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St. Frances Cabrini is modern model for handling migration, pope says

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 11:56am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- St. Frances Cabrini, the missionary to Italian immigrants in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, "teaches us the path to handling the epochal phenomenon of migration by joining charity and justice," Pope Francis said.

The nun, who died Dec. 22, 1917, in Chicago, "understood that modernity would be marked by these enormous migrations and by human beings who were uprooted, in a crisis of identity, often desperate and lacking the resources needed" to make a new life in a new land, the pope said.

Pope Francis wrote about the nun, the first U.S. citizen to become a saint, in the preface to a new Italian biography of her. Lucetta Scaraffia, a historian and frequent contributor to the Vatican newspaper, wrote the book, "Tra Terra e Cielo" ("Between Earth and Heaven").

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published the pope's preface Nov. 8.

St. Frances Cabrini wanted to be a missionary in China, but Pope Leo XIII asked her to go instead to the United States to care for Italian immigrants. "Frances obeyed," Pope Francis wrote, "and a world was thrown open before her: that of hundreds of thousands of human beings who sought work and bread far from their homelands, risking long voyages that were often dangerous in lands that were unknown and hostile."

Sister Cabrini set up "large, beautiful and lasting" schools, hospitals, orphanages and centers for welcoming and assisting refugees, the pope said. When the large wave of Italian immigration ended, she and her sisters focused on whatever group of newcomers needed their help most.

But she "knew that it wasn't enough to help them materially, teach them the language of their new country and cure them when they were sick," the pope wrote; she also knew that their self-respect and identity needed support and that the roots of both were found often in their faith.

"Insertion into a new country meant accepting its rules and laws" and being treated with dignity, the pope said. "These objectives are still valid today" and include "the recognition of and respect for one's religious roots and those of others."

The very concrete, but all-encompassing outreach of St. Frances Cabrini, he said, is why it was "precisely a woman who became the patron of migrants."

She demonstrated what Pope Francis called "feminine qualities -- warmth, welcome, concreteness in meeting the needs of others, gracious care of the weak -- along with a holistic vision of the changes that were taking place in the world."

"She was a woman who knew how to unite great charity with a prophetic spirit that understood modernity in its less positive aspects, those aspects that involved the earth's poor whom intellectuals and politicians did not want to see," he said.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Stop taking smartphone snapshots during Mass, pope says

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

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Mass is not a show, but a beautiful, transformative encounter with the true loving presence of Christ, Pope Francis said.

That is why people need to focus their hearts on God, not focus their smartphones for pictures during Mass, he said.

When the priest celebrating Mass says, "Let us lift up our hearts," he is not saying, "lift up our cellphones and take a picture. No. It's an awful thing" to do, the pope said Nov. 8 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"It makes me so sad when I celebrate (Mass) in the square or in the basilica and I see so many cellphones in the air. And not just by the lay faithful, some priests and bishops, too," he said.

"Please, Mass is not a show. It is going to encounter the Passion, the resurrection of the Lord," he said to applause.

The pope's remarks were part of a new series of audience talks on the Mass. The series, he said, should help people understand the true value and significance of the liturgy as an essential part of growing closer to God.

A major theme highlighted by the Second Vatican Council was that the liturgical formation of the lay faithful is "indispensable for a true renewal," Pope Francis said. "And this is precisely the aim of this catechetical series that we begin today -- to grow in understanding the great gift God gave us in the Eucharist."

"The Second Vatican Council was strongly driven by the desire to lead Christians to an understanding of the grandeur of the faith and the beauty of the encounter with Christ," he said. That is why, "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an appropriate renewal of the liturgy" was necessary.

The Eucharist is a wonderful way Jesus Christ makes himself truly present in people's lives, the pope said.

To take part in the Mass is to relive the Lord's passion and redemptive death, where, on the altar, he is present and offers himself for the salvation of the world, Pope Francis said.

"The Lord is there with us and present," he said. "But so many times we go, we look around, we chitchat with each other while the priest celebrates the Eucharist."

If the president or any other famous or important person were to show up, he said, it would be a given "that we all would be near him, we would want to greet him. But think about it, when you go to Mass, the Lord is there and you, you are distracted, (your mind) wanders. Yet, it is the Lord!"

People should reflect on this, he said, and if they complain, "'Oh father, Mass is boring.' What are you saying? The Lord is boring? 'No, not the Mass, but the priest.' Ah, well, may the priest be converted," but just never forget that the Lord is always there.

