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Vatican releases pope's Lent, Holy Week, Easter schedule

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and top officials of the Roman Curia will leave the Vatican March 1-6 for their annual Lenten retreat, the Vatican announced.

And, as is customary when first publishing the pope's calendar for Holy Week, the Vatican did not provide the time or place for his celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, April 9. Pope Francis has made it a tradition to celebrate the Mass and foot-washing ritual at a prison or detention center, refugee center or rehabilitation facility.

Here is the schedule of papal liturgical ceremonies for February, March and April released by the Vatican Feb. 12 (times listed are local):

-- Feb. 26, Ash Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. penitential procession from Rome's Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for Mass with the imposition of ashes.

-- March 1-6, Lenten retreat with the Roman Curia at the Pauline Fathers' retreat center in Ariccia, southeast of Rome.

-- March 20, 5 p.m., penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica.

-- April 5, Palm Sunday, 10 a.m. Mass in St. Peter's Square.

-- April 9, chrism Mass, 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter's Basilica.

-- April 10, Good Friday, 5 p.m. liturgy of the Lord's passion in St. Peter's Basilica.

-- April 10, Way of the Cross, 9:15 p.m., Rome's Colosseum.

-- April 11, Easter vigil Mass, 8:30 p.m., St. Peter's Basilica.

-- April 12, Easter morning Mass, 10 a.m., St. Peter's Square, followed at noon by the pope's blessing "urbi et orbi" (the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

-- April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday, Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10:30 a.m.

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Cardinal Dolan pays homage to revered Cuban priest who ministered in N.Y.

IMAGE: CNS photo/Father Stephen Ries

By Rhina Guidos

HAVANA (CNS) -- The moment was anything but intimate, but it was probably the best chance Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan had to pay respects to a revered Cuban-born priest who helped Irish immigrants in New York.

The archbishop of New York, followed by a crowd of press Feb. 11, approached the place where the remains of Father Felix Varela are interred in a great room on the campus of the University of Havana and began to pray. Cardinal Dolan spoke of Father Varela's accomplishments as a scholar, teacher and thinker, one who made great contributions in his home country but also in his adoptive home.

Father Varela was born in Havana Nov. 20, 1788, but carried out his ministry in New York. He is a candidate for sainthood, and in 2012, the Vatican declared the priest "Venerable," recognizing his heroic virtues.

Cardinal Dolan made the stop during the last full day of a Feb. 7-12 mission trip to the island nation. He was accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, New York, who was born in Cuba and is the vice postulator of Father Varela's canonization cause.

"He was a great thinker, but he was a man who would take the shirt off his back for others," Bishop Cisneros told reporters.

And that's what Bishop Cisneros wanted to emphasize, that Father Varela was a priest above all. Father Varela was ordained a priest in Havana but served in New York, including in a post as vicar general, as the church helped with an influx of Irish immigrants and refugees from other countries.

Though many Cubans on the island may associate his name with being a patriot or a scholar, he was primarily a pastor, Bishop Cisneros said. His remains were first buried in St. Augustine, Florida, where he died Feb. 18, 1853, at age 64. His remains were later returned to the island and interred on the campus.

Those who traveled with the cardinal from the Archdiocese of New York gave out prayer cards of Father Varela during Masses in Cuba where Cardinal Dolan presided.

The priest who helped the poor, the downtrodden and the immigrants in the U.S. -- "that's Father Varela" -- may not be a saint canonically, he is a saint in the hearts of many, Bishop Cisneros told reporters who had gathered around Cardinal Dolan to ask about U.S.-Cuba relations.

Cardinal Dolan made the stop after a brief tour of the campus of the University of Havana, where he met with university and government officials.

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Pope on women in Amazon church: Don't try to 'clericalize' them

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis released his document on the Amazon region on the 15th anniversary of the assassination in Brazil of U.S. Notre Dame Sister Dorothy Stang, a missionary who defended the poor and the environment.

Her life and sacrifice are emblematic of what many participants at the October Synod of Bishops for the Amazon had said: Women in the region are leaders of both community and religious life; their defense of the poor and the natural environment is consistent and consistently results in threats to their lives.

