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Pope Francis: St. Joseph shows engaged couples what real love looks like

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis shared advice for engaged and married couples based on the example provided by the Holy Family at his Wednesday audience.

The pope highlighted how St. Joseph witnessed to what real, “mature love” looks like, particularly when life throws a couple unexpected challenges.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He asked the crowd gathered in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 1 to imagine that when Mary and Joseph were engaged to one another, “they had probably cultivated dreams and expectations regarding their life and their future,” when “out of the blue, God seems to have inserted himself into their lives.”

When Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis underlined that “love is not the pretension that the other person, or life, should correspond to our imagination.”

“Rather, it means to choose in full freedom to take responsibility for one’s life as it comes,” he said. “This is why Joseph gives us an important lesson. He chooses Mary with ‘his eyes open.’ We can say ‘with all the risks.’”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“And Joseph’s risk gives us this lesson: to take life as it comes,” the pope said at the live-streamed audience.

In his address, Pope Francis urged Christian couples to remember that they are “called to witness to a love like this that has the courage to move from the logic of falling in love to that of mature love.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He said that this requires making “a demanding choice” that “can fortify love so that it endures when faced with the trials of time.”

“Dear brothers and dear sisters, our lives are very often not what we imagine them to be. Especially in loving and affectionate relationships, it is difficult to move from the logic of falling in love to the logic of a mature love,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“We need to move from infatuation to mature love — you newlyweds, think about this. The first phase is always marked by a certain enchantment that makes us live immersed in the imaginary that is often not based on reality and facts, the falling in love phase.”

“But precisely when falling in love with its expectations seems to come to an end, that is where true love begins or true love enters in there.”

Pope Francis said that it is normal for married couples to quarrel sometimes, but advised couples to “make peace before going to bed.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“That spouses fight is our daily bread, eh … ‘And there are even times plates fly.’ It happens. But what can be done so that this does not damage the life of the marriage? Listen to me well: never finish the day without making peace,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Remember always: never finish the day without making peace. And this will help you in your married life,” he added.

This was Pope Francis’ third reflection in a catechetical series on St. Joseph during his Wednesday general audiences.

Before ending this week’s audience, the pope made an appeal marking World AIDS Day.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Today is World AIDS Day. It is an important occasion to remember the many people who are affected by this virus. For many of them, in some areas of the world, access to the necessary treatment is not available. My hope is that there might be a renewed commitment in solidarity to guarantee fair and effective health care,” Francis said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope also asked for prayers on the day before he departs for his trip to Cyprus and Greece on Dec. 2-6.

Among the crowd at the audience were newly married couples who came to the Vatican to receive the pope’s blessing for their marriages.

At the conclusion of his address, Pope Francis shared a prayer to St. Joseph for Christian couples:

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“St. Joseph,
you who loved Mary with freedom,
and chose to renounce your fantasies to give way to reality,
help each of us to allow ourselves to be surprised by God
and to accept life not as something unforeseen from which to defend ourselves,
but as a mystery that hides the secret of true joy.
Obtain joy and radicality for all engaged Christians,
while always being aware
that only mercy and forgiveness make love possible. Amen.”

EU Catholic bishops lament ‘anti-religious bias’ in guide discouraging word ‘Christmas’

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., pictured at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Brussels, Belgium, Dec 1, 2021 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Europe’s Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that a withdrawn document discouraging European Commission staff from using the word “Christmas” was marred by “anti-religious bias.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal on Nov. 30 of the 32-page internal document called “#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication.”

“While respecting the right of the  European Commission to model  its  written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination, COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document,” the bishops’ commission said.

The guide urged officials at the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states — to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”

“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document said.

The guide encouraged staff based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to avoid a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”

It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”

Instead of “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”

COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., said: “Neutrality cannot mean relegating religion to the private sphere. Christmas is not only part of European religious traditions but also of European reality.” 

“Respecting religious diversity cannot lead to the paradoxical consequence of suppressing the religious element from public discourse.”

The archbishop of Luxembourg and relator general of the upcoming Synod on Synodality added: “While the Catholic  Church in the EU fully supports equality and countering discrimination, it is also clear that these two goals cannot lead to distortions or self-censorship. The valuable premise of inclusiveness should not cause the opposite effect of exclusion.”

