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Pope Francis: Make space for wonder this Christmas

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2018 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Make space for wonder and surprise this Christmas, Pope Francis urged Wednesday, explaining that the first Christmas had many surprises – including that God came into the world as a tiny baby.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was surprised by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation and Joseph was surprised by the angel in his dream, which told him to take Mary as his wife, the pope said Dec. 19.

To welcome the Savior there are no powerful people, no ambassadors, just simple shepherds, surprised by the angels while working at night.

“But it is on the night of Christmas that the biggest surprise comes: The Most High is a small child,” he said. “To celebrate Christmas, then, is to welcome the surprises of Heaven on earth.”

Speaking at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on the surprising elements of Christ’s birth, and the way each Catholic can replicate the feelings at the first Christmas in his or her heart by making room for silence.

“Christmas is preferring the silent voice of God to the noisiness of consumerism. If we can be silent in front of the crib, Christmas will be a surprise even for us, not something seen before,” he said.

“Be silent in front of the nativity,” he advised. “This is an invitation for Christmas, take some time. Go before the nativity and stay in silence.”

Francis noted that since the beginning of Advent, the Gospel warned against becoming weighed down by the “anxieties of daily life.” “These days we rush, maybe as we never have during the year. But this is the opposite of what Jesus wants,” he said.

We blame the fast-pace of the world, but Jesus did not blame the world; Jesus asked his followers to keep watch and pray.

It is easy to get wrapped up in consumerism and in parties this time of year, preferring “the usual things of the earth over the news of Heaven,” he warned. “If Christmas is just a nice traditional holiday, where we are at the center and not Him, it will be a lost opportunity.”

We will celebrate Christmas well, “if, like Joseph, we will give space to silence; if, like Mary, we say ‘here I am’ to God; if, like Jesus, we will be close to those who are alone; if, like the shepherds, we will leave our enclosures to be with Jesus,” Pope Francis said.

“It will be Christmas, if we find the light in the poor cave of Bethlehem.”

On the other hand, he stated, it will not be Christmas if people look only for the “shimmering glow of the world,” filling themselves with presents and fancy meals, but do not help “at least one poor man.”

“Christmas is the payback of humility over arrogance, of simplicity over abundance, of silence over hubbub, of prayer over ‘my time,’ of God over my ego,” he said.

“Every one of us has, hidden in our heart, the capacity to be surprised. May we be surprised by Jesus this Christmas.”

A 22 year-old Texan began a Catholic school for Uganda’s deaf children

Denver, Colo., Dec 19, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Rannah Evetts had always wanted to go to Africa. She has no explanation for it, other than that God had planted a deep love of everything Africa in her heart for as long as she can remember.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I would say I was going to Africa, and I didn’t really understand why, and my mom would just call me her little African child because that’s all I would talk about,” Rannah recalled.

Today, Rannah is living out her childhood dream, having founded a Catholic school for deaf children in Uganda at the age of 21.

But it came to fruition in a way she could never have imagined.

Evetts loved to talk about Africa as a little girl. But there was a lot she did not talk about - the sexual abuse she was experiencing and the traumatic consequences she suffered silently for years: depression, suicidal thoughts, self hate and despair.

“Through a lot of hurt and pain that God worked through me,” Evetts told CNA.

Desperately seeking happiness in high school, she threw herself into the party scene, looking for relief.

“I wanted to be happy, I was so tired of hating myself and being miserable, and so when I was a junior in high school I started partying a whole lot...and I quickly realized this isn’t making me happy, I’m just suffering more and more,” she said.

Looking for answers, Evetts started attending different churches with friends and family on the weekends.

Having never been baptized, she bounced around non-denominational Christian churches for a while, but did not feel like she had found the truth until she began looking into the Catholic faith.

“When I was a senior I started RCIA...and through all of that, I gave up drinking, no more parties, I was reading the Bible all the time, and realizing that I just want Jesus. He has to be the cure, because I knew that the world wasn’t,” she said.

