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Prayer Vigil of Consolation for Those who Shed Tears

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At 6:00 pm on the evening of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord at the Vatican, Pope Francis presided in the Vatican Basilica at the Prayer vigil for all those in need of consolation. The vigil began with three testimonies alternated with biblical readings, and the lighting of a candle each time before the shrine of Our Lady of Tears in Syracuse, exposed for the occasion for the veneration of the faithful in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

After the reading of the Holy Gospel, Pope Francis gave the homily found below. The vigil continued with the offering of the prayer intentions by those present and the Universal Prayer for all situations of physical or spiritual suffering. At the end, the Holy Father blessed and gave to some of those present the Paschal Lamb image, “an expression of the Father’s mercy for all the faithful who live situations of profound suffering.” Below is the text of the homily that Pope Francis gave during the Vigil:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the moving testimonies we have heard, and in the light of the word of the Lord that gives meaning to our suffering, let us first ask Holy Spirit to come among us. May he enlighten our minds to find the right words capable of bringing comfort. May he open our hearts to the certainty that God is always present and never abandons us in times of trouble. The Lord Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone, but at all times in life he would remain close to them by sending his Spirit, the Comforter (cf. Jn 14:26) to help, sustain and console them.

At times of sadness, suffering and sickness, amid the anguish of persecution and grief, everyone looks for a word of consolation. We sense a powerful need for someone to be close and feel compassion for us. We experience what it means to be disoriented, confused, more heartsick than we ever thought possible. We look around us with uncertainty, trying to see if we can find someone who really understands our pain. Our mind is full of questions but answers do not come. Reason by itself is not capable of making sense of our deepest feelings, appreciating the grief we experience and providing the answers we are looking for. At times like these, more than ever do we need the reasons of the heart, which alone can help us understand the mystery which embraces our loneliness.

How much sadness we see in so many faces all around us! How many tears are shed every second in our world; each is different but together they form, as it were, an ocean of desolation that cries out for mercy, compassion and consolation. The bitterest tears are those caused by human evil: the tears of those who have seen a loved one violently torn from them; the tears of grandparents, mothers and fathers, children; eyes that keep staring at the sunset and find it hard to see the dawn of a new day. We need the mercy, the consolation that comes from the Lord. All of us need it. This is our poverty but also our grandeur: to plead for the consolation of God, who in his tenderness comes to wipe the tears from our eyes (cf. Is 25:8; Rev 7:17; 21:4).

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In our pain, we are not alone. Jesus, too, knows what it means to weep for the loss of a loved one. In one of the most moving pages of the Gospel, Jesus sees Mary weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus. Nor can he hold back tears. He was deeply moved and began to weep (cf. Jn 11:33-35). The evangelist John, in describing this, wanted to show how much Jesus shared in the sadness and grief of his friends. Jesus’ tears have unsettled many theologians over the centuries, but even more they have bathed so many souls and been a balm to so much hurt. Jesus also experienced in his own person the fear of suffering and death, disappointment and discouragement at the betrayal of Judas and Peter, and grief at the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus “does not abandon those whom he loves” (Augustine, In Joh., 49, 5). If God could weep, then I too can weep, in the knowledge that he understands me. The tears of Jesus serve as an antidote to my indifference before the suffering of my brothers and sisters. His tears teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations. They make me realize the sadness and desperation of those who have even seen the body of a dear one taken from them, and who no longer have a place in which to find consolation. Jesus’ tears cannot go without a response on the part of those who believe in him. As he consoles, so we too are called to console.

In the moment of confusion, dismay and tears, Christ’s heart turned in prayer to the Father. Prayer is the true medicine for our suffering. In prayer, we too can feel God’s presence. The tenderness of his gaze comforts us; the power of his word supports us and gives us hope. Jesus, standing before the tomb of Lazarus, prayed, saying: “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me” (Jn 11:41-42). We too need the certainty that the Father hears us and comes to our aid. The love of God, poured into our hearts, allows us to say that when we love, nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from those we have loved. The apostle Paul tells us this with words of great comfort: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or the sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35, 37-39). The power of love turns suffering into the certainty of Christ’s victory, and our own in union with him, and into the hope that one day we will once more be together and will forever contemplate the face of the Blessed Trinity, the eternal wellspring of life and love.

