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Amid nationwide controversy, St Junipero Serra statue vandalized in L.A.

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 22, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A statue of St. Junipero Serra in a Los Angeles public park appeared to have been vandalized last week in a time of national debate about historical statues.

The statue portrays the Franciscan friar in a favorable light, with his arm on the shoulder of an indigenous child. The park is across the street from the Mission San Fernando in Mission Hills community of Los Angeles. The mission was founded by Fr. Fermin Lasuen, another Franciscan, in 1797.

A picture of the statue was circulated on social media, showing it spray-painted red with the word “murder” written on the priest in white.

City officials did not confirm to Los Angeles news station CBS2 that the photo was authentic or that the statue was cleaned. However, a CBS2 reporter at the scene said there was red paint on the arm of the priest’s statue and a swastika on the statue of the child.

St. Junipero, a Franciscan missionary from Spain, founded nine Catholic missions in California in the late 1700s. His missions helped convert many native Californians to Christianity and taught them new technologies.

Most of the missions he founded would go on to become the centers of major cities in the state, as did other Franciscan-founded missions. The priest carried on his work despite a painful wound to his leg.

He died in 1784 at Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Carmelo in what is now California

St. John Paul II beatified Father Serra in 1988. Pope Francis canonized the priest Sept. 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

“He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life,” Pope Francis said. “He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters.”

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

In Los Angeles last week, passerby Cristian Mendoza criticized the vandalism.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own public opinions and thoughts,” Mendoza told CBS2. “But once it gets to this level I don’t think it’s right.”

CBS2 quoted another passerby, Christian Ramirez, who said he thought the statue should be taken down and replaced with a statue he thought would show “appreciation to the native people that live here.” He suggested it represented a “violent history.”

Several California legislators have unsuccessfully pushed to remove the statue of St. Junipero Serra from the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Some of St. Junipero Serra’s critics object to the forced confinement of some indigenous peoples in the missions he founded, as well as corporal punishment inflicted there, saying they are causes to dismiss the saint. Some also criticize his association with Spanish colonialism.

His defenders note St. Junipero Serra’s defense of native peoples at a time when Spanish soldiers and other officials could easily abuse them. At one point, he opposed the death sentence for a man who had killed one of his fellow missionaries in an uprising.

Many native peoples attended his burial and openly wept at his death.

The vandalism of the saint’s statue comes amid controversy over the fate of statues honoring leading figures of the Confederate States of America and the Reconstruction era.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, several hundred demonstrators gathered from around the country on Aug. 11 to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee from a city park. The rally drew white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members. Many waved the Confederate battle flag and at least one demonstrator waved a Nazi flag.

The demonstration was set to continue the next day, attracting many counter-protesters. Both groups skirmished with each other, leading authorities to declare the assembly unlawful and to order the crowds to disperse.

An hour later, one rally attendee, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, allegedly drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and seriously injuring several others.

The incident prompted many peaceful responses, as well as some attacks on Confederate statues and other public monuments.

A statue of St. Joan of Arc had been vandalized in New Orleans by an unknown person or persons sometime in late April or early May, with graffiti reading “tear it down.” It followed controversy in the city about the removal of monuments to the Confederacy and the Reconstruction era.

In Baltimore, the oldest U.S. statue of the explorer Christopher Columbus, erected in 1792, was also vandalized this month. A video posted to YouTube claiming responsibility for the incident blamed Columbus for “a centuries-old wave of terrorism, murder, genocide, rape, slavery, ecological degradation and capitalist exploitation of labor in the Americas.”

Many such statues were set up by U.S. Catholics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to mark his role in opening the New World to Europeans, at a time when many leading Americans denigrated Catholic figures.

Parolin in Russia: Vatican diplomacy has a key role in global debate

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2017 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As he arrived to Russia for his official three-day visit, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy See has a special role on the global scene given its attention to both spiritual and diplomatic themes.

“The Holy See simultaneously performs both a spiritual and a diplomatic role,” Cardinal Parolin said in an Aug. 20 interview with Russian news agency TASS. “That is why the Vatican diplomacy is of special nature.”
 
“It does not rely on any other force, except for taking care of every person and every nation through dialogue,” he said, adding that with these aspects in mind, discussion with his Russian counterparts will focus on “the issues which are of mutual interest for us, as well as crises in different parts of the world, which are both distant and very near.”

The meeting with Patirarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular serves as proof of the openness that has come as a result of his historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana last year, Parolin said, noting how both Kirill a nd Francis “spoke of rapprochement as a shared path.”

“When we walk this path together and conduct fraternal dialogue, we can feel the moments of unity. This path requires the search for truth, as well as love, patience, persistence and determination.”