When she was baptized at the end of her senior year, Evetts said she felt the presence of Christ, in an indescribable way, in her heart. She felt God calling her to an unfolding mission that would piece together seemingly unconnected parts of her life, including her love for Africa, and her knowledge of American Sign Language.

“It’s hard to explain the real presence that I experienced of Christ inside of me when I did get baptized...and receiving the Eucharist, receiving him in the flesh, I gave up everything, that’s when he opened up the door and said ‘This is what I want you to do and this is why.’”

At her high school in Texas, the only classes offered to fulfill language requirements were Spanish or ASL. Evetts said she joined the sign language class because it was required, she thought it was “cool”, and her sister had taken the same class.

“It was just a requirement, I did not think ever one time that I would do anything with it,” she said, and she even considered dropping the class.

But by her senior year, and as she experienced a conversion, she said God began to pull on her heart through her sign language class, especially when she completed a project on deafness in Uganda.

She learned that the deaf in Uganda are often misunderstood and often mistreated, considered sinners or even cursed. She said that the deaf are often outcast out of malice or because of a lack of resources.

“I relate to the deaf people here because they are outcasted, they’re seen as cursed, they’re seen as sinners, and so they’re shut away from the world kind of, they’re living in this darkness and this silence,” she said.  

“And God pulled me to give what he gave me after all of my years of darkness and hating myself and feeling like I had no friends and nobody to talk to, of wanting to die, feeling like I had no purpose in life - all of those things I was struggling with after being sexually abused, God took them and he transforms everything and he said, ‘These I’m turning into graces.’ And with the deaf people here that’s what he did,” she said.

After high school graduation, Evetts flew to Uganda for the first time to work for seven months for an established school for the deaf in the capital city of Kampala. Through that experience, she met a priest in a village in northern Uganda, in an area with hundreds of deaf children and no resources for them.

“I basically just walked back to the sacristy and I was like, ‘Hi Father, I’m Rannah, can I talk to you?’” she recalled.

The initial meeting sparked a conversation that continued for more than a year and a half, while Evetts, the priest, and the local bishop discerned starting a school for the deaf.

In 2016, Evetts moved to the village for five months to get used to living in the area and adjust to the culture, and to see if her dream could become a reality. By September 2016, the local bishop gave her permission to use an old catechesis building, “and basically he just said ‘begin.’”

By February 2017, the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf opened its doors for the first time. St. Francis was chosen as the patron because he personally developed a sign language to preach the Gospel and teach the Catholic faith to Martin, a deaf man.

“We are here to promote the education and welfare of the Deaf in the West Nile region,” the school’s mission statement says on their website.

“Most importantly we are here to fulfill a deeper meaning behind Christ’s “Eph’phatha” in Mark’s Gospel: ‘... and looking up to heaven, he [Jesus] sighed, and said to him, “Eph’phatha,” that is, ‘be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released and he spoke plainly.’”

“The deaf are often outcasts in Ugandan society; isolated, deprived of their rights, and looked down upon by hearing people. They are more exposed to being raped, abused, and neglected by society. They are often thought of as stupid, cursed, and many parents still think it is a waste of money to send them to school,” the statement continues.

“We are here to break this cultural stigma, provide quality education, and give our Deaf students the most precious thing in this world: Jesus Christ.”

Evetts said she was most moved by her love for God to give language to those who otherwise could not speak.

“I didn’t think I would do anything with [sign language], but it’s like everyday [God] reveals more and more why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she said.

“I knew I wanted to evangelize, I knew I wanted to share the word of God with people and what he did in my life. It’s so huge what he did for me, that you can’t not share that with people! I’m a convert and I’m on fire, you know? It’s like, ‘no, I’ve been to the other side, trust me!’”

But it hasn’t been easy. The school is open to children ages 3-14, and the age range brings a variety of needs. When they first arrive, most of the children  have no way of communicating their needs, their thoughts, their experiences, pain or ideas.

