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A small sampler of Pope Francis quotes

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 9:10am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his formal documents, many speeches and unscripted morning homilies the past five years, Pope Francis has given the church plenty of "food for thought" on many issues of great importance.

Here are a baker's dozen of quotes from the pope, organized by topic:

-- On clerical sexual abuse: "Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused, and it endangered other minors who were at risk." (Homily at Mass with survivors, July 7, 2014).

-- On communication: "Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony." (Message for World Communications Day 2016).

-- On creation: "We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters." ("Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home," May 24, 2015).

-- On economics: "Let us say 'no' to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth." (World Meeting of Popular Movements, July 9, 2015).

-- On faith: "Please do not water down your faith in Jesus Christ. We dilute fruit drinks -- orange, apple or banana juice -- but please do not drink a diluted form of faith. Faith is whole and entire, not something that you water down. It is faith in Jesus. It is faith in the son of God made man, who loved me and who died for me." (World Youth Day, July 25, 2013).

-- On the family: "No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. ... May we never lose heart because of our limitations or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us." ("Amoris Laetitia," April 8, 2016).

-- On life: "Human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological." (Speech to the Italian pro-life movement, April 11, 2014).

-- On mercy: "Mercy: the bridge that connects God and humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness." ("Misericordiae Vultus," April 11, 2015).

-- On migration: "Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life far from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet's resources, which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don't we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?" (Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016).

-- On religious freedom: "It is incomprehensible and alarming that, still today, discrimination and restrictions of rights continue for the single fact that one belongs to and publicly professes an unwavering faith. It is unacceptable that real persecution is actually sustained for reasons of religious affiliation! Wars as well! This distorts reason, attacks peace and humiliates human dignity." (Speech, June 20, 2014).

-- On Satan: "The devil exists even in the 21st century and we shouldn't be naive. ... We have to learn from the Gospel how to fight" against him. (Homily, April 11, 2014).

-- On vocations: "A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well-cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love." (World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2014).

-- On young people in the church: "I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses. I want the noise to go out. I want the church to go out onto the streets. I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves." (World Youth Day, July 25, 2013).


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Retired pope says criticism against Pope Francis is 'foolish prejudice'

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 4:30pm

IMAGE: CNS/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis' election, retired Pope Benedict XVI defended the continuity of the church's teaching under his successor and dismissed those who criticize the pope's theological foundations.

In a letter sent to Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, Pope Benedict applauded the publication of a new book series titled, "The Theology of Pope Francis."

"It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been considered solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today's Christian," the retired pontiff wrote.

Msgr. Vigano read the letter during a presentation of the 11-volume series March 12.

Before reading the letter, Msgr. Vigano said he sent a message to Pope Francis and Pope Benedict regarding the publication of the book series.

He also asked if Pope Benedict would be "willing to write a page or a page and a half of dense theology in his clear and punctual style that would have liked to read this evening."

Instead, the retired pontiff "wrote a beautiful, personal letter that I will read to you," Msgr. Vigano said.

Pope Benedict thanked Msgr. Vigano for having given him a copy of "The Theology of Pope Francis" book series, which was authored by several notable theologians.

"These small volumes reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament," he wrote.

Pope Benedict has made no secret of his affection for and admiration of Pope Francis.

During a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict's priestly ordination June 28, 2016, the retired pope expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness "from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply."

"More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected," Pope Benedict said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Haitian immigrant back home working for CRS says faith gives her hope

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 2:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Denis Grasska, The Southern Cross

By Denis Grasska

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- When Cassandra Bissainthe left Haiti for the United States some 17 years ago, it seemed unlikely that she would ever return.

Political instability and economic insecurity were rampant in her homeland, and extreme poverty had driven desperate people to do terrible things.

Shortly after her relocation to Miami, Bissainthe discovered that she had been in danger of being kidnapped. Around that same time, her aunt actually was kidnapped and held for a week until the family paid a ransom.

"I never thought I would go back," Bissainthe, now 33, said during a visit to the Diocese of San Diego earlier this year.

Today, she is stationed in Haiti with Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. church's overseas relief and development agency. She is the agency's church partnership and capacity strengthening manager.

In the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in early 2010, she reflected on what she could do to help the suffering people of her homeland. She began working in Haiti for Trocaire, the international development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and then in 2015 joined the staff of CRS, the organization's U.S. counterpart.

Bissainthe holds a bachelor's degree in international relations from Florida International University. She was drawn to development work both by the example of her mother, who had worked for the U.N. Development Program, and by her experience at her all-girls Catholic high school in Haiti, where community service requirements awakened within her a desire to work for a mission-driven organization.

In Haiti with CRS, Bissainthe has her work cut out for her. The country is ranked as the poorest in the Western hemisphere, with some 80 percent of the population subsisting on less than $2 a day. In addition to an unstable economy and political climate, Haiti also is still recovering from the damage caused by the 2010 earthquake, coupled with the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, which impacted more than 2 million people in late 2016.

