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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Pope supports pro-life movement, sets day of prayer for peace in Africa

With so many direct attacks on human life, from abortion to war, Pope Francis said he is worried that so few people are involved in pro-life activities.
 
Reciting the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Feb. 4, Pope Francis marked Italy's Pro-Life Sunday and also called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace Feb. 23, with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan.
 
Some 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus. Many of them carried the pro-life movement's green balloons with the message, "Yes to life."
 
Thanking all the "different Church realities that promote and support life in many ways," Pope Francis said he was surprised there were not more people involved.
 
"This worries me," the pope said. "There aren't many who fight on behalf of life in a world where, every day, more weapons are made; where, every day, more laws against life are passed; where, every day, this throwaway culture expands, throwing away what isn't useful, what is bothersome" to too many people.
 
Pope Francis asked for prayers that more people would become aware of the need to defend human life "in this moment of destruction and of throwing away humanity."
 
With conflict continuing in many parts of the world, the pope said it was time for a special day of prayer and fasting for peace and that it was appropriate for the observance to take place Feb. 23, a Friday in Lent.
 
"Let us offer it particularly for the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan," he said.
 
Fighting between government troops and rebel forces and between militias continues in Congo, especially in the east, but tensions also have erupted as protests grow against President Joseph Kabila, whose term of office ended in 2016. New elections have yet to be scheduled.
 
South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But, just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence.
 
Pope Francis asked "our non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to join this initiative in the way they believe is most opportune."
 
And he prayed that "our heavenly Father would always listen to his children who cry to Him in pain and anguish."
 
But individuals also must hear those cries, he said, and ask themselves, "'What can I do for peace?' Certainly we can pray, but not only. Each person can say 'no' to violence" in his or her daily life and interactions. "Victories obtained with violence are false victories while working for peace is good for everyone."
 
  • Published in World

Consecrated life

Consecrated men and women reflect the light of Christ and are witnesses to that light "in a world that is often shrouded in shadow," Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said Jan. 29.
 
"They are the glory of God's people. We pray for the perseverance of consecrated men and women and ask God to continue enriching the church with their unique vocation," he said in a statement as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
 
Cardinal Tobin's statement came in advance of the annual celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It will be celebrated in parishes the weekend of Feb. 3-4.
 
The feast of the Presentation also is known as Candlemas Day, when candles are blessed to symbolize Christ as the light of the world. St. John Paul II instituted the day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life in 1997.
 
With his statement, the committee headed by Cardinal Tobin also released the results of a survey of women and men religious who professed perpetual vows in 2017 in a religious congregation, province or monastery based in the United States.
 
The survey was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
 
Among the major findings were:
 
-- Nearly nine in 10, or 86 percent, of the responding religious said they regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. About two-thirds participated in eucharistic adoration, prayed the rosary, or attended retreats before entering. Nearly six in 10 participated in spiritual direction before entering.
 
-- One-half of responding religious attended a Catholic elementary school, more than four in 10, or 44 percent, attended a Catholic high school, and a near equal proportion, or 43 percent, attended a Catholic college before entering their religious institute.
 
-- On average, the responding religious reported that they were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so.
 
-- Nearly nine in 10, or 87 percent, of the responding religious reported that someone encouraged them to consider a vocation to religious life. Over four in 10, or 43 percent, said that a parish priest encouraged their vocation. Half said they were encouraged to consider a vocation by a religious sister or brother; women religious were more likely than men religious to say so. Over four in 10, or 41 percent, reported that they were encouraged to consider a vocation by their friends.
 
CARA asked the 768 religious institutes, provinces or monasteries that are in the United States to provide the names of women religious or religious brothers and priests who professed or were planning to profess perpetual vows in 2017. The institutes, provinces, etc. were identified by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men or the USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
 
A total of 600 major superiors responded, or 78 percent, with the names of 208 men and women religious. Of that number, 100 sisters and nuns and 51 brothers and priests responded -- representing a response rate of 73 percent.
 
The average age of responding religious is 41. Half of the responding religious are age 36 or younger. The youngest is 24 and the oldest is 86.
 
Two-thirds of the respondents, or 64 percent, identify as white; more than one in six, 18 percent, identify as Asian; and more than one in 10, or 11 percent, identify as Hispanic. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents were born in the United States. Of those born outside the U.S., the most common country of origin is Vietnam.
 
Among those identifying as Hispanic/Latino, almost six in 10 -- 62 percent -- are foreign born. Of those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, seven in 10 are predominantly foreign born. Six percent identify as African-American/black. Ninety-four percent, or nearly all, who identify as Caucasian/white are U.S. born.
 
Other survey findings include:
 
-- Nearly nine in 10 of the responding religious, or 88 percent, have been Catholic since birth. More than three-quarters -- 77 percent -- come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Among the 12 percent of respondents who became Catholic later in life, the average age at which they did so was 22.
 
