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Jenky: Real Presence not 'opinion,' but 'foundational' to Catholic faith

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 12:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Daniel Sone

By Tom Dermody

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Acknowledging evidence that "for several generations" the Catholic Church has not sufficiently taught its core truths, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky has called for all ministries of the Diocese of Peoria to be "intentionally centered" on the Real Presence in the holy Eucharist.

The bishop's 2,100-word teaching document, titled "The Real Presence," was released Sept. 16, six weeks after the publication of a Pew Research Center survey showing that a majority of Catholics in the United States do not believe that the bread and wine used at Mass become the body and blood of Christ.

"This failure in faith and conviction has happened despite the fact that the received teaching goes back to apostolic times and has always been held as foundational to our Catholic identity," wrote Bishop Jenky. "So as your bishop, I believe it is a grave personal obligation for me to try to state as clearly as I am able some basic truths about the Blessed Sacrament."

Bishop Jenky outlined "persistent evidence" of the Real Presence found in Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the witness of the saints.

"It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church, revealed by the Holy Spirit and preserved from any possibility of error, that the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ are truly and substantially present in the most holy Eucharist," he wrote. "This is not an opinion to be measured against any opinion poll, but rather divine revelation as expressed by the absolute authority of Scripture and tradition."

Bishop Jenky also had strong words for Catholics who would deny the teaching.

"The Lord once said: 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall live forever, and I will raise him up on the last day,'" he said, quoting the Gospel of St. John. "So for any Catholic to deny the Real Presence is in a certain sense to deny Jesus and place themselves outside of the convictions of our faith."

Since his installation as bishop of Peoria in 2002, Bishop Jenky has issued an annual teaching document called a "Festival Letter," usually near the start of the calendar year. In an introductory letter to "The Real Presence," the bishop said his 2020 Festival Letter was being released early to set the tone for the diocese's various ministries as programs resume this fall.

The full text will be printed in the Sept. 29 issue of The Catholic Post, Peoria's diocesan newspaper, and a downloadable version will be posted at

"While every doctrine of our faith is important, faith in the Eucharist is clearly foundational for Catholic Christianity," Bishop Jenky wrote in the introductory letter. "I therefore ask that this year and in coming years ... our entire local church look for ways to reinforce our teaching and witness regarding the Blessed Sacrament."

In the main document, Bishop Jenky said Catholics share "a perennial responsibility before Almighty God" to pass on divine truth "in season and out of season, uncompromised and undiminished."

And while the church's teaching on the Real Presence hasn't changed, Bishop Jenky pointed to a "noticeable decline in our ritual reverence and recognition" in recent decades.

"How we pray is certainly integral to how we believe," he wrote. Attentive silence in church -- as well as rituals including genuflecting, blessing with holy water, and prayers before and after Mass -- "encouraged a kind of shared awe before something experienced as numinous and wondrous."

But contemporary American culture tends to be "relentlessly informal," said the bishop, and "sometimes our churches may seem more like hotel lobbies than an awesome House of God."

In addition to regular instruction, Bishop Jenky listed several ways that reverence for the Real Presence can be enhanced, including eucharistic devotions such as Holy Hours, Benediction, processions and quiet times of personal prayer.

He said Masses at weddings and funerals provide "great opportunities to witness to our faith in the Eucharist as a pastoral gift to those who may have been poorly catechized or even have fallen away." And he encouraged that holy Communion be offered under the forms of both bread and wine when possible "for the sake of the fullness of the sign instituted by Christ.

Listing the benefits to individual and community faith that take place at every Mass, Bishop Jenky asked: "How could we ever dare to neglect Sunday Mass or fail to share with future generations the infinite treasure of the Real Presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?"

"We are a Eucharistic Church, whose life and service revolve around the gift of the Eucharist," wrote Bishop Jenky.

Explaining how the Eucharist empowers Catholics to appreciate and live all the other sacraments, he added that "just as truly as Christ ascended into heaven, so truly he descended into the sacraments, until he comes again in glory."

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Dermody is editor of The Catholic Post, newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria.

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Despite human sinfulness, God's projects will endure, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church will endure, despite the frailty and sins of its members, because it is God's project, Pope Francis said.

Continuing his series of audience talks about the Acts of the Apostles and the early Christian community Sept. 18, Pope Francis looked at the story of Gamaliel, a Pharisee who tried to teach members of the Sanhedrin a key aspect of "discernment," which is not to rush to judgment, but rather to allow time for something to show itself as worthy or not.

As recounted in Acts 5, Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin not to execute the apostles for preaching Christ, "for if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God."

"Every human project can initially drum up consensus, but then go down in flames," the pope said. But "everything that comes from on high and bears God's signature is destined to endure."

"Human projects always fail, they have a (limited) time, like we do," he said. "Think of the great empires. Think of the dictatorships of the past century; they thought they were so powerful and dominated the world, and then they all crumbled."

The most powerful governments and forces today also "will crumble if God is not with them because the strength human beings have on their own is not lasting," the pope said. "Only the strength of God endures."

The history of Christianity and of the Catholic Church, even "with so many sins and so many scandals, with so many ugly things," illustrates the same point, the pope said. "Why hasn't it crumbled? Because God is there. We are sinners and often, often, we give scandal," but "the Lord always saves. The strength is God with us."

The story also shows just how much courage the presence of the Holy Spirit brings, the pope said. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples "all ran away, they fled," but after the Resurrection, when he sent the Spirit upon them, they became courageous.

Pointing to the 21 Coptic Orthodox beheaded on a beach in Libya in 2015, Pope Francis said the same courage is still seen today in martyrs, who continued to repeat the name of Jesus even as their fate becomes clear. "They did not sell out their faith because the Holy Spirit was with them."

In the Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel tells the Sanhedrin that if Jesus was an imposter, his followers eventually would "disappear," the pope said, but "if, on the other hand, they were following one who was sent by God, then it would be better not to fight them."

The "wait and see" attitude of Gamaliel is a key part of discernment, Pope Francis said.

"His are calm and farsighted words," part of a process that urges people to "judge a tree by its fruits" rather than acting hastily, the pope said.

Pope Francis asked people at the audience to join him in praying that the Holy Spirit would "act in us so that, both personally and as a community, we can acquire the habit of discernment" and learn to notice God acting in history and in our brothers and sisters.


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Renowned journalist Cokie Roberts, lifelong Catholic, dies at age 75

Top Stories - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 4:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Randy Sager, ABC photo archives

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cokie Roberts, a broadcast journalist and political commentator who spoke publicly about her Catholic faith and her admiration for the Sacred Heart sisters who taught her, died Sept. 17 due to complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

Roberts, who died at her home in Bethesda, Maryland, was an Emmy award-winning reporter, author and frequent keynote speaker at Catholic college graduations. She was described as "a true pioneer for women in journalism," by James Goldston, president of ABC News, her longtime employer. He said her "kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists."

She was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was listed one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting by the American Women in Radio and Television. She also was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2008.

Roberts started her radio career at CBS and in 1978 began working for NPR covering Capitol Hill, where she continued to work as a political commentator until her death. Roberts joined ABC News in 1988 and during her three decades there, she was a political commentator, chief congressional analyst and co-anchor with Sam Donaldson of the news program "This Week" from 1996 to 2002.

She was born in New Orleans in 1943 with the full name Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs and was nicknamed "Cokie" by her brother.

Roberts attended Catholic schools in New Orleans and Bethesda, run by the sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. During her career, she also wrote eight books, including a book with her husband, Steve Roberts, also a journalist, called "From This Day Forward'' about their interfaith marriage. Steve is Jewish.

Cokie Roberts' roots are both political and Catholic. She is the daughter of Hale Boggs, the former Democratic House majority leader and representative from New Orleans, who died in a plane crash in 1972. Her mother, Lindy, was elected to fill his seat and served nine terms. Lindy Boggs, who died in 2013, was appointed U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in 1997, a post she held until 2001.

Over the years, Roberts addressed big Catholic gatherings including those of the National Catholic Educational Association, Catholic Charities USA and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In a 2014 interview with America magazine by Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who died the following year, Roberts said: "There is no way to talk about my faith absent the Society of the Sacred Heart. The women who were my teachers and remain my dear friends mean the world to me. They took girls seriously in the 1950s -- a radical notion, so there was never any 'grown-up' need to reject them, only to thank them -- and they keep the faith."

