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Dublin archdiocese seeks 4,000 Eucharistic ministers for papal Mass

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 20, 2018 / 05:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With less than a month to go until Pope Francis visits Dublin for the World Meeting of Families, organizers are moving forward with spiritual preparations as well as the practical, and have called for some 4,000 Eucharistic ministers to serve at the event's closing Mass.

According to the Archdiocese of Dublin, around 500,000 people are expected for the closing Mass in Phoenix Park Aug. 26, which will be celebrated by Pope Francis, who will arrive in Dublin the previous day to close the week-long event.

To ensure all attendees have access to communion at Mass, the archdiocese sent an appeal July 17 for some 4,000 Eucharistic ministers – priests, religious, consecrated or laity – who have already been trained and assist with the distribution of communion in their home parishes.

According to the archdiocese, the ministers who sign up to volunteer at the Mass must be “trained and functioning ministers of Holy Communion,” and must also be “steady on your feet.”

Though plastic tarp will be laid out in several areas, most of the distribution for communion will take place on bumpy, grassy areas of the park, making it important that the ministers are able to stand their ground.

Even though ministers will have already been trained and approved by their parishes, they will also need to be vetted representatives of the World Meeting of Families.  

The archdiocese said it could not guarantee that ministers would be able to distribute in the section where their families are, but voiced hope that this would not stop people from “generously stepping up to help with this important task,” and promised to do their best to keep parish groups together.

So far the archdiocese has prepared some 4,500 ciboria - the gold dishes used to hold the consecrated hosts in the distribution of communion at Mass.

In addition, the archdiocese said they have already received more than 500,000 hosts for the Mass, thanks to the Redemptoristine Sisters of St Alphonsus Monastery in Dublin, and the Cistercian Sisters from Glencairn, County Waterford.

Pilgrims up front will receive communion from the main sanctuary area, and teams of nine will be assigned to each of the corrals set up in the park, which will hold roughly 1,400 people apiece.

Eight people divided in pairs of two will distribute communion in each corral, with the distribution point marked with a white umbrella. There will also be a separate minister placed in the middle and marked with a red umbrella for mass-goers who require low-gluten hosts.

Quoting the Gospel of Matthew, which recounts how the disciples “took up what was left over of the broken pieces” after Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread and fish, the archdiocese said they plan to donate any extra hosts to hospitals and nursing homes, “so that those who weren’t able to be present and who followed the Mass on television can receive from this tremendous event.”

The hospital on a hill: Padre Pio's earthly work

San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, Jul 20, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On a hill overlooking the quiet, southern Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo sits a state-of-the-art private hospital and research center built by one of the 20th century’s most beloved saints, Pio of Pietrelcina.

Known as “Padre Pio,” how did a poor Capuchin priest in ill health establish, on a rocky hilltop in rural Italy, one of today’s most efficient European hospitals – a project which he called his “earthly work”?

The beginning

Padre Pio understood physical suffering beginning from a young age, having been frequently ill. Even after he entered the Capuchins, making solemn vows at the age of 19, people doubted he would be well enough to finish studies for the priesthood or to live the strict rule of the Franciscans.

Despite this, three years later he was ordained a priest; and his experiences with illness led him to be close to the sick and suffering for the rest of his life. He would always say that Christ is present twice in the sick and the poor.

In 1918, the saint also received the visible stigmata – bleeding wounds corresponding to the five wounds Christ received at his crucifixion – while praying before a crucifix in the choir loft of the chapel of the Capuchin monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo.

He had settled permanently in the monastery of the small village, at the time comprised mainly of farms and shepherds, just six months before. From that time, he had the desire to create a hospital founded on the principle of caring for both the body and soul of the sick and suffering.

The first step toward fulfilling this dream began in 1925, with the conversion of an old, small convent into a clinic of just a few beds, reserved for those with extreme necessity.

Years passed, and at the end of 1939, Padre Pio again spoke of his desire to build a hospital, this time with several men who also believed in the project and who formed a group to support it.

The project unofficially began on Jan. 9, 1940, with the first collaborators each making a small donation toward the realization of the hospital. “I also want to give my offering,” the humble Padre Pio said, handing over a 10-cent franc he had received the same morning from a Swiss man.

The friar called the hospital the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza”, or “Home for the Relief of the Suffering”, because, as he said later, this “work” was “inspired and created to be a spiritual demonstration of God’s love through a call for charity.”