“All of a sudden they’re being thrown into this and they have no idea what’s going on, so we have kids who are trying to run away, a lot of our kids just cried seeing me because they’ve never seen whatever I am, and the everyday challenge of bringing them a language...it was incredibly difficult,” Evetts said.

It also came with times of personal darkness and challenge for Evetts, who was the only foreigner in her village, the only woman living at the parish, and the only person from her culture in the area. She would also often feel overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility on her shoulders.

“I have a lot of thanks to give to my mom, because I would tell her ‘I want to come home Mom, because I don’t know what I’m doing,’ and she would stick with me and pray with me,” she said.

She was also still struggling with anxiety attacks and the painful healing of the abuse in her past.

“I want to tell you this because...it shows God’s goodness, because there were days when I couldn’t do this. I’m 22 years old and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m the leader of all of this thing and I’m working in another country and having my own problems... that I’m dealing with and alone in that silence with God,” Evetts said.

There were several weeks at a time where she felt like she was literally unable to get out of bed in the morning.

“But I want to share that with you because it shows that God did this. You say ‘yes’ to God and he does it, he fulfills it, because this is his school and this is his mission,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but he’s here and he’s got this all under control.”  

The transformation she and the staff began seeing in the students throughout the year was incredible, she said.

Children came to them having been raped, abused or neglected because of their disability, and were transformed in personality and behavior as they started acquiring a language.

At the beginning of the year, many parents reluctantly sent their children to the boarding school, believing it impossible to educate a deaf child. But on the night after the first term ended, and the children went home for the first time, parents started calling the school in amazement.

“They were like, ‘there’s stuff written in [their notebooks]! There’s grades!’ And then their kids are signing all this stuff to their parents, and these parents are like ‘we don’t know what our kids are saying but they know stuff, and they’re talking with their hands!’”

“And so they’re really seeing the evidence of this works, so its a real encouragement for the parents,” Evetts said.

The school has just begun its second year, with 50 students enrolled. It was recently licensed, and the plan is to eventually find enough land to build a boarding school for more than 300 nursery and primary school deaf students in the area.

Evetts said the way the local community has embraced the school with love has been encouraging. As the only white person in the area, Evetts said it automatically brings her a lot of attention, which in turn lets her bring that attention to her work with deaf children.

“God uses that, then I get to explain about sign language and about deafness and how awesome it is. We’re walking around town, playing games with the students, using sign language, and people just gawk and stare--like what? White people know this language too?” Evetts said. “This year I’ve had volunteers come and it’s more people knowing sign language and giving it attention, and Caritas is now helping sponsor our school, so it's just been growing and I see that the community has really taken us on, and it really has been great.”

Evetts said the most rewarding part of the experience has been how God has used her ‘yes’ and the ‘yes’ of her staff members to transform lives and to do something that they would be unable to accomplish without him.

“The closer you get to God in his silence, that’s where he reveals himself, that’s his language,” she said. “And not only that, he reveals you to you--he draws that out of you, and I really learned that the closer I came to him, he just showed me - ‘this is why I put this desire in you, and this is how I’m going to use your sufferings or your vices and this is how I’m going to transform it.’”

“It was all him.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA March 1, 2018.

Blessed Pope Urban V

Blessed Pope Urban V was born Guillaume de Grimoard at Grisac in Languedoc, 1310. He studied canon law and theology in Avignon and became a Benedictine monk. He was named abbot of his monastery in 1352, and served as a papal diplomat and was eventually sent as an ambassodor to various locations. He also served as a bishop around Italy and throughout Europe. He was elected pope in 1362 while on diplomatic business, even though he was not a cardinal. His reign was blessed by his peacekeeping activity between the French and Italian kings, the founding of many universities, his zeal for the crusades and his decision to return the papacy to Rome and end the Avignon exile of the popes. However, the breakout of war between England and France forced him to return to Avignon on a peacekeeping mission He died on his return to Avignon, and his body, which had been buried at Avignon, was then transferred to Marseille according to his own wishes, and his tomb became the site of many miracles. He died on December 19, 1370. He always had a Benedictine spirit, and even wore his monk’s habit as Pope. His virtue and honesty were noted, especially in a Europe plagued by scandal and corruption. It is said that as he lay dying he called the people to surround his deathbed, saying “the people must see how popes die.�

How one organization helps the Church welcome Catholics with disabilities

Washington D.C., Dec 18, 2018 / 05:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Around 14 million Catholics in the U.S. are living with a disability.

