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Prayer Cards for the Fortnight for Freedom

Below are links to downloadable prayer cards that can be used during the Fortnight for Freedom and beyond.  The cards are available in both English and Spanish.

English Mary Immaculate Our Lady of Guadalupe St Thomas More
Spanish Mary Immaculate Our Lady of Guadalupe St Thomas More

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Catholic News Headlines

  • By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI said in an interview that he felt a "duty" to resign from the papacy because of his declining health and the rigorous demands of papal travel. While his heart was set on completing the Year of Faith, the retired pope told Italian journalist Elio Guerriero that after his visit to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, he felt he was "incapable of fulfilling" the demands of another international trip, especially with World Youth Day 2013 scheduled for Brazil. "With the program set out by John Paul II for these (World Youth) days, the physical presence of the pope was indispensable," he told Guerriero in an interview, which is included in the journalist's upcoming biography of Pope Benedict. "This, too, was a circumstance which made my resignation a duty," the pope said. An excerpt of Guerriero's book, "Servant of God and Humanity: The Biography of Benedict XVI," was published Aug. 24 in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. Pope Benedict said that although he was moved by the "profound faith" of the people of Mexico and Cuba, it was during his visit to the two countries in 2012 that he "experienced very strongly the limits of my physical endurance." Among the problems with committing to the grueling schedule of an international trip was the change in time zones. Upon consulting with his doctor, he said, it became clear "that I would never be able to take part in the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro." "From that day, I had to decide in a relatively short time the date of my retirement," he said. Guerriero noted that while many believed the pope's retirement was a defeat for the church, Pope Benedict continues to seem "calm and confident." The retired pope said he "completely agreed" with the journalist's observation. "I would have been truly worried if I was not convinced -- as I had said in the beginning of my pontificate -- of being a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," he said. The retired pope added that while he was aware of his limitations, he accepted his election in 2005 "in a spirit of obedience" and that despite the difficult moments, there were also "many graces." "I realized that everything I had to do I could not do on my own and so I was almost obliged to put myself in God's hands, to trust in Jesus who -- while I wrote my book on him -- I felt bound to by an old and more profound friendship," he said. The retired pontiff spends his days in prayer and contemplation while residing at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City. For 19 years, different contemplative orders took turns living in the monastery with a mission focused on praying for the pope and the church. Benedict said that upon learning that the Visitandine nuns would be leaving the residence, he realized "almost naturally that this would be the place where I could retire in order to continue in my own way the service of prayer of which John Paul II had intended for this house." Among the visitors Pope Benedict receives is Pope Francis, who "never fails to visit me before embarking on a long trip," he said. Asked about his personal relationship with his successor, Pope Benedict said they shared a "wonderfully paternal-fraternal relationship" and he has been profoundly touched by his "extraordinarily human availability." "I often receive small gifts, personally written letters" from Pope Francis, he said. "The human kindness with which he treats me is a particular grace of this last phase of my life for which I can only be grateful. What he says about being open toward other men and women is not just words. He puts it into practice with me." Pope Francis, who wrote the book's preface, expressed his admiration for the retired pope and said his spiritual bond with his predecessor "remains particularly profound." "In all my meetings with him, I have been able to experience not only reverence and obedience, but also friendly spiritual closeness, the joy of praying together, sincere brotherhood, understanding and friendship, and also his availability for advice," Pope Francis wrote. The church's mission of proclaiming the merciful love of God for the world, he added, has and continues to be exemplified in the life of Pope Benedict. "The whole life of thought and the works of Joseph Ratzinger have focused on this purpose and -- in the same direction, with the help of God -- I strive to continue," Pope Francis wrote. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -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 photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPABy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After a strong earthquake struck central Italy and with the early news reporting many deaths and serious damage, Pope Francis turned his weekly general audience Aug. 24 into a prayer service. While the pope and some 11,000 pilgrims and tourists recited the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary in St. Peter's Square, six Vatican firefighters were on their way to the town of Amatrice, about 85 miles east of Rome, to help search for victims under the rubble. The pope sent six Vatican police officers to join them the next day. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.2 quake had an epicenter close to Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict and home to a monastery of Benedictine monks, who are attracting a growing number of visitors because of their solemn prayer life and beer brewing business. The monks and their guests were all safe, but the monastery and Basilica of St. Benedict suffered serious structural damage. Smaller temblors -- at least two of which registered more than 5.0 -- continued even 24 hours after the main quake. By early Aug. 25, Italian officials said the death toll had reached 247 and the number of people hospitalized with quake-related injuries was more than 260. When Pope Francis arrived in St. Peter's Square for his general audience just six hours after the main quake, he set aside his prepared audience talk and instead spoke of his "heartfelt sorrow and my closeness" to everyone in the earthquake zone, especially those who lost loved ones and "those who are still shaken by fear and terror." "Having heard the mayor of Amatrice say, 'The town no longer exists,' and knowing that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened," Pope Francis said. Assuring the people in the region of the prayers and "the embrace of the whole church," the pope asked the crowd at the audience to join him in praying that "the Lord Jesus, who is always moved by human suffering, would console the brokenhearted and give them peace." Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked U.S. Catholics also to pray the rosary for the victims in Italy, as well as for the victims of other natural disasters, including those suffering because of the flooding in Louisiana. "Knowing all too well the personal toll of natural disasters in our own country, let us join with the Holy Father in prayer for everyone suffering from Louisiana to central Italy," the archbishop said in a statement Aug. 24. Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, the diocese that includes Amatrice, said he received a phone call from Pope Francis at 7 a.m. the morning of the earthquake. The quake and first big aftershock were felt in Rome and woke the pope up, he said, adding that Pope Francis said he had celebrated Mass for the victims shortly after 4:30 a.m. Caritas Italy and its diocesan affiliates mobilized immediately with volunteers rushing to the impacted towns, helping with the search and rescue operation, providing food and blankets and helping to staff the tent cities erected by the Italian government outside the damaged towns. The Italian bishops' conference immediately pledged 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for relief efforts and asked all parishes to take up a special collection at Masses Sept. 18 to aid the victims. In Amatrice, one of the hardest-hit towns, three nuns and four of the elderly guests they host in the summer were still missing as of Aug. 25. Four nuns were rescued. Many of the small towns in the region have few residents who live there all year. But in the summer, people return to their families' native towns to visit grandparents and escape the heat of the big cities. The victims of the quake included dozens of children who were spending the last weeks of August with their grandparents. Government officials said an estimated 14,000 people were left homeless by the quake. In addition to houses and apartment buildings turned into rubble, dozens of churches and convents in the region crumbled or were heavily damaged. At the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, the 15 monks and five guests were already awake when the first quake hit, Benedictine Father Benedict Nivakoff told Catholic News Service. Aug. 24 is the feast of St. Bartholomew and "on feast days we get up earlier" to pray, he said. Within a half hour of the first quake, Father Nivakoff said, the square outside the monastery was filled with people "because it is the safest place in town -- around the statue of St. Benedict." While no buildings collapsed, "the facade seems to have detached" from the rest of the basilica and major repairs are likely, he said. The monks announced later Aug. 24 that two Benedictines would stay in Norcia, sleeping in tents outside the city walls, but the rest of the community would move temporarily to Rome as a "precautionary measure" as the aftershocks continued. Assisi is just 45 miles from Norcia and, according to Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato, the quake was felt strongly at the convent and basilica that suffered major damage from an earthquake in 1997. While the quake woke all the friars, many of whom ran to the Basilica of St. Francis, no damage was visible, he told ANSA, the Italian news agency.- - -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.

