You are here

Top Stories

Subscribe to Top Stories feed Top Stories
Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
Updated: 24 min 41 sec ago

Colombia youths must teach elders to forgive, to move on, pope says

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 1:42pm

By Cindy Wooden

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- As Colombia strives to build a lasting peace, the country's elders need the encouragement and insistence of young people, who believe with all their hearts that forgiveness is possible and grudges don't have to last for decades, Pope Francis said.

The pope turned what was originally described as the "blessing of the faithful" Sept. 7 into a rallying cry to an estimated 22,000 young Colombians gathered in Plaza Bolivar outside the cathedral and cardinal's residence.

"Dream big," he told them. "Help us, your elders, not grow accustomed to pain and death."

Pope Francis not only described the youths as the "hope of Colombia and of the church," but he said that when they walk the path of empathy, understanding, encounter, forgiveness and hope, people can see in them the actions of Jesus, "the messenger of peace, the one who brings us good news."

"Do not let anyone rob you of your joy," the pope told the youths, who were singing, dancing and waving flags and homemade, oversized foam gloves.

"Keep joy alive," he told them. "It is a sign of a young heart, of a heart that has encountered the Lord."

Fueled by joy, he said, young people can spread hope and confidence in a new future for Colombia, one that finally and definitively turns the corner after more than 50 years of civil war, death and destruction.

"Do not be afraid of the future," the pope said. "Dare to dream big."

Young people almost naturally are sensitive to the suffering of others, he said. That's why so many volunteer organizations all over the world rely on the young to carry out their work. It is possible, he added, that "death, pain and division have impacted you so deeply that they have left you half-dazed, as if numb," but he pleaded with them to open their hearts to the suffering of others and mobilize to respond.

Living in a country at war, experiences of poverty or of broken homes, seeing peers give into drug addiction -- all those things make young people see that "not everything is black and white," the pope said. Some people react by falling into relativism, thinking that nothing is clearly right or wrong -- but "wrong is always wrong and cannot just be smoothed over," he said.

Another reaction, a better reaction, Pope Francis said, is that of "perceiving the pain of those who suffered," not only judging actions, but understanding the individuals involved and the "endless number of causes, of mitigating factors."

That understanding, the pope said, must be extended to the youths' parents and grandparents, who "could not or did not know how" to come to an understanding and to end the civil war sooner.

Young people are experts at not getting "entangled in old stories" and grudges, he said. "You help us in the desire to leave behind what has hurt us, to look to the future without the burden of hatred."

"Precisely for this reason you are facing the enormous challenge of helping us to heal our hearts; of passing on to us the youthful hope which is always ready to give others a second chance," Pope Francis said.

He ended with a plea and prayer for all the nation's people: "Do not let difficulties weigh you down; may violence not break you; may evil not overwhelm you."

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

- - -

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.

Pursue peace through social inclusion, pope tells Colombian officials

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 12:56pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By David Agren

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Pope Francis urged Colombians to put aside prejudice and pursue peace through social inclusion, fighting inequality and paying attention to the plight of the country's most marginalized populations, such as campesinos, Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples.

Speaking alongside President Juan Manuel Santos, the pope called on Colombians to recognize that "real wealth is diversity" and to pursue a "culture of encounter," in which people are at the center of all political, social and economic activity. Promoting such a culture would "help us flee from the temptation of revenge and the satisfaction of short-term partisan interests."

"I encourage you to look to all those who today are excluded and marginalized by society, those who have no value in the eyes of the majority, who are held back, cast aside. Everyone is needed in the work of creating and shaping society. This is not achieved simply with those of 'pure blood,' but by all," the pope told Santos and government officials Sept. 7 outside the Casa de Narino, Colombia's presidential palace.

"Please ... listen to the poor, to those who suffer," he added. "Look them in the eye and let yourselves be continually questioned by their faces racked with pain and by their pleading hands. From them we learn true lessons about life, humanity and dignity."

The speech -- invoking St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit who fought discrimination and the slave trade in Colombia -- was Pope Francis' first official event on his five-day visit to the South American country.

Pope Francis arrived in Colombia as the country pursues peace after five decades of armed conflict. That conflict has claimed 220,000 lives and left millions more victimized and displaced. Many of those victims came from the poorest strata of Colombian society.

"Our gaze fixes upon the weakest, the oppressed and maltreated, those who have no voice, either because it has been taken from them, or was never given to them, or because they are ignored," the pope said, as children sat behind on a platform in front of the presidential palace columns.

The pope also emphasized the importance of family -- "envisioned by God to be the fruit of spousal love" -- as a source of social cohesion and "that place where we learn to live with others despite our difference and to belong to one another."

Colombia's government and a Marxist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reached a peace accord last year. The FARC is demobilizing and recently formed a political party. Another Marxist group, the National Liberation Army, is in talks with the government and agreed to a four-month cease-fire in the days before the pope's arrival.

The peace accord with the FARC has proved polemic; some in Colombia disapprove of FARC leaders receiving reduced punishments for committing atrocities and fear the presence of former guerrillas in the country's political process.

Pope Francis has not specifically endorsed the peace accord, but he saluted the process of bringing peace to Colombia.

"Over the past year, significant progress has been made. The steps taken give rise to hope, in the conviction that seeking peace is an open-ended endeavor, a task which does not relent, which demands the commitment of everyone," Pope Francis said. "It is an endeavor challenging us not to weaken our efforts to build the unity of the nation."

Santos, who has promoted the peace accord in the face of stiff opposition, called the pope's visit a "push" to take the first steps toward peace and reconciliation.

"It's no use silencing our weapons if we continue armed in our hearts," the president said. "It's no use ending a war if we still pursue each other as enemies. That's why were need to reconcile.

"We trust your visit will open the hearts and minds of Colombians to the peace that comes from God and inhabits the souls of men. This is the peace we are constructing," he told the pope.

Pope Francis ended by telling the country, "you have a great and noble mission, which is also a difficult task," then quoting Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "In spite of this, before oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the unending wars down the centuries, have been able to subdue the tenacious advantage of life over death. An advantage which is both increasing and accelerating."

- - -

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.