Cardinal Parolin spoke to TASS the day before his official Aug. 21-24 visit to Russia, during which he is set to meet with several heavy-hitters including Patriarch Kirill, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and several other high-level members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The interview touched not only on the Holy See's diplomatic task, but it also focused largely on relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, specifically in terms of preserving traditional Christian values. Parolin also spoke of U.S. President Donald Trump's policies so far during his brief tenure, and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

Traveling with Parolin as part of his official delegation is Msgr. Visvaldas Kulbokas, adviser to the apostolic nunciature of Russia and an official in the Relations with States section of the Vatican's Secretariat of State.

On Aug. 21, the first day of this visit, Parolin met with the Catholic cardinals and bishops of Russia, and in the evening presided over Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow, after which he held a friendly encounter with clergy and the laity.

He also met with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Tomorrow morning, Aug. 22, is dedicated to a working session with Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, while in the evening Parolin will meet with Patriarch Kirill, and will hold a brief press conference afterward.

On Wednesday, Aug. 23, the last day of his visit, Cardinal Parolin will head to Sochi for his official meeting with President Putin. No other official meetings are on the schedule before the cardinal returns to Rome Aug. 24.

In his interview with TASS, Cardinal Parolin said the Vatican has been “working on the idea of the visit to Russia for a long time,” and that it is finally possible largely as a result of the February 2016 meeting between Pope Francis and Kirill.

“That meeting was the first step that had been expected for a long time,” he said. Not only did it strengthen contracts between representatives of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, “which became  more frequent and filled with concrete content,” but it also prompted the churches “to look at the discrepancies we had in the past and their causes in a new way.”

Although tensions can still be felt as the result of differing opinions on various issues, Parolin said Francis and Kirill's meeting “helped us see the unity we are striving for, the unity which is required by the Gospels we profess.”

“It is very important that we have this renewed mutual positive view that every servant of the God, priest and believer will share,” he said, stressing that in his opinion, this is the condition “for the fulfillment of new and, I would say, unprecedented steps in the development of the ecumenical dialogue and the rapprochement of our Churches.”

When asked how their Churches can work together to preserve traditional values and not impede efforts for modern democracy, Parolin noted that unfortunately “there is no shortage of challenges that the modern world produces.”

It's not just about preserving values so much as “the very concept of human personality and human dignity,” he said, pointing to the specific challenges presented by showing respect for humanity and his work, striving for social justice, interpersonal relations and relations among States.

“These are all challenges of a peaceful existence,” the cardinal said, noting that when their Churches insist on following the Gospel and upholding the values found in scripture, “they do so not to humiliate a modern person or to put unnecessary pressure on him but to show the path to salvation and fulfillment.”

“When performing this mission, which never ends, it is extremely important to establish effective cooperation between different religious denominations,” he said, adding that greater mutual understanding between Churches and the exchange of experiences “may become an important contribution to understanding of these problems.”

Pointing to the Catholic Church's decision to “loan” relics of the well-loved Orthodox Saint Nicholas, consisting of several bone fragments currently housed in Bari, to Russia over the summer, Parolin said the gesture served as a “spiritual uplift” of sorts for the Russian Orthodox Church.

“There is no doubt that this event and other similar initiatives, which can be called the 'ecumenism of the saints,' give an opportunity to fully feel what already unites Christians,” he said.

The relics were sent from Bari to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow from May 22-July 12, and were venerated by President Putin and thousands of Orthodox faithful.

Not only was the event important for the spiritual life of believers, but it also served as an example for future initiatives and gave “a new impetus” to dialogue on “more complex” issues in Church relations, he said.

When it comes to fighting terrorism, Parolin said there are two important factors to keep in mind, the first being the decisions on the part of governments “which are often dictated by concrete situations.”

“When one faces a situation of this kind, one has to make a certain choice based on the politicians’ assessments,” he said. “No doubt, the need to tackle terrorism is evident for the Church, but all actions must be weighted in order to prevent a situation in which the use of force would trigger spiraling violence or lead to violations of human rights, including the freedom of religion.”

On the other hand, the Church is always guided by a “long-term perspective,” he said, which first of all involves fostering personal development, particularly among younger generations, as well as “solid dialogue between religions.”

“During the past decades, the Holy See has been making all possible efforts to establish, strengthen or restore dialogue on the cultural and religious levels and in the social and humanitarian sphere,” the cardinal said, adding that he is “absolutely convinced that life under the guidance of the Gospel would in itself make an important contribution into forming the society and culture.”

