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Cardinal Dolan slams DNC pledge to support only pro-abortion candidates

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the recent pledge from the Democratic National Committee's chair to support only pro-abortion candidates "disturbing" and "intolerant."

The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic party to "challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position."

The cardinal's April 26 statement was in reaction to recent comments by DNC chair Tom Perez who said: "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state."

Perez went on to say in an April 21 statement: "At a time when women's rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice."

Perez's statement came after a DNC "unity tour" rally in Nebraska, where another DNC leader and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, appeared April 20 with a former state senator, Heath Mello, the Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha. The DNC tour was sharply criticized by pro-abortion groups for joining forces with Mello, who sponsored a 2009 state Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before having an abortion.

"The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women -- one of the most critical constituencies for the party -- of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in an April 20 statement.

Sanders responded to the criticism by saying different views on abortion within the party were natural. Perez took this a step further saying he fundamentally disagreed with "Mello's personal beliefs about women's reproductive health."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," April 23, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was asked if a Democratic politician could be pro-life.

"Of course," she said, adding that she has "served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive -- my family would say aggressive -- position on promoting a woman's right to choose."

Dolan, who offered prayers at the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2012, had strong words for the Democratic party in his April 26 statement saying the party's "platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat -- indeed to be an American -- requires supporting that extreme agenda."

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Church needs missionaries, not 'clericalized' laity, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs laypeople with a missionary spirit, which means Catholics do not have to try to force members into a vocation that is the Holy Spirit's to give, Pope Francis said.

The temptation to impose a vocation on laypeople as some kind of validation of their service in the church "worries me," the pope said April 27 during a meeting with members of Catholic Action.

"What has happened many times in dioceses?" the pope asked. "A priest comes and says, 'I have a phenomenal layman who does this, this and that; he is a good organizer. What if we make him a deacon?' Stop! Don't give him a vocation that is up to the Holy Spirit to give him. Do not clericalize!"

Catholic Action's meeting with Pope Francis kicked off a three-day forum designed to reflect on the theme "Catholic Action in mission with all and for all."

Warmly greeted by some 300 participants from around the world, Pope Francis was presented with several meaningful gifts. Two members from Lampedusa, Italy, where thousands of refugees arrive each year, gave the pope an English copy of the Psalms and the New Testament found in one of the fishing boats used by migrants.

After being told that the book was found with a folded page marking Psalm 55, a song of supplication in times of need, the pope reverently took the gift and kissed it.

He was also greeted by a family from Bethlehem. The children, the pope was told, wanted to teach Pope Francis the Sign of the Cross in Arabic to prepare him for his visit to Egypt the following day.

Bending over and attentively listening to the instruction of the twin siblings, Pope Francis placed his hands above their heads and thanked them.

In his speech, the pope told members that a true missionary apostolate involves "going out" to those in need or who are far away from the church.

However, in calling others to conversion, the pope said Christians must avoid the practice of proselytism or coercion, "which goes against the Gospel."

"It makes me really sad to see people who are in ministry -- lay, consecrated, priests, bishops -- who are still playing the proselytism card. No! It is done through attraction. That is the genius phrase of Pope Benedict XVI," he said.

The pope also called on laymen and laywomen to be agents of mercy to those who are far from the church rather than acting like "border control" agents.

"You cannot be more restrictive than the church nor more papist than the pope," he said. "Please, open the doors, don't administer Christian perfection tests because you will only promote a hypocritical phariseeism."

Prayer, formation and sacrifice are also crucial in preparing laypeople to become missionaries, otherwise, "there is no fruit," the pope added.

Groups and movements like Catholic Action, he continued, must "take flesh" and be willing to serve within their dioceses while avoiding the temptation to become self-serving, which would otherwise remove them from their true calling.  

"A Catholic Action that only pretends and does not take flesh isn't Catholic. It is action, but it is not Catholic. To take flesh doesn't mean what I want, it means what the church wants," Pope Francis said.

Instead, he said, members of the international lay organization must continue to make their presence known in all areas of life, from the world of politics and business to prisons, hospitals and factories.

"Do not become an institution of exclusives that doesn't say anything to anyone nor to the church. Everyone has a right to be evangelized," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Between election rounds, French cardinal deplores 'democracy gone mad'

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- France's Catholic primate has condemned the current presidential campaign as his country's "worst ever" and urged Christians to help prevent democracy from "losing its sense."

