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5th of April 2020.
Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday)
Liturgical colour: red    (more...)
I
N THE CHURCH TODAY
M
ASS INTENTIONS
Today (Sunday)8:30 amNo Intention
9:30 amNo Intention
10:45 amNo Intention
12:00 pmNo Intention
Tomorrow (Monday)10:00 amNo Intention
R
ECENTLY DECEASED
We remember all those who have died recently:
Daniel Okeeffe Funeral Notice...
Tina MacSweeney Odonoghue Funeral Notice...
Cathal Higgins Funeral Notice...
Mark Tully Funeral Notice...
Alice Fowler Funeral Notice...
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha
TODAY'S READINGS
F
IRST READING
Isaiah 50:4-7
Responsorial Psalm
The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.
For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.

...Full Reading

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.
For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.
The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

...Show Summary

R
ESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 21(22):8-9,17-20,23-24
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
All who see me deride me.
 They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
 let him release him if this is his friend.’
...Full Responsorial Psalm
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
All who see me deride me.
 They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
 let him release him if this is his friend.’
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
 a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
 I can count every one of my bones.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
 They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
 my strength, make haste to help me!
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
 and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
 all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
 Revere him, Israel’s sons.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

...Show Summary

S
ECOND READING
Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel Acclamation
His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
...Full Reading

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

...Show Summary

G
OSPEL ACCLAMATION
Phil2:8-9
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Christ was humbler yet,
even to accepting death, death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name which is above all names.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
G
OSPEL
Matthew 21:1-11
First reading
When they drew near to Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
‘Go into the village facing you,
and immediately you will find an ass tied,
and a colt with her: untie them and bring them to me.
...Full Gospel
When they drew near to Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
‘Go into the village facing you,
and immediately you will find an ass tied,
and a colt with her: untie them and bring them to me.
If anyone says anything to you, you shall say,
“The Lord has need of them,”
and he will send them immediately.’
This took place to fulfil
what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
‘Tell the daughter of Sion,
Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;
they brought the ass and the colt,
and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon.
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road,
and others cut branches from the trees
and spread them on the road.
And the crowds that went before him
and that followed him shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!’
And when he entered Jerusalem,
all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’
And the crowds said,
‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.’
...Show Summary


L
ISTEN TO TODAY'S READINGS

(New American Bible.)


The Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Matthew 21:1-11
(
TODAYS GOSPEL:
Matthew 21:1-11 )

TODAY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The Sunday Liturgy supersedes Memorials (Saint's Days) and most Feast Days.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Due to the Coronavirus Emergency most events in the Parish have been cancelled

LATEST PARISH NEWS

BCR EASTER 2020

Due to the current restrictions we are unable to print this Easters verion of our BCR Newsletter. We usually try to deliver these Newsletters to all homes in the three Parishes. Here is our online 6 page version (click read more to see all the pages) Please read and tell your friends about it. Thank you and God Bless.

 » Read more:

jason
Easter Schedule 2020

Please note all Masses and Services will be broadcast on our Parish Webcam and on Church Services TV

Monday 6 April:
10am Mass

Tuesday 7 April:
10am Mass
7.30pm Celebration of Reconcilliation in Holy Week

Wednesday 8 April:
10am Mass

Holy Thursday:
7.30pm Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Please
 » Read more:

jason

Holy See grants indulgence to Coronavirus patients and Catholics who pray for them
angelusnews.com

Holy See grants indulgence to Coronavirus patients and Catholics who pray for them Other devotions which may grant the indulgence, the penitentiary said, are participation in Mass through the internet, and the recitation of the Creed, the Our Father, and a “pious invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters.”

The indulgence is granted “from the authority of the Supreme Pontiff,”

To receive the indulgence, always under the usual conditions, Catholics not sick with COVID-19 may offer at least a half hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or a half hour of prayer with scripture, or the recitation of the rosary or chaplet of divine mercy “to implore from the Almighty God an end to the epidemic, relief for those who are suffering, and eternal salvation of those whom the Lord has called to himself.”

The indulgence is granted, the decree stated, “so that all those who suffer because of COVID-19, in the very mystery of this suffering, can rediscover ‘the same redemptive suffering of Christ.’”

The document quoted St. Pope John Paul II, who wrote in Salvifici doloris that the value of human suffering “is supernatural, because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the redemption of the world, and it is also profoundly human, because in it man finds himself, his very humanity, his very dignity, his very mission.”
Read More....
For more stories like these go to Catholic News and Opinion

