Browsing News Entries

Scottish Church says Catholics schools don't cause violence

Edinburgh, Scotland, Sep 19, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Wednesday the suggestion that Catholic schools in the country are a cause for bigotry is “staggeringly intolerant.”

“Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools,” Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote in an op-ed Sept. 18.

“This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society,” he added.

Kearney’s comments came in response to a Sept. 16 column in The Scotsman, a leading newspaper in Scotland. The column, penned by Tom Woods, a former deputy chief constable in Edinburgh’s regional police force, argued that “religiously segregated education” is the source of sectarian demonstrations and violence in the country.

“I have no doubt that the provision for separate Roman Catholic education as enshrined by The Education (Scotland) Act 1918, was a good idea 100 years ago, but is it acceptable that in the 21st century, we emphasise differences by separating five-year-old children based on their parents’ religion?” Woods asked.

“As Scotland moves forward with equality as our watchword, our century-old practice of segregated education is contradictory to say the least,” he wrote, adding that “if we really want to dig out the roots of sectarianism, we must do what’s difficult, and have the courage to tackle the historical anomaly of religious segregation in our schools.”

Kearney wrote that “there is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up” Woods’ claims.

“To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd. Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.”

The disagreement emerged after several political marches and demonstrations have turned violent in Scotland in recent weeks, with clashes between Republican and Loyalist groups leading to a ban on some political marches in the city of Glasgow.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Kearney said that schools are not to blame for the strife, which he attributed partially to anti-Catholicism.

“Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.”

 

UK court clears 80-year-old accused of ‘mercy killing’ her husband 

London, England, Sep 19, 2019 / 06:39 pm (CNA).- Family members of an 80-year-old woman in England are advocating for legalized assisted suicide after the woman was found not guilty by a U.K. court in an apparent “mercy killing” of her husband.

Mavis Eccleston, 80, was accused of killing her husband Dennis, 81, with a lethal dose of prescription medicine.

Prosecutors claimed that Mavis had done so without Dennis’ knowledge or permission.

But, according to the BBC, Mavis told jurors at the Stafford Crown Court that she and her husband had both intended to take their lives with the medication, and that they had decided to do so after Dennis’ diagnosis of terminal cancer.

The couple was found in their apartment by family members on Feb. 19, 2018, after they had taken the drugs. The couple was rushed to the hospital and given an antidote to the medication. Mavis survived; Dennis did not.

After the hearing, Joy Munns, a daughter of Dennis and Mavis, called for the legalization of assisted suicide “so that dying people aren't forced to suffer, make plans in secret or ask loved ones to risk prosecution by helping them,” the BBC reported.

Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal under U.K. law. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, euthanasia could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while physician-assisted suicide carries with it a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

In 2015 the U.K. parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis, by a vote of 330 to 118.

The U.K.’s Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court in 2017 by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

Some disability groups in the U.K. and throughout the world have argued against legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying that such legislation would put vulnerable populations such as the elderly, physically disabled and mentally ill at risk for coercion.

The Catholic Church teaches that assisted suicide and euthanasia are a violation of the dignity of all human life, and therefore morally impermissible.

“Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded,” it adds.

The Catechism similarly states that suicide or the cooperation in suicide is morally unacceptable, though it notes that: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

In the recent U.K. hearing, Mavis told jurors that her husband wanted to end his life after receiving a terminal diagnosis of bowel cancer. He had stopped treatment except for pain management medication, and he had reportedly talked about going to Switzerland to take advantage of legal assisted suicide in the country.

The couple decided to end their lives together with a lethal dose of medication, and reportedly wrote a note to their family explaining their decision.

According to the BBC, Mavis said she handed the medicine to her husband before taking it herself, and that Dennis "knew full well" what he was doing as he gave himself the medicine.

Mavis said after she took the medicine herself, she kissed her husband and covered him before lying down, and remembers nothing else until she woke up in the hospital.

One of the couple’s children said outside of the courthouse that while they were “grateful and relieved” for the court’s ruling of not guilty, they said that if there “had been an assisted dying law here in the UK our dad would have been able to have the choice to end his suffering, with medical support, and with his loved ones around him.”

