Reflection for Ffith Sunday of Lent B


First Reading
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Jeremiah tells the people that the Lord will make a new covenant with them, planting the law within their hearts.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 51:3-4,12-13,14-15
A prayer for God’s mercy and forgiveness

Second Reading
Hebrews 5:7-9
Through his sufferings, Jesus gained salvation for all who obey him.

Gospel Reading
John 12:20-33
Jesus teaches his disciples about the way in which he will be glorified by God, and a voice from heaven is heard to affirm this teaching.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the Gospel of John. We are reading much further into John’s Gospel than we have for the past two weeks. Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the beginning of the passion narrative to follow. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead—an important sign in John’s Gospel, which inspired many people to believe in Jesus. This event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities. John’s Gospel tells us that the Sanhedrin met after this event and made plans to kill Jesus. In the 12th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is anointed at Bethany and enters Jerusalem in triumph. We again see evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus to this event; John reports that the crowds also gathered to see Lazarus.

Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted his suffering, death, and Resurrection and prepared his disciples to believe in the salvation that his death would accomplish. Using the metaphor of the grain of wheat, Jesus presented the idea that his dying would be beneficial. He also taught that those who would be his disciples must follow his example of sacrifice. This theme will be repeated in John’s account of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example of how they must serve one another.

The final section of today’s Gospel might be read as John’s parallel to the agony in the garden. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John does not record Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest. Although comparable words are found in today’s reading, Jesus gives a confident response to the question he raises when asking God to save him from his impending death. After announcing his conviction that it is for this purpose that he came, a voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer. This voice, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration—events reported in the Synoptic Gospels but not in John’s Gospel—affirms that God welcomes the sacrifice that Jesus will make on behalf of others. In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that this voice was sent for the sake of those who would believe in him.

In today’s Gospel, we also hear Jesus speak about the cosmic framework against which we are to understand his passion, death, and Resurrection. Through his death and Resurrection, Jesus conquered Satan, the ruler of this world. In this way the world is judged, but the judgment is not condemnation. Instead, through Jesus’ dying and rising, salvation is brought to the world. –



First Reading
Ezekiel 37:12-14
God will open the graves and restore the people of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 130:1-8
With the Lord is forgiveness and mercy.

Second Reading
Romans 8:8-11
The Spirit of God dwells in you.

Gospel Reading
John 11:1-45 (shorter version John 11:3-7,17,20-27,33b-45)
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Our Gospel on this day, the fifth Sunday of Lent, is again taken from the Gospel according to John. The reading from John continues the break from Cycle A’s focus on the Gospel of Matthew. Today’s Gospel reading recounts another sign, or miracle, found in John’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus. As our catechumens move closer to the celebration of their Baptisms at the Triduum, today’s reading invites us to reflect upon what it means to call Jesus the Resurrection and the life.

The context for the story of the raising of Lazarus is the Jewish leaders’ growing animosity toward Jesus. Jesus has been in Jerusalem, taking part in the feast of the Dedication, which we have come to know as Hanukkah. The people have been pressing him to declare plainly whether he is the Messiah. Jesus tells them to look to his works, which testify to his coming from God. Many do not believe Jesus, however, and some try to stone him for blasphemy.

Into this scene of confrontation, Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, send word to Jesus that his friend is ill. Jesus is said to love Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but he delays his journey for two days. The delay heightens the drama and shows Jesus’ obedience to God, who is to be glorified through Lazarus’s resurrection. When Jesus finally declares that he will journey to Bethany, his disciples fear for his life. Thomas declares that he and the other disciples should prepare to die with Jesus.

The scene described at Bethany is a sad one. Martha meets Jesus weeping and saying that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Yet she remains confident that God will do whatever Jesus asks. Martha affirms her belief that there will be a resurrection of the dead in the last days. Then Martha’s sister, Mary, comes to Jesus with the same confidence, saying that Jesus could have cured Lazarus. Jesus asks to be brought to Lazarus’s tomb where he prays and calls Lazarus out from the tomb. At this sign, many come to believe in Jesus, but others take word of the miracle to the Jewish authorities, who begin their plans for Jesus’ death.