When asked about her family's Catholic and Democratic background, Roberts said it's "an interesting balancing act in all kinds of ways to try to convince people that I am a fair-minded journalistic observer while coming from a family that has been strongly identified for many decades both politically and religiously."

She said she also had made clear her "continuing commitment to Catholicism -- as opposed to many who say, 'I was raised Catholic.'" She said she didn't think she had been "discriminated against officially" as a Catholic woman, but she also answered the question about this with her own question: "Are there people in this society still who think that to be a believer is to be a little bit simpleminded? Sure. And to be a Catholic, still a little simpler still? Yes," she said.

That didn't stop her though from being public about the role of faith in her life and in others' lives.

During a 2009 LCWR meeting in New Orleans, she told the sisters that their vitality extends beyond their numbers and can best be seen in the lasting effects they have had on students and others they are serving.

"You wonderful, holy, awe-inspiring women -- you women of spirit -- have taught us well. Your teaching will go on, constantly creating a better world for the people of God, corralling the chaos to create a better quality of life for others that you can be proud of."

She also praised the church's efforts to help the poor at a 2006 Catholic Charities USA convention in Minneapolis where she said: "It seems to me that your issues are actually the ones that Jesus talked about." She also challenged the conference participants to educate parishioners about the "option for the poor," a Catholic social teaching that puts the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Roberts is survived by her husband, her children, Lee and Rebecca, and her six grandchildren.

A statement released by her family said she will be missed "beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.


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U.S. delegation brings V Encuentro results to pope, Vatican

Top Stories - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 11:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A delegation of U.S. bishops and laypeople came to Rome to share with Pope Francis and Vatican officials the joyful experiences and valuable recommendations that came out of last year's Fifth National Encuentro.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that he was looking forward to announcing "the good news" about what they've learned and how the process has been unfolding.

"When we talked to the Holy Father" as they were still preparing for the September 2018 event, the archbishop said forming and inspiring missionary disciples across the nation "was our dream, and now we can share with him that it is happening."

Archbishop Gomez along with Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland, chairman of the USCCB committee on cultural diversity in the church, and Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, chairman of the subcommittee on Hispanic affairs, led a delegation to the Vatican Sept. 13-18. They were presenting the "Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry," and they spoke with CNS Sept. 16.

The materials they have been sharing offer a summary of the challenges, opportunities, recommendations and successful practices when it comes to pastoral care and accompaniment of Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States and their call to be missionary disciples.

The national gathering of V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, was a historic gathering of Hispanic/Latino leaders in ministry, delegates from dioceses, church movements, schools and Catholic organizations from across the United States. The bishops estimated more than 1 million Catholics had participated in parish, diocesan and regional encuentros in the two years prior to the Grapevine meeting.

One of the things they are telling the Vatican, Archbishop Gomez said, is that "Latinos in the United States are excited about their faith."

"The church in the United States is alive, it's a young church" with an estimated 50 percent of Catholics who are 18 or younger being of Hispanic or Latino origin, Bishop Cepeda told CNS.

"It is wonderful," he said. "They are bringing in the future of the church, but at the same time, they are the 'now' of the church," which brings "a lot of joy and hope."  

Bishop Perez told CNS he's telling Vatican officials how excited people are to "actually be missionary disciples" going to places Pope Francis has called "the peripheries." People have been going "to places where the church isn't always present," he said, like prisons and street corners, and to those who may feel disenfranchised, like young people and undocumented workers.

"The political climate in the United States with immigration and our undocumented brothers and sisters has been very challenging, in fact, very painful," Bishop Perez said.

But the encuentro process, which began at the grassroots level in 1972, "providentially created the space, the forum, for people to come together and share their uncertainty, their fear and feel the support, the warmth of a Christian community," he said.

Bishop Cepeda said this moment has prompted the church to be "the voice of the voiceless. It's a moment for us to bring them out of the shadows, to be able to work for a reform, an immigration reform that is integral and that does not separate families."

"We want to be the voice of a nation that welcomes immigrants and we will be the ones transforming our church and our nation if we do so," he said.

Archbishop Gomez said the increasing presence of Hispanic and Latino Catholics and the work and visibility of the encuentros is "helping Latinos to understand they are an integral part of the life of the church and the life of society in the United States and it's calling them for leadership."

"I hope that helps everybody in the United States see that Latinos really want to participate in the life of society and that brings real immigration reform in our country," the archbishop said.

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Editors: "Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry" was to be available for sale in October at the USCCB online store
Other related tools and resources will be posted on the V Encuentro website:

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Cardinal Pell appeals abuse convictions to Australian High Court

Top Stories - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring


SYDNEY (CNS) -- Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of child sexual abuse offenses, has lodged an application with Australia's High Court to appeal his guilty verdict.

The application to the country's highest court is Cardinal Pell's last avenue of appeal and comes 27 days after the Supreme Court of the Australian state of Victoria decided, in a 2-1 decision, not to overturn his conviction on one count of child rape and four counts of indecently assaulting minors. The crimes involved two 13-year-old boys, in 1986 and 1987.

According to The Australian newspaper, in the application for special leave to appeal, Cardinal Pell's legal team said the believability of the single witness was not sufficient for "beyond reasonable doubt." If the case is heard, it will have widespread ramifications for trials concerning sexual abuse.

Unlike his first appeal, which had a high chance of being heard, this last appeal has less certainty. The Australian High Court will decide to hear a case only if it is of national importance on a point of law or is in the interests of "the administration of justice" or concerns a dispute between courts. In the 12 months ending June 30, 2018, the High Court received 456 applications for leave to appeal but heard only 56 appeals.

A High Court justice, and possibly a panel of up to three, will be chosen from the court's seven justices to consider the application. The justice may decide whether the court will hear the cases purely on written pleadings, or she or he may call for a short verbal hearing. If an appeal is to be heard, it is unlikely to be until 2020, said lawyers in Australia.

The appeal application came the same day as the release of a second book about Cardinal Pell. "Fallen," written by Australian journalist Lucie Morris-Marr, covers the cardinal's legal trials and purports to reveal further allegations about the cardinal and historic cases of abuse. It follows the 2017 publication of journalist Louise Milligan's' "Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell," which has collected multiple book awards in Australia.

Cardinal Pell continues to be a polarizing figure both in his home country and the global church, with many prominent commentators publicly criticizing the Australian courts that twice found him guilty.

Lawyers representing the father of Cardinal Pell's deceased victim issued a statement Sept. 17.

"Our client is beyond disappointed to hear that George Pell plans to take his legal fight to the High Court," said Lisa Flynn of Shine Lawyers. She said the continued appeals were taking a toll on her client's health, but that "hearing the news this afternoon has made him angry."

Also underway is a canon law investigation into the cardinal, once one of Pope Francis' closest advisers and who had been charged with cleaning up finances in the Vatican. That investigation will determine whether Cardinal Pell will be expelled from the College of Cardinals and whether he will be laicized.

The Vatican press office said the process was on hold until Cardinal Pell has exhausted all his avenues of appeal in the Australian legal system.


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Abuse crisis, leadership failure seen having impact on church giving

Top Stories - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 5:12pm

IMAGE: CNS illustration/Emily Thompson

By Brian Fraga

The Catholic Church in the United States has spent a staggering amount of money -- close to $4 billion in the past 20 years -- to investigate, adjudicate and prevent clergy sex abuse, and to compensate victims for the harm they've suffered.

And as those expenses have prompted dioceses to lay off staff, sell property and liquidate some assets, there is growing evidence that more Catholics across the country are deciding not to contribute to their bishops' diocesan appeals because of the scandals.

"Clearly the leadership failures related to the abuse crisis are a major factor in some of the church's financial problems," said Kim Smolik, CEO of the Leadership Roundtable, a national Catholic organization.

At least 20 dioceses since 2004 have filed for bankruptcy protection to pay their bills and provide financial compensation for clergy sex abuse survivors. On Sept. 12, the Diocese of Rochester in New York became the latest to petition the federal courts for Chapter 11 reorganization.