"I like to be in the field," said Bissainthe, who added that her co-workers will confirm that she is rarely found behind her office desk. But, she said, "in the field, you get to meet people that have nothing, so those situations can (bring) you down."

Encountering people who are struggling amid poverty and natural disasters can be challenging, but in those moments, she relies on her Catholic faith, which inspires her "to look for the positive." Past experiences of CRS' life-changing work have given her reason for this hope, she told The Southern Cross, San Diego's diocesan newspaper.

She has seen, in villages where most of the youth used to drop out of school by the sixth grade, an increasing number asking for high school recommendations. After major disasters, she has encountered people whose entire livelihoods have been wiped out; yet, several months later, she has witnessed them rebuilding their lives with whatever support CRS was able to offer them.

A key component of CRS' approach to development and a reason for its success is its collaboration with local partners in the various regions in which it serves.

CRS only has three offices in Haiti, Bissainthe said, and it's only because of community partners that the organization is able to assist as many people as it does. Those partners continue to be key players in the community, even after CRS pulls up stakes and leaves the region, carrying on the programs that CRS put in place.

Bissainthe's job places her at the center of cultivating relationships with these partners, particularly the local Catholic Church, from the national to the parish level.

"It's truly crucial that we maintain a strong relationship with the church, because they are our eyes and our knowledge of the field," she said, adding, "They know these communities ' and they might know the needs better than (we do)."

Bissainthe visited San Diego in late January as part of a two-week U.S. tour to promote CRS Rice Bowl, a Lenten faith-in-action program that encourages U.S. Catholics to show solidarity with the poor through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Some 75 percent of the funds raised through CRS Rice Bowl support the organization's programs around the world, including agriculture, water and sanitation, microfinance and education projects. The remaining 25 percent benefits the poor and hungry in the communities where those funds were raised.

Just as she enjoys meeting the people CRS serves in Haiti, Bissainthe said she is grateful for the opportunity to meet the U.S.-based donors whose generosity makes CRS' work possible. During her recent tour, she was able to hear their stories while also sharing her own.

"I think it makes you even more humble about the work that you do," she said of her experience on the tour, "and also see the value in what we do."

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Grasska is assistant editor of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

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Christian activists warn of slaughter of Syrian civilians in Afrin

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters

By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Christian activists warn that 1 million Syrian civilians will face certain slaughter in northwestern Afrin, where they allege Turkey and its militant allies have already carried out "war crimes" and "ethnic cleansing."

They have appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump and top U.S. officials to stop the bloodshed, warning that failure to act jeopardizes the hard-fought U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State in Syria.

Civilians from other parts of Syria and outside the country have reportedly offered to stand as "human shields" between the Kurdish-backed fighters and Turkish forces set to storm Afrin.

Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, said, "I have never seen so much violence as in Syria." In remarks March 9, he likened the situation to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The nuncio called the situation in the war-ravaged land "hell on earth," especially for vulnerable children.

In March, Syria's conflict entered its eighth year. More than 350,000 people have died, 5 million are refugees and 6.3 million civilians are displaced within the country.

Syria is currently "one of the most dangerous places for children," Cardinal Zenari said. "It's terrible. I always say, it's a massacre of the innocents."

Two Christian activists, Bassam Ishak and Lauren Homer, told Catholic News Service of the relentless assault by Turkey and militants from hardline jihadist movements, including the so-called Islamic State.

"Turkey has committed war crimes and ethnic cleansing already in Afrin and the Federation of Northern Syria," or FNS, they told CNS.

Ishak heads the Syriac National Council and is a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council. He is a graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Homer, an Anglican, is a Washington, D.C.-based international human rights lawyer.

"Turkey has already 'cleared' villages of Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others, promising to replace them with Syrian refugees. In fact, Afrin already has enlarged its population by 50 percent to house (internally displaced) Syrians, who are among those being killed, injured or captured," they said.

People in and around Afrin are facing the warplanes, tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons of NATO's second-largest standing army, Turkey.

A local health authority reported more than 220 dead and 600 civilians injured in this mainly Kurdish area of northwestern Syria, some 30 miles from Aleppo.

Videos and photos from Afrin taken by both Kurds and members of the Turkish forces depict bombed-out houses, mangled bodies of children killed by the blasts and civilians being herded away.

Largely untouched by Syria's deadly conflict until recently, this part of the Federation of Northern Syria succeeded in creating a nonsectarian, pluralist, inclusive government system not seen elsewhere in the Middle East in which there is religious freedom and equal rights are granted to all.

Activists are calling for an immediate no-fly zone over Afrin, enforced by U.S. drones or warplanes; implementation of the Feb. 24 U.N. Security Council resolution requiring a cease-fire by Turkey in Afrin; humanitarian aid and safe passage out for civilians; and mediation of a long-term cease-fire and withdrawal of Turkish troops to its own borders -- potentially with promises of U.S. or U.N. border monitors.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish council that governs Afrin demanded the U.N. Security Council establish a no-fly zone over Afrin and forcibly respond to the Turkish offensive.

