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Pope meets Sisters of Congregation founded by Mother Cabrini

By Seàn-Patrick Lovett

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is an Italian-born saint who dedicated her life to helping thousands of Italian immigrants living in the United States during the late 19th century. She died in Chicago exactly one hundred years ago.

On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met members of the religious congregation she founded, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The congregation is present today on 6 continents and in 15 countries around the world.

Click below to hear the report by Seàn-Patrick Lovett

During his discourse in Italian, the Pope recalled the holiness of their Foundress and praised her tireless work with migrants and the poor. He held her up as an example for today, adding that the reality of migrants has evolved and is now “more current than ever”. Migrants, said the Pope, “need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied”. They need God, he said, “encountered in love that is freely given”. We must do as Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini does, concluded Pope Francis: “be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person”.

 

Here is our English translation of the Pope’s address

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you, representatives of the Cabrini Family, who wish in this way to conclude the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of St Frances Xavier Cabrini. On December 17, 1917, this holy woman, who had crossed the ocean twenty-four times to assist migrants in the Americas, and who, untiringly, had gone as far as the Andes and Argentina, died suddenly in Chicago, and departed on her final journey.

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini the Missionary

St Cabrini was a true missionary. She had grown up keeping before her the example of St. Francis Xavier, the pioneer of evangelization in the East. In his heart he had China and in that distant land he hoped to bring the proclamation of the Gospel. He did not think of the thousands and thousands of emigrants who, because of hunger, lack of work and the absence of a future, embarked with their scant belongings to reach America, driven by the dream of a better life. As we know - and as she said - it was the vision of Pope Leo XIII who, jokingly, made her change course: "Not to the east, Cabrini, but to the West!". The young Mother Cabrini, who had just founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, needed to see where God was sending her on mission. Not to where she wanted to go, but to where He had prepared the way for her, the path of service and holiness. Here is the example of a true vocation: to forget oneself in order to surrender oneself fully to the love of God.

Migrants then and now

After so many years, the reality of migrants, to whom St Frances Xavier Cabrini dedicated her entire life, has evolved and is more current than ever. New faces of men, women and children, marked by so many forms of poverty and violence, appear before our eyes, hoping to find outstretched hands and welcoming hearts, like those of Mother Cabrini, along their way. In particular, you are offered the responsibility of being faithful to the mission of your Holy Foundress. Her charisma is of extraordinary actuality, because migrants certainly need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied; they need God, encountered in the freely given love of a woman who, with her consecrated heart, is your sister and mother.

“I can do all things in Him who gives me strength”

May the Lord renew always in you the attentive and merciful gaze towards the poor who live in our cities and our countries. Mother Cabrini had the courage to look into the eyes of the orphaned children entrusted to her, the unemployed youth who were tempted to commit crimes, the men and women exploited for the humblest jobs; and therefore today we are here to thank God for her holiness. In each of those brothers and sisters, she recognized the face of Christ and was able to put to good use the talents that the Lord had entrusted to her. She had a strong sense of apostolic action; and if she had such great energy to accomplish extraordinary work in a few years, it was only because of her union with Christ, following the model of St. Paul, from whom she took her motto: "I can do all things in Him who gives me strength".

Grasping the moment of grace

Mother Cabrini lived the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Step by step, hers was an existence wholly intended to console and make the Sacred Heart known and loved. And this made her able to look at the hearts of those who approached her and to assist them in a coherent way. This important anniversary is a powerful reminder to us all of the need for a faith that knows how to grasp the moment of grace that is lived. As difficult as it may seem, she tells us that we must do as she does: be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis left the Vatican on Friday afternoon, headed for Rome’s central Piazza di Spagna in order to pay homage to the statue of the Immaculate Conception there.

Listen to Seán-Patrick Lovett's report:

Surrounded by crowds of pilgrims, tourists and local Roman residents, the Pope recited a specially-composed Prayer to Our Lady in which he asked her, among other things, to help us “rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance and to recognize ourselves for what we really are: small and poor sinners” – but always Mary’s children.

The Pope’s visit to the memorial column dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, included the traditional blessing of a garland of flowers which Roman firemen placed on the statue of Our Lady which dominates the summit of the ancient marble column.