"This is a very difficult and painful decision," Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Rochester said during a Sept. 12 news conference. The diocese is facing nearly 50 lawsuits filed in the wake of New York's Child Victims Act, which took effect Aug. 14 and suspended the state's civil statute of limitations in sex abuse cases for one year.

The Catholic Courier, Rochester's diocesan newspaper, reported Bishop Matano as saying that filing for Chapter 11 was "the best and fairest course of action for the victims and for the well-being of the diocese, its parishes, agencies and institutions."

"We believe this is the only way we can provide just compensation for all who suffered the egregious sin of sexual abuse while ensuring the continued commitment of the diocese to the mission of Christ," Bishop Matano said.

The most recent figures compiled by, a website that tracks the bishops' response to the clergy sex abuse scandals, indicates the scandals to date have cost dioceses and religious orders in the United States more than $3.8 billion in total settlements.

And according to data provided by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, dioceses and religious orders in the 2018 fiscal year incurred almost $302 million in total expenses related to investigating sex abuse allegations, legal fees, victim payments, living costs and therapy for offenders, and operating abuse prevention programs. In the last five fiscal years, those expenses have cost dioceses and religious orders an estimated $1.1 billion, according to CARA figures.

"It's a difficult financial time for the church," Mark Gray, director of CARA Catholic Polls and a senior research associate at CARA, told Catholic News Service.

The dollar amounts of what dioceses have spent only capture a small snapshot of the financial impact the clergy sex abuse scandals have wrought on the church.

"There are other things that are probably happening and very real, but they're not as easily identifiable as a direct result of the abuse crisis," said Pat Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, an organization that provides fiscal and administrative expertise for the local and national church.

"If someone wants to stop withholding from a capital campaign or the bishop's appeal, it could be because of the abuse crisis, but that's a lot more difficult to make that cause and effect connection," Markey told CNS.

A Pew Research Center survey released this past summer indicated that 26 percent of U.S. Catholics reported giving less money as a result of the recent reports of sexual abuse and misconduct by priests and bishops. Father Jay Mello, a pastor of two parishes in Fall River, Massachusetts, told CNS that his parishioners have been quite "vocal" about not donating to diocesan collections.

"They don't trust the bishops and feel this is the only way they can send the message," Father Mello said.

However, there are no readily available spreadsheets to document the extent that lay Catholics across the board have actually stopped donating to parish collections, bishops' appeals or national collections. The data is anecdotal, and often varies from parish to parish, even within the same diocese.

"In terms of dollar for dollar week to week, anecdotally I haven't seen a real fluctuation. My fear however is that five to 10 years from now is when it will be felt as those who contribute fade away and aren't replaced by anyone," said Father Bryan Small, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Atlanta. Father Small told CNS he fears the abuse scandals have pushed away future parish council presidents and other lay leaders.

Gray, of CARA, said there is a perception the church "should be like Walmart" and have a national spreadsheet and financial report. However, he noted that religious institutes, individual parishes, Catholic social service agencies and other diocesan entities have their own budgets and financial systems.

"There is nothing that aggregates all those figures and then releases it publicly," Gray said. "It's always been a bit of a blind spot for the church. There is just no way to connect all the dots and fill in all the information. One diocese may report one set of financials that may not match what is publicly reported by another diocese."

Matt Manion, faculty director of the Center for Church Management at Villanova University's School of Business, identified three major financial impacts from the clergy sex abuse scandals: Chapter 11 filings and settlement payments for sex abuse survivors, the potential losses in donations and collections, as well as the expenses of litigation and other related administrative responses to the crisis.

"That's time that could have been spent on other parts of the church's mission," Manion told CNS.

The settlements that dioceses have given to clergy sex abuse survivors have prompted many of them to liquidate assets and shrink operating budgets. In some 2018 diocesan financial reports and accompanying documents, church officials admit the settlements have impacted their ability to carry out the works of evangelization and ministry.

"To be certain, the crisis has had an ongoing impact on the church's ability to invest in its mission," Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, told the Fairfield County Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, when the diocese released its 2018 financial report.

Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2011 and emerged from the process in 2015, said the archdiocese over the years sold its pastoral center, liquidated property that had been set aside for a cemetery and future parish sites, and cut its staff by more than 45 percent.

"You start cutting things when you can, and when you are a service organization, like a central office of a diocese is, it's people who are the bulk of our budget," said Topczewski. He told CNS the Chapter 11 process enabled the archdiocese to maintain day-to-day operations while creating an equitable system that distributed $21 million to 355 priest-abuse survivors and established a $500,000 fund to cover victims' personal therapy expenses.

"It's all been quite the strategic pivot that all began with Chapter 11," Topczewski said. "When you don't have two dimes to rub together, you've got to figure out what to do."

In the past year and a half, at least four Catholic dioceses -- the St. Cloud and Winona-Rochester dioceses in Minnesota, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and New York's Rochester Diocese -- have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In letters to the faithful and via news conferences, the bishops in those dioceses cited the need to provide financial compensation to victims while keeping the mission of the local church alive.

"We could see where this was all leading and the trajectory wasn't changing. We just don't have any money. If we're not here, we can't help anybody," Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe said during a November 2018 news conference in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Manion, of the Center for Church Management, said Chapter 11 in theory has the benefit of keeping the diocese up and running while it goes through a plan of reorganization. The process also can create a compensation fund that enables abuse survivors to be compensated fairly.

"The victims are all evaluated together, so it's not like the first ones in get the most money," Manion said. "Chapter 11 creates a steady fund so all claimants are evaluated in a consistent fashion, so there is the potential for this to be a more fair way for the claimants than doing it on a case by case basis."

Each diocese has its own set of financial realities when deciding whether to file for bankruptcy protection, according to Smolik, of the Leadership Roundtable, which promotes best practices and accountability in management, finances, communications and human resource development for the church in the U.S.

Noting the recent Pew Research Center survey, Smolik said the apparent drop in giving appears to be connected to the twin crises of clergy sexual abuse and the failure of church leadership.

"I think Catholics are concerned about how their contributions are being used, and it's important that dioceses move toward greater accountability, transparency and co-responsibility, in terms of their financial affairs," Smolik said.

In February, the Leadership Roundtable convened the Catholic Partnership Summit, a gathering of more than 200 Catholic lay leaders and clergy. From the summit, it released a report, "Healing the Body of Christ," which is a plan to develop a new culture of leadership in the church and a new response to the abuse crisis.

The report urged church leaders to "provide full financial transparency regarding all aspects of the (abuse) crisis, include how donations are used." The report also called upon bishops to "build a broad, deep, and transparent financial management and accounting system."

Said Smolik, "We're going to have to look at new models at how the church is served."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Life without parole is not a solution to crime, pope says

Top Stories - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 11:53am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sentencing someone to life in prison without the possibility of parole is "not the solution to problems, but a problem to solve," Pope Francis told Italian prison guards, prison chaplains and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

"If you close hope in a cell, there is no future for society," the pope told thousands of guards, chaplains, volunteers and their family members Sept. 14 during an audience in St. Peter's Square.

Among those present were two detainees who are serving life sentences, but are engaged in a formal process of recognizing the gravity of their crimes, making amends as far as possible and preparing to apply for parole.

While protecting its citizens, the pope said, every society also must seek ways to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes and find ways to help them make positive contributions to society.

Making someone pay for the "errors of the past" cannot mean "canceling their hope for a future," he said. In fact, everyone has "the right to hope."

Saying he wanted to address all inmates, Pope Francis said he had one word for them: "courage."

Have courage "because you are in God's heart, you are precious in his eyes and, even if you feel lost and unworthy, don't lose heart," the pope said. "You who are detainees are important to God who wants to accomplish marvels in you."

Even behind bars, he said, "never let yourselves be imprisoned in the dark cell of a heart without hope; don't give in to resignation. God is bigger than every problem and he is waiting for you in order to love you."

"Put yourselves before the crucifix, under the gaze of Jesus, before him with simplicity and sincerity," the pope told prisoners. "There, with the humble courage of one who doesn't lie to him- or herself, peace will be reborn, and trust in being loved and the strength to go on will flourish."

