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Catholic News

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, EPABy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians can turn Christmas into a "pagan" or "mundane" holiday by focusing on the gifts and the tree rather than on the birth of Jesus and his promise to come again, Pope Francis said.Celebrating the beginning of Advent Dec. 2 with the recitation of the Angelus prayer and at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae the next day, the pope focused on the attitudes of vigilance and prayer that should characterize the Advent season and preparations for Christmas."If we think of Christmas in a consumeristic climate, looking at what we can buy to do this or that, as a mundane holiday, then Jesus will pass by and we will not find him," the pope said before reciting the Angelus with an estimated 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square.In the day's Gospel reading from the 21st chapter of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to be careful that their hearts "not become drowsy," but to &q...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians can turn Christmas into a "pagan" or "mundane" holiday by focusing on the gifts and the tree rather than on the birth of Jesus and his promise to come again, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating the beginning of Advent Dec. 2 with the recitation of the Angelus prayer and at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae the next day, the pope focused on the attitudes of vigilance and prayer that should characterize the Advent season and preparations for Christmas.

"If we think of Christmas in a consumeristic climate, looking at what we can buy to do this or that, as a mundane holiday, then Jesus will pass by and we will not find him," the pope said before reciting the Angelus with an estimated 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square.

In the day's Gospel reading from the 21st chapter of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to be careful that their hearts "not become drowsy," but to "be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man" at the end of time.

"Be vigilant and pray -- this is how to live this time from today until Christmas," the pope said.

The drowsy heart described in the Gospel, he said, is a condition that comes from focusing exclusively on oneself, "one's problems, joys and pains," continually circling back around one's own life.

"This is tiring, boring and closes off hope," he said, while "Advent calls us to make a commitment to watchfulness, looking outside ourselves, expanding our minds and hearts to open them to the needs of people, of our brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world."

The new world Christ promised is the desire of "so many people martyred by hunger, injustice and war; it is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned," he said.

Advent, he said, "is the opportune time to open our hearts and to ask ourselves concrete questions about how we spend our lives and for whom."

Christians must hold fast to their identity, including at Christmas, by keeping the focus on Jesus and fighting the temptation to "paganize" the Christian feast, he said at the Angelus.

Returning to the theme at Mass Dec. 3, Pope Francis said Christians do well to remember they are not celebrating "the birth of the Christmas tree," which is a "beautiful sign," but the birth of Jesus.

"The Lord is born, the redeemer who came to save us is born," the pope said. Of course, Christmas is a celebration, but "there is always the danger, the temptation to banalize Christmas," to stop focusing on Jesus and get caught up in "shopping, gifts and this and that."

Advent, he said, is a time to purify one's focus, remembering that Jesus came into the world to save people from sin, that each person will stand before him at the end of his or her life and that Jesus will come again.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, EPABy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Leading thousands of pilgrims in prayer, Pope Francis lit a candle in remembrance of the people of Syria, especially innocent children tormented by the country's eight-year conflict."May this flame of hope and many flames of hope dispel the darkness of war," he said Dec. 2 after praying the Angelus prayer.The lighting of the candle was part of a Christmas campaign sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need to call attention to the plight of the Syrian people, especially Christians who are "in grave danger of becoming a relic of the past."The campaign officially was launched with the candle lighting. According to Aid to the Church in Need, an estimated 50,000 children from different Christian communities in six war-torn cities of the country -- Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Aleppo, Hassake, Tartous and Latakia -- lit candles for peace."Before the beginning of the war, Christians account...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Leading thousands of pilgrims in prayer, Pope Francis lit a candle in remembrance of the people of Syria, especially innocent children tormented by the country's eight-year conflict.

"May this flame of hope and many flames of hope dispel the darkness of war," he said Dec. 2 after praying the Angelus prayer.

The lighting of the candle was part of a Christmas campaign sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need to call attention to the plight of the Syrian people, especially Christians who are "in grave danger of becoming a relic of the past."

The campaign officially was launched with the candle lighting. According to Aid to the Church in Need, an estimated 50,000 children from different Christian communities in six war-torn cities of the country -- Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Aleppo, Hassake, Tartous and Latakia -- lit candles for peace.

"Before the beginning of the war, Christians accounted for some 10 percent of the population, around 2.5 million people," the organization said on its website. "As of today, it is estimated that approximately only 700,000 remain, which would amount to between 3 and 4 percent of the population -- although it is difficult to give precise figures at this stage."

Aid to the Church in Need also said it plans to finance emergency assistance programs in Syria valued at 15 million euros ($17 million).

Pope Francis called on the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray so that Christians may remain in Syria and the Middle East as "witnesses of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation."

He also prayed that the flame of hope would reach those suffering around the world due to conflicts and that the hearts of those who profit from war would change.

"May God, our Lord, forgive those who wage war and those who make weapons ... and convert their hearts," he said. "Let us pray for peace in beloved Syria."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, ReutersBy Julie AsherWASHINGTON (CNS) -- When he was running for re-election in 1992, President George H.W. Bush told Catholic News Service that he believed that a strong religious faith could provide "an extra shot of strength when you need it.""I don't believe you can be president without having faith. I really strongly feel that,'' Bush said in a telephone interview that October as he flew en route from a campaign appearance in Kentucky to scheduled stops in Florida.That religious faith that sustained him and his family and was clearly evident during his years in the White House and more recently as he mourned the April 17 death of his beloved wife of 73 years, Barbara, is being noted by many in paying tribute to his life and legacy after his death late Nov. 30 at age 94.His spokesman, Jim McGrath, announced the death of the former president in a tweet. The cause of his death was not immediately available, but he had been in failing ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When he was running for re-election in 1992, President George H.W. Bush told Catholic News Service that he believed that a strong religious faith could provide "an extra shot of strength when you need it."

"I don't believe you can be president without having faith. I really strongly feel that,'' Bush said in a telephone interview that October as he flew en route from a campaign appearance in Kentucky to scheduled stops in Florida.

That religious faith that sustained him and his family and was clearly evident during his years in the White House and more recently as he mourned the April 17 death of his beloved wife of 73 years, Barbara, is being noted by many in paying tribute to his life and legacy after his death late Nov. 30 at age 94.

His spokesman, Jim McGrath, announced the death of the former president in a tweet. The cause of his death was not immediately available, but he had been in failing health the last few years. In 2012, he announced that he had vascular Parkinsonism, a condition that limited his mobility and required him to use a wheelchair most of the time.

The White House announced Dec. 1 that a state funeral is being arranged "with all of the accompanying support and honors." President Donald Trump will designate Dec. 5 as a national day of mourning. He and first lady Melania Trump will attend the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington. The flags at the White House were lowered to half staff.

"Notre Dame joins with our nation and world in mourning the passing of President Bush," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the Catholic university in South Bend, Indiana. "He was the epitome of a public servant, not just in the Oval Office, but in his eight years as vice president, his many years as a congressman, ambassador and CIA director, and in his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

"We were fortunate to host him at Notre Dame on five occasions, and in each instance, the honor was ours," said Father Jenkins said in a Dec. 1 statement. "Our prayers are with the Bush family."

Bush received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame in 1992; he had visited the campus more than any other U.S. president.

Holy Cross Father Edward A. Malloy was Notre Dame's president from 1987 to 2005 and presented the honorary degree to Bush during commencement ceremonies that year. He also worked on two of the president's major initiatives -- his Drug Advisory Council and his Points of Light Foundation.

"I found him to be a leader deeply committed to the country he had been elected to serve, a gracious host and a down-to-earth person," Father Malloy said in a statement. "He recognized the importance of American higher education and he sought to enhance it. He also sought to promote a culture of citizen engagement with the great issues of the day."

The National Right to Life Committee, a federation of state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, also mourned Bush's death and praised him for a number of pro-life measures he supported as president.

It cited among other actions his administration urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to pass laws to protect unborn children. He used "the power of his veto to stop 10 bills that contained pro-abortion provisions, including four appropriations bills which allowed for taxpayer funding of abortion," NRLC said in a statement.

"President George H.W. Bush dedicated his administration to advancing pro-life policies to protect mothers and their unborn children," said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. "He used his presidency to stop enactment of pro-abortion laws and promote life-affirming solutions. Our prayers today are with former President George W. Bush and the entire Bush family."

While in office, Bush stated that the "protection of innocent human life -- in or out of the womb -- is certainly the most compelling interest that a state can advance," she added.

With regard to capital punishment, Bush differed with the Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty, telling CNS that he supported it "in certain instances because I think if somebody murders a police officer that that person ought to pay with his life.''

Bush was criticized by Catholic and other faith leaders as well as peace activists for his decision to go to war in the Persian Gulf after then-Iraq President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Some months before the U.S.-led war began Aug. 2, 1990, St. John Paul II pleaded for peace in the Gulf. "May leaders be convinced that war is an adventure with no return,'' he said. "By reasoning, patience and dialogue with respect to the inalienable rights of peoples and nations, it is possible to identify and travel the paths of understanding and peace."

Attending the funeral of the pope in 2005, then-former President Bush recalled for reporters how the pontiff had opposed the war, which ended Feb. 28, 1991, citing what he called the pope's "standard position on the use of force" and his concerns about "the long length of the war." One news account said Bush "lamented the fact that he (himself) never engaged in a discussion about the concept of a 'just war.'"

During his pontificate, St. John Paul met with Bush twice at the Vatican, first when Bush was vice president and then when he was president.

"I had the opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Holy Father for his spiritual and moral leadership,'' Bush said in a statement after the two leaders met privately for more than an hour Nov. 8, 1991.

"His message for peace and the message that he sends across the world to all these countries'' experiencing war and other hardships "is a message of hope and, indeed, a message of peace,'' the president said.

Born in Milton, Massachusetts, June 12, 1924, Bush delayed entrance to Yale University to volunteer for service in World War II. At 18. he was one of the Navy's youngest pilots. He was shot down during a 1944 bombing mission.

After graduating from Yale, he became an oilman in Texas, but after his stint in the oil fields, he spent most of the rest of his life in public service -- including as a two-term congressman from Texas, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, an ambassador, vice president under President Ronald Reagan (1980-1988) and finally president (1988-1992).

He and Barbara married Jan. 6, 1945. As a young couple they suffered through the death from leukemia of daughter Robin at age 3. Throughout their lives they and their whole family mourned her loss. Bush is survived by son George W., the nation's 43rd president, and four other children; 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; and two siblings.

"We are guided by faith," Bush said of his wife and family in that 1992 interview with CNS. "We (are) regular attendees at church and that gives us strength every Sunday. And we just feel that it's important as a family to pray together. We still say our blessings at our meals and we still say our prayers at night.''
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Carol Zimmermann contributed to this story.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the beach town of New Smyrna, Florida, just a stone's throw away from Daytona Beach, Rich Varano never imagined his unique talent of sculpting sand would take him to the heart of Christianity.Varano is the artistic director of the "Sand Nativity," a massive 52-foot-wide sculpture made of sand imported from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice. It will be the centerpiece of the Vatican's annual Nativity scene on display in St. Peter's Square."What does it mean for me to be here? I think, quite understandably, it's the greatest honor there is" and certainly the biggest client he's ever had, Varano told Catholic News Service Nov. 21.The American artist and three other sculptors were charged with creating the intricate sculpture, which, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region o...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the beach town of New Smyrna, Florida, just a stone's throw away from Daytona Beach, Rich Varano never imagined his unique talent of sculpting sand would take him to the heart of Christianity.

Varano is the artistic director of the "Sand Nativity," a massive 52-foot-wide sculpture made of sand imported from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice. It will be the centerpiece of the Vatican's annual Nativity scene on display in St. Peter's Square.

"What does it mean for me to be here? I think, quite understandably, it's the greatest honor there is" and certainly the biggest client he's ever had, Varano told Catholic News Service Nov. 21.

The American artist and three other sculptors were charged with creating the intricate sculpture, which, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was to be unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7.

Bas-relief sand sculptures, like the one to be featured in St. Peter's Square, are a tradition in Jesolo, which, since 1998, has been the home of an annual sand sculpture festival. Varano is an accomplished sand sculptor with over 40 years' experience and has organized various international sand sculpture festivals, including the annual event in Jesolo.

Yet, his artistic journey in sand sculpting began many years before his artistry would hit the sands of the Venetian resort town and, subsequently, the cobblestone square in front of St. Peter's Basilica.

"I've been sculpting sand since I was 6 years old," Varano told CNS. "My father was an amateur and the beach where I grew up had good sand."

Varano began as an amateur, too, "until I discovered that people would pay for it in my late 20s. And within a year, sand sculpting was the only thing I've been doing professionally ever since."

The process of creating the sculptures, however, is more than just molding and shaping sand. Unlike the sand castles vacationers often see disintegrate from a single touch or the occasional passing wave, sand sculptures are made durable enough to even withstand light rain through a process of compression.

The sand, which was delivered from Jesolo to St. Peter's Square in massive trucks, is mixed with water and compressed into layers of blocks stacked on top of one another.

Varano said that this process allows for the sculpture to last "indefinitely as long as it wants to be left on display." The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.

"It's like a tiered cake going upward and when you get to the top, you're finished," Varano told CNS. "Then it can be sculpted immediately; it's suitable to carve right away."

Unlike sculpting harder materials like marble, which artists can work on at any given part, sand sculpting begins from the top. The artists must ensure their artwork is finished before continuing downward.

"You don't carve something below first because if you try to go above, it affects what's below. So, it's a process, like a scanning, from the top down to finish."

Another important aspect, he added, is the composition of the sand, which needs to hold enough moisture to allow it to be sculpted and subsequently "stay in its shape and dry like a mud pie in the sun."

"Really, the only difference that separates us as professionals and people that play on the beach doing it is that we understand the basics of why sand sticks or, more importantly, why it doesn't stick," Varano explained.

Of the 20 artists he works with creating sand sculptures at the annual Jesolo Sand Festival, Varano selected three of his top sculptors not just for their talent, but also "for their ability to work well together, (which) is kind of critical."

"This piece is over 700 tons but, with 15 days, it still needs to be done in a way that everyone can work productively and stay out of each other's way and help each other," he said. "So, this team is very well versed in that; they're used to working with each other, not just here in Italy, but around the world. So, it's a good fit."

Varano and his team have created sand Nativity scenes for the past 17 years in Jesolo, which allowed them to flesh out different more elaborate pieces that told various stories, such as "a day in the life in Bethlehem" and ending with the "crescendo piece" of Christ's birth.

However, the sand art piece in St. Peter's Square will feature the "basic, iconic and traditional scene" complete with "the angel with Jesus, Joseph and Mary and then the three kings on one side, the (shepherd) and the sheep on the other side and, of course, the donkey and the ox."

Nevertheless, for Varano, the intricate planning and subsequent labor that goes into creating one of the most unique art pieces to feature in St. Peter's Square is worth the effort.

"A lot of expense goes (into) it to bring joy to people. To be able to do the kind of work that we do that is joyful for us and brings joy to others, it can't be beat," Varano told CNS. "And to do it in a place like this, there really aren't words to convey how special it is."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/George FreyBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- A major scientific report by 13 federal agencies that concludes that climate change poses dire economic consequences to the United States and already is affecting the well being of people serves as a warning that demands action to protect the earth, Catholics working on environmental concerns said.Personal response can encompass the simple or the complex, but some action is required of everyone if the consequences foreseen in the 1,656-page report are to be avoided, they told Catholic News Service."We really have to wake up and get serious about tackling this issue, particularly reducing our energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. "We need to realize if we don't get really serious about this soon our children and grandchildren will seriously suffer."The congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessme...

IMAGE: CNS photo/George Frey

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A major scientific report by 13 federal agencies that concludes that climate change poses dire economic consequences to the United States and already is affecting the well being of people serves as a warning that demands action to protect the earth, Catholics working on environmental concerns said.

Personal response can encompass the simple or the complex, but some action is required of everyone if the consequences foreseen in the 1,656-page report are to be avoided, they told Catholic News Service.

"We really have to wake up and get serious about tackling this issue, particularly reducing our energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. "We need to realize if we don't get really serious about this soon our children and grandchildren will seriously suffer."

The congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment, released Nov. 23 by the White House, projects that climate change will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year by 2090. It points to worsening health, reduced farm production, stressed natural areas, lost work and classroom hours, and widespread destruction of coastal and inland property if carbon emissions are not reined in.

Elderly and poor people, children and minority communities are the most vulnerable, said the report, which was developed by more than 200 scientists and environmental experts from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments, national laboratories, universities, research institutions and the private sector.

President Donald Trump dismissed the assessment, saying simply, "No, no, I don't believe it," in response to a reporter's question about the projected economic impact of global warming. He claimed Nov. 26, without citing evidence, the U.S. air and water are "the cleanest we've ever been and that's very important to me."

Trump's response falls in line with a series of policy changes during his administration. New regulations and laws in at least 49 areas related to the environment -- from vehicle mileage standards to emissions from coal-fired power plants -- have been enacted or proposed since 2017, according to Harvard Law School's Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker.

The massive federal report is a scientific assessment built on the findings of years of research and therefore does not offer policy solutions. It outlines regional impact in 10 regions of the country. Its 29 chapters cover topic such as human health, water, forests, transportation and land use.

"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," the report said. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future -- but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged the challenges posed by climate change in a 2001 statement, "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good."

The statement noted that climate change "is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures," but rather "about the future of God's creation and the one human family ... about the human stewardship of God's creation and our responsibility to those who come after us."

Some solutions are already known, said Marianist Sister Leanne Jablonski, a biologist who directs the Marianist Environmental Education Center in Dayton, Ohio. They include reducing waste, consuming less and keeping in mind the needs of others, she said.

"We have a long tradition as Catholics of responding in active mercy," she explained, citing multitudes of soup kitchens, the work of charitable agencies and the millions of dollars raised to aid people harmed by natural disasters. The climate requires similar response, she said, because things will only get worse if personal responsibility is ignored as global temperatures continue to rise.

After reviewing the report, Sister Jablonski and others contacted by CNS found themselves returning to Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." They said the encyclical offers guidelines for Catholic action and reflection.

The encyclical -- as well as the government's report -- serves to remind the human family that the focus is not what's best for an individual or one country, but what's best for the entire planet, said Father Michael Lasky, a Conventual Franciscan who serves as director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for the order's Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

He and others suggested that people keep in mind the Catholic tradition of sacrifice for the common good in their response to the consequences of a warming planet.

"The message in a nutshell is it's not that I'm rich and they are poor, it's that because I'm rich they're poor. That includes our planet. So the sacrifice comes in the sense of interconnectedness that is cited in this report as well as 'Laudato Si',' being integral as the reason for the sacrifice," he told CNS.

"We are brother and sister to one another. In that context, don't you sacrifice for the one you love, especially if the one you love is hurting? That means we have to live differently. We have to do a radical shift," Father Lasky said.

Laura Anderko, professor of nursing and health studies and Georgetown University, said people are beginning to see how a changing climate is affecting human life through warmer temperatures that affect people with asthma, more destructive wildfires and hurricanes that dump more water on coastal communities.

Greater incidents of illnesses known to result from the effects of high temperatures are being seen by health care professionals, said Anderko, who also is director of the Mid-Atlantic Center of Children's Health and the Environment.

"Even a few years ago people were not as receptive to seeing the connection, but these days they are," she said of rising incidences of asthma and other lung-related illnesses.

Anderko, too, pointed to the pope's encyclical as a guide for Catholics.

"I would encourage folks to reread 'Laudato Si','" she told CNS. "This report underscores what the pope said, with more scientific data, and we really need to be encouraged to not be fooled by those 30-second sound bites."

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Editor's Note: The Fourth National Climate Assessment can be found online at www.globalchange.gov. The USCCB statement on climate change is online at https://bit.ly/1LS26KN.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican MediaBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is not easy living with cancer, but there is always some kind of victory that awaits each person on the horizon, Pope Francis told young oncology patients from Poland."Your journey in life is a bit difficult, dear children, because you have to get treated and overcome the disease or live with the disease. This is not easy," he told the children, their parents and health care specialists Nov. 30 at the Vatican.But with the support of family, friends and others, "there is no difficulty in life that cannot be overcome," he told his young guests who were being treated at an oncology clinic in Wroclaw, Poland.God has given everyone a guardian angel so that "he may help us in life," Pope Francis said."Become accustomed to talking to your angel so that he may take care of you, give you encouragement and always lead you to victory in life," the pope told them."Victory is differ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is not easy living with cancer, but there is always some kind of victory that awaits each person on the horizon, Pope Francis told young oncology patients from Poland.

"Your journey in life is a bit difficult, dear children, because you have to get treated and overcome the disease or live with the disease. This is not easy," he told the children, their parents and health care specialists Nov. 30 at the Vatican.

But with the support of family, friends and others, "there is no difficulty in life that cannot be overcome," he told his young guests who were being treated at an oncology clinic in Wroclaw, Poland.

