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Marriage prep should be more than just a few courses, Pope tells priests

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2017 / 05:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis told a group of parish priests training on the new marriage annulment process to place strong emphasis on good preparation that isn’t limited to just a few courses, but extends even to the first few years after marriage.

“I ask myself how many of these youth who come to marriage preparation courses understand what ‘marriage,’ the sign of the union of Christ and the Church, means,” the Pope said Feb. 25.

“They say yes, but do they understand this? Do they have faith in this?” he asked, and voiced his conviction that “a true catechumenate is needed for the sacrament of marriage.”

Part of this formation process he said, means being thorough, not “to make preparation with two or three meetings and then go forward.”

During marriage prep, couples must be helped to understand “the profound meaning of the step that they are about to take.” This support must also continue through the celebration of marriage itself and even through the first years after, he said.

Marriage, he said, “is the icon of God, created for us by him, who is the perfect communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The love of the Trinity and Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, must therefore be “the center of marriage catechesis and evangelization.”

Whether it’s through personal or communitarian encounters, and whether they are planned or spontaneous, “never tire of showing to all, especially to spouses, (the) great mystery” of God’s love, he said.

The Pope spoke to priests participating a formation course for the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Holy’s See’s main court, dedicated to the new marriage annulment process, which went into effect Dec. 10, 2016. Held in Rome, the course ran from Feb. 22-25, and was closed by an audience with the Pope.

The course follows a similar one held in March 2016, but which was directed specifically toward bishops.

In his speech, Francis said priests have a twofold responsibility when it comes to marital ministry: to always bear witness to the beauty of marriage, and to be a consistent support to couples, regardless of their marital status.

He noted that priests are often “the first interlocutors” of young couples who want to get married, and are also the first ones these couples go to when problems or crisis come up, including the request for an annulment of their marriage.

Faced with so many “complex situations” affecting families today, “no one knows better than you and is in contact with the reality of the social fabric in the area,” experiencing firsthand the complexity of various situations they encounter, including valid sacramental marriages; domestic partnerships; civil unions; failed marriages and families and youth, both happy and unhappy.

“For each person and each situation,” he said, “you are called to be travel companions in order to bear witness and to support.”

The Pope stressed that a priest’s first concern is that of “bearing witness to the grace of the sacrament of marriage and the primordial good of the family” by proclaiming that “marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church.”

This witness is also shown when accompanying young couples on their journey “with care,” showing them how to live in times of “light and darkness, in moments of joy and those in fatigue,” always showing the beauty of marriage.

Francis told the priests that while bearing witness to the beauty of marriage, they must also care for and support “those who realize the fact that their marriage is not a true sacramental marriage and want to leave this situation.”

Because of the “delicate” nature of this type work, the Pope said priests must do it “in such a way that your faithful recognize you not so much as experts in bureaucratic actions or judicial norms, but as brothers who place themselves in an attitude of listening and understanding.”

He told them to imitate “the style” of the Gospel by meeting with and listening not only to engaged or married couples, but also youth who prefer to cohabitate rather than getting married.

People in these situations “are among the poor and little ones toward whom the Church, in the footsteps of her master and Lord, wants to be a mother who never abandons but who draws near and cares for them,” Francis said.

“Even these people are loved by the heart of Christ,” he said, telling priests to “have a gaze of tenderness and compassion toward them.”

This type of care and attention “is an essential part of your work in promoting and defending the sacrament of marriage,” the Pope said, adding that the parish is the place “par excellence” for the “salus animarum (salvation of souls).”

Pope Francis then pointed to a recent speech he gave to the Rota in which he told them to implement “a true catechumenate” of future spouses which covers all stages of the sacramental path, from the time of marriage preparation, the celebration of the sacrament and the first years immediately after.

“To you pastors, indispensable collaborators of the bishops, is primarily entrusted this catechumenate,” he said, and encouraged them to implement it “regardless of the difficulties you could encounter.”

Francis closed his speech by thanking the priests for their commitment to announcing “the Gospel of the family.”

He prayed that the Holy Spirit would help them “to be ministers of peace and consolation in the midst of the holy faithful people of God, especially the most fragile and those in need of your pastoral support.”

Cincinnati Catholics hope to give Church a megaphone on racial, social problems

Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb 25, 2017 / 04:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics in Cincinnati are hoping that an upcoming meeting of bishops and leaders will give the local Church a much stronger voice to address issues of racism and violence.

