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Dialogue dilemma: Vatican's China overture sparks controversy

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 9:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican efforts to honor those who suffer and die for their faith while trying to negotiate with oppressive regimes to expand religious freedom have been fraught with criticism and real pain for more than 50 years.

For example, whether Vatican diplomatic efforts during the Cold War helped ensure the survival of the Catholic Church behind the Iron Curtain or amounted to appeasing evil is still a subject of scholarly debate.

But, unfortunately, the topic is not just a matter of history.

A similar tension is being played out in China, where the Vatican is engaged in dialogue with the communist government in an attempt to move, however slowly, toward a situation in which all the Catholic bishops would be in full communion with Rome and all Catholics would recognize each other as members of the same church.

But some people who have given up their freedom to remain faithful to the pope and some who have observed the resulting suffering see the Vatican's dialogue with the Chinese government as a betrayal.

One of the loudest critics of the Vatican's current engagement with the Chinese government is Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired archbishop of Hong Kong.

In a blog posted on his Facebook page Jan. 29, he asked rhetorically, "Is it not good to try to find mutual ground to bridge the decades-long divide between the Vatican and China?" And then he responded, "But can there be anything really 'mutual' with a totalitarian regime? Either you surrender or you accept persecution, but remaining faithful to yourself."

While Cardinal Zen acknowledged that some Catholics who have cooperated with the government-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association did so "not by their own free will, but under heavy pressure," he also said others are "willing renegades" who, in effect, are in schism.

For decades, the communist government has insisted on naming bishops for Chinese dioceses; for the Catholic Church, that is the prerogative of the pope, since unity with the pope is the guarantee of unity with the church.

But the Vatican's current policy not only involves dialogue with the Chinese government to find agreement on the appointment of bishops and pry open even some tiny space for religious freedom, it also is focused on healing relations among Chinese Catholics.

The importance of uniting Chinese Catholics was explained by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 letter to Catholics in China.

The division created by cooperating or refusing to cooperate with the patriotic association, Pope Benedict wrote, "is a situation primarily dependent on factors external to the church, but it has seriously conditioned her progress, giving rise also to suspicions, mutual accusations and recriminations, and it continues to be a weakness in the church that causes concern."

It is in building a "communion of love that the church appears as 'sacrament,' as the 'sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the human race,'" Pope Benedict wrote. "Avoiding judgments and mutual condemnations" is the only way to promote unity in a situation where individuals, particularly bishops, must decide the extent to which they can cooperate with the government for the good of their communities.

Criticism of the Vatican's Cold War outreach to Soviet-bloc nations was focused on Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, seen as the project's chief architect. A full-time Vatican diplomat for decades, he served as Vatican secretary of state from 1979 to 1990.

In a similar way, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current secretary of state, is at the center of discussion over the current attempt to dialogue with the Chinese government.

In his Jan. 29 Facebook post, Cardinal Zen seemed to imply that Pope Francis was not fully informed of Cardinal Parolin's activities and approach. The Vatican press office swiftly issued a denial.

Cardinal Parolin himself responded in an interview published Jan. 31 with the Italian newspaper La Stampa and its Vatican Insider website.

"In China, perhaps more than elsewhere, Catholics have been able to preserve, despite many difficulties and sufferings, the authentic deposit of faith, keeping firmly the bond of hierarchical communion between the bishops and the successor of Peter as a visible guarantee of faith itself," the cardinal said. "In fact, communion between the bishop of Rome and all Catholic bishops touches the heart of the church's unity: It is not a private matter between the pope and the Chinese bishops or between the Apostolic See and civil authorities."

But in China, he said, the unity of the church also is threatened by judgments Chinese Catholics make about each other based on the level of their acceptance of government involvement in the life of the community.

Cardinal Parolin said the Vatican wants to overcome the "perennial conflict between opposing principles and structures" by "finding realistic pastoral solutions that allow Catholics to live their faith and to continue together the work of evangelization in the specific Chinese context."

"The hope is that, when God wills it, we won't have to speak of 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' bishops, 'clandestine' and 'official' bishops in the church in China," he said, but the focus will be on all Chinese Catholics "learning the language of collaboration and communion again."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Trump immigration plan's impact on family 'deeply troubling,' says bishop

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 4:50pm

IMAGE: REUTERS

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee said Jan. 30 that the Catholic bishops welcomed the Trump administration's proposal to give "Dreamers" a path to citizenship, but at the same time, they are "deeply troubled" about the plan's "impact on family unity."

On Jan. 26, the White House released a proposal offering a path to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million of the so-called Dreamers and asking for a $25 billion investment in a border wall and other security measures. The plan also calls for an end to the diversity visa program, popularly known as the "visa lottery," and also a program that grants visa preferences to relatives of U.S. citizens or residents.

The administration said its focus for immigration policy is to keep the "nuclear family" intact.

"We welcome the administration's proposal to include a path to citizenship for Dreamers. However, the proposed cuts to family immigration and elimination of protections to unaccompanied children are deeply troubling," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.

He made the comments in a statement released ahead of President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, to be delivered at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Immigration and border security were among the topics Trump was expected to address in the speech, in addition to the economy, tax reform and the country's infrastructure needs.

"Family immigration is part of the bedrock of our country and of our church," Bishop Vasquez said. "Pope Francis states: 'The family is the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation.' Upholding and protecting the family unit, regardless of its national origins, is vital to our faith."

In September, Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, and he called on Congress to pass a measure to preserve the program. The DACA recipients are called Dreamers, who are immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. Under DACA, they are protected from deportation, but they have to apply to the program and meet certain criteria.

DACA ends March 5, unless Congress passes a bill to keep the almost 6-year-old program in place.

"In searching for a solution for Dreamers, we must not turn our backs on the vulnerable," Bishop Vasquez said in his statement. "We should not, for example, barter the well-being of unaccompanied children for the well-being of the Dreamers. We know them all to be children of God who need our compassion and mercy.

The U.S. bishops "urge a bipartisan solution forward that is narrowly tailored" to keep DACA in place, the bishop said. "Time is of the essence. Every day we experience the human consequences of delayed action in the form of young people losing their livelihood and their hope.

"As pastors and leaders of the church, we see this fear and sadness in our parishes and as such, continue to call for immediate action," Bishop Vasquez added. "Elected officials must show leadership to quickly enact legislation that provides for our security and is humane, proportionate and just."

The Trump administration's proposal to provide a path to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million Dreamers includes those currently covered by the program and more than 1 million who meet the DACA criteria but have not signed up.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Vatican spokesman insists pope, aides are united on approach to China

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 10:25am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics who have accused top members of the Roman Curia of making overtures to China's communist government without the knowledge of Pope Francis are "fostering confusion and controversy," said the director of the Vatican press office.

The rumors of division between the pope and his top aides made headlines in late January after Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired archbishop of Hong Kong, met personally with Pope Francis to discuss his opposition to encouraging two bishops to retire so they could be replaced by two bishops approved by the government, but whose status with the Vatican has been troubled.

"In spite of the danger of being accused of breach of confidentiality," Cardinal Zen wrote on a Facebook post Jan. 29, he had decided "to tell you what His Holiness said: 'Yes, I told them (his collaborators in the Holy See) not to create another Mindszenty case!'"

