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Catholic News

IMAGE: CNS photo/Debbie HillBy Judith SudilovskyBEIT SAHOUR, West Bank (CNS) -- Bethlehem and the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour depend economically on tourism, but traditionally have struggled with keeping visitors in the area for more than half a day. Although the hotels are fully booked for Christmas this year, that does not necessarily mean it will translate into any business for the locals.Most large tour and pilgrim groups are bused through the Israeli checkpoint straight to the Church of the Nativity and sometimes to the nearby Milk Grotto or Shepherds Field in Beit Sahour. Then tourists get back on their buses and go to one of a select few souvenir shops to spend their money. If the souvenir hawkers hovering in the area are lucky, they may be able to sell the tourists a few trinkets during their brief stay. But for the most part smaller businesses, including shops and cafes, rarely see any rainfall from visitors.With the memories of the economic difficulties...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Debbie Hill

By Judith Sudilovsky

BEIT SAHOUR, West Bank (CNS) -- Bethlehem and the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour depend economically on tourism, but traditionally have struggled with keeping visitors in the area for more than half a day. Although the hotels are fully booked for Christmas this year, that does not necessarily mean it will translate into any business for the locals.

Most large tour and pilgrim groups are bused through the Israeli checkpoint straight to the Church of the Nativity and sometimes to the nearby Milk Grotto or Shepherds Field in Beit Sahour. Then tourists get back on their buses and go to one of a select few souvenir shops to spend their money. If the souvenir hawkers hovering in the area are lucky, they may be able to sell the tourists a few trinkets during their brief stay. But for the most part smaller businesses, including shops and cafes, rarely see any rainfall from visitors.

With the memories of the economic difficulties during the second intifada still fresh in their memories, private residents and the three municipalities are starting initiatives to entice visitors to stop, stroll through the towns, eat a local baklava sweet or take a city tour, much like they would in any other city they visit.

Janneke Stegeman, 38, a German theologian, has been to Bethlehem many times. But this time, arriving during the Christmas season, she took advantage of a two-hour Art Walk tour through the old city of Beit Sahour -- one of Bethlehem's sister towns in the Bethlehem "triangle" -- to get to know some of the young artists in the area and hear about the work they are doing.

"For me, coming here as a pilgrim is having a deep connection to the context and people you are visiting," she told Catholic News Service. "People come to the holy places without realizing where they are and who the people are who are living here."

"This experience is really crucial to me ... especially at Christmas," Stegeman added. "It has to do with real people. I want to understand what is happening here, to talk to the people who are living here. To see how people keep their hope and perseverance in a context of a difficult reality."

Just having a cup of coffee at a place like Singer Cafe affords a glimpse into the life of young Palestinians who opt to stay in their city and invigorate their town rather than emigrate, she said, sipping her coffee as she spoke.

"It is important for me that people understand that Palestinians deserve as much time as Israel. There is nothing to be afraid of if they come here. Come, see the Nativity Church, but then come meet the local Palestinians, have a chat with them. People come to see the Biblical stones and then forget to see the living stones," she said.

Dutch expat Kristel Elayyan, 40, who runs the Singer Cafe with her husband, Tariq, started the Art Walk, so people get to know local artisans.

Social media is also taking a role in advertising the events and stirring up interest for both local and international visitors. The Bethlehem Christmas tree was lit to the delight of a crowd of thousands in Nativity Square, with live music and fireworks following. Similar tree-lightings took place a few days later in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.

The Latin Patriarchate tweeted about the tree-lighting event in Bethlehem, and the municipal Facebook pages advertise in English the various events taking place in the area during the season: the Art Walk, Christmas markets featuring locally produced crafts and food, an Afro-Dabkeh dance workshop, a pre-Christmas gala dinner, a pub dance party and a Christmas "Santa Run" in Beit Jala, where St. Nicholas is the patron saint.

As rain drizzled, participants in the Santa Run gathered in the parking lot of the Beit Jala Latin seminary Dec. 7, stretching their muscles, buying their red Santa shirts and taking selfies as they waited for the shuttle to take them to the Cremisan Monastery, where the run began.

