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Evangelizing evangelicals – why Pope Francis loves to meet with charismatic movements

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2015 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ attendance for the second consecutive year at the Catholic charismatic movement’s Renewal with the Spirit convocation shows his attention to charismatic movements as means to foster ecumenical path.

Not by chance, Renewal with the Spirit styled the convocation to be heavily ecumenical.

During the meeting with Pope Francis’ in St. Peter’s Square, prayers were raised by Cardinals Kurt Koch and Leonardo Sandri, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; the Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury toward the Holy See; and Msgr. Barnaba El Soryani, Coptic-Orthodox Bishop, as a delegate of Theodore II, Patriarch of Alexandria.

Also present were Msgr. Athanasisu Matti Shaba Matoka, Syriac-Catholic archbishop emeritus of Baghdad; His Eminence Polycarpus Eugenio Aydin, vicar of the Syriac-Orthodox diocese of the Netherlands; Rev. Louie Giglio, from the Passion City Church of Atlanta; Jonas Jonsoon, from the Lutheran Church of Sweden; and Giovanni Traettino, president of the Evangelical Church for Reconciliation in Italy.

This varied presence aligns with Pope Francis’ commitment to ecumenism. Beyond the recently opened dialogue with Orthodox and Anglican Churches, the Evangelical world is a big challenge for ecumenism, and perhaps one of the most important ones.

Dialogue with evangelical groups, especially Pentecostals, has been called “the fourth ecumenism” by several authors, including the Catholic sociologist Massimo Introvigne, an international authority on religious sects.

According to Introvigne, the fourth ecumenism – that of the new Protestant sects born at the beginning of the 20th century – is perhaps the most fruitful ground for ecumenical dialogue.

Attempts at such dialogue have limits: for example, a search for parties to represent the Pentecostals. Although they make up three-quarters of Protestants in some parts of the world and as much as one-third of all Christians, Pentecostals are very fragmented. The diversity within the group presents difficulties for dialogue.

This might be why Pope Francis has chosen to foster dialogue specifically with individuals and small groups.

On July 28, 2014, the Pope paid a private visit to the evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino’s Church in Caserta. The two had met in 2006 and have maintained good relations ever since.
 
That meeting came at the end of a series of meetings Pope Francis had with evangelical leaders in 2014.

Televangelist Joel Osteel, pastor Tim Timmons and president of the Evangelical Westmont College Gayle D. Beebe visited Pope Francis June 4, 2014.

Pope Francis then met June 24 of that year with the televangelists James Robins and Kenneth Copeland, with the bishop Anthony Palmer of the Communion Evangelical Episcopal Churches, with the spouses John and Carol Arnott from Toronto and – among others – with Geoff Tunnicliffe and Brian C. Stiller, respectively general secretary and ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance.

According to the prominent Italian vaticanista Sandro Magister, through these meetings Pope Francis is putting into action a broad effort to “win the favor of the worldwide leaders of those ‘evangelical’ and Pentecostal movements which especially in Latin America are the most fearsome competitor of the Catholic Church, from which they are snatching enormous masses of the faithful.”

Attending the Renewal with the Spirit convocation is part of this effort. Pope Francis himself acknowledged – during his trip back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro – that he used to look at charismatic movements with suspicion, and that he later changed his mind, and now he believes that “this movement does much good for the Church overall.”

Renewal with the Spirit president Salvatore Martinez, an academic of music and musician, who has been committed to the movement since his youth, had the occasion to meet with Pope Francis at the very beginning of the pontificate, after the Mass the Pope celebrated in the Vatican parish Sant’Anna March 17, 2013, four days after his election.

After that, Martinez had a private meeting with Pope Francis in September 2013, and there the invitation to the 2014 annual convocation was forwarded directly to the Pope, who accepted, probably considering it as a part of his ecumenical commitment.

Speaking in front of the convocation June 1, 2014, the Pope voiced hope that both evangelical and Catholic charismatic groups, gathered in the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, would share the same office as a sign of ecumenism. They did it.