The late Hungarian Cardinal Josef Mindszenty was arrested by communist authorities in 1948 and sentenced to life in prison. He was freed during the 1956 uprising, but when the uprising failed, he took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. Although he could not exercise his ministry, the cardinal's presence in the country was a nuisance to the communist government.

In the interest of helping negotiations, Blessed Paul VI asked the cardinal to leave Hungary, and in 1972 the primate moved to Austria, although he retained his title as archbishop and primate of Hungary. After further negotiations with the government, Blessed Paul declared the See of Esztergom vacant in 1974, opening the way to normalization of relations between church and state. Cardinal Mindszenty died the following year.

Cardinal Zen said, "I was there in the presence of the Holy Father representing my suffering brothers in China," so Pope Francis' reference to Cardinal Mindszenty "should be rightly understood as of consolation and encouragement more for them than for me."

But Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said any "presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China" were erroneous.

Burke did not, however, make any comment regarding the accuracy or inaccuracy of reports about the proposed transfer of bishops in China.

"The pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China, which he follows with special attention," Burke said. "It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the church, thus fostering confusion and controversy."

Cardinal Zen said he traveled to the Vatican in January to ensure that Pope Francis personally received letters on the situation in China, particularly regarding the case of two "legitimate bishops" -- those recognized by the Vatican -- "being asked by the 'Holy See' to resign and make place for illegitimate, even explicitly excommunicated, 'bishops.'"

The problem, Cardinal Zen wrote on Facebook, "is not the resignation of the legitimate bishops, but the request to make place for the illegitimate and even excommunicated ones."

According to ucanews.com, Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, 88, of Shantou and Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin, 59, of Mindong were asked to step down. Both are recognized as bishops by the Vatican. Bishop Zhuang was to be succeeded by Bishop Huang Bingzhang, 51, of Shantou, who had been excommunicated. Bishop Guo was to be succeeded by Bishop Zhan Silu, 57, of Mindong, who was ordained illicitly but is recognized by the government.

In the past, Cardinal Zen said, the popes and Vatican have avoided using the word "schism" to describe those who participated in the life of the government-approved Catholic community because they knew many of the people "were not there by their own free will, but under heavy pressure."

If the move to replace the bishops goes forward, Cardinal Zen said, "the Vatican would be giving the blessing" to "the new strengthened schismatic church."

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a long letter to Chinese Catholics. Among other things, it established new guidelines to favor cooperation between clandestine Catholic communities and those officially registered with the government, in an effort to promote church unity.

It opened the door to registration with the government by bishops and Catholic communities, as long as this did not compromise principles of the faith and church communion. The "clandestine condition" is not normal or desirable for the church, it said.

For years, the Vatican has worked privately with Chinese church officials, and many bishops who were ordained illicitly secretly reconciled with the Vatican. The 2007 letter asked those bishops to make that fact clear to the faithful.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Hispanic bishops' visit gives them firsthand look at Holy Land reality

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Debbie Hill

By Judith Sudilovsky

BEIT SAHOUR, West Bank (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, remembers the smell of woodworking and the feel of wood in his hands from when he was a child in his family furniture factory in Celaya, Mexico.

"Here they are working with olive wood; in Mexico we worked with cedar. We see the connection with our brothers here," Bishop Rodriguez said as he walked through the small family-run Odeh Factory, which produces traditional olive wood statues and souvenirs to sell to pilgrims and tourists. "I see the effort that is needed, and the talent, (to do this work) as a way to support and feed their families. I can see this is the work of Christians. I don't have to be told that, you can see it in their work."

Bishop Rodriguez was among 10 bishops who participated in the Jan. 18-27 USCCB Hispanic Bishops' Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. They met with local Christians as well as with other Palestinians and Israelis to get a firsthand understanding of the situation and to advocate for "bridges not walls." Many bishops said the pilgrimage gave them a better understanding of the Palestinian Christian reality in the Holy Land and gave them the opportunity to express their solidarity with the community, which makes up less than 2 percent of the Palestinian population.

On Jan. 27, Catholic Relief Services hosted the bishops in the traditionally Christian village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, for a tour of the CRS Fair Trade Partner Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society, and a visit to one of the artisan workshops CRS recently helped renovate to improve working conditions.

"It has given me a special understanding of the reason why the number of Christians in the Holy Land is decreasing and the difficulty of living here because of the occupation," said Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida. "While I have felt a great sadness at their situation, I have also marveled at the resilience of the Holy Family Parish in Gaza."

Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland described Gaza with its 2.3 million people as a "virtual human prison," where residents cannot leave and others cannot enter. While there is a political aspect to the situation, the humanitarian side of it cannot be ignored, he said.

"People have the right to freedom of movement, right to life. I would hope that somehow, someday this will get resolved," he said. "Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have their narrative, but (the situation must be dealt with) in a way which respects the dignity of the human person."

He said although the students of Bethlehem University with whom they spoke gave him hope as they expressed desire for peace, their prospects for gainful employment were minimal, and many young Christian Palestinians emigrate because of lack of work.

"We can't judge one side over the other but ... justice and peace must reign between these two communities living here," said Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas of Chicago. "This is possible only if each one recognizes the dignity of the other."

"We have been exposed more to the reality of life here and have heard ... of the fear of Israelis near the Gaza border," said Bishop Perez. "I could relate to the fear of being shot at. People have died. That was as disturbing as seeing the limitation of movement of people from Gaza."

"There have been situations in the world where, in their moments, people felt there was no hope and there was nothing to be done," he added. "But history has shown through God's grace and intervention and goodness of people situations have changed."

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Follow Sudilovsky on Twitter: @jsudireports.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

DACA youth worry immigration deal for them will unleash fear for others

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 4:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Young adults waiting to hear whether lawmakers will grant them the opportunity to stay in the country legally said they don't want Congress to offer an immigration deal that will help them but in turn produce fear and mass deportation among their parents and neighbors who are in the country illegally.

"What good is it for me to have a pathway to citizenship if I can't have my parents, my friends, my loved ones ' not with me? For us, family is the core of everything. I can't imagine being in the U.S. without them," said Laura Peniche, of Colorado, who benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which in 2012 began offering temporary reprieve from deportation and some legal documentation to youth brought to the country illegally as children, as long as they met certain criteria.

Some 800,000 benefited from the program created by executive order by then-U.S. President Barack Obama, a policy rescinded in September by President Donald Trump, who then asked lawmakers to find a permanent solution before the program ends March 5.

Peniche and other DACA recipients from around the county took part in a Jan. 25 telephone briefing sponsored by the PICO National Network, a coalition of faith-based groups.

They spoke of their fears, of frustration with lawmakers, of their peers' trauma and depression, and the uncertainty of what they'll do if Congress fails to pass any legislation to offer them relief when the program expires. But their biggest worry is over what lawmakers will come up with, who will be sacrificed, they say, as Republicans and Democrats bargain.

The Trump administration proposed Jan. 25 a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young immigrants who entered the country without legal permission. In turn, the administration asked for $25 billion for border security and immigration enforcement, an end to the diversity or lottery visa program, and severely curtailing family visas.

Some DACA recipients expressed concerns that they were being used as pawns and, in effect, are being asked to choose between citizenship and being responsible for heavy militarization of the border, as well as the safety of their parents, extended family and neighbors who will be at greater risk of being removed from the country if more immigration agents are deployed.

"Nobody should be given that option," said Carlos Corral, a DACA recipient from New Mexico, who said abundant immigration checkpoints in his region make him worry that the most average of errands could separate him from his mother, who is not in the country legally.

