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These six priorities for our Church’s life and mission are: Evangelization,Ongoing Faith Formation, Liturgy and Worship, Building and Sustaining Community, Justice and Peace and Strengthening the Unity of our Diocese.

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Updated: 1 year 18 weeks ago

Grow Hope Saskatchewan launches another growing year: partnership with donors and farmers helps to feed the hungry of the world

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 12:17

Catholic Saskatoon News

Grow Hope Saskatchewan, a joint project of MCC Saskatchewan and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. recently announced the official launch of the Grow Hope Saskatchewan growing season.

For two years, farmers, donors and advocates have walked alongside Grow Hope Saskatchewan to help feed people around the world, with proceeds going to Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Grow Hope offers an opportunity to be a “virtual” farmer by sponsoring an acre of Saskatchewan farm land. This year, those who sponsor an acre before June 30, 2020 will receive a packet of flax seed (courtesy of SaskFlax) to grow from home.

“This year the need is especially pronounced as the UN World Food Program has brought to our attention that many more people will face food shortages during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Myron Rogal of the diocesan Justice and Peace Office.

“Donating to Grow Hope is far from a passive action, it turns donors into stakeholders as they invest in their own food security and that of those in greatest need,” said Rogal.

Visit www.growhopesk.ca for more information or to sponsor an acre, a partial acre, or more. You can also find information about this year’s farmers, including Michelle and Brian Hergott of Bruno, SK.

Brian and Michelle Hergott have been farming in the Bruno area since 1983. They have committed acres to Grow Hope Saskatchewan for a second consecutive year. When asked why they wanted to become involved they responded: “Grow Hope is really an answered prayer. For years we have expressed a desire to help others and we are farmers.  So our biggest opportunity and gift to give is by farming. In our eyes it is a ‘win-win’ opportunity!”

Related: Grow Hope partnerships are helping to feed hungry people around the world

How it works: Generous farmers in Saskatchewan have donated land and agreed to grow a crop for Grow Hope Saskatchewan. It costs $300 per acre to provide seed, fertilizer, fuel and other inputs. You are invited to sponsor a partial acre, full acre or multiple acres to help cover these costs. After harvest, the farmers will sell the crop and donate the proceeds to Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The proceeds from the sale of the crop can be as much as $500 per acre. The government of Canada matches funds up to 4:1, creating a total contribution of up to $762,500 on 305 acres. In other words, a donation of $300 can grow in value up to $500, and then be matched up to $2,500 per acre.

During the growing season, sponsors will receive field updates along with resources to help you learn more about farming and hunger in the developing world or follow Grow Hope Saskatchewan on Facebook.

For more information, please contact Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon at mrogal@rcdos.ca.

 

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Pope Francis remembers 25 years of ‘Ut unum sint,’ John Paul II’s letter on ecumenism

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:44

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA) – Pope Francis recalled Ut unum sint, St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism, on the 25th anniversary of its publication May 25.

St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on commitment to ecumenism, entitled Ut unum sint “confirmed ‘irrevocably’ the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church,” Pope Francis said.

In a letter to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Holy Father said that St. John Paul II “desired that the Church, on her journey towards the third millennium, should be ever mindful of the heartfelt prayer of her Teacher and Lord ‘that all may be one.’”

The encyclical Ut unum sint was published on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, May 25, 1995, “placing it under the sign of the Holy Spirit, the creator of unity in diversity,” Pope Francis noted.

“In that same liturgical and spiritual context, we now commemorate it, and propose it once more to the People of God,” he added.

In his letter, Pope Francis quoted Ut unum sint, saying it reaffirmed that “legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church’s unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission.”

“Indeed, ‘only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity… It is he who brings harmony to the Church,’” he continued quoting.

Pope Francis said, “one thing is certain: unity is not chiefly the result of our activity, but a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“On this anniversary, I give thanks to the Lord for the journey he has allowed us to travel as Christians in quest of full communion.”

“I too share the healthy impatience of those who sometimes think that we can and should do more,” he stated. “Yet we should not be lacking in faith and gratitude: many steps have been taken in these decades to heal the wounds of centuries and millennia.”

Pope Francis explained that in this time mutual knowledge and esteem have grown, helping to overcome prejudice, and that theological dialogue has developed.

Speaking about the leaders of the different Christian churches and communities, he prayed that “like the disciples of Emmaus, may we experience the presence of the risen Christ who walks at our side and explains the Scriptures to us. May we recognize him in the breaking of the bread, as we await the day when we shall share the Eucharistic table together.”

In his letter, the Holy Father also expressed his gratitude for those working in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity who keep the “awareness of this irrevocable goal alive in the Church.”

Pope Francis also highlighted two new initiatives of the office: the Acta Œcumenica journal and an ecumenical vademecum for bishops, to be published in the fall “as an encouragement and guide for the exercise of their ecumenical responsibilities.”

“With confidence, then, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and to enable everyone to hear the call to work for the cause of ecumenism with renewed vigor,” he urged.

“May the Spirit inspire new prophetic gestures and strengthen fraternal charity among all Christ’s disciples, ‘that the world may believe’ (Jn 17:21), to the ever greater praise of our Father in heaven.”

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Pope Francis to return to window overlooking St. Peter’s Square for Sunday prayer

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:34

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA) – Pope Francis will deliver his Regina Caeli address from the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020, for the first time since coronavirus restrictions were imposed in March.

In a statement May 26, the Holy See press office said that on May 31 the pope would recite the Regina Caeli (the Queen of Heaven antiphons addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary) with pilgrims gathered in the square below.

“Regina caeli laetare, alleluia / quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia / ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia”

“The police will guarantee safe access to the square and will ensure that the faithful present can respect the necessary interpersonal distance,” said the Holy See press statement.

Traditionally, the pope leads the Sunday Angelus– and the Regina Caeli, between Easter Sunday and Pentecost – from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

But from March 8 onwards, Pope Francis delivered his address via videolink from the library of the Apostolic Palace, and offered a blessing from the window above an empty St. Peter’s Square.

People were allowed in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s Sunday blessing for the first time in more than 10 weeks on Sunday, May 24 after Italy significantly loosened its coronavirus restrictions.

Each person who entered the square was required to wear a face mask and security enforced social distancing for the people gathered outside of St. Peter’s Basilica, which reopened to the public May 18.

The Holy See press office said that before the May 31 Regina Caeli, the pope would celebrate a Pentecost Mass, without the presence of the people, in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Religious and social justice groups call for a just society in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:17

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Some 150 Catholic and other religious organizations, environmental, social justice and labour groups across the country have joined together to pledge support for six “Principles for a Just Recovery” that they hope will influence what a post-COVID-19 Canada looks like.

“Recovery efforts must support the transition to a more equitable, sustainable and diversified economy, and not entrench outdated economic and social systems that jeopardize the health and wellbeing of people, worsen the climate crisis, or perpetuate the exploitation or oppression of people,” said a media release announcing the “Just Recovery for All” campaign launched by the Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

“The COVID crisis has revealed the primary importance of the health and safety of all people, as a human rights and collective wellbeing issue. Relief efforts so far have shown that things we’ve been told aren’t possible, actually are once we prioritize them,” states the release.

The six principles put forward by the coalition emphasize a more environmentally sustainable economy and increased emphasis on reconciliation with First Nations. The principles are:

  1. Put people’s health and wellbeing first, no exceptions.
  2. Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people.
  3. Prioritize the needs of workers and communities.
  4. Build resilience to prevent future crises.
  5. Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations, and borders.
  6. Uphold Indigenous Rights and Work in Partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

“COVID-19 has laid bare what we already knew about the precarity and inequity of our existing systems: millions were already living in poverty; climate change was already affecting northern communities’ access to food; a lack of affordable housing stock was already barring newcomers to Canada from successful economic integration; and inadequate funding and disputes between levels of government left many Indigenous communities without the healthcare they need,” said a May 25 statement released by the Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), which has endorsed the “Just Recovery” campaign.

CPJ, a faith-based social justice advocacy group based in Ottawa, said “we appreciate the federal government’s ambition and responsiveness in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This moment is showing what is possible when governments act with resolve to prioritize people’s health and well-being.”

“As we move from crisis to recovery, CPJ’s long-standing call for the development of a resilient, diversified green economy built on the principles of equity and justice is more relevant than ever,” said CPJ’s senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn.

“The impact of the (COVID-19) virus, though devastating, has created a space for all members of society to contemplate how to build back better, recognizing the interconnectedness of all of creation, honouring Indigenous wisdom, and respecting the limits of the atmosphere.”

The timing of the release of the six “Just Recovery” principles comes on the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si: On the Care for our Common Home.

Louise Royer, director of the Social Action Ministry Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal, said endorsing the “Just Recovery” principles is a continuation of what the Catholic Church has been preaching for years.

“These are all things that we have been working for,” Royer told the Canadian Catholic News. “These are all things that are similar to Catholic principles.”

The Social Action Ministry Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal’s mission statement is to “invite the People of God to participate in initiatives which embody the principles of the Church’s social teaching: respect for human dignity, promoting the common good, a preferential option for the poor, solidarity, and care for creation.”

Related article: Religious orders in Canada among those calling for cleaner economy

The “Just Recovery” campaign also comes as a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was released on May 25 from Catholics for Climate Action that calls on Canadian governments to address global climate change more aggressively.

Joe Gunn, executive director of Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice, which is based at the Catholic Saint Paul University in Ottawa, said it is important for people of faith to work with other civil groups to foster change in Canadian society.

