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Teach students role of justice in migration, pope says

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 9:08am

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic universities need to study the root causes of forced migration and ways to counter the discrimination and xenophobic reactions it provokes in so many traditionally Christian nations, Pope Francis said.

"I would also like to invite Catholic universities to teach their students, some of whom will become leaders in politics, business and culture, a careful reading of the phenomenon of migration from the point of view of justice, global co-responsibility and communion in cultural diversity," he said.

The pope made his remarks during an audience Nov. 4 with members of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, who were attending a world congress in Rome Nov. 1-4 titled, "Refugees and Migrants in a Globalized World: Responsibility and Responses of Universities."

Pope Francis praised the organization's efforts in the fields of research, formation and promoting social justice.

He called for more study "on the remote causes of forced migrations with the aim of finding practical solutions" because people have a right to not be forced to leave their homes.

"It is also important to reflect on the basic negative -- sometimes even discriminatory and xenophobic -- reactions that the welcoming of migrants is provoking in countries with a long-standing Christian tradition" in order to develop programs and ways to better form consciences, he said.

Pope Francis also called on Catholic universities to develop programs that would allow refugees living in camps and holding centers to take distance-learning courses and to grant them scholarships.

Efforts also are needed, he said, to recognize the academic degrees and qualifications migrants and refugees have earned in their homelands so that their new countries may better benefit from their knowledge.

Catholic universities, as leaders in promoting the social good, must do more, he said, for example, by encouraging students to volunteer to assist refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.

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USCCB president decries massive shooting at Baptist church in Texas town

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 6:07pm

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic Church stands "in unity" with the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the larger community after a shooting during Sunday services took the lives of at least 25 people and injured several more.

A 14-year-old girl, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among the dead. Her father, Frank Pomeroy, is pastor of the church but he was not at the service.

"We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy -- as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, "I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs."

Law enforcement officials told CNN that a lone gunman entered the church at about 11:30 a.m. Central time while 50 people were attending Sunday services. Almost everyone in the congregation was shot. Sutherland Springs is 30 to 40 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Police pursued the suspect as he fled the church and he was reported dead, but it was not clear if police killed him or he took his own life. The shooter was described as a white male in his 20s. His motive was not immediately known.

"We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, his loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families," Cardinal DiNardo said. "This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at churches while people were worshipping and at prayer, he continued.

"We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. "A culture of life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who himself is peace, send us his spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture his peace among us all," the cardinal said.

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U.S. Justice Department says it was misled in immigrant teen's case

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 2:45pm

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 3, the Justice Department said it had been misled by lawyers representing a pregnant immigrant teen about the timing of her abortion.

In its petition, the Justice Department said it was about to appeal a lower court decision allowing the teen to have an abortion when it realized she had already had the procedure early that day.

"Disciplinary action may therefore be warranted" against the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented the teen, the petition added, saying ACLU lawyers had told the government the abortion was scheduled to take place a day later.

David Cole, ACLU's legal director, said in a statement that the government's charges were "baseless" and a means to deflect blame for failing to appeal the court's ruling in time.

The teenager, identified as Jane Doe, had an abortion Oct. 25, the day after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit cleared the way for it in a 6-3 vote. The court's action overruled an Oct. 20 decision by a three-judge panel of the court that had blocked the teen's abortion until the Department of Health and Human Services found a sponsor by Oct. 31 to take custody of the teenager, such as an adult relative.

The case reached the circuit court when the Trump administration appealed a ruling by a federal judge that the teenager had the right to get an abortion. The administration had argued that the government is not obligated to facilitate an abortion for someone in the country without legal documents.

Attorneys general from nine states, including Texas, Missouri and Ohio, had backed the federal government in that appeal, stating in a court filing: there is no "constitutional right to abortion on demand."

"Federal and Texas state officials are to be commended for defending the life of an innocent unborn child in a recent case involving an unaccompanied pregnant minor in federal immigration custody," the Texas Catholic bishops said in their statement.

Lawyers for the ACLU are representing the teen, who is from Central America and is under federal custody in a shelter in Brownsville, Texas. She entered the United States in September and was in her 15th week of pregnancy when the circuit court made its ruling. Texas bans most abortions after 20 weeks.

