SCRANTON – The month of April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This important month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect.
On Thursday, April 7, 2022, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate a Healing Mass for Survivors of Abuse. The Mass will be held at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.
During the annual Mass, the faithful pray for all who work with children and young people to be vigilant in protecting them from harm and also for the Holy Spirit to guide Church leaders as they promote justice and healing for survivors of abuse.
The Mass is open to the public but will also be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton. The Mass will also be livestream on the Diocese of Scranton website and social media platforms.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis asked people to pray for his upcoming trip to Malta and to pray for an end to the “savage cruelty” of war.
After delivering his general audience talk in the Paul VI hall March 30, he warmly greeted a group of children from Ukraine who are receiving assistance in Italy, and members of the audience gave the children a long applause.
But, the pope said, “with this greeting to the children, let us also think again about this monstrosity of the war.”
“Let us renew our prayers that this savage cruelty that is war may end,” he said.
He also greeted the people of Malta — the Mediterranean island where St. Paul was shipwrecked and found “great humanity” and hospitality, and where, still today, the people are dedicated to welcoming so many people in search of refuge, he said.
The pope’s trip to Malta April 2-3 will be a chance to “go to the source of the proclamation of the Gospel, to get to know firsthand a Christian community” that has such a long history and is so active and alive, he said.
In his main audience talk, the pope continued his series of talks dedicated to the meaning and value of “old age,” and the importance of maintaining a sense of “spiritual sensitivity.”
“Today we need this more than ever: an old age gifted with lively spiritual senses capable of recognizing the signs of God, or rather, the sign of God, who is Jesus,” he said.
Instead, what risks happening, he said, is people do not realize when they have lost their “spiritual senses,” which can recognize the presence of God and evil and can distinguish the difference between two.
“When you lose the sense of touch or of taste, you realize it immediately,” he said. “However, you can ignore that of the soul for a long time.”
Spiritual sensitivity is about being able to feel “compassion and pity, shame and remorse, fidelity and devotion, tenderness and honor, responsibility for oneself and for others,” the pope said.
The “rhetoric of inclusion” that is part of any “politically correct speech” is not enough to fix what is needed for “normal coexistence,” he said. There must be a widespread “culture of social tenderness.”
For too many people, he said, the spirit of human fraternity he has been emphasizing is looked at “like a discarded garment, to be admired, but in a museum.”
If the older generation loses this spirit, “they lose the desire to live with maturity … and they live with superficiality,” not letting themselves feel and see things according to the Holy Spirit.
Being sensitive to the Spirit means accepting that one is not the protagonist, but a witness to the presence and greatness of God, he said. Those who desire to be the main attraction, the “saviors,” are not able to let God “incarnate” in their lives.
When the elderly are able to keep their “spiritual senses” sharp and alive, he said, then they are able to feel a kind of consolation that their lives have meaning and are able to share a sense of hope with younger people, he said.
“It is so important to visit older people, to listen to them, to talk to them,” to have an “exchange of civilizations” between young and old, he said.
ROME (CNS) – With his voice often trembling and tears sliding down to his beard, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church spoke via Zoom about the death and destruction Russia is raining down on his people and his country.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych repeatedly apologized for the tears and acknowledged the contrast between his daily video messages of encouragement to his people and his talk during the webinar March 29 sponsored by Rome’s Pontifical Oriental Institute.
He started the videos to keep in touch with his people and “just to let people know that I am alive, the city of Kyiv lives,” he said, his voice breaking.
“Forgive me for my tears, but I think I can (cry) with you,” he said. “With my people, I feel an obligation to be a preacher of hope, a hope that does not come from military power or from the possibility of diplomacy — we don’t have those hopes yet — but a hope that comes from faith.”
“Today, I am speaking to you from Kyiv. It’s a miracle,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “The strength of the Ukrainian people is being revealed as a miracle that is surprising the world.”
In too many cities in Ukraine, the archbishop said, the Russians have “razed everything to the ground” and the only food the people have is what they get from the churches and other aid agencies.
The city of Slavutych, near the failed Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, is surrounded, he said, and an Eastern-rite Catholic priest and his wife there welcomed their third child into the world “in the midst of a terrible assault.”