“It is a blessing for this archdiocese, through the archbishop, to embrace addressing racism, the pervasive gun violence, restorative justice…race relations, and mental health, that our voice has to be heard,” said Deacon Royce Winters, director of African-American ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“That’s what we really wanted to do was to say as big and as powerful as the voice of the Catholic Church is in the United States, we have to do our part to bring about justice and the dignity of life for all peoples,” he told CNA.

The Feb. 28 meeting of Catholic leaders at Xavier University – entitled “Promoting Peace In Our Communities” – is a continuation of a years-long effort by Catholics to restore race relations and heal social tensions in the archdiocese, Deacon Royce said.

Area social tensions were inflamed after a 2015 incident where a University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in a car. The officer was tried for murder and voluntary manslaughter before a judge declared a mistrial in November. A re-trial has been set for May.

That was the starting point for next Tuesday’s meeting, Deacon Royce recalled.

“We began to have conversations about what is the role of the Church to use this prophetic voice to address violence, whether it be police violence or black-on-black crime or any violence,” he said.

Several members of the archdiocese’s pastoral services department met to bring the problem of violence in the city to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. The archbishop then celebrated Masses for peace at four African-American parishes in the archdiocese, and staff sent out prayer intentions and homily suggestions to parishes on “the role of the Church in seeking justice.”

Then, after a rash of violent incidents across the nation in the summer of 2016 – police shootings of minorities and retaliatory shootings of police officers – Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for a Day of Prayer and Peace in Our Communities on Sept. 9. There were two Masses for peace that day in the archdiocese, at African-American parishes.

The U.S. bishops also commissioned a special task force to plan the day of prayer, but also to issue a report to the U.S. bishops’ conference on “promoting peace.”

Bishops addressing these issues at the national level proved to be a vital support to Catholics in the archdiocese who had been working for years on them, Deacon Royce said, noting that it “emboldened us to be even more intentional about addressing the issues in the diocese.”

Two big social problems in the Cincinnati area are “policing” and “black-on-black violence,” he said. Back in 2002, the police department and federal government entered a collaborative looking at “how they are policing in our communities.”

The collaboration led to firearm training and cultural sensitivity training for police officers, among other things, but “there’s still more to do,” Royce said.

He recalled that during the initial trial of the police officer that killed the unarmed black man in 2015, Catholics joined ecumenical leaders and social activists to pray on the steps of the court house. They prayed for the young man who was shot, and for his family, as well as for the police officer.

“We were also…that justice be done, whatever that justice is,” he added, insisting that “we weren’t praying for an outcome” in the case.

In November, Deacon Royce gave a presentation on Church statements against racism at the University of Cincinnati, citing the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on racism, “Brothers and Sisters to Us.” The previous November, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville discussed his letter on the “racial divide” at both Dayton University and Xavier University, preached at Mass, and participated in a panel discussion with area police chiefs and state representatives.

When Cincinnati hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in the summer 2015, Catholics joined with ecumenical leaders, activists and members of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center to ask the MLB to take public stands against racism and violence. They met with the owner of the Cincinnati Reds and representatives of the MLB.

Church leaders must be better equipped to talk about racism and gun violence, the deacon insisted.

“Our pastors, our deacons, or whoever’s preaching in our communities, are not skilled to address this issue, so that means the people in the communities are not being formed and most of us as preachers and as homilists would rather steer away from it than address it.”

After Archbishop Kurtz called for the Day of Prayer, Deacon Royce and others reached out to him and began planning the event modeled after the theme of the task force, “Promoting Peace In Our Communities.” The archdiocese, along with Xavier University’s Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice and Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, will host the event.

“It provides us an opportunity to, again, promote the Church’s response to the letter that was sent out from the general secretary and Archbishop Kurtz,” the deacon said.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati will celebrate Mass at 4 p.m. in the university’s Bellarmine Chapel to begin the event, with Archbishop Kurtz concelebrating.

The Mass will be followed by dinner and discussion on “embracing diversity in our communities.” This topic is needed for discussion, Deacon Royce stressed, because even though Catholic organizations do “great work” in the area, “we tend not to be engaged at the street level of dealing with people where they are.”

“We have to ask ourselves the question: Are we prepared to minister to all of God’s people and the range of race, culture, and origin in which they place themselves?”

This involves “teaching our staff” to look at “our own personal biases,” he said, “and identify their impact on our ministry.”

He added that there must be “an understanding that there is no one culture in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati into which non-white cultures are supposed to assimilate.”

The discussion will be followed by a keynote address on “Carrying Out Our Prophetic Ministry in Times of Racism and Violence” by Archbishop Kurtz.

