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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.

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One of the founders of liberation theology in Latin America said he supports an effort to declare St. Oscar Romero a doctor of the Catholic Church.

During a March 18 livestream of an event celebrating the Salvadoran saint canonized ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One of the founders of liberation theology in Latin America said he supports an effort to declare St. Oscar Romero a doctor of the Catholic Church.

During a March 18 livestream of an event celebrating the Salvadoran saint canonized in October, Dominican Father Gustavo Gutierrez, considered by many as the father of liberation theology, said he thought the idea of naming St. Romero a doctor of the church was an "excellent" proposition.

While some value a person's writings or academic record, when it comes to declaring a saint a doctor of the church, "love toward another person is worth more than all of the theologies," said Father Gutierrez, recalling something he'd read from another theologian. He was speaking via internet to those gathered for "Romero Days," an event sponsored by the University of Notre Dame.

St. Romero's feast day is March 24.

Saints who are declared doctors of the church "are probably best thought of as doctors in the Ph.D. sense of the word," said Father Larry Rice, explaining the term in 2015 on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Through their research, study and writing, they have advanced the church's knowledge of our faith. To be declared a doctor of the church does not imply that all their writings are free from error but rather that the whole body of their work, taken together serves to advance the cause of Christ and his church," he wrote.

St. Romero was a prolific writer and much can be gleaned from his works, explained Father Gutierrez, who said he encountered the Salvadoran saint in the early 1970s. But contrary to the belief that many promulgated that St. Romero himself was a follower of liberation theology and its embrace of the "preferential option for the poor," there isn't much to support that, said Father Gutierrez.

"We can't say that," he said, because St. Romero was traveling a different journey, and he had already encountered a world of poverty in Eastern El Salvador in 1970 when he served there. Father Gutierrez's book that gave a spotlight to liberation theology wasn't published until 1971. By then, St. Romero was making "advances" of his own because of the poverty he had seen among his people, Father Gutierrez said.

Just before St. Romero's May 2015 beatification in El Salvador, Chilean Father Pablo Richard Guzman, a well-known liberation theologian in Latin America, told Catholic News Service that while the Salvadoran archbishop was not a follower of liberation theology, "he influenced us."

While he may have heard of the liberation theology, St. Romero was undergoing a "process," not the much-talked about conversion others tout, Father Gutierrez believes.

"Much has been said about Romero's conversion and people have the right to say what they think," Father Gutierrez said. "I just want to say that I don't agree."

Rather than a "conversion," Father Gutierrez said he believes St. Romero's "process" was one guided by the injustices he witnessed. Then he had the humility to say, "I need to learn," Father Gutierrez said.

He did seem to show a bit of "distrust" of certain movements within the church in Latin America, Father Gutierrez said, but he was always willing to keep an open mind.

He said later in life he read the saint's notes about meeting with him. St. Romero wrote: "Father Gustavo was different than what people had told me."

Witnessing his canonization decades later was not a surprise, Father Gutierrez said.

"It was a great pleasure but, like many, I was sure it was coming," he said.

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Copyright © 2019 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: March 20, 2019, 4:25 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Josh Estey, Care International via Reuters

By Bronwen Dachs

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Two boys at a Catholic boarding school in Zimbabwe are among the more than 300 people killed in the aftermath of a cyclone that slammed into Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in mid-March. Of...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Josh Estey, Care International via Reuters

By Bronwen Dachs

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Two boys at a Catholic boarding school in Zimbabwe are among the more than 300 people killed in the aftermath of a cyclone that slammed into Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in mid-March. Officials fear the death toll from the cyclone could reach 1,000.

A landslide sent rocks crashing into a dormitory at St. Charles Lwanga Seminary Secondary School in Mutare Diocese, trapping about 50 students and staff. They dug themselves out, and teachers carried the boys' bodies for about 10 miles in the Chimanimani district, a mountainous area in eastern Zimbabwe, before the group was picked up by the army and taken to the nearest hospital.

In Mozambique, more than 200 people have died and nearly 350,000 are at risk, President Filipe Nyusi said March 19. In Zimbabwe, the government said about 100 people had died, but the death toll could triple.

"It's very difficult to know the extent of the damage" and the death toll, with collapsed infrastructure and communication lines down, Erica Dahl-Bredine, Catholic Relief Services' representative for Mozambique, said in a March 18 telephone interview.

Beira, Mozambique's second-largest city and a major port, "is almost completely destroyed, and some areas outside the city are impossible to reach," she said. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down Beira's international airport and cut off access to the city by road.

"People are stranded on roofs of houses and in trees, waiting for help," Dahl-Bredine said, noting that roads and bridges have been washed away.

With overflowing rivers, whole villages have been submerged and bodies were floating in the floodwaters, she said.

Catholic Relief Services is working with local Caritas and other church and relief groups to assess the needs and provide help, she said.

Mozambique is a long, narrow country of about 30 million people with a 1,500-mile coastline along the Indian Ocean.

The cyclone, called Idai, landed in Beira late March 14 before moving to Zimbabwe with strong winds and heavy rain.