"Five years ago, you could maybe go to a coffee place to smoke a water pipe and play some cards. Now there are bars for youth and places to meet up. There are a lot of places where you can spend your time here now," said Musa Khatib, 26, a pharmacist from the nearby Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa. "Because of social media you can follow the events, schedule your week. The spirit here is nice, the vibe is very positive, and you can see happy people."

A representative from the Beit Jala municipality who declined to give his name told CNS: "Our vision is of strengthening the cultural side of Beit Jala. We want to note the connection between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. It is about promoting tourism, and bringing it up to the international level is our dream," he said as upbeat Christmas carols blared in English from a car with oversized loudspeakers.

In the end, some 80 locals and a few internationals took part in the run -- some came just for the fun while others came intent on winning. The Santa Run Facebook page was updated continuously throughout the event.

"This is great," said Elizabeth Purcell, 35, from Mt. Vernon, Illinois, whose husband works for the Baptist Church in Jerusalem. She was there with her three sons and two young friends visiting from the U.S. "If you just go to the church, you are not seeing what is really here. You don't get to meet the people if you don't go to something like this race or to a craft fair. You can see the energy here. It is energizing to see foreigners coming here. It is great for the Palestinian economy."

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just as she did hundreds of years ago from a small hill in Tepeyac, Mexico, Mary accompanies the downtrodden and the lowly like a mother caring for her children.Mary "is a woman who walks with the gentleness and tenderness of a mother, she makes her home in family life, she unties one knot after another of the many wrongs we manage to generate, and she teaches us to remain standing in the midst of storms," the pope said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.Processing into the basilica dressed in white, the symbol of purity, Pope Francis made his way to a replica of St. Juan Diego's tilma, which bears the image of Mary, who appeared to the indigenous saint in 1531. The pope stood before the image, bowing reverently and incensing it three times.In his homily, the pope reflected on the reading from St. Luke's Gospel, in which Mary hastily...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just as she did hundreds of years ago from a small hill in Tepeyac, Mexico, Mary accompanies the downtrodden and the lowly like a mother caring for her children.

Mary "is a woman who walks with the gentleness and tenderness of a mother, she makes her home in family life, she unties one knot after another of the many wrongs we manage to generate, and she teaches us to remain standing in the midst of storms," the pope said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Processing into the basilica dressed in white, the symbol of purity, Pope Francis made his way to a replica of St. Juan Diego's tilma, which bears the image of Mary, who appeared to the indigenous saint in 1531. The pope stood before the image, bowing reverently and incensing it three times.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the reading from St. Luke's Gospel, in which Mary hastily visits her cousin Elizabeth, and subsequently proclaims "the greatness of the Lord."

Through her Magnificat, the pope said, Mary teaches all Christian men and women not only the importance of praising God in the midst of joy, but also how to accompany and walk with others.

From houses and hospital rooms to prison cells and rehabilitation clinics, he added, Mary continues to utter those words she said to St. Juan Diego, "Am I not here who am your mother?"

"In Mary's school, we learn to be on the way to get to where we need to be: on our feet and standing before so many lives that have lost or have been robbed of hope," the pope said.

Mary, he continued, also teaches her children that problems are not solved with immediate responses and magical solutions, nor through "fantastic promises of pseudo-progress that, little by little, only succeeds in usurping cultural and family identities."

Instead, Christians learn from her the true joy that comes from loving God and neighbor unconditionally and to guard "the sense of God and his transcendence, the sacredness of life" and respect for creation, the pope said.

Mary, he added, taught humility by lifting up lowly people, like St. Juan Diego, by giving them a voice and "making them the protagonists of this, our history."

Pope Francis said that "through Mary, the Lord refutes the temptation of giving way to the strength of intimidation and power" and instead gives dignity to those who have been cast aside.