God has given everyone a guardian angel so that "he may help us in life," Pope Francis said.

"Become accustomed to talking to your angel so that he may take care of you, give you encouragement and always lead you to victory in life," the pope told them.

"Victory is different for each person; everyone prevails in his or her way, but prevailing is always the ideal, it is the horizon for moving forward. Do not get discouraged," he told them.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, ReutersBy Mark PattisonWASHINGTON (CNS) -- To hear the voices of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Michigan in Washington, the best bet was to listen to them sing at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse outside the White House late Nov. 28.Ahead of the ceremony, the sisters had turned down all media requests for interviews about their planned performance, according to their publicist, Monica Fitzgibbons.Because they had received so many interview requests, she said, they didn't want to appear as if they're playing favorites by OKing one media outlet while turning down another.For those unable who were unable to attend the evening event in person, a one-hour special of highlights culled from the ceremony will be shown Dec. 2 on both the Ovation and Reelz cable channels at 10 p.m. EST.After being introduced as our "very own caroling angels," the 14 sisters assembled in Washington sang the Christma...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- To hear the voices of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Michigan in Washington, the best bet was to listen to them sing at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse outside the White House late Nov. 28.

Ahead of the ceremony, the sisters had turned down all media requests for interviews about their planned performance, according to their publicist, Monica Fitzgibbons.

Because they had received so many interview requests, she said, they didn't want to appear as if they're playing favorites by OKing one media outlet while turning down another.

For those unable who were unable to attend the evening event in person, a one-hour special of highlights culled from the ceremony will be shown Dec. 2 on both the Ovation and Reelz cable channels at 10 p.m. EST.

After being introduced as our "very own caroling angels," the 14 sisters assembled in Washington sang the Christmas classic "Carol of the Bells."

What they had planned to sing was being kept a secret until the day of the ceremony, Fitzgibbons told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 27 telephone interview from Naples, Florida, home to the DeMontfort Music record label, which releases the nuns' music.

The order hit the top spot on the Billboard classical music charts a year ago with their third album, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: Christmas With the Dominican Sisters of Mary." In fact, it was that CD that won them a spot to perform during the ceremony.

"I've been in the music business for a long time, and the promoter was a friend of a friend," Fitzgibbons said. "They had the Christmas album out. ... This is put on by the National Parks (Service), so I submitted it that way." It was so long ago, she admitted, "I just forgot about it."

"They're not Beyonce, they're just kind of doing this and want to put Christ in Christmas," Fitzgibbons added. "Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas music?"

Asked how they got from their motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to the nation's capital, Fitzgibbons replied, "The National Parks flew them in. ... They're 'Nuns on the Plane.' They had no choice. That's what was offered to them. They live in poverty, so it was the National Parks that arranged for their transportation."

Although teaching is the order's charism, the Dominican Sisters of Mary have issued two other chart-topping CDs, "Mater Eucharistiae" and "Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations and Music." They also have published three journals, "Advent Journal, Mother of Life," "And the Word Became Flesh" and "Life of Christ Lectio Divina Journal."

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Editor's Note: More about the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, can be found online at www.sistersofmary.org.

 

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IMAGE: CNS/Catholic Church of England and WalesBy Simon CaldwellMANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Catholic bishops have expressed hope that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Henry Newman in 2019 after Vatican medics said the inexplicable healing of a U.S. mother was a miracle attributable to his intercession.The cardinal was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England, after the miraculous healing of Boston Deacon Jack Sullivan.Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said the English and Welsh bishops were informed during their "ad limina" visit to Rome in September that the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Newman had been found."I understand that the medical board responsible for assessing a second miracle has now delivered a positive assessment to the congregation," he told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 29 email.The archbishop said members of the congregation will meet early next year "to consider the medical boar...

IMAGE: CNS/Catholic Church of England and Wales

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Catholic bishops have expressed hope that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Henry Newman in 2019 after Vatican medics said the inexplicable healing of a U.S. mother was a miracle attributable to his intercession.

The cardinal was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England, after the miraculous healing of Boston Deacon Jack Sullivan.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said the English and Welsh bishops were informed during their "ad limina" visit to Rome in September that the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Newman had been found.

"I understand that the medical board responsible for assessing a second miracle has now delivered a positive assessment to the congregation," he told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 29 email.