"Left and right rivaled each other and had their radical wings, but there was also a center. Now, left and right have stepped back, and the main candidates are divided by other unclear criteria. I have the impression our voters are totally lost," said Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

In an interview with Poland's Catholic Information Agency (KAI), published April 26, Cardinal Barbarin said France was witnessing "the twilight of its existing political system" as citizens sought out "leaders closer to the people in their economic and social realities."

"Democracy seems to be losing its sense and being cast adrift by media shabbiness," Cardinal Barbarin added. "This has been our worst-ever election campaign, characterized by the unforgivable accusations, total critiques, violence, chaos and the misleading of voters."

In the first round of French elections April 23, Emmanuel Macron, founder of En Marche!, a center-left political movement, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, emerged as the two top vote-getters. They will face off May 7, when voters will choose who will be president for the next five years. Candidates from the mainstream Socialist and Republican parties will not be in the final round.

Cardinal Barbarin said the success of Le Pen, who has vowed to take France out of the European Union and give French nationals priority over foreigners in jobs, welfare, housing and education, reflected a "destabilizing trend" also visible in other parts of Europe and the United States. He spoke of a "form of democratic terrorism," which stripped candidates of their dignity by establishing a right "to know everything, whether proved or unproved" about them.

"It seems we're dealing with a democracy gone mad," the cardinal said. "Although statesmen still exist, they're unable to get through today's campaign mechanisms, where everything is decided by the art of winning. Those who win are just electoral animals, not competent, rational politicians."

Catholics traditionally make up two-thirds of France's 67 million inhabitants, although only a small proportion attends Mass.

In a book-length message last October, "Recovering the sense of politics," the bishops' conference said "weariness, frustration, fear and anger" in the country had fueled "profound hopes and expectations of change," but also cautioned against "a search for facile, emotive options."

Cardinal Barbarin told KAI the Catholic Church should appeal to citizens not to vote "for people with pretty eyes, who can make stars of themselves with media support."

"This is a time of decadence, and decadence means certain forms and structures are nearing their end," he said.

"As Christians, we yearn for social order, peace and harmony -- a state based on principles of welfare and participation, where all can make contributions and citizens are subjects of the political community," he said. "But the problem in today's France is the rising disappointment and anger of those who feel ill-treated, rejected and forgotten."

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Practical Christianity: Pope emphasizes real help for those in need

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Keanine Griggs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' unique approach to teaching the faithful combines speaking clearly and simply with showing people what steps -- even small steps -- they can take to make a difference, a Vatican official said.

"He is showing us a practical agenda for being a Catholic and being a Christian in the 21st century," said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, whom Pope Francis chose as one of two undersecretaries of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

"We need programs and possibilities of action in order to live our faith," Father Czerny said. The conversion Pope Francis wants people to undergo involves getting them to ask, "What is the next step that I could take to help our church and people to respond" to the needs of people and the demands of the Gospel?

"He's not proposing a program or organization," the Jesuit said, but he is asking "how can you contribute to people being a little less marginalized and a little more integrated?"

Father Czerny knows something about the experience of being a refugee and integrating into a new land. Born in 1946 in the former Czechoslovakia, he immigrated with his family to Canada. He entered the Jesuits in 1963 and in 1979 co-founded the Jesuit Center for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto. He directed the center until 1989 when he moved to El Salvador to help continue the work of six Jesuits murdered at the Central American University there.

From 1992 to 2002, he served as the social justice secretary at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome before moving to Africa as founding director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network. In 2010, he came back to Rome to serve as an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In January, the council became the foundation of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The statutes for the new office specify that, at least temporarily, Pope Francis will lead the Section for Migrants and Refugees with the assistance of the undersecretaries, Father Czerny and Italian Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Father Czerny said it is always tempting to look at big political and social problems like the refugee crisis and try to find "a formula or pattern that solves everything."

But Pope Francis' personal style and his insistence on the importance of encounters between individuals send a strong message that human problems require human solutions.

"Small steps do add up and they are the ones that touch us and transform us," so that individuals who set out to help a person in need end up realizing they were given an opportunity to grow in their faith, Father Czerny said.

Pope Francis does not hesitate to name the issues and causes that individuals should place on their "moral agenda," he added. The pope's commitment to the poor and to the pressing migration and refugee scenario highlights his pastoral style, which shows us "how God is calling us to live the Gospel," Father Czerny said.

Pope Francis' impact is so great because his approach speaks to the individual, the Jesuit said. The pope's words and actions focus on the "human element," speaking to and interacting with people "personally and individually."