“To be effective promotors of social change, to have impact as we move from words to actions, it’s really important for faith-based organizations to collaborate with larger movements in civil society,” Gunn said. “The work that went into developing these six principles is a fine start.

“And today’s release of a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from Catholics for Climate Action, with over 650 signatures, is a further and more concrete indication of how we might shape a more-inclusive, greener and more equitable post-pandemic Canada,” he said.

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Refugee advocates say blocking asylum seekers from crossing border puts lives at risk

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 09:35

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – The federal government’s decision to extend strict guidelines that block all but “essential” travel between the United States and Canada until at least June 21 has disappointed refugee and migrant advocates who have been calling on the federal government to ease those restrictions.

A recent open letter from Amnesty International Canada to Prime Minister Justine Trudeau and the federal government stated: “If your government were to lift the current restrictions, allow refugee claimants to cross into Canada to seek protection and implement the same measures which are applicable to other essential cross-border travel (namely, quarantine and testing as appropriate) you would set the example that is so urgently needed on the world stage.”

“You would make it clear that there should be no choice between protecting refugees and protecting public health; the two can and must go hand in hand,” continued the May 13 letter asking the government to make it easier for refugees to get into Canada at this time.

Making it easier for refugees and migrants to get into Canada from the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a been an ongoing issue for some religious and social justice groups since the strict restrictions on entry into Canada from the United States were first enacted in March. The restrictions have since been extended twice.

When the border crossing restrictions were first extended in April, the federal government did ease some restrictions for refugees by allowing unaccompanied minors and people who already have family in Canada to apply for refuge at regular border crossings.

But along with blocking most refugee claims at the border, the federal government has consistently maintained a policy that all people trying to cross into Canada at irregular crossing points will automatically be turned back over to U.S. officials, a situation that refugee advocates say puts their lives at risk.

Jesuit Refugee Services-Canada director Norbert Piché said it is not surprising that the border closure between Canada and the United States was extended considering the number of cases in the United States and the situation in Quebec and Ontario, which are the two hardest hit provinces when it comes COVID-19 cases and deaths. But he said that doesn’t mean Canada should turn its back on asylum seekers at this time.

“Refugees have a right to safety and all indications are that this is not the case south of the Canadian border,” he said. “It is time to do something while they are still healthy, for example, quarantine measures exist at the Lacolle border crossing.”

The call for the federal government to do more to open up the border to refugee claims from the United States is echoed by the religion-based advocacy organization Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

“We are dismayed that the government has not eased the restrictions for asylum seekers in relation to how they apply at the border for possible refugee claims,” said Stephen Kaduuli, a refugee policy analyst with CPJ.

“With what asylum seekers endure in the U.S., Canada should continue showing compassion and global leadership in the protection of refugees,” Kaduuli said.

“It is important that Canada continues abiding by its commitments to international humanitarian and human rights law. Sending irregular border-crossers back into the U.S. risks putting them into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and endangers their lives,” he said, adding that “fleeing to protect their lives” should be considered “essential” travel.

“Canada should continue allowing them to cross while at the same time implementing public health measures like enforcing the 14-day quarantine that applies to other essential cross-border travel,” Kaduuli said.

Closing the Canadian and U.S. border to all but essential travel is supported by the vast majority of Canadians according to opinion polls. An Angus Reid Institute survey released May 22 indicates that most Canadians want strict border crossing measures to remain in place well beyond the recent extension that lasts until June 21.

“Given the choice of three alternative timelines, two-in-five Canadians (42%) would keep the border closed until September, one-quarter would close it until the end of the year, and 13 per cent would extend the closure into 2021,” the Angus Reid report said, adding only 19 per cent of Canadians supported opening the border after June 21.

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Public celebration of Mass slowly resumes in diocese of Saskatoon as COVID-19 restrictions are eased

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 08:37

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Some parishes across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon welcomed small groups of worshippers for Mass on Ascension Sunday May 24, following new directives from Bishop Mark Hagemoen issued in accord with public health requirements related to slowing transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Other parishes have yet to start the process of permitting small groups of up to 10 people to celebrate Mass or other events, as they discern the best way to protect health and safety through cleaning, distancing, and an attendance process for their particular community. Some parishes may not be able to begin celebrations, given the age and health of their pastor or other local factors.

Meanwhile, with a general dispensation from attending Sunday Mass still in place, a number of priests in the diocese continue to live-stream celebrations of the Eucharist and provide other online faith resources, with videos posted at saskatoonmass.com

Fr. Matthew Ramsay of Saint Anne parish, Saskatoon, presides at daily Mass on Friday, May 22, the day that parishes in the diocese were again able to welcome small numbers (under 10) to public celebrations. (Photo: screen capture from live-stream feed, Catholic Saskatoon News)

At the Cathedral of the Holy Family May 24, Mass with Bishop Mark Hagemoen was live-streamed as usual, followed by three more celebrations that morning, with 10 people present at each gathering. In comments at the conclusion of Mass, the bishop provided a summary about the decision announced earlier in a letter to the faithful.

Bishop Hagemoen highlights the phase-in process for the diocese:

“We will begin effective this Sunday slowly phasing in in accord with the directives of the health authorities and government authorities regarding activity in our parishes,” the bishop announced, highlighting the diocese’s “full support” for the government and health care directives.

“The government of Saskatchewan also recently updated those directives, and effective the third week of June we will see another phase in which we can increase slightly the numbers who are able to come to different activities in our churches, and I will certainly announce those in due course,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

Just as the government is phasing-in public activity across the province, the diocese is also phasing-in different levels of activity in the life of parishes, including gathering for Holy Eucharist, he said.

“Effective for the next couple of weeks we will gather up to the limit of 10 people for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and weekdays. These directives have already been given to the parishes,” explained the bishop during his announcement at the end of Mass. “Our pastors and other people in the life of the parish are working on ways in which to facilitate a process of inviting and allowing people to come to different liturgies at their parishes.”

The bishop also highlighted a number of important factors in this phasing-in process:

A general dispensation from Sunday obligations will remain in place throughout the entire pandemic. So while we are ramping up activities, all of our faithful need to know that if you are elderly, or you have a health conditions or are otherwise very concerned about all of this, you do have a general dispensation from coming to Sunday Mass and that will be in place indefinitely.”

Attendance will be limited, and even as the phasing-in ramps up, there will be some limitation on the numbers gathered, ” he stressed, urging people to stay in touch with their parishes for more details as the process unfolds. “We would love to go back to the way things were, but we are not there yet,” he said.

Personal distancing must always be practiced, so when we gather, the two-metre minimum between different people must be in place,” added the bishop, noting that family groups will need to be conscious of their distancing from other individuals or other families, following the health authority directive of being at least two metres apart.

Liturgical changes will be in place, he pointed out. “For example, one (change) will feature the distribution of communion after Mass. That enables us to be very very fastidious around making sure we are following due diligence about mitigating any virus transfer.”

Finally, the bishop noted: “There will still always be a little bit of a risk for anyone who attends public Mass.” Parishes will follow health directives from the authorities, and will implement improved cleaning and other measures, but the risk of transferring the COVID-19 virus still exists. “Again, we continue to always hold those most vulnerable as our greatest area of concern,” stressed Bishop Hagemoen.

“We continue to pray for God’s blessing on our communities – and indeed on all the world – for healing from the COVID 19 pandemic and for the care of those most vulnerable, and also for the protection of those who provide health care services and for other service providers in our community,” he concluded, before praying the prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (below) introduced earlier in the diocese with a request for fasting and prayer every Friday.

Public celebration of Mass in the diocese was suspended March 17, 2020 by Bishop Hagemoen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to live-streaming of Mass, parishes have stayed in touch with parishioners via social media, websites, telephone, and mail. Some churches have been open for prayer or for the sacrament of reconciliation, always in accordance with public health directives concerning numbers and distancing.

Find more information at: rcdos.ca/covid-19-updates

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St. Peter’s College announces new scholarship in memory of Humboldt Broncos’ player

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 07:56

By Krystal Shutko, Student Services Officer, St. Peter’s College

St. Peter’s College at Muenster, SK, recently announced a new scholarship opportunity, the Jacob Leicht Memorial Game Changer Award. This award has been established by Kurt and Celeste Leicht in memory of Jacob Leicht, a son, brother, hockey player and St. Peter’s alumnus, who lost his life April 6, 2018 in the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus accident.

Jacob possessed a strong passion for all things athletic. With hockey and fitness as pillars of his character, his intentions to study kinesiology amplified his interests in helping those around him. The discipline to succeed at hockey and university studies at the same time exemplify perseverance and discipline.

This memorial award is designed for those students wanting to succeed in the demanding program of kinesiology, because they are, like Jacob was, passionate about the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle that will inspire and help others. It is hoped that this financial assistance serves as a game changer in assisting students on their path to success.

The purpose of this award is to provide financial support to students intending to pursue kinesiology and/or health and fitness focused post secondary studies. The value of the award will be $1,100 to be used for tuition and related educational expenses. Please visit the SPC website for more details about this scholarship and how to apply for all the scholarships available for St. Peter’s College students.

The June 21, 2020 deadline for scholarship applications is fast approaching, and we hope all SPC students will apply and take advantage of the over $80,000 in scholarships and bursaries available at St. Peter’s College (SPC). Students can still apply and take advantage of their University of Saskatchewan and external scholarships in addition to SPC scholarships.