The ACLU argued that under the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, the immigrant teenager is entitled to have an abortion that she would pay for.

In an Oct. 20 statement released by the Texas Catholic Conference in Austin, the state's bishops had argued against requiring "the government to facilitate and participate in ending the innocent life of the unborn child," saying it would diminish "the historic promise of our nation to serve as a beacon of hope for all."

A White House statement said the Trump administration "stands ready to expedite her return to her home country." Federal officials have said the teenager could voluntarily leave the country or find a sponsor in the United States to take custody of her.

The ACLU argued that under the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, the immigrant teenager is entitled to have an abortion that she would pay for.

The Texas bishops said the ACLU's case -- "compelling others to perform, facilitate or pay for abortion who do not wish to do so" -- is unconscionable. "No one -- the government, private individuals or organizations -- should be forced to be complicit in abortion," they said.

They also pointed out that the Catholic Church in Texas has provided assistance and shelter to unaccompanied immigrant minors, refugees and pregnant mothers for decades.

"As this case continues through the legal process, we pray for this young mother and her unborn child, so both may enjoy the protection and refuge the United States offers," the bishops said.

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Jesus shows that death is not the last word, pope says

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 10:01am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hope in the Lord's promise of everlasting life does not disappoint, Pope Francis said.

"God is faithful and our hope in him is not in vain." the pope said in a memorial Mass homily Nov. 3.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in memory of the 14 cardinals -- including U.S. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore -- and 137 archbishops and bishops from around the world who died in the past year. Fifteen of the bishops were from the United States and two from Canada.

These pastors generously served the Gospel and the church, the pope said, and "we seem to hear them repeat with the apostle; 'Hope does not disappoint.'"

"This hope, rekindled in us by the word of God, helps us to be trusting in the face of death," he said. "Jesus has shown us that death is not the last word; rather, the merciful love of the father transfigures us and makes us live in eternal communion with him."

In fact, he said, an essential characteristic of being a Christian is "a sense of anxious expectation of our final encounter with God" -- an "expectant yearning" for his love, beauty, happiness and wisdom.

"The faith we profess in the resurrection makes us men and women of hope, not despair, men and women of life, not death, for we are comforted by the promise of eternal life, grounded in our union with the risen Christ," the pope said.

Jesus accepted death to save those "who were dead in the slavery of sin," he said. But because of his love, "he shattered the yoke of death and opened to us the doors of life."

"By virtue of this divine bond of Christ's charity, we know that our fellowship with the dead is not merely a desire or an illusion, but a reality," Pope Francis said.

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Puerto Rico still facing 'unprecedented level of need,' say U.S. bishops

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 4:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As November began, the people of Puerto Rico still faced "an unprecedented level of need" because of hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the island in September, said the chairmen of two U.S. bishops' committees.

They called for "meaningful action" through legislative means and emergency funds to address "both the immediate and long-term needs of the Puerto Rican population." They also urged Catholics and all people of goodwill to show support of "our brothers and sisters in such dire need."

Irma hit Puerto Rico Sept. 7 and Maria hit Sept. 20, creating even more destruction than the first hurricane. To date, more than 70 percent of Puerto Rico is without electricity and running water. Other islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also facing challenges in their recovery.

In statements issued right after the storms, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged Catholics to respond with prayer and other help "in this time of great need for our brothers and sisters in harm's way -- many of whom have been hit repeatedly by the successive hurricanes."

He noted the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Maria were visited on Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean "just as we begin to assess the material and emotional damage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma."

Since those statements, little has improved in Puerto Rico, said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, and Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska. They issued a joint statement Nov. 2 as the chairmen of, respectively, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Subcommittee of the Catholic Home Missions.

"The island is in the midst of a public health crisis, and food security, health care access, and sustainable alleviation of the island's debt are challenges that must be resolved in a comprehensive way," Bishop Dewane and Archbishop Etienne said.

"These will require great effort and significant contributions of financial resources and material assistance," they said.

The prelates noted that the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and other islands in the region "face dramatic consequences to their economies, which are predicated on an active tourist industry. The enormous and adverse impact of the storms for the livelihood of the Virgin Islands is evident."