The meeting is so important, Deacon Royce emphasized, because it gives the opportunity for Catholics to “be engaged” on these societal issues.

“When we say there’s a seamless garment of life from the womb to the tomb, then that means that we have to be engaged in those events to help people know what that dignity of life is.”

 

Archbishop Chaput and his new book are coming to NYC, DC

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 24, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput will present his latest book in New York City and Washington, D.C. in the near future, discussing the changed situation for Catholicism in America.

“As Christians, we're offering a salvific message in a therapeutic culture. It's a tough sale,” the archbishop told CNA. He suggested that new understandings of religion and civic life are very different from previous generations.

“Jesus changed the world with 12 very flawed men,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We have plenty of good men and women, and more than enough resources, to do the same. But not if we’re too self-absorbed and too eager to fit into the world around us to suffer for our faith. We’re not short of vocations. We’re short of clear thinking and zeal.”

His newest book, “Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World,” was released Feb. 21 by Henry Holt and Co. The archbishop makes the case that American culture has undergone a qualitative change from the past, and he considers the future for Catholics and Americans in public and private life.

While there are tens of millions of actively practicing Christians in the U.S., Archbishop Chaput suggests the overall trends in religious affiliation are not good. He stressed that the Christian past was great only insofar as Christians were faithful to Jesus Christ.

The archbishop will hold a book signing, deliver comments and take part in a panel discussion.

On Feb. 27 in New York City he will hold an event at 7 p.m. at the Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street, Manhattan.

The Washington, D.C. event will take place March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Catholic Information Center, 1501 K Street NW.

Admission at both events is free.

 

Supreme Court hears case of Mexican teen shot at border

Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2017 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in the case of a Mexican teen shot dead by a border patrol agent. But when it comes to legal standing in the case, the situation is far from clear.

“This is a difficult case, as its facts are very compelling for the plaintiffs, but the law is less so,” said Mary G. Leary, professor of law at The Catholic University of America.

Leary spoke with CNA about the case Hernandez v. Mesa currently before the Supreme Court.  

At the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010, three Mexican boys played a game of “chicken” by seeing who would run the closest to the border. Fifteen-year-old Sergio Hernandez crossed the border and was noticed by border patrol agent Jesus Mesa. As Hernandez ran back into a culvert between the walls on either side of the border, the agent shot him dead.

Mexico requested that Mesa be extradited for the killing, but the U.S. refused. Hernandez’s family sued for damages, claiming that the Fourth Amendment protects against such use of force on the border.

Although the Hernandez family has appealed to the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment protections might not necessarily apply in the case, Leary said.

“The plaintiffs have made a constitutional claim, but it is far from clear that the Constitution applies to the family of a non-American citizen injured or in this case killed outside the border of the United States,” she stated.

The Fourth Circuit had dismissed the case, saying “the plaintiffs fail to allege a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that the Fifth Amendment right asserted by the plaintiffs was not clearly established at the time of the complained-of incident.”

Oral arguments in the case of Hernandez v. Mesa were heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“This tragic case is one of the most simple extraterritorial cases this Court will ever have in front of it,” said Robert Hilliard, arguing for the teen’s family.

“First, all of the conduct of the domestic police officer happened inside the United States. Second, it was a civilian domestic police officer. Third it was a civilian plaintiff, not an enemy combatant. Fourth, it was one of the most fundamental rights, the right to life. Fifth, the other government involved supports – the government of Mexico supports the claim,” he said.

Justice Stephen Breyer admitted that the family has “a very sympathetic case,” but he and other justices were skeptical of issuing a broad ruling that could affect drone killings carried out in foreign countries by citizens operating in the U.S.

Also, justices noted, there is no specific rule on the books dealing with these instances. Lawyers are trying to make the case for the victim’s family by appealing to the Fourth Amendment’s protections against “unreasonable search and seizure.”

Hernandez’s case is not an isolated one, Hilliard insisted, claiming that there have been “at least 10 cross-border shootings” with six deaths of Mexican nationals.

Justice Kennedy asked whether the Court should consider the matter if “this is one of the most sensitive areas of foreign affairs” and “the political branches should discuss with Mexico what the solution ought to be.”

“But isn't this an urgent matter of separation of powers for us to respect the duty that…the executive and the legislative have with respect to foreign affairs?” he asked Hilliard.

When Randolph Ortega argued for Mesa before the Court, justices pressed him on the location of the killing and the role of Border Patrol officers.

