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Pope on first Sunday of Lent: Now is the time for conversion

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2018 / 09:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Lent is a time to face our temptations and be converted by the Gospel, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on the first Sunday of Lent.

His reflections were based on the passage in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days.

Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for his mission on earth, the Pope said.

While Jesus has no need of conversion himself, he must go to the desert out of obedience to God the Father and "for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation."

“For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual ‘training’, of spiritual combat: we are called to face the Evil one through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life,” he continued.

Immediately after he is tempted, Jesus goes out of the desert to preach the Gospel, which demands conversion from all who hear it, the Holy Father said.

“(Jesus) proclaims, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel!’ — believe, that is, in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our life we always have need of conversion — every day! — and the Church has us pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently oriented toward God, and we must continually direct our mind and our heart to Him."

Lent is the time to have the courage to reject anything that leads us away from God and repent, Francis noted, “but it is not a sad time!”

“It is a joyful and serious duty to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our ‘old man,’ and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism,” he said.

During Lent, we must listen to the call of Christ and be converted, recognizing that true happiness lies in God alone, Francis said.

He concluded his address with an appeal to Mary:

“May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lent with fidelity to the Word of God and with incessant prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living the days with the desire to welcome the love that comes from God, and that desires to transform our life, and the whole world.”

 

Young US adults are not tying the knot, recent study shows

Richmond, Va., Feb 18, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to a recent study, wedding bells are not ringing for the majority of younger adults in the United States, while marriage rates for older adults have increased over the past 50 years.

The study, conducted by the Institute for Family Studies, showed that only 48.6 percent of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18-64 are currently married – marking an all-time low, according to the most recent census data from IPUMS-USA.

“The short-term fluctuation in the number of new marriages and divorces is closely related to changes in the economy and other factors,” stated Wendy Wang, a director of research at IFS.

“In the long run, with the passing of older generations, we are heading to an age when marriage will no longer be the institution that a majority of adults live in,” Wang continued.

According to the research, there are a number of different factors playing into this decline. More couples are marrying later, or have decided to live with their significant other instead of getting married. Additionally, the number of never-married adults in this age group rose from 26 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2016.

The study also found that individuals who are under the age of 35 and those without a college education are more prone to staying unmarried.

“Marriage remains the norm for those with a college education,” Wang noted.

In addition, the decline in marriage for young adults was seen across the board, from varying racial and ethnic groups, and included both men and women.

One positive trend from the decline pointed to a lower divorce rate, which reached a record low of 2.1 million in 2016. For those adults who are married, the chance of divorce is now lower.

“Although a smaller share of adults is married today, among those who are married, the good news is that their likelihood of divorce is also lower,” Wang said.

On the other hand, marriage for adults in their retired years, 65 and older, is seeing a slight increase, rising from 36 percent to 45 percent in 2016.

Factors such as longer life expectancies, particularly among men, were a major contributor in the increase of marriage for older adults. While older men previously outnumbered women among married adults in their age group, the gap has become more narrow in recent years. Today, for every 100 married men above the age of 65, there are 80 married women – compared to 64 women in 1960.

The study also noted that the divorce rate among this age group has roughly remained the same – around 3 new divorces per 1,000 married adults since 2008.

In the future, Wang is predicting that the gap between married and non-married younger adults will most likely continue to grow.

“The gap between married adults and those who are not married, aligning with the class divide in the U.S., is likely to deepen in the near future.”

Don't muzzle peaceful pro-life outreach, UK bishop says

London, England, Feb 17, 2018 / 03:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Proposals to bar pro-life demonstrations and outreach with a legal ‘buffer zone’ outside abortion clinics drew objections from a leading U.K. bishop who stressed the legitimacy of their cause.

“There are members of the public, often associated with churches, who gather peacefully to pray outside abortion clinics and witness to the good of human life in a dignified way,” Bishop John Sherrington said Feb. 16. “They do so because of their fundamental belief in the protection of unborn life and the good of the mother.”

Bishop Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of the Westminster archdiocese, is responsible for the Day for Life, when the local Catholic Church dedicates a day to raising awareness about the value of human life at every stage from conception to natural death. In England and Wales, the 2018 observance falls on Sunday, June 17.

The bishop’s remarks were submitted to a British government review of abortion clinic protests as parliament and several localities consider “buffer zones.” Possible proposals could bar the display of images deemed distressing and the use of loudspeakers, but also bar congregating in large groups and approaching women going into clinics.

In 2017, Labour Party M.P. Rupa Huq organized a cross-party letter supporting buffer zones that drew support from 113 M.P.s, including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sky News reports.

Bishop Sherrington was critical of the proposal.

“A blanket introduction of ‘buffer zones’ carries with it the danger of both denying freedom of expression and fostering intolerance towards legitimate opinions which promote the common good,” he said.

“The offering of leaflets is part of helping to inform women who might not have had impartial information before,” he said. “There are also those who offer practical alternatives and assistance if a woman wants to make a different choice.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the Home Office review in November 2017. It sought views about “alleged harassment and intimidating behavior near abortion clinics in England and Wales.”