SPC advisors are hosting an online WebEx information session on Wednesday May 27 at 1:00 p.m., anyone is welcomed to sign up and attend. We will be discussing USask, SPC, classes, registration, student loans, scholarships, and much more to do with beginning the first year of university. Please join us by signing up on our website at https://stpeterscollege.ca.

 

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Religious orders in Canada among those calling for cleaner economy

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:53

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

More than 200 Catholic sisters from across Canada want Ottawa to deny a bailout to the oil and gas industry and invest in building a cleaner, low-carbon economy after COVID-19.

A letter from the religious women is scheduled to land on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s desk on May 25, the day after the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical, Laudato Si’. It also marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Related: “Vatican to mark 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’ with year-long celebration”

In addition to urging the federal government to resist propping up the oil and gas industry, the letter asks Ottawa to spend money to retrain the industry’s workers and help them find jobs elsewhere, plus invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and public transit.

“In light of this anniversary, as a community of faithful Catholics, we are taking a pledge to shape our individual and community choices with care for all creation,” reads the letter. “We are urging the Canadian government to join this commitment and take immediate, concrete actions to flatten the curve of global warming and move towards a just and sustainable future.”

The Joint Environmental Ministries (JEM) network of Catholic religious orders — most of them religious women — is hoping for 400 signatures on their letter by May 22.

Their demand that the government “not commit public resources to the oil and gas industry, which is already heavily subsidized,” is not an attack on Alberta, said organizer Sr. Margot Ritchie of the Sisters of St. Joseph in London, ON. “First of all, I don’t hate Alberta. Certainly the letter and the action we’re proposing does not come from that place,” Ritchie told The Catholic Register.

The letter arose after COVID-19 caused JEM to cancel its annual meeting in Toronto, which was to include oilsands workers and other Alberta voices which support a transition away from oil and gas.

“The time to act is now,” said the JEM network letter. “The COVID-19 recession, combined with the climate emergency, demands us to be creative in imagining new ways of running our economy. Let’s make the most of this opportunity.”

If there’s one thing the sisters have learned from Laudato Si’, it’s that decisions have to be made, said Ritchie.

“This is humanity’s kairos moment,” she said. “We should take a deep breath and imagine the world we want and take measures to create it.”

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Vatican to mark 5th anniversary of Laudato si’ with year-long celebration

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:29

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] –  On May 24, 2020, the Vatican will launch a year-long celebration of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato si’ to mark its fifth anniversary.

The “special Laudato si’ anniversary year” is an initiative of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and will include a wide range of events, starting with a global day of prayer and ending in the launch of multi-year sustainability action plans.

Five years from Pope Francis’ signing of the document, the “encyclical appears ever more relevant,” according to a statement from the dicastery.

It noted that the environmental encyclical’s anniversary also falls in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, saying “Laudato si’s message is just as prophetic today as it was in 2015.”

“The encyclical can indeed provide the moral and spiritual compass for the journey to create a more caring, fraternal, peaceful and sustainable world,” the Vatican department said.

The year will begin May 24, the day Laudato si’ was signed by Pope Francis, with a day of prayer for the earth and for humanity. A prayer was written for the occasion which people are being encouraged to say at noon anywhere in the world.

The integral development dicastery has also organized events in the week leading up to the anniversary, including several talks with the Global Catholic Climate Movement over the videoconferencing software Zoom, for “Laudato si’ Week.”

“We hope that the anniversary year and the ensuing decade will indeed be a time of grace, a true Kairos experience and ‘Jubilee’ time for the Earth, and for humanity, and for all God’s creatures,” the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said.

The initiatives, undertaken in partnership with other groups, have “a clear emphasis on ‘ecological conversion’ in ‘action,’” it continued.

In June, according to a schedule released by the dicastery, a document on “operation guidelines” for Laudato si’ will be released.

Just a few of the other special projects to be launched throughout the year are the new annual Laudato si’ Awards, a documentary film on Laudato si’, a tree initiative, and a social media “Read the Bible Contest.”

In 2021 the dicastery will start institutions such as families, dioceses, schools, and universities on a seven-year program to work toward integral ecology through the lens of Laudato si’.

The goal of this program, as set out by the dicastery, is to respond in concrete ways to the cry of the earth and the poor, to promote ecological economics and awareness, and to adopt simpler lifestyles.

Other planned events are a June 18 webinar, marking the encyclical’s release anniversary, as well as participation in the ecumenical “Season of Creation” month Sept. 4-Oct. 1.

The Vatican events, “Reinventing the Global Educational Alliance” and the “Economy of Francesco,” which were due to have taken place this spring and have been postponed to the fall, are now also classified under the anniversary year celebrations, according to the schedule.

In January 2021, the Vatican will host a roundtable on the World Economic Forum in Davos. There is also a proposal for a gathering of religious leaders in early spring 2021.

The year will conclude with a conference, the performance of a musical work, and the conferring of the first Laudato si’awards.

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Questions raised about whether a COVID-19 vaccine will be linked to aborted fetus

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:18

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

A coalition of Catholic bioethical groups is urging the Canadian government to invest in COVID-19 vaccine research that doesn’t use cells derived from electively aborted fetuses.

“Manufacture of vaccines using such ethically-tainted human cell lines demonstrates profound disrespect for the dignity of the human person,” said a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Representatives of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the National Association of Catholic Nurses are among the signatories to the letter.

Vaccines produced using the WI-38 cell line derived from an elective abortion in the 1960s have been prominent for decades in virology research. This cell line has been used to develop vaccines for adenoviruses, rubella, measles, mumps, varicella zoster, polio, hepatitis A and rabies.

Modern equivalents of WI-38, also derived from aborted fetus tissue, include PER.C6, MRC-5 and HEK 293.

In 2005 the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, with backing from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ruled Catholics, in the absence of other options, may use vaccines with a distant historical association with abortion for the grave reason of preserving life, but they should encourage the development of alternatives.

Canadian research into COVID-19 vaccines has thrown up a possible alternative in the work of Vancouver immunologist Dr. Wilfred Jeffries of the University of British Columbia. Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller has invested a small sum in Jeffries’ research to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that does not use aborted fetal cells.

Jeffries’ team is in the animal testing phase, necessary before their vaccine goes to human clinical trials, which may happen before the end of this year. More information is available at fundcovid19vaccine.com.

The letter to Trudeau doesn’t say the government should reject a vaccine developed using cell lines from an aborted fetus if it is the first effective vaccine available.

“We endorse the earliest possible development of safe, effective anti-viral vaccines and the broadest uptake of vaccination,” said the letter.

But it would be better to develop a vaccine that will not force Canadians who object to abortion to make a moral choice.

“On the one hand the wide uptake of vaccines is essential to protect citizens from the transmission of disease. On the other, a vaccine produced using abortion-derived cell lines raises conscience concerns for anyone who might be offered that vaccine and is aware of its lineage,” said the letter.

“The letter is saying that for people who don’t want to have them (abortion-derived vaccines) there should be an alternative,” said Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute executive director Moira McQueen. “I think the letter is really asking them to make sure that people who are objecting conscientiously are also taken care of… We know everybody will be taking up the first effective vaccine. At the same time, I don’t see why the other side can’t be accommodated.”

In a survey of 16 leading COVID-19 vaccine research projects, Dr. James Sherley found that 10 of them were using ethical alternatives, five were relying on abortion-derived cell lines and one could not be easily classified into either category. Sherley worries that academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies too easily accept cell lines without asking where they came from.

“The industry has gotten comfortable with using these cells,” Sherley told The Catholic Register. “Many people were not aware of their origin.”

The associate scholar of the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Arlington, Va., and founder and chief executive of Asymmetrex, a Boston bio-tech start-up, said that despite being vehemently anti-abortion, he discovered he had been using WI-38 cell lines in his graduate research in the 1970s and ’80s.

“These cells are pervasive in research,” he said.

“We hear scientists say, ‘Well gee, yeah it’s a bad thing that that fetus got electively aborted, but let’s make good from it. Let me do some research with this and give everybody some benefit.’ That ideology is so destructive to us as humanity,” Shirley said.

“It’s an aborted fetus. It’s a deliberate termination of life,” said McQueen.

Research that takes advantage of a killing can’t be considered ethical, she said.

“It’s going back to the whole thing of the indignity of using parts of somebody’s body who didn’t ask to be killed in the first place and definitively cannot give consent.” McQueen said.

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Catholic Education Week 2020 focuses on “Igniting Hope” during challenging times of COVID-19

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:55

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Catholic school divisions within the province of Saskatchewan are celebrating Catholic Education Week like never before.

Marking the week May 17-24, 2020 – including World Catholic Education Day on Ascension Thursday, May 21 – in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic means that schools are operating very differently this year.

After weeks of school closures because of COVID-19 restrictions, the government of Saskatchewan announced May 7 that in-person classes will not resume at all this school year. Catholic school divisions have therefore continued alternate methods of teaching, using online resources and other long-distance means of staying connected to students. In addition, public celebrations of graduations are cancelled, with school districts finding other “virtual” ways to mark the achievements of the Class of 2020.

In the midst of this challenging time, Catholic schools continue to live out their mission to proclaim the hope of the Gospel and witness to the love of Jesus Christ. “The remote learning environment we are living in during Covid-19 times will be filled with our theme, Igniting Hope, during the week of May 17-24,” states a Catholic Education Week announcement from Saskatchewan Catholic schools. Platforms this year will include video conferencing, social media, e-mail and websites, with daily prayer and reflection on various sub-themes:

  • Our Hope in Christ
  • The Hope Within Us
  • The Hope Among Us
  • Hope For the World
  • A Future Full of Hope.