“The actor is the Border Patrol member. And the instruction from the United States is very clear: Do not shoot to kill an unarmed, non-dangerous person who is no threat to your safety. Do not shoot to kill. That's U.S. law,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed.

“It's the United States law operating on the United States official who's acting inside the United States. This case has, as far as the conduct is concerned, United States written all over it,” she said.

Ortega insisted that “in areas of the United States where there is a clearly defined border, as we have here, the Fourth Amendment stops unless the person seized – in this case Hernandez – had some voluntary contact with the United States.”

Ginsburg asked how it would be different if an officer, standing in the U.S., shot a foreign national in the U.S. versus shooting someone on the border.

“That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it, to distinguish those two victims?” she asked.

“I think it's very distinguishable because of the very real border,” Ortega replied. “Wars have been fought to establish borders. The border is very real.”

 

Elderly Spanish priest beaten during rectory robbery

Madrid, Spain, Feb 24, 2017 / 02:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Arturo López, 77, was brutally beaten by three masked men during an assault on Wednesday at the rectory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Coslada, a city in Spain's Community of Madrid.

The three unidentified men tied up and assaulted Fr. Lopez when they entered his rectory Feb. 22 to steal valuables and money around 8:50 pm. The criminals used a rope to bind the priest in one of the rooms.

One of the assailants threatened and beat the priest to give them money while the other two searched the house. As the priest later reported, the assailants spoke perfect Spanish and did not seem to be foreigners.

According to El Mundo, officers of the National Police from Coslada who are investigating the assault described the attack on the parish priest as “brutal.” He had to be taken to the hospital because of injuries from the beating to his face and head.

Fr. Arturo was given stitches and underwent medical tests to see if he had suffered any brain damage. He was kept in the hospital overnight and was discharged Thursday since no complications were noted.

The assailants took more than 800 euros ($845), various keys, and the priest's cell phone. It is currently being investigated if they went into the church to take valuables.

The assailants left the rectory after about 25 minutes, leaving the priest tied up. However, Fr. Arturo was able to free himself from the ropes and notify the police, who found him stunned and bloodied.

Fr. López belongs to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, and has served in Coslada since 1993.

New immigration rules will hurt the vulnerable, US bishops warn

Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2017 / 12:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s new border and immigration enforcement rules needlessly endanger the vulnerable, militarize the border and will cause many other problems, the U.S. bishops warned this week.

“They greatly expand the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, who wrote the bishops’ Feb. 23 response.

On Feb. 20, the Department of Homeland Security issued two memoranda to implement President Donald Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration enforcement on the border and in the U.S. interior.

“Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one,” Bishop Vasquez said.

Important protections for the vulnerable, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, have been removed from federal policy, the bishop said.

The memoranda promote the use of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. This disregards “existing relationships of trust” between local law enforcement officials and immigrant communities, he said.

“The engagement of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law can undermine public safety by making many who live in immigrant communities fearful of cooperating with local law enforcement in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.”

In addition, the rules aim to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants, to erect new detention facilities, and to speed up deportations, the New York Times reports. Administration officials said that those brought to the U.S. as young children will not be targeted. However, parents living without documentation in the U.S. who smuggle their children into the country could face deportation or prosecution for smuggling or human trafficking.

Bishop Vasquez urged the Trump administration to reconsider its approach in the memoranda and in its executive orders.

“Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants among us in an even greater state of vulnerability,” he added.

He voiced the U.S. bishops’ commitment “to care for and respect the human dignity of all, regardless of their immigration status.”

“During this unsettling time, we will redouble our work to accompany and protect our immigrant brothers and sisters and recognize their contributions and inherent dignity as children of God,” he said.

 

Access to water is a basic human right, concerns 'the common good'

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2017 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican seminar on water held this week highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people.

Reliable access to safe and clean water for everyone is an issue close to the heart of the Church, Cardinal Peter Turkson told CNA Feb. 23, because it has to do with the fundamental dignity possessed by every human person.

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Turkson wasn’t a formal participant himself, but sat in on a few of the sessions. He said that “on the level of the Church” the point of departure for the issue of water access is “certainly dignity.”

“Because we affirm the dignity of people, we also affirm anything that is needed to make this dignity realized,” he said.

Hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Argentine organization Catedra del dialogo y la cultura encuentro, the workshop brought together scientists, scholars, business and non-profit leaders, clergy, and educators for an “interdisciplinary discussion.”