On top of the "human costs," they said, the "physical plant" of the Catholic Church in Puerto Rico -- including parish buildings and schools -- "has been grievously damaged by the hurricanes."

Bishop Dewane and Archbishop Etienne pointed to what Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has said, that "virtually every church structure on the island has been affected by these storms."

"This need is particularly compelling considering the central role that parishes perform as natural centers in providing pastoral outreach to impacted individuals and families in times of crisis," the two prelates said. "Aid and financial resources are necessary to restore the physical settings where the church heals through its ministries those most desperately in need."

The people of Puerto Rico have had to deal with serious problems for many years," they said, such as "economic upheaval and scarcity, persistent joblessness, and other social problems resulting from the financial crisis gripping the commonwealth's economy."

"They bear little responsibility for the island's financial situation yet have suffered most of the consequences. Now, the recent devastation has made the circumstances, especially for those in need, unbearable," they said.

"As pastors, we share in the suffering borne by our brother bishops and the people they shepherd in Puerto Rico," they continued. "We stand ready, through legislative advocacy as well as by means of the emergency funds set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, to support with compassion our brothers and sisters in such dire need."

"We urgently beseech all Catholics in the United States to join with all people of goodwill in supporting these crucial initiatives at this critical point in time for the people of Puerto Rico," they said.

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Copyright © 2017 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.

Updated: War brings only death, cruelty, pope says at U.S. military cemetery

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 1:46pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

NETTUNO, Italy (CNS) -- "No more, Lord, no more (war)" that shatters dreams and destroys lives, bringing a cold, cruel winter instead of some sought-after spring, Pope Francis said looking out at the people gathered for an outdoor Mass at a U.S. war memorial and cemetery.

"This is the fruit of war: death," he said, as the bright Italian sun lowered in the sky on the feast of All Souls, Nov. 2.

On a day the church offers special prayers for the faithful departed with the hope of their meeting God in heaven, "here in this place, we pray in a special way for these young people," he said, gesturing toward the rows of thousands of graves.

Christian hope can spring from great pain and suffering, he said, but it can also "make us look to heaven and say, 'I believe in my Lord, the redeemer, but stop, Lord," please, no more war, he said.

"With war, you lose everything," he said.

Before the Mass, Pope Francis placed a white rose atop 10 white marble headstones; the majority of the stones were carved crosses, one was in the shape of the Jewish Star of David.

As he slowly walked alone over the green lawn and prayed among the thousands of simple grave markers, visitors recited the rosary at the World War II Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial site in Nettuno, a small coastal city south of Rome.

In previous years, the pope marked All Souls' Day by visiting a Rome cemetery. This year, he chose to visit a U.S. military burial ground and, later in the day, the site of a Nazi massacre at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome to pray especially for all victims of war and violence.

"Wars produce nothing other than cemeteries and death," he said after reciting the Angelus on All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. He explained he would visit the two World War II sites the next day because humanity "seems to have not learned that lesson or doesn't want to learn it."

In his homily at the late afternoon Mass Nov. 2, Pope Francis spoke off-the-cuff and said people do everything to go to war, but they end up doing nothing but destroying themselves.

"This is war: the destruction of ourselves," he said.

He spoke of the particular pain women experience in war: receiving that letter or news of the death of their husband, child or grandchild.

So often people who want to go to war "are convinced they will usher in a new world, a new springtime. But it ends up as winter -- ugly, cruel, a reign of terror and death," the pope said.

Today, the world continues to head off fiercely to war and fight battles every day, he said.

"Let us pray for the dead today, dead from war, including innocent children," and pray to God "for the grace to weep," he said.

Among the more than 7,800 graves at the Nettuno cemetery, there are the remains of 16 women who served in the Women's Army Corps, Red Cross or as nurses, as well as the graves of 29 Tuskegee airmen. Those buried or missing in action had taken part in attacks by U.S. Allies along Italy's coast during World War II.

After the Mass, the pope visited the Ardeatine Caves, now a memorial cemetery with the remains of 335 Italians, mostly civilians, brutally murdered by Nazi German occupiers in 1944. 

