Pope: Christianity needs the Cross
Christ as Redeemer cannot be understood save through a willingness to take up the cross, said Pope Francis during his homily for Mass on 26 September. The Christian, he said, addressing the congregation gathered in the chapel of the Santa Martha residence, is like the "Cyrene" – referring here to Simon of Cyrene who helped Christ carry his own Cross.
Christ "prepares us to be the Cyrenians to help him carry the Cross," the Holy Father said. Without the Cross, "our Christian life" is not Christian.
Our true identity as Christians must be protected, he said. To be a Christian is not something that is earned, but rather "a spiritual path to perfection ... it is pure grace".
Reflecting on the Gospel reading for the day, Pope Francis recalled the scene in which Christ asks his disciples who the people say that he is, and in turn receives a variety of answers.
This passage, he noted, demonstrates how Christ protected "his true identity". The Pope recalled how Christ protected his identity at other points of the Gospel as well, such as when he prevented the demons from revealing his identity.
Christ did this because the people believed the Messiah would be a military leader who would drive out the Romans. It was only to disciples whom he began to catechise as to his true identity.
"The Son of Man ... the Messiah, the Anointed one," must endure great suffering, and be "rejected by the elders, by chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to rise again."
"This is the path of your freedom," he continued. "This is the way of the Messiah, of the Just: the Passion, the Cross."
"Step by step," the Pope said, Christ prepares us to understand well. He "prepares us to accompany him with our crosses along the path towards redemption".
Catholic News Agency
Cardinal Müller: don't deconstruct Gospel
In a homily preached in Cordoba, Spain, on 1 October, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) warned the faithful against trying to make Christian life easy.
"We can deconstruct the Gospel and Tradition and remake them to the liking of today's world, making their demands easy and accommodating them to the fragile, superficial, immature and post-modern man," he said. But in doing so, we would "lose the chance to enjoy the authentic happiness that Christ brings".
Cardinal Müller said that Jesus makes the burdens of life lighter, but the Gospel still makes demands upon believers. Although he did not allude to current debates about easing the rigour of Church discipline regarding marriage and divorce, in the past he has spoken out against changes in existing policy.
Catholic World News
Religious harmony in Palestine
Reflecting on their recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a delegation of 18 US bishops cited relationships there between Christian and Muslim students as a sign of hope for peace in the region.
The bishops made their pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel from 11-18 September.
This was highlighted at Bethlehem University which has over 3,000 students, over 70 percent of whom are Muslims with the remainder being Christians of different denominations.
A spokesman for the bishops commented: "Having young people of that age being educated together and living basically together spiritually where there are particular cultures day by day, that is a very positive force as far as I am concerned ... I believe the resolution down the road will be between educated people who have lived alongside each other for years and understand both cultures and respect each other."
The bishops said they were "encouraged by Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution that is building bridges between Christians and Muslims as they study together to create the future of Palestine".
During their trip, the bishops said Mass at pilgrimage sites and with Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal and with Palestinian communities. The bishops also met and prayed with Jews and Muslims, as well as Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant Christians.
However, they noted with alarm the rate of emigration of Christian Palestinians.
The leader of the pilgrimage, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, observed: "One of the great disappointments that we came upon was the realisation that I think about 10 or 15 years ago, 12.5 percent of the population was Christian. Today, it is only 1.5 percent.
"So the Christians are really being squeezed, and we have to advocate for them also among both the Muslim and Jewish sisters and brothers because it is the Holy Land, which we consider to be so sacred and special."
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Bishop Conley to Catholic medical professionals
Catholic medical professionals can lead other people to God by dedicating themselves to holiness and following the examples of saintly doctors, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, said.
"Medical professionals are uniquely equipped to bring that love of God – by their compassion, their generosity, and in their very presence – to the souls who most need it," Bishop Conley told the Catholic Medical Association's educational conference in Orlando, Florida, on 27 September.
The bishop, who is the association's episcopal moderator, told conference attendees that they can follow this call.
The Catholic Medical Association's 83rd annual educational conference was dedicated to the theme, "Courage in Medicine: Defending and Proclaiming the Faith in the New Evangelization." About 600 people attended the conference.
Bishop Conley recounted the lives of holy medical doctors like St Giuseppe Moscati, a heroic Italian doctor who cared for the material and spiritual welfare of his patients, and colleagues St Gianna Molla, who sacrificed her life so that her unborn baby could be born, and Servant of God Jerome Lejeune, discoverer of the chromosomal abnormality that causes Down syndrome.