"I'm in constant fear that Mom will one day decide to go shopping to the grocery store and run into one of those checkpoints and that'll be it. I'll lose her, just like that," Corral said. "It does happen and it's our reality ' that's not a way of life. I feel like we're in a cage."

The building of a bigger wall along the border with Mexico and the further militarization of the border will affect the way family, friends and communities live, he said. For the young adults to be used as bargaining chips in a deal that would make the lives of others even more difficult is abhorrent, he said.  

"We shouldn't be pushed to choose freedom over family because it's immoral. Nothing is more valuable than our family," Corral said.

Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies in New York, said the White House proposal goes against Catholic values because it harms the family and goes against church teaching that calls on Christians to welcome the stranger.

"The White House proposal decimates the family immigration system and removes protections from asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children, among other harsh provisions," Appleby told Catholic News Service. "The bishops and the Catholic community should be alarmed with the proposal, as it undermines core Catholic values of family unity and the protection of persons from persecution."

There already is much damage done, said Peniche, and she sees the toll stress has taken in other DACA recipients dealing with depression over the uncertainty, but also in family members uncertain about a future with their family in the U.S.

"I was having a hard time being a lifeline for my mom when she kept talking about feeling less valuable than everybody else, and seeing how she lost hope for this country, for life in general, due to the system that's surrounding us," she said. "We've been suffering in silence for too long and that's killing our community."

Some expressed disappointment with Democrats in Congress and the message they sent out during budget negotiations with Republicans that led to a brief government shutdown in January, which was in part spurred by immigration dealings.

Others called on supporters to avoid patronizing companies and businesses that support mass deportation or anti-immigrant policies. They also said there should only be one thing that's up for negotiation -- and it's not the welfare of families and friends. It's the taxes the government has collected over the years from immigrants in the country illegally and for which these immigrants have never claimed in tax refunds. The country can keep that and in exchange allow them to live in peace, they said.

DACA recipient Lorena Lara, an organizer with the grass-roots organization Faith in the Valley in California, said family should not be negotiated under any circumstance and that there should be no negotiation with a system that seeks to separate human beings from their loved ones.

"We need to fight to change that system," she said.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Lord's Prayer: Germans stick with wording; Italians to change at Mass

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 11:03am

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- After special study, the German bishops' conference decided to stick with the traditional wording in the Lord's Prayer while the Italian bishops' conference has decided to change the words of the prayer in their translation of the Roman Missal.

The decisions come after the French bishops decided that beginning early December last year, French Catholics would change the line, "Lead us not into temptation," to the equivalent of "do not let us enter into temptation."

French-speaking Catholics in Benin and Belgium began using the new translation at Pentecost last June. The common Spanish translation already is "no nos dejes caer en la tentacion" or "do not let us fall into temptation."

The issue got wide attention after Pope Francis discussed the line, "And lead us not into temptation," with Father Marco Pozza, a Catholic prison chaplain, Dec. 6, as part of a television series on the Lord's Prayer.

Pope Francis said the Italian and English translations of the "Our Father" can give believers the wrong impression that God can and does lead people into temptation. He told Father Pozza, "I'm the one who falls. But it's not (God) who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall. No, a father does not do this. A father helps us up immediately."

"The one who leads us into temptation is Satan," the pope said. "That's Satan's job."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its discussion of the Lord's Prayer, says, "Our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to 'lead' us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: The Greek means both 'do not allow us to enter into temptation' and 'do not let us yield to temptation.'"

The New American Bible, revised edition, is the basis for the Lectionary used at English-language Masses in the United States; the petition from the Lord's Prayer in Matthew and Luke is translated as: "do not subject us to the final test."

The German bishops' conference announced Jan. 25 that after in-depth study, it would keep the line, "And lead us not into temptation," unchanged, particularly to use the same wording as most Catholics and most other Christian denominations. But, it added, it would like to see more done in offering the faithful a clear and fuller explanation and discussion of the prayer's meaning.

The line in the prayer, the bishops' committee said, is not about persuading God to not tempt the faithful, but rather it is a recognition of one's own weakness and one's trust in God's guidance -- that he does not lead people to make the wrong choice.

However, when the Italian bishops' conference adopted a new translation of the Bible in 2008, they chose "do not abandon us in temptation" for the Lord's Prayer both in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. The Lectionary also contains the change and received Vatican approval.

The conference has now called for an extraordinary assembly of bishops to meet Nov. 12-14 to discuss and approve the third edition of the missal, which would use the changed wording of the Lord's Prayer for Mass and other liturgical rites.

Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence, a noted biblicist, said study of the prayer had begun in 1988. The problem, he told the newspaper Avvenire Dec. 10, was the Italian verb ("indurre") that had been used "is not equivalent to the Latin 'inducere' or the Greek."

The Latin and Greek terms suggest a form of concession -- letting something enter, he said, while the Italian verb "is coercive," with English equivalents such as: "induce," "inspire" or "persuade."

Standard versions of the prayer are translated from the Latin, which was translated from the New Testament in Greek.

Both Cardinal Betori and the German bishops said they were pleased Pope Francis' comments brought wider attention to the prayer and greater discussion of its meaning.

It was important to "seize the opportunity" and offer better explanations, the German conference wrote.

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Brownback OK'd as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 12:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Senate has confirmed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Catholic, to be the new U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in the U.S. Department of State.

Nominated to the post in July by President Donald Trump, Brownback was confirmed Jan. 24. The Senate vote was 49-49 and Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote. On Jan. 25, Brownback announced he will resign the office of governor Jan. 31.

"It has been a great honor to serve Kansans as their governor since 2011 and prior to that as W.S. senator and congressman," Brownback wrote in a letter to Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach in Topeka. "As a lifelong Kansan, I have been privileged to serve and represent my fellow citizens for most of my adult life."

He said he looks forward to continuing his public service in a new role. "Wherever my duties may take me, my Kansas values and experience will always travel with me," he said.

Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, welcomed the Senate's confirmation of the Republican governor for the post.

"Ambassador Brownback's deep experience, and his commitment to religious freedom for all people, will help ensure American leadership in the vital work of reducing global religious persecution," Farr said in a statement. "We believe he will make U.S. religious freedom policy an integral part of America's national security strategy."

He noted "a host of daunting challenges and threats to stability and security" that will face the new ambassador.

"Rising levels of global religious persecution are being fueled by violent religious extremism, oppressive government policies, and aggressively anti-religious secularism," Farr stated. "Millions are suffering terrible depredations as a result. Nations and economies are being destabilized by the absence of religious freedom."

He called Brownback "the right choice to lead U.S. policy in addressing this global crisis."

"In his 16 years as a congressman and U.S. senator, Brownback built a reputation as a steadfast advocate for religious freedom," he said. "He was one of the key supporters of the landmark International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which established in law the promotion of religious freedom as an element of U.S. foreign policy. The act also created the ambassadorship Brownback now holds."

Brownback, 62, was elected the 46th governor of Kansas in November 2010 and took office in January 2011. He won re-election in November 2016. Before that, he served in the U.S. Senate after winning a special election in 1996 for the seat previously held by Bob Dole, who was the Republican presidential candidate that year.

Brownback won the following two regular elections for Senate, serving until 2011. He ran for U.S. president in 2008 but ended his campaign before the primaries; he endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who eventually won the GOP presidential nomination.