Visit to Basilica of Mary Major

On his way to Piazza di Spagna this year, Pope Francis also stopped to visit the Basilica of St Mary Major where he laid a floral wreath below the icon of Salus Populi Romani, depicting Our Lady and the Christ Child. This is the same image the Pope always prays at both before and after his apostolic journeys abroad.

Alphonse Ratisbonne

Before returning to the Vatican later in the afternoon, Pope Francis paid a private visit to the Rome Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.

It was here, 175 years ago, that a French Jew by the name of Alphonse Ratisbonne, experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. At that moment, in the words of the Pope, “from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, he became a Christian”.

Even more so, following his conversion, Alphonse became a Jesuit priest and missionary and ended up cofounding his own religious Congregation dedicated to Our Lady of Sion.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis' prayer to Mary on the Immaculate Conception

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made his annual visit to Rome's Spanish Square on Friday to pray at the foot of the column and statue of the Immaculate Conception.

A litany of present-day viruses and their corresponding antibodies: this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ prayer, offered to Our Lady on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when he visited Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on Friday afternoon.

Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

The Pope recited the prayer before the column and statue of Mary, dedicated in 1857 to mark the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined by Pope Pius IX three years earlier. The dogma teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the moment of her conception, by a special grace of God, was preserved from all stain of original sin.

Mary accompanies us on our journey

The text of the prayer begins by thanking Our Lady for accompanying different categories of humanity of their respective journeys: families, religious, workers, the sick, the elderly, the poor, and those who have immigrated to Rome “from places where there is war and hunger”.

Viruses of our time

The Pope then goes on to identify a series of what he calls “viruses of our times”, which range from indifference to fear of the foreigner, from hypocrisy to the exploitation of others. These must be combatted, said Pope Francis, with the “antibodies that come from the Gospel”.

Here is the full translated text of the prayer:

Immaculate Mother,

For the fifth time I come to your feet as Bishop of Rome,
to pay you homage on behalf of all the inhabitants of this city.

We want to thank you for the constant care
with which you accompany us on our journey,
the journey of families, parishes, religious communities;
the journey of those who daily, and sometimes with difficulty,
pass through Rome on their way to work;
the journey of the sick, the elderly, the poor,
the journey of so many people who immigrated here from places where there is war and hunger.

Thank you, because as soon as we turn our thoughts,
or a fleeting glance, towards you,
or recite a quick Hail Mary,
we feel your maternal presence, tender and strong.

O Mother, help this city develop the "antibodies" it needs
to combat some of the viruses of our times:
the indifference that says: "It’s not my business";
the unsociable behavior that despises the common good;
the fear of the foreigner and those who are different from us;
the conformism that disguises itself as transgression;
the hypocrisy that accuses others while doing the same things;
the resignation to environmental and ethical degradation;
the exploitation of so many men and women.

Help us to reject these and other viruses
with the antibodies that come from the Gospel.
Let us make it a good habit
to read a passage from the Gospel every day
and, following your example, to keep the Word of God in our hearts,
so that, like a good seed, it may fruit in our lives.

Immaculate Virgin,

175 years ago, not far from here,
in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte,
you touched the heart of Alphonse Ratisbonne, who at that moment,
from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, became a Christian.

You revealed yourself to him as a Mother of grace and mercy.
Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation,
may fix our gaze on your open hands,
hands that allow the Lord's graces to fall upon the earth.
Help us to rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance,
and to recognize ourselves for what we really are:
small and poor sinners, but always your children.

So, let us place our hand in yours
And allow ourselves to be led back to Jesus, our Brother and Savior,
and to our Heavenly Father, who never tires of waiting for us
and forgiving us when we return to Him.

Thank you, Mother, for always listening to us!
Bless the Church that is in Rome.
Bless this City and the whole world.

Amen.

(from Vatican Radio)

President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Statement on California Fires

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered the following statement of solidarity with the people of California.

Full statement follows:

"On this holy day of the Immaculate Conception, we commit ourselves to the loving protection of Mary the Mother of God and patroness of America. Let us remember, especially, her sons and daughters in danger from the terrible wildfires in California, both those whose homes are in the fire's path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk. Please find a moment today, whether after Mass or while gathered as a family around the Advent wreath, to pray a Rosary in gratitude for Mary's gifts to humanity and entrusting to her protection our sisters and brothers in the fire's path. I am sure all the faithful join me in saying: we stand ready to help in the recovery."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, California, Mary, Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, Advent wreath, Rosary, humanity, protection, first responders, firefighters, recovery. 