Pope Francis was not speaking only figuratively. During the audience, he blessed the "cross of mercy" made by detainees in the Paliano prison, which the pope visited in 2017. The tall crucifix is decorated with "biblical scenes of liberation, ransom and redemption" and will be taken on pilgrimage to prisons throughout Italy.

Speaking to prison police, prison guards and prison staff, Pope Francis publicly thanked them for their work, which is often hidden and poorly paid.

"I know that it isn't easy," the pope said, "but when, in addition to watching over security, you are a presence close to those who have fallen into the web of evil, you become builders of the future, you lay the foundations for a coexistence that is more respectful and, therefore, for a society that is safer."

If a prison sentence has the ultimate aim of preparing detainees to return to society and contribute to their community as upstanding citizens, Pope Francis said, then the guards who spend the most time with them must be models of treating others with dignity and respect.

"I thank you for not only being vigilant, but especially for safeguarding the people entrusted to you so that in recognizing the wrong they did, they will accept avenues of rebirth for the good of all," the pope told the guards.

"You are called to be bridges between the prison and civil society," he told the guards. By "exercising a correct compassion, you can overcome the mutual fears and the drama of indifference" that separate the inmates and wider society.


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Pope urges Eastern Catholic bishops to promote ecumenism

Top Stories - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:14am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.

In heaven, he said, "the Lord will not seek an account of which or how many territories remained under our jurisdiction. He will not ask how we contributed to the development of our national identities. Instead, he will ask how much we loved our neighbor, every neighbor, and how well we were able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to those we met along the road of life."

The pope met Sept. 14 with about 40 bishops in Europe from Eastern Catholic churches; they included bishops from the Eastern-rite Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek and Slovak churches, but also those who minister to migrant communities from outside of Europe, including the Coptic, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic Churches from the Middle East and the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches of India.

The multiple expressions of Catholic liturgy, spirituality and governance are a sign of the Catholic Church's true unity, Pope Francis said. "Uniformity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but 'symphonic,' otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit."

Preserving their Eastern identity while holding fast to their unity with Rome came at the price of martyrdom for many of the Eastern Catholic churches, the pope acknowledged. "This fidelity is a precious gem in your treasury of faith, a distinctive and indelible sign."

Unity with the wider Catholic Church, he said, does not detract from the identity of the Eastern churches but "contributes to its full realization, for example, by protecting it from the temptation of closing in on itself and falling into national or ethnic particularisms that exclude others."

While the Eastern churches have national roots and cultures, and in many cases have contributed to preserving local languages and identity, the churches are called to proclaim the Gospel, not a national identity, he said.

"This is a danger of the present time in our civilization," the pope said, because one can see "particularisms that become populisms and seek to dictate and make everything uniform."

At the same time, he said, the witness of the saints and martyrs of the Eastern Catholic churches calls Eastern Catholics today to purify their "ecclesial memory" -- for example, the memory of knowing the Orthodox did not experience the same level of persecution under communism -- "and to aspire to ever greater unity with all who believe in Christ."

In a world where so many people sow division, he said, Catholics are "called to be artisans of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation and patient builders of a civilization of encounter that can preserve our times from the incivility of conflict."

"The way shown to us from on high is made up of prayer, humility and love, not of regional or even traditionalist claims; no. The way is prayer, humility and love," the pope said.

As churches that share a spirituality, liturgy and theology with the Orthodox churches, he said, the Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in promoting Christian unity.

Pope Francis encouraged shared academic programs, especially for priests "so that they can be trained to have an open mind."

But it is especially in concrete service to others that Catholics and Orthodox should join together, he said. "Love knows no canonical or jurisdictional boundaries. It pains me to see, even among Catholics, squabbles about jurisdictions."


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Irish abuse survivor disappointed with global reforms, accountability

Top Stories - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 4:00pm

IMAGE: CNS/Carol Glatz

By Christopher Gunty

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Clergy sexual abuse survivor Marie Collins kicked off a five-city U.S. speaking tour on "The Catholic Tipping Point" in Baltimore Sept. 10, noting that she is disappointed with the results of the Vatican summit on child protection and efforts toward accountability and transparency.

Collins, who was one of the original members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigned from that group in 2017 because she was concerned that promised reforms were not being implemented and Vatican leaders were impeding the commission's work.

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, she said the abuse crisis has brought the church to a tipping point. "The church has come to a crossroads," she said. "It's got to decide where it's going to go next because if it doesn't change, it's going to lose everything."

And this change, she said, needs to come from the laity.

Collins told the group she had been molested by a hospital chaplain in Ireland when she was 12.

She said when she finally reported the abuse to a local priest many years later, she was told that she must have tempted the priest who abused her. The priest later lied about that meeting, she added.

Ten years later, she reported the incident to the Dublin Archdiocese and the hospital where the abuse occurred. The hospital offered counseling and reported the allegation to the police; the archdiocese said at the time that the priest had never had any such allegations against him, which was later was found to be false.

"I was lied to in the worst way," she said. When the archdiocese made a statement that it had followed church guidelines in reporting and dealing with the abuse, Collins said she later met with the archbishop, who told her that the archdiocese was allowed to ignore the guidelines because they had no bearing in canon or civil law.

She said that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the next archbishop of Dublin, set up a strong child protection office -- a "gold standard" that other bishops should follow. At the archdiocese's invitation, she joined a committee drafting child protection guidelines. "You can't criticize if you're not willing to help if asked," she said. The committee later voted to disband when the committee was encouraged to weaken the document.

"The document released was very weak," Collins said, and it noted that a complaint against a layperson would be reported to civil authorities, but a complaint against a priest would be handled internally.

In 2014, she was invited to be part of a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and she agreed to participate in the group, which was half laypeople and half clergy. Collins was the only member who was a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

"Sadly, the promises were not kept," she said. The commission could not get adequate staffing and resources or access to other Vatican departments. She resigned in 2017 when she said it was clear the commission wouldn't be able to do what it had intended.

"We put forward a lot of good recommendations to the pope," she said. "They were sent to the Curia. None of the recommendations from 2014 to 2018 were implemented."

She praised Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who chaired the commission, for doing what he could. "I don't believe he's a liar," but she thinks Pope Francis has people "whispering in his ear" who don't have the best interests of children as a priority.

"I believe the pope is doing his best," she added, "but I believe he's not being told the truth."

She said she met with Pope Francis when he visited Dublin in August 2018 for the World Meeting of Families and on his flight back to Rome, she said the pope said: "Marie Collins is fixated about accountability."

"I am," she said, to applause. "I take pride in that."

She also told the Baltimore audience that the church "cannot continue to be an institution where clerical secrecy and total dysfunction can continue."

The church needs to remove anyone who would abuse children, she said. "They should all be cleaned out and any colleagues who protected them."

The laity have power in the church, she said. "It's our church. It's our children. We must act."

After Baltimore, Collins' "Catholic Tipping Point" tour was to visit Philadelphia (Sept. 12), Chicago (Sept. 14), New Orleans (Sept. 17) and Los Angeles (Sept. 20).

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Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Central Americans want to stay home; development programs help that happen

Top Stories - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 12:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Julian Spath, Catholic Relief Services

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Vanessa Urbina understands how young people in Central America, not seeing an opportunity for work or a good education, could be attracted to make the dangerous trip north in the hope of a better future in the United States.

"Some live in neighborhoods dominated with guns, violence and drug trafficking," she said. "It discourages them from wanting to go to school. It closes the door for them."

As coordinator of Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy), a training and support program for teenagers and young adults in El Progreso, Honduras, Urbina is working to overcome such negative influences and engender a belief that emigration is not the only option.

The operation partners with Catholic Relief Service's YouthBuild program, which helps unemployed and out-of-school young people, ages 16 to 24, return to school, find work or start their own business.

Fe y Alegria enrolls 400 to 600 young people in each session, said Urbina, 37, who has been coordinator for more than six years after completing her master's degree in Taiwan.

The program's goal is to keep people in local communities so that they can help build a stronger economy in one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Students learn various skills in automotive and motorcycle repair, graphic arts, website development, baking and agriculture.

About 20 similar YouthBuild programs exist in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, said Rick Jones, senior technical adviser in Latin American and the Caribbean for CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

The program is adapted from a model of the same name developed in the United States in the 1970s. Coursework is based on demands of the local labor markets.

