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Browsing News Entries

Artist performs pushups on altar, posts video, gets fined.

Berlin, Germany, Jan 19, 2017 / 02:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A German artist was fined after doing 27 pushups on a Catholic altar and posting a video of the stunt online.

In the video, 38 year-old Alexander Karle can be seen walking over a barrier at the communion rail at St. John's Basilica in the city of Saarbrücken. He then climbs up on the altar, with his shoes on, to do the pushups, and briefly brushes off the altar with his hands before he leaves.

Karle, who studied art at a local university, published a video of the act on YouTube, under the title “Pressure to Perform.” He said that he wanted “to study the links between religion and the need to conform to high standards of the time,” according to reports from Russian and German news sources.

The video first caught the attention of Church officials when it was displayed at an art center last February. The parish brought charges against Karle, accusing him of defiling a place of worship.

“The Christian faith expects to be treated with respect,” local priest Fr. Eugen Vogt told Zeitung für Saarbrücken, calling the stunt an act of “provocation and offense.”

The General Prosecutor’s Office initially fined Karle €1,500 for disturbance of religious activities and illegal entry in a church domain closed to the public. The Prosecutor said that using the altar for something other than its original intention was not a “necessary condition for providing the right of freedom of speech and creative self-expression of the artist.”

However, Karle insisted that the act was not an attack against the Church but an artistic performance, and so the case was forwarded on to a local court.

Karle told local media that he had hoped his piece would trigger a conversation about materialism in the Church, and the high pressure to live up to the Church’s standards, among other things.

The trial took place on Tuesday of this week in front of a local court in Saarbrücken, which fined Karle €700 (approximately $746).

Pope Francis: The Christian life requires fighting against Satan

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2017 / 12:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke Thursday about the struggles inherent to the Christian life, and how temptation, while a normal part of trying to live virtuously, must be fought adamantly.

“That’s why St. Paul speaks of Christian life as a struggle: a daily struggle. A fight!” he said Jan. 19. “That’s why Jesus came: ‘to destroy Satan's empire, the empire of evil.’”

In his homily at Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on how the day's Gospel from St. Mark talks about crowds of people following Jesus.

“Why were the crowds attracted?” the Pope asked.

In the Gospels it tells us that some are sick and want to be healed, he said. There were also some who liked to listen to Jesus’ preaching. But another answer is that they followed the Lord because the Father always leads us to his Son.

Jesus was moved by these people he saw as sheep without a shepherd, Francis said, these people who are being led to him by the Holy Spirit.

“May the Lord give us the grace to know how to discern what is going on in our hearts and to choose the right path upon which the Father draws us to Jesus.”

Commenting on the end of the Gospel, the Pope quoted the passage that says, “Whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, 'you are the Son of God.’”

Frequently, when we try to approach God, “unclean spirits” try to stop us, he said, and “wage a war against us” through the temptation to sin.

But this temptation is an ordinary part of living a Christian life, he said. “A Christian life without temptations is not Christian. It is ideological, it is Gnostic, but it is not Christian.”

 

This is the process for Opus Dei's election of a new prelate

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2017 / 09:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the death of Opus Dei Prelate Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez in December, members of the prelature are gathering in Rome in preparation for the election of their new leader, which will take place in the coming days.

Set to begin Jan. 21 with a special session for women, the election process has no definite end date, since after the new prelate’s election, discussion about future governance is expected to last several days.

The former prelate, Bishop Echevarría, died Dec. 12 at the age of 84 in Rome due to respiratory failure several days after being hospitalized with pneumonia. The bishop served as St. Josemaria's secretary from 1953 to 1975, and was ordained a priest of the prelature in 1955, at the age of 23. He was later named secretary general of Opus Dei, and was elected prelate in 1994. He was consecrated a bishop the following year.

Since Echevarría’s death the prelature's ordinary government has been headed by his auxiliary, Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, expected by some to be a natural replacement for the late prelate.

Context

Founded in 1928 by St. Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei was declared a “personal prelature” by St. John Paul II in 1982, meaning it is a structure that is composed of a prelate, clergy, and lay members united in carrying out certain pastoral activities through a specific spiritual path that isn’t limited to geography, but can be lived no matter where its members are.

