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Pope Francis’ Message to Oslo Congress against the Death Penalty


Today in Oslo, Norway the VI World Congress Against the Death Penalty opens, organized by the NGO “Ensemble contre la peine de mort” and the “World Coalition Against the Death Penalty,” which includes about 140 organizations from around the world. Pope Francis sent a video message for the occasion. The English transcription of the original Spanish message is found below.

I greet the organizers of this World Congress against the death penalty, the group of countries supporting it, particularly Norway as its host country, and all those representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society taking part in it. I likewise express my personal appreciation, along with that of men and women of goodwill, for your commitment to a world free of the death penalty.

One sign of hope is that public opinion is manifesting a growing opposition to the death penalty, even as a means of legitimate social defense. Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is an auspicious occasion for promoting worldwide ever more evolved forms of respect for the life and dignity of each person. It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.

Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated. “Rendering justice” does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society.

There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment. I trust that this Congress can give new impulse to the effort to abolish capital punishment.

For this reason, I encourage all taking part to carry on this great initiative and I assure them of my prayers.

The Francis Effect: Forming Ministerial Leadership for Pope Francis’ Vision of the Church


Photos c/o Catholic Theological Union at Chicago

In this podcast, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, President and CEO, Salt + Light Media gives a lecture on “The Francis Effect: Forming Ministerial Leadership for Pope Francis’ Vision of the Church.” This was recording during CTU’s summer institute on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Fr. Rosica was co-teaching a class at CTU with Salt + Light’s producer and correspondent, Sebastian Gomes.

Fr. Thomas Rosica and Sebastian Gomes at CTU

Born on the wings of World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, Salt + Light is a unique instrument of the New Evangelization, sharing the Gospel through television, radio, print, and online media. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, served as the official Vatican spokesperson during the resignation of Benedict XVI through the election of Francis. He was then asked to serve as the English-language assistant to the Holy See Press Office, where he continues to relate on a daily basis with English-language media around the world.

Coast to Coast: June 12 to 17




Here is a sample of what we’ve been reading about across this vast country of ours.

In Vancouver, one of the Syrian families that arrived in Canada in February sits down to share their story and their experience of welcome on the west coast.

In Winnipeg: Even though the pope’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ was released a year ago, awareness of the plight of our common home is still front and centre. Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg and the Manitoba office of Development and Peace are making sure of that.  

In Toronto: A Basilian priest from Edmonton has been named the new auxiliary bishop for Toronto.

In Montreal: World Youth Day pilgrims are preparing for their upcoming trip with the help of a holocaust survivor. Their itinerary includes a visit to Auschwitz, the WWII Nazi death camp.


Pope Francis Appoints a New Auxiliary Bishop for Toronto

Hrobert Kasunis Holiness Pope Francis today appointed the Reverend Father Robert Kasun, C.S.B., Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto. At the time of his appointment, the Bishop-elect was Pastor of St. Alphonsus-St. Clare Parish in Edmonton. Father Kasun will join three others as Auxiliary Bishops of Toronto: the Most Reverend John A. Boissonneau, the Most Reverend Wayne Kirkpatrick and the Most Reverend Vincent Nguyen.

Bishop-elect Robert Kasun was born on December 20, 1951 in Cudworth, Saskatchewan. He joined the Basilian Fathers after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English. Following novitiate, he continued his studies, earning a Master’s of Divinity from St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, and subsequently, both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education from the University of Toronto. Following ordination in 1978, Father Kasun began his teaching ministry in schools operated by the Basilian Fathers in Merrillville, Indiana, and in Ontario at Sudbury and at St. Michael’s College. Toronto. He also served as Vocation Director for the Basilian Fathers based in Rochester, New York, and taught with the Calgary Catholic School District at St. Francis High School in Calgary.

Father Kasun served as a member of the General Council of the Basilian Fathers from 1989 to 1997 as Regional Representative for Western Canada, and as Vice-President of the then Western Region of the Canadian Religious Conference. Also in Calgary, he served as Associate Pastor and then Pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, a member of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Calgary, and a member of the executive committee of the Board of Governors for St. Mary’s University College. Since 2009, he has served in the Archdiocese of Edmonton as Pastor of St. Alphonsus-St. Clare Parish, two inner-city parishes which are now twinned.