"This U.N. and U.S. and NATO inaction will go down in infamy as an inconceivable abandonment of our 'allies' the SDF and the FNS. Genocide seems to be only something we are interested in in retrospect, to mourn and wring our hands over," Homer warned.

Anti-aircraft weapons are needed to stop the attacks, observers say, but the Syrian Democratic Forces, composed of Kurdish and Christian fighters, were never given the necessary arms. At this point, U.S. aerial patrols would be needed. The Kurds and Christian fighters largely won the U.S.-led battle against Islamic State in Syria.

"Military solutions are no real solutions. Taking Afrin will not solve any problems, neither the internal problems for Turkey in the long run, nor will it help solve any issue that is part of the Syrian question," Ishak told CNS. Turkey says it is battling Kurdish "terrorists" as its pretext for invading Afrin.

"Instead, it will just further complicate the situation and increase the level of competition between actors jockeying for influence in Syria," Ishak said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian military, backed with Russian airpower, carried out intensive ground and aerial assaults on the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Syrian government forces have reportedly captured more than half of the area.

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the area since late February, while almost 400,000 residents are living under heavy bombardment, after having been subjected to nearly five years of siege, lacking food and medicines.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the international community to intervene in Syria to help end the violence. Calling the war in Syria "inhumane," Pope Francis urged for an end to the fighting, immediate access to humanitarian aid and the evacuation of the injured and infirm.

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Confessors should seek to bring penitents closer to Jesus, pope says

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 10:25am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A good confessor is a good listener, Pope Francis said.

By truly listening to the penitent during confession, "we listen to Jesus himself, poor and humble; by listening to the Holy Spirit, we put ourselves in attentive obedience, becoming listeners of the Word" in order to know what God wants to be done, he said.

This is how priests can offer "the greatest service" to all penitents, especially the young, because "we put them in touch with Jesus himself," he said March 9.

The pope spoke to hundreds of confessors and other participants attending an annual course on the sacrament of reconciliation, sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.

He warned confessors to avoid the temptation of becoming "masters" over other people's consciences, especially the young, who are very easily influenced.

A confessor must never forget his is not the source of mercy or grace, but he is, however, an "indispensable instrument, but always just an instrument," the pope said.

Being a conduit between the Holy Spirit and the penitent does not diminish this ministry, rather it leads to its fulfillment, he said.

The more the priest "disappears and Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, appears more clearly," the more the priest fulfills his vocation as "unprofitable servants."

In light of the October Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment, the course this year looked at the relationship between the sacrament of reconciliation and helping others discern their vocation.

The pope said young people should be able to hear what God is saying to them, both in their own conscience and by listening to the word. To achieve this, young people need wise accompaniment by a confessor, he added.

With priest and penitent both prayerfully listening to God's will, confession can become an occasion for discovering God's plan for the individual, he said. Vocations, he added, are never about what form they take, but are about building a life-giving and inseparable relationship with Jesus.

The pope asked confessors to be witnesses of mercy, "humble listeners of young people and of God's will for them; always be respectful of the conscience and freedom of those who come to the confessional, because God himself loves their freedom."

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Sisters minister to intellectually disabled people, offer catechesis

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 2:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Daughters of St. Mary of Providence

By Joseph Albino

SYRACUSE. N.Y. (CNS) -- In the nautical world, a "spar" is the straight pole used to support the sails and rigging of a ship.

In the world of faith and the ministry of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in the Syracuse Diocese, SPAR is the support offered to Catholics with intellectual disabilities to help them to recognize the presence of God in their daily lives and to act in light of the Gospel message.

The sisters' Special Adult Religious Formation Program apostolate, better known as SPAR, operates in accordance with the Catholic Church's teaching that "all baptized persons with disabilities have a right to adequate catechesis and deserve the means to develop a relationship with God."

In Syracuse, the sisters concentrate on offering support for older teens and adults with intellectual disabilities who, when they were of school age, were not able to receive the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and confirmation. They are offered a catechetical program designed with them in mind.

The foundation of the sisters' apostolate is "respect for life and dignity of every human person," according to the sisters' Guanellian ethics code, named for the congregation's co-founder, St. Louis (Luigi) Guanella.

"We hope to contribute to the good of every person who must be helped to live his or her life with conditions that require support, attention and care," the code says. "The centrality of every human person continues over time and cultural changes in our world today."

The Congregation of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence traces its roots to 1881 when a group of young women in the community of Pianello del Lairo, near Como, Italy, wanted to pursue a ministry for needy individuals including those with disabilities. They rented a house, which they eventually were able to buy, and named it the Little House of Divine Providence and began an apostolate modeled on the Gospel example of the good Samaritan.

The house became known as "Noah's Ark," because the sisters took in orphans, young working women looking for a place to live, people living with epilepsy, the elderly and those living with intellectual disabilities, among others.