The document discouraged staff from using the terms “Ms.” or “Mr.,” saying: “In case of doubt, use ‘Mx.’” It also called for forms to “include non-binary options (beyond male and female).”

Shortly before the guide was withdrawn, the Vatican’s Secretary of State sharply criticized the document.

In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the text was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.

Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, launched the guidelines on Oct. 26 but announced on Nov. 30 that she was recalling them.

She said: “It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”

COMECE, which is based in Brussels, expressed concern that the document may have caused “damage” to “the image of the EU institutions and to the support  for  the European project in the member states.”

“It is to be hoped that a revised version of the document  will  take into account  these concerns,” it said.

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Reading I Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
    will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
    juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
    he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
    the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
    from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.

    On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
    This is the LORD for whom we looked;
    let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R.    (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
    he refreshes my soul.
R.    I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
    I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
    that give me courage. 
R.    I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
    in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
R.    I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
    all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
    for years to come.
R.    I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 15:29-37

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there. 
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others. 
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. 
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole, 
the lame walking, 
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat. 
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.” 
The disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?” 
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” 
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” 
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 
They all ate and were satisfied. 
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Mike Pence calls on Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade

Former US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, 2021. / Screenshot taken from Susan B. Anthony List livestream

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2021 / 17:06 pm (CNA).

Former vice president Mike Pence is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

“I came here today to speak about right and wrong, to say life is a human right, and urge the Supreme Court of the United States to choose life,” he said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. 

Pence delivered his remarks in anticipation of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1. The case involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, and challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

“As we stand here today, we may well be on the verge of an era when the Supreme Court sends Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” Pence said. 

A nonprofit organization founded by Pence, Advancing American Freedom, filed an amicus brief together with other organizations urging the court to overturn Roe and Casey.

“We are asking the court, in no uncertain terms, to make history,” Pence said at the Nov. 30 event. “We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”

He emphasized what he called the “truth about abortion.”

“Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the heartbreaking consequences of the Roe decision cannot be overstated,” he said. “More than 62 million unborn children in the United States have been aborted.”

Their lives mattered, he urged.

“In the 48 years since the court’s ruling, unborn children have been relegated into a caste of second-class citizens, devoid of the most basic human rights,” he said. “Precious babies have lived outside the protection of the law, and at the mercy of a culture that devalues them and an abortion industry that profits from their suffering.”

Pence also highlighted the women wounded by abortion, including those facing regret after their abortions. He hoped that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, and declared that “Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v. Wade.”

“When the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — and I believe with all my heart that day will come either now or in the near future — it will not come as a surprise to anyone,” he said. “It will simply be the culmination of a 50-year journey whose course and destination has been driven by the will of the American people.”

He called for prayers for the justices.

“I urge my fellow Americans to cherish life, to pray, tomorrow and every day between now and next spring for the justices on our Supreme Court to have the courage to seize this moment for life and join us as we humbly ask our new conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said, to “Overturn Roe v. Wade and give America a new beginning for life.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, introduced Pence as a “longtime friend and pro-life leader” whose “tireless advocacy personally and at nearly every level of public service has been indispensable in getting us to this pivotal moment.”

“There’s no question that because of heroes like Mike Pence, and specifically because of Mike Pence, we are standing here today,” she said. 

“Without Trump and Pence, we would not be sitting here right now,” she told CNA of the previous administration, which appointed three Supreme Court justices. 

She also credited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for refusing to move forward with the confirmation of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice in 2016, during the Obama administration.

Like Pence, Dannenfelser expressed hope for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It makes a lot of sense, given that four justices agreed to answer only one question — if any pre-viability abortion limit is constitutional,” she said of the question posed by the Dobbs case. 

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case asks “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. 

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“To set themselves up with that question to only just go back to Roe v. Wade seems rather unlikely,” Dannenfelser told CNA. “The question in my mind is, what would it be? What would it look like?” 

“The stakes are nothing less than the lives of millions of little boys and girls waiting to be born and the welfare of their mothers,” she said during her introductory remarks.

Chile legislature defeats bill that would have permitted elective abortion

Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock. / null

Santiago, Chile, Nov 30, 2021 / 16:23 pm (CNA).

The lower house of Chile’s legislature defeated Tuesday a bill that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill was defeated in the Chamber of Deputies Nov. 30 by a vote of 65-62, with one abstention. 

Since September 2017, abortion in Chile has been legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds of rape, and there is no upper limit for fetal non-viability or risk to the life of the mother.