The case is similar to a 2017 case in which an English chemist was cleared after administering lethal drugs to his 85-year-old father, who had reportedly wanted to die. A judge at the time ruled that the chemist’s actions “were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”
 

Spanish bishops on migrants: 'We don't love God if we don't love our brothers'

Madrid, Spain, Sep 19, 2019 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- The head of the migration commission for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference emphasized that love of neighbor is essential for Christians, and this includes a care for migrants and refugees.

“We don't love God if we don't love our brothers,” stressed Bishop Luis Quinteiro of Tuy-Vigo in a presentation on the bishops’ preparations for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Observed in the Church since 1914 as an opportunity for prayer and awareness, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held Sept. 29. Pope Francis has chosen as this year’s theme, “It’s not just about migrants.”

Normally observed in January, the day will instead by marked on the last Sunday of September this year.

Quinteiro called migration “a decisive issue” and said he hopes that this World Day of Migrants and Refugees will help remind people that foreigners are “not a danger, but help to enrich us.”

In a message, the Spanish bishops called for the most vulnerable to be protected and for human rights of migrants to be respected regardless of their legal status.

They also called for the closure of detention centers where migrants who cross the border illegally are held. The detention centers have drawn significant criticism for poor living conditions.

“It's not just about migrants, it's about humanity,” said Fr. José Luis Pinilla, secretary general of the Spanish Conference of Religious.

Padre Pio overcame suffering with hope, says Italian journalist

Foggia, Italy, Sep 19, 2019 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- More than 50 years after the death of Padre Pio, one of the last journalists to interview the saint has reflected on the saint's hope and suffering.

Renzo Allegri, the author of the biography “Man of Hope,” visited the Italian saint a year before he died in 1968. He said Pio’s suffering was difficult to witness, but the experience emphasized the saint's silent strength.

“It was hard for me to watch him walking in the sacristy or the corridors of the monastery, bent over, dragging his swollen feet, and holding on to the walls so that he would not fall down,” wrote Allegri.

“His suffering was tremendous, but he bore it without complaining as he continued to give himself to those who needed him. When he would lift his head and look around, his big eyes looked like they were burning, not from pain but from a goodness that he could not contain.”

Allegri said that during his stay at San Giovanni Rotondo in 1967, he was able to speak with Pio twice. He said he witnessed an “extraordinary moral strength that emanated from [Pio’s] whole being.”

Following the saint’s death, Allegri wrote a long newspaper piece on Pio’s life and works. During his research, the journalist was given thousands of unpublished documents regarding the saint’s hardships.

“I discovered something about Padre Pio that few people knew: he had endured incredibly enormous suffering throughout his life, consisting of more persecution, humiliation, accusations, slanders, trials, and condemnations than one can imagine,” he said.

He said many people will focus on Pio’s intense life of penance and characterize him as a dark and medieval. However, he said the saint is better labeled as “a man of hope.”

“Throughout his life, in the midst of the most difficult trials, he always looked to the future with a spirit of optimism, faith, and love,” said Allegri.

The saint was born in 1887 to farmers Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio. During his childhood, Pio was known for his zealous spirituality, and, when he was 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone.

World War I broke out in 1914 and Pio was drafted into the 10th Company of the Italian Medical Corps. He was released shortly thereafter due to medical reasons. In 1916, he moved to the Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Many miracles and extraordinary sufferings have been attributed to Pio’s life. Beside experiencing bilocation and levitation, he also had the stigmata - a miraculous exhibition of the wounds of Christ - and underwent physical attacks from the devil.

In his recent reflection, Allegri pointed to the words of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, archbishop emeritus of Genoa, who highlighted Christ’s redemptive suffering as essential to the faith. In times when this is misunderstood, Siri said God will send men like Padre Pio.

“With the stigmata which he bore throughout his life and with the other physical and moral sufferings he endured, Padre Pio calls our attention to the body of Christ as a means of salvation,” Siri told Allegri in an interview for “Man with Hope.”

