Archbishop: ‘Jesus wants a true, personal encounter with us’

Archbishop José Gomez didn’t forget about the World Cup during the June 22 midday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

“Sports are good,” he said. “But we can’t let sports distract us from the most important thing in our lives — the love of God, which is manifested in the Eucharist.”

The archbishop celebrated the Spanish-language Mass before a mostly-full Cathedral on the Feast of Corpus Christi. After Mass, the archbishop led a short procession that ended with an hour of eucharistic adoration.

“Jesus Christ is present, body, blood, soul and divinity in Communion,” he said. “Jesus wants to have a true, personal encounter with each one of us.”

The archbishop stressed the immediacy of God through the Blessed Sacrament throughout his homily.

“All-powerful God, Creator of the universe, he wants to be with us, he wants to carry our burdens with us,” he said. “He wants to live so close to us that he gives us his body and his blood.”  

The world hungers for God’s love and mercy, the archbishop said, and he gives it faithfully through the Eucharist. Through this sacrament, God makes his people one.

“We are a people of the Eucharist,” the archbishop said, “and we have to give the love we receive to our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.”

Sometimes Mass-goers will judge a Mass as good or bad depending on the music or the homily, but Christ is present in the Eucharist at every single Mass, he said. It’s like a family reunion around the altar.

“Jesus is beautiful,” the archbishop said. “He nourishes us. Jesus Christ our Lord renews us in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.”

—The Tidings

Archbishop William Lori. — Credit: CNA

‘Fortnight for Freedom’ focuses on service

Catholics are seeking the freedom to serve in response to Christ’s love in the Eucharist, the archbishop of Baltimore said to kickoff the 2014 Fortnight for Freedom.

“May we find in the Eucharist, the source and the summit of our charity, and in that charity may we advocate by word and witness for the robust freedom of individuals and of Churches,” said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore during the opening Mass for the third annual Fortnight for Freedom.

“Not only to worship without fear, but indeed to serve others and the common good in love, in truth, in joy, and in freedom,” he added.  

Archbishop Lori, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc committee for religious liberty, delivered the homily at a June 21 Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the nation’s oldest Cathedral, in downtown Baltimore.

The Fortnight for Freedom — currently in its third year — is a two-week period of prayer, education and action to promote a greater respect for religious liberty both in the United States and abroad.

The bishops organized the first Fortnight for Freedom in 2012 amid threats to religious freedom stemming from the Health and Human Services mandate, which requires employers to fund or facilitate insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if such cooperation violates their firmly-held religious beliefs.

Presbyterian denomination’s ‘gay marriage’ votes draw criticism

The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s general assembly has voted to allow its ministers to perform “gay marriage” and to redefine marriage as a “commitment between two people,” drawing objections that it is moving away from Christian orthodoxy.

“Only declining denominations reject historic Christian standards and in nearly every case that rejection reinforces the decline,” said Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “Who respects a church that only echoes the secular world?”

Tooley’s inter-denominational organization aims to support orthodox theology and practice in mainline Protestant denominations.The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Detroit, on June 19 approved an amendment to change the definition of marriage in the denomination’s constitution, the Associated Press reported.

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 429-175, defines marriage as “a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”The amendment must now be approved by a majority of the denomination’s 172 regional groups, called presbyteries.

By a vote of 371-238, delegates to the general assembly also voted to allow the denomination’s ministers to preside at same-sex “weddings” in states where the civil law recognizes such unions and where local congregation leaders approve.

Bishops implore U.S. to address Syria on World Refugee Day

The chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration said the refugee situation in Syria is a “humanitarian disaster” and called on the U.S. government to increase resettlement in a statement for World Refugee Day.

“The Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East has reached a point of humanitarian disaster,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle, said June 20. “Although the United States has provided overseas support to these refugees, other forms of relief, including possible resettlement of the most vulnerable, should be seriously considered.”

According to a United Nations estimate, approximately three million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war began there. Catholic Relief Services reported that 4.5 million Syrians have been “internally displaced” in the conflict. 

In addition, Bishop Elizondo declared the surge in child migrants to the U.S. from Central America and Mexico to be a refugee situation.

“These children are indeed fleeing for their lives and must be looked at through a protection lens, not through an enforcement lens,” he said. “We must not send them back if they have valid protection claims. It would be akin to sending them back into a burning home.”

The bishop’s declaration of a refugee situation follows what experts told Catholic News Agency June 19 that at least some of the migrants could be considered refugees and thus be granted asylum. The number of unaccompanied child migrants has reportedly doubled each year since 2011. An estimated 47,000 have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border so far in 2014.

Activists push for awareness of North Korea human rights abuses

Victims of North Korea’s human rights abuses and experts on the dictatorship’s harsh practices asked for support in a hearing before members of Congress June 18.

Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee on global human rights, said that “in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we see a state that seeks to control all aspects of the lives of its citizens, not only their political lives, but also that innermost sanctuary we call conscience as well.”

Smith said the North Korean government uses starvation, torture, imprisonment and death against political and religious dissidents of the totalitarian, atheistic stance of the North Korean government.

The hearing, entitled “Human Rights Abuses and Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea,” featured testimony from Shin Dong-hyuk, a survivor of a North Korean prison camp.

“My situation is one where I cannot go back to my home,” said Shin, who escaped eight years ago from the prison camp he was born in as well as the country of North Korea.

He spoke of a life “not fit for human beings or even for animals,” where his first memories were of guards in uniform carrying guns, and being taught by those guards to distrust his parents, who were political prisoners.

“As soon as I was born, I too became a political prisoner as well,” he said, saying that he and other children of political prisoners were required by guards “to pay for our crimes” in the work camps. “We could only eat the things given to us, we could only wear the things given to us, and we could only do the work given to us by the prison officials.”

—Catholic News Agency