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Pete Buttigieg cites Gospel in campaign ad

Charleston, S.C., Dec 2, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg quoted the Gospel of Matthew in his first statewide ad in South Carolina, the latest in the candidate’s references to Christianity in his campaign messages. 

The ad opens with a clip from an Iowa speech Buttigieg gave Nov. 1: 

“In our White House, you won’t have to shake your head and ask yourself: What ever happened to ‘I was hungry and you fed me; I was a stranger and you welcomed me’,” a reference to Matthew 25:35. 

The ad will be released on Tuesday in South Carolina television markets. 

Although he has polled better in Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg polls at an average of 6.5 points in South Carolina, behind former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 

As the first southern state in the primary process, South Carolina is generally considered an important campaign milestone, and primary performance in the state is regarded as an indication of a candidate’s national electability. 

The South Carolina primary is especially a key indicator of support for candidates among black voters, who make up 30% of the state’s electorate and 60% of Democratic primary voters.

Buttigieg has come under harsh criticism for his record on racial issues during his term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and has only 4% support among black voters nationwide. Some political analysts have suggested his Gospel-themed video is intended as an overture to churchgoing black voters in the state.

In the ad, Buttigieg stresses a need to “unify the American people,” saying that unification “doesn’t mean pretending that we’re all the same. It means unifying around issues from wages and family leave to gun violence and immigration. The hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion, but by belonging.” 

Among black voters in South Carolina, Buttigieg has less than 1% support. 

In November, Buttigieg was accused of fabricating support among black leaders in South Carolina, several of whom who denied giving his campaign permission to list their names as supporters.  Nearly half of a campaign list of black supporters in the state were found to actually be white people. 

The Buttigieg campaign also admitted to using a stock photo of a Kenyan woman and child to promote his “Douglass Plan for Black America” on the campaign website. The campaign said it did not know the picture had originated from Africa and has since removed it. 

Buttigieg, a baptized Catholic who now attends an Episcopalian Church, has repeatedly invoked his Protestantism to support his stance on a range of political issues, including support for same-sex marriage. Earlier this year, he said that those who opposed same-sex marriage had a problem “with my Creator.” Buttigieg is in a civil same-sex partnership. In recent months he has also invoked his religious affiliation to criticize Republican tax and immigration policies.

In an April appearance on Meet The Press, Buttigieg also defended earlier remarks in which he appeared to question President Donald Trump’s belief in God, and suggested that Evangelical Christians who support President Trump are hypocrites. 

Trump, said Buttigieg, is not following scriptural imperatives for believers to care for widows and immigrants, and therefore is not behaving in a Christlike manner.

“The hypocrisy is unbelievable,” said Buttigieg. “Here you have somebody who not only acts in a way that is not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture in church, where it’s about lifting up the least among us and taking care of strangers, which is another word for immigrants, and making sure that you’re focusing your effort on the poor--but also personally, how you’re supposed to conduct yourself.”

Self-described white born-again/evangelical Christians voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, with 81 percent in favor compared to only 16 percent voting for Hillary Clinton.

Catholics, particularly Hispanic Catholics, supported Trump in 2016 at higher levels than they did Mitt Romney in 2012. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won majority support among Catholic voters was George W. Bush in 2004.

In response to Buttigieg’s comments on biblical imperatives, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked the mayor his thoughts on abortion. Buttigieg, who considers himself pro-choice, said he thinks abortion is a moral question that should be decided by a woman and her doctor, not by “a male government official imposing his interpretation of his religion.”

The Church teaches that abortion is the deliberate ending of an innocent human life, and is a grave sin.

Pope: Catholic entrepreneurs must live out Church’s social teaching

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2019 / 10:59 am (CNA).- Catholic business owners have both a grave responsibility and an opportunity to promote the Church’s social teaching in a difficult atmosphere, Pope Francis told young entrepreneurs Monday.

“I am well aware that it is not easy, in everyday life, to reconcile the needs of the faith and the social teaching of the Church with the needs and constraints imposed by the laws of the market and of globalization,” he said in the Vatican’s apostolic palace Dec. 2.

“But,” he continued, “I believe that the evangelical values that you want to implement in directing your companies, as well as in the many relationships you have in your activities, are the occasion of a genuine and irreplaceable Christian witness.”