Asked about some of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial policies since taking office, including his decision to pull out of the 2016 Paris Climate agreement, and what the Vatican expects from Trump, Parolin voiced hope that the two States can move forward in mutual respect.

The meeting in May between Pope Francis and Trump “was held in the atmosphere of mutual respect and I would say, with mutual sincerity” in which both men were able to voice their thoughts and concerns.

Parolin voiced his hope that despite Trump's determination to “fulfill the electoral promises” and despite Washington's withdrawal from the Paris accord, “pragmatic approaches will prevail in continuation to the US administration's decision to keep the climate change discussion running.”

“We, in our turn, can only wish that President Trump, just like other members of the international community, does not neglect the extremely difficult task of tackling the global warming and its negative consequences.”

The cardinal then said that in his opinion, international relations are “increasingly dominated” by policies and strategies “based on open clashes and confrontations.”

Describing this phenomena as a “'dialogue of the deaf,' or, worse, (policies that) fuel fears and are based on intimidation with nuclear or chemical weapons,” Parolin said he believes there is a common realization that such approaches “do not lead to correct solutions and fail to ease tensions between states.”

He pointed to how Pope Francis' insistence that “building peace is a path,” explaining that this path “is a lot thornier than war and conflict.”

“Building peace requires a patient and constructive dialogue with mutual respect instead of focusing all attention to own national interests,” Parolin said. “This is all that is expected from the leaders of global powers.”

Vatican astronomer: solar eclipse recalls beauty, truth of creation

Owensboro, Ky., Aug 21, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA).- As Americans prepare to view a total solar eclipse passing from Oregon to South Carolina, the director of the Vatican observatory has reflected on what the event can teach us about God and his creation.

An eclipse “reminds us of the immense beauty in the universe that occurs outside of our own petty set of concerns,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, told Time magazine. “It pulls us out of ourselves and makes us remember that we are part of a big and glorious and beautiful universe.”

Brother Guy is in Hopkinsville, Ky., 80 miles southwest of Owensboro, one of the places where the Aug. 21 total eclipse will last the longest.

The eclipse reflects that “God chose to make a universe that was rational, so that we could predict these eclipses with enormous precision,” he said.

In addition, it shows that God made creation beautiful: “it is not only that the eclipse occurs just when it is supposed to, but that, along with the delight that our calculations are right, there is the delight at seeing the beauty that comes, that we can experience, while we are underneath this eclipse.”

The tradition of appreciating eclipses is a long one in the Catholic Church.

In the eighth century, St. Bede the Venerable, an English monk, described how a solar eclipse is caused by the moon hiding the sun's light from earth.

At Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., another point of totality for the eclipse, the campus is holding a viewing and presentations by Vatican observatory officials.

On Aug. 20, the college's new Daglen Observatory was inaugurated, and Fr. Christopher Corbally, SJ, president of the National Committe for Astronomy for the Vatican, spoke on the history of astronomy, science, and the Church.

 

The crowd is growing as people are packing into the @BenedictineKS gym to catch a speech by a Vatican Astronomer #SolarEclipse2017 @kq2 pic.twitter.com/s3nW7AwSul

— Brooke Anderson (@bandersonKQ2) August 21, 2017  

The following morning, Fr. Paul Gabor, SJ, vice director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, gave a presentation on the history of eclipses in human thought and observation, and how records of the phenomena have yielded scientific advances.

Parolin describes meeting with Hilarion as 'very constructive'

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State on Monday described the tone of his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow,  as “very constructive”.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin is on a four-day visit to Russia during which he is scheduled to meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday before holding talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.

The website of the Moscow Patriarchate showed a picture of Parolin clasping hands with Hilarion and holding talks in a room decorated with Orthodox icons. It said the two men discussed "key topics of bilateral relations... in the context of the current international situation."

Answering journalists’ questions after the Monday meeting, the Vatican Secretary of State said that a good part of the conversation touched on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as well as on the Holy See's concern for the situation in Venezuela.

The Russian news agency Tass highlighted the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See reportedly share the same position regarding “the need for a peaceful solution for the middle-eastern region and in particular for Syria” and that a return to normality in that country will be possible only after the total expulsion of IS militants from the occupied territories.”

Cardinal Parolin reportedly noted that Christians are beginning to return to the areas that have been taken back from the so-called Islamic State, but said that notwithstanding some positive developments, the general situation remains very difficult, especially from a humanitarian point of view.  

 

(from Vatican Radio)

'Arbitrary expulsions' won't solve the migration crisis, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2017 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for the next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis outlined a four-step vision for responding to the ongoing global migration crisis, which he said is a “sign of the times” that can't be solved by simply expelling incoming foreigners, but rather by upholding human dignity.