Set against the backdrop of Jesus’ impending death, many elements of the raising of Lazarus foreshadow the good news of Jesus’ own Resurrection. Jesus, facing the conflict with the Jewish authorities, acts in complete obedience to God. In raising Lazarus, Jesus shows his power over death so that when Jesus dies, those who believe in him might remember that and take hope. Just as Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, so too will the disciples find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

With our catechumens preparing for their Baptism at Easter, the Gospel today calls us to reflect on Baptism as a dying and rising with Jesus. In Baptism we die to sin’s power over us, rising as children of God. In Baptism we join ourselves with Christ, who conquered death once and for all so that we who believe in him may have eternal life. With Martha and Mary, we are called to profess our belief that Jesus is indeed the Resurrection and the life. –


Pope Francis’ 2018 Intentions

March 2018

Evangelisation: Formation in Spiritual Discernment

That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.

Liturgical Feasts / Anniversaries /Observances

(Legend: Ap=Apostle  Bp=Bishop  Ch=Children  Dr=Doctor  Ma=Married  Mt=Martyr  Pr=Priest   Re=Religious  Vg=Virgin)

Mar 03: St Katherine Drexel (Vg)

Mar 04: 3rd Sunday of Lent (RCIA: 1st Scrutiny)

Mar 07: Sts Perpetua & Felicity (Mts) 

Mar 08:  St John of God (Re)

Mar 09: St Frances of Rome (Re)

Mar 11: 4th Sunday of Lent (RCIA: 2nd Scrutiny)

Mar 17: St Patrick (Bp)

Mar 18: 5th Sunday of Lent (RCIA: 3rd Scrutiny)

Mar 19: Solemnity of St Joseph, Husband of Mary

Mar 22: St Nicholas Owen (Mt) / Chrism Mass 7:30 pm SHC

Mar 23: St Turibius (Bp)

Mar 25: Palm/Passion Sunday

Mar 26: Monday of Holy Week

Mar 27: Tuesday of Holy Week

Mar 28: Wednesday of Holy Week

Mar 29: Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper 

Mar 30: Good Friday (Fast & Abstinence)

Mar 31: Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil

Pre-synodal meeting purposes proposed

VATICAN CITY – Final preparations are underway for the 19-24 March 2018, Pre-Synodal Meeting in Rome, organised by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in collaboration with the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

The Pre-Synodal Meeting will be an important part of the consultation phase before the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme Young people, faith and vocation discernment, scheduled for October 2018.

During a press conference at the Press Office of the Holy See on 15 Mar 2018, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, reviewed the purposes of the Pre-Synodal Meeting:

  1. This is an event in which the young will be the actors and the protagonists. We will not only talk about “them”, but they will be telling themselves, with their language, their enthusiasm, and their sensitivity. The next Synod of Bishops wants to be, in fact, not only a Synod “on” young people and “for” young people, but also a Synod “of” young people and “with” young people.
  2. A keyword, repeatedly repeated by the Pope, is “listening”. In this Pre-Synodal Meeting we will listen to young people “live”, “live”, to try to better understand their situation: what they think about themselves and adults, how they live their faith and what difficulties they encounter to be Christians, how they plan their lives and what problems they find in discerning their vocation, as they see the Church today and how they would like it, etc.
  3. Among the young people to be listened to, there will be in particular those that come from situations of hardship and from the “existential outskirts”, young people who often do not have the opportunity to be heard to make their situation and their expectations known. Then there will be young non-Catholics, not Christians and non-believers because listening to young people will be realized as much as possible “at 360 degrees”.
  4. The Pre-Synodal Meeting will be an opportunity to put ourselves in step with the young: keeping in mind that the Synod is by definition a “journey made together”, we want to show what it means concretely to walk together with young people, to all young people excluding.
  5. Walking with young people also means identifying specific pastoral paths, which enable the Christian communities to consolidate their youth pastoral projects, adapting them to the needs of today’s young people.
  6. At the Pre-Synodal Meeting, together with the young people, some parents, educators, priests, pastoral workers and experts of the youth world will take part, to listen to those who live next to the young and have the “tools” to read from the inside and in depth. their situation.
  7. In this way we also want to propose a method of intergenerational exchange and collaboration, fostering dialogue between young people and adults, who often struggle to communicate with each other in everyday life.
  8. The Pre-Synodal Meeting intends to arouse participation dynamics based on the encounter between cultures, living conditions, faiths, and disciplines, developing a model that can be repeated in the different ecclesial realities.
  9. We will ask ourselves how to help young people to seek and find the meaning of their life, in the light of the specific vocational perspective that Pope Francis wanted to give to the Synod journey.
  10. Finally, the Pre-Synodal Meeting will come to elaborate a shared document, which will be delivered to the Pope on Sunday 25 March and, together with the other contributions received, will merge into the Instrumentum laboris, the document on which the Synodal Fathers will meet in October.