Pope Francis met with the delegation of French business leaders during a pilgrimage they are making to Rome. “It is a joy for me to encounter this desire that is in you to follow the teachings of the Gospel,” he said.

Expressing hope that their pilgrimage may illuminate their future discernment, he noted that “it has never been easy to be a Christian and have serious responsibilities.”

The pope noted some of the challenges that come with working in the business world, or with owning a business, such as the decisions which impact the survival of one’s company and the support of employees and their families with the payment of a just wage.

“I am thinking of working conditions, wages, job offers and their stability, as well as environmental protection. How can we live these conflicts in serenity and hope, while the Christian entrepreneur is sometimes led to silence his own convictions and ideals?” he asked.

The Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et spes gives a criterion for discernment, Francis said.

“With regard to the laity engaged in temporal realities, it is said: ‘It is up to their already properly formed conscience to inscribe the divine law in the life of the earthly city,’” he stated, also speaking about the priest’s role of giving “light and spiritual strength.”

Catholics do not expect their pastors to have concrete answers, but they should “assume their responsibility, in the light of Christian wisdom and paying respectful attention to the teaching of the Magisterium.”

Pope Francis also quoted the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution, Lumen gentium, which says it is the role of lay people in their service of Christ to participate “with their competence in the profane disciplines and with their activity, intrinsically elevated by the grace of Christ,” to “effectively carry out their work, so that the created goods [...] may be advanced [...] for the benefit of all men without exception, and be more conveniently distributed among them and, according to their nature, lead to universal progress in human and Christian freedom.”

Striving to keep away from those parts of the world which are contrary to God and his will, and trying to transform the world in Christ can sometimes lead to martyrdom, as it did for Saints Peter and Paul, he said.

He explained that the Gospel message sometimes seems “weak” in comparison to worldly power and money, and it is not a utopia. It requires the strength of the Holy Spirit “and the support of the faith of brave missionary disciples” to put into practice.

The laity “have an essential role to play,” he said. “You can take action to concretely change things and, little by little, educate the world of work in a new style.”


Pope Francis names Mexican-born bishop coadjutor of San Bernardino

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2019 / 05:06 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday named Bishop Alberto Rojas, an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, to be coadjutor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, and serve alongside Bishop Gerald Barnes until Barnes’ retirement.

As coadjutor, Rojas will assist Bishop Gerald Barnes in the administration of the San Bernardino diocese and succeed him as bishop upon his retirement or death.

Rojas, who was born in Mexico, has been an auxiliary bishop of Chicago since 2011, serving under both Cardinals Francis George and Blase Cupich.

The Diocese of San Bernardino was erected in 1978 and covers nearly 28,000 square miles. In 2017, the diocese had an estimated 1.7 million Catholics -- 38% of the population -- and 151 diocesan priests.

San Bernardino has one of the highest concentrations of Hispanics in California. According to the 2010 census, the county was 39.2% Hispanic.  

Barnes, who has led the Diocese of San Bernardino for 23 years, announced in August his intention to retire in June 2020 at the age of 75.

Diocesan bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope upon reaching age 75. It is then the decision of the pope to accept the resignation at his discretion.

Barnes announced the appointment of a coadjutor in a statement on the diocesan website Aug. 7, stating that “the next 12 months will be a year unlike any other in recent memory in our Diocese. It will be a time of ending, of new beginnings and, for me, a time of transition.”

The longest-serving bishop of a U.S. diocese, according to the San Bernardino Sun, Barnes was first appointed auxiliary bishop of San Bernardino in 1992. In 1995, he was made ordinary bishop.

Bishop Alberto Rojas, 54, was born in El Zapote de la Labor, Mexico.

He studied for the priesthood at Santa Maria de Guadalupe seminary in Aguascalientes, Mexico and at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, before being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1997.

Rojas was named an auxiliary bishop of Chicago by Benedict XVI and ordained bishop in August 2011.

As a bishop, he has been the archbishop’s delegate for the archdiocesan Hispanic-American council, liaison to Hispanic Catholics, a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference’s Hispanic Affairs Committee, and a regional liaison for the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry.