At the foot of every cross, the Mother of Jesus is always there. With her mantle, she wipes away our tears. With her outstretched hand, she helps us to rise up and she accompanies us along the path of hope.


Caption 1: Pope Francis embraces Franciscan Father Ernest Simoni during a visit to Tirana, Albania, Sept. 21. Pope Francis wept when he heard the testimony of Father Simoni, 84, who for 28 years was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to forced labor for refusing to speak out against the Catholic Church as his captors wanted. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA) See VATICAN-LETTER-TEARS May 5, 2016.

Caption 2: A boy touches his crying father during a Nov. 19 protest by angry migrants from Pakistan and Morocco who blocked a section of the Greece-Macedonia border after Macedonia began granting entry only to refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (CNS photo/Georgi Licovski, EPA) See FAITH-LEADERS-SYRIAN-REFUGEES Nov. 20, 2015.

Where is Christ in Communications?

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World Communications Day

Where is Christ in Communication?

Written by Dr. Jennifer Reid
Adjunct Professor, University of St. Michael’s College


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of World Communications Day by the Catholic Church. The past fifty years have brought radical changes in the way we communicate. Every change has created new challenges for everyone around the world as we adopt and adapt to new communications media, and not just on the functional level of technology. Every new medium of communication has intrinsic characteristics and dynamics that establish new modes and codes of behaviour and relationship that challenge our previous values.

In this jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has asked us to communicate in thought, word, and deed in a spirit of compassion that reflects the Christian reality of our connectedness to God and the loving, inclusive nature of Jesus Christ. The words of Pope Francis draw attention to a need for sensitivity towards our understanding of compassion and mercy, particularly in our digital media environments, like email, text, and social media. He suggests that we do not recognize them as human environments, as we would a “public square”. Reminding us that “as sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception”, he exhorts us to be “inspired by charity, by divine love” so that “our communication will be touched with God’s own power”, even in those media environments where our humanity may be obscured. In other words, Pope Francis asks us to consider the fundamental question, “where is Christ in communication?”

The Church has been meditating on this question since the beginning of Christianity itself. Communication is at the heart of Christianity. Our faith is founded upon a real-life, historical encounter with Jesus Christ. During his lifetime, Jesus communicated directly with our ancient brothers and sisters in distinctly human ways. He travelled by various means throughout their lands. He met them where they lived, worked, and worshipped. He spoke to them directly, using gestures, words, and images they could grasp. He used his own hands, spittle, breath, and words to heal the mentally, spiritually, and physically ill. He used prayer and contemplation to speak with his Father in heaven. At the Last Supper he offered bread and wine as his body and blood for his disciples to eat and drink as a sign of the sacrifice of his own human body and life that was to come. Even his arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution were distinctly human forms of communication.

When Jesus died on the cross, his conversation with our ancient brothers and sisters was not over. After three days, he returned to them. For forty days he continued his teaching, but in a new and deeper way. He had been transformed. He appeared to his disciples so that they could understand the reality of the Resurrection, as well as the reality of all that he and the scriptures had promised them about God, heaven, and salvation. Even when Jesus finally ascended into heaven, he did not cease communicating with them. He gave his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit so they could go out and bring the light of Christ to the world. The apostles then began the tradition of passing along the experience of Christ to others in thought, word, and deed. Like Jesus Christ during his human lifetime, they used the available media of their time to accomplish this task, but with the added dimension of the Holy Spirit. In this way, they were not limited by voice nor writing, nor language nor geography, but were able to interface with the world through the illimitable and transcendent power of the Spirit in the Risen Lord.

