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‘The Holy Land changed my life:’ Archbishop Pizzaballa on 30 years in Jerusalem

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa has concluded his four-year mandate as apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Since 1990, shortly after his priestly ordination, the Italian bishop and Franciscan friar has lived in the Middle East.

“The Holy Land changed my life. My life of faith also,” the 55-year-old bishop told EWTN News in Rome on Wednesday.

He said: “I arrived there 30 years ago. I didn’t know the languages. I came from a very, very Catholic context and I was suddenly in a context where [Christians] were just 1% of the population.”

“But early on I understood that in this quagmire of religions and political tensions, you can find men and women of faith that can help you to really live your faith in a new way through the holy places, the Scripture, and men of faith,” he said.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the See of the sui iuris Latin Church of the Holy Land. It is part of the Roman rite. The Latin Patriarchate has not had a patriarch since June 2016.

As apostolic administrator, Pizzaballa oversaw the patriarchate together with auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Marcuzzo, whose resignation, for the ordinary reason of age, was accepted by Pope Francis in August.

Now the Holy Land’s Catholics await the pope’s nomination of a new patriarch and auxiliary bishop.

Pizzaballa told EWTN News he could not share the news of his next position yet, but “in a few days it will be known.”

About the path before him, he said, “for 30 years, for most of my life, I lived in the Holy Land, so I am part of the Holy Land and I continue to be part of it. So we have to remain united in prayer, first of all, in friendship; wherever Providence will bring me, I will bring the Holy Land.”

The archbishop said that Christians in the Holy Land were suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, noting that Jerusalem had already experienced two separate lockdowns.

“And it was very difficult, not only because the health situation of many families but for the economic situation. The consequences of the lockdown is that thousands of families, especially Christian families, now are without jobs, without work,” he explained.

Pilgrimages to the holy sites are a major source of income for Christians, but with borders closed, “pilgrimage is now totally canceled,” he said, making it “a very, very difficult situation for hundreds of families in the Bethlehem area especially, in the Nazareth area, and in Jordan, of course.”

“I don’t think that in less than a year we can have the normal pilgrimage situation we had before,” he said.

Poverty is also growing for Christians in Palestine, who face the same problems due to the pandemic, as well as the inability to enter Israel for work.

After long-standing conflicts in the wider area, such as in Syria, and Iraq, as well as instability and disaster in Lebanon, poverty in Jordan, and the political situation between Israel and Palestine, you can feel that the people of the Holy Land are frustrated, Pizzaballa said.

“All these aspects that are not new, because we are seeing this situation since years, create a lot of frustration and a lot of temptations, temptation to leave, to find their future somewhere else,” he said.

“We try to insist to the population, to tell [them] they have to remain, that they have a vocation to remain. But when they have children and a family, it is difficult to convince them.”

Since he became apostolic administrator in 2016, Pizzaballa said that political tensions had worsened, but a “positive aspect” was that among Christians “we have a better understanding.”

Pope Francis appointed Pizzaballa to the position following his role as head of the Custody of the Holy Land, a province of the Order of Friars Minor which encompasses Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Dodecanese in Greece, with convents also in other countries.

The Franciscan followed Patriarch Fouad Twal in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In 2016, the Latin Patriarchate was facing grave financial difficulties and teetering on bankruptcy from debts amounting to more than $100 million. 

“They have been four difficult years,” Pizzaballa said. “I had a very clear mandate: first to put order in the administration.”

As apostolic administrator, the bishop reorganized the patriarchate’s financial management, put in place new internal and external controls, and created more transparency.

He was able to pay the debt with help from international donations, by cutting expenses, and with some property sales in Nazareth.

The bishop said that he was also given the task of improving the pastoral situation in the Holy Land, including creating more unity among the priests and the different Christian communities in Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Cyprus.

He wanted to show “what we have in common,” he said. “And to create understanding, trust, among the different communities in the same diocese.”

“In the beginning it was very difficult. But once we have been transparent, I felt that all the community was very supportive and so we could overcome all our problems and turn the page finally,” he said.

US hosts signing of declaration rejecting 'human right' to abortion

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The United States hosted the signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Thursday. The document rejects the claim that abortion is an international human right. 