While the Pre-Synodal Meeting will have about 300 “in-person” participants, youth from around the world can participant via internet.  More information is available on the meeting

Franciscan Sister Eithne (Felicity) McCarthy called to eternal life

File picture of the old St Francis Convent Karamunsing where Sr Felicity (Eithne McCarthy) lived and taught in the late 1950s and 1960s.

PENAMPANG – Franciscan Sister Eithne (Felicity) McCarthy was called to eternal life on 4 March 2018 at the Convent of St Francis, Blackrock Road, Cork. She was 87.

Eithne McCarthy was born on 18 June 1930, the seventh of eleven children of Maurice and Annie McCarthy, in Co Donegal, Ireland, where her father had been temporarily assigned. The following year the family returned to Cork, where Eithne grew up. She is survived by her sisters Maureen and Sister Ursula and her brother Declan who lives in the United States.

Seeking direction about her vocation, Eithne made a novena to the Little Flower in the SMA Church near the convent. The Sisters had been making the novena for a postulant. At the close, on the Feast of the Little Flower, Eithne followed the Sisters to the convent and expressed her desire to enter.

Eithne entered the Congregation on 11 February 1951 in Blackrock Road and exactly one year later she entered the Novitiate at Altrincham receiving the name Sister Felicity. She made First Profession on 29 June 1953 and five years later she made her Perpetual Profession also in Altrincham.

Sister Eithne was trained in business studies, bookkeeping, shorthand and typing when she entered but after profession she was sent to do teaching training at Mount Pleasant Teacher Training College in Liverpool. She worked hard and qualified in 1958 and left for Borneo the same year. She taught in Jesselton (St Francis Convent), Tawau and Seria and was a popular teacher. Her file contains an email sent through Sister Ursula from a past pupil who wrote “I was a distracted student and most teachers had given up on me. You refused not to believe in me and you inspired me and turned me round academically. Your impact on me was immeasurably positive and I am so grateful to you for altering my life.”

When the Sisters were expelled from Borneo Sister Eithne spent some time teaching in Rochdale and Blackburn before being appointed as assistant superior and novice mistress in Broughton Hall. In 1983 she went to do a theology course in Maynooth, Ireland and was then appointed to Leyland as a parish Sister where she stayed for five years. She is lovingly remembered there today.

In 1989 Sister Eithne returned to Ireland and after three years in Prague House she moved to Dublin where she spent nine years in parish work. During this time she was also community leader and on three occasions she was elected as a Regional Councillor. Sister then returned to Blackrock where she was to spend the rest of her life. When her sister, Maureen, become too frail to live alone Sister Eithne went from Monday to Friday each week to stay with her and returned to the community at weekends. In time her sight and hearing deteriorated badly and when she became unable to continue, Sister Ursula took over the care of Maureen.

Almost blind and almost deaf Sister Eithne remained cheerful and active. She had a beautiful smile and a good sense of humour. She walked up and down the stairs and all around the house to keep mobile and at last she had the time she had often craved for prayer and reflection. She prayed every day for the General Leadership Team to be guided in all their decisions. She was always grateful for the least thing anyone did to help her

On Sunday Mar 4, Sister Eithne joined the community for Mass and lunch and was her normal self. After lunch she made the Stations of the Cross. When she did not go to the kitchen as she usually did to fetch her supper around four o’clock Sister Mary Coyne went to see if she was alright and found her dead in her room. She died as she had lived, quietly and with no fuss.

