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Taizé leader: Young people are longing to meet together again

Rome Newsroom, Apr 7, 2021 / 02:30 am (CNA).- The prior of Taizé has said that his community sees how young people are longing to meet together again in Christian fellowship as France and other European countries remain under strict lockdowns this spring.

Br. Alois Leser has led the Taizé Community for more than 15 years. The ecumenical monastic community based in a rural area in Burgundy, France, is known for drawing tens of thousands of young people together each year to live and worship together.

He said that the coronavirus pandemic had caused the community some difficulty, but also provided the brothers with more time to reflect and a renewed perspective on the source of their hope.

“I think as Christians we are forced in this time to come back really to our faith and to see that our hope is not just a hope that things will be better or things will be easy,” Br. Alois told EWTN.

“It’s the hope in the resurrection that comes from the resurrection of Jesus that opens a new horizon, a new horizon beyond all situations, so also in this time of pandemic … we believe that there is another horizon which is given by the resurrection of Jesus,” he said.

With tight coronavirus restrictions still in place in much of Europe, the prior said that the community had turned to the internet to host meetings with young people and sent groups of brothers to the suburbs of Paris to live in solidarity with young people during “this difficult time.”

“We feel how much they are longing to meet together,” Br. Alois said. “They are very much connected through [the] internet, but this does not replace the personal meetings.”

Br. Alois Leser, prior of the Taizé Community, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 12, 2018. / Vatican Media.The prior met privately with Pope Francis before Easter. During the audience, he told the pope how Taizé was carrying out its ministry to young people during the pandemic and how the “small community of Taizé is living in the Church, in the whole universal Church.”

Br. Alois is a Catholic, whereas his predecessor Br. Roger Schütz, who founded the community in 1940, was born to a Swiss Protestant family. The community gathers to pray together three times a day following a structure of prayer similar to the Divine Office.

The Taizé Community is well known in particular for its distinctive music characterized by repetitive chants of lines from Sacred Scripture.

Br. Alois has written a number of songs for Taizé in recent years. He said that the repetition in Taizé’s songs “can stimulate an inner life and inner prayer” that brings about “communion among many.”

One of the songs written by Br. Alois is “In Manus Tuas, Pater,” which contains a chant inspired by Jesus’ words on the cross, which were themselves taken from the Psalms and are repeated by the Church in the Compline (Night Prayer): “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

“We sing it in Latin: ‘in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum,’ and we repeat it,’” he said.

“I feel this prayer is so important that we abandon ourselves really to God, that we really trust, even in very difficult situations when life is not easy but that we express also in these situations our trust in God, even if we have the impression that God does not just help … but we continue to believe that He is present,” Br. Alois said.

“This is one example and we are glad that we can have these repetitive songs in Taizé because people don’t have to read complicated texts in different languages. One sentence you have to learn in a language even that you do not speak. And you can repeat it and it creates communion among all those who are present.”

Br. Alois explained that in the beginning many of the songs and prayers in the community were in French. But as more international pilgrims began coming, they found that Latin was a language that brought unity in prayer.

He said that there is a long tradition of repetitive prayer and meditation in the Catholic Church, with the prayer of the rosary and the Litany of the Saints as examples.

The Taizé leader said that he prayed every day for victims of clerical abuse, aware that his own community had received allegations of abuse.

In 2019, Br. Alois issued a statement that the community had received five allegations of abuse committed between the 1950s and the 1980s by three of its members -- two of whom have been dead for more than 15 years.

The prior told EWTN that he felt a great sense of responsibility for all of the young people welcomed each year by his community and that changes had been made to the Taizé brothers’ formation, along with the provision of training for volunteers.

“We have to deepen the beauty of our commitment of celibacy also, which is not that we love less than other people but that we love in a different way,” he said.

While he acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic has made it hard to plan for the future, Br. Alois has said that he hopes that Taizé’s annual European meeting will be able to take place in person in Turin, northern Italy, at the end of this year after last year’s meeting was canceled.

