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Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis surprised wedding guests Saturday when he unexpectedly celebrated a marriage being held at a small chapel in the Vatican Gardens.

“Look who came as a surprise! Pope Francis is always surprising!” said Brazilian Fr. Omar Reposo on his Instagram account.

The wedding - between Luca Schafer, a member of the Swiss Guard, and Letícia Vera, a former employee of the Vatican Museums, took place in the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, just outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Sources close to the couple told ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese language sister agency, that only the bride and groom know that Pope Francis was going to preside over the wedding. The pope’s arrival surprised the wedding guests, and the priests who concelebrated the wedding.

According to Vatican Media, the pope preached about three verbs that can help couples to experience the fullness of marriage: “to begin,” “to stop,” and “to resume the journey.”

This was not the first time that Pope Francis celebrated a wedding at the Vatican. In September 2014, the pope presided over the marriage of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica and in July 2016 he did the same for a deaf couple in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2018 / 01:56 pm (CNA).- A new Vatican instruction on the role of consecrated virginity has drawn criticism from an American group, which says that a key paragraph of the document could lead to confusion. At issue is whether entering the Church’s “order of virgins” requires that women actually be virgins.

On July 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life made public Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, an instruction about consecrated virginity in the Church.
 
The instruction drew criticism from the Lansing, Mich.-based U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, which put out a statement that criticized the document, calling it “intentionally convoluted and confusing.”

The group said the document seems to say that “physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity,” and called this implication “shocking.”

The association is a voluntary organization of consecrated virgins in the U.S. According to its 2015 statistics, it has 97 voting members and another 34 associate members.

“There are some egregious violations of chastity that, even if not strictly violating virginity, would disqualify a woman from receiving the consecration of virgins,” the association said.

“The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity – that is, both material and formal (physical and spiritual) – in order to receive the consecration of virgins,” the statement added.

The controversial paragraph of the document, #88, instructs that: “it should be kept in mind that the call to give witness to the Church’s virginal, spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity. Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”
 
It continues: “The discernment therefore requires good judgement and insight, and it must be carried out individually. Each aspirant and candidate is called to examine her own vocation with regard to her own personal history, in honesty and authenticity before God, and with the help of spiritual accompaniment.”

Jenna Cooper, a Minnesota-based canon lawyer who has been a consecrated virgin of the Archdiocese of New York since 2009, told CNA that the Vatican’s instruction must be read carefully to be understood.
 
“I don’t see this as saying non-virgins can be virgins. I see this as saying in cases where there is a real question, it errs on the side of walking with women in individual cases for further discernment, as opposed to having a hard-dividing line to exclude women from this vocation,” Cooper told CNA.
 
“The presumption of the document is that these are virgins who are doing this (consecration),” she said.
 
“An important thing to do though is to read the questionable paragraph in context with the rest of the document,” she continued. “The instruction talks a lot about the value of virginity, Christian virginity, the spirituality of virginity.”
 
Cooper also said that the document can’t be understood as a change in Vatican policy. “The nature of this kind of document as an instruction doesn’t change the law that it’s intended to explain,” she said.
 
The rite of consecration itself is the law, while the instruction is meant as “an elaboration for certain disputed points,” Cooper said, adding “It’s just giving you further guidance in places where existing law is vague.”
 
In Cooper’s view, the document’s “more generous description” of the prerequisite of virginity is “allowing for people in difficult situations to continue some serious discernment.” One disputed paragraph, she thinks, was meant to apply to “difficult cases” where a woman cannot answer whether she is a virgin according to a strict standard. She cited cases where women might have lost their virginity without willing it or against their will, or out of ignorance. Women might have “committed grave sins against chastity but not actually lost their virginity in their minds”
 
Judith Stegman, president of the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, praised the document, saying it “responds well to many questions” about consecrated virginity in the Church. She lauded its emphasis on the consecrated virgin’s “mystical espousal to Christ as key to this bridal vocation of love that images the relationship between Christ and the Church.”
 
However, she reiterated that paragraph 88 was a “confusing statement.” Immediately after the document was published, she said, “we began to receive comments from readers stating, ‘Whoa! Physical virginity is no longer required for the consecration of virgins!’”
 
As for difficult cases, Stegman said, “If a woman has been violated against her will and has not knowingly and willingly given up her virginity, most would hold that she would remain eligible for consecration as a virgin. Such a case would require depth of good judgment and insight carried out in individual discernment with the bishop, as is discussed in paragraph 88.”
 
“It is not such cases, however, that are most common, and if the intention of paragraph 88 was to address situations such as rape, it could have done so directly, without compromising the essential and natural requirement of physical virginity for the consecration of a virgin.”
 
“In our society, questions of eligibility for the consecration of virgins are raised by those who have given up their virginity, perhaps only one time, and who have later begun again to live an exemplary chaste life.” she said, saying the document “should have indicated that these women do not have the gift of virginity to offer to Christ.”
 