Since 1982, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) has been working to make sure those Catholics are welcomed as members of the Church and have opportunities to participate in the faith.

“The goal of NCPD is to ensure that people with any disability…can actively and meaningfully participate in the faith by using their gifts and interests,” said Janice Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

“By virtue of baptism, everyone belongs to the body of Christ, and our work is to make sure that we are doing that with the proper attitude and spirit to make sure everyone can feel at home in their parishes,” she told CNA.

The organization works in in a variety of ways to “affirm the dignity of every person,” Benton said.

For example, they support people with Down syndrome by supporting campaigns that fight against discriminatory legislation, such as disability-selective abortions, while also working with individuals with Down syndrome as they prepare for sacraments and take an active part in the their faith.

“We remind church communities that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities are agents of evangelization and people gifted in their own right,” Benton said.

Founded in light of the 1978 document, “Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops of People with Disabilities,” the group has been promoting the pastoral guidelines for individuals with disabilities, particularly through access to the sacraments and Church life.

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability is a collaborative organization made up of various councils to serve people who live with physical, intellectual, sensory, mental or emotional disabilities. They also partner with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop Kurtz serves as their episcopal moderator.

“We work very closely with the bishops and the offices at the USCCB,” Benton said, noting that the bishops currently do not have a disabilities office, so the NCPD plays a huge role in this area.

One of the organization’s primary tasks is working closely with publishers to provide resources for catechists and leaders who are working directly in faith formation, but they also are involved in a number of different councils and speaking engagements around the nation.

The ministry provides catechesis, resources, spirituality and awareness building tools, trainings, conferences, and ministry models to dioceses throughout the country, and additionally offers online tools such as YouTube training videos.

“We are really set up to support the people in the dioceses, and even directly in parishes, to provide the support, resources, and training that the church might need,” Benton said.

She noted that the NCPD played a major role in the revision to the “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments,” which now aids priests, catechists and Church leaders in preparing the proper reception of the sacraments for individuals with disabilities.

While primarily ministering in the U.S., the disability resource group also works internationally with the Vatican and other groups. Esther Garcia, the outreach director for organization, said that she works with minorities, such as Asian, African, and Hispanic groups within the Church.

“The NCPD is working to ensure we are meeting the needs of families with disabilities in the Hispanic community,” Garcia said.

“We are all children of God…and it is our responsibility as a Church to provide resources and ways to ensure that [those with disabilities] have ways to receive the sacraments,” Garcia continued.

Moving forward, Benton told CNA that they are currently working on an app for sacramental preparation and Mass attendance for people with autism and other intellectual disabilities.

“We are always trying to develop resources that can easily be made available.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA March 21, 2018.

Salt Lake City diocese releases list of priests credibly accused of abuse

Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec 18, 2018 / 02:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following suit with many other Catholic dioceses throughout the United States in recent months, the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah has released a list of all priests credibly accused of sexual abuse involving minors since 1950.

Of the 19 men on the list, 17 were priests at the time the alleged abuses occurred. Of the two remaining, one was a seminarian at the time of alleged abuse, and the other a religious brother.

“The list of credible allegations is one step toward providing the transparency that will help repair at least some of the wounds left by the wrongful actions of priests who have abused their sacred trust,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake said in a statement reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.