Construction commenced in 1947, though the roughly 20 workers hired at the start did not yet have an architectural plan for the building, and there were only 4 million Italian Lira (about $2,400 today) in the bank.

By this point many people had, from devotion or curiosity, been traveling to see Padre Pio in the poor village, and some thought the Capuchin friar and his group of supporters were crazy to be building a hospital in a village in southern Italy. But Padre Pio said: “The Work is not mine… but Providence’s.”

If he could, he said, he would build the hospital in gold, because whatever is done for the sick is done for Christ, and nothing can be too good for the Lord.

Inauguration

Eventually, it was completed, with the inauguration taking place May 5, 1956. The hospital, only receiving the designation of clinic at the time, had 250 beds. An out-patient clinic with additional departments and services was also a part of the Casa, with a round-the-clock emergency room, and a small chapel where Padre Pio would frequently pray.

At the inauguration ceremony, Padre Pio said, “a seed has been sown on the Earth that [God] will warm with the rays of his love… a place of prayer and science.” A year later, he noted that at the Casa “patients, doctors, priests shall be reserves of love and when it abounds in one, so it shall be passed to all.”

“The Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza has already opened its arms to many thousands of suffering bodies and spirits, offering to all, regardless of status, from the most wealthy to the less well-off, ministering to all, in generous measure,” he said.

From its start, the Casa was also helped by two nearby farms, which produce olive oil and all the dairy products used in the hospital.

Soon after its launch, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza was given to the Holy See by Padre Pio, being one of just two hospitals under the jurisdiction of the pope.

Years before the hospital was completed, groups of people had begun to provide spiritual support for the project. Promoted by Padre Pio, the prayer groups were in response to a call from Ven. Pius XII for people to gather to pray together, especially in the face of World War II.

“Without prayer, our House for the Relief of Suffering is somewhat like a plant without air and sun,” Padre Pio said, calling the prayer groups the “frontline of this little City of charity.”

The Casa today

These prayer groups continue to flourish today. And the hospital grows, with just under 1,000 beds spread across at least 26 medical and surgical departments, and another 14 departments for diagnosis and other services, all run by nearly 3,000 staff members.

From its humble beginnings as a private clinic, the Casa is now classified as a private national research hospital, specializing in genetic and hereditary diseases, and includes a home for the elderly and housing for families with children receiving cancer treatment.

During the first expansion in 1967, a second, larger chapel was added to the interior of the hospital. In the two chapels a rosary is prayed every day, three or more Masses are celebrated, and staff and patients stop by for moments of personal prayer.

Additional support for hospital staff includes regular spiritual and ethical training courses taught by theologians.

At the hospital’s 10th anniversary in 1966, two years before his death, Padre Pio reflected on the “humble origins” of the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, and how, coming from nothing, “the miracle of faith and charity to which this Work bears witness before the eyes of the world becomes all the more important.”

Entrusting the success of his earthly work to prayer, he said, it is that which “unites all good souls and moves the world, that renews consciences, that sustains the Casa, that comforts the suffering, that cures the sick, that sanctifies their work, that elevates simple medical assistance, that gives moral strength and Christian resignation to human suffering, that becomes a smile and the blessing of God upon weakness and frailty.”

Papal aides say prosperity gospel is distorted take on the ‘American Dream’

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- After publishing a highly controversial essay in July 2017 alleging the existence of an “ecumenism of hate” between Catholics and Evangelicals in the U.S., close papal confidantes Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ and Marcelo Figueroa in a new article issue a scathing critique of the “prosperity gospel,” which they say is based on a reductionist view of the American Dream.

In the new essay, run July 18 in the Jesuit-run magazine “La Civilta Cattolica,” which is directed by Spadaro, the authors argue that the prosperity gospel, rooted in late 19th century America, is closely tied to the Protestant Evangelical movement in the U.S., and sees power, wealth and success as the result of one's faith, while poverty and misfortune are signs of a lack of faith.

“The risk of this form of religious anthropocentrism, which puts humans and their well-being at the center, is that it transforms God into a power at our service, the Church into a supermarket of faith, and religion into a utilitarian phenomenon that is eminently sensationalist and pragmatic,” they said.

Spadaro and Figueroa, a Protestant who heads the Argentine section of Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, said the prosperity gospel is “a reductive interpretation” of the American Dream.

