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Coast to Coast: March 20 to March 27

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Here are some of the things going on across Canada this week.

In Montreal, Cardinal Jean Claude Turcotte has been entered palliative care.

The RCIA program in Edmonton is overflowing. The Western Catholic Reporter explores why.

An 80-year-old high school teacher in Vancouver makes headlines for refusing to slow down.

And in Saskatoon, a Catholic and United Church parish celebrate 15 years of living out Christian unity together

The Sistine Chapel opens to VIPs: Vatican Connections – March 27, 2015

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This week we focus on the details of the upcoming Holy Week liturgies. Catholic News Service has details on how Pope Francis and the Diocese of Rome are helping Christians in two areas where Christians have been hit hard with persecution: Iraq and Nigeria.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Holy Week and Easter approached, Pope Francis wanted to show his ongoing concern for people persecuted and displaced by violence in Iraq and in northern Nigeria.

Although not specifying the amount, the Vatican press office said March 27 that the pope was sending aid money to people seeking shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and to the Nigerian bishops’ conference to assist families in the northern part of the country where the terrorist group Boko Haram has been on a rampage.

In addition, the Vatican said, the people of the Diocese of Rome, “united with their bishop,” Pope Francis, held a special collection and will send “colomba” Easter cakes to the displaced in Iraq.

“In Holy Week,” the Vatican statement said, “these families share with Christ the experience of being unjustly subjected to violence and they participate in the suffering of Christ himself.”

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who visited refugees and displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan last August, will return for Holy Week, the Vatican said. The cardinal is prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the former nuncio to Iraq.

“Pope Francis is constantly concerned about the situation of Christian families and other groups who have been the victims of being expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and on the Ninevah Plain,” the Vatican said. Terrorists from Islamic State have been active in the region.

“The pope prays for them and hopes that they soon can return and resume their lives on the land and in the places where, for hundreds of years, they lived and wove relationships of peaceful coexistence with all,” the Vatican statement said.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Coast to Coast: March 15 to March 20

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Here’s what’s been happening across the country:

In Vancouver, the city’s Archbishop slept in a cardboard box last week to raise awareness, money and be in solidarity with the homeless.

In Alberta, the Catholic school board has welcomed revised legislation on gay-straight alliances.

In Saskatoon, a woman with MS shares her thoughts on the Canadian Supreme Court’s recent ruling on assisted suicide. Is it really compassion?

And in Toronto, the Catholic school board there is looking at what could be big cuts in staff.

Vatican Connection: March 20

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On Saturday, March 21, Pope Francis is set to spend a day visiting Pompeii and Naples. Though short, this trip is yet another reminder of the pontiff’s preferential option for the poor and marginalized.

Aside from a visit to a sanctuary in Pompeii and a meeting with the sick at Basilica of Gesu Nuovo, the pope is visiting Scampia, a bedroom suburb best known as the setting of the film Gomorrah; Poggioreale, an overcrowded prison; and meeting with youth at an iconic seaside promenade.

The suburb of Scampia is best known today as the setting of the film “Gomorrah” and home to what is considered an example of failed civic architecture. The “Vele di Scampia” or the “Sails of Scampia” is concrete house complex designed and built from 1962 to 1975. The sail shaped concrete buildings with outdoor staircases were part of a larger complex of buildings. The project incorporated large outdoor spaces between buildings that were meant to serve as piazzas and soccer fields.

The reaction to the completed complex was less than enthusiastic. Maintenance was not a priority and living conditions soon deteriorated. Instead of becoming a mini-city bursting with life, Scampia became the only place that disadvantaged families could afford to live. The mafia also moved in.

While not all residents are involved with organized crime, Scampia is not an easy place to live and residents don’t have many opportunities available to improve their situation. Given his past declaration about Mafia members being “excommunicated” or removed from God’s love, expect strong words from Pope Francis during his meeting with residents in St. John Paul II Square.

The next stop on his itinerary is scheduled to be Poggioreale Prison, home to 1900 inmates. Pope Francis will greet inmates, many of whom probably lived in Scampia at some point in their lives. The pope is scheduled to have lunch with a group of inmates at Poggioreale and give a speech.

