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Global Catholic tech: Online Arabic catechetical program unites Middle East Catholics

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A bishop from Lebanon shared at the 2018 Synod of Bishops how his online catechesis program in Arabic has helped him to unite young Catholics across the Middle East.

“Thanks to the web I am able to connect many young people from the Middle East. We've also had conversions of young people who have recognized Jesus through our social presence,” Bishop Joseph Naffah said at the a Vatican press conference Oct. 19.

Synod fathers from Africa, South America, and the Middle East spoke Friday about their hopes for the future of evangelization and catechesis in a digital age.

Bishop Naffah is the auxiliary bishop of the Maronite Catholic eparchy of Joubbé, Sarba, and Jounieh in Lebanon.

For five years Naffah has been running an online catechetical program that connects over 500 Arabic-speaking Catholic students in conversations about the faith.

Students in the online program include youth in prison, as well as young people with disabilities.

“I’ve been moved in particular by one person who is totally paralyzed,” Bishop Naffah said.

While positive about the potential of online catechesis, the Maronite bishop also expressed concern that there are websites that contain false Catholic teaching online.

Naffah sees a need for a mechanism for Vatican approval of catechesis and teaching shared online, such as a special office to monitor Catholic webpages and then certify sites that accurately reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Kofi Fianu of Ho, Ghana has also found success connecting with young people in Africa through the daily online Bible reflections that he shares with them.

“From this apostolate of digital reflections I have been in contact with many of the youth,” said Bishop Fianu. “They interact with me. They ask questions about what I have written in the reflection.”

“All of us, first of all, we the bishops, clergy need to be real ministers of the word. When we are able to drink deeply into the word of God, when we are on fire for this word, we can transmit it faithfully and more actively to the youth and the rest of the members of the Church,” Fianu continued.

Father Valdir Jose Castro from Brazil said that young people know the language and the grammar of the world of social media and are crucial in assisting the Church to reach out and open the doors.
 
“The Church needs to study in depth and improve its understanding of technology and the internet in particular so as to discern how she should live there and where fertile soil can be found,” Father Castro said.

The internet is a venue where the Church can encourage young people to be “protagonists in evangelization, not just the beneficiaries.”

 

Christ's throne is the cross, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 05:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The throne of Jesus Christ is the cross upon which he gave his life for the world, and those who wish to follow him must be prepared to sacrifice everything, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“The message of the Teacher is clear: while the great of the earth build themselves ‘thrones’ for their own power, God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which he reigns giving his life,” the pope said Oct. 21.

“Jesus says, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

In his mediation before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, in which James and John ask Jesus to grant that they may sit one on his left and one on his right in the Kingdom of God.

“Jesus knows that James and John are animated by great enthusiasm for him and for the cause of the Kingdom, but he also knows that their expectations and their zeal are polluted by the spirit of the world,” he said.

So, Jesus tells them: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

They must learn that to follow Christ requires sacrifice, the pope said, because “the way of love is always ‘at a loss.’”

This lesson, he continued, is not only for James and John, but for all the Apostles, and for Christians of all time, who are infected with the same worldly mentality. As Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

“It is the rule of the Christian,” Francis said. “The way of service is the most effective antidote against the disease” of searching to be first, “which infects so many human contexts and does not spare even Christians, the people of God, even the ecclesiastical hierarchy.”

“Therefore, as disciples of Christ, we welcome this Gospel as a call to conversion, to witness to, with courage and generosity, a Church that bows at the feet of the least, to serve them with love and simplicity,” he stated.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis led those present in St. Peter’s Square in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for those who have given their lives for the faith.

He also praised the witness of Bl. Tiburcio Arnáiz Muñoz, a Jesuit priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Rural Parishes, who was beatified in Malaga, Spain Oct. 20.

“We thank the Lord for the testimony of this zealous minister of reconciliation and tireless announcer of the Gospel, especially among the humble and the forgotten,” the pope said.

“His example impels us to be agents of mercy and courageous missionaries in every environment; his intercession supports our journey.”

He recalled the day’s celebration of World Mission Day, and its theme of “Together with the young we bring the Gospel to all.”

“Together with the young: this is the way!” he emphasized. “And it is the reality that, thanks to God, we are experiencing in these days of the Synod dedicated to them: listening to them and involving them we discover many testimonies of young people who found the meaning and joy of life in Jesus.”

He concluded by greeting the participants of a Rome pilgrimage which took place earlier the same day, which was led by Caritas International and Cardinal Tagle.

