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May 22, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Honor the believing, tender Mary, not a 'plaster statue'

People attend the blessing of candles led by Pope Francis at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, May 12.
Paul Haring/cns

FATIMA, Portugal — Mary's example of believing and following Jesus is what matters most; she cannot be some image "of our own making" who Christians barter with for mercy, Pope Francis said. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, the pope asked tens of thousands of pilgrims May 12 to reflect on "which Mary" they choose to venerate, "the virgin Mary from the Gospel" or "one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God?" Is the Mary they honor "a woman blessed because she believed always and everywhere in God's words or a 'plaster statue' from whom we beg favors at little cost?" he asked. As the sun set at the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, pilgrims held thousands of lit candles, filling the square with a fiery light before Pope Francis led them in praying the rosary. The pope already had visited the shrine earlier in the evening, arriving by helicopter from Monte Real air base. Excited crowds, waving flags and white handkerchiefs, cheered as he arrived in his popemobile. He then made his way to the Little Chapel of the Apparitions where Mary appeared to three shepherd children May 13, 1917. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

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Standing before the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Pope Francis canonized two shepherd children who saw Mary at Fatima, but more importantly, he said, they heeded the call to pray for sinners and trust in the Lord. "We declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto as saints," the pope said May 13 as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims broke out in applause before he finished speaking. The relics of the young shepherd children, encased in two thin golden crosses, were placed in front of the famed statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the "lady dressed in white" as the siblings and their cousin described her. The Marian apparitions began when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their 10-year-old cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. After contracting influenza, Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.

Message still timely
The message of peace Mary gave to three shepherd children 100 years ago at Fatima, Portugal, is still timely and urgent in 2017 and is an ongoing reminder that flashes of the divine are revealed in unexpected places, according to speakers at a May 12 U.N. panel. Before an audience of more than 600 people, speakers explored the peacemaking roles of women, children and religious leaders at the event organized by the Holy See Mission to the United Nations. Ambassador Alvaro Mendonca Moura, permanent representative of Portugal to the United Nations said at Fatima a woman brought the message of peace that was addressed to children. At the United Nations, there is a growing understanding of the peacemaking role of women, he said, and world leaders must guarantee that children grow up in safety and are allowed to become peacemakers.

Medjugorje doubts
While the investigations into the very first alleged apparitions at Medjugorje must continue, Pope Francis said he has doubts about claims that Mary continues to appear in the village of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Asked May 13 about the authenticity of the Marian apparitions, which reportedly began in 1981, the pope referred to the findings of a commission chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the retired papal vicar of Rome. "The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse," the pope told reporters traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal. "I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time. This isn't Jesus' mother," he said.

Jesuits return land
Samantha Jones of the Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux, left, and Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation are seen in Washington in this 2014 file photo. The Jesuits are returning more than 500 acres in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. The formal return of the property is expected to be complete sometime in May. The property had been given by the U.S. government to the Jesuits in the 1880s for use for churches and cemeteries, according to remarks in a YouTube video by Jesuit Father John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission.

New Vatican ambassador
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich poses with his wife, Callista, outside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in 2009. Callista Gingrich will be Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, two U.S. news outlets are reporting. The New York Times and CNN reported May 14 that the official announcement of the nomination is waiting to be approved by the Office of Government Ethics. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a May 15 news briefing wouldn't confirm Gingrich's nomination and said "nothing's official until it's announced," when asked about the matter.

Jesuit heads network
Rev. William Blazek, SJ, is the new U.S. director of The Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network. Founded as the Apostleship of Prayer and recently renamed by Pope Francis, the network communicates the pope's monthly intentions to 50 million members in 89 countries, seeking to mobilize people in prayer and action. Its youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM), is present in 56 countries. In the U.S., the group has been led by its long-serving national director, Rev. James Kubicki, SJ. Currently an associate director at the Manresa House of Retreats in Convent, Louisiana, Father Blazek served as an infantry officer for five years in Iraq before attending medical school and becoming a doctor. After many years of discerning a vocation, he entered the Jesuits in 2001 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2012.