In his postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Querida Amazonia" (Beloved Amazonia), which was published Feb. 12, Pope Francis said consecrated men and women in the Amazon are "closest to those who are most impoverished and excluded."

The pope devoted an entire section of the document to praising the way women -- lay and religious -- have kept the faith alive in the Amazon region. But he flatly rejects a request made by several synod participants to consider ordaining women deacons; the request did not receive enough support to be included in the synod's final document.

At the end of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, and on numerous other occasions, Pope Francis has said Catholics still have not understood how and why women are important in the church.

"We have not yet realized what women mean in the church," but instead "we focus on the functional aspect" -- what offices they are permitted to hold -- "which is important," but is not everything, he said at the end of the synod in October.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has acknowledged the essential and irreplaceable contribution of women to the church, their equal dignity and the importance of having their voices and talents contribute to decision-making.

But the pope also understands that in the way the Catholic Church operates in most places today, the traditional Catholic tie between ordination and power has meant that sometimes women are consulted and sometimes they aren't.

In his exhortation, Pope Francis tried again to lay out his vision for a church in which priesthood is equated with service, not power.

But clearly, until that vision becomes more of a reality, it will be up to priests and bishops to determine the extent to which the contributions and expertise of women -- and laypeople, in general -- will be welcomed.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, who served as secretary of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, said Pope Francis' caution in the apostolic exhortation about thinking women will be valued only if they can be ordained must read within his "extensive magisterium" stressing "the need to separate power from the priestly ministry, since this combination is at the origin of clericalism."

"This relationship between ministry and power is what leaves women without a voice, without rights and often without the possibility to decide," the cardinal told Vatican Media. "So, it is not a question of giving them access to an ordained ministry in order to have them gain a voice and a vote, but of separating power from ministry."

Pope Francis frequently has told people that ordination and the offices that go with it are not a measure of a person's importance in the church; in fact, he often insists "Mary is more important than the apostles."

In the exhortation, Pope Francis said, "In the Amazon region, there are communities that have long preserved and handed on the faith even though no priest has come their way, even for decades."

That happened, he said, "because of the presence of strong and generous women who, undoubtedly called and prompted by the Holy Spirit, baptized, catechized, prayed and acted as missionaries. For centuries, women have kept the church alive in those places through their remarkable devotion and deep faith."

Their example, the pope said, "summons us to broaden our vision" beyond seeing ordination as the best way to encourage and recognize women leaders in Catholic communities.

Still, while warning about the temptation "to clericalize" women or focus solely on functions, Pope Francis did say in the document that women "should have access to positions, including ecclesial services, that do not entail Holy Orders and that can better signify the role that is theirs."

Those positions, he said, should be established in a stable manner, be publicly recognized and include a formal "commission from the bishop."

While the positions should make it possible for women to have "a real and effective impact" on decision-making, he said, it should be done "in a way that reflects their womanhood."

Pope Francis does not explain in the document what he means by that other than by saying, "Women make their contribution to the church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother."

Reparatrix Sister Augusta de Oliveira, a Brazilian and vicar general of her order, was the only woman chosen by the Vatican to present the pope's document to the press Feb. 12.

Throughout the Amazon and in Amazonian Catholic communities, she said, women are "conquering and occupying spaces for decision making, reflection and service in defense of threatened life."

In the most difficult areas of the Amazon basin, she said, "we find the female presence" in religious communities "animating, supporting and serving."

Pope Francis, in his document, urged Catholics to trust that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the Catholic communities of the Amazon. "For wherever there is a particular need, he has already poured out the charisms that can meet it."

The church, the pope wrote, simply must "be open to the Spirit's boldness, to trust in, and concretely to permit, the growth of a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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Pope says there is no quick fix for priest shortage in Amazon region

IMAGE: CNS photo/Maria Cervantes, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis acknowledged the serious shortage of priests in remote areas of the Amazon, but he insisted not all avenues have been exhausted to address the issue.

In his apostolic exhortation, "Querida Amazonia" ("Beloved Amazonia"), which was released by the Vatican Feb. 12, the pope said that confronting the priest shortage simply by "facilitating a greater presence of ordained ministers who can celebrate the Eucharist" would be "a very narrow aim."