The pilgrimage was part of an initiative called, “Share the Journey,” which promotes fraternity between immigrants and non-immigrants.

 

How St. John Paul II began his papacy, 40 years ago

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- St. John Paul II used the occasion of his first homily as pope to offer a fervent prayer that God would make him, first and foremost, a servant.

The former Cardinal Karol Wojtyla delivered the first homily of his 26-year pontificate before a packed assembly in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1978— 40 years ago this week.

His election was a few days before, on Oct. 16.

John Paul II began his homily by reaffirming the words that had once been uttered by the apostle Peter in the presence of Jesus: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

“Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all,” the newly-elected pope said. “He who is infinite, inscrutable, ineffable, has come close to us in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem.”

The pope exhorted those seeking God, those who already believe, and those struggling with doubt to pay attention to Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus. Peter’s faith and obedience to a higher calling led him to leave his simple way of life as a fisherman and journey to Rome.

“What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire?” the pope said. “Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of the Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. But guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!”

“Son of Poland”

On the day he began his new mission as Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul admitted he was “a bishop full of trepidation, conscious of his unworthiness.”

As a self-proclaimed “son of Poland,” John Paul was the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years. In this moment, as he took over the See of Peter, he proclaimed that the unbroken tradition of the papacy had made him a Roman, too.

“Inscrutable is the design of Divine Providence!” he said. “How could one not tremble before the greatness of this call and before the universal mission of this See of Rome!”

To his fellow Polish Bishops and to the many Polish pilgrims present, John Paul II said:

“Everything that I could say would fade into insignificance compared with what my heart feels, and your hearts feel, at this moment. So let us leave aside words. Let there remain just great silence before God, the silence that becomes prayer...Remember me today and always in your prayers!”

Humility and service

John Paul II chose not to wear a papal tiara, or crown; the last pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963. He said he didn’t want to return to “an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes,” but rather to immerse himself in “humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.”

The “power” exercised by the popes is service, John Paul II said; service to help all the people of God share in the mission of Jesus as Priest, Prophet, and King. This power expressed itself in “charity and truth” rather than in “the language of force.”

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power,” the saint said. “Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.”

“Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid.”

Though his homily was in Italian, John Paul II— a famous polyglot— also offered greetings to pilgrims in French, English,German, Spanish, Portuguese, Czechoslovakian, Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian, asking all of them for prayers.

 

 

 

Church needs fewer and better seminaries, says seminary prof

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In the wake of recent reports concerning widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse at seminaries, a seminary professor has suggestions for how the seminary process could improve.

Fr. Thomas Berg, a professor of moral theology and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, suggested in an Oct. 18 Washington Post column six ways the formation process of seminarians could be changed to ensure that they would be properly formed both spiritually and emotionally.

Berg criticized the current seminary system for an “overemphasis on academics” that leaves seminarians lesser formed emotionally and personally. He warned that those kinds of deficits do not form priests who are ready to effectively serve their parishes, and could result in additional misbehavior.

“Where focus on personal psychological integration is lacking, space opens for disordered living of precisely the type that has made headlines in recent months,” he said. Seminaries in several U.S. cities announced investigations into misconduct this summer.

Next, Berg said that there needs to be increased trust and transparency betweens seminarians and formation teams. He said it “pained [him] to hear” that some seminarians had felt as though they could not discuss recent abuse stories. This censorship was “utterly wrongheaded.”

He said that seminarians should be able to “freely, frankly and confidently express to the formation team their concerns about the seminary community, their opinions about the formation process and any other honest apprehension or contribution they want to make in the spirit of honest dialogue.”

Additionally, he called for seminaries to have clear sexual harassment policies and protocols, and said that a person associated with the seminary, lay or otherwise, should be appointed to contact the diocese regarding sexual harassment or abuse.

Berg additionally called for a possible minimum age for seminarians, and said that “bishops need to slow down the rush to ordination.” He suggested that an age of 22 may be an appropriate time to begin seminary studies, which would allow the seminarian to acquire a college degree and work experience before entering.

While the current seminary process takes about seven years, Berg suggested that the process be extended by another year. An initial year of formation would consist of “detoxing from the culture and social media,” and would result in “growth in self-knowledge, prayer, and a secure masculine identity.” The final year prior to ordination could consist of “intensive fieldwork” in pastoral ministry.

Bishops may not appreciate this idea, he said, but he believes it is necessary, as the Church cannot be well served by priests who are ordained before they are actually ready for the position. This spiritual immaturity could result in mental health crises or other issues among clergy.

