Search This Blog

Monday, October 10, 2016

Albania’s new cardinal: a priest who spent 28 years in labour camps

Albania’s new cardinal: a priest who spent 28 years in labour camps
by Associated Press
posted Monday, 10 Oct 2016

Pope Francis embraces Fr Ernest Simoni during 
a visit to Albania in 2014 (CNS)

The Albanian priest - who was imprisoned and tortured for 28 years - is among 17 new cardinals

When Pope Francis visited Albania in 2014, he was brought to tears by a priest’s description of the two decades of imprisonment, torture and forced labour he suffered under Albania’s brutal communist rulers for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith.

On Sunday, Pope Francis honoured Fr Ernest Troshani Simoni’s witness by naming him to the College of Cardinals.

Fr Simoni, who turns 88 later this month, was one of 17 new cardinals named by Pope Francis who will be formally elevated at a Vatican ceremony on November 19. He is among four cardinals over age 80 who can’t vote in a conclave to elect a new pope but were named to the club because of their service to the church.

For Albania’s tiny Catholic Church, the nomination was a deeply symbolic gesture acknowledging the suffering of Catholic clergy during the reign of Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, who banned religion in 1967.

“That is an homage to a cleric symbolising all Albania’s suffering clergy,” said the Rev Gjergj Meta, a Church spokesman.

Fr Simoni recounted his life story to Pope Francis during the Pope’s 2014 one-day visit to Tirana, a visit meant to highlight the interfaith harmony that exists among the majority Muslim nation of 3.2 million. It was the end of the day and Pope Francis was meeting with priests and seminarians at the Tirana cathedral.

Fr Simoni recalled his arrest, after celebrating Christmas Mass on December 24, 1963 and being placed in isolation. He told of being condemned to death, but the sanction was commuted to 28 years of forced labour.

During his incarceration, he became the spiritual guide to many other prisoners, who then came to his defence when he was again sentenced to death in 1973 after a revolt. He was spared because of their testimony.

Fr Simoni was freed in 1981 but had to continue preaching clandestinely until the communist regime fell in 1990.

As Fr Simoni recounted his ordeal, Pope Francis — who was reading along an Italian translation of his remarks — became visibly moved, at one point tearing up. When he finished, Fr Simoni knelt before the Pope. They embraced for nearly a minute to the applause of the priests and nuns in the audience.

“Today I touched martyrs,” Pope Francis said of the experience.

Fr Simoni will be elevated to cardinal two weeks after the Vatican honours 38 of his confreres who were persecuted or executed under Hoxha’s regime. The beatification ceremony is scheduled for November 5 in Shkoder, Albania, where the first public Mass was held after the fall of communism.

The Albanian church said Fr Simoni’s elevation was a sign of the Pope’s “honour and gratitude” on the eve of the beatification.

“Elevating the Albanian clergy persecuted during communism is a sign of how much this clergy has given to the universal Catholic Church with their martyrs,” a Church statement said.

Pope Francis opens path to sainthood for French priest killed by ISIS

Pope Francis opens path to sainthood for French priest killed by ISIS
by Cindy Wooden
posted Monday, 3 Oct 2016

Pope Francis arrives at the Aliyev congress centre 
for a meeting with the authorities in Baku (AP)

Pope Francis gave a press conference on his flight from Azerbaijan to Rome

Pope Francis has confirmed he has sped up the process for making Fr Jacques Hamel, the French priest murdered by ISIS terrorists in July as he celebrated Mass, a saint.

Francis told reporters on his flight back to Rome from Azerbaijan on October 2 that he had spoken to Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, about setting aside the usual five-year waiting period to allow the collection of eyewitness testimony regarding the murder of Fr Hamel.

“It is very important not to lose the testimonies,” the Pope said. “With time, someone may die, another forgets something.”

Earlier on Sunday, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said the Dioceses of Rouen, where Fr Hamel lived and worked, had begun an inquiry into the priest’s beatification thanks to the Pope’s intervention.

The archbishop was speaking at a Mass to mark the reopening of the church where Fr Hamel was killed.

During the press conference, the Pope was asked by a reporter what US Catholics should do in a presidential election where both candidates hold some positions contrary to Church teaching.

Catholics facing difficult political choices must study the issues, pray about the election and then vote according to their consciences, Pope Francis said.

Although he was in a relaxed mood and welcomed reporters’ questions for almost an hour, Pope Francis said he would never comment on a specific electoral campaign.

“The people are sovereign,” he said. “Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.”

Pope Francis was also asked when he would name new members to the College of Cardinals and what criteria he would use to choose them.

He said he still had not decided precisely when to announce the names or hold the consistory to create the new cardinals, but it would likely be at the end of this year or the beginning of 2017.

As for the choices, Pope Francis said, the list of worthy candidates is long, “but there are only 13 places” to reach the limit of 120 cardinals under the age of 80.

The selection process will aim for a geographic mix, he said. “I like it when one can see in the College of Cardinals the universality of the Church, not just the European centre, shall we say.”

Although he and the reporters travelling with him had not yet returned to Rome and already were set to go to Sweden on October 31 – November 1, a journalist asked the Pope where he would be travelling in 2017.

A trip to Fatima, Portugal, is definite, he said. He intends to go May 13 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Also on the calendar, the Pope said, is a trip to India and Bangladesh and another trip to Africa, although the specific nation or nations has not been decided.

Asked about his promise to visit Colombia after peace was established in the country, Pope Francis said the peace agreement signed in September between the government and rebels was important, but the people of Colombia still have to vote to ratify the agreement and begin the real work of living in peace.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

True Christian Friendship

True Friends

The How-Tos and Joys of Christian Friendship

Friday, Jun 10, 2011 5:57 PM Comments (2)

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, "There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."