According to the CCCB 2016 Directory, the Archdiocese of Toronto has 249 parishes and missions, with a population of 1,626,465 Catholics, served by 296 diocesan priests, 413 priests who are members of institutes of consecrated life, 130 permanent deacons, 556 Sisters and 44 Brothers who are members of religious institutes, as well as 68 lay pastoral workers.

The environment was calling, calling me!

wetlandIt’s “Laudato si’ Week”, an anniversary movement to celebrate and implement the landmark encyclical of Pope Francis on care for our common home. As the website indicates, this week is about reflection and action; it’s about bringing the rich teachings of the document to life in our communities.  Last week I heard a wonderful story that I wanted to share with our S+L readership.  I was teaching in the Summer Institute at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago; the course was on media and communications in the era of Pope Francis.  One of our class periods was dedicated entirely to Laudato si’ and how the Pope sees the ecological crisis as an opportunity to open lines of communication between countries and cultures.  During our discussion, one of the students, Maryellen Knuth shared this amazing story of Laudato si’ in action!

Let me preface this story by telling you that at the time I did not recognize this as a call.  I answered something that I felt deeply in my core, but I am not sure I could have expressed it in words at the time.

In 1999 I was disturbed by a soil testing truck that I saw out my kitchen window on the 88 acre wetland that backs up to our property.  I made some phone calls and found out that a housing developer was planning to build half million-dollar homes on that wetland.  Daily for almost three months I called neighbors, environmentalists, fish and wildlife preserves, conservation organizations and specialists, village trustees, forest preserve commissioners, and anybody I could find to help try to prevent the destruction of this beautiful piece of property, which was also a home to abundant wildlife.

What began as a disturbance in me quickly became a vision for the people living around the wetland, and they came together to save it.  We gathered in homes to strategize about how to fight the developer and the village, and to solicit the help of the forest preserve by bringing this piece of property to their attention as a piece of land they might be interested in purchasing.  We lived and sweated for that wetland as we educated ourselves about issue, made phone calls, obtained aerial photos of the area, circulated petitions to all four borders of the wetland, and attended each monthly village meeting for a year and a half.

The battle went into litigation, first circuit court (we lost and filed an appeal) and then appellate court.  I am proud to say that in February of 2004 (5 years later) we got word that the forest preserve was settling with the seller a fair price for the land.  The wetland had been saved!

Simply stated, I answered a call to be an advocate for the environment.  I didn’t really stop to think about it, I just acted on it, the call.  I think it was always part of me, no discernment was necessary, action started immediately.  I never said, “what if…”, “I don’t have time”, or “what will this entail?”  Answering the call quickly became a vision that was carried on many shoulders, embodied in the strong hearts of the people who fought for it.  People who didn’t know each other before came together in a remarkable way to realize that common vision.

My story can be summed up in a wonderful quote I had hanging on my back door along with my kids’ schoolwork.  I came across this quote in the midst of our battle for the wetland.  But it took on new meaning as we became the quote!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
Margaret Mead
Wetland (1)

Maryellen Knuth is the Director of the Emmaus Formation for Ministry Program for lay students studying advanced degrees at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, IL.  In 2005, she graduated with a MAPS degree from CTU.  She has been married for forty years, and has five children and four grandchildren. She lives on the edge of a preserved wetland in Bartlett, IL.

Woman and the Church: new episode of Subject Matters tackles the perennial question

Subject Matters: “Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the Church”
Mary Hasson, editor
Sunday, June 19 at 8:30pmET / 5:30pm PT

This Sunday’s all-new episode of Subject Matters features Mary Hasson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.  She’s the editor of this compilation of essays responding to Pope Francis’s call for a more “incisive presence of women” in the Church today.  Grounded in the Church’s clear teaching on feminism and complementarity–espoused by Pope John Paul II in particular–these women offer practical and theological considerations with the clear goal of taking another step forward.  Ahead of Sunday’s premiere, check out “My Take” on this timely and provocative book and tune in Sunday night!

Progress regarding women’s presence in the Church should be measured less by the numbers of women appointed to significant positions within the Church’s structure (although that is surely important) and more by the transformative impact of an integral complementarity put into practice more broadly, in parish ministries, education, social work, business, and health care.
Promise and Challenge, p.261

Episcopal Ordination of Most Rev. Alain Faubert, Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal


Tune in Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 7:05 pm ET to watch LIVE the Ordination Mass.

