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Ireland's co-patron St. Columba celebrated June 9

Denver, Colo., Jun 9, 2013 / 06:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On June 9 the Catholic Church commemorates the sixth-century Irish monk and missionary Saint Columba of Iona, also known as St. Columcille.

One of Ireland's three patron saints (together with Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid), he is also sometimes called the “Apostle of the Picts” for his evangelization of Scotland.

He should not be confused with St. Columbanus (or Columban), a different Irish monk and missionary who lived slightly later and ended up in Italy.

Columba was born during 521, descended from royalty through his father. He was taught and mentored by the priest who baptized him, and later attended a monastic school founded by Saint Finnian of Moville. His own life as a monk began at the school, where he was also ordained a deacon.

The deacon went on to spend time in a different monastery and school run by another Finnian, Saint Finnian of Clonard. Columba became a priest during this period, and along with eleven others from this same institution, he would become known as one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland.”

Columba also studied with Saint Mobhi of Glasnevin, before a disease epidemic forced him to return to his ancestral homeland of Ulster during 544. He spent the next 15 years traveling, preaching, and founding monasteries.

It is not clear why, in 563, Columba left Ireland. By some accounts he was simply going to preach the word of God. Others claim that he had become involved in a battle between warring tribes, before repenting and taking on foreign missionary work as a penance.

On the island of Iona, located on Scotland’s northwest coast, Columba and his group of companions built simple monastic quarters and a church for themselves. The priest-monk’s first missionary work was in the region of Dalriada, whose Celtic Christian inhabitants were lacking solid religious instruction.

His next effort was to convert the Picts of northern Scotland, a task that would take up most of the rest of his life. He began by gaining entrance to the castle of King Brude, where the locked gates are said to have miraculously opened when the sign of the Cross was made. The king welcomed the missionaries, believed the Gospel, and was baptized.

Columba’s evangelization of northern Scotland continued over the next three decades. He and his companions met with some resistance from the native pagan Druids, but on the whole they found remarkable success in spreading the Catholic faith and building up a network of churches and monasteries.

The island monastery at Iona remained his home base, and it drew pilgrims looking to benefit from the priest-monk’s wisdom and his prayers. He remained in touch with the Irish Church, making many trips back until he became too weak to travel. Even in old age, Columba maintained an intense routine of prayer, fasting, and study.

After giving a final blessing to his monastery on June 8, 597, he died sometime in the early hours of the following day.

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Surrogate pregnancy bill in DC draws criticism

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2013 / 06:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A lack of information about the dangers of surrogate pregnancy could soon allow the practice to become legal in Washington, D.C., warned the founder of one bioethics organization.

“These issues aren’t on anyone’s radar,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture. “By and large people have accepted third party reproduction. It’s not seen as controversial…because people are woefully misinformed.”

Lahl told CNA that the average person sees nothing wrong with surrogacy, which is the practice of a woman carrying and delivering a baby for someone else. This could explain the lack of opposition to a new bill in that nation’s capital, she said.

Legislation introduced June 3 by D.C. Councilman David Catania would legalize surrogacy in the district. If passed, it would wipe away current local legislation prohibiting surrogacy contracts, which carry penalties of up to $10,000 in fines or a year in jail.

“I don't expect there to be any significant opposition,” Catania told the Washington Examiner. “This is about remedying what I believe to be an imperfection in our law.”
 
Lahl, who worked as a pediatric nurse for 20 years, said most people are unaware of the negative repercussions of surrogacy. She noted that concerns with legalized surrogacy include a lack of research in the field and a failure to consider the impact on the child and the woman whose womb is being “rented.”

One of the biggest concerns, she warned, is that the relationship between a mother and a child in her womb is ignored.

“So much is going on in that womb,” Lahl explained. “The surrogate mom and child will be linked genetically, and there’s so much we’re learning about genetic diseases and how much the womb plays into that child’s health.”

The connection is more than simply physical, she continued.

“Newborns know one thing – they know who their mother is,” she said. “I’ve known of mothers who sing to their children in the womb or read them books - what happens when you tell a mother to intentionally not bond with a child in their womb?”