“Today we put down a clear marker; no longer can UN agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar during the ceremony Oct. 22.. 

“Without apology we affirm that governments have the soverign right to make their own laws to protect innocent life and write their regulations on abortion” Azar said. 

“In signing the declaration today, the United States is honored to stand alongside Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, the cross-regional cosponsors for the declaration,” he said. A total of 32 countries have signed onto the declaration. 

Azar called the signing the “high point” of his time leading the department, and noted that countries who have not yet signed the document can still do so. 

“The Geneva Consensus Declaration is a historic document, stating clearly where we as nations stand on women’s health, the family, honoring life, and defending national sovereignty,” said Azar, calling it “much more than a statement of beliefs.” 

“It is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and in every multilateral setting, using language previously agreed to by member states of those bodies,” he explained.  

The declaration was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, he said. 

“With increasing frequency, some rich nations and UN agencies beholden to them are wrongly asserting [that] abortion is a universal human right.” 

Azar said that these policies have the effect of forcing countries to implement “progressive” abortion laws or face the loss of funding or international standing. He accused some nations of having a “myopic focus on a radical agenda that is offensive to many cultures, and derails agreement on women’s health priorities.” 

The coalition of signing countries “will hold multilateral organizations accountable,” he explained, by denouncing these organizations for “promoting positions that can never gain consensus.”  

“We will unequivocally declare that there is no international right to abortion. We will proudly put women’s health first at every stage of life,” he said.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the declaration a “deep and personal commitment to protect human dignity” and “the culmination of lots of hard work.” 

Pompeo highlighted the Trump administration’s “unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad,” and said that “the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always” over the last four years.  

“It’s historic to be here,” he said. “It’s the first time that a multilateral coalition has been built around the issue of defending life.” 

The Geneva Consensus Declaration, said Pompeo, is a “commitment to work together at the UN and in other international settings to achieve tangible results,” something he is “confident” will happen. He added that he was “truly proud” of the work being done. 

Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women's Health at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided background of the declaration. 

The declaration, Huber explained, was intended to be signed at the culmination of the World Health Assembly’s global women’s health summit, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We decided to move forward with the declaration now, because accelerating health gains for women cannot wait,” said Huber.

“Supporting the intrinsic value of the family cannot wait. Protecting life born and unborn, and the sovereignty of nations to make their own laws on this issue cannot wait.”

Pope Francis' homosexuality comments heavily edited in documentary, Vatican has no comment on civil unions

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:20 pm (CNA).-  

“Francesco,” a newly-released documentary on Pope Francis, contains comments from the pope on homosexuality and civil unions. Some of the remarks, however, are the result of editing distinct phrases from a papal interview and presenting them as a cohesive whole.

While filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told CNA and other journalists that Pope Francis made comments calling for the passage of civil union laws directly to him, the comments actually appear to come from a 2019 interview of Pope Francis conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.

The pope’s comments on civil unions have not been disputed by the Vatican despite multiple requests for clarity. The remarks were not contained in the published version of Alazraki’s interview, and have not been seen by the public except in “Francesco.”

On Wednesday, however, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, told journalists that the pope’s remarks on civil unions are excerpted from the 2019 interview, and did not dispute the way in which they were presented in the documentary.

At the same time, a CNA analysis of the interview’s transcript shows that other papal comments on homosexuality featured in “Francesco” were compiled by heavy editing of the 2019 interview’s video footage.

“Francesco” presents Pope Francis saying the following, in remarks about his approach to pastoral care:

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

While the pope did say those words on camera, he did not say them in that order, or use those phrases in immediate proximity.

CNA has bolded the appearance of those words in an excerpted translation of the pope’s remarks during his 2019 interview:

“I was asked a question on a flight - after it made me mad, made me mad for how one news outlet transmitted it - about the familial integration of people with homosexual orientation, and I said, homosexual people have a right to be in the family, people with homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize that son as homosexual, that daughter as homosexual. Nobody should be thrown out of the family, or be made miserable because of it.”

