1. Pope Francis Begins Lenten Retreat. 

By Felix N. Codilla III, The Christian Post, March 6, 2017, 9:17 AM

Pope Francis and the heads of Vatican dicasteries left on Sunday afternoon to begin their weeklong Curial spiritual exercises to be held at Casa del Divin Maestro retreat house. Also known as the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, the annual retreat will be highlighted with prayers, meditation and Eucharistic adoration.

Pope Paul XI began the tradition of the papal retreat with the Roman Curia at the beginning of Lent and has been done for the past 80 years. The exercises were originally done at the Vatican but were moved to the retreat house by Pope Francis in 2014, according to Catholic News Agency.

Fr. Olinto Crespi, head of the household, said the pope wanted the retreat “to be made in an atmosphere of recollection and prayer” which the house can provide.

Fr. Crespi described a typical day during the retreat which starts with Mass followed by an entire day of preaching with only breakfast and lunch in between. The pope picked Franciscan priest Giulio Michelini to preach on the Gospel of Matthew this year.

But while the other participants will attend events held in the auditorium, Pope Francis wants to be alone in the chapel where he asked not to be disturbed. “And this says further the climate that Francis wants to create,” Fr. Crespi said. With the availability of a telephone line and wifi, some of the cardinals may squeeze in some work but not the pope.


2. Rebuking Duterte: Catholic Leaders in the Philippines are increasingly strident in denouncing the president’s drug war, in which thousands have been killed merely on suspicion. 

By Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post, March 5, 2017, Pg. A1

Since coming to power last summer, President Rodrigo Duterte has used biblical language to build a case for mass killings, vowing to sacrifice himself, even his son, to cleanse the nation of crime. 

Conjuring a world in which evil stalks the innocent, Duterte launched a wave of violence that has claimed at least 7,000 lives. With his critics cursed and shamed, and with public support for the president running high, the establishment, including the Roman Catholic Church, has for the most part stayed quiet.

But now, more than seven months into Duterte’s tenure, with the death toll climbing night by night, the country’s Catholic hierarchy is finding its voice. In a pastoral letter published in February, church leaders denounced Duterte’s campaign as a “reign of terror” against the poor.

Emboldened by their bishops’ stance, priests, nuns and missionaries are also taking a stand, offering sanctuary to fearful witnesses, paying for funerals and organizing rallies. Religious leaders who once supported the president are turning their backs on him, potentially hurting his political appeal.

At stake are the lives of thousands and the credibility of an institution that has long been at the heart of Philippine life.


3. Is the Pope the Anti-Trump? 

By Austen Ivereigh, The New York Times, March 5, 2017, Pg. SR1, Opinion

ONE emerged from a crisis conclave, the other was elected after the strangest campaign in recent American history. Both have upended traditions and reached outside the usual channels to speak to the concerns of ordinary people. Donald J. Trump and Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the president and the pope, are the world’s most famous populists. But they are in conflict.

The pope’s populism is not intended for popularity — a fickle thing, and anyhow, his soars far above any politician’s — but proximity. This is a pope who likes to come in close.

And yet: The world’s two most compelling populists have more in common than some might admit. Take, for example, their extraordinary capacity for connection, bypassing traditional methods; their defiance of convention, even their iconoclasm; or their delight in challenging existing elites on behalf of the people. Both seem energized by opposition, even if they respond to it differently — Mr. Trump by ranting and belittling his critics; Francis never directly, but gently, in pointed asides.

Politically, too, they share a beef with globalism. Both, in the broadest sense, are nationalists. When Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist, says the United States is “not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders” but rather “a nation with a culture and a reason for being,” he says nothing Francis has not expressed often.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has criticized the lack of that higher purpose in the technocratic liberal administrations of Europe and the Americas that have dominated since the 1980s. He deplores the way political principles have been replaced by market logic and how governments have failed to defend the interests and values of ordinary people.

This puts the pope at odds with Trumpism in myriad ways. His encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” contains a hard-hitting indictment of a politics consumed by immediate results and of the way governments pander to the electorate to the detriment of its long-term interests. In it, he deplores the capture of politics by economics, and politicians who glibly promise ever more growth even as current models of consumption and production are destroying the planet. It is fierce stuff, the fruit of a mind that has spent decades engaged in these questions.