Rojas was also a member of the seminary formation faculty at Mundelein Seminary from 2002-2010.

Bishop Barnes will give a press conference on Rojas’ nomination and on “episcopal transition” at 10:00 am PST. It can be viewed through a livestream found on the diocesan website.


UN Chief Warns Of Global Climate Emergency At Summit

The United Nations secretary-general has warned that global warming threatens human existence. Antonio Guterres spoke before the start of a summit in Spain, where government leaders and other delegates from nearly 200 countries discuss what they view as a climate change emergency facing the world.

Burkina Faso: Attack on church is ‘anti-Christian persecution’

Following the murder of 14 people at a Protestant church in Burkina Faso, a local Catholic Bishop warns of an Islamist insurgency seeking to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims where they have always lived together in peace.

Pope calls entrepreneurs, businessmen to embrace simplicity

Pope Francis reflected on the challenges of bearing evangelical witness in professional life, as he met with young French businessmen and entrepreneurs at the Vatican on Monday.

Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical 'Caritas in veritate' remembered

The Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development holds an international conference honouring the 10th anniversary of Pope Benedict's encyclical "Caritas in veritate".

Advent advice from Pope Francis: Choose prayer and charity over consumerism 

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- This Advent, choose prayer and charity over consumerism, Pope Francis said Sunday in his first Mass of the liturgical year.

“Resist the dazzling lights of consumption, which will shine everywhere this month, and believe that prayer and charity are not lost time, but the greatest treasures,” Pope Francis said in his Advent homily Dec. 1.

“This is the drama of today: houses full of things, but empty of children,” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis celebrated an Advent Mass with Congolese immigrants, in which he warned against the selfish attitudes in a society where “consumerism reigns.”

“Consumerism is a virus that affects the faith at its root because it makes you believe that life depends only on what you have, and so you forget about God,” he warned. “The meaning of life is not to accumulate.”

“When you live for things, things are never enough, greed grows and others become obstacles in the race and so you end up feeling threatened and, always dissatisfied and angry …  ‘I want more, I want more, I want more,’” he said. “One has many goods, but no good is done.”

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass at St. Peter’s  Altar of the Chair to mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome. The inculturated Mass included traditional Congolese music and the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

“Dear brothers and sisters, you have come from afar. You left your homes, you left loved ones and dear things. Once here, you have found acceptance along with difficulties and unexpected events. But for God you are always welcome. For Him we are never strangers,” the pope said.

“Today we pray for peace, seriously threatened in the east of the country, especially in the territories of Beni and Minembwe, where conflicts are raging, fed also by the complicit silence of many. Conflicts fueled by those who get rich selling weapons,” he said.

Pope Francis remarked that the word Advent means “coming.”

“The Lord comes,” he said. “Here is the root of our hope: the assurance that the consolation of God reaches us among the tribulations of the world, a consolation that is not made of words, but of presence, of His presence that comes among us.”

Norbertine Fathers in California launch digital Advent calendar

Orange, Calif., Dec 1, 2019 / 02:11 pm (CNA).- A religious order in southern California is kicking off Advent with a digital calendar that allows Catholics to go more in-depth as they prepare for the Christmas season.

The virtual calendar was launched on the first Sunday of Advent by the priests of the Norbertine order from St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California.

The website,, will include daily reflections, videos, music, and commentaries.

Each day, the calendar will delve into a different Advent-related topic, such as the meaning behind Advent candles and wreaths, historical information about the magi and shepherds, and a brief biography of St. Nicholas.

The calendar also includes Christmas music performed by the Norbertine Fathers, and explores questions such as “Should Christmas be only for Christians?”

The goal of the project is to offer a “different way of engaging the faithful, and … help them prepare their hearts and minds for Christmas,” according to a press release.

“We hope that this Advent calendar will help Catholics around the world learn more about their faith, grow in their faith, and help them prepare themselves for Christ’s coming at Christmas,” said  Fr. Charbel Grbavac, one of the members of the community.

“We hope and pray that this Advent calendar will be a source for good, faithful fruits,” he added.

As canons regular, the Norbertine Fathers are religious priests who live in community and share a charism and common life of prayer. During the week, they are teachers and preachers in area schools, colleges, and catechetical programs. On weekends, they preach in more than 30 local parishes.

