October 3, 2018 // National

News Briefs: October 7, 2018

God’s love in charity exists even in most secularized places, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — During times of freedom or persecution, the Gospel is needed to bring meaning, fullness and hope to life, Pope Francis said. Speaking about his Sept. 22-25 visit to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the pope said he visited these Baltic nations as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of their declarations of independence. However, during these past 100 years, these countries have experienced “the yoke of occupation,” beginning with the Nazis and then the Soviet Union, the pope said at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 26. During his visit, the pope paid homage to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania, which saw more than 95 percent of its Jewish population murdered, and he visited a former Soviet KGB headquarters that is now a museum dedicated to victims of genocide, foreign occupations and political resistance. “I stopped in prayer in the rooms where opponents of the regime were detained, tortured and killed. They killed 40 people, more or less, a night,” he said, noting how upsetting it was to see how cruel human beings could be. “Let us think about that.” 

RISE program for men aims to encourage ‘authentic masculine spirituality’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As Catholic men’s ministry groups continue to gain traction, Catholic entrepreneurs Chris Stefanick and Bill Donaghy have created a program called RISE, an online course exclusively for men, which they hope will be a positive influence in society. “We have a video, we have a reflection, and then we have daily challenges so they can put all their learning into practice in their daily life,” Stefanick told Catholic News Service. “The daily challenges are aimed at everyone: from a single guy, to someone who’s divorced, to priests. Most of these things are applicable across the board.” The program follows the lead of many Catholic men’s initiatives gaining popularity in recent years. RISE is a month-long course consisting of inspirational daily videos. The program costs $32 and can be reused after completion. Stefanick and Donaghy, working together for the first time, completed and launched the program in January this year. Stefanick wrote and created the videos, while Donaghy wrote daily challenges and compiled inspirational quotes from a variety of sources. The goal of the program, Stefanick said, is to encourage “authentic masculine spirituality” in modern society. The program’s website is www.menriseup.org.

Networks, not division: Pope chooses 2019 Communications Day theme

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians must do more to make sure the media, especially social networks, are places of dialogue and respect for others, rather than instruments for highlighting differences and increasing divisions, said the prefect of the Vatican communications office. “The risk in our time is that of forming tribes instead of communities — tribes based on the exclusion of the other,” said Paolo Ruffini, the new prefect of the Dicastery for Communication. Ruffini spoke to Vatican News Sept. 29, the same day the Vatican released the theme Pope Francis chose for World Communication Day 2019: “We are members one of another: From network community to human communities.” The theme is a call for “reflection on the current state and nature of relationships on the internet, starting from the idea of community as a network between people in their wholeness,” the Vatican said. “The metaphor of the web as a community of solidarity implies the construction of an ‘us’ based on listening to the other, on dialogue and consequently on the responsible use of language.”

Next Encuentro phase is action by parishes, dioceses on ideas, priorities

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Nearly 3,000 Hispanic ministry leaders, like Dominican Sister Judith Maldonado, have gone back to their parishes and dioceses to share the ideas and fruits of the conversations that took place at the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas. And as that phase of the multiyear process reached completion, the next phase is aimed at putting into practice the lessons learned and bear fruits. “This has been like a retreat, the message that we were given at the end is like you have the Holy Spirit, you have to take it with you and you have to be saints, produce fruits of love,” said Sister Maldonado, a member of the Dominican Sisters of the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. Her order is involved with family ministry serving parishes in Maryland and Texas. In the next few months, the leadership team of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, will distribute a concluding document listing the main priorities and problems identified across 28 ministry areas; the document will assist dioceses, parishes and national structures in drafting their own pastoral plans according to their own realities and priorities. The Encuentro’s team of accompaniment, or ENAVE, plans to continue providing support and tracking progress. 

U.S. urged to end funding of research using tissue from aborted babies

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities praised a decision by the U.S. secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to end a Food and Drug Administration contract with a company “whose business is to procure aborted baby parts for research.” After this important “first step,” it “remains incumbent” on the Trump administration “to act quickly to cease all funding for research involving body parts from aborted babies,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in a Sept. 27 statement. The cardinal was referring to the Sept. 24 announcement by HHS Secretary Alex Azar that his agency was terminating an FDA contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources in California to provide human fetal tissue to develop testing protocols. HHS also said it will do an audit of “all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue” and “all research involving fetal tissue” to make sure the statutes and regulations governing such research are being followed. Such oversight, it said, also is necessary “in light of the serious regulatory, moral and ethical considerations involved.” 

North Carolina parishes still coping with Florence waters

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) — In the days and weeks since Hurricane Florence made landfall in mid-September, North Carolina residents are still coping with the massive amounts of water from the storm and the subsequent flooding of the state’s rivers. Families have been displaced by these rising waters and 27 churches or parish facilities in the Raleigh Diocese have been damaged. An update on the recovery on the diocesan website of Raleigh notes: “Hurricane Florence devastated our community, but together as a community we are recovering! Catholic Charities has been leading the recovery effort. They began providing assistance before the rain even stopped in Wilmington.” Daniel Altenau, director of communications and disaster services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, said that days after the storm, local Catholic Charities volunteers loaded up a truck with diapers and supplies and began distributing items to families in need. Catholic Charities also has held more than 30 events for unloading, sorting and distributing supplies such as food and water, cleaning supplies and hygiene kits for families in the Cape Fear area. Websites for parishes in the Raleigh Diocese also indicate the extent of storm damage and recovery. The website of Annunciation Parish in Havelock notes that the church “sustained quite a bit of water damage” but would be resuming Masses the weekend of Sept. 29-30. 

Pope Francis, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of the Orthodox churches, attend an ecumenical prayer service at the Church of St. Peter in Cairo April 28, 2017. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople plans to grant independence to Christians in the Ukraine, many of whom have been linked to the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate.(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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