The members of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in October asked Pope Francis to open the way for the priestly ordination of married permanent deacons so that Catholics in the region could go to Mass and receive the sacraments regularly.

In response, Pope Francis wrote in his new document that the priest shortage must be seen as an opportunity for the Catholic Church to "awaken new life in communities."

"We need to promote an encounter with God's word and growth in holiness through various kinds of lay service that call for a process of education -- biblical, doctrinal, spiritual and practical -- and a variety of programs of ongoing formation," he said.

In an interview with Vatican News Feb. 12, Cardinal Michael Czerny, who served as secretary of the synod in October, said Pope Francis believes that "the question is not one of numbers and that a greater presence of priests is not the only requirement."

"What is needed is a presence of laypeople at the local level who are animated by a missionary spirit and capable of representing the authentic face of the Amazonian Church. This, he seems to indicate, is the only way that vocations will return," he said.

Cardinal Czerny told journalists that while there is no mention in the pope's document of ordaining married men to the priesthood or to women deacons, the pope "has not resolved them in any way beyond what he has said in the exhortation."

The synod is a journey "with long roads ahead as well as roads already traveled," Cardinal Czerny said Feb. 12 during a briefing at the Vatican press office. "So, if there are questions that you feel are open or that the church feels are open, thanks to the exhortation they will continue to be debated, discussed, discerned, prayed over and when mature presented to the appropriate authority for decision."

Pope Francis urged bishops, especially in Latin America, to encourage those who wish to be missionaries "to opt for the Amazon region."

Much like in past exhortations, the pope drove the point home in the footnotes.

"It is noteworthy that, in some countries of the Amazon Basin, more missionaries go to Europe or the United States than remain to assist their own vicariates in the Amazon region," he said.

While the shortage of vocations is an issue felt throughout the church, even the severe shortages in places like the United States pale in comparison to their Amazonian counterparts.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, for example, has an estimated 900,000 Catholics and a total of 103 priests, which is an average of one priest for every 8,737 people. It has one of the lowest priest-to-Catholics ratios in the United States.

In comparison, the Diocese of Caxias do Maranhao, Brazil, has only 25 priests for a population of 825,000 Catholics, an average of one priest for every 33,000 people.

And remote villages, such as the Kichwa indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazonian region, are difficult areas for priests to visit since they are accessible only by small plane or canoe.

In his exhortation, the pope said that priests are essential for the full life of Catholic communities since they are the only ones who can consecrate the Eucharist and grant absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation.

"If we are truly convinced that this is the case, then every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian peoples do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness," the pope said.

Nonetheless, Pope Francis also called for a renewal "of both initial and ongoing priestly formation" before considering other suggestions.

While priests are necessary, religious women, lay people and permanent deacons -- "of whom there should be many more in the Amazon region" -- could perform other functions necessary for Catholic life "with the aid of suitable accompaniment," he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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True sorrow for sins leads to renewed love for God, others, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Recognizing and repenting for one's own sins and errors is difficult, but essential, Pope Francis said.

"To understand (one's) sin is a gift from God, it is the work of the Holy Spirit" who helps each person realize "the evil I have done or that I may do," the pope said Feb. 12 during his weekly general audience.

The pope continued a new series of talks on the Eight Beatitudes by reflecting on Jesus' second "paradoxical" proclamation, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted."

This kind of mourning is more than mere grief, he said; it is "an inner sorrow that leads to a new relationship with the Lord and with each other."

The Bible distinguishes between two types of sorrow, the pope said. One is the pain felt when facing the suffering or death of someone else and is a pain that comes from a place of love and empathy. The second is sorrow for one's sin.

Just as there are sorrows to be comforted, he said, sometimes there are people who are too comforted, and they need some sorrow to "wake up" and remember how to cry for their brothers and sisters.

Mourning for another is a "bitter" but important journey that reveals "the sacred and irreplaceable value of every person" and is a reminder of how fleeting life is.

The sorrow people should experience over their sins is not the same thing as getting angry when they make a mistake. That, he said, is pride.

