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West Virginians meet their new Catholic bishop as humble, holy man

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 12:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Christopher Gunty

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- People from around the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston already have a good feeling about their new shepherd, Bishop Mark E. Brennan, who was installed Aug. 22 as the ninth bishop of the diocese.

Ron and Jenny Gaither came from Fairmont, southwest of Morgantown, for the installation of the bishop because they believe he is an honest and holy man. The parishioners of St. Anthony in Fairmont said they were hoping to get someone who could help Catholics in West Virginia forget about the scandals in the church. They said they had heard from priests who already met Bishop Brennan that he is a wonderful man.

John Neely of St. John Neumann Parish in Marlinton, a town with a population just over 1,000, said he hopes the bishop will be concerned with the rural parts of the state. "It's very important to get someone down to the parishes," he said, noting that they haven't had bishops visit in 20 years.

Many of the priests in the rural areas serve three or four parishes. "Our pastor has an hour (to drive) to each of his other churches," Neely said. "They do everything for themselves; they don't have an office staff."

He said he wants Bishop Brennan to be "a man of the people and for the people -- the poor people of the diocese."

Father John Chapin Engler Jr., is one such pastor of three parishes in a rural part of the state northwest of Charleston.

Before solemn vespers Aug. 21, Father Engler said, "It's a new day. I'm just thrilled" with the appointment of Bishop Brennan. He said the people of the diocese had been praying a prayer provided by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who was apostolic administrator of the diocese from September 2018 until Bishop Brennan's installation.

The people of the diocese prayed for a humble and noble pastor full of zeal and a love for Jesus and the poor. "It's almost like he knew when he wrote it" the kind of man the pope would appoint.

He praised Bishop Brennan for showing up in his own Ford Taurus, carrying his own bag and serving breakfast at Wheeling's Catholic Charities Aug. 21.

Father Engler's country parishes in Bancroft, Nitro and Dunbar are small -- 30, 50 and 70 parishioners. He said their needs are the same as many others in the diocese, "to continue to try to be a light for people in darkness."

Noting that the state is about 4% Catholic and "that means 96% are not," Father Engler said of the new bishop: "He seems to have a knack for reaching out, with a pastoral zeal for the poor."

He said the bishop had already agreed to visit his three parishes for their combined Labor Day picnic. That sends a good message to his people that they won't be forgotten, he said.

Sam and Karen Gross came from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston, where Sam is a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and participated in the honor guard at the installation Mass.

"He's a fresh change," Sam said, noting that Bishop Brennan's crosier is made of wood, not gold.

Karen said she believes the bishop will help heal and end the divisiveness in the church and "bring a spiritual message to us so we can all be disciples of Jesus Christ."

The Grosses also mentioned the challenges of life in the diocese, noting that priests in rural parishes have needs that parishioners in Charleston, Morgantown and Wheeling cannot even imagine.

She said the bishop is humble and approachable. "You can tell by his demeanor that he puts others ahead of himself," she said. "Jesus brought him to us for a reason."

Morgan Yost, who works for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston on the program staff of the youth ministry office, said she hopes the bishop will see the youths as part of the church community now, not just in the future, and hopes he will see that they have a role in the church.

She said the bishop sent a video message to a Catholic summer youth camp held in Huttonsville shortly after his appointment was announced July 23. In that video, he said he hoped to be able to visit the camp in person next year.

Lia Salinas, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, attended the installation Mass to honor her former boss. Bishop Brennan had been archdiocesan vicar for Hispanics; he was a Baltimore auxiliary bishop until his appointment to Wheeling-Charleston.

"He's a pastor who smells like his sheep. We're sorry to lose him but we know this is what West Virginia needs," she told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan media outlet.

"He's a person you grow to love, a real servant of God," Salinas said.

She described the bishop as hard-working and a people person, noting that he will spend as much time talking to a janitor as with a clergyman or a business executive.

That attitude was visible after the installation Mass when Bishop Brennan standing on a small balcony on the corner of the cathedral blessed the crowd gathered on Eoff Street below. Returning to the street level, still in his liturgical vestments, the bishop crossed the street to greet residents of the Formosa Apartments who had been sitting on chairs in front of their building.

Yvette Smith, Zyanne Hamlin and Kiara Moore, who live in the building, and Carrie Chambliss, who lives around the corner, were pleased to meet the new bishop, whose cathedral directly faces the apartments.

Smith said she hopes the church opens more doors and helps the homeless and others in need, like those who live in the Formosa.

Chambliss added that maybe they could use some prayers too, "because we're all sinners."

"I expect good things from him," she said.

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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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Latin American bishops urge action to save burning Amazon rainforest

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 12:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/NASA, NOAA handout via Reuters

By Lise Alves

SAO PAULO (CNS) -- "Crying out to the world for solidarity," leaders of the Latin American bishops' council urged international action to save the Amazon rainforest as massive fires continued to burn.

"We urge the governments of the Amazonian countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the lungs of the world," said the statement Aug. 22 by the top officers of the council, known by its Spanish acronym, CELAM.

"What happens to the Amazon is not just a local issue, but is of global reach," the bishops said. "If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers."

The Amazon produces 20% of the world's oxygen, according to scientific measurements.

Brazil's space research institute, which is responsible for satellite monitoring of the Amazon, had reported that the number of wildfires, common in July and August, had reached a record number already in 2019, with 72,843 fires spotted.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, Aug. 21 and 22 released satellite imagery showing how smoke from the fires had created "a shroud that is clearly visible across much of the center of South America."

French President Emmanuel Macron called on world leaders to place the fires at the top of their agenda as they meet in France for the Group of Seven summit starting Aug. 24. Attendees will include President Donald Trump, Macron and the leaders from Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has said publicly that he believes nongovernmental agencies -- including Catholic-backed agencies such as the Land Pastoral and the Indigenous Missionary Council -- are behind the illegal burnings because they have opposed his call for development of the rainforest. The organizations have strongly denied the allegations.

In its edition released Aug. 23, the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, led with two articles about the Amazon fires. The first, titled "The Amazon must be protected," included general coverage of the fires' scope and the alarm launched by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. A second article reported on the CELAM statement under the headline, "Save the forest to save the world."

In their statement, the bishops noted that the upcoming October Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will discuss the plight of the indigenous living in the area as well as the deforestation of the region. Sixty percent of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil.

"Hope for the proximity of the Amazon synod, convened by Pope Francis, is stained by the pain of this natural tragedy," the bishops said. "To the brethren indigenous peoples who inhabit this beloved territory, we express all our closeness and join your voices with yours to shout to the world for solidarity and pay attention to end this devastation."

And while the deforestation of the world's largest tropical forest and the violence against the indigenous population there have been a great concern to the Catholic Church, the upcoming synod also has caused apprehension for the Bolsonaro government.

In February, the Brazilian government was forced to deny that it was spying, through its intelligence agency, ABIN, on more "progressive" bishops and priests working on the synod.

The government's Institutional Security Cabinet, known as ISC, however, admitted it was worried that the meeting would be used to criticize the Bolsonaro administration's stance on environment and indigenous rights.

"There are no general criticism of the Catholic Church. There is the functional concern of the Minister of State Chief of the Institutional Security Office for some points of the synod's Amazon agenda that will take place at the Vatican in October this year," said an ISC statement at the time.

The CELAM bishops, quoting Pope Francis from his homily at his papal inauguration in March 2013, requested to "please ask all those who hold positions of responsibility in the economic, political and social fields, all men and women of goodwill: (to) be guardians of creation, of the design of God inscribed in nature, guardians of the other, of the environment; let's not let the signs of destruction and death follow the path of our world."

The declaration was signed by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, of Trujillo, Peru, CELAM president, as well as the officers of the organization.

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

 

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Matters of life and death: Pope to bring his message to southern Africa

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 11:18am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stringer, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rejecting violence, promoting interreligious harmony, caring for the environment and stamping out government corruption are expected to be high on the agenda Sept. 4-10 when Pope Francis visits Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

"The pope's very presence will be his principle message to the people of Mozambique," said Father Giorgio Ferretti, an Italian missionary and pastor of the cathedral in Maputo, Mozambique. "Just the fact of him walking these streets, meeting the people, speaking to them will be a great message of peace."

After 15 years of civil war in Mozambique, a peace agreement was signed in 1992, concluding a two-year mediation process facilitated by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, the Catholic archbishop of Beira and representatives of the Italian government.

The country has been at peace for 27 years, "but there still hasn't been a real de-militarization of some parts of what had been the armed opposition, so we must still pray and work for peace in this country," Father Ferretti said. "Then, in the north of the country, in the province of Cabo Delgado -- where there are Americans, Italians and others involved in the extraction of gas -- there has been disorder; it still is not clear at all whether we are dealing with Islamic fundamentalists, but there has been violence."

When the incidents began in October 2017, many were quick to suspect Islamic fundamentalists; however, others believe the violence is more closely linked to the foreign expansion of the natural gas industry in a region where most people are very poor.

