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ASH WEDNESDAY--A woman prays under an image of Our Lady of Ephesus during Ash Wednesday Mass March 1 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

ASH WEDNESDAY--A woman prays under an image of Our Lady of Ephesus during Ash Wednesday Mass March 1 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Pax Christi invites church to embrace tradition of active nonviolence

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A quiet movement is underway to reaffirm the central role of active nonviolence practiced by Jesus, as told in the Gospels, and to bring that teaching to a new generation of Catholics. Initiated by Pax Christi International, the global Catholic peace movement founded after World War II to reconcile French and German citizens, the effort and its promoters ultimately hope to see widespread use of nonviolent responses to aggression. As part of the effort, Pax Christi International has invited the Catholic Church to rethink its stance on the just-war theory that is meant to guide responses to international conflicts. Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International co-president, said the time has come for the Church to reclaim nonviolence as a core tenet of Church life. "One of the big tasks, I believe, is reshaping people's understanding of what active nonviolence is so that when you talk about it, people recognize it's different from pacifism, that it's a different commitment, and that it's not passive and that it's not only civil resistance or crossing a line," Dennis told Catholic News Service. Supporters of the effort know the work of integrating active nonviolence into daily life and international affairs will not come overnight, but they are hoping to get people to see the practice as morally imperative in a conflict-filled world.

Situation for Iraqi refugees in Jordan 'critical and dangerous'

AL-UM-KUNDUN, Jordan (CNS) -- Catholic leaders have expressed concern for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees sheltering in Jordan as access to international aid tightens with crises deepening in the Middle East and elsewhere. "The situation of Iraqi Christian refugees is critical and dangerous," Father Khalil Jaar told Catholic News Service on the sidelines of a conference hosted by the Vatican Embassy in Amman and the Catholic charity, Caritas Jordan. Meeting at Our Lady of Peace Center on the hilly, tree-lined outskirts of the Jordanian capital, the leaders sought better cooperation and were exploring income-generation projects for the refugees badly in need of funds. "They have finished their money and they aren't allowed to work. How can they live in human dignity?" asked Father Jaar, who has devoted his ministry to aiding Iraqi and Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan from neighboring conflicts for more than a decade. Daniela Cicchella of the Jordanian offices of the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, told the gathering that 700,000 refugees of 42 nationalities are registered with the agency in the country. The Jordanian government says it hosts 1.5 million refugees, and its budget, water, electricity and other services are overburdened by the numbers.

Despite opposition, assisted suicide law takes effect in nation's capital

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The District of Columbia has joined six states in the country in allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medications to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. Although the District of Columbia City Council voted 11-2 Nov. 15 to approve the "Death with Dignity Act" and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed it into law in December, it still faced possible defeat by federal lawmakers. The Home Rule Act of 1973 gives the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives a small window in which they have the right to overturn District laws. Pro-life advocates and proponents for the terminally ill, the elderly and the disabled -- who vehemently reject assisted suicide, saying it would lead to abuse and harm the city's most vulnerable populations -- had hoped Congress would act on the measure. On Feb. 13, the House Oversight Committee approved a resolution to cancel the law, but the resolution never made it to the floor for a full House vote. Feb. 17 was the deadline for Congress to cancel the District's law. Since the deadline passed with no action, the law went into effect Feb. 18. "A number of groups -- medical associations, seniors organizations, disability rights groups, as well as the D.C. Catholic Conference -- strongly advocated against D.C.'s prescribed death legislation," the D.C. Catholic Conference said in a statement after the law went into effect. "We will continue to advocate for a respect for life at every stage -- from conception to natural death - and defend our communities' most vulnerable, who require improved access to long-term health care, not an inexpensive short cut to death."

Pope to priests: Defend marriage ministering to those in irregular unions

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Reaching out to and guiding couples in cohabitation with tenderness and compassion is essential to promoting and defending the sanctity of marriage, Pope Francis said. Couples who have chosen to live together without getting married in the Church "are, in spiritual and moral terms, among the poor and the least, toward whom the Church, in the footsteps of her teacher and Lord, wants to be a mother who doesn't abandon, but who draws near and cares for," he said in an audience with parish priests Feb. 25. Look upon such couples with "tenderness and compassion," he said, urging the clergy to remember that ministry to the least and the neediest "is an essential part of your work in promoting and defending the sacrament of marriage." The pope spoke to parish priests who were in Rome attending a course on marriage preparation and the new rules to reform the process for verifying the validity of a marriage. The course was offered Feb. 22-25 and was sponsored by the Vatican's Roman Rota, a marriage tribunal. Pope Francis told the priests he was pleased the priests participated in the studies "because it is up to you, above all, to concretely apply (the teachings) in your daily contact with families."

