly, that was a theme of St. John Paul’s entire pontificate but manifested also in the lives of Faustina and Maximilian. Fear is the result of the absence of love.”

The relic of St. Maximillian Kolbe, hair from his beard, was obtained from his monastery in Poland. The relic of St. John Paul II is also a piece of hair, obtained by an Oblate priest in Rome, the Boston Pilot reports.

The third relic, a chip of bone from St. Faustina, came to the oblates as a surprise. They had been trying to obtain a relic of the saint, but could not meet the requirements of her convent.

A woman who was a frequent attendee at the chapel came forward with a relic of the nun she had obtained when St. Faustina was beatified. She said she felt God wanted her to donate it.

The Prudential Center chapel was founded in 1969. Staffed by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary since the early 1980s, it offers daily Mass, Confession, and Eucharistic Adoration.

“The chapel is known as an oasis of prayer, silence and mercy in the heart of the city,” Doran said.

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Don't ignore children suffering war and separation, Holy See tells UN

New York City, N.Y., Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Armed conflicts brings out “the most vicious forms of violence against children” and the world must act to aid the young victims of violence and all unaccompanied children worldwide, the Holy See has said at the United Nations.

“Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such violent brutality: children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves, and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza lamented. “The deliberate destruction of their schools and hospitals in total disregard of international humanitarian law has become a strategy of war.”

Archbishop Auza, the apostolic nuncio heading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, spoke Oct. 10 to the U.N. General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee, also known as the Third Committee. He spoke regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

The Holy See and the Catholic Church have worked with the U.N. and others to oppose the use of children as combatants and violence against children. They aim to help relieve their suffering and “accompany them on the road to full reintegration with their families and society.”

“Children are first and foremost human beings with fundamental human rights,” Auza said. “They cannot be left voiceless and invisible. Their best interests must be recognized and respected. Their protection and integration must therefore be a primordial concern for all.”

He cited a 500 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children from 66,000 in 2010 to at least 300,000 in 2016. The proportion of children among migrants and refugees is growing, the nuncio added.

“An estimated 535 million children live in countries suffering from conflicts, ethnic or religious persecutions, violence, natural disasters and extreme poverty,” he said. “Millions of desperate children are fleeing their home countries without the protection of their families. Parents are constrained to see their children leave without them, hoping that after a perilous journey they will find welcome and protection somewhere.”

Unaccompanied children are among the 250 million migrants who have crossed international borders, and 65 million of these are refugees.

“They have fled from their countries desperate to find safe haven from persecutions and violent conflicts,” Auza continued. “They have abandoned once fertile lands which are turning into deserts, or they simply want a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, most especially for their children.”

Auza recounted Pope Francis’ emphasis on the importance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a basis to protect child migrants from homelessness and exploitation. Its legal obligations for states that adhere to it cannot be disregarded arbitrarily.

These include measures like proper identification and registration for children, the designation of guardians, and the rights to education and health care.

Specific efforts to protect child migrants include family re-tracing and reunification, education, and other long-term programs. There are child migrant advocacy efforts in schools and parishes. Many efforts also target the root causes of child migration.

“The Holy See and the Catholic Church throughout the world always strive to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate those who flee from adverse conditions, in particular children who are most vulnerable,” Auza said.

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Bishop Vasa on California fires: 'Our diocese has been hit hard'

Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - While firefighters in northern California are currently battling 17 wildfires in five counties, Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, one of the hardest hit areas, is typing updates and messages of support from his car, in between visits to evacuation centers.

“Our diocese has been hit hard, as you know well, and is in an ongoing state of uncertainty,” he said in his Tuesday message.

The fires, made worse by dry conditions and unrelenting winds, have already scorched at least 100,000 acres and have killed at least 21 people since the beginning of the week. Thousands more have been displaced, their homes and businesses destroyed.

Much of the area of the Diocese of Santa Rosa has been under mandatory evacuation, including the chancery and the local Catholic Charities office. One of the diocese’s Catholic high schools has been almost completely destroyed by a fire, and an elementary school has sustained significant damage.

“Most of our parishes are fine,” Bishop Vasa wrote. “The one exception is Cardinal Newman High School and Saint Rose elementary which share a campus.”

A “significant portion” of the high school was destroyed, he noted, along with the preschool building and the roof of the elementary school.