Following his visit to the prison, Pope Francis will stop at the cathedral where he will venerate the relic of St. Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples. That relic is a vial of the saint’s coagulated blood. Three times a year the dark grains of dried blood become liquid once again and take on bright red colour. The miracle usually occurs on the first Saturday of May, the 19 of September, and the 16 of December. Studies conducted in 1988 determined that the substance contained in the two vials housed in the reliquary is indeed blood. The miracle doesn’t work like clockwork. There have been times when the blood did not liquify on those dates, or liquified just before or just after the usual days.

In a recently published book the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crecenzio Seppe, recounted the story of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Naples and the St. Gennaro’s relics. Cardinal Seppe recounts that although it seemed as though the pontiff could not pull himself away from the reliquary, the saint’s blood did not liquify. Even though there is no reason to expect the saint’s blood to become liquid before the pope, this will be a point of interest for some Neapolitans now that their expectations have been raised.

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The Scottish cardinal who resigned in 2013 after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against him, has now given up the “rights and privilleges” of being a Cardinal. Pope Francis has accepted Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation.  Cardinal O’Brien will no longer serve on any pontifical councils or committees, nor will take part in consistory or an eventual conclave to elect a new pope. In a statement, the Catholic Church in Scotland said Cardinal O’Brien will be reduced to a strictly private life.

Coast to Coast: March 8 to March 14

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Here’s what Canadian Catholics have been reading about this week:

The historical crime drama Murdoch Mysteries have become a prime-time TV hit in Canada and beyond. It turns out a character introduced in a recent episode was based on a real priest who taught at Winsdor’s Assumption University.

In Winnipeg community groups want to transform a piece of land that has become a source of conflict between local first nations and the federal government.

Fasting is a key part of the Lenten journey. Edmonton’s Western Catholic Reporter offers this reflection.

In B.C., a court has ruled against a family who want their mother’s care home to stop feeding her. Their mother has advanced alzheimer’s.

Vatican Connections: March 13, 2015

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Two Years with Pope Francis

March 13 marks the second anniversary of the day the College of Cardinals surprised the world by electing, as pope, a Jesuit from Argentina. Two years on, what effect has this Argentine pope had on the wider church?

The 78-year-old pontiff came to his new job with an acute awareness that there were two things that needed to change. First, the Church needed a spiritual renewal if it hoped to be a credible witness to the Gospel. Second, the Vatican was in desperate need of institutional reforms.

Pope Francis has admitted he didn’t plan on addressing the reform of the Vatican so soon in his pontificate, but it became unavoidable. Under his tenure two new bodies were created for financial and administrative oversight: the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy. The new offices have jurisdiction, respectively, over the curia, and all Vatican offices (including Vatican City State.)  These bodies along with the Vatican Bank and the Financial Information Authority have brought in lay professionals with extensive experience in these fields.

On the curial front, while there is still no draft of the new constitution for the Roman Curia, changes are being implemented bit by bit and several dicasteries already know what place their office will have in the revamped curia.

Priority one

But Pope Francis’ top priority is the spiritual renewal of all the Church’s members. That’s why he celebrates Mass every morning with Vatican employees, delivering a short, informal homily that gets sent out around the world via Vatican media outlets.

This is also why he keeps insisting on a couple of things. One: whenever he can he urges people to read the Gospel. He has repeatedly advised carrying a pocket-size book of the Gospels to read for a few minutes every day, even if it’s on the bus to work. The pope has gone so far as to have books distributed to the faithful during the Angelus.

Staying true to the keyword of his pontificate, “mercy,” Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year for Mercy that will begin December 8, 2015 (which just happens to be the 50th anniversary of the close of Vatican II.) If there is anyone who has not yet been moved to the confessional by Pope Francis’ words on God’s mercy, they probably will be during the Jubilee Year.

The other powerful element has been the normalcy of this pope. He speaks plainly, in language that is, for the most part, easily understandable and to the point. People connect with him because they understand instantly what he’s trying to say and why. Similarly, when he takes action he doesn’t do huge extraordinary things. He does normal everyday things that are huge in that he is doing them or because of the context in which they are done. For instance, making a phone call to a person in need of some spiritual counselling becomes headline news because it’s the pope making phone call.

Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

Coast to Coast: March 1 to March 7

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Here are some of the things making headlines across Canada:

In Vancouver, the library at the University of British Columbia has acquired a 770 year old document. Why is it important to Catholics? It’s a papal bull issued in 1245 at the Council of Lyon.

