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'Integral ecology'

Catholic social teaching has developed over the past century as new problems — human, social, economic and environmental — come clearer into focus and call out for a faith-based response.
 
Pope Francis’ contribution, with his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” is to emphasize just how closely entwined those problems are.
 
“After Laudato Si’, for the Catholic Church, these are connected. You cannot try to tackle poverty without caring for the Earth and equally you cannot care for the Earth without caring for the people who live on the Earth,” said Father Augusto Zampini Davies, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
 
One of the biggest challenges of Pope Francis’ approach is a spiritual one, the Argentine priest said. It involves conversion.
 
The poor are impacted most by climate change, yet they have done the least to contribute to it, he said. “We must convert and change our lifestyles and help others cope with the climate change we’ve caused.”
 
People in wealthy countries may think they are “ecologically friendly” because they recycle and “like trees and gardening,” he said, “but the way we produce, trade, consume and waste” is not offset by separating plastic from paper.
 
In addition, wealthy countries “have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change,” for example, in building infrastructure to control flooding and providing emergency relief to victims of natural disasters and drought. But in poor countries, thousands of people die in floods and tens of thousands are forced to migrate because of drought and famine.
 
“If you cannot grow your crops and feed your children, who wouldn’t migrate?” he asked.
 
In richer countries, the conversion Pope Francis is calling for includes learning to face fear with a Gospel-based attitude toward others and toward future generations, the priest said.
 
The connections between environmental damage, the global economy and migration are clear, he said. And so are the motives underlying reactions like climate-change denial, isolationism and anti-migrant sentiments.
 
“What Pope Francis does is say, ‘OK, here are the symptoms, let’s find the roots,'” Father Zampini Davies said. “The roots are the same: selfishness or indifference or greed or this mentality of thinking that if I have more I will be more important.”
 
In many ways, he said, fear appears to be spreading among people in the wealthiest nations, and “politicians play on people’s fears. If I feel I am not benefiting from the global economy and I live in a democracy, I will vote for someone who says they will get us out of that.”
 
Christians can find in their faith a healthy way to handle their fears, he said, “because we have a different approach to the quality of life, to what it means to have a better life, because our understanding of life is relational and our understanding of redemption and salvation is that it is for all of creation.”
 
Transforming the former Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis specified that the office is an expression of the Church’s “concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works and the care of creation.”
 
In other words, for Pope Francis, all those issues together are key components of “integral human development.”
 
Father Zampini Davies, a priest of the Diocese of San Isidro, Argentina, is one of the newest officials at the dicastery. He moved to Rome from London where he spent the last four years serving as a theological adviser to CAFOD, the official aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales.
 
His focus is “integral ecology,” which includes development, the environment and spirituality.
 
Early development efforts focused almost exclusively on material growth, Father Zampini Davies said, but over time it became obvious that increasing income and purchasing power was not enough. Progress also meant access to education and health care and greater social and political inclusion.
 
Thanks also to the social teaching of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said, Catholic development experts began insisting that respect for human dignity, strengthening families and religious freedom also were markers of progress.
 
For many of the development models, he said, environmental degradation was accepted as collateral damage in the drive to increase production and consumption, thereby raising GDPs.
 
Now it is clear to scientists, economists, development experts and theologians that care for the environment and reducing the factors that contribute to climate change are essential for making development sustainable and truly caring for the poor, Father Zampini Davies said.
 
  • Published in World

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

In a week in which natural disasters, war and racial conflicts dominated the headlines, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would bring peace to a divided world.
 
After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, the pope asked Mary to obtain "for everyone consolation and a future of serenity and harmony."
"To Mary, Queen of Peace -- who we contemplate today in the glory of paradise -- I entrust once again the anxieties and sorrows of the people who suffer in many parts of the world due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts," the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square Aug. 15.
 
Pope Francis did not name any specific location, but as he spoke, the search for survivors continued in Sierra Leone after a devastating mudslide engulfed the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, killing more than 300 people. Flooding and landslides also struck southern Nepal, killing at least 70 people.
 
In Charlottesville, Va., clashes between white nationalists and protesters resulted in the death of three people, including a 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a group protesting the white nationalist rally.
 