“While everyone has a right to peaceful protest, this review is about ensuring the police, healthcare providers and local authorities have the right powers to protect women making these tough decisions,” Rudd said in a Nov. 26 announcement. “The decision to have an abortion is already an incredibly personal one, without women being further pressured by aggressive protesters.”

The review would consider comparisons to how demonstrations are treated in Australia, France and the U.S. It would assess several factors: the scale, frequency and nature of the protests; laws against harassment and intimidation; and the public’s right to lawful, peaceful protest.

Bishop Sherrington backed protest, rightly understood.

“In a democratic society the freedom to protest and express one’s opinion is always to be considered in relation to the common good,” he said. “It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order.”

Current legislation already provides the means to deal with harmful or threatening behavior, he said.

The comment period for the review ends Feb. 19.

In December, John Hansen-Brevetti, clinical operations manager at the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing, told a House of Commons' Home Affairs committee that up to 40 protesters at a time have gathered outside the clinic, Sky News reports. He charged that they have physically grabbed or blocked women or have been “using other means of intimidation.”

However, Antonia Tully, director of campaigns at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said that the protests are “peaceful, prayerful people, standing near abortion facilities, offering women the help that they are simply not getting anywhere else.”

Ahead of a January meeting of Ealing Council, Tully said that “peaceful, prayerful pro-life vigils must continue to offer help to desperate women.”

 

Pope Francis says Paul VI will be canonized this year

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 08:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his annual Lenten meeting with the priests of Rome last week, Pope Francis confirmed that Blessed Pope Paul VI will be made a saint sometime this year.

"Paul VI will be a saint this year," the Pope said Feb. 15, at the end of a long question and answer session with priests of Rome. The text of the private meeting was published by the Vatican Feb. 17.

During the meeting, Francis gave lengthy answers to four questions from priests. Afterward, texts containing meditations by Pope Paul VI, a gift from the Pope, were handed out to each of the priests. “I saw it and I loved it,” Francis said about the book.

“There are two [recent] Bishops of Rome already saints,” he continued, referring to St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, who were canonized together in April 2014.

Besides Blessed Pope Paul VI, he noted that John Paul I's cause for beatification is also ongoing. "And Benedict and I," he added, are "on the waiting list: pray for us!"

According to Vatican Insider, Feb. 6 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the second miracle needed for the canonization of Bl. Pope Paul VI by a unanimous vote.

The next step is for Pope Francis to also give his approval, with an official decree from the Vatican. Then the date for the canonization can be set. The canonization could take place in October of this year, during the Synod of Bishops on the youth, Vatican Insider reported.

The miracle attributed to the cause of Paul VI is the healing of an unborn child in the fifth month of pregnancy. The case was brought forward in 2014 for study.

The mother, originally from the province of Verona, Italy, had an illness that risked her own life and the life of her unborn child, and was advised to have an abortion.

A few days after the beatification of Paul VI on Oct. 19, 2014, she went to pray to him at the Shrine of Holy Mary of Grace in the town of Brescia. The baby girl was later born in good health, and remains in good health today.

The healing was first ruled as medically inexplicable by the medical council of the congregation last year, while the congregation's consulting theologians agreed that the healing occurred through the late pope's intercession.
 

Women religious in Nigeria hold National Day of Prayer and Fasting

Abuja, Nigeria, Feb 17, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Women religious in Nigeria held a National Day of Prayer and Fasting for the respect of human life on Ash Wednesday, in light of the ongoing violence within the country.

The Feb. 14 day of prayer and fasting was facilitated by the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious and the African Faith & Justice Network's women empowerment project, with the theme “Nigeria Catholic nuns uphold the sacredness of life through prayer.”

The event included women from multiple religious congregations throughout the country, according to CANAA.

The sisters gathered reflected on the increasing “communal clashings” within Nigeria, including the alarming conflicts between farmers and herdsmen. They also pointed to the various killings, kidnappings, and particular violence against women that has been ongoing within the country.

The sisters additionally noted personal experiences of violations against human dignity, including multiple kidnappings within their own religious communities. One community recalled having their major superiors and councilors kidnapped and held for ransom in a dungeon for weeks, while another group of sisters expressed a similar occurrence.

Other instances of kidnapped or killed religious have surfaced over the past few years in Nigeria, causing further concern over the ongoing violence produced mainly by ethnic or religious conflicts, as well as the insurgency of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

As violations against human dignity continue to plague Nigeria, the sisters encouraged the government and officials to enact measures of security for the defenseless and to create a safe environment for the people of Nigeria that would safeguard the lives of all people.

Prompted by the AFJN to use their influence for the good of human life, the sisters have taken up the mission to defend life within the country by bringing these issues to the public square – particularly through their most recent day of prayer and fasting.

While overwhelmed by the gravity of the challenge, the sisters said that after prayer, they have risen to the call to give public witness to the sacredness of life. AFJN also asked for prayers for the sisters’ challenge ahead in promoting human dignity in Nigeria.

“May the sisters’ boldness and courage to act on behalf of justice in the public forum bring change of hearts, move the government and elected officials to act for the common good, and bring consolation to many who have lost their loved ones to violence in Nigeria.”