Catholics need to learn or rediscover many of the basics about the Mass and how the sacraments allow people to "see and touch" Christ's body and wounds so as to be able to recognize him, just as the apostle St. Thomas did.

He said the series would include answering the following questions:

-- Why make the sign of the cross at the beginning of Mass? Why is it important to teach children how to make the sign of the cross properly and what does it mean?

-- What are the Mass readings for and why are they included in the Mass?

-- What does is mean for people to participate in the Lord's sacrifice and come to his table?

-- What are people seeking? Is it the overflowing fount of living water for eternal life?

-- Do people understand the importance of praise and thanksgiving with the Eucharist and that receiving it "makes us one body in Christ"?

 

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Nation's leaders urged to 'engage in real debate' on curbing gun violence

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 1:35pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The nation's leaders "must engage in a real debate about needed measures to save lives and make our communities safer," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee.

Such debate is essential because "violence in our society will not be solved by a single piece of legislation, and many factors contribute to what we see going on all around us," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

His Nov. 7 statement was issued in response to "recent and horrific attacks" in the country, referring to the mass shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 people dead and 20 others wounded, and the Oct. 1 the mass shooting in Las Vegas during an outdoor concert that left 58 people dead and hundreds of others injured.

"For many years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been urging our leaders to explore and adopt reasonable policies to help curb gun violence," Bishop Dewane said.

The Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs gun massacres "remind us of how much damage can be caused when weapons -- particularly weapons designed to inflict extreme levels of bloodshed -- too easily find their way into the hands of those who would wish to use them to harm others," he said.

Bishop Dewane said the USCCB continues to urge a total ban on assault weapons, "which we supported when the ban passed in 1994 and when Congress failed to renew it in 2004."

Other efforts the bishops support include measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as universal background checks for all gun purchases; limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; and a federal law to criminalize gun trafficking.

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Pope, global leaders discuss concern for climate change, migration

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:18am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis met with Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general, and former Irish President Mary Robinson to discuss shared concerns about peace, human rights and climate change.

"Pope Francis has shown great moral leadership on the crucial issues of our time. His assertion of the values of peace and human dignity resonates with people of all faiths and those of none," Annan said in a written statement released after the Nov. 6 meeting in the pope's residence.

Annan and Robinson made the private visit Nov. 6 together with Lakhdar Brahimi and Ricardo Lagos as members of "The Elders," an independent group of global leaders who use their experience and influence to support peace and human rights.

The four representatives met with the pope "to express their appreciation and support for his work on global peace, refugees and migration, and climate change," according to The Elders' website.

The organization is "proud to stand in solidarity with him today and in the future as we work for justice and universal human rights," Annan, chair of The Elders, said in his statement.

Annan told Vatican Radio it was important for them to visit the pope because they hold a number of interests and values in common, and they wanted to "discuss how we can work together, how we can pool our efforts on some of these issues."

Robinson, who is also a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights and a U.N. envoy on climate change, told Vatican Radio that they spoke about climate change and other issues where "the pope has given leadership. We felt there was a great deal of common ground between us."

Other issues they discussed, Annan told the radio, were migration, nuclear weapons, the mediation of conflicts and "the importance of giving women a voice and respecting their role."

"I hope this will be the first of many meetings," he said.

They expressed their appreciation for what the pope has been doing, Robinson said, and how he, like The Elders, is "trying to be a voice for the voiceless" and the marginalized.

"I think he could be a future 'Elder,'" Annan told the radio, to which Robinson remarked, "I think he's a Super Elder."

Former South African President Nelson Mandela formally launched The Elders 10 years ago after British entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel presented their idea of taking the traditional practice of looking to one's village elders for guidance and conflict resolution and applying it to today's "global village."

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Salvation is free, not a 'pay to save' deal with God, pope says

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:10am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When it comes to salvation, God does not seek any form of compensation and offers it freely to those in need of his love, Pope Francis said.

A Christian who complains of not receiving a reward for going to Mass every Sunday and fulfilling certain obligations "doesn't understand the gratuity of salvation," the pope said Nov. 7 in his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"He thinks salvation is the fruit of 'I pay and you save me. I pay with this, with this, with this.' No, salvation is free and if you do not enter in this dynamic of gratuity, you don't understand anything," he said.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which Jesus recounts the parable of the banquet of a rich man who, after having his invitation spurned by his guests, invites "the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame" to enjoy his feast.