Papal academies: Bigger threat to planet is greed, not population growth

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Increasing threats against biodiversity, unsustainable use of the Earth's resources and accelerated extinction rates are driven more by overconsumption and unjust wealth distribution than by the number of people on the planet, a Vatican workshop concluded. While the world's population has tripled since 1950 with close to 7.4 billion people today, per capita income growth and world GDP has seen bigger gains with huge benefits to much of humanity, said a statement released March 2. However, "aside from threatening millions of species with extinction, this enormous increase in economic activity based on profit and on the use of fossil fuels is putting huge strains on the Earth's capacity to function sustainably," it said. The "final declaration" came at the end of a workshop on "Biological extinction: How to save the natural world on which we depend," sponsored by the pontifical academies for sciences and social sciences Feb. 27-March 1. Solutions to the problem, according to the final statement, were more about correcting unjust systems and selfish behaviors than population control.

From Father Thomas Mattison, pastor of Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington

We saw the origin of the notion that people from a certain place are always of a certain religious bent; it lies in the tendency of the “reformers” to seek protection from Rome under the “wings” of the princes who were seeking to liberate themselves from the emperor. This expedient led to religious/civil wars in England and gave the Constitutional authors a bad feeling about “religious establishment.”
Interestingly, the pope and Roman Catholics never bought into the idea of regional churches of independent principalities. The reformers were all “protestants,” and the independent princes were all “rebels.” That may seem harsh and non-pragmatic, but it has allowed the Catholic Church to spread beyond political boundaries so often created in wars and to maintain an identity of its own that is rooted in “tradition” rather than in values that change as culture changes.
Nowhere has the “success” of this “stratagem” been clearer than in the United States. For generations now, Catholic schools and universities, hospitals and health care systems, social assistance programs and “fraternal’” organizations have been the absolute envy of every religious grouping in the country. Moreover, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops speaks with an authority and for a “constituency” that makes even the most cynical politician sit up and take notice. Only a very few people await the pronouncements of the Northeast Quarterly Meeting of Friends; but everyone wants to know what Pope Francis has to say about almost everything.
Since the Catholic Church in this country has never counted on the “state” to protect or finance it, it remains an alternative social structure founded on alternative principles and pursuing an alternative vision of the common good that does not challenge the “establishment” but reminds it that there are other ways, other concerns and other people to consider. Being truly independent of politics and political parties, it serves to keep democracy democratic in a way and to an extent that no other grouping does.
An example: The Church of England in the United States is called the Protestant Episcopal Church of America. Notice the “of.” The Roman Catholic Church is in the United States. Nativists, Know-Nothings and the Klan (and, as late as 1959, the assembly of Texas Baptists) feared that a Catholic would be more loyal Rome than to the constitutional requirements of his elected office. Much the same anxieties are now at play as the country considers the question of national security in the face of an immense quest for immigration and naturalization on the part of people whose religion is identified with another culture and another part of the world.
A Catholic bishop in Africa recently overcame a move to have sharia law given legal status in his country by reminding the government that the constitution of the country made it an explicitly secular state. Thus the incorporation of any religious law into the law of the land was unconstitutional. No other clergy person could have done that with the same credibility!
For more about Father Mattison’s parish, go to christoursaviorvt.com.

Catholic Radio

WINOOSKI-- Donna McSoley, a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier Church who won a permit with the FCC to build a radio station, hopes 105.5, WRXJ,
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio will be on the air by Easter.
The 24-hour station will feature Catholic talk radio transmitted from St. Francis Xavier property.
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne and St. Francis Xavier Pastor Msgr. Richard G. Lavalley have recorded some station IDs that will play at the bottom and top of the hour. “I hope to be able to record all the priests within the listening area at a later date. I think it will be nice for people to hear their pastor’s voice on the air,” said McSoley, president of the nonprofit Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio Inc.
She will not know the exact coverage area until the station is on the air and adjustments are made; she expects it will be about a 12-15-mile radius from Winooski as well as into parts of Plattsburgh, Keeseville, and Peru, N.Y. “The FCC is currently considering increasing the power … to more than double the wattage. That will increase the coverage area considerably. Once the FCC rules on this, we will be able to work from there as to how to move forward towards covering all of Vermont,” she said.
She asks for prayers that the Low Power FM station will bring people to the Catholic Church. “We have a great opportunity to preach beyond the pews, and Catholic radio has been proven to increase vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life,” she said. “Sharing our faith through this radio with others can bring many, many people into the satisfying joy and fullness of truth of the Catholic Church. We live in the least religious state of our country, and it's up to all of us to change that statistic and heal Vermont. Let's band together and make this happen.”
McSoley has been working to raise about $15,000 to begin the station through the non-profit she began, through fund raising and through donations from “people who want to bring their children back to the Church.”

St. Patrick’s Day

In consideration that St. Patrick is the secondary patron of the Diocese of Burlington, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne has granted a dispensation from the precept of abstaining from meat on Friday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. It is requested that if you do take advantage of this dispensation that you add some other sacrifice/penance to your Lenten observances.

Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal