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Archbishop Gomez: Find God's voice in the flames

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 13, 2017 / 03:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While fires in southern California continue to threaten thousands of homes, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles reflected that God can be found even amidst the violent flames, if we just listen for his message.

“Always it is the same question: Where is God to be found when natural disasters strike and bad things happen to good people?” he said in a Dec. 12 column, published at Angelus News, the archdiocese’s multimedia publication.

“God is speaking in every moment, in every circumstance. But sometimes he speaks in a whisper. He asks us to listen, to have ears to hear.”

The Thomas Fire began on Dec. 4 in Steckel Park, near St Thomas Aquinas College in southern California. Within nine hours, strong winds pushed the fire to engulf 31,000 acres, moving at a rate of an acre per second, CNN reported.  

The fire has destroyed more than 237,000 acres and more than 1,000 structures. More than 95,000 residents have been evacuated. The fire was only 25 percent contained as of Tuesday night and still poses a risk to thousands of structures in the Ventura and Santa Barbara County regions.

“The stories of loss are heartbreaking – families and small business owners who have lost everything,” said the archbishop.  

These disasters often force people to turn to faith and science for answers, he said, noting how the fire has also prompted his own reflection of scripture.

Gomez recalled the story of the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God on the holy mountain. The prophet found that “the Lord was not in the fire,” but was in a “tiny whispering sound” after the flames went out. To encounter the Lord, he had to listen carefully.

In a similar way, the archbishop said, natural disasters can contain a message about the preciousness of life, which if heard, allows for greater solidarity in the suffering community.
 
While there can sometimes be a human tendency to separate ourselves from those in pain, he said, disasters break down the barriers of pride and enable opportunities for “extraordinary heroism and ordinary human kindness.”

“The Lord is in the fire!” Gomez proclaimed, noting that he has seen the presence of God in the volunteers of organizations like Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent De Paul Society.

“He is there in all these stories of sharing and self-sacrifice, in all those who are opening their homes to strangers, in all those who are risking their lives to save others.”

God has asked his people to comfort the vulnerable, he said, and encouraged Christians to be the ones who stand by the afflicted, weep with the sorrowful, and help rebuild the broken.

Turning to the Blessed Mother, he asked her to intercede for California that the community may recognize the whisper of the Lord.

 

Peruvian prosecutor requests jail for Sodalitium founder

Lima, Peru, Dec 13, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- Criminal prosecutors in Peru have requested that Luis Fernando Figari be incarcerated by a court order, while he is investigated for charges of psychological and sexual abuse.

Figari is the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a religious community of men, and the Marian Community of Reconciliation, a community of women.  In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

He has been the subject of abuse allegations since 2011.

According to local press reports, the Peruvian prosecutor requested that other former members of the SCV also be incarcerated while they are subject of investigations. Virgilio Levaggi, Jeffery Daniels and Daniel Murguia are also suspected of sexual and psychological abuse of Sodalitium members, and of collusion with Figari in covering up abuse.

The prosecutor also requested that Ricardo Treneman and Oscar Tokumura, members of the Sodalitium, be subject to travel restrictions.
 
Peruvian law permits judges to remand suspects of criminal activity to incarceration while they are being investigated, if they are considered flight risks, or a risk to pose grave danger. A criminal investigation against the men began in January 2017.

A judge must decide within 48 hours whether to grant the prosecution’s request for temporary incarceration.

In February of this year, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that  "Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

The investigative team included a former FBI agent, and several experts on sexual abuse. All details of the independent investigation were given to the media and to Peruvian authorities.

The report concluded that "between 1975 and 2000 and once in 2007, five members of Sodalitium, including Figari, sexually abused minors."

The five members alleged to have committed sexaul abuse are Figari, German Doig, who died in 2001, Virgilio Levaggi, Jeffrey Daniels and Daniel Murguía.

Of these five, only Figari remains a member of the Sodalitium. In February 2017, the Vatican’s congregation for religious life issued a decree forbidding him from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

The executive director of CNA and ACI Prensa, Alejandro Bermudez, is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

This story was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. CNA has adapted it and provided additional reporting.

Vatican communications department will soon unveil new website

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2017 / 11:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue discussions on reform of the Roman Curia and unveiled a new communications system for the Secretariat for Communications.

Taking place at the Vatican Dec. 11-13, all members were present for the meetings, apart from Cardinal George Pell. Pope Francis was present except for Wednesday morning during the general audience, as is ordinary.

Fr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, presented the new communications system, including a new website and logos, during the 22nd round of meetings.

According to a Dec. 13 statement, the “the Vatican media system adopts a new production model based on integration and unified management, in full harmony with the reform desired by Pope Francis.”

The center of the communications system will be new multimedia publishing center, which will present a unified structure for the daily production of content, including audio, text, video, and graphics, in multiple languages.

This system is the result of consolidation on both an economic and technical level, and will be available soon (in a beta version) at vaticannews.va, the press release stated. This replaces the previously used informational websites and aims to streamline the image and channels of communication.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s photo service, and the Vatican Typography will merge with the secretariat.

It will start with a team of 70 people divided into six language divisions – English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese – in four thematic areas: Pope, Vatican, Church, and world. It will all be overseen by an editorial directorate in coordination with other support groups.

The new system draws its inspiration from the words of Pope Francis to the Secretariat for Communication during their first plenary earlier this year: that “reform is not ‘whitewashing’ things: reform is to give another form to things, organize them in another way.”

Viganò also reported on the final stretch of the reform of Holy See communications, including the achievement of goals to reduce costs and consolidate personnel.

The meetings also included an update from Cardinal Kevin Farrell on the work of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which is preparing for the 2018 synod on youth.

The cardinals also listened to presentations by Fr. Michael Czerny and Fr. Fabio Baggio, the under-secretaries of the Migrant and Refugee section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The section is developing a global strategy to implement in cooperation with the Secretariat of State, bishops’ conferences, NGOs, and religious congregations.

As usual, Cardinal Sean O’Malley also provided an update on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Members of the commission are appointed for a term of three years, which may be reconfirmed. The terms of the present 15 members of the commission end Dec. 17. Pope Francis will decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.

Peter Saunders, founder and former Chief Executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood and a member of the commission since Dec. 2014, told the Tablet Dec. 13 he plans to step down from the commission at the end of the week. He has been on a leave of absence from the advisory body since early 2016.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia.

The council’s next round of meetings will take place Feb. 27-29.

Founding member of CFRs and EWTN host Fr. Andrew Apostoli dies at age 75

New York City, N.Y., Dec 13, 2017 / 09:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Franciscan friar and EWTN host Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, passed away on the morning of Dec. 13, his community has confirmed.

Fr. Apostoli was a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and was a regular on EWTN programming, most recently as the host of “Sunday Night Prime.”

He also authored numerous books and was considered one of the leading experts on the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions.

“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the loss of our dear friend Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR. Father Andrew was a constant presence on the Network for nearly twenty-five years, particularly as the host of ‘Sunday Night Prime’ for the past five years,” said Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

Fr. Apostoli was born Joseph Dominic Apostoli on July 3, 1942 in Woodbury, New Jersey, and was the second of four boys. He first encountered Capuchin Franciscan friars at his parish in 8th grade and was inspired by their joy.

“I felt that the brothers were joyful and I wanted the joy that I saw,” he told the Catholic Herald in 2015.

He met Archbishop Fulton Sheen while attending high school seminary, and would later be ordained a priest by Archbishop Sheen on March 16, 1967. He would eventually become the Vice Postulator for Sheen’s cause for canonization.

Fr. Apostoli was a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 1988, and was also influential in the founding of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.

During his time in active ministry, Fr. Apostoli served as a teacher, retreat leader and spiritual director. He also wrote many spiritual books on subjects including Our Lady of Fatima and the Holy Spirit. His most recent book, “Answering the Questions of Jesus,” is a book designed to lead readers into deeper reflection on each of the personal questions Jesus asks in the Gospel.

Fr. Apostoli first appeared on EWTN on the “Mother Angelica Live” program in July of 1993, together with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and taped his own series for the network in 1994, which first aired in 1995.

In 2012, Fr. Apostoli took over as host for EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” which had previously been hosted by Fr. Benedict Groschel, a fellow Franciscan Friar of the Renewal.

On November 10, Fr. Apostoli announced on the CFR’s website that due to declining health, he could no longer maintain a public schedule. Over the past month, the brothers have been posting brief health updates about the priest and asking for prayers.

In the morning of Dec. 13, the brothers confirmed that he had passed away.

“We always looked forward to his many visits to Irondale to produce programs,” Warsaw said.

“He was such a kind and holy man who always brought joy to the EWTN Family and who was a constant witness to the Franciscan spirit. We will certainly miss him.”

Pope Francis: Think 'being good' is enough? It’s not. Go to Mass

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2017 / 03:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to Pope Francis, a Christian can’t just be a good person and skip Mass on Sundays, because it is the Eucharist that provides the nourishment needed to truly live the Gospel well in our daily lives.

“How can we respond to those who say that there is no need to go to Mass, not even on Sundays, because what is important is to live well, to love our neighbors?” the Pope said Dec. 13.

“It is true that the quality of the Christian life is measured by the capacity to love,” as Jesus says in the Gospels, he said.

“But how can we practice the Gospel without drawing the necessary strength to do it, one Sunday after another, from the inexhaustible spring of the Eucharist?”

Pope Francis spoke during his Wednesday general audience, during which he continued his weekly catechesis on the Mass and Eucharist, focusing on the reasons why we must go to Mass every Sunday, besides the fact that it is a law of the Church, which he said is important, but “not enough alone.”
 
Instead we must go deeper: “We Christians need to participate in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his living presence in us and among us, can we put into practice his commandment, and thus be his credible witnesses,” he said.

The Eucharist and Mass, he said, are where we find our strength for daily life.

Without it, Christians “are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of everyday life.” Often consumed by worries and fears, this weekly meeting is where Christ gives us the strength to live each day with courage and with hope.

He explained how participating in the Eucharistic communion with Jesus here on earth helps us to anticipate heaven, where it will be “Sunday without sunset”: no more tears, grief, or pain, but only “the joy of living fully and forever with the Lord.”

At Sunday Mass we rest from the busyness and work of the week, which teaches us to place our trust in the Father, not in earthly things, the Pope said. In this same way, abstaining from unnecessary labor on Sundays helps us to live out our identity as sons and daughters of God, and not slaves.

The Pope also noted an important distinction about Mass, which is that Christians do not go in order to give something to God, “but to receive from Him what we really need.”

This teaching is evoked in a prayer from the Roman Missal, which addresses God, saying: “You do not need our praise, but for a gift of your love you call us to give you thanks; our hymns of blessing do not increase your greatness, but they obtain for us the grace that saves us,” Francis said.

Pope Francis then noted that there are some Christian communities which are not able to celebrate Mass every Sunday, but they are still called to gather together in prayer, to listen to the Word of God, and to nurture their desire for the Eucharist.

Alternatively, there are many secularized societies which have entirely lost the Christian sense of an “illuminated Sunday,” he said.

In this case we must help revive and recover the meaning of the day, he said, which should be celebrated with joy, with community, and with solidarity; as a day of rest “that restores the soul and the body.”