“Another thing is, I said when you see some signs in the children and from there send them to -  I should have said a ‘professional,’ what came out was ‘psychiatrist.’ I meant to say a professional because sometimes there are signs in adolescence or pre-adolescence that they don’t know if they are homosexually oriented or if it is that the thymus gland didn’t atrophy in time. Who knows, a thousand things, no? So, a professional. The title of the daily paper: ‘The Pope sends homosexuals to the psychiatrist.’ It’s not true!”

“They asked me the same question another time and I repeated it, ‘They are children of God, they have a right to a family, and such.’ Another thing is - and I explained I was wrong with that word, but I meant to say this: When you notice something strange - ‘Ah, it’s strange.’ - No, it’s not strange. Something that is outside of the usual. That is, not to take a little word to annul the context. There, what I said is that they ‘have a right to a family.’ And that doesn’t mean to approve of homosexual acts, not at all.”

--

After the presentation of those edited remarks, the pope is seen to say in “Francesco” that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While those remarks seem certainly to come from the Alazraki interview, Francesco director Evgeny Afineevsky has told reporters otherwise, and the section of the Alazraki interview in which they would have come was not included in the published version, and is not available to the public.

But in addition to their context, some have called their meaning into question, suggesting that a phrase used by the pope, “convivencia civil,” was mistranslated by “Francesco” as “civil unions” in the film’s subtitle, and actually suggests a different kind of legal recognition.

But on Wednesday Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, suggested that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.”

The archbishop posted on Facebook that before he became the pope, then Cardinal-Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance. They know each other thoroughly, they share the same roof for many years, they take care of each other, they sacrifice for each other. Then it may happen that they prefer that in an extreme case or illness they do not consult their relatives, but that person who knows their intentions in depth. And for the same reason they prefer that it be that person who inherits all their assets, etc. This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage.” 

 

 

Where China's bishops stand as the Sino-Vatican deal is renewed

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- As the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement was renewed Thursday, an article in a Vatican newspaper said that two Chinese bishops had been appointed under the “regulatory framework established by the agreement.”

Vatican officials have repeatedly stressed that the accord between China and the Holy See -- which will not expire until Oct. 22, 2022 -- is focused solely on the appointment of bishops.

While the terms of the agreement have been kept confidential, it reportedly allows the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to choose a slate of nominees for bishop.

An article published by L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 22 said: “The main purpose of the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China is to support and promote the proclamation of the Gospel in those lands, restoring the full and visible unity of the Church … The question of the appointment of bishops is of vital importance for the life of the Church, both locally and universally.”

With this in mind, what do we know about the bishops who have been affected by the Sino-Vatican agreement? Those who were newly appointed under the confidential provisions of the deal, those whose excommunications were lifted after the deal, and the bishops who stepped back from their former leadership roles.

Who was appointed?

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019. 

Prior to his appointment, Yao had served as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops since 1998. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010 to serve as victor general.

Born in Ulanqab in 1965, Yao is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.

Yao’s episcopal motto is “Misericordes sicut pater,” which means “Be merciful as the Father is.”

The New York Times has reported that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89. 

But Chinese researchers have pointed out that Yao is not one to speak out critically about the Chinese government.

“The Communist Party feels comfortable with him,” said Francesco Sisci, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese Catholicism told the Times in 2019. “They don’t want someone doing agitprop against them.”

Bishop Stephen Xu Hongwei of Hanzhong, in Shaanxi Province, was ordained a coadjutor bishop on August 28, 2019, at the age of 44. 

He serves the Diocese of Hanzhong as coadjutor to 91-year-old Bishop Louis Yu Runchen. The diocese was divided between underground and state-approved Catholic communities for many years. Yu Runchen was selected by the Chinese Patriotic Association to be bishop without the approval of the Holy See in 1985, a year after the Vatican’s appointment of Bishop Bartholomew Yu Chengti. The Vatican recognized Yu only after the underground bishop died in 2009.

After his ordination in 2002, Xu studied at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome from 2004 to 2008. He undertook further studies in the Diocese of Vancouver, Canada. Upon returning to China in 2010, he was appointed pastor of West Street Cathedral in the Diocese of Hanzhong. 

Xu was a member of a regional Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference -- the consultative political body part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front -- in 2012 and 2017, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Whose excommunications were lifted? 