"The Lord does not seek selfish applause or worldly admiration. His glory is in making his children the protagonists of creation," the pope said. "With the heart of a mother, (Mary) seeks to raise up and dignify all those who, for different reasons and circumstances, were immersed in abandonment and obscurity."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No one should be afraid to turn to God with prayer, especially in times of great doubt, suffering and need, Pope Francis said.Jesus does not want people to become numb to life's problems and "extinguish" those things that make them human when they pray, the pope said Dec. 12 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI audience hall."He does not want us to smother our questions and requests, learning to put up with everything. Instead, he wants every pain, every apprehension to rise up to heaven and become a dialogue" with God, the father, he said.Continuing a new series of audience talks on the Our Father, the pope reflected on the simplicity of the prayer and the way it addresses God with intimate familiarity.With this prayer, Jesus shows an "audacious" way to address God immediately as "our Father" without any pomp and "preambles," the pope said."He ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No one should be afraid to turn to God with prayer, especially in times of great doubt, suffering and need, Pope Francis said.

Jesus does not want people to become numb to life's problems and "extinguish" those things that make them human when they pray, the pope said Dec. 12 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI audience hall.

"He does not want us to smother our questions and requests, learning to put up with everything. Instead, he wants every pain, every apprehension to rise up to heaven and become a dialogue" with God, the father, he said.

Continuing a new series of audience talks on the Our Father, the pope reflected on the simplicity of the prayer and the way it addresses God with intimate familiarity.

With this prayer, Jesus shows an "audacious" way to address God immediately as "our Father" without any pomp and "preambles," the pope said.

"He doesn't say to turn to God calling him 'O, the All-Powerful' or 'O, the One on high,' or 'O, You who are so far from us and I am the wretched one ....'"  

"No. He doesn't say that, but simply (uses) the word, 'Father,' with great simplicity, like children who turn to their daddy. This word, 'Father,' expresses intimacy, filial trust," he said.

The prayer invites people to pray in a way that "lets all the barriers of subjection and fear fall away," he added.

While the Our Father is rooted in "the concrete reality" of every human being, prayer, in essence, begins with life itself.

"Our first prayer, in a certain way, was the first wail that came with our first breath" as a , and it signals every human being's destiny: "our continual hunger, our continual thirst, our constant search for happiness."

Prayer is found wherever there is a deep hunger, longing, struggle and the question, "why?" Pope Francis said.

"Jesus does not want to extinguish (what is) human, he does not want to anesthetize" the person in prayer, he said. Jesus understands that having faith is being able to "cry out."

"We all should be like Bartimaeus in the Gospel," he said. This blind man in Jericho kept crying out to the Lord for help even though everyone around him told him to be quiet and not bother Jesus, who -- they felt -- ought not be disturbed because he was so busy.

Bartimaeus did not listen and only cried out louder "with holy insistence," the pope said. Jesus listened to his plea and told him his faith is what saved him.

The pope said this shows how the cry for healing is an essential part of salvation, because it shows the person has faith and hope and is "free from the desperation of those who do not believe there is a way out of so many unbearable situations."

"We can tell him everything, even those things in our life that are distorted and beyond comprehension. He promised us that he would always be with us," he said.

When greeting visitors at the end of the audience, the pope greeted all those from Mexico and Latin America, noting that Dec. 12 marked the feast "of our patroness," Our Lady of Guadalupe. He asked that she help people surrender themselves to God's love and to place all of their hope in him.

Before the audience, the pope blew out a few candles on a birthday cake a visitor had prepared for him. The pope will celebrate his 82nd birthday Dec. 17.

Greeting visitors at the end of the audience, the pope met with a delegation from Panama, representing the upcoming World Youth Day events in January, and he greeted a delegation of Austrian members of parliament who were marking the 200th anniversary of the song "Silent Night," whose melody was composed by an Austrian school teacher.

The pope said that "with its profound simplicity, this song helps us understand the event of that holy night. Jesus, the savior, born in Bethlehem, reveals to us the love of God the father."