“In our time the temptation to forget about the reality of the body of Christ is enormous. And God has sent us this man with the task of calling us back to the truth.”

Indiana bishop offers cemetery for burial of aborted remains

Fort Wayne, Ind., Sep 19, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered Thursday the use of a Catholic cemetery to bury the more than 2,000 remains of aborted children that were discovered in the garage of a recently-deceased former abortionist, as authorities in one state close their investigation into the discovery.

“I join my voice to the many people who have expressed their horror and disgust at the discovery of 2,246 medically preserved remains of unborn babies in the Illinois home of Ulrich Klopfer, who performed thousands of abortions in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend,” Rhoades said Sept. 19.

“I strongly support the investigation being carried out by the attorneys general of Illinois and Indiana. I also offer any assistance, including the use of our Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, for the proper and dignified burial of the remains of these unborn children.”

At a press conference Thursday, the Will County Sheriff’s Office announced that they will not pursue criminal charges related to the discovery of 2,246 “medically preserved fetal remains” in the Klopfer's garage. The remains were discovered by Klopfer’s family members Sept. 12, nine days after his death at age 75.

According to the sheriff’s office, the remains were discovered in more than 70 cardboard boxes that were stacked nearly up to the ceiling of the garage. He said Klopfer’s family has been cooperating with the investigation.

“The remains discovered were inside small sealed plastic bags, which contained formalin, a chemical used to preserve biological material,” said a joint statement from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Will County Coroner's Office. The statement said that these boxes were mixed with boxes that contained “various personal property” of Klopfer.

The statement said that the boxes were dated 2000-2002. During those years, Klopfer owned and operated three abortion clinics in Indiana. These clinics, which were located in South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Gary, were all shuttered by the end of 2015 after numerous complaints against Klopfer’s practices.

In 2016, Klopfer’s medical license was suspended after he admitted that he performed abortions on two 13-year-old girls, and did not report them to the state in a timely manner. He also admitted that he did not give pain medication to adult patients unless they paid extra, and his clinic in Fort Wayne was described as dirty and unkempt, with broken equipment.

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley said at the press conference that Klopfer left no documentation as to why he chose to store the remains in his garage.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said that he was working with the Indiana Attorney General’s office to transfer the fetal remains to Indiana authorities, where the investigation will continue. He said that there will be an investigation into Klopfer’s admission that he performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor, who was then returned to her family without reporting the act.

Glasgow declined to state the estimated gestational age of the fetal remains, and did not elaborate as to how the bags were labeled. He said that once the remains are transferred to Indiana, the attorney general will ask women who were Klopfer’s patients at that time to contact the agency with any additional information that they may have.

While Klopfer cannot be charged with anything as he is deceased, the presence of fetal remains in his home suggests he violated Indiana law regarding the disposal of medical waste, as well as a law regarding records keeping. Authorities in Indiana will investigate whether Klopfer had an accomplice who helped him transport the remains to his home in Illinois. That person may be charged, although the age of the remains could be past the statute of limitations.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said that he found the discovery to be “extremely disturbing,” and he supported an investigation. He also said that he hopes it is not used to further restrict abortion rights.

“I hope that it doesn’t get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to healthcare,” he added.

As mayor, Buttigieg attempted to block the construction of a pregnancy center in South Bend, and supported the operation of Whole Women’s Health, an abortion clinic. Whole Women’s Health currently is operating without a license, and is administered by a former employee of Klopfer.

Transgender man will be allowed to sue Catholic hospital over hysterectomy

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 19, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Sacramento-area woman who identifies as a transgender man will be allowed to sue a Catholic hospital for cancelling and rescheduling a procedure to remove her uterus, following a ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal that overturned a lower court ruling on Wednesday.

Evan Minton, who identifies as a male, says in the lawsuit that Dignity Health, a Catholic health system that operates Mercy San Juan Medical Center outside Sacramento, in 2017 cancelled a planned hysterectomy when she mentioned to a nurse that she identifies as trangendered.