California attorney Stephanie Caballero handles surrogacy cases and says 30 percent of her clients are gay. She told the Washington Examiner that with proper screening, money is not the only reason a woman decides to become a surrogate.

“The first reason is because they want to help someone,” she said. “They do it [in part] because they love being pregnant.”

However, as part of a new documentary for the Center for Bioethics and Culture, Lahl has interviewed numerous women who were surrogate mothers. By and large, she said, surrogate women “are women who have financial need – wealthy women are going to be buying the surrogacy contract.”

Raising concerns over the practice of paying women in order to “rent” their bodies and produce children, Lahl argued that women and children end up being exploited.

Surrogacy comes in two forms: traditional surrogacy, when the surrogate mother’s own egg is fertilized and implanted in her womb, and gestational surrogacy, when the commissioning woman’s egg is fertilized and then implanted into the surrogate mother’s womb.

The bill proposed in D.C. allows for both kinds of surrogacy, though there is a legal tendency to favor gestational surrogacy, Lahl said.

“That is the way most surrogacy is moving,” she cautioned. “They don’t want the birth mother to claim any rights to the child, they want her to just be the ‘oven.’ They keep deconstructing who ‘owns’ that child.”

Lahl said this language of surrogacy laws should be enough to cause people to pause.

“This is a contract, we’re discussing who ‘owns it’ – even though we’re dealing with a child,” she said.

“They’re only thinking about goods and services,” she warned. “Nobody’s thinking about the child.”

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Mom contrasts rush to save baby twins with Gosnell murders

Dallas, Texas, Jun 8, 2013 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When her twin girls were born suddenly at only 26 weeks, Anne Ponton said doctors and nurses in her home town of Irving, Texas fought diligently for her babies' survival.   

But the twins, born to Anne and her husband Jason in December 2001, “were the same size” as the babies murdered by late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

Gosnell, who ran the Philadelphia-based Women's Medical Society clinic, was convicted on three first degree murder charges in May 2013 for killing babies born alive after botched abortions. During the trial, gruesome testimonies from facility workers – who described the procedures as akin to a “beheading” – garnered international media attention.

“They were doing everything in that clinic to kill the exact same size and viability” of babies such as  “our girls,” Ponton told CNA in a June 5 interview.

However, “where we were going...they were doing everything in their power to save their lives.”

Ponton recalled how nearly twelve years ago, the first six months of her pregnancy with the twins went smoothly. Yet at 26 weeks, she remembers calling her doctor the next morning after a routine appointment about a slight concern she had noticed.

To her surprise, the doctor told her to get to the hospital right away.

By the time Ponton and her husband Jason arrived, nurses found that she was already in labor and that she was dilated seven centimeters. Medical staff on hand tried to stop labor, but were unable to.

It was at that moment that the doctor “just leaned over and whispered, 'Anne, if you are a woman of faith, pray. You're going to have these babies right now,'” Ponton said.

The girls were delivered via emergency Caesarean section, and immediately both were put on full life support, baptized and taken to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Dallas.

“Each child had their own team of nurses and one doctor ready for them,” she said.

One of the baby girls weighed only one pound, nine ounces and the other weighed one pound, thirteen ounces. Within a few days both babies were operated upon – one twin having heart surgery, the other hernia surgery.

At the intensive care unit, the twins were put into beds covered by “a plastic, transparent...bubble,” meant to closely simulate the conditions of a mother's womb.

While her daughters were at the unit, Ponton would drive back and forth every day with her husband to see them. On the route, the two had to pass a late-term abortion clinic less than a mile from the hospital.

“What we're hoping is that people who are so quick to say yes, Gosnell is a monster, that they see that this act in and of itself, period – whether it’s done in a clean clinic or a disgusting clinic – at 24 weeks or 12 weeks, it’s still killing,” Ponton said.

“I have never met or talked to a NICU doctor who would not argue that the babies that Gosnell was convicted of (killing) are of viability outside the womb and that they’re human beings.”
 
Ponton recalled that during their time at the hospital, as soon as the twins were healthy enough, doctors put the girls together in the same bed.

“It was amazing, because when one of the girls was having a really hard day, breathing, or not tolerating the feeding well because it was all through feeding tubes…(the nurses) would swaddle them very tightly together and whoever was having a hard day, after being swaddled with her sister, would thrive.”