Pope arrives to help promote healing in Colombia, scarred by war

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 7:44pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By David Agren

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Pope Francis arrived in Colombia Sept. 6 for a five-day visit to promote reconciliation in a deeply Catholic country scarred and reticent to offer forgiveness after decades of war.

The pope was greeted was welcomed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez Munera. Children in traditional costumes presented him with flowers, and the pope greeted members of the Colombian military, including soldiers injured in the line of duty.

In a gesture to promote the themes of peace and reconciliation, he was given a dove by a boy named Emmanuel, who was born in a guerrilla camp to Colombian politician Clara Rojas, kidnapped in 2002 and released nearly six years later.

On the 12-hour flight from Rome, Pope Francis told reporters that the trip was "to help Colombia go forward in its journey of peace."

Expectations for Pope Francis' visit are running high among Colombian Catholics. It's the first papal trip to Colombia since 1986, when St. John Paul II visited.

But he arrived after the signing of a peace accord promising to put Colombia on a path of ending more than 50 years of armed conflict. Just days before the visit, the National Liberation Army, a Marxist organization carrying out crimes like kidnap and bombings, and the government agreed to a four-month cease-fire.

Challenges remain, especially as many Colombians -- including Catholics and those of conservative persuasions -- object to the idea of demobilized Marxist guerrillas accused of atrocities receiving reduced punishments and even participating in politics. Those persecuted by paramilitaries voice similar misgivings.

"We are expecting that the pope brings a lot of hope," said Msgr. Hector Fabio Henao, director of Caritas Colombia. "The pope arrives at a time when reconciliation is the greatest challenge. We hope that his message touches the hearts of those who have suffered due to this conflict."

The papal trip carries the motto: "Let's take the first step," purposely chosen to convey a sense of collective involvement in the country's peace process.

"The motto of the apostolic trip says exactly what we are expecting: Let's take the first step," said Auxiliary Bishop Juan Carlos Cardenas Toro of Cali. "This first step by the pope, stepping off the flight to come closer to this nation, which has suffered, is something for us that opens the door to hope."

The Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym as FARC, reached a peace accord in 2016, in which the FARC agreed to demobilize. The agreement has proved polemic, even though violence perpetrated by guerrilla groups, government soldiers and paramilitaries has left an estimated 220,000 dead and millions more displaced.

Catholics are divided on the peace accord, and Colombian bishops have stayed on the sidelines, while encouraging the laity to voice their opinions. Many conservative Catholics, along with evangelicals, argued the deal included provisions harmful to the traditional family -- a charge denied by peace accord proponents; opponents turned out to defeat the deal in a plebiscite.

The accord later was reworked and approved in Congress. People say they want peace, but disagree -- often strongly -- on how to pursue it

"The church itself reflects the divisions in Colombian society," said Jesuit Father Mauricio Garcia Duran. "The pope comes to Colombia in a context of polarization."

The papal visit touches on themes important to the country and church. In the capital, Bogota, Sept. 7, the pope will celebrate a Mass focused on young people, expected to attract more than 1 million attendees.

He travels Sept. 8 to Villavicencio -- gateway to the at-times neglected southern half of Colombia -- where he will pray with 6,000 victims of violence and is expected to call for reconciliation. That call for reconciliation will include a call to reconcile with creation; included in the audience will be indigenous peoples from the Amazon and lands increasingly exploited by mining and natural resource extraction.

The following day, Pope Francis will address clergy and religious in the city of Medellin. He also will visit a Catholic orphanage.

Pope Francis ends his visit to Colombia on the Caribbean coast in the city of Cartagena. There he is expected to address the church's controversial history of trafficking slaves to the New World.

He will also recite the Angelus at a shrine to St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit who worked to stop slavery.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden in Bogota.

 

- - -

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.

U.S. bishops, other Catholic groups back conscience protection bill

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 5:25pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and 32 other organizations have signed a joint letter of support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2017.

The bill, which has House and Senate versions, is intended to close loopholes that ignore the conscience rights of medical professionals on abortion, according to the signed letter.

"Even many 'pro-choice' Americans realize that the logic of their (opponents') position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion," said the letter, dated Sept. 6 and addressed to senators.

"Yet, with violations of federal conscience laws occurring in California, New York, Washington, Alaska, Illinois, and most recently Oregon, it is increasingly clear that the current laws offer far less protection in practice than in theory," the letter added.

"Federal conscience laws do not authorize a 'private right of action' allowing the victims of discrimination to sue on their own behalf, and allowing courts to take measured action to end this discrimination," it said.

Its backers say the bill "would mean almost no change in the substantive policy of Congress" but "would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans who serve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by the government to violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent human life."

The House passed an identical bill last year, 245-182.

Other Catholic signatories of the letter included the Catholic Medical Association, the Knights of Columbus, the National Council of Catholic Women, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the National Association of Catholic Nurses, the Catholic Benefits Association, Catholic Healthcare International and the Franciscan Alliance.

Other signers included the National Right to Life Committee, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the National Association of Evangelicals, the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the American College of Pediatricians and the Susan B. Anthony List.

 

- - -

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.

Villavicencio: Colombian city of 'victims and victimizers'

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Congregation of Holy Cross

By David Agren

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. Catholic parishes and schools located in the 70-mile-wide path of the total solar eclipse Aug. 21 plan to take part in this rare event with everything from providing parking spaces or viewing sites to offering overnight retreats or all-day events with family activities or scientific lectures.

The total eclipse -- to be viewed only with proper eyewear -- begins Aug. 21 in Oregon at 10:18 a.m. PDT and ends in South Carolina at 2:43 p.m. EDT after going over Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

How long viewers will see the moon covering the sun depends on where they will be on its coast-to-coast path. Some may only see it for a few seconds, others for a couple of minutes. Maximum eclipse -- at two minutes and 40 seconds -- takes place in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

But no matter the length of time extent, this historic event is drawing thousands to places where they can get a better view if just for a few minutes and to also celebrate for the day or even a long weekend.

And while they are in the path of the eclipse, some hope they will stay awhile and visit.

Renee Brueckner, operations director of the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri, one of the sites in the path, hopes some of the eclipse-viewing crowd makes its way to the shrine where they will have extra tour guides on hand the weekend of Aug. 19-20. The shrine, which is just finishing a major capital restoration project, is ready for visitors but its offices will be closed from 12-2 p.m. local time Aug. 21 for sky gazing.