Catholic Education Week 2020 Daily Prayers- link to PDF

In addition, a province-wide liturgy on World Catholic Education Day will be live-streamed – as well as being recorded for future viewing online – led by Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, held at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21 from Resurrection Parish in Regina. To pray live or later go to: LINK to live-stream video.

In their message for Catholic Education Week 2020, the Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan reflected on the 2020 theme Igniting Hope.

“In every time and season, the hope perennially ignited by Catholic education is grounded in the “reason for the hope in us” (1 Peter 3:15) – the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a hope needed more than ever in our lives and in our world during these times of COVID-19 challenge, suffering and difficulty,” wrote the bishops

In their message, the Saskatchewan bishops also noted: “Catholic education has always focused on the needs of students as they face our world of today. We are to be for them a beacon of this Light of Christ that they need as they journey through their life, accompanying and transcending lectures and bookwork.”

The bishops ended in words of prayer and thanksgiving: “Please join us in giving thanks to God for the gift of Catholic education and its unique contribution in our province and our communities. We pray as well for the continuing existence and protection of publicly-funded Catholic education in Saskatchewan, and for hope and perseverance for educators, students and families who are navigating the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “

Find more information about Catholic Schools in the province at: https://www.scsba.ca

For information about Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, including COVID-19 updates and information about registering children in Catholic schools in Saskatoon, Humboldt, Martensville Warman and Biggar in the fall, see: https://www.gscs.ca

World Catholic Education Day is marked on Ascension Thursday, May 21, 2020.

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What is acedia and why is it important during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 10:31
What is acedia, how do you pronounce it, and why does this priest tweet about it? 

By Mary Farrow, Catholic News Agency

[Denver, Colorado, USA – CNA] – What should you be doing right now? If the answer is “not reading this article,” you might want to keep going.

If you’re reading this article because you’re distracting yourself from something that needs to be done, you might be struggling with something called acedia.

On March 2, 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic caused shutdowns around the world, Fr. Harrison Ayre, a priest in the Diocese of Victoria, B.C., started tweeting about his experience with the vice of acedia.

Acedia (pronounced ‘uh-see-dee-uh’ in English) comes from the Greek word akēdeia, meaning “lack of care.” It is closely akin to the sin of “sloth”, but it is more complex than mere laziness or boredom.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, acedia is a kind of sadness about things that are spiritual goods, or a “disgust with activity.”

“My one-phrase definition is: the inability to choose the good,” Ayre said. “It’s an affliction of the soul that attacks desire – our desire for the good.”

It manifests itself specifically in listlessness, distraction, and wanting to avoid the task at hand, Ayre noted. Paradoxically, it could look either like sitting around and doing nothing, or busying oneself with anything and everything but the task at hand.

Ayre, who is one-half of the podcast “Clerically Speaking” and has an active Twitter following, became well-known for his tweets about combatting acedia in the past few weeks. So much so, that some of his friends have dubbed his timeline “Acedia Twitter.”

“It always was something that’s been on my heart because I would say it’s one of those things that I struggle with a lot, so it definitely comes from experience,” Ayre said.

“I tweeted something about a month ago and then…I had a couple people ask me in the DMs, ‘Can you give me some practical tips on overcoming this?’” Ayre said.

Ayre thought he would just do a thread on the topic, but because so many people were asking questions and looking for more information, he decided to keep going.

He now tweets daily tips for identifying and overcoming acedia, as well as regular check-ins with his followers, asking them how they are doing and what specific struggles with acedia they have noticed lately.

“It kind of has just taken off,” he said. “Not like ‘blown up,’ but I’d say it gets pretty reasonable engagement every day whenever I would tweet about it, so it’s obviously touching people’s hearts, which has been a good thing.”

The “noonday devil”

In a 2015 book on the subject, Fr. Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., called acedia the “noonday devil”, because the temptation has a tendency to strike in the middle of the day.

The phrase has been used to describe acedia for centuries.

“It’s when even your bodily tendency is to be a little bit tired and a little restless at the day,” Ayre said.

Nault likened the experience to restless monks staring out of their cells (rooms), longing for escape.

“You’re in the desert, it’s hot, you’re in your cell, and the sun’s beating into your cell, and it can be a great temptation to want to leave the duty of the moment. That’s why it’s called the noonday devil,” Ayre said.

But for people who aren’t monks, what does acedia look like?

“Let’s say you’re at work and you know that the task you need to do right now is answer those 10 emails in your inbox. That is the most important thing for you to do in this moment,” Ayre said.

“But instead, you’re like, ‘I’m going to go make those photocopies,’ or, ‘I’m going to go to the water cooler to get some water and see if anyone’s there,’ or, ‘I’m going to browse the internet for a bit,’ or, ‘I’m just going to sit here and not do anything for 10 minutes.’”

“You’re doing stuff or not doing stuff, but you’re doing all those things to avoid the task of the moment. Acedia attacks what I’d say is the giftedness of the moment.”

For parents, Ayre said acedia might manifest itself in a temptation to stay in bed when the children are up at 3 a.m.

“Acedia would say: I’m going to stay in bed. I don’t care if they’re throwing up. I’m staying in bed,” he said. Combatting that temptation would look like: “you (get up) because you love them and it’s a good thing to do for them and it’s a sacrifice for their good.”

“It’s about accepting whatever has been thrown to us at the moment and not wanting to avoid it,” Ayre said.

According to Nault, the battle against acedia is about accepting the full gift of one’s vocation in life.

“The ‘noonday devil’ can be vanquished only by accepting the love of God and the sublimity of our vocation, which, in turn, gives rise to the joy of true Christian freedom,” he wrote.

Why acedia matters in the spiritual life

Why does something that might seem like mere distraction in mundane tasks matter so much in the spiritual life?

“I would call (acedia) the temptation of our age, because our age is very dependent on this idea of distraction – of moving my attention to something that is not what we need to do right now,” Ayre said.

And that matters for the spiritual life because “at the heart of every sin, and then every temptation, is to deny the good of a thing – its proper end,” Ayre noted.

“Gluttony comes with taking in a good, which is food, and overusing it, right? Or envy is seeing a good that has happened to someone else and then twisting it and wanting it to be your own,” he said.

“Every sin wants to twist the good, and acedia, it’s saying: ‘I don’t want to recognize the good of what I have right here, right now.’ It creates a sense of dissatisfaction of what’s been given me.”

And the present moment matters, Ayre said, because it’s where God can be found.

“Our work of the moment is the precise place that we find God…because God shows himself through things, that’s how God works. So, if we’re trying to say, ‘I’m going to distract myself, I’m going to check Instagram instead of working on my emails or my Word document or whatever’, what I’m saying is: ‘I don’t want to encounter God through my task, through the work of the moment.’”

Overcoming acedia

Combatting acedia isn’t about white-knuckling through distracted thoughts and forcing yourself back to the present moment. Ayre said that properly ordering one’s day, and giving things their proper place, can go a long way in combating acedia in one’s life.

“It’s not wrong to go on Instagram and Twitter. Obviously I don’t think that, that’d be really weird,” Ayre (@FrHarrison) said.

“But do I do that in a rightly ordered way? So, for example, I’ll do my office work for half an hour, and then I’m going to take a five minute break and check up on my texts and my WhatsApp and get those things done, and then I’m going to go back to my task.”

“Acedia really gets fought when you start to organize your day properly. It doesn’t mean we’re going to live strict monastic schedules,” he said. “But I always say: if you can find those three or four most important tasks of your day and order them properly, then everything else will fall into place around that. And you’ll stop going to your phone as much, because the reason we go to our phone is because we don’t actually see the gift of the moment.”

It’s also about making time for prayer and proper rest and leisure in the day too, Ayre said.

“Find stuff you really enjoy to do and actually give yourself permission to do it, because acedia makes us think that we can’t enjoy anything,” he said, such as reading a good book or watching a good movie or spending an hour playing an enjoyable video game.

“Acedia plagues us because sometimes we forget how to enjoy the good things of life. Choosing a good that we enjoy helps remind us of God’s goodness,” Ayre added in a May 9 tweet.

In another recent tweet, Ayre also compared overcoming acedia to a Seinfeld episode, in which George Costanza decides to be “opposite George” – he does the opposite of his normal tendencies, and is surprised to find his life improved.

“(George) meets some girls in a bar and he goes, ‘Hi, I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.’ And they loved him because he was so honest,” Ayre said.

“While beforehand, he wouldn’t have done that. He would probably come up with these weird stories about why he was staying at his parents place. And so he found that ‘opposite George’ was leading to a lot of success for him.”

Fighting acedia can be similar, he said. “Sometimes the best thing to do is to do the opposite. So if you find that you’re just slothful in general, and doing anything with remote physical activity is something difficult to do, the opposite thing to do would be to go for a walk,” he said.

When is it acedia, and when is it depression?

Acedia and depression seem to have some things in common, including a lack of desire to do one’s normal activities.

Ayre said he has been asked before about the difference between acedia and depression.

“I’m not a counselor or a clinical psychologist or something like that,” Ayre said, but “personally, I do think there sometimes can be a connection between the two… I think people ask this question because they see a real similarity between the two, and there may be even a connection at times.”