“We continue to pray for the victims and their families and ask their forgiveness for our failure to protect them,” he added. The Diocese of Salt Lake City covers the entire state of Utah, and is home to more than 300,000 Catholics.

According to KSL News, the diocese said that it considered credible those allegations for which there was “sufficient evidence” to verify that the abuse may have occurred “such as the accused and the accuser being in the same area around the time the conduct is alleged to have happened.”

The diocese told KSL that a credible allegation is not the same as a guilty verdict, but does call for further investigation.

One priest on the list, Father David R. Gaeta, faced three accusations this year - two from the 1980s, and one from 2018.

In June of this year, Gaeta was accused of lying in bed with a minor in 1982.

In August of this year, a separate accusation was filed with the diocese against Gaeta, accusing him of offering alcohol to four minors and suggesting that they undress, also in 1982. In July of this year, Gaeta was accused of touching a child’s buttocks while pushing a swing. The case was civilly investigated, but no criminal charges were filed.

Gaeta has been placed on leave since August, and this week the diocese announced that Gaeta will retire “without faculties” on Jan. 1, meaning he will be unable to publicly present himself as a priest or publicly celebrate the sacraments.

Of the men on the list, eight are deceased - seven priests and the religious brother. Of the men who are still alive, 10 were either laicized, retired without faculties, or left the priesthood. The seminarian accused of abuse was dismissed from seminary. According to the list, no active priests credibly accused of abuse remain in active ministry in the diocese.

One of the accused men, James Rapp, was laicized and is in prison in Oklahoma. He was accused of sexually abusing four minors in Utah, and was imprisoned for abuse of minors outside of Utah. While the majority of the alleged abuses occurred prior to 2002, when the U.S. Bishops issued the Charter for Child and Youth Protection, many accusations came to light during or after that year.

In a statement on their website, the Diocese of Salt Lake said that an independent committee of lay people will review the diocese’s internal files and verify the accuracy of the information on the list. If needed, the diocese said it will update the list and publicly release any additional information provided by the lay committee.

The diocese added that it is “committed to ensuring the health and safety of young people within its community. Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay Church personnel and has not yet reported the incident is encouraged to do so.”

The full report can be found on the diocesan website.

The most commonly read book in the Philippines? Survey says: the Bible

Manila, Philippines, Dec 18, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent survey found that the Bible is the most frequently read book in the Philippines.

The country’s National Book Development Board commissioned a readership survey for 2017, the results of which were released earlier this year.

More than 72 percent of adults were found to favor reading the Bible over other literary genres, including fiction, non-fiction, hobbies, health, and graphic novels.

The finding was consistent for nearly all age groups, except for young adults and children, demographics among which the Bible is the fourth most commonly read book. Still, more than 55 percent of youth reported that they read the Bible.

The agency conducted a similar survey in 2012, which found that the Bible was the most read book for all age groups.

"The Bible is indeed the most read book in our country. By the power of the Word of God, may the Philippines be transformed into a real Christian nation," Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said, according to UCA News.

The bishop, who had been the head of the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate, further added that the Bible has been made available for about one dollar by the Philippine Bible Society.

He said that over the past 10 years, an estimated 10 million copies of scripture have been delivered to families in the country. If the average family has five members, he said, more than 50 million Filipinos have had the opportunity to pray with and read the Bible.

The result of the survey "is very rewarding, especially for me, because my very special ministry in the church is to promote the Bible among our people. This means that the collective efforts of all persons engaged in the biblical ministry have borne fruit," the bishop said.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 27, 2018.

Italian journalists named to leading positions in Vatican communications

Vatican City, Dec 18, 2018 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed two Italians to leading positions within the communications department, naming veteran Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli editorial director and making Professor Andrea Monda the new director of Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Giovanni Maria Vian, who had been director of the Vatican newspaper since 2007, was given the title of “director emeritus” by Pope Francis.

Paolo Ruffini, who was made prefect of the Dicastery for Communications in July, noted in a Dec. 18 statement that the new appointees “have in common being journalists who look beyond the appearance of things… who know how to go deep; who can listen.”