The funeral Mass for Sister Eithne was held at the Convent of St Francis on March 8 at midday followed by burial at St Oliver’s cemetery. – FMSJ website

The past seven years: a reflection on the Syrian Civil War

Destruction in Azaz Syria.  Credit: Christiaan Triebert Shutterstock/CNA

DAMASCUS, Syria, – Seven years ago, on 15 March 2011, the Syrian Civil War began. Since then, the conflict in Syria has forced more than 5.4 million people to flee their home country to neighbouring nations, such as Turkey and Lebanon. An addition 6.1 million Syrians are believed to have been internally displaced. And more than 400,000 have lost their lives.

“More than 11 million Syrians – that is larger than the population of New York City – have had their lives torn apart and fled their homes due to this long, long war,” said Tom Price, communications officer at Catholic Relief Services, in an interview with CNA.

“Children, who make up more than half of Syrian refugees in the Middle East, are paying the heaviest price. Many have witnessed violence and the loss of homes or loved ones; the vast majority have been out of school for years,” Price continued.

The conflict began when demonstrations sprang up across Syria protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party. In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters.

Russia and Iran have been supportive of the Syrian regime, while western nations have favoured some rebel groups.

The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

Neighbouring countries surrounding Syria have absorbed most of the Syrians fleeing the constant threat of death and destruction – a number which has now skyrocketed to the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis in the world.

“For years, countries in the Middle East have been hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees,” Price remarked, most of whom have landed in Turkey and Jordan, while others have fled to Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

Turkey has experienced the largest number of Syrian refugees over the years, mounting to around 3.3 million registered in total.

For those who have retreated to Lebanon, Syrians often struggle to make ends meet. An estimated 70 percent of refugees are now living below the poverty line and the country offers no formal refugee camps. There are nearly 1 million Syrian refugees in the country, whose population is little more than 6 million.

Refugees in Jordan are experiencing similar situations. Around 93 percent of Syrians are living below the poverty line outside of refugee camps in exile. Iraq is hosting around 246,000 Syrian refugees and Egypt has seen around 126,000.

While life as a refugee is arduous, those who have decided to remain in their war-torn country are experiencing different hardships, under the constant threat of violence – mostly living in areas controlled by the government.

However, Price noted that CRS is advocating with the US to continue its efforts in expanding humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in the Middle East, adding that ending the civil war should be the ultimate goal.

“Most importantly, the United States should lead concerted diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Syria,” Price said.

“Catholic Relief Services echoes the message of Pope Francis, who has pleaded for an end to the violence and the peaceful resolution of hostilities in Syria,” he continued.

UNHCR, together with other UN agencies, also noted that they have appealed the US for $8 billion in funding for refugees in Syrian and surrounding locations.

Kim Pozniak, the director of communications at CRS, also said that their organisation is working with “the bishops and Catholic Charities to assist those who’ve had to leave their homes and addresses root causes of migration in many countries, so more people do not have to migrate.”

As the years of conflict have passed, Syria is still seeing severe fighting, particularly in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, and along the Turkish border, with no end in sight.

While the war rages on, Pozniak noted the importance of not letting the violence become normalised over time, and urged Catholics around the world to support refugees through prayer and action.

“We’ve been called by Pope Francis to ‘share the journey’ with our brothers and sisters on the move due to violence and other hardships,” Pozniak told CNA.

“As Catholics, we must strive to overcome indifference to cries for help, especially in a crisis that’s lasted this long.” – Maggie Maslak, CNA/EWTN News

Vatican encourages youth participation in pre-synod meeting via facebook

World Youth Day in Krakow Poland on 6 July 2016. Credit: Jeff Bruno/CNA

VATICAN CITY – As the pre-synod gathering on youth approaches, Vatican organisers are inviting young people around the globe to join in the discussion through Facebook groups in six different languages.