  • By Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- When it comes to the Christian life, too many seminaries teach students a rigid list of rules that make it difficult or impossible for them as priests to respond to the real-life situation of those who come to them seeking guidance, Pope Francis said. "Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set aside concrete situations," the pope said during a meeting with 28 Polish Jesuits in Krakow during World Youth Day. The Vatican did not publish details of the pope's meeting July 30 with the Jesuits, but -- with Pope Francis' explicit approval -- a transcript of his remarks to the group was published in late August by Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal reviewed at the Vatican prior to publication. According to the transcript, the pope asked the Jesuits to begin an outreach to diocesan seminaries and diocesan priests, sharing with them the prayerful and careful art of discernment as taught by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. "The church today needs to grow in the ability of spiritual discernment," the pope told the Polish Jesuits. In his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius provided steps for helping people recognize -- or discern -- where God is working in their lives and what draws them closer to God or pushes them further from God. For St. Ignatius, knowing what is moral and immoral is essential, but knowing what is going on in people's lives helps identify practical ways forward. Without "the wisdom of discernment," the pope said in Krakow, "the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults." "And many people leave the confessional disappointed. Not because the priest is bad, but because the priest doesn't have the ability to discern situations, to accompany them in authentic discernment," the pope said. "They don't have the needed formation." While some laypeople also are called to provide spiritual direction, priests are more often "entrusted with the confidences of the conscience of the faithful," so seminarians and priests particularly need to learn discernment. "I repeat, you must teach this above all to priests, helping them in the light of the exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment, which respects the law but knows how to go beyond," the pope said. "We need to truly understand this: in life not all is black on white or white on black," he said. "The shades of grey prevail in life. We must them teach to discern in this gray area." Pope Francis did not mention his apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia," ("The Joy of Love"), in his talk with the Jesuits in Krakow, but the document repeatedly referred to the importance of discernment for families and for their spiritual guides. Father Salvador Pie-Ninot, a Spanish professor of ecclesiology, wrote in the Vatican newspaper Aug. 24 that the pope referred to the need for discernment 35 times in the exhortation. Especially when dealing with individual Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried, Pope Francis wrote, discernment recognizes that, "since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same. Priests have the duty to accompany (the divorced and remarried) in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the church and the guidelines of the bishop." - - - 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 photo/Joshua Roberts, ReutersBy Ann RodgersPITTSBURGH (CNS) -- The Pittsburgh Diocese said Bishop David A. Zubik is making every effort to achieve a swift negotiated solution to the diocese's dispute with the federal government over religious freedom in relation to the federal contraceptive mandate, as directed by the U.S. Supreme Court. "We have always been willing to meet with representatives of the government to negotiate a mutually agreeable solution to our impasse over religious freedom," said a diocesan statement issued Aug. 10. In a May 16 unanimous decision in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case of challenges to the contraceptive mandate filed by several Catholic and other religious entities, the Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts, vacated earlier judgments against those parties opposing the mandate, and encouraged the plaintiffs and the federal government to resolve their differences. Zubik v. Burwell involves the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, the Pennsylvania dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, the Archdiocese of Washington, and other Catholic and faith-based entities challenging the Affordable Care Act's mandate that most religious and other employers must cover contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients through employer-provided health insurance -- even if the employers oppose the coverage on moral grounds. They see the mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, as a violation of their religious freedom. "Zubik" in the case name is Bishop Zubik, and "Burwell" is HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The plaintiffs, who do not fit the narrow exemption to the contraceptive mandate the government gives to churches, argue that providing contraceptive coverage even indirectly through a third party, as the Obama administration allows through what it calls an accommodation, still violates their religious beliefs. The government argues its existing opt-out provision for these employers does not burden their free exercise of religion. "Our counsel and counsel for the other Supreme Court litigants had a meeting with representatives of the Department of Justice, at which we attempted to engage in the kind of resolution talks that the Supreme Court intended in its order," the Pittsburgh Diocese said in its statement. "The government has been slow to offer anything of substance to pursue a negotiated solution, except to mention openness to future meetings." Bishop Zubik initiated the lawsuit against the government on behalf of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, arguing that it is a violation of religious freedom to force a religious organization to facilitate access to anything that it teaches is immoral. After Bishop Zubik won an initial victory in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh in November 2013, the case was appealed until it reached the Supreme Court this year. In its May decision, the high courts urged the lower courts to give the litigants time to find a negotiated solution. The high court also affirmed that the diocese and the others could not be fined during those negotiations. However, the diocese has learned that the Department of Justice is pressuring secular insurance companies that have contracts with the diocese, and with other religious organizations, to begin providing