Many people say they have lots of friends. But how many are true friends? And what does St. Thomas mean by true friendship?

"True friends are an irreplaceable aid to one another in living out the Christian vocation, most of all because they encourage and inspire one another to become better," says John Cuddeback of Christendom College, who is the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness (Epic Publishing, new edition, 2010).

A true friend, he says, will encourage and inspire us to be good and lead virtuous lives.

Cuddeback explains: "To help another toward virtue, we have to be virtuous. You are only capable of true friendship to the extent you are virtuous."

This insight into the connection between friendship and virtue comes from Aristotle.

Cuddeback also notes that true friends strive "to be truly unselfish, to look for the good of the other person and work for their good."

Working for others' good ultimately leads to happiness.

"True friendship, properly practiced and understood, is a path that can lead us to true happiness — happiness not the way we use it nowadays, but in the classical sense of the word — fulfillment of one's nature," says John Millard, director of the pre-theology program at the Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., who used the previous edition of Cuddeback's book in his philosophy classes at a different Catholic college.

"In true friendship, as in true love, what we care about is the other person's fulfillment as a creature of God," Millard explains. "A true friendship is one of the main benefits of living a Christian life."

Among the major benefits: True human friendship enhances our understanding of friendship with God and is the natural preparation for entering into our ultimate vocation of friendship with Christ, explains Cuddeback.

"The art of being a true friend helps us to be able to live in friendship with Christ," he says. "When in John 15:15 Our Lord says, 'Now I call you friends,' if we haven't experienced true friendship, what does that mean to us? If our notion of friendship is from Facebook, we have a problem. Or if we hang around with people for having a good time, it doesn't mean much." But if it's about living virtue together, he explains, "then Our Lord's invitation is profoundly meaningful to us."

There's a need in today's social-media world to develop relationships beyond the superficial.

Cuddeback insists the challenges in our technological world — things like Facebook and texting — "are so pervasive and often a negative influence in our relationships. They tend to replace deeper and richer forms of communication. They form habits detrimental for true friendship. "Conversation is at the absolute heart of friendship, most especially for deep, rich, higher things. Anyone can have a superficial conversation. But deeper conversation has to be cultivated. There's something irreplaceable with face-to-face conversation."

When developing a true friendship, Cuddeback says to seek opportunity for rich conversation.

"Rich conversation means the deeper, the higher, the nobler the things we share in common, the more it unites us," he observes. It's not a common interest in sports, news or hobbies — although true friends can have light conversations, too — but in sharing a love of God, of virtue.

Cuddeback stresses: "It's going into the deepest and most important things in life: the meaning, purpose and goal of life. What is our Christian vocation? What are our responsibilities as parents? As students?"

Cuddeback adds, "Where your heart is — that's where your conversations are. True friends help us keep our hearts on the most important things."

Also, true friends need to "have a deeper sense of accountability to one another."

The assumption we don't correct but just accept one another isn't correct, Cuddeback says. "In true friendship," he says, "there is correction out of love. And it's not easy to offer fraternal correction."

All these pointers about true friendship are working for Michael Schmiedicke in Front Royal, Va., in his pursuit of virtue, Christian manhood and fatherhood, and spiritual support.

Despite our busy lives, he has learned "true friendship isn't just a category of nice extras if you can fit them in. It was essential, and I had to make time in my life for that."

He now gets together with a like-minded friend one evening a week to pray and talk about the good things going on in their lives.

"It has innumerable blessings," he says, "and is a great bedrock and support for me as father and husband."

On the spiritual side, he decided to commit to praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament after his friend encouraged him of the benefits.

His better understanding of friendship has also prompted Schmiedicke to make sure "to just pray with my wife Dian and sit and talk with her."

"Marriage should be a unique instance of true friendship," Cuddeback notes. "Spousal life lived to its fullness implies living a true friendship."

Also, for parents, a primary question is: How can I encourage and cultivate true friendship in my children?

"It will make all the difference for their moral life and spiritual life," says Cuddeback.

"Parents should be true friends to their children," explains Millard. "In other words, care about the fulfillment of their child's nature as a human being and about their child's salvation because true human fulfillment only comes in union with God, who alone can satisfy all of our human urgings. If they love God and understand who God is, and who they are, they will be able to deal with anything. That's what it means to say friendship is concerned with the well-being of the other person."

The oldest of Schmiedicke's four children is 9, and he and his wife are teaching their children how to choose friends wisely.

"It's so easy to put your own faith and children's at risk associating with someone who doesn't want the same things you want," he cautions. The family associates with families they admire so their children see the same kinds of behavior patterns, ideals, virtues and faith as they see encouraged in their own home.

Cuddeback gives a reminder about our ultimate true friendship — the one with Christ.

"The heart of our relationship with Christ is our prayer life, and the heart of prayer life is knowing how to have deep conversation," he asserts. If we don't have that habit of deep conversation, how are we going to know how to pray to Our Lord? Or how to form friendships with the saints?"

Speaking on St. Gertrude in an October 2010 audience, Pope Benedict XVI said that she "shows us that the heart of a happy life, of a true life, is friendship with the Lord Jesus. And this friendship is learned in love for sacred Scripture, in love for the liturgy, in profound faith, in love for Mary, so as to be ever more truly acquainted with God himself and hence with true happiness, which is the goal of our life."

As Millard concludes: "A true friend helps you to live the right kind of life. True friends, in the words of my wife, help each other get to heaven."

Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.