Rosario Corvalán, a lawyer with the legislative department of the Chilean NGO Comunidad y Justicia, expressed her joy over "the result and for the message it sends to citizens."

"They must stop giving us the message that ‘the majority of citizens want these bills,’ because our representatives have spoken and they don’t want abortion," Corvalán said.

Voting against the bill from the Christian Democratic Party were Matías Walker, Jorge Sabag, and Joanna Pérez, among others.

One of those absent for the vote was Gabriel Boric of Social Convergence, who is also a presidential candidate for the Apruebo Dignidad coalition who will be in the Dec. 19 presidential runoff election against José Antonio Kast of the Republican Party.

In his campaign platform, Boric promises to work to incorporate a comprehensive feminist perspective and to implement policies such as “legal, free and safe abortion on demand” as well as changes to the gender identity law.

Corvalán explained that some legislators who voted against the bill were in favor of abortion on the grounds passed in 2017. However, "they aren’t going to vote for abortion on demand" because they realize the manipulation involved and the end to be achieved.

“Although the law can’t change reality, it can be instructive. If you see that the majority of Congress says that ‘abortion is a crime,’ that helps citizens to reflect and say that ‘abortion is a bad thing,’” the lawyer said.

Corvalán encouraged pro-life people “not to stop defending their ideas, thinking that they’re an exception or something unusual. Let's go back to this common sense idea of defending the life of an innocent person."

The bill was introduced in January. 

The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Women, Equity and Gender had voted 7-6 against recommending the bill in August, but the larger body discussed it nevertheless.

After the debate in the lower house, the bill was sent back to the committee and was tabled until after the first round of the presidential elections Nov. 21.

The bill was debated during three sessions amid other issues, and was defeated in a full session of the Chamber of Deputies.

New Loyola Marymount alumni petition targets use of preferred pronouns

Alumni of Loyola Marymount University have launched a petition drive calling for the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop encouraging students to use preferred pronouns tied to their gender identity. / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2021 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

After learning that students at Loyola Marymount University allegedly were required to include their preferred pronouns on assignments and are given the option to change their name and gender identity, an alumni-led group is petitioning the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop its “institutional commitment to gender ideology."

The petition partly stems from an email that a professor, Christopher Miller, allegedly sent to students on Sept. 9. The content of the email was posted on Twitter Nov. 12 by Libs of Tik Tok, a popular conservative Twitter account.

Loyola Marymount's website identifies Miller as Bhagwan Mallinath Assistant Professor of Jainism and Yoga Studies. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion.

“I added a new syllabus to Brightspace and the one major change we all need to take note of is that all are required to include their gender pronouns next to their name in their blog posts,” the alleged email reads. “I will count this toward your grade when I check for your name each time I grade the blogs.” Brightspace is a software platform for online teaching.

“Our own LMU Provost links this article in his own signature after he identifies his pronouns,” Miller allegedly wrote. “For those who are not aware of why this is important please take a few minutes to read this article.”

The linked article, addressing the importance of respecting one’s personal choice of pronouns, appears on a website called MyPronouns.org. 

“Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them,” the article states.

“Just as it can be offensive or even harassing to make up a nickname for someone and call them that nickname against their will, it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns and refer to them using those pronouns if that is not how that person wants to be known,” the article continues. “Or, worse, actively choosing to ignore the pronouns someone has stated that they go by could imply the oppressive notion that intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.”

The petition calls on Loyola Marymount to stop promoting gender ideology and to renew its "institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism." The group behind the effort is called RenewLMU, which describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”

“I was a student at LMU, and I would never have wanted a professor to try to force me to do something against my Catholic faith,” Anne Rosen, a 1985 Loyola Marymount graduate who wrote the petition, told CNA.

“This professor's actions contradict the Catholic faith because they both presuppose and reinforce what Pope Francis calls ‘gender ideology,’" she added.

RenewLMU has another petition underway calling for the university to re-install a statue of St. Junípero Serra on the school's Westchester campus. The university said in a statement to CNA that it removed the statue of the Franciscan missionary for repairs in the summer of 2020 and has since formed a task force to "invite feedback from the community and to develop recommendations on future plans." Those deliberations are still underway, the statement said.

The petition regarding preferred pronouns and gender identity includes a screenshot of what purports to be an email insignia from the dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Robbin D. Crabtree, which includes her pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.” 