During the seminar, participants agreed that there is a fundamental human right to water, but differed on the exact approach to take to combat the issue. Overall, the major problem isn’t the resource, several noted, but its distribution.

Participants highlighted the issue's interconnectedness to other worldwide problems, such as poverty and gender equality. Difficult or limited access to water, especially clean water, contributes strongly to poverty and increased susceptibility to disease.

It also becomes an issue of gender equality in some countries, when women are forced to give up education because of the many hours a day they spend retrieving clean water for their families. In older cities, the problem is often a lack of infrastructure, which old roads and buildings make difficult to rectify.

Because each country and even each community has its own challenges regarding the distribution of safe water, many proposals at the seminar focused on working with people and organizations in the communities themselves to solve problems on as local a level as possible.

Fr. Peter Hughes, a priest of the missionary society of St. Columban, who has worked in inner-city slums in South America, said the seminar “has to do with the crisis of the world today, and the increasing possibility of conflict.”

“We're talking about something that is very much an issue, and a deep concern for the world, for the future, and particularly for the poor.”

This is why, Fr. Hughes said, he was quite pleased by the exchange in the morning session the first day, because it focused on the “relationship between theology and religion” as the basis for a discussion on the crisis of water.

“The right to water that's now in crisis, the basic human right, has to do with the common good. So therefore, the ethical question is absolutely central,” he emphasized.

“The ethical common good approach precludes any attempt to privatize water,” which would be, he said, “to the detriment of people” and their need for water to stay alive.

In his opinion, water is not just a social and ecological problem, but also an economic one.

“And now, as Pope Francis says, we have to understand that the economic crisis and the victims, which are the poor, is also very much linked to the ecological crisis. We can no longer speak of two separate crises,” he said.

“That is where we can better understand how water has become a mercantile object, subject to market forces, to the detriment of people and to the detriment of the environment.”

The seminar consisted of different panels as well as discussion time. The panels covered the issue from the perspectives of science, education, ecology, sustainable development, and policy, as well as the ethical and theological views of water.

A resource often taken for granted, Fr. Hughes pointed out that in many religious traditions, but especially the Jewish and Christian traditions, water as a symbol is synonymous with life itself.

From a theological perspective, “when we're talking about water, we're talking about life,” he said.

This is why the ethical responsibility humanity has toward water comes “from the heart of the Christian message.”

“We have been entrusted by the God of life,” he explained, “to care for water, which means to care for life, to care for people, to care for all of creation, not just for human beings, but human beings as part of creation.”

“The Church has a moral responsibility to care for water and to ensure that people have water,” he said, and “this particularly has to do with the Church’s responsibility to the poor.”

Pope Francis addressed participants in the seminar Feb. 24, reaffirming that water is indeed a basic human right.

“Our right to water is also a duty to water,” he said. “Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.”

“The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing,” he told participants. “Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.”

“God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all,” he continued.

“With the ‘little’ we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

Gratitude is central, Pope Francis tells Spanish footballers

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meeting with the members of the Spanish football team Villarreal CF on Thursday, Pope Francis stressed the importance of gratitude in the life of an athlete.

“One of the characteristics of the good sportsman is gratitude. If we think of our own life, we can call to memory the many people who have helped us, and without whom we would not be here,” the Pope said Feb. 23 in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. He spoke to the club's players, managers, and coaches

Villarreal is in Rome for a Europa League match against A.S. Roma. After their meeting with the Pope Villarreal won the match 1-0, but bowed out of the tournament nevertheless.

“Football, like other sports, is an image of life and society,” Francis reflected. “In the field, you need each other. Each player brings his professionalism and skill for the benefit of a common ideal, which is to play well in order to win. To achieve this affinity, much training is needed; but it is also important to invest time and effort in strengthening team spirit, to create that connection of movements: a simple look, a small gesture, or an expression communicate so many things on the field.”

This can be done “if you play in the spirit of fellowship, setting aside individualism or personal aspirations. If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win. Instead, when one thinks of himself and forgets others, in Argentina we say that he likes to ‘eat the ball’ by himself.”

Francis added that “On the other hand, when you play football you are at the same time educating and transmitting values. Many people, especially the young, admire and observe you. They want to be like you.”

“Through your professionalism, you are communicating a way of being to those who follow you, especially the new generations,” he said. “This is a responsibility, and should motivate you to give the best of yourselves, so as to exercise those values that in football must be palpable: companionship, personal commitment, the beauty of the game, team spirit.”

