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Mass in sign language? These Spanish priests celebrate it every week

Madrid, Spain, Apr 20, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- In the Catholic Church, the spoken language is central to the liturgy: we recite the Nicene Creed as one, we praise the Lord with the Gloria that we sing, and we bow our heads to hear the blessing we receive at the end of Mass.

But there’s a different reality for hearing impaired and deaf Catholics around the world.

Father Sergio Buiza, the national director of the Spanish Conference of Catholic Bishops Deaf Ministry, said their goal is to “bring the Gospel to the maximum number of people,” including, of course, the deaf and hearing impaired, Europa news reported.

Fr. Buiza is just one of several priests who celebrates Mass in sign language at one of many Catholic churches in Spain. He celebrates a sign language Mass at the Santiago Cathedral in Bilboa, Spain each week.

There are around a million people in Spain affected by different levels of hearing loss. Some 1,250 of them attend Mass in sign language every week at one of the two dozen churches where they are held.

In the parishes where this pastoral care is provided, all types of services are offered: from Mass to catechesis, Bible study groups, wedding celebrations, and confessions.

However, Fr. Buiza explained, the biggest issue is that there is just one parish for the deaf per diocese, forcing those with hearing impairments to travel long distances each week.

“There are elderly people that come from a long way. In my diocese we celebrate the Eucharist in the cathedral every Saturday afternoon and they come from different towns by train and bus,” the priest from Bilbao said.

In 2015, the Spanish Catholic Bishops Conference announced a new initiative in collaboration with the ONCE Foundation to help the hearing impaired by installing magnetic induction loops, or hearing loops, in at least 12 churches across Spain.

Hearing loops are sound systems that transform the audio in a magnetic field that is picked up by hearing aids and Cochlear Implant processors. This will allow at least those with such devices to participate more fully in the Mass, but would not be of use to those who are fully deaf.

The Church in Spain has been working with the deaf for more than 50 years and has been doing so in a more coordinated fashion since the 1990s, when Deaf Ministry became part of the Bishops Conference.

In Spain, some 173 people - both priests and laity - are dedicated to the pastoral care of the deaf, many of whom are deaf or hearing impaired themselves.


This article was originally published Jan. 31, 2016.

Spiritual guidance belongs in politics, Bishop Tobin says

Providence, R.I., Apr 20, 2018 / 01:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking out on political issues is not only a right, but a duty, for religious leaders, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence in a recent interview.

“What we try and do is take the Gospel, the basis of our faith, and apply it to the issues of the day,” Bishop Tobin told the Providence Journal in an article published April 17.

“Now, some people will like it, some people won’t like it; some will agree, some will not. I think we have not just a right but the need to be involved in these public conversations.”

Bishop Tobin said that when he speaks about issues such as immigration and gun control, he draws criticism from conservatives, who say, “Stay out of it, it’s not your business.” When speaking about abortion or same-sex marriage, he said, he gets the same response from liberals.

“So sometimes I’m accused of being too conservative, and sometimes I’m accused of being a raging liberal.”

However, he said, it is important to preach the Gospel no matter how people respond.

One tool the bishop has been using to weigh in on political and moral debates is Twitter. In February, the prelate opened an account, @bishoptjt, which now has over 1,300 followers.

Because he alone controls the subject of his tweets, he said “there’s no filter there,” unlike his Facebook account which is managed by someone in his office.

“I thought, if the president can do it and the pope can do it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

Bishops Tobin uses his Twitter account to discuss both serious topics – such as liturgy and politics – and lighthearted, personal interests.

“I’ve done some devotional things, some spiritual things, and some liturgical things and some prayerful things,” the bishop said. “I’ve also put some things up about the Steelers and about my dog and about some political things and about the weather and April Fools Day.”

 

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Commentary: Religious Persecution in the Occupied Territories of Eastern Ukraine

Lviv, Ukraine, Apr 20, 2018 / 12:07 pm (CNA).- War continues to ravage eastern Ukraine, where conflict erupted in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the violent actions of pro-Russian separatists.

Along with forcing at least 1.6 million people from their homes, the ongoing conflict has also resulted in the persecution of Protestant pastors and churches throughout the territories that are occupied by pro-Russian separatist groups. One such group is the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), which is located in Ukraine’s Luhansk region and declared independence in May 2014.

While the international community does not recognize the LNR as a legitimate state, this group’s totalitarian power is growing. During the last four years, the LNR has committed numerous acts of religious persecution against Protestant pastors and churches (as well as other pro-Ukrainian Churches) in the Luhansk region, including abduction, torture, and property confiscation. In fact, on March 27, 2018, the LNR raided the House of Prayer, a church in Stahanov, taking everything and leaving the church completely empty.