Though historically this dream saw the United States as a heaven for economic migrants seeking better opportunities than were available in their homeland, Spadaro and Figueroa argue that this vision has turned into a distorted religious belief being put forward by big-name Evangelical televangelists.

The authors cited U.S. President Donald Trump's Jan. 30 State of the Union address, in which the president pointed to popular American motto “in God we trust” and spoke of importance of family and the military, a clear indication that they see Trump as an example of this “neo-Pentecostal” brand of theology.

Spadaro and Figueroa said the two main “pillars” of the prosperity gospel are health and economic success – a mentality they said stems from “a literalist exegesis of some biblical texts that are taken within a reductionist hermeneutic.”

Popular televangelist personalities such as Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton and Joyce Meyer, who are often considered to be key prosperity gospel figures in the United States, were dubbed by Spadaro and Figueroa as “evangelicals of the American Dream.”

“Their growth is exponential and directly proportional to the economic, physical and spiritual benefits they promise their followers,” the authors said, adding that “all these blessings are far removed from the life of conversion usually taught by the traditional evangelical movements.”

Spadaro and Figueroa argued that these preachers take scripture out of context, diffusing a message that God is at the service of humanity, and that one can obtain blessings and prosperity, whether physical or economic, simply through religious conviction.

There is a “lack of empathy and solidarity” on issues like migration from adherents to the prosperity gospel approach, they argued.

In this movement, “there can be no compassion for those who are not prosperous, for clearly they have not followed the rules and thus live in failure and are not loved by God,” Spadaro and Figueroa argued.

Biblical teachings such as “you reap what you sow” or that one will receive “a hundredfold” for their good works have been reduced to a “contract” in which the more one gives, the more they expect to get in return, the authors said.

Under this approach, God is made in the image of man, they said, and people believe that they can earn their own success through their actions, making the thought of poverty “unbearable,” because “first, the person thinks their faith is unable to move the providential hands of God; second, their miserable situation is a divine imposition, a relentless punishment to be accepted in submission.”

When it comes to the prosperity gospel and the American Dream, Spadaro and Figueroa said the problem is that the financial success of the United States has been seen as a direct result of America's faith in God.

“It leads to the conclusion that the United States has grown as a nation under the blessing of the providential God of the Evangelical movement,” they said. “Meanwhile, those who dwell south of the Rio Grande are sinking in poverty because the Catholic Church has a different, opposed vision exalting poverty.”

This view not only “exasperates individualism and knocks down the sense of solidarity,” they said, but it also “pushes people to adopt a miracle-centered outlook, because faith alone – not social or political commitment – can procure prosperity.”

And the risk in this is that “the poor who are fascinated by this pseudo-Gospel remain dazzled in a socio-political emptiness that easily allows other forces to shape their world, making them innocuous and defenseless,” Spadaro and Figueroa said, adding that “the prosperity gospel is not a cause of real change, a fundamental aspect of the vision that is innate to the social doctrine of the Church.”

The two closed their essay saying the prosperity gospel is product of two ancient heresies – Pelagianism and Gnosticism – which Pope Francis, who has consistently spoken out against the prosperity gospel mentality, warned of in his recent apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et Exsultate.

The prosperity gospel, they said, is “a far cry” from the original American Dream, which they described as a “positive and enlightening prophecy” that has inspired many, and which is embodied in civil rights defender Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

New Arizona law awards custody of frozen embryos in favor of birth

Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 19, 2018 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A new Arizona law awards contested custody of frozen embryos to the parent seeking to “develop them to birth.” A Catholic bioethicist told CNA it was a “positive development” in an otherwise unusual ethical situation.

The law, which came into effect July 1, is first of its kind in the United States. It was partly inspired by a custody dispute over frozen embryos. Ruby Torres, a 37 year old woman from Arizona, and her ex-husband John Joseph Terrell created the embryos prior to Torres’ treatment for breast cancer, when she was told she was unlikely to conceive after radiation and chemotherapy. They married shortly thereafter, divorcing three years after she had finished cancer treatments.

Seven embryos were created and remain frozen in storage. Torres told the judge during divorce proceedings that she wanted the embryos,calling them her last chance of having a biological child. Terrell protested, saying he did not want to become a father or be responsible for supporting a child.

Last year, the judge ruled that the embryos should be donated, but not to Torres. She appealed this decision. The law does not apply retroactively to this case or other similar cases.