St. John Paul II's visit to Mozambique in 1988 "laid the foundations for a commitment to peace," Father Ferretti said. "Now, the visit of Pope Francis can be like a final seal on that process for an effective and definitive peace in the country. This is the great hope of the church and the people for the visit of the pope."

Leah Marie Lucas is director of Caritas Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, where in addition to the insecurity mentioned by Father Ferretti, people are struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Cyclone Kenneth in April.

Pope Francis will not be visiting the areas devastated by Cyclone Idai in March or Cyclone Kenneth a few weeks later, but he is likely to remember the hundreds of Mozambicans who died in the violent storms and the thousands left homeless.

In Cabo Delgado, some people already were displaced by the violence when the cyclone wiped out more homes, Lucas said. "Even if they remain close to their home village, they are not able to farm, and this year will experience serious food security challenges."

More frequent and more violent super storms like Idai and Kenneth are headline-making signs of the devastating impact climate change already is having on the countries of southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, including Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Franciscan Father Jean-Charles Rakotondranaivo, "custos" or superior of Franciscans in Madagascar and Mauritius, said people in the two nations "are already experiencing the effects of climate change," much of it caused by the people themselves.

Particularly in Madagascar, "we are experiencing rapid and growing deforestation," he said. "In 50 years, we have lost three-quarters of our forest" to meet the demand for fuel wood and charcoal and to clear areas for farming.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Catholic overseas aid and development agency, has been working in Madagascar for more than 50 years; meeting the challenges of climate change while helping poor farmers is a key part of its work there.

Partnering with other development agencies, for example, CRS is helping farmers sow plants that can stabilize sand dunes along the southern coast and prevent them from encroaching on farm plots. Another project helps subsistence farmers create cooperatives and generate income by growing spices since the island is the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla and also produces black pepper, cloves, turmeric and cinnamon.

Shaun Ferris, CRS director of agriculture and livelihoods, said soil and water management is a key focus of the agency's programs in Madagascar "where more than 50% of all households can be classified as food insecure, and 90% of the country's population lives on less than $2 a day."

Pope Francis' social-environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si'," was "a brilliant document," Ferris said, and its message "is the message of the decade" because climate change and ecological degradation are real and strongly contribute to poverty, hunger, conflict and migration.

Father Rakotondranaivo sees the pope's repeated condemnations of corruption and his teaching on politics as service as another essential message for the region, particularly for Madagascar.

Unfortunately, he said, having political and civil responsibility too often is seen "not as a service but as a great privilege, a way to enrich oneself. Generally, politicians get rich very quickly. Madagascar is a country rich in natural resources, but the population is very poor. The inequality between a handful of rich and the poor majority is blatant. It is time to wake politicians up to focus more on the common good."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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Update: Australian pro-life leaders organize to block bill legalizing abortion

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 9:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giovanni Portelli, courtesy Right To Life NSW

By Catherine Sheehan

SYDNEY (CNS) -- Thousands of pro-life supporters demonstrated in the streets of Sydney, expressing their opposition to a bill in the New South Wales state parliament that would permit abortion until birth for any reason.

The demonstration Aug. 20 called on members of parliament (MPs) to defeat the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill that was introduced Aug. 1.

The bill passed Aug. 8 in the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of the state parliament, 59-31, following a limited three-day period for comment.

The bill is pending in the Legislative Council, the upper house of parliament. Legislators had planned to vote on the bill by Aug. 23. However, in response to MPs angry at the lack of due process, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejilkian announced the vote had been delayed until mid-September. Berejilkian supports the measure.

New South Wales is the only Australian state where abortion remains a criminal offense. Abortion is permitted only when the mother's physical or mental health is in danger.

As MPs debated the bill in the lower house, the pro-life movement maintained a vigil lasting several days outside of parliament. Many were young women concerned about the lack of protection in the bill for women and babies.

Bethany Marsh, 21, a university student, was one of those leading the peaceful but lively gathering.

The chairperson of LifeChoice Australia told Catholic News Service many young women are increasingly opposed to the ideology behind the push for abortion on demand, which pits women against their unborn children.

"The bill, while claiming to be 'compassionate', is possibly the most demeaning and inhumane piece of legislation to have ever been considered by the NSW parliament," she said.

"The presence of hundreds of young women outside parliament should have sent the message, loud and clear, that we, the young pro-life generation, do not want these abhorrent practices."

Later, thousands gathered for the Stand for Life Rally Aug. 20 in Sydney's Martin Place to protest the bill. The rally brought together secular pro-life groups and representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney addressed the crowd, saying they were evidence of "people power" and "God power." He thanked participants for saying "'no' to a bill that says you can kill babies right up to birth and even after they're born."

MP Tanya Davies, a member of the Liberal Party who voted against the bill, said the public deliberately had been shut out of the democratic process.

"Citizens of NSW, you have an equal voice in this debate and up to now the process has been designed to exclude your voice and the voice of your communities," she told the crowd.

She called for "a tsunami" of opposition to the legislation over the next three weeks.

If enacted, the legislation would further the financial aims of abortion providers, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, CEO of Right To Life NSW, told Catholic News Service.

"This is harmful to mothers who, instead of getting the help they need during a crisis, will be automatically be redirected to the cheapest option, i.e., termination of their unborn child," Carling-Jenkins said.

"This bill opens up an opportunity for abortion providers to further profit from women uncertain of their options."

Tiana Legge, CEO of Women and Babies Support, said the lack of restrictions on abortion in the legislation would make pregnant women even more vulnerable to coerced abortion.

"What we've heard from women is that many are pressured and coerced and coercion can take many forms," Legge said. "It can include a male partner who is using physical or emotional threats and violence against her to coerce her to have an abortion. It can also involve pressure from parents, others close to them or work colleagues and also just a general lack of support."

In its present form, the bill does not require that women seeking abortion be offered counseling, that babies born alive after failed abortions be rendered medical assistance, or that parental consent be obtained before performing abortions on minors young than 16. It also does not prohibit sex-selective abortion.

The bill mandates, however, that a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion must refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor willing to perform the procedure.

MPs in the lower house sought to have protections for women, babies and medical practitioners added to the legislation, but the amendments were rejected.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Fly tying gives Vermont religious brother a supportive connection to vets

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 1:13pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic magazine

By Cori Fugere Urban

BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- The Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Burlington was quiet on a steamy summer day except for the sound of a fan and occasional banter among the veterans who concentrated on the tiny pieces of feathers, fur and thread in front of them.

Their hands worked diligently, yet carefully, illuminated by adjustable desk lamps. Their task: Tying fishing flies.

The therapeutic task and the camaraderie are what has them hooked on their weekly get-together sponsored by Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc.

Dr. Leigh Wheeler, 75, a parishioner at St. Andrew Church in Waterbury, Vermont, was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and drives 35 miles each week to join the group. He finds support from the other veterans who empathize with his experiences in the war, especially having had a "number of contacts with the enemy" and witnessing soldiers being killed in action.

"It's a comfortable environment," the retired emergency physician told Vermont Catholic magazine, publication of the Burlington Diocese.

Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and related activities including education and outings. The nonprofit organization is incorporated in Maryland.

Though not a veteran, Edmundite Brother Francis Hagerty, a spiritual and retreat director based at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, is active in the Burlington group.

He began fly fishing in the 1980s after a friend got him interested and taught him the basics. Soon he was taking a fly-tying course and learned how to tie flies that mimic insects and small fish that fish like to eat.

"I enjoyed catching fish on flies that I had made myself. That got me hooked; but I found there is a lot more to fly fishing," he said.

Brother Hagerty always has loved being in nature and fly fishing has brought him closer to it. "The more I've learned about the life cycles of insects and the habits of fish, the more deeply I have appreciated the beauty of creation and the wonder of it all," he said.

Daphne Zencey, a Project Healing Waters volunteer and Veterans Administration peer support specialist, is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. She also is a former Project Healing Waters participant.

"We are searching for that camaraderie and being part of a group of veterans who understand a different perspective of life and serving the greater good," she said.

Brother Hagerty's fly-tying skill and his presence are appreciated in the group, Zencey added.

The Edmundite likes fly fishing because it pulls him into a meditative mood.

"I need to approach the water slowly and carefully, so I don't spook the fish," he explained. "I need to watch for insects and perhaps fish rising to catch them. I need to observe the water flow, and think, 'If I were a trout, where would I be?'"

Then there's the sounds of the water and the rhythm of casting. "The intense focus on all these things help me to quiet myself and feel the wonder of creation more deeply," he said.

Cliff Lang, a parishioner of St. Mark Church in Burlington and a U.S. Army veteran, enjoys fly tying and building fly rods then fishing "in any river I can find."

"It's a 'me' time. It takes your mind away from troubles," the former mechanic and truck driver said. "You feel blessed to be out in a stream or brook and be back with nature."

Moe Forcier, a retired Vermont Department of Public Safety training officer who lives in Jonesville, Vermont, is another Army veteran. He said fly tying and fishing in Project Healing Waters "takes your mind off your demons because you have to concentrate." And when he is outside fishing, "it is kind of like a prayer ... being in tune with God through nature."

Brother Hagerty said a veteran once told him, "When you're tying flies or fishing, all the bad stuff goes away."