Instead people should truly mourn for what they have done, for their failure to do what was right or for betraying God by not living the way indicated by the Lord, "who loves us so much."

"This is the sense of sin -- it makes us sad knowing the good was not done," he said. It is the sorrow of realizing "I have hurt the one I love," leading to the precious "gift" of tears.

This lies at the heart of facing one's own errors, which is "difficult, but vital," he said.

"Look at the tears of St. Peter, which led him to a new and more authentic love," versus Judas, who did not accept he did anything wrong, "and poor thing, he commits suicide."

Mourning purifies and renews the heart and one's relationship with God, the pope said, highlighting St. Ephraim the Syrian, who spoke of the beauty of a face washed with tears of repentance.

The pope asked people to pray for the grace to grieve for their sins and to be open to the healing grace of the Holy Spirit.

"Do not forget. God always forgives, even the worst sins. The problem is us who tire of asking forgiveness," he said.

At the end of the audience, the pope led a moment of silence after he asked people to pray for Syria, which has been "shedding blood for years."

"So many families, so many elderly people, children have to flee from war," he said.

He also asked for prayers for people in China who are suffering from illnesses caused by the "vicious" coronavirus. "May they find the path to healing as soon as possible."

 

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In Amazon document, pope calls for action rooted in conversion of heart

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ney Marcondes, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like so many of Pope Francis' teachings and major documents, his apostolic exhortation on the Amazon is built on a call for conversion -- a new way of seeing, thinking and doing.

"We need to feel outrage," he wrote, underlining his concern that the world has become too indifferent, too numb or too much in denial about what is happening to the environment, the world and the people in it.

In his apostolic exhortation "Querida Amazonia" (Beloved Amazonia), Pope Francis urged people to recognize how much injustice and cruelty has taken place in the Amazon region, and he pleaded for attention to "current forms of human exploitation, abuse and killing."

Following in the footsteps of "Laudato Si'," his 2015 encyclical on the environment, the pope said people must approach the Amazon aware that "everything is connected," which means that care for people and care for ecosystems are inseparable.

In the document, released Feb. 12, he called on political leaders and governments in the Amazon region to take more seriously their responsibility to preserve the environment and resources and to protect the rights and cultures of all its citizens.

An unusual suggestion Pope Francis made in the document was that people turn to poetry and delve into Amazonian stories to discover how unique the region is and to feel more deeply its importance.

"Those poets, contemplatives and prophets help free us from the technocratic and consumerist paradigm that destroys nature and robs us of a truly dignified existence," he said.

Poetry helps give voice to beauty and to pain, he said, and it should help wake people up to what is under threat.

Reflection is needed to bring about the true conversion needed to hear and respond to the cry of the region's people and the cry of the earth, he said. "From the original peoples, we can learn to contemplate the Amazon region and not simply analyze it, and thus appreciate this precious mystery that transcends us."

"We can love it, not simply use it, with the result that love can awaken a deep and sincere interest," he wrote. "Even more, we can feel intimately a part of it and not only defend it; then the Amazon region will once more become like a mother to us."

The key to all of Pope Francis' appeals in the document is to not "look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us to all beings."

"A sound and sustainable ecology, one capable of bringing about change, will not develop unless people are changed, unless they are encouraged to opt for another style of life, one less greedy and more serene, more respectful and less anxious, more fraternal," he said.

 

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Update: Glenmary Father Rausch, advocate for Appalachian people, dies at 75

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Glenmary Father John Rausch recognized early in his time as a missionary in Appalachia that people were facing severe environmental and economic challenges and devoted his ministry to seeking solutions and calling attention to their predicament.

For 53 years, Father Rausch of Stanton, Kentucky, who died Feb. 9 at age 75, traveled around the region, speaking, writing, organizing and praying in a lifelong effort to carry out the biblical call to justice, friends and colleagues recalled.

"He was very dedicated to justice," Father Dan Dorsey, Glenmary's president, told Catholic News Service Feb. 11. "Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', seemed to sum up his own ministry and passion as far as care of the earth. He had just an incredible love of Appalachia and its people."