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler OrsburnBy WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pro-life leaders said they were disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court declined Dec. 10 to hear appeals from Kansas and Louisiana on lower court rulings that have stopped the states from blocking Medicaid funds going to Planned Parenthood."Complicated legal arguments don't take away from the simple fact that a majority of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion," said Jeanne Mancini, who is president of March for Life."America's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is responsible for more than 300,000 abortions each year and was recently found to be involved with the harvesting and trafficking of body parts from aborted babies," she said in a statement issued shortly after the high court declined to hear the states' appeals."Abortion is not health care, it is a human rights abuse," Mancini added. "Until Planned Parenthood ceases to perform abortions, they should not receive any money...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pro-life leaders said they were disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court declined Dec. 10 to hear appeals from Kansas and Louisiana on lower court rulings that have stopped the states from blocking Medicaid funds going to Planned Parenthood.

"Complicated legal arguments don't take away from the simple fact that a majority of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion," said Jeanne Mancini, who is president of March for Life.

"America's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is responsible for more than 300,000 abortions each year and was recently found to be involved with the harvesting and trafficking of body parts from aborted babies," she said in a statement issued shortly after the high court declined to hear the states' appeals.

"Abortion is not health care, it is a human rights abuse," Mancini added. "Until Planned Parenthood ceases to perform abortions, they should not receive any money from taxpayers."

Federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortion, but pro-life advocates say Planned Parenthood should not get Medicaid funding because its facilities primarily perform abortions. Also, the organization has been accused of making a profit on providing fetal body parts to researchers.

Planned Parenthood officials and its supporters say the Medicaid funds are used only to help low-income women receive wellness services, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests and birth control.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, said that despite the Supreme Court declining to take the two states' appeals, the pro-life grassroots movement "will not stop fighting until every single tax dollar is untangled from the abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood."

She said the pro-life citizens of Kansas, Louisiana and other states "do not want Medicaid tax dollars used to prop up abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood."

"We support their right to redirect taxpayer funds away from entities that destroy innocent lives and instead fund comprehensive community health care alternatives that outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities at least 20 to one nationwide," Dannenfelser added.

The court issued the 6-3 order in the cases of Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast.

The three who dissented were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. New Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was in the majority; if the order had been 5-4, the court would have heard the appeals.

"So what explains the court's refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named 'Planned Parenthood,'" Thomas wrote in dissent. "That makes the court's decision particularly troubling, as the question presented has nothing to do with abortion."

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is a surgeon, said in a statement: "We regret today's decision from the U.S. Supreme Court announcing that it fell one vote short of taking our case against Planned Parenthood. My support of the pro-life movement will not be diminished by today's development, and I look forward to future victories in defense of the right to life."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican MediaBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God sends his consolation to those in need of reassurance, even when they are facing death, Pope Francis said.Just like the early Christian martyrs, who sang as they marched to their deaths in the Colosseum, today's martyrs still give witness to that same joy in the midst of suffering, the pope said in his homily Dec. 11 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae."I think of the good Coptic workers on the beach of Libya, slaughtered. They died saying, 'Jesus, Jesus!' There is a consolation within, a joy even in the moment of martyrdom," he said.In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading from the prophet Isaiah, in which God sends his messenger to "give comfort to my people" and "speak tenderly to Jerusalem."This tenderness, the pope explained, is "a language that the prophets of doom do not know.""It is a word erased from all the vices that dri...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God sends his consolation to those in need of reassurance, even when they are facing death, Pope Francis said.

Just like the early Christian martyrs, who sang as they marched to their deaths in the Colosseum, today's martyrs still give witness to that same joy in the midst of suffering, the pope said in his homily Dec. 11 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"I think of the good Coptic workers on the beach of Libya, slaughtered. They died saying, 'Jesus, Jesus!' There is a consolation within, a joy even in the moment of martyrdom," he said.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading from the prophet Isaiah, in which God sends his messenger to "give comfort to my people" and "speak tenderly to Jerusalem."

This tenderness, the pope explained, is "a language that the prophets of doom do not know."

