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New archbishop announced for Ukrainian archeparchy in US

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced on Monday that Bishop Boris Gudziak has been named as the new Archbishop of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia. With this appointment, Gudziak will become the metropolitan bishop of all Ukrainian Greek Catholics living in the United States.

 

Gudziak is presently the bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saint Vladimir-le Grand de Paris, which covers Ukrainian Greek Catholics living in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. He was consecrated a bishop in August of 2012, and he has led the Eparchy of Saint Vladimir-le Grand de Paris since it was made an eparchy in January of 2013.

 

In the Eastern Catholic Church, an eparchy is the equivalent of a diocese. In the United States, there are three suffragan eparchies in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in addition to the Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

 

Gudziak was born in Syracuse and graduated from Syracuse University prior to entering the priesthood. Both of his parents moved to the United States from Ukraine. He was ordained in November of 1998.

 

Prior to his time in Paris, Gudziak was the vice rector and rector of the Liviv Theological Academy, and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Liviv, Ukraine.

 

The Ukrainian Greek Archeparchy of Philadelphia has been sede vacante, without an archeparch, since August of 2018, when Archbishop Stefan Soroka retired early due to ill health.

 

Since then, the archeparchy has been led by Apostolic Administrator Andriy Rabiy, an auxiliary bishop of the archeparchy.

 

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches that are in full communion with Rome. Each of these Churches is governed by their own proper canon law, which protects their unique cultural traditions and liturgical patrimony.

 

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was created in 1596. Most Ukrainian Christians today are members of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

 

There are about 18 million members of Eastern Catholic Churches, of which about four million are Ukrainian Greek Catholic. There are about 100,000 members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church living in the United States. More than two thirds of this population lives within the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Catholic Charities unveils plan to fight chronic homelessness in Southern Nevada

Las Vegas, Nev., Feb 17, 2019 / 04:48 pm (CNA).- As part of a new nationwide program, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada is hoping to reduce chronic homelessness in the area by 20 percent in the next five years.

Las Vegas is one of five cities taking part in the Healthy Housing Initiative – a partnership announced Feb. 13 between Catholic Charities USA, local Catholic Charities and Catholic health care agencies. Detroit, Portland, St. Louis, and Spokane are also part of the initiative.

Deacon Thomas Roberts, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, said the partnership simultaneously tackles shelter issues and the root problems beneath many cases of chronic homelessness – mental health and addiction.

“We think that it’s important to recognize the reasons why people have become chronically homeless and to address those issues,” he told CNA. “I think that is where we can have really meaningful change.”

Within five years, the project hopes to have built 100 homes, in either one or two buildings. Roberts said this will be enough to support 20 percent of the just over 500 chronically homeless individuals surveyed to be in south Nevada. He explained that the chronically homeless are those who have been homeless for at least two years.

The initiative does not stop with housing development. Instead, it includes plans to develop mental health offices in the housing units or transportation to a location off campus.

“Often, because [homeless people] don’t have transportation, if you don’t bring the resources close to them or provide them access to get to resources, you have got them housed but you have not addressed the underlying cause of what got them homeless,” Roberts said.

Having worked for Catholic Charities for six years, Roberts has witnessed homeless people continue to abuse alcohol and drugs as they struggle with mental health issues. This creates additional obstacles for people during their rehabilitation, he said.

He also pointed to the 2018 housing survey from Help Hope Home, which found that out of 16,641 cases of homelessness last year, nearly half were linked to mental health or addiction.

“Half of the people are stepping up and saying that mental health and addiction are primary cause for homelessness,” he said.

“If you don’t address that along the way, then people get into housing and they fall right back into…where they started.”

Roberts said the partnership will unite the strengths of three different organizations: Catholic Charities USA offers institutional and financial resources; Dignity Health can implement mental health and addiction programs; and the local Catholic Charities branch understands the regional community and can execute programs accordingly.

The initiative is a practical implementation of social justice, rooted in faith, he said, pointing to Pope Francis’ emphasis on caring for the vulnerable.

“As the Pope would say, we should be medics and we should smell like the sheep,” said Roberts. “Homelessness, mental illness, and addictions are ground zero for hopelessness, so it’s exactly where the Church belongs.”

 

Pope Francis asks for prayers ahead of Vatican abuse summit

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for a meeting of the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world, which is slated to take place later this week.

During his weekly Angelus address Feb. 17, the pope invited Catholics to pray for the four-day event, which he said he wanted to hold “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility before an urgent challenge of our time.”

The Feb. 21-24 summit on the protection of minors in the Church will focus on the themes of responsibility, accountability, and transparency of bishops. It will also include testimony of victims of abuse, Mass, and a penitential liturgy.