“We can recall those we played with as children, our first teammates, coaches, helpers, and even the supporters whose presence encouraged us in every game,” Pope Francis said. “This memory is good for us, so that we do not feel superior but instead become aware of being part of a large team that has been forming for some time.”

He said this “helps us grow as people, because our ‘game’ is not merely our own, but also that of others, who in some way form part of our lives. And this also strengthens the spirit of amateur sport, and must never be lost; it must be recovered every day, so that you can maintain this freshness, with this greatness of soul.”

The Pope encouraged the Villarreal members “to continue to play, giving the best of yourselves so that others can benefit from these pleasant moments, which make the day different. I join with you, I pray with you, and I raise my prayers to God, imploring the protection of Our Lady of Grace and the intercession of St. Pascual Baylón, patron of the city of Villarreal, so that you may be sustained in your lives and be instruments to bear God’s joy and peace to those who follow and support you.”

Being himself a football fan, Pope Francis said that “It helps me a lot to think about football because I like it, and it helps me. But when I do so, I usually think of the goalkeeper. Why? Because he has to catch the ball from wherever they kick it, and he does not know where it will come from. And life is like that. You have to take things from where they come, and how they come.”

“When I find myself facing situations I did not expect, which need to be resolved, that come from one place when I expected them from another, I think of the goalkeeper, and keep him in mind. Thank you.”

Vatican 'goes shopping' in Italy earthquake zones to help local economy

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2017 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a bid to help local economies in the zones ravaged by several major earthquakes in 2016 recover, the Vatican this week purchased produce from several small farmers in the area, using it to feed the poor and homeless in Rome.

A Feb. 24 communique from the Papal Almoner’s office said that “at the express wish” of the Pope, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the man in charge of managing the papal charities, visited the earthquake zones in Central Italy this week “to purchase from small farmers, in great difficulty due to the earthquake, food typical of the affected areas.”

The produce was then “immediately distributed” in different soup kitchens around Rome to be used in preparing the daily meals offered to homeless and persons in need.

According to the communique, Annona, the supermarket inside Vatican City, has already for some time been selling products “typical of the earthquake zones” as a way of “supporting and helping to restart the economy in that part of Central Italy still in difficulty.”

Krajewski traveled to several of the small towns in the area, filling large trucks with products from farmers whose stores or markets struggling to continue after the damages they endured after the earthquakes.

The first 6.2 magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Aug. 24, 2016, killing some 250 people throughout Central Italy and leveling buildings and houses in several small towns, leaving many without homes or livelihoods.

A few months later a second 6.6 quake hit near the same area in central Italy Oct. 30, causing extensive damage.

In the communique, the papal almoner said the decision to shop from small farmers is an act consistent “with the magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often recalled that ‘when one doesn’t earn their bread, dignity is lost.’”

During his “shopping trips” Archbishop Krajewski was accompanied by the bishops of each of the cities he visited, including Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti; Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole F.D.P. of Ascoli Piceno; Bishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche and Bishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

In each city the bishops identified groups of farmers or producers “whose stores were at risk of closing due to damages caused by the earthquake,” the communique read, explaining that the purchases were intended by the Pope to be a sign of help and encouragement “to continue in their activities.”

This doctor is 92 years-old – and she's delivered over 7,000 babies

Rome, Italy, Feb 24, 2017 / 03:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Obstetrician Maria Pollacci holds a very special record.

She's delivered 7,642 babies and after a 72-year career – despite now being 92 years-old – is still receiving newborns coming into the world in Padavena, a small town in northern Italy.

Dr. Pollacci considers her work to be “the most beautiful in the world,” and calls it a true “mission.”

“It's an occupation that you have to do with love, kindness and skill. When I'm in front of a little one, I'm not working. I'm loving,” she said. “To be an obstetrician you need love, passion and professionalism.”

Maria Pollacci still remembers her first day at work on Sept. 3, 1945, and the name of the child she delivered. He was named Francesco and today he is 72 years-old.

“I met him when he was 25. I was in Lama Mocogno, a town in the province of Modena, Italy, where I was born. There was a party and people were dancing,” she recalled.

“A handsome young man came up to me and said, 'May I have the honor of dancing with the person who delivered me?' Since then we see each other every year.”

“Also at my house, every once in awhile, boys and girls that were born into my hands come to see me. I am very moved when they tell me that I'm their second mother,” she said.

The Spanish daily ABC interviewed Dr. Pollacci when she was honored for her career at the famous San Remo Music Festival.

The last birth she assisted at was at the end of January in the town of Pedavena, in the province of Belluno, in northern Italy where she lives and works.