Graham Rutherford, principal of Cardinal Newman High School, sent a letter to parents and students, assuring them that all students and staff had been accounted for and were safe, and asked them to respect the evacuations and not go near the campus until officials have given the all-clear.

“Thank you for the many kind and generous efforts made by countless members of our community to help each other and to help others in this hour of need,” he added. “We are proud to see our school year motto, ‘One School: Undivided’ lived out with such compassion.”

Bishop Vasa also noted that he has visited several evacuation centers and spoken with many people whose homes and businesses have been destroyed.

“The sense of great helplessness is palpable,” he wrote. “When people ask how they can help I answer that I really do not know. I do know that prayers are the greatest source of solace and help.”

In his Wednesday message, he offered his prayers for those who had lost loves ones in the fires.

“We pray for your consolation and for eternal rest for your lost loved ones. Our hearts go out to all of you,” he said.

“At the same time, we acknowledge the sense of loss and suffering experienced by those who have lost their homes, or businesses, or places of employment. We pray that you do not lose hope, nor the sense of God’s presence and ultimate goodness. You must know that the hearts of the entire community, though it can neither feel what you feel, nor undo the loss, do go out to you.”

He also thanked the firefighters and police, both those from California and throughout the country who have offered their help.

“...I commend you for that patience and professionalism which I have seen so often and for which I commend you. As I very often advise. Persevere!” he said. “Thousands of volunteers are spending countless hours showing their desire to share in the suffering of those displaced by the fire. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My prayers are with all of you as well.”

Christopher Lyford, director of communications for the Santa Rosa diocese, stopped by St. Eugene's Cathedral, which is being used as an evacuation center coordinated by the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa and other parishioners. Once there, he found a homeless man doing his best to comfort the distraught evacuees.

“A homeless man named Paul, who lives near the cathedral in a creekbed, happened by and offered some consolation through his gift of music” by playing the piano inside the shelter, Lyford told journalists. “The poignancy of the moment is not lost.”

Father David Jenuwine, Parochial Vicar of St. Apollinaris Catholic Church in Napa, California recounted some of his own experiences with the fires in e-mail comments to CNA in between helping out at evacuation centers.

On Monday, the first day of the fires, Jenuwine said he started smelling smoke around 4 a.m. and realized the area had lost power.

“When I figured out what was going on, I exposed the Blessed Sacrament around 5:00 am and started praying. People started showing up for morning Mass at 6:15 am. I went inside (again still dark - no power), and got ready for Mass” he said.

“Mass in complete darkness, knowing your friends and parishioners are in jeopardy, is an awe inspiring experience. The prayers took on an eminence and an importance,” he said.

The verse that “jumped from the page” of the day’s readings was: “Who is my neighbor?”

“I spoke briefly about that verse, and how that would be our clarion call for the next several days,” Jenuwine said. “Because without limit, right now, EVERYONE is our neighbor.”

Over the next two days, he said, the parish started taking in evacuees from the area and accepting food donations.

“The faces of the donors and the recipients reflected a surreal joy. Giving and receiving are both opportunities to share in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. And it is apparent in what we have witnessed over the past few days,” he added.

As of today, access to power and communications are back, but the fires are still far from contained, Jenuwine noted.

“I have to cut this short, because I’m needed at the Red Cross shelter to comfort those who have lost someone in the fires. Pray for us,” Jenuwine said.

“Many parishioners have lost everything. The overwhelming feelings of the loss of so many is offset by the overwhelming generosity of individuals giving food, bedding, clothes, and water.”

“Pray for us,” he added again. “Pray that the winds die down, and the fires can be abated. Pray that we have strength to persevere.”

Fr. Jenuwine’s parish has set up a Paypal donation page that is acting like “a rolling second collection” for fire relief, though Father noted the immediate issues of evacuations, shelter, food and water were being addressed before the exact recipients of the relief money could be determined.

Updates from Bishop Vasa and the Diocese of Santa Rosa can be found on the diocesan website as well as the diocesan Facebook page.

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New Miami auxiliary is first Peruvian-born US bishop

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Thursday, Pope Francis named Fr. Enrique Delgado, who has a background in economics, as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Miami, making him the first Peruvian bishop in the United States.