Pointing to the “lamentable situation” of the many migrants and refugees who flee war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty in their homelands, the Pope said the scenario “is undoubtedly a sign of the times” which he has tried to draw attention to since his election as the Successor of Peter in 2013.

He has consistently spoken out about the issue from the beginning with his July 8, 2013, visit to Lampedusa, up to the formation of the new dicastery for Integral Human Development in January 2017.  

“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age,” Francis said in his message, released Aug. 21.

The Church in particular is asked to show solidarity with those who leave their countries in search of a better life, he said, stressing that this solidarity “must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return.”

Part of this involves a four-step response to the crisis which Pope Francis said can be summed up with four verbs: “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

“Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights,” he said.

Rather, welcoming foreigners above all means “offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.”

In order for this to happen, the Pope said there must be a commitment to “increase and simplify” the process for granting humanitarian visas and reuniting families that have been separated.

He urged a wider global adoption of both private and community sponsorship and humanitarian corridor programs for vulnerable refugees, as well as the issuing of “special temporary visas” for those fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries.

Making the human person the focal point of the issue “obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security,” he said, and stressed the importance of ensuring that migrants and asylum seekers be guaranteed both personal safety and access to basic services upon their arrival.

He also spoke out against the detainment of illegal immigrants in detention centers, saying that “for the sake of the fundamental dignity of every human person, we must strive to find alternative solutions to detention for those who enter a country without authorization.”

Dating back to 1914, when it was established under Pope St. Pius X, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is celebrated annually on Jan. 14. This year, the theme follows the Pope's action-plan: “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”

His message comes amid heated tensions on the immigration issue in the U.S. in particular, as President Donald Trump has outlined new legislation with sweeping cuts to the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country, as well as the implementation of a merit-based visa system.  

The issue was one of the most contentious during Trump's campaign, and he even sparred with Pope Francis when he threatened to built a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border. So far during his time in office, Trump has promoted the idea of the wall, and has implemented a travel ban on six majority-Muslim countries, from which millions are fleeing due to war and violent conflict.

As it stands, current U.S. law forbids migrants from receiving food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security until they have been in the U.S. for at least five years.

However, in his message Pope Francis in his second point stressed that protecting immigrants means defending “the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.”

“Such protection begins in the country of origin, and consists in offering reliable and verified information before departure, and in providing safety from illegal recruitment practice,” he said.

This entails ensuring migrants have proper council and assistance, the right to access documents of identification at any time, the ability of opening a personal bank account and enough money to live on.

“When duly recognized and valued, the potential and skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are a true resource for the communities that welcome them,” Francis said. “This is why I hope that, in countries of arrival, migrants may be offered freedom of movement, work opportunities, and access to means of communication, out of respect for their dignity.”

For those who decide to return to their homelands, reintegration programs ought to be available, the Pope said, and urged for protection of underage migrants, particularly those who travel alone.

“They must be spared any form of detention related to migratory status, and must be guaranteed regular access to primary and secondary education,” he said, adding that when they come of age, these migrants must be “guaranteed the right to remain” in their host country and continue their studies.

Foster programs for unaccompanied minors ought to be set up, and nationality granted and “duly certified” for all children at birth, he said, adding that the “statelessness” some migrants fall into can be avoided with national legislation that respects “the fundamental principals of international law.”

When it comes to “promoting” the interests of migrants and refugees, Pope Francis said this refers to “a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings, in all the dimensions which constitute the humanity intended by the Creator.”

This means ensuring freedom of religion, and promoting the personal and professional abilities of migrants, which must be “appropriately recognized and valued.”

Since work is essential to dignity, Francis voiced encouragement for “a determined effort to promote the social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees,” guaranteeing for all – including those seeking asylum – the opportunity for employment, language classes and “active citizenship,” with enough information provided in their mother tongue to ensure that they are successful.

However, when it comes to minors, the Pope cautioned that their involvement with labor must be properly regulated in order to eliminate and prevent opportunities for exploitation. He also spoke out on the need to help disabled migrants, saying they “must be granted greater assistance and support.”

Francis also called for an increase in international humanitarian assistance for developing countries receiving high numbers of migrants and refugees, and voiced hope that local communities that are vulnerable and financially strapped “will be included among aid beneficiaries.”

His final point, integration, is something the Pope has often brought up in relation to the migrant issue, taking advantage of speaking engagements with large governmental bodies such as the the Council of Europe or foreign diplomats.

In his message, Francis said integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity,” but rather, he said contact with others “leads to discovering their ‘secret,’ to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better.”