"Human problems don't seem to respond well to huge solutions," he added. Individuals, parishes and dioceses need to look for small steps they can take to promote "a real encounter and real integration" of anyone in need.

Ultimately, those little steps help Christians "to rediscover our faith and to live it with greater joy."

While Pope Francis is innovative in many ways, it is important to note the continuity of between Pope Francis and his predecessors, Father Czerny said. "All you have to do is visit the footnotes, and you'll see that some of his most striking phrases are quotations from Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II."

Father Czerny said he hopes the legacy of Pope Francis will be that he "found a way of helping the church be both worldwide and very local" by using an approach that inspires individuals to live their faith "intensely and practically in a real way in so many different places."

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Catholic chaplain accompanies anguished circus workers on final tour

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tanya Connor, The Catholic Free Press

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER, Mass. (CNS) -- The congregation, numbering about 50, gathered for their last Easter Mass together on the DCU Center's arena floor.

The chaplain, Father George "Jerry" Hogan, borrowed one of their colorful boxes to use as an altar. The altar cloths and his chasuble sported circus images. Costume designers had sewn pieces of old elephant blankets together to make his stole.

The backdrop suggested the reason for such an unusual liturgical environment: The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had come to town to offer shows on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

But it isn't all "fun and games" for performers and other circus workers, some of whom attended the Mass before the Easter shows. While "they've always performed during Holy Week," they are now going through the paschal mystery themselves, Father Hogan told The Catholic Free Press, newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester.

The Ringling circus was nearing the end of its 145-year run and the workers, including frontline performers, were in a quandary about their future. They learned Jan. 14 that the circus was closing.

Father Hogan, who has been national circus chaplain for 24 years after being appointed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recalled the anguish of the workers when they learned of show's fate just hours after he celebrated Mass for them in Orlando, Florida, where they were performing.

His cellphone "went wild" at his winter home in Sarasota, Florida, where he ministers at St. Martha Parish, the national circus church, as shocked circus workers called him with the news they received: "We're closing." The 145th edition of "The Greatest Show on Earth" would be its last.

The priest of the Boston Archdiocese had to ask himself, "How can I help these people?"

Over the years, Father Hogan has dealt with five circus tragedies, three of which included fatalities, he said, but this was different.

"First of all, you've got to deal with your own feeling, because you become numb," he said. Then you have to look past that to what God is calling you to do. It's more than hearing; it's listening, being physically present."

Such tragedies affect not only those who get hurt, and their families and co-workers, but the managers and owners too, he said.

He described Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment Inc., Ringling's parent company, as very caring when tragedy strikes.

The same is true with the circus closing.

"He's a very good businessman," Father Hogan said. "He didn't want to close. This is tough for him, too."

Reasons cited for the closing included costs, declining attendance and battles with animal rights groups. Employees were to be helped with the transition.

Ringling's Red Unit and Blue Unit each have at least 300 employees, about 100 of whom are performers, Father Hogan said. The circus runs two different shows simultaneously, for two years each, performing in various cities.

Worcester was one of the last stops for the Red Unit, which was to perform its final show in Providence, Rhode Island, May 7. The Blue Unit's final show is May 21 in Uniondale, New York.

"I will be with you all week in Providence," Father Hogan told Red Unit workers at the Easter Mass. "You'll grow. It's not the end of the world. You'll be able to survive this."

In his homily, he told circus employees, "Easter is a time to celebrate Jesus' rising from the dead," and to celebrate with family.

There had just been an Easter egg hunt for the children who travel with their parents, Father Hogan said. When old enough, they often perform, too. Some families have been in one circus or another for generations.

Some performers from abroad are far from loved ones. During the intercessions, Father Hogan offered an intention for "all your family and relatives who you can't be with because you're working." He asked that God would watch over the people in the Red Unit in this time of transition, and also prayed for the Blue Unit.

He likened his listeners to the beloved disciple in the Gospel, who was reflecting on what was important that first Easter. He acknowledged that the circus workers' life is totally changing and they may wonder, "How am I going to move from this show?"

"This is a time to really talk to the Lord in prayer, like you're talking to another person," Father Hogan said. "You also have to listen. ... Be open to that experience." 

A silver lining Father Hogan sees in the dark times people are experiencing is the reception of sacraments in Uniondale several days before the final show. He said a baby is to be baptized, 12 children are to receive their first Communion, five adults are to be confirmed and one is to be received into the church.

