Pope eager to meet Catholic, interreligious leaders in Bangladesh


Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Bangladesh ahead of his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to the country, saying he is looking forward to meeting everyone, especially Catholics and other religious leaders, and to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I want to meet the entire people,” he said. “In a special way, I cannot wait to meet the religious leaders in Ramna (Park).” Located in the central part of the capital city Dhaka, Ramna Park has a lake and trees and is considered one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

In the video, published Nov. 21, he also emphasized his wish to reaffirm the Catholic community of Bangladesh in “its faith and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and calls us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and needy.”

Francis also said that in his visit he comes as a “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to proclaim his message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.”

This is a time when we all, both believers and non-believers, are called to promote understanding and respect, and support each other as part of “one human family,” he said.    

The Pope's visit is the second leg of an apostolic trip to the countries of Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2.

He will arrive in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, from Burma on Nov. 30 in the afternoon. There will be a formal welcoming ceremony and then he will make a visit to the National Martyr's Memorial in Savar, about 22 miles north-west of the capital.

The National Martyr's Memorial in Savar is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.  

He will also visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, which honors the former Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated alongside his family in August 1975.

From there he will meet with the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Afterward he will deliver a speech in a meeting with governmental authorities, leaders of the civil society and with the diplomatic corps.

On Dec. 1, Francis will celebrate Mass and a priestly ordination at Suhrawardy Udyan Park. In the afternoon he will visit the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and the cathedral.

Later he will give speeches in meetings with the bishops of Bangladesh and with interreligious leaders and an ecumenical group for peace.

In the morning on Dec. 2 he will make a private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the Tejgaon district of Dhaka.

Afterward he will meet and address priests, religious, consecrated, seminarians and novices in the Church of the Holy Rosary, which was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest church building still-standing in Dhaka. The Pope will visit the church and the parish cemetery during his visit.

Francis' final encounter of the trip will be with youth at the Notre Dame College of Dhaka, where he will deliver a speech before leaving for the airport and the official leaving ceremony before departing for Rome. He is expected to land back in Rome at about 11 p.m. local time.


Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'


Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”


Dioceses of Nashville, Jefferson City get new bishops


Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Shawn McKnight as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and Msgr. Mark Spalding as the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.

In a Nov. 21 statement coinciding with the Vatican announcement, Fr. Michael Johnston, who until now has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Nashville diocese, voiced his gratitude to both Pope Francis for the appointment, and to Msgr. Spalding himself for his “generosity” in accepting the role.

Johnston described Spalding as “a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement” for his new responsibilities, and someone who has “a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve.”

“He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us,” Johnston said. “With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.”

Spalding, 52, who until now has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity parish and Holy Name parish, was born Jan. 13, 1965, in Lebanon, Ky.

After graduating from Bethlehem High School Bardstown, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was ordained a priest Aug. 3, 1991, in the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral of Bardstown.

Before his ordination, he studied from 1987-1991 at the American University in Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a master's degree in religious studies and a licentiate in canon law.  

Since then, he has served at a number of parish assignments, including associate pastor at St. Joseph and chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, associate pastor at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Louisville and pastor of Immaculate Conception in LaGrange.

Since 2011 he has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General. His ordination and installation as Bishop of Nashville will take place Feb. 2, 2018, at Sagrado Corazon in the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike.

In his comments on Msgr. Spalding's appointment, Johnston said Louisville would be losing a “fine priest,” but offered his assurance that the bishop-elect would be “loved and cared for” as he begins his new role.

Fr. McKnight, who was born in Wichita, Kan. In 1968, got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas before entering seminary in 1990.

He carried out his seminary studies at the Pontifical “Josephinum” College in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained a priest May 28, 1994, for the Diocese of Wichita.

The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate and doctorate degree in sacramental theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and published several articles on relevant pastoral and sacramental themes, finishing his studies in 2001.

After his ordination, he served the diocese in various pastoral, teaching and diocesan roles, the most recent being pastor of the Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita.

From 2000-2005, McKnight served as Director of diocesan Divine Worship and was a diocesan consultant and a member of the Presbyteral Council. From 2005-2010 he was a faculty member at Saint Meinrad Seminary working in the formation of permanent deacons.

After, from 2010-2015, the bishop-elect served as Executive Director of the USCCB's Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. In 2015, he was assigned to the Church of the Magdalen parish, where he has served until now.