Nadine Foley

Sister Foley dies
ADRIAN, Mich. — Sister Nadine Foley, a former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious who also served as prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters died May 13 in Adrian at age 93. Sister Foley also served as U.S. delegate to the International Union of Superiors General, and served two consecutive four-year terms as the Adrian Dominican's councilor general before becoming prioress.

New Atlanta auxiliary
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, to be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently the director of spiritual formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Website about priest
WASHINGTON — The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has opened a website detailing the life, as well as steps toward sainthood, of Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest scheduled to be beatified in the fall. The stanleyrother.org website tells the story of the U.S. priest who worked in Guatemala for 14 years until he was murdered there in 1981.

End death penalty
WASHINGTON — Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops' headquarters building May 9. Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment. The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

'Genius of Catholicism'
NEW YORK — Theater is the lingua franca of New York City and the Catholic Church has used art in myriad forms through the centuries to spread the message of the Gospels. But it was not until 2015 that the Archdiocese of New York jumped with both feet into a bold effort to evangelize through the theatrical medium. "It's a way to reach people about the genius of Catholicism," William Spencer Reilly of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought and Culture executive director, told Catholic News Service. "Telling stories well is at the core of what we can be doing and should be doing." Plays and lectures "get people inside the tent," where he hopes they will be surprised, excited and engaged by what they discover, Reilly said.

Retired bishop dies
DOUGLASTON, N.Y. — Retired Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, who headed the diocese from 1990 until his retirement in 2003, died early May 15 at the Immaculate Conception Center's Bishop Mugavero Residence in Douglaston in the borough of Queens. He was 89.

Hartford closings, mergers
BLOOMFIELD, Conn. — The new pastoral plan that the Archdiocese of Hartford announced May 7 involves a number of parish closings and mergers. The changes, announced during a news conference at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, will leave the archdiocese with 127 parishes, down from its current total of 212. It also calls for 144 parishes to merge into 59 newly named parishes and for 68 parishes to remain unchanged, said Father James Shanley, vicar of the Office of Pastoral Planning. Church officials cited the changing demographics, lower Mass attendance and fewer priests as drivers for the new plan.

'Pedaling priests' end trek
PEORIA, Ill. — After riding bicycles a little more than 340 miles over five days, three young priests of the Diocese of Peoria sailed across the Indiana state line April 28, bringing Priests Pedaling for Prayers to a close. The effort to raise prayers for vocations began April 24 when Father Tom Otto, Father Michael Pica and Father Adam Cesarek dipped their rear tires in the Mississippi River, which marks the border between Iowa and Illinois.

Human rights award
EICHSTATT, Germany — An Irish Columban priest based in the Philippines has received the A.K. Shalom Award for human rights, adding to his growing collection of international peace and justice awards. Father Shay Cullen, 74, received the award May 6 at Germany's Catholic University of Eichstatt-Ingolstadt for rescuing minors from exploitation at the hands of sex traffickers, pedophiles, illegal detention and other forms of abuse.

Action on missing
MEXICO CITY — The Mexican bishops' conference has issued a call for action on the cases of the country's thousands of missing persons, most of whom disappeared during the country's decades-long drug war and whose bodies are increasingly being unearthed from mass graves. Many of those graves have been discovered by desperate family members acting on their own and without the assistance of the authorities, who are often accused of showing disinterest in finding the disappeared.

Bishops welcome Macron
PARIS — The head of the French bishops' conference welcomed the election of President-elect Emmanuel Macron and said he hoped June legislative elections would not place the country "in an ungovernable situation." Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops' conference, told Vatican Radio May 8 that French Catholics had also been left "divided like the rest of French society" and said he counted on Macron and his new government "being able to function.

Catholic News Service


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