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Statement of Bishop Weisenburger - June 12, 2016

Earlier today our Nation experienced the deadliest mass shooting in its history.  I join with many religious leaders in asking for your prayers for the dead, for the wounded, and for all who are grieving.  

 

I also ask that in this painful moment we give witness, in every way, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We do that by our prayer, our compassion, and our choosing not to respond to hatred and violence in any way that imitates those who nurture such crimes. 

 

Lastly, even as we pray for all who have been touched by this violence let us also ask the Lord to inspire new ways within us to bring about healing among nations, peoples, communities, and individuals.  As St. Francis of Assisi is one of our Salina Diocesan patron saints, perhaps the prayer that has been spiritually attributed to him might guide us in this time of pain and confusion:

 

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace!

That where there is hatred, I may bring love.

That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness.

That where there is discord, I may bring harmony.

That where there is error, I may bring truth.

That where there is doubt, I may bring faith.

That where there is despair, I may bring hope.

That where there are shadows, I may bring light.

That where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted.

To understand, than to be understood.

To love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

 

It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. 

 

 

2016 Ordination Videos

Below are videos of the Ordination to the Priesthood of Luke Thielen and the Ordination to the Deaconate of Leo Blasi, Ryan McCandless and Justin Palmer.

  • The Ordination to the Priesthood of Luke Thielen

 

  • The Ordination to the Deaconate of Leo Blasi, Ryan McCandless and Justin Palmer

Prayer and Action team prepares­ for summer

By The Register

Salina — Six youth began leading the summer’s Prayer and Action program the first week of June.

Prayer and Action lasts five days, with students arriving Sunday evening, and staying until Friday morning. During June, the team will be in Hays; during July the team will be in Junction City.  During the week, high school students will paint, clean, do yard work, and perform other meaningful tasks, for the poor, handicapped, and the elderly.  Every parish within the diocese is invited to bring as many or as few of their high school students as they wish to participate in the program. Prayer and Action also asks that for every six youth, one adult leader also attend.  Adult leaders are to share the same experience as the youth and are asked to be positive role models throughout the week’s activities.  Father Gale Hammerschmidt founded the program; it began in the Diocese of Salina in 2006. Prayer and Action ­is offered by the Diocesan Office of Youth Ministry­.

Here are the team members’ comments about this summer’s Prayer and Action:

• Chris Davis*, Manhattan: “I’m looking forward most to meeting God in the people I’m with and in the Sacraments we share. As a first time participant in 2008, Prayer and Action opened my eyes to the things that I believe bring out the most depth and meaning in life: community, sacrifice, giving thanks to God. I pray that I can help share this richness of experience with each of the friends I’ll meet this summer.”

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Totus Tuus teams prepare for summer sessions

By The Register

Salina — Young adults began teaching the summer’s Totus Tuus catechism program the first week of June.  Split into four teams, they will offer sessions in 26 parishes before the summer is over.  Each week includes daytime sessions for children through sixth grade and evening sessions for teenagers. The daytime sessions include class, Mass, songs and skits as well as social time. Evening sessions for teens include talks, meditations, reflections and time to socialize.  Father Kyle Berens, Father Luke Thielen and  Deacon Justin Palmer, all former Totus Tuus instructors, spent a week with the teams in Salina preparing them for their work. Totus Tuus, which means “totally yours” and was the motto of St. John Paul II, is offered by the Diocesan Office of Youth Ministry.

Here are some of the team members’ comments about becoming Totus Tuus instructors:

• Carleigh Albers, Smolan: “Totus Tuus is such a great program to help college students interact with people all over the diocese and keep close to the sacraments at the same time. I look forward to surrendering and giving gratitude to Christ more than ever this summer. I hope that being a convert to the faith will help inspire the people of the diocese.”

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New priest ordained

 

Salina — The chimes of Sacred Heart Cathedral pealed out “For the Beauty of the Earth” as the newly ordained Father Luke Thielen gave blessings and greeted friends and family following his June 4 ordination.