This tradition of communication, begun by our ancient brothers and sisters, continues today both inside and outside the Church. We continue to communicate directly with Christ in many ways, for example, through faith, prayer, revelation, scripture, baptism, reconciliation, and communion. As Christians we are in constant communication with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God has revealed to us that not everyone can be “reached” in the same way. At a certain point in human history, God felt it was time for a more intimate form of communication with his people: the birth of his son Jesus through Mary. At this event, Word was made flesh, and humanity was remade on the deepest levels of language and being. Pope Francis brings us back to this fundamental conversation we hold with God in Jesus Christ as the most radical form of language upon which our true humanity is based. It is we, as Christians, who are the Christ in communication for our brothers and sisters. Let us be “letters of Christ”, as St. Paul called us, bringing light to the world in our compassion for one another as we meet across time and space through all our media.


Photo: A statue of the crucified Christ is seen at Cure of Ars Church in Merrick, N.Y., Jan. 14. Good Friday, observed March 25 this year, commemorates the passion and death of Jesus. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter

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Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 50th World Communications Day

Communications and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practise mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.

As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the “spark” which gives them life.

Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.

For this reason, I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue. Shakespeare put it eloquently when he said: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes” (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope. I ask those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes. It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:7-9)

How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life’s troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgment. May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous. We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption and exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts. It is our task to admonish those who err and to denounce the evil and injustice of certain ways of acting, for the sake of setting victims free and raising up those who have fallen. The Gospel of John tells us that “the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice. Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love (cf. Eph 4:15). Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.

Some feel that a vision of society rooted in mercy is hopelessly idealistic or excessively indulgent. But let us try and recall our first experience of relationships, within our families. Our parents loved us and valued us for who we are more than for our abilities and achievements. Parents naturally want the best for their children, but that love is never dependent on their meeting certain conditions. The family home is one place where we are always welcome (cf. Lk 15:11-32). I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.

For this to happen, we must first listen. Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the “holy ground” of our encounter with the one who speaks to me (cf. Ex 3:5). Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.

Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks. I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, “may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbour whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.

Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as “closeness”. The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2016

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Caption: Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE-SAMARITAN April 27, 2016.

The Joy of Love on Catholic Focus

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On April 8, 2016, Pope Francis released the long-awaited post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), on the family. A few days later, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton joined me to explore various themes from the document, as well as to share his experiences in journeying with families through the many challenges they face. We spoke about the impact of social media, how the economic downturn has affected families in Alberta, family violence, and how the Archbishop sees end-of-life issues affecting the family. I hope you can join us for this insightful conversation about the state of the family in Canada.

Catholic Focus: The Joy of Love will air today,Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 7:05pm ET / 5:05pm MT with a repeat broadcast at 11:05pm ET / 9:05pm MT.

Archbishop Smith also wrote a statement on Amoris Laetitia:

Amoris Laetitia (On Love In the Family) is not only a beautiful and welcome reflection on marriage and the family; it is also a particular call to pastors, parishes, and Catholic institutions to work in concrete ways to support families and help them grow. In this way Amoris Laetitia underscores the importance of the ministry to families that unfolds daily throughout the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

With this exhortation, the Holy Father has demonstrated a deep understanding of the challenges faced by all families. As a bishop who was privileged to participate in the 2015 Synod on the Family, I can say that my first glimpse into the exhortation confirms my observation that he listened very carefully to the concerns raised by bishops and other Synod participants from all over the world.

Ministry to families is one of the key pastoral concerns that we have identified here in the Edmonton Archdiocese, and so this teaching by Pope Francis will be invaluable to us. We know that many of our social ills stem from unhealthy, often violent, family situations. Here in Alberta, we have one of the highest rates of family violence in Canada. The importance of ministry to the family simply cannot be overstated.

As a Christian community, we are called to share the Gospel message of the beauty and dignity of marriage, the inexpressibly wondrous gift of children, and the home as the place of love, nurture, safety, and identity. Pope Francis illustrates this call in great detail in his exhortation.

This papal document does not change Church teaching or discipline regarding marriage. It does underline the need for pastors to listen attentively and deal sensitively with single people, couples, and families who experience difficult situations.

At more than 260 pages, Amoris Laetitia is lengthy, and I plan to follow the Holy Father’s advice to give it the proper time and attention before giving any more detailed response.