"It is a word erased from all the vices that drive us away from the Lord: clerical vices, the vices of a few Christians who do not move, who are lukewarm. They are afraid of tenderness," he said.

However, tenderness is precisely what God uses to console his people, like a shepherd who carries a lamb or a mother comforting her child, the pope said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to prepare for Christmas by praying for God's consolation, especially in times of suffering, "because it is a gift from God."

God, he said, "is at the door. He knocks so that we may open our hearts and let ourselves be consoled and be at peace. And he does so gently: he knocks with caresses."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Luisa Gonzalez, ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican praised the adoption by more than 160 nations of a key agreement on global migration, saying today's migration challenges are better tackled together than with "isolationist" stances.The U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration "includes a comprehensive framework of best practices and policy instruments to increase international cooperation and sharing of responsibility in the governance of migration," Cardinal Pietro Parolin, head of the Vatican delegation, told government leaders.The agreement, which is not legally binding, gives countries "the space to respond to their national circumstances and priorities, in full respect of international law and of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status," he said at the gathering Dec. 10."Its implementation will help all governments, as well as nongovernmental entities, including fa...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luisa Gonzalez, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican praised the adoption by more than 160 nations of a key agreement on global migration, saying today's migration challenges are better tackled together than with "isolationist" stances.

The U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration "includes a comprehensive framework of best practices and policy instruments to increase international cooperation and sharing of responsibility in the governance of migration," Cardinal Pietro Parolin, head of the Vatican delegation, told government leaders.

The agreement, which is not legally binding, gives countries "the space to respond to their national circumstances and priorities, in full respect of international law and of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status," he said at the gathering Dec. 10.

"Its implementation will help all governments, as well as nongovernmental entities, including faith-based organizations, collectively to manage migration in a more safe, orderly and regular manner, something no state can achieve alone," said the cardinal, who is the Vatican secretary of state. The Vatican released a copy of the cardinal's remarks Dec. 11.

More than 160 nations formally adopted the agreement Dec. 10 at an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Chile and a handful of European countries were among more than a dozen nations that did not support the pact and its provisions.

Cardinal Parolin noted the refusal of some nations to take part in the conference or in the process of drafting the agreement. The Vatican, however, "is convinced that the enormous challenges that migration poses are best faced through multilateral processes rather than isolationist policies," he said.

While the Vatican supported the compact, he said, it will present "its reservations in due time, specifically on those documents in the compact that contain terminology, principles and guidelines that are not agreed language, including certain ideological interpretations of human rights that do not recognize the inherent value and dignity of human life at every stage of its beginning, development and end."

Nonetheless, the global compact is still is a "significant advance in the international community's shared responsibility to act in solidarity with people on the move, especially those who find themselves in very precarious situations," he said, as it allows states to "improve their respective migration policies and, together, the international management of migration."

"As we have seen in recent years," he said, when challenges "are not managed well, crises can form, rhetoric can eclipse reason, and migrants can be seen more as threats than as brothers and sisters in need of solidarity and basic services."

"The Global Compact on Migration attempts to assist the international community to prevent crises and tragedies," he said. "At the same time, it also seeks to improve the governance of migration, which is bound to increase as the international community grows more economically, socially and politically interconnected."

The United Nations estimates that there are over 258 million migrants around the world living outside their country of birth, and, it said, that figure is expected to grow. The compact arose from the awareness that a more global and comprehensive approach was needed to promote the benefits of migration and tackle the risks and challenges facing individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.

During a dialogue session at the Marrakech conference, discussing concrete ways to create partnerships and implement the pact, Cardinal Parolin said the Vatican urged the international community to help address the root causes of migration by being committed to fostering peace and development around the world.

While it is important to help make migration voluntary and safe, orderly and regular, people still should have the right not to migrate, he said.

Because the compact states, "We must work together to create conditions that allow communities and individuals to live in safety and dignity in their own countries," adequate responses must be given "to the adverse drivers of migration, most especially, violent conflicts and extreme poverty," he said.