Bishop Edward Weisenburger encouraged Father Thielen to look for “mustard seeds” of faith throughout the priesthood.
“Moments when you see the glimmer of a mustard seed in one who is struggling, and where God in that grace filled moment chooses to reconcile through you, to heal through you to bring joy and comfort and new life through you,” Bishop Weisenburger said during his homily. “It is through the humble efforts of quite ordinary men like you and me that God sacramentally reveals his great love for his people.” The bishop highlighted his point with a story of Pope Francis, who as a young priest, asked an unrepentant penitent “Are you sorry you’re not sorry?” to which the man replied “yes.”
“And Father Bergoglio said ‘That’s enough’ and gave him absolution,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “What I admire about this story is the creativity, the initiative of a good priest who was looking for a crack in the wall of a man’s heart and hurt. Looking for a way, searching for a creative, spirit-filled way to reconcile a sinner. You might say he found the mustard seed and it was enough.”

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Crowd gathers for annual evening with seminarians

The Register

Salina — More than 200 gathered at St. Mary Queen of the Universe for the Third Annual “An evening with our Seminarians” June 2.  “Your prayers are extremely important for vocations,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger said. “Your encouragement for the young men you encounter is essential.”  The bishop said he enjoys traveling throughout the diocese. Often at the end of Mass, he noted parishoners are shifting in their seats, checking their watch, ready to leave.  “That’s when the pastor leans over and says ‘Now we do the prayer for vocations,’ ” Bishop Weisenburger said. “It’s always worth those extra few moments.”  The crowd gathered in the church at St. Mary, singing evening prayer.

Following prayer, the group moved into the parish hall for a social hour, dinner and presentation by the seminarians.  Salina resident Julie Ottley said she looks forward to the annual event. She prays regularly for the seminarians and also write monthly letters to the men.   “It has to be hand-written letter,” she said. “My (late) husband said it would be faster to type it, but it is more special to write a letter.”  Chris and Rachel Sipe from Russell attended the evening for the first time at the invitation of his parents. Chris met several of the seminarians when he attended Prayer and Action.  “This is cool to see everyone backing the seminarians,” Chris said.  “Since we love our seminarians and priestly friends, we thought we’d come,” his wife added.  Edith Pierce, who lives in Salina, worked at the chancery and said she enjoys the chance to see many priests she worked with.  “It’s a little bit like a family reunion,” she said.  Bishop Weisenburger recognized all of the diocesan priests in attendance, as well as the number of years each has been ordained: 479 in all. Adding in the bishop’s years as a priest, the group represented more than 500 years of service in the priesthood.

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New directors named for Rachel’s Vineyard­ retreats

By The Register

Salina — More than a dozen years after starting Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in the Salina Diocese, directors Donetta and Lester Robben are passing the ministry to a new couple. Their final retreat was May 20 in Victoria.  

Tom and Tina Schrick, Colby, will take charge of the retreat.

Rachel’s Vineyard is a retreat weekend for women and men who need to find healing after an abortion.  “When she leaves the clinic (after an abortion), there is so much shame and a grieving process has never taken place,” Donetta Robben said.

Since 2002, more than 100 people have attended the 23 retreats. Of those attendees, parents named and memorialized 155 babies. Past attendees have included parents, those who have taken someone to an abortion clinic and or abortion clinic workers.

The retreat team consists of a priest, counselor, facilitator and two to three other team members, with at least one who is post-abortive. While Rachel’s Vineyard has Catholic roots, Robben said nearly three dozen of the attendees over the years were non-Catholic. 

“The cool thing about Rachel’s Vineyard is to see the physical transformation from when they arrive Friday to when they leave on Sunday,” Robben said. “They are looking down from shame and guilt when they arrive and when they leave, there are smiles and hugs and thank yous. It’s such a beautiful transformation.”

For more information about Rachel’s Vineyard, please visit rachelsvineyard.org or call 1-877-447-4383.We will be holding our 2016 Diocesan Respect Life Conference on Aug. 27, 2016, in Russell at St. Mary Queen of the Angels Parish.  A schedule of the days events and a link for online registration/payment is below.