On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, Salt and Light Television will broadcast live the Episcopal Ordination of Msgr. Alain Faubert, C.S.S., as Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal from the Cathedral Basilica of Mary Queen of the World in Montreal, Quebec. His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Bishop-elect Faubert as Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. S+L CEO, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB will be providing live commentary throughout the Mass.

At the time of his appointment, the Bishop-elect was Pastor of Saint-Germain Parish in Montreal, where he has served since 2012. Msgr. Faubert will join the Most Rev. Thomas Dowd as Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal.


Bishop-elect Alain Faubert was born on April 4, 1965, and ordained priest on June 9, 1995, for the Archdiocese of Montreal. He served as an assistant pastor for five years before undertaking studies in theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris and at Laval University in Quebec City. In 2004, he returned to his studies full-time and resumed pastoral work in Outremont, Montreal, while also teaching at the Institut de formation théologique de Montréal, as well as serving as Assistant to the Director of the Diocesan Office for Faith Education. In January 2011, he was appointed Episcopal Vicar of the eastern region of the Archdiocese of Montreal. In May 2011, he was named a monsignor (Chaplain of His Holiness).

According to the CCCB 2016 Directory, the Archdiocese of Montreal has 196 parishes and missions, with a population of 1,494,132 Catholics, served by 394 diocesan priests, 562 priests who are members of institutes of consecrated life, 78 permanent deacons, 3,000 religious Sisters, 230 religious Brothers, and 121 lay pastoral workers.

(Information courtesy of the CCCB)

Iuvenescit Ecclesia

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter today to the bishops around the world on “the relationship between hierarchical and charismatic gifts in the life and mission of the Church”.

Photo Courtesy: CNS/Paul Haring

[Read more…]

Behind Vatican Walls: Feast of St. Mary Magdalene proclaimed

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.26.31 PM

Saint Mary Magdalene will now be remembered in the Church’s liturgical calendar the same way the twelves apostles and Our Lady are remembered. The Vatican has issued a decree elevating the memorial of her life to a feast, something reserved for important moments in Church history and important people like the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The saint already has a day, July 22, dedicated to her in the liturgical calendar. However, that day is considered a ‘memorial’ and about 11 other saints are remembered on the same day. From now on St. Mary Magdalene takes precedence over all the rest.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree making the the change, June 10 at the pope’s request. In an article published in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Arthur Roche says the decision was made in the context of the Year for Mercy and the pope’s repeated calls to reflect more deeply on the dignity of women. Archbishop Roche, the secretary for the congregation for worship, said “St. Mary Magdalene is an example of true and authentic evangelization.”

Making her memorial a feast, on par with the apostles, highlights her importance to the church and confirms what Christian scholars and doctors of the church have written about the saint for centuries. She was the “first witness” to see the empty tomb and the risen Christ, and the first person to spread the word of the resurrection. When she runs from the empty tomb to upper room where the apostles are locked in, Mary Magdalene becomes “’apostolorum apostola’, as she announces to the apostles what they in turn will announce to all the world,” says Archbishop Roche.

Along with the decree the Congregation for Divine Worship released a special preface to be used in the Mass on St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day. The preface is titled “Apostle of the Apostles.”

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below!


Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Coast to Coast: May 29 to June 4



Here is a sampling of what we’ve been reading across the country this week.

Much attention has been focused on Parliament’s attempts to pass Bill C-14 into law before the June 6th deadline set out by the supreme court.

Once Parliament sent Bill C-14 to Senate, the media turned their attention to Canada’s senators. Alberta senator Betty Unger shared her position with Maclean’s.

The NDP Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay shared his concerns about Bill C-14 in this guest-column.

Of course, there are other issues getting attention in our country and beyond. As war continued to rage in Syria, many families are still trying to find their way to Safety. In Edmonton, one Melkite priest shares his story of getting his family to safety in Canada.

You could say that spring is “ordination season.” Dioceses across Canada (and beyond) have just had or are looking towards the ordination of new priests and deacons. Here is an honest chat with one Vancouver priest whose path to the priesthood took him through married life, fatherhood, and the film industry first.

CNS photo/Art Babych