“When years later some of them falter, with addictions or other personal struggles, we all pay a heavy price,” he explained.

Berg also expressed concern at what he described as “priests who lack the skill set and drive to become mentors, role models and moral guides” being assigned to seminaries as formators.

“A doctorate in theology does not render a priest automatically suitable for such ministry,” he said. Bishops need to require that the formators themselves undergo ongoing professional formation to better serve the seminarians.

For his final points, Berg addressed the number and quality of seminaries in the United States. He said that steps should be taken to identify which seminaries are successful in the formation of priests, and those that are failing at this task. He suggested that bishops should form a panel of “seasoned seminary formators” who will visit each seminary to review their processes.

Seminaries that are “failing in their mission” should be reformed or closed.

Finally, Berg said that the current number of seminaries in the United States--70--is far too high and that number needs to be consolidated. A third of those seminaries, according to a recent report, have fewer than 50 seminarians, whereas 11 of them have more than 100 men in formation.

Instead of this glut of seminaries that are clearly not needed, Berg suggested making “15 or 20” regional seminaries, staffed by the best-of-the-best formators from seminaries around the country who would work in teams.

The current times require a “radical rethinking” of seminaries, one that must be started by the bishops, he said.

 

Bishops talk abuse crisis, same-sex attraction at youth synod

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2018 / 08:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the youth synod wrapped up its third week, the bishops and auditors discussed the sexual abuse crisis in parts of the world and how to respond to young people experiencing same-sex attraction.

At a press briefing Oct. 20, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne said the sexual abuse crisis, the failure of leadership to address abuse appropriately, and the failure of bishops to listen to and believe victims, have come up consistently in synod discussions since day one.

He said he believes one of the key things going forward is the need to apologize for failures, to acknowledge shortcomings, and to start implementing better practices. He noted that in Australia, they have had protocols in place for around 20 years for the accountability of bishops.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said that if someone came forward with an accusation, or there was a charge against him, he would welcome an investigation and would not stand in its way.

What the bishops are hearing from young people, he said, is the need for accountability and transparency – that no one, especially clerics, are exempt from being held accountable for the actions or inactions.

Though the abuse crisis is “not on the front burner in some countries,” Cupich continued, “the bishops are seeing that it needs to be addressed well” and that it should include the laity, with their presence on review boards.

He also pointed out that many of the bishops present for the synod are the president of their local bishops’ conference and will therefore be back in Rome in February 2019 for a summit addressing abuse prevention.

He said he sees these conversations as a springboard for going forward. Though he said Catholics will have to wait and see how the Vatican organizes the February meeting of bishops, he has a lot of confidence in Pope Francis as “a man of action,” who will want concrete things to come out it.

“Yes, there’s a lot of anger out there,” Cupich stated, “but beneath that anger is a lot of sadness, a sadness that the Church should be better and should get this right.”

As part of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 3-28, small language groups presented reports on their discussion of the third part of the working document, called the Instrumentum laboris, for the assembly on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.

In the small group chaired by Cardinal Cupich, and which Comensoli and Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea are a part of, they discussed the issue of young Catholics who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, proposing that there be a separate section for this issue in the final document of the synod.

The main objective of the section should be “pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the report states.

In the press briefing Oct. 20, Cupich said a number of the short speeches of synod participants, and small groups, have said they want the final report to say something inclusive of everyone and to address young people with same-sex attraction.

“I was asked a question: what is the final document going to have to say to people who have same-sex attraction, have this aspect to their life? My answer was I think the whole document has something to say to everybody,” Cupich said.

“We wanted to make sure everyone felt included by what we say. So whatever form that takes, our small group was for it.”

The cardinal also referred people to research presented in the John Jay report, which he said shows that the root of priestly sexual abuse is not homosexuality, but many different causes.  

Cardinal Ribat said they want to communicate that the Church is a home where everyone is welcome and accepted. He said young people have shared their experiences very freely and encouraged bishops to address it, “in the language they are using.”

They say, “call us and address us as this because this is who we are,” Ribat said.

The bishops were asked to clarify what they meant by welcoming and accepting young people with same-sex attraction. Bishop Alain de Raemy, auxiliary of Lausanne, Geneve, and Fribourg, Switzerland, said he is concerned with transmitting the Gospel to those who do not know it, and those who want to be Christian, but do not feel represented by the LGBT question.

Archbishop Comensoli said it is about recognizing that everyone is a sinner, and everyone needs to be found by God and receive his love.