With the signing of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China in Sept. 2018, Pope Francis also lifted the excommunication of seven bishops who had been appointed illicitly by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Association. 

They include Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, 52, of Chengde in Hebei Province. Pope Francis created the Diocese of Chengde in 2019 out of the Dioceses of Jinzhou and Chifeng in 2018, so that Guo could lead his own diocese after his excommunication was lifted. 

Guo participated in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2018 and has served three terms as a deputy to the National People’s Congress in Beijing. 

As a member of China’s legislative body, Bishop Guo publicly supported an amendment to eliminate presidential term limits and enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in the Chinese constitution in March 2018.

“My position as a national legislator will not and cannot affect my religious service, as China implements the principle of separation of church and state,” Guo told the state-sponsored newspaper Global Times at the National People’s Congress in 2018.

Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, 61, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. After underground Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin stepped aside to allow him to lead the diocese, Zhan led a delegation of 33 priests from the Diocese of Mindong to participate in a “formation course” at the Central Institute of Socialism, in collaboration with the United Front of Fujian Province, where they listened to presentations on the “sinicization of religion.” 

“We must contribute to the creation of a new reality in the diocese of Mindong and in the Catholic Church of Fujian,” Zhan said after the course, according to Asia News. 

“We will deepen the content of Catholic doctrine in order to foster social harmony, progress and a positive culture. To carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, we will continue to follow a path that conforms to socialist society,” Zhan said in August 2019.

Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin, 56, of Leshan in Chongqing Province. Lei served as an official delegate at the government’s Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2018. He previously served as a vice president of the Patriotic Association. 

After his excommunication was lifted, Lei was a speaker at a 2019 celebration of the Chinese Red Army’s Long March, led by Mao Zedong, in which he spoke of a meeting convened by Mao in a (requisitioned) Catholic priest’s house in Moxi in 1935 as a story of “patriotism of our country’s Catholicism,” according to the Catholic Patriotic Association website. 

Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, 53, of Shantou in Guangdong Province. After he was appointed by the government without papal permission in 2011, Huang became vice president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. 

He served as a deputy in the most recent National People’s Congress, as well as the National People’s Congress that took place from 2008 to 2013.

Huang said in 2017 that he would work to actively promote the practice of Catholic patriotism, according to the Chinese Patriotic Association website.

Bishop Joseph Liu Xinhong, 56, of Anqing in Anhui Province. Illicitly ordained in 2006 after the government-controlled Catholic bishops’ conference combined the dioceses of Anqing, Bengbu and Wuhu to form the Anhui diocese -- a restructuring that was not recognized by the Holy See, according to UCA News.

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, 55, of Kunming in Yunnan Province. Ma previously served as secretary for the Council of Catholic Bishops at a time when the government-controlled “episcopal conference” was not recognized by the Holy See. In 2010, Ma was appointed president of the Chinese patriotic association’s bishops’ conference.

Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, 56, of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province. Yue was illicitly named bishop of Harbin in 2012 by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua of Hanyang and Puqi in Hubei province. Before his death in 2017 at the age of 98, Tu expressed a desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. One of China’s first illicitly named bishops, Tu was appointed without papal mandate in 1959, and later served as rector of the National Seminary in Beijing between 1983 and 1992, and as a leader of the Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops. 

Who stepped aside?

Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, 89, of Shantou in Guangdong Province was asked to retire by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli in 2019 so that Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang would be recognized by the Vatican as the Bishop of Shantou.

Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin, 62, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. In October this year, Guo announced that he was retiring to concentrate on prayer because he did not “want to become an obstacle to progress.” Guo was an underground bishop who previously agreed to become an auxiliary bishop so that state-appointed Bishop Zhan Silu would be recognized by the Vatican. “In any circumstance or change, you should never forget God, and neither ignore the Lord’s commandments, nor damage the integrity of faith, nor delay the salvation of the soul, which is the most important thing,” he said in a letter to his diocese Oct. 5.

Who is missing?

Bishop James Su Zhimin, 88, of Baoding in Hebei Province. The whereabouts of Bishop Su, who has spent 24 years in prison, is unknown. He was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997. He was last seen by family at a hospital in 2003 while he was in government custody.