Second orphanage reunion in Abilene June 25

Abilene — It had been 65 years since Rita Dussault and Bernadine Schieferecke were two of the nearly 80 children who lived among the Sisters of St. Joseph at the orphanage in Abilene. Yet when the two friends saw one another in 2010 — the first time in more than six decades — the two childhood friends seemed like little girls again as they posed for snapshots and caught each other up on family and fond memories.
When the next St. Joseph Home Reunion begins at St. Andrew in Abilene on June 25, Rita expects to be there. Her daughter plans to accompany her from her home in Texas. But Bernadine will not be there to greet her; she died peacefully in her sleep on May 3, 2014, at age 85. 
Such losses are one of the reasons Sister Jan McCormick decided to organize another reunion. St. Joseph Home closed in 1958, so even the youngest surviving orphans are in their 50s now, and most are much older.
“We don’t want to lose all their stories,” Sister Jan explained. “We want to come together to remember this history and the people who were a part of it.”
 
  • Orphanage-Overview web
  • 100310-BernadineRita-tight web
 
Six years ago, McCormick, who lives in Chapman, was the driving force who made the reunion happen. She was then a candidate to become a Sister of St. Joseph and she had been dreaming of an orphanage reunion for more than two years. So she put together a committee of Sisters of St. Joseph and Sisters’ Associates in the Abilene area, and hoped that 35 or 40 people might come. 
Instead, 137 attended that October day, including 18 orphans, seven people who­ attended school there as day students, two people whose grandparents had lived there when St. Joseph was also a home for the aged and numerous other relatives and friends. Also on hand were almost 35 Sisters of St. Joseph.
The sole surviving Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia who served at the orphanage is Sister Gilbe­­rta Appelhans, who today lives at Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia. Due to her frail health, she will not be able to attend the June gathering.
The reunion may feature photos of her along with many of the other sisters who ministered there. Sister Jan said displays will include photographs and other memorabilia from the home that was located just north of the city.
Working with Sister Jan to organize this second reunion are Sisters Carolyn Juenemann, Mary Lou Roberts and Cecilia Green.
The daylong event will include a video about the home, a memorial service, reminiscences by people attending and a box lunch catered by the Brookville Hotel.
 

Suggestions offered for carrying out Works of Mercy

Salina — Pope Francis says the Year of Mercy is a time to remember how we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us.

And how do we show mercy? Guiding Catholics are the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, a list of 14 “works” based on Jesus’ teachings.

But that list might be a bit daunting, so Father Steve Heina, moderator of the Office of the New Evangelization for the Diocese of Salina, offers some ideas that might make the process a little easier.

With thanks to Bill Scholl, consultant for the Office of Social Justice at the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., for his descriptions of each work of mercy, and The Leaven, the Kansas City Archdiocese’s newspaper, here is a how-to-do-it guide.

Showing mercy is more difficult in today’s world, Father Heina acknowledged.

“Roadblocks exist in helping others,” he said. One can’t simply walk into a prison and offer to help without undergoing training, a background check and a slurry of paperwork. And encountering a person in need on the street might not be the safest thing for an individual to do.

“The hopelessness that Pope Francis sees as so important is evidenced by the difficulty that people in need experience themselves but also the challenges faced by those who reach out. It can be very discouraging,” Father Heina said.

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Indulgences available as part of Holy Year of Mercy

The Holy Year traditionally begins with the opening of the Holy Door to represent a renewed opportunity to encounter or grow closer to Jesus, who calls everyone to redemption.

Jesus knocks on everyone’s door; he yearns to accompany and nourish everyone. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me,” the Book of Revelation quotes him as saying.

But doors are also narrow, the late-Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the former archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica wrote, and people must stoop with humility and “be brought down to size by conversion” in order to be “fit” for eternal life.

That is why passing through a Holy Door is part of a longer process of sacrifice and conversion required for receiving an indulgence granted during a Holy Year.

A plenary indulgence, the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, is offered for pilgrims who also fulfill certain other conditions:

• Enter through the holy door at either Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina or the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria.

• Kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament and pray one decade of the Rosary for the pope’s intentions; begin with the Our Father, pray 10 Hail Marys and close with the Glory Be. Then exit the church through the holy door.

• Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist within 20 days before or after such a pilgrimage and complete one of the Spiritual or Corporal Works of Mercy.

• Those who are confined to their homes can obtain the indulgence by offering up their sickness and suffering. Those who are imprisoned may receive the indulgence with prayers and the reception of the sacraments in their prison chapel.

Read more...

Holy door opened at Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Holy Year traditionally begins with the opening of the Holy Door to represent a renewed opportunity to encounter or grow closer to Jesus, who calls everyone to redemption.