Those who rejected the rich man's invitation, the pope said, were "consumed by their own interests" and did not understand the generosity of the invitation.

"If the gratuitousness of God's invitation isn't understood, nothing is understood. God's initiative is always free. But what must you pay to go to this banquet?" the pope asked. "The entry ticket is to be sick, to be poor, to be a sinner. These things allow you to enter, this is the entry ticket: to be needy in both body and soul. It's for those in need of care, healing, in need of love," he said.

God asks for nothing in return but "love and faithfulness," the pope said. "Salvation isn't bought; you simply enter the banquet."

Pope Francis said those who decline to accept the invitation are consumed by other things that provide a certain sense of security, but they "have lost something much greater and more beautiful: they have lost the ability to feel loved."

"When you lose the ability to feel loved, there is no hope, you have lost everything," he said. "This calls to mind what is written on the gates of hell in Dante's Inferno: 'Abandon all hope,' you have lost everything."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope offers prayers for victims of Texas shooting

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 8:17am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sergio Flores, Reuters

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling the mass shooting in a Texas Baptist church Nov. 5 an "act of senseless violence," Pope Francis asked the local Catholic archbishop to convey his condolences to the families of the victims and to the injured.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, also sent assurances of the pope's prayers in a message to Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. The Vatican released the text of the message Nov. 7.

The shooting during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left at least 26 people dead and at least 20 others injured.

"Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of senseless violence perpetrated at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs," Cardinal Parolin wrote, "the Holy Father asks you kindly to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the wounded, to the members of the congregation, and to the entire local community."

Pope Francis also prayed that the Lord would "console all who mourn" and "grant them the spiritual strength that triumphs over violence and hatred by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love."

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'Victims' charter' is next step in fighting trafficking, academy says

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:27am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After 7-year-old Rani Hong was stolen from her mother in a small village in India and sold into slavery, her captors kept her in a cage to teach her to submit completely to her "master."

"This is what the industry of human trafficking does," she said; it is an industry of buying and selling human beings for forced labor, prostitution, exploitation and even harvesting organs. The International Labor Organization estimates human trafficking grosses $150 billion a year and is rapidly growing, with profits beginning to match those made in the illegal drug and arms trades.

Human beings are highly lucrative, Hong said, because a drug sold on the street can only be used once, while a person can be used and sold over and over again. One human rights group estimates traffickers can make $100,000 a year for each woman working as a sex slave, representing a return on investment of up to 1,000 percent.

Hong and others spoke to reporters at the Vatican Nov. 6 during a conference on ways to better assist victims of trafficking in terms of legal assistance, compensation and resettlement. The Nov. 4-6 gathering was organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and Global Alliance for Legal Aid, a U.S.-based association of jurists providing legal aid to the poor in developing countries.

Hong eventually found freedom, she said, but it came only after she became so sick and weak that her owner sold her to an international adoption agency. She ended up with her adoptive mother in Canada and then the United States. While her adoptive mother helped her, the trauma of her past hindered her future -- leading her to not easily trust or communicate with people, she said.

Today, along with her husband, who, as a child ended up shipwrecked on a remote island for two years after escaping forced inscription in Vietnam, she leads the nonprofit Tronie Foundation to serve survivors and help them join the fight against trafficking.

The success stories and tragedies of victims and survivors offer the next clue in an effective fight against traffickers and in helping those who get caught in their snares, said Margaret Archer, president of the pontifical academy.

In the process of criminalizing, tracking down and penalizing traffickers over the years, "victims got almost left out except as numbers" and their true needs overlooked, Archer said.

The three-day meeting at the Vatican, she said, was meant to come up with a "victims' charter," that is, very concrete proposals gleaned from victims and their advocates to act as a sort of framework for prevention, healing and resettlement.

This is why survivors were part of the conference, Archer wrote in the conference booklet, to "pinpoint what we did that deterred their progress toward the life they sought and what we did -- besides providing bed and board -- that was experienced by them as life-enhancing."

When it comes to rescuing and helping resettle victims of trafficking, she said, "there's a lot of rhetoric about empowerment, giving voice ... which don't really get (survivors) very far in paying the rent, buying the food, finding schools for the children." One idea, she said, is mobilize the power of Catholic parishes around the world in helping those who have been trafficked.