The meeting will take place just days after the announcement of the Vatican’s decision to laicize former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who the CDF found guilty last week of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

Before the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke about the beatitudes as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. This passage, he said, “invites us to reflect on the profound meaning of having faith, which consists in totally trusting the Lord.”

It is also an invitation to reflect on idols; those things which the world proposes as shortcuts to happiness, “magical solutions to every problem,” making it easy to fall into sins against the first commandment by replacing God with worldly pleasures and comforts, he said.

But Jesus tells us, “blessed the poor, the hungry, the afflicted, the persecuted,” Francis said. And at the same time, he admonishes those who are satisfied and seen well in the eyes of the world, because God alone “can give to our existence that fullness so desired.”

He said: “With these words, strong and incisive, Jesus opens our eyes, shows us with his gaze, beyond appearances, beyond the surface, and teaches us to discern situations with faith.”

It is very important that, like God and with him, people are close to the poor, to the afflicted, he emphasized. “We are happy if we recognize ourselves in need of God.”

Jesus heals the infection of a worldly spirit, helps people to see what really satisfies, gives joy and dignity, meaning and fullness to one’s life, he said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us to listen to this Gospel with open mind and heart, so that it may bear fruit in our lives and become witnesses of happiness that does not disappoint.”

How to pregame Lent: Septuagesima, Carnival, and Shrovetide

Denver, Colo., Feb 17, 2019 / 04:21 am (CNA).- Sunday, Feb. 17 is Septuagesima Sunday, followed by Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays. Sunday kicks off Carnival season, which comes right before Shrovetide, which culminates in Shrove Tuesday - more popularly known as Mardi Gras.

If all but the last of those holidays sounds foreign to you, you are likely not alone - they haven’t been officially a part of the Roman Rite’s liturgical calendar since the 1960s, after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

These strange-sounding days once marked a period of pre-Lenten preparation and feasting that is still observed by some rites within the Catholic Church and other Christian traditions.

“Septuagesima is kept in the personal ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI for former Anglicans, now within the full communion of the Catholic Church,” said Father James Bradley, a priest from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom.  

“Septuagesima is still marked in the older Anglican prayer books, and is part of the Anglican patrimony preserved by Divine Worship: The Missal, used by the ordinariates,” Bradley told CNA.

Pre-Lent Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima

Septuagesima is the ninth Sunday before Easter, or the third Sunday before Lent.  The name comes from the Latin word for seventieth, since the Sunday falls roughly within 70 days of Easter Sunday. The succeeding Sundays are also named for their distance from Easter: Sexagesima (60), Quinquagesima (50). Quadragesima Sunday (40) is the first official Sunday of Lent.  

Septuagesima Sunday is also symbolic of the 70 years of Babylonian captivity.

“Whilst Lent mirrors the 40-year exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, to freedom in the Promised Land, Septuagesima mirrors the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity. Both lead from captivity to freedom, and so also point to salvation won for us by Christ: freedom from slavery to the Promised Land of Heaven,” Bradley said.

Septuagesima Sunday traditionally marked the beginning of some of the more somber practices that characterize the season of Lent - it was the day when the saying or singing of “Alleluia” would be suspended until Easter, and the first day that priests would wear penitential purple vestments. The last alleluias would traditionally have been sung after Vespers the previous night.

In ordinariate communities, the “goodbye” to the Alleluia takes place on the Sunday before Septuagesima, when the hymn “Alleluia, song of gladness” is traditionally sung, Bradley said.

“This is an English translation of an 11th century hymn, wishing ‘farewell’ to the Alleluia, which disappears from the liturgy until Easter, replaced instead by a Tract (verses typically of the Psalms sung instead of the ‘Alleluia’),” he said.  

“The idea of ‘burying the Alleluia’ for the length of these penitential seasons is taken one step further in some places, where a depiction of the Alleluia is literally buried until the chanting of the great Paschal Alleluia during the Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter,” he added.

Septuagesima was also, in the early Church, the beginning of the Lenten fast, since according to the old liturgical calendar, Thursdays and Saturdays, in addition to Sundays, were days that Christians would not fast.

“Just as Lent today begins 46 days before Easter, since Sundays are never a day of fasting, so, in the early Church, Saturdays and Thursdays were considered fast-free days. In order to fit in 40 days of fasting before Easter, therefore, the fast had to start two weeks earlier than it does today,” Catholic author Scott P. Richert noted in a 2018 article for ThoughtCo.

Farewell to meat, cheese, fun: Septuagesima-tide, Carnival, and Shrovetide  

Septuagesima Sunday traditionally kicks off a season known by various names - Septuagesima-tide, or Carnival (typically the name for more worldly celebrations during this time), or Shrove-Tide (particularly in Anglican traditions). The point of the season, Bradley said, is to prepare well for Lent.