In Perryville, the total eclipse time is slated to be 2 minutes and 34 seconds, beginning at 1:18 p.m. CDT.

Crowds already will be across the street during the weekend for solar eclipse festivities including food and games at a picnic area owned by St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

Brueckner said she hopes visitors will come to the shrine and "get some contemplative and quiet time."

It's not the only place to highlight spiritual renewal. La Salle Retreat Center in Wildwood, Missouri, is hosting an overnight retreat the night before the eclipse and is inviting the public to its grounds on the day of the event, which there will begin at 1:15 p.m. CDT and last 2 minutes and 14 seconds. The center will sell bottled water and viewing glasses.

"Guests will be able to walk around our beautiful grounds with meditation areas, including a labyrinth and grottoes," the center's marketing and program coordinator, Michelle Cook, told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly, Nebraska, is offering rooms and transportation for eclipse viewers. The retreat center, operated by the Lincoln Diocese, is not directly in the path of the total eclipse, but will take guests to and from the airport and to a town an hour away for solar viewing at 1:03 CDT. The retreat center also is providing box lunches for viewers and will have Mass and eucharistic adoration in the morning.

COR Expeditions, a Catholic outdoor program in Lander, Wyoming, that got its start at Wyoming Catholic College, also is offering an eclipse package that involves eight days of backpacking in the Wyoming's Wind River Mountain Range Aug. 19-26. The group is providing food, technical gear, instructors and transportation and says on its website that the trek after viewing the eclipse will give hikers the chance to "allow the awesome beauty of the eclipse to sink in."

For those who might want to take in a lecture or just activities, that's covered too.

Robert Mitchell, professor of engineering and physical science at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, will conduct a live broadcast from Aurora, Nebraska, where the total eclipse can be viewed. The broadcast will be shown at the Putnam Museum in Davenport and will be livestreamed on YouTube beginning at 11 a.m. CDT with talks and PowerPoint presentations and then a presentation on the eclipse as it happens.

Mitchell said the sky will start to darken around 11:45 a.m. local time but the maximum part of the eclipse will be visible around 1:15 p.m. when it will be dark like night in Aurora, which he noted will confuse birds and other animals.

In an interview with The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Davenport Diocese, the professor echoed the often-said warning of not looking directly at the sun during the eclipse.

"Wear proper viewing glasses, get a filter for a telescope, make a pinhole viewer, make a mirror in an envelope or make your own cardboard projector," he said.

Another Catholic college professor equally excited about the eclipse is Ryan Maderak, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, which is directly in the path of the total eclipse.

"This is literally the event of the century, and it is falling right in our laps," he said. The college will experience about 2 minutes and 18 seconds of total darkness starting at 1:07 p.m. CDT.

The college has a sold-out event the day of the eclipse with seating in its football stadium for viewing and free solar glasses to the first 7,500 at the gate. The day before the eclipse two astronomers from the Vatican Observatory will give presentations.

The big day will include morning and evening Masses, meals at the school's dining hall, activities at the stadium such as face painting, Frisbee games and water balloon tosses and will end with a "celestial concert." During the day, the school, which just opened a new observatory, will have its telescopes rigged for viewing the sun.

The eclipse will also be a big moment for Catholic schools that are in session.

"It really is like heaven" for a science teacher, said Meg Darke, a parent volunteer in the science lab at Christ the King School in Nashville, which is in the total eclipse path. "We're going to see something that day that man can't re-create. We cannot duplicate with all our technology what we're going to witness. "

Julie Petcu, science enrichment coordinator at St. Matthew School in Franklin, Tennessee, hosted a workshop this summer for area teachers, led by an educator from NASA.

St. Matthew's is just outside the total eclipse band but Christ the King School is right in it and on Aug. 21 the school will host a "solar-bration" event for the school community and parents.

"The entire community will be involved in doing activities that are eclipse related," Darke said. All the students and faculty will gather on the field beside the school to watch the eclipse and their parents will be invited to join.

Immaculate Conception School in Clarksville, Tennessee, also lies in a prime viewing location, just south of the center line of the path of the total eclipse, which will pass through Hopkinsville, which is on the other side of the Tennessee-Kentucky state line.

The total eclipse is expected to be visible in Clarksville for 2 minutes and 21 seconds. Immaculate Conception Principal Stephanie Stafford said that from the first day of school to the eclipse, they would be talking about this event.

And even through many local schools will be closed that day, Immaculate Conception will stay open, she told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper.

"We're leaving it up to the parents," she said, "to see if they are willing to fight the traffic."     

- - -

Contributing to this report was Andy Telli in Nashville, Anne Marie Amacher in Davenport and Jennifer Brinker in St. Louis.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

- - -

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.

Villavicencio: Colombian city of 'victims and victimizers'

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Agren

By David Agren

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia (CNS) -- People in need in this city set in the heart of Colombia's cattle country line up outside the Pope Francis food bank, a warehouse built with a donation from the pontiff.

Father Carlos Ricardo, director of social ministries for the Archdiocese of Villavicencio, says the facility meets a great need in a region where people have been thrown off their land in the violence afflicting Colombia and have had to start over in shanties built around Villavicencio.

"It's a city of settlements, made up of people that had to leave their land due to war," Father Ricardo said. "Villavicencio is made up of victims and victimizers. They're both here. There are people displaced that lost their homes, the things that they had. There are also people being reinserted into society from the guerrilla groups and paramilitaries."

Pope Francis arrives Sept. 6 in Colombia for a five-day visit. Among the four cities he will visit is Villavicencio, where he will celebrate Mass for an estimated 700,000 people -- including indigenous Colombians -- and will later offer prayers for reconciliation with victims of violence attending from all corners of Colombia.

Promoting reconciliation is a recurring theme in the pope's trip and a priority among Catholics in Colombia after five decades of armed conflicts and the signing of a peace accord between the government and the main guerrilla group.

Villavicencio, 75 miles southeast of the capital, Bogota, is the gateway to remote regions such as the Amazon, and Pope Francis is also expected to promote reconciliation with creation and speak of environmental issues.