In the meantime, I encourage all Catholics to join me in studying and reflecting on his words. Pope Francis has given us some important and timely teaching on issues that affect us all.

Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton 8 April 2016

Human Life is Sacred and Inviolable: Reflections to Guide Us as We March and Work for Life

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Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

On April 11, 2014, Pope Francis addressed the Italian Pro-Life movement with these provocative words:

“We know that human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills…. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading” (Evangelii Gaudium #53). And in this way life, too, ends up being thrown away. One of the gravest risks our epoch faces, amid the opportunities offered by a market equipped with every technological innovation, is the divorce between economics and morality, the basic ethical norms of human nature are increasingly neglected. It is therefore necessary to express the strongest possible opposition to every direct attack on life, especially against the innocent and defenseless, and the unborn in a mother’s womb is the example of innocence par excellence. Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Gaudium et Spe #51).”

Today we are living in the midst of a culture that denies solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency. It is a war of the powerful against the weak. There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection. Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. How can we forget Pope Benedict XVI’s words at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, on July 17, 2008:

“And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?”

Nor can we forget what Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (#214):

“It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”

The Catholic Church’s Consistent Ethic of Life

The Roman Catholic Church holds a consistent ethic of life. The Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person. However, opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.

In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress.

“Openness to life is at the centre of true development,” wrote Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.” The Holy Father sums up the current global economic crisis in a remarkable way with these words: “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”

The burning issues of the promotion of human life, from conception to natural death, must be high on the agenda of every human being on every side of the political spectrum. They are not only the concern of the far right of the political spectrum. Many people, blinded by their own zeal and goodness, have ended up defeating the very cause for which we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones.

The market push towards euthanasia

If we look carefully at the great dramas of the last century, we see that as free markets toppled Communism, exaggerated consumerism and materialism infiltrated our societies and cultures. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As St. John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.”

Most people who think that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legal are not thinking the whole issue through. They are thinking about personal autonomy and choice. They think about what it would be like to suddenly become incapacitated and consider such a life as undignified or worthless. Perhaps they consider severely disabled people as having no quality of life. Our dignity and quality of life don’t come from what we can or cannot do. Dignity and quality of life are not matters of efficiency, proficiency and productivity. They come from a deeper place – from who we are and how we relate to each other. True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.

In his most recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes (#48):

“The elderly who are vulnerable and dependent are at times unfairly exploited simply for economic advantage. Many families show us that it is possible to approach the last stages of life by emphasizing the importance of a person’s sense of fulfilment and participation in the Lord’s paschal mystery. A great number of elderly people are cared for in Church institutions, where, materially and spiritually, they can live in a peaceful, family atmosphere. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are serious threats to families worldwide; in many countries, they have been legalized. The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels the need to assist families who take care of their elderly and infirm members”.

What is wrong with abortion, euthanasia, embryo selection, and embryonic research is not the motives of those who carry them out. So often, those motives are, on the surface, compassionate: to protect a child from being unwanted, to end pain and suffering, to help a child with a life-threatening disease. But in all these cases, the terrible truth is that it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak; human beings therefore become instruments in the hands of other human beings.

Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth to power with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope. Being Pro-Life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are Pro-Life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us. To March for Life in Ottawa, Washington and in many other cities of the world means that we stand up for all human life, and we do not have a myopic view of the cause of life. Let us strive for a consistent ethic of human life, from womb to tomb. Being pro-life in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.

Read more: Taking the Gospel of Life to the Streets in Ottawa and Many Other Cities 

CCCB brief on Bill C-14 (“medical assistance in dying”) to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

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As clearly stated in its previous statements on this issue, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops absolutely and categorically disagrees with any attempt at justifying or supporting a “right” to assisted suicide or euthanasia. This is based on the unchanging teaching of our Church, derived from the teaching of Christ himself, that these practices are always inherently wrong (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2276-79; St. John Paul II,Evangelium Vitae n. 66). For this reason, Bill C-14, which legalizes the killing of certain categories of persons, is a fundamentally unjust law. From the Catholic perspective, no amendments could legitimate the inherent evil in the premises behind the proposed legislation.