“Pope Saint Paul VI is said to have described the progressive move toward Lent in Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, like church bells that call the faithful to worship, 15, 10, and 5 minutes before Mass,” Bradley said.

“Each week in the lead-up to Lent is a nudge that the great and holy fast is around the corner, and our preparations for this should intensify.”

These days were also practical for Christians in pre-refrigeration days - they would use the pre-Lenten season to use up the rich, perishable foods such as meat and cheese that they had in their house before Lent began, and the unused foods would spoil, Michael P. Foley, Catholic author and associate professor of Patristics at Baylor University, noted in a 2011 article.

Days of preparation for Lent are also found outside the Roman liturgical traditions, Bradley said.

“For example, in the East Syrian liturgy (as celebrated by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church), the week before Septuagesima is marked by Moonnu Nombu, which recalls Jonah remaining three days in the belly of the whale. Moonnu Nombu is a short, three day fast, in preparation for the coming major fast of Lent.”

In Byzantine and Orthodox traditions, they even have designated “meatfare” and “cheesefare” Sundays, which focus on clearing the house of meats and dairy, respectively.

“Similarly, in Russia and other Slavic countries the week before Lent is called ‘Butter Week’; in Poland it is called ‘Fat Days,’” Foley noted. 

Carnival is the term for the more festive, wordly events associated with the pre-Lenten season, and is celebrated throughout the world with parades, parties and feasts. Still, the word itself is Catholic in origin, coming from Latin Carnem levare (carnelevarium) which means "withdrawal" or "removal" of meat, according to “The Easter Book” by Father Francis X. Weiser, S.J.

The intensity of some Carnival celebrations comes from the intensity of the fasting of old, which was much more restrictive than it is today, Weiser noted.

“The intensity of this urge, however, should not be judged to stem from the mild Lenten laws of today but from the strict and harsh observance of ancient times, which makes modern man shiver at the mere knowledge of its details. No wonder the good people of past centuries felt entitled to ‘have a good time’ before they started on their awesome fast,” he said.

“Carnival music” has Spanish, Portuguese, Native American and African influences, and is typically associated with the regions of the Caribbean and Brazil, which has some of the largest Carnival celebrations in the world.

“Though it varies from country to country, Carnival music has a common origin in bidding a fond farewell to fun before the forty-day fast of Lent,” Foley noted.

One last chance: Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday

The last day before Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent, is called Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, depending on the country or region.

“Mardi Gras” is French for Fat Tuesday, the biggest celebrations of which in the United States take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, with parades and parties on Bourbon Street and throughout the city. 

Besides being the last day to clear the house of indulgent foods, it is also traditionally the last day to clear the soul from sin before the start of the Lenten season. According to Weiser, the name “Shrove Tuesday,” typically more common in Anglican areas, was thus called because it was a day to be “shriven from sins.”  

The ubiquitous pancake breakfasts, most often associated with parish breakfasts sponsored by the Knights of Columbus in the United States, may also have their origins in Shrove Tuesday, as pancakes were a traditional English food served on the day to rid the house of any last sugar, butter and eggs.

Lent this year begins on March 6.

 

Analysis: Pope Francis' position on Venezuela

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 11:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis’ recent letter to Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro confirmed the Holy See’s position on the Venezuelan crisis, while demonstrating that Maduro has become an increasingly isolated global figure.

While the Holy See has long maintained its diplomatic ties with Venezuela, and for this reason a papal representative to Caracas took part in Maduro’s swearing in for his second term Jan. 10, Pope Francis and the Holy See’s diplomacy has always been on the Venezuelan bishops side, and backed their efforts to restore social peace, relief the population and call for new and free elections.

The pope’s letter, however, showed that Maduro’s request for a mediation can take place only under some specific conditions.
 
This is the reason why the letter was not leaked by Maduro’s entourage, but from other sources that gave it to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. The Holy See Press Office limited itself to saying that it would not commentc on a private letter, indirectly confirming that the pope might have actually written the letter.
 
The letter, two pages and a half long, is dated Feb. 7, 2019, and it is addressed to “Excelentismo señor Nicolas Maduro Moros, Caracas” (To Most Excellent Mister Nicolas Maduro Moros).
 
The pope did not refer to Maduro as president, and in that way his letter backed the Venezuelan bishops. Gathered for their 111st plenary assembly on Jan. 9, the bishops said that “Maduro’s claim to start a new presidential mandate on Jan 10 is illegitimate at his roots, and paves the way for the unrecognition of the government, as democratic foundations on justice and right are lacking.
 
In the letter, Pope Francis reminded Maduro that the Holy See has been committed to mediation in the past, but in all of the attempts “what had been agreed in the meetings was not followed by concrete action to carry out the accords,” and that “words seemed to delegitimize
the good propositions put into a written form.”
 