“Both are writers as well as journalists. Both can speak to all generations, so even to young people. Both are bridge builders,” he said.

About L’Osservatore Romano, Ruffini said, “The newspaper of the Holy See is one of the pillars of our communication, called to be increasingly involved in the process of integration of the Vatican information system.”

A continuation of Pope Francis’ reform of Vatican communications, Tornielli’s appointment fills the until-now vacant seat of editorial director of the Dicastery for Communications. The department’s previous prefect, now-consultor Msgr. Dario Vigano, had previously undertaken the tasks of the position in an unofficial manner.

According to the dicastery’s statutes, the task of the editorial director is to address and coordinate the dicastery’s editorial lines, lead the strategic development of new forms of media, and oversee the integration of traditional media and digital media with attention to the universal dimension of the Holy See’s communications.

Tornielli, 54, is married and the father of three children; he splits his time between Rome and Milan.

He holds a degree from the University of Padova in History of the Greek Language and from 1992-1996 served as editor of the monthly publication 30 Giorni. From 1996-2011 he worked for the newspaper Il Giornale.

Tornielli began working for La Stampa in April 2011, where he has also been the coordinator and a writer for “Vatican Insider,” a sub-section of the La Stampa website, which is focused on Vatican news and analysis in Italian and English.

In a statement Dec. 18, Tornielli said he is grateful to Pope Francis for the appointment and to Ruffini of thinking of him for the position.

Commenting on the long history of the Holy See’s media, previously called Vatican Radio, he said that the Vatican communications “continue to transmit the message of the Successors of Peter and also to give voice to those who have none, thanks to a presence in many different languages, unique in the world.”

“I am convinced that there is a growing need for journalism to tell the facts before commenting on them,” he said.

“I will try to put myself at the service of the clear information structure of the Holy See and of the great journalistic and technical skills it expresses, to help communicate, with all means and using all platforms, in a simple and direct way, the Pope’s teachings that – as the daily homilies of Santa Marta demonstrate – accompany the people of God in every part of the world.”

Monda, 52, is married with one son, and is a native of Rome. He holds a degree in Jurisprudence from Rome’s Sapienza University and a degree in Religious Sciences from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Since 2000, he has taught courses on literature and on Christianity at the Pontifical Lateran and Pontifical Gregorian universities.

He is an author and journalist, with publications in Avvenire, a publication of the Italian bishops, and La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit-run journal overseen by the Vatican.

Monda also teaches religion at a classical high school in Rome and is the host of a religion program on the Catholic TV2000 station called “Buongiorno Professore.”

“I will do my part to the end to continue the work done by Professor Vian and all my predecessors, confident of being able to say, in my small way, that: ‘I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and act also with insufficient instruments,’” Monda said.

He noted that he looks forward to working with Paolo Ruffini and contributing, through the directorship of L’Osservatore Romano, to the completion of the reform of Vatican communications.

“It would be nice to imagine that an important and authoritative newspaper like L’Osservatore Romano could be read by young people all over the world who dream of good journalism,” he said.

 

Pope Francis: Through virtue, political life can be a form of charity

Vatican City, Dec 18, 2018 / 11:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis identified political virtues and vices in his 2019 peace message released Tuesday, offering examples from the “Beatitudes of a Politician.”

“If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the 2019 World Day of Peace, released Dec. 18.

The pope encouraged international leaders to “practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.”

“Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility. Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest … Blessed be the politician who works for unity,” Francis said, quoting the late Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận’s “Beatitudes of a Politician.”

Other blessed “political beatitudes” include working “to accomplish radical change” and being “capable of listening.”

Pope Francis warned that “politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions.”

“When political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction,” he said.

Francis stressed that “political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable,” adding that there is a “need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background.”

“We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power,” he said.

“To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile,” Francis continued.