While the legislation is itself intrinsically and gravely immoral for the reasons stated above, there are particular characteristics of the current draft of Bill C-14 which make it even more damaging and dangerous to Canadian society. For example, it contains no protections for health care workers who refuse to cooperate in so-called “medical assistance in dying” or to give an effective referral, nor to institutions that refuse to provide the service for religious or conscientious reasons. Leaving such protections to provincial legislators or professional organizations (such as provincial colleges of physicians, pharmacists, or nurses) would result in a chaotic situation with conflicting rules between provinces and would effectively prompt the resignation or removal of many health care professionals. It could also potentially force the closure of hospitals operated under religious auspices, most of which are Catholic. These institutions employ thousands of physicians and tens of thousands of staff. At a time when our health care system requires more resources, not less, the federal government should not allow lower jurisdictions to drive conscientious health care practitioners from their professions.

It is also regrettable that Bill C-14 fails in what appears to be an attempt to limit the potential harm caused by legalizing assisted suicide, as in the criterion enunciated in section 241.2(d) (that a person’s “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable”). Every person who has reflected on their own mortal existence knows that their own natural death is not only reasonably foreseeable, but indeed inevitable. This “safeguard” will protect no one.

The teaching of the Catholic Church and the stance of the Catholic Bishops of Canada affirm the sacredness and dignity of human life. Suicide and euthanasia are contrary to the most profound natural inclination of each human being to live and preserve life. Furthermore, they contradict the fundamental responsibility that human beings have to protect one another and to enhance the quality of health and social care which every human life deserves, from conception to natural death.

Bill C-14, no matter how it may be amended, is an affront to human dignity, an erosion of human solidarity, and a danger to all vulnerable persons – particularly the aged, disabled, infirm and sick who so often find themselves isolated and marginalized. Moreover, it is a violation of the sacrosanct duty of healthcare providers to heal, and the responsibility of legislators and citizens to assure and provide protection for all, especially those persons most at risk. The passage of Bill C-14, occasioned by the seriously flawed Carter decision, will have devastating effects on the social fabric of our country that cannot be predicted today.


The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national assembly of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic Bishops. As its principal pastors who officially speak on behalf of the Church in Canada, the Bishops are the spiritual leaders and teachers of more than thirteen million Canadian Catholics. Forty-six per cent of Canadians are baptized Catholics.

Photo: Diocese of Hamilton

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for May 2016

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Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For March 2016, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Respect for Women – That in every country of the world, women may be honored. 
  • Holy Rosary – That families, communities and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace. 

Daily Offering Prayer
God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

Thank you for praying with us!

In a tradition that is centuries old, the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. To become a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, you need only to offer yourself to God for his purposes each day. When you give God all the “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of your day, you turn your entire day into a prayer for others. You are joining your will to God’s will. If you feel called to this simple, profound way of life, find out more at Apostleship of Prayer.


Caption: A woman prays in Cali, Colombia, in this April 13, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Christian Escobar Mora, EPA) See VATICAN-LETTER-WOMENS-DAY March 9, 2016.

In Jesus, the Future Has Already Begun!

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Solemnity of the Ascension – Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Just as Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke (the place where salvation was accomplished), so here at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Jerusalem occupies a central position. It is the starting point for the mission of the Christian disciples to “the ends of the earth,” the place where the apostles were situated and the doctrinal focal point in the early days of the community (Acts 15:2, 6).

The first verses of today’s first reading (Acts 1:1-2) connect the book of Acts with the Gospel of Luke, and show that the apostles were instructed by the risen Jesus (vv 3-5). The disciples were anxious for answers. They asked, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They thought “the promise of the Father” would bring about an age of political sovereignty such as the nation had enjoyed under the reign of King David. But Jesus’ answer made clear that this is not what the promise is all about. Neither would the promise give them a glimpse of the end times, for “it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set” for the end of time. The promise was not going to make their lives easier by restoring political or national dominance or by granting divine insight. When they received the Spirit they too would be baptized in fire. They would be empowered to take on the role of Christ: to teach and to nourish and to serve, to be ignored, to suffer and to die for him.