“The baby was born in a hospital without electricity and without water,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “When the war started, knowing that the baby was about to be born, I tried to intercede to get my priest and his family brought to safety. He told me, ‘You are my bishop and I received from you the mandate to be the pastor of these people. I can’t leave.’ And he stayed. For the last three days, I haven’t heard from him.”
People will rebuild the churches and houses and bridges and factories destroyed by Russian shelling, he said, but the people killed will not be reunited with their loved ones “only on the day of the resurrection of the body.”
Archbishop Shevchuk choked up talking about the bravery of his priests and their wives, but his tears really began to flow when he spoke about reports of thousands of people, including children, being taken against their will to Russia and their passports being confiscated.
“This reminds us of the deportations of (Josef) Stalin,” he said. “We are talking about children, women, people with handicaps. What awaits them? What future will they have? Certainly, they will die.”
“I feel an obligation to be the voice of this suffering people and to be a simple witness to the reality being lived by our people in Ukraine.”
“I never would have imagined being the head of the church in a time of war,” he said. “No one is ever prepared for war except for the criminals who plan and put it into action.”
In a long list of people he wanted to thank, Archbishop Shevchuk singled out Pope Francis, especially for his decision to lead a global consecration of the world, Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary March 25.
The consecration was important, he said, because “before our eyes there is a battle, an apocalyptic battle, between good and evil.”
“This consecration to our Mother who crushed the head of the ancient dragon, this strong presence of the Mother of God among us, is very important for us,” said the archbishop, who led a simultaneous consecration at the Cathedral of the Mother of God in Zarvanytsia.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Holding together the obligation to protect and promote the Catholic identity of Catholic schools while reaching out to a broader community of students and teachers requires a commitment to dialogue, said a new document from the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The instruction, “The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue,” was signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, congregation prefect, and was released by the Vatican March 29.
The congregation, Cardinal Versaldi said, was asked to write the document particularly “given cases of conflicts and appeals resulting from different interpretations of the traditional concept of Catholic identity by educational institutions.”
The document, however, did not include any specific description of those cases, which presumably include controversy over teachers being fired or not being fired for marrying a person of the same sex.
Those involved in hiring for Catholic schools, it said, are required “to inform prospective recruits of the Catholic identity of the school and its implications, as well as of their responsibility to promote that identity. If the person being recruited does not comply with the requirements of the Catholic school and its belonging to the church community, the school is responsible for taking the necessary steps. Dismissal may also be resorted to, taking into account all circumstances on a case-by-case basis.”
At the same time, it said, “a narrow Catholic school model” is not acceptable either. “In such schools, there is no room for those who are not ‘totally’ Catholic. This approach contradicts the vision of an ‘open’ Catholic school that intends to apply to the educational sphere the model of a ‘church which goes forth’ in dialogue with everyone.”
The document insisted that Catholic education is not strictly catechetical, nor is it a “mere philanthropic work aimed at responding to a social need,” but is an essential part of the church’s identity and mission.
Catholic schools do not limit enrollment or employment to Catholics alone since, as the Second Vatican Council said, part of their mission is to promote “the complete perfection of the human person, the good of earthly society and the building of a world that is more human.”
To reach that goal, the document said, Catholic schools must “practice the ‘grammar of dialogue,’ not as a technical expedient, but as a profound way of relating to others. Dialogue combines attention to one’s own identity with the understanding of others and respect for diversity.”
Everyone — administrators, teachers, parents and students — has “the obligation to recognize, respect and bear witness to the Catholic identity of the school,” which should be clearly stated in its mission statement and presented to prospective employees and parents of prospective students.
“In the formation of the younger generations,” it said, “teachers must be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.”
But the entire school community is responsible for embracing and promoting the school’s Catholic identity, it said, so it cannot be “attributed only to certain spheres or to certain persons, such as liturgical, spiritual or social occasions, or to the function of the school chaplain, religion teachers or the school headmaster.”
Taking into account different contexts and laws in the countries where Catholic schools operate, the document urged the schools to “formulate clear criteria for discernment regarding the professional qualities, adherence to the church’s doctrine and consistency in the Christian life” of candidates for positions in Catholic schools.