By the end of the first two weeks, while their eyes were still sealed shut, Ponton said the babies “could even recognize the voice of the doctor or the nurse coming who typically did the blood test every single day.”

The babies began to equate the voice of the nurse who took their blood with pain and when they heard his voice coming down the hall, “their heart rate would immediately shoot up.”

“So to me, that was just one more confirmation that these precious little children do feel pain as they do feel it in the womb,” she said.

After four months at the hospital, both girls were able to come home at the same time without feeding tubes, an apnea monitor, oxygen, or medication.

It was documented as “one of the biggest success stories” in the history of the intensive care unit, Ponton said.

On her healthy, nearly-12-year-old daughters today, Ponton reflected that “we have the proof – we have the fruit, of what it looks like to say yes to life.”

“Our girls are that voice and that face” for what “life looks like when given the chance,” she said.

“That’s our hope for sharing our story, is that people will just come to understand the dignity of all human life, in all its stages.”

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Gosnell case adds urgency to pro-life efforts, say legislators

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2013 / 06:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life lawmakers said at a recent event that legislative efforts to fight criminal activity and fraud in the abortion industry have a renewed importance in light of the recent Gosnell trial.

“Life is a women’s issue,” said U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) during a June 6 briefing on Capitol Hill.

She criticized “big abortion” and what she described as a permissive attitude towards health violations, misuse of government funds and other abuses.

“The people looking for accountability are asking ‘why?’” she said.

Blackburn was among the featured speakers at the briefing, which was sponsored by Americans United for Life, a pro-life organization that focuses on venues within the legal system to advance the pro-life cause.

She pointed to the recent trail of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering several babies who survived his abortions. The trial unveiled a filthy clinic with numerous health code violations and poor treatment of women.

The trial, Blackburn said, helped to highlight some of the health-related and economic abuses present in the abortion industry.

She charged that “Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania knew” about Gosnell’s abuses and the unsafe conditions within the clinic due to patient complaints. However, she said, they “did not report that,” but instead sent victims away to voice complaints to government officials by themselves.

“If they’re getting federal funds, if abortion is to be safe, legal and rare, why did they choose not to report that?” the congresswoman questioned.

Noting that 15 states have reported severe violations of health laws by abortion clinics, she explained that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is now “asking every department of health what they’re doing to oversee abortion.”

Blackburn said she hopes the investigation by the committee, of which she is a member, will help in “holding Planned Parenthood accountable” for the millions of dollars it receives in taxpayer funds each year.

It is the role of “good government” to ensure that its funds are being well used, she explained, and defunding organizations that abuse this funding is not a “war on women” but a defense of them.

U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R- La.) also spoke at the briefing. He recounted his experience as a doctor, describing the numerous times patients would come to him following complications arising from an abortion.

In many cases, he said, the abortionist had left the state after performing the procedure, endangering the health of the patient when complications arose.

“When it comes to abortion, there are two victims,” he said, noting that in addition to killing the unborn child, abortion also poses serious health risks to the mother. 

He urged pro-life advocates to “continue incremental movement” in passing pro-life laws, such as state-level informed consent and ultrasounds legislation.

Fleming commented that in the Gosnell case, “government totally ignored the oversight role that it had,” only discovering the unsanitary conditions and brutal practices taking place within the clinic during an investigation of an underground “pill mill” Gosnell ran.

“There’s lots of things we can do in making doctors accountable for their practice,” Fleming stressed.

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State lacks authority to redefine marriage, says bishop

Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 7, 2013 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., explained that marriage is rooted in nature and exists prior to the state, which has the authority to recognize, but not redefine, the fundamental social institution.

“Marriage is a pre-political and natural phenomenon that arises out of the nature of human beings. The Catholic Church, along with virtually every religion and culture in the world, recognizes and supports this natural institution because without it, no society will exist or flourish,” he said.

The bishop explained that marriage is “a natural outgrowth of human nature, capacities and needs.” The natural desire to procreate and create a family “can only be fulfilled through the union of a man and a woman.”

Other unions that are “essentially different” from marriage will not become marriages “simply by taking on the institutional guise,” he said.