According to Bishop Su’s nephew, Chinese officials have reportedly asked the Vatican to appoint a new bishop of Baoding, UCA News reported on July 22. Their preferred candidate is said to be Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxi, a member of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned church.

'Francesco' director receives film award in Vatican Gardens

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2020 / 11:22 am (CNA).- The director of a new documentary about Pope Francis received an Italian film award in a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Thursday, amid international controversy over his documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis.

Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of “Francesco,” was presented with the Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award Oct. 22. 

Now in its 18th year, the award is given to those who promote social, humanitarian, and environmental issues in cinema.

Accepting the award, Afineevsky said “I’m so proud that finally ‘Francesco’ is on its way to the world to change hearts and minds.”

“I’m happy that I can bring the voices of the Rohingya refugees, refugees from Syria, voices of victims of sexual abuse, voices from different points and from different corners of the world. Something that Pope Francis really cares [about] and something that is really deeply in my heart,” he stated.

Afineevsky said that, while the pope cannot bring attention to those issues through papal travel at the moment, due to COVID-19, he was “so proud that today the movie can continue this mission.”  

The Vatican press office has not given any public statement on the film, which made international headlines on Wednesday for including a line from Pope Francis in a video interview calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. 

Francis’ statement seems to depart from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue. 

Vatican officials were present at the award ceremony, including Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the communications dicastery, and dicastery secretary Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz.

The officials were not available for questions after the award was presented.

Rosetta Sannelli, the award’s creator, said in a press release that “every trip of Pope Francis to various parts of the world is documented in Afineevsky’s work by images and news footage, and reveals itself as an authentic glimpse into the events of our time, a historical work in all respects.”

The Kinéo movie prizes are usually awarded at a ceremony in Venice, but Sannelli told EWTN News the Vatican was “the right place” to hold the ceremony recognizing “Francesco,” because “there is the spirituality of the place, of the location that you cannot find anywhere [else].”

She said that she chose the documentary after seeing a lot of submissions, calling it “the sum of humanity in a movie.”

“There is the pope... There is a person who fights against the problems and differences and tragedies of our times,” she continued. “I think that it’s a movie to open our look on the world, not from a Catholic point of view, but from a real point of view. There is a religious, spiritual base, but then you work on the base and you go into real themes of our century.”

The pope “faces real problems” of today, she said.

“Francesco” premiered at the Rome Film Festival Oct. 21, and is due to have its North American premiere on Sunday.

The film chronicles the approach of Pope Francis to pressing social issues, and to pastoral ministry among those who live, in the words of the pontiff, “on the existential peripheries.”

Saint Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão

Statue of Saint Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão, Cathedral of Saint Anthony, Guaratinguetá
Image: Statue of Saint Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão | Cathedral of Saint Anthony, Guaratinguetá | photo by Zééh.mané

Saint of the Day for October 25

(1739 – December 23, 1822)
Audio file

Saint Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão’s Story

God’s plan in a person’s life often takes unexpected turns which become life-giving through cooperation with God’s grace.

Born in Guarantingueta near São Paulo, Antônio attended the Jesuit seminary in Belem, but later decided to become a Franciscan friar. Invested in 1760, he made final profession the following year and was ordained in 1762.

In São Paulo, he served as preacher, confessor, and porter. Within a few years, Antônio was appointed confessor to the Recollects of Saint Teresa, a group of nuns in that city. He and Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit founded a new community of sisters under the patronage of Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence. Sister Helena Maria’s premature death the next year left Father Antônio responsible for the new congregation, especially for building a convent and church adequate for their growing numbers.

He served as novice master for the friars in Macacu and as guardian of St. Francis Friary in São Paulo. He founded St. Clare Friary in Sorocaba. With the permission of his provincial and the bishop, Antônio spent his last days at the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Luz, the convent of the sisters’ congregation he had helped establish.

Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão was beatified in Rome on October 25, 1998, and canonized in 2007.


Reflection

Holy women and men cannot help calling our attention to God, to God’s creation, and to all the people whom God loves. The lives of holy people are so oriented toward God that this has become their definition of “normal.” Do people see my life or yours as a living sign of God’s steadfast love? What might have to change for that to happen?