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Connor is a staff writer for The Catholic Free Press, newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester.

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Michigan head coach says meeting pope was 'emotional'

IMAGE: NS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As someone accustomed to the stress of the gridiron, University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh said he was touched by Pope Francis' peaceful presence.

"The way he talks is peaceful, it's calm. It felt like this is what it would be like to meet Jesus Christ. That's what it felt like to me. It was very emotional," the coach told journalists April 26.

Harbaugh and his wife, Sarah, briefly greeted the pope following his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square earlier that day.

"I said, 'Buenos dias, Santo Padre' ('Good morning, Holy Father'), and then my wife came in and told him that she loved him. He held her hand and prayed and asked that we pray for him," Harbaugh recalled.

The coach and his wife presented the pope with a Michigan football helmet along with a pair of size-10 Air Jordan sneakers in the football team's maize and blue colors.

Harbaugh said the pope smiled and graciously accepted the gifts, despite their unusual nature.

"I'm not sure the Holy Father knows a lot about 'futbol americano,' but he doesn't need to. There's a lot of distress, too, when you look into his eyes; there's pain there. There's so much injustice in the world, so much poverty and war and you can tell and feel that he feels that," he said.

Also present at the audience were several of the 150 players and staff visiting Rome as part of their spring practice program April 22-30.

According to the press release by the university's athletic department, the program was Harbaugh's way of giving the team players "a major life experience, traveling to Rome to practice, but also to take part in social projects and offer them a look into a foreign country and culture."

Speaking to journalists after the audience, Harbaugh said the experience was "more emotional than he anticipated," and that meeting the pope gave him the chance "to live in a state of grace."

"I've been trying to figure out what this experience means and what am I supposed to do with it. At least he gave me the marching orders to pray for him so I have that part of it down."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Why be afraid when God is always showing the way, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians always have hope, no matter how bleak, bad or uncertain the journey, because they know God is always by their side, Pope Francis said.

In fact, "even crossing parts of the world (that are) wounded, where things are not going well, we are among those who, even there, continue to hope," he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square April 26.

Just a few days before his visit to Cairo April 28-29, the pope continued his series of talks on the nature of Christian hope, saying it is rooted in knowing God will always be present, even to the end of time.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, he said, begins with the birth of Jesus as Emmanuel -- "God with us" -- and ends with the risen Christ telling his doubtful disciples to go forth and teach all nations, assuring them that "I am with you always, until the end of the age."

The apostle shows how "ours is not an absent God, sequestered in a faraway heaven. Instead he is a God 'impassioned' with mankind," so tenderly in love that he is unable to stay away, the pope said.

Human beings are the ones who are really good at cutting off ties and destroying bridges, not God, he said.

"If our hearts get cold, his remains incandescent," the pope said. "Our God always accompanies us even if, through misfortune, we were to forget about him."

In fact, the decisive moment between skepticism and faith is "the discovery of being loved and accompanied by our Father," the pope said.

Life is a pilgrimage, a journey in which "the seduction of the horizon" is always calling the human "wandering soul," pushing people to go and explore the unknown, he said.

"You do not become mature men and women if you cannot perceive the allure of the horizon -- that boundary between heaven and earth that asks to be reached" by those who are on the move, he said.

Christians never feel alone "because Jesus assures us he not only waits for us at the end of our long journey, but accompanies us every day," even through dark and troubled times, he said.

God will always be concerned and take care of his children, even to the end of all time, he said. "And why does he do this? Quite simply because he loves us."

The pope said the anchor is one of his favorite symbols of hope.

"Our life is anchored in heaven," he said, which means "we move on because we are sure that our life has an anchor in heaven" and the rope "is always there" to grab onto.

So if God has promised "he will never abandon us, if the beginning of every vocation is a 'Follow me,' with which he assures us of always staying before us, why be afraid then?" the pope asked. "With this promise, Christians can walk everywhere," even in the worst, darkest places.

"It's precisely there where darkness has taken over that a light needs to stay lit."

Those who believe only in themselves and their own powers will feel disappointed and defeated, he said, "because the world often proves itself to be resistant to the laws of love" and prefers "the laws of selfishness."

Jesus promising "I am with you always" is what keeps the faithful standing tall with hope, believing that God is good and working to achieve what seems humanly impossible.

"There is no place in the world that can escape the victory of the risen Christ, the victory of love," the pope said.

