Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Albania celebrates martyr, pioneer in Christian/Muslim ties

First appeared in Crux on December 13, 2016

By conventional standards, the fact that around 20,000 people gathered inside and outside the cathedral of St. Stephen in the city of Shkodër, in northwestern Albania, on November 6 for a Mass to beatify 38 Soviet-era martyrs under the government of Enver Hoxha probably doesn’t rate as a banner headline.

Albania, after all, is a nation of fewer than 3 million people, in Europe but not of Europe, and a country with a Muslim majority where the Catholics are a minority - they make up just 10 percent of the population.

Since the beginning of his papacy, however, Pope Francis has been passionate about the peripheries, driven by the belief that big things often come in small packages. That’s certainly true in the case of Father Giovanni Fausti, like Francis a member of the Jesuit order, and one of the martyrs beatified last month.

...continue reading in Crux

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Did Pope Benedict Abandon His Post? Last Testament Explains Why He Resigned

First appeared in The Stream on November 16, 2016

When he resigned, Benedict XVI profoundly changed the modern papacy. Everyone believed that popes just didn’t resign. Why did he do it? Was it cowardice, as some of his critics said, or maybe depression, as some of his supporters suggested? Did he flee his duties? Should he have stayed through illness and decline the way St. John Paul II had?

...continue reading in The Stream

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Chieti Agreement Encourages Catholic-Orthodox Unity

First appeared in Crisis Magazine on October 25, 2016

The 2016 Chieti agreement determines two important points of convergence between the Catholics and Orthodox. The foundation of synodality or conciliarity in the Church, which is understood as the gathering of bishops under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, reflects on the Trinitarian mystery and that the Holy Trinity is at its foundation. This means that the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are at one and the same level of importance. Another fundamental agreement according to the Chieti document is how synodality and primacy are interconnected and interdependent. Primacy according to the document refers to first, protos or primus of the oikoumene—the whole inhabited earth—which embraces all local Churches. Most importantly, according to the agreement Rome is acknowledged as having universal primacy, but understood in the context of synodality as it was applied in the first Christian millennium, when Catholics and Orthodox were united.

What does the Chieti agreement say about the role of the bishop of Rome, his specific function as the bishop of the “first see,” and how this role was lived in the first millennium?

...continue reading in Crisis Magazine 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Cardinal from the Albanian Communist Persecution

First appeared in The Catholic Thing on October 15, 2016

At the end of the Angelus and Mass for the Marian Jubilee, Pope Francis made a surprise announcement: a new consistory on November 19, the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King and the closing of the Jubilee of Mercy. He simultaneously named seventeen new cardinals. The focus on mercy and “periphery” is evident in those choices.

...continue reading in The Catholic Thing

...or read it in Slovakian at Konzervatívny denník Postoj

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Pope in the Middle: What Benedict Thinks About John Paul II and Francis

First appeared in The Stream on October 11, 2016

In his new book The Last Testament, we see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as a deeply humble, reserved, contemplative and theologically brilliant man, small and fragile in stature compared to both his dynamic and brilliantly energetic predecessor and successor. What does he think about the two, St. John Paul II and Pope Francis?

...continue reading in The Stream

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three Things to Know about Francis’ Visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan

First appeared in Salt and Light Media on September 28, 2016

“Pax vobis - peace to you,” taken from chapter twenty of John's Gospel, is the motto of Pope Francis’s apostolic visit (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) to Georgia and “You are all brothers” chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel is the motto for his visit in Azerbaijan. This trip represents the second phase of Francis’s trip to Caucasus, which began on June 24, 2016 with a visit to Armenia. Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Georgia and Azerbaijan after John Paul II, who visited Georgia in 1999 and Azerbaijan in 2002. The visits are part of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy; and of the promotion of peace and bridge building in the Caucasian region.

But before he goes, here are three things to keep in mind: Francis’s theology of the periphery; the extension of Assisi inter-religious, ecumenical dialogue in Caucasus; and peace building.