When conflicts over “disciplinary and/or doctrinal” matters do arise, it said, everyone involved must be aware how “these situations can bring discredit to the Catholic institution and scandal in the community.”
“Dismissal should be the last resort, legitimately taken after all other remedial attempts have failed,” it said.
Noting that “in many countries civil law bars ‘discrimination’ on the basis of religion, sexual orientation and other aspects of private life,” the document nevertheless noted that when “state laws impose choices that conflict with religious freedom and the very Catholic identity of a school,” the rights of Catholics and their schools should be defended “both through dialogue with state authorities and through recourse to the courts having jurisdiction in these matters.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis renewed his call for an end to the war in Ukraine and strongly denounced the conflict as a barbaric act used by those in power at the cost of innocent lives.
“We need to reject war, a place of death where fathers and mothers bury their children, where men kill their brothers and sisters without even having seen them, where the powerful decide and the poor die,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 27 for his Sunday Angelus address.
The consequences of war, he added, especially the displacement of children, “not only devastate the present, but future of society as well.”
“I read that from the beginning of the aggression in Ukraine, one of every two children has been displaced from their country. This means destroying the future, causing dramatic trauma in the smallest and most innocent among us. This is the bestiality of war — a barbarous and sacrilegious act,” the pope said.
According to UNICEF, Russia’s war against Ukraine — now entering its second month — has displaced an estimated 4.3 million children, which is more than half of Ukraine’s estimated 7.5 million children.
“The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF executive director, in a statement March 24. “This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come.”
Warning of the “danger of self-destruction,” the pope said that war “should not be something that is inevitable” and that humanity “should not accustom ourselves to war.”
He also urged political leaders to dedicate their efforts to not only ending the war in Ukraine but “to abolish war, to erase it from human history before it erases human history.”
“I renew my appeal. Enough. Stop it. Silence the weapons. Move seriously toward peace,” the pope said before leading pilgrims in praying the Hail Mary.
The day after the March 25 consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pope Francis met with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, and blessed an ambulance he was donating to the Ukrainian city of Lviv which has seen an influx of refugees escaping violence from the eastern side of the country. Cardinal Krajewski left the Vatican March 26 to drive the ambulance to Lviv.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God always forgives and joyously welcomes back everyone who returns to him, even after a life of mistakes and sin, Pope Francis said.
“God does not know how to forgive without celebrating! And the father celebrates because of the joy he has because his son has returned,” the pope said before reciting the Angelus prayer March 27 with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading about the parable of the prodigal son, “who has returned home after having squandered all his possessions,” Pope Francis said.
“We are that son, and it is moving to think about how much the Father always loves us and waits for us,” he said.
But the older son in the parable who becomes indignant because he has always obeyed his father “is also within us and we are tempted to take his side,” he said.
“He had always done his duty, he had not left home,” and he is angry seeing their father embracing the child who had behaved so badly, he said.
The problem with this reaction, the pope said, is the older son “bases his relationship with his father solely on pure observance of commands, on a sense of duty.”
“This could also be our problem, the problem among ourselves and with God: to lose sight that he is a father and to live a distant religion, composed of prohibitions and duties,” the pope said.
People who live this cold distance from God become rigid toward others and find it hard to welcome, much less rejoice over, the return of a repentant or struggling child of God, he added.
“Those who have made mistakes often feel reproached in their own hearts. Distance, indifference and harsh words do not help. Therefore, like the father, it is necessary to offer them a warm welcome that encourages them to go ahead,” the pope said.
People must “look for those who are far away,” have an open heart, truly listen and never make them feel uncomfortable, he said.
The father “celebrates because of the joy he has because his son has returned,” and, like the father, “we need to rejoice,” too, when someone repents, no matter how serious their mistakes may have been, he said.
In the parable, the father reassures the older son, saying, “you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”
The parable shows, the pope said, that the father has “two needs, which are not commands, but essentials for his heart.”
The pope asked people to reflect and “see if we too have in our hearts these two things the father needs” — to be able to celebrate and rejoice for others.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The sacrament of reconciliation “is not so much about our sins” as it is about God’s forgiveness, Pope Francis said.