Beyond skill development, the programs help students develop interpersonal and life skills, including self-esteem, conflict resolution and teamwork.

Despite Fe y Alegria's efforts, some students are enticed to leave because their families decide to head north, Urbina told Catholic News Service. Last winter about 20 students -- of 467 enrollees -- joined caravans headed to the U.S., their fate unknown, she said.

The training lasts up to two years and focuses on developing the skills most in need locally. After completion, Urbina and her staff connect students with local companies seeking to hire people at reasonable wages. Some students even open their own business.

"There are many possibilities because they get a job. They don't have to leave. They have income," Urbina said.

"You can notice the difference in the young people from when they start and then when they finish," she continued. "They are more mature about their future. They want to be a different person. Some of them only know the violence in the towns and when they're in the program, they change their mind. They think they have a better future. If they have the right attitude, that can be possible."

Jones said about 80% of YouthBuild graduates find work. He credited the high success rate to not just skill development but also to providing the emotional support young people need to cope in the challenging environment in which they live.

Most young people want to stay in Honduras with their families, he explained.

"They'd much rather stay here because they're home," he told CNS. "There's a saying: 'Nobody leaves home unless home is in the mouth of a shark.' When you're threatened, people don't have any other choice (but to leave)."

YouthBuild also has been developing an agricultural program for young people. Trainers have encouraged young people to develop new products beyond the traditional crops.

Jones identified beekeeping as an area of growing interest. There's also an emerging specialty dairy market in which graduates are producing yogurt, cheeses and other in-demand products.

"A lot of young people are willing to do agriculture," Jones said. "This idea that they don't want to do agriculture is a myth. What they don't want to do is be tied to corn and beans. So what we're trying to do is find the crops that are in demand and finding more markets for what's being grown."

YouthBuild also is training young people to monitor the environment, a need that is growing in a region that is seeing changing weather patterns that has disrupted traditional planting and harvesting cycles.

"We just reactivated a rural high school degree in agriculture," he explained. "Right now education doesn't train people to stay on the land in the rural areas. We've got to get people reconnected and give young people exciting options where they use technology to create new opportunities and not feel the only action they have is to leave."

Elsewhere in Central America, largely in the region's so-called dry corridor that stretches across 10 of Guatemala's 22 departments and much of Central America, efforts are underway to help farmers better respond to a changing climate so they are not forced to migrate.

Dan McQuillan, technical adviser for agriculture for CRS in Latin America, said the U.S. bishops' relief and development agency is implementing Water-Smart Agriculture, or Agua y Suelo para law Agricultura, known in Spanish as ASA.

He said the program has moved from watershed management for household consumption to managing limited water resources, especially among subsistence farmers. The evolution emerged because of less predictable rain patterns caused by climate change.

The program also is working on a broader scale, educating urban and rural dwellers about water management.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program warned in an April report that prolonged droughts and brief heavy rains destroyed more than half the corn and bean crops of subsistence farmers, leading to declining production and more food insecurity. About 1.4 million people are facing food shortages, the agencies said.

In years past, farmers could anticipate when rain would come and prepare their fields appropriately. When necessary, they would borrow money for planting and then pay off the loan when they sold part of their crop beyond what they needed to feed their family.

With erratic rain patterns, however, farmers can misjudge when to plant and lose a substantial portion of their crop if they plant too early or too late. With reduced yields a family could face a greater risk of hunger or a loss of income. Further, common illnesses such as infectious disease, diarrhea and pneumonia compound hunger. Such a situation can fuel emigration to the U.S.

Under ASA, McQuillan said, farmers are learning about crop rotation, cover crops and other practices that hold water in the soil and limit the impact of inconsistent rainfall.

McQuillan said the practices farmers are implementing seem to encourage farmers to "stick it out." "One coffee farmer told us that he was thinking about leaving, and the last three years the yield has increased so he's working at it," McQuillan said.

ASA also has begun discussing how to more effectively use satellite data and other technology to the benefit of farmers. For now, McQuillan said, local efforts will concentrate on tracking rain and weather patterns to aid in the hope finding the optimal time for planting.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Pope wanted apostles' relics united to encourage Christian unity

Top Stories - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said giving fragments of St. Peter's bones to the head of the church founded by Peter's brother, St. Andrew, was meant to be a reminder and encouragement of the journey toward Christian unity.

In a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Francis explained in detail the reasons he sent him a bronze reliquary containing nine bone fragments in late June. The unexpected gift had been presented to Archbishop Job of Telmessos, the patriarch's representative, at the Vatican June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Addressing the patriarch as "Your holiness, dear brother," the pope wrote that he wanted to give the bones, believed to be St. Peter's, to the patriarch and "the beloved church of Constantinople over which you preside with such devotion."

"This gesture is intended to be a confirmation of the journey that our churches have made in drawing closer to one another: a journey at times demanding and difficult, yet one accompanied by evident signs of God's grace," he wrote. The letter, dated Aug. 30, was released by the Vatican Sept. 13.

During a moment of prayer and reflection about "our mutual determination to advance together toward full communion," the pope said he thought about their predecessors' historic meeting in Jerusalem more than 50 years ago and the gift Patriarch Athenagoras gave to St. Paul VI -- an icon depicting the brothers Peter and Andrew "embracing, united in faith and in love of their common Lord."

The apostles Peter and Andrew are the respective patron saints of the churches of Rome and Constantinople, and Pope Francis said he felt "it would be highly significant" for some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter to be placed beside the relics of the Apostle Andrew.

The fragments came from a funerary niche discovered in 1952 under the high altar in St. Peter's Basilica. While bones remain in the niche, St. Paul VI had nine fragments removed and placed in a special reliquary that was kept in his private chapel in the papal apartments.

The only time the bronze reliquary had been displayed publicly was in November 2013, when Pope Francis presented it for public veneration as he celebrated the closing Mass for the Year of Faith, opened by Pope Benedict XVI.

After Mass June 29 this year, Pope Francis brought Archbishop Job to the chapel of the old papal apartment and offered the reliquary to his guest as a gift for his "brother" Patriarch Bartholomew.

It was "another gigantic step toward concrete unity," Archbishop Job said.

The patriarch said he was "deeply moved" and described this "brave and bold initiative of Pope Francis" as a "grand, fraternal and historic gesture."

Pope Francis wrote in his letter, "The joining of the relics of the two brother apostles can also serve as a constant reminder and encouragement that, on this continuing journey, our divergences will no longer stand in the way of our common witness and our evangelizing mission in the service of a human family that today is tempted to build a purely secular future, a future without God."

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Vatican officials offer guidance for German church gathering

Top Stories - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 8:49am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The German bishops' plans for a two-year process of consultation and deliberation on key issues facing the Catholic Church must conform to universal church law and must be approved by the pope, said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect, sent a letter dated Sept. 4 to Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and attached an analysis by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of proposed statutes for the German "synodal way."

The pontifical council said that, in proposing a process that would include "binding deliberations" on new rules for the church in Germany, the bishops were, in effect, planning a "plenary council," which would require prior approval by Pope Francis.

Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops' conference, said Sept. 13, "The assessment of the pontifical council deals with the draft version of the statutes as of June 2019 and does not yet take into account the version updated in July and after the meeting of the permanent council (of the bishops' conference) in August."

The most recent draft, he said, "no longer contains some passages to which the assessment refers." Kopp added that Cardinal Marx has been in touch with Cardinal Ouellet and would meet with him "in Rome next week to clear up any misunderstandings."

In his letter, which the German bishops posted on their website, Cardinal Ouellet referred to the letter Pope Francis wrote to German Catholics in June "to repeat some basic principles for an effective 'synodal journey' lived in harmony with the universal church."

Cardinal Ouellet said he hoped the pontifical council's assessment of the earlier statutes -- an assessment the German bishops also posted -- "could contribute to the regulation of the work of the 'synodal journey' so that such an important event for the people of God in Germany, celebrated in communion with the entire church, would reinforce the ecclesial roots and relaunch the evangelizing mission of the church in that country."

The German bishops began discussing plans for the gathering in September 2018 after they published a study that revealed an estimated 3,700 cases of sexual abuse had been reported in the German church from 1946 to 2014.