Previously holding the position of pastor of Miami's Saint Katherine Drexel Parish in Weston, Delgado will serve under Miami's Archbishop Thomas Wenski. His appointment as bishop was announced in an Oct. 12 communique from the Vatican.

In addition to being the first Peruvian bishop in the U.S., Delgado is the 14th auxiliary bishop to serve South Florida's Catholic community since the Miami diocese was created in 1958. It became an archdiocese in 1968.

Born in Lima, Peru in 1955, Delgado studied at the University of Lima and in 1982 obtained a Masters Degree in Economics, with an emphasis in Finance and Accounting.

He worked as a manager for a number of years in Peru before eventually coming to the United States and entering seminary for the Miami Archdiocese, undergoing studies in the Saint John Vianney College Seminary of Miami and later in the Saint Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach.

After completing his studies in 1996, he was ordained a priest for Miami the same year. Delgado served as pastor of several parishes after his ordination, including St. Agnes Parish in Key Biscayne, Nativity Parish in Hollywood, Saint Justin Martyr Parish in Key Largo and finally Saint Katherine Drexel Parish in Weston, where he has been stationed since 2010.

The bishop-elect continued his studies while serving as a priest, and obtained his doctorate in Practical Theology from Saint Thomas University in Miami Gardens in 2015.

In an Oct. 12 press release from the Archdiocese of Miami, the diocese said they are “proud” to have Delgado on board.

He will officially be introduced by Archbishop Wenski during a 10 a.m. press conference at the Archdiocese of Miami's pastoral center. His episcopal ordination will take place Thursday, Dec. 7, at Miami's St. Mary Cathedral, with Archbishop Wenski presiding.

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Pope Francis: Be courageous in prayer – God will answer

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Thursday Pope Francis told members of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and various Eastern Churches that they have a mission for peace and reconciliation, and that if we are courageous in prayer, God will answer, giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“Here is the true gift of the Father. Man knocks with prayer at the door of God to ask for grace. And he, who is Father, gives me that and more: a gift, the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said Oct. 12. “That which the Lord, the Father, gives us more of is the Spirit.”

In his homily, the Pope reflected on the promise of prayer through which God bestows his gifts, stressing that when we pray, we need the courage of faith.

We must have “confidence that the Lord listens to us, the courage to knock at the door,” just as Jesus says in the day’s Gospel, he said, quoting the text: “For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

However, posing a series of questions to participants, the Pope asked is our prayer really courageous? Does it involve our entire selves, our heart and our life? Do we know how to knock at God’s heart?

We must “learn to knock on the heart of God! And we learn to do it courageously,” he said. And this brave prayer should inspire us and nourish us in our service to the Church, leading our commitment to grow and develop, giving “fruit at its own time” as the day’s Psalm said.

At the end of the Gospel passage from Luke, the Pope pointed out that Jesus says no father, when his son asks for a fish, gives him a serpent. Or when asked for an egg, hands his child a scorpion.

Jesus goes on to say that “if you, therefore, who are bad, know to give good things to your children, how much more your heavenly Father...”

The Pope said we expect Jesus to continue by saying that he will give us good things, but “he does not say that! He says: He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. That is the gift that is the ‘more’ of God.”

Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass Oct. 12 at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV.

Before Mass, he greeted superiors of the congregation, patriarchs and major archbishops. He then blessed a cypress tree in the garden of the Pontifical Oriental Institute building, afterward meeting with benefactors and the Jesuit community.

In a message addressed to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Oriental Churches and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Pope Francis greeted members of both entities.

He highlighted major events in the founding and history of the congregation and institute, explaining that his predecessor, in founding them, “wanted to draw attention to the extraordinary richness of the Eastern Churches.”

Even in the midst of the “turbulent” First World War, Benedict XV reserved “special attention to the Churches of the Orient.”

Now, we must look toward the “future mission” of the congregation and institute, he said, noting that at the beginning, there may have been some confusion about the balance between study and pastoral work of the institute.

But today, he continued, this conflict does not and should not exist: it's not about ‘either/or,’ he explained, but ‘both/and.’

He invited the professors to place their scientific commitments “in first place,” based on the example of their predecessors, whom he said distinguished themselves with their scholarly contributions and editions of liturgical, spiritual, archaeological and canonical sources.