The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence came to the U.S. in 1913, arriving in Chicago. Being Italian themselves, the first sisters to arrive assisted Italian immigrants. They established a motherhouse in Chicago for the congregation's U.S. province and opened a residential facility for intellectually disabled children.

The congregation has different missions in various countries, but in the U.S., the sisters made their primary concern caring for and teaching the faith to those with intellectual disabilities.

They also minister to the elderly in nursing homes and those in assisted living and independent living arrangements. Some of the sisters also may serve in parishes as teachers and directors of religious education programs and as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to provide the Eucharist to the homebound. In years past, they taught in Catholic elementary schools.

After the order became established in Chicago, it spread to East Providence, Rhode Island; Syracuse, New York; Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; Milbank, South Dakota; and Elverson, Pennsylvania, where the sisters operate a retreat center. The U.S. province now encompasses Mexico and the Philippines. There are more than 500 sisters around the world.

The congregation has a male counterpart, the Servants of Charity, founded in 1908. Its priests and brothers pursue similar apostolates in various countries. In the United States, they serve in Chelsea, Michigan; Springfield, Pennsylvania; and Providence, Rhode Island.

The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence were invited to come to the Diocese of Syracuse at the invitation of the late Bishop James M. Moynihan because of a Holy Family Church parishioner, Mary Lou Coons, who was seeking a way to help the intellectually disabled, often praying before the Blessed Sacrament for an answer.

In answer to her prayers, she felt God led her to the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence. She communicated with them through emails and visits and then brought them to the attention of diocesan officials.

Three of the sisters have a home near Holy Family Church in Fairmount, a western suburb of Syracuse.

"It was because of her faith and perseverance in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and her love for the intellectually disabled that Mary Lou Coons searched and found a community that served that category of persons," said Sister Caryn Haas, one of the three sisters.

Sister Haas provides pastoral care for the homebound, which includes helping families prepare for the baptism of their children or for other sacraments through monthly classes. She also can make arrangements for the homebound to receive the Eucharist.

Another of the sisters, Sister Beth Ann Dillon, teaches religion at nearby Bishop Ludden High School and also is campus minister there. Another, Sister Arlene Riccio, schedules faith activities for people with intellectual disabilities on the first floor of the sisters' residence, called the SPAR Center.

For those adults with intellectual disabilities who have received religious and sacramental education through their parishes, SPAR offers a continuing formation program once a month to help deepen the faith planted and grown in their families and parishes.

As the head of the SPAR apostolate, Sister Riccio strives to deepen the faith of those with intellectual disabilities whom she encounters in parishes in the greater Syracuse area.

In addition, for those individuals whose disabilities make classroom learning difficult, Sister Riccio offers small group or one-on-one sessions in a sacramental preparation program. The individuals with intellectual disabilities come to the meetings from a number of different parishes in the area as well as from group homes.

Individuals who live at home are invited regularly to monthly meetings at the SPAR center through a phone call or a mailed flier.

Classes may be held once a week for those individuals who are preparing to receive any of the Sacraments. Often, a sister will go to the home of a person with intellectual disabilities who may not be able to attend a regularly scheduled meeting because of transportation and/or health problems.

Sister Riccio's other goals through the SPAR apostolate include going to group homes to teach general spirituality to residents who are Christian and to teach the Catholic faith to those who are Catholic. Another goal is to line up volunteers who could assist group home residents to go to a church of their choice for Sunday services.

Participants in SPAR programs have different levels of capability, ranging from needing just a little bit of help to needing to learn the difference between ordinary bread and the consecrated eucharistic bread for Communion.

Some need to be taught that reverence is called for at church. Those with intellectual disabilities can be prepared to receive the sacrament of reconciliation if they are able to tell right from wrong and know to confess committing an act that was wrong.

Catechetical materials Sister Riccio uses include the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Program, the recognized full curriculum for people with intellectual disabilities, and "Seasons of Grace," which concentrates on the church's seven sacraments. Loyola Press of Chicago also offers an adaptive religious education program in the faith and in the sacraments.

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Miracles attributed to Pope Paul VI, Romero clear way for sainthood

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 8:33am

IMAGE: CNS photos/files/Octavio Duran

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has cleared the way for the canonizations of Blesseds Paul VI and Oscar Romero.

At a meeting March 6 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, Pope Francis signed decrees for the causes of 13 men and women -- among them a pope, an archbishop, two young laywomen and a number of priests and nuns.

He recognized a miracle attributed to Blessed Paul, who, according Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, will be declared a saint in late October at the end of the Synod of Bishops on youth and discernment. Blessed Paul, who was born Giovanni Battista Montini, was pope from 1963 to 1978.

Pope Francis also formally signed the decree recognizing the miracle needed to advance the sainthood cause of Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, martyr.

El Salvador's ambassador to the Holy See, Manuel Roberto Lopez, told Catholic News Service March 7 that the news of the pope's approval "took us by surprise."

"They told us before that the process was going well and that all we needed was the approval of the miracle, and it turns out the pope approved it yesterday," he said.