Fly tying pauses the busyness of the religious brother's life and gives him an opportunity to be alone with God. "I might be working on something that is fairly intricate, but I find myself quieted and able to listen to God's still, small voice," he said.

He has to be vigilant in his prayer, too, alert for the signs of God trying to catch his attention. He calls these signs "Oh, wows" because they show him something he hadn't noticed before or something with which he is familiar but now sees differently. They make him say to himself, "Oh, wow."

The Department of Veterans Affairs recorded 25 veteran suicides in Vermont in 2016.

Aware of this and knowing several friends who were deeply affected by their experience in the military, Brother Hagerty knew that fly tying and fishing have to be good for vets because he knows how the activities help him.

"I got involved with (Project Healing Waters) as a volunteer, and it has been a privilege to help folks heal and a blessing for me."

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Urban is content editor/staff writer for Vermont Catholic magazine of the Diocese of Burlington.

 

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Appeals court upholds Cardinal Pell conviction on abuse charges

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 9:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mark Dadswell, Reuters

By

MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- An Australian appeals court upheld the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys more than two decades ago.

A three-judge panel of the Appeals Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria announced its decision Aug. 21 in Melbourne.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson read the decision during a 30-minute hearing. She said the court was split 2-1 on the cardinal's argument that the conviction was "unreasonable" given the evidence presented at trial to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Justice (Chris) Maxwell and I accepted the prosecutor's submission that the complainant was a compelling witness, was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth," Ferguson said.

Justice Mark Weinberg agreed with Pell's attorneys.

The chief justice also told the court that the three judges unanimously agreed to through the two other grounds for appeal: that the cardinal should have presented his not guilty plea in person to the trial jury in December rather than by video and that the cardinal's lawyers were not permitted to play a 19-minute animation to the jury in their closing statement.

Ferguson said the court decided that Cardinal Pell must continue to serve at least three years and six months of the six-and-a-half-year sentence he received following his conviction in December.

"Whether he will be released on parole will be a decision of the adult parole board, not the court," she said.

Cardinal Pell, the most senior church official to be convicted of sexual abuse, can appeal the decision to the High Court of Australia.

With the conviction upheld, Cardinal Pell could be stripped of his priesthood and may also be expelled from the College of Cardinals

The decision from the three-judge panel followed a two-day hearing June 5-6 in which Cardinal Pell, 78, and his attorneys argued that his December 2018 conviction on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys was "unreasonable" given the evidence presented.

The conviction occurred during the second trial for Cardinal Pell. The first trial in September 2018 resulted in a hung jury.

The guilty verdict regarded one count of "sexual penetration," in this case oral sex, and four counts of indecent acts with or in the presence of a minor under 16 years of age.

The incidents were alleged to have occurred in the sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996 when the cardinal was an archbishop.

Following the conviction, the former key adviser to Pope Francis was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. He began serving the sentence in March and is being held in solitary confinement in Melbourne Assessment Prison because of the nature of the offenses and his high profile in Australia.

The Vatican continues to conduct its own investigation of the cardinal.

Under Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, the cardinal's successor, the archdiocese has begun implementing the Australian Catholic Church's new safeguarding standards in response to a report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.

Pell's attorney, Bret Walker, argued during the appeals hearing that there were 13 reasons why it was improbable that Cardinal Pell had assaulted the boys after presiding over Sunday Mass in the cathedral; a few weeks later he assaulted one of the boys a second time, according to court testimony.

On the second day, prosecuting attorney Christopher Boyce appeared to struggle with questions from three justices presiding over the hearing. But in its written submission the prosecution said: "When looking at the whole of the evidence, the integrity of the jury's verdicts is unimpeachable.

"The jury were entitled to accept the complainant as a reliable and credible witness," the submission stated. "He was skillfully cross-examined for two days by a very experienced member of senior counsel. The complainant's allegations were not improbable when all of the evidence is carefully considered."

At the appeals hearing, the prosecution also maintained that the surviving victim's testimony was credible and that the decision of the jury should be respected.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

New Orleans' women religious donate 25 acres for flood control project

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 5:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- In topographically challenged New Orleans, where "running water" can be a pejorative depending on whether it is flowing inside or outside the house, a long-promised, 25-acre stormwater management and flood control project called the Mirabeau Water Garden will be a welcome sight.

After eight years of design discussion and government delays, the ambitious project made possible through the vision and generosity of the Sisters of St. Joseph appears ready to start.

The garden will be able to store 9.5 million gallons of water in a park-like setting and then slowly release it back into the city's overtaxed drainage system.

David Waggonner, the project's lead urban and environmental architect, is eager to see how the water retention area on the Mirabeau Avenue site where the Sisters of St. Joseph's motherhouse stood before Hurricane Katrina, will transform both the hydraulics of the surrounding area and, more importantly, the deeply held view that the only solution to keeping the city safe from flooding is to pump water out of the New Orleans bowl.

"The sisters were way ahead -- maybe because their faith lets them move forward," said Waggonner, the founding principal of Waggonner & Ball. He first approached the Sisters of St. Joseph in 2011 when he heard they might be thinking of making their land available for the project.

When the motherhouse took on 7 feet of flooding from Katrina in 2005 and then was struck by lightning and gutted by fire in 2006, the sisters prayed about what to do with the large and mostly undeveloped site they no longer needed. As New Orleanians began returning home from the Katrina diaspora, the sisters easily could have sold the undeveloped parcel for millions as homesites, using the money to provide for the retirement needs of their aging members.

Instead, after meeting for months with Waggonner and latching on to his vision about working with the environment to manage water, the sisters decided to jump-start the project by leasing their land to the city for $1 a year, a monumental step on the way to securing funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government entities to construct the garden.

"We could have sold the property 15 times to this day," said Ed Sutoris, who oversees the congregation's properties from his office in Chicago. "Every two weeks someone is calling me. It probably was worth about $2 million-$4 million. But the sisters' definition of 'best use' was this project.

"This caught the heart of the sisters because if they could show that this 25-acre parcel could protect thousands of surrounding acres, then that would be big enough proof to encourage other landowners in New Orleans to do something similar."

"Actually, we kept vigil with that land, praying that some idea would come to us that would help the land serve the people of New Orleans, just as our sisters had done all those years," said Sister Pat Bergen, the former congregational leader, who lives in St. Louis. "When David approached us with this idea, we initially knew this is what we were praying for," she told the Clarion Herald, archdiocesan newspaper of New Orleans.

Waggonner said construction is expected to begin by the end of the year.

The major phase of the $20 million project -- the gross water storage features -- will cost about $13.2 million and is expected to take 14 months to complete. The second phase calls for the construction of educational buildings by 2022. The buildings will be used to teach students and others about the science of water management and how the site's newly planted cypress trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses will help create an ecosystem that can mitigate flooding.

The site will have stormwater features to store and filter water and allow it to "infiltrate" the ground. Excess water will be released back into the drainage system. The site also has a planned reflection area commemorating the Sisters of St. Joseph for their commitment to the project and to the people of New Orleans.

A. Baldwin Wood's "world-class" invention in the early 1900s -- the screw pump that could lift large quantities of water -- drained large parts of previously uninhabitable New Orleans, Waggonner said, but that engineering breakthrough came with "a tradeoff."

"The part that was not factored in was the subsidence," Waggonner said, referring to a gradual caving in or sinking of an area of land.

"The pumping of shallow groundwater was not understood as the cause of subsidence," he explained. "Because of the way we've constructed our drainage pumps -- with open joints -- and because we put these big suction pumps on them, you're constantly dragging down the groundwater, which is dragging down the land. So, we're actually sinking the city by pumping it. This system has a radical cost, an unsustainable cost."

For now, Waggonner is buoyed by his collaboration with Dutch groundwater expert Roelof Stuurman, who has stressed the need for innovative water management areas in New Orleans, and with the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"It's always been a matter of trust with the sisters," Waggonner said. "And, in this case, perseverance, because it's been years."

Sister Pat agreed.

"The need is visible and apparent," she said. "All of us sisters are praying that movement will happen on this adventure quite quickly because we see its potential -- and its hopes for the people of New Orleans."

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

 

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Chaldean Catholics celebrate Mary, culture, family at Ohio national shrine

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 1:08pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Rutter

By Katie Rutter

CAREY, Ohio (CNS) -- With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.

For nine days, climaxing on the evening of Aug. 14, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.

"We feel that we're like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people," said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.

His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.

"We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn't want to deny our faith," Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, "and it's sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians."

The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.

The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.

"My mother says, 'Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn't go back,'" said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.

"You can't guarantee (you will) come back safe," she related.

"Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even," said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.

"Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us," she recalled.

These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.

"We have a lot of feasts we call them 'shera,' (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession," said Friar Eshoo, who was born in Mosul.

"When I'm here, I feel like home," he said.

The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.

At dusk Aug. 14, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.

"It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this," said Conventual Franciscan Father Thomas Merrill, the shrine's rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.

"The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments," Father Merrill said.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.

The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.

"(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully," Markos told CNS.

"Anytime you're in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here," said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.