Hong said no country is immune to human trafficking and educating the public is critical for bringing awareness and stemming demand for forced labor.

"Slavery was never abolished. It's found new forms in new places" and everyone can play a part in stopping this crime, said John McEldowney, a professor of law at the University of Warwick, England.

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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

By

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

By

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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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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Pope condemns 'murderous folly' of terrorism after attacks

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 9:41am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed for victims of the terrorist attack in New York, as well as victims of other terror attacks, and condemned the murder of innocent men and women in the name of God.

After praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Nov. 1, the pope said he was "deeply saddened" by the attack in New York Oct. 31 that left at least eight people dead and 11 others injured when pedestrians and bicyclists were mowed down by a driver in a pickup truck.

"We ask the Lord to convert the hearts of terrorists and free the world from hatred and from the murderous folly that abuses the name of God to spread death," he said.

Police in New York identified the suspect as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, who has been in the United States on a visa since 2010. He allegedly drove 20 blocks along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center at about 3 p.m. Eastern time before he slammed into a school bus.

After being shot by police, he was taken into custody and admitted to a hospital for treatment of his wounds, which were not believed to be life-threatening.

Pope Francis also prayed for victims of recent terrorist attacks in Somalia and Afghanistan.

Five Al-Shabaab militants stormed a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct. 28, killing 23 people and wounding dozens. The attack occurred two weeks after the terrorist group detonated a truck carrying military-grade explosives in one of the deadliest massacres in the country's history.

In Afghanistan, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 people Oct. 31 after blowing himself up near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The explosion also left 20 people wounded.

"In deploring such acts of violence, I pray for the dead, the wounded and their families," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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'Horrendous attack' in New York 'weighs on all our hearts,' says cardinal

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 9:39pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The "horrendous act" by a driver in a pickup truck who mowed down pedestrians and bicyclists in New York late in the afternoon Oct. 31 "weighs on all of our hearts," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"This afternoon we heard of what appears to be a deliberate attack on innocent people in New York City,"
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in a statement.

News reports about the attack, which left at least eight people dead and 11 others injured, "are too preliminary to understand fully what has happened," the cardinal said, "but it grieves me deeply that we must again respond to such acts of terror."

News reports said police identified the suspect as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, who is from Uzbekistan and has been in the United States on a visa since 2010. He allegedly drove 20 blocks along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center at about 3 p.m. Eastern time before he slammed into a school bus.

He exited the truck, believed to be a vehicle he rented in New Jersey, and was holding what looked like weapons. Before he could be apprehended, he was shot by police. He was taken into custody and admitted
to a hospital for treatment of his wounds, which were not believed to be life threatening.

"To the family and friends of those who have died, please know that you are not alone, and that the prayers of the bishops and of all the church are with you and your loved ones," Cardinal DiNardo said.

"To you and to everyone, I would like to say that the forces of darkness always try to wipe away our hope," he said, "but our hope is in the name of the Lord and will always remain firm. Let us remember the words of the Lord to prophet Joshua: Be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go."

CNN reported that the attack was being investigated as terrorism and quoted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as saying it was "an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror." But he also said New Yorkers are resilient. He called on all to be vigilant as the city's Halloween parade went on as planned. It drew about a million people.

President Donald Trump said in a statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today's terrorist attack in New York City and their families."

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Vatican, Lutheran federation announce study on church, Eucharist, ministry

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 3:02pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The official Catholic-Lutheran dialogue will begin a deeper exploration of common beliefs and differences on "church, Eucharist and ministry," the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation announced.

When Pope Francis joined Bishop Munib A. Younan, then the president of the Lutheran World Federation, for a prayer service in Sweden in 2016, the two noted the pain many of their fellow Catholics and Lutherans -- especially Catholics and Lutherans married to each other -- experience when they cannot share the Eucharist at each other's services.

"We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ," the two leaders said in 2016. "We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue."

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation announced Oct. 31 that the next task of their formal dialogue commission would be "to discern in a prayerful manner our understanding on church, Eucharist and ministry, seeking a substantial consensus so as to overcome remaining differences between us."

The announcement was part of a statement marking the end of a yearlong joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

After 500 years of division and even violent opposition, Catholics and Lutherans and many other Christian communities commemorated the Reformation together, acknowledging their past sins and pledging to work for full unity, said the statement published on Reformation Day, which recalls the day in 1517 that Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation by publicly posting his "95 Theses."