The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU
The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU

CNA emailed Miller and the university's media office seeking comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. CNA was unable to reach Crabtree or Thomas Poon, Loyola Marymount's executive vice president and provost, for comment.

Another catalyst for Rosen’s petition is Loyola Marymount's “Chosen Name Project.” The project encourages students to choose a name, preferred gender, and pronoun identity, which all can be changed on a student’s personal information page on a school system called “PROWL,” a self-service portal for students.

A chosen name is “simply a name that a person uses in their daily life that is different than the name appearing on their legal records,” according to the university website. Transgender and “gender non-conforming” members of the college, students who use a nickname, and international students are some examples of students who “are most likely to benefit from” using a “chosen name,” according to the website.

The “Chosen Name Project” also includes a video put out by campus ministry staff that encourages students to reflect on their name. Among the questions the video poses is, “Can this name of mine represent my mission in life? Or do I need another name to give me clarity of mission to this world?”

At odds with Pope's teaching

The petition on RenewLMU.com reads: “Forcing students to declare their pronouns violates the promotion of justice because it violates the right of free speech. The right of free speech, which LMU says it protects, includes the right to remain silent, the right not to say something that you do not want to say. Compelled speech is not free speech.”

The petition says that forcing students to declare their pronouns also violates students' privacy. 

“Some students may want to remain private about their gender identity,” the petition says. “It is invasive and inappropriate for a professor to force his students to publicly declare their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”

The “service of faith” is also being violated, the petition says, because forcing students to declare their preferred pronouns signals endorsement of what Pope Francis has called "gender ideology.”

“The Pope teaches that the human body, as male or female, is part of the good gift of God’s creation. Any university whose mission statement includes the service of faith should protect students of faith from being forced to act against their faith,” the petition says.

Pope Francis has denounced gender ideology several times during his pontificate. In one instance, in an address to Polish bishops in July 2016, the pope stated that “in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’

"Today, children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money," the pope continued. "These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”

The petition states that “we believe, as the Catholic Church believes, that all human beings deserve to be respected by everyone and protected against unjust discrimination,” and adds that “we should love all human beings, including every person with gender dysphoria.”

The petition continues: “Protecting people does not mean forcing other people to act contrary to their faith or their consciences. And loving all people does not mean speaking or acting contrary to the truth. As St. Edith Stein taught, ‘Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.’”

The petition had collected 248 signatures as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 30, RenewLMU said.

Bishop Deeley presides at outdoor prayer service for unclaimed remains in South Portland

Bishop Robert Deeley leads a committal of unclaimed cremated remains at the Old Cemetery at Calvary in South Portland, Maine, Nov. 22, 2021. / Diocese of Portland

Portland, Maine, Nov 30, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

In view of the tombstones and damp terrain of the large and rolling Old Cemetery at Calvary, a small crowd stood reverently as Bishop Robert Deeley prayed over the unclaimed and cremated remains of ten people.

“May God grant them a merciful judgement, deliverance from death, and pardon of sin,” said Bishop Deeley. “May they rejoice forever in the presence of the eternal King and in the company of all the saints.”

Bishop Deeley then sprinkled holy water on the remains, which sat next to the All Souls burial plot, part of a special outdoor prayer service on Monday, November 22.

The rite of final commendation and committal of cremated remains is an act of mercy that serves as a reminder of the sacredness of the human person. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.

“We commend to Almighty God our brothers and sisters, and we commit their earthly remains to their resting place, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the bishop prayed during the Prayer of Committal. “The Lord bless them and keep them.”

The remains on Monday came from area funeral homes.

“The diocese offers at no charge, to all funeral homes and to anyone who is considering scattering, the dignified committal of cremated remains at Calvary,” said Jessica Letendre, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Portland.

“There are different reasons for remains to be unclaimed, including no family or the cost,” said Kenneth Greenleaf of Maine Catholic Cemeteries. “Bishop Deeley being at this service sends a powerful message that we have a bishop who is a leader that takes care of the poor and those in need.”

Respecting and taking care of families and the faithful departed is a central mission of Maine Catholic Cemeteries, one it proudly and humbly completes each day.

“We’re serving these families today. There are ten families here that don’t have anybody,” said Greenleaf. “We’re here serving them to make sure they are not forgotten.”