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In TED talk, pope urges people to make real connections

IMAGE: CNS photo/TED.com

By Keanine Griggs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While searching for a connection today often means looking for Wi-Fi, Pope Francis said real connections between people are the only hope for the future.

"How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion," he said in a video talk played April 25 for 1,800 people attending TED 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and posted online with subtitles in 20 languages.

"How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us," the pope said in the talk that TED organizers had been advertising as that of a "surprise guest."

Pope Francis spoke to the international conference about combating the current "culture of waste" and "techno-economic systems" that prioritize products, money and things over people.

"Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough," he said. "Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face."

Many people in the world move along paths "riddled with suffering" with no one to care for them, the pope said. Far too many people who consider themselves "respectable" simply pass by, leaving thousands on "the side of the road."

"The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people," he said, the greater the responsibility one has to act and to do so with humility. "If you don't, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other."

"There is a saying in Argentina," he told his audience: "'Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.' You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don't connect your power with humility and tenderness."

"The future of humankind isn't exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies," he said, even though they all have power and responsibility. "The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a 'you' and themselves as part of an 'us.'"

Pope Francis said that when he visits someone who is sick or in prison or has been forced to flee war, he always asks himself, "Why them and not me?"

Telling the tech-savvy crowd that he wanted to talk about "revolution," the pope asked people to join a very connected and interconnected "revolution of tenderness."

Tenderness, he said, is "love that comes close and becomes real," something that begins in the heart but translates into listening and action, comforting those in pain and caring for others and for "our sick and polluted earth."

"Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women," he insisted. "Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility."

Pope Francis also urged the crowd to hold on to hope, a feeling that does not mean acting "optimistically naive" or ignoring the tragedies facing humanity. Instead, he said, hope is the "virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness."

"A single individual is enough for hope to exist." he added. "And that individual can be you. And then there will be another 'you,' and another 'you, and it turns into an 'us.'"

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization that posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan "ideas worth spreading." TED was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990.

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Editors: The pope's TED talk is online at https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone

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Nuncio tells seminarians that ministry extends beyond 'office hours'

By Tim Puet

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) -- A priest's "office hours" are unlimited and the priesthood is not solely focused on administrative work, the apostolic nuncio to the United States told students at the nation's only Vatican-affiliated seminary.

"It's important to say this to young seminarians: Don't prepare yourselves to be administrative people, to say 'I work from 8 to 6 and after that, it's finished and I take my rest.' No, you are full time," Archbishop Christophe Pierre said during a question-and-answer session April 23 at the Pontifical College Josephinum.

"Your enthusiasm is so important," he continued. "This country needs the church announcing the beauty of the presence of God in Jesus Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the power of transformation found in the Gospel, in which whenever a person met Jesus, he became different."

The nuncio's remarks came after he delivered the college's annual lecture honoring the late Cardinal Pio Laghi, who served from 1980 to 1990 as the Vatican's apostolic delegate to the United States and, after the title was changed, as nuncio, the equivalent of an ambassador.

As nuncio, Archbishop Pierre also is chancellor of the college, the only seminary outside of Italy with pontifical status, an honor Pope Leo XIII granted to the institution in 1882.

The archbishop frequently referred in his talk on "The Priests We Need Today" to a Vatican document on priestly formation, "Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis," ("The Gift of the Priestly Vocation"), which the Congregation for Clergy revised Dec. 8.

The document echoes a phrase made familiar by Pope Francis: "Seminaries should form missionary disciples who are 'in love' with the master, shepherds 'with the smell of the sheep,' who live in their midst to bring the mercy of God to them. Hence, every priest should always feel that he is a disciple on a journey, constantly needing an integrated formation, understood as a continuous configuration to Christ."

The archbishop referred to Pope Francis' description of priests in formation as "uncut diamonds, to be formed both patiently and carefully, respecting the conscience of the individual, so that they may shine among the people of God."

"Formation for the priesthood is best understood within the concept of the journey of discipleship," Archbishop Pierre said.

"Christ himself calls each person by name," first through baptism, followed by the other sacraments of initiation, the archbishop said. "The journey begins with his family and parish. It is there ... that his vocation is nurtured, culminating in entrance into the seminary. The gift of the vocation comes from God to the church and to the world. A vocation should never be conceived as something private, to be followed in an individualistic or self-referential manner."

The model of formation proposed in the document "prepares the seminarian and priest to make a gift of himself to the church, to go out of himself, to not be self-referential, but to look to the essential needs of the flock," Archbishop Pierre said.