The pope was led through the long series of tunnels and stopped to pray several minutes in silence at a bronze sculpted fence symbolizing the twisted, interlocking forms of those massacred. Walking farther along the dark corridors, he placed white roses along a long series of dark gray cement tombs built to remember the victims.

The victims included some Italian military, but also political prisoners and men rounded up in a Jewish neighborhood. They were all shot in the back of the head in retaliation for an attack on Nazi soldiers. The Nazis threw the bodies into the caves and used explosives to seal off access. After the war, a memorial was built on the site.

Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, sang a short prayer, and the pope prayed to God, merciful and compassionate, who hears the cries of his people and knows of their sufferings. Through the risen Christ, Christians know that God is not the god of death, "but of the living, that your covenant of faithful love is stronger than death and a guarantee of resurrection," he said.

After returning to the Vatican, the pope was to visit the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica, where many popes are buried.

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Priest resigns as consultant to doctrine committee after letter to pope

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 9:43am

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After publication of his letter to Pope Francis questioning the pontiff's teachings, Father Thomas Weinandy has resigned from his position as consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine.

The Capuchin Franciscan priest is former executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs, serving in the post from 2005 until 2013. He expressed loyalty to the pope but at the same time told the pope that "a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate."

He released his letter to several Catholic and other media outlets Nov. 1, including Crux. The priest told Crux, a Catholic news outlet, he did not write the letter in an "official capacity," and he was alone responsible for it.

"After speaking with the general secretary of the conference today, Father Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., has resigned, effective immediately, from his position as consultant to the USCCB Committee on Doctrine," said James Rogers, chief communications officer for the USCCB.

"The work of the committee is done in support of, and in affective collegiality with, the Holy Father and the church in the United States. Our prayers go with Father Weinandy as his service to the committee comes to a close," Rogers said in a statement issued late Nov. 1.

In a separate statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said the departure of Father Weinandy as a consultant "gives us an opportunity to reflect on the nature of dialogue within the church."

"Throughout the history of the church, ministers, theologians and the laity all have debated and have held personal opinions on a variety of theological and pastoral issues," the cardinal said. "In more recent times, these debates have made their way into the popular press. That is to be expected and is often good.

"However, these reports are often expressed in terms of opposition, as political -- conservative vs. liberal, left vs. right, pre-Vatican II vs. Vatican II. These distinctions are not always very helpful," he added.

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Cardinal Wuerl urges Catholics to confront, help overcome sin of racism

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 12:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

By Mark Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The sin of racism must be recognized, confronted and overcome, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in a new pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Racism Today."

"Intolerance and racism will not go away without a concerted awareness and effort on everyone's part. Regularly we must renew the commitment to drive it out of our hearts, our lives and our community," the cardinal wrote in a letter dated Nov. 1, All Saints' Day, that was addressed to the clergy, religious and laity of the Catholic Church of Washington.

The letter from Washington's archbishop comes at a time when racism issues and calls for racial justice have sparked protests on city streets, college campuses and even pro football fields across the country.

"The mission of reconciliation takes on fresh emphasis today as racism continues to manifest itself in our country, requiring us to strengthen our efforts. We are all aware of incidents both national and closer to home that call attention to the continuing racial tensions in our society," Cardinal Wuerl wrote.

He noted that the nation's Catholic bishops have established an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism made up of clergy, laywomen and laymen "to speak out against this divisive evil that leave great harm in its wake."

The cardinal added that, "It is our faith that calls us to see each other as members of God's family. It is our faith that calls us to confront and overcome racism."

He cited the story of creation from the Book of Genesis and Catholic teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the equality and human dignity of all people.

"What makes us equal before God and what should make us equal in dignity before each other," Cardinal Wuerl noted, "is that we are all sisters and brothers of one another, because we are all children of the same loving God who brought us into being."

Racism, he said, is a "sin against our neighbor" that offends God and goes against the unity of the body of Christ, a unity that all Christians share by means of their baptism.

The letter's release coincides with the Catholic Church's celebration of November as Black Catholic History Month. The cardinal noted how the "stain of racism" has affected people in every continent throughout history, often manifesting itself in marginalization, discrimination and oppression to indigenous people or newcomers.