In response to the study and to a widespread sense that something needed to change, the bishops and Catholic lay leaders began discussing holding a national gathering of Catholics in a "synodal" style where the experience and voice of everyone would be welcome and where bishops wouldn't be the only ones making decisions.

The preparations focused on four key areas: the exercise of power and authority in the church; sexual morality; the priesthood, including the issue of mandatory celibacy; and the role of women in the church, including the possibility of opening more areas of ministry to them.

In response, the pontifical council asked, "How can a particular church deliberate in a binding way if the themes dealt with touch the entire church?"

The pontifical council also objected that the initial draft of the statutes seemed to imply that the bishops' conference and the lay Central Committee of German Catholics "are equal" and would send an equal number of participants, would share the duties of presiding over the assemblies and would have an equal vote.

"This equality between bishops and laypeople cannot exist ecclesiologically," the pontifical council said. While all Catholics are called to active participation in the church, "that does not mean that the church is structured democratically and that decisions are made by a majority of the faithful."

In a diocesan synod, a plenary council or the German "synodal way," the council said, study, consultation and decision-making are separate tasks belonging to different members of the church based on their role.

And, while the bishops are the only ones who can make binding decisions on most matters, if the question impacts the wider church, only the pope can decide, the pontifical council explained.

In his letter to German Catholics in June, Pope Francis insisted the process the German church is embarking upon must focus on strengthening people's faith and the church's witness.

In trying to resolve problems and shortcomings, the pope warned, there is the temptation to think that "the best response would be to reorganize things, to make changes and 'fixes' that would allow the life of the church to be put in order and in tune."

Instead, he said, the church must adopt an attitude that "seeks to live and make the Gospel transparent and breaks with the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church in which everything proceeds normally but, in reality, faith wears out and degenerates into pettiness."

In early September, meeting with the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Pope Francis said consultation with laypeople is an essential part of the deliberation of bishops, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively.

"There is a danger," the pope said, which is "thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of 'synodality' means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!"


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Dorian recovery work shows 'we are your brother's keeper,' says volunteer

Top Stories - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 12:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- As catastrophic as Hurricane Dorian was, the characteristic optimism of Bahamians will help soften the painful recovery to come, according to a hurricane-preparedness volunteer in Nassau.

"There was nothing we could have done to prepare (for Hurricane Dorian), but when you talk to me again five years from now, I will be happy to tell you we will be back on our feet again because we are very resilient people," said Basil Christie, a former religious education director for the Archdiocese of Nassau in the Bahamas.

Now a retired insurance executive, he said he regularly assists the Catholic Church with hurricane preparedness and recovery. He spoke by phone Sept. 10 with the Florida Catholic, Miami's archdiocesan newspaper.

Christie is a native of the Bahamas and for the past 15 years in his retirement, he has traveled to the country's many islands to coordinate and promote volunteer hurricane preparedness programs and follow-up recovery efforts after many lesser hurricanes touched parts of the nation.

He estimates that each year at least some part of the Bahamas has suffered hurricane damage and that although the country has high building code standards, Dorian's 200-mph wind gusts and considerable storm surge means those building codes will have to be revisited.

"Normally the maximum wind is 110 mph and restricted to the southern islands," he said.

Also, in previous years, hurricane winds blew off roofs, but Dorian blew homes off their foundations on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, "so it is a different situation," he added.

"There are lessons to be learned from this: Our building code needs to be augmented, and we will need better shelters," Christie said, adding that so many families have stories of watching family members get washed out to sea in the storm.

In the days since Hurricane Dorian, he has been helping coordinate volunteer efforts from Nassau, where cellphone communications are working, and he planned to travel soon to Grand Bahama Island.

He said evacuated families arriving in Nassau are being placed in ad hoc housing situations including gymnasiums, orphanages, convents, hostels and hotel rooms with sometimes four and five people to a room.

"We are having to create as we go," he said, noting that many evacuees have families in Nassau, but those who don't are staying in local Catholic and public schools.

Christie echoed concerns that the official death toll, at least 50 as of Sept. 12, is likely to soar, particularly from shantytown communities of undocumented people reportedly living in the Abaco Islands.

"There are a lot of dead bodies and it is the first time in our history that we had to initiate mass graves whereas others were simply taken out to sea by the (storm surge)," he added.

Christie praised the local generosity of business and organizations in the Bahamas, the international cruise lines as well as other Caribbean nations and agencies in Florida and the United States for sending material and financial support following the hurricane.

"This has brought out the good in people and the notion that we are your brother's keeper," Christie said.

"Naturally, the politicians are lashing out at the government, but an astonishing and overwhelming thing is that all these people are coming to Nassau and they are finding them a place to stay, " he said.

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Editor's Note: Donations for recovery efforts in the Bahamas can be sent to Catholic Relief Services here: and to Catholic Charities USA here:

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Church must seek new paths in Amazon, synod secretaries say

Top Stories - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 10:18am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will help the Catholic Church make its presence felt and voice heard in a region that is dangerously approaching "a point of no return," said the special secretaries of the synod.

"It is a great and continuing challenge for the Catholic Church to make the original Amazonian peoples feel part of it and contribute to it with the light of Christ and the spiritual richness that shines in their cultures," Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny and Bishop David Martinez De Aguirre Guinea wrote in an article published Sept. 12 in La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal.

Cardinal-designate Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Bishop Martinez, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, said the synod will take place at a time when "both human and natural life are suffering serious and perhaps irreversible destruction."

The synod, scheduled for Oct. 6-27, will focus on "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

As special secretaries, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez will assist Brazil's Cardinal Claudio Hummes, synod relator general, in providing a comprehensive outline of the synod's theme at the beginning of the meeting and summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.

In the article, titled "Why the Amazon merits a synod," the prelates said that the synod for the Amazon is an effort to implement "'Laudato Si' in this fundamental human and natural environment."

Much like Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum" recognized the exploitation of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution, Pope Francis' observations on the "gross inequality and cruel marginalization" caused by financial and consumerist greed call "for a new attitude toward nature and the social environment."

"This new synthesis is a wake-up call to the entire world, to all of humanity," they wrote. "But it also suggests a new socio-pastoral orientation and dynamic for the church, which must understand the challenges faced by individuals and families and groups within these various dimensions."

However, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez wrote that the church "cannot give spiritual guidance and pastoral care if people are understood in isolation from -- i.e. not integrated with -- how they live and function within the actual natural, economic and social conditions that they face."

They also noted that the crisis facing the region is not limited only to environmental problems such as pollution, privatization of natural goods and trafficking.

"Mercantilism, secularization, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money" coupled with decreasing numbers of priests and religious "is endangering the presence of the Catholic Church among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon."

Such challenges, they added, require a response that moves from a "ministry of visits to a ministry of presence."

"This is why, during the October Synod, the entire world should walk with the people of the Amazon; not to expand or divert the agenda, but to help the synod to make a difference," the prelates wrote. "The Amazon region is huge, and its challenges are immense. If destroyed, the impacts will be felt worldwide."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Response to 9/11 was 'rescue, rebuild and renew,' says Cardinal Dolan

Top Stories - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 1:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brendan Mcdermid, Reuters


NEW YORK (CNS) -- In preparing to mark the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said part of his message came from the pastor of St. Peter's Church in Lower Manhattan.

The church became a staging ground for first responders after two hijacked planes crashed in to the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

"(That priest) said something that really sticks with me," the cardinal remarked in a Sept. 9 interview. "He said, 'Here in New York, we just don't remember 9/11 -- we celebrate 9/12,' and what he meant is that the nation was not locked into a paralysis of fear, depression, discouragement, somberness."

"This community did not become frantic in (an) unhealthy way," Cardinal Dolan said. "This community did not dwell on revenge and anger. This community immediately began to rescue and rebuild and renew and that's what Sept. 12 stands for."

Cardinal Dolan made the comments in an interview with a television station in Milwaukee, where he was archbishop before being named to head the New York Archdiocese.

In New York City, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Catholic and other religious leaders joined with the faithful and community members in those locations and around the country for moments of silence and special prayers Sept. 11.