“We are also the sinners who are called to be at the foot of the cross in our lives. So, in the sense of welcoming, of receiving, and of entering into the friendship of Christ, we also take our lives, me included, to the foot of the cross. And that’s every single person,” he said.

So, when he speaks with friends who might be homosexual or struggling with their sexual identity, he said, he speaks to the “with the friendship of Christ, as I ought to. And as a friend, I say, how do we progress together to the foot of the cross.”

Addressing a concern expressed by many people before the start of the synod, that the Instrumentum laboris was too concerned with sociological ideas and terminology, rather than with the language of faith, Comensoli said he has seen a real shift in the last week of discussions, away from sociology and toward an incorporation of the teachings of the Church, theologians, Scripture, and saints.

 

Having kids won’t doom your country, says #PostcardsForMacron creator

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- The idea that high fertility rates are a barrier to economic success is a contemporary myth, Catholic University of America economics professor, mother of eight, and viral hashtag creator Dr. Catherine Pakaluk told CNA.

Pakaluk started the viral “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag on Monday in response to French President Emanuel Macron’s comment at a Gates Foundation event.

Macron suggested that educated women would not choose to have a large number of children if they had a choice. While Pakaluk thinks the comment was taken partly out of context, and tried to give Macron the benefit of the doubt, she still thought it was “so ridiculous.”

Pakaluk’s academic research area focuses in part on the effects of fertility on economic development.

“High fertility is not the product of ignorance,” Pakaluk told CNA. She said Macron’s comments represent an “underlying view” common in contemporary culture.

This attitude prevails both in Africa, and in other places such as the United States, she said. Women like herself who chose to have many children face a “pejorative attitude” from other people about their decisions to have lots of children.

“That's what I pop into, and say 'Hey, look, this is silly. Lots of women do choose this,’” she explained.

And while Pakuluk said most college-educated women do not choose to have that many children, “there are some.”

“So that was my main impetus to pick that [line of Macron’s speech] out."

Pakaluk was critical of Macron’s take that families with large number of children are holding Africa back developmentally. She described this mentality as “kind of a contemporary myth” that is not backed up with statistics.  

“There is no evidence that says countries cannot grow quickly, or steadily, with high levels of fertility,” she explained. “There are a lot of people, in response to this [...] out there kind of crunching the numbers on African fertility. And some have pointed out 'look, actually African fertility is not especially high relative to its income.'"

Across the continent, the average fertility rate does not climb to seven, eight, or nine, she said. In reality, the total fertility rate (TFR) throughout Africa is closer to the world’s median rate, “in the four range.”

"There simply is not mountains and mountains of evidence to say that if countries get their fertility rates down to the twos and the threes, all of the sudden you're going to just explode [economically]," she said.  

Nigeria, the country in Africa with the highest GDP, has the 12th-highest fertility rate in the world, with a TFR of 5.07. South Africa, which has the second-highest GDP on the continent, has a much lower fertility rate of 2.29.

Pakaluk told CNA that she was unhappy that Macron compared forced child marriage, which is “not something Christians could get behind or agree with,” to having large families.

She theorized that Macron’s views were similar to those of the Gates Foundation, which considers population growth to be a barrier to economic growth.

She expressed concern that this viewpoint could be used to force contraception on African women, “regardless of whether they are asking for this.”

“And I think that’s false, because other countries have grown quickly with a TFR in the range that [African countries] are in.”

While most social conservatives do not oppose the availability of contraception, she said, “what they’re against is kind of an aggressive policy” that wastes time and money that could be spent on other developmental programs.

Additionally, Pakaluk said that providing contraception to girls who were forced into marriage in their preteens “isn’t going to help” their situations. Instead, she suggested that more efforts be focused on opposing the cultural norms that approve of these situations.

She is also concerned that “an era of cheap and widely-available contraception,” in which it is easy for people to pick the size of their families, people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children.

Pakaluk lamented declining fertility rates in other parts of the world, mentioning especially Europe.

While France is home to Europe’s highest TFR at 1.96, it is still below the population replacement-level rate of 2.1. This is cause for concern for Pakaluk, who warned that the low birth rates would spell disaster for the continent’s extensive social programs.

She is also concerned that the anti-child mentality is a sign of bigger problems.

"People don't have kids to save their countries from demographic winter,” she said.

“They have kids because of a certain attitude towards meaning and the meaning of life and what it means to live a good human life."

 

Nepal says 'no' to online porn

Kathmandu, Nepal, Oct 19, 2018 / 07:10 pm (CNA).- Nepal has introduced a ban on pornography as part of a government initiative to stem the country’s high rate of sexual assault.  