In his main Angelus talk, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading, which recalled Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
 
The joy felt by Elizabeth and the child in her womb reflects the interior joy Christians feel in Christ's presence, the pope said. "When Mary arrives, joy overflows and bursts from their hearts because the invisible yet real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything!"
 
In response, Mary proclaims the Magnificat, her hymn of praise to God for his great works. Pope Francis said it is the hymn of "humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary, like her husband Joseph as well as the town where they live, Nazareth."
God accomplishes "great things with humble people," the pope said, inviting people in St. Peter's Square to reflect on the state of their own humility.
 
"Humility is like an empty space that leaves room for God. A humble person is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong. This is the greatness of humility," he said.
 
The joy Mary brings because she brings Jesus to the world gives all Christians "a new ability to pass through the most painful and difficult moments with faith" as well as the "ability to be merciful, to forgive, understand and support each other."
 
"Mary is a model of virtue and faith," Pope Francis said. "We ask her to protect and sustain us that we may have a faith that is strong, joyful and merciful. May she help us to become saints, to meet her one day in paradise."
 
  • Published in World

'Perfect people'

God did not choose perfect people to form His Church but rather sinners who have experienced His love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.
 
The Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how His actions went against the general mentality of His time, a way of thinking that saw a "clear separation" between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.
 
"There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect," the pope said. "And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad."
 
Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus' "scandalous gesture" of forgiving the sinful woman.
 
The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.
 
Although Jesus' love toward the sick and the marginalized "baffles His contemporaries," it reveals God's heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.
 
"How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes -- or better yet -- with the heart of God, meaning with hope," he said. But "Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices."
 
Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God's unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.
 
By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn't seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but He offers "people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love," the pope said.
 
The Church is a people formed "of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God," Pope Francis said. Christians are "all poor sinners" who need God's mercy, "which strengthens us and gives us hope."
 
  • Published in Vatican

Vatican conserving water

While Rome reels from one of its worst droughts in decades, the Vatican is doing its part to conserve water by shutting down the city-state's 100 fountains.
 
The office governing Vatican City State announced July 25 that the drought has "led the Holy See to take measures aimed at saving water" by shutting down fountains in St. Peter's Square, throughout the Vatican Gardens and in the territory of the state.
 
"The decision is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis, who reminds us in his encyclical 'Laudato Si'' how 'the habit of wasting and discarding' has reached 'unprecedented levels' while 'fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,'" the office said.
 
The prolonged drought has forced officials from the Lazio region of Italy to halt pumping water from Lake Bracciano, located roughly 19 miles north of Rome. Less than usual rainfalls in the past two years have steadily depleted the lake, which provides 8 percent of the city's water supply.
 
In an interview with Italian news outlet Tgcom24, Nicola Zingaretti, the region's president, said the lake's water level has "fallen too much and we risk an environmental disaster."
 
While the drought already forced Rome city officials to shut down some of Rome's public drinking fountains in June, it may lead to strict water rationing for the city's estimated 1.5 million residents.
 
City officials may also take the Vatican's lead and shut down water pouring down from Rome's many ancient fountains.
 
Pilgrims and visitors alike have marveled at the majestic fountains of St. Peter's Square that have cascaded water for centuries since their construction in the 17th century.
 
While the source of water was once provided from an ancient Roman aqueduct, the two fountains, as well as 10 percent of Vatican City State's 100 fountains "recirculate water currently," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service in a July 25 email.
 
Others, he added, "will eventually be transformed in order to recirculate" the same water rather than let it be wasted by running into the drainage or sewer system.
Burke told CNS that the Vatican's move to switch off the fountains located within its territory is "a way to show a good example" in conserving water as the city deals with the crisis.
 
"We're not going to be able to solve Rome's water problem this summer, but we can do our part," Burke said. "This is the Vatican putting 'Laudato Si'' into action. Let's not waste water."
 
  • Published in World

Free email ‘Message of The Day’

“The Message of The Day,” a new, professionally produced free video featuring a daily message from Pope Francis, is now available worldwide. 
 
The one-to-two-minute videos are created from the pope’s daily homilies. His messages, delivered to subscribers’ mailbox each morning, are inspirational and uplifting with positive content, designed to enrich and inform the Catholic and non-Catholic faithful in their everyday busy lives. 
 