-- Half of the respondents attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a little higher than that for all Catholic adults in the United States -- 50 percent vs. 39 percent. These respondents also are more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school -- 44 percent of responding religious, compared to 19 percent of U.S. adult Catholics; and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college -- 43 percent of responding religious, compared to 10 percent of U.S. adult Catholics.
 
-- The survey found the profession class of 2017 is highly educated, with 25 percent of responding religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute. More than two-thirds -- 69 percent -- entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor's degree.
 
-- Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among the 4 percent who did report having educational debt, however, they averaged about four years of delay while they paid down an average of $29,100 in educational debt.
 
-- Nearly all of the responding religious, 88 percent, participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute.
 
  • Published in World

Movie review: 'Darkest Hour'

The spotlight shines brightly on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour" (Focus), a historical drama about political leadership and backroom intrigue during a pivotal moment of World War II.
 
Churchill (1874-1965) was 65 years old and, it was thought, in the twilight of his political career when he was tapped to lead a wartime coalition government in May 1940. The war was going badly for the Allies, and Nazi Germany was marching into Belgium and France, threatening an invasion of Britain.
 
It was truly the country's darkest hour, and director Joe Wright ("Atonement"), working from a screenplay by Anthony McCarten, offers a thrilling take on Churchill's first three weeks in power.
 
The film is in some respects a companion piece to the 2017 film "Dunkirk," taking place at the same time. While "Dunkirk" neglected politics in favor of personal stories, "Darkest Hour" goes behind the scenes, revealing how Churchill rallied a skeptical cabinet to fight the enemy rather than sue for peace and arranged the miraculous evacuation of nearly 350,000 soldiers stranded on the French beach.
 
Beneath some remarkable facial prosthetics and layers of padding, Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Churchill, capturing the gait, cadence and charisma of the man. This is a warts-and-all portrayal of a decidedly quirky individual who loved his cigars and booze, was often rude and sarcastic but who in private had moments of self-doubt.
 
At his side was his stalwart wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), proud that her husband was finally getting his chance to lead, however late in life.
 
"When youth departs, may wisdom prove enough," Churchill says, as he accepts the offer of King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) to form a government. "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
 
Churchill succeeds the feckless Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), whose policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany has left Britain woefully unprepared for war. But Chamberlain enjoys the king's favor as does the politically ambitious Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane). The trio schemes to disgrace Churchill and put Halifax in power.
 
As Europe is overrun, Churchill is pressured to sue for peace. The idea of bowing to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis is anathema to his lifelong belief in justice and liberty.
 
"You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!" he roars at Halifax.
 
"Darkest Hour" proceeds at a breakneck pace as Churchill gradually convinces his colleagues to fight and rallies the nation. Although some liberties are taken with the facts (including a marvelous moment when Churchill interacts with ordinary people on the subway, which never happened), the film offers an important history lesson for young and old about a time when statesmanship mattered most.
 
Churchill's greatest asset was his voice, which he used to great effect on the radio and in Parliament to inspire the nation. As he composed his stirring speeches, Churchill was aided by his secretary, Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), and his most faithful ally, the secretary of state for war — and future prime minister — Anthony Eden (Samuel West).
 
"We shall never surrender!" Churchill tells his parliamentary colleagues, forcing Halifax to admit, "He just mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
 
And the rest, as they say, is history.
 
The film contains brief scenes of wartime violence and some mature themes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
 
  • Published in Reviews

A friendly Super Bowl wager

A friendly wager between the archbishops of Philadelphia and Boston for Super Bowl LII Feb. 4 in Minneapolis between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots will benefit needy people in both cities.
 
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, both longtime friends and classmates from their seminary days as young Capuchin Franciscans, are wagering $100 donations to aid the poor in their archdioceses.
 
If the Eagles win, Cardinal O'Malley will make the donation to St. John's Hospice, which provides emergency services to homeless men in Philadelphia as well as helping them to achieve a stable residence.
 
If the Patriots win, Archbishop Chaput will donate to Catholic Charities Boston, which provides a broad spectrum of social service care to thousands of needy individuals and families in Massachusetts. For example, $100 would help a family of four to pay their heating bill following the extreme cold snap of last December.
 
The bishops also added local flavor to their friendly bet: Philadelphia cheesesteaks and Boston lobsters.
 
"In the spirit of friendly competition," the cardinal and the archbishop said in a joint statement Jan. 31, "we have issued our wager because we have confidence in our teams and, more importantly, based on our admiration for the commitment of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots to assist their local communities and respond to the needs of the less fortunate.”
 
"It is a blessing for the people of Philadelphia and Boston," the prelates said, that Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie and Patriots' owner Robert Kraft "have always held service to others as a foundational principle of their personal and professional lives. We pray for a safe and enjoyable Super Bowl for both teams and all spectators and that the gifts of God's love and peace may bring us closer together as a society."
 
The bishops also fearlessly predicted the game's outcome. Archbishop Chaput had the final score as Eagles 24, Patriots 20. Cardinal O'Malley predicted Patriots 34, Eagles 21.
 
  • Published in Nation
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