The 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment will take place this October, but a pre-synod meeting with 315 young people from around the world will take place in Rome from March 19-24.

“With this path the Church wishes to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even the doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said in announcing the pre-synod event.

The goal is to hear from youth worldwide about their lives, situations and challenges, in order to prepare for the gathering of bishops on the topic this fall.

For those unable to attend the pre-synod meeting, Facebook groups have been set up  in six languages for Catholics to share their views. The Facebook groups, which were opened about a month ago, will close on March 16.

All young adults ages 16-29 are invited to virtually participate in the pre-synod meeting. After being accepted into the Facebook group, people will have an opportunity to answers questions which will be summarised and presented to the Holy Father.

To participate, members must have an individual profile, not a page representing an organization, group, or cause. The answers to the questions must also be limited to 200 words or a one-minute video sent to WhatsApp at (+39 342 601 5596).

One question discusses “the vocational sense of life,” asking, “Is there a clear understanding in younger generations of their having a personal call and specific mission in the world?”

On Monday [Mar 19], the pre-synod meeting in Rome will begin with a question-and-answer session with Pope Francis. Then participants will break into groups to discuss a variety of themes, like volunteer work, technology, and politics.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

The March event will also include opportunities for prayer, such as praying the Way of the Cross while touring the Roman catacombs of San Callisto, as well as entertainment. Palm Sunday Mass will conclude the week, celebrated by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.

The focus of the event is divided into three parts: youth in the world, vocational discernment, and pastoral action.

Youth in the world will focus on defining who the younger generations are and what the culture is around them. The gathering will also discuss the choices the youth have made.

Second, the pre-synod meeting will consider how young adults respond to faith and vocations. It will analyse different vocational paths, the gifts of discernment, and how the Church may best accompany young adults.

Third, it hopes to encourage an inclusive pastoral environment where young people are responsibly involved in the community. It will explore possible tools and places, physical and digital, to aid the faith life of young people.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a young Burundi woman living in Italy who will be a participant to the pre-synod gathering.

“It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.” – CNA/EWTN News

Human trafficking called ‘one of the darkest, most revolting realities’ today

Children at the Pope Francis Rescue Center in Malindi, Kenya, present their homework to Sister Benedicta, a counselor from Sisters of the Holy Family, and Sister Veronica Nyambura. (CNS photo/Lilian Muendo, courtesy GSR) 

UNITED NATIONS – Mely Lenario quietly described her harrowing journey from ambitious, naive rural girl trafficked to hopeless, drug-fueled urban prostitute, through slow rehabilitation to a new life as an outreach worker.

After she finished her story, hundreds of people in a UN conference room jumped to their feet in a sustained ovation.

Lenario spoke on 13 March 2018 on “Preventing Human Trafficking Among Rural Women and Girls,” a panel co-sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

As an 8-year-old, Lenario was abused by her stepfather in the Philippines. He threatened her at knife point after she watched him rape her sister. When she confronted her mother and neighbors about it, she was placed into a Jesuit-run orphanage for seven years.

As a teen, she accepted an offer of work and a free education from an elegant woman visitor who arranged transportation to Cebu, a city distant from her hometown. In Cebu, she was prostituted and forced to use drugs to stay awake all night and improve the glum demeanor that discouraged customers.

Lenario begged for release but was told she had to pay for the transportation and other expenses incurred by her traffickers.

She resigned herself to a life of prostitution. “I felt hopeless and worthless. I felt already ruined,” Lenario said.

Ultimately, she met compassionate women and men religious who introduced her to the Good Shepherd Welcome House in Cebu. With their help and five years of effort, she overcame her drug habit, finished high school and trained to be a nurse’s aide.

“I had to learn how to forgive myself and the people who caused me pain,” she said.

Lenario now studies social work and serves as an outreach counselor to trafficked women and girls at the Good Shepherd Welcome House.

“I want to give them hope. I want to be an inspiration and give voice to all the abused women out there. I want to show them that if I could change my life, they can, too,” she said.

The UN panel was a side event to the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

It focused on the contributions of women religious to prevent trafficking by providing educational and employment opportunities for rural girls, women and their families, disrupt the “supply chain” of the trafficking business, and help survivors tell their stories.