Jesuit Father Edward J. Dougherty, CEO and Chairman of Kyrios Inc., said, “The Catholic Church needs to enchant its members, to be relevant to the lives of people today. We developed this project to promote our leader, to spread his positive messages and good news. Our beautifully produced videos are the perfect conduit for his messages. We want this to be accessible to millions of the faithful around the world bringing hope and inspiration.  Nothing else exists like this today.”
 
John S. Bolus, president and co-founder said, “We looked at the market and our audience and realized that people are getting their content in ways that are different from just a few years ago. The Smart Phone has eclipsed all forms of media. We built The Message of The Day service expressly for this, using the phones high-resolution multi-media browser to deliver an enriching, video experience.”
 
Kyrios Inc., a private U.S.-based communications company based in Reston, Va., developed the project in collaboration with and input from, Catholic communications authorities in Rome.
 
“The Message of The Day” is delivered on demand via a large sophisticated network, allowing media content to be delivered to a worldwide Church audience. This project is the first of its kind.
 
“The Message of The Day” is available at themessageoftheday.com.
 
 
  • Published in World

Bread and wine for the Eucharist

The Vatican recently published a circular letter, "On the bread and wine for the Eucharist," sent to diocesan bishops at the request of Pope Francis. Dated June 15 -- the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ -- the letter was made public by the Vatican July 8.
 
Because bread and wine for the Eucharist are no longer supplied just by religious communities, but "are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet," bishops should set up guidelines, an oversight body and/or even a form of certification to help "remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the Eucharist," the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said.
 
In response to the Vatican statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Divine Worship has answered some of these frequently asked questions.
 
Q: Why is the Vatican worried about what makes up a Communion host? Doesn't it have more important things to focus on?
A: To say that the Eucharist is important to Catholics is an understatement; the bishops at the Second Vatican Council referred to it as the "source of and summit of the Christian life." On the night before he died, Jesus considered it important enough to spend time with his apostles at the Last Supper, telling them to continue to celebrate the Eucharist, instructing them to "do this in memory of me." So the Vatican is naturally interested in making sure that this instruction is carried out properly, and this requires not only a priest who says the correct words, but also the use of the correct material. Therefore, the Catholic Church has strict requirements for the bread and wine used at Mass.
 
Q: Has the validity of the materials used for the Eucharist been a problem in the United States?
A: The circular letter is addressed to the entire Church, to bishops all over the world. Circumstances are very different in various places around the globe, so it's difficult to know whether the Holy See's letter is a response to particular problems in certain places. It's important to note that the letter does not introduce any new teachings or regulations -- it simply reminds bishops of their important duty to ensure that the correct materials are used in the celebration of the Mass. We're fortunate in our country, insofar as it's not difficult to find bread and wine that are clearly suitable for the Mass.
 
Q: Concerning low-gluten hosts, how much gluten is in them? Are they safe for someone with celiac disease?
A: The gluten content in low-gluten hosts can vary by producer, but they typically contain less than 0.32 percent gluten. Foods with less than 20 parts per million gluten can be marketed as "gluten-free," and some low-gluten hosts -- while containing enough gluten to satisfy the Church's requirements for Mass -- would even fall into that category. The amount of gluten present in low-gluten hosts is considered safe for the vast majority of people with gluten-related health difficulties.
 
Q: For someone who does not want any exposure to gluten, the Church says that Communion may be received under the species of wine alone. What happens if a diocese does not offer Communion under both species?
A: Parishes are more than willing to make special arrangements to assist people who need to receive the Precious Blood instead of the host for medical reasons, even if the parish doesn't normally offer Communion under both kinds. It can take a little advanced planning to organize the procedures, but pastors are happy to do this. If for some reason a person in this situation runs into difficulties at the parish level, he or she should contact the bishop's office for assistance.
 
Q: What about someone, especially a priest, who has alcoholism? Is grape juice allowed?
A: Grape juice is not allowed for the Catholic Mass, but the use of "mustum" can be permitted. Mustum is a kind of wine that has an extremely low alcohol content. It's made by beginning the fermentation process in grape juice, but then suspending the process such that the alcohol content generally remains below 1 percent, far lower than the levels found in most table wines.
 