As a senator, Brownback was a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, which he at one time chaired.

The Helsinki Commission monitors compliance with international agreements reached in cooperation with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In 2000, Brownback and Congressman Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, led the effort to enact the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law in October 2000.

Before serving in the Senate, Brownback was elected to the U.S. House in 1994. Prior to that he was secretary of the Kansas Board of Agriculture; named to the post in 1986, he was the youngest secretary in state history.

The current chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, praised the choice of Brownback, saying he is "exactly the man we need out there, everywhere, doing this work, right now" on religious freedom issues.

"Religious freedom is the first freedom, and defending the persecuted is vital to our national identity and national security," he said in a statement. "Radical Islamist terrorists target and kill Christians and people of other faiths to advance their evil ideology, recruiting, and propaganda. A robust defense of religious freedom is vital to defeating them."

Brownback, and his wife, Mary, have been married for over 30 years. He calls his wife "the glue that holds our family together." The Brownbacks have five children -- Abby, Andy, Liz, Mark and Jenna.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Update: USCCB president calls for prayer after pair of school shootings

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 11:16am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Harrison McClary, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston called for prayers for the victims killed and injured in a pair of school shootings in Kentucky and Texas.

In a statement released Jan. 23 after the second shooting in two days, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Christians experience the pain of the family and friends of the victims "as if it were our own."

"We pray for eternal rest for those who have died. Let us pray, too, for the families, teachers and friends who must now endure the suffering of losing those dearest to them," the cardinal said.

"We stand in solidarity with the children who face a long road of recover from serious injuries. May they find comfort in a loving community," he said.

He also called for people to reach out "in compassion to assist the grieving."

Police said a 15-year-old male student was arrested at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, Jan. 23 after two people died and 18 were injured after a shooter opened fire before classes began.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said the teenager faced murder and attempted murder charges.

The slain victims were a boy and a girl, both 15, state police said. The girl died at the scene and the boy died at a hospital.

A day earlier in Italy, Texas, police arrested a 16-year-old high school student in connection with a shooting that left a 15-year-old girl injured.

Police in the community about 50 miles south of Dallas, said the incident occurred in the Italy High School cafeteria. The girl was airlifted to a hospital in Dallas. Police did not release any other information about the incident.

In other reaction, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said that "yet again, we are brought to our knees in prayer and pain as we consider the horrors of gun violence."

He noted that in both Texas and Kentucky, children were the victims, "struck down apparently by other children -- limitless potential cut short, families seized by grief." He offered prayers for the shooting victims at both schools and their families and for those shot "on the streets of our cities."

"We used to call these heinous acts 'unimaginable," the cardinal said in a Jan. 23 statement. "But we don't need to imagine them anymore, because they happen every single day in America. And why? ... Because we lack a health care system and culture that adequately support those who need psychological treatment."

He called it "all too easy" in the United States "to carry out mass shootings with high-powered artillery designed to kill human beings."

"Every day we fail to hold our elected officials accountable for our nation's weak gun-safety laws, we fail our children and condemn them to a life marked by violence that could have been prevented," Cardinal Cupich said. "How many children have to die before we find the political will to do something about it?"

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Don't compromise on protecting minors from abuse, pope says

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 9:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he told the bishops and priests of Chile to be uncompromising when it comes to protecting minors from sexual abuse and to trust that God will purify and renew his church during this time of trial.

Problems and conflicts must never be swept under the rug, he also said, because they can be resolved only through openness and dialogue.

At his weekly general audience Jan. 24 in St. Peter's Square, the pope told an estimated 15,000 pilgrims and visitors about his Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru.

Thanking leaders, organizers and volunteers for all their hard work and generosity in contributing to a trip where "everything went well," the pope also recognized the presence of protesters.

The protests made the theme of his visit to Chile, "I Give You My Peace," even more relevant and timely, he said, as these words Jesus spoke to his disciples explain how he is the one and only source of peace for those who trust in him.

Some of the more "intense" moments of the trip, he said, were meetings with Chile's priests, religious and bishops.

Those encounters were made "even more fruitful by the shared suffering over some of the wounds that afflict the church" there, he said. The pope had earlier asked forgiveness from those who were sexually abused by priests, but stood firm with his decision in 2015 to give a diocese to Bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse perpetrated by Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor.

During his general audience at the Vatican, the pope said he emphasized to his brother bishops and priests that they must "reject every compromise with the sexual abuse of minors and, at the same time, trust in God, who through this difficult trial, purifies and renews his ministers."

After detailing other highlights of the trip, he emphasized the importance of never ignoring or hiding problems or conflicts because handling them that way only makes things worse.

"Conflicts that come to light are talked about, are resolved through dialogue. Think about the small conflicts that you certainly have at home. Don't hide them," he said, instead, find the right moment to talk things through.

When he talked about visiting a women's prison in Santiago, he urged all nations to make sure their incarceration practices always included programs for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners. Without that glimmer of hope of someday being welcomed back into society, "prison is a torture without end."

He also mentioned how he told leaders in Peru to do all they could to address the social and environmental challenges there as well as the problem of corruption.

Looking up from his text at those in St. Peter's Square, the pope said, "I don't know if you here have ever heard talk about corruption?" As people applauded, he acknowledged how corruption exists "here, too," not just in other countries.

Corruption, he said, "is more dangerous than the flu." It lodges itself in the heart, destroying it, he said, as he urged everyone to fight this problem.

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Sharing 'fake news' makes one an accomplice in evil, pope says

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 6:00am

IMAGE: CNS illustration/Joanna Kohorst

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People have a responsibility to check the source of what they share on social media to ensure it is not "fake news" designed to further prejudices or increase fear, Pope Francis said.

Fake news grabs people's attention "by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration," Pope Francis wrote in his message for World Communications Day 2018.

The message is a reflection on the theme, "'The truth will set you free.' Fake news and journalism for peace." World Communications Day will be celebrated May 13 at the Vatican and in most dioceses. The papal message was released at the Vatican Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.

Fake news is so effective, he said, because it mimics real news but uses "non-existent or distorted data" to deceive and manipulate.

The first to employ the fake-news tactic was the serpent in the Garden of Eden who convinced Eve she would not die by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, he said. The Bible story shows that "there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences."

Pope Francis praised educators who teach young people how to read and question the news and the information they see presented on social media. He encouraged efforts to develop regulations to counter fake news and he praised tech and media companies for trying to improve ways to verify "the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles."

But, he insisted, individuals always will have the final responsibility for discerning what is real news and what is helpful to share on social media.

"We need to unmask what could be called the 'snake tactics' used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place" like the serpent in the Garden of Eden did.

The snake's power grows as people limit their sources of information to one outlet, especially if that outlet is a social media platform whose algorithms are based on providing users with more information like they have just read, the pope said.

"Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue," he wrote.

People who repost or retweet such false information, the pope said, become "unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas."

One way to know if something should be checked and not be shared, he said, is if it "discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict."

In the modern world, with the rapid and viral spread of news and information -- both real and fake -- lives and souls are at stake, he said, because the "father of lies" is the devil.

True discernment, the pope said, means examining information and keeping what promotes communion and goodness, while rejecting whatever "tends to isolate, divide, and oppose."

"We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results," Pope Francis wrote.

Journalists, he said, have a special responsibility in the modern world amid the media "feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop."