...continue reading Salt and Light Media 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Padre Pio and Mother Teresa: Jubilee Patrons

First appeared in The Catholic Thing on September 23, 2016

In February 2016, as part of the Jubilee of Mercy celebrations and by special request of Pope Francis, the remains of St. Padre Pio were moved from San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia, Southern Italy, to Rome for a weeklong exposition. It was the first time in 100 years that Padre Pio’s body left the convent, which he entered in 1916. He died exactly forty-eight years ago today, September 23, 1968.

According to Pio biographer Fr. Luciano Lotti, Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) has long had a great devotion to Padre Pio. For the Great Jubilee Year of the Third Millennium in 2000, Bergoglio asked, and some relics of Pio’s arrived in Buenos Aires.

Papa Bergoglio canonized Mother Teresa a few weeks ago, just two months before the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Francis’s choice of St. Pio and St. Teresa of Kolkata as jubilee’s patron saints is significant. St. Pio is an example for the missionaries of mercy and Mother Teresa is an example of mercy in action.

... continue reading in The Catholic Thing

The Spiritual Bond between two Francises: Pope Francis and Padre Pio

First published in Salt and Light Media on September 21, 2016

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston announced on September 2 that the heart of St. Pio will be in the Boston area from September 21 through his feast day, September 23. Boston will be the only stop the relic will make during this trip. This is the first time any major relic of Padre Pio will be traveling internationally outside Italy.

But there is another first: In February 2016, as part of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy celebrations and upon special request by Pope Francis, the remains of St. Padre Pio were moved from San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia, Southern Italy, to Rome for a week-long exposition. For the first time in one hundred years Padre Pio left the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio is one of the patron saints for Francis’s Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy together with St. Mother Teresa, who was canonized on September 4. 

What bonds the two Francises (Padre Pio’s name before ordination was Francesco Forgone)?

... continue reading in Salt and Light Media 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mother Teresa and Seton Hall

Seton Hall's coverage of Mother Teresa canonization

Embracing poverty and simple faith, Mother Teresa is lovingly referred to as the "Saint of the Gutters." A Noble Peace Prize recipient and the model for interfaith understanding, on Sunday, September 4, she will be canonized at the Vatican.

Two members of the University community, alumna Maureen Creagh-Kaiser '95/M.A.'98/Ph.D.'03 and Religion Professor Ines Angeli Murzaku, shared their insights and experiences of the beloved saint.

... continue reading in the Seton Hall University website

Today, the Catholic Church will celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa.

First appeared in The Record (online) on September 4, 2016

IN 1979, when Mother Teresa gave her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, she began with a word of gratitude and a special prayer: "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury let me sow pardon, where there is despair let me give hope …" St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most celebrated 13-century Christian saints probably never wrote this prayer, but he acted and lived his whole life abiding by the principles of this prayer. It was an intentional choice on the part of Mother Teresa to recite this prayer, as it unites humankind, transcending religions, nations, divisions, political views and particularities.

The essence of this prayer was Mother Teresa's life's mission and vision, as she considered herself "a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world."

Why did Mother Teresa look up to St. Francis as a role model? What unites the two saints?

... continue reading in The Record (online)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mother Teresa Practiced Forgiveness in Personal Tragedy. Christopher Hitchens Attacked Her for It.

First appeared in The Stream on September 3, 2016

On Sunday, the Catholic Church will recognize the late Mother Teresa as a saint. So it might be shocking to learn that the late Christopher Hitchens claimed that she endorsed the atheistic regime of Albania’s communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled the county from 1944 until his death in 1985. He points to her laying a bouquet of flowers on his Hoxha’s grave when she first came to her homeland in 1989, her meetings with his widow Nexhmije Hoxha and with the dictator’s designated successor Ramiz Alia, who ruled Albania from 1985 to 1991. Was Hitchens right? Did Mother Theresa endorse one of the cruelest tyrants and enemies of Christianity in the twentieth century?

... continue reading in The Stream

The Footsteps of Saints: Mother Teresa and John Paul II

First appeared in The Catholic Thing on September 3, 2016

There was a special friendship between Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II, a friendship that will be confirmed eternally by her canonization in Rome tomorrow. Remember St. John Paul II kissing the top of the head of the little woman and she holding his hand in hers? For the Polish pope, as George Weigel puts it, Mother Teresa was a “person-message” for the twentieth century.

Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II, the man and the woman of the century, who together made and changed history. They were pilgrims of peace, individuals who were deeply in love with God and neighbor, supporters of the poor and the marginalized, promoters of human freedom and human dignity. Additionally, what St. John Paul II witnessed in Mother Teresa was what he called the mystery of woman and the great works of God in and through the woman.

...continue reading in The Catholic Thing
...or read it in French in France Catholique

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Can Mother Teresa help Clinton embrace adoption over abortion?

First appeared in Crux on August 19, 2016

At first blush, the idea of Hillary Clinton having much appeal for pro-life voters may seem a terribly long shot. A relatively little-known partnership between Clinton and Mother Teresa in the 1990s, however, suggests the fascinating possibility of altering the traditional political calculus.

In her July 26 speech accepting the Democratic nomination, Clinton reiterated her commitment to preserving social security, expanding social programs, fighting for children and their health insurance, and defending the disabled, working people, immigrants, women and the poor.

In many ways, those are precisely the same commitments Pope Francis will celebrate in Mother Teresa when he formally declares her a saint on Sept. 4, and Mother Teresa and Clinton are linked by more than being accomplished women in what have long been men’s worlds.

In February 1994, Mother Teresa was invited to deliver a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual ecumenical and inter-faith event that happens every February in Washington D.C. The title of the speech was Whatever You did Unto One of the Least, You Did Unto Me, which was the core of Mother Teresa’s theology of mission to the poorest of the poor.

... continue reading in Crux

Mother Teresa: A saint despite spiritual ‘darkness’

Happy to be quoted in an article by Nicole Winfield of Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis canonizes Mother Teresa on Sunday, he’ll be honoring a nun who won admirers around the world and a Nobel Peace Prize for her joy-filled dedication to the “poorest of the poor.” He’ll also be recognizing holiness in a woman who felt so abandoned by God that she was unable to pray and was convinced, despite her ever-present smile, that she was experiencing the “tortures of hell.”

... continue reading in The New York Times or in The Washington Post

Centered in the Periphery – Pope Francis and Mother Teresa

Appeared first in Salt and Light Media on August 31, 2016

Since March 2013, when Pope Francis was elected at the See of St. Peter, he has captured the minds and hearts of the people worldwide: Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, believers, and non-believers alike. Compassion and forgiveness, mercy in action and prayer, love of God and love of neighbor, are some of the markers of Francis’ papacy so far. A particular concept of paramount importance to Francis’ pontificate is “the periphery.” In his interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, a few months after his election, Francis talked about his theology of the periphery, explaining that the great revolutions and changes in history were realized when “reality was seen not from the center, but rather from the periphery.” According to Pope Frances, it is the life experience of the periphery, walking the walk of the periphery with the people of the periphery, through which one is acquainted with reality. The direction of Francis’ pontificate is periphery-bound, moving the Church from security to risk-taking, “from inward looking to outward looking,” from the center to society’s edges.

But what is “the periphery”?

... continue reading in Salt and Light Media

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mother Teresa’s Mysticism

Appeared first in Salt and Light Media on August 28, 2016

On August 23, 2007, TIME magazine published excerpts of the private journals and letters of Mother Teresa depicting her crisis of faith and her almost 50 years without sensing God’s presence. TIME’s author, David Van Biema, asked: What does her experience teach us about the value of doubt? The late Christopher Hitchens, Mother Teresa’s harsh critic, refers to these letters as “scrawled and desperate documents” from a “troubled and miserable lady” who tried to recruit others “to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe.” (Newsweek, 8, 28, 2007). To conclude that Mother Teresa was “a crypto-atheist,” who was perfectly knowledgeable that there was no God but lacked the decency to admit it, cannot be farther from the truth. This is to misconstrue the woman and the mystical experiences she underwent. Moreover, it is exactly this doubt and the life-long “thirst” for God that make Mother Teresa become St. Teresa of Kolkatta. Mother Teresa is real, approachable, and earthly as she herself desired to be: “If I ever become a saint—I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”

... continue reading in Salt and Light Media

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WYD is the Palestra to Educate and Practice Bridge-Building