"Situations of violence, inhumane living conditions, and economic hardship, as well as natural disasters and environmental degradation, affect not only those countries where they arise but also those countries of transit and destination," he said.

It requires more than just providing international development assistance and humanitarian aid, he said. It "also involves the commitment to the integral human development of every individual, providing each person with the basic conditions and opportunities to live a decent life.

"Few would leave if they had access to jobs, education, health care and other basic goods and services that are fundamental to every person's fulfillment and basic well-being. Also essential to stability are the fundamental rights to be able to practice one's religion freely, without fear of persecution or discrimination, as well as the right to political participation and freedom of expression," Cardinal Parolin said.

The other commitment the Vatican would like to emphasize, he said, is making sure all migrants, regardless of their status, "be guaranteed due process and receive an individual assessment that will determine their status."

"In the case of children and victims of trafficking, such measures are crucial if we are to respond adequately to their needs and be sure that they not find themselves in the very same situation that they sought to leave behind," he said.

Countries must also promote policies that favor family reunification and "prevent their separation throughout the migration process, while working toward ending the practice of detention, particularly of minors," he added.

Since migration very likely will continue in the coming years, "we consider it necessary to widen the regular and sure channels of emigration through generous and responsible policies, inspired by solidarity and co-responsibility," he said. 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican MediaBy Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis made surprise visits Dec. 7 and 8 to people receiving medical care far from their homes, to a dozen intellectually challenged young people and to the staff of a major Rome newspaper.The late-afternoon visits Dec. 7 to the CasAmica residence for families with a member needing long-term medical care far from home and to Il Ponte e l'Albero, a therapeutic rehabilitation home, were part of the pope's continuing "Mercy Friday" activities.Pope Francis began the Friday visits to hospitals, clinics, schools and residential communities during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy to demonstrate that mercy involves concrete acts of kindness and solidarity.Both the CasAmica and Il Ponte e l'Albero are on the extreme southern edge of Rome.The Vatican said most of the guests at the CasAmica are Italian families, mostly from the south, who cannot afford to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment while their family members are rec...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis made surprise visits Dec. 7 and 8 to people receiving medical care far from their homes, to a dozen intellectually challenged young people and to the staff of a major Rome newspaper.

The late-afternoon visits Dec. 7 to the CasAmica residence for families with a member needing long-term medical care far from home and to Il Ponte e l'Albero, a therapeutic rehabilitation home, were part of the pope's continuing "Mercy Friday" activities.

Pope Francis began the Friday visits to hospitals, clinics, schools and residential communities during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy to demonstrate that mercy involves concrete acts of kindness and solidarity.

Both the CasAmica and Il Ponte e l'Albero are on the extreme southern edge of Rome.

The Vatican said most of the guests at the CasAmica are Italian families, mostly from the south, who cannot afford to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment while their family members are receiving treatment for cancer, leukemia or other serious illnesses. A few of the families, though, come from North Africa and from Eastern Europe.

"The pope rang the doorbell and was welcomed by the personnel on duty, who were dumbstruck at the unexpected visit," the Vatican said. Some of the guests were in the kitchen and some children were in the playroom. "The Holy Father stopped to play and joke with them" before listening to the parents of some sick children and offering them words of comfort.

The visit to Il Ponte e l'Albero came in response to a letter from some of the young people describing "the daily difficulties that come from their mental disadvantages," as well as their desire and efforts to follow the programs their doctors have designed for them.

According to a Vatican statement, the pope sat with the young people, listened to them, responded to their questions and encouraged them. The parents of some of the young people heard the pope was there and arrived in time to embrace him and thank him for the visit.

His visit to the newspaper, Il Messaggero, Dec. 8 also came in response to an invitation. The newspaper is marking its 140th anniversary.

Pope Francis stopped at the newspaper's headquarters in the center of Rome just after leading prayers for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In a video of the visit, posted by the newspaper, Pope Francis confirmed Il Messaggero is his preferred daily paper, even though, he said, "I've been advised against" reading it by some people.

"I wish you the best -- another 140 years," he told the staff.