The World Day of Peace --  instituted by St. Pope Paul VI in 1968 -- is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The pope provides a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world.

In the 2019 message, signed on the Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception and published Dec. 18, Pope Francis described peace as being like “a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence.”

“Offering peace is at the heart of the mission of the disciples of Christ. And this offer is addressed to all those men and women who hope for peace amid the tragedies and violence of human history,” he said.

Pope Francis added, “One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.”

 

Meet Lidia Bastianich, the woman who cooked for two popes

Brooklyn, N.Y., Dec 18, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If you were asked to cook for the pope, what would you choose to make? This was a real question for chef Lidia Bastianich in both 2008 and 2015 – the years in which Benedict XVI and Pope Francis visited the United States.

“I remember vividly,” Bastianich told CNA. “It was an extraordinary experience.”

“When I got asked to cook for Pope Benedict, I didn’t believe it was going to happen. I remember I laughed and said, sure, Monsignor, I would love to, but is that a reality?”

Bastianich, 71, is a chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur. An Italian immigrant who came to the United States as a young girl, she is an expert in Italian-American cuisine who has hosted several cooking shows on public television. Her memoir My American Dream was published earlier this year.

The process of cooking for a pope during an apostolic journey begins well before he arrives, with the formation of a team of chefs and wait staff. From there, the menu of the meals is planned and sent to the Vatican for approval.

Benedict XVI

Doing research, Bastianich learned that Benedict’s mother had been a cook and she thought that he would have “some good food memories” from that time in his life, which she wanted to evoke.

For Benedict XVI they were scheduled to prepare two meals: a large dinner for the pope and around 50 cardinals and bishops the first night, and on the second night a smaller dinner that would also be his 80th birthday celebration.

For the first big dinner the menu included string bean salad with sheep’s milk ricotta, pickled shallots, and toasted almonds; ravioli with pecorino and pears; risotto with nettles, fava beans, and ramps; whole roasted striped bass with boiled fingerling potatoes and a frisee salad. And for dessert: apple strudel with honey vanilla ice cream.

For the dinner celebrating his birthday and his third anniversary as pope, they prepared asparagus salad with pecorino, fava beans, and green chickpeas with lemon and olive oil; and a round, flat pasta filled with meat, called “agnolini,” in chicken broth.

The main dish was a beef goulash with a side of pan-fried potatoes and onions, served with sauerkraut and sour cream for a German touch. Dessert was an apricot and ricotta crostata and a chocolate-hazelnut cake with the words “Tu es Petrus”, topped with a two-foot-tall marzipan mitre.



After the meal, Benedict told Bastianich that the meal was “very good. The flavors of my mother.”

“I was so happy that he ate, that he enjoyed it, that the memories were those of his childhood,” she said. “I wanted to make him feel at home.”

One special moment she recalls was when they brought in his birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday” in English and Italian. They handed him the knife to cut the cake, but when he hesitated, Bastianich reached over. “I actually helped him cut it!” she laughed.

Another touching moment, Bastianich noted, took place after the dinner: a diplomat performed a violin sonata and Benedict invited the whole kitchen staff to come, sit down, and listen to the music with him.

Pope Francis

For Pope Francis, Bastianich’s first instinct was to go with an Argentine theme and serve lots of meat, but the Vatican turned down her first menu proposal because Francis must eat lighter things for his health.

Instead she chose to focus on his northern Italian heritage, preparing heirloom tomatoes, house-made burrata, and steamed lobster; capon soup with Grana Padano raviolini, veal medallions, Boscaiola, porcini, corn, and fresh tomato; and concord grape sorbet with angel food cake for his first dinner in New York.

Bastianich and her staff were also in charge of preparing Francis’ breakfasts, though all he wanted each morning was some fresh orange juice, tea, and toast.

They also prepared his bedside table at night with a glass of water and a banana, she said. “I put a few cookies, too. I wasn’t supposed to, but I put a few cookies.”