Joining the bishop on Monday was Monsignor Marc Caron, Deacon Mark Tuttle, and Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette.

Fittingly, the service was held in November, a month in which Catholics are encouraged to pray for deceased loved ones and recall that they enjoy communion with each other on earth and with those who have preceded them in death.

Those in attendance at the service on Monday remained mindful of the persons, men and women, represented by the remains as they were commended to God in the hope of eternal peace.

“Burial in a Catholic cemetery recognizes baptismal commitment and gives witness, even in death, to our belief in the Resurrection,” said Letendre. “It was an honor to have Bishop Deeley preside over our outdoor prayer service on Monday afternoon, highlighting the great importance of respecting and revering all remains.”

One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is “bury the dead,” the act of which offers the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through prayer and action during these times, we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.

“In gathering to bury the dead today, we are reminded of the humanity of those who we gather to bury, the way they shared the world in which we all live, and the charity they shared with others,” the bishop said during the service. “This is an act of mercy.”

This article was first published by the Diocese of Portland, and is reprinted with permission.

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December is for catechists

Pope Francis meets young people of the Scholas Community at Rome’s Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, Nov. 25, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is asking Catholics to pray in December that catechists will witness to the Gospel with courage and creativity.

The pope made the appeal in his December prayer intention, shared with an accompanying video on Nov. 30.

“Let us pray for the catechists, summoned to announce the Word of God: may they be its witnesses, with courage and creativity and in the power of the Holy Spirit,” reads the prayer intention, promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

A catechist is a Catholic who instructs others in Christian doctrine and the Gospel. Earlier this year, Pope Francis instituted a new ministry of catechist for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith.

In the video explaining his prayer intention, Pope Francis said that there is a need for “good catechists who are both companions and teachers.”

“The lay ministry of catechists is a vocation; it’s a mission. Being a catechist means that you ‘are a catechist,’ not that you ‘work as a catechist.’ It’s an entire way of being,” the pope said.

“We need creative people who proclaim the Gospel, but who proclaim it neither with a mute nor with a loudspeaker, but rather with their life, with gentleness, with a new language, and opening new ways,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that in many dioceses around the world, “evangelization is fundamentally in the hands of a catechist.”

The pope also expressed gratitude for catechists’ dedication to this mission in the service of the Church.

“Catechists have an invaluable mission for the transmission and growth of the faith,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis to Orthodox leader: May God prepare us to receive gift of full unity

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

On the feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis expressed hope that Catholics and Orthodox Christians will collaborate together more often “to make visible our communion.”

In a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the pope said that Christian unity would be realized through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

“Beloved brother in Christ, along the path towards full communion between our Churches, we are sustained by the intercession of the holy brothers Peter and Andrew, our patron saints,” Pope Francis said on Nov. 30.

“The full unity for which we yearn is, of course, a gift from God, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. May our Lord help us to be ready to embrace this gift through prayer, interior conversion, and openness to seeking and offering pardon.”

The pope sends a message each year on Nov. 30 to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is regarded as the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle and “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In this year’s message, Pope Francis recalled his recent meetings with Bartholomew I in Rome. The patriarch joined the pope at an interreligious prayer gathering for peace in front of the Colosseum and in signing a joint appeal at the Vatican asking countries to “achieve net-zero carbon emissions as soon as possible.”

“It was a source of joy for me that during your recent visit to Rome we were able not only to share our concerns regarding the present and future of our world but also to express our shared commitment to addressing issues of crucial significance for our whole human family, including the care of creation, the education of future generations, dialogue among the different religious traditions and the pursuit of peace,” Francis said.

“In this way, we as Pastors, together with our Churches, strengthen the profound bond that already unites us, since our common responsibility in the face of current challenges flows from our shared faith in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; in the one Lord Jesus Christ, his Son, who became man for our salvation, died and rose from the dead; and in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life, who harmonizes differences without abolishing them.”

Pope Francis’ message to the Ecumenical Patriarch comes days before the pope departs for an apostolic visit to the predominantly Orthodox countries of Cyprus and Greece.

During his travels to the Mediterranean countries on Dec. 2-6, the pope will meet with Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, and Ieronymos II, archbishop of Athens and All Greece.