In other custody disputes, judges have ordered frozen embryos to be either destroyed, remain frozen until an agreement can be made, or donated for use in research purposes. Rarely have they been awarded to a person seeking to actually gestate a child.

Should an embryo be successfully carried tol birth, the Arizona law does not make the unwilling party liable for child support.

Critics of the law say that it “forces” people to become parents against their will. Dr. Ted Furton, director of publications at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that this argument is the result of a mentality that considers embryos to be property, not human life.

“As soon as you produce embryos, the man and wife are parents,” Furton told CNA in an interview. “Parenthood doesn't happen later, it happens at that moment.”

“So, they're already parents. What they don't realize when they say 'I don't want to be a parent'--it's too late.”

Furton said that he thought the law’s recognition of an embryo as a human life and not as a form of property was a “very positive development” and a “good sign,” and that he is hopeful these kinds of laws would help people “to better understand that these are indeed human lives, and like every human life, deserve protection.”

On 'Humanae vitae'- Pope Paul VI did not act alone

Vatican City, Jul 19, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Humanae vitae is not a “pre-conciliar” encyclical, Bl. Paul VI did not develop the final draft in solitude, and, the pope sought opinions before promulgating the text, according to a new book on the encyclical’s history.
 
The book “La nascita di un enciclica” (The Birth of an encyclical), was written by Professor Gilfredo Marengo, a professor of theological anthropology at the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and Family.
 
To write the book, Professor Marengo was given access to documents from the archive of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, with special permission from the pope, since archival material from the Holy See is usually made available to scholars only after 70 years.
 
The documents include a series of drafts and instructions and also a never published encyclical draft, De nascendi prolis, which was overturned by a new draft, which ultimately became the final text of Humanae vitae.
 
The study of these documents lead Marengo to a final conclusion: “the idea that Paul VI made his decisions alone is just mythological.”

At the same time, “the isolation in which he found himself” after the promulgation of the encyclical is a different matter, Marengo said.
 
The book is the conclusion of a historical research project on Humanae vitae which initially sparked concern when announced. At the beginning, some speculated that a commission to reinterpret Humanae vitae had been formed, composed of Marengo, along with Pierangelo Sequeri, president of the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II, and professors Philippe Chenaux and Angelo Maffeis.

Church officials said last June this was not the study group’s intended purpose, and Marengo, at the eve of the publication of the book, told CNA that Paul VI’s encyclical needed no update.

“The journey toward Humanae vitae was not difficult because of Paul VI’s doubts or uncertainties on contraceptive practice. Difficulties came from the seeking of a language able to convey that judgement in a balanced, convincing and pastorally fruitful way,” Marengo said
 
The path toward the publication of Humanae Vitae was long. It started in 1963, when St. John XXIII established a commission for the study of marriage, family and birth control.
 
Shortly after this, St. John XXIII died, and Paul VI was elected pope. He expanded the commission’s membership from 6 to 12, and in 1965 he further expanded the membership to 75, chaired by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, prefect of the Holy Office – now named the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
 
Professor Marengo’s book follows step-by-step the development of discussion, from one session of the commission to another. In general, there is at first a pastoral approach, then a more doctrinal one, and then the synthesis offered by Bl. Paul VI.
 
Among the biggest concerns of some commission members was that arguing that the use of a contraceptive pill could be licit in some particular cases would favor the anti-birth policies of the developed West, thus impacting negatively the poorest countries.
 
The issue of birth control was part of the discussion during the drafting of the Second Vatican Council’s constitution Gaudium et Spes. However, Paul VI made the decision to take the birth control issue out of the discussion. Marengo notes that the pope asked to include in Gaudium et Spes sections reiterating the Church’s teaching on issues of marriage and family, opposing contraceptive mentalities and praising conjugal chastity, in order not to raise any doubt about Catholic teaching.
 
Particularly noteworthy is the plenary meeting of the expanded commission that took place March 25 – 29, 1965. The gathering recognized that a public statement on responsible paternity was needed, while it underscored that it had been impossible to reach a shared conclusion about whether the pill could be used licitly.
 
So, they proposed a temporary pastoral instruction, a “provisional solution to face the impossibility of reaching a convincing doctrinal stance.”
 
Paul VI did not like it. Marengo noted that the pope was concerned “to avoid that the Church, and especially the magisterium, seemed unable to say a clear word on such a debated issue in the public opinion.”
 
In addition to that, Paul VI deemed unacceptable “to back a change of the magisterium, not because there were strong and shared reasons, but because of the inability to untie all the knots.”
 