Pope Francis said journalism should be a service, "explaining things without exaggeration, always looking for the concrete."

Discover the facts, report them and then comment on them, he said. "This is the kind of information we all need."

 

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IMAGE: CNS photo/EPABy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God's plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said.In a message read Dec. 8 at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs' commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war.Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, celebrated the Mass in Oran, Algeria, for the martyrs who were killed between 1994 and 1996.Both Christians and Muslims in Algeria "have been victims of the same violence for having lived, with faithfulness and respect for each other, their duties as believers and citizens in this blessed land. It is for them, too, that we pray and express our gr...

IMAGE: CNS photo/EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God's plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said.

In a message read Dec. 8 at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs' commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, celebrated the Mass in Oran, Algeria, for the martyrs who were killed between 1994 and 1996.

Both Christians and Muslims in Algeria "have been victims of the same violence for having lived, with faithfulness and respect for each other, their duties as believers and citizens in this blessed land. It is for them, too, that we pray and express our grateful tribute," the pope said.

Among those who were beatified were Blessed Christian de Cherge and six of his fellow Trappists -- Fathers Christophe Lebreton, Bruno Lemarchand and Celestin Ringeard as well as Brothers Luc Dochier, Michel Fleury and Paul Favre-Miville -- who were murdered in 1996 by members of the Armed Islamic Group in Tibhirine, Algeria.

Their life and deaths were the subject of the movie "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

Several months after their deaths, Blessed Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, was assassinated along with his driver by an explosive device. According to the website of the Dominican Order of Preachers, his death was mourned also by Muslims who considered him "their bishop."

Pope Francis said that all Algerians are heirs of the great message of love that began with St. Augustine of Hippo and continued with the martyred religious men and women "at a time when all people are seeking to advance their aspiration to live together in peace."

"By beatifying our 19 brothers and sisters, the church wishes to bear witness to her desire to continue to work for dialogue, harmony and friendship," the pope said. "We believe that this event, which is unprecedented in your country, will draw a great sign of brotherhood in the Algerian sky for the whole world."

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- In the heart of Rome, near streets of fancy shops already blinged out for Christmas shopping, Pope Francis prayed for Romans struggling to survive and for families in the city and around the world who face the same lack of welcome that Mary and Joseph experienced.The pope concluded his public celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, by making the traditional papal visit to a statue of Mary erected in Rome's historic center to honor Catholic teaching that Mary was conceived without sin.The statue is located near the Spanish Steps and Rome's most expensive clothing and jewelry stores; it is also next to the building housing the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.Instead of making a speech near the statue, the pope composes and reads a prayer, and he leaves a basket of roses at the statue's base.In the prayer addressed to Mary, he said, "In this Advent time, thinking of the days whe...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- In the heart of Rome, near streets of fancy shops already blinged out for Christmas shopping, Pope Francis prayed for Romans struggling to survive and for families in the city and around the world who face the same lack of welcome that Mary and Joseph experienced.

The pope concluded his public celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, by making the traditional papal visit to a statue of Mary erected in Rome's historic center to honor Catholic teaching that Mary was conceived without sin.

The statue is located near the Spanish Steps and Rome's most expensive clothing and jewelry stores; it is also next to the building housing the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Instead of making a speech near the statue, the pope composes and reads a prayer, and he leaves a basket of roses at the statue's base.

In the prayer addressed to Mary, he said, "In this Advent time, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious for the imminent birth of your baby, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your village, Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem -- you know what it means to carry life in your womb and sense around you indifference, rejection and sometimes contempt.

"So, I ask you to be close to the families who today in Rome, in Italy and throughout the world are living in similar situations," the pope continued. He asked Mary to intervene "so that they would not be abandoned, but safeguarded with their rights, human rights that come before every other, even legitimate, demand," an apparent reference to rights of migrants and refugees and the right of nations to control their borders.

Earlier, under brilliantly sunny skies, some 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square to recite the midday Angelus prayer with Pope Francis.