Roberto Maroni, the president of the Lombard region of Italy, said in an appeal to the media that “Father Jacques is a martyr of faith” adding that the pope “immediately proclaim him St. Jacques.” In a recent article John Allen suggested that Fr. “Hamel’s martyrdom gives organizers (of the WYD) a chance to educate Catholic youth at a moment when they’re likely to be especially receptive.” Education is key and martyrdom has unfortunately become a common occurrence; WYD might be the perfect setting to reflect on this current and crucial issue. Is there a difference between the Christian martyr and terrorist suicide bombers? The results of both might seem the same: loss of human life, but the philosophy behind both acts is diametrically opposite.

The most recent attacks on innocent people in France, suicide bombings in Germany, killing of Catholic priests and nuns in Yemen, are brutal acts of terrorism, not martyrdom. The Syrian suicide bomber who injured fifteen innocent people last Sunday in Ansbach, Germany, is not a martyr. A martyr is exactly the opposite of a suicide bomber. A martyr is someone who upholds his/her faith to death. He/she is a lover of faith and of life. He or she dies so that something else may live and multiply. The martyr dies so that his/her cause may live. A martyr is the one who cares so much for something outside of himself, that “he forgets his personal life” (Chesterton). Christ’s death on the cross was not a deliberate suicidal act. Instead, Christ is a model for the martyr to imitate and to follow in voluntarily enduring death because of love of faith. Faith is so crucially important and life such a tremendous gift that martyrs are ready to give their lives up for the cause. The cause is outside and more important than self. Self is destroyed and diluted; it becomes meaningless for the cause. Odium fidei, or hatred of the faith, is another important requirement for martyrdom and, if this element is lacking, there is no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church.

Suicide, on the other hand, is an act of rejection and negation of life. It is a deeply desperate act. The terrorist suicide bomber “cares so little for anything outside of him, that he wants to see the last of everything.” (Chesterton). A suicide bomber is a destroyer of life and of the other. The focus here is on self and personal distress, thus forgetting everyone else. There is no cause to live for, but instead much distress in dying, often sacrificing the lives of others in the process.  

Eleven years ago during the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Pope Benedict XVI in his speech to the Muslim communities living in Germany reflected on the spread of terrorism and the damage terrorism was causing to Christian-Muslim relations. The Pope warned that terrorist attacks and suicide bombings which were occurring in various parts of the world “poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.” Obviously, things have become worse in the last several years. Time demands an urgent need for education and interaction, mercy and dialogue, exploration and contemplation of possibilities to build human bridges (Pope Francis) and WYD is the perfect palestra – training ground to practice all of the above.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mother Teresa’s Formative Years in the Periphery

Appeared first in "The Catholic Thing" on July 13, 2016

Mother Teresa is known worldwide. Much less well known is the importance of her early years, in the Balkans, to what was to come later. September 4, 2016, the day of her canonization, will also be, appropriately, the Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy. This is a happy coincidence because she will probably become the patron saint for all those who labor and suffer in the name of God’s love and mercy.

... continue reading in The Catholic Thing

Albanian martyr a classic example of ‘genius of women’

Appeared first in "Crux - Taking the Catholic Pulse" on July 18, 2016.

On July 13, 2016, Albania’s bishops (all nine of them) received a decree from Pope Francis announcing the conclusion of the canonical process that recognized “the testimony of martyrdom to faith and country” of 38 Albanian martyrs, including 37 men and one woman, Maria Tuci.

The news was relayed by the Archbishop of Shkodër, Angelo Massafra, president of the Albania’s Bishops Conference, who considers it “a historical moment for the Church and the nation.” The beatification ceremony for Albania’s 38 martyrs, executed brutally by the Communist regime from 1945-1974, will be held in the city of Shkodër, northwestern Albania, on November 5, 2016.

The beatification will come fifteen days before the conclusion of the pope’s Holy Year of Mercy and two months after the canonization of Mother Teresa (September 4), who’s also a celebrated daughter of the Albanian nation. The new martyrs are from a marginal country with a Muslim majority, as Catholics make up less than 15 percent of the Albanian population.

... continue reading in Crux - Taking the Catholic Pulse