Visitors to Father Rausch in Kentucky often were treated to hearty meals and warm hospitality. "It was the ministry of the table," Father Dorsey said.

That love led Father Rausch to the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, for which he served as director from 2005 to 2013. The organization presented him with its Bishop Sullivan Peace and Justice Award in 2016.

Michael Iafrate, the committee's current co-coordinator, credited Father Rausch for being "a regular guy."

"He was on the other end of clericalism, of being with people and not imposing stuff on them, and standing with them in whatever struggle they might have, a personal struggle or a political struggle," Iafrate said.

"He also had a way of communicating what Catholic social teaching is about and reaching people who you wouldn't think would be very receptive to it," Iafrate added in a Feb. 11 interview with CNS.

Father Rausch, who was writing an autobiography for the University of Kentucky Press at the time of his death, had been a longtime supporter of coal miners and their families. In recent years, he spoke against efforts by mining companies to shed pension and health care liabilities for retired workers.

In his wide-ranging ministry role Father Rausch also served with the Commission on Religion in Appalachia, the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center, Christians for the Mountains and the Laudato Si' Commission of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He joined the faculty at the Coady Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada for three summers.

A native of Philadelphia, Father Rausch began his work with Glenmary in the mid-1960s as an associate pastor at the order's missions in Norton and St. Paul, Virginia. He later became pastor of St. Paul.

A pastoral letter by the 25 bishops of the Appalachia region, "This Land Is Home to Me," influenced Father Rausch in 1980 to devote his life to serving the Appalachian region without a traditional church assignment. "He viewed all of Appalachia as his parish," Father Dorsey said.

The pastoral letter marked the first effort by the bishops as a group to call attention to the dire economic hardship, rising drug abuse, environmental destruction and a decline in the culture that defines the 205,000-square-mile region that extends from southern New York to northeastern Mississippi and is home to more than 25 million people.

Father Rausch organized pilgrimages for religious leaders, journalists, elected officials and parishioners from across the country to see firsthand the resiliency of the people in the face of the hardships.

In his writing, Father Rausch described the experiences of the people of Appalachia in a column that appeared in diocesan newspapers as well as in articles for various publications. He won 10 Catholic Press Association awards for his work published in Glenmary Challenge magazine.

In 2007, Pax Christi USA awarded Father Rausch with its Teacher of Peace Award.

Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, recalled the priest for his witness in life that "spoke to the peace of Christ, care of creation and the church's preferential option for those who are impoverished."

Father Rausch is survived two sisters, Marian J. McGinty and Melanie V. Cannon.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated Feb. 19 at St. Matthias Church in Cincinnati. Father Rausch will be buried at Gate of Heaven in Montgomery, Ohio.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Pope shares his 'dreams' for Amazon region, its Catholic community

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he dreams of an Amazon region where the rights of the poor and indigenous are respected, local cultures are preserved, nature is protected, and the Catholic Church is present and active with "Amazonian features."

In his apostolic exhortation "Querida Amazonia" (Beloved Amazonia), Pope Francis made no mention of the idea of ordaining married men to the priesthood so that far-flung Catholic communities would have regular access to the Eucharist.

Instead, he said "every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian people do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness."

"A specific and courageous response is required of the church" to meet the needs of Catholics, he said, without dictating what that response would be.

However, Pope Francis opened the document saying he wanted "to officially present the final document" of October's Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. The final document asked for criteria to be drawn up "to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region."

Speaking about the final document, Pope Francis wrote that the synod "profited from the participation of many people who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region."

Having a church with "Amazonian features," he said, also will require greater efforts to evangelize, official recognition of the role women have and continue to play in the region's Catholic communities, a respect for popular forms of piety and greater efforts to inculturate the Catholic faith in Amazonian cultures.

In the document, Pope Francis did not mention the theft during the synod of wooden statues of a pregnant woman, usually referred to by the media as "pachamama" or described as a symbol of life and fertility by synod participants.

But he insisted, "Let us not be quick to describe as superstition or paganism certain religious practices that arise spontaneously from the life of peoples."

The pope devoted several long passages to the theme of "inculturation," the process by which the faith becomes "incarnate" in a local culture, taking on local characteristics that are in harmony with the faith and giving the local culture values and traits that come from the universal church.