Pope Francis also stressed that he did not back “any kind of dialogue,” but only “the dialogue that takes places when all conflicting parties put the common good above any other interest and work for unity and peace.”
 
Pope Francis also recalled a letter by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, that set the conditions for a dialogue: liberation of political prisoners, re-establishment of the constitutional assembly, open access for humanitarian aid, free political elections.
 
Those conditions are still in effect.

The letter is tailored in a perfect diplomatic style.

On one hand, Pope Francis takes the bishops’ position. On the other hand, he places the Holy See in the middle between two positions: that of the US and Europe, eager to recognize Juan Guaidò as interim president; and that of China, Russia, Turkey and Iran, who are on the opposite position.
 
As a diplomatic habit, the Holy See never breaks diplomatic ties. Papal ambassadors are called to stay on the ground as long as it is possible, to support the bishops and to carry on institutional dialogue that can resolve into an aid for population.
 
For example, the Holy See never broke diplomatic ties with Cuba, not even when Castro regime persecuted Christians. In fact, ties stayed because there was an ongoing persecution.

Read through this lens, the Secretariat of State’s decision not to meet at an institutional level the delegation Guaidò sent to Italy for talks with Italian government on Feb. 11 should be no surprise.
 
The Holy See makes no interference in domestic policies, and the meeting with Guaidò could have been instrumentalized. The delegation reportedly met with Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, deputy to the Secretariat of State, who is Venezuelan. The meeting was framed as a meeting of a Venezuelan that works in Secretariat of State and his concerned for his country and some representatives coming from his country.
 
Pope Francis’ statements on the matter have always been prudent. Coming back from Panama on Jan. 28, Pope Francis told journalists that it is not his role as a pastor to pick political sides, and said he is terrified of the possibility of a bloodshed there.
 
However, the narrative that presents the pope on a different side from that of Venezuelan bishops is not correct at all.
 
It must not be forgotten that Pope Francis, after a visit from the presidency of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, said his voice “resounds in the voice of the Venezuelan bishops.”
 
Pope Francis’ followed each step of the Venezuelan crisis. On April 10, 2014 he addressed an appeal to political leaders of Venezuela and asked to respect truth and justice. On March 1, 2015, the Pope condemned the death of some students involved in pacific protests.
 
The Holy See accepted to conduct a facilitation of the dialogue in October 2016, and on Dec. 2, 2016 Cardinal Parolin stressed the four conditions. Coming back from Egypt on Apr. 29, 2017, Pope Francis denounced that the government did not accomplish these conditions.
 
On April 30, 2017 after the prayer of Regina Coeli, Pope Francis spoke of the “dramatic news” on Venezuela and “the worsening of clashes there, with many people reported dead, injured and detained”, and appealed “to the government and all the members of Venezuelan society to avoid any further forms of violence, to respect human rights and to negotiate solutions to the serious humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population”.
 
The action of bishops moved along with Pope Francis’ declaration. This combined action encouraged all the local and regional Catholic realities of Latin America to take a common stance: the Conference of Religious Brothers and Sisters in Venezuela, the Jesuits of Venezuela, but also the Colombian, Ecuadorian, Uruguayan, Chilean and Bolivian bishops conference took strong stances on the Venezuelan crisis, which weakened Maduro position.
 
Despite the will to keep a diplomatic neutrality, also the Holy See diplomacy was very active.

Cardinal Parolin, who was nuncio to Venezuela from 2009 to 2013, stressed on May 13, 2017 that “the only solution for Venezuela is elections.”

On Aug. 4, 2017, the Pope sent via the Secretariat of State a communiqué asking “all the political actors, and in particular the government, to ensure the full respect of the human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as of current Constitution; to suspend initiative like the new constitutional assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and paz, foster a climate of tensions and confrontations; to create conditions for a negotiated solution”.
 
It is also noteworthy that, in his urbi et orbi message of Christmas 2018, Pope Francis included Venezuela among the countries that are enduring serious humanitarian crisis, on a par with Yemen, Syria and Nicaragua: the decision turned out to be prescient.
 
The pope also spoke about Venezuela on his new year speech to the diplomatic corps, and said that he wishes “that peaceful institutional means can be found to provide solutions to the political, social and economic crisis, means that can make it possible to help all those suffering from the tensions of recent years, and to offer all the Venezuelan people a horizon of hope and peace.”
 
The pope’s letter to Maduro comes at the end of a path that the pope and the Venezuelan bishops have been following since the beginning. The Holy See will never break diplomatic ties, and will always seek dialogue and reconciliation. But, on the other hand, bishops on the ground are backed in supporting the population and to work for the common good.
 
This is, in the end, how the pontifical diplomacy works.