Lopez told CNS that he was happy that Blessed Oscar Romero's canonization was imminent and that his holiness was recognized alongside one of his earliest supporters.

"To see that he will be canonized along with (Blessed) Paul VI, who was a great friend of Archbishop Romero and supported his work, is a great blessing," Lopez said.

The Vatican did not announce a date for Blessed Romero's canonization.

The pope also recognized the miracles needed for the canonization of: Father Francesco Spinelli of Italy, founder of the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Father Vincenzo Romano of Italy; and Mother Maria Katharina Kasper, founder of the religious congregation, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

He recognized the miracle needed for the beatification of Maria Felicia Guggiari Echeverria, a Discalced Carmelite from Paraguay whom Pope Francis has upheld as a model for the youth of Paraguay. Affectionately called, "Chiquitunga," she died from an unexpected illness in 1959 at the age of 34 before she could make her final vows.

The pope also recognized the martyrdom of a 16-year-old laywoman from Slovakia. Anna Kolesarova, who lived from 1928 to 1944 in the eastern town of Pavlovce, was murdered during Slovakia's occupation by the Soviet army in World War II after refusing sexual favors to a Russian soldier.

In causes just beginning their way toward sainthood, the pope signed decrees recognizing the heroic virtues of Polish Redemptorist Father Bernard Lubienski, who entered the congregation in England and then returned to Poland to re-found the Redemptorists there in the 20th century, and Sandra Sabattini, a young Italian lay woman who was active in helping the poor with the Pope John XXIII Community. She was hit by a car and died in 1984 at the age of 22.

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of Antonio Pietro Cortinovis of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (1885-1984) and three Italian women -- two who founded religious orders and a laywoman who founded a lay fraternity.

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Junno Arocho Esteves in Rome also contributed to this story.


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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

U.S. Catholics' political leanings affect their approval ratings of pope

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 2:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the advent of Pope Francis' fifth anniversary in the papacy, a new Pew Research poll of U.S. Catholics shows their regard of the pope is, for the first time, colored by their political leanings.

The survey, released March 6, said it saw "signs of growing discontent with Francis among Catholics on the political right, with increasing shares of Catholic Republicans saying they view Francis unfavorably, and that they think he is too liberal and naive."

In 2014, one year into Pope Francis' papacy, "there was no discernible difference between the share of Catholic Republicans (90 percent) and Democrats (87 percent) who expressed a favorable view of Francis," the survey said. "Today, by contrast, the pope's favorability rating is 10 points higher among Catholic Democrats (89 percent) than among Catholic Republicans (79 percent)."

"In our polling about John Paul II and Benedict XVI, when we look at them we don't see any falloff from them over time," Greg Smith, a Pew senior researcher, told Catholic News Service. "What's interesting about this survey that this is the first one where this political polarization among American Catholics really stands out."

The March 6 poll was the eighth time Pew had asked Catholics their views about the pope. Pew had asked Catholics about Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict eight times total over 25 years -- five times for Pope Benedict and three for Pope John Paul.

Pope Francis still maintains marks any religious or civil leaders would covet: 94 percent of Catholics say he is compassionate and 91 percent say he his humble -- numbers unchanged from a 2015 Pew survey. His overall favorable rating is down one point, from 85 to 84 percent, from a 2014 poll. Those with unfavorable views of the pope were double that of 2014, but still in the single digits at 8 percent.

But "the share of American Catholics who say Pope Francis is 'too liberal' has jumped 15 percentage points between 2015 and today, from 19 percent to 34 percent," the poll said. And 24 percent of U.S. Catholics now say he is naive, up from 15 percent in 2015.

Since 2014, "the share of Catholic Republicans who say Francis represents a major, positive change for the Catholic Church has declined from 60 percent to 37 percent. By contrast, there has been little movement since the end of Francis' first year as pope in the share of Catholic Democrats who view him as a major change for the better," the poll said -- 71 percent today vs. 76 percent four years ago.

Other groups hold Pope Francis in high esteem, although not as much as Catholics do. Of white mainline Protestants, 67 percent approve of Pope Francis' tenure, as do 58 percent of religiously unaffiliated adults.

Slimmer majorities of black Protestants (53 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (52 percent) also approve of the pope. Nine percent of white evangelicals were unfavorable toward Pope Francis when he was chosen pope in 2013. That number has since tripled to 28 percent; it had been 31 percent last year.

The survey introduced new questions not asked in past polls.

Fifty-five percent of Catholics said the priests at their parish are "very supportive" of Pope Francis. Another 23 percent say their priests are "somewhat supportive" of the pontiff.

Similar approval numbers were generated when Catholics were asked whether Pope Francis was doing an "excellent" or "good" job appointing new bishops and cardinals; 58 percent said so. And 55 percent say he is doing an "excellent" or "good" job addressing environmental issues.

A somewhat larger majority -- 63 percent -- said Pope Francis "has done at least a little to promote acceptance of homosexuality," the survey said, adding he has done "about the right amount" or that they would like to see him "do more" on this issue. Also, 64 percent of Catholics say the pope has done at least a little to increase acceptance of divorce and remarriage.