But the cardinal added that "in our homeland, the most profound and extensive evidence of racism lies in the sin of centuries of human trafficking, enslavement, segregation and the lingering effects experienced by African-American men, women and children."

He noted that St. John Paul II in the Great Jubilee Year called for the recognition of sins committed by members of the church during its history.

"Today we need to acknowledge past sins of racism and, in a spirit of reconciliation, move toward a church and society where the wounds of racism are healed," Cardinal Wuerl said. "In this process, we need to go forward in the light of faith, embracing all of those around us, realizing that those wounded by the sin of racism should never be forgotten."

"At the same time," he continued, "we acknowledge the witness of African-American Catholics who through eras of enslavement, segregation and societal racism have remained steadfastly faithful. We also recognize the enduring faith of immigrants who have not always felt welcome in the communities they now call home."

"The Challenge of Racism Today" is the 10th pastoral letter issued by Cardinal Wuerl as archbishop of Washington.

Earlier letters focused on topics such as supporting and strengthening Catholic education: upholding Catholic identity in challenging times; finding a spiritual home in the church; sharing the Catholic faith with others; and relying on God's mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Cardinal Wuerl opened his new pastoral letter describing how he sees the diverse face of the Catholic Church as he celebrates Mass in churches throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. More than 620,000 Catholics live in the area covered by the archdiocese, which includes the city of Washington and the suburbs and rural countryside of five surrounding Maryland counties.

"On almost any Sunday, we can join neighbors and newcomers from varied backgrounds," the cardinal wrote. "We take great pride in the coming together for Mass of women and men, young and old, from so many lands, ethnic heritages and cultural traditions. Often we can point to this unity as a sign of the power of grace to bring people together."

He described the pioneering efforts of Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle. Soon after becoming Washington's first resident archbishop in 1948, he began integrating Catholic schools in the archdiocese. This took place years before the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 that outlawed segregated schools.

Cardinal O'Boyle also offered the invocation at the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Cardinal Wuerl said his pastoral letter underscored the Catholic teaching on racial justice and equality shared and expressed over the years by every archbishop of Washington.

Racism, the cardinal noted, continues to manifest itself in many ways, as it is experienced personally, in institutions or in society. "Often racism is both learned from others and born of ignorance from not interacting with people who are from a different culture and ethnic heritage," he wrote, adding, "'The pain it causes in people's lives is very real."

Cardinal Wuerl said people's diversity enriches the Catholic Church and our world, and the response to Christ's love should inspire Christians to work for solidarity.

"As we struggle to remove the attitudes that nurture racism and the actions that express it, we must show how the differences we find in skin color, national origin or cultural diversity are enriching," he wrote. "Equality does not mean uniformity. Rather each person should be seen in his or her uniqueness as a reflection of the glory of God and a full, complete member of the human family."

The cardinal said all of the parishes and schools in the archdiocese seek "to provide a welcoming and inclusive home for all. We must all seek to affirm and rejoice in the gift of our diversity," he said. "Such a task is underscored in our archdiocesan-wide trainings in intercultural competency for parishes, schools, programs for our seminarians, and newly ordained priests to be better able to serve culturally and ethnically diverse communities."

He said the archdiocese's Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach sponsors many Masses and other faith and cultural events to celebrate the diverse heritage of Catholics. Catholic Charities and the Spanish Catholic Center provide a range of services, and Catholic schools in the archdiocese educate children from all backgrounds.

He also encouraged parishes to "follow Pope Francis's example in promoting a spirit of dialogue and encounter with others," by confronting the evil of racism and promoting unity and understanding through homilies, prayers at Mass, and parish programs and evangelization efforts.

Cardinal Wuerl said the effects of racism on housing, employment, public education and the criminal justice system need to be addressed.

Religious faith has an important role, he added, in confronting the key challenges of today, especially in standing resolutely for the dignity of all human life.

Eliminating racism might seem "too great a task for any one of us or even for the whole church," Cardinal Wuerl said.

"Yet we place our confidence in the Lord. In Christ, we are brothers and sisters to one another. With Christ, we stand in the spirit of justice, love and peace," he said.

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Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Copyright © 2017 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.

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