Trafficked women are “marginalised by an environment that can’t meet their needs,” Mercy Sister Angela Reed said. Therefore, anti-trafficking strategies must address the root causes of the problem, which include poverty, unemployment, discrimination, violence, rural isolation and lack of access to education, she said. Sister Reed is the coordinator of Mercy Global Action at the United Nations.

“Human trafficking is one of the darkest and most revolting realities in the world today,” said Msgr Tomasz Grysa, Vatican deputy ambassador. Vulnerable rural women and girls suffer “compounded marginalisation” and are at a “cumulative disadvantage prior to being trafficked,” he said. “Their dignity and rights are not adequately respected before they’re trafficked, something that makes them more susceptible to much worse violations of their dignity and rights later.”

Religious sisters are “going to the existential peripheries” to do heroic work, but they cannot do it alone, Msgr Grysa continued. Trafficking is “a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country. To eliminate it, we need a mobilisation comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”

Sister Annie Jesus Mary Louis, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, is executive director of Jeevan Jharna Vikas Sanstha in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. She said, “Sexual exploitation is big business, governed by the same principles of supply and demand as any commercial activity.”

The sex industry treats people like products and the sex trade has a supply chain of exploitation driven by demand and fueled by greed, vulnerability and deception. It is an illusion that women and girls freely choose prostitution, she said.

The supply chain can be disrupted and trafficking prevented when families have opportunities and feel like society cares about them, Sister Louis said. Families need loving accompaniment and rural women and girls should be protected with at least the same level of investment that is put into labor exploitation, she said.

The rural population is disproportionately affected by trafficking, said Mercy Sister Lynda Dearlove, founder of Women at the Well in London. Religious groups with long-term enduring local relationships have an advantage over large organisations in preventing trafficking, she said.

“Individuals hold the key to empowering women and girls,” she said. Large international funding groups sometimes create an unnecessary layer between donors and those in need, she said.

Sister Reed said women must be seen as anti-trafficking advocates. The Religious Sisters of Mercy help women share firsthand accounts to bring women’s voices into public policy discussions and prevention efforts. “We need to change the dominant narrative that trafficking is a random act” to an understanding that it is a sign of systemic marginalisation and oppression, she said.

Successful preventive approaches counter the vulnerability of potential trafficking victims, Sister Reed said. They include providing an adequate standard of living and quality education, fostering human attachment and a sense of belonging in adolescents, and supporting decent work and full participation in society for adults.

Sister Sheila Smith, a Sister of the Sacred Heart, who is co-founder of Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking in Humans in Ottawa, Ontario, described the mutual relationship between human rights and human dignity in the context of rural trafficking.

“We work tirelessly for prevention because we value each other,” she said. – Beth Griffin Catholic News Service

Stephen Hawking: a longtime member of Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican on 28 Nov 2016. Hawking, the British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

VATICAN CITY – Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.

The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”

“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.

The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.

“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the observatory tweeted in Italian.

The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster tweeted, “We thank Stephen Hawking for his outstanding contribution to science. As a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, he will be missed and mourned there, too.”

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury tweeted, “Professor Stephen Hawking’s contribution to science was as limitless as the universe he devoted his life to understanding. His was a life lived with bravery and passion. As we pray for all those who mourn him, may he rest in peace.

Blessed Paul VI named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1968. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise – not religious beliefs.

Blessed Paul, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”

Pictures from the academy’s archives show the pope kneeling before Hawking, who was seated in a motorized wheelchair, to present him with the medal and touch his head.

Hawking had most recently met Pope Francis when he delivered his presentation on “The Origin of the Universe” at the academy’s plenary session on science and sustainability in 2016.

In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.

Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed.

He also debated on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2010 with Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — a philosopher and educator — over the scientific underpinnings of the beginning of the universe and the theological arguments for the existence of God.

Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”

“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.” – Carol Glatz, Catholic Herald

Pope Francis meets with a Taoist delegation from Taiwan

VATICAN CITY – Before his weekly general audience on 14 Mar 2018, Pope Francis received a delegation representing the Bao’An Gong Taoist temple from Taipei, Taiwan.