Until now, the organization is the only personal prelature in the Catholic Church.

Opus Dei’s spirituality emphasizes that holiness can be achieved by anyone, and is dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the laity, teaching its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.

Currently there are roughly 92,000 members of the prelature, of whom 2,083 are priests. Apart from the members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, there are some 1,900 priests who serve in dioceses throughout the world. However, despite the prelature’s many priests, the majority of members are women, who form roughly 57 percent of the prelature.

Once the new prelate has been approved by the Pope, he will become the third successor of St. Josemaria Escriva, whose immediate successor was Bl. Alvaro del Portillo.

In a Jan. 15 article on the Opus Dei website, Msgr. Ocariz said members “are living this period in an attitude of prayer, going especially to the Holy Spirit.”

“We live these days very close to the Holy Father Francis and the whole Church, of which Opus Dei is a small part,” he said, adding that “of course, we feel a strong sense of gratitude for the pastoral work and the good example given by Bishop Javier Echevarría.”

Conditions

For a candidate to be eligible as the next Prelate they must be a priest who is at least 40 years old, has been a part of the prelature for at least 10 years, has been ordained for at least five years, and is a member of the Congress of electors.

Currently there are 94 priests from 45 countries who fit the bill, including many who serve as regional vicars, meaning they represent the Prelate in the countries in which they serve. Other eligible priests have either spent long tenures working in Rome or in one of the 49 circumscriptions that make up the prelature.

According to Opus Dei’s statutes, which list a set of qualities desirable in a prelate, their leader must in short stand out in terms of how he lives the virtues of piety, charity, and prudence, his love for the Church and the Magisterium, as well as his fidelity to the spirit of Opus Dei.

Studies, both civil and ecclesial, are also factors, as well as having competence in pastoral government.

The Process

Elections for a new prelate begin with a plenary meeting of the Central Advisory, the prelature’s women’s council, which will take place Jan. 21.

During this initial stage, each of the women participating will submit the name or names from among the priests in the electoral congress whom they think is best suited for the job. They will then pass these recommendations to the congress, who will vote for a candidate with these suggestions in mind.

The official election process is set to begin Jan. 23.

A total of 194 faithful, all men, involved in Opus Dei pastoral work throughout the world will participate in the actual elections, including both priests and lay people who are at least 32 years old and have been a part of the prelature for at least nine years.

In comments at a Jan. 16 press briefing on the elections, Professor Ines Llorens, a canonist and member of Opus Dei, stressed the importance of the women’s contribution at the start of the process, saying the Central Advisory council “is the central department and has an important role in the government of Opus Dei.”

Referencing their founder, she said St. Josemaria Escriva “wanted women to have a specific part to say things and he wanted this to be manifested in the prelature’s statutes.”

“The fact that we are the first to say our opinions is important. That voice is always listened to.”

Once the elections are over and the new prelate has accepted the position, either he or a representative of the prelature will ask Pope Francis for his confirmation of the candidate, since it is technically the Pope who appoints the Prelate of Opus Dei.

The Pope can reject the new prelate, in which case the electoral congress would go back to the drawing board and propose a new candidate.

However, should Francis accept the new prelate, participants in the congress will then meet for several more days in order to select members of the central councils that assist the prelate in his governance.

Professor Eduardo Baura, also a canonist and member of the prelature who was present at the Jan. 16 briefing, told journalists that “being a personal prelature, Opus Dei is not like dioceses where there is a procedure – the proposals of the nuncios, the relationship with the episcopal conference, the proposals of the Congregation for Bishops.”

“This process isn't there for the Opus Dei Prelate,” he said, noting that when the Pope gave the prelature its statutes, “he chose the canonical method of an electoral congress with an election and then a nomination from the Pope.”

The Pope's decision “is unquestionable,” Baura said, but noted that “it usually confirms what has been decided in the congress.”

In the final stage of the process, members of the congress will make an evaluation of the current state of the prelature and its activities throughout the world.

Plenary sessions will then be held to discuss different proposals determining the guidelines for the new incoming government, who will serve under the new prelate for an eight-year period until the next general congress.

College group sues after being denied grant for pro-life speaker

Denver, Colo., Jan 19, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Colorado chapter of a national pro-life collegiate group is suing Colorado State University, after the school denied the organization funding for a campus event.