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend John O’Hara, 75, as Auxiliary Bishop of New York.

The resignation was publicized in Washington on April 7, 2021 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Pope Francis Names Father Daniel Felton as Bishop of Duluth

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has appointed Rev. Daniel J. Felton as Bishop of Duluth. Bishop-elect Felton is a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay and currently serves as a vicar general and moderator of the curia for Green Bay. The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on April 7, 2021 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The Diocese of Duluth has been a vacant see since December 2019.

Father Felton was born February 5, 1955 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He attended St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Psychology (1977) and a Master’s degree in Theology at St. John University in Collegeville, Minnesota (1981). He received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in Dogmatic Theology and a Master’s degree in Social Communications from the Gregorian University in Rome (1990). He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Green Bay on June 13, 1981.

Bishop-elect Felton’s assignments after ordination include: associate pastor at Blessed Holy Innocents in Manitowoc (1981-1985); director of affiliate affairs for the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America in New York (1985-1987); correspondent for the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America in Rome (1987-1990); pastor of St. Raphael parish in Oshkosh (1990-2004); pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Manitowoc (2004-2011); and pastor of the combined parishes in Mackville, Greenville, and Freedom, Wisconsin (2011-2014). Since 2014, Father Felton has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Green Bay.

Bishop-elect Felton’s pastoral ministry also includes assignments as a member of the college of consultors, the presbyteral council, the diocesan finance committee, and the personnel board. He has also served as a member of the National Advisory Council for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Diocese of Duluth is comprised of 22,354 square miles in the state of Minnesota and has a total population of 448,983 of which 46,763 are Catholic.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Catholic teaching on Communion applies to politicians who support abortion, too, bishop says

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 6, 2021 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic teaching sees the Eucharist as Christ’s transformative sacrifice on the cross and this Holy Communion must only be received worthily. This teaching is not partisan, but it certainly applies to political leaders who back abortion and euthanasia, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has said in an apostolic exhortation on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
 
“Holy Communion is reserved for those, who with God’s grace make a sincere effort to live this union with Christ and His Church by adhering to all that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims to be revealed by God,” Bishop Olmsted said, explaining that Church teaching on this has “always been clear and based on Scripture.”
 
This is why the Church “requires Catholic leaders who have publicly supported gravely immoral laws such as abortion and euthanasia to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they publicly repent and receive the Sacrament of Penance,” continued his exhortation, Veneremur Cernui.
 
“Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is an intrinsically grave sin and that there is a grave and clear obligation for all Catholics to oppose them by conscientious objection,” the bishop said.
 
Olmsted said that the current political climate means the Church can be “easily accused of favoring one party and singling out politicians of a certain party with such a teaching.”
 
“However, the Church is only faithfully reaffirming its perennial teaching on the Eucharist and the worthy reception of Holy Communion which applies to every single person,” said the bishop. Elsewhere in the letter, he explained that in an unworthy reception of Holy Communion, the sacrament “becomes a sacrilege.”
 
He added: “the spiritual medicine becomes for that person – it is frightful to say – a form of spiritual poison.”
 
“When we do not really believe in Jesus, when we do not really seek to conform our entire life to Him and receive Jesus even though we know that we have sinned against Him, then this just leads to a greater sin and betrayal,” said Olmsted.
 
His exhortation included exhortations to an increase in devotional acts as well as to repentance and confession.
 
“The Church invites everyone to the Wedding Banquet while at the same time commits herself to helping everyone arrive properly dressed in a purified baptismal garment, lest the greatest Gift – the Eucharist – becomes his or her spiritual destruction,” he said.
 
Olmsted published the exhortation April 1, Holy Thursday, which marks the institution of the Eucharist.
 
“The more the Lord in the Eucharist is our central focus, the more surely He will bring us through these dark and turbulent waters,” said the bishop. “On this day when we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist, I as your shepherd implore each of you to seek out Jesus in the Eucharist to be strengthened and renewed in your faith.”
 