Expressing gratitude for Mary's intercession, Kattoula concluded: "We've asked and we come and we receive from her."

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Investigation underway into cause for sainthood for martyrs of Burundi

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 11:26am

IMAGE: CNS photos/courtesy Xaverian Missionaries

By Francis Njuguna

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The grisly murders of missionary priests and a local priest, a lay volunteer and 40 seminarians in Burundi are the focus of a recently opened investigation into their sainthood cause.

Catholic bishops in this central African nation June 21 welcomed the step petitioned to the Vatican by the Xaverian Missionaries, founded in 1898 by St. Guido Conforti as the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions.

"The church that is in Burundi through us bishops wants to celebrate a group of people who, in the name of Jesus, offered their lives to show that our fraternity in Christ is more important than belonging to an ethnic group," the bishops said in a statement. "It is a great testimony, a message that we believe is truly necessary for all Christians."

The step, which was approved by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, is the first involving the Burundian church, according to the Fides News Agency of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

The killings occurred at different times and localities in the country. Those who died include two Italian Xaverian Missionary priests, Father Ottorino Maule, 53, and Father Aldo Marchiol, 65; lay volunteer Catina Gubert, 74; local priest, Father Michael Kayoya, 38; and the seminarians.

The Italian missionaries and Gubert were killed Sept. 30, 1995, at Buyengero parish.

An account of their deaths revealed that women religious who lived near the parish heard shots from the mission area but dismissed them because gunshots occurred regularly in the area.

"On Sunday morning, since they had not seen the fathers for Mass, they decided to go to the mission, where they found the three bodies in the living room. It was a real execution: The missionaries had been killed with a blow to the head. Only Catina had been killed with a blow to the chest. Nothing in the house had been touched or stolen," the account said.

Father Kayoya was executed in Gitega May 17, 1972, with 50 others imprisoned by the government during a dispute between majority Tutsi and minority Hutu people. Those imprisoned were Hutu.

"He was a priest, poet and philosopher," the Burundi Catholic Church recounted. "Through his publications, he always emphasized those ethnic differences more than being a threat are a wealth, and a mutual gift. He was charismatic figure, lover of truth, preached love without ever separating it from justice."

The killing of the 40 seminarians, according to a church account, occurred in the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 1997, when rebels attacked the minor seminary of Buta in the Diocese of Bururi.

Faced with the refusal of the seminarians to separate according to ethnicity, the bandits opened fire, killing 40 young people, who hailed from the dioceses of Bururi, Bujumbura, Ruyigi and Gitega.

The rebels fled after ransacking the seminary and adjacent pastoral center. Today, an onsite chapel memorializes the seminarians.

Father Maule was born in Gambellara in northern Italy on April 7, 1942, and was ordained in 1967.

He left for Burundi on Sept. 3, 1970, returned to Italy in 1979. He was then a teacher and superior of the Xaverian Seminary of Zelarino near Venice and from 1984 to 1990, he served as regional superior of the Xavierians of Italy.

After a brief period in Paris to prepare again for missionary life, he left for Burundi in September 1991. He served as a priest in Buyengero parish, where he was killed with the others.

Father Marchiol was born in Udine in northeastern Italy on March 9, 1930, and was ordained a priest in 1958. After a long period dedicated to the formation of young missionaries in Italy, he went to Burundi in 1978. Other than a short period in 1987-88 when he returned to Italy, he was in Burundi until his death.

Gubert was born in Fiera di Primiero, Italy, and was in Burundi as a lay volunteer. She had been in Burundi between 1976 and 1979 until the first expulsions of missionaries.

She moved to Tanzania to continue her ministry, remaining linked to the Xaverian Missionaries in Burundi. Later returning to Buyengero, she ministered to women until her murder.

The Burundian bishops in their message stressed that "these brothers and this sister in Christ are the heroes that we, the bishops of Burundi, present to you as a single model that inspires love for fraternity."

"They represent the first group of probable martyrs that we present to the universal church, to be officially declared martyrs and are for us all models of fraternity in Christian life and also in our whole Burundian society."

 

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LCWR award recipient embraces 'holy chaos' of her ministry to migrants

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 4:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Global Sisters Report, courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley

By Soli Salgado and Dan Stockman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- "Holy chaos" is how Sister Norma Pimentel describes her ministry.

As the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sister Pimentel sees up to 800 migrants every day pouring into her center in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. The center is often their first stop after being released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Here, the Missionaries of Jesus sister and her staff help them organize the rest of their journey to their final destinations, and provide them with new clothes, a hot meal and shower.

More than 150,000 migrants have passed through her ministry's doors.

That work has led to her being praised by, and later meeting, Pope Francis, being featured on "60 Minutes," "20/20," CNN and in newspapers around the world. On Aug. 16, she received the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Outstanding Leadership Award during the organization's annual assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"There are times we must decide who we are, what we stand for," Sister Pimentel told the nearly 700 Catholic sisters attending the assembly. "We must ask ourselves, dear sisters, 'What else must I do in the world today?'"

The need is urgent, she said.

"If it is not now, then when? If it is not you, then who?" Sister Pimentel asked. "For it is in times of extreme pain and suffering, extreme measures of love are needed."

In 1980, the bishop of Brownsville asked the Missionaries of Jesus if they could oversee a shelter for refugees called Casa Oscar Romero. There Sister Pimentel became "100 percent absorbed in really advocating and defending immigrant families and children. Since then, that was very much a part of who I am."

Sister Pimentel worked and lived at Casa Oscar Romero for 10 years until 1992, when she went back to school to "better prepare myself to respond to families and the people who needed help."

She became the executive director in 2004. Back then, she said, seeing 200 migrants would have been considered a busy day, as new detention facilities had been built in McAllen, Texas, which meant fewer families would be released to them.

But 10 years later, in June 2014, the border experienced one of the most memorable waves of migrants, particularly of unaccompanied children.

Sister Pimentel said she took the lead in organizing the humanitarian response to migrants U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol dropped off at a McAllen, Texas, bus station, visiting the detention facilities where they were apprehended and processed, and teaming up with local parishes to utilize their parish halls for additional space during the 2014 surge.

"To visit the detention facility where they were apprehended and processed and seeing the children in those cells was very heartbreaking for me," she said. "(It was) like I had a dagger in my heart when I saw the suffering children with faces full of tears asking me to help them and not being able to remove them from there."

"That experience has marked me forever," she said. "That triggered in me a profound sense of commitment and dedication to make sure that I become that voice for them, that I can be that force that can defend and protect life, especially the immigrants."

"What connects me to what I'm doing is the face of a child," she said. "Bringing a smile to their face always gives me focus as far as the importance of what I do. No matter how tired I am, if my presence and efforts bring a sense of relief to a family or child in distress, my sense of self is energized, and I go to sleep knowing I've done something good."

Though the number of incoming migrants may vary over the years, their reasons for leaving their home countries remain consistent, Sister Pimentel said.

"It's the gangs and instability and how easily they're abused," she said. "They're afraid for their children, afraid of how easily someone can break into their house and kill their children or themselves if they don't cooperate, if they don't hand over their children to join the gang."

Such instability also makes finding work more difficult, she said, and families are often extorted for more money than they have, and having to work for gangs to pay off whatever is asked.

"That's the constant message we hear over and over again on why they come," she said.

Traffickers and the cartel are "part of the cause and effect of all this," taking advantage of the deterrence policies the U.S. puts forward by exploiting those who forgo the journey, Sister Pimentel said. "President (Barack) Obama was strong in deterrence and deportation, and this new administration under President (Donald) Trump has just followed up on that and amplified it more, with greater emphasis on this negative narrative toward immigrants."

There's an "unwillingness to see immigrants as people," she added, and instead view them "as just intruders or as people who are here to hurt us. ... I feel that I must protect the immigrants and keep them from being exposed too much to the community so the community doesn't feel threatened."

"The fact that they're immigrants is not a reason to be afraid," she said. "Learning to help people make that distinction is important to me, and I find it more challenging to do because sometimes they're so close-minded in their beliefs," which she said she attributes to the influence of the current political climate.

Sister Pimentel said in a video shown before the leadership award was presented that through her work, something inside her had changed. She no longer feels boundaries between people, no matter their station in life. "It is as if we all have become one," she said.

There were murmurs and gasps in the audience at the assembly as Sister Pimentel described the fear on children's faces as they appear at her door, the tears of relief on mothers' faces when they see volunteers welcoming them, fathers kneeling in prayer, thanking God for a place they are finally respected, and the shame on a child's face as they pull her close and ask in a whisper for clean pants because theirs are soiled.

The sisters rose in one accord in a standing ovation for Sister Pimentel, who wiped away tears as the award was presented.

In an interview with the Global Sisters Report, she elaborated, saying, "that connectedness to each other as human beings -- that is key in every relationship and every ministry we do. If we put that as secondary, then we've lost why we're doing what we're doing."

"As consecrated people dedicated to our ministries, we must never lose sight of why we're doing this," she said. "I can be comfortable with chaos, and sometimes the Humanitarian Respite Center can be chaotic (in) how it looks, but there's a sense of order within that chaos, and that's why I call it 'holy chaos.'"