Saint of the Day //-->

Saint Anthony Mary Claret

Painting of Saint Anthony Mary Claret
Image: Saint Anthony Mary Claret | Saints in Rome and Beyond

Saint of the Day for October 24

(December 23, 1807 – October 24, 1870)
Audio file

Saint Anthony Mary Claret’s Story

The “spiritual father of Cuba” was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop, and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris, and to the First Vatican Council.

In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, Anthony learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.

Anthony spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was said that his rosary was never out of his hand. At age 42, he founded a religious institute of missionaries beginning with five young priests, known today as the Claretians.

Anthony was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin—whose release from prison Anthony had obtained—slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.

He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. Anthony went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace; he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children; and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled to Paris with the queen’s party, where he preached to the Spanish colony.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, Anthony won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, “There goes a true saint.” At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.


Reflection

Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did. Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune. The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey. No one needs to go looking for persecution. All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and lack of prudence.


Saint Anthony Mary Claret is Patron Saint of:

Weavers


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Saint John of Capistrano

Saint John Capistrano, Stained glass window in the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC
Image: Saint John Capistrano | Stained glass window in the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC. | photo by Lawrence OP

Saint of the Day for October 23

(June 24, 1386 – October 23, 1456)
Audio file

Saint John of Capistrano’s Story

It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events.

Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times.

John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later.

John’s preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion.

The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the “Spirituals” were freed from interference in their stricter observance.

John of Capistrano helped bring about a brief reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches.

When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, John was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died on October 23, 1456.


Reflection

John Hofer, a biographer of John Capistrano, recalls a Brussels organization named after the saint. Seeking to solve life problems in a fully Christian spirit, its motto was: “Initiative, Organization, Activity.” These three words characterized John’s life. He was not one to sit around. His deep Christian optimism drove him to battle problems at all levels with the confidence engendered by a deep faith in Christ.


Saint John of Capistrano is Patron Saint of:

Judges


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Saint John Paul II

Photo of Pope John Paul II at old Yankee Stadium, New York City, in October 1979
Image: Pope John Paul II | old Yankee Stadium, New York City, in October 1979 | Library of Congress

Saint of the Day for October 22

(May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005)
Audio file

Saint John Paul II’s Story

“Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass where he was installed as pope in 1978.

Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father, and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology.

Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon Fr. Wojtyla earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin.

Communist officials allowed Wojtyla to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong!

Bishop Wojtyla attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later.

Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations.

John Paul II promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s main synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations, and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria.

The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his papacy.

“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of John Paul II’s 1979 encyclical, Redeemer of the Human Race. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.”

His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. John Paul II began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union, but the governments in those countries prevented that.

One of the most well-remembered photos of John Paul II’s pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983, with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier.

In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.


Reflection

Before John Paul II’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square, hundreds of thousands of people had waited patiently for a brief moment to pray before his body, which lay in state inside St. Peter’s for several days. The media coverage of his funeral was unprecedented.

Presiding at the funeral Mass, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—then dean of the College of Cardinals and later Pope Benedict XVI—concluded his homily by saying: “None of us can ever forget how, in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi (‘to the city and to the world’).

“We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”


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Saint Peter of Alcantara

Painting of Saint Peter of Alcántara
Image: Saint Peter of Alcántara | Luis Tristán

Saint of the Day for October 26

(1499 – October 18, 1562)
Audio file

Saint Peter of Alcantara’s Story

Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to Saint Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended.

Born into a noble family—his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain—Peter studied law at Salamanca University, and at 16 he joined the so-called Observant Franciscans, also known as the discalced friars. While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest, was elected provincial at the age of 39, and he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.

Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: “To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara.”

In 1554, Peter received permission to form a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.

As spiritual director to Saint Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars, and the Poor Clares.

Peter of Alcantara was canonized in 1669. His Liturgical Feast Day is September 22.


Reflection

Poverty was a means and not an end for Peter. The goal was following Christ in ever greater purity of heart. Whatever obstructed that path could be eliminated with no real loss. The philosophy of our consumer age—you are worth what you own—may find Peter of Alcantara’s approach severe. Ultimately, his approach is life-giving while consumerism is deadly.


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