After speaking, Jesus was lifted up into the heavens before his friends. Just imagine this awesome scene! How does it feel to them to watch their Lord and Master leave? The angels’ words to the “men of Galilee” are painfully blunt and leave little room for misinterpretation: “Why do you stand here looking up at the skies? This Jesus who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw him go up to the heavens.”

The disciples are given a last bit of instruction: “Don’t keep trying to stare into the future. Don’t be overly concerned about which hour he will come back.” We must not stand idly staring up into the heavens and moaning about the past, about which we can do nothing, except to bury it deeply in God’s hands and heart! The Lord will be glorified, and it follows that his disciples will also share in his glory. Let’s get going and carry a piece of heaven into the world. This is the meaning of the Resurrection and the Ascension of our Lord, not one of divine abandonment of the human cause, but divine empowerment of the Gospel dream!

Beginning From Jerusalem

The resurrection appearances in Luke’s Gospel take place in and around Jerusalem. Luke brings his Gospel story about the time of Jesus to a close (vv 50-53) with the report of the ascension. The Gospel ends as it began (1:9), in the Jerusalem temple (v 53). Luke will also begin the story of the time of the church with a recounting of the ascension. In Luke’s Resurrection chapter, the evangelist recounts the ascension of Jesus on Easter Sunday night, thereby closely associating it with the resurrection.

As I have pointed out in previous Easter reflections, Chapter 24 of Luke’s Gospel can be divided into four major sections: a) the story of the women at the tomb, which ends with Peter’s visit to the tomb to check it (vv 1-12); b) the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which culminates in their learning that the Lord had also appeared to Peter (vv 13-35); c) the appearance of the Lord to his disciples at a meal, which culminates with their commissioning by Jesus (vv 36-49); and d) Jesus’ ascension into heaven (vv 50-52).

What should probably be understood as one event (resurrection, glorification, ascension, sending of the Spirit — the paschal mystery) has been historicized by Luke when he writes of a visible ascension of Jesus after 40 days and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. For Luke, the ascension marks the end of the appearances of Jesus except for the extraordinary appearance to Paul. With regard to Luke’s understanding of salvation history, the ascension also marks the end of the time of Jesus (Luke 24:50-53) and signals the beginning of the time of the Church.

Conformity to the Jewish Scriptures

The final scene of Luke’s Gospel emphasizes that what is written in the Jewish Scriptures must of necessity be fulfilled because it reveals the plan of God which cannot fail to be accomplished. The life, death and resurrection of Christ are fully in accord with the Scriptures. The clearest expression of this is found in the words addressed by the risen Christ to his disciples: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (24:44). This statement shows the basis of the necessity for the paschal mystery of Jesus, affirmed in numerous passages in the Gospels: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering … and after three days rise again”; “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:54); “This Scripture must be fulfilled in me” (Luke 22:37).

Present in a thousand places

On the day of his Ascension, one might conclude that Jesus removed himself into a new form of divine exclusion. The case is exactly the opposite. In God, Jesus is “here” in a new and very specific way. Only in his physical separation from the historical scene can his spiritual union with the entire world for all time be complete.

In his “ascension” Jesus made a commitment to the earth that we live in. His footprints are not etched for tourists to view in the stone beneath us. But they are visible in the hearts of those who follow him. As he gave up the ability to be present in one place, he gained the capability of being present in a thousand places. When Jesus vanished, he filled the earth with the presence of God. God’s presence is still here and is available for us as the ultimate fulfillment of all our dreams. We know that we move toward heaven to the extent that we approach Jesus. We are assured that he hasn’t ever stopped being present with us throughout all time. And through us he wants to become even more present, especially as his Church.

Profound lesson

The Ascension of Our Lord teaches us a profound lesson about possessing and being possessed. Through his ascension, Jesus shows that clinging to him in time and history serves no purpose. Nor does he cling to the human beings around him, unwilling to let them go free in order to continue their Gospel mission. Rather, his whole life, death and resurrection teach us to accept everyone and everything as a gift, on loan to us.