Jesus knocks on everyone’s door; he yearns to accompany and nourish everyone. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me,” the Book of Revelation quotes him as saying.

But doors are also narrow, the late-Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the former archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica wrote, and people must stoop with humility and “be brought down to size by conversion” in order to be “fit” for eternal life.

That is why passing through a Holy Door is part of a longer process of sacrifice and conversion required for receiving an indulgence granted during a Holy Year.

A plenary indulgence, the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, is offered for pilgrims who also fulfill certain other conditions: reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, visits and prayers for the intention of the pope and performing simple acts such as visiting the sick.

 

 

 

 

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Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ARMENIA (CNS) -- Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said. "I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women" and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26. Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops' conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for contributing to their marginalization. At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay. "The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times -- when I say the 'church,' I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners," the pope said. "We Christians must say we are sorry." Changing what he had said in the past to the plural "we," Pope Francis said that a gay person, "who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?" The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said. "They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected, pastorally accompanied." The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said. Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a "closed Catholic culture," good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. "The culture has changed and thanks be to God!" "We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area," he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. "Ask forgiveness and not just say we're sorry. Forgive us, Lord." Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, "a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles." Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and "many Mother Teresas," but people often do not see them because "holiness is modest." Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic Church is made up of "good people and bad people," he said. "The grain and the weeds -- Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be scandalized by that," but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the weeds less. Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request by the women's International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the possibility of instituting such a ministry today. Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters' group, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission, the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members. As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today. The pope also joked about a president who once said that the best way to bury someone's request for action was to name a commission to study it. Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss women's contributions to the life of the church. "Women think differently than we men do," he said, "and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the women." During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said: -- He believes "the intentions of Martin Luther" were not wrong in wanting to reform the church, but "maybe some of his methods were not right." The church in the 1500s, he said, "was not exactly a model to imitate." -- He used the word "genocide" to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, "it would have sounded strange" not to use it in Armenia. -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a "wise man," a valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire church, but he can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. "There is only one pope." -- "Brexit," the referendum in which the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting the differences of member countries. -- The Great and Holy Council of the world's Orthodox churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the meeting in Crete. -- When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell the nation's leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan. - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenYEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) -- Applying the common faith they professed publicly earlier in the day, Pope Francis and Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II urged common action on behalf of persecuted Christians, welcome for refugees and defense of the family. The pope and the Oriental Orthodox patriarch signed their joint declaration at the end of Pope Francis' June 24-26 visit to Armenia. Earlier in the day, at an Armenian Divine Liturgy, both had spoken of their unity as believers in Christ and of their conviction that Christians are called by God to assist the poor, the persecuted and the needy. While their joint declaration mentioned the progress made in the official Catholic-Oriental Orthodox theological dialogue and their hopes for its continuation, the heart of the text focused on common Christian action to relieve suffering. "We are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before our eyes," the two leaders said. "Countless innocent people" are "being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in the Middle East and other parts of the world." "Religious and ethnic minorities have become the target of persecution and cruel treatment to the point that suffering for one's religious belief has become a daily reality," they said. The Christians being martyred for their faith belong to different churches and their suffering "is an 'ecumenism of blood,' which transcends the historical divisions between Christians." The two leaders prayed that the terrorists waging war on Christians and other minorities would convert, and they also prayed that "those who are in a position to stop the violence" would hasten to do so. "We implore the leaders of nations to listen to the plea of millions of