Over the past year, the statement said, "We begged forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the body of the Lord and offended each other during the five hundred years since the beginning of the Reformation until today."

But, "for the first time Lutherans and Catholics have seen the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective," it said. "This has allowed new insight into the events of the 16th century, which led to our separation."

The mistakes of the past cannot be changed, the statement said, but "its influence upon us today can be transformed to become a stimulus for growing communion, and a sign of hope for the world to overcome division and fragmentation."

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Consistently anti-nuke: Pope continues papal pleas for disarmament

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 2:41pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than two years before the first atomic bomb was dropped, Pope Pius XII warned of the "catastrophic" consequences that could come from using the discovery of nuclear fission to create weapons.

Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in February 1943, Pope Pius noted that scientists were saying that nuclear technology could produce "an amount of energy that could take the place of all the large electrical power plants of the whole world."

But, he said, it was essential to ensure the technology was used only for peaceful purposes, "because otherwise the consequence could be catastrophic, not only in itself but for the whole planet."

After the United States used atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, Pope Pius described the nuclear bomb as "the most terrible weapon that the human mind has ever conceived."

For more than 70 years, the popes and Catholic leaders around the globe have echoed that judgment. And while, for a time, the policy of nuclear deterrence was seen as morally acceptable as long as efforts continued for a complete ban of the weapons, today that is no longer the case.

"Nuclear deterrence is increasingly seen as an excuse for the permanent possession of nuclear arsenals that threaten humanity's future," Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace, wrote in a 2016 article for the blog of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

Colecchi is scheduled to participate in a high-level Vatican meeting Nov. 10-11 on "Perspectives for a world free from nuclear weapons and for integral disarmament."

The conference, sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will bring together Nobel laureates, government and U.N. officials, theologians and peace activists to strategize ways to move the disarmament process forward.

Given that the conference is being held at a time of severely heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, several Italian media outlets described the Vatican meeting as Pope Francis' attempt to mediate the U.S.-North Korean crisis.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Oct. 30 that while Pope Francis "works with determination to promote the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons," it is "false to speak of a mediation on the part of the Holy See."

Coincidentally though, the Vatican conference will take place as U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. North Korea's ongoing missile testing program, and Trump's tough talk about destroying the nation, are expected to top the agenda of the Nov. 3-14 trip.

Following in Pope Pius' footsteps, every pope in the "nuclear age" has pleaded with the world's powers to lessen the threat of nuclear war and reduce nuclear arsenals.

St. John XXIII, in his 1963 encyclical "Pacem in Terris," wrote: "Justice, right reason and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned."

In his historic address to the United Nations in 1965, Blessed Paul VI told global leaders, "It is hard to foresee the future, but easy to assert that the world has to set out resolutely on the path toward a new history, a peaceful history, one that will be truly and fully human, the one that God promised to men of goodwill. The pathways are marked out before you, and the first one is disarmament."

Thirteen years later, Pope Paul sent a message to the first U.N. conference on disarmament. In it, he acknowledged that, for government leaders, who have an obligation to protect their people, "the temptation is strong to ask oneself if the best possible protection for peace does not in fact continue to be ensured, basically, by the old system of the balance of forces between the different states or groups of states."

"Even though the 'balance of terror' has been able to avoid the worst and may do so for some time more," he said, "to think that the arms race can thus go on indefinitely, without causing a catastrophe, would be a tragic illusion."

Even Pope John Paul I, in the brief month he spent in office, spoke about the importance of ridding the world of its nuclear stockpiles. In a speech Aug. 31, 1978, to members of the diplomatic corps, he said Vatican officials were ready to offer their support to all efforts in "the search for better solutions to the great problems that see at stake detente, disarmament, peace, justice, humanitarian measures and aid, (and) development."

In his 26 years as pontiff, St. John Paul II repeatedly and strongly called for an end to the nuclear arms race and a true commitment to disarmament.

But the most striking of his pleas came in 1981 when he visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Standing at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, he said that since the bombing of the city in 1945 "nuclear stockpiles have grown in quantity and in destructive power. Nuclear weaponry continues to be built, tested and deployed," making the destruction of humanity "a real possibility."

"On this very spot where, 35 years ago, the life of so many people was snuffed out in one fiery moment," he said, "I wish to appeal to the whole world on behalf of life, on behalf of humanity, on behalf of the future."