Before leading the prayer, he offered a meditation on the Bible readings for the day's feast, highlighting the difference between Adam, who sinned and then hid from God, and Mary, who was conceived without sin and offered her life totally to doing God's will.

"The 'Here I am' opens one to God, while sin closes, isolates, keeps one alone with oneself," the pope said.

"'Here I am' is the key to life," he said. "It marks the passage from a horizontal life focused on oneself and one's own needs, to a vertical life, reaching toward God."

Openness to God and to doing God's will "is the cure for selfishness, the antidote to an unsatisfying life where something is always missing. 'Here I am' is the remedy to the aging of sin, the therapy for remaining young at heart."

"Why don't we begin each day with a 'Here I am, Lord'? It would be beautiful to say each morning, 'Here I am, Lord, may your will be done in me today,'" he said.

Turning one's life over to God and to doing his will does not mean life will be free of troubles and problems, he said. Mary's wasn't.

"Being with God does not magically resolve problems," he said.

In fact, the pope said, for Mary the problems began immediately. "Think about her situation, which according to the law, was irregular, and the torment of St. Joseph, the life plans that were overturned, what people would say. But Mary put her trust in God."

The "wise attitude" of Mary, which all Christians should try to imitate, is not to concentrate on the succession of life's problems -- "one ends and another presents itself" -- but to trust in God and entrust oneself to him each day, Pope Francis said.

 

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The annual unveiling of the Vatican's Christmas tree and Nativity scene brought some much-needed warmth to people's hearts as winter approached.Hundreds of people in St. Peter's Square Dec. 7 applauded as white curtains unfurled, revealing a 52-foot wide artistic representation of Jesus' birth made entirely of sand and dubbed the "Sand Nativity."The bas-relief sculpture, which weighed over 700 tons, was made with sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.Shortly after, as the sun set behind St. Peter's Basilica, the sounds of "Silent Night" filled the square before the lights of the Vatican's towering Christmas tree were lit.The 42-foot-tall red spruce tree, donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony.Among those present at the annual Christmas tree...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The annual unveiling of the Vatican's Christmas tree and Nativity scene brought some much-needed warmth to people's hearts as winter approached.

Hundreds of people in St. Peter's Square Dec. 7 applauded as white curtains unfurled, revealing a 52-foot wide artistic representation of Jesus' birth made entirely of sand and dubbed the "Sand Nativity."

The bas-relief sculpture, which weighed over 700 tons, was made with sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.

Shortly after, as the sun set behind St. Peter's Basilica, the sounds of "Silent Night" filled the square before the lights of the Vatican's towering Christmas tree were lit.

The 42-foot-tall red spruce tree, donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony.

Among those present at the annual Christmas tree lighting were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice; and Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Concordia-Pordenone.

The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, responsible respectively for the 2018 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are visible signs that "help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who was made man in order to be close to us."

The bright lights emanating from the Christmas tree, he explained, "remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity and makes room for forgiveness."

The soaring height of the Christmas tree, he added, also symbolizes "God who -- through the birth of his son, Jesus -- came down to man to raise him to himself and elevate him from the fog of selfishness and sin."

Pope Francis also reflected on the unique composition of the Nativity scene. Sand, he said, is a poor material that "recalls the simplicity, the littleness and frailty with which God show himself through the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem."

"The child Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, littleness, simplicity and humility," the pope said. "By contemplating the God-child who emanates light in the humility of the manger, we, too, can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness."

Kicking off preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ was special exhibition in the morning of over 100 different Nativity scenes at the Vatican. The event, now in its 43rd edition, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Dubbed "100 Cribs at the Vatican," the Dec. 7-Jan. 13 exhibition featured a wide variety of artistic representations depicting Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

In a statement promoting the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the pontifical council, said the exhibition of different Nativity scenes -- a tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi -- was "a strong instrument of evangelization."

"So many people stop every Christmas before the mystery of God made man, represented with figurines -- which in many cases are authentic masterpieces of art -- to pray, to reflect and to discover the love of God who became a child for us."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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