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Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis gave an Advent reminder Wednesday that faith should not be just a “decorative” addition to daily life by pointing to how the ‘Our Father’ prayer embodies the essence of life itself.

“Prayer - Jesus teaches us - does not begin in human existence after the stomach is full: rather it lurks wherever there is a man, any man, who is hungry, who cries, who struggles, who suffers and wonders ‘why,’” Pope Francis said in the Paul VI hall Dec. 12.

The ‘Our Father’ prayer’s request for “daily bread,” the pope explained, exemplifies God’s desire to meet man in his concrete reality, in his basic needs.

“Our first prayer, in a sense, was the wail that accompanied the first breath. In that newborn cry, the destiny of our whole life was announced: our continual hunger, our continual thirst, our search for happiness,” he continued.

Pope Francis pointed to the Biblical example of Bartimaeus in Mark’s Gospel - a blind man who begged at the gates of Jericho - whose loud cries for mercy were met by Jesus’ healing.

“Around him he had so many good people who told him to keep quiet, not to disturb the Master with his annoying shouts. But he, demanded with holy insistence, that his miserable condition could finally meet Jesus,” Francis said.

Prayer “frees us from the desperation of those who do not believe in a way out of so many unbearable situations,” he added.

The pope’s teaching on the ‘Our Father’ is a continuation of catechesis he began in the first week of Advent on “the seven questions” found in the “short but bold prayer” full of “filial trust.”

“The Lord Jesus gives us the grace of total trust in God as a compassionate Father who loves us and always remains at our side,” Pope Francis said in Spanish as he greeted pilgrims from Spain and Latin America.

The Paul VI Hall was filled with cheers and waves as the pope mentioned the day’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate today, help us to surrender ourselves to the providential love of God and to place all our hope in Him,” Francis prayed.

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2018 / 08:52 am (CNA).- The two religious sisters accused of embezzling from a California Catholic school face a criminal investigation, and will not be defended by their religious community.

“The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has filed a criminal complaint with the Torrance, California Police Department against Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang for misappropriation of funds,” the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet confirmed in a statement released Tuesday.

“As a religious community we will not defend the actions of our Sisters. What happened is wrong. Our Sisters take full responsibility for the choices they made and are subject to the law.”

Krueper and Chang stand accused of diverting funds from St. James School, where both worked until this year, into personal accounts. They reportedly took nearly $500,000 over more than a decade, and were caught during an audit begun earlier this year. Krueper had been principal at the school and Chang a teacher; both are recently retired.

The sisters are suspected of using the money for gambling, trips to Las Vegas, and other personal expenses. Krueper has a P.O. Box and a prior address in Las Vegas, according to The Beach Reporter.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA Monday that it intended to file a criminal complaint in the matter, reversing Nov. 28 announcement that the matter would be handled internally. The archdiocese has not indicated why they changed their position.

In their Dec. 11 statement, the Sisters of St. Joseph said they are unable to confirm the precise amount taken until an investigation is complete.

“We intend to make restitution to St. James School as soon as a total is known,” the Sisters of St. Joseph said. “Justice demands this of us.”

The order also said that “canonical restrictions” have been imposed on Kreuper and Chang.

“The two Sisters are removed from their residence and placed in a religious house under the supervision of community leadership. They are also removed from all public ministry.”

A spokesperson for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet told CNA that the congregation's indication that it will not defend Krueper and Chang's action refers to “morally” defending the sisters. When asked, the spokesperson did not rule out the possibility that the congregation would assist in whatever legal expenses the sisters could incur.

The sisters have reportedly expressed remorse for their actions. Their religious congregation did the same.

“The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any pain this has caused many in our Church, especially the families connected to St. James School. We hold the sorrow of our Sisters’ actions deep in our community hearts.”

Law enforcement officials have not yet indicated when charges could be filed against the sisters.

 

This story is developing and has been updated.

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Everyone should, according to his or her specific gifts, fight to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, Pope Francis said Monday in a message to an international gathering on the topic.

“Each person is therefore called to contribute with courage and determination, in the specificity of their role, to the respect of the fundamental rights of every person,” the pope wrote Dec. 10.

“Especially [the rights] of those [who are] ‘invisible:’ of many who are hungry and thirsty, who are naked, sick, a stranger or imprisoned, who live on the margins of society or are discarded.”

“This need for justice and solidarity,” he pointed out, “has a special significance for us Christians, because the Gospel itself invites us to turn our gaze to the least of our brothers and sisters, to be moved to compassion and to concretely commit ourselves to alleviate their suffering.”

Pope Francis’ message was sent to the international conference “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations,” taking place in Rome Dec. 10-11 at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Held on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conference included a keynote by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, given Dec. 10, and panels by international experts in the field of human rights.

Also present at the conference were members of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps and representatives of the United Nations, Council of Europe, the bishops’ Justice and Peace commission, the academic world, and civil society.

“I wish, on this occasion,” the pope wrote, “to address a heartfelt appeal to those with institutional responsibilities, asking them to place human rights at the center of all policies, including those of development cooperation, even when this means going against the current.”

On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “an in-depth reflection on the foundation and respect for human rights in the contemporary world seems opportune,” he said, adding that he hopes it will herald in a “renewed commitment to the defense of human dignity, with special attention to the most vulnerable members of the community.”

He noted that contemporary society continues to fall short of upholding and protecting the equal dignity of all human beings as it should, with many injustices continuing in the world today, including that of great disparity in wealth, with one part of society living “in opulence” and another “disowned, despised, or trampled.”

He listed, in particular, “the unborn children who are denied the right to come into the world,” “those who do not have access to the indispensable means for a dignified life,” those without access to education or just work, those forced into slavery or inhuman conditions, those subjected to torture “or who are denied the opportunity to redeem themselves,” and the victims of “forced disappearance” and their families.

“My thoughts,” he said, “also go to all those who live in a climate dominated by suspicion and contempt, which are the subject of acts of intolerance, discrimination and violence because of their racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation.”

Pope Francis also recalled those who suffer violations of their fundamental rights due to armed conflicts “while unscrupulous merchants of death are enriched at the price of their brothers’ and sisters’ blood.”

“In the face of these serious phenomena, we are all called upon [to help],” he said.

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