“This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings,” he said.

This process, he said, can be accelerated by granting citizenship that is free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering special legislation to migrants able to claim long-term residence upon arrival.

Pope Francis also drew attention to the plight of migrants who abandon their own countries only to flee their country of arrival due to a humanitarian crisis. These people, he said, “must be ensured adequate assistance for repatriation and effective reintegration programs in their home countries.”

The Pope closed his message insisting that “the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable, each according to their own responsibilities” in order for a positive outcome to the current migration crisis.

To this end, he pointed to the U.N. Summit held in New York Sept. 16, 2016, in which world leaders gathered to discuss their own action-plan to support migrants and refugees with shared responsibility on a global level.

To execute this responsibility, the participating States committed to drafting and approving two Global Compacts, one for migrants and one for refugees, before the end of 2018.

In light of these ongoing processes, the Pope said the coming months “offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support” his own four point action plan, and invited leaders to “use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts.”

Pope encourages Methodists and Waldensians to walk path to full Christian unity

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Methodist and Waldensian Churches to continue to walk together with the Catholic Church on the path towards full Christian unity pointing out that in a world lacerated by violence and fear it is all the more important to live and to convey the Christian message of welcome and fraternity.  

The Pope’s words of friendship and closeness came in a message on Monday to the annual Synod of the Italian Methodist and Waldensian Churches taking place in Torre Pellice - near Turin - from 20 to 25 August.

Recalling recent encounters between the Churches and a shared celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, the Pope said “May Jesus’ gaze brighten our relationship so that it is never just formal or proper, but fraternal and lively.”

“The Good Shepherd – he continued – wants us to walk together and his gaze embraces all of his disciples whom He wants to see fully united”.

Francis also said that to walk towards full unity with the hope that derives from the knowledge that God’s presence is stronger than evil, is all the more important today, “in a world scarred by violence and fear, by wounds and indifference, in which the egoism of self-affirmation to the detriment of others overshadows the simple beauty of welcome, sharing and loving”.

“Our Christian witness, he said, must not yield to the logic of the world: let’s help each other to choose and live the logic of Christ.”

At the Synod some 180 representatives of the Methodist and Waldensian Churches – both pastors and lay people in equal number – will be deciding on Church programmes for the coming year, and will be electing their executive and administrative bodies.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis calls for a shared response to challenge of contemporary migration

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees was released on Monday under the title, “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees. In the message the Pope calls for a shared response to the challenges of contemporary migration, adding that "in order to achieve the desired outcome, the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable."

Listen to our report:

 

Shared response

In the message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees the Pope says that “The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity, he adds, “must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return.”  

Pope Francis goes on to say that this is a great responsibility, which “the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.

Pope Francis sums up that shared response in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”.

Welcoming, explains the Holy Father means, “above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.  This, he says, calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families.”  The Pope also emphasises the importance of “offering migrants and refugees adequate and dignified initial accommodation.”

Protecting migrants

The second verb, protecting Pope Francis continues “may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status. When duly recognised and valued, the Pope says, the potential and skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are a true resource for the communities that welcome them.”

Speaking about the third verb Promoting, the Holy Father notes that “many migrants and refugees have abilities, such as their ability to work. He goes on to encourage a determined effort to promote the social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees, guaranteeing for all the possibility of employment, language instruction and active citizenship.

With regard to integration, the Pope comments that integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, he adds, “contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better.”

Global  Contribution 

Concluding the message the Holy Father underlines that the Church is ready to commit herself to realising all the initiatives proposed. Yet, he stresses, “in order to achieve the desired outcome, the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable, each according to their own responsibilities.

Pope Francis also invites the faithful to play their part in the process leading to the approval of the two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope's message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees is released

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis' message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees was released by the Vatican on Monday.

In the message the Holy Father says that providing aid to migrants and refugees is a "great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities."

Please find below the Message of  Pope Francis for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees:

“Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees”

Dear brothers and sisters!

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Throughout the first years of my pontificate, I have repeatedly expressed my particular concern for the lamentable situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty.  This situation is undoubtedly a “sign of the times” which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit, ever since my visit to Lampedusa on 8 July 2013.  When I instituted the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, I wanted a particular section – under my personal direction for the time being – to express the Church’s concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43).  The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future.[1] This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return.  This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.