“Think about it: If our sins were at the heart of the sacrament, almost everything would depend on us, on our repentance, our efforts, our resolve,” but it is about God’s power, mercy and grace, the pope said March 25 during a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The service, with individual confessions, preceded the pope’s formal act of consecrating the world, particularly Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Pope Francis went to one of the confessionals in the basilica and, remaining standing because of knee trouble, confessed his sins before joining more than 100 other priests in hearing confessions.
The Vatican penance service was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Pope Francis began the service praying that God would “open our eyes, that we may see the evil we have committed, and touch our hearts, that we may be converted to you.”
The prayer booklet given to people participating in the service contained a 25-point “examination of conscience” designed to prepare them for confession and absolution by looking at their faith and prayer lives, the way they treat family members and others, whether they go to Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, how they practice charity, follow church moral teachings and how they use the time and talents God has given them.
Holding the service on the feast of the Annunciation, the Gospel read at the service was the story of the angel appearing to Mary and telling her she would become the mother of Jesus.
Mary, he said, is told to rejoice, because God is with her.
“Dear brother, dear sister, today you can hear those words addressed to you,” Pope Francis told people in the congregation. “You can make them your own each time you approach God’s forgiveness, for there the Lord tells you, ‘I am with you.'”
“All too often,” he said, “we think that confession is about going to God with dejected looks. Yet it is not so much that we go to the Lord, but that he comes to us, to fill us with his grace, to fill us with his joy.”
Pope Francis also had a word for priests about how they should be ministers of God’s forgiveness. “Offer to those who approach you the joy of this proclamation: ‘Rejoice, the Lord is with you.’ Set aside rigidity, obstacles and harshness; may you be doors wide open to mercy!”
If a priest is not prepared “to act in the person of the good shepherd, who takes his sheep into his arms and cradles them,” the pope said, it is better that he not hear confessions.
And, to those who find it hard to accept the forgiveness of a sin in their past or are upset by their inability to mend their ways, Pope Francis said: “Do not be afraid. God knows your weaknesses and is greater than your mistakes.”
Students in the Children’s Faith Formation program at St. Patrick’s Church in Milford recently followed, in image, word and song, the events of Jesus’ Passion and Death, also known as Via Crucis or Via Dolorosa.
Each scene was narrated by Deacon Mike Calafiore, accompanied by Maggie Marley and Rich Gherardi of St. Patrick’s Music Ministry in verses from the hymn, “Were You There?”
Poster images of each scene depicting the chief events of the day were exhibited by the students in the catechetical program, which is conducted at St. Patrick’s Hall for children, grades 1 through 8.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As Russia’s violent monthlong invasion continued to devastate Ukraine, Pope Francis laid the fates of both countries at the feet of Mary in the hopes that peace would finally reign.
“Mother of God and our mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine,” the pope said March 25, pronouncing the Act of Consecration after leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Praying before a statue of Mary that was loaned by the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at San Vittoriano on the outskirts of Rome, the pope pleaded with Mary to “accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end, and peace spread throughout the world.”
Sitting in front of the statue, which was placed before the steps of the main altar on a red platform and adorned with white roses, the pope proclaimed the act of consecration. During the prayer, the pope paused at several moments to gaze at the statue of Mary before continuing to recite the prayer.
“To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world,” he prayed.
After the consecration, the pope, accompanied by a young boy and girl, placed a bouquet of white roses at the feet of the statue. He then remained for a few moments, with eyes closed and head bowed in silent prayer, before stepping away.
According to the Vatican, an estimated 3,500 people filled St. Peter’s Basilica, while 2,000 people watched on video screens from St. Peter’s Square. Police asked pilgrims who entered St. Peter’s Basilica carrying or wearing Ukrainian flags to put them away, since the event was a prayer service.
Among those present at the liturgy were Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See. The consecration, he tweeted March 25, is “another attempt (by the pope) to defend Ukraine from the devil’s war,” referring to Russia’s attacks on the country.
Joe Donnelly, who soon will present his credentials to the pope as the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, also attended the service.