Ayre added that he has never experienced clinical depression himself, and encouraged anyone who was concerned that they might be going through something more than just acedia to talk to their priest and to a mental health professional.

“I’d say if there is almost a lack of desire to do anything in life, that’s probably a good sign that it’s deeper than acedia and that it perhaps needs medical attention,” Ayre said.

“With acedia, you’re often able to function, but maybe not function to the extent that you ought to,” Ayre said.

But depression’s symptoms will likely be more severe, he added.

If one is thinking “’I just, I can’t even get out of bed to go to work anymore.’ That’s not acedia anymore. That is a sense of, ‘I don’t have the tools necessary to get through day to day life.’”

Corona and acedia: How the “new normal” impacts distraction

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the world, nearly everyone’s daily routine was dramatically upended.

Non-essential workers either worked from home or were laid off. Essential workers kept at it, albeit with either adjusted commutes or schedules or safety protocols in place. Almost all businesses including bars and restaurants and hair salons, were closed.

Busy people who normally had lots of places to go and things to do suddenly found themselves with something they hadn’t had in a while: time.

“I think for most of us, we probably fell into it in a pretty extreme way for about that first month,” Ayre said. “I think it was the fog of the moment. We didn’t know what to do with our lives. We didn’t know what to do with this time. The future is uncertain…and you just wander throughout the day and you do your things but you don’t have a real target of life. So I think in that sense it was bad.”

But people adjusting to working from home or going out far less have “time and space to get our lives in order,” he said.

“I’m hearing people say they’ve been attacking acedia now by picking up a chore every day. Whereas before, they didn’t have time to pick a chore every day. Or they’re cooking more because they’re not running to five different appointments at night, so they’re not just grabbing McDonald’s quickly as they’re running to the next thing.”

“They’re having time to do the things that are necessary in life; the busyness stopped. When we were so busy, we were not able to see what is essential,” he said. Ayre said he is hearing from families that they are realizing the slowness of life right now has actually been very good for their kids as well.

“I’ve heard from families saying, ‘I never realized I didn’t have to take the kids to three things every night.’ And they love it. They love the slowness. Their kids are playing on the front yards again, and the kids are happy.”

Ayre said he hopes that one lesson people are able to take away from the extra time they have been given during this pandemic is the need to contemplate God and what is most essential in their lives, which is in itself a big step in fighting acedia.

“I really hope and pray that we can learn our lesson from this, that we don’t need to be this busy. And then when you start to choose these essential things, acedia will rip itself from your life, because you’ll see – I’m doing what is essential. And a full life makes it easier to choose the good and see the good. It’s like that meme, right? ‘Nature is healing itself.’ In a way, it is.”

For those looking to dive deeper into acedia, Fr. Ayre recommended Nault’s book, as well as “Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire” by R.J. Snell, and “Acedia & Me” by Kathleen Norris.

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Pope Francis: St. John Paul II was an ‘extraordinary gift’ to the Church

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 20:33

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis described St. John Paul II as “an extraordinary gift of God to the Church and to Poland” in a video message to young people in Kraków Monday.

In the video message marking the 100th anniversary of the saint’s birth May 18, Francis recalled his visit to the Polish city for World Youth Day in 2016.

He said: “St. John Paul II was an extraordinary gift of God to the Church and to Poland, your homeland. His earthly pilgrimage, which began on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice and ended 15 years ago in Rome, was marked by a passion for life and a fascination for the mystery of God, the world and man.”

Pope Francis noted that John Paul II emphasized mercy throughout his 27-year pontificate, referring to his 1980 encyclical Dives in misericordia, and the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska and the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2000.

“In the light of God’s merciful love he grasped the specificity and beauty of the vocation of women and men, he understood the needs of children, young people and adults, considering also cultural and social conditioning,” he said, inviting youngsters to discover the saint’s life and teaching via the internet.

Pope Francis continued: “Each and every one of you, dear young people, bears the imprint of your family, with its joys and sorrows. Love and care for the family is a characteristic trait of John Paul II. His teaching is a sure reference point for finding concrete solutions to the difficulties and challenges facing families today.”

Related: The next 100 years of St. John Paul II’s legacy

“Saint John Paul II in Canada – 35th anniversary of historic 1984 visit”

Pope Francis said that John Paul II’s early years proved that family problems need not be an obstacle to holiness and happiness. By the time he was 20, the future pope had lost his mother, brother and father, and experienced Nazi atrocities. Later, as a priest and a bishop, he faced oppressive atheistic communism.

“The difficulties, even harsh ones, are a test of maturity and faith; a test that can only be overcome by relying on the power of Christ who has died and is risen,” the pope said.

“John Paul II reminded the whole Church of this from his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis, where he says: ‘The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly … must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self.’”

Pope Francis concluded: “Dear young people, this is what I wish for each of you: to enter into Christ with your whole life. And I hope that the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of St. John Paul II will inspire in you the desire to walk courageously with Jesus.”

St. John Paul II (CNA photo)

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Pope Francis adds St. Faustina Kowalska’s feast day to Roman Calendar to be marked Oct. 5

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 10:46

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis has decreed that St. Faustina Kowalska’s feast day be added to the Roman Calendar as an optional memorial to be celebrated by all on October 5.

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship issued the decree May 18, 2929 on the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. John Paul II, who canonized St. Faustina on April 13, 2000, making her the first saint of the new millennium.

The decree said that Pope Francis took the step in response to petitions from pastors, religious men and women and associations of the faithful, and “having considered the influence exercised by the spirituality of St. Faustina in different parts of the world.”

It said that he had therefore “decreed that the name of St. Maria Faustina (Helena) Kowalska, virgin, be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar and that her optional memorial be celebrated by all on 5 October.”

Between 1934 and her death in 1938, St. Faustina recorded her conversations with Jesus in a diary that was later published in dozens of languages and led to the worldwide spread of the Divine Mercy devotion.

Image of the Divine Mercy.

The decree, signed by the Congregation’s prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah and secretary Archbishop Arthur Roche, emphasized St. Faustina’s impact on the global Church.

It said: “Born in the village of Głogowiec, near Łódź, in Poland in 1905, and dying in Krakow in 1938, St. Faustina spent her short life amongst the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, generously conforming herself to the vocation she received from God and developing an intense spiritual life, rich in spiritual gifts and in faithful harmony with them.”

“In the diary of her soul, the sanctuary of her encounter with the Lord Jesus, she herself recounts what the Lord worked in her for the benefit of all: listening to Him who is Love and Mercy she understood that no human wretchedness could measure itself against the mercy which ceaselessly pours from the heart of Christ. Thus she became the inspiration for a movement dedicated to proclaiming and imploring Divine Mercy throughout the whole world.”

The decree continued: “Canonized in the year 2000 by St. John Paul II, the name of Faustina quickly became known around the world, thereby promoting in all the parts of the People of God, Pastors and lay faithful alike, the invocation of Divine Mercy and its credible witness in the conduct of the lives of believers.”

On April 19, Pope Francis celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday at Santo Spirito in Sassia, a church a short walk from St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass marked the 20th liturgical anniversary of St. Faustina Kowalska’s canonization and the official institution of the feast of Divine Mercy Sunday by St. John Paul II.

John Paul II’s life was intimately connected to the Divine Mercy devotion. He died April 2, 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. He was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011 and canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014.

Last October Pope Francis authorized a similar decree stating that the optional memorial of Our Lady of Loreto should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar and celebrated every year on December 10.

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The next hundred years of St. John Paul II’s legacy 

Sun, 05/17/2020 - 11:22

By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency

[Denver, Colorado, USA – CNA) – Pope St. John Paul II— who would have turned 100 years old May 18— was a man of great humility, whose nearly 27-year pontificate nevertheless left a lasting impression on the Catholic Church and the world, according to his biographer and others who knew the man.

“He’s the great Christian witness of our time. He’s the exemplar of the fact that a life wholly dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Gospel is the most exciting human life possible,” George Weigel, the pope’s biographer, told CNA.

After an upbringing marked by the sadness of losing his mother, father, and brother, he endured the Nazi’s occupation of Poland, working hard as a laborer and eventually clandestinely studied for the priesthood and became cardinal archbishop of Krakow.

He eventually became the most traveled pope in history, and a beloved saint. He died in 2005, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.

“This man lived a life of such extraordinary drama that no Hollywood scriptwriter would dare come up with such a storyline. It would just be regarded as absurd,” Weigel added.

Weigel and Mario Enzler (a former member of the Swiss Guard who served John Paul II for four years) recently spoke to Catholic News Agency about what they think the pope will be remembered for in the next 100— or even the next 1,000— years.

Related: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI letter on the centenary of birth of St. John Paul II

Pope Francis: St. John Paul II was an ‘extraordinary gift’ to the Church

Anniversary of St. John Paul II’s visit to Canada in 1984

The making of a saint

Karol Wojtyla was born a century ago, on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland.

His father, also named Karol, was a Polish Army lieutenant, and his mother Emilia was a school teacher. The couple had three children: Edmund in 1906; Olga, who died shortly after her birth; and Karol, named for his faither, in 1920.

Karol was bright; a good student and an aspiring actor. Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University and in a school for drama in 1938.

The Nazi occupation forces in Poland closed the university in 1939, and young Karol had to work in a quarry for four years, and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

To make matters worse, Karol would lose his entire immediate family while still a young man. His mother died in 1929; his older brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932; and his father died in 1941.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow once it had reopened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood in Krakow on November 1, 1946.