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Salgado and Stockman are staff writer and national correspondent, respectively, for Global Sisters Report.

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Voracious goats keep Wisconsin cemetery looking beautiful the natural way

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 11:38am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brad Birkholz, for The Compass

By Patricia Kasten

APPLETON, Wis. (CNS) -- Goats tend to get a bad rap in church traditions -- with the devil often portrayed with goat horns and hoofs, and Jesus speaking of separating goats from sheep, as told in Matthew 25, verses 32 and 33.

But at St. Mary Cemetery in Appleton, goats are getting positive reviews.

In early July, five goats arrived in the cemetery from a farm in nearby Black Creek. They're helping tackle the cemetery's problem with buckthorn, an aggressive, invasive species of shrub that had overtaken the cemetery's riverbank.

"We had been working the last couple of years to clean up the riverbank, to give a little better view of the river," explained Brian Dresang, cemetery director. "We ran into an issue of buckthorn. Buckthorn will tear you apart if you get into it. We had a couple of trees down, or with branches down, and we wanted to get that cleaned up. And right under those trees is buckthorn. Obviously, that was trouble."

The cemetery considered using herbicides to kill the shrub.

"Herbicide is quicker, but we thought it was better to do it naturally," Dresang told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. "We were afraid of killing off other things we didn't want to kill off: lots of deer, turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks. We figured it would harm them too. This is a definitely longer process but, in the long run, it's a lot better."

Cemetery officials also worried that the rain would carry the chemicals into the nearby river.

The solution came from landscaper Ron Wolff, who owns Lakeshore Cleaners in Appleton. Wolff was working with a property owner near the cemetery and suggested using goats to clear the pesky plants there.

It turns out goats don't hate buckthorn like humans do. In fact it's the opposite. Dresang quoted what Wolff told him: "Buckthorn is like hot apple pie to goats, it's like their favorite thing."

Using goats for weed control is becoming popular around the country. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has used goats in state parks. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Nebraska Department of Transportation and various fire departments in California also have turned to goats to clear weeds and brush. They've been used at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, since 2011.

The Sierra Club's website notes that, "thanks to their voracious appetites -- goats can eat up to 10 pounds of vegetation per day -- and (with an) ability to navigate difficult terrain -- the ravenous ruminants are on the front lines of fire prevention."

St. Mary Cemetery got clearance from the town of Grand Chute, purchased and placed electric fencing to keep the goats from the cemetery's hedges, roads and gravesites, and turned them loose. Seven goats were added Aug. 2.

"It's amazing the amount they eat," said Dresang. "They are about 3 feet high, but do they eat a lot of stuff. ... Ron said they would make a big dent. ... I didn't believe him, but I have to admit, they eat a ton."

The goats have been welcomed by visitors, who come to see the voracious weed-eaters. Many people take photos and children love to watch them. One father brings his four small sons almost daily.

Since the goats find their own food, the cemetery only needs to supply a source of fresh water daily. The goats will remain onsite until fall.

Funding to rent the goats came through an anonymous grant from a family fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. For several years, the same family's fund has helped the cemetery with upkeep, replanting large trees after a storm several years ago and repairs to their dump truck.

"Not a lot of cemeteries have a family foundation that wants to keep the cemetery beautiful," Dresang noted. "A small cemetery like us loses money every year. The cemetery business is a hard business anyway. There is no way we would be able to do this without them.

"When we pitched the idea (of goats)," Dresang added, "(the family) loved it because of the more natural way of doing it and because they like creative, out-of-the-box thinking."

Dresang estimated the nine-acre cemetery has at least two acres of ravines and riverbank. So, if the goats don't finish their work this year, they'll return in spring.

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Kasten is associate editor of The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

 

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Christ's love gives hope to forgotten ones, cardinal says

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 10:02am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world where many are often marginalized and discriminated against, the message of Jesus' love must continue to be proclaimed, a Vatican official wrote on behalf of Pope Francis.

In a message sent Aug. 16 to the 40th Meeting in Rimini, an annual event sponsored by the Communion and Liberation movement, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said that countless men, women and children, especially those fleeing war and poverty, "are often treated as statistics and numbers" rather than as human beings with faces, names and stories.

The theme of the Aug. 18-24 meeting -- "Your name was born from what you gazed upon" -- was inspired by a poem written by St. John Paul II which referred to St. Veronica who, according to legend, wiped the face of Christ on his way toward Calvary.

"In an age where people are often faceless, anonymous figures because they have no one to look at, the poetry of St. John Paul II reminds us that we exist because we are connected," Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Reflecting on the event's theme, the Vatican secretary of state said that only by "fixing one's gaze upon Jesus' face and attaining familiarity with him" can Christians be purified and prepared "to look at everything with new eyes."

"By meeting Jesus, by looking at the son of man, the poor and the simple found themselves, they felt profoundly loved by an immeasurable love," the cardinal wrote.

This experience, he added, is what makes Christians "a presence in the world that is different from all others" because of their calling to be mirror images of Christ in the world.

"This is the origin of the profound joy that nothing and no one can take away from us: our name is written in the heavens, and not for our merits, but rather because of a gift that each of us has received through baptism. It is a gift that we are called to share with everyone, without exception. This means being missionary disciples," he wrote.

Conveying Pope Francis' best wishes for the annual event, Cardinal Parolin expressed the pope's desire that in celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Rimini meeting "will always be a hospitable place where people can talk face to face."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Sustainable land use urged to ease growing threats to food, water

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 12:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Franciscan Friars Conventual

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Leading five seminarians on an eight-week summer service program largely through Appalachia and South America, Conventual Franciscan Father Michael Lasky saw a new awareness rising in the young men's minds.

It started by talking with visitors to the Shepherd's Table meal program at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, outside of the eastern town of Shamokin, and learning about people's sense of place in the once-burgeoning coal mining region.

From there, they moved on to planting trees in Robinson Forest in eastern Kentucky in an effort to reclaim a mountaintop stripped bare by coal mining. They learned, too, that the forests were shrinking because of the mining, leaving fewer nesting areas for the migrating Cerulean warblers from Colombia.

The connection deepened during a hike in an old-growth forest in Colombia, one of the warbler's wintering homes. By the end, Father Lasky saw how the young friars began to better see their connection as part of God's creation.

The venture -- including time in El Salvador and New Mexico -- was designed to help the seminarians become "lesser before God" and to listen the stories of the people, seeing connections across land and community.

"I want them as a minister when they're done with the seminary training to look beyond the collar and see themselves as a member of the community in a holistic sense ... that they are interwoven in all of this," said Father Lasky, director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for his order's Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

It's that sense of interconnectedness that all people are called to understand and live that underlies the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on global land usage, in Father Lasky's view.

In its report, the IPCC -- the United Nations body assessing the science related to climate change -- examined the growing human impact on land and how climate change compounds the stresses placed on land around the world: degradation, soil depletion, flooding and water shortages.

The report determined that only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources -- including land use and food production -- can global warming be kept well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the target set in the 2015 Paris climate accord to avoid catastrophic effects on the environment.

Scientific studies have found that global temperatures are about 1 degree Fahrenheit higher than 100 years ago and suggest that the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing, agriculture and other human activities are the primary sources of global warming.

"There are some huge challenges here. The report says we have to undertake fairly quickly a massive rethinking about how we use our land globally," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant.

Father Lasky and others told Catholic News Service the need for sustainable land use practices is crucial, especially in an era when land is viewed primarily as a commodity without regard to the needs of local communities or the future of the planet.

Agencies such as Catholic Relief Services, working with national governments and nongovernmental organizations, have helped small farmers implement sustainable practices that involve water management, conservation of natural resources, companion planting of crops and trees and reducing fertilizer usage, said Olaf Westermann, senior technical adviser on climate change at CRS.

"Our main approach is improving natural resource management because that is what poor people depend on mostly," he said.

Although thousands of small farmers have seen their crop yields increase through sustainable practices, problems persist because of the widespread desire to exploit land for economic gain, said Michael Schuck, associate professor of theology and co-director of the International Jesuit Ecology Project at Loyola University Chicago.

"The number one environmental crisis going on, now of all, where the most environmental activism is taking place worldwide, is not with respect to climate change, but the question of land grabbing," Schuck told Catholic News Service.

Among others, he cited areas of Honduras and Guatemala where forests are being bulldozed and replaced with tracts of palm trees to meet the growing worldwide demand for palm oil.

"We have a production system that doesn't respect land as a living breathing entity," he said. "It has commodified it."

Schuck and others said they do not outright oppose profit-making, but rather they echo the call of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," to recognize that the long-term future of Earth is at stake unless practices related to high consumption and natural resource exploitation change.

The IPCC report said much the same, projecting that food production will suffer if unsustainable land use persists.

Indigenous lands have become increasingly sought for development, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, U.N. special rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples.

"No one knows the conflicts between food, fuel and forests better than indigenous people and local communities. Indigenous and local people continue to face murder and criminalization when we face agro-industry, mining, logging and infrastructure projects that threaten our forests, our lives and the animals and plants we protect," she said during a news conference Aug. 8 at which the report was released.