LATEST WORLD NEWS

See more in the Catholic World section. News, Opinion, Reviews, Catholic Teaching, Living the Life.
Apr. 5 Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, Sunday
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass's colt!" (Jn 12:13-15).
US bishops: Jesus' Sacred Heart is open for you, despite 'bitter affliction' of coronavirus
Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2020 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- The novel coronavirus pandemic's effects on victims and the closure of churches have deeply pained the Catholic faithful and clergy, but Holy Week is a time to join together to seek God's mercy and love in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said. “In the heart of Jesus, pierced as he hung on the cross on Good Friday, we see the love of God for humanity, his love for each one of us,” Gomez said in an April 3 message for Holy Week. “This Holy Week will be different. Our churches may be closed, but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains,” he said. “Our Lord’s heart remains open to every man and woman. Even though we cannot worship together, each of us can seek him in the tabernacles of our own hearts.” “Because he loves us, and because his love can never change, we should not be afraid, even in this time of trial and testing,” said Gomez. “In these mysteries that we remember this week, let us renew our faith in his love.” Gomez said he will pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Good Friday, April 10, for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. He asked Catholics to join him via internet livestream at 9 a.m. Pacific Time / noontime Eastern Time. The livestream will be hosted at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles website and the U.S. bishops' conference Facebook page. “Let us join as one family of God here in the United States in asking our Lord for his mercy,” said Gomez, who added that Pope Francis has granted a special plenary indulgence to those who pray the litany for an end to the pandemic. The novel coronavirus has created a situation “almost without precedent” in the Church, he said. The virus, formally known as COVID-19, has infected over 1.1 million people and killed 63,800 worldwide as of Saturday afternoon, according to figures from the John Hopkins University COVID-19 Map. In the U.S., about 274,000 have tested positive, 36,000 have been hospitalized, and 7,000 have died since the epidemic began, according to the COVID Tracking Project. More contagious and deadly than influenza, the virus has strained the resources of hospitals in the U.S. and worldwide. The virus has ravaged Italy and Italy's Catholics, whose dead include dozens of priests. It is especially deadly for the elderly and those with health conditions. Many businesses and social activities deemed non-essential have been ordered closed by government authorities. Catholic churches closed, sometimes in advance of government orders, for fear of spreading the disease. The closures have caused major economic and social disruption, putting millions of people out of work. The closure of churches and restrictions on the administration of the sacraments have been especially painful for some Catholics, a situation Gomez acknowledged. “My brother bishops and I are painfully aware that many of our Catholic people are troubled and hurt by the loss of the Eucharist and the consolation of the sacraments,” he said. “This is a bitter affliction that we all feel deeply. We ache with our people and we long for the day when we can be reunited around the altar of the Lord to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” “In this difficult moment, we ask God for his grace, that we might bear this burden together with patience and charity, united as one family of God in his universal Church,” he said.   The Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus draws on centuries-old Christian devotions. It asks mercy from the Heart of Jesus, describing it as the “glowing furnace of charity,” “rich to all who invoke thee,” “desire of the everlasting hills,” “source of all consolation,” “our life and resurrection,” “victim for our sins,” “salvation of those who hope in thee,” and “hope of those who die in thee.” The indulgence applies to those who pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday, pray for the intentions of the pope, are “truly sorry for their sins,” and desire to go to confession as soon as possible. In Catholic teaching, which recognizes that every sin must be purified on earth or in Purgatory, an indulgence remits “the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” Gomez said we should ask the Virgin Mary to intercede for us, that God “might deliver us from every evil and grant us peace in our day.” His April 3 message further reflected on the situation. “Future generations will look back on this as the long Lent of 2020, a time when disease and death suddenly darkened the whole earth,” he said. “As we enter into Holy Week, these most sacred days of the year, Catholics across the United States and the world are living under quarantine, our societies shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.” “But we know that our Redeemer lives. Even in this extraordinary and challenging moment, we give thanks for what Jesus Christ has done for us by his life, death, and resurrection,” said Gomez. “Even now, we marvel at the beautiful mystery of our salvation, how precious each one of us is in the eyes of God.” The Los Angeles archdiocese website has dedicated a web page to the Good Friday Sacred Heart litany and livestream.
Monks offer free caskets amid coronavirus
Denver, Colo., Apr 4, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- An Iowa monastery of Trappist monks is offering an unusual but necessary act of charity amid the global pandemic - free caskets to financially struggling families who have lost a loved one. New Melleray Abbey has been making caskets for the public and offering prayers for the deceased since 1999. The monastery announced last week its new initiative to support families affected by COVID-19. “The COVID-19 virus will visit many families that are financially vulnerable and unprepared. In addition to their grief, they will wonder, ; ‘Where will we lay’ our loved one who has been unexpectedly taken from us,” Father Mark Scott, the order’s abbot, wrote in an announcement of the policy. “To financially stressed families directly impacted by the COVID-19 virus, the monks of New Melleray offer free of charge pine caskets made from trees from the abbey forest,” he added.   