"There is a risk," he said, "that evangelizers who come to a particular area may think that they must not only communicate the Gospel but also the culture in which they grew up."

Instead, he said, "what is needed is courageous openness to the novelty of the Spirit, who is always able to create something new with the inexhaustible riches of Jesus Christ."

One of the characteristics of many Catholic communities in the Amazon, he wrote, is that, in the absence of priests, they are led and sustained by "strong and generous women, who, undoubtedly called and prompted by the Holy Spirit, baptized, catechized, prayed and acted as missionaries."

While the idea of ordaining women deacons was mentioned at the synod, it was not included in the bishops' final document.

In his exhortation, Pope Francis said the idea that women's status and participation in the church could come only with ordination "would lead us to clericalize women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective."

Instead, he called for including women in roles "that do not entail holy orders," but that are stably established, publicly recognized and include "a commission from the bishop" and a voice in decision making.

Peppered with poetry praising the region's beauty or lamenting its destruction, much of the document looks at the exploitation of the Amazon region's indigenous communities and poor inhabitants and the destruction of its natural resources.

"The Amazon region has been presented as an enormous empty space to be filled, a source of raw materials to be developed (and) a wild expanse to be domesticated," the pope wrote. "None of this recognizes the rights of the original peoples; it simply ignores them as if they did not exist or acts as if the lands on which they live do not belong to them."

The destruction of the forest, the polluting of the Amazon River and its tributaries and the disruption and contamination of the land by mining industries, he said, further impoverish the region's poor, increase the chances that they will become victims of trafficking and destroy their communities and cultures, which are based on a close and care-filled relationship with nature.

"The inescapable truth is that, as things stand, this way of treating the Amazon territory spells the end for so much life, for so much beauty, even though people would like to keep thinking that nothing is happening," Pope Francis wrote.

Yet, he said, "from the original peoples, we can learn to contemplate the Amazon region and not simply analyze it, and thus appreciate this precious mystery that transcends us. We can love it, not simply use it, with the result that love can awaken a deep and sincere interest. Even more, we can feel intimately a part of it and not only defend it."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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Knights of Columbus celebrate 100 years in Rome

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- Less than 40 years after its humble beginnings in New Haven, Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus was invited by Pope Benedict XV to establish a permanent presence in Rome.

The Knights celebrated the 100th anniversary of their charitable work in the Eternal City with an audience with Pope Francis Feb. 10 and a press event Feb. 11, reflecting on the fraternal organization's past achievements and ongoing projects.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson told reporters that the Knights had a temporary presence in Rome During World War I when it set up and ran a hospitality center for U.S. troops at the Hotel Minerva.

At the time, he said, it was the only charitable organization for U.S. troops that did not segregate according to race and provided "racially integrated" services for soldiers, decades before segregation was abolished.

After 1920, when Pope Benedict XV invited them to have a permanent presence, the Knights set up sports centers and other activities for young people in Rome.

During World War II, Anderson said, the United States and Italy found themselves fighting on opposing sides, leading the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to try to close down the Knights' facilities.

But the people in Rome protested and the organization was able to continue its work, which was particularly critical in the aftermath of the war, he said.

Over time, the Knights expanded the kind of assistance they offered to include helping the Vatican's radio and television centers to broadcast major events at the Vatican around the world as well as help purchase needed high-tech equipment.

Anderson said they provide this help to Vatican communications "so no one is excluded" from hearing the Gospel preached by the Holy Father.

They continue to help subsidize a number of initiatives with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and they sponsor a large number of projects for restoring and repairing parts of St. Peter's Basilica, its chapels and priceless works of art and sacred objects.

Soon, Anderson said, they will help fund a project that is still in the planning stages: improving the lighting and visitor experience of touring the underground excavations of the necropolis and St. Peter's tomb.

Alongside their efforts helping the universal church, the Knights still support projects in the city of Rome, including their sports center, which hosts Special Olympics events and does outreach for the large Filipino community in the city.

"We see these actions as preaching the Gospel through faith in action," he said, adding that they were proud to be able to help every pope since 1920.

