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Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To better prepare priests and pastoral workers to help meet the challenges families face today, Pope Francis is strengthening the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and changing its name to the Pontifical John Paul II Theologi...

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To better prepare priests and pastoral workers to help meet the challenges families face today, Pope Francis is strengthening the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and changing its name to the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family.

The new institution is to expand and deepen the types of courses offered as well as take "an analytical and diversified approach" that allows students to study all aspects and concerns of today's families while remaining "faithful to the teaching of Christ," the pope wrote.

The re-foundation of the institute was issued "motu proprio," on the pope's own accord, in an apostolic letter, "Summa Familiae Cura" ("Great Care for the Family"). Dated Sept. 8, the feast of the nativity of Mary, the letter was released at the Vatican Sept. 19.

The original institute for studies on marriage and the family was established by St. John Paul II in 1982, after the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the family called for the creation of centers devoted to the study of the church's teaching on marriage and the family. While the central institute is based in Rome, there are branches around the world, including in the United States, Australia, Mexico and India.

Given the newer gatherings of the Synod of Bishops on the family, those held in 2014 and 2015, and their call for a more pastoral and missionary approach to modern family life, Pope Francis wrote there is a need for greater reflection and academic formation in a "pastoral perspective and attention to the wounds of humanity" while keeping the original inspiration for the old institute alive.

By amplifying the institute's scope in making it a "theological" institute that is also dedicated to human "sciences," the pope said, the institute's work will study -- in a "deeper and more rigorous way -- the truth of revelation and the wisdom of the tradition of faith."

The anthropological and cultural changes underway affect every aspect of human life, he wrote, and that calls for a new approach that is not limited to pastoral practices and mission "that reflect forms and models of the past."

"We must be informed and passionate interpreters of the wisdom of faith" in a context in which individuals find less support than they had in the past from social structures, relationships and family.

"In the clear proposal of remaining faithful to the teaching of Christ, we must, therefore, look with the intelligence of love and with wise realism, at the reality of families today in all of their complexity, in their light and darkness," the pope wrote.

Meeting with reporters the same day, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of institute, and Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, president, said the pope's mandate to revitalize and strengthen the institute is a sign of how much he supports its work and wants it to make a greater contribution to the church and have a greater impact on society.

All new statutes, structures and programs will be needed to help the institute fulfill its expanded mission, they said. Current personnel and faculty will remain, but there will be new positions and new hires to offer the expanded course work necessary to better prepare students, said Archbishop Paglia.

For example, Msgr. Sequeri said, a course that addresses "the family and economics" is critical when so many family problems stem from financial difficulties.

"There has to be a theology for the family that exists," rather than just a theology of the ideal family, he said. The church must respond to all the contemporary issues people struggle with.

The church has such a long, rich patrimony of teachings that need to be "relaunched" to provide answers to new questions, he said, including gender theories and women's issues.

"Mustn't the church participate in some way with its reflections" by being positive and proactive and "not just pull back," he asked.

When asked whether having a more expanded approach to human sciences meant the institute would be hiring or collaborating with experts who have views not in line with church teaching, Archbishop Paglia said scientific reflection requires dialogue, including with those who are not Catholic.

"It's obvious a scientific institute, precisely because of its nature, cannot be closed up in itself," he said.

"Marriage is not a 'Catholic' question," he said; it concerns all of humanity. "And we cannot responsibly not enter into dialogue" with all those who hold dear the whole human family.

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Posted: September 19, 2017, 4:36 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although she died 100 years ago, St. Frances Cabrini is a shining example of "love and intelligence" in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis sai...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although she died 100 years ago, St. Frances Cabrini is a shining example of "love and intelligence" in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis said.

Responding to "the great migrations underway today" the same way Mother Cabrini did "will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility," Pope Francis said in a letter to Sister Barbara Louise Staley, superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the saint founded.

Mother Cabrini arrived in New York in 1889 to work with Italian immigrants, setting up orphanages, schools and hospitals in nine U.S. cities. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1909, she died in Chicago Dec. 22, 1917.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were holding their general assembly Sept. 17-23 at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago.

In her work, particularly among Italian immigrants to the United States, Mother Cabrini "focused attention on situations of greatest poverty and fragility, such as the needs of orphans and miners," the pope wrote in his letter, which was released at the Vatican Sept. 19.

Mother Cabrini also demonstrated "a lucid cultural sensitivity" by making sure she was in constant contact with local authorities, the pope said.

