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Pope Francis: You can’t spread God’s love from an armchair

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2017 / 06:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that to share God’s love with the world requires action and service – and that we can’t just sit around and wait for other people to perform our vocation.

“Love is dynamic, it goes out of itself,” the Pope said Oct. 14. The person who loves does not just sit in an armchair watching and waiting for the world to improve. Instead, he or she “with enthusiasm and simplicity gets up and goes.”

As St. Vincent de Paul said, our vocation is not merely to go to one parish or diocese, but to go throughout the earth, he continued. And what do we do? We “inflame the hearts of men, doing what the Son of God did, he who came to bring fire to the world to inflame it with his love.”

The vocation to love, Francis said, “is always valuable for everyone.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Vincentian Family during a celebration in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 14 celebrating the 400th anniversary of the start of the charism of the Vincentian Family, a group of organizations founded by or under the inspiration of St. Vincent de Paul.

A 17th-century French priest, St. Vincent is known as the patron of Catholic charities for his apostolic work among the poor and marginalized.

The meeting was part of a week-long symposium in Rome which included Mass, prayer services and talks.

In their audience, Francis said he wanted to encourage the members of the Vincentian Family to continue their journey of charity.

Besides the verb “to go,” he offered two other simple words he said are of great importance for “the Vincentian spirit but also for Christian life in general:” To worship and to welcome.

For St. Vincent, worship of God, or prayer, was essential, the Pope said. There are many invitations from him in his writing encouraging us to cultivate an inner life, devoting ourselves to prayer, which "purifies and opens the heart,” he said.

St. Vincent considered prayer like the compass of every day, the “manual of life.” Only through prayer can we draw from God the love that we then pour into the world, he continued.

But the saint didn't consider prayer a set of formulas or a sterile duty, he continued. Prayer, for St. Vincent, was to stand before God, being with him and devoting yourself to him.

“This is the most pure prayer, the one that makes room for the Lord and his praise, and nothing else: adoration,” he said.

"Here is adoration: to stand before the Lord, with respect, with calm and in silence, giving him the first place," abandoning oneself with confidence.

Whatever the situation or problem, those who spend time worshiping God can't help but be "contaminated" by the living source of love, he continued. Which makes us want to treat others like we have been treated by the Lord.

Those who spend time in worship and adoration become "more merciful, more sympathetic, more available, above rigidity and open to others."

When we think of the verb “to welcome,” we often think of doing something, like performing an act of hospitality or the like, Francis said. But it actually has more to do with a way of thinking.

Welcoming is really "a slow detachment from all that is mine: my time, my rest, my rights, my plans, my agenda."

The Christian is truly welcoming who sets aside his or her own ego in favor of sowing peace and concord and communion, even when not reciprocated.

“Thank you for moving in the streets of the world, as St. Vincent would ask you today,” the Pope concluded. I hope you continue to draw God’s love from adoration, spreading it throughout the world, through the “good contagion” of charity.

“I bless all of you and the poor you meet.”

Attempt to oust pro-life student union president denounced as 'bullying tactic'

Dublin, Ireland, Oct 14, 2017 / 05:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The student union president at University College Dublin said that a campaign to impeach her is a “bullying tactic” by a group of students who are intolerant of her pro-life views.

“I must state that the call for my impeachment is without legitimate cause,” said Katie Ascough in an open letter to UCD students.

“We don’t have to agree on the issue of abortion, but we should be able to respect each other,” she added.

Ascough said that the campaign to remove her began before she even took office.

“It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as (Student Union) President because of my views on abortion,” she said.

Ascough, who was elected student union president for the Irish college on March 9 of this year, faces potential impeachment for following legal counsel that advised her to remove information on obtaining abortions from the student handbook.

Abortion is illegal and unconstitutional in Ireland, and Ascough said she was told by legal advisers that the abortion information in the handbook could cost the school upwards of tens of thousands of euro in fines. Distribution of the illegal information could have also resulted in criminal convictions for dozens of school administrators, who also could have been fined up to €4,000 each.

“The main reason that a group of students are calling for my impeachment is because of my decision to not break the law and illegally distribute abortion information,” Ascough said in her letter.

She wrote that she “sought legal advice regarding the abortion information from the Union’s long-standing lawyer” who “advised that it would be prudent to avoid proceeding with the current handbook,” which contained information on the illegal procedure of abortion.

She also noted at the Board of Directors agreed with this decision, and supported the re-printing of the handbooks, which amounted to nearly €7,000. Ascough believed this cost was worth the potential risk of fines the school could have received if they left the handbooks as they were.

Additionally, she noted that the change to the handbook was minimal. In order to comply with legal standards, direct abortion information was removed and replaced with contact information to agencies who could provide that information.

“That was the alteration that was needed to stay within the law and not put up to two dozen people at risk of thousands in fines and permanent personal criminal convictions,” Ascough said.

According to The Guardian, 1,200 students have signed a petition calling for Ascough’s impeachment because of this move. The vote will take place on Oct. 25-26.

While Ireland is a traditionally Catholic country with laws that protect the unborn, the conflict seen on the campus of UCD points to the country’s growing tensions over abortion. Next year, Ireland will vote to potentially abolish the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which recognizes the rights of both pregnant woman and their babies in-utero.

Moving forward, Ascough hopes that students at UCD are able to use their votes to “build a fairer, freer and more democratic” university.