human beings who long for peace and justice in the world, who demand respect for their God-given rights, who have urgent need of bread, not guns," the declaration said. The two denounced the use of a religion "to justify the spread of hatred, discrimination and violence." While focused on the headline-grabbing war in Syria, the two leaders did not ignore the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan where the majority of people are ethnic Armenians and had voted for independence. The joint declaration urged "a peaceful resolution" of the conflict. "We ask the faithful of our churches to open their hearts and hands to the victims of war and terrorism, to refugees and their families," they said. The Christian faith demands concrete acts of charity, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin insisted. Looking at the spread of secularization, the pope and patriarch noted how heavily cultural change is impacting the family. "The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man and woman," they said. - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVAGHARSHAPAT, Armenia (CNS) -- Recognizing that the church of Christ is one and that Christian divisions are a "scandal" to the world, Pope Francis and Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II offered their faithful the example of praying and working together. Approaching the end of his three-day trip to Armenia, Pope Francis attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated June 26 by the patriarch at Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. To accommodate the crowd, the liturgy was held outdoors at a towering stone sanctuary used for major celebrations. Under a gold-trimmed red canopy, the patriarch and pope processed to the sanctuary together before the pope bowed to the patriarch and moved to the side. He used a small booklet to follow the liturgy, which is celebrated in "grabar," as ancient liturgical Armenian is called. In his homily, Catholicos Karekin told his faithful and his guests, "During these days together with our spiritual brother, Pope Francis, with joint visits and prayers we reconfirmed that the holy church of Christ is one in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man." All Christians, he said, share the mission of "the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples (and the) reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration." The catholicos warned of modern attacks on the faith, including a selfish lack of concern for "those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering," as well as other "economic, political, social, environmental" problems. Yet the Gospel and the churches that preach it, he said, know that God continues to promise his loving care and wants Christians to go out preaching salvation and helping the poor. Invited to address the gathering -- like Catholicos Karekin spoke at Pope Francis' Mass in Gyumri the day before -- Pope Francis said, "We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the church of Christ." "We believe and experience that the church is one," the pope said. Using words from St. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk declared a "doctor of the church" by Pope Francis last year, he prayed that the Holy Spirit would dissolve the "scandal" of Christian division with the power of love. Christian unity is not and cannot be about "the submission of one to the other or assimilation," the pope said, but rather should be an acceptance of the different gifts God has given to different Christians at different times. "Let us respond to the appeal of the saints, let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith," Pope Francis. "Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions." The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the six independent Oriental Orthodox churches that were divided from the rest of Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The six, which include the Syrian Orthodox Church, are in full communion with each other, but not with the Eastern Orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox. For centuries the Oriental Orthodox were regarded by the rest of Christianity as adhering to a heretical teaching on the nature of Christ, but recent scholarship has led theologians and church authorities on both sides to affirm that the Christological differences were not doctrinal; rather, both sides profess the same faith but use different formulas to express it. Common declarations about Christ's humanity and divinity were signed between 1971 and 1996 by the heads of each Oriental Orthodox Church and Pope Paul VI or Pope John Paul II. Before vesting for the liturgy at Etchmiadzin, Armenian Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan of Tavush, an Orthodox diocese that shares borders with Georgia and Azerbaijain, stood scanning the crowd. Every few seconds, someone would identify him as a bishop and approach for a blessing, which he gave with a broad smile. The crowd at the liturgy was predominantly young. "We are an ancient people, an ancient church, with a young faith," the 45-year-old bishop explained. The day's liturgy is "a great celebration," Bishop Galstanyan said. The Catholicos and pope are "brothers together declaring to the world that Christians must stay together, must be together, must be a voice for the world." Orthodox Father Zakaria Baghumyan, who was directing press operations for the catholicos during the visit, said the pope asking for a blessing from the patriarch is "just a sign of brotherly love. It's a sign of respect for our church and our nation." - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenGYUMRI, Armenia (CNS) -- Acts of love and kindness must be a Christian's "calling card," the characteristic that identifies them more than anything, Pope Francis told Catholics in northern Armenia. Traveling June 25 to Gyumri, a city with a significant Catholic population and one still bearing the scars of an earthquake almost three decades ago, Pope Francis once again praised the steadfast faith of the Armenian people. Thanking God for all that had been rebuilt since the 1988 earthquake, the pope also asked the region's people to consider what they are called to build today and, more importantly, how they are called to build it. Celebrating the only public Mass scheduled for his three-day visit to predominantly Orthodox Armenia, Pope Francis told thousands of people in Gyumri's Vartanants Square that memory, faith and merciful love must be the foundations of their lives. The joy that comes from encountering Christ, he said, "renews our life, makes us free