Last September, the CSU chapter of Students for Life applied to the university for a “Diversity Grant” to host a speaker from the Equal Rights Institute on the topic of abortion and bodily rights.

The grant is funded by student activity fees, which are mandatory for all enrolled students.

According to the CSU website, the purpose of the Diversity Grant is to “enhance the educational and cultural aspects of the university community and raise the awareness of differing perspectives.”

The grant was denied to the pro-life group because the proposed speaker did not appear “entirely unbiased as it addresses the topic of abortion,” and therefore the diversity grant committee worried “that folks from varying sides of the issue won’t necessarily feel affirmed in attending the event,” the national branch of Students for Life reported on their website.

“That was the wrong answer,” the group said.

The university is being accused of denying free speech, and a lawsuit was filed Jan. 17 on behalf of CSU Students for Life by lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Emily Faulkner, 21, has been president of CSU Students for Life for more than a year and is named as plaintiff in the suit.

Faulkner told a local news station that the lawsuit “is about free speech.”

She also said that the university routinely funds events for other groups without making the same requirements that are being imposed upon CSU Students for Life.

CSU Students for Life hosted the event on campus anyway, with funds raised by the organization rather than by the Diversity Grant.

“Universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not play favorites with some while shutting out others,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement.

“Colorado State University funded the advocacy of its preferred student organizations but has excluded Students for Life from consideration based purely upon the viewpoint expressed in its funding request to bring a speaker to campus. Because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, courts have repeatedly rejected this discriminatory treatment as unconstitutional.”

CSU spokesperson Mike Hooker told CBS Denver that they were not aware of the lawsuit until this week and that they are reviewing claims and issues raised, and will respond accordingly. Hooker says the university does not typically comment on pending litigation.

Conversion is a prerequisite to ecumenism, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2017 / 03:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, personal conversion is pretty much the key to the Church’s success in all of her activities, from Church governance to pastoral work, from Curial reform to evangelization and dialogue.

He reiterated this point in a Jan. 19 speech to an ecumenical delegation from Finland, telling them that “true ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer.”

“If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another,” he said, and pointed to his trip to Sweden last fall for a joint-commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Francis noted that at one of the ecumenical events held during his visit both Catholics and Lutherans recognized that Martin Luther’s original intention “was to renew the Church, not divide her.”

“The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together,” he said, and urged members of the delegation to pray fervently “so that we may experience this conversion which makes reconciliation possible.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Ecumenical Delegation of the Lutheran Church of Finland who traveled to Rome for their annual pilgrimage marking the feast of St. Henrik, the country’s patron.

The delegation traditionally makes the pilgrimage during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year runs Jan. 18-25 and holds the theme “Love of Christ pushes us toward reconciliation.”

In his speech, Francis said the joint-commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden was important “on both the human and theological-spiritual levels.”

After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, “we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on,” he said, and voiced his gratitude. However, at the same time “we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults,” he said, pointing to the current divisions among Christians.

Francis also said, as illustrated during his trip to Sweden, “theological dialogue remains essential for reconciliation” among Christians, Catholics and Lutherans in particular, but noted that this dialogue has already “advanced through steadfast commitment.”

“Thus, in that communion of harmony which permits the Holy Spirit to act, we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever closer to full and visible unity,” he said.

He prayed particularly for the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is currently “working diligently” to find “a common sacramental understanding” of the Church, the Eucharist and ecclesial ministry.

Given the steps that have already been taken and those that are being made now, the Pope said the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 offers Catholics and Lutherans an opportunity to focus on the Gospel and to seek Christ together “with renewed vigor.”

He encouraged the delegation to make a similar commitment to the one made between the Catholic and Lutheran delegations in Sweden, promising to work together to serve the poor, needy and those who suffer persecution and violence.

By doing this, “as Christians we are no longer divided, but rather united on the journey toward full communion,” Pope Francis said.

He noted how 2017 also marks Finland’s 100th anniversary as an independent State, and prayed that the milestone would “encourage all the Christians of your country to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – as did Saint Henrik so zealously.”

Francis closed his address praying that the delegation’s pilgrimage would “contribute to further strengthening the good cooperation between Orthodox, Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and in the world.”