The bishop said these holy men and women are examples for the Catholic Medical Association's mission to form medical professionals who are "disciples of Jesus Christ" and who know they are "called to be saints".
The bishop noted the difficulties facing medical professionals, including standards of care, "relativistic ethical systems", and social and professional pressure that compel doctors and nurses towards treatment "that violates the fundamental dignity of the human person".
He stressed the importance of asking "whether we are personally pursuing discipleship of Jesus Christ in order to animate our lives and our work with love," whether we know the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and whether we are "missionary disciples of Jesus Christ" who use medical practice to "win souls for eternity".
Pope Francis: old age is a time of grace
On 28 September Saint Peter's Square witnessed once again the embrace of the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis. The occasion was a celebration of the elderly, with grandparents and elderly from more than 20 countries giving witness of a full and happy life at the service of others.
This Day, called "The Blessing of Long Life," organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family, was an opportunity to hear the testimonies of grandparents who have found a true vocation in being grandparents. Forgetting their fear of being older or useless, the elderly proclaimed the joy of arriving at this stage of life.
After hearing the various testimonies of grandparents and elderly from different parts of the world, Pope Francis addressed those present, pointing out that, "old age is, in a particular way, a time of grace in which the Lord renews His call, He calls us to keep and to transmit the faith. He calls us to pray, He calls us to intercede, He calls us to be close to those who need it." Because "grandparents have the ability to understand the most difficult situations – a great ability, when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong, it is powerful."
He added that "grandparents, who have received the blessing to see the children of their children, have been given a great task: to transmit the experience of life, the history of a family, of a community, of a people to share, with simplicity, wisdom and the faith itself – the most precious inheritance!"
Zenit News Agency
Missionaries risk their lives in Ebola fight
Catholic priests and missionaries in western Africa are risking their lives in the battle against the Ebola epidemic, a papal representative reported in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Archbishop Miroslaw Adamczyk, the apostolic nuncio for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia, told ACN that in Liberia alone there have been over 2,000 cases of Ebola diagnosed in the past six months, and over 1,000 of the victims have died. He observed that "the Ebola virus disease doesn't show any signs of slowing down".
The archbishop paid tribute to the priests and religious who have cared for Ebola patients at St Joseph's hospital in Monrovia. Four have died of the disease, while two others were infected but recovered. "These good missionaries paid the highest price for their service to the Church and the people of Liberia," he said.
Since August, Catholics in Liberia have been told not to shake hands during Mass at the Sign of Peace, in order to minimise the risk of contagion, the papal nuncio said. Basins of water mixed with chlorine have been placed at the entrances of every church to allow people to sterilise their hands.
Catholic World News
Vatican, SSPX meetings resume
Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with representatives of the Society of St Pius X on 23 September to discuss matters of Church teaching.
The Holy See press office stated: "During the meeting, various problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature were examined, and it was decided to proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time in order to overcome difficulties and with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation."
The meeting was the first between Cardinal Müller and Bishop Fellay since the cardinal was appointed prefect.
A press release of the Society said the meeting's goal was "to allow Cardinal Müller and Bishop Fellay to meet for the first time and to discuss together the status of the relations between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X. During this cordial meeting, doctrinal and canonical difficulties were discussed, and the current situation of the Church was mentioned. It was decided to continue the discussions in order to clarify the points of contention that remain."
In remitting the excommunications, Pope Benedict had noted that "doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry".
The biggest obstacle for the society's reconciliation has been the teaching on religious liberty in Vatican II, which it claims contradicts previous Catholic teaching.
In January 2013, Archbishop Di Noia wrote to the Society's priests, seeking "reconciliation and healing" and urging them that "some new considerations of a more spiritual and theological nature are needed ... considerations that focus rather on our duty to preserve and cherish the divinely willed unity and peace of the Church."
Catholic News Agency
Jordan's king denounces anti-Christian violence
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September, King Abdullah II of Jordan, a ruler known for his commitment to interreligious dialogue, denounced violence against the Middle East's Christians.
"The terrorists and criminals targeting Syria, Iraq, and other countries today are extreme reflections of a global threat. Our international community needs a collective strategy to contain and defeat these groups.
"The teachings of true Islam are clear: sectarian conflict and strife are utterly condemned. Islam prohibits violence against Christians and other communities that make up each country. Let me say once again: Arab Christians are an integral part of my region's past, present, and future."
Catholic World News