Dignity Health arranged for Minton to have the procedure done at a different hospital within 72 hours of the cancellation, the Sacramento Bee reports. The surgeon, Dr Lindsey Dawson, told the Bee that Dignity Health officials assisted her in getting emergency privileges at Methodist, a non-Catholic affiliated hospital, so she could perform the hysterectomy there.

Minton sued, arguing that the hospital’s actions violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which says businesses must offer full and equal access to state residents, the Bee reports.

Dignity Health provided a response to the Sacramento Bee.

“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” the Dignity statement said.

“Courts have repeatedly recognized the right of faith-based hospitals not to provide services based on their religious principles....In this case, Mr. Minton was able to quickly receive the sought-after procedure at another nearby Dignity Health hospital that is not Catholic-affiliated.”

A San Francisco Superior Court judge initially dismissed Minton’s lawsuit, on the grounds that the hospital followed court precedent in rescheduling the patient quickly at a different hospital.

Court records show that Minton underwent hormone replacement therapy in 2012 and a mastectomy in 2014, and planned to undergo the hysterectomy before having a penis surgically created.

Another Catholic health system in California, St. Joseph Health, is facing a similar lawsuit filed in March from another woman who identifies as a transgender man after one of its locations, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, refused to perform a hysterectomy.

After the surgery at St. Joseph was denied, Knight underwent a hysterectomy at a hospital unaffiliated with the St. Joseph Health of Northern California system, 30 minutes away.

Like Dignity Health, St. Joseph Health said in a statement that hysterectomies are only performed at their facilities when they have been deemed “medically necessary,” and not for purposes of sterilization.

The teaching of the Catholic Church recognizes a hysterectomy as licit when there is a grave and present danger to the life or health of the mother, and when the intention of the procedure is not to prevent the possibility of conception.
 
In January 2019, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an authoritative response which explained the circumstances under which a hysterectomy could be morally licit.

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that the denial of surgery to someone seeking to change their gender would not be discriminatory, noting that in such cases there would be nothing medically wrong with otherwise healthy organs to be removed.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.
 
“A hospital does not engage in 'discrimination' when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

 

Polls show majority support in US for medical conscience protections

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- New poll results show that a large majority of Americans believe that healthcare professionals should not be forced to provide procedures that violate their moral beliefs. 

The results of two polls, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 18, show widespread support for conscience protections in the healthcare industry, and for regulatory changes that take into account new pressures surrounding so-called gender reassignment procedures.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree: no healthcare professional should be forced to violate deeply-held beliefs in order to keep a job. The practice of medicine depends on those courageous and generous enough to serve all people — especially the poor and marginalized — with the highest ethical standards,” said a joint statement on the results released by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who chairs the USCCB committee on pro-life activities. 

The release was also signed by Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, chair of the committee for religious liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chair of the committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the subcommittee for the defense of marriage.

“If we exclude people of faith from the medical profession, Americans will suffer, especially those most in need,” the bishops added. In many areas of the country, Catholic or other religiously-affiliated hospitals are the only institutions present to serve a community. 

A total of 83% of all respondents in the Heart+Mind Strategies poll, conducted on behalf of the USCCB, said that it was important to not force healthcare professionals to participate in procedures to which they have moral objections. This total included 86% of women polled and 79% of men. 

The survey polled 1,004 adults over the age of 18 from July 18-21, 2019. The sample size was equally divided between men and women. 

Nearly six out of 10 respondents said that healthcare providers, such as doctors or nurses, should not be required to perform abortions if they are morally opposed to the practice. Only 20% thought it should be legally required for doctors or nurses to perform abortions, and another 22% said they were not sure.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they supported regulations to protect conscience rights, and 21% said they were opposed. An additional 21% said they were not sure if they supported these regulations. 

These numbers were slightly different when the question was modified to specifically ask about doctors opposed to performing “gender reassignment procedures.” This question saw 60% of respondents say they were in favor of regulations to protect the rights of doctors to refuse to perform such procedures with 22% who said they were opposed. Only 18% said they were unsure if they thought doctors should be forced to violate their consciences in these cases. 

The poll also found that over eight out of 10 Americans believe that “having a moral alignment with one’s healthcare professional is important.” This figure rose four points to 85% among women, and fell to 77% among men. 