“Those involved in same-sex relationships are looking for social validity and legal approval. All of this is understandable, but that doesn’t make it possible.”

His comments came during a May 31 debate sponsored by the Jesuit Alumni in Arizona, held at Phoenix’s Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. The bishop debated Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.L., the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, which has been criticized by both the Vatican and the U.S. bishop for its dissent from Church teaching on homosexuality.

Although the debate was originally entitled “Two Catholic Views on Gay Marriage,” Bishop Paprocki clarified that there is “only one authentic Catholic view” on the subject.

Noting that advocates of marriage redefinition describe their cause as “marriage equality,” he criticized equality as “one of the very few unquestioned values” of post-modern philosophy.

Attempts to recognize all moral positions in the law are “logically impossible,” he said, because even morally neutral positions are “moral choices that deny recognition and equality to those who disagree.”

The bishop rejected utilitarian and morally relativistic approaches to marriage.

“If the government says that an apple is now the same as an orange, and the law requires everyone to call apples ‘oranges,’ the state would have the power to punish anyone who calls an apple an ‘apple’ instead of an ‘orange,’ but it would be a totalitarian abuse of raw power and would not change the biological reality of the nature of the fruit in question. So too with the definition of marriage,” he said.

Bishop Paprocki said advocates of homosexual unions must show that they are as necessary and beneficial to the common good as heterosexual marriage.

He noted that marriage helps protect the vulnerability of relationships with the potential for children and helps unite the complementary sexes.

Even artificial reproduction, he said, only finds ways to “mimic the union of a man and woman in order to be successful.”

The bishop rejected arguments that legal recognition only for marriage between a man and a woman privileges one religious view over others. Marriage was not invented by the Church or the state, but precedes them both as an institution rooted in nature, he stressed.

As a result, he said, the state has no authority to redefine marriage or family, which make up “the first cell of society, from which the state receives its existence.”

A law recognizing same-sex relationships as “marriages” is thus “devoid of any intrinsic moral legitimacy,” he explained. The state “exists to serve the family” and the family’s “own legitimate nature and identity.”

Bishop Paprocki also recalled the Catholic Church’s experience with 20th century totalitarian movements which sought to remake family life to advance state goals of racial purity or Marxist ideology. This experience, he said, led to the more refined Catholic teaching that “it is not legitimate for the state to interfere with the fundamental nature of the family.”

“(I)t is never legitimate for the state to decide that it will use marriage and the family as mere instrumentalities to be manipulated to achieve the state’s own goals of cultural transformation,” the bishop insisted.

In addition, he said, it is “naive” to assume that the redefinition of marriage poses no threats to religious freedom. Rather, it is “quite likely” that the Church will be pressured for its opposition to same-sex “marriage,” just as it is pressured to provide contraceptives and abortions.

He noted the cancelation of Illinois state contracts with Catholic Charities adoption services and foster care because the government refused to accommodate Catholic teachings against placing children with same-sex or unmarried couples.

Bishop Paprocki also voiced concern over unequal treatment in the media. He lamented the brutal 1998 murder of college student Matthew Shephard in Wyoming because he was a homosexual. However, he also noted that his own former parish secretary, Mary Stachowicz, was “brutally murdered” by a co-worker in 2002 after she urged him to quit the gay lifestyle.

Her murder was “widely ignored by the media, despite the fact that she died as a martyr for the faith,” he said.

Recognizing that it is an “uphill struggle” to convince people that same-sex relationships are not the same as marriage, the bishop emphasized that “the ethical or moral analysis of an issue is not properly based on polls or surveys of public opinion, but on values, virtues and principles.”

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California conference aims to help build Catholic culture

Napa, Calif., Jun 7, 2013 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- Leading Catholics will gather in California's Napa Valley this August for the third annual Napa Institute Conference to discuss the sanctity of work and how to build Catholic culture in a secular society.

“The conference will bring Catholic leaders together from around the nation to meet, learn, and share ideas about the future of the Church in the 'Next America,'” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Denver-based Augustine Institute, said in a June 3 invitation.

Gray invited all those interested in attending “to take advantage of experiencing this intellectually and spiritually engaging weekend in the heart of the Napa Valley's famous wine country.”

The conference will take place August 1-4 at the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa, Calif.