The following is a brief summary and analysis to create awareness about the LNR’s new religion law and appeal to the international community to create pressure on the LNR and support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who are losing their freedom to worship and living in constant fear as they suffer for their faith.

For the last four years, Mission Eurasia has drawn the attention of the international community to the systematic religious freedom violations committed by the LNR in eastern Ukraine. And now these violations are considered a central part of the LNR’s legal framework.

According to a new law passed on Feb. 2, 2018 (#211-II “About Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”), the LNR is permitted to discriminate against any and all non-Orthodox religious communities. This law violates universal human rights, severely limits religious freedom, and threatens eastern Ukraine’s existing network of religious communities and organizations.

While the law itself is a new development, the LNR has been violating religious freedom rights in Ukraine’s Luhansk region since the spring of 2014. Rather than protecting the rights of pre- existing religious communities, the LNR follows Russia’s religion laws. Therefore, in line with Russia’s strict religious freedom legislation, all religious communities and organizations in Luhansk, other than those associated with the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (the Russian Orthodox Church has preferential status), must now prove their loyalty and re-register with the LNR.

The following points laid out in the LNR’s new religion law are particularly concerning for churches in Luhansk:

• All religious communities and organizations must re-register with the LNR within six months of the law’s inception in order to continue operating;

• The LNR will play an increasingly significant role in regulating religious communities and organizations, and in protecting the societal role of the Russian Orthodox Church;

• All registered religious communities and organizations are required to provide detailed reports on all of their activities on a regular basis;

• Religious communities and organizations must have juridical person status to be considered legitimate;

• Religious communities and organizations must have at least 30 members to register;

• Religious communities and organizations are prohibited from leading activities in private residences, which is particularly dangerous for the many home churches in Luhansk;

• There are many grounds on which the LNR can suspend the activities of religious communities and organizations, such as suspected espionage, extremism, and terrorism;

• Religious communities and organizations are required to coordinate the distribution of all religious materials, even among their own members, with the LNR;

• There are very strict regulations placed on all religious communities and organizations that receive financial support from foreign sources.

The Baptist Union of Ukraine asserts that, even if churches in Luhansk try to re-register with the LNR, they will not be able to meet all of the requirements laid out in the new religion law.

In response, Mission Eurasia and our partner churches in Luhansk urge the global Christian community prayerfully to support our brothers and sisters who are suffering in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine. We also implore international government leaders and human rights organizations to pressure the LNR to repeal the new law and restore religious freedom so that all religious communities in Luhansk and throughout Ukraine can worship freely.

At present, the pastors of many churches in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine are refusing to participate in the re-registration process required by the LNR’s new religion law. These courageous leaders need our support as they stand firm in the face of escalating religious persecution.


 

Dr. Mykhailo Cherenkov is executive field director of Mission Eurasia and an associate professor of philosophy at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. This piece was first published at Dr. Cherenkov's blog April 19, 2018. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Catholic News Agency.

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Pope: Without the Eucharist, everything the Church does is vain

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a brief day-trip to two small Italian cities, Pope Francis stressed the centrality of the Eucharist to the life and actions of the Church, saying without Christ's love and self-sacrifice, everything would be done in vanity, since everything Jesus did was for others.

“The Eucharist is not a beautiful rite, but it is the most intimate, the most concrete, the most surprising communion that one can imagine with God: a communion of love so real that it takes on the form of eating,” the pope said April 20.

The Christian life begins again at each Mass, “where God satiates us with love. Without him, the bread of life, every effort of the Church is vain,” he said, and, quoting deceased local Bishop Antonio Bello, said “works of charity are not enough, unless those works are done with charity.”

“If love is lacking in those who do the works, if the source is lacking, if the point of departure is lacking, which is the Eucharist, then every pastoral commitment is merely a whirlwind of things,” rather than an act of service.

Pope Francis spoke during Mass in the Italian town of Molfetta. He traveled to the city after making a brief visit to Alessano as part of a half-day trip to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification opened in 2007.

In his homily, Francis said whoever receives the Eucharist takes on the face and mentality of the Lord, who is the bread that was broken for us. And this bread, he said, does not “rise with pride,” but is given to others.

The person who receives the Eucharist, he said, “ceases to live for themselves, for their own success, to have something or to become someone, but they live for Jesus, as Jesus, which is for others.”