4. Pope urges faithful to consult Bible as often as cellphones. 

By Associated Press, March 5, 2017, 6:54 AM

Pope Francis has called on the faithful to consult the Bible with the same frequency as they might consult their cellphones for messages.

Francis urged a packed St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing Sunday to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones, asking: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones.”


5. Trump pushes education choices in visit to Florida Catholic school. 

By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, March 5, 2017

President Donald Trump visited a Florida Catholic school on Friday, praising the Catholic education system and touting his support for school choice programs.

“You understand how much your students benefit from full education, one that enriches both the mind and the soul. That’s a good combination,” the president told Bishop John Noonan of Orlando at St. Andrew Catholic School March 3.

“St. Andrew’s Catholic school represents one of the many parochial schools dedicated to the education of some of our nation’s most disadvantaged children, but they’re becoming just the opposite very rapidly through education and with the help of the school choice programs,” he said.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor at The Catholic Association, said the president’s visit was appropriate given Catholic schools’ “record of success.” She said Catholic high school students are twice as likely as public school students to graduate college and their high school education is half the cost as public schools.

According to Ferguson, Catholic high schools in inner cities have a 99 percent graduation rate.


6. A Theatrical Rebuttal to the Farce of ‘Dignicide’: The creator of ‘Assisted Suicide: The Musical’ says euthanasia denies the value of people who have illnesses or disabilities.

By Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2017, Pg. A11

I’m choosing choice 
So are my girls and boys 
Choice is king, there’s no denyin’ 
Cut my choice, and I’ll start cryin’

So runs one of the many catchy tunes in “Assisted Suicide: The Musical.” The title and subject are dark, but British theatergoers don’t seem to care. “Assisted Suicide” has received rave reviews since it was first shown last year, and when I saw it in January a packed house gave it a standing ovation. That’s all the more remarkable given the musical’s anti-euthanasia message, at a time when voters on both sides of the Atlantic are making their peace with the practice.

“We’ve become used to clapping along and thinking that choice is good,” the musical’s creator, Liz Carr, tells me in a recent interview at the Southbank arts center in London. “It’s like a mantra: the right to die, the right to die, the right to die. We just clap along, and we don’t know what assisted suicide means or what the consequences are—that we’re essentially asking the state to be involved in people’s death.”

The stakes are especially high for people with disabilities, like Ms. Carr, who suffers from a genetic disorder that prevents her from extending her muscles, among other impairments. Such people watch the assisted-suicide movement’s recent strides and wonder what it all means for their future in societies where the government is the main, often the sole, health-care provider.

Yet a steady stream of uncritical coverage in the media continues to push the euthanasia movement along. Such coverage usually takes the form of TV documentaries that follow, and gently cheer, a disabled or terminally ill patient’s journey to the death chamber. Thanks but no thanks, says Ms. Carr.

“I was really, really angry at the media portrayal of this subject matter and the amount of bias and the amount of propaganda,” she says. Watching the documentaries, “I’d say, ‘But it’s not that simple! Why is nobody looking for alternatives or talking to other people?’ ”


7. The Pope on Panhandling: Give Without Worry. 

By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, March 4, 2017, Pg. A18, Editorial

New Yorkers, if not city dwellers everywhere, might acknowledge a debt to Pope Francis this week. He has offered a concrete, permanently useful prescription for dealing with panhandlers.

It’s this: Give them the money, and don’t worry about it.

Speaking to the magazine Scarp de’ Tenis, which means Tennis Shoes, a monthly for and about the homeless and marginalized, the pope said that giving something to someone in need is “always right.” (We’re helped here by the translation in an article from Catholic News Service.)

But what if someone uses the money for, say, a glass of wine? (A perfectly Milanese question.) His answer: If “a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?” Another way to look at it, he said, is to recognize how you are the “luckier” one, with a home, a spouse and children, and then ask why your responsibility to help should be pushed onto someone else.

Then he posed a greater challenge. He said the way of giving is as important as the gift. You should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. You must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands.

The reason is to preserve dignity, to see another person not as a pathology or a social condition, but as a human, with a life whose value is equal to your own.