New Melleray Abbey supports itself by building solid wood caskets made from fully matured trees harvested at the order’s acreage in Dubuque County, Iowa. All of the donated caskets will be blessed and, as the order continues to pray for the deceased, the monks will send a card of remembrance to families on the first anniversary of the person’s death. The order also plants a tree for each casket made, as a living memorial. Marjorie Lehmann, director of administration for New Melleray Abbey, told CNA that the order has already received a few requests for free caskets since the initiative was announced March 25. “The free casket offer is a temporary measure designed to provide some financial relief to families who are undergoing financial distress because of COVID-19,” she said. While the monks live a hidden life of prayer, she said, they are keenly aware of the current events. She said the order has provided this service to be close to the pandemic victims, and provide a service to those families facing financial difficulties as well. “In the crisis of COVID-19, [they] make the offer of the casket as an expression of their solidarity with all those who are suffering because of the virus,” Lehmann said. “They believe that it's a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead and … since they are a cloistered group of monks, this is how they can reach out to the world and help in a time of need.” More than one million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more 50,000 have died. More than 10 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks, as mandatory lockdowns have forced numerous businesses and organizations to close their doors.   Lehmann said the virus is a potential danger for anyone, noting that the full ramifications of the pandemic have yet to be seen. “[It] could really be anyone who might be out of a job because their workplaces needed to close down because of this pandemic. It really could be anyone finding themselves in financial stress or needing that comfort of burying their loved one and a small part of relief in their life from a donated casket,” she said. “[It’s] honoring someone's life, respecting the person that passes away is honoring that person's life and validating that person's life,” Lehmann added. “People need people to show compassion. This is a very small gesture of something that a lot of people would need in this pandemic. So to be compassionate and know that people are not alone, that we're thinking of them, we're praying for them, and we're here to help in this manner. There's no reason not to do it.”
How the Phoenix diocese is helping families celebrate Holy Week at home
Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 4, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Holy Week this year is going to look different for almost every Catholic in the United States. On Palm Sunday, people will wave last year’s palms, or this year’s pine branches, or, if they’re lucky, palms from their parish, from the confines of their home instead of the pews of their parish. On Holy Thursday, feet will be washed by a family member, or not at all. For the veneration of the Cross, Catholics will kiss their personal crucifixes instead of lining up to kiss the crucifix at their parish. Candle-lit Easter Vigils will be celebrated by solitary priests livestreaming Mass from empty chapels. It’s going to be different, and it’s going to be hard. That’s why a group of priests and laypeople at the Diocese of Phoenix compiled “A Journey Through Holy Week for Families”, an online flipbook resource to guide Catholic families through celebrating Holy Week from their homes. “We had a meeting last week...specifically about Holy Week and how to enter into Holy Week knowing that we couldn't have public Masses at this time,” Fr. John Parks, the Vicar for Evangelization for the Diocese of Phoenix, told CNA. “We just thought - what are ways that we could really strengthen the family and invite the family to pray as the domestic Church?” he said. “You're not going to be able to see the washing of the feet at Mass. So can we include a little rite from home that a family could do the washing the feet of their family members?” Parks said. “Or on good Friday, again, you can't see or experience the veneration of the Cross at Mass, could we equip a family to do a little veneration of the Cross from home?” After the brainstorming session, Parks’ colleague compiled all the readings, prayers and resources into a 150 page online “flipbook” for families. The books covers the Mass readings as well as prayers and other liturgically-themed activities from Palm Sunday through the Triduum and Easter Sunday, as well as the readings and resources for Divine Mercy Sunday, which comes eight days after Easter. The online book includes links to videos that include everything from livestream Masses from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Phoenix to talks by Bishop Robert Barron to recordings of songs to sing during prayer time at home. It also includes links to recipes, virtual pilgrimages, coloring pages for kids, a guide to cut out palms from green construction paper, and a Holy Thursday puppet show script. “There is so much...there's all these different activities and songs you can play. So my only fear that it'd be a little overwhelming. But we’re trying to tell parents, just pick two or three things and have a little game plan for the day,” he said. “So it’s like reading a playbook for sports - they don't run every play, you just pick the play that you think will help your team, so that's what we're thinking of.” Parks said while he understands that this Holy Week will be different than what families are used to experiencing, he thinks that this is a special time of grace for families, who are acting as the domestic Church. “I really believe that God is pouring out a grace now to strengthen the domestic Church in the family. And that there's a great thing poured out specifically for parents, to live deeper in their natural authority that they have over their children, to make them saints and to help them,” he said. “This little book, it's like ‘ut vadat tecum’, in Latin, ‘to go with’ you. It goes with you. It's a tool that we hope to put in the hands of parents and pastors to help them equip families to walk through this week,” he said. “That would be my desire, is that even though people can't participate in public liturgies, there's still a way to participate, to a lesser degree of course, but from the home. And I think for some families that might be unique. They've never done a washing of the feet. They've venerated the Cross. They've never prayed the Stations of the Cross in their own home. It can be a really beautiful moment of experiencing holy things in the home.”
Thought For The Day – April 4th
Thought for the day for April 4th
Palm supplier sees business halved by coronavirus cancelations
Denver, Colo., Apr 3, 2020 / 11:55 pm (CNA).- Thomas Sowell and his wife own Southeast Palm and Foliage in Astor, Florida, in the middle of the state, about 40 miles west of Daytona Beach. “It's in the middle of nowhere, actually,” Sowell told CNA in January. Sowell isn’t Catholic, but his business supplies palms to hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country— in every state, as well as in Canada— not to mention the many Episcopal, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran communities that also use palms. Last year, the Sowells’ farm shipped over four million palm leaves. “There's not many of us that do this. There's not many people, not many companies do what we do,” Sowell told CNA. “I know that there have been, over the past, say, 50 years, quite a few other companies embark upon this, but for whatever reason they couldn't hang in there with it. It's really difficult.” Sowell never imagined how difficult this year’s harvest would turn out to be. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, and with Mass suspended through Holy Week in every Catholic diocese in the United States, the Sowell’s business is taking a hit. “We had an incredible number of cancellations up until two weeks ago,” he told CNA April 2. Most of his orders for Palm Sunday come in during January, he said. This gives the palm suppliers the chance to harvest the palms, package them, and refrigerate them so they stay fresh before they’re shipped. Normally, some of the biggest challenges to Tom’s business are natural, such as hurricanes and flooding. In terms of the weather, this was a great harvest year, he said, and they were able to gather all the necessary palms to fulfil the Palm Sunday orders they originally had. The process of cutting, cleaning and preparing the strips of palm is incredibly labor intensive. But then, as the coronavirus pandemic took a hold in the US, parishes started canceling those orders. “So here we are with an incredible amount of palms left over that were scheduled to be prepared and shipped...we just lost that,” Sowell said. Altogether, Sowell said his family will likely ship fewer than half the palms they did last year. “It's unbelievable. It's hard to grasp what's going on globally,” he said. Though Sowell also uses leftover palms to create ashes for Ash Wednesday, he has such a large enough stockpile of ash— eight to ten years worth, in fact— that he said it doesn’t make sense to burn any more palms, especially since ash doesn’t go bad. All the extra palms are currently in a dumpster on his property. The only thing he can really do with them, he said, is use them as fertilizer for next year’s crop. “So we'll just take them out, spend a few days to drive through the areas where they came from and just scatter them back out again,” he said.Kate Olivera contributed to this report.
Apr. 4 Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent; Optional Memorial of St. Isidore, bishop and doctor , Opt. Mem.
St. Isidore, who succeeded his brother St. Leander as Archbishop of Seville, was one of the great bishops of the seventh century. He was proficient in all brances of knowledge and was regarded as one of the most learned men of his time; with Cassiodorus and Boethius he was one of the thinkers whose writings were most studied in the Middle Ages, St. Isidore died in 636. Pope Innocent XIII canonized him in 1722 and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church.
US religious freedom ambassador calls for release of prisoners of conscience
Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The U.S. religious freedom ambassador on Thursday called on governments to release prisoners of conscience during the new coronavirus pandemic. “In this time of pandemic, religious prisoners should be released.  We call on all governments around the world to do so,” Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said on April 2 during a conference call with reporters. He said that the “very crowded, unsanitary conditions” faced by some prisoners is a nightmare scenario during a pandemic. “These are people that should not be in jail in the first place,” he said. “They are simply in jail for peacefully practicing their faith, and yet various regimes put these peaceful prisoners in jail.” An official U.S. list of global prisoners of conscience was mandated under the 2016 Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan federal commission that makes policy recommendations to the State Department, is charged with creating the list. USCIRF says the list is “in formation.” Brownback did note specific areas of concern for prisoners of conscience, however, he praised Iran’s furloughing of 100,000 prisoners of conscience, but added that some “high-profile religious prisoners” are still detained there. In China, as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities are detained in camps in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Province (XUAR) in the country’s northwest. Although the country has officially reported only 76 COVID-19 cases in the region, diaspora groups are concerned that the actual number of cases is much higher—and of the potential for the disease to spread in the mass internment camps where hunger and torture have been reported.   Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong members have also been imprisoned for their faith in China, and should be released, Brownback said. He also called on the government of Vietnam to release 128 prisoners of conscience, for Russia to release “nearly around 240 prisoners of conscience,” Eritrea to release 40 prisoners, and for Indonesia to release more than 150 people detained for violating the country’s blasphemy laws. When asked by reporters if he was concerned about any countries in particular, Brownback responded “Iran, simply because it’s got hit big early and you’ve got a number of notorious prisons that are there that are quite overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.” “North Korea has a very high number [of prisoners],” Brownback said, who “would be under exceeding exposure to COVID.” Vulnerable religious populations elsewhere could also be at risk of the pandemic, he said, including Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh. “When we talk about a crowded place,” he said, “if COVID got going there it would just spread like wildfire.” A Nigerian cardinal, he said, also commented that the country would not have the resources necessary to deal with a serious outbreak. USCIRF has also voiced concerns that governments could use the pandemic to crack down on religious minorities, or violate freedom of religion. The commission issued a fact-sheet on March 16 outlining some of its concerns, including Muslim Uyghurs being forced to work on factories around China despite health concerns, churches in South Korea subject to harassment for their alleged role in spreading the virus, and Saudi Arabia issuing a travel ban on a predominantly Shi’a Muslim province. But on Thursday, Brownback said that, according to “anecdotal information,” governments around the world were not citing the pandemic to crack down on religious minorities. He said that “fortunately the reporting that we are seeing is that governments are, by and large, not doing that and in some cases being more lenient towards religious minorities.” He also called on churches and religions around the world to practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus. “I haven’t been to mass myself in several weeks, and it’s the longest period I’ve gone without going to mass, and I think people should be doing this to stop the spread of the virus,” Brownback said.
Filipino seminary shelters tourists trapped on holiday
CNA Staff, Apr 3, 2020 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- A Filipino seminary has opened its doors to over a dozen trapped tourists, who have been stranded since a mandatory lockdown was extended last month. Saint Joseph Seminary in Puerto Princesa is providing shelter to 18 people now stranded in Palawan province following a forced extension to their holiday. The tourists began their vacation March 11, but government orders placed Palawan on a more enhanced lockdown, canceling all domestic and international flights March 17-April 12. Instead of returning home, the travelers were staying at guest houses until they ran out of money for food and lodging. Local officials then asked help from the Vicariate Apostolic of Puerto Princesa. “I told them that we are ready to help and they can stay as long as they need shelter. The seminary will be open to cater to the needs of people in a similar situation, especially in this time of crisis,” said Father Roy Vasquez, the seminary rector, according to the UCA News. While resources are limited, the priest expressed hope for future donations and gratitude for those who have been kind enough to share already. “Of course, our resources are limited. So, eventually when they run out, we will ask for help or donations. But so far people are sharing their blessings, so we are really very thankful,” he said.