Quoting Bishop Bello, Francis said the Eucharist “does not support a sedentary life,” and that without rising from the table, one remains an “unfulfilled sacrament.” He asked those present to question themselves as to how they leave every Mass, and whether or not they go out as “people of communion.”

He then emphasized the importance of the Word, which he said is a second element that can be taken from the day's Gospel reading from John, in which the disciples asked themselves “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” after Jesus spoke about the need to eat his flesh in order to obtain salvation.

“Many of our words are similar to this,” the pope said, noting that some people might ask: “how can the Gospel solve the problems of the world? What use is it to do good in the midst of so much evil?”

By doing this, “we fall into the error of that people, who were paralyzed by discussion about the words of Jesus, rather than ready to welcome the change of life asked by him,” Francis said, adding that these people did not understand that the words of Jesus were the path to life.

Jesus, he said, “does not respond according to our calculations and the conveniences of the moment, but with the 'yes' of his whole life. He does not look for our reflections, but our conversion.”

Pointing to the conversion of Saul, who later became St. Paul, Pope Francis noted how when Saul was thrown from his horse he was told to rise, go into the city and do what he would be asked.

“The first thing to avoid is staying on the ground” or staying “gripped by fear,” he said, stressing that a true apostle of Jesus “cannot simply get along on small satisfactions,” but must always get up and look forward.

And, just as Saul was told to go into the city, each Christian is also told to go, rather than staying “closed in your reassured spaces. Risk!” he said.

Christian life “must be invested in Jesus and spent for others,” he said, adding that an apostle cannot remain stationary after the resurrection, but must “go out, regardless of the problems and uncertainties.”

“We are all called, in whatever situation we find ourselves, to be bearers of paschal hope” and to be “servants of the world, but resurrected, not employed. Without ever complaining, without ever resigning ourselves.”

“It's beautiful to be couriers of hope, simple and joyful distributors of the Easter alleluia,” Francis said, and closed his homily praying that the Word of God would free Christians and help them to rise and go forward with courage and humility.

There's no 'maybe' when answering the Lord's call, pope says

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking in the southern Italian town of Alessano on Friday, Pope Francis said that we should be on fire for our faith, combining prayer and action after the example of the Italian bishop Tonino Bello.

“Here, this is the vocation according to Don Tonino: a call to become not only faithful devotees, but real lovers of the Lord… When the Lord sets the heart on fire, hope cannot be extinguished. When the Lord asks for a ‘yes,’ we cannot answer with ‘maybe,’” the pope said April 20.

Pope Francis visited the town of Alessano as part of a quick day-trip there and to Molfetta, to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification was opened in 2007.

Before speaking to around 20,000 Catholic, the pope stopped at the tomb of Don Tonino for a moment of silent prayer.

In his speech, he pointed to the bishop’s warning that Catholics not immerse themselves “in the whirlwind of affairs” without first planting themselves in front of the tabernacle – lest they work in vain for the Kingdom.

“We can ask ourselves if we start from the tabernacle or ourselves. You could also ask if, once we leave, we walk; if, like Mary, the Woman of the journey, we get up to reach and serve man, every man,” he stated.

Francis recalled a word coined by Tonino, “which gives each of us a great mission.”

Tonino, the pope noted, would say often that Christians should be “contempl-attivi,” meaning, “contemplative-actives,” people who never separate prayer and action.

Don Tonino had “his feet on the ground and his eyes on Heaven, and above all with a heart that connected Heaven and earth,” he said.

Antonio Bello was born in Alessano in 1935. He was ordained a priest in 1957, and afterward studied theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

He was always close to the young and the poor, working at a seminary, as a parish priest, and as an assistant for the Italian lay Catholic association, “Azione Cattolica.”

He was appointed bishop of Molfetta, Giovinazzo, Terlizzi, and Ruvo by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

As bishop, Don Tonino supported the poor and people in difficulty, opening a Caritas soup kitchen in every diocesan parish and founding a community for drug addicts.

In 1985 he became president of Pax Christi. In this role he worked against the First Gulf War and the war in former Yugoslavia. He died in Molfetta on April 20, 1993.

Pope Francis reflected on Don Tonino’s attention to the poor, saying that “understanding the poor was for him true wealth.”

“Don Tonino reminds us not to theorize the closeness to the poor, but to be close to them, as Jesus was; that for us, as rich as he was, he became poor,” he said.

Following his message, the pope led those present in praying the ‘Hail Mary,’ and gave his benediction before departing for Molfetta by helicopter.