Church officials say the trip to Villavicencio, population 500,000 and growing quickly over the past decade as displaced persons arrived, is heavy on symbolism and meant to send messages on topics important for Colombia and the church as a whole.

Villavicencio "was the heart of the conflict for many years in this region, with many different armed groups," said Msgr. Hector Fabio Henao, director of Caritas Colombia. It's a city where Pope Francis "will find victims of the armed conflict."

"It's also on the road to the Amazon. The pope can point toward the Amazon, toward its inhabitants, (the) destruction of the jungle over the decades ... and make a reference to reconciliation with nature," he said.

Locals call Villavicencio the gateway to the "Llano," the plains of Colombia. With an abundance of available land, Father Ricardo says the region attracted the displaced persons from around the country, who had to start over from scratch after losing their properties.

Though close to the capital, Villavicencio is described a bottleneck for those traveling to the southern parts of Colombia. It's also the place where the "rest of Colombia begins," vast swaths of rugged and sparsely populated terrain, along with the Amazon region -- an area taken advantage of by guerrillas, who used its thick vegetation for cover.

The area has been largely forgotten by the government. Paramilitaries, often paid by palm growers, inflicted violence on vulnerable populations. The Catholic Church has played a role, providing services where the state has been absent.

That work has not always been appreciated by those in positions of power. Priests ministering to populations with unpopular political opinions or areas occupied by guerrilla groups were seen with suspicion or as promoting liberation theology.

"There have been murders of human rights leaders ... and priests for defending human rights by the state itself," said Father Ricardo. "We work with the poor, giving them the word of God, but (elites) thought that we were subversive, that if we were not with them, we were against them ... that we're spreading a revolutionary mentality."

While in Villavicencio, Pope Francis will beatify two martyrs: Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca -- who was murdered by Marxist guerrillas in 1989 in an area rife with conflict -- and Father Pedro Maria Ramirez. The latter was hacked to death by a machete-wielding mob in 1948 after the assassination of presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, whose Liberal Party was often scorned by the Catholic Church.

In this region, the peace accord signed by the federal government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is still viewed suspiciously by many, including some in the church hierarchy.

Father Ricardo expressed hope the pope's trip to Villavicencio would "set a single direction" for the church to follow in the attempts to promote peace in Colombia.

Reconciliation will not be easy, but some in Villavicencio appear willing.

"Forgiving is hard," said Jeydi Gonzalez, a program director with the archdiocesan social ministry in Villavicencio, whose father was among six men murdered by paramilitaries. Making forgiveness harder is that provisions under the peace accords mean one of her father's killers -- four others implicated were killed -- will have his sentence cut from 50 years to seven years.

"I feel very happy" the pope is coming to Colombia "but also anxious to know what he is going to say," said Gonzalez, who credits accompaniment from a priest after her father's murder for helping her family at a time when others in their village viewed them suspiciously. "They stigmatized us," she said, because they thought her father had to have been involved with the guerrillas.

The priest's intervention also provided her with an opportunity to continue studying and earn a master's degree from a Canadian university.

Gonzalez said she hoped Pope Francis "can help bring home a message that speaks to our reality, the context which Colombia is experiencing."

- - -

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.

Flying to Colombia, pope asks prayers for Venezuela

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 10:18am

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO COLOMBIA (CNS) -- Flying to Colombia, with a flight plan changed to avoid Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean Sea, Pope Francis told reporters that Colombia and its neighbor, Venezuela, were in his prayers.

The Sept. 6-10 visit to Colombia "is a bit special," the pope said, because he is going "to help Colombia go forward in its journey of peace."

The pope also told reporters the flight would take him over Venezuela, and "we will say a prayer for Venezuela that it can have dialogue -- dialogue among all -- for the stability of the country."

Venezuela, Colombia's eastern neighbor, has been the scene of protests and severe shortages of food and medicine for months as President Nicolas Maduro has tried to consolidate his power and rewrite the nation's constitution. More than 100 people have died in the protests since April.

Alitalia's original plan for the more than 12-hour flight to Colombia was to cross the Atlantic, then fly over U.S. territorial waters and Puerto Rico, the Antilles and Venezuela before landing in Bogota, Colombia.

As the flight was about to take off, Vatican officials said there had been a change of plans because of Hurricane Irma. They said the new flight path would go over Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago as well.

On the eve of the trip, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the visit to Colombia coincides with "the beginning of a process of peace after 50 years of conflict and violence." The pope wants to encourage Colombians "so that after so much mourning, so much destruction, so much suffering, the Colombian people and the Colombian nation can know a new reality of peace and harmony."

The motto of the pope's visit, "Let's take the first step," purposefully uses the plural because "everyone must feel involved in this process, this itinerary, and concretely translate it" into action, the cardinal told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

Pope Francis will highlight some of the ways of doing that, he said, by insisting on "the sacredness of life, respect for life always and everywhere, the theme of the dignity of the person, of human rights."

- - -

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.

Catholic leaders sharply criticize Trump's decision to end DACA

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 5:33pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

By Kurt Jensen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic church leaders, immigration officials and university presidents were swift and unanimous in their condemnation of President Donald Trump's Sept. 5 decision to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals known as DACA.

"In the past, the president stated that the Dreamer story 'is about the heart,' yet (the) decision is nothing short of heartless," said Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich. "The Dreamers are now left in a six-month limbo, during which Congress is supposed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a feat they have been unable to achieve for a decade," he said in a Sept. 5 statement.

The rescission of DACA, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, places an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and have known no other home, under threat of deportation and losing permits that allow them to work. From August through December, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the work permits of more than 200,000 DACA recipients will expire and only 55,258 have submitted requests for permit renewals.

The decision to end DACA is "a heartbreaking disappointment," said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. She also said her organization rejects and adamantly disagrees with Sessions' "untested personal opinion that DACA is unconstitutional."

"Americans have never been a people who punish children for the mistakes of their parents. I am hopeful that we will not begin now," said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. "I do not believe this decision represents the best of our national spirit or the consensus of the American people. This decision reflects only the polarization of our political moment."

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, said in a statement with other USCCB leaders: "The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans."

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, called the decision "malicious."

"One can't hide behind the term 'legality' in rescinding DACA," his statement added. "That is an abandonment of humanity, and abandonment of talented and hopeful young people who are as American as you and I."