Last year, the Norbertines launched a digital library called “The Abbot’s Circle” to provide video, audio, and written resources on the Catholic faith beyond the bounds of their abbey and apostolates in southern California.

The Abbot’s Circle website is available to subscribers and includes video, podcasts and written reflections, as well as chant recordings and audio lectures and a documentary on the fathers called “City of Saints.”

St. Michael’s Abbey recently completed a $120 million capital campaign to support the construction of a new abbey. With nearly 50 priests and more than 30 seminarians, the order is running out of space for its new members.

Grbavac said the community is enthusiastic about the new digital Advent calendar, which they see as a means of furthering their mission to evangelize and renew the Church.

“Our order was founded by St. Norbert, a Catholic reformer who sought to renew the Church in difficult times and to preach to the faithful,” he said, “and we have been working recently to use digital media as a new way to fulfill his mission and engage the faithful and renew the Church.”

Duluth's Bishop Paul Sirba dies unexpectedly at 59

Duluth, Minn., Dec 1, 2019 / 12:44 pm (CNA).- Bishop Paul Sirba of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota died on Sunday, after suffering a heart attack before offering Mass. He was 59 years old.

“It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I must inform you of tragic news regarding our Bishop,” said a Dec. 1 statement from Fr. James B. Bissonette, who had been the diocesan vicar general until the bishop's death. The office of the vicar general ceases upon the death of the diocesan bishop.

“Words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd,” Bissonette said.

Bissonette’s statement was distributed to clergy throughout the diocese and was read after Masses on Sunday.

Sirba went into cardiac arrest Sunday at St. Rose Church in Proctor, Minnesota, and was immediately rushed to a hospital, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He received last rites from Fr. John Petrich, a hospital and prison chaplain in the diocese, and was pronounced dead shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Sirba was reportedly preparing for Mass when he fell ill.

“We have great hope and faith in Bishop Sirba’s resurrection to new life, and have confident assurance that he will hear the words of our Lord, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of your master,’” Bissonette's statement added.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made. Sirba is survived by his mother, three siblings, and their families. His brother, Fr. Joseph Sirba, is a priest of the Diocese of Duluth.

Sirba, a native of the Twin Cities, was ordained a priest in 1986 at the age of 25, and consecrated as a bishop in 2009. Sirba was just 13 days away from the 10th anniversary of his episcopal consecration.

Before he became the ninth bishop of Duluth, Sirba was a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. From 2006 until 2009, he was the director of spiritual formation at the Saint Paul Seminary in Saint Paul.

Catholics in Minnesota and beyond expressed disbelief and grief at Sirba’s sudden passing.

“The Archdiocese of St Paul & Minneapolis grieves with the Diocese of Duluth over the passing of their beloved shepherd, Bishop Paul Sirba, recalling his many years of joyful service as a son of this local Church.  May he rest in peace,” tweeted Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA Sunday morning that the bishop's death was “tragic,” noting that Sirba was “a really good and holy bishop.”

Fr. Scott Jablonski, a priest of the Diocese of Madison who knew Sirba from seminary, said that his passing was “heartbreaking news” for the diocese, and remembered him fondly.

“Bishop Sirba was my spiritual director during my first two years of seminary in St. Paul, including that first year when my father died after a battle with cancer,” said Jablonski. “Bishop Sirba was a very good priest and he helped me tremendously. He will be deeply missed.”

The Diocese of Crookston, which is located in northwestern Minnesota, directly bordering the Diocese of Duluth, tweeted that “Our hearts are with the faithful of the Duluth Diocese as they have lost their shepherd, Bishop Paul Sirba, very suddenly today as a result of cardiac arrest. May he rest in the peace of Christ.”

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a priest and blogger, wrote that he had known Sirba since the 80s and the two were friends.

“Paul was prayerful and gracious and real gentlemen, a priests’ priest,” wrote Zuhlsdorf on his blog. “I have it on good authority that he was an exceptional confessor and spiritual director as a priest.  And he played a heck of (a) good game of ping pong.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference mourned Sirba as someone who was “a holy man who shone with the serenity of faith and the joy of Jesus in everything he did.”

“We will miss him dearly,” the conference wrote.