Because Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, the "sheer force and strength of the cyclone" was worse than anticipated, Rita Billingsley, who works for Catholic Relief Services in Zimbabwe, said in a March 19 telephone interview from the capital, Harare.

With crops, livestock and homes destroyed in the storm, "about 12,000 people are believed to have lost their livelihoods" in Zimbabwe, Billingsley said, noting that numbers are expected to rise in affected countries as the extent of the cyclone's destruction becomes clearer.

Church premises throughout Zimbabwe are being used to provide refuge for those who have lost their homes, as well as to coordinate the emergency response with all those involved, she said. With "overwhelming local support," the church is "well placed to give a targeted and meaningful response."

"We need to get supplies to those who need it most and quickly," Billingsley said, noting that supplies are ready and airdrops are planned.

Unrelenting rains, rockslides and fallen trees have destroyed roads and bridges in many places, making rescue efforts very difficult, she said.

Also, with the destruction of Beira, the trade route to Zimbabwe will have to change and prices of goods are likely to rise, she said.

"Some goods won't be available at all, which will harm the markets" around Zimbabwe, Billingsley said.

"This means in-kind support rather than cash" will be prioritized, she said, noting that "provision of medical supplies is a major area of concern."

Shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies are already acute in Zimbabwe.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis prayed those affected by the flooding, which has "sown sorrow and devastation," be able to find comfort and support.

He expressed his concern and sorrow for "the many victims and their families" at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square March 20. He said he was praying that those "hit by this calamity" would find "comfort and support."

Father Frederick Chiromba, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, said in a March 18 telephone interview from Harare that early warning systems for the cyclone were in place but "the extent of the damage was worse than we had expected."

With "changing climate patterns, our droughts and other weather shocks seem to get more severe every time," he said.

Neighboring Malawi was also affected by the heavy rains. The government confirmed 56 deaths in the flooding, which caused rivers to burst their banks, leaving houses submerged and around 11,000 households displaced.

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Editors: Catholic Relief Services is collecting for cyclone victims: https://bit.ly/2JrkYrL

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Copyright © 2019 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: March 20, 2019, 2:42 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians have faith in a God who wants to and is able to transform the world, conquering evil with good, Pope Francis said.

That is why "it makes sense to obey and abandon oneself" to God and his will, even during life's most dif...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians have faith in a God who wants to and is able to transform the world, conquering evil with good, Pope Francis said.

That is why "it makes sense to obey and abandon oneself" to God and his will, even during life's most difficult moments, the pope said March 20 during his general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Continuing a series of talks about the Lord's Prayer, the pope focused on the line, "Thy will be done." It is the third petition in the prayer right after, "hallowed be thy name" and "thy kingdom come."

God's will -- what he wants -- is clearly illustrated throughout the Gospel, the pope said; it is "to seek out and save whoever is lost."

"Have you ever thought about what that means, that God is looking for me, for each one of us" personally, "knocking on the door of our heart" with love, hoping to capture people's attention and take them by the hand toward salvation, the pope said.

"God is not ambiguous," Pope Francis said. "He does not hide behind riddles" or inscrutable plans; he wants everyone to know the truth and be saved.

The Our Father is a prayer asking that this desire be fulfilled and that each person and all of humanity be saved, he said.

When people pray, "Thy will be done," they are praying not as subservient "slaves" but as children who understand and trust their father and his loving plan, the pope said.

"It is a courageous, even confrontational prayer because there are so many, too many things going on in the world that are not according to God's plan," he added.

In a world experiencing war, hatred and exploitation, he said, people of faith know that God wants what is best, which is why they pray his will be done and that swords be turned into plowshares, because "God wants peace."

The Lord's Prayer is meant to ignite the same deep love Jesus felt for his father, the same passion to "transform the world with love."

Christians do not believe in random, unalterable or "inescapable fate," the pope said. Rather, they truly believe "that God can and wants to transform reality, conquering evil with good," and this, he said, is why people pray.

Even though Christ was being "crushed by the evil of the world," he abandoned himself fully and confidently to God's will, the pope said.

That path to salvation may be difficult, and people may experience suffering, pain or harm, but God "will never abandon us. He will always be with us, next to us, within us."

"For a person of faith, this is more than a hope, it is a sure thing -- God is with me."

Present at the pope's general audience was Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Setsuko Thurlow, 87, a Japanese-Canadian survivor of the United States' atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. She received the prize in 2017 on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

She was part of a delegation of activists led by Earth Caravan, an interfaith group based in Japan and Canada. The group visiting the Vatican was made up of people from different countries and cultures, including four 13-year-old girls -- girls the same age as Thurlow when the bomb dropped on her city and killed her family.  

The group was to present Pope Francis with an oil lamp lit with a flame that was taken from the burning ashes of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The flame, the group said on its website, has been burning continuously since Aug. 6, 1945.

The group was going to ask the pope to blow out the flame they brought as a symbolic gesture of wishing for a world free of nuclear weapons and a brighter, more peaceful world.

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Copyright © 2019 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: March 20, 2019, 2:00 pm