While many are aware of the contributions scholars have made in these areas, the Pope said that now, as it was 100 years ago, we again find ourselves in challenging times, with war and hatred attacking “the very roots of peaceful coexistence in the persecuted lands of the East.”

The institute is again at the center of a “providential crossroads,” Francis said, and encouraged members to maintain their long tradition and attention to research, but also to listen to the challenges and experiences of students during this difficult time.

With the collapse of totalitarian regimes and various dictatorships, and the rise and spread of international terrorism, Eastern Christians are experiencing a time of persecution and worry, he said, and “in these situations nobody can close their eyes.”

The Oriental Institute is called to listen in prayer to what the Lord wants “at this precise moment,” he said, and in coherence with the three wise men, they must “seek new ways to go.”

Many of the students and professors are experiencing this important moment in history, he said, and the Oriental Institute, “through research, teaching and testimony, has the task of helping our brothers and sisters to strengthen and consolidate their faith in the face of the tremendous challenges they face.”

The institute can be a place of formation for seminarians, priests and laity, giving them hope so that they can collaborate and cooperate with Christ’s reconciling mission, he said.

He noted that the Pontifical Oriental Institute has an ecumenical mission in relation to the various Eastern Churches, with which we are still journeying toward full communion.

The way the institute can carry out this ecumenical mission, he said, is by fostering good relations with the Eastern Churches, collaborating on important issues, and devoting thorough study to the problems and questions still dividing Rome from the East.

However, he stressed that this work must be in the knowledge that everything happens in the Lord's time and manner.

Francis said the institute is also in a good position, with the trust of the many students of the non-Catholic Eastern Churches who attend, to “make known the treasures of the rich traditions of Eastern Churches in the Western world, so that they are understandable and can be assimilated.”

Concluding, Pope Francis bestowed his apostolic blessing on participants, giving thanks for the work of the Pontifical Oriental Institute over the last 100 years.

He also voiced his hope for the continued pursuit of its mission, which he said is to study and spread “with love and intellectual honesty, with scientific rigor and pastoral perspective, the traditions of the Oriental churches in their liturgical, theological, artistic and canonical variety.”

This mission, he said, also involves responding “better and better to the expectations of today's world to create a future of reconciliation and peace.”

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Iowa district judge praised for upholding three-day wait for abortions

Des Moines, Iowa, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Iowa judge upheld the state’s three-day waiting period for abortions last week, drawing praise from local pro-life organizations such as the Iowa Catholic Conference, who called the ruling a “positive move.”

“We are very pleased by the decision, because we think to allow women to have a reflection time before an abortion means that some of them will take that time to at least think about the decision that they are making,” stated Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, in an interview with CNA.

“Some of those women will decide in favor of life, so we were very pleased to see the judge’s decision and hope it will stand up if there are further appeals,” Chapman continued.

The act, which was passed last spring, requires a mandatory 72-hour waiting period and two consultations with doctors before receiving an abortion. It would also require the option of viewing an ultrasound and educational materials about risks associated with the procedure.

In May, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa sued against the Iowa Act, calling it a “malicious, politically motivated, anti-woman legislation.”

Judge Jeffrey Farrell of the Polk County District Court ruled against the petitioners Oct. 2, saying the law “complies with the constitutional standard” and did not place “undue burden” on women seeking abortion.

“The evidence at trial focused on the hardships women face when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, but the public’s interest in potential life is an interest that cannot be denied under law. Both of these interests are important,” stated Farrell.

Following the court’s ruling, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a notice that they will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Farrell's ruling states the act will go into effect after 30 days, unless the Iowa Supreme Court grants a stay or an injunction.

Iowa is not the only state to enforce waiting periods before abortions – 27 other states have similar postponement requirements, and have been met with similar controversy.

According to Chapman, one of the benefits of enforcing a waiting period would be to potentially help women who feel pressured to make a more informed decision. He also said it could prevent guilt or regret that some women experience post-abortion.

“I think if people look at what the actual facts are and the studies that have been done, there are certainly women who regret their abortions,” Chapman said.

According to Iowa Right to Life, studies have shown that within a few months after an abortion, 31 percent of women had regrets about their decision. The study also found that 55 percent of women expressed guilt, while 44 percent of women experienced nervous disorders.