The archbishop said members of the congregation will meet early next year "to consider the medical board's assessment and to make its own recommendation" to Pope Francis, who will make the final decision and possibly set a date for the canonization ceremony.

Archbishop Longley said: "It is wonderful news that the process for canonization is now moving closer toward its conclusion, and I pray that we may witness the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman within the coming year."

He said the canonization would be a "great joy," especially for the Catholics of Birmingham, the city where Blessed Newman founded his oratory.

"I am sure that Pope Benedict XVI, who came to our city to beatify Cardinal Newman, will be joining us as we continue to pray for Blessed John Henry's canonization in the near future," he said.

The second healing miracle involved a young law graduate from the Archdiocese of Chicago who faced life-threatening complications during her pregnancy but suddenly recovered when she prayed to Blessed Newman to help.

It was reported in the British media in early 2016 that a file on the healing had been passed from the archdiocese to the Vatican.

The news that the second miracle had been approved in Rome was revealed by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a weekly newsletter in mid-November.

He told the people of his diocese that developments in the cardinal's cause meant that it "looks now as if Newman might be canonized, all being well, later next year."

In a Nov. 29 telephone interview with CNS, Bishop Egan described the progress of the cause as a "wonderful thing."

He said it would be "great" if it (the canonization) was in October next year because that was the month of Blessed Newman's conversion to the Catholic faith.

"It shows that it is possible to be an Englishman and holy," he said.

"It is an inspiration for anyone from England," he added. "I hope and pray that one day he will be made a doctor of the church, because there is so much in his teaching that is really rich."

Before he became a Catholic in the 19th century, Blessed Newman was an Anglican theologian who founded the Oxford Movement to try to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots.

Despite a life marked by controversy, he was renowned for his exemplary virtue and for his reputation as a brilliant thinker, and Pope Leo XIII rewarded him with a cardinal's red hat.

He died in Birmingham in 1890, and more than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession.

Scholars believe he was years ahead of his time in his views of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

 

 

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who visit Catholic shrines must find a place of warmth and welcome, as well as good priests who enjoy being with and listening to the faithful, Pope Francis said."It is sad," he said, whenever visitors arrive and "there is no one there who gives them a word of welcome and receives them like pilgrims who have accomplished a journey, often a long one, to reach the shrine," and it is even worse if they find the place is closed."It cannot happen that more attention is paid to material and financial demands, forgetting that the most important part is the pilgrim. They are the ones who count," he said.The pope spoke Nov. 29 to hundreds of priests, religious and laypeople attending the first International Convention of Rectors and Pastoral Worker of Shrines, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The convention, held in Rome Nov. 27-29, focused on the way shr...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who visit Catholic shrines must find a place of warmth and welcome, as well as good priests who enjoy being with and listening to the faithful, Pope Francis said.

"It is sad," he said, whenever visitors arrive and "there is no one there who gives them a word of welcome and receives them like pilgrims who have accomplished a journey, often a long one, to reach the shrine," and it is even worse if they find the place is closed.

"It cannot happen that more attention is paid to material and financial demands, forgetting that the most important part is the pilgrim. They are the ones who count," he said.

The pope spoke Nov. 29 to hundreds of priests, religious and laypeople attending the first International Convention of Rectors and Pastoral Worker of Shrines, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The convention, held in Rome Nov. 27-29, focused on the way shrines are "an open door to the new evangelization."

Pilgrimages and visits to shrines are a key part of popular traditions, and Pope Francis told the group that keeping such popular piety alive was very important.

"It is the immune system of the church. It protects us from many things," he said.

Welcoming groups and visitors is very important, he said, so make sure they are made to feel "at home, like a family member who has been expected for a very long time and has finally come."

Sometimes visitors are people who have distanced themselves from the church, but they made the trip because they are attracted to the shrine's artistic treasures or its beautiful natural surroundings, the pope said.

"When they are welcomed, these people will become more willing to open their hearts and let them be shaped by grace. A climate of friendship is the fertile seed our shrines can toss on pilgrim soil, allowing them to rediscover that trust in the church" that might have been lost because of having been met with indifference, he said.

No one must ever feel like a stranger or an "outsider, above all when they get there with the burden of their own sins."

If the sacrament of reconciliation is offered at a shrine, the priests should be "well-formed, holy, merciful" and able to help the penitent experience "the true encounter with the Lord, who forgives," he added.