Bishop Carlo Colombo, then auxiliary bishop of Milan, also made his proposal for a pastoral turn, and presented a text which said that “contraceptive practice must not always be considered grave sin,” which was a way in the middle not to detach from Pius XI and Pius XII teachings and at the same time to dissolve conflict of conscience among spouses.
 
Paul VI did not take this suggestion, and started a new path of study, in his constant attempt to find a good balance between pastoral practice and doctrine.
 
Marengo underscored that, at the time, finding the proper language was difficult, as “a certain appeal for pastorality had been used to put in discussion some not-secondary issues of doctrine, and this caused uncertainty and uneasiness in the ecclesial body.”
 
At this point, international pressure started to mount.
 
A document stressing that 70 members of the Pontifical Commission were favorable toward the birth control pill was published simultaneously in the French newspaper “Le Monde,” the English magazine “The Tablet,” and the American magazine “National Catholic Reporter” in 1967.
 
This publication is at the origin of the popular narrative that Paul VI acted alone, and against the opinion of the majority of commission theologians.
 
In 2003, Bernardo Colombo, a professor of demographics and a member of the commission, revealed that the document was in fact “just one of the 12 reports presented to the Holy Father,” in an article he wrote in “Teologia”, the journal of the theological faculty of Milan.
 
Professor Marengo’s book also dismisses the narrative.

Despite pressure, the work toward the drafting of an encyclical proceeded. In 1967, Paul VI askes the Vatican Secretary of State to poll participants in the first Synod of Bishops.
 
Only 26 out of the 199 participants in the Synod respond to a request that they give an opinion on birth control. The majority of them called for openness to the use of contraception, while only seven asked the Pope to reiterate the immorality of contraception, according to Marengo.
 
It was, however, only a minority of surveyed bishops who even responded to the survey.
 
Paul VI’s collegial way of working is proved by the numerous opinions he sought, as well as regular dialogue with theologians and commissions, and that final request to the Synod of Bishops.
 
Marengo stressed that “not a few looked at the encyclical as a decision made by Paul VI in total solitude, without taking in consideration the dynamics of the majority and the minority,” despite ample evidence to the contrary.
 
“Although Paul VI had a strong awareness of the apostolic ministry with which he was entrusted, he never wanted to make the decision alone, and his attempt to involve Synod’s fathers in 1967 is a clear proof of that,” Marengo wrote.
 
In the end, Bl. Paul VI had also the courage to reject De Nascendi Prolis, the first draft of the encyclical, after it was already set and had been sent out for translation. Paul VI took the suggestion of Paul Poupard and Jacques Martin, French and English translators of the text and both of them future cardinals.
 
When they read the text, they both stressed that the draft “seemed to be unfit to the task,” that is “to make the doctrine of the Church intelligible and as much as possible acceptable to the modern world in such a delicate and discussed issue.”
 
Poupard and Martin also sketched their own draft, which started on different basis: De Nascende Prolis was mostly a clear and correct explanation of principles, while the Poupard – Martin draft took the perspective of the faithful that hoped from the Church for an interpretation of the moral law.
 
That was, in general, the discussion that led to the final drafting of the Humanae vitae. From Paul VI’s personal corrections to the text, one sees that it was the pope who wanted to add the adjective “human” to the encyclical’s opening.
 
According to Marengo, the text of Humanae vitae shows “the pope’s will to avoid the idea that the search for a doctrinal clarity might be interpreted as insensitive rigidity.”

Paul VI also wanted to emphasize that the Church was very much eager to share problems and difficulties of couples, but not to the point of “justifying a teaching that was not fully consistent with the totality and integrality of the Gospel’s message.”
 
In the end, Paul VI took every possible outcome into consideration. He did not want to suspend any doctrinal judgment, but in reaffirming the doctrine he also put at the center the pastoral method. This was the spirit of the Council: to keep continuity with the deposit of faith, looking for a new way to present it to the world.
 
 One final note: beyond any pastoral openness or scientific uncertainty, documents and drafts prior to the publication of the encyclical show that the final goal was to publish a text in continuity with the Church’s traditional teaching.
 
Paul VI did not want to make a formal declaration to say the teaching of the encyclical was infallible, as requested by the Cardinal Wojtyla. This does not mean, in the end, that he did not consider this teaching as definitive. Everything was solidly anchored to the teaching of the Church.