Mercy Sister Aine O'Connor, who stood in front of the White House as the decision was announced, also took issue with Sessions' remark: "Nothing is compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws."

"We do not see it as a compassionate act. It is a merciless act," Sister O'Connor told Catholic News Service, adding that it was "an abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration."

Future plans for her group include lobbying members of Congress to show "the root cause of immigration, which includes American policies that destroy economic stability in other countries."

The Washington-based Franciscan Action Network's statement compared Trump to Pontius Pilate: "Like Pilate, President Trump has tried to wash his hands of responsibility when he could have and should have kept DACA in place. God commands his people to care for immigrants and treat them 'no differently than the natives born among you.'" (Lv 19:34)

The Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network accused Trump of undermining "the dignity of undocumented individuals," adding, "As people of faith, we are called to uphold the inherent dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, to stand with those marginalized by a broken immigration system, and to recognize the gifts and talents that these young people bring to our communities."

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, in a statement on his Facebook page, said he wanted to emphasize Georgetown's "strongest support for all of our undocumented students. As a nation, we have the capacity and responsibility to work together to provide a permanent legislative solution to ensure the safety and well-being of these young women and men who have -- and will -- contribute to the future of our country in deeply meaningful ways."


- - -

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.

Advisory: Graphic posted on severe food emergencies

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 4:19pm

By

Editors: We have posted a graphic on severe food emergencies under the graphics tab of our photos/graphics section. The graphic is being translated into Spanish for posting at a later date.

- - -

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.

Catholic Charities USA gives $2 million for hurricane relief

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 4:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Charities

By

SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- Catholic Charities USA presented a $2 million check Sept. 4 representing donations received to date for immediate emergency assistance for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and its catastrophic flooding.

One hundred percent of the funds raised will go directly to immediate and long-term recovery efforts.

Making the presentation was Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, accompanied by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of the neighboring Diocese of Victoria, J. Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Catholic Charities USA's Mobile Response Center vehicle, filled with emergency supplies, left Catholic Charities headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, for Texas and will remain there to assist Catholic Charities agencies with response efforts.

Diocesan Catholic Charities agencies have been hard at work in recovery efforts, trying to address difficulties as they arise.

In Houston, which has received the lion's share of attention, there have been huge problems finding temporary housing. Apartments are flooded and hotels are not accepting payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On top of that, the city is getting ready to shut down shelters.

In Victoria, relief efforts are just getting started, as Catholic Charities is trying to find a building to convert into a distribution center. Cleaning supplies are still needed to cope with the aftermath of flooding.

While most volunteers want to go to southeast Texas, which suffered significant damage, five counties in the Diocese of Austin were also hit by Harvey. Catholic Charities personnel have gone door-to-door to hotels in Bryan and College Station trying to find displaced people, then connecting them to United Way, as hotels in the area are full due to the college football season. Some businesses are offering paid time off for their employees to go to impacted areas and do volunteer work.

In Corpus Christi, Catholic Charities USA workers are on the ground with people and resources. The biggest challenges they face include trying to find places to store donated supplies and relocating residents with no affordable housing available.

Trucks are a big issue in Beaumont and San Antonio. In Beaumont, six 18-wheelers arrived fully loaded with donations, and up to 100 volunteers stayed until 2 a.m. on Sept. 5 to unload them.

Beaumont's water supply has remained sketchy since the storm. Water service has not been restored to all areas and those who do have water must boil it first. With flooding still an issue, supply routes change daily and Catholic Charities faces the challenge of getting donations to the right places. They are also setting up food service for volunteers and survivors and looking for vehicles to deliver donations to outlying areas. 

 

- - -

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.

Announced end to DACA program is 'reprehensible,' U.S. bishops say

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:10pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is "being rescinded" by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them to work.

Although the Department of Homeland Security will immediately stop accepting applications to the DACA program, current recipients would not be affected until March 5, which Sessions said will "create a time period for Congress to act -- should it choose."

He described the 2012 policy, popularly known as DACA and implemented under President Barack Obama, as an "unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch."

DACA does not provide legal status for youths who were brought to the country without legal permission as children, but it gives recipients a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States -- as long as the applicants meet certain criteria.

In the days leading up to the decision, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with other Catholic organizations, asked the president to keep the program.

A Sept. 5 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the cancellation of DACA "reprehensible" and something that "causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families."

"Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country," they said, adding that the decision by the Trump administration is a "heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and goodwill, and a short-sighted vision for the future."

The bishops also urged Congress to "immediately resume work toward a legislative solution."

They told DACA recipients: "You are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you."

The statement was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers.

- - -

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina

- - -

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.

Despite peace accords, Colombian victims say indignities continue

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 12:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Henry Romero, Reuters

By David Agren

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Milena Cardenas was 6 years old when rebels of the M-19 guerrilla group seized the Colombian Supreme Court in 1985. The army counterattacked and more than 100 lives were lost, including 12 of the 25 judges. Eleven cafeteria employees also disappeared; Cardenas' mother was among them.

Cardenas' family has searched for answers ever since. Her mother's death or whereabouts was not confirmed until 2015, when the authorities say her remains were found buried in a Bogota cemetery -- in the grave of another person. Cardenas expressed skepticism with the finding: She says a video shows her mother being ushered out of the building in 1985 by soldiers.

"It was the modus operandi of the time: Confuse persons' identities, turn over the wrong remains, take other corpses to common graves," Cardenas said at the Augustinian-founded St. Thomas Aquinas University in Bogota, where she is taking a Caritas-sponsored course for strengthening civil society groups.

"Since the state manipulates things to cover up its actions, the struggle for truth and justice has to come from the families or the victims themselves," added Cardenas, part of a collective known as "Costurero de la Memoria." "They never investigate, they only blame guerrillas, they never admit their part in any matters."

Pope Francis arrives Sept. 6 in Colombia for a five-day visit, during which he is expected to address issues such as the implementation of the National Peace Accords, the discrimination suffered by marginalized populations and the plight of victims of violence and their families.

The pope will celebrate Mass with 6,000 victims of violence Sept. 8 in Villavicencio, where he is expected to promote reconciliation after five decades of conflict in Colombia, which has left 220,000 dead, according to the government, 7 million displaced people and millions of victims of violence.