“They may make a private vow of chastity, or enter another form of consecrated life, but the consecration of virgins is not open to them.”
 
The association cited the introduction to the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which consecrates a virgin as “bride of Christ” so that she might be “an eschatological image of the world to come and the heavenly Bride of Christ.”
 
The association’s statement also acknowledged that the prerequisites for consecration are not changed by the instruction.  
 
Cooper also praised the instruction as “a very positive development for this vocation.”
 
“One thing I’m particularly happy about is I think it does an excellent job articulating the values of this vocation for the wider Church,” she said.

The Vatican estimates there are now more than 5,000 consecrated virgins worldwide.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 11:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Antillean youth, Pope Francis said love is the core of the Church's doctrine on the family, which is something every young person is responsible for carrying forward.

To understand what this love means, the pope urged young people to both read and study chapter four of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which is dedicated to “Love in Marriage.”

“I tell you that the core of Amoris Laetitia was chapter four. How to live love. How to live love in the family,” he said, and told youth to read and talk about the chapter with each other, because “there is a lot of strength here to continue going forward” and to transform family life.

Love “has its own strength. And love never ends,” he said, explaining that if they learn how to truly love as God taught, “you will be transforming something that is for all of eternity.”

Pope Francis sent a video message to participants in the youth assembly of the Antilles Bishops Conference, which is taking place in the Archdiocese of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France, in Martinique, from July 10-23.

In his message, the pope asked youth whether they were really living as young people, or if they had become “aged youth,” because “if you are aged young people you are not going to do anything. You have to be youth who are young, with all the strength that youth has to transform.”

He said young people should not be “settled” in life, because being “settled” means one is at a standstill and “things don't go forward.”

“You have to un-stall what has been stalled and start to fight,” the pope said. “You want to transform, you want to carry forward and you have made your own the directives of the post-synodal exhortation on the family in order to carry the family forward and transform the family of the Caribbean,” he said.

In order to promote and carry the family forward, one must understand both the present and the past, Pope Francis said.

“You are preparing to transform something that has been given to you by your elders. You have received the history of yesterday, the traditions of yesterday,” he said, adding that people “cannot do anything in the present nor the future if you are not rooted in the past, in your history, in your culture, in your family; if you do not have roots that are well grounded.”

To this end, he told youth to spend time with their grandparents and other elderly people, and to take what they learn and “carry it forward.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis appointed Saturday four cardinals as presidents delegate to the synod on youth, which will meet at the Vatican in October.

His July 14 appointments were Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon; Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina; Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon; and Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby.

Each were appointed cardinal by Pope Francis.

The presidents delegate will take turns presiding over the synod on the pope's behalf. They are to guide the synod's work, delgate special tasks, and sign the synod's documents.

The Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation will address questions of sexuality and gender, the role of women, and the desire for a Church which knows how to listen.

The synod's instrumentum laboris was issued last month, and key issues highlighted in it include increasing cultural instability and conflict, and that many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2018 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By virtue of their Baptism, every Catholic is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ – a mission which cannot be separated from the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“It is truly [our] Baptism that makes us missionaries,” the pope said in off-the-cuff comments July 15. “A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Jesus, is not a good Christian.”

The first necessary element of all authentic missionary discipleship is the “changeless center, which is Jesus,” he said. This is because proclaiming the Gospel cannot be separated from Christ or from the Church.

Announcing the Gospel “is not an initiative of individual believers, groups or even large groups, but it is the Church’s mission inseparably united with her Lord,” Pope Francis said. “No Christian proclaims the Gospel ‘on his own,’ but only sent by the Church who received the mandate from Christ himself.”

Speaking during his weekly Angelus address, the pope reflected on the Christian’s mission as seen when Jesus sends out his disciples “two by two” to preach repentance.

Jesus’ message to his disciples in this episode of the Gospel concerns not just priests, but every baptized person, who is “called to witness, in the various environments of life, the Gospel of Christ,” he said.

Like the disciples were warned, the message may not be welcomed, but this aligns with what Jesus himself experienced, the pope said, noting that he was “was rejected and crucified.”

“Only if we are united with him, dead and risen, can we find the courage of evangelization,” Francis said.

Noting that the center of the mission must always be Christ, he pointed to examples of saints from Rome who are examples of being “humble workers of the Kingdom,” such as St. Philip Neri, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Frances of Rome, and Bl. Ludovica Albertoni.  

They did not work to advance themselves or their own ideas or interests, but acted always as messengers sent by Jesus, he said.

Pointing to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “the first disciple and missionary of the Word of God,” the pope concluded by asking her help to bring “the message of the Gospel to the world in a humble and radiant exultation, beyond any rejection, misunderstanding or tribulation.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018





 

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