The survey further asked Catholics to describe the most significant thing Pope Francis has done in his time as pope. In response, American Catholics named a broad range of accomplishments without being prompted as to specific issues. Nine percent noted Francis' work in setting a good Christian example, another 9 percent cited his "opening up the church and becoming more accepting." Eight percent said helping the poor; 7 percent said Pope Francis has made the church more accepting toward gays and lesbians; 6 percent mentioned his global outreach; and 5 percent said he is uniting the Catholic community and encouraging open communication and dialogue.

Four percent each cited two negative or neutral actions: becoming overly involved in politics or alienating conservative Catholics. Another 4 percent of respondents said he hasn't done anything significant at all, or that they are still waiting to see what he will do. And 29 percent either did not know or could not name any significant thing that Pope Francis has done.

The Pew survey was conducted Jan. 10-15 by phone among 1,503 adults, including 316 Catholics -- three times as many being contacted by cellphone than by landline. The margin of error was 2.9 percentage points for the full survey, and 6.4 percentage points for Catholics.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Don't hold grudges; forgiveness comes from forgiving others, pope says

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 9:03am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must let go of resentments and forgive those who have wronged them so that they may experience God's forgiveness, Pope Francis.

This can be particularly difficult when "we carry with us a list of things that have been done to us," the pope said in his homily March 6 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"God's forgiveness is felt strongly within us as long as we forgive others. And this isn't easy because grudges make a nest in our heart and there is always that bitterness," he said.

The pope reflected on the day's first reading from the prophet Daniel in which Azariah, one of three young men condemned to death in a fiery furnace, courageously prays for deliverance from God.

"Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord," Azariah prayed.

Although Azariah is innocent of the crime he is condemned for, the pope explained, his attitude of recognizing his own personal sins is the same attitude Christian men and women should have when approaching the sacrament of penance.

"Accusing ourselves is the first step toward forgiveness," the pope said. "To accuse one's self is part of the Christian wisdom. No, not accusing others; (accuse) ourselves. 'I have sinned.'"

God, he added, "welcomes a contrite heart" and when Christians readily admit their faults, "the Lord covers our mouths like the father did to the prodigal son; he does not let him speak. His love covers it, he forgives all."

"These are the two things that help us understand the path of forgiveness: 'You are great Lord, unfortunately I have sinned' and 'Yes, I forgive you 70 times seven as long as you forgive others," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Claims of heresy over 'Amoris Laetitia' are out of place, cardinal says

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 12:25pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' exhortation on the family should prompt discussion and even debate, but accusing him and others of heresy is completely out of place, said German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

"A heresy is a tenacious disagreement with formal dogma. The doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage has not been called into question on Pope Francis' part," the cardinal, a theologian, told Vatican News March 5.

Cardinal Kasper was interviewed about his new book, "The Message of 'Amoris Laetitia': A Fraternal Discussion." The interview was published just a few days after Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington issued detailed guidelines for accompanying couples, including those who are divorced and civilly remarried.

In his book, Cardinal Kasper describes "Amoris Laetitia" as "a creative renewal of traditional teaching."

Vatican News asked Cardinal Kasper specifically about the path of discernment Pope Francis sees for some divorced and civilly remarried to return to the sacraments, including Communion, in some circumstances.

"Sin is a complex term. It not only includes an objective principle, but there is also the intention, the person's conscience. And this needs to be examined in the internal forum -- in the sacrament of reconciliation -- if there is truly a grave sin, or perhaps a venial sin, or perhaps nothing," the cardinal responded. "The Council of Trent says that in the case in which there is no grave sin, but venial, the Eucharist removes that sin."

"If it is only a venial sin, the person can be absolved and admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist," the cardinal said. "This already corresponds with the doctrine of Pope John Paul II and, in this sense, Pope Francis is in complete continuity with the direction opened by preceding popes. I do not see any reason, then, to say that this is a heresy."

Catholic tradition, he insisted, "is not a stagnant lake, but is like a spring, or a river: it is something alive. The church is a living organism and thus it always needs to validly translate the Catholic tradition into present situations."

Speaking more generally about "Amoris Laetitia," Cardinal Kasper said that reading the document has helped many engaged and married couples come to a deeper appreciation of the church's teaching on marriage and family life and about the joys and challenges facing families today.

"It is not high theology incomprehensible to people," he said. "The people of God are very content and happy with this document because it gives space to freedom, but it also interprets the substance of the Christian message in an understandable language."

In a world where there is so much violence, the cardinal said, "many people are wounded. Even in marriages there are many who are wounded. People need mercy, empathy, the sympathy of the church in these difficult times in which we are living today. I think that mercy is the response to the signs of our times."

Also in early March, Bishop Semeraro, secretary of Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals, released a pastoral instruction on "welcoming, discerning, accompanying and integrating into the ecclesial community the faithful who are divorced and civilly remarried."