Colombia is attempting to reconcile a difficult past of guerrilla movements, paramilitaries and state actors such as soldiers inflicting disappearances, death and the dispossession of lands on large swaths of the population.

Those impacted include leftist and union leaders -- who continue being killed -- campesinos, indigenous and Afro-Colombians, and cases called "false positives," in which soldiers executed civilians, who were then presented as guerrillas killed in combat.

Activists such as those in "Costurero de la Memoria" ("Sewing for Memory") -- so named for its members sewing blankets to memorialize victims and attempts at keeping memories of past atrocities alive in a country at times wanting to turn the page -- say those seen as problematic for people in power are still targeted, while cases are often not investigated. Members of the collective, meanwhile, say their work can be dangerous, so sewing offers a more-subtle approach to activism.

"I belong to a national oversight committee of victims and social organizations. Even there people are being threatened, because they show that the government is behind all of these deaths," said Marina Salazar, whose Afro-Colombian family was thrown off its land when she was a child.

Families often form social organizations to protest, push politicians and investigators for action and fight for justice. The results are often discouraging, while the response from the authorities only provokes more pain, because the slayings of activists are often passed off as common crimes, or crimes of passion, activists say.

Colombia passed the Victims and Land Restitution Law in 2011. The law provides victims with financial compensation and returns land to displaced Colombians, among other measures. The peace accord reached last year between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas also calls on the FARC, as they are known, to contribute to reparations, for public apologies to be issued and the establishment of a truth commission.

The FARC is unpopular in Colombia, and people want them to show contrition, "but they were not the only victimizers," Adam Isacson, senior associate for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America.

"It would be nice if the pope said all victimizers should do the same -- paramilitaries and their supporters in the private sector as well as members of the military," Isacson said.

Victims in Colombia are raising their voices as the reconciliation process proceeds. Members of the collective are completing an 80-hour course sponsored by Caritas on building capacity and strengthening the ability to push for their rights. But convincing the public that victims were not complicit in the crimes committed against them and that the process of victimization is structural remains difficult.

"The population has to wake up a little to the strategy, 'If you disagree with me, I'll get rid of you," said Claudia Chona, a member of the collective. "The state continues saying these are isolated cases. People don't realize this is structural. A country like this cannot have peace."

Members of the collective express hopes the pope's visit will turn attention to their plight, while lending support for the peace accord -- which many conservatives, including Catholics, oppose. Most of all they want "justice and truth" rather than an agreement that simply pacifies troubled parts of the country and opens space in politics for those previously excluded.

"(The authorities) want there to be an act of reconciliation," said Lilia Yaya, whose father, murdered in 1989, was a union leader regional boss with a persecuted left-wing party, the Patriotic Union. "Victims say ... 'We want justice and truth. That the truth of what happened in the county be known.'"

- - -

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.

Be the first to love, to build bridges, pope tells Colombians

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 10:35am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Colombia's transition to a just and lasting peace requires a commitment on behalf of all the nation's people to taking the first step toward reconciliation, Pope Francis said in a video message.

"'Let's take the first step' is the motto of this trip," the pope said in the message broadcast Sept. 4. "This reminds us also to be the first to love, to build bridges, to create fraternity."

"Taking the first step encourages us to go out to meet the other, to extend a hand and exchange the sign of peace," Pope Francis said.

The pope was to arrive in Colombia Sept. 6 for a five-day stay in the country. He was to visit the capital, Bogota, and the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.

A key point of the trip was to give encouragement to Colombians after more than five decades of civil war. The government ratified a peace agreement with the largest rebel group, known as FARC, in November 2016. And just two days before the pope's arrival, negotiators for the government and the National Liberation Army, the ELN, announced they had reached a temporary cease-fire agreement.

In his video message, Pope Francis said he was going to Colombia "as a pilgrim of hope and peace, to celebrate with you faith in our Lord and also to learn from your charity and your perseverance in the search for peace and harmony."

A stable and lasting peace, he said, requires an effort to recognize each other as brothers and sisters rather than enemies.

The world today needs people who promote peace and dialogue, the pope said. "The church, too, is called to this task, to promote reconciliation with the Lord and with one's brothers and sisters, but also reconciliation with the environment, which is God's creation and which we are savagely exploiting."

- - -

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.

Pope offers prayers for flood victims in U.S., southern Asia

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 10:15am

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After leading thousands of pilgrims in praying the Angelus, Pope Francis offered prayers for flood victims in Texas and Louisiana following a devastating hurricane that caused massive flooding.

He also prayed for flood victims in Asia where monsoon rains have killed thousands in Bangladesh, India and Nepal and displaced millions of people.

"While I renew my spiritual closeness to the people of southern Asia, who still suffer the consequences of the floods, I want to express my heartfelt participation in the sufferings of the inhabitants of Texas and Louisiana struck by a hurricane and by exceptional rains that have caused victims, thousands of displaced and considerable material damage," the pope said Sept. 3.

Hundreds of thousands were displaced in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 26. In the same week, floods and landslides in southern Asia killed more than 1,000 people and affected an estimated 41 million people, the United Nations reported.

Invoking the intercession of Mary, "consoler of the afflicted," the pope prayed that she would "obtain from the Lord the grace of comfort for our brothers and sisters" affected by the floods.

In his address before reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus rebukes Peter for opposing his death on the cross.

"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do," Jesus said to Peter.

Peter, the pope explained, turned from the rock upon which Christ wanted to build his church to "a stumbling block on the path of the Messiah."

Christians today face the same temptation of "wanting to follow Christ without the cross, or even of wanting to teach God the right path."

"Jesus reminds us that his way is the way of love and there is no true love without self-sacrifice," the pope said. "We are called to not allow ourselves to be absorbed by the vision of this world but to always be more aware of the need and effort for us Christians to walk uphill and against the current."

The wisdom of Jesus' call to gain life by losing it, the pope continued, challenges the "egocentric mentality and behaviors" that lead men and women to a "sad and sterile existence" that comes from only protecting and fulfilling themselves.