Gray will deliver a keynote speech on the sanctity of work, as will Father Brian Mullady, O.P. and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.

The conference will hold breakout sessions where participants can engage with the year’s speakers in an open discussion. These discussions can continue during conference meals and social activities.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., the head of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith in Irvine, Calif., will moderate a panel on building a Catholic culture through the “New Evangelization.” Panelists include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Archbishop Gomez, and Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis.

Other speakers and attendees include Catholic University of America president John Garvey, Catholic Relief Services president Carolyn Woo, writer Kathryn Jean Lopez, Boston College philosophy professor Fr. Ronald Tacelli, S.J., and Baylor University philosophy professor Dr. Francis Beckwith.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and retired Seattle archbishop Alexander Brunett will attend, as will Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa and Bishop Kevin Vann of Dallas.

Masses will be celebrated daily and there will be regular opportunities for confession.

More information about the conference is available at the Napa Institute website www.napa-institute.org.

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Pope dwells on God's wordless love

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2013 / 01:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said God does not love us with words but through closeness and tenderness during his morning Mass on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“He does not love us with words, he comes close and gives us his love with tenderness,” the Pope said.

“Closeness and tenderness!” he stressed on June 7 at the chapel in Saint Martha’s House.

God loves us by “drawing near” and “giving all his love,” he preached, adding that he does so “even in the smallest things, with tenderness.”

Pope Francis made his comments based on Ezekiel 34, in which God shows his love by caring for the lost, wounded and sick sheep.

He referred to the feast as “the feast of love” of a “heart that loved so much.”

The pontiff then dwelt in greater depth on how Jesus loved with his deeds and life.

“This is a powerful love, because closeness and tenderness reveal the strength of God’s love,” said Pope Francis.

“The Lord loves us tenderly, the Lord knows that beautiful science of caresses, the tenderness of God.”

Besides God’s love being given through acts, the Holy Father underscored that God loves more by giving than receiving.

“These two criteria are like the pillars of true love, and the Good Shepherd above all else represents the love of God,” said Pope Francis.

“He knows his sheep by name because his is not an abstract or general love, it is love towards everyone,” he remarked.

He described God as “drawing near out of love,” “walking with his people” and that “this walk comes to an unimaginable point.”

How can we return all this love to God? Pope Francis asked the congregation.

“By loving, by being closer to him, by being tender with him, but this alone is not enough,” he said.

“It is more difficult to let God love us, than to love him!” he exclaimed.

According to the Pope, the best way to love him in return is to “open our hearts and let him love us.”

“Let Him draw close to us and feel Him close to us,” he said.

“This is really, very difficult, letting ourselves be loved by him and that is perhaps what we need to ask today in the Mass,” the Pope said.

The archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, and the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, Monsignor Sergio Pagano, concelebrated the Mass with him.

Employees of the Vatican’s Secret Archives were also invited to attend.

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Pope gives children advice on facing doubts about faith

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2013 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Setting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis tackled questions from children about having faith in times of doubt, his friends and his favorite aspects of Jesuit spirituality.

“Walking is an art because if we always walk in a hurry we get tired and we can’t reach the end,” he said in response to an older boy who admitted he had doubts about his faith.

“Walking is the art of looking at the horizon thinking where I want to go, but also to accept the tiredness of the walk,” the Pope reflected.

“So many times the walk is difficult.”

Pope Francis received around 7,000 students from Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania, accompanied by their teachers, alumni and family members in Paul VI Hall on June 7.

The overall atmosphere was relaxed, with the Pope joking that his five-page set of remarks was “boring” and giving honest and sometimes funny answers to the children who posed questions.

The rapport Pope Francis had with the students inspired him to set aside his prepared address and speak off-the-cuff in a question and answer format.

“There are days of darkness and some days of falls, one falls, falls. But always think this, don’t be afraid of the failures, don’t be afraid of the falls,” he said as he continued his words of encouragement to the student with doubts.

“Don’t be afraid of falling, in the art of falling that was important isn’t not falling, but not remaining down,” he said.

The Pope noted, “this is beautiful, working on this each day, this walking humanly, but it is ugly and boring to walk alone.”  

“Walk in community with friends and it helps us arrive to the end where we need to arrive,” he remarked.