He voiced hope that everyone, whether strong in faith or weak, Catholic or not, will have a sincere “Eucharistic amazement” incited in them.
 
Olmsted  emphasized that Christ “meant what he said” in the Bread of Life discourse: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
 
“Despite the uproar caused by His teaching, Jesus did not soften His claim. On the contrary, He strengthened it,” said the bishop. “The Eucharist is the supernatural food that keeps us going along the difficult journey towards the Promised Land of eternal salvation.”
 
Invoking the imagery of the Old Testament, Olmsted portrayed the Mass as “the new Exodus from the Slavery of Sin.” The Eucharist fulfills both the Jewish Passover and the Covenant of Israel.
 
“The first Passover saved the Israelites from death and led to their liberation from slavery,” he said. “Every home that followed the rites commanded by God for this sacred meal were spared from the death of their firstborn sons.”
 
“Just as the Hebrews had no alternative means of liberation other than the Passover lamb, there is no other means to salvation than through the grace of Jesus’ own self-sacrifice,” he continued, adding that the Mass is the “eternal memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.”
 
“The sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary is perpetuated and made present to us in such a way that we can participate in it, linking our imperfect and sinful lives to the perfect and pure sacrifice of God and receiving all the divine benefits that flow from His eternal sacrifice,” said Olmsted.
 
“When we attend Mass, do we seek to join Jesus in His total surrender to the Father’s will? Do we bring our imperfections, our toil and sin, and lay them before Jesus to be consumed by His Death? We either say with Jesus, ‘Into Your hands, Father, I commend my spirit, too!’ or we choose to remain enslaved to our sin.”
 
Olmsted compared present-day anxieties, uncertainties, and doubts to those which faced the Israelites as they sought the Promised Land.
 
“(T)he Church at large is experiencing a grave crisis of faith in the Eucharist,” he said. “This crisis has inflicted additional significant implications for authentic Christian discipleship; namely, abysmal Mass attendance, declining vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life, waning Catholic influence in society. As a nation we are experiencing a torrent of assaults upon the truth.”
 
“The Gospel message has been watered down or replaced with ambiguous worldly values,” Olmsted continued. “Many Christians have abandoned Christ and His Gospel and turned to a secular culture for meaning that it cannot provide and to satiate a hunger that it can never satisfy.”
 
“In such troubled waters, our greatest anchor in these storms is Christ Himself, found in the Holy Eucharist,” said the bishop.
 
He chose the letter’s title, translated as “down in adoration falling”, from St. Thomas Aquinas’ hymn Pange lingua gloriosi. He exhorted the faithful to adore Christ “with ever increasing reverence.”
 
Every Mass, where Christ is present, is “immeasurable” in value and makes accessible “unfathomable” grace.
 
In response to a gift like the Eucharist, Olmsted asked various questions: “Do we really desire Him? Are we anxious to meet Him? Do we desire to encounter Him, become one with Him and receive the gifts He offers us through the Eucharist?”
 
Reception of Holy Communion is to change us and transform us into another Christ, he explained: “Being assimilated by Jesus in Holy Communion makes us like Him in our sentiments, desires, and our way of thinking. In Holy Communion, His heart nourishes our hearts; His pure, wise and loving desires purify our selfish ones, so that we not only know what He wants, but also start wanting the same more and more.”
 
The Eucharist also transforms those who receive it well into “one body, one spirit in Christ.”
 
Receiving Holy Communion “out of routine only, without openness to the Lord,” means we do not receive all the graces God wants to give us. Olmsted said it can be easy for us to “lose our sense of wonder” at the miracle of the Eucharist. Faith, however, is the “first essential requirement” to receive all the benefits and effects of Holy Communion.
 
“If we receive the Lord with the right dispositions, God’s grace will strengthen our resolve to follow, love and imitate Him. Our Lord Jesus deeply desires our union with Him in Holy Communion and through it He wishes to bring about our transformation into Him and the transformation of our society in which we live. But we, on our part, must ardently desire this union with Jesus Christ as well,” he said.
 