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule, which protects doctors and other medical practitioners who object to procedures like abortion, sterilization, or facilitating euthanasia. The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified that they comply with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights. 

After initially being scheduled to go into effect in July, it has been delayed until the end of November due to legal challenges.

‘Secret preacher’ of Dachau concentration camp beatified

Limburg, Germany, Sep 19, 2019 / 12:06 pm (CNA).- The ‘secret preacher of block 17’ who witnessed to Christ in a Nazi concentration camp was beatified this week in Limburg, Germany.

Blessed Father Richard Henkes was a German Pallottine priest denounced by the Nazis for his outspoken preaching. He died in Dachau concentration camp in 1945 while caring for prisoners sick with typhus.

“The real reformers of the Church are the blessed and the saints,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch at Henkes’ beatification on Sept. 19. “For we can only achieve the utmost externally, in structural terms, when we are also prepared to strive to achieve our utmost internally, in faith.”

“Love is not without sacrifice,” Koch said. “The Christian martyrdom is only real if it is realized as the supreme act of love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters.”

From the pulpit and the classroom, Fr. Henkes spoke out against the Nazi ideology and condemned the regime’s crimes against human dignity, focusing one homily on their killing of the disabled. Henkes was first denounced in 1937 for one of his homilies, for which he had to stand trial.

In the following years of World War II, Henkes was interrogated and threatened by the Gestapo again and again as he continued to work as a youth chaplain and retreat master.

“In the face of this neo-pagan ideology, Father Henkes surmised that wherever God is reduced to insignificance and pushed out of the public eye, man is also reduced to insignificance,” Koch said.

“Only when God is exalted through us human beings, when we do what Mary did in the Magnificat - Magnificat anima mea: Let God be exalted through my soul - wherever that takes place, there man is not reduced to insignificance, but is given a share in the greatness of God's love,” the cardinal said.

Fr. Henkes was finally arrested by the Gestapo in May 1943 because of the content of one of his homilies in Branitz. He was then imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp, where he lived in the priests’ barracks, did compulsory labor, and secretly studied Czech with the future archbishop of Prague, Servant of God Cardinal Josef Beran.

Henkes had begun studying the Czech language before his imprisonment, and said that he hoped to continue serving the Czech people as a priest after the war. He secretly preached in block 17 of Dachau, where there were many Czech people.

In late 1944, a typhus epidemic overtook block 17. Fr. Henkes volunteered to be locked up with the sick prisoners, so that he could continue to minister to them and care for the dying.

He described the situation in Dachau in a letter smuggled out of the camp through a middleman: “People are dying in masses because they are completely starving. There are only skeletons. A gruesome picture. I have been vaccinated against typhus fever and I hope that the Lord God protects me ... However, one thinks of how this will end up here. We can do nothing, we can only rely on the Lord God.”

After eight weeks in the quarantined barracks, Fr. Henkes became infected with typhus. He died within a week, on Feb. 22, 1945. Allied forces liberated Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Catholics in the Czech Republic began calling for Henkes’ cause for sainthood to be opened.

Last Sunday, Henkes joined the ranks of the saints and beatified priests and religious who died witnessing to Christ amid the inhumanity and horror of the Nazi concentration camps. This includes not only St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who both were killed in Auschwitz, but also Henkes’ fellow prisoners in the priest barracks of Dachau, several of whom have already been beatified.

More than 2,500 Catholic priests and seminarians were imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime, of which 1,034 died in the camp.

Blessed Michal Kozal -- a Polish bishop killed by lethal injection in Dachau in 1943 -- was beatified by St. John Paul II in Warsaw in 1987.

Blessed Karl Leisner was secretly ordained a priest while imprisoned in Dachau in 1944 by a French bishop also held within the concentration camp. (Bishop Gabriel Piguet was able to obtain clandestine authorization from Leisner’s bishop before the ordination.) Leisner died of tuberculosis shortly after celebrating his first Mass.

Fr. Leisner was beatified, along with Fr. Provost Lichtenberg, by St. John Paul II during his visit to Berlin in 1996.

