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Benedict XVI laments lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany

Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 28, 2010. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Freiburg, Jul 26, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has expressed concern about the lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany.

The retired pope made the comments in a written conversation in the August issue of the German magazine Herder Korrespondenz, marking the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“In Church institutions -- hospitals, schools, Caritas -- many people participate in decisive positions who do not share the inner mission of the Church and thus in many cases obscure the witness of this institution,” he said.

In an exchange with Tobias Winstel, the 94-year-old reflected on the concept of the “Amtskirche,” a German term that can be translated as “institutional Church” and is used to refer to the large number of Church-tax funded structures and institutions in Germany.

He wrote: “The word ‘Amtskirche’ was coined to express the contrast between what is officially demanded and what is personally believed. The word ‘Amtskirche’ insinuates an inner contradiction between what the faith actually demands and signifies and its depersonalization.”

He suggested that many texts issued by the German Church were crafted by people for whom faith was largely institutional.

“In this sense, I must admit that for a large part of institutional Church texts in Germany, the word ‘Amtskirche’ does indeed apply,” he commented.

He continued: “As long as in institutional Church texts only the office, but not the heart and the spirit, speak, so long the exodus from the world of faith will continue.”

Benedict, who was prefect of Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before he was elected pope, said: “That’s why it seemed important to me then, as it does now, to take the person out of the cover of office and expect a real personal testimony of faith from the spokesmen of the Church.”

In the conversation, Benedict also discussed an issue that he had highlighted in 2011, during his final trip to Germany before his resignation as pope in 2013.

In an address in Freiburg, a university town in southwest Germany, he implicitly criticized aspects of the German Church, referring to a tendency to give “greater weight to organization and institutionalization” than to the Church’s “vocation to openness towards God.”

Benedict called in the speech for a “Church that is detached from worldliness,” using the German phrase “entweltlichte Kirche.”

The former pope told Herder Korrespondenz that he now felt that the term was inadequate.

“The word ‘Entweltlichung’ [‘detachment from worldliness’] indicates the negative part of the movement I am concerned with,” he wrote. “The positive is not sufficiently expressed by it.”

Rather, he said, it is about stepping out of the constraints of a particular time “into the freedom of faith.”

In the written exchange, Benedict also warned Catholics against the danger of seeking a “flight into pure doctrine.”

Benedict, who was the Vatican’s doctrinal chief from 1982 to 2005, said that attempting such a flight was “completely unrealistic.”

“A doctrine that would exist like a nature preserve separated from the daily world of faith and its needs would be at the same time an abandonment of faith itself,” he said.

In the conversation, Benedict was also asked whether he was a good pastor when he served at Precious Blood church in the Bogenhausen district of Munich after his ordination on June 29, 1951.

“Whether I have been a good priest and pastor, I dare not judge,” he replied, adding that he had tried “to live up to the demands of my ministry and ordination.”

How priests prepare to say Mass

Newly ordained priests are vested during their Mass of Ordination in St. Peter's Basilica, April 26, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

In preparation for Mass, priests make ready the sacred vessels, linens, and vestments that they use. Afterward, they take care to clean up. Every action they take, every word they say, stresses the importance of the Mass.

Two priests located in Washington, D.C., Fr. William Foley at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Fr. Charles Gallagher at Immaculate Conception, gave a behind-the-scenes look to EWTN News In Depth July 16.

Preparations for Mass are made in the sacristy.

“One of the first things I do is to make sure the chalice is ready,” Fr. Foley said. 

Priests often receive a chalice at their ordination. His family, he said, purchased his from a chalice maker in Montreal, Canada, over 42 years ago.

Both the chalice and the paten, a plate that holds the hosts, consist of precious metals.

“The reason why the paten is – and the chalice – are so beautiful,” Fr. Gallagher said, is “because they really touch God. And we want to give the best we have to God.”

Linens also play a critical role in the Mass. The corporal, which takes its name from the Latin word for “body,” is a square linen cloth that often has a cross embroidered on it. 

 

It exists, Fr. Foley said, so that “during the Mass, when the priest breaks the host, nothing falls off of it.” Instead, the cloth catches the body of Christ. 