Colombian kidnapping victim says God is faithful
Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 3, 2020 / 04:04 am (CNA).- Diana María Toro Vélez was kidnapped on a September day, as she drove home from Mass in the Colombian city where she lived. She spent 453 days in captivity. And she says that God’s grace kept her hope alive during the ordeal. “I left Mass one Thursday and was driving home in my car and when I got home they assaulted me. They asked me a few questions and took me away. They sold me to the guerrillas,” Toro told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner. Toro, the mother of three, told ACI Prensa that during her captivity, she was sometimes forced to march a lot, one time for up to 15 days in a row. “I clung to God. I cried and prayed a lot. I really held fast to God. I taught the kidnappers how to read and write. We prayed. There was a certain coexistence, and good things came out of the bad,” she said. Toro, 41, was kidnapped Sept. 27, 2018, in Amagá, about an hour’s drive from Medellin. Her captors were criminals, members of a gang called “The Sorcerers,” who handed her over to Marxist guerrillas from the the National Liberation Army (ELN) for 48M pesos, about $12,000. The ELN reportedly asked 3 billion pesos, about $745,000 for her return. Toro was released from captivity on Christmas Eve, 2019. The Catholic Church in Colombia had appealed for her release, and the release appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward achieving some kind of peace agreement between the ELN and the country’s government. Public officials credited the Church with arranging the release. Speaking to ACI Prensa, the young mom said that she was “very devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When I was kidnapped I made a rosary and prayed it every day, praying a lot to the Virgin that she would allow me to be returned to my children. And God heard me, because I was released on Dec. 24, 2019.” It was difficult, Toro said, to be “separated from my three children, one of them 3, another 4 and one 14 years old. Separated from my husband, my parents, my siblings, my family members, relatives and friends.” “These were 453 days of anxiety, grief, sadness and despair. 453 days of living in the middle of the jungle, sleeping under a canopy, on branches, with snakes, scorpions, mosquitos and many other animals around,” she said. Toro told ACI Prensa she subsisted on parrot, pasta, cooked banana, and rice. She had only two sets of clothes and infrequently bathed.  “These were really hard days without knowing anything about my family, just with the certainty that God was with me, filling me daily with his strength and fortitude and firmly believing that if I woke up okay, my family was okay too,” she said. “And God brought me out of that really hard situation. I saw that his glory and his mercy are immense.” Toro said the ordeal has filled her with gratitude. “I want to tell those people who in these times feel alone or in despair because of the situation we’re going through in Colombia and the entire world, that God is with us, he never has left us alone, especially now.” “Let’s pray the rosary, let’s pray as a family. The power of prayer is immense,” she added.  This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
NY Catholic nursing homes in 'desperate need' of supplies to fight coronavirus
New York City, N.Y., Apr 3, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The threat of the coronavirus has hit nursing homes of the Archdiocese of New York especially hard, with families now being advised to bring their loved ones home if possible. Fr. John Anderson, vice president for mission integration at ArchCare, a “post-acute delivery system” of the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA on Friday that the system’s CEO has advised families with loved ones in ArchCare nursing homes to bring them home if they can be cared for there. NBC News reported on Thursday that ArchCare’s nursing homes have been especially hard-hit by the crisis, with more than 200 COVID-19 cases among residents. “Our nursing homes are desperately in need of PPE [personal protective equipment],” Fr. John Anderson told CNA. As to whether families are starting to bring their loved ones home, “I have not seen a lot of that going on,” Fr. Anderson told CNA on Friday. ArchCare serves 9,000 people each day in nursing homes, a long-term care program, and a specialty hospital. New York City has become the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, with the number of confirmed cases skyrocketing from more than 5,700 cases on March 20 to more than 57,000 confirmed cases and 1,584 deaths as of April 3. Yet a lack of PPE—particularly in nursing homes—poses a critical problem for chaplains. The shortage is so acute in the region that health care staff have been asked to use one mask all week long when they would previously have changed it between patients. The health department “asked us to not only use it [the mask] all week, but to do whatever we can to use it the week after,” Fr. Anderson said. Availability of PPE makes the difference between chaplains’ ability to have a face-to-face visit with a sick patient, or to stand in the doorway a safe distance away, he said. Without PPE, priests cannot administer the sacrament of anointing of the sick which requires the direct anointing of the patient with blessed oil. “Chaplains are there to pray,” he said, but “can only spend so much time with a patient” during the crisis. Two ArchCare chaplains have tested positive for COVID-19, he said, but other archdiocesan priests have volunteered their services, “very willing to help.” The archdiocese is also monitoring the situation for elderly nuns in convents, who are more susceptible to the virus. Another difficulty is families of sick patients not being able to visit them in the hospital or nursing home—“hard to see,” Fr. Anderson said. There are also no funerals, but simply burials with up to 10 people who can attend, spaced apart. With Easter approaching, nursing home residents and hospital patients may not be able to attend Mass in person but are still ministering to patients as best they can. “We have gotten palms” for nursing home residents, Fr. Anderson said ahead of Palm Sunday, with accompanying prayer cards in English and Spanish. Priests will also offer Holy Week Masses in a chapel to be filmed and projected onto living room TVs for the elderly patients. The Order of Malta is making Easter cards for residents in one program, Fr. Andreson said, while the Knights of Columbus are also making Easter cards for patients. “Folks have been very generous and have really come forward,” he said.
Coronavirus brings crackdown on house churches in China