The deadliest terrorist attacks ever seen on American soil -- and perpetrated by four hijacked planes -- claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

In an early morning tweet, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said: "On the anniversary of this tragic day in our nation's history, we pray for all those who died and for ongoing strength and consolation for their loved ones. Pray that God will protect us and our country and fill all the world with the peace that only he can give."

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a midday solemn march and Mass was scheduled to pay tribute to members of the Fire Department of New York and all those who lost their lives in the terror attacks.

When the attacks occurred, Cardinal Dolan was an auxiliary bishop of St. Louis. That morning, he recalled, he had just begun celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church for a group of schoolchildren when he got word of what had happened.

"I began to see that that parish had a lot of firemen and policemen, and all of a sudden I kind of saw them come in (to the church) kind of frantic," he told Milwaukee's WISN-TV. "In retrospect it was because of the panic" about the nation being under attack.

"One of them came up to me on the altar while one of the little kids was doing the reading to tell me what was happening ... that there was some tragedy in New York, that the twin towers had been struck by airplanes," the cardinal said, so he called the children to prayer.

"There is nothing more powerful than the prayers of children," he added.

He admitted that when he first heard the news, he felt "some fear," wondering like many Americans if the nation was in for a more "extended attack." There was "some anger" and "an immediate spontaneous desire for revenge," he added, but there also was "obviously solicitude for those who were hurt and their families and how the nation was going to recover."

"Those were all sentiments that I can remember being there at the surface," Cardinal Dolan said, "but I wanted to turn those into prayer and take those to the Lord, and I was inspired by the people around me who were doing that."

He added that when there's time of crisis -- when there's time of famine, depression, war, plague, whatever it might be, there (are) two ways you can go" in response.

You can go away from God and "curse him," he said. "You can give in to depression, feeling sorry for yourself, responding with whining, cynicism, sarcasm."

Or "you can go closer to God, trusting in him and serving his people," Cardinal Dolan said, and in response to 9/11, "the great majority chose" this option.

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Africa trip planted new seeds of hope, pope says at audience

Top Stories - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having gone to Africa as a pilgrim of peace and hope, Pope Francis said he hoped the seeds planted there by his visit would bear abundant fruit for everyone.

Following in the footsteps of evangelizing saints before him, the pope said he sought to bring with him "the leaven of Christ" and his Gospel, which is "the most powerful leaven of fraternity, justice and peace for all people."

Speaking to some 12,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 11, the pope recalled his fourth apostolic journey to Africa. He dedicated his general audience talk to a review of some of the highlights from his visit to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius Sept. 4-10.

The pope said he wanted to "sow the seeds of hope, peace and reconciliation" in Mozambique, which had experienced two devastating cyclones recently and 15 years of civil war.

While the church continues to guide the nation along the path of peace, the pope made special mention of the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, which had facilitated the mediation process that resulted in the nation's 1992 peace agreement.

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope said, "I would like to take a moment to thank" the lay community for their hard work in this peace process.

He said he also encouraged Mozambique's leaders to keep working together for the common good, and he noted how he saw that kind of cooperation in action at a hospital he visited that helps people, especially mothers and children, with HIV and AIDS.

"I saw that the patients were the most important thing" at the Sant'Egidio-run center, which was staffed by people of different religious beliefs, including the director of the hospital, who was Muslim, he said.

Everyone worked together, "united, like brothers and sisters," he said.

Reflecting on Madagascar, the pope noted how beautiful and rich in natural resources the country is, but that it is still marked by tremendous poverty.

He said he asked that the people there would be inspired by their "traditional spirit of solidarity" in order to overcome the obstacles they face and foster development that respect both the environment and social justice.

In fact, "one cannot build a city worthy of human dignity without faith and prayer," he said when he spoke to contemplative religious women.

Pope Francis said he wanted to visit Mauritius because it has become "a place of integration between different ethnicities and cultures."

Not only was interreligious dialogue well-established there, he said, there were strong bonds of friendship among the leaders of different religions.

"It would seem strange to us, but they have this friendship that is so natural," he said, explaining how touched he was to find a large bouquet of flowers sent to him by the grand imam "as a sign of fraternity."

He said he encouraged government leaders to stay committed to fostering harmony and to protecting democracy.

In his audience talk, the pope also explained why -- before and after every trip -- he always visits Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the basilica's Marian icon "Salus Populi Romani" (health of the Roman people).

He said he prays that she "accompany me on the trip, like a mother, tell me what I must do" and help "safeguard" everything he says and does.


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'Just the facts,' pope tells reporters, commenting on news media

Top Stories - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:01pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MADAGASCAR (CNS) -- No one really knows what the future of the news media will be, but it will have no future if reporters and the public cannot distinguish between facts and fiction, Pope Francis said.

Honoring a request from the Spanish news agency EFE to contribute to its collection of views about the future of the media, Pope Francis responded publicly during his flight Sept. 10 from Madagascar to Rome.

When he was a boy, he said, his family did not have a television; instead they listened to the radio and read newspapers. Sometimes, depending on the government in power, they were "clandestine newspapers," distributed under cover of night.

"Compared to today's news industry, it all seems very precarious," he said. But today's media may look just as precarious when people in the future look back.

"What remains, however," he said, is the ability and responsibility of the news media "to inform the audience of an event and to distinguish these facts from narrative," fiction or opinion.

"It is extremely easy to move from the facts to narrative," he said, "and this damages the news industry. It's important to stick to the facts."

Pope Francis said the Catholic Church and its media are not exempt from that danger. "Within the church, when there is a fact, it goes around the corner, and then it gets adorned, it gets embellished. Everyone adds their own contribution, and not even in bad faith."

But "the mission of the journalist is to always stick to the facts: 'The facts are these. My interpretation is this. I was told this.' It distinguishes you from the storyteller."

And if a news report includes an account of something an individual or group believes is true, but the reporter has not witnessed, the reporter must inform readers or listeners, he said. "This is what being objective is all about, and this is one of the values that the news industry needs to retain."

Pope Francis also said journalists must remain human, humane and "constructive."

"The news industry cannot, for example, be used as an instrument of war, as this is inhumane, it destroys," the pope said. "Think back to the propaganda of the dictatorships of the past century. There were dictatorships that communicated well, that tried to sell you the moon. ... They were well structured, they communicated well. They encouraged war, destruction; they were not humane."


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Ideological fixation, not 'loyal criticism,' feeds possibility of schism, pope says

Top Stories - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MADAGASCAR (CNS) -- Pope Francis told reporters he hoped and prayed the Catholic Church would not experience a new schism, but human freedom means people always have had and will have the "schism option."

"I pray that there not be schism, but I am not afraid," Pope Francis told reporters flying from Africa back to Rome with him Sept. 10.

Schisms have occurred throughout church history, he said, and one thing they all have in common is having such a focus on an ideology that they begin reading church doctrine through the lens of that fixation.

A schism is triggered when "an ideology, perhaps a correct one, infiltrates doctrine and it becomes 'doctrine' in quotation marks, at least for a time," he said.

As an example of ideology, the pope cited those who say, "The pope is too communist" because of his criticism of unbridled capitalism and its negative impact on the poor. "The social things I say are the same things John Paul II said. The very same. I copy him."

When ideology takes the place of doctrine, he said, there is the danger of a split in the Christian community.

Pope Francis said small groups of Catholics in the United States are not the only people who criticize him -- there are even people in the Roman Curia who do -- but he tries to learn from the criticism and to find a way to dialogue with critics who are open.

"Criticism always helps," Pope Francis said. "When one is criticized, the first thing to do is to reflect, "Is this true, not true, to what extent" is it valid?

"Sometimes you get angry," he said, but "there are always advantages" to be drawn from listening to critics.

During the inflight news conference, which was briefly interrupted because of turbulence, Pope Francis responded mainly to questions about issues that arose during his visit Sept. 4-10 to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. The topics included the contested U.S. military base, Diego Garcia, in the Chagos archipelago, and his teaching on ecology.

But the pope also was asked to respond more fully to an informal comment he made on the flight to Mozambique Sept. 4, when he said that it is "an honor when Americans attack me."

French writer Nicolas Seneze had given the pope a copy of his book, "Comment l'Amerique veut changer de pape," which can be translated as "how America wanted to change popes." Seneze's thesis is that a small group of wealthy U.S. Catholics is engaged in a concerted effort to cast doubt on this pontificate.