Fr. Gallagher also discussed the purificator. 

“So after the chalice is used,” he said, “I consume the remaining precious blood and I rinse it with water and then I use the purificator to wipe it and to dry it.”

After the vessels and linens are prepared, the priest vests.

First, the priest “says a special prayer to wash his hands,” Fr. Gallagher said.

“This prayer in Latin says, ‘Give, Lord, strength to my hands to wipe out all stain so that, without pollution of mind or body, I may dare to serve You,’” he translated.

One layer at a time, the priest gets ready for Mass.

“The first is called an amice,” said Fr. Gallagher, pointing to a white cloth that wraps around the shoulders and neck. “This is really meant to be like a helmet of salvation.”

Then, “over the amice, I put on the alb,” he said. The floor-length white vestment with sleeves is put on with the prayer “Wash me clean, Lord, and cleanse me from my sin; that I may rejoice and be glad unendingly with them that have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”

Around the alb, the priest places a cincture, the prayer for which is: “Gird me, Lord, with the belt of faith, my loins with the virtue of chastity, and extinguish in them the humour of lust; that the strength of all chastity may ever abide in me.”

Next comes the stole, at which the priest prays, “Restore to me, Lord, I beseech Thee, the stole of immortality, which I lost in the transgression of the first father; and, though unworthy I presume to approach Thy sacred mystery with this garment, grant that I may merit to rejoice in it forever.”

Finally, the priest dons the chasuble, a sleeveless and often ornate outer vestment, praying, “O Lord, who said: my yoke is sweet and my burden light: grant that I may be able so to bear it, so that I may be able to obtain Thy grace.”

The point of the prayers for the vestments “is that the priest is covering up his humanity, because it's Our Lord Jesus who celebrates the Mass,” Fr. Gallagher emphasized. “So all of these different elements help the priest realize it's Our Lord Jesus who is taking over.”

He added, “Yes, he uses my voice, my hands, my gestures, but it's really Our Lord and his power that is able to change the bread into his body.”

Following the Mass, the linens and the vessels must be cleaned.

“It's washed in a very special way,” Fr. Foley said, pointing to the corporal. “Because it may, it comes in contact with the precious host, the precious blood.”

Fr. Gallagher added, “It would soak for a few days in water along with any other – the sacred linens.” That water is later “poured into a special sink that we call a sacrarium.”

The sacrarium, Fr. Foley said, “goes not into the sewer system, but into the dirt, into the ground,” so that “the precious body and blood of the Lord does not get mingled with sewage.”

Their actions and words point to the reverence due to the Mass and the body and blood of Christ.

“The Mass is actually not one of the most time-consuming things we do, but it is the most important thing we do,” Fr. Gallagher concluded. “So that's why it's sort of shrouded with all these special rituals, prayers of preparation to help the priest prepare and celebrate Mass very well. And that's the most important thing he can do for his people.”

Pope Francis offers blessing to athletes at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Iran and Poland compete in the volleyball tournament of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. / Tasnim News Agency via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0).

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his blessing on Sunday to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In his Angelus address on July 25, the pope noted that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad began in Japan on July 23.

“Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood under the banner of healthy competition,” he said.

“God bless the organizers, the athletes, and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!”

The world’s most-viewed international sporting event was postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which ends on Aug. 9, is taking place largely without spectators.

The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Among the 11,656 athletes from 206 nations are committed Catholics such as U.S. gymnast Grace McCallum. At just 18 years old, she is competing in the team gymnastics events along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles.

McCallum does not travel anywhere without her rosary and a cross from her grandmother, the Central Minnesota Catholic magazine reported in 2019.

“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mother, Sandy McCallum, told the magazine.

Tokyo is also hosting the Summer Paralympic Games, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Among the competitors will be Mahira Bergallo Brzezicki, a 19-year-old Argentine athlete.

Bergallo, who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the shot put wearing a “bracelet with a cross.”

“I cling to faith a lot. God occupies a very large place in my life. God guided me and he guided me to where I am today,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“I always said to God to show me who I was. As a child, I asked myself ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I in this world for?’ and he showed me things that can only come from him.”