and open to surprises, ready and available for the Lord and for others." The exercise of charity renews and rejuvenates the church, he said. "Concrete love is the Christian's calling card; any other way of presenting ourselves could be misleading and even unhelpful," he said, because Christians are called to be known by their love. Pope Francis urged the Armenian people to continue on the path of dialogue and respect, especially among members of the Armenian Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches. During his stay in Armenia, the pope was the houseguest of Catholicos Karekin II, the patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The catholicos was present for the pope's celebration of Mass, a gesture the pope was scheduled to reciprocate the next day in Yerevan. At the beginning of Gyumri Mass, Catholicos Karekin recalled how, during the Soviet period, many churches in Armenia were closed or destroyed. The Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Seven Holy Wounds in Gyumri became an ecumenical place of worship with different areas of the church hosting services for the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities. After Mass, Pope Francis invited the catholicos to join him in the popemobile. They toured the square, both giving the people their blessings. The need to overcome divisions among Christians and to work for peace in the world was given even greater attention by Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin during an evening prayer service back in Yerevan. In the capital's Republic Square, where crowds had gathered while the sun was still hot, the pope and patriarch processed in together, walking side by side and blessing the people. They stopped to shake hands with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. Pope Francis told the people that he and the catholicos, like all those committed to Christian unity, "look confidently toward the day when by God's help we shall be united around the altar of Christ's sacrifice in the fullness of eucharistic communion." "Let us pursue our journey with determination," he said. "Indeed, let us race toward our full communion!" In working and praying for Christian unity, the pope said, churches are not looking for "strategic advantages" or ways to promote their own interests. "Rather, it is what Jesus requires of us and what we ourselves must strive to attain with good will, constant effort and consistent witness" in order to fulfill "our mission of bringing the Gospel to the world." Following Christ's example, the pope said, "we are called to find the courage needed to abandon rigid opinions and personal interests in the name of the love that bends low and bestows itself, in the name of the humble love that is the blessed oil of the Christian life, the precious spiritual balm that heals, strengthens and sanctifies." Together, he said, Christians must work and pray for peace, defending the persecuted -- including Christians in the Middle East -- but also promoting reconciliation. Ending a day that began at Armenia's genocide memorial, Pope Francis prayed that Armenia and Turkey would embark on a new process of reconciliation and that peace would finally come to Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan. The ethnic Armenian majority of Nagorno-Karabakh voted in 1988 to unify with Armenia. Fighting ensured and continued until a cease-fire was reached in 1994, although the enclave's status was never fully resolved. Sporadic fighting has occurred since, most recently in early April. In his talk, Catholicos Karekin claimed Azerbaijan started the latest wave of violence with military exercises on the border. But the patriarch cast his gaze wider, welcoming refugees from Syria and Iraq -- nations that traditionally had strong Armenian Christian communities. "With hope in God, they wait for peaceful days to arrive in their native lands," Catholicos Karekin said. "May our merciful Lord cleanse the world from the tragedies of evil and grant peace and protection," he prayed, adding hopes that the biblical prophecy would come true: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. 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  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenYEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) -- In silence and in prayer while a mournful hymn was sung, Pope Francis formally paid tribute to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18. Visiting the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, a monument to the martyrs, Pope Francis wrote in the guestbook, "May God preserve the memory of the Armenian people. Memories should not be watered down or forgotten; memory is a source of peace and of the future." The words were in addition to those the pope had planned to write June 25, praying that humanity would never again know the large-scale massacre of a people and that by remembering such tragedies of the past, people would learn to vanquish evil with good. Accompanied by the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, Catholicos Karekin II, and by bishops and clergy from both the Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches, Pope Francis blessed a wreath of yellow and white flowers placed before the towering stone shards that protect the eternal flame at Tsitsernakaberd. He and the catholicos descended a few steps to the flame's basin and laid roses at its edge before praying several minutes in silence. There were no speeches at the memorial, only Scripture readings, prayers and hymns, including one that described the dead as "images of the Lamb of God" led to the slaughter "without opening their mouths to deny the Lord or the homeland." A choir of women in teal dresses with white veils sang the refrain: "Holy and true Lord, how long before you judge and require justice for our blood?" A long, basalt memorial wall outside is engraved with the names of the cities of the victims. The opposite side of the wall is decorated with plagues honoring those who denounced the massacre and came to the rescue of the victims. The name of Pope Benedict XV is prominent.  The pope welcomed an estimated 400 Armenian orphans, who fled to Italy and were given refuge in Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. A dozen descents of those orphans were present at the memorial for Pope Francis' visit. Before leaving the memorial, Pope Francis -- like St. John Paul II did in 2001 -- symbolically planted a pine tree, shoveling a little bit of dirt beneath the hardy sapling and dousing it generously with water. - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.