In this regard, I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”.[2]

Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.  This calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families.  At the same time, I hope that a greater number of countries will adopt private and community sponsorship programmes, and open humanitarian corridors for particularly vulnerable refugees.  Furthermore, special temporary visas should be granted to people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring countries.  Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.[3]  Once again, I want to emphasise the importance of offering migrants and refugees adequate and dignified initial accommodation.  “More widespread programmes of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success”.[4]  The principle of the centrality of the human person, firmly stated by my beloved Predecessor, Benedict XVI,[5] obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security.  It is necessary, therefore, to ensure that agents in charge of border control are properly trained.  The situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees requires that they be guaranteed personal safety and access to basic services.  For the sake of the fundamental dignity of every human person, we must strive to find alternative solutions to detention for those who enter a country without authorisation.[6]

The second verb – protecting – may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.[7]  Such protection begins in the country of origin, and consists in offering reliable and verified information before departure, and in providing safety from illegal recruitment practices.[8]  This must be ongoing, as far as possible, in the country of migration, guaranteeing them adequate consular assistance, the right to personally retain their documents of identification at all times, fair access to justice, the possibility of opening a personal bank account, and a minimum sufficient to live on.  When duly recognised and valued, the potential and skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are a true resource for the communities that welcome them.[9]  This is why I hope that, in countries of arrival, migrants may be offered freedom of movement, work opportunities, and access to means of communication, out of respect for their dignity.  For those who decide to return to their homeland, I want to emphasise the need to develop social and professional reintegration programmes.  The International Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a universal legal basis for the protection of underage migrants.  They must be spared any form of detention related to migratory status, and must be guaranteed regular access to primary and secondary education.  Equally, when they come of age they must be guaranteed the right to remain and to enjoy the possibility of continuing their studies.  Temporary custody or foster programmes should be provided for unaccompanied minors and minors separated from their families.[10]  The universal right to a nationality should be recognised and duly certified for all children at birth.  The statelessness which migrants and refugees sometimes fall into can easily be avoided with the adoption of “nationality legislation that is in conformity with the fundamental principles of international law”.[11]  Migratory status should not limit access to national healthcare and pension plans, nor affect the transfer of their contributions if repatriated.

Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings, in all the dimensions which constitute the humanity intended by the Creator.[12]  Among these, we must recognize the true value of the religious dimension, ensuring to all foreigners in any country the freedom of religious belief and practice.   Many migrants and refugees have abilities which must be appropriately recognised and valued.  Since “work, by its nature, is meant to unite peoples”,[13] I encourage a determined effort to promote the social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees, guaranteeing for all – including those seeking asylum – the possibility of employment, language instruction and active citizenship, together with sufficient information provided in their mother tongue.  In the case of underage migrants, their involvement in labour must be regulated to prevent exploitation and risks to their normal growth and development.  In 2006, Benedict XVI highlighted how, in the context of migration, the family is “a place and resource of the culture of life and a factor for the integration of values”.[14]  The family’s integrity must always be promoted, supporting family reunifications – including grandparents, grandchildren and siblings – independent of financial requirements.  Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities must be granted greater assistance and support.  While I recognize the praiseworthy efforts, thus far, of many countries, in terms of international cooperation and humanitarian aid, I hope that the offering of this assistance will take into account the needs (such as medical and social assistance, as well as education) of developing countries which receive a significant influx of migrants and refugees.  I also hope that local communities which are vulnerable and facing material hardship, will be included among aid beneficiaries.[15]

The final verb – integrating – concerns the opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.  Integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better.  This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings”.[16]  This process can be accelerated by granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.  I reiterate the need to foster a culture of encounter in every way possible – by increasing opportunities for intercultural exchange, documenting and disseminating best practices of integration, and developing programmes to prepare local communities for integration processes.   I wish to stress the special case of people forced to abandon their country of arrival due to a humanitarian crisis.  These people must be ensured adequate assistance for repatriation and effective reintegration programmes in their home countries.

In line with her pastoral tradition, the Church is ready to commit herself to realising all the initiatives proposed above.  Yet in order to achieve the desired outcome, the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable, each according to their own responsibilities.

At the United Nations Summit held in New York on 29 September 2016, world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level.  To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants.

Dear brothers and sisters, in light of these processes currently underway, the coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions which I have described with four verbs.  I invite you, therefore, to use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts.

Today, 15 August, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.  The Holy Mother of God herself experienced the hardship of exile (Matthew 2:13-15), lovingly accompanied her Son’s journey to Calvary, and now shares eternally his glory.  To her maternal intercession we entrust the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees and the aspirations of the communities which welcome them, so that, responding to the Lord’s supreme commandment, we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.

Vatican City, 15 August 2017

Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V. Mary

[1] Cf. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, Titulus Primus, I.

[2] Address to Participants in the International Forum on “Migration and Peace”, 21 February 2017.