Communist authorities in China are using efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic to step up enforcement action against Christians who worship in house churches, government insiders have told the human rights and religious freedom publication Bitter Winter. China has been battling coronavirus since late 2019, and the virus is believed to have emerged from a “wet market,” selling both living animals and butchered meat, in the city of Wuhan. Since then, multiple Chinese cities have been placed under lockdown in order to stem the spread of the virus. According to the journalist An Xin, writing in Bitter Winter on Wednesday, the city of Nenjiang, in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, has offered incentives to residents for reporting their neighbors if they are known or suspected to host religious services in their homes. On February 20, the city’s coronavirus control group, which was created by the Chinese government, released an order that specifically banned providing a location for “illegal religious activities.” The coronavirus control group said that this was designed to prevent further people from contracting COVID-19. If a house church was discovered, it would be “resolutely shut down,” per the report in Bitter Winter. Residents of Nenjiang were offered a reward of 5,000 RMB (about $700 U.S.) if they reported suspected illegal religious activity to the authorities. In January, the leader of a house church in Daqing city in Heilongjiang province was photographed by Chinese officials, and was forced to write and sign a pledge to stop holding religious services. “Since 2018, community officials have been coming to film me and my house,” the church leader told Bitter Winter. “They always know where I go,” she told the publication. “Every time I visit a fellow believer, they follow and harass me. I’m monitored wherever I go.” Local government officials have ramped up their prosecution of house churches in the past six months, and have shut down at least 12 of these churches since late October. Since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has mandated the “sinicization” of all religions in China, a move which the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called  “a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’’ The Chinese government is in the midst of implementing a five-year “sinicization plan” for Islam, a religion that has faced increased persecution in the country with at least 800,000 Uyghur Muslims held in internment camps. Vatican accomodation of the “sinicization” program was a much discussed topic during the formalization of a 2018 agreement between the Vatican and China that regularized the country’s government-appointed bishops with the Holy See. Previously, bishops affiliated with the “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” were consecrated illicitly and previously held to be out of communion with Rome. China is home to more than ten million Catholics, with six million registered as members of the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, according to official statistics. Millions of Catholics belong to the underground Church, which, unlike the CPCA, is not overseen by the Communist party and has always been in communion with the Holy See. The Vatican-China agreement, reached in September of 2018, was intended to bring the CPCA into communion with Rome and unify the Church in China. According to some reports, the government’s persecution of the underground Church has intensified after the agreement was signed. A January report of the U.S. China Commission found that Chinese Catholics suffered “increasing persecution” after the deal, where the government was “demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy.” Priests and bishops have reportedly been detained or have gone into hiding. In November last year, the head of the state-sponsored CPCA, Bishop John Fang Xingyao, said that Catholics in the country must put their loyalty to the state before the faith. “Love for the homeland must be greater than the love for the Church and the law of the country is above canon law,” said Fang. The post Coronavirus brings crackdown on house churches in China appeared first on Catholic Herald.
Googling ‘prayer’ has skyrocketed with coronavirus spread
Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the surge of emerging cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher. The rising interest in seeking information about “prayer” on Google “skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global,” wrote Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture. Using Google Trends data on internet searches for “prayer” for 75 countries, she said she found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.” The findings were part of a preliminary draft study titled, “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released online March 30 for public comment. The working paper was to be updated with new data “regularly,” she wrote. Bentzen, who authored a paper in 2019 looking at the impact natural disasters had on “religiosity,” said she wanted to study whether the COVID-19 crisis was impacting “one of the deepest rooted of human behaviours — religion.” Specifically, she said she wanted to know whether the pandemic “has intensified the use of religion” globally, given that the coronavirus has affected more than 200 countries to date. The data-timeline showing “search intensity on ‘prayer’ is flat before a country registers its first case of COVID-19,” and then drastically rises after the first case is registered in a country for all regions of the world, including Muslim majority nations, she wrote. “The increases in prayer intensity documented here are the largest the world has experienced since 2004, the earliest date for which the Google Trends data is available,” she wrote. Google Trends measures keyword searches as a share of all total searches so any increase in internet activity doesn’t skew the data. Bentzen concludes that “we humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis. The COVID-19 has proven no exception.” “The rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years” and may likely continue to rise as the crisis worsens, she added. In response to Bentzen’s request for comments, some researchers cautioned against her assumption that “an increased share of Google searches for religious terms thus reveals an increased demand for religion.” One U.S. professor of sociology said the data only proved that more people were googling “prayer” and, without knowing people’s motives or background, it was not necessarily evidence of “an increase in religiosity.” The searches could “very well be the people who would normally have attended religious services but now can’t,” so rather than representing a net increase in a “demand for religion,” it may reflect a growing need to access resources and services online. But whatever the motives or reasons for the surge in searches, the online demand is real and massive with some Catholic outlets already responding to the huge increases they have seen on their own platforms. James L. Rogers, chief communications officer at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that, as of March 23, “mentions for the USCCB on Twitter increased 2,783% and the number of Facebook followers increased 172%, the second straight week of triple-digit increases.” “Correspondingly, the number of incoming messages to our Facebook