Pope Benedict XVI, in his first message for World Peace Day, described the possession of nuclear weapons as a defensive strategy to be "not only baneful but also completely fallacious."

"In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all -- whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them -- agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament," Pope Benedict wrote in the message for World Peace Day 2006.

Pope Francis has continued the papal calls for disarmament and is expected to do so again when he addresses the Vatican conference.

"The total elimination of nuclear weapons," he said in a message to the United Nations in March, is "both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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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.

After Harvey, faith fuels Houston fans; World Series is boost city needed

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 1:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Cat

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Baseball bats and rosary beads were the only thing on Tonya Killian's mind as she walked toward Minute Maid Park for Game 3 of the 2017 World Series.

A longtime Houston Astros fan and parishioner at Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, Killian was on a mission to buy rosaries custom made for the World Series by members of Annunciation Catholic Church.

Her Hail Mary attempt was a success: She bought the last two handmade rosaries for sale that day, and maybe even an Astros World Series victory.

Tradition holds that if the parish -- which sits close to the ballpark across the street -- sells out of its rosaries on game day, the Astros will win.

No one really knows if Killian's purchase guaranteed the Astros' 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers that Friday night, Oct. 27. But nobody could have expected the wild 13-12 Astros win two days later on Sunday night, even after Saturday's loss. Game 5 saw the two teams slug it out for more than five hours and into extra innings Oct. 29.

Going into Game 6 at Dodger Stadium Oct. 31, the Astros were leading 3 games to 2.

These rosaries were special to Killian, not just because they were Astros-colored. Killian's family suffered during Hurricane Harvey: Two of her family members' homes in Dickinson were flooded with more than 2 feet of water during the storm.

Now more than two months since the storm dropped more than 50 inches of rain along the Texas Gulf Coast, she said some of her family is able to finally return home. The rosary means a lot to her, she said.

"I've broken down more times in the last month and a half than in the last two years," she told the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Dickinson was one of the hardest hit areas in Houston. "It's cleaned up, but as you drive by, you can see straight through these homes."

Still, Killian said the Astros' World Series run has been thrilling to watch, something the city needed after Harvey's devastation.

"To watch the Astros play, to me, is like watching kids doing what they love and having fun," she said.

Parish staff and volunteers said the rosaries were in high demand, with 120 to 150 available during each of the three World Series games in Houston. The line stretched down the block with a half hour wait just to enter the parish's sidewalk pop-up gift shop.

Father Paul Felix, pastor of the 147-year-old parish, opened the doors to the historic church for all to visit Oct. 27. He beamed as visitors milled in and out. Inside, dozens stopped for a quiet moment of prayer before heading into the ballpark for the game.

Earlier that day, Lance McCullers, former MLB pitcher, lit a few candles inside the church for his son Lance McCullers Jr., a pitcher for the Astros. McCullers Jr. was crucial during the 2017 American League Championship against the New York Yankees and helped send the Astros to their second World Series.

Father Felix said the World Series was a prime time to evangelize the culture with the rosary, especially during the centennial of the Marian apparitions at Fatima.

His collar seemed to garner a double-take every few minutes or the occasional genial nod from the tens of thousands of baseball fans decked out in their team colors who streamed by the church.

Between blessing rosaries, Father Felix stopped to greet parishioners and the non-Catholics who have come to know him and his parishioners throughout the baseball season. The parish has been selling rosaries outside their front door all year long to help raise funds for parish renovations.

The church, designed by Nicholas J. Clayton, is the oldest surviving and continuously used church building in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and is need of repair. Father Felix encouraged visitors to help recognize history and join the effort to help renovate the church.

Incarnate Word Academy, founded in 1873 by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, adjacent to the church also celebrated the Astros' World Series run with sidewalk art that welcomed baseball fans.

The sisters are longtime fans of the Astros, especially after the team left the Astrodome and moved downtown in 2000 across the street.

Soon it was time to close up shop and as the volunteers began to clean up, the 6 p.m. Angelus bell rang loudly hundreds of feet above. Everyone stopped what they were doing to pray together.

Then, not seconds after the closing Glory Be, a nearby patient but faithful fan yelled out a question: "Did y'all sell out!?"

Happy to confirm, the volunteers said "Yes!" The Orange-clad fan cheered and headed for the stadium to tell others the good news.

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Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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