He emphasized the importance of church decoration, art, music, vestments, incense, candles and other details as a way of expressing Christian devotion and faith. Eucharistic prayer and adoration are also important, as is respectful dress.
 
There is an “intrinsic connection” between the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis warned against “a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental communion worthily.”  St. John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia said the Eucharist “presupposes that communion already exists, a communion that it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.” Anyone conscious of grave sin must refrain from Holy Communion, said Olmsted’s letter, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“There are situations when we can honor God more by abstaining from Holy Communion than by satisfying a personal desire to sacramentally receive Him in communion,” he said, recounting a Catholic mother who abstained from Holy Communion for several years because she lived in an irregular marriage. Nonetheless, she faithfully attended Mass with her children and regularly took part in Eucharistic Adoration.
 
Olmsted emphasized the need to preserve Sunday as the “Day of the Lord” and the ultimate purpose of the week. Embracing some other thing, even a good thing, as more important than the worship of God will result in “bondage to some good but creaturely fixation” and “spiritual exhaustion and discouragement.” Sunday is not simply about freedom from work, since freedom from servile work makes it so that “we are free to participate in the work of our Redemption.”
 
He encouraged practical measures to make Sunday special, like turning off one’s phone for extended periods, moving any commitments to work, family, or friends to other times, and finding ways “to make the experience of Sunday Mass truly joyful and festive.” He suggested wearing one’s best clothes, having a good meal with loved ones afterward, playing great music at home, phoning loved ones, spending time in Bible reading, performing acts of charity, or savoring “something truly beautiful in nature or art.”
 
Daily Mass, a full hour of Eucharistic Adoration, or even a short visit to the tabernacle are also excellent ways to increase one’s devotion. He encouraged priests to make the Eucharist the source of their priesthood’s good work. Pastors should hold a Eucharistic procession each year in their parish. Eucharistic adoration is an evangelical opportunity.
 
“Many Catholics have wandered away from the practice of Sunday Mass, focusing more on work, sports, sleep, or entertainment rather than the Lord. There are also those who are physically there but not with their faith,” said Olmsted. “They may come to Mass but do not receive Jesus with faith, love, and reverence because they think that they are only receiving a symbol rather than God Himself who died for them. There are those who physically come to Mass, but their hearts cannot wait to leave Jesus’ presence. Indeed, the Eucharist is hard to believe! Thus, it is important for us to have patience and compassion for those whose faith is weak. Nevertheless, the call to faith is urgent.”

L.A. archdiocese to close, consolidate six elementary schools

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 07:32 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced this week that six Catholic elementary schools in the area will close and be consolidated with other schools, due to ongoing financial difficulties exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

“These six schools had been trying to overcome financial challenges long before the pandemic,” said Paul Escala, superintendent of Catholic Schools, according to NBC Los Angeles. Challenges facing the schools include  low enrollment, financial difficulties, and a shift in demographics.

 

“After careful discernment with Archdiocesan and school leadership, the decision was reached to consolidate these schools with nearby schools to create a union that would strengthen the school communities in the area so that all students can continue to receive the quality Catholic education that our schools provide,” Escala said.

 

At the end of the 2020-21 school year, six elementary schools will close - Assumption, Blessed Sacrament, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Ferdinand, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Madeline.

 

These schools will all be consolidated with other local elementary schools. 

 

The archdiocese noted that, during the current school year, students in Los Angeles Catholics schools outperformed their peers nationally in math and reading.

 

“Though there have been many challenges and some setbacks, our Catholic school communities have demonstrated resiliency throughout this crisis,”' said Escala, according to NBC Los Angeles. 

 

“As our Catholic schools welcomed students back, our students were able to celebrate the sacrament of their First Holy Communion something they missed early on in the pandemic,” he said. “Our Catholic schools continue to demonstrate academic performance growth in reading and math in both elementary and high schools. This among so many other accomplishments, is something we can all be proud of.”