Meeting with them Oct. 31, 2014, the Pope praised the decision, and stressed that “unity is not uniformity… it does not mean doing everything together, nor thinking the same way, nor losing identity.”

Pope Francis went further. Last May 23, he sent a video message to the participants of the Day of Dialogue and Prayer organized by the Diocese of Phoenix, which gathered Catholics and evangelical Pentecostal pastors. In the message, the Pope asked them to pray “together for the grace of unity,” that unity that “is flourishing among us, and begins with the only Baptism all of us received.”

All of these signals suggest that Pope Francis has indeed changed his mind and, starting from an initial skepticism, he later found in charismatic movements a privileged path to seek ecumenism.

There could be another pressing factor in the Pope’s enthusiasm for such meetings – a wave of conversions, particularly in Latin America, where it is estimated that100 million Catholics have converted to evangelical Christianity. Now, it appears that Pope Francis would like to evangelize the evangelicals.

His spiritual ecumenism, putting prayer at the center, and even making it a diplomatic tool, represents the most logical meeting point with the Protestant world.

Attending a large Catholic charismatic event could be the bridge the Pope needs to reach his final goal, to turn the evangelicals from rival to allies and push ecumenical efforts forward.
 

This 95-year-old Catholic couple died in each other's arms

San Diego, Calif., Jul 3, 2015 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Few love stories can say that they began at the age of eight. But for Jeanette and Alexander Toczko, they couldn't have imagined life any other way.

What began as a childhood crush later bloomed into a deep, committed love – a love that would last throughout a war, five children, and seventy-five years of marriage.

“Their hearts beat as one from as long as I can remember,” said Aimee Toczko-Cushman, one of the couple's five children, according to the Daily Mail.

After meeting his future wife at the age of eight, Alexander Toczko married Jeanette in 1940 while he was enrolled in the U.S. Navy as a telegraph operator. Alexander was a devoted husband to his wife Jeanette, and as Catholics, he fondly carried a snapshot of Jeanette's First Holy Communion in his wallet.

The Toczko's settled in San Diego, California in 1971 where Alexander and Jeanette worked together, establishing their own fashion photography and advertising firm. Alexander had a passion for golf and sketching, and the couple loved to travel with each other.

They raised their five children in the San Diego area, and over the years became the proud grandparents of ten grandchildren.

This past June, the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. Alexander, a WWII veteran, was 95 and Jeanette was 96.

The couple's health had been declining over the months, especially after Alexander had taken a recent fall, breaking his hip.

“He was going fast,” their son, Richard Toczko, remembered.

Hospice care was brought to Jeanette and Alexander's home, so that they could share their own bed and stay close to each other in their final moments.

Remarkably, the inseparable couple had a dying wish that they often told their children – they both wanted to pass away together, in each other's arms and in their own bed.

Alexander was the first to go on June 17. Once Jeanette had been informed that her husband had died, she said, “See this is what you wanted. You died in my arms and I love you. I love you, wait for me, I'll be there soon.”

Jeanette died only hours after her husband on June 18.

“Even the hospice nurse said it was the most incredible thing to see the two of them taking those last breaths together,” Aimee Toczko-Cushman said.

“They both entered the pearly gates holding hands,” reflected their son, Richard Toczko.

A funeral mass was held for Alexander and Jeanette on June 29, a ceremony which commemorated both their lives and their 75th wedding anniversary. They were buried at the Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.

A fourth saint for the Little Flower family? Cause for Leonia Martin officially opens

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2015 / 06:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With a sister who is a Doctor of the Church and parents set to be canonized in October, Leonia Martin could be the fourth member of her family declared as a saint after her own cause for canonization was recently launched.

Yesterday morning, Leonia’s cause was officially opened by Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger of Bayeux-Lisieux in the chapel of the Visitation Monastery at Caen, France, where Leonia spent the majority of her life and where she died. Mass was celebrated following the cause opening.

The intention to open her cause was originally announced January 24, according to French daily La Croix. On April 25, a “recognition” of her body was made – a process which included opening her tomb to check the state of her remains.