The Holy See press office reported that a Vatican delegation traveled to Istanbul on Nov. 30 for a customary visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the feast of St. Andrew.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, led the delegation, which included the pontifical council’s secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell, and undersecretary, Msgr. Andrea Palmieri. They were joined by Msgr. Walter Erbi, the Charge d’Affaires of the apostolic nunciature in Turkey.

Koch read aloud the pope’s message at the end of the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church of St. George in the Turkish capital.

In a short address, the Swiss cardinal referred to Patriarch Bartholomew’s hospitalization during a recent visit to the United States.

Koch said: “It has been a source of concern to us that Your All Holiness required hospitalization twice during your trip to America and that the doctors had to operate to insert a stent into your heart. We hope that this surgical measure will help you to continue your ecclesial service in good health.”

“When I read about it in the media, the thought crossed my mind that we perceive Your All Holiness as a living stent in the heart of your Church, in the heart of ecumenism and also in your commitment to the protection of God’s creation entrusted to us humans. In all of these aspects, you demonstrate deep care about the flow of oxygen, just as the stent inside a heart helps it to breathe easily.”

In his message, Pope Francis wrote: “United in this faith, let us seek with determination to make visible our communion.”

“While recognizing that there remain theological and ecclesiological questions at the heart of the work of our ongoing theological dialogue, it is my hope that Catholics and Orthodox may increasingly work together in those areas in which it is not only possible, but indeed imperative that we do so.”

Vatican cardinal criticizes advice to avoid word ‘Christmas’ in EU commission communications guide

Cardinal Pietro Parolin speaks in a Vatican News interview published Nov. 30, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News - Italiano YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2021 / 06:22 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s Secretary of State on Tuesday criticized a European Commission communications guide discouraging staff from using the word “Christmas.”

In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin suggested that the document was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.

He was commenting on a 32-page internal document called “#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication,” launched on Oct. 26 by EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli.

Dalli announced on Nov. 30 that she was withdrawing the guidelines, saying that they “clearly need more work.”

The Italian newspaper Il Giornale reported on Nov. 28 that the guide urged employees at the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”

“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document said.

The guide encouraged officials based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to avoid a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”

It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”

Instead of “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”

Parolin told Vatican News that the intention to avoid discrimination was laudable.

“But, in my opinion, this is certainly not the way to achieve this goal. Because in the end, it risks destroying, annihilating the person, in two main directions,” he said.

“The first is the diversity that characterizes our world. Unfortunately, the tendency is to homogenize everything, not knowing how to respect the rightful differences, which naturally must not become an adversarial issue or a source of discrimination, but must be integrated in order to build a full and integral humanity.”

He went on: “The second is forgetting what is a reality. And whoever goes against reality puts himself in serious danger. And then there is the cancelation of our roots, especially as regards Christian holidays, the Christian dimension of our Europe, too.”

“Of course, we know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to many contributions, but we certainly cannot forget that one of the main contributions, if not the main one, was Christianity itself. Therefore, destroying the diversity and destroying the roots means precisely to destroy the person.”

The advice concerning the word “Christmas” appeared in a section of the document called “Cultures, lifestyles or beliefs.”

Under the heading “Dos and Don’ts,” it said: “Consider the diversity of cultures, lifestyles, religions and socio-economic backgrounds in the composition of panels you organize, when inviting participants to events, and when selecting testing panels, focus groups, and your own communication teams.”

“Make space in your visual communication for different kinds of cultures, celebrations and rituals that are popular in different parts of the EU and in different communities.”

On Tuesday, Helena Dalli acknowledged concerns about the document, which she described as a “work in progress.”

“We are looking into these concerns with the view of addressing them in an updated version of the guidelines,” she wrote on her Twitter account on Nov. 30.

In an attached European Commission statement, she said: “My initiative to draft guidelines as an internal document for communication by Commission staff in their duties was intended to achieve an important aim: to illustrate the diversity of European culture and showcase the inclusive nature of the European Commission towards all walks of life and beliefs of European citizens.”

“However, the version of the guidelines published does not adequately serve this purpose. It is not a mature document and does not meet all Commission quality standards.”

“The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”

Cardinal Parolin said that Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus and Greece this week would take the pope to “the wellsprings of Europe.”

“So it seems to me that this journey comes at just the right time, it is a journey that reminds us precisely of these fundamental dimensions that cannot be erased,” he told Vatican News.

“We must rediscover the ability to integrate all these realities without ignoring them, without fighting them, without eliminating them and marginalizing them.”