On January 13, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Krakow, and later a cardinal on June 26, 1967.

Elected in 1978, he was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

St. John Paul II (CNA photo)

Man of prayer

John Paul II was a man of deep prayer who loved and trusted God, and also had a deep devotion to Mary. The rosary was one of his favorite prayers, and he even gave the Church a new way to contemplate truths about Jesus in the form of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

Mario Enzler, a former Swiss Guard member who served John Paul II, said he hopes that people will remember the pope’s simplicity— a quality he was privileged to observe firsthand.

Enzler, now a professor and author of the book “I Served a Saint,” recounts the first time he ever met John Paul II, in 1989. It was very soon after he started as a Swiss Guard, on the third floor of the apostolic palace. He got a call saying the Holy Father was leaving his apartment to go to the Secretary of State’s office.

The protocol for the guards in that instance was to make sure nobody was milling around in the corridor, and to stand at attention as the pope walked by. Sometimes the pope would stop to talk to the guards— but oftentimes not.

In this case, when John Paul walked by, he stopped, and Enzler remained at attention.

“He said to me: ‘You must be a new one,’” Enzler recalled. He introduced himself.

“He let me finish my sentence, shook my hand…then he grabbed his hand with both of his hands, and said: ‘Thank you Mario, for serving who serves.’ Then he left,” Enzler said.

“The concept of servant leadership got, can I say, tattooed on my soul,” he remembers.

“Because he didn’t even know who I was, he saw that I was a new one, and he was kind enough to stop, shake my hand, ask my name; but he said, thank you for serving who serves.’

“The first time that I met him, I was obviously extremely emotional. I was really emotional when he came. I could sense he was special— he had something different.”

Enzler says he encounters many young people today who do not really know the beloved pope.

“He was a genius, a man of prayer…but he could make anybody feel comfortable. Doesn’t matter if he was talking to a Nobel prize [winner] or a homeless person, from the president of a state to a kindergarten schoolteacher,” Enzler said.

“He was capable of making everybody feel comfortable…it was just with a gesture, a caress, with a word, or just with a hug or just simply looking. I would say that in 1,000 years, he will be remembered because of his simplicity.”

Engagement with the world

Weigel, author of the definitive biography of John Paul II, for decades chronicled the pope’s engagement with civic leaders, and the way he influenced the political landscape he inhabited.

The pope famously met with dozens of political figures, in the course of 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State, including with President Ronald Reagan— just a few days before Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.

“He thought of himself as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, dealing with sovereign political actors who were as subject to the universal moral law as anybody else. I think he also had a very shrewd sense of political possibility,” Weigel said.

“He was willing to be a risk-taker, but he also appreciated that prudence is the greatest of political virtues. And I think he was quite respected by world political leaders because of his transparent integrity. His essential attitude toward these men and women was: how can I help you? What can I do to help?”

Despite his political shrewdness, John Paul II understood his role as primarily a spiritual, rather than political, leader.

This is especially evident, Weigel says, when one looks back on the saint’s speeches in his native Poland during his 1979 visit— one of the first visits outside Italy he made as pope.

“It’s not that he didn’t talk about politics primarily, he didn’t talk about politics at all,” Weigel said.

“Aside from acknowledging the presence of government officials on his arrival in Warsaw on June 2, and acknowledging their presence at his departure from Krakow on June 10th, he simply ignored them.”

The country was then under Communist rule. Catholicism was a centerpiece of Polish culture, as it had been for centuries, despite the Communists’ efforts to stamp it out.

“He spoke to his people about Polish culture, about what made Poland Poland. And at the center of that, of course, in addition to a distinctive history, and distinctive language, distinctive literature— the intensity of Poland’s Catholic faith.”

The pope’s primary impact on the world of affairs, Weigel says, was his central role in creating the revolution of conscience which made possible the nonviolent revolution of 1989 and the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe.

John Paul II had a remarkable capacity to encourage, Weigel said— in the sense of stirring up the courage that is within everybody.

“He embodied the cardinal virtue of courage, which we sometimes call fortitude. And that was faith-based,” he said.

“That was rooted in an absolute conviction that because God the Father had raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and constituted him as Lord and Savior, God was going to get eventually what God wanted in history. And our task is not to imagine that we’re going to determine the final outcome of history.”

After John Paul’s visit to his native Poland in 1979, it would be another decade before the Solidarity Party in Poland, with the pope’s encouragement, would finally gain a majority in Parliament, and, largely peacefully, the country would shrug off the shackles of Communism.

Weigel says he believed European Communism would have collapsed at some point of its own “implausibility”— the system was so contradictory to the essential nature of the human person, he said, that it was bound to collapse at some point.

“The reason why it collapsed when it did, in 1989…is because of that revolution of conscience. So, that made a huge difference. It accelerated the collapse of European Communism, and it brought about its demise without massive bloodshed.”

People tend to forget, he said, that the 20th century’s normal way of affecting massive social change was enormous bloodletting. There was very little of that during the revolution that toppled communism in much of Europe in 1989— only Romania saw widespread violence.

“In every other respect, this great tyranny was dismantled without bloodshed. That’s remarkable, and it might not have happened that way, and it almost certainly would not have happened at that moment in time absent John Paul II.”

Saintly friends

One of John Paul II’s most enduring legacies is the huge number of saints he recognized— he celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 blesseds, as well as celebrating 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is perhaps the most well-known contemporary of John Paul II who is now officially a saint.

Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom John Paul II beatified in 1990, is another well-known holy person that the pope has helped to bring to the world.

Enzler writes in his book that there are several other friends of John Paul who are likely to be saints soon, such as Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, a prelate from Benin who served as Dean of the College of Cardinals— and who confirmed Enzler when he was a child.

Even John Paul’s parents are on their way to sainthood, after Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Krakow announced in March 2020 that the archdiocese had opened their beatification processes.

Travels

John Paul II visited some 129 counties during his pontificate— more than any other pope had visited up to that point.

He also created World Youth Days in 1985, and presided over 19 of them as pope.

Weigel says John Paul II understood that the pope must be present to the people of the Church, wherever they are.

“He chose to do it by these extensive travels, which he insisted were not travels, they were pilgrimages,” Wegel said.

“This was the successor of Peter, on pilgrimage to various parts of the world, of the Church. And that’s why these pilgrimages were always built around liturgical events, prayer, adoration of the Holy Eucharist, ecumenical and interreligious gatherings— all of this was part of a pilgrimage experience.”

Related: Anniversary of St. John Paul II’s visit to Canada in 1984

In the latter half of the 20th century— a time of enormous social change and upheaval— John Paul II’s extensive travels, during which he proclaimed the gospel to huge crowds and made headlines wherever he went, were just what the world needed, Weigel said.

“At a moment in history when the Church really seemed to be on the defensive, when a lot of leaders in the Church seemed to have lost confidence in the ability to proclaim the Gospel, it was very important for this compelling human personality to display how vital and alive the Gospel is in the late 20th century and early 21st. So I think it was a good fit for the time,” he said.

St. Pope John Paul II – May 18, 2020 to April 2, 2005 (CNA – Shutterstock image)

“The saints were normal people”

Like his friend St. Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II occasionally suffered through periods of darkness and doubt. His private diaries, published in 2014, show him agonizing about whether he was doing enough to serve God.

In addition to spiritual suffering, the pope endured an assination attempt by a Turkish terrorist on May 13, 1981, who shot him in the chest— after which he forgave his attacker, and credited Mary’s intercession for his survival.

He also experienced other health problems in the form of severe Parkinson’s Disease in the last few years of his life.

It is the fact that he was able to overcome the dark periods through prayer that Enzler finds most remarkable.

“He was fearless. He was fearless. And that’s where I think the emulation for me comes,” Enzler said.

“He knew that suffering was mandatory, because suffering belongs to a higher gospel…that’s what he basically showed to me, is that sacrifice and suffering is redemptive.”

Of course, John Paul II is not without critics, and his pontificate not above criticism.

John Paul has often faced criticism for how he handled abusive clergy during his pontificate, with critics pointing especially to the crimes of Marcial Maciel, the now-notorious founder of the Legionaries of Christ religious order. Maciel was only dismissed from ministry after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that while this was a man of great spiritual gifts, great intellectual gifts, a luminous personality, a singular capacity for friendship and leadership— this is also a normal human being,” Weigel said.

“He had his dark nights, he had his questions, he had his struggles…and one should not turn him into a plastic car ornament saint. His sanctity is luminous enough coming through this remarkably engaging and attractive human being, that you don’t have to plasticize it.

“Enormous potential for the future”

John Paul II was a scholar who promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, and also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law during his pontificate.

In addition to many books, John Paul II also authored 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters.

Enzler recommended picking up the pope’s many writings, such as his 1990 encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Enzler found that document helpful as he started a classical school with his wife.

“In 27 years of pontificate, for sure he either wrote or talked about many of the topics that we are somehow trying to understand. Let’s just try and find what he said.”

For his part, Weigel says the Church has really only begun to unpack what he calls the “magisterium” of John Paul II, in the form of his writings and his intellectual influence.

In the United States and throughout the world, for example, John Paul’s Theology of the Body remains enormously influential.

“You’ve got an entire generation of Catholics, now in their 30s, 40s and 50s— laity, religious, and clergy, who continue to take their inspiration from John Paul II,” Weigel said.