"As I promised Pope Francis yesterday, in the century to come, the Knights of Columbus will continue to work tirelessly serving those in need and being a beacon of charity, unity and fraternity to our members, to the church and to the world," he said.

 

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At Mass in Havana, Cardinal Dolan highlights church's unifying teachings

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

HAVANA (CNS) -- Though there's a great distance from New York to Cuba, sharing the Eucharist with other Catholics on the island is a great reminder of the bonds of faith and love and what the church can build even among people who are different, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said Feb. 10.

"It is very clear to us, the visitors, that we are at home here," he said during his first Mass in the Cuban capital of Havana.

"We are specially at home when we are at the family table," the cardinal said, referring to the celebration of the Eucharist during a homily at the chapel of Hogar Santovenia, a center where members of the Catholic Church, including women religious, care for the elderly in Havana.

It felt so much like home that a man in the choir suddenly broke into a flute rendition of "Ave Maria" at the end of the Mass, after which the cardinal turned to face a statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the country's revered patron saint, while the man finished playing.

"Que viva la Virgen de la Caridad!" the cardinal then shouted in Spanish, followed by great applause from the elders.

The cardinal's spontaneity has played well among the Catholic Cubans he has visited during his six-day mission trip, his first to the island, as well as church-run centers or organizations he has toured.

"Your affection gives us encouragement," said Maritza Sanchez Abillud, director of Caritas Cuba, who met with the cardinal during his first full day in Havana to talk about the programs the organization provides, particularly tending to the island's aging population.

"We remember how our faith unites us, but our charity also unites us," Cardinal Dolan said to Sanchez, who spoke to him about some of the difficulties of trying to help when materials on the island are scarce.

Aside from the visit to the Caritas Havana office, the cardinal and his small entourage -- which also included Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, and Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, New York -- also visited a facility where a small group of Guatemalan women religious, members of the Congregation of Mary and Martha, care for aging or sick priests, and the Vatican embassy, or nunciature, on the island.

During an evening Mass at Havana's cathedral, he was joined by Cuban Cardinal Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Havana; Bishop Juan Hernandez Ruiz of Pinar del Rio; Bishop Emilio Aranguren Echeverria of Holguin, who is the head of the Cuban bishops' conference; and Archbishop Giampiero Gloder, the Vatican's nuncio to Cuba.

At the cathedral, Cardinal Dolan continued the sentiment he had expressed at each of the places he visited: that even though his Spanish wasn't perfect, he was "very, very happy" to be in Cuba to share with those in the church who are doing good works there, despite difficulties. He referenced the first reading for that day from the First Book of Kings, which spoke of the dedication of the Jerusalem temple.

The temple in Jerusalem brought people together, he said. He referenced how the Havana cathedral, too, served the same purpose. Earlier he had mentioned the presence of a small group of government officials at the evening Mass.

"And here we are, here in this magnificent, historic temple that is the center of unity in the church that has brought people together in love in faith and worship for centuries," he said. "Here is the arc of the covenant, with God's holy word and the real presence of Jesus in the holy Eucharist."

Jesus taught his disciples to help the poor and the sick, Cardinal Dolan said.

"The church tries to do what Jesus did and, in Cuba, I have been so inspired" to see the same take place, he said.

"Here, I see the church do what Jesus did in helping the old, the sick and the poor," and simply doing what Jesus asked, he said.

Carrying out those teachings of being of service to others reminds the followers of Christ of the sacredness of human life and the dignity of every human person, he said, and it is part of the universal church, whether in Cuba or New York.

Cardinal Garcia thanked him for his visit and said the church in Cuba feels one with the church in the U.S.

"We have the same faith in God," he said, and that helps carry out the church's teachings including the belief in the wonder that is marriage, the defense of life, practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and the church's social doctrine. He also said Cuba had the joy of having priests in the U.S. and jokingly said he was hoping the cardinal would send some missionary priests from New York to Cuba.

"Thank you for your testimony, your prayers, your aid and cooperation," Cardinal Garcia said, telling the New York cardinal jokingly that seminarians were "angry" at him for not bringing along copies of his book for them.

"It all sold out," the cardinal replied.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]