account increased 177%. Many of the messages were prayer requests or advice on prayers,” he wrote by email April 3. Rogers said it made him think of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family “and how prophetic its focus on the domestic church now seems.” “Practical advice for how best to start or strengthen the prayer space in your own home does seem to me to be driving a lot of the traffic. That’s why our social media has tried to focus on simple ideas that anyone could try to get them started,” he added. John Grosso, director of digital media at the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut — one of many states with active stay-at-home executive orders — told CNS by email he has seen “an online tidal wave of new social media followers, website views, email newsletter sign up, video views and podcast listeners.” There are a lot of “new names” appearing on their social media and he is hearing from new people, he wrote. “I am anecdotally hearing many stories from people who said they have not been in church, to church or connected with their church in some time, but something about this pandemic drew them in,” he added. Responding to the Bentzen research, he said just because the word “prayer” is being searched more does not mean that people are “behaving” more religiously. However, “online traffic is most certainly up in religious circles. Whether that is because we cannot meet in person, or because we are attracting new or returning Catholics is anybody’s guess. Personally, I think it is a bit of both.” He said he uses a third-party company that analyzes all of their social media, website and email commentary “and helps us identify trends and thus we can tailor our message.” Grosso also interprets the data, “identifying key trends based on the time period and then making sure we are messaging appropriately.” For instance, if a keyword identifier says “prayer” has been referenced a number of times, he takes a random sample to get some specific details and “get a sense of what they really want and where they are asking — social, web, otherwise.” Then he will try to offer various options: post a video of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano talking about prayer practices; make prayer practices his podcast topic for the following week; request the bishop write a blog-reflection on prayer; or offer links on the website to various prayer practices. He said he tries to “take a deeper dive into (data) because keywords tell a story” and not project his own thinking or make too narrow an interpretation of a general topic. With the COVID-19 crisis, he said, “the best thing I can do is allow the data points to represent our constituents, their wants, their needs, their asks. I then do my best to balance that with the messaging” the diocese wants to share with the faithful. The post Googling ‘prayer’ has skyrocketed with coronavirus spread appeared first on Catholic Herald.
Pope’s favorability ratings move up from their 2018 low
Pope Francis’ favorability ratings among Americans of virtually all stripes are up from their low in 2018, according to a report released April 3 by the Pew Research Center. Among Catholics themselves, 77 per cent have a “very” or “mostly” favourable opinion of the pope, based on responses by 270 Catholics during Pew telephone surveying in January. That’s five percentage points up from his low of 72 per cent in September 2018, when the U.S. church had been buffeted by revelations of sexual misconduct by then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and the issuance of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed sex abuse by more than 300 priests and other church workers in six of the state’s dioceses over a 70-year period starting in 1947. In all, 1,504 U.S. adults were surveyed. Pope Francis’ favorability numbers are up among Catholics who are, or lean, Democratic, as well as those who are, or lean, Republican. He registered 87% approval among Catholic Democrats but 71 per cent among Catholic Republicans, indicating a partisan divide within the church that Pew has found deepening in its recent polling on the question. He also registered gains among non-Catholics. While Pope Francis had enjoyed majority support among white evangelical Christians in the past, a plurality of 43 per cent now view him favourably, while 39 per cent view him unfavourably. In the September 2018 survey, more evangelicals saw the pope unfavourably, 34 per cent-32 per cent. White non-evangelical Protestants’ favorability jumped from 48 per cent in 2018 to 62 per cent in January. Americans who consider themselves unaffiliated with any denomination gave the pope a 58 per cent favorability mark, up from 52 per cent. Because of the relatively small number of Catholics surveyed, no breakdowns are available on such demographic characteristics like age, race and language, according to Claire Gecewicz, a Pew researcher and co-author of the report. By comparison, Pew asked the “favorability” question of about St. John Paul II three times between 1987 and 1996. His net favorability rating was between 91 per cent-93 per cent. Pew asked the question five times during Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005-13 pontificate, ranging from a low of 67 per cent shortly after his election as pontiff to 83 per cent during his 2008 pastoral visit to the U.S. The other three times he achieved 74 per cent. The same question has been asked about Pope Francis 10 times during his seven years as pope. His highest mark was 90 per cent in February 2015. Prior to the two most recent polls, his previous low was 79 per cent in September 2013, six months after he became pope. Otherwise, he has reached 81 per cent-87 per cent in polling. The margin of error for the January survey is 3.0 percentage points for all respondents, 7.0 percentage points for Catholics, 11.5 percentage points for those who said they go to Mass weekly, and 8.8 percentage points for Catholics who said they go to Mass less often. The post Pope’s favorability ratings move up from their 2018 low appeared first on Catholic Herald.
Did Pope Francis really drop the ‘Vicar of Christ’ title?
From the moment he was introduced to the world after his election, Pope Francis has emphasized his identity as “the bishop of Rome.” The 2020 Annuario Pontificio, the official Vatican yearbook, has made the same emphasis typographically by listing other descriptions of the papal office as “historic titles.” Like the 2019 edition, there is a page that says simply, “Francis, bishop of Rome.” But unlike last year’s edition, the new yearbook does not precede the biography of “Jorge Mario Bergoglio” with the titles: “Vicar of Jesus Christ. Successor of the Prince of the Apostles. Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. Primate of Italy. Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome. Sovereign of Vatican City State. Servant of the Servants of God.” Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service that unlike in 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI had the title “Patriarch of the West” removed from the list, this time “there has been no suppression” of a title. “The definition of ‘historic’ in relation to the titles attributed to the pope on one of the pages dedicated to him in the Annuario Pontificio of 2020 seems to me to indicate the bond with the history of the papacy,” Bruni said. All of the other titles “are understood to be tied historically to the title of bishop of Rome because at the moment he is designated by the conclave to guide the church of Rome, the one elected acquires the titles tied to this nomination.” Pope Francis’ first words to the public after his election March 13, 2013, were: “Brothers and sisters, good evening. You all know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get him … but here we are.” The post Did Pope Francis really drop the ‘Vicar of Christ’ title? appeared first on Catholic Herald.