The guidelines for the Diocese of Albano, Italy, were published after every meeting of the diocesan presbyteral council in 2016-17 was dedicated to discussing the pastoral care of such couples.

The discussions made it clear that welcoming and integrating into parish life "those who approach us with the desire to be readmitted to participation in ecclesial life requires an appropriate amount of time for accompaniment and discernment that will vary from situation to situation," Bishop Semeraro wrote. "Therefore, expecting a new general, canonical-type norm, the same for everyone, is absolutely inappropriate."

No "right" to the Eucharist exists, the bishop said, but there is a right to be welcomed and to be heard. Couples who have remarried civilly without an annulment of their sacramental marriage and who have started a new family will be asked "to make a journey of faith starting from becoming conscious of their situation before God" and looking at the obstacles that would prevent their full participation in the life of the church.

Couples who have recently divorced and remarried, those who "repeatedly fail" to uphold responsibilities toward their children and original spouse and those who pretend that there is nothing wrong with divorce and remarriage should be encouraged to spend time studying and praying before trying to begin the process, the guidelines said.

"Amoris Laetitia," Bishop Semeraro wrote, "never speaks of a generalized 'permission' for all divorced and civilly remarried to access the sacraments; nor does it say that the path of conversion initiated with those who want them must necessarily lead to access to the sacraments."

At the same time, he said, priests must recognize that "it is no longer possible to say that all those who find themselves in a so-called 'irregular' situation are living in a state of mortal sin, deprived of sanctifying grace," precisely because, as "Amoris Laetitia" taught, a host of factors are involved in determining the degree of guilt of the individuals involved.

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Immigrants, advocates navigating post-DACA-deadline landscape

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 1:34pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The last government shutdown -- well, threatened shutdown, anyway -- seems so long ago.

The nine-hour "funding lapse" of Feb. 9, like the three-day shutdown that began Jan. 20, hinged on how Congress was going to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump said he would end March 5. He also called on Congress to pass a measure to save the program, created in 2012 by President Barack Obama via executive order.

In the January shutdown, Democratic lawmakers backed down on their threat to keep the government closed until a DACA deal was reached. In the February funding lapse, Democrats and Republicans agreed to conduct a debate and vote on DACA in the weeks to come, as a six-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded through March 23 was overshadowed by the $1 trillion spending package of which it was a part.

The congressional sidestepping of DACA prompted the U.S. bishops to declare a "National Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers" for Feb. 26, one week before the program's expiration date. The day resulted in thousands of phone calls to lawmakers.

That, in turn, was overshadowed by the Supreme Court declining that same day a request by the administration to bypass federal appellate courts and rule on whether the administration has the right to shut down DACA.

The justices' action wiped out the March 5 deadline date, leaving DACA up and running at least until the high court accepts the case for the appeals court -- and possibly renders a decision -- or until Congress finally deals with it. The high court's action only keeps DACA intact for those currently with DACA status; two federal judges have blocked Trump, saying the administration must continue to accept renewal applications for the program. The rulings do not make DACA available to those who had not already applied for it.

While the exact path ahead is unclear, at least there is a path.

"I think a lot of people feel a little insecure, they don't feel safe and they're unsure what's going to happen because things are up in the air," said Michelle Sardone, director of strategic initiatives for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

"They're feeling fear about whether or not to apply: 'Will the government use information they have on me to use against me?' If you submit your application with the application fee, will it be adjudicated or ... will it be a waste of your money?" Sardone said. "Each person has a particular case. They should go to an accredited legal services provider to find out the best situation for them and for their family."

"We just buried a man in his 60s who came from Ireland in a house with no electricity, no plumbing. He came over to the U.S. without a trade, became a pipe fitter and a coach," said Mary Harkenrider, a member of the Southside Catholic Peace and Justice Committee in Chicago, which sponsored a forum March 1 to show support for the city's DACA holders.

In talking to Catholic News Service, she used the example of this Irishman to illustrate what immigrants bring to this country.

"As a coach and a family man, he affected people throughout the city and across the country and at his funeral there were thousands of people who pay respect to this immigrant, who came to this country without a STEM education or highly advanced skills," Harkenrider added. 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some arguing for the reform of U.S. immigration laws say preference should be given to the highly educated immigrants.

She added: "We would be amiss without the talents of the immigrants in our communities. ... whether it's the Irish or the Polish or the Hispanic. I think we have to continue to recognize our history and build on it."

Chicago, Harkenrider said, is "a city of immigrants."

Nor is Chicago the only town that can claim that mantle.

Camden, New Jersey, is such a town. Mexican-born Monica Perez Reyes, 20, has lived there since her parents brought her to the United States at age 2. They entered the country without legal documents. She has kid sisters born in the United States who are U.S. citizens. As for Perez, "I'm good for two years" with DACA.

She admits to frustration with Congress, though. "I'm kind of offended. They're sort of playing around with my future," she said. "And the manner they're handling it, one day they may say they'll do something to make it better like have a path to citizens, ship, but the next day they say they're going to terminate it altogether."