Pope Francis asked media professions to promote "a journalism of peace," which does not mean ignoring problems or being saccharine. It means "a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans and sensational headlines."

A journalism of peace is at the service of all people, "especially those -- and they are the majority in our world -- who have no voice," he said. It is "a journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence."

Pope Francis ended his message with his own adaptation of the "Prayer of St. Francis" for both those who report the news and those who read or watch it.

"Where there is shouting, let us practice listening," the prayer said. "Where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity."

"Where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust," it continued. "Where there is hostility, let us bring respect; where there is falsehood, let us bring truth."

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Editors: The text of the pope's message in English can be found here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20180124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html

The text in Spanish is here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20180124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html

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Bishops consider plans to revitalize appeal of a Catholic education

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:36pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic bishops are looking to "transform" Catholic schools in response to decades of declining enrollment that has forced hundreds of schools to close since 2005.

The effort, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Catholic Education, encompasses a wide-ranging look at issues facing Catholic schools and a renewed effort to help parents better understand that the spiritual development of a child goes hand in hand with academic achievement.

"The concern of the bishops is that Catholic schools are valuable, Catholic schools transform lives," said Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio. "It's not only talking about academics. It's not only a matter of discipline, but it's a matter of preparing the whole person for college and for heaven."

In an interview with Catholic News Service following a Jan. 17-18 meeting at USCCB headquarters that included 30 bishops, educators and representatives of Catholic education organizations, Bishop Murry said the goal is to ensure that Catholic schools will remain a vibrant and important part of family and church life.

Sponsored by the University of Notre Dame, the meeting was the sixth in a series since 2009 looking at the future of Catholic education.

Forming the backdrop are sobering statistics on school closings and declining enrollment.

Figures from the National Catholic Educational Association show 1,393 Catholic school closings or consolidations from 2007 to 2017 compared with 287 school openings. During the same period, enrollment declined by 19 percent to less than 1.9 million students. Enrollment peaked in 1965 at more than 5.2 million students.

The bishops and the educators focused on four trends during the meeting:

-- The changing relationship across Catholic school leadership including those between bishop and pastors, pastors and principals, and principals and teachers.

-- The evolving landscape of Catholic school governance as more advisory boards of lay leaders take shape.

-- Expanding access to Catholic schools through educational choice.

-- Charter school expansion.

Also underlying the bishops' concerns are shifting demographics, tuition costs and changes in the practice of the faith, all of which influence whether parents decide to enroll their children in Catholic schools.

Bishop Murry said the simple message that Catholic schools transform lives must become the church's basic refrain.

"Many parents don't see particular value in the religious formation that occurs in a Catholic school," Bishop Murry said. "So how can we challenge some of those ideas so people come to a better understanding of why it is important to develop the entire person?"

Pastors, he explained, are diligently working to bring parents into parish schools to see firsthand the advantages a Catholic education has in developing the "whole person."

"Pastors with parishes with schools, pastors with parishes without schools, parish school of religion directors have been working together to say it is a genuine value for the future to train the whole person, not just the mind or the body -- the mind academically, the body in sports -- but also to develop the spiritual life," the bishop told CNS.

"Unfortunately, we live in a very secular society. We are blessed that we're not as secular as many of the countries in Europe. But we are a very secular society, and fewer and fewer people see the value of that spiritual development. I think that becomes the task of evangelization. Just programs to get people into church are not enough. We have to change hearts.

"It's not simply a matter of an intellectual decision. It's a realization that I want the very best for my son or my daughter. And part of the best is that that child is eventually in heaven," he said.

Bishop Murry, 69, speaks from experience. His parents, practicing Methodists at the time, took the unusual step of enrolling him in St. Bartholomew School in Camden, New Jersey, midway through his third-grade school year.

He recalled that he "didn't do well in public school" and that the atmosphere at St. Bartholomew turned his life around.

He credited Sister Mary Pauline, a member of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the order founded by St. Katharine Drexel of nearby Philadelphia, for her patience and caring attitude throughout third and fourth grade.

"It was Catholic school that helped me to settle down and to focus," Bishop Murry said.

As for rising tuition, Bishop Murry suggested two approaches. The first involves helping parents realize that 27 states and the District of Columbia have legislation providing financial assistance to parents who choose private or faith-based schools.

The second requires school leaders and clergy "to be courageous and undaunted in going to donors, people whose lives have been positively affected by Catholic schools and have been blessed with economic security ... and ask them to give back to Catholic schools," he said.

"(We have) to get them involved, to not be afraid to talk to them and say we need your help in maintaining these schools," Bishop Murry added.

The church also is contending with the growth of charter schools. While publicly funded, charters schools are privately run. They offer parents an alternative to traditional public education.

However, oversight of charter schools is spotty and at time lax. Numerous charter schools nationwide have been found to be in disrepair, offer inadequate instructional resources or a narrow curriculum, and lack transparency and public accountability. And at some schools, student performance has been lower than at public schools in the same community.

Bishop Murry said that even the most successful charter schools are not a substitute for Catholic schools, "where the whole atmosphere is an atmosphere of living faith."

The work ahead is expected to take time to unfold. Bishop Murry said. He hopes that regional or statewide gatherings of bishops will undertake the question of transforming Catholic schools. He also said another national gathering to discuss progress would be beneficial.

"It was an excellent meeting," he said of two-day gathering. "The conversation was very, very good, very frank, and, I think, very helpful in terms of mapping out a plan to go forward into the future in revitalizing our schools."

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Follows Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Smoke but no fire on bus during papal visit

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:13pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Paul Haring

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Where there is smoke, there is normally fire -- but not always.

Journalists covering Pope Francis' visit in Santiago, Chile, added another tale Jan. 16 to their oral history of papal-trip misadventures.

As a large tour bus carrying dozens of journalists passed under a bridge that was too low, the sound of breaking metal and crunching plastic filled the air. The slow-moving bus stopped. Then it went forward again, and more of the same terrible sounds were heard from the roof of the bus.

Most of the journalists, photographers and TV crews working on the bus were so tired after covering six events that they didn't react immediately.

Then came the smoke, which quickly began to fill the bus. "Open the door," shouted Salvatore Scolozzi, press handler with the Vatican Press Office. Within seconds, everyone had evacuated the bus.

Journalists witnessed police carrying off the road large pieces of debris that previously were part of the roof of the bus. The large air conditioners on top of the bus had apparently been torn off by the impact, but nothing had fallen inside the bus.

I was in the front section of the bus. When I saw the smoke, I thought there was a fire and left all my photographic gear on the bus as I evacuated. Soon after everyone got off it became clear that the bus was not on fire. The smoke was actually refrigerant spilling out under high pressure from the ripped-off air conditioners.

Although there was extensive damage to roof of the bus, no one on board was injured. The mood outside the bus was lighthearted, as journalists realized that everyone was OK and that we had a great story to tell. We then walked a few blocks and were picked up by another bus.

Surely it couldn't happen again. But it did. As the journalists' bus was leaving the site of the final Mass of the trip in Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, it hit an overhead sign that had been put in place just for the Mass. This time damage was light, and there was no need to evacuate. The bus moved on, and we laughed it off as just another bit of craziness on a demanding papal trip.


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Support families, human dignity, pope tells global leaders at Davos

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:23am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Denis Balibouse Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Global leaders must implement policies that support the family and offer real opportunities for the growth and development of all people, Pope Francis told people attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"If we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented toward 'true North,' represented by authentic values," he wrote.

"Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity," he told corporate and political leaders.

The pope's message was read at the meeting Jan. 22 by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The annual meeting in Davos brought together people representing business, government, academia and media to discuss the theme, "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World." They were to address topics such as sustainable development and inclusive economies as well as challenges posed by cyberattacks and divisive "narratives."

In his written message, the pope said, "we are increasingly aware that there is a growing fragmentation between states and institutions."

The pope told world leaders and global executives that they must confront both new and lingering problems and challenges, such as unemployment, poverty, economic and social inequality, and new forms of slavery.

"It is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favor the family," he said.

"We cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions of people whose dignity is wounded," he said, adding that it is a moral imperative for everyone "to create the right conditions to allow each person to live in a dignified manner."

"By rejecting a 'throwaway' culture and a mentality of indifference, the entrepreneurial world has enormous potential to effect substantial change by increasing the quality of productivity, creating new jobs, respecting labor laws, fighting against public and private corruption and promoting social justice, together with the fair and equitable sharing of profits," the pope said.

"There is a grave responsibility to exercise wise discernment, for the decisions made will be decisive for shaping the world of tomorrow and that of future generations," he added.

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Pope apologizes to sex abuse victims, defends accused Chilean bishop

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PERU (CNS) -- Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.

Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims' accusations are credible only with concrete proof.

"To hear that the pope says to their face, 'Bring me a letter with proof,' is a slap in the face," the pope said.

Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.

His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima's victims who said the pope's response made his earlier apologies for the church's failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.

Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word "evidence," not "proof." The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was "not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart."

"Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don't have it," he said. "Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous."

However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was "personally convinced" of the bishop's innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging.

Pope Francis said that while "covering up abuse is an abuse in itself," if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, "I would be committing the crime of a bad judge."

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes.

As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip.

Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope's statement about Bishop Barros.

"Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile," the cardinal wrote.

He also said, "Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones."

The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O'Malley's statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope's remarks.

Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.

The movement's founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement.

"He declared himself innocent of the charges against him," Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. According to the information the pope has received, he said, "the verdict will be released in less than a month."

Pope Francis also was asked about the status of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up in 2014. The three-year terms of its members expired in December and some have questioned whether child protection really is a priority when the commission's membership was allowed to lapse.

Before the terms ended, he said, the members decided to recommend who should serve a second term and offering the names of possible new members.

The final list, he said, arrived on his desk a week before the trip began "and now it is going through the normal channels in the Curia.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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At Lima Mass for 1.3 million, Pope Francis preaches message of hope

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 6:44pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis took his message of hope to this sprawling, dusty capital of Peru, celebrating Mass within view of the rocky, waterless Andean slopes where most of the city's poorest residents live.

The day's Scripture readings, in which Jonah was sent to Nineveh and Jesus set out toward Galilee, "reveal a God who turns his gaze toward cities, past and present," the pope said in his homily.

Crowds lined the pope's route to the Las Palmas military base, where thousands of people arrived during the night and throughout the morning to participate in the Mass.

Lima's heat and blazing sun did not wither the spirits of the estimated 1.3 million Mass attendees, who chanted and sang as they waited for the liturgy to begin.

Mariana Costa of Lima felt fortunate. She had missed a chance to see Pope Francis in Poland, she said, "and now I have the opportunity to see him in my own country."

As a young adult, she was touched by his words to youth.

"Ultimately, we're the ones who have to work to make sure this faith is not lost," she said.

Sister Maria Lucero of Lima was struck by three messages the pope had for the priests, religious and seminarians with whom he met in Trujillo the day before.

"He said to remember what we are (and spoke of) joy and gratitude to God for everything we have and do not deserve," she said.

His words kindled a desire to renew her efforts, "because the people here need it," she said.

The scores of concelebrants included Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who was in Lima to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Boston-based Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, whose priests have worked in many Latin American countries, including Peru. Cardinal O'Malley had spoken out Jan. 20 about Pope Francis' defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The cardinal said he understood why victims were hurt by the pope's words.

The place where Pope Francis presided at the liturgy is not far from the vast neighborhood of Villa El Salvador, where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1985, when it was a dusty shantytown in which community leaders, many of whom were active in parishes, were threatened by terrorist violence.

The poorest neighborhoods form rings around Lima and other Latin American cities, as people migrate from other parts of the country in search of opportunities.

Most build their own houses bit by bit, sometimes in hazardous areas vulnerable to disasters, like the unusual rains in early 2017 that left thousands homeless on the east side of Lima and in cities such as Trujillo, which the pope visited Jan. 20.

The majority also work in the informal economy, eking out a living with day labor, selling goods in markets or working in small, family-run businesses with no health insurance, pension or vacation time.

The pope spoke to them when he talked of "our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice," which "can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away."

While some people can to build their lives, others are left "living on the fringes of our cities and lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence," he said. "It is painful to realize that among these 'urban remnants' all too often we see the faces of children and adolescents. We look at the face of the future."

Seeing those things, people may be tempted to become "indifferent, anonymous and deaf to others, cold and hard of heart," he said.

Jesus, who entered Galilee upon hearing of John the Baptist's arrest, and shows a different way to respond, he said.

Jesus "began to sow the seed of a great hope," and the rippling effect of that joy and good news has been passed down through the apostles and saints, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres, whose relics he venerated in the morning, Pope Francis said.

"It has come to us as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference," he said. "In the face of that love, one cannot remain indifferent."

Walking through the city with his disciples, Jesus saw people who had "given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption," Pope Francis said. "He begins to bring light to many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope."

Jesus taught his disciples to see things they had overlooked before and to notice new needs, he said.

"The kingdom of heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people."

His words rang especially true after six days in which he raised issues such as corruption, rapacious consumerism, environmental devastation, organized crime, violence against women and industrial activities such as mining and industrial agriculture, which strip indigenous peoples of their lands and livelihoods.

As he often does, the pope challenged bishops and clergy to avoid clericalism and walk closely with the people. He called on government officials to listen to and respond to the needs of native peoples, youth, the elderly and children.

Jesus "continues to walk on our streets. He knocks today, as he did yesterday, on our doors and hearts, in order to rekindle the flame of hope," the pope told the throng of Mass-goers.

"Today the Lord calls each of you to walk with him in the city, in your city. He invites you to become his missionary disciple, so you can become part of that great whisper that wants to keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with you!"

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Follow Fraser on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser.

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Update: Pope meets Chilean abuse victims; controversy over bishop continues

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 1:06pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis met in private Jan. 16 with survivors of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy, a Vatican spokesman said, but his actions threatened to be overshadowed by controversy over a Chilean bishop.

Greg Burke, the spokesman, said the pope met with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile.

"The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening.

The private setting, he added, allowed the group to speak freely with the pope "and recount their sufferings.

Pope Francis "listened, prayed and cried with them," Burke said.

Also present at the press conference was Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference.

Bishop Ramos addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile.

Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

"Bishop Barros is bishop of Osorno and was named by the pope. All bishops have the right and responsibility to participate at the events. That was the only reason why" he was present, Bishop Ramos said.

Arriving in Iquique Jan. 18 at the site of his final Mass in Chile, Pope Francis was asked by local journalists about his support for Bishop Barros.

The pope reiterated that he has yet to see any evidence that Bishop Barros knew or witnessed the abuses committed by his former mentor.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope told the journalists.