Nowhere is such land conflict better exemplified than in the Amazon forest of Brazil. A recent announcement by President Jair Bolsonaro's administration declared that Brazil will open indigenous lands -- primarily in the Amazon region, where 60% of the country's indigenous people live -- to mineral exploration.

The number of recent requests for research and mining has generated concern among indigenous peoples, environmentalists and human rights advocates who defend the territories of indigenous peoples.

Sonia Guajajara of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples Articulation, representing about 300 indigenous groups, has criticized the model of large-scale agricultural production.

"Our mission is to defend Mother Earth, to defend nature," she said. "When we do this, we not only benefit the indigenous people, but we benefit everyone. They want to make them believe that indigenous people no longer need land."

Further, German climatologist Hans-Otto Portner, vice chairman of an IPCC working group, said in early August that the new Brazilian policies represent the opposite of what the IPCC report recommends.

In Africa, Father Charles Odira, of the Kenyan bishops' conference, chairs the Kenya Interfaith Network of Action on the Environment. He told CNS climate change is disturbing the normal planting schedule for local farmers. Rains that once fell in February now have shifted by as much as a few weeks, he said.

In addition, the unpredictability of water access causes some herding communities to expand where their herds of cattle graze, leading to confrontations over the land, he said.

But there are successes. Father Odira recalled meeting one man during a pastoral visit in the territory covered by his parish in the Diocese of Homa Bay who managed to boost millet and corn yields significantly. Asking how, Father Odira learned that the man had implemented new practices on his arid land and he asked the farmer to share those practices with others.

"From the church's perspective, it's better," he explained. "You can reach more families. And with the church involved, people trust it more."

Schuck told CNS that kind of understanding and cooperation is needed on a broad scale and that it must begin immediately.

"There's a reason for hope, but the timing is so critical," he said. "Do we have the time needed to slow us down before the precipice?"

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Contributing to this story was Lise Alves in Sao Paulo.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Vatican official: Church must be prudent judging Medjugorje apparitions

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald

By Sarah Mac Donald

KNOCK, Ireland (CNS) -- Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a place of prayer, conversion and pilgrimage for millions of people, but the church must be prudent and not rush to any judgment on the alleged Marian apparitions there, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Speaking to Catholic News Service at Knock Shrine in County Mayo Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, Archbishop Fisichella spoke of attending the first officially approved church festival at Medjugorje in early August.

"I confess the experience was very beautiful, seeing about 70,000 young people praying and living together and listening to catechesis," he told CNS, describing it as a mini-World Youth Day.

The presence of so many young people there was, he suggested, "one of the fruits" of the pastoral efforts of Medjugorje.

Visionaries claim to have seen than 40,000 Marian apparitions since June 1981, when six teenagers first claimed they first saw an apparition of Our Lady while herding sheep.

As always, when confronted with an apparition, the church "is always prudent," Archbishop Fisichella said.

In May 2018, Pope Francis named Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser as apostolic visitor to the shrine, after a papal commission recommended that Medjugorje, which attracts up to 3 million visitors annually, be designated a pontifical shrine with Vatican oversight. A ban on pilgrimages organized by dioceses and parishes was then lifted by papal decree.

Some of the six visionaries say Mary still appears to them daily and gives them messages. However, in 2017, when asked about this, Pope Francis appeared to doubt the ongoing nature of these apparitions.

Differentiating between the Vatican's pastoral care of Medjugorje and the doctrinal study of the apparitions, Archbishop Fisichella said that, following the papal commission's conclusions, "we are now in another step (phase) in order to understand what happened in Medjugorje."

"I think that for the moment it is necessary to evaluate the richness of the work in Medjugorje. We need to understand all of this together: why there is such a huge number of pilgrims, of prayers and to understand also how the possible apparitions in Medjugorje (relate) to the life of the church. For that we should wait the judgment the Holy Father will give. To rush this delicate matter is a mistake."

Archbishop Fisichella was in Knock as the keynote speaker for the feast of the Assumption as part of the annual novena at the Irish church's national shrine, which draws up to 100,000 pilgrims over the nine days of the novena.

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the apparition in Irish village. On Aug. 21, 1879, 15 people, ages 6-75, witnessed the silent vision of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist as well as the Lamb of God standing on the altar in driving rain.

Speaking to CNS about the message of Knock, Archbishop Fisichella said he was "touched by the vision of St. John," who was seen in the apparition giving the sign of silence. "Probably not many people know that this was the request for silence made by the master among the disciples" in medieval times.

He suggested that the message of Knock and its "request of silence" was "extremely important" for today's contemporary "era of chat."

"We need to help people today, especially people who don't know the profound value of silence, to understand better the value of silence," he said.

At a seminar the same day on the theme, "Mary in the life of the church," the archbishop also expressed concern over the number of millennials who feel isolated and have no friends.

Discussing the concept of koinonia -- communion and community -- Archbishop Fisichella told the Knock seminar that "in a culture like ours, where there is such a strong individualism, we need to discover the necessity of community and relationship."

He said he had been shocked to learn of a recent finding in the United States that showed as many as 30 percent of millennials identified solitude and a lack of friends of one of their main problems.

"It is unbelievable but true. Normally we think of solitude as a problem for people in their 70s or 80s due to their condition of life. Millennials are people born in 2000, and today they are 19 years old. This solitude stems from a culture in which people close in on themselves. Without relationships you cannot trust; if you don't trust you can't communicate; if you don't communicate there is no possibility of friendship; and if there is no friendship there is no possibility to learn to express yourself."

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'You cannot be a Catholic and sit on the sidelines,' archbishop says

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 3:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrew Rozario, Catholic Standard

By Josephine von Dohlen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a crowded bar, bustling with young adult Catholics from the Washington area for the monthly Theology on Tap, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory shared his pain over what this archdiocese suffered in the past year due to priestly abuse scandals, and encouraged the young adults to turn to the Eucharist as a source of healing.

"I'm not quite as young as you, but I, too, am let down by the leadership in the church," Archbishop Gregory said. "I've been embarrassed. I've been embarrassed as a Catholic, as a priest, and as a bishop, because of the behavior by some of my fellow clerics."

"When the family has been embarrassed, everyone in the family feels embarrassed, and I do too," said the 71-year-old archbishop. "I know this past year has been an extraordinarily painful year for Washington."

Hundreds attended Theology on Tap Aug. 13 to hear from the archbishop, who answered questions ranging from his daily prayer life and his favorite restaurants in Rome, to his conversion story as a young boy in Chicago. He also answered questions about the abuse crisis, inclusivity and sensitivity within the church, and evangelization.

"You cannot be a Catholic and sit on the sidelines," Archbishop Gregory told the young people. "To be a member of the church means you've got to get in and get your hands dirty in the mix of the whole arena of faith from what we believe and profess to how we live and treat one another. ... You can't not invest yourself into this family.

"To belong to a family means that you are invested in the life, the struggles, the pain, the joys that belong to being a member of this family, and that includes our faith, what we hold as true, and also it involves our investment in social justice dimensions of our faith. You can't be a good Catholic invested in eucharistic adoration, but unconcerned about the poor, those waiting to be born, those on death row. You've got to buy the whole lot."

Sponsored by DC Catholic, the young adult ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington, Theology on Tap invites young adults ages 21 to late 30s into monthly discussions about living out the Catholic faith in the world.

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Gregory to head the Archdiocese of Washington in April. He was installed May 21. He had been Atlanta's archbishop since January 2005.

The appointment, he said, came as a surprise, as he expected to remain in Atlanta until retirement.

"I was stunned for a couple of reasons," he told the young people. "I was 71 and that's not usually the age you get a new job. ... But I can also say, since coming here -- even with the challenges, which there are many -- I feel energized, I feel like I have a new lease on life. I'm just glad that (Pope) Francis couldn't find anybody better."

The archbishop made a commitment during the evening to restore the trust in his archdiocese, mainly by being an "ordinary member of this local church," he said.

"That is, someone who identifies with the people, demonstrates that he is comfortable with his people, enjoys being with his people and I will try to the best of my ability to continue doing that, to be available and immersed in the life of this local church," Archbishop Gregory said.

He also shared his hope to bring a "Laudato Si'" action plan to the archdiocese, similar to what he helped form in the Atlanta alongside the University of Georgia.

"I would like to see it and would be willing to adapt it to the Archdiocese of Washington," he said, adding that he would like to be in conversation with the local universities.

The archbishop also encouraged parish churches to be open for more times of eucharistic adoration, with the hope the Eucharist can bring healing to the local church.

Many young adults said they were encouraged by the archbishop's answers to their questions.

"It's a tough time to be Catholic," Nadia Barnett, a member at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, said, noting how she appreciated the archbishop's emphasis on the family of the church.

"His commitment to being the listener is refreshing," Barnett told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. "Especially here, at a bar."

Jaime Narbon, who has been in the area for the past seven years, said the archbishop "seemed to me to be a person that knows how to reach out to communities."