"May Mary Most Holy, who followed Jesus to Calvary, accompany us also and help us not to be afraid of the cross," he said. May all accept "the cross of suffering for love of God and of our brothers and sisters because this suffering, by the grace of Christ, is fruitful with the resurrection."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

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.

Fans of Jesuit author will find surprises in collection of his works

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:05pm

By Mitch Finley

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although prisoners must pay a price for their crimes, incarceration must not be used as a method of torture but rather an opportunity to become contributing members of society, Pope Francis said.

Punishment can be fruitful only when inmates are helped to look toward the future rather than only back at a past lived out in shame, the pope said in a video message Aug. 24 to inmates at the Ezeiza federal penitentiary in Argentina.

"Let us not forget that for punishment to be fruitful," the pope said, "it must have a horizon of hope, otherwise it remains closed in itself and is just an instrument of torture; it isn't fruitful."

The pope's video message was addressed to inmates taking part in the prison's university studies program, which he said was one of many programs that provide "a space for work, culture, progress" and are "a sign of humanity."

He thanked prison administration officials for allowing the program as well as the inmates in charge of the student center -- Marcelino, Guille and Edo -- who he said he "knew by phone."

"What is happening among you in prison is a breath of life. And life -- as you know -- is a gift, but a gift that must be conquered daily. It is given to us, but we must conquer it every day. We must conquer it in every step of our life," the pope said.

Prisoners must be given the hope of social reintegration and empowerment, Pope Francis said. And the prison's educational studies program will give inmates a chance to be productive members of society despite their crimes.

"It is shame with hope, a punishment with a horizon," the pope said. "I'll say it again: There are and will be problems, but the horizon is greater than problems; hope overcomes all problems."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

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.

In new book, pope upholds traditional marriage, need to help sinners

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:08am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- By virtue of its very definition, marriage can only be between a man and a woman, Pope Francis said in a new book-length interview.

"We cannot change it. This is the nature of things," not just in the church, but in human history, he said in a series of interviews with Dominique Wolton, a 70-year-old French sociologist and expert in media and political communication.

Published in French, the 417-page book, "Politique et Societe" ("Politics and Society") was to be released Sept. 6. Catholic News Service obtained an advance copy, and excerpts appeared online.

When it comes to the true nature of marriage as well as gender, there is "critical confusion at the moment," the pope said.

When asked about marriage for same-sex couples, the pope said, "Let's call this 'civil unions.' We do not joke around with truth."

Teaching children that they can choose their gender, he said, also plays a part in fostering such mistakes about the truth or facts of nature.

The pope said he wondered whether these new ideas about gender and marriage were somehow based on a fear of differences, and he encouraged researchers to study the subject.

Pope Francis also said his decision to give all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion was not mean to trivialize this serious and grave sin.

Abortion continues to be "murder of an innocent person. But if there is sin, forgiveness must be facilitated," he said. So often a woman who never forgets her aborted child "cries for years without having the courage to go see a priest."

"Do you have any idea the number of people who can finally breathe?" he asked, adding how important it was these women can find the Lord's forgiveness and never commit this sin again.

Pope Francis said the biggest threat in the world is money. In St. Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus talked about people's love and loyalty being torn between two things, he didn't say it was between "your wife or God," it was choosing between God or money.

"It's clear. They are two things opposed to each other," he said.

When asked why people do not listen to this message even though it has been clearly condemned by the church since the time of the Gospels, the pope said it is because some people prefer to speak only about morality.

"There is a great danger for preachers, lecturers, to fall into mediocrity," which is condemning only those forms of immorality that fall "below the belt," he said.

"But the other sins that are the most serious: hatred, envy, pride, vanity, killing another, taking away a life ... these are really not talked about that much," he said.

When asked about the church's "just-war" theory, the pope said the issue should be looked into because "no war is just. The only just thing is peace."

 

- - -

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.

'Hear the cry of the earth,' pope and patriarch urge in ecology message

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 3:00am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Environmental destruction is a sign of a "morally decaying scenario" in which too many people ignore or deny that, from the beginning, "God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment," said the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Marking the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople issued a joint message.

They urged government and business leaders "to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation."

Looking at the description of the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, the pope and patriarch said, "The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy."

But, they said, "our propensity to interrupt the world's delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet's limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets -- all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation."

"We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession," the two leaders said. "We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs."

Ignoring God's plan for creation has "tragic and lasting" consequences on both "the human environment and the natural environment," they wrote. "Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation."

The pope and the patriarch said prayer is not incidental to ecology, because "an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world."

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople established the World Day of Prayer for Creation in 1989. In 2015, shortly after publishing his encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si'," Pope Francis established the day of prayer for Catholics as well.

The object of Christian prayer and action for the safeguarding of creation, the two leaders wrote, is to encourage all Christians "to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives."

Echoing remarks Pope Francis made Aug. 30 when the pontiff announced he and the patriarch were issuing a joint message, the text included a plea to world leaders.

"We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized," they wrote. No enduring solution can be found "to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service."

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew also highlighted how "this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people," especially the poor, in a more pronounced way.

"Our obligation to use the earth's goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures," they said. "The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work toward sustainable and integral development."

- - -

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.

Advisory -- Faith Alive! No. 33 posted

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 4:16pm

By

NEW YORK (CNS) -- At the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan, Polina Maller, 11, took a few moments from her violin lesson to talk about her appreciation for music.

"It's fun, and I like it. Music makes me feel like I'm free inside; it makes me feel like I could create things, and then I feel good about myself," Polina, a classical music aficionado, said July 26 in an interview with Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper.

She was midway into a week of a summer music camp on the cathedral grounds.

Eleven children took part in the first-time program, "Pipes, Pedals & Peals," sponsored by the Friends of the Henry Erben Organ. The group is a charitable organization devoted to the conservation and restoration of the 1868 Henry Erben Organ inside St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.

The five-day camp, which operated three hours each morning, was open to children ages 7 to 12. Organizers expect to make it an annual summer program.

The Friends group also supports live musical performances, education and training of young musicians and organists, after-school music education programs and organ demonstrations, coordinators said. In addition, it supports concerts for visiting tour groups, arts and cultural organizations, schools and universities.

The week's activities for the music camp children included lessons in playing the violin and handbell chimes, and hands-on lessons about the history, uniqueness and intricacies of the Henry Erben Organ -- yes, hands-on, they got to play the special organ. Polina played a prelude by Bach.