The President of the Bao’An Gong temple, Liao Wu-jyh, spoke on behalf of the members of his delegation and presented Pope Francis with a joint declaration bearing his signature and that of the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ayuso.

Mr Liao said that the declaration demonstrates the “determination of the Taipei Bao’An temple to join hands with the Holy See” in order to achieve the seven goals listed in it. He added that the most important of these goals is the last one which seeks “to promote and safeguard universal values, namely, justice, peace, solidarity, friendship, freedom, and religious harmony.” Mr Liao concluded his remarks with an invitation to the Holy Father to Taiwan “to see and understand Taiwan and its people first hand—and let us pray for you.”

Responding to Mr Liao’s presentation, Pope Francis thanked him for his words, and for the invitation to visit Taiwan. The Pope said that he is pleased that their dialogue with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is not only about ideas. “it is a human dialogue, person to person, that helps everyone to grow, to grow as persons, on our road in the search for the Absolute, for God,” Pope Francis said.

“It is a human dialogue, person to person, that helps everyone to grow, to grow as persons, on our road in the search for the Absolute, for God,” Pope Francis said.

Since October 2016, members of the Taipei based Bao’An Gong temple have been in dialogue with the Catholic Church through the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference in Taiwan.

A spokesperson for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue characterised this dialogue as one that has created bonds of friendship and cooperation as each of the participants has grown in their knowledge of the other’s religion.

He said that the visit to the Vatican on the part of the Taoist delegation is significant and “marks a milestone in the relationship.”

He added that both sides in the dialogue hope to be “advocates of justice and to be builders of peace…. Through interreligious dialogue and cooperation we can help safeguard human dignity and promote the betterment of the human family.” – Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, Vatican News

Miri bishop visits Sibuti Iban longhouse

The welcomers in traditional attire pose for the camera while waiting for Bishop Ng and Fr Durrant to come, 10 Mar 2018, Sibuti.  Credit: Dennis Ng

MIRI – Bishop Richard Ng, accompanied by Father Liam Durrant,  visited Rumah Entebang and celebrated Mass there on 10 Mar 2018.

The Iban longhouse is an old wooden building built in the late 1940s under Tuai Rumah Empading Ak Lambor and has 62 doors.  It is located at Sungai Bakas Sibuti Bekenu, about 63 km from Miri.

Around 150 people attended the Mass and the welcome dinner at the longhouse.

The next day, March 11, the bishop and the priest concelebrated Mass at the Townhall, Dewan Rumah Nawin Ak Lu at Kg Penempatan Bukit Peninjau Sibuti.

Around 300 parishioners participated in the Mass.

The Chapel Gerija Indai Maria, Bukit Peninjau, currently under renovation, is just 800 meters away. – Ben Chang, Miri newsblog.

Marian pilgrim statue and Holy Family Icon return to base

KENINGAU – The pilgrim statue of Mary and the Holy Family Icon which have visited the whole diocese returned to St Francis Xavier Cathedral here on 26 Feb 2018.

The 30-day pilgrimage was one of the activities to prepare for the silver jubilee of the diocese.  The diocese turns 25 on May 6.

The closing of the pilgrimage began with the rosary recitation at the Solidarity Hall by the Legion of Mary before processing to the cathedral for a concelebrated Mass presided by Bishop Cornelius Piong, four priests and Deacon David Gasikol.

In his homily, the bishop touched on the role of the Blessed Mother in Salvation History.  He urged the faithful to have a strong devotion to her so that they can overcome challenges in their families and to pray for a fruitful diocesan silver jubilee celebration.

Stella Kinsik, Keningau Parish Pastoral Council chairperson, thanked the organising team and the Legion of Mary for their collaboration in organising the closing of the pilgrimage.

Maria Kuntiou, president of the LOM comitium, said they were happy to organise the closing Mass.

After the Mass all adjourned to the thanksgiving fellowship at the parish hall.  A slideshow  of the pilgrimage around the diocese was screened. – KOMSOS KENINGAU

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