"He acknowledged the pain the church faces, acknowledging the fault and culpability that the clergy has had in the whole crisis," Narbon continued. "He didn't put away blame or sugarcoat it."

Narbon said he was thankful for the archbishop's answers to questions on social justice issues, particularly his emphasis on the dignity of the human person and being created in the image and likeness of God.

"But more importantly about the Eucharist as a source of healing," Narbon said. "The church stands by the teaching of the Real Presence. He encouraged priests, religious and laity to be engaged."

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Von Dohlen is a reporter at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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In Colombia, bishops, religious listen to Amazonians before synod

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 12:08pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Manuel Rueda

By Manuel Rueda

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Bishops, nuns, priests and residents of the Amazon basin met in Colombia's capital city in mid-August to prepare for a special Synod of Bishops for the Amazon this fall at the Vatican.

The meeting gave bishops who will be attending the synod a chance to develop proposals and listen to residents of the Amazon region, before they head to the Vatican in October for the gathering. Similar pre-synod meetings have been held recently in Peru and Brazil.

Pope Francis "wants to give visibility to the people of the Amazon and listen to their concerns, their teachings, their spirituality," said Bishop Joaquin Pinzon Guiza of Puerto Leguizamo-Solano, a vicariate deep in the world's largest rainforest. "As bishops we don't just want to take our thoughts to the synod, but also what lies within our peoples' hearts."

The synod, announced by Pope Francis in October 2017, will focus on how to improve the church's work in the vast but sparsely populated Amazon biome, which sprawls across nine South American countries and is largely inhabited by indigenous groups.

Approximately 110 bishops that lead church jurisdictions in the Amazon will attend as well as representatives of continental episcopal conferences and 32 observers, including indigenous leaders.

One of the topics that will be discussed is the ordination of married men as priests in far-flung villages where Catholics are currently struggling to get sacraments, and even celebrate Sunday Mass, due to the scarcity of qualified church personnel.

Some church leaders have criticized the idea of ordaining married men, saying it presents a "breach" with apostolic tradition. But many at the Colombia session seemed to favor the move.

In an early August interview in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis was asked whether the possibility of ordaining older, married men to minister in remote areas would be one of the main topics of discussion at the synod. The pope replied, "Absolutely not. It is simply one number" in the working document, a discussion guide that contains 146 items, outlining various topics.

Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, told participants in the Colombia meeting: "The Eucharist is at the center of our faith, and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both said that, without it, you cannot build the church. ... We need to reflect on how to help our brothers in these poor and abandoned communities to be full members of the Catholic Church."

Cardinal Barreto, vice president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, or REPAM, added that the synod "does not work as a congress" and explained that, ultimately, it is up to Pope Francis to decide if married men with a record of community service and good standing in their villages can be ordained.

He said the synod also will look at ways in which the Catholic Church can address social problems facing the Amazon region, like deforestation, destructive mining practices and threats against indigenous leaders.

"Our current economic system seeks profit, but forgets about caring" for the environment, Cardinal Barreto said. "It is a system that is killing people ... and indigenous people are especially vulnerable."

The presynod meeting was attended by dozens of indigenous leaders, government workers and members of civil society groups, who chimed in with their own ideas on how the church can help with environmental preservation.

Colombian President Ivan Duque, who attended the meeting's inaugural session, called on bishops to address drug trafficking and its impact on Amazonian communities. Duque said large tracts of the rainforest have been cleared by drug traffickers to plant coca leaves, the raw material for cocaine.

Cesar Melendez, director of the Colombian environmental authority, said bishops and priests can help by including environmental messages in sermons and in Catholic education.

"As a government agency, we can affect behavior change through sanctions and campaigns" Melendez said. "But the church has the ability to reach communities in a different way, by touching upon their spiritual side. I think people respect what is said at church."

Some members of the Catholic hierarchy have criticized the upcoming synod for trying to get involved in areas that have been traditionally beyond the church's reach.

German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller recently published an essay in which he accused the synod's working document of being heretical because it refers to the rainforest as a place of divine revelation. In the essay, published in June, Cardinal Brandmuller also criticized the synod for its plans to get involved in social and environmental affairs.

In Colombia, in contrast, indigenous groups have largely welcomed the synod process.

"The fact that the pope has included indigenous people in his agenda is already a victory for us," said Fanny Cuiro, an indigenous leader from Colombia's Huitoto tribe, who attended the presynod meeting.

"The heads of state in many of our countries often don't have time for indigenous people, so having the pope's attention fills us with hope."

Cuiro grew up in La Chorrera, a remote community in the Colombian Amazon where indigenous people were exploited for decades by rubber tappers, who forced indigenous people to work in that industry. When the rubber boom subsided, Capuchin missionaries arrived and set up a school, where they also took care of children whose parents were killed by rubber tappers.

But Cuiro said the missionaries frowned upon indigenous customs and beat children when they spoke their native language at school. She said that over the past three decades, the situation has improved, and members of the church have become much more supportive of indigenous ways.

"At first we had a difficult relationship with the church," she said. "But now the priests and nuns are friends. We trust them and we can speak with them about our plans for the future."

 

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Assumption feast invites people to look to heaven with hope, pope says

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mary's assumption into heaven calls people to put aside all those insignificant, mundane and petty concerns competing for their attention and instead be drawn to God and his greatness, Pope Francis said.

After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption Aug. 15, Pope Francis also blessed thousands of rosaries that will be given to Catholics in Syria "as a sign of my closeness, especially for families who have lost someone because of the war."

"Prayers made with faith are powerful. Let us keep praying for peace in the Middle East and the whole world," said the pope, who explained that Aid to the Church in Need spearheaded the initiative to send some 6,000 rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria.

He also expressed his concern and prayers for those affected by monsoons in South Asia.

A week of heavy rains triggered deadly landslides and flooding in India, where, according to government officials, nearly 300 people died and more than 1.2 million people were forced from their homes. Officials in Myanmar reported more than 50 people have died there.

"May the Lord give strength to those (affected) and those who help them," the pope said.

With the assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven, she is "like a mother who waits for her children to come back home." Knowing that she is there with God in heaven "gives us comfort and hope during our pilgrimage" on earth, he said.

The feast of the Assumption of Mary is an invitation to everyone, "especially for those who are afflicted by doubt and sadness, and live gazing downward," he said.

"Let us look on high," he said, where Mary awaits. "She loves us, she smiles at us and she comes to our aid with haste."

Just as every mother wants what is best for her children, "she tells us, 'You are precious in God's eyes; you were not made for measly worldly gratifications, but for the great joys of heaven,'" the pope said.

In life, it is important to seek what is truly great, "otherwise we get lost" chasing after so many trivial things, he said.

"Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God goes first because only he is great," he said.

"Instead, how often we live chasing after things that don't matter: prejudices, grudges, rivalries, jealousies, illusions, superfluous material goods. How much pettiness in life!"

But today, "Mary invites us to lift our gaze up to the great things that the Lord has done for her" and reminds people that the Lord also does great things in them.

"Let us be attracted by true beauty, let us not be swallowed up by the petty things of life, but let us choose the greatness of heaven," he said.

 

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Bishops reflect on abuse crisis on anniversary of Pa. grand jury report

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 4:51pm

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By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the anniversary of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing alleged abuse by clergy and other church workers over several decades in six dioceses, bishops in those dioceses reflected on what the past year has wrought and described how their dioceses have acted to help past victims and prevent future victims.

The grand jury report, released Aug. 14, 2018, was based on a monthslong investigation into alleged abuse in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg and Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It covered a 70-year period starting in 1947.

"It was devastating for me, as the pastor of this diocese, to see the ugly details of what had happened within the church," said a statement by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie on his diocese's website. "I knew that survivor/victims, as well as all Catholics and the entire community, would need time to grapple with the report. Their deep pain, anger and grief was understandable."

He added, "My apology is only one step in the long and complex process of healing. I know words mean very little without action. The Diocese of Erie has taken many important steps in the last year, and will continue on this path."

Bishop Persico said, "It is clear that bringing about healing and rebuilding trust is the work we are being called to do as church. It will take time, patience and fidelity, but the Lord will provide the grace we need. With every confidence in that grace, I look forward to the work that needs to be accomplished."

"In many instances, the wounds of 50, 60 or even 70 years ago have still not healed. The ripple effect continues to cause pain for survivors, their families and Catholics across the world," said a statement by Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg on his diocesan website.

"I cannot change the past. I cannot rewrite this awful chapter of our church's history. But I can try to help survivors, their families and our parishioners get through this time of suffering. I have spent nearly every day of my time as bishop solidifying our commitment to higher standards of accountability in the Diocese of Greensburg," he said.

"What I heard from our independent lay council and from countless individuals at the listening sessions, in dozens of letters and phone calls, emails and Facebook messages was this: Be accountable. Be transparent. Tell the truth," Bishop Malesic said.

"This year has been a time of grieving, of repentance for the harm done to people at the hands of priests who were expected to be trusted spiritual leaders. It has also been a time for the heart of the church to deepen its understanding of what victims/survivors have endured, and to reach out in news ways to help them heal spiritually," said an Aug. 14 statement from Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.