By Oct. 14, internet providers in Nepal had already blocked more than 25,000 pornographic websites. Unlike the country’s attempt to ban X-rated material in 2010, this ban will instill fines and prison sentences for violators.

According to the Associated Press, internet providers who do not comply with pornography ban could be fined up to $4,200 or lose their licenses. Under the ban, pornography cannot be broadcasted or publicized; violators could face one year in prison.

Nepal has 115 internet service providers, all of which have reportedly been contacted about the law.

Dr. John Foubert, an expert on sexual assault prevention at Oklahoma State University, has written recently that pornography can be a catalyst for sexual violence. The violent content now rampant in pornographic material is influencing the formation of young minds, he says.

“Pornography itself is a recipe for rape that has rewritten the sexual script for the sexual behavior of the millennial generation and is currently rewiring the brains of the generation to follow,” he wrote in a 2017 paper published in Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Violence and Exploitation.

“Research of popular pornography films found that in 88% of the scenes…there was verbal or physical aggression, usually toward a woman. The more interesting finding is that 95% of the time when someone is violent with another person in porn, usually a man toward a woman, the recipient is shown as either liking that violence or having no objection.”

Rape in Nepal has increased dramatically in the last decade. The Nepali Times stated that there were 1,131 reported rapes in 2016-2017, a nearly 300 percent increase from the fewer that 400 accounts of reported rape in 2008. 26.4 million people live in the country.

Access to the internet in Nepal has also risen significantly since the early 2000s. There were almost 5 million people in the country with internet access in 2016, up from 523,876 in 2009.

Critics of the law have noted that there is too much pornography online for it to be blocked completely. According to the New York Times, the managing director of Vianet Communications, Binay Bohra, called it an impossible task, noting there are millions of websites to block.

Alex Hawkins, a spokesperson for xHamster, one of the already blocked sites, told the New York Times that the website’s traffic in the country, which had dropped heavily last week, has already rebounded to its normal use.

Nepal failed to implement its porn laws in 2010 because police forces and internet providers eventually relaxed on its enforcement. However, the anti-porn nonprofit Fight the New Drug, said it is valuable for any country to emphasize the connection between porn and sexual violence.

“Whether you support this recent move by the Nepali government or not, their move gives visibility to the ways that porn and violence are linked.”

 

Are you ready for the March for Life? Organizers announce 2019 theme

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The theme of the 2019 March for Life will be “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini announced at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The theme was chosen as science is inherently pro-life, Mancini explained Oct. 18. Science has continued to “reaffirm the scientific fact, and the truth, that life begins at fertilization/conception.”

“Our DNA is present at the moment of fertilization, and no fingerprint, ever--past, present, future--is like yours. And that’s what it means to be unique from day one,” said Mancini.

She pointed out that “society often ignores or tries to block these facts,” and reminded the crowd that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama refused to provide an answer when asked when he believed life began, saying it was “above his pay grade”

Mancini said that while remarks like these provide “cover” for someone who is in favor of abortion rights, “scientifically, it’s not factual.”

Fetal development, she said, is “astonishing.” She noted that the heart begins to beat just three weeks after fertilization, and that the fetus is capable of movement at eight weeks. At 13 weeks, the fetus has fingerprints, “just like our logo.”

Science, said Mancini, “should always be at the service of life, not the reverse.”  

"Science makes it clear that human life, our uniqueness as individuals, is true from the moment of conception or fertilization,” she said.

This meshes with the mission of the March for Life, she explained, which is to “protect the baby in its earliest stages.”

“So we exist, our very reason for being is to protect and defend life from the moment of fertilization."

Also announced on Thursday were that commentator Ben Shapiro and former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson will be speaking at the upcoming March for Life.

The 2019 March for Life will be held on January 19, in Washington DC. It has been held each year near the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade declared a legal right to abortion in 1973.

Polish priest, martyr and hero: Remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 19, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- When Communist officials kidnapped and killed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, they likely did not intend to help create a Polish hero, martyr and future saint for the Catholic Church.

Although the Communists had been trying to kill Popiełuszko in ways that would seem like an accident, they captured him 34 years ago today, on Oct. 19, 1984. They beat him to death and threw his body into a river. He was 37 years old.

His crimes: encouraging peaceful resistance to Communism via the radio waves of Radio Free Europe, and working as chaplain to the workers of the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement and trade union, which was known for its opposition to Communism.  