"She undertook to conserve and revive in the immigrants the Christian tradition they knew in their country of origin, a religiosity which was sometimes superficial and often imbued with authentic popular mysticism," he wrote. "At the same time, she offered ways to fully integrate with the culture of the new countries so that the Missionary Mothers accompanied the Italian immigrants in becoming fully Italian and fully American."

With dialogue and help integrating, he said, "the human and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and to the peoples who welcomed them."

While Mother Cabrini and the sisters had a specific mission to assist the immigrants and strengthen their faith, he said, Catholics today cannot forget "that is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus."

On a more personal note, Pope Francis told the sisters, "I assure you of my remembrance and prayers with deep affection, both because I have always known the figure of Mother Cabrini and because of the special concern I devote to the cause of immigrants."

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Posted: September 19, 2017, 3:00 pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. bishop vigorously defended Jesuit Father James Martin when a prominent U.S. seminary canceled an invitation it had extended to the well-known author, who was to speak about Jesus at an October event, after fringe groups unhappy with the priest's recent b...

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. bishop vigorously defended Jesuit Father James Martin when a prominent U.S. seminary canceled an invitation it had extended to the well-known author, who was to speak about Jesus at an October event, after fringe groups unhappy with the priest's recent book about the church and the gay community mounted a series of attacks.

Theological College, a national seminary at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said the cancellation, first made public Sept. 15, came after it "experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary's invitation" to Father Martin. It did not name the groups associated with the attacks.

"This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is -- not primarily for Father Martin's sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church," said San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy in a vigorous defense published by America magazine Sept. 18.

"The concerted attack on Father Martin's work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology, and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church," wrote Bishop McElroy.

The cancellation of the speech was not the first, Father Martin noted, even though that speech and others he was to give were about Jesus and not the book.

In a Sept. 15 Facebook post, the priest wrote about the incident and said the attacks included "a storm of phone calls, emails and messages to Theological College, which included, I was told, people screaming at the receptionists who answered the phone. In the end, they felt that the expected protests and negative publicity would distract from Alumni Day." 

Father Martin was to speak at an Oct. 4 symposium celebrating the 100th anniversary of the seminary's founding.

"The organizers were all apologetic and in some cases more upset than I was. I know that they were under extreme pressure, and in some cases were overwhelmed by the rage that can be generated by social media: ill will based on misrepresentations, innuendos, homophobia and especially fear. Perfect love drives out fear, as 1 John says. But perfect fear also drives out love," Father Martin wrote.

"Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity," the book that has driven the controversy, grabbed the No. 1 spot on Amazon's Roman Catholicism category Sept. 18. 

It has been endorsed by Bishop McElroy, U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and has a long list of endorsements from other notable Catholics. However, it also was recently criticized by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor of America magazine, where Father Martin is editor at large, defended the priest and the book, which has been approved by the Jesuits as being in line with church teaching, in a Sept. 16 statement.

"Some elements in the American church," Father Malone said, "have taken it upon themselves to organize a campaign, not only against the contents of the book, but against Father Martin himself. In recent weeks, Father Martin has been subjected to repeated, calumnious attacks in social media and in print, involving invective that is as appalling as it is toxic. It is one thing to engage in spirited debate. It is another thing to seek to stymie such debate through fear, misinformation, or blunt censorship."

Though Theological College, with the cancellation of the invitation made more than a year ago, was seeking to avoid controversy, it invited more attention. The news of the cancellation ended up appearing in the pages of major U.S. newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post over the weekend of Sept. 16 and 17.

John Garvey, Catholic university's president, issued a statement saying the institution regretted any implication that the university supported the decision by the seminary, adding that "universities and their related entities should be places of free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea."

Garvey said it was "problematic" that groups within the Catholic Church demonstrate an "inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity."

In his Facebook post, Father Martin, a consultor to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said the only thing he asked of the organizations that canceled his talks is that they be honest about the reasons for the cancellations.

"Also, I want to say that none of these cancellations disturbs me," he said. "I've not lost any sleep over them. ... I want to say that Jesus is close to me in prayer. So I am at total peace."

Thousands on social media, including high profile Catholics, voiced support for the Jesuit.

After the Theological College invitation was rescinded, Holy Trinity Church, in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood, asked Father Martin if he could instead visit their Jesuit parish around the same time.

"So I look forward to seeing you all in Washington," he said.

Whether by coincidence or on purpose, on Sept. 18 hackers briefly took down the international Catholic daily LaCroix International after it ran the commentary "Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship" about the incident.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: September 18, 2017, 10:21 pm
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