Perez added, "I know some people are scared, but I'm not necessarily scared unless something is set in stone. I have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C. If worse comes to worst, I have a plan; I'll have to go to Mexico and make my new life there."

She was accepted to study art at a California college, but her status as an immigrant without documents left her ineligible to receive scholarship money. So Perez is attending community college in Camden while planning to major in art therapy, working to make money to pay her tuition.

Another such town of immigrants is Pasadena, Maryland. Hector Guzman, 19, also born in Mexico, was brought here by his parents, he said, when he was 1 year old. A soccer goalie and midfielder, a German scout recommended he go to England to try out for professional soccer there. He had to decline. "I could get there on my Mexican passport, but I couldn't come back," he said.

Guzman has his own plan B. Like Perez's, it involves going to a community college and working as a butcher and chef to pay tuition. He'll add landscaping work as the weather warms. He's starting up a small business already. At some point, he said, he'd like to open a restaurant, maybe several of them, "and maybe have a ranch or a farm." He said the DACA process was easy.

Patricia Zapor, a CLINIC spokeswoman, said a January check of DACA applications showed the government was still processing applications from 2016. Zapor noted that the government had cut staff in anticipation of DACA ending, then had to ramp up staffing with the upsurge in applications and renewals. Renewals ordinarily took two to three months; Zapor said without DACA, immigrants in the country without legal permission cannot legally work in the United States.

Guzman said he's not worried. "My parents are a little worried," he said. An older sister, who like him has DACA status, "doesn't act like she's worried," he added.

With the days winding down until Trump's original March 5 deadline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the upper chamber would debate a banking bill in early March, making no mention of DACA -- deferred action, indeed.

How to deal with this interim period is "tricky, right?" said Ian Pajer-Rogers, communications and political director for Interfaith Worker Justice, which has more than 30 affiliated worker centers around the country.

"We have taken the position that only a clean DREAM Act will do with no riders or add-ons from the right -- no wall, no border security measures. We'll continue that. Where that leaves us with the party in power and the party that is trying to negotiate for our people, the Democrats, is less clear." 

The DREAM Act he referred to stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the "Dreamer" name.

Anxiety among DACA families cuts both ways, he said. "What I've seen among the undocumented folks is a very willingness to self-sacrifice. Among the DACA recipients I've worked with they don't want to trade their parents' safety and security for their own. ... I think you find the parents who are willing to say the opposite, almost. They're willing to see more enforcement and risk detention if their kids are safe. We're really going for the starting point that all are protected."

"The more pressing thing might be the (Feb. 26) Supreme Court ruling," Pajer-Rogers said, "that folks who are in detention can be detained indefinitely without bond. So if there's something on the mind of workers today, it's probably that."

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A Salvadoran immigrant serves as barber, friend to Washington's poor

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 10:50am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Hair clippers and brushes are the tools 34-year-old Rudy Romero uses to carry out his mission to help the poor and homeless.

For the past four years, he has rushed three times a week or so from his day job over to the basement of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington to visit his clientele.

Though this hairdresser gets no tips, his payment largely comes in smiles.

"I do the best I can to help lift their spirits," said Romero, in between clips and shaves and brushes to the nape of the neck of one of his clients, one of 10 men lined up in the basement of the Catholic church that serves the homeless and anyone else in need of a hot dinnertime meal in Washington Monday through Friday. Along with the meal, they can sign up to get a free cut from Romero.

Though most people don't think about it, for someone who can't afford food or shelter, a haircut is financially out of the question, said Capuchin Franciscan Father Moises Villalta, the shrine's pastor, but a haircut can help them feel a little bit better.  

"This teaches you to have patience," said Romero, being careful as he buzzes off uneven pieces of hair from the side of a man's head. "It's not easy."

Some of the clients have a variety of challenges, including addictions and mental health issues, and it can be trying to cut their hair, said Romero. He wanted to put to good use the skill he learned at age 17 from his grandfather, who used to cut hair in his native El Salvador.

"My grandfather used to cut hair in his free time," he told Catholic News Service. "So now I've taken his place."

He gently brushed swaths of recently shaved salt and pepper hair that had fallen on the barber's gown draped around the client, and turned him around to see if he looked happy. If he weren't an active member of the Catholic Church, it would be a difficult task, Romero said, but he keeps in mind the importance of works of mercy, of helping and being with the poor.

Before he became their official hairdresser, he volunteered for years serving the food many of his clients receive before the haircut or cleaning the makeshift dining room where they gather.

"He's very dedicated," said Father Villalta. "He wants to help them, he wants them to feel clean and to give them dignity."

Romero said he does his best to carry out the clients' wishes and gives them any haircut they want. Some want their entire hair gone, but many opt for a cut that's easy to maintain on the streets. Some of them recognize him and greet him while he's walking around the bustling neighborhood, remembering he's the one who helps them stay clean.

"It makes them happy" to get a cut and that, in turn, makes him glad, to ease at least a little bit of the difficulties they face, he said.

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