“Today I know what my path is and which way I have to follow and I’m more than happy to confirm it. I think this is and was what I was hoping for, and it’s even better.”

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Pope Francis: With our small offering, Jesus can do great things

Pope Francis waves during the Angelus at the Vatican July 18, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

With our small offering, Jesus can do great things, just like when he multiplied five loaves and three fishes to feed thousands, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“It would be good to ask ourselves every day: ‘What do I bring to Jesus today?’” the pope said during his weekly Angelus message July 25.

Speaking from a window of the apostolic palace, Francis said Jesus “can do a lot with one of our prayers, with a gesture of charity for others, even with one of our sufferings handed over to His mercy.”

“[We give] our small things to Jesus and he works miracles. This is how God loves to act: He does great things, starting from small, freely-given ones.”

Pope Francis has been convalescing at the Vatican since being released from hospital 10 days after undergoing colon surgery July 4. During July, the pope typically does not hold public audiences or meetings, though he has continued to give his weekly Angelus address.

On Sunday he reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from St. John, which recounts Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000 people.

The pope said it is interesting that Jesus does not create the food from nothing; his disciples ask one boy to share everything he has to eat: “It seems to be an unreasonable proposal. Actually, unjust.”

“Why take away from one person what is not enough to feed everyone anyway?” he continued. “In human terms, it is illogical. But not for God. On the contrary, thanks to that small freely-given and therefore heroic gift, Jesus is able to feed everyone.”

“This is a great lesson for us. It tells us that the Lord can do a lot with the little that we put at His disposal,” he underlined.

Francis explained that this is the logic of Jesus Christ, and a quality holy people throughout history have demonstrated.

We often try “to accumulate and increase what we have, but Jesus asks us to give, to diminish,” he said.

Drawing attention to the tragedy of hunger which exists in the world today, he cited calculations which estimate that around the world, 7,000 children under the age of five die every day due to malnutrition.

He said “faced with scandals such as these, Jesus also addresses an invitation to us, an invitation similar to the one probably received by the boy in the Gospel, who has no name and in whom we can all see ourselves.”

The invitation is to “be brave, give what little you have, your talents and your possessions, make them available to Jesus and to your brothers and sisters. Do not be afraid, nothing will be lost, because if you share, God will multiply. Banish the false modesty of feeling inadequate, trust yourself. Believe in love, believe in the power of service, believe in the strength of gratuitousness.”

After praying the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis recalled that July 25 this year marks the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.

He asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to offer a round of applause for grandparents.

“Grandparents and grandchildren, young and old together manifested one of the beautiful faces of the Church and showed the covenant between the generations,” he said, inviting people to visit the lonely older members of our society.

“I ask the Lord that this celebration will help us who are more advanced in years to respond to his call in this season of life, and to show society the value of the presence of grandparents and the elderly,” he stated.

Noting that the 32nd Olympic Games began in Tokyo on July 23, Pope Francis said “in this time of pandemic, these games are a sign of hope, a sign of universal fraternity in the name of healthy competition.”

“God bless the organizers, the athletes and all who collaborate for this great celebration of sports.”

The pope also expressed his sympathy after a heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, the capital city of China’s Henan province, caused floods killing at least 33 people last week.

The dramatic floods, which caused landslides and overwhelmed dams, have submerged neighborhoods and trapped passengers in subway cars, according to CNN.

Henan authorities said last week the heavy rains in the province have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused an estimated $190 million in economic damage.

Pope Francis said he is praying for the victims and their families and expressed his solidarity with those who are suffering from the tragedy.

Pope Francis on Grandparents’ Day: Elderly are not ‘leftovers from life’

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman during his general audience Dec. 19, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

On the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis said he is worried about how an individualistic society treats its older members, and he urged young people to give them love and attention.

“I worry when I see a society full of people in constant motion, too caught up in their own affairs to have time for a glance, a greeting or a hug,” the pope said in a homily read by Archbishop Rino Fisichella July 25.

“Our grandparents, who nourished our own lives, now hunger for our attention and our love; they long for our closeness. Let us lift up our eyes and see them, even as Jesus sees us,” he stated.