On Jan. 20, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, "It is understandable that Pope Francis' statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile, were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.

"Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday's interview, I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Cardinal O'Malley was traveling to Peru on a previously scheduled trip. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said the trip was not related to his statement on Bishop Barros, but that he expected the cardinal would "be with the Holy Father at some point, as he normally is when he accompanies him on a papal trip."

Pope Francis named Cardinal O'Malley president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when he established the body in 2014. The initial members' terms of office expired in December and, as of mid-January, the Vatican had not announced new members.

Earlier Jan. 16, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church."

Burke said it was significant the pope addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse during his meeting with government authorities "because normally he speaks about it when meeting with bishops or priests."

"The fact that he spoke there means that it is an evil not only for the church but for society," Burke said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Every child 'a precious gift from God,' Trump tells pro-life rally

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration "will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."

He invoked the theme of this year's march, "Love Saves Lives," and praised the crowd as being very special and "such great citizens gathered in our nation's capital from many places for one beautiful cause" -- celebrating and cherishing life.

"Every unborn child is a precious gift from God," he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having "such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life."

"You're living witnesses of this year's March for Life theme, 'Love Saves Lives,'" His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers' stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.

During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.

Trump spoke with a crowd surrounding him in the Rose Garden, including 20 students from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. One of those standing next to the president was a Marianne Donadio, a top official with Room at the Inn, a nationally accredited Catholic ministry based in North Carolina that serves homeless, pregnant women and single mothers with children.

Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year's March for Life in person at Trump's request, introduced the president as the "most pro-life president in American history," for among other things issuing an executive memorandum shortly after his inauguration to reinstate the "Mexico City Policy." The policy bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

Trump also has nominated pro-life judges to fill several court vacancies and a day before the March for Life the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Its aim is to protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who do not want to perform procedures they consider morally objectionable.

For the first time in a recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, opened the rally by calling on everyone in the crowd to text the word "March" to 7305 and to show their commitment to ending abortion and join their voices in calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.

"Do you agree that's important?" she asked the crowd. "Yes!" they shouted. March for Life, she said, is about educating people about abortion and mobilizing to end it and to love all those women and families who are facing a troubled pregnancy and other needs.

"'Love Saves Lives' is this year's theme," she added. "Love and sacrifice go hand in hand It is not easy. No one ever said it was, but it is the right choice ... the self-sacrificial option."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd.

"Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House," the Catholic congressman said.

"Your energy is so infectious," he told the crowd, praising them for being "the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement."

Seeing so many young people "is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise," he said. "Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side."

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby's kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.

Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.

"Dan and I prayer and we cried (at the news of their unborn child's condition) ... and in that devastation we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?" she recalled.

With "true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail," Herrera Beutler said. She is a very "healthy, happy 4-year-old big sister who some day is going to be 'the boss of mommy's work,'" she said.

Herrera Beutler asked the crowd to imagine that 45 years of legal abortion had not existed and that 60 million babies had not been lost to abortion, and if out of those people had come those who could cure cancer and correct all manner of disabling conditions, including those that exist in utero, and eradicate poverty.

"What richness we would we get to see instead of two generations missing," she added.

Another Catholic member of Congress and longtime pro-life advocate, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, described the last 45 years of legal abortion as Orwellian.

"Every one of you here today" and millions of others throughout the country and world, he said, "are an integral part of the greatest human rights struggle on earth. Because we pray, because we fast, we will win. Babies will be protected."

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Pope Francis calls for church with 'Amazonian and indigenous' face

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 2:25pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis called on indigenous people of the Amazon to work with missionaries and bishops to shape a church with an "Amazonian and indigenous" face.

The pope pledged the church's "whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures" and called his audience to work together toward the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, which he has called for 2019.

"The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present," Pope Francis said. "Amazonia is not only a reserve of biodiversity, but also a cultural reserve that must be preserved in the face of the new forms of colonialism."

He also called for a change in the consumer culture that extracts resources from the Amazon without regard for the people who live there, and he had harsh words for officials who consider indigenous people an obstacle to development.

"Your lives cry out against a style of life that is oblivious to its own real cost," the pope told the audience of some 2,500 indigenous people from Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.

Upon his arrival in this Amazonian town, the pope was welcomed by children who chanted, "Pope Francis is Amazonian now." Once in Madre de Dios stadium, dancers in feathered headdresses accompanied him as he greeted the crowd.

Members of various indigenous peoples presented the pope with gifts that reflected their culture, including a basket, painting, book and woven stole. The pope left the stadium wearing a feathered headdress and strings of beads typically worn by community chiefs, presented to him by Santiago Manuin Valera, an Awajun leader from northern Peru.

The pope said he had come to listen to the people of this Amazonian region, which is rich in natural resources and indigenous cultures but increasingly devastated by illegal mining, deforestation and social problems.

A Harakbut woman and man and an Awajun woman described the threats their peoples face from outsiders who take timber and other resources from their lands, as well as their fear that their cultures could disappear and their efforts to keep those cultures alive

The pope echoed their concerns, listing oil and gas, mining, logging, industrial agriculture and even conservation programs as activities that do not take indigenous peoples into account, but "strangle" them and force young people to migrate because of a lack of alternatives.

"We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants," he said.

On his journey to the Amazon, the pope flew over an area where illegal gold mining has carved huge, cratered, polluted scars visible from outer space. He noted that the mining has been accompanied by the trafficking of people for sex and labor.

The day before his visit, in a meeting with Amazonian bishops, representatives of various indigenous delegations said they hoped the pope would urge governments to respect their rights, especially by demarcating their territories and respecting laws requiring officials to consult indigenous communities about development projects that would affect them.

Without mentioning titling or prior consent laws directly, the pope called for "institutional expressions" of respect and dialogue with native peoples.

"Recognition and dialogue will be the best way to transform relationships whose history is marked by exclusion and discrimination," he said.

The pope praised the church's work among native peoples in the Amazon, although he acknowledged errors. In many parts of the Amazon, missionaries started the first schools for indigenous children.

While noting that education and building schools is the government's job, Pope Francis urged the Amazonian bishops to continue to encourage intercultural and bilingual education in schools, universities and teacher training programs.

Echoing the Harakbut speakers who had greeted him, he emphasized that education for native people must "build bridges and create a culture of encounter," in a way that "respects and integrates their ancestral wisdom as a treasure belonging to the whole nation."

The pope praised young indigenous people who are "working to reinterpret the history of their peoples from their own perspective," as well as those who "show the world your worldview and your cultural richness" through art, music, crafts and literature.

"Much has been written and spoken about you," he said. "It is good that you are now the ones to define yourselves and show us your identity. We need to listen to you."

The pope urged his listeners, many of whom are pastoral agents in remote rural communities and poor urban areas, not to let their people's Catholic faith be uprooted. Each culture "enriches the church by showing a new aspect of Christ's face," he said.

Pope Francis encouraged them to draw on the wisdom of their peoples, especially elders, to counter the pressures they face and to dialogue with missionaries and bishops.

"We need the native peoples to shape the culture of the local churches in Amazonia," he said.

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Follow Fraser on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser.

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Cardinal invokes Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in march vigil homily

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:56am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York invoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a homily at the Jan. 18 Mass that opened the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

Like "Pastor King," as Cardinal Dolan referred to him throughout his homily, "our belief in the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of all human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racial antagonism to justice for immigrants, from the war-torn to the hungry," the prelate said.

