After 100 years, Marian shrine in Alberta still draws thousands
SKARO, Alberta -- It's easy to drive by the stone grotto at the Skaro shrine for those who don?t know its history. Tucked in a corner between two rural highways, 50 miles northeast of Edmonton, vehicles whiz by. The drivers tend to overlook the small shurch and semi-circular stone grotto beside it. Yet, thousands of pilgrims flock to Skaro every year to honor Mary Aug. 14-15 as they have done for 100 years on the grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. Vespers are sung in Polish and Mass is concelebrated in English. At this year's centennial pilgrimage, a new rosary garden was to be blessed by Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton. Sonia Mackay, a pilgrimage organizer and a descendant of the pioneers who built the grotto, said there is always "a steady stream of visitors ... from everywhere in the world." What passing drivers are missing is a story of hardscrabble immigrants who came to the Skaro district and, in 1919, used shovels and horse-drawn plows to build the grotto. A century later, the stone wall that encircles a small altar stands as a testament to the faith and determination of the pioneers, who were mostly from Poland. "It brings people together," said Helen Wilchak, 89, whose father helped build the grotto. People from all faiths visit "because it is such a beautiful place."
Pope prays Blessed Paul VI will intercede for 'Church he loved so much'
VATICAN CITY -- On the 40th anniversary of the death of Blessed Paul VI, Pope Francis went into the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica to pray at his predecessor's simple tomb. The Pope who oversaw the last sessions of the Second Vatican Council and began implementing its teachings died Aug. 6, 1978, at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside of Rome. He was buried six days later in the basilica's grotto. Unlike most of Popes buried there, his tomb is in the earth -- rather than elevated -- and is covered with a simple travertine marble slab. Reciting the Angelus prayer Aug. 5 with visitors in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis reminded them of the anniversary and of the fact that he plans to canonize his predecessor Oct. 14. "From heaven may he intercede for the Church he loved so much and for peace in the world," Pope Francis said. He called asked the people in the square to join him in a round of applause for "this great Pope of modernity."
U.S. men and women religious superiors favor women deacons, study says
WASHINGTON - A new study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University surveyed men and women religious superiors in the United States about the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate and found that the majority were in favor of the idea. The survey was taken in response to a papal commission organized by Pope Francis to study the question of ordaining women to the permanent diaconate. Seventy-six percent of religious superiors were aware of the commission, and 69 percent knew that it had formed and met. On the question of ordaining women to the diaconate, 73 percent of religious superiors believed it was theoretically possible and 72 percent thought that the Catholic Church should ordain women to the diaconate. However, they were less confident that it would happen. Only 45 percent believed that the Church would authorize female deacons, and, if it were authorized, 58 percent believe that their bishop would implement it. Sixty-four percent of the superiors were at least "somewhat" aware of a history of women being ordained as deacons and 84 percent believed that doing so would create a greater call for women to be ordained to the priesthood. The full report on the survey can be found at https://bit.ly/2MkChaK
Cardinal shares message of 'Laudato Si' at Ghana World Youth Day event
ACCRA, Ghana -- A top Vatican official urged young people at a local World Youth Day gathering to protect the planet and actively live the teachings of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. Expressing concern for the accelerating degradation of Earth, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told 3,000 Ghanaians Aug. 5 to learn, know and spread the message of the 2015 papal teaching. The cardinal returned to his native Ghana for the country's fourth local observance of World Youth Day. The event allowed young people unable to travel to the Catholic Church's global World Youth Day in January in Panama to gather in their homeland for a celebration. Emphasizing that Earth is like a mother, Cardinal Turkson called for deeper respect and more concrete steps to protect the planet during the event's closing ceremony. He also appealed for greater attention to the needs of poor and disadvantaged people. The cardinal also addressed the importance of the need to change lifestyles to reduce environmental abuse. He noted that Pope Francis acknowledges that environmental awareness is growing as the world better understands the impact of the damage being done to all life on the planet. The Pope, he said, remains hopeful about the possibility of reversing environmental abuse as people adopt the encyclical's teachings.
Underground priests removed in China for holding summer youth camp
GANSU, China -- Two underground parish priests in China's Gansu province have been removed after being accused of holding a summer camp for a youth group at their Church. Father Wang Yiqin of Hui county and Father Li Shidong of Leling in Shandong province were serving Maijiqu Ganquan Catholic Church in Tianshui Diocese, ucanews.com reported. The Tianshui Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee sent a letter asking the local branch of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to send personnel to replace the priests, who were accused of holding the camp for the Bosco Youth Group. They were sent back to their hometowns. On July 21, the committee issued a letter stating that no association personnel were involved with the Church, which had become a base for underground clergy. It asked the association to appoint personnel "to strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law and according to the regulations on religious affairs." Father Zhao Jianzhang of Tianshui's open Church is deputy director and secretary-general of the Gansu Catholic Patriotic Association and Catholic Administration Commission. He told ucanews.com that he had been informed of the incident and the parish office had received a letter, but he was out of town and would handle the incident when he returned. Maijiqu Ganquan Catholic Church is one of only two underground churches in Tianshui Diocese.