Popiełuszko was born on Sept. 14, 1947 to a farming family in Okopy, a village in eastern Poland bordering modern-day Ukraine. While World War II had ended, the regime of the Communist Party had taken place of the Nazis and ruled Poland at the time.

As a young man, Popiełuszko served his required time in the army before completing seminary studies and becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Warsaw. He was ordained on May 28, 1972 at the age of 24.

As a priest in Warsaw, Popiełuszko served in both regular and student parishes. He became known for his steadfast, non-violent resistance to Communism, about which he spoke frequently in his homilies, which were broadcast on Radio Free Europe.

Popiełuszko participated in the Solidarity worker’s strike in Warsaw on March 27, 1981, a four-hour national warning strike that essentially ground Poland to a halt, and was the biggest strike in the history of the Soviet Bloc and in the history of Poland.

After this strikes, the Communist party declared martial law until July 1983 in the country, severely restricting the daily life of Poles in an effort to clamp down on their growing political opposition.

During this time, Popiełuszko celebrated monthly “Masses for the Homeland” on the last Sunday of the month, advocating for human rights and peaceful resistance of Communism, and attracting thousands of attendees. His Warsaw office had also become an official hub for Solidarity activities.

It was also during this time that Communist attacks against the priest escalated. In 1982, Communist authorities attempted to bomb the priest’s home, but he escaped unharmed. In 1983, Popiełuszko was arrested on false charges by the Communist authorities, but was released shortly thereafter following significant pressure from the Polish people and the Catholic Church.

According to a 1990 article in the Washington Post, Cardinal Józef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw at the time, received a secret message from the Polish Pope John Paul II, demanding that Glemp defend Popiełuszko and advocate for his release.

"Defend Father Jerzy - or they'll start finding weapons in the desk of every second bishop," the pope wrote.

But the Communist officials did not relent. According to court testimony, in September 1984 Communist officials had decided that the priest needed to either be pushed from a train, have a “beautiful traffic accident” or be tortured to death.

On October 13, 1984, Popiełuszko managed to avoid a traffic accident set up to kill him. The back-up plan, capture and torture, was carried out by Communist authorities on Oct. 19. They lured the priest to them by pretending that their car had broken down on a road along which the priest was travelling.

The captors reportedly beat the priest with a rock until he died, and then tied his mangled body to rocks and bags of sand and dumped it in a reservoir along the Vistula River.

His body was recovered on Oct. 30, 1984.

His death grieved and enraged Catholics and members of the Solidarity movement, who had hoped to accomplish social change without violence.

“When the news was announced at his parish church, his congregation was silent for a moment and then began shrieking and weeping with grief,” the BBC wrote of the priest’s death.

“The worst has happened. Someone wanted to kill and he killed not only a man, not a Pole, not only a priest. Someone wanted to kill the hope that it is possible to avoid violence in Polish political life,” Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, a friend of Popiełuszko, said at the time.

He also urged mourners to remain calm and peaceful during the priest’s funeral, which drew more than a quarter of a million people.

Again facing pressure from the Church and the Polish people, Poland's president Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski was forced to answer for the priest’s death, and arrested Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala, Waldemar Chmielewski and Colonel Adam Pietruszka as responsible for the murder.

“Our intelligence sources in Poland do not believe it,” the Washington Post reported in 1990, when the case was being revisited.

“Jaruzelski had presided over a far-reaching anti-church campaign. At least two other priests died mysteriously. And Jaruzelski created the climate that allowed the SB (Communist secret service) to persecute and kill Father Jerzy.”

In 2009, Popiełuszko was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the highest civilian or military decoration in Poland. That same year, he was declared a martyr of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI, and on June 6, 2010 he was beatified. A miracle in France through the intercession of Popiełuszko is being investigated in France as the final step in his cause for canonization.

Popiełuszko is one of more than 3,000 priests martyred in Poland under the Nazi and Communist regimes which dominated the country from 1939-1989.

On Friday, Archbishop Stanisław Budzik of Poland and the Polish bishops’ conference released a statement honoring the memory of Father Popiełuszko and all the 20th century priest martyrs of Poland.  

“Today, remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, we remember the unswerving priests who preached the Gospel, served God and people in the most terrible times and had the courage not only to suffer for the faith but to give what is most dear to men: their lives.”

 

How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael

Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.

After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.

Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.

“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”

St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.

He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.

The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.

“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.

“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”

He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.

The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.

“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people are way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”

Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.

“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.

For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul - by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”