He said six characteristics are particularly needed by the 21st-century priest: missionary spirit, humility, communion and unity, prayerfulness, discernment, and closeness to the flock.

The nuncio returned to the document's phrase describing priests as missionary disciples, saying such a person is "one who follows the Lord, but who also goes out with joy," who, in the words of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel") "obey(s) his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel."

"This call to be a disciple and this raising up to be a priest is a gift," the archbishop added. "The church needs priests today who are willing to receive this gift as men of communion." He also quoted from a talk earlier this month in which the pope told seminarians at the Pontifical Spanish College, "It is an ongoing challenge to overcome individualism, to live diversity as a gift, striving for unity of the presbyterate, which is a sign of the presence of God in the life of a community."

Archbishop Pierre also was at the Josephinum for the rededication April 24 of the college's chapel of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, archbishop of Lima, Peru, from 1580 to 1606, who is patron of the Latin American episcopate and founder of the first seminary in the Americas.

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Puet is a reporter at the Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of Columbus.

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Pope to Egyptians: Let papal visit be sign of friendship, peace

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praying that God would protect Egypt from all evil, Pope Francis told the nation's people that a world torn apart by indiscriminate violence needs courageous builders of peace, dialogue and justice.

"I hope that this visit will be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East; a message of friendship and esteem to all inhabitants of Egypt and the region; a message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham, particularly in the Islamic world," the pope said in a video message broadcast April 25, ahead of his April 28-29 trip to Cairo.

"I hope that it may also offer a valid contribution to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerated and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church," he said.

The pope thanked all those who invited him to Egypt, those who were working to make the trip possible and those "who make space for me in your hearts."

He said he was "truly happy to come as a friend, as a messenger of peace and as a pilgrim to the country that gave, more than 2,000 years ago, refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family fleeing from the threats of King Herod."

"Our world, torn by blind violence, which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land, needs peace, love and mercy; it needs workers for peace, free and liberating people, courageous people able to learn from the past to build a future without closing themselves up in prejudices; it needs builders of bridges of peace, dialogue, brotherhood, justice, and humanity," he said.

Honored to visit the land visited by the Holy Family, the pope asked everyone for their prayers as he assured every one of his.

"Dear Egyptian brothers and sisters, young and elderly, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor ... I embrace you warmly and ask God almighty to bless you and protect your country from every evil."

He said it was "with a joyful and grateful heart" that he was heading to Egypt -- the "cradle of civilization, gift of the Nile, land of sun and hospitality, where patriarchs and prophets lived" and where God -- benevolent, merciful, and the one and almighty -- made his voice heard.

The day the video was released, April 25, was also the feast day of St. Mark, who evangelized the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, Egypt, before being martyred there.

Pope Francis dedicated his morning Mass to "my brother Tawadros II, patriarch of Alexandria" of the Coptic Orthodox church, asking that God abundantly "bless our two churches."

In Egypt, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Egypt would welcome the pope and "looks forward to this significant visit to strengthen peace, tolerance and interfaith dialogue as well as to reject the abhorrent acts of terrorism and extremism."

Christians in Egypt, Syria and Iraq struggle with mounting pressures from extremists challenging their religious identity and the right to practice their faith and continue to exist in their ancestral homelands.

Pope Francis has urged an end to what he called a "genocide" against Christians in the Middle East, but he also has said it was wrong to equate Islam with violence.

Christians are among the oldest religious communities in the Middle East, but their numbers are dwindling in the face of conflict and persecution. Egypt's Christian community makes up about 10 percent of the country's 92 million people.

A high point in the pope's schedule is an international peace conference at Cairo's al-Azhar University, the world's highest authority on Sunni Islam, hosted by Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of the educational institution.

Pope Tawadros and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox churches, are also expected to participate.

The pope will also meet separately with el-Sissi and other officials. Observers will be watching whether the pope will take on thorny issues with his hosts, such as the detention of thousands of Egyptians, without due process, simply held on suspicion of opposing el-Sissi.

Others will watch to see if Pope Francis prods the Sunni Muslim religious establishment to take a more forceful stand on religious extremism perpetrated in the name of God.

Many hope the al-Azhar meeting will sound a moral wake-up call to leaders worldwide to combat religious intolerance while seeking greater cooperation to fight growing threats by Islamic State and other extremist groups.

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Contributing to this story was Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.