Pope Francis’ homily was read during a Mass for around 2,500 elderly people and grandparents, together with their children and grandchildren, held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Mass, scheduled to be said by the pope, was instead celebrated by Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, while Pope Francis is convalescing at the Vatican after undergoing colon surgery July 4.

During July, Francis typically takes a break from public audiences and other meetings, though he has continued to give his weekly Sunday Angelus address.

In the pope’s homily, he reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John, which recounts the story of when Jesus fed multitudes through the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes.

Francis pointed to the last part of the passage, when Jesus directed his disciples to collect the leftover pieces of bread, so that “nothing may be lost.”

“This reveals the heart of God,” he said. “Not only does he give us more than we need, he is also concerned that nothing be lost, not even a fragment.”

“A morsel of bread may seem a little thing, but in God’s eyes, nothing is to meant to be thrown away. Even more so, no person is ever to be discarded,” he explained, adding that our grandparents and elderly “are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded.”

In January, Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, Saints Anne and Joachim.

The theme of this year’s grandparents’ day is “I am with you always,” taken from Matthew 28:20.

In a message released ahead of this year’s celebration, Pope Francis encouraged the elderly to continue to spread the Gospel even in their old age.

“There is something beautiful here. Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need,” he stated.

In his homily July 25, Francis said the Church needs “a new covenant between young and old.”

When Jesus fed the hungry crowd, he did so using loaves and fishes shared by a young man, he pointed out. “How touching it is, that at the heart of this miracle, by which some five thousand adults were fed, we find a young person willing to share what he had.”

“In our societies, we have frequently surrendered to the notion of ‘every man for himself.’ But this is deadly,” he said. “The Gospel bids us share what we are and what we possess, for only in this way will we find fulfillment.”

He urged young adults to visit their grandparents, their elderly relatives, and the older people in their neighborhood.

“They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that for many of us, our grandparents “cared for us, ever since we were children. Despite lives of hard work and sacrifice, they were never too busy for us, or indifferent to us. They looked at us with care and tender love.”

“When we were growing up and felt misunderstood or fearful about life’s challenges, they kept an eye on us; they knew what we were feeling, our hidden tears and secret dreams,” he continued. “They held us in their arms and sat us on their knees. That love helped us grow into adulthood.”

“May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us and gave us life,” he stated.

As part of the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, the Vatican has also granted a plenary indulgence to those who participate, either by attending a related spiritual event or by physically or virtually visiting the elderly, sick, or disabled on July 25.

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins that have already been forgiven.

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence, which must be met, are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the pope’s intentions.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life released a prayer for the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. The full text of the prayer is below:

I thank You, Lord,

for the comfort of Your presence:

even in times of loneliness,

You are my hope and my confidence,

You have been my rock and my fortress since my youth!

I thank You for having given me a family

and for having blessed me with a long life.

I thank You for moments of joy and difficulty,

for the dreams that have already come true in my life and for those that are still ahead of me.

I thank You for this time of renewed fruitfulness to which You call me.

Increase, O Lord, my faith,

make me a channel of your peace,

teach me to embrace those who suffer more than me,

to never stop dreaming

and to tell of your wonders to new generations.

Protect and guide Pope Francis and the Church,

that the light of the Gospel might reach the ends of the earth.

Send Your Spirit, O Lord, to renew the world,

that the storm of the pandemic might be calmed,

the poor consoled and wars ended.

Sustain me in weakness

and help me to live life to the full

in each moment that You give me,

in the certainty that you are with me every day,

even until the end of the age.

Amen.

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Meet the pastor of a Greek Catholic church in Hungary for Romani

Fr. Árpád Kanyó in the first Romani, or Gypsy, Greek Catholic church. / EWTN News In Depth

Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, Jul 24, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

When Fr. Árpád Kanyó first arrived at his current parish, he didn’t know the language or culture of the people there. But he quickly learned about – and embraced – the new community he encountered.