With the opening of her cause, Leonia has now received the title “Servant of God” and is on the path toward beatification, the step in the sainthood process which precedes canonization.

The July 2 step comes at the conclusion of the initial phase of gathering all the historical documents related to her life.

The official opening of her cause signals that Bishop Boulanger has obtained the needed nihil obstat, the official approval of the Catholic Church from the moral and doctrinal point of view granted by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, which as of February was still being waited on.

Leonia is the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux and the third daughter of Blessed Louis and Zelia Martin, who are set to be the first couple ever to be canonized at the same ceremony, which will be held Oct. 18 in the Vatican.

The event will take place fewer than three weeks after the Oct. 1 feast of their daughter, and doctor of the Church, St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

In statements made to CNA in February, Carmelite Father Antonio Sangalli, Leonia's postulator, said the fact that St. Therese’s “difficult” sister is on the path toward sainthood is a reminder that holiness is call for everyone.

“Although she was expelled three times from the convent, she achieved her goal of becoming a religious, which shows that if we persevere, it is possible to do God's will,” he said.

“Leonia's difficulties were primarily due to her order's strict rules, which were very difficult to follow in those times. However, this did not lead her to bury the one talent she received and that she used fruitfully to fully live out her vocation.”

He noted that even before her cause was opened, Leonia was revered for her holiness and that her crypt at the Monastery of the Visitation in Caen is frequently visited by pilgrims from all over the world.

“They come to pray. They ask her for favors and they find spiritual help in her. Their faith is strengthened by the example of this humble sister of the Visitation, and many letters testify to graces received,” the priest said.

Leonia, who took the name Sister Francisca-Teresa, also suffered from physical problems as a child.

“She did not have the human qualities of her other sisters, but she knew how to abandon herself to God, who calls us all regardless of our qualities. No one is excluded from the call to holiness,” Fr. Sangalli said.

Leonia also had a close relationship with St. Therese, and the two often exchanged letters. After her saintly sister died, Leonia decided to try to enter the convent again, following the “little way” traced out by St. Therese, with trust and abandonment to God.

Fr. Sangalli said she ultimately was admitted to the convent, which “shows that Therese's doctrine is not only meant for the Carmelites but for everyone – with the little way, Leonia became a better sister of the Visitation, always remaining in the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales and St. Frances de Chantal, the founders of the Order of the Visitation.”

Leonia died June 17, 1941, at the age of 78 in the monastery where she lived. Her tomb has become a refuge for parents concerned about raising their children, who find in her an example and an inspiration.
 

Vatican official says 'it's time to act' on protecting the environment

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2015 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has expressed his hope that Pope Francis’ recent environmental encyclical will have a strong impact on the United Nations' three major gatherings this year, and will inspire global powers not only to talk, but to act.

The cardinal spoke to CNA July 2, saying he hopes the effect of the encyclical on the U.N. meetings “will be especially concrete in climate change impact.”

“We have discussed a lot about the problem of climate change; now it is time to act. I think this is exactly what the Pope is requesting from us, to act and to start to change our lifestyle to preserve our common house which is the earth.”

The cardinal answered reporters’ questions before addressing a Vatican conference titled: “People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course.”
 
Taking place in Rome July 2-3, the summit was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which prepared a first draft of Francis’ encyclical, alongside the Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies working together for global justice.

The goal of the conference is to use Laudato Si’ to influence several major political gatherings set to happen this year, including key U.N. conferences.

Among them are the July 13-16 Addis Ababa meeting on Finance and Development, the U.N. General Assembly to approve Sustainable Development Goals in September, and December’s COP 21 meeting in Paris to agree on a global climate deal.

Cardinal Parolin spoke on the importance of Laudato Si’ for the Church and the world specifically in light of 2015’s major political events, but also the impact it will have on the future.

He said that while the encyclical will certainly have an effect on this year’s events, “its breadth and depth go well beyond its context in time.”