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Pope at Angelus: ‘Mary is ever-green oasis of humanity’

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis reflected on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception at his Angelus address on Friday, December 8th, as the Church celebrates the Marian Solemnity.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis said the words of the angel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke contain the key to understanding the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Pope said Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace”, even before pronouncing her name.

In this way, he said, God “reveals the new name, which God has given her and which befits her more than the one given by her parents.”

The Holy Father said “full of grace” means that “Mary is full of the presence of God”.

“And if she is entirely pervaded by God, there is no place in her for sin. This is extraordinary,” he said, “because unfortunately the whole world is contaminated by evil.”

Mary alone, he continued, is the “ever-green oasis” of humanity. She is “the only uncontaminated person, immaculately created to welcome fully – with her ‘yes’ – God who came into the world”.

Pope Francis went on to say that, when we call Mary “full of grace”, we are paying her “the greatest compliment, which is the same offered her by God.”

Because Mary is without sin, he said, she is immune to ageing, since “sin makes one old, not age”, and worthy of the name tota pulchra, or “all fair” or “completely beautiful”.

“Since her youth depends not on age, her beauty consists not on external appearances. Mary, as the day’s Gospel shows, does not excel in appearance. She is from a simple family; she lived humbly in Nazareth, an almost unknown place.”

Finally, Pope Francis reflected on the secret of the “beautiful life” lived by Mary, “full of grace”.

“In many paintings [of the Annunciation] Mary is depicted as seated before an angel with a little book. This book is the Scriptures. So Mary often listened to God and reflected with Him. The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, He took on flesh in her womb.”

The Holy Father invited all to ask for the grace “to remain young by saying ‘no’ to sin and to live a beautiful life by saying ‘yes’ to God.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope thanks donors of St. Peter’s Square Christmas Crib and tree

“The Nativity Scene is the suggestive place where we contemplate Jesus, who having assumed our wretchedness, invites us to do likewise through our acts of mercy.”  Pope Francis made the reflection on Thursday while thanking all those who donated this year’s Nativity Scene on the theme of works of mercy and the 28 meter tall ‎Christmas tree set up in the centre of St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The Pope wished that the birth of the Lord be an occasion for all to be attentive to the needs of the poor and all those who like Jesus don't’ find anyone to welcome them. 

Listen to our report:

The Pope met some 4000 people of various donor delegations at the Vatican’s audience hall.  They represented the southern Italian Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine that donated the Nativity Scene, Poland’s Warmia Archdiocese and Elk Diocese that donated the red fir tree and children undergoing cancer treatment in various Italian hospitals who made the various decorations.

Commenting on the Christmas tree, the Pope said it is a sign of the faith of the Polish people and the expression of their fidelity to the see of Peter.  Thanking the children he said they have conveyed to Jesus their dreams and desires through their decorations which, he said, will be admired by pilgrims from all over the world.  

Message of Crib, Christmas tree

The Pope said that each year the Christmas Crib and the Christmas tree become a symbol of the compassion of the heavenly Father, and his participation and closeness with humanity that feels it is not abandoned in the night of the times but is visited and accompanied amidst its difficulties. 

The tree pointing up, he said, urges us to stretch out "towards the highest gifts", and rise above the mist that clouds, to feel how beautiful and joyous it is to be immersed in the light of Christ. In the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God, manifested in that of the Child Jesus.

St. Peter's Christmas Crib and Christmas tree were to be inaugurated later on Thursday. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis meets new president of Lutheran World Federation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with the new president of the Lutheran World Federation, Nigerian Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus, focusing on common prayer as the key to Christian unity.

Recalling his own visit to the Swedish cities of Lund and Malmo last year for the shared commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the pope said praying together purifies, strengthens and lights our way forward. Prayer, he insisted, is the fuel for our ecumenical journey.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

Through prayer, the pope continued, we are able to see the painful divisions of past ceneturies in a new light, abandoning our prejudices, purifying our memories and looking to the future with confidence. Through prayer, he said, we are called to recognize the gifts of our different traditions and receive them as our shared Christian heritage.

Reformation anniversary 'a turning point'

In his words to Pope Francis, Archbishop Musa also gave thanks for the past 50 years of progress ‘from conflict to communion’, acknowledging in a special way the importance of praying together to commemorate the Reformation anniversary.