It is not good to cling tightly to relationships or to hoard earthly treasures. Today let us learn to revere all that we have with deep gratitude, and hold everything in open hands. During our times of prayer, let us open our hands and surrender all the important treasures and relationships of our lives to God. Let us be aware of our feelings toward others, and toward the things we have. Let us spend time expressing our gratitude to God for each gift and relationship. And most important of all, let us find some concrete ways to express our love and gratitude to people we often take for granted, including Jesus.

Just as the Risen Lord entrusted himself into the hands of such pathetic, broken people, he does the same to us. The full significance of the Ascension reminds us that Christ accepts our lack of self-confidence in ourselves. He accepts the shadowy and dark areas of our humanity. He accepts our capacity for deceit, betrayal, greed and power. And having accepted us, he calls us, gives us the eternal commission to be his people, and sends us to serve him and love him, in spite of ourselves and because of ourselves.

On the day of his Ascension, one might conclude that Jesus removed himself into a new form of divine exclusion. The case is exactly the opposite. In God, Jesus is “here” in a new and very specific way. Only in his physical separation from the historical scene can his spiritual union with the entire world for all time be complete. Jesus left the world one day in order to be available to all people throughout all time. He had to dissolve bonds he had made with his friends, in order to be available for everybody. In Jesus, the future has already begun!

“He whom you love is no longer where he was before. He is now wherever you are.”
(St. John Chrysostom)

[The readings for the Ascension of the Lord are: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23 or Hebrews 9:24-28; Luke 24:46-53]

Marching for Life: March for Life 2016 is on its way!

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On Thursday, May 12, 2016, thousands of men and women from across Canada will gather in Ottawa to witness to the sanctity of life. Each year the Campaign Life Coalition organizes its annual March for Life to unite pro-life supporters from coast to coast to manifest their solidarity in favour of life, and against its modern threats, especially abortion and euthanasia.

Salt and Light will be on site in Ottawa throughout the day to bring you complete coverage in French and English through our television broadcast and social media feeds. You can find further details below or visit the Campaign Life Coalition website for more information.

The 2016 March for Life will begin in prayer on the evening of Wednesday, May 11th with Pro-Life Masses, prayer services, a candlelight vigil, and Eucharistic adoration until 7 am. Masses will likewise be celebrated on Thursday morning before the Rally on Parliament Hill at noon. Present at the Rally will be Canadian bishops, pro-life Members of Parliament, a special keynote speaker (to be announced), and Jim Hughes, the National President of Campaign Life Coalition. The Rally will include uplifting music by pro-life musicians and will be followed by the March for Life through the streets of downtown Ottawa. The day will continue with the Rose Dinner and Youth Banquet, and will be followed by a Youth Conference the next day, Friday, May 13th.

In his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Saint John Paul II issued the following urgent appeal:

“to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” (5)

The March for Life is both a response to this appeal and its herald, celebrating life and standing against what threatens to destroy it.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday May 11, 2016

7:30 PM PRO-LIFE MASSES & PRAYER SERVICES
St Theresa Parish – Catholic mass – 95 Somerset Street West
Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church – Pro-life Prayer Service – 721 Somerset St. W.

9:00 PM CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
The Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument, Elgin and Lisgar Streets
10:00 PM to 7:00 AM EUCHARASTIC ADORATION
All-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, ending with 7:00 am Mass.
LOCATION: St. Patrick’s Basilica, 220 Kent Street, in basement Scavi, enter by side door on either Gloucester or Nepean Streets.