The environment, the earth and the climate “are a common and collective good” which belong to the whole of humanity, and as such are “the responsibility of everyone,” the cardinal observed.

He said both the technological and operative basis for promoting a more human and integral progress are “already available or within our reach, and that the international community must seize this great opportunity” to move forward with development.

At the heart of this progress lay the key objectives of allowing human dignity to flourish, helping to eradicate poverty, and countering environmental decay, the cardinal continued.

He then turned to the national and local sphere of the climate discussion, saying that frequently there are “too many special interests, and economic interests (too) easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

Awareness among organizations must be increased, he said, explaining that this is where the Church’s social doctrine comes in as a point of reference on both the dignity of the human person and the promotion of the common good.

The cardinal then reiterated what Pope Francis said in his encyclical about the role of the Church in the discussion, saying she “does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” but rather brings awareness of the need to “question the meaning and purpose of all human activity.”

He said that when we think of what kind of world we want to leave behind, it’s no longer enough to simply express concern for future generations, but there is also a need to see “that what is at stake is our own dignity.”

Our responsibility is to be “responsible for the responsibility of the other,” the cardinal stated, adding that our human vocation to be protectors of the earth and the environment “is not something optional.”

In his comments to CNA, Cardinal Parolin also spoke about the Pope’s objectives for his July 5-13 trip to the South American nations of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

“As in all trips, the Pope goes to meet the Catholic community. This is his ministry as pastor of the universal Church, inserting himself inside the pastoral and catechetical paths that each (local) Church is pursuing,” he said.

The cardinal also addressed the concern of those who say the Pope will use the trip to dip into local politics, such as the debate surrounding Bolivia’s access to the sea.

Distinguishing between “party goals” and “political goals,” Cardinal Parolin said that for Pope Francis, political interests in his trips are understood in the sense of “the construction of the social and political community.”

“On the part of Christians there is truly an action and contribution to help solve problems that they find in that regard,” he said, explaining that the Pope isn't going to support any specific person, but rather to promote peace, reconciliation, and material and spiritual development.
 

CatholicVote says controversial video sparked outpouring of thanks

Chicago, Ill., Jul 2, 2015 / 04:02 pm (CNA).- After last week's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, one Catholic group released a short video on tolerance – a clip that's gotten both fierce criticism and profound thanks from viewers.

“The response to our video has been overwhelming. Literally tens of thousands of people are emailing saying: 'thank you for speaking up for me. I don't agree with the Supreme Court decision, but I don't hate anyone,'” said Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org.

Burch's organization is a lay-led movement of American Catholics with around 600,000 members in the U.S. The group's video, titled “Not Alone,” mirrors a gay “coming out” perspective and features six young adults who vocalize their belief that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman.

In response to the “Love Wins” hash tag used after the Supreme Court ruling, CatholicVote created their own hash tag of “Speak Truth With Love.”

The six adults interviewed discussed the fear of being treated differently because they do not support gay marriage; and they professed to have gay friends who are wonderful people and are loved.

The two-and-a-half minute video, however, was swiftly pounded with profanity-laced comments and aggressive jeers towards those in the video who claim to “love their gay friends” and yet do not support same-sex marriage. The video has over 670,000 views and counting.

“Gays deserve dignity and respect, and so do Christians,” Burch said. “We as a country are going to have to expand our definition of tolerance and learn to accept that there is nothing hateful about believing in the uniqueness of male-female marriage, as people have for thousands of years.”

Another article on CatholicVote.org, links to several websites criticizing the video are posted to directly display intolerance that is currently happening in the secular media. Some headlines accused the six adults to be “anti-gay,” while other sources describe the adults as “bigots.”   

“Where real hatred and bigotry has occurred, it deserves to be condemned,” Burch said. “LGBT advocates are right to call out people who behave reprehensibly in defense of marriage.”

“But likewise, and to be consistent, they should condemn those that are intolerant of anyone that disagrees with the same-sex agenda. Andrew Sullivan, one of the founders of the same-sex marriage movement, has warned his friends against becoming a movement that hates its opponents.”