Shrines should be places of prayer, but also a place where an individual can pray in silence, he said. He added that priests serving the shrine must be ministers who love being with and understand the people of God. If not, "the bishop should give him another mission, because he is not suitable for this, and he will suffer greatly, and he will make the people suffer."

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Arnd Wiegmann, ReutersBy Jonathan LuxmooreWARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- As government delegations from across the globe prepare for a Dec. 2-14 U.N. conference on climate change, Catholic organizations are pledging to make the church's voice heard.CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America based in Brussels, joined other Catholic aid organizations in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference, which was expected to propose measures for restricting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius."Over the past year, there have been fears of a loss of energy -- that ambition and commitment are being deflated by the magnitude of the tasks ahead," said Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE secretary-general. "But we've been called out by the world's most vulnerable countries to make the bold changes needed to restrict global warming -- not by seeking the lowest common denominator, but by joining in courageous actions....

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arnd Wiegmann, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- As government delegations from across the globe prepare for a Dec. 2-14 U.N. conference on climate change, Catholic organizations are pledging to make the church's voice heard.

CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America based in Brussels, joined other Catholic aid organizations in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference, which was expected to propose measures for restricting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Over the past year, there have been fears of a loss of energy -- that ambition and commitment are being deflated by the magnitude of the tasks ahead," said Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE secretary-general. "But we've been called out by the world's most vulnerable countries to make the bold changes needed to restrict global warming -- not by seeking the lowest common denominator, but by joining in courageous actions."

The Canadian Catholic told Catholic News Service Nov. 26 that Catholic campaigners would press the conference to maintain a "comprehensive rights approach to climate change," rather than merely focusing on "technical questions."

Adriana Opromolla, international advocacy officer for Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of 164 Catholic charities, said Catholic groups "want an open, transparent dialogue on the global common good, not just a preoccupation with the interests of certain countries."

"While governments have to comply with global emission reduction goals, actors below government level can also have a major impact with a shared vision for reversing current trends," said Opromolla. "What absolutely cannot happen is that we just continue with business as usual."

"We've seen a growing interest in the Catholic Church as a moral leader and globally recognized authority, so I've no doubt its voice will be listened to," she said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promoting Integral Human Development, will lead a delegation from the Holy See.

In an Oct. 26 statement, church leaders from five continents called for the conference to be a "milestone on the path set out in 2015," by encouraging "urgency, intergenerational justice, human dignity and human rights."

They added that Pope Francis had demanded "rapid and radical changes" in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for our Common Home." They called on countries with heavy carbon emissions to "take political accountability and meet their climate finance commitments."

The statement said the Catholic Church worldwide was now supporting a "shift toward more sustainable communities and lifestyles," including disinvestment from fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy, and was "rethinking the agriculture sector" to promote agro-ecology.

"We must resist the temptation to look for solutions to our current situation in short-term technological fixes without addressing the root causes and the long-term consequences," said the signers, who included Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, and Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, president of the Latin American bishops' council. Their counterparts from Europe, Africa and Oceania also signed the letter.

The bishops' statement was welcomed as a "strong indication" of global Catholic commitment to climate justice by Tomas Insua, director of the Boston-based Global Catholic Climate Movement, who said he counted on political leaders to "take up the challenge" when "every notch in the global thermometer is a tragedy for the most vulnerable."

Gauthier also welcomed the statement's support for "deep societal change," adding that Catholic experts would work with representatives of other religions at Katowice to "make noise and instill hope" around the shared goals of "justice, dignity and care for creation."

"I think there's a thirst for another kind of discourse now, something less technical and with a more human face. This is where churches and religious communities can offer vital help," she added.

A U.N. website statement said the conference's main objective would be to adopt implementation guidelines for the 1.5-degree limit adopted under a 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

It added that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had recently warned net carbon dioxide emissions must reach zero by 2050 to meet the Paris target, thus reducing "the risks to human well-being, ecosystems and sustainable development."

In a Nov. 22 report, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization said levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, had reached a new record high, driving increases in sea levels, ocean acidification and more extreme weather, with "no sign of a reversal in the trend."

A separate Nov. 27 emissions report by the U.N. Environment Programme tracked policy commitments by countries to reduce emissions and said these were trailing behind official targets.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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