A young girl asked him if he still kept his friends from Argentina.

“I’ve only been Pope for two and a half months and my friends are very far from here, but they write me,” said Pope Francis. “You can’t live without friends, that’s important.”

He then answered a question on what he liked the most about being a Jesuit, which he said was the missionary work.

“When I studied theology, I wrote to the general so that he send me to Japan,” said the Pope.

“But he answered that my pulmonary illness wasn’t good for such a work, so I stayed in Buenos Aires,” he explained.

He mentioned “going out of oneself” and “announcing Christ” and not remaining “within one’s self” as particular aspects that the Jesuit spirituality focuses on.

“For us Jesuits, the key point for the growth of people is magnanimity,” said the Pope.

“We have to be magnanimous with a big heart, without fear, submit yourself to big ideals, but also magnanimity with small things, with daily things with a big heart,” he said.

He underscored the importance of finding this magnanimity “with the contemplation of Jesus.”

The pontiff described this generosity of heart as “walking with Jesus” and “being attentive to what Jesus says,” adding that he is the one who “opens the windows to the horizon.”

“In this path, I would like to say something to educators,” he stated. “Educating is like a balance, balancing well the steps.”

He explained that balancing involves “a firm step in the frame of safety” and another step “in a risky zone.”

“When that risk become safe, the other step searches for another area of risk,” said the Pope.

During the exchange the Holy Father also revealed that he did not want to become Pope going into the conclave that resulted in his selection and that he decided to live in Saint Martha’s House because he needs to be near people.
 

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Bishop co-authors booklet on blessing of unborn children

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2013 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- A new booklet on the vocation of Christian parenthood and its relationship to the parish and broader society is now available online.

“The Gift of Joy” was co-authored by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield of Philadelphia.

The booklet focuses on “The Blessing of the Child in the Womb,” which was prepared at the request of then-Bishop Kurtz, who currently serves as vice president and associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The text for the blessing was drafted by the conference’s Divine Worship and Pro-Life Activities committees. Approved by the U.S. bishops in 2008, it received final approval from Rome in 2012.

“The blessing of the child in the womb unites the parish” because it can be celebrated during Mass,” explained Archbishop Kurtz and Msgr. Bransfield. In addition, the birth of a new child brings parents more fully into their faith and the loving support of their parish community.

The booklet is now available online through Our Sunday Visitor.

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'I didn't want to be Pope,' Francis tells children

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2013 / 08:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told thousands of children who gathered at the Vatican on Friday that he did not want to be the head of the Church before his election.

“Someone who wants, who has the desire to be Pope doesn't love themselves, but I didn't want to be Pope,” he said at a June 7 meeting in Paul VI Hall.

“Do you know what it means if someone doesn’t love themselves very much?” he asked the 7,000 children from Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania in response to a girl’s question.

The students were accompanied by their teachers and family members, as well as alumni of the schools, on the trip to the Vatican.

Pope Francis chose to speak off-the-cuff for a little over five minutes instead of reading a five-page set of remarks.

He then answered questions posed by a few children, who waited on the side of the stage, close to where he was sitting.

One of them asked him why he had chosen to live in Saint Martha’s House instead of the Papal Apartments in the Apostolic Palace.

“I can’t live alone, do you understand?” he remarked. “It's not a question of my personal virtue, it's just that I can't live alone.”

“A professor asked me this question, ‘why don't you go live there?’ and I answered, ‘listen, professor, it’s for psychiatric reasons’ because that’s my personality,” the Pope said.

He told the children jokingly not to worry because “that apartment (in the Apostolic Palace) isn’t so luxurious.”

“In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor people,” he remarked.

“Poverty today is a cry, we all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this,” he added.

He asked them, “how can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor teacher?”

A young boy asked Pope Francis if it had been difficult to leave his family when he decided to become a Jesuit at the age of 21.

“It’s always hard, it was hard for me,” he affirmed.

“Jesus gives you joy, but sometimes you feel dryness and alone. But it’s beautiful following Jesus and then more beautiful moments arrive,” he said.

He then turned the question back to the children.

“How do you think about walking ahead with difficulties?” he asked them. “With the Lord, all is possible.”

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