[3] Cf. Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the 103rd Session of the Council of the IOM, 26 November 2013.

[4] Address to Participants in the International Forum on “Migration and Peace”, 21 February 2017.

[5] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 47.

[6] Cf.  Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 22 June 2012.

[7] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 62.

[8] Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, 6.

[9] Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the 6th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 9 November 2009.

[10] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2010) and Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the 26th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights of Migrants, 13 June 2014.

[11] Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, 2013, 70.

[12] Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 14.

[13] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 27.

[14] Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2007).

[15] Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, 2013, 30-31.

[16] John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2005).

(from Vatican Radio)

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

Reading 1 Jgs2:11-19

The children of Israel offended the LORD by serving the Baals.
Abandoning the LORD, the God of their fathers,
who led them out of the land of Egypt,
they followed the other gods of the various nations around them,
and by their worship of these gods provoked the LORD.

Because they had thus abandoned him and served Baal and the Ashtaroth,
the anger of the LORD flared up against Israel,
and he delivered them over to plunderers who despoiled them.
He allowed them to fall into the power of their enemies round about
whom they were no longer able to withstand.
Whatever they undertook, the LORD turned into disaster for them,
as in his warning he had sworn he would do,
till they were in great distress.
Even when the LORD raised up judges to deliver them
from the power of their despoilers,
they did not listen to their judges,
but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods.
They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken,
and did not follow their example of obedience
to the commandments of the LORD.
Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, he would be with the judge
and save them from the power of their enemies
as long as the judge lived;
it was thus the LORD took pity on their distressful cries
of affliction under their oppressors.
But when the judge died,
they would relapse and do worse than their ancestors,
following other gods in service and worship,
relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn conduct.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 106:34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43ab and 44

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They did not exterminate the peoples,
as the LORD had commanded them,
But mingled with the nations
and learned their works.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They served their idols,
which became a snare for them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They became defiled by their works,
and wanton in their crimes.
And the LORD grew angry with his people,
and abhorred his inheritance.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Many times did he rescue them,
but they embittered him with their counsels.
Yet he had regard for their affliction
when he heard their cry.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Alleluia Mt 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus and said,
"Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?"
He answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."
He asked him, "Which ones?"
And Jesus replied, "You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;

and you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The young man said to him,
"All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?"
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.


- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

An exorcist talks about 'Annabelle' and the power of evil

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 20, 2017 / 03:48 pm (National Catholic Register).- What children read, what they see on the screen, can inspire them toward greater faithfulness. Conversely, Father Robert warns, it can lead them into the sordid world of the occult, even opening them to demonic possession.

Father Robert is not exaggerating. A priest for more than 10 years and an experienced exorcist, he knows firsthand the unintended consequences when children or adults open the door to demonic activity. “Oftentimes,” he says, “[demon possession] begins because kids get curious after reading Harry Potter.” He explains that kids want the unusual powers that they see depicted on the screen.

One former Satanist whom Father Robert knew personally, a man who has turned away from his past life and embraced the Catholic faith, had begun his descent into Satanism at the age of nine or 10, when he began playing a game called “Bloody Mary.” From that simple beginning, he gradually became involved with others who were Satanists.

Respecting Confidentiality

An important part of Father Robert's ministry is training other priests at the Vatican's official Exorcism Institute in America. From across the country and around the world, Catholic priests come to the Institute to learn the secrets of this ancient rite, so that they too can exorcize demons and evil spirits. The nature of the work that Father Robert and the Institute are involved in is so hazardous that he has requested that the National Catholic Register not publish his full name or reveal his location.

A Decidedly “Catholic” Horror Film

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Father Robert at a recent media preview of New Line Cinema's latest horror production, “Annabelle: Creation,” which opens nationwide on August 11. Directed by David F. Sandberg (director of the short film “Lights Out”), “Annabelle: Creation” is actually a prequel to the highly successful 2014 release of “Annabelle” – which is itself a prequel to the 2013 cult favorite “The Conjuring” and the more recent “Conjuring 2” (2016). Father Robert had seen them all, and he agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was largely faithful to the Catholic Church's teachings with regard to possession and exorcism.

By Invitation Only: Satan Only Goes Where He Is Invited

Father Robert explained that the devil will only go where he is invited. He talked of two cases he knew of personally in which two young women, not realizing the gravity of their request, had invited “any spiritual being” to help them. The consequence was that they exhibited symptoms of demon possession and required an exorcism.