80 years ago, Fr. Miklos Soja established the first Romani, or Gypsy, Greek Catholic church in Hungary. He wanted a place where the Romani could pray the liturgy in their native language. Today, Fr. Kanyó serves as the pastor of the Greek Catholic Church of the Ascension. He spoke with EWTN News In Depth about his experience in a segment that aired July 16.

Fr. Kanyó arrived in 2014, with his wife and three young daughters, as in the Eastern Catholic Churches married men can be ordained to the priesthood.

“When I came here to Hodász, I had to celebrate the liturgy in the Roma language,” he remembered. “Before the ceremony, I turned to the congregation and I said, ‘I'm sorry, but I'm going to do the first non-Hungarian liturgy of my life. If I say something ridiculous or ugly, please forgive me.’”

“When the liturgy was over,” Fr. Kanyó continued, “one of the believers came to me and said, ‘Father, of all the priests, your liturgy has been the best so far.’”

He hopes to provide a good example of Christian and family life. But he and his family are also learning from the Romani. His wife, Mária, said she fell in love with the culture and tradition of the parishioners.

“When I saw them dancing for the first time, I was fascinated,” she recalled. “And when we moved here and I heard them singing during the liturgy in the Roman language, that brought tears to my eyes.” She also admires their traditional clothing.

“For me, dance and conversations with them are so important and I am always friendly and available to them,” she stressed.

Their culture and community, in many ways, centers on dance and music. As the cantor and lay president of the parish, Sándor Lakatos highlighted the importance of fellowship.

“For me, the Greek Catholic faith means a strong community,” he said. “It’s like heaven, where everyone has a place. One has to belong somewhere. For me, Greek Catholicism means a family where we gather around and talk, rejoice and sometimes cry together.”

At the same time, the community also faces challenges. The church has lost parishioners like Ahmed Hanzam, who emphasized that he’s living through a difficult period in his life right now.

“It was different long ago,” he said. “People had solidarity. Now there is no cohesion.”

The village also suffers from unemployment and a lack of higher education. Many are forced to move far away only to work in unqualified jobs. 

And, according to Fr. Kanyó, “many Hungarians from this village also go far to work in factories.”

“That is why it's our great task to forge and keep those belonging to our Roma people, or as we call them here, Gypsy community, together,” he said.

He strives to follow in the footsteps of Fr. Miklos Soja.

“He didn't look at how difficult it was for the people here, who at that time lived in huts dug into the ground,” Fr. Kanyó said, “He came down to them and brought joy into the midst of their hardship.”

Japanese prelate named new secretary general of Asian bishops’ federation

Cathedral of St. Mary, Tokyo / Sira Anamwong/Shutterstock

Manila, Philippines, Jul 24, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Japanese Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo has been named the new secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The FABC is an association of Catholic episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia, and fosters solidarity and joint responsibility for the welfare of the Church and of society in the regions.

The Japanese prelate replaced Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-Sang of Macau, following the latter’s resignation from the post beginning in July.

Last week, the archbishop issued an appeal to athletes and to visitors during the 2021 Olympic Games in Japan, asking them not to visit churches to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Archbishop Kikuchi said that due to the prevailing pandemic, visitors, including athletes, “will be asked to refrain from visiting churches.”

The prelate admitted that his archdiocese had been preparing to take care of the spiritual needs of visitors during the games but “decided to cancel all these plans.”

He also asked parishes to “take care of the spiritual needs of those who come to Japan. But in today’s situation, the priority remains not to transmit the disease.”

He said that the Archdiocese of Tokyo has made a commitment to prevent the spread of infections.

“Let us remember that it is an important duty for us to protect not only our own lives but also those of all those who have received the gift of life from God,” said Archbishop Kikuchi.

The prelate was regional president of Caritas Asia from 2011 to 2019. He was also a member of FABC’s Office of Human Development.

He was born on Nov. 1, 1958, and is a professed member of the Divine Word Missionaries congregation. He was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1986.

He served in Ghana in Western Africa as a missionary and as a pastor before being elected as the provincial superior for his order in 1999, back in Japan.

Pope John Paul II appointed him as the Bishop of Niigata on April 29, 2004. Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Tokyo on Oct. 25, 2017.