Thursday May 12, 2016

10:00 AM PRO-LIFE MASSES & PRAYER SERVICES

  • Notre Dame Cathedral – Catholic mass – (Bilingual) – 95 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
  • St. Patrick’s Basilica – Catholic mass – (English) – 220 Kent Street, Ottawa
  • St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish – Catholic mass – (Bilingual) – 95 Somerset St. West, Ottawa
  • Cathédrale Saint-Joseph Cathedral – Messe pro-vie Catholique – (Francais) – 245 St. Joseph Boulevard, Gatineau (Hull Sector)
  • St. Peter & St. Paul’s Anglican Church – Ecumenical Prayer and Worship Service – (English) – 152 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa
  • Lutheran Worship Service – (English) – Location to be announced
  • Reformed Christian Prayer Service – (English) – First Baptist Church, 140 Laurier St, Ottawa, ON (at Elgin St) – Co-hosted by ARPA Canada and Jubilee Church

12:00 noon RALLY ON PARLIAMENT HILL
Speeches by:

  • Pro-life Members of Parliament
  • Special keynote speaker (to be announced)
  • Religious leaders including several Catholic Bishops
  • Jim Hughes, National President, Campaign Life Coalition
  • Uplifting music by pro-life musicians

1:30 pm MARCH THROUGH DOWNTOWN OTTAWA
2:45 pm Silent No More Awareness Campaign
Hear testimonies from post-abortive women and men (again at Parliament Hill steps)
4:00 pm Closing Prayer Service by Eastern Catholic Chaplaincy of Ottawa, Parliament Hill
6:00 pm Rose Dinner
Celebrate LIFE with many other pro-lifers at this prestigious dinner. Meet un-sung heroes and listen to compelling talks and be inspired by these wonderful people.
Keynote Speaker: Obianuju Ekeocha

Location: Ottawa Conference & Event Centre (formerly known as The Hampton Inn Ottawa)
Ticket price: $80 before April 30; or $90 after April 30
Call in advance for tickets 1-800-730-5358 or 1-613-729-0379 or 1-416-204-9749.
6:00 pm Youth Banquet / Dinner (for youth and chaperones only)
Keynote Speaker: to be announced
Location: Ottawa Conference & Event Centre (formerly known as The Hampton Inn) 200 Coventry Road, Ottawa, ON

Ticket prices: $45 for students. $75 for teachers and chaperones
Order tickets online from the event’s host, Niagara Region Right to Life, here, or call 1-800-730-5358; or 1-613-729-0379; or 1-416-204-9749. For Group Reservations, ask for YOLI.

Friday May 13, 2016 – Youth Conference

7:30 am Catholic Mass for those Youth Conference attendees
Celebrant to be announced.

8:00 am to 3:00 pm Youth Conference & Workshops
An intensive workshop for young people, designed to arm youth with expert knowledge and the necessary communications strategies to go back into their communities, tackling the culture of death head on, and transforming it into a culture of life, one person at a time.
Learn from great speakers how to take the pro-life message back to your school, home and community.

Location: Ottawa Conference & Event Centre (formerly known as The Hampton Inn), 200 Coventry Road, Ottawa, ON
Pre-registration required : $45 for youth and $45 for teachers & chaperone
Cost includes bagged breakfast, coffee break, and lunch

Please contact Yoli at 1-800-730-5358 to register your group or email her at yoli@campaignlifecoalition.com

For information call Niagara Region Right to Life at 1-905-481-0510.


(Schedule of Events courtesy of campaignlifecoalition.com)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Archdiocese of Westminster (UK) Issues Pastoral Letter on Amoris Laetitia

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster & President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has issued a Pastoral Letter that was read in all parishes on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2016, on the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of Love.

Nichols Cardinal GazaIn the letter, the Cardinal thanks God that ‘this great exhortation has come to us during the Year of Mercy when so many people are turning again to Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is a good place and a good time to start this discernment, accompanied by a priest.’

He explains that the ‘study of this exhortation will take time and effort. For all of us it will be a great source of joy and encouragement’ and he urges everyone to read it ‘together with loved ones’.

Cardinal Nichols echoes the Holy Father’s words that ‘love in the family is “a never-ending vocation” (325),”‘a shepherding in mercy” (322), across the generations’. He goes on to say that ‘it is the first way in which God’s love is made real in our world and by which the Gospel of Hope is proclaimed in situations that can be demanding and harsh’.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Listen to the audio recording of the Cardinal delivering the letter below.

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