"The criticism is not coming just from America, but a bit from everywhere, including the Curia, but at least those who are doing it have the courage" to be public about it, the pope said on the flight back to Rome. What isn't acceptable is when one "smiles so much he shows you his teeth," and then lists criticisms "behind your back."

Criticism is healthy when it is open and when the person doing the critique is willing to listen to the other's reasoning and to dialogue. "This is real criticism," he said.

"Throwing a rock and then hiding your hand" is something else, the pope said. "This isn't useful. It only helps closed little groups who don't want to hear the response to their criticism."

On the other hand, he said, "loyal criticism" can include saying, "I don't like this about the pope" as long at the critic gives an explanation and is willing to hear a response.

Not waiting for or wanting a response "is to not love the church," he said. "It is to follow a set idea (like) changing the pope or changing his style or creating a schism."

He spoke about another ideology he calls "rigorist," which he told reporters is "the ideology of an antiseptic morality" that takes no account of the real lives of the faithful and the obligation of pastors to guide them away from sin and toward living the Gospel.

"There are many schools of rigidity within the Catholic Church today which are not in schism, but are pseudo-schismatic Christian paths, which will not end well," he said.

On the question of the Diego Garcia military base, which is on territory in the Indian Ocean claimed by Mauritius and the United Kingdom, Pope Francis said the nations that belong to and support the United Nations and international courts have an obligation to accept their decisions. The U.N. General Assembly recently adopted a resolution calling on Britain, which leases the base to the U.S. military, to cede the territory to Mauritius.

"I don't know if this is true in this case," the pope said, but a common phenomenon has been that when a people wins its independence and colonizers are forced to leave, "there's always the temptation of taking something in their pockets," like recognizing a new government, but trying to maintain control over the extraction of natural resources.

"In the collective consciousness, there has been the idea that Africa is there to be exploited," the pope said. "We, humanity, must revolt against this."

Pollution, deforestation and desertification are all signs of that kind of attitude, he said.

Recognizing that the earth and its biodiversity are essential for life, Pope Francis said everyone must take action, beginning with small steps. For example, he added, the Vatican recently banned the sale of single-use plastic, such as water bottles, on its territory.


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Memories of 9/11 attacks linger for former fire department chaplain

Top Stories - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 1:23pm

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Allyson Escobar

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- Msgr. John Delendick, a longtime New York Fire Department chaplain who is currently pastor of St. Jude Church in Brooklyn, remembers Sept. 11, 2001, vividly.

At the time of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Msgr. Delendick had just finished celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Church in Brooklyn where he was pastor. He jumped in his car and drove as close as he could get and then walked to the scene.

When he got to the twin towers, he ran into other fire department colleagues, including first deputy commissioner William Feehan, who was later killed in the collapse. He also gave absolution to a police officer who ran to him amid a dark cloud of debris and smoke, asking the priest to hear his confession.

He also recalls learning that his colleague and fellow fire chaplain, Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, was among the first known victims of the South Tower's collapse.

"That day, I don't even know the order of what all happened ' Someone just handed me (Father Judge's) helmet and told me he was killed," he told The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The hardest thing of that day, he said, was people asking him if he had seen their friends, fathers, brothers and sons -- firefighters and first responders at the scene -- and not knowing how to respond. It wasn't until after returning from ground zero that Father Delendick and many families would realize that their friends and loved ones had died.

Msgr. Delendick didn't get back to his parish until 2 a.m. Sept. 12.

As fire department chaplain, in between celebrating memorial Masses for the fallen, Msgr. Delendick would visit "the pile" at ground zero in the months that followed, accompanying families in their search for loved ones.

That first year after 9/11, he doesn't remember how many funerals and memorial Masses he said.

"It's just, you get so many of these funerals, and it just gets to you after a while. ' I love the job, but I also hate it," he said. Every year since the attacks, the New York Fire Department remembers and honors the heroes, especially those who have died years later from illnesses attributed to 9/11.

This Sept. 6 the department added the names of 22 firefighters and recovery workers to the New York Fire Department World Trade Center Memorial Wall inside its Brooklyn headquarters.

One victim of a 9/11 illness honored on the memorial wall was Lt. Timothy O'Neill, a Catholic who died in April after battling pancreatic cancer for two years. O'Neill worked for several months at ground zero during the cleanup efforts.

"My husband risked his life, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice 18 years later," said his widow, Paula O'Neill. "It was a complete shock because he never had any symptoms, but then one day he went for a CT scan. ' He always thought he would get sick after breathing in everything, sometimes without a mask. He just didn't really talk about it, and we never expected the severity of the cancer."

With the help of the federally funded September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, O'Neill was able to be receive treatment for his cancer from his Florida home.

"I still have firemen to this day calling, crying to me," Paula said.

At the Brooklyn ceremony, Father Joseph Hoffman, pastor of St. Barbara in Brooklyn, who also is a New York Fire Department chaplain, read a Bible passage which said: "The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces."

The priest said that working with the fire department is "like serving another parish" and he is honored to work with these men and women.

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Escobar is a reporter for The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.


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Florida senators ask Trump to waive visa requirements for some Bahamians

Top Stories - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, two Florida Republican senators have asked President Donald Trump to waive or suspend certain visa requirements for Bahamian citizens with relatives residing in the U.S.

Hurricane Dorian stalled over the northern Bahamas Sept. 1-3 as one of the strongest storms in Atlantic history. As of Sept. 10, the death toll was at least 50 and was expected to increase as search and rescue operations continued.

"It's important Customs and Border Protection and the Bahamian government work together to clarify the current rules regarding visas in the Bahamas," Sen. Rick Scott said in his statement. His letter was co-signed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

"As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport," Scott said.

He was referring to the hundreds of people who on Sept. 8 boarded a ferry in Freeport destined for Port Everglades in Florida, only to be told to get off the boat if they did not have entry visas for the U.S., according to news reports.

"Sen. Rubio and I continue to urge President Trump to waive some visa requirements for those in the Bahamas that have family in the United States. But until that happens, there needs to be clarity on the current rules," he added.

Florida, Scott noted, enjoys deep historical ties with the Bahamas, and, due to proximity, many Floridians have family in the Bahamas. Having prepared for and avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, Floridians are now eager to help family and friends in the Bahamas.

"I also encourage Customs and Border Protection to work with the Bahamian government to set up a temporary site at their ports of entry. Professionals should be on site to help the many Bahamians trying to leave destruction," Scott said.

He also offered proposals to help families in Bahamas recover, including a change in the U.S. Tax Code to incentivize charitable giving; continued deployment of U.S. Coast Guard and other U.S. entities in providing humanitarian assistance; and a redirect of foreign aid away from countries he said are adversaries of the U.S. to put that aid toward the Bahamas recovery efforts.

For his part, Rubio, who traveled to the Bahamas following the hurricane, urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to request the USS Comfort be repositioned to the Bahamas as soon as possible, as well as any assets needed from the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group.

In the letter, Rubio wrote that the Navy hospital ship with "its crew of trained medical staff, flight deck and ability to desalinate water, would be ideal in helping the Bahamian people."

It is critical that during this time of need for our neighbors, the United States uses all of our capabilities to continue to assist in the recovery efforts, he wrote. "This includes urgent efforts to save lives."

Regarding the situation with the ferry in Freeport, a Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Shevrin Jones, has pointed out that many people lack all the proper documents due to the storm.

Americans' kindness cannot end at just giving donations and relief supplies, he said. "It has to extend to us helping our neighbors in the Bahamas have a place to recover while their homes and lives are rebuilt," he tweeted. "The Bahamians just need a temporary place to regroup."

U.S. State Department guidelines state that most individuals traveling to the United States require a visa but that some individuals may travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program.

Bahamian citizens who meet certain requirements may apply for admission to the United States without a visa at one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities located at the Nassau or Freeport International airports, if they meet certain requirements, according to the State Department rules.

But those preclearance station hours of operation may change with short notes in emergency situations such as hurricane watches, the State Department states.

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Editor's Note: Hurricane relief donations to CRS can be sent here: and to Catholic Charities USA here:

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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