She listed the goals that she has accomplished since taking office, including the securing of funding for an affordable housing project for students, and discussed the projects she is hoping to accomplish in the coming month.

“I would be honoured to continue my hard work for UCD students and build on the achievements we have made at UCDSU so far,” she said.  




US bishops laud attorney general's new religious freedom protections

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following an announcement by the U.S. Attorney General detailing 20 principles of religious liberty for all government agencies and executive departments to follow, the U.S. bishops have praised the government’s reaffirmation of religious freedom protections.

“The Attorney General’s guidance helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement.

“The guidance also reaffirms that the federal government should never exclude religious organizations from competing on an equal footing for government grants or contracts, and religious entities should never be forced to change their religious character in order to participate in such programs,” he continued.

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s clarification of these matters, which will protect faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve all those in need, including the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and students attending religious schools.”

The guidance was issued on Oct. 6 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to an executive order to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.” The document highlights key issues surrounding religious freedom in the United States and points to the importance of religious freedom in the country, as well as existing laws and precedents which protect the fundamental right.

At the memo’s outset, the document notes that religious freedom “is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice.” The guidance reaffirms a broader definition of religious freedom, which has come under pressure as the previous Obama administration promoted the much narrower phrasing “freedom of worship.”


Read CNA's analysis of the new religous freedom guidance to learn more:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The government&#39;s new religious freedom guidance: What does it mean?<a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="">October 8, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Pope Francis, Lebanese prime minister discuss Middle East

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2017 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and the prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Rafic Hariri, discussed Friday the current situation in the Middle East and Lebanon, which has received a large number of refugees from Syria.

According to an Oct. 13 statement from the Vatican, the meeting took place “in an atmosphere of great cordiality,” which enabled a productive discussion of various issues in Lebanon and the Middle East.

Among these, the two expressed hope for “increasingly fruitful collaboration between the various political powers” in support of the common good of the nation.

They also focused on the importance of the Christian presence in the Middle East and the “historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country.”

In the half-hour meeting, Francis and Hariri spoke about the need to find a “just and comprehensive solution” to conflicts in the region and Pope Francis also expressed his appreciation for the welcome Lebanon has shown to refugees fleeing Syria and other countries of the Middle East.

Now more politically stable, before Oct. 2016 and the election of President Michel Aoun, the Lebanese parliament was under a 29-month deadlock to choose the next president.

Bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south, the situation in Lebanon is closely tied to that of the Middle East. The country has welcomed the largest number of refugees per capita, which now represent an estimated one quarter of the country's 4.5 million population.

In an effort to keep refugees from overwhelming any one area of the country, Lebanon has banned formal refugee camps, but already in some Lebanese towns there are now more Syrians than native Lebanese.

In Lebanon, Christians make up about 41 percent of the population, and Muslims, evenly divided between Sunnis and Shiites, around 54 perecent. Maronite Catholics are the largest Christian group.

In the meeting the Pope and Prime Minister also conversed on the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, as well as the value of collaboration between Christians and Muslims in promoting peace and justice.

Francis gave Hariri a gift of an olive branch sculpture, symbolizing peace. On his part, the Prime Minister gave Francis a silver necklace with a cross.

As is usual for heads of state, following his meeting with Francis, the Prime Minister also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher.

Celebrating 50 years, Special Olympics athletes meet with Pope Francis

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2017 / 06:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis met with soccer players in the Special Olympics, commending their commitment to the promotion of inclusion and the dignity of all.

“You are the symbol of a sport that opens eyes and hearts to the value and dignity of individuals and people who would otherwise be subject to prejudice and exclusion,” the Pope said Oct. 13.

The papal audience was part of the 50th anniversary celebrations put on by Special Olympics Italy. Francis met with around 350 participants of a unified soccer tournament taking place in Rome Oct. 12-15.

The event, called “We Change the Game with PlayUnified,” involves 120 young athletes, both with and without intellectual disabilities, from the countries of Italy, France, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Romania.

The Special Olympics was started in 1967 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the first international Special Olympics Games took place at Soldier Field in Chicago in July 1968.

Today, Special Olympics is active in 170 nations; more than 4 million athletes participate around the world.

Pope Francis told the athletes that “sport is one of those universal languages that overcomes cultural, social, religious and physical differences, and succeeds at uniting people, making them part of the same game and protagonists together of victories and defeats.”

During the days of the tournament, participants will reaffirm the importance of “unified” sports, where athletes with and without disabilities play together on the same teams, he said.

“Do not be tired of showing the world of sport your shared commitment to building more fraternal societies in which people can grow and develop and fully realize their abilities,” he encouraged.

For its part, the Catholic Church supports and encourages these initiatives, he continued, because they foster the good of people and communities.

He recalled that in sports, one can find many great stories of people who have overcome difficulties or come to terms with misfortunes such as poverty and physical and emotional wounds.

“These stories show us how the determination and character of some can be a motive for inspiration and encouragement for so many people in all aspects of their lives,” he said.

He praised their commitment to the promotion of human dignity and unity through sport, which he said “nourishes the hope of a positive and fruitful future of sport, because it makes it a real opportunity for inclusion and involvement.”

“I hope you spend these days with joy and serenity,” cultivating “friendship and solidarity,” he concluded.

“As I ask you to pray for me, I invoke the Lord's blessing on you, on your families, and on those who support you in your sporting activity,” he said.