The wood Erben Organ has three manuals, or keyboards -- an organ keyboard played by the hands is called a "manual." It stands about 45 feet high and has 2,500 pipes. "It's about the size of a small apartment," said Anne Riccitelli, president of the Friends group.

The children also assembled a special kit, creating a small, functioning organ similar to the Henry Erben Organ. The Orgel miniature organ kit was developed in the Netherlands; it is an educational organ that measures about 3 by 3 by 2 feet, weighs more than 40 pounds, and has about 48 pipes.

Additionally, the children performed at a summer camp recital -- with violin and handbell chimes -- during a July 30 Mass at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral; the liturgy, celebrated by the pastor, Msgr. Donald Sakano, was followed by an Erben Organ demonstration, and later a festive reception in the undercroft.

The cathedral's organist is Jared Lamenzo, who gave the demonstration. The children casually played the small organ at the reception.

"They're learning a lot in one week -- the small organ will help them understand how the big organ works," Lamenzo said while the children were learning how to play the handbell chimes July 26, a lesson given by Michael Bodnyk, a cantor at both St. Patrick's Old Cathedral and St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, the mother church of the New York Archdiocese.

The violin lessons were taught by Addie Deppa, who noted, "Music in general, I feel, brings on a window of purity and beauty to children's lives. I think it's super important for children to have music. ...They (the music camp children) are wonderful; they're very eager to learn, a lot of energy."

Robert Hodge, 10, also was among the music camp children. "I love the class, and the teachers are nice. It's very educational," Robert told Catholic New York.

Msgr. Sakano noted the old cathedral community's love of the arts. "We have a program called Basilica Voices, where our young people who are preparing for first holy Communion and confirmation are also being trained to sing. ... And then we have the camp, which is not a Catholic teaching program per se -- but it is faithful in the sense that music is the sound that God likes hearing."

- - -

Machado writes for Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.

- - -

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.

Integral ecology: Care for creation means caring for the poor

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Cindy Wooden

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic social teaching has developed over the past century as new problems -- human, social, economic and environmental -- come clearer into focus and call out for a faith-based response.

Pope Francis' contribution, with his encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," is to emphasize just how closely entwined those problems are.

"After Laudato Si', for the Catholic Church, these are connected. You cannot try to tackle poverty without caring for the earth and equally you cannot care for the earth without caring for the people who live on the earth," said Father Augusto Zampini Davies, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

One of the biggest challenges of Pope Francis' approach is a spiritual one, the Argentine priest said. It involves conversion.

The poor are impacted most by climate change, yet they have done the least to contribute to it, he said. "We must convert and change our lifestyles and help others cope with the climate change we've caused."

People in wealthy countries may think they are "ecologically friendly" because they recycle and "like trees and gardening," he said, "but the way we produce, trade, consume and waste" is not offset by separating plastic from paper.

In addition, wealthy countries "have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change," for example, in building infrastructure to control flooding and providing emergency relief to victims of natural disasters and drought. But in poor countries, thousands of people die in floods and tens of thousands are forced to migrate because of drought and famine.

"If you cannot grow your crops and feed your children, who wouldn't migrate?" he asked.

In richer countries, the conversion Pope Francis is calling for includes learning to face fear with a Gospel-based attitude toward others and toward future generations, the priest said.

The connections between environmental damage, the global economy and migration are clear, he said. And so are the motives underlying reactions like climate-change denial, isolationism and anti-migrant sentiments.

"What Pope Francis does is say, 'OK, here are the symptoms, let's find the roots,'" Father Zampini Davies said. "The roots are the same: selfishness or indifference or greed or this mentality of thinking that if I have more I will be more important."

In many ways, he said, fear appears to be spreading among people in the wealthiest nations, and "politicians play on people's fears. If I feel I am not benefiting from the global economy and I live in a democracy, I will vote for someone who says they will get us out of that."

Christians can find in their faith a healthy way to handle their fears, he said, "because we have a different approach to the quality of life, to what it means to have a better life, because our understanding of life is relational and our understanding of redemption and salvation is that it is for all of creation."

Transforming the former Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis specified that the office is an expression of the church's "concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works and the care of creation."

In other words, for Pope Francis, all those issues together are key components of "integral human development."

Father Zampini Davies, a priest of the Diocese of San Isidro, Argentina, is one of the newest officials at the dicastery. He moved to Rome from London where he spent the last four years serving as a theological adviser to CAFOD, the official aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales.

His focus is "integral ecology," which includes development, the environment and spirituality.

Early development efforts focused almost exclusively on material growth, Father Zampini Davies said, but over time it became obvious that increasing income and purchasing power was not enough. Progress also meant access to education and health care and greater social and political inclusion.

Thanks also to the social teaching of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said, Catholic development experts began insisting that respect for human dignity, strengthening families and religious freedom also were markers of progress.

For many of the development models, he said, environmental degradation was accepted as collateral damage in the drive to increase production and consumption, thereby raising GDPs.

Now it is clear to scientists, economists, development experts and theologians that care for the environment and reducing the factors that contribute to climate change are essential for making development sustainable and truly caring for the poor, Father Zampini Davies said.

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

- - -

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.

Pope offers prayers for victims of flooding in Texas, Louisiana

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:06am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Trudy Lampson handout via Reuters

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered his prayers for the people of Texas and Louisiana struggling to cope with the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey and he praised all those engaged in rescuing and caring for the thousands of people forced out of their homes.

In a message to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Pope Francis asked that his "spiritual closeness and pastoral concern" be relayed to all those affected by the hurricane and flooding.

The message was sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and released by the Vatican Aug. 31.

"Deeply moved by the tragic loss of life and the immense material devastation that this natural catastrophe has left in its wake, he prays for the victims and their families, and for all those engaged in the vital work of relief, recovery and rebuilding," Cardinal Parolin said.

Pope Francis, he said, "trusts that the immense and immediate needs of so many individuals and communities will continue to inspire a vast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation."

- - -

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.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha • Catholic Voice
402-558-6611 • Fax 402 558-6614 •
E-mail Us

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved.
This information may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Comment Here