"Pittsburgh is a resilient region, with a unique spirit and sense of community. People draw together to see each other through hard times and come out stronger," he added. "Today, we look to the church of the future, the faith community we want today's children and their children experience.

"My faith is in God. But I also have faith in the church of Pittsburgh: faith that our community can move forward in unity and with hope, learning from the past, protecting the weakest among us, holding each other accountable and continuing to fulfill the mission that Jesus gave to us."

"While this past year was painful, it had moments of great strength and hope for the future," said a statement from Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown on the diocese's website. "I am very grateful to victim-survivors and to our dedicated laity, clergy, and religious order sisters and brothers, who have through their honest dialogue and constructive suggestions assisted me in my responsibilities to heal and fortify our Roman Catholic family of faith."

The diocese's first priority, he added, "is to keep children safe."

"In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children," said an Aug. 14 statement from Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg.

"We have and continue to take steps forward to support survivors and ensure these abuses never occur again," Bishop Gainer said.

"Nearly one year after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, we understand that shock, anger and disappointment are still seared in the minds of many people in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania," said an unattributed statement on the Diocese of Scranton's website.

"We continue to apologize to all survivors of sexual abuse for the sorrow and pain that they and their families have suffered. There is simply no place in civilized society for the abuse of children -- and certainly not within the church," the statement said.

"Since the release of the grand jury report in August 2018, the Diocese of Scranton has continued to build upon past efforts and has taken new steps to help restore trust in the church," it added. "We know that regaining that trust will take time and it will happen only when the faithful encounter behavior on the part of our clergy -- bishops, priests and deacons alike -- that warrants such trust."

 

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Update: Opinion on abortion's legality unchanged; some shifting within groups

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 12:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Toya Sarno Jordan, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While a survey of more than 54,000 Americans showed little change in their attitudes between 2014 and 2018 on the legality of abortion, researchers detected movement in many demographic groups, Catholics included.

Natalie Jackson, director of research for the Public Religion Research Institute, said the changes in attitude reflect the nation's political divisions.

According to the survey, which was released Aug. 13, 54% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 40% believe it should be illegal in most or all cases. "These numbers are essentially unchanged since 2014," the survey said; then 55% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 41% said it should be illegal in most or all cases.

In an Aug. 12 phone interview with Catholic News Service, the 1% change in the overall numbers is not statistically significant, but "everything that we are calling out as differences (from the 2014 survey) are statistically significant," Jackson said.

Catholics "mirror the rest of the country pretty closely, particularly white Catholics," she added. Fifty-three percent of white Catholics believe most or all abortions should be legal compared to 40% who say most or all should be illegal, Jackson noted, "so they're right in line" with the majority of Americans.

However, "when you look at Hispanic Catholics, you're looking at a different picture," she told CNS. "We pull out the Hispanic and Latino population, because they're a distinct group. They're divided heavily by religion and by place of birth. A healthy minority of Hispanics are evangelical, and the PRRI study looked at the attitudes of Hispanics born in the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America separately.

"The Hispanic Catholics are a good bit different from white and other nonwhite Catholics that look like the rest of the population as whole," Jackson said.

Other nonwhite Catholics support abortion's legality by a 55% to 37% margin, approximating the views of their white co-religionists. But a majority of Hispanics, 52%, believe abortion should be illegal in most or all instances, while 41% hold the opposite view.

"White evangelical Protestants and Hispanic Catholics also report becoming more opposed than supportive" of abortion over time, the study said.

Sixteen percent of Hispanic Catholics said they've become less supportive of abortion over time, while 11% said they'd become more supportive. Among white Catholics, 8% said they're now more supportive, but 9% report growing less supportive.

Among other nonwhite Catholics, 13% say they've grown more supportive of abortion, as opposed to 9% who say they're now less supportive.

The survey, according to Jackson, did not ask the time frame in which they had changed their views, or the circumstances behind the change. The interview subjects from 2014 are not the same from 2018.

Survey respondents were also asked whether they would vote only for candidates who share their views on abortion. Among those for whom it made a difference, the percentages favored Catholic demographic groups who believe more or all abortions should be illegal.

For white Catholics, the split was 27%-15%. For Hispanic Catholics, the difference was 30%-17%. For other nonwhite Catholics, the margin was 15%-14%.

The Catholic Church teaches abortion is morally wrong, upholding the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

"Solid majorities of all major religious groups in the U.S. support government-backed health insurance programs covering contraceptives," the survey results said. "Those numbers decline among all religious groups on support for covering abortion, with the considerable variance between only 22% support from white evangelical Protestants and 80% support among Unitarian Universalists."

Support for legal abortion was particularly strong in the northeastern United States -- New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and the six New England states -- each registering at least 61% support for legal abortion in most or all cases. White Catholics, meanwhile, have their strongest representation in the Northeast, with 20% of its white residents professing to be Catholic, according to PRRI.

"Although a few states such as Alabama and Missouri have recently passed laws that -- should they survive court challenges -- would make abortion illegal with virtually no exceptions," the survey said, "there is no state in which more than one-quarter of residents say abortion should be illegal in all cases."

The survey was conducted by phone between Jan. 3 and Dec. 30, 2018, among 54,357 respondents, 60% of them contacted via cellphone. At least 1,000 interviews were conducted each week. Interviewers asked to speak to the youngest adult living in the household. The margin of error for the total survey is 0.4 percentage points.

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Editor's Note: The full PRRI survey on abortion attitudes can be found at https://bit.ly/31tLOUa.

 

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Bishops of four Mississippi churches condemn ICE raid, roundup of workers

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 6:49pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/ICE handout via Reuters

By

JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- Mississippi's Catholic bishops joined with the state's Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran bishops in condemning the Trump administration's Aug. 7 raid on seven food processing plants in the state to round up workers in the country illegally.

Such raids "only serve to ... cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities," the religious leaders said in an Aug. 9 statement quoting Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from a July letter he sent to President Donald Trump.

"We, the undersigned, condemn such an approach, which, as he (Cardinal DiNardo) rightly states, 'has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the United States,'" they said.

Signing the statement were Catholic Bishops Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson and Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi; Episcopal Bishop Brian R. Seage of Mississippi; Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church; and Bishop H. Julian Gordy, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Southeastern Synod.

In what is the biggest sweep in a decade, ICE arrested and detained nearly 680 people. About 300 were released that evening; another 380 people remained in custody.

"These are not new laws, nor is the enforcement of them new," ICE's acting director, Matt Albence, said in a statement Aug. 7. "The arrests today were the result of a yearlong criminal investigation. And the arrests and warrants that were executed today are just another step in that investigation."

He said the employers could be charged with knowingly hiring workers who are in the county illegally and will be probed for tax, document and wage fraud, Albence said.

Investigators told The New York Post daily newspaper that six of the seven processing plants were "willfully and unlawfully employing illegal aliens"; many of the workers used false names and had fake Social Security numbers, according to the newspaper.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" Aug. 11, Albence acknowledged the timing of the sweep "was unfortunate," coming just days after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where the alleged shooter said he was targeting Hispanics.

In their joint statement, the Mississippi bishops wrote: "To say that immigration reform is a contentious and complex topic would be an understatement."

"As Christians, within any disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises. Our baptism, regardless of denomination calls us to unity in Jesus Christ," they said. "We are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches and for the common good of our local communities and nation."

They also said their churches stand ready to assist immigrants with their immediate needs following the ICE raid.

"We can stand in solidarity to provide solace, material assistance, and strength for the separated and traumatized children, parents and families," the bishops said. "Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation's immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis."

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Jackson was directly assisting families and also was accepting donations for its outreach at https://catholiccharitiesjackson.org.

In other reaction to the ICE sweep in Mississippi, Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, called the enforcement actions "outrageous" and "out of order in this land of freedom and welcome."

He called on the Trump administration to release all the workers.

"The United States government is becoming increasingly heavy-handed in its tactics and is becoming increasingly less recognizable to its citizens and all peoples around the world," Couch said. "Why has the current administration declared war on our neighbors who are helping to put food on our tables?"

He called the ICE raid "part of a malicious campaign to paint immigrants as criminals and rapists who have 'invaded' our country."

The workers who were arrest "had no criminal record," he said. "Many have lived and worked in the United States for several years. This action has created a catastrophe for the families and is spreading fear throughout the immigrant community. Children were left homeless and traumatized by having their parents torn from them. It is unknown if some children remain alone."

Instead of arresting "these hardworking people (who) have lived and worked in our country for many years, raised their families, and contributed their talents and resources to our communities," Couch added, they should be given a path to citizenship.

Other Catholic agencies offering help to the families in need in Mississippi after the arrest of their breadwinner include Chicago-based Catholic Extension, which announced Aug. 8 it would send help immediately but also would begin fundraising through its "Holy Family Fund," https://bit.ly/2ZEO7mK.

Catholic Extension is the leading national supporter of missionary work in poor and remote parts of the United States. The Jackson Diocese, one of the poorest in the country, has long been supported by the organization, including some of it parishes in towns where the raids took place.

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