Q: I understand other faiths have gluten-free substitutes. With the Church's insistence on the presence of wheat in the Communion wafer, has this caused any problems in ecumenical dialogue?
A: No, this has not been an issue in ecumenical dialogue.
 
Q: Who do I talk with if these issues are a concern of mine? Must my pastor accommodate my needs?
A: Someone who suffers in this way should talk to his or her pastor. Naturally, if someone arrives with this kind of request at the last second before Mass is set to begin, the pastor might not be able to accommodate his or her needs. But if someone reaches out in a reasonable manner, pastors are happy to help. Again, if someone runs into difficulties in this regard, he or she should contact the bishop's office for assistance. One of the greatest duties and privileges of bishops and priests is making the Eucharist available to the Catholic faithful, and they do their best to make this possible.
 
  • Published in Nation

Fourth pathway to possible sainthood

Pope Francis has approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood -- giving one's life in a heroic act of loving service to others.
 
In a new apostolic letter, the pope approved new norms allowing for candidates to be considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of "an extreme act of charity."
 
The document, given "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) went into effect the same day of its publication July 11, with the title "Maiorem hac dilectionem," which comes from the Gospel according to St. John (15:13): "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
 
Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, said the addition is meant "to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues."
 
For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.
 
While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate "for interpreting all possible cases" of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, July 11.
 
According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of "offering of life" would have to meet the following criteria:
 
-- Free and willing offer of one's life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
-- Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues -- at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way -- before having offered one's life to others and until one's death.
-- Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
-- A miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession is needed for beatification.
 
Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new norms arise from the sainthood congregation wanting to look into the question of whether men and women who, "inspired by Christ's example, freely and willingly offered and sacrificed their life" for others "in a supreme act of charity, which was the direct cause of death," were worthy of beatification. For example, throughout history there have been Christians who willingly put themselves at risk and died of infection or disease because of aiding and serving others, he wrote.
 
Pope Francis approved the congregation carrying out an in-depth study of the new proposal in early 2014, the archbishop wrote. After extensive input, discussion and the work of experts, the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes approved in 2016 "a new pathway for beatification of those who offered their lives with explicit and recognized Christian" reasons.
 
Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new provisions do nothing to alter Church doctrine concerning Christian holiness leading to sainthood and the traditional procedure for beatification. Rather, the addition offers an enrichment, he wrote, with "new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel."
 
  • Published in World

Extraordinary month of prayer and reflection

Pope Francis called for an "extraordinary month of prayer and reflection" to reinvigorate and renew the missionary spirit and action of the Catholic Church.
 
Welcoming a proposal from the pontifical mission societies and the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the pope said the special concentration on mission during the month of October 2019 would help "renew the love and passion" of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone.
 
The announcement came in the text of a speech the pope wrote, but did not read, in early June when he met Cardinal Fernando Filoni, congregation prefect, and people taking part in the pontifical mission societies' annual meeting in Rome.
 
Coordinated under the jurisdiction of the congregation, the four agencies -- the Holy Childhood Association, Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Society of St. Peter the Apostle -- promote missionary awareness and raise funds for the work of the church in mission territories around the globe.
 
"You know well my worry concerning the pontifical mission societies -- very often reduced to an organization that collects and distributes, in the pope's name, economic aid for the neediest churches," the pope wrote in the text.
 
"I know that you are seeking new means and more appropriate, more ecclesial ways to carry out your service to the universal mission of the Church" continuing a "process of urgent reform," he wrote.
 
Renewal requires conversion, he wrote, adding that he hoped "your spiritual and material assistance to the church" would root people more deeply in the Gospel, encourage all Catholics to be involved in the church's missionary duty and bring God's love to all people.
 
October 2019 was chosen for the month of prayer because it will be the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's 1919 apostolic letter, "Maximum Illud" on the propagation of the faith throughout the world.
 
"In this very important document ... on mission, the pope recalls how necessary a life of holiness is for the effectiveness of the apostolate," Pope Francis wrote.
 
Now more than ever the Church and the world need men and women known for their "zeal and holiness" to proclaim the Gospel and show mercy to everyone, he added.
 
"The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2017. The message was released June 4.
 
World Mission Sunday will be celebrated Oct. 22 in most dioceses.
 
 
  • Published in World
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