April 1, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA
Pope passes on apartments
With a warm embrace, a helping hand, shared prayer, a long discussion and lunch together, Pope Francis spent several hours with retired Pope Benedict XVI March 23 at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. The two exchanged gifts — Pope Francis gave Pope Benedict an icon of Mary and Jesus that the Russian Orthodox delegation to his inauguration had given him just a few days earlier. Pope Francis traveled by helicopter from the Vatican. The retired pope moved with much greater difficulty than he did a month ago. Walking with a cane, he took smaller and slower steps to Castel Gandolfo for the private meeting.
Pope on Palm Sunday
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass as pope March 24, telling an overflow crowd in St. Peter's Square that Christ's death on the cross is a source of eternal consolation and joy. "A Christian can never be sad. Never give way to discouragement," the pope said in his homily, assuring listeners that with Jesus, "We are never alone, even at difficult moments, even at difficult moments when our life's journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them."
Meditate on God's patience
VATICAN CITY — Continuing to invite Vatican employees to morning Mass, Pope Francis told the head of the Vatican health service and members of the photography staff of the Vatican newspaper to keep in mind throughout Holy Week just how patient God is. "The patience of God is a mystery," Pope Francis said in his homily March 25 at the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he is staying. "We do so many things, but he is patient."
Cardinal Levada prays
ASSISI, Italy — When U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada walked through the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi March 23, he took a moment to gaze at the fresco of the 11th-century saint who inspired the new pope's name. The retired prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said he made the journey to pray for the papal ministry of Pope Francis. "When I was in the Sistine Chapel and the Holy Father announced that he had chosen the name Francis, I thought, 'Now I must go to Assisi as soon as I can ... so I can ask the intercession of his patron saint — Italy's patron saint — for his new Petrine ministry,'" Cardinal Levada said.
VATICAN CITY — Moral relativism "endangers the coexistence of peoples," Pope Francis told diplomats March 22, and said a common ethics based on human nature is an indispensable condition for world peace. The pope made his remarks to the Vatican diplomatic corps in the Apostolic Palace's Sala Regia, the vast "royal hall" where popes traditionally received Catholic monarchs. Recalling the love of the poor practiced by his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the pope lamented both material poverty and the "spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the 'dictatorship of relativism,' which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples."
Pope skipped barbecues
VATICAN CITY — Even though Pope Francis is very close to his family, he would often skip their barbecues to spend Sundays or holidays in Buenos Aires' slums, the pope's sister said. "That's the way he is: totally devoted to the mission of a priest; he is the pastor of the least," said Maria Elena Bergoglio. The youngest of five, Bergoglio, 65, is the pope's only surviving sibling, said a report in the Italian Catholic newspaper, Avvenire, March 19.
WASHINGTON — Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, former president of Regis University in Denver, will succeed Jesuit Father Gregory Lucey as president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, effective April 1. Father Lucey will return to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., as its chancellor. Father Sheeran's tenure as president of Regis ended last June. During his 20 years at the helm, the university's student enrollment doubled.
'Right to life' measure
BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Legislature voted March 22 to put a referendum on the 2014 ballot that would amend the state constitution to say that "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected." Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, said: "It doesn't ban abortion. It doesn't ban anything. It does provide an expression of legislative intent that would make it clear, hopefully, that there is not a right to an abortion in the state constitution and give courts guidance for interpreting state laws regarding life."
Girls, boys play football
PHILADELPHIA — Come the fall, girls will be allowed to play full-contact football with boys on Catholic Youth Organization teams in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the archdiocesan Communications Office announced March 14. Despite the recommendation of an expert panel to continue the current CYO policy that prohibits girls from playing football, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput decided to allow girls to participate after also weighing feedback from individuals who were "both critical and supportive of the policy," said the statement.
Colorado OKs civil unions
DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper March 21 signed into law a civil unions bill for same-sex couples that Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said "harms families, civil liberties and the natural rights of all Colorado's children." The measure was approved by the state House March 12 and went to Hickenlooper for his signature. The Senate had passed it in February.
Judge's order affects liberty
ST. LOUIS — A federal judge's decision to strike down portions of a Missouri law protecting conscience rights of those who object to coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients in their health plans attacks the conscience rights and religious liberty of all Missouri citizens, said the state's Catholic conference. Judge Audrey Fleissig of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis issued her order March 14.
U.S. risks soul
LOS ANGELES — The archbishop of Los Angeles called upon the United States to remember the humanity of men, women and children in the country illegally or risk losing its soul. Addressing the city's Jewish community March 19, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said the time has come for the U.S. to adopt comprehensive immigration to provide undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship.
WASHINGTON — An organization called WorldPriest is offering a pilgrimage for priests and their parishioners and friends from around the world to experience the cultural heritage and spirituality of the Emerald Isle as part of "Gathering Ireland 2013." The Gathering is a government initiative to encourage people from around the globe with Irish heritage or who are "honorary Irish" to come back to Ireland and celebrate their Irish roots.
Hope for canonization
SAN SALVADOR — Salvadoran clergy are hopeful that the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980, during El Salvador's civil war, will move forward under the church's first Latin American pope. "We are in the best of circumstances. The time is ripe for a final verdict," Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador said.
Church must cross lines
CAIRO — Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak said rising social and economic troubles since the revolution are leading to the despair and emigration of the country's Christians and Muslims alike, and that his church must work across sectarian lines to restore "lost confidence" in the predominantly Muslim North African nation.
Convert leaves church
VATICAN CITY — A well-known Egyptian-born Italian citizen baptized into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI after being raised in a Muslim family announced his journey with Catholicism had ended with the resignation of the pope who baptized him. "The factor more than any other that has led me from the church is religious relativism and particularly giving legitimacy to Islam as a true religion," Magdi Cristiano Allam wrote March 25 in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.
Bishop does not despair
ROME — Ministering in a time of war in his hometown, the Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Syria, said: "Deep down, I'm not frightened, I'm not scared. I'm sad. Syria was, is and will be a beautiful country," he said. "Please help us." Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo said that, just two years ago, Syria was considered a land of plenty, a welcoming Middle Eastern country that offered shelter to refugees fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries, particularly Iraq. "Syrians are now poor," he said at a meeting March 21 after celebrating a Mass for peace in Syria at Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
— Catholic News Service
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