church employees with the objectionable coverage. The Diocese of Pittsburgh, along with several neighboring dioceses, is self-insured through the Catholic Benefits Trust. Catholic Benefits Trust hires secular insurance companies to handle the administration and claims for its plans. Those companies have told the diocese that they recently received letters from the Department of Justice directing them to provide the disputed coverage at their own expense, said Christopher Ponticello, general counsel of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. "Since the Supreme Court issued its ruling strongly directing that the parties negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution to this matter, we have remained hopeful and open to those talks," Ponticello told the Pittsburgh Catholic diocesan newspaper. "It is discouraging to see this aggressive action taken by the government," he said. "We hope to prevail upon the Department of Justice to stop this latest action without having to pursue additional litigation. We have believed from the beginning that an agreement could be reached that would allow the government to accomplish its goals without involving the church in the process." The diocese has not paid anything for its legal representation in Zubik v. Burwell. All costs associated with the litigation have been donated by the legal firm of Jones Day. Mickey Pohl, one of the Jones Day attorneys who has been representing Bishop Zubik, the diocese, Catholic Charities and other religious organizations in this litigation, said: "It is extremely disappointing that the Department of Justice is trying to pressure insurers to steamroll the religious objections of Catholics and other people of faith who have been part of this litigation. It is also troublesome that these assaults on freedom of religion have not been the subject of inquiry by the mainstream media during this election cycle." The Aug. 10 statement from the diocese said that "we are aware that the government has made an extremely aggressive interpretation of the court's order in the Zubik case and is apparently trying to take over -- to force our third-party administrators to include the objectionable coverage in our self-insured plans.""We think that is an erroneous reading of what the Supreme Court said," it continued. "Furthermore, as the government seems to acknowledge, because we are self-insured there is no obligation or authority for the third-party administrator to provide the objectionable coverage." If the fines for not facilitating the coverage were imposed, Ponticello said, they would bankrupt Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh. Each year that agency provides about $10 million in services, such as free medical and dental care, and support to homeless women and veterans, to people of all faiths in southwestern Pennsylvania. "The Supreme Court also made clear that we cannot be fined or penalized for refusing to comply with the government's current regulations," the statement said. "Therefore, we believe the government's position is wrong. In order to avoid future litigation, we will try to work through these issues with our insurers, third-party administrators and the government. Our counsel is actively working on this endeavor, and we remain in prayer for a mutually agreeable solution." In late July, the Obama administration opened a public-comment period seeking input on ways the government can comply with religious employers' refusal on moral grounds to cover contraceptives for employees and at the same time make sure those employees get such coverage. - - - Rodgers is general manager of the Pittsburgh Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.- - -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 Michael KellyDUBLIN (CNS) -- The trustees of Ireland's national seminary have agreed to bring in a specific policy to protect whistleblowers after serious allegations were made about life in the college. The Aug. 23 announcement also followed a decision by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to pull his students from St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, after publicly raising misgivings about the life and governance of the 221-year old institution. The archbishop referred to claims of what he described as a "gay culture" in the seminary and further allegations that some seminarians have been using a gay dating app. Archbishop Martin said some of the allegations had been shown to be true. The seminary trustees -- 13 senior Irish bishops, including Archbishop Martin -- said in a statement that "there is no place in a seminary community for any sort of behavior or attitude which contradicts the teaching and example of Jesus Christ." The statement said the trustees "share the concerns about the unhealthy atmosphere created by anonymous accusations, together with some social media comments which can be speculative or even malicious." The trustees agreed to "review current policies and procedures for reporting complaints with a view to adopting best practice procedures for 'protected disclosures' (whistle-blowing)." They said they would ask the Irish bishops' conference to conduct an independent audit and report of governance and statutes in the three Irish seminaries: Maynooth, the Pontifical Irish College in Rome and St. Malachy's College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They also agreed to reassess future personnel and resource needs for the seminary. The statement said "the trustees accept their responsibility for ensuring that the national seminary adheres to best practice in all areas of training for priesthood and that college staff are trained to the highest level in accordance with requisite professional standards and the requirements of the Holy See." Archbishop Martin first raised concerns publicly in early August when he said "there seems to an atmosphere of strange goings-on there (Maynooth); it seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters being sent around. "There are people saying that anyone who tries to go to the authorities with an allegation are being dismissed from the seminary," the archbishop said. "I don't think this is a good place for students," he added. There was no immediate reaction from Archbishop Martin to the trustees' meeting and no indication as to whether he would change his mind as a result of the trustees' intervention. In early August, he said he had offered to provide an independent person for whistleblowers to approach, but the response to this offer was the publication of more anonymous letters. At the time, the archbishop said authorities in Maynooth "have to find a way to let people come forward with solid evidence to substantiate the allegations."- - -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.