Friday’s lunch consisted of cooked and raw vegetable salad with ricotta; risotto with porcini, summer truffles, and Grana Padano Riserva; and roasted pears and grapes with vanilla gelato.

At dinner they served pear and pecorino-filled ravioli, aged pecorino, whole roasted striped bass, late summer vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, and apple crostata with local honey ice cream.



One memory of Pope Francis’ visit stands out for Bastianich in particular. After lunch on Friday, he went to rest in his room, she said. The staff were in the kitchen taking a coffee break and discussing their plans for the next meal when they suddenly heard the pope’s security staff running and shouting “Papa, Papa!”

“And all of a sudden, we see [Pope Francis] enter the kitchen,” she said. “And he peered in and said, “Posso avere un caffe, per favore?” – “Can I have a coffee, please?”

“He sipped on his espresso and he talked to each one of us. He spent a good 20 minutes with us in this simple kitchen, us dressed in our chef clothes. It was so intimate, so wonderful.”

Before leaving, she recalled that “he reached into his pocket and pulled out a rosary for each one of us, and handing it to us said, ‘pregate per me,’ pray for me … It was extraordinary.”

Her Catholic faith

Bastianich has been a Catholic from birth and said that personal prayer is very important to her. “I feel that ever more… I need to talk to God because I need his guidance,” she said.

She also noted that she has a special devotion to the Madonna of the Miraculous Medal, which she carries with her every day.

Despite growing up in communist Yugoslavia, “the faith was always a part of me, I always believed,” she said. Unfortunately, at this time, her family could not go to Mass and she had to be baptized in secret. Her grandmother taught her and her brother prayers when they would visit.

When she was 10 years old, Bastianich’s family escaped back into Italy, staying for two years in a camp for political refugees before immigrating to the U.S.

A benefactor paid for her to attend a Catholic school run by a religious order and she said that those two years were when she really learned about her faith. During this time, she would also cook with the sisters in the school’s kitchen.

Those years in the refugee camp, when food was scarce, have given her a greater appreciation for helping people out of her abundance, she said. “He gave me so much, but what he gave me is not mine to keep, I have to share, he has to show me the way that I can share what he has given me with others.”

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Watch EWTN News Nightly's interview with Lidia Bastianich:



This article was originally published on CNA April 5, 2018.

Vatican asks bishops to meet with victims ahead of February summit

Vatican City, Dec 18, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Organizers of the Vatican’s February meeting on sexual abuse have sent a letter to the participating bishops asking them to meet with abuse victims in advance of the gathering.

“We urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome, to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured,” the letter states.

“Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world,” it continues.

“The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened.”

The gathering, which will take place Feb. 21-24, 2019, is focused on the protection of minors from sexual abuse within the Church. The pope has asked the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, and the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, to attend.

The bishops were also asked to answer by January 15 a questionnaire attached to the letter for use in internal preparations. Sharing information in advance is meant to facilitate, the letter says, the expression of opinions “constructively and critically,” and to get a full picture of the current situation to see where reform is most needed.

The letter also expresses Pope Francis’ thanks for the support of the bishops and his view that “collegial cooperation” is what will help them to tackle the challenges the Church is facing.

The letter concludes by saying that “each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility, and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency, and holding everyone in the Church accountable.”

The letter is signed by the summit’s organizing committee, which is made up of members nominated by Pope Francis in November: Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, and Fr. Hans Zollner.

Papal spokesman Greg Burke said about the letter Dec. 18 that organizers are asking bishops to meet with victims in their own countries before February as “a concrete way of putting victims first, and acknowledging the horror of what happened.”

A Vatican communication said the organizing committee is making “steady progress in preparations for the gathering,” which will focus on the themes of “responsibility, accountability, and transparency.”

For bishops to meet with victims is “to follow the example of Pope Francis,” according to the statement. “Such personal encounters are a concrete way of ensuring that victim survivors of clerical abuse are first and foremost in the minds of all at the February gathering."