“So if you subtract him from those biographies, it’s not clear what you get, but it’s clear what you probably wouldn’t get, which is this kind of an evangelical fervor. A lot of the Church would still be stuck in institutional maintenance mode.”

One place that John Paul II’s evangelical fervor has taken root has been in Africa. As mentioned before, John Paul II had a particular friendship with Beninese Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, and visited Africa many times.

“John Paul II was fascinated by Africa; he saw African Christianity as living, a kind of new testament experience of the freshness of the Gospel, and he was very eager to support that, and lift it up,” he said.

“It was very interesting that during the two synods on marriage and the family in 2014 and 2015, some of the strongest defenses of the Church’s classic understanding of marriage and family came from African bishops. Some of whom are first, second generation Christians, deeply formed in the image of John Paul II, whom they regard as a model bishop.”

“I think wherever you look around the world Church, the living parts of the Church are those that have accepted the Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. And the dying parts of the Church, the moribund parts of the Church are those parts that have ignored that Magisterium.”

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Vatican calls attention to growing food crisis from coronavirus

Sun, 05/17/2020 - 11:12

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – The coronavirus emergency is also causing a food-related crisis, Vatican officials said May 16, 2020, encouraging people to do their part to help those who are going hungry.

“What happens now with the coronavirus crisis is it is increasing food-related problems,” Fr. Augusto Zampini-Davies said during a livestreamed press conference.

“We know the value of a society is determined by how we treat the poorest, the most vulnerable, so what are we going to do for all these people, who, apart from the health issues, are suffering from hunger or food-related problems?” he asked.

Zampini-Davies is adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He said the COVID-19 emergency is affecting food availability on many levels of society: for example, children who rely on school lunches are going hungry while schools are closed, and supply chains are being impacted by restrictions on imports and exports.

There are also millions of people who have lost their jobs or are being prevented from working by measures intended to control the health emergency, he noted, and this often means going hungry.

“What happens to the millions of people who are helped neither by the market nor by the state, but we are forcing them to stay home?” the priest asked. “What happens to these people? We cannot force them to stay at home without any support.”

Responding to a question about Pope Francis’ proposal for a “universal basic wage,” Zampini-Davies said it is “one tool” that has been used in the past to help confront emergency economic situations.

“As a tool, it has its pros and cons,” he said, but “if we want to promote health for everybody, we need to do something.”

“We cannot remain indifferent,” he said. “All the structures of society are being challenged at the moment, so what we are trying to do is to implement the preferential option for the poor, which is a fundamental element and an ethical imperative.”

A food crisis is one of the issues the Vatican’s new COVID-19 Commission is considering how to combat in the wake of the coronavirus.

The commission is under the auspices of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and is intended to work for about one year.

Turkson noted May 16 that “COVID-19 started as a healthcare issue; but it has affected drastically the economy, jobs/employment, lifestyles, food security, the primary role of Artificial Intelligence and internet security, politics, governance and policies (nationalistic or open and in solidarity), research and patents.”

“Hardly any aspect of human life and culture is left unscathed by this pandemic.”

The commission is “an organ of the Holy See to occupy itself with the multifaceted COVID-19 pandemic.”

Zampini-Davies said FAO estimates 800 million people around the world were already “chronically hungry.”

“However … there is hope, because this terrible situation can be an opportunity to change,” he said.

He made some suggestions of actions to be taken on the international level, but also highlighted how “ordinary people” can help by reducing food loss and waste, and by changing their diets to include more seasonal food and fewer high polluting products.

He pointed to St. Therese of Lisieux for her example that “every small gesture of care counts” and noted that the pandemic has shown “we do not need as many things as we think. We can do more with less.”

Aloysius John, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, the largest Catholic global aid network, said: “as the Holy Father told us, at this tragic moment of human history I want the Church to be present through the work of charity and if you do not do it who will do it?”

Related: “Pakistan COVID-19: inequalities and resilience”

Related: “Friendship Inn adapting services to feed neighbours in need during COVID-19 shutdown”

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Pope Francis: St. John Paul II remembered with “affection and gratitude”

Sun, 05/17/2020 - 10:58

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – On May 17, Pope Francis recalled the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Pope John Paul II (May 18, 1920), saying his predecessor is remembered “with much affection and gratitude.”

“From heaven he continues to intercede for the People of God and peace in the world,” Francis said, noting that he will offer Mass at the altar of the Polish pope’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the occasion May 18.

St. Pope John Paul II – May 18, 2020 to April 2, 2005 (CNA – Shutterstock image)

In his Regina coeli address on the Sixth Sunday of Easter May 17, Francis said God’s commandments are “a light to our footsteps,” not a “sort of mirror, in which we can see our miseries and inconsistencies reflected.”

Speaking from the library of the apostolic palace due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Holy Father said, “the Word of God is given to us as the Word of life, which transforms, which renews, which does not judge to condemn, but heals and has forgiveness as its goal.”

He pointed out that Jesus connects love for him to observance of the commandments, saying: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” and “whoever accepts my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”

Jesus wants our love for him to lead to more than warm and fuzzy feelings, said Pope Francis. “It requires the willingness to follow his path, that is, the will of the Father,” he said.

Jesus “did not say: ‘Love me, as I have loved you,’ but ‘Llove each other, as I have loved you.’”

To make this possible, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit to guide his apostles and us, Pope Francis explained: “The Spirit himself guides them, enlightens them, strengthens them, so that everyone can walk in life, even through adversity and difficulty, in joys and sorrows, remaining in the way of Jesus.”

The Holy Spirit helps us not to give into error and sin, he said. “This is possible precisely by keeping docile to the Holy Spirit. so that, with his active presence, he can not only console but transform hearts, open them to truth and love.”

After praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional Marian antiphon, Pope Francis noted that some countries are beginning to have public liturgies again or are evaluating the possibility following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Italy public Masses will begin May 18.

“But please go forward [following] the rules, the prescriptions they give us so as to safeguard the health of everyone and of the people,” he urged.

The pope also specially addressed all the boys and girls whose First Communions have been postponed because of the pandemic.

He invited the children “to live this waiting time as an opportunity to better prepare yourself: praying, reading your catechism book to deepen knowledge of Jesus, growing in goodness, and in service to others.”

Pope Francis’ Mass Sunday morning was offered for garbage collectors, street cleaners, and hospital janitors.

“A job nobody sees, but it is a job that is necessary to survive,” he said. “May the Lord bless them, help them.”

In his homily, the pope spoke about Jesus’ promise to his disciples to not leave them orphans by sending the Holy Spirit.

There is a strong feeling of being orphans in the world today, he said. Despite having many things, “the Father is missing.”

“Today we can say that we live in a society where the Father is missing, a sense of being orphans that affects one’s belonging and fraternity,” he said.

Francis said the Holy Spirit reminds us we have a Father in heaven who is not far away, but accessible to us.

“Only with this awareness of children who are not orphans can we live in peace among us,” he stated: War is one of the consequences of not having the awareness of a loving Father, because without a Father, “brotherhood is lost.”

“We ask the Holy Spirit to remind us always, always, of this access to the Father.”

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Online National March for Life gives pro-life Canadians a platform to call for end to abortion

Sat, 05/16/2020 - 07:46

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – During the first-ever online National March for Life May 14, Canadians were urged not to be afraid to speak out to protect life — protection that extends from the moment of conception until natural death.

While the event was held online this year because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the actual in-person annual march and rally that has been held in the nation’s capital since 1998, a wide-range of pro-life activists, religious and spiritual leaders and pro-life politicians praised Canadians who are on the frontline of the pro-life movement during a three-hour online “march.” The online rally mixed footage and testimonials from past March for Life gatherings in Ottawa with new messages of hope about the impact that the pro-life movement can have in Canada.

Part of that message of hope for the future of the pro-life movement in Canada is the way that Canadian society has come together to protect the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic and what that could mean for preserving the sanctity of life in Canada in the future, noted speakers.

“The unborn child in Canada has absolutely no protection,” said National March for Life co-chair Margaret Mountain, explaining why it is important to go online and share the pro-life message, despite not being able to physically gather this year.

“Even in this pandemic, abortions are happening across Canada,” Mountain said. “That is why we march, the message remains the same. Parliament must bring in a law to protect all human beings, not just some, all human beings from the time of conception until a natural death.

“We miss the exuberance of the young people on Parliament Hill, the inspiring speakers, the camaraderie, the singing, the chanting, but we know in a time like this we do the best we can,” she said.

Conservative MP Arnold Viersen of Peace River-Westlock pointed out in a pre-recorded message aired during the online March for Life rally that 300 babies are killed by abortion every day in Canada and that Canadian society’s and the pro-abortion federal Liberal government’s concern to protect life during the COVID-19 pandemic must be expanded to protect babies from abortion.

“During this time of COVID, I am grateful that Justin Trudeau and his government understand the value of life and how important it is to take measures to support it and that the government will sacrifice the economy to protect vulnerable Canadians,” Viersen said. “All of us are practicing social distancing to protect the vulnerable, but what about the pre-born?” he said. “Pre-born Canadians are arguably some of the most vulnerable… Who will speak for the pre-born?”

The online National March for Life also gave prominent screen-time to two pro-life MPs who are seeking the leadership of the federal Conservative Party – Ontario MPs Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis. Both of those candidates for the federal Conservative leadership are supported as strong pro-life advocates by the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which has organized and staged the National March for Life since it was first held in Ottawa.