Your presence and participation in the Joint Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund was a precious gift for us. It marked the significant turning point at which Catholics and Lutherans are today”.

Concrete steps to unity

Before praying the Our Father together, Pope Francis urged the Lutheran delegation, including the seven regional vice-presidents, to continue on the road to full unity, never giving in to the temptations to become tired, lazy or fearful. Good ideas are not enough, he said, but instead we must take concrete steps and hold out hour hands, working together to support the poorest and most needy as we witness together to the presence of God in our world.

(from Vatican Radio)

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn, will be Celebrated Around the Country December 12, as Day of Solidarity with Immigrants

WASHINGTON— On Tuesday, December 12, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn. Celebrations in dioceses across the nation will be held throughout the month of December to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. These events seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.

"As we enter the Advent season and Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities. We honor her role as protectress of families, including those families separated and far from home," stated Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

Over 55 prayer services, Masses, processions and other events will be held in dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking opportunity to provide for their families. On December 12, 2017, a Mass honoring our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, at St. Peter's Church in Washington, DC at 12:10 PM. All are welcome to attend.

For more information, please visit the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) website at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/lady-guadalupe-resource-page/ which has background material and scriptural information on Our Lady of Guadalupe in English and Spanish, a nationwide map of events, and community celebration ideas.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Day of Prayer, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, Committee on Migration, unborn, pro-life, migrant and refugee services, Advent, mercy, unity, solidarity.    

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Advance Final Tax Reform Bill Only if it Meets Key Moral Concerns, Says USCCB Chairman

WASHINGTON— As Congress prepares to reconcile the House of Representatives and Senate tax reform bills, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, insisted that "Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral concerns . . ."

"According to Congress' own nonpartisan analysis, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bills recently passed by the House and the Senate raise taxes on the poor and cut taxes on the rich, violating basic principles of justice," wrote Bishop Dewane. "Congress has proposed a web of wide-ranging and complex changes to the tax code, yet is approaching the process at a pace that makes it difficult even for experts in the impacted areas to analyze effects."

According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the Senate and House bills eventually increase taxes on taxpayers in the lowest brackets, while at the same time maintaining tax cuts for higher earners, including the very wealthy. Bishop Dewane expressed support for positive proposals contained in both the House and Senate bill, such as doubling the Standard Deduction, expansion of 529 savings plans, increases for deductions for educator expenses, and the idea of expanding the child tax credit, though he urged a robust expansion that includes the refundable portions of the credit.

However, the Bishop highlighted serious problems that remain in one or both of the proposed bills:  elimination of personal exemptions, repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate apart from broader health care reform, and failure to include changes that will protect against a steep drop in charitable giving, among others.

"Policy that is good for workers, families who welcome life, families who are struggling to reach (or stay in) the middle class, and the very poor, has by design been a part of our tax code for years," noted Bishop Dewane. "Any modifications to these important priorities of our nation should only be made with a clear understanding and concern for the people who may least be able to bear the negative consequences of new policy."

The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Conference-Letter-Congress-2017-12-06.pdf

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, tax reform bill, U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Taxation, tax cuts, Standard Deduction, child tax credit, Affordable Care Act (ACA), charitable giving, tax payers, health care reform, families, poor

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB Chairmen Comment on Supreme Court’s Oral Arguments on Religious Freedom of Creative Professionals

WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involves a Christian baker named Jack Phillips who declined in 2012 to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. State officials seek to compel Phillips to create such cakes under Colorado's public accommodations law.  Phillips argues that the state's action against him and his bakery violates the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Commenting on the oral arguments before the Court, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following joint statement:

"Today's oral arguments address whether our Constitution's guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion will be protected by the Supreme Court. Americans of every creed depend on these guarantees of freedom from unnecessary government coercion.  America has the ability to serve every person while making room for valid conscientious objection. We pray that the Court will continue to preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation. Artists in particular deserve to have the freedom to express ideas—or to decline to create certain messages—in accordance with their deeply held beliefs. Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged in the Obergefell decision in 2015 that people who oppose same-sex marriage 'reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.' Creative professionals should be allowed to use their artistic talents in line with these decent and honorable convictions."

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.

The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop, which can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/16-111-tsac-USCCB.pdf.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop James Conley, Supreme Court, religious freedom, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, marriage

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200