In Edmonton, historian and theologian Massimo Faggioli said Pope Francis is a radical reformer who is facing opposition inside and outside the church. Faggioli was in Edmonton giving the Anthony Jordan lecture at St. Joseph’s seminary.

In Ottawa, the Conservative government has squashed a motion to fast-track implementation of a euthanasia law.

And in Regina, the archdiocese held an archdiocesan workshop to go through the questions being asked of the faithful ahead of the Synod on the Family. The workshop in Regina highlighted some challenges.

Vatican Connections: March 6, 2015

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One of the big stories this week happened in New York: Cardinal Edward Egan, the retired archbishop of New York, died suddenly at the age of 82.

Cardinal Egan collapsed at his residence and was rushed to NYU Langone Medical Centre. There he was prounced dead by doctors at 2:20pm.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the current Archbishop of New York, said in a statement that Cardinal Egan “had a peaceful death, passing away right after lunch today, with the prayers and sacraments of his loyal priest secretary, Father Douglas Crawford, in his residence at the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.”

Cardinal Egan was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1932. He studied at Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein and at the North American College in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1957.

Over the years, the cardinal served as Vice Rector of the North American College in Rome, a judge of the Roman Rota, and was one of six canonists who reviewed the new Code of Canon Law with John Paul II in 1982, before it was promulgated.

In 1988, Cardinal Egan was named Bishop of Bridgeport, and in 2000 he was appointed Archbishop of New York. He was made a cardinal in 2001 by Pope St. John Paul II.

His tenure in New York was not always smooth sailing. Parishioners and, at times, priests did not agree with all his decisions, especially when it came to merging or closing certain parishes.

However, during his time as head of the archdiocese, the number of parishioners increased, as did enrollment in Catholic schools. At the same time the Catholic Charities budget doubled, and Catholic agencies were debt free.

Cardinal Egan retired as Archbishop of New York in 2009 at the age of 76.

Funeral plans have yet to be announced.

Pope Francis guide to repentance – Perspectives Daily

What does it mean to repent? Pope Francis has details, and we tell you what they are. Chile will be home to a distinctive work of liturgical art, we’ll give you the details, and the cause for the beatification of Fra Andrew Bertie has been opened.

Vatican Connections: February 27

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Pope Francis has been on retreat this week, along with the members of the Roman Curia. Continuing a practice the pope started during his first year on the chair of St. Peter, he and his collaborators are spending the week at a retreat house in the Roman hillside town of Arriccia. Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin led the week-long spiritual exercises. The theme: “Servants and Prophets of the Living God.”

Below is part of Fr. Secondin’s meditation from the second day of the retreat.

To undertake a real Lenten journey of conversion, we must first rediscover the “deepest truth about ourselves, come out in the open” and “remove every mask, every ambiguity.” With this strong reminder to look back honestly at our history, the Carmelite Bruno Secondin concluded the second day, Monday, 23 February, of the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Pope and the Roman Curia in Ariccia.

Following the experience of Elijah taken from the Scriptures, the preacher described the “hiding” from which the prophet was called by the Lord, that hiding in which we often cloak ourselves and which many times is masked by some kind of exterior religiosity, devoid of the courage that comes with truth.

After having the courage to come out in the open, to say the truth about ourselves, to remove the mask that numbs our consciences, we must begin to walk on the “paths of freedom” and eliminate those attitudes that make us “swing from one side to another” in order to make room for God. Fr. Secondin continued his reflection on this point Tuesday morning, 24, inviting those on retreat to consider the particular choices of the Church in our time: “Do we deal with the important things in small circles or do we know how to have a clear strategy that takes the system by surprise?”. How much suffering, for example, “have certain sensitive subjects caused us”, Fr Secondin said, then adding: “We must not hide our scandals” and it is important that “victims of injustice be led to healing by recognizing our errors with humility”.

Acknowledging the faults of the Church emerged in another episode as well. Taking inspiration from that terrible act of Elijah who executes the prophets of Baal, the preacher invited all to remember how the Church in her history was capable of acts of violence. “We too burned people, we have killed”, he said. And he stressed that today violence can be expressed in other forms, “even without the sword”, referring to the explosive power of language and modern means of communication: “Sometimes the keyboard kills more than the sword!”.

– See more at: http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/news/shed-mask#sthash.NnWGIYup.dpuf