“It certainly seems from the data that abortion can very much cause regrets for families – because remember, we are talking about the unborn child, we are talking about the woman herself, and we are talking about the people surrounding the mother. All of those can be affected by this decision,” Chapman noted.

“I think this is a very positive move from the court to recognize this and we are very supportive of this and hope it will stand up in court if it gets appealed.”

Farrell had also upheld in 2014 an Iowa Board of Medicine rule that would have effectively barred the use of a telemedicine system to dispense abortion-inducing pills. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed his ruling in 2015, ruling the ban unconstitutional.

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Pope's death penalty views may mean new approach to criminal justice

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Pope Francis told a gathering in Rome that the Catechism of the Catholic Church should significantly revise its treatment of the death penalty.

It's no surprise that Francis proposed a stronger theological condemnation of capital punishment.  He's criticized the practice throughout his papacy, as did his most immediate predecessors, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. All three popes have pled for clemency when the execution of condemned prisoners is imminent, and all three have linked capital punishment to the “culture of death” and the “throwaway culture” they've criticized.  All three have called for nations to abolish the death penalty.

The Church's official position on the death penalty is nuanced. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the “Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty,” assuming a criminal's guilt is sufficiently established, and only when execution seems to be the only just way of protecting public safety.  

In his landmark encyclical Evangelium Vitae, issued in 1995, John Paul wrote that the punishment of criminals should focus on rehabilitation, while also ensuring the common good – public order and safety. He opposed capital punishment “except in cases of absolute necessity,” when a community would have no other means to protect itself.

Because of the resources available for modern and secure penal systems, John Paul said that today, “such cases are very rare, if practically non-existent.”

In fact, the Catechism was formally revised in 1997 to reflect the teaching of Evangelium Vitae.

The gist of the Church's current teaching on the death penalty is this: the state has the right to execute criminals, if there is no doubt about that the crime was grave and the offender is guilty. The state cannot justly execute a criminal if it can protect the common good and public safety equally well through non-lethal means. It is the job of the state to judge its own civil conditions and capacity for punishment, in order to determine how to apply those principles, but, when doing so, it should take seriously the moral direction of popes and bishops who have repeatedly said that the death penalty seems unnecessary in the context of developed nations.

On Wednesday, Francis proposed a strikingly different vision. He said that the death penalty “is in itself contrary to the Gospel.” For many theologians, this language, and the idea that the death penalty “in itself” is contrary to the Gospel, has evoked the theological concept of “intrinsically evil acts,” a group which includes torture, rape, lying, abortion, and sexual immorality.

The distinction is important. Intrinsically evil acts are understood to be wrong in all cases, regardless of the circumstances, intention, or rationale. The morality of other kinds of acts is judged, in part, by circumstances. The traditional teaching on the death penalty puts it in the latter category; the morality of a particular execution is partially determined, as the Catechism explains, by the state's ability to secure the common good in other ways. 

If the Pope proposes that doctrine has developed, and that capital punishment is an intrinsically evil act, this would mean that there are no circumstances, in any time and place, in which it can be justified.

Francis' speech recognized this distinction. He explained that thinking about the death penalty in a new way is the result of the development of social doctrine.

“We are not in the presence of some contradiction with the teaching of the past,” he explained, “because the defense of the dignity of human life from the first moment of conception until natural death has always been found in the teaching of the Church.

“The harmonious development of doctrine, however, requires that we [now] leave out arguments which now appear decisively contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth,” namely, the circumstantial qualifiers which guide current moral reasoning about executions.

Francis proposes that because the Church has gradually developed a deeper understanding of human dignity, over time, we are now able to recognize that execution is always immoral.

The development of doctrine is a thorny theological concept. Theologians have already begun asking whether Francis' proposal represents a development of prior positions, or a rupture from them. This debate will be complex, likely contentious, and not quickly resolved. But given increased attention to the death penalty in the last half-century, it is an important question to resolve.  

Francis did not announce which Vatican offices would be responsible for the reforms he proposed. Past revisions have included the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is likely to take a lead role in this process. But the Holy Father has a penchant for involving voices beyond traditional structures, so consultation may include some unexpected figures.