Blessed Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig, who also died in Dachau while caring for sick prisoners infected with typhus in 1945, was beatified in Germany in 2016. Fr. Unzeitig wrote in a letter from the concentration camp: “God’s almighty grace helps us overcome obstacles … love doubles our strength, makes us inventive, makes us feel content and inwardly free. If people would only realize what God has in store for those who love him!”

Pope's cardinal advisors continue to discuss apostolic constitution

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2019 / 10:14 am (CNA).- Pope Francis’ now six-member Council of Cardinal Advisors met this week to continue work on the forthcoming apostolic constitution, incorporating into the draft suggestions submitted by bishops’ conferences and others during the summer.

According to a brief press release from the Holy See press office Thursday, the council met Sept. 17-19, with a focus on “re-reading and modifying the draft of the new Apostolic Constitution,” which has the provisional title Praedicate evangelium.

“This first rereading, which has come to an end, was a passage of listening and reflection that responds to the indications of the Holy Father in the sense of communion and synodality,” the statement said.

The new constitution has been the advisory group’s key reform project since its establishment in 2013, one month after Pope Francis’ election.

The document is expected to place renewed emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with some predicting the merger of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.

Praedicate evangelium will replace Pastor bonus, the current apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia promulgated by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, and subsequently modified by both popes Benedict and Francis.

Pope Francis attended the council’s meetings, the advisory group's 31st, when not in other audiences and appointments. On Wednesday morning the pope held his usual general audience, and Thursday morning he had a full slate of appointments, including with Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and the coordinator of the Council for the Economy, who is also president of the German bishops’ conference.

The Council of Cardinal Advisors is often referred to informally as the “C9,” although there have been only six members since December 2018, when three of the original members, Cardinals George Pell, Francisco Javier Errazuriz, and Laurent Monsengwo, were removed, ostensibly for reasons of age.

In addition to Marx, the other members of the pope’s advisory council are Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, Seán Patrick O’Malley, Giuseppe Bertello and Oswald Gracias.

Bishops Marcello Semeraro and Marco Mellino, the secretary and adjunct secretary of the council, were also present at the meetings this week.

The next round of gatherings will take place Dec. 2-4.

Blood of St. Januarius liquefies on feast day

Naples, Italy, Sep 19, 2019 / 10:06 am (CNA).- The miracle of the liquefiction of the blood of early Church martyr St. Januarius took place Thursday in Naples.

The blood was shown to have liquefied shortly after 10 a.m. during Mass in the Naples’ Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary.

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, who in his homily, strongly criticized the violent crime of Neapolitan streets.

Despite the city’s recurring miracle, “the evil that the hateful and violent killers commit in Naples is limitless,” he said.” In effect they try to kill at birth just the possibility of making a future…”

This, he noted, generates fear and insecurity, and goes against the common good. 

“We must ask ourselves: does Naples still have a great and sincere heart? Us citizens of today's Naples have to answer this question with truth, therefore, with realism, with honesty and courageously, without letting ourselves be taken by a false nostalgia of the times we once had,” he stated.

St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, the patron of Naples, was a bishop of the city in the third century, whose bones and blood are preserved in the cathedral as relics. He is believed to have been martyred during Diocletian persecution.

The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though has not been the subject of official Church recognition. The liquefaction reportedly happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint's feast day, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease or other disaster.

The blood did not liquefy in December 2016, but Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, abbot of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, said it was a sign that Catholics should pray rather than worry about what the lack of miracle could mean.

“We must not think of disasters and calamities. We are men of faith and we must pray,” he said at the time.

The vial has sometimes changed upon the visit of a pope.

On March 21, 2015, Pope Francis met with priests, religious and seminarians at the cathedral and gave a blessing with the relic.

Sepe then received the vial back from the pope and noted that the blood had partially liquefied.

The last time blood liquefied in the presence of a pope was in 1848 when Bl. Pius IX visited. The phenomenon didn’t happen when St. John Paul II visited the city in October 1979, or when Benedict XVI visited in October 2007.