Along with the online rally and march that was streamed on the MarchForLife.ca website on May 14, pro-life content provided on May 14 included a Mass for Life with Ottawa-Cornwall Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, recorded at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as a pro-life special “Be Not Afraid” broadcast on EWTN. Streaming of pro-life films from May 10-12, and an online candlelight vigil May 13 were se other features of the online event. May 14 marks the anniversary of the 1969 federal omnibus bill that decriminalized abortion.

Positive response to online event

While the decision to make the National March for Life a virtual online event was born out of necessity, the Campaign Life Coalition is happy with the response. CLC national capital coordinator Debbie Duval told Canadian Catholic News that the response and feedback the CLC has received has been “overwhelming.”

According to viewership numbers provided by Duval for the the events and programs that were part of the online National March for Life from May 10 to May 15, there were more than 15,000 views registered for the live events shown on YouTube. The number of views registered on EWTN, which showed the candlelight vigil on May 13 and the National Pro-life Mass and the pro-life special “Be Not Afraid” on May 14, were more than 17,000 views for the vigil and 25,000 views for the pro-life special.

Duval said the positive reaction to this year’s online National March for Life bodes well for there being an ongoing online aspect to the largest pro-life event held annually in Canada. However, Duval stressed that planning for the future will only come after the CLC holds its analysis of this year’s March for Life online event, and affirmed that holding a physical rally and march in the nation’s capital will always be the primary focus of the event’s organizers. “I do expect that next year we will have some sort of a hybrid that will involve online content,” Duval said, but added, “we will always be on the Hill.”

“It will always be important to be there in person and tell the politicians that the killing of babies has got to stop,” she said. “That will always be the focus of the march and rally.”

Most of the virtual National March for Life content will remain available online through the CLC’s website (www.campaignlifecoalition.com) and Facebook page. The National March for Life’s website can be accessed through the CLC’s website as well.

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Bishop Hagemoen announces plan for gradual resumption of public celebrations of Mass in the diocese of Saskatoon

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 14:31

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

In a letter to the faithful May 15, 2020, Bishop Mark Hagemoen announced plans for a phased-in resumption of public celebrations across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, as the government eases restrictions that were put in place in March to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronovirus.

Public celebration of Mass will slowly and gradually resume, in accordance with restrictions on numbers and other public health directives. Exactly how public celebrations will be phased-in will also depend on circumstances in each individual parish, said the bishop.

“One of the most difficult sacrifices for Catholics during this time of pandemic has been the suspension of all celebrations of the sacraments, including and especially the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The faithful hunger for the Body of Christ and the presence of the Lord in the Sacraments; pastors of souls yearn for the presence of Christ found in the gathering of God’s holy people. Although eager to return to our churches, the process must be executed in a safe and measured way.” – Bishop Mark Hagemoen

“We all need to recognize that this is a unique time and we will need to continue to work together to make progress. There will still be challenges and limits on what we can do in our churches. Many people may not be able to attend Mass the first few weeks it resumes,” Bishop Hagemoen said in his message to the faithful.

“We are following these guidelines in order to protect those among us at most risk – our elders and people with compromised health who could be especially devastated if they were to contract the virus.”

In his letter, Bishop Hagemoen cautioned that the diocese does not want to contribute to any rebound of coronavirus numbers that could “push normal Mass attendance even further into the future.” Therefore, as health experts and civic leaders determine new guidelines and restrictions for the next weeks and months, the diocese will also consider how public celebrations of Mass might be celebrated under any new regulations.

“In issuing the new directives, it is understood that the possibility still exists that every parish may not be able to offer Mass open to the public,” stressed the bishop.

Factors in each individual parish might continue to prevent public celebrations, including the vulnerability of the priest (in terms of age or health), an inability to provide additional personnel to operate safely, an inability to sufficiently sanitize worship spaces between gatherings, etc.

“We know the desire to return to your parishes, participate in the liturgy, and receive the Eucharist is incredibly strong, but we ask that everyone approach this reopening with a patient, loving and charitable mindset,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon (File photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

The diocesan phase-in plan is for a gradual three-phase process, announced the bishop:

Phase 1 is currently in place, with no liturgies or group gatherings permitted. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament may take place, as outlined by each parish. Funerals and weddings can occur as necessary, in consultation with the pastor, provided all provisions of the government health authorities are followed.

Phase 2 will begin May 22, with churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon permitted to celebrate public Sunday and weekday Masses with specific restrictions, including a limit on the number of people present, in accordance with the civil and health guidelines, as well as the strict practice of personal distancing, cleaning and disinfecting. As of May 22, the public celebration of baptisms can also resume, under the same principles.

The date is yet to be determined for Phase 3, when “all other sacraments will resume according to the directives provided by the diocese and civil authorities.” In this third phase, pastors will be given options for celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation along with First Eucharist.

In his letter to the faithful, Bishop Hagemoen also listed five things to be mindful of during the gradual return to public celebrations in the diocese:

  1. A general dispensation from the Sunday obligation will remain. “The dispensation for the obligation to attend Mass will remain in effect. No one will be required to attend Mass when the return process begins. At first, parishioners may not be able to attend Mass on a regular basis. Because of this, the live-streaming of Masses will continue for those who are not able to attend at their churches/ parish.” (Diocesan celebrations can be found posted online at https://saskatoonmass.com )
  2. Attendance will be limited. “Restriction will remain on holding large gatherings. We do hope that eventually a calculation given the size of the church may be used to determine the safe number of people for a given building, but for now we will be strictly following the maximum number for all gatherings as set out by the health authority.”
  3. Personal Distancing must be consistently practiced. “Expect that your parish church will have pews/rows that are sectioned off, and that family groups and individuals will be asked to keep at least two meters (six feet) of separation from each other. Be prepared to wear a mask to Mass to guard against germ spread. Anyone with any symptoms of sickness or who have travelled out of country in the past 14 days are directed to stay home.”
  4. Liturgical changes will be in place. “Similar to protocols established when churches were closing, extra precautions will be taken. Temporary adjustments will be made with respect to how we celebrate Mass and receive Holy Communion. These will be outlined by the parish priest.”
  5. There still will be a risk for anyone who attends a public Mass. “Even with best health practices and strict personal distancing, anyone who enters a public space should recognize there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus. Improved cleaning will occur at our churches, but no one should expect that they will be any safer from germs than in other public spaces.”

The bishop concluded: “Let us commit to this program of incrementally moving back into gatherings at our churches. Of course, we are aware that if infections begin to increase, we will be required to return to stricter protocols. Each one of us is called to be faithful and caring members of the Body of Christ as we expand activities in our parishes.”

In addition to the letter to the faithful on May 15, the bishop of Saskatoon also sent a letter to parish leaders about directives around the phase-in plan (LINK to PDF), and more detailed guidelines from the Diocesan Liturgy Commission (LINK to PDF).

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Day of Prayer May 14 – Pope Francis calls people of all religions to pray for end of pandemic

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:36

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis urged people of every religion to fast and pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and “other pandemics” of hunger and war.

“Today all of us, brothers and sisters of all religious traditions, pray in a day of prayer and fasting, of penance, called by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity. Each of us prays … united in the brotherhood that unites us in this moment of pain and tragedy,” Pope Francis said in his homily on May 14, 2020.

The pope said that this interfaith day of prayer, fasting, and charity is not an expression of “religious relativism,” but “a day of fraternity” and prayer.

“Perhaps there will be someone who will say: ‘This is religious relativism and it cannot be done.’ But how can we not pray to the Father of all?” Pope Francis said in the Santa Marta chapel.

He continued: “Everyone prays as he knows, how he can, as he has received from his own culture. We are not praying against each other, this religious tradition against this, no. We are all united as human beings, as brothers, praying to God, according to our culture, according to our own tradition, according to our beliefs, but brothers and praying to God. This is the important thing.”

The worldwide multi-faith day of prayer May 14 was the initiative of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, which was formed by the United Arab Emirates in 2019 to work towards the goals laid out in the Document on Human Fraternity released in Feb. 2019 during Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to Abu Dhabi.

Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, leads the committee, which is made up of members belonging to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths.

The pope pointed to the biblical example of the prophet Jonah, who called Nineveh to proclaim a fast and repent.

“Since there was ‘some pandemic,’ we do not know, in the city of Nineveh, a ‘moral pandemic’ perhaps, [the city] was just about to be destroyed. And God sent Jonah to preach: prayer and penance, prayer and fasting,” the pope said.

“Faced with that pandemic, Jonah was frightened and ran away. Then the Lord called him for the second time and he agreed to go and preach,” he said.

The pope said that the coronavirus pandemic likewise caught the world by surprise. “We, last year, or rather in November of last year, did not know what a pandemic was: it came like a flood, it came suddenly,” he said.

Francis suggested that now the world was “waking up a little” to see not only the suffering caused by this pandemic, but also the suffering of other tragedies in the world.

“I would just like to tell you an official statistic from the first four months of this year, which does not include the coronavirus pandemic. It speaks of another. In the first four months of this year, 3.7 million people died of hunger. There is the hunger pandemic. In four months, almost 4 million people,” the pope said.

“This prayer today to ask the Lord to stop this pandemic must make us think of the other pandemics in the world. There are many! The pandemic of wars, hunger and many others,” he said.

“God stop this tragedy. Stop this pandemic. May God have mercy on us and also stop other bad pandemics: that of hunger, that of war, that of children without education.”

Bishop Mark Hagemoen calls for Fridays to be a day of fasting and of prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for end to pandemic

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