There is an additional factor of interest for American readers. In 2014, Pope Francis said that the use of long-term solitary confinement is a kind of torture. This position is also held by many psychologists, who have noted that solitary incarceration can have a profoundly negative impact on mental health. Long-term solitary confinement is the most prominent alternative to the death penalty proffered by American corrections officials, especially for habitually unmanageable inmates.

If long-term solitary confinement is a kind of torture, and thus an intrinsically evil act, it can never be morally justified. If execution also begins to be classified as an intrinsically evil act, Catholics will have to think carefully and creatively about very different approaches to criminal justice in the United States. Spurring that thinking may be a part of what Pope Francis has in mind.

Death penalty opponents across the world have cheered Pope Francis' comments on capital punishment. But his remarks on Thursday might also reveal something about the Pope's understanding of doctrine's development, a theological issue with effect on many other elements of the pontiff's teaching, including the already controversial Amoris Laetitia. That conversation will probably make fewer headlines, but for the Church, its implications could be significant.


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Christians in Middle East feel 'abandoned, betrayed' by the West

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - As interreligious tensions and a migration crisis continue in the Middle East, key Church leaders in the region have said Christians largely feel abandoned by the international community, which has done little to help resolve the situation.

According to Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Christians in the Middle East “feel that we have been abandoned, even betrayed, because we were hoping that the international community would defend our rights and provide us with the equal chance to live in our homeland, but that wasn't the case.”

“It's not easy to endure that violent upheaval in those two countries, in Iraq and Syria,” he said, explaining that both faithful and Church leaders in the region share this sense of abandonment and betrayal by Western countries in particular, which he said are more “opportunistic” than helpful.

“We, the heads of Churches, along with some other prominent lay people who have been caring for their communities, we try to send our voice, our rights, like St. John the Baptist, but it seems that we are shouting in the desert,” he said.

Younan cited “opportunistic geopolitics” as one of the main reasons Christians have either been left homeless with no funding to rebuild their cities, or left lingering in refugee camps for years due to a backlog in visa requests while being denied official refugee status.

“We don't have the interest regarding our faith among the politicians that govern the Western countries. We don't have the numbers, we don't have the oil, we don't pose any terrorist threat to the civilized world, and therefore we have been put aside and neglected,” he said.

The patriarch is in Rome for the Oct. 9-12 plenary assembly marking the centenary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, founded by Benedict XV.

Christians from Iraq and Syria who have fled to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan are still living “in a kind of limbo. They don't know what to do for their children,” he said.

In terms of numbers, Younan said that so far more than 50 percent of Christians in Iraq have already left the country, while a third of the remaining Christian population is internally displaced.

As far as the Christian presence in Syria, “we can easily talk about a third” of the Christian population having left, with many still waiting to be admitted to new countries.

The main needs of refugees and displaced persons is first of all humanitarian assistance, Younan said, explaining that the Church tries to provide for their basic needs, “but surely its not enough,” since most have already been displaced for several years.

“We still suffer with them in our souls because we don't know what to do for them. We can't seek refugee visas for them, because otherwise the Christian community would be empty in their homelands and for us this is a great loss,” he said. “But we try to respond to their basic needs.”

In terms of dialogue between Christianity and Islam, the patriarch said at times it's difficult to speak of such a dialogue in the current cultural context, but it must happen at the level of “the believers of each religion.”

At the present moment, dialogue is focused on how the two can mutually and peacefully coexist, he said, with an emphasis on the fact that “we live in the 21 st century, that we have to respect each other, to accept each other and not discriminate because of religion.”

“This is also the mission, the task of the countries who have a word to say on the international scene,” he said. “We sit together at the United Nations...and we talk about human rights and therefore we have to uphold those rights for all, not only for the ones who believe in our religion, but for all people.”

While the Holy See, and Pope Francis in particular, understand and are doing their best to help in the plight of Christians in the Middle East, Younan said that in the broader community “the geopolitical strategy of the mighty countries is still in, let's say, the 'winning' part in the world.”

“To follow the ethics of the Gospel, the real defense of human rights is for those who are the weakest and for the forgotten ones among the minorities in the Middle East,” he said, but “that's not the case, we are not the point of their interest.”

The first right that needs to be promoted for Christians in the Middle East is to be able “to live in freedom as equal citizens,” rather than second-class citizens who face harsh discrimination which frequently goes unpunished by the law, the patriarch said.