And, like Rev. King, whose life was the subject of a national holiday three days prior, "our prayers and witness are about civil rights: the civil right to life and to equal protection under the law, guaranteed by our Constitution, for the most fragile, marginalized and threatened -- the tiny, innocent baby in the womb," Cardinal Dolan said.

The Mass, which has attracted more than 10,000 in recent years, was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Rev. King "would be marching with us in the defense of unborn life were not the dignity of his own person and the sanctity of his own life tragically violated 50 years ago this spring," Cardinal Dolan said, referring to the civil rights figure's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968.

"Pastor King would often begin his stirring speeches, which still move us, by asking his listeners, 'Why are we here?'" Cardinal Dolan said.

Answering the question himself, the cardinal gave a variety of reasons.

"We are here to advocate and give witness, to advocate for those who cannot yet speak or walk with us, the pre-born baby, whose future is in jeopardy and can be ended by a so-called choice, and to give witness that millions, mostly young people, share a passion for the belief that that little baby has civil rights," he said.

"We are here to fight the heavy temptation -- we must admit the temptation -- to discouragement," he continued.

Another reason, he said, was "to lobby for life," sharing "passion for a society to assist and protect all vulnerable life ... because, to borrow my brother pastor's refrain, 'We shall overcome,'" to which the Mass crowd applauded.

"And there is one final reason why we are here," Cardinal Dolan said. "To pray!"

The opening Mass featured more than 300 clergy concelebrants, including 34 bishops and archbishops, and six U.S. cardinals. Retired Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington did not join in the processions, but instead got to the shrine's sanctuary a few minutes before Mass with the aid of a walker.

While Washington has not been immune to wintry weather for the overnight vigil and next-day March for Life in recent years, this year's events were met with relatively mild temperatures compared to the frigid and slick conditions north, west and -- surprisingly -- south of the nation's capital.

At the Jan. 19 morning Mass that closed the vigil, Bishop Edward M. Burns of Dallas told the story of a young boy who saw an online advertisement for a baseball glove. Wanting the glove but not having the money to pay for it, he wrote a letter to his mother that took the form of an itemized bill for the chores he did around the house -- with the total equaling the cost of the glove.

Knowing his mother must have seen the envelope addressed to her at her place at the dining room table, the boy, a few days later, saw a box at his own place at the table. In the box was the glove he had wanted. But as he was trying it on, he spotted an envelope addressed to him at the bottom of the box. In the letter was his mother's list of services rendered to him -- giving birth to him, changing his diapers, tucking him in at night, drying his tears, bandaging his wounds and holding him tight -- and after each entry came the words "no charge."

"That's sacrificial love," Bishop Burns said, "the type of love God has for us." He added, "He demonstrates that love for us time and time again, and he asks us to demonstrate that sacrificial love for others. ... Our Lord Jesus Christ is an example of sacrificial love."

In echoing the Mass theme "For the Preservation of Peace and Justice," Bishop Burns recalled the words of Deuteronomy 30: "I set before you a choice: death of life. Choose life so that you may live."

"Choosing life comes from a sacrificial love," Bishop Burns said. "We are here to bring attention to the attacks against human life." He told worshippers, "Stay strong, stay dedicated and committed to the cause of life."

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Head of March for Life calls abortion 'social justice cause of our time'

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 11:58am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Charlie Camosy, associate professor in the theology department at Jesuit-run Fordham University, spoke to Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in advance of this year's annual march in Washington Jan. 19.

She talked about changes in the event and the crowd she has seen over the years, the efforts to unify pro-lifers on a variety of life issues and her own pro-life views.

For her, abortion is "the single most significant social justice cause of our time."

Here's Camosy's Q-and-A with Mancini:

Q: You've been going to the March for Life for many years now. What are some ways that the march has changed since you first started attending?

A: The rally is a little shorter, the crowds have grown, the age demographics have decreased, marcher signs are more diverse and creative. What hasn't change is that the weather often presents extra opportunities for making a sacrificial pilgrimage! Plus that the event is primarily staffed by generous volunteers, and most importantly the issue. Mostly, that we are there -- for the 45th year in a row -- to protest the human rights abuse of today -- abortion.

Q: One thing that struck me from when I first started taking high school students to the march nearly two decades ago was the hyper-religiosity of the event. As a theology teacher, I shared many of these commitments, but it made a number of my students uncomfortable and I don't think they returned after high school. The hyper-religiosity of pro-life activists also seems to keep more moderate folks from identifying with the movement more generally and our policy proposals from getting wider traction -- especially in a culture which - wrongly -- sees much of what we do as imposing our religion. Religious commitments are nothing to be embarrassed about, obviously, and many grass-roots movements for basic justice and rights were very religious. But do you see a tension to navigate here?

A: Our experiences differ, so I find it hard to answer this question -- but broadly I would say no. There are a lot of religious signs, but my experience is that it is mostly young people who attend the March for Life. Young people are attracted to this cause because it is the single most critical social justice issue of our time. They are so enthusiastic -- it is contagious! Perhaps that excitement and motivation could be interpreted as "hyper-religiosity," but I see it as attractive unbridled zeal for ending abortion and building a culture of life. Of course, there are always a few "outliers" and some people are led to the pro-life movement through their faith. But, overall -- this is a movement filled with vibrant, passionate, life-affirming young people. I'm older, reserved and suspicious at my age, and I find their confidence and trust inspiring. I love the lack of cynicism in many young people, and admire their hope and goal to "abolish abortion." At the front of the march when we've had some counter-protesters, I've watched young people being spit on and mocked and respond with Christian messages of love. Basically, I agree with St. John Paul II, who said that young people are the best "ambassadors for life."

Q: Especially with the campaign and election of Donald Trump, divisions and fissures within the pro-life movement have become more pronounced in the last couple years. Do you think the March for Life has the chance to contribute to the unity of pro-lifers who disagree about these political matters?

A: We certainly seek to unify and I hope we are successful. I'm convinced that disunity is our biggest enemy. As an organization we quietly do what we can behind the scenes within the movement; whether arranging group meetings or making strategic introductions to draw groups and pro-life leaders together. In a more public way we always seek to have a bipartisan lineup of speakers, although admittedly that has gotten harder in recent years.

Q: What vision did you have in mind when you started running the March for Life? How does the current march reflect who you are as a pro-lifer?

A: When I first became president of the March for Life, it was a surprise, and it happened very quick following the death of MFL founder Nellie Gray. In the beginning, I had some goals, but not an overall big picture vision. These goals included trying to break into mainstream media -- especially showing our enthusiastic young marchers; having a shorter and very engaging rally; positive messaging grounded in the attractiveness of life; drawing in people of all faith; and embracing social media. I believe that we have been successful in these goals and we continue to be more success in these goals each and every year. My ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job by working to make abortion unthinkable and enact laws that reflect the inherent dignity of the human person.

Q: Suppose a reader is on the fence about attending the march. In your view, what should she consider as she makes a decision whether or not to attend?

A: I was just reading an email from a business owner who attended for the first time last year. To paraphrase her, the March for Life is a life changing experience that will restore your hope in the goodness of humanity. I would add to that, how can you not attend? Abortion is the single most significant social justice cause of our time. Every single one of us carries that burden on us and needs to do everything possible to bring it to an end.

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