Cardinal Turkson brings rosaries to Rome hospital treating coronavirus patients
Cardinal Peter Turkson visited Rome’s largest hospital on Friday, encouraging staff and handing out rosaries blessed by Pope Francis. “I bring you the Pope’s embrace. You are not alone in the fight against the coronavirus!” Turkson, who is prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, told hospital staff and chaplains April 3, according to a press release. The cardinal, who was accompanied by the two undersecretaries of the dicastery, met with staff and told them he was bringing the greeting of Pope Francis to all of the coronavirus patients and their families. The three Vatican officials also handed out rosaries blessed by Pope Francis and assured hospital personnel of “the prayer and support of the Church in this difficult moment of struggle against the pandemic and of physical and spiritual trial,” the release stated. Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic is Rome’s largest general hospital and a teaching hospital for the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. During the coronavirus outbreak, the Gemelli hospital is working in partnership with one of Rome’s dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, the nearby Columbus Hospital. The hospital’s foundation started a COVID-19 research unit to help fight the virus and to coordinate the research efforts throughout Italy. As of April 3, there are more than 3,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Rome’s region of Lazio, with nearly 1,400 of these patients being treated in the hospital. The reported number of deaths is 199. A rosary for an end to the coronavirus was broadcast live on national Italian television from the St Joseph Moscati chapel of the Gemelli hospital April 2. The rosary concluded with a prayer for the intercession of Pope St John Paul II on the anniversary of his death. The post Cardinal Turkson brings rosaries to Rome hospital treating coronavirus patients appeared first on Catholic Herald.
‘In the risen Jesus, life conquered death,’ Pope Francis says in Holy Week video
Pope Francis on Friday sent a video message to Catholics around the world, urging them amid the global coronavirus pandemic to hope, solidarity with those who suffer, and to prayer. “In the risen Jesus, life conquered death,” Pope Francis said in an April 3 video, speaking about the upcoming Holy Week which will begin on Sunday, and culminate with Easter. “We will celebrate Holy Week in a truly unusual way, which manifests and sums up the message of the Gospel, that of God’s boundless love,” the pope said. “And in the silence of our cities, the Easter Gospel will resound,” Pope Francis said. “This paschal faith nourishes our hope.” Christian hope, the pope said, is “the hope of a better time, in which we can be better, finally freed from evil and from this pandemic.” “It is a hope: hope does not disappoint, it is not an illusion, it is a hope. Beside each other, in love and patience, we can prepare a better time in these days.” The pope expressed solidarity with families, “especially those who have a loved one who is sick, or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes.” “These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me. I cannot forget those who are sick with coronavirus, people who are in hospital.” “I also remember how many are in financial straits, and are worried about work and the future, a thought also goes out to prison inmates, whose pain is compounded by fear of the epidemic, for themselves and their loved ones; I think of the homeless, who do not have a home to protect them.” “It is a difficult time for everyone,” he added. Amid that difficulty, the pope praised “the generosity of those who put themselves at risk for the treatment of this pandemic or to guarantee the essential services to society.” “So many heroes, every day, at every hour!” “Let’s try, if we can, to make the best use of this time: let’s be generous; let’s help those in need in our neighborhood; let’s look for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks; let’s pray to the Lord for those who are tried in Italy and in the world. Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love. This is what we need today: the creativity of love.” More than one million people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus, and at least 60,000 have died. The pandemic has led to a global financial crash, in which tens of millions have lost jobs in recent weeks. While some parts of the world are now thought to be on the downslope of the viral spread, many nations have locked themselves down in the midst of the pandemic, or in the hope of quelling it early in its spread within their borders. In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, more than 120,000 people have contracted it, and there have been almost 15,000 recorded deaths from the virus. To conclude his video, the pope urged tenderness and prayer. “Thank you for allowing me into your homes. Make a gesture of tenderness towards those who suffer, towards children, and towards the elderly,” Pope Francis said. “Tell them that the pope is close and pray, that the Lord will soon deliver us all from evil.” “And you, pray for me. Have a good dinner.” The post ‘In the risen Jesus, life conquered death,’ Pope Francis says in Holy Week video appeared first on Catholic Herald.
In Japan, Church finds 16 cases of child sex abuse
A Japanese news agency reported on Thursday that an investigation by the country’s bishops’ conference has found 16 cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, which occurred from the 1950s to 2010s. The findings have not yet been made public, but sources familiar with the matter spoke with Kyodo News on April 2. Acts of abuse occurred in rectories, church buildings, and foster homes. The Japanese bishops announced the inquiry a year ago, and committees were established in each of the 16 dioceses to receive claims and consultations about abuse. In 2002 an internal survey made inquiries with the leading priest in each diocese. This resulted in two reported cases of sex abuse. A 2012 survey aimed to be a reference point in a manual for internal use. It did not aim to investigate facts or to resolve sex abuse. Five sex abuse cases were reported then. A 2004 survey on sexual harassment found 17 cases of “coercive physical contacts,” mostly by priests. The victims included minors. That survey had 110 respondents. In February 2019 Pope Francis held a meeting with bishops from around the world on the sexual abuse of minors. “Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” he said in his 2018 Christmas greetings to the Roman curia. The post In Japan, Church finds 16 cases of child sex abuse appeared first on Catholic Herald.