Another key right is the ability “to choose our creed, our religion, and the right also to announce our creed, our religion to others,” he said.

However, currently “it's forbidden” to evangelize in Muslim countries apart from Lebanon. Because of this, “we've been always, along the centuries, reduced to minorities because we've been forbidden to be missionaries in our own country.”

Issuing an appeal to the international community, Younan asked that Western nations not look at Christian and other minorities in the Middle East “as numbers, but as people, as persons, being persecuted along the centuries.”

“We've been reduced to minorities not because we had to leave our countries, but because we are not considered equal citizens with the Muslim majority,” he said, and called on “this so-called civilized world not just to look for their own political, economic interest,” but to protect “the rights of those who are persecuted because of their religion and their creed.”

“This is the way to deal with our problems, our very critical situation,” he said. And if the world fails to do defend the “human and religious” rights of everyone, “the Middle East will be emptied of their Christian communities and it would be a very great loss.”


Material from EWTN News Nightly was used in this report.

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Our Lady of Aparecida's smile gives us hope, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis sent a video message Thursday for the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, whose simple smile, he said, is a source of encouragement even during the most difficult times.

“The simple smile of Mary, which we can see in her image, is the source of the smile of each one of you in the face of the difficulties of life,” he said Oct. 12.

“The Christian can never be pessimistic!”

Recalling his first international apostolic visit, to Brazil in 2013, Francis said that visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in São Paulo was an occasion of joy and grace for him.

Repeating the message of his visit, the Pope said that at Aparecida "we learn to preserve hope, to be surprised by God, and to live in joy."

Hope, he insisted, is the virtue that must "permeate the hearts" of believers, especially when discouraged by desperate situations: "Do not let yourselves be overcome by discouragement. Have trust in God, have trust in the intercession of Our Mother of Aparecida.”

The Pope’s video message was sent to the people of Brazil Oct. 12 for the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Our Lady of Aparecida, the country’s patroness.

"What I leave here are simple words, but I want you to receive them as a fraternal embrace at this time of celebration," he said.

The story behind the feast involves a clay statue of Mary Immaculate that was caught by three fishermen in Brazil in October 1717 while they were preparing for a feast dedicated to royalty passing through the town.

Guarantinqueta, a small city along the Paraiba River, was expecting to receive the Count of Assumar on his travels to a gold mining site in Vila Rica.

The feast required a vast amount of fish, but it was not the right season and weather conditions proved challenging. After a night of fishing, the men caught nothing.

Having prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the fishermen caught in their nets the body of the statue and then the head.

After the statue was brought aboard the boat, the men decided to pray to “Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida” – Our Lady of the Appeared Conception – to help them catch the fish. Their nets suddenly became very full, and the catch has been considered a miracle.

This miracle encouraged them to have confidence in God, Pope Francis said. With that miracle God surprised them, for he "who created us in infinite Love always surprises us," he underlined.

At the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, he said, as well as in every heart devoted to Mary, we can find hope "embodied in the experience of spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, fraternity, joy, these values which in turn sink their roots deeper into the Christian faith."

At the beginning of April the Pope had sent a letter to Brazil's president apologizing for his inability to visit the country in 2017.

President Michael Temer had invited Pope Francis to visit Brazil for the 300th anniversary of the Marian apparition, and in 2013, Francis had expressed the desire to visit during the anniversary if possible.

In his video message, Francis reiterated how he would have liked to be with the people of Brazil during this jubilee year, saying that unfortunately, “the life of a Pope is not easy.”

Instead he nominated Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, to be his papal delegate for the Oct. 12 celebrations. “To him I entrusted the mission to ensure the Pope's presence among you!” he said.

Though not able to be physically present, he expressed the wish that his affection be felt by the people of Brazil, devoted to the Mother of God.

Closing his message, the Pope thanked the Brazilian people for their prayers, especially at Mass, asking them to continue to pray for him, knowing that he is praying for them as well.

Brazil, he continued, needs men and women who, full of hope and faith, "witness that love, manifested in solidarity and in sharing, is stronger and brighter than the darkness of selfishness and corruption."

“Together, near or far, we form the Church, the People of God,” he said. “Every time we work together, even if in a simple and subtle way, for the announcement of the Gospel, we become, like Mary, authentic disciples and missionaries.”

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