The Vatican announced March 18 that Pope Francis also asked bishops around the world to join him in consecrating Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, led a similar act of consecration at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
Bishops from around the world had announced special services to coincide with the timing of the consecration in Rome, even in the early hours of the morning.
At the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatña, Guam, Archbishop Michael Byrnes led the faithful in praying the rosary before reciting the Act of Consecration at 2 a.m. local time March 26.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, private secretary of retired Pope Benedict XVI, had told reporters that the former pope would join in the consecration from his residence.
In a video released before the liturgy, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said he would join in the consecration “because today we need very much the victory of good.”
The consecration, Archbishop Shevchuk said, “means that it is never possible to make a deal, to cooperate with this evil that emerges from Russia today.”
“And that is why we must pray for its conversion, for the eradication of that evil, ‘so that it,’ as the Mother of God of Fatima said, ‘might not destroy other states, might not cause yet another world war.’ We, as Christians, have a duty to pray for our enemies,” he said.
In Rome, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out after Pope Francis concluded the Act of Consecration.
In his homily during the Lenten penance service, the pope acknowledged that the war in Ukraine, which “has overtaken so many people and caused suffering to all, has made each of us fearful and anxious.”
While calls to “not be afraid” may soothe one’s helplessness in the face of war, violence and uncertainty, the pope said that “human reassurance is not enough.”
“We need the closeness of God and the certainty of his forgiveness, and once renewed by it, Christians can also turn to Mary and present their needs and the needs of the world,” he said.
Pope Francis said the Act of Consecration was “no magic formula but a spiritual act” of trust by “children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their mother, reposing all their fears and pain in her heart and abandoning themselves to her.”
“It means placing in that pure and undefiled heart, where God is mirrored, the inestimable goods of fraternity and peace, all that we have and are, so that she, the mother whom the Lord has given us, may protect us and watch over us,” the pope said.
In his prayer, Pope Francis specifically asked Mary to be with those suffering directly because of the war.
“May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs,” he prayed to Mary. “May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your sorrowful heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.”
SCRANTON – The faithful of the Diocese of Scranton joined people around the world in prayer on March 25, placing the people of Russia and Ukraine under the special protection of Mary, the Mother of God, in an act of consecration.
The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrated the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, which included the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Nearly 200 people participated in-person with others taking part by livestream.
“While Saint John Paul II consecrated Russia to Our Blessed Mother in 1984, today’s act renews our trust in God and Mary’s intercession to protect the people of Russia and Ukraine in this time of great hardship and suffering,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. “It is also a radical call to conversion for all peoples, including me and you, a call that ultimately sets the stage for true and lasting peace in our hearts, our families and our world.”
It has now been more than one month since Russian forces invaded neighboring Ukraine. Thousands of people have been killed and more than three million people have been forced to flee their homes.
“Not one of us in our cathedral has not been heartbroken by the suffering and death of countless numbers of innocent lives, inflicted because of greed, a lust for power and a disregard for the gift of human life,” the bishop added. “We Christians ought never forget that we do indeed have a way to respond to this tragic moment. We have the power of God, won for us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus and given to us through the gift of faith.”
Before kneeling at the feet of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Cathedral sanctuary and reciting the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Bishop Bambera urged all people to open their hearts in faith to the abiding presence of God in their lives and pray for an end to war.
“It was very special and meaningful and we were really honored to come up here today,” Faith Sekol, a senior at Holy Redeemer High School said. “It really gives us a sense of unity which I think we need at this time, especially in solidarity with Ukraine.”
Several students involved in the Pro-Life Club at the Wilkes-Barre Catholic School left class, making a special trip to the Cathedral to attend the Mass.
“An important part of the pro-life club is respecting all life, regardless of whether it’s an unborn baby or the elderly. I think it was really important to come together and come up with a solution to this war,” Holy Redeemer senior Kathryn McIngvale added. “It’s something that needs to be talked about.”
The students at Holy Redeemer have been keeping the people in Ukraine close to their hearts in prayer in recent weeks. They’ve also raised money for relief efforts with dress down days and most recently wrote messages and prayers which were presented to the local Ukrainian Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre.
“Take five minutes, say a prayer in the morning or at lunch. Think about it and God will answer those prayers,” McIngvale said.