The writers of the film, Father Robert noted, had done their homework – they understood that the demon could only enter the home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther if it was invited. In “Annabelle: Creation,” Esther and Samuel Mullins are mourning the loss of their beloved daughter Bee. Miranda Otto, who portrays the mother Esther in the film, explained,

Like most parents, they are devastated. But unlike most, they decided that they would do anything to have her back...absolutely anything at all. Basically, they prayed, calling out to any kind of power that would allow them to see her or feel her presence in any way. But by doing so, they evoked certain spirits that are not the kind you would welcome into your home.

Twelve years after the tragic accident, the grieving parents seek comfort by opening their home to Sister Charlotte and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. When one of the girls peers into the closet and sees the possessed doll, Annabelle, the doll sets her sights on the girls and unleashes a storm of terror.

A Few Inaccuracies

Father Robert and I agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was, for the most part, faithful to the Catholic understanding of exorcism. There were, however, a few scenes which caused us both to raise an eyebrow:

A Sister heard confession? – Most particularly, there was a scene in which Sister Charlotte, played by the talented Stephanie Sigman, listens to the confession of one of her young charges. Granted, there were differences from a regular confession: The Sister and the young girl sat back-to-back, not in a confessional. But the concept of confession was renewed when Sister Charlotte said, “Well, for your penance....” Particularly during the time period of the film, Father Robert considered it highly unlikely that a Sister would ever put herself in the position of appearing to perform a sacramental function that requires a priest.

Sister Charlotte wore a contemporary religious habit. – Based upon the clothing styles, classic automobiles, and the Victorian farmhouse, it would seem that “Annabelle: Creation” is set in the early 20th century. However, Sister Charlotte wears what appears a contemporary religious habit – with a knee-length skirt and a simple headpiece which exposed her hair. When I asked director David Sandberg and actress Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte) about that during our interview, both seemed surprised, explaining that they had looked at photos of nuns in different habits and had chosen a simple costume which would make it easier to act the role.

Disposal of the possessed object – In “Annabelle: Creation,” two priests come to the home to bless the doll Annabelle and to sprinkle it with holy water before it is sealed away in a Scripture-lined closet. Good as far as it goes, Father Robert thought, but he was adamant that an exorcist would never leave the possessed object there intact, to be found by someone in the future. “You would take the curse off the object,” he explained. “You could burn it or take it apart; but it would be decommissioned somehow.”

As an example of a possessed object, Father Robert described a crucifix that hangs in his office which was burned from the bottom during an exorcism, the fire consuming the corpus and leaving only the arms of the crucified Christ. “It had a plastic corpus on it,” he explained. “The cross itself was blessed. It was put in the room with a woman who practiced Brujería witchcraft in Mexico. In the middle of the night, the cross caught fire. I decommissioned it. I would never permit anyone else to get near it, because it could be used in the future for something wrong.”

The scarecrow scene, and the Tasmanian devil – A scene in which a scarecrow was possessed by the evil spirit and moved from its original position seemed unlikely, according to Father Robert. Similarly, he was unconvinced when the demon began to grow and assumed a physical likeness of what he called a “Tasmanian devil.”

Only by invitation! – In one scene, a child becomes possessed when she finds herself in the presence of a demon that manifests itself as a little girl. Father Robert rejected the idea that an evil spirit could inhabit the body of a child who happened to be in its presence – since, as he explained earlier, an evil spirit will only enter a person if he is invited.

Five Signs of Possession

Father Robert listed five signs which may indicate that a person is suffering spiritual attack:

1.Hidden knowledge. If a person has knowledge which he or she should not have, such as private information which is known by only a few people, that may signal demonic possession.

2.Languages. A possessed person may be able to speak in an unfamiliar language which he or she would not normally know.

3.Superhuman strength. Father Robert reported one case in which a young girl who was 5'4” tall and weighed perhaps 110 pounds was able to throw a number of big guys off of her, preventing them from holding her down during the exorcism ritual.

4.Extreme aversion to the sacred. A person who is possessed may be unable to look at a crucifix, or to touch a rosary which has been blessed. Father Robert knew of one woman who couldn't be in the presence of a cross of St. Benedict, or to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

5.Levitation. Father Robert had personal knowledge of a case in Louisiana, in which a person was seated in a chair and, powered by the evil spirit, was able to levitate with the chair and proceed down the hall.

“Annabelle: Creation” opened in theaters across America on August 11. Despite the small inconsistencies which Father Robert noticed, the film is respectful of faith. The film does an effective job of building tension, and there are repeated “frights”; but it is not really gory and depends on spiritual and psychological effects rather than blood. It's likely to enjoy wide distribution among fans of the horror genre. Rated “R”, it seems unsuitable for small children; but others can attend, confident that their faith will not be challenged.

 

This article was originally published at the National Catholic Register.