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Updated: 46 min 28 sec ago

Dioceses warned of possible legal action by Covington student's lawyers

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 4:43pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kaya Taitano, social media via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two weeks after the much-talked about and interpreted incident that occurred between Catholic high school students, a Native American tribal leader and members of another protest group, lawyers for one of the students sent more than 50 letters to media outlets, individual journalists, celebrities and Catholic dioceses and archdioceses warning of possible legal action.

The letters -- from the lawyers for Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, the student most prominent in viral footage of the Jan. 18 encounter in Washington -- were sent to individuals and groups the attorneys think may have defamed or libeled Sandmann particularly in the initial reaction on social media.

The incident in question occurred when students from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School, who had attended the March for Life, were waiting for buses to pick them up near the Lincoln Memorial.

In clips from a video that went viral almost immediately, students were shown surrounding Nathan Phillips, tribal elder for the Omaha Tribe, who was chanting and beating a drum. The students appeared to be mocking him. Sandmann, inches away from the drummer, who never moved and was smiling, was accused of flagrant disrespect.

The clip caused immediate outrage, particularly on social media.

By the next day, extended footage of how the situation unfolded revealed that another group at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial had taunted the students and some responded back. Phillips had walked over to the students and the group, as an intervention, singing and beating a song of prayer.

After the initial viral video, some of the high school students issued their own statements about the situation, including Sandmann, who said he did not move because he wanted to show he wasn't being aggressive. The school announced there would be a third-party investigation into what occurred.

But the wave of initial outrage against the students triggered the legal response. Sandmann's attorneys said in a Jan. 25 statement that members of the media and others "rushed to condemn and vilify this young man by burying him in an avalanche of false accusations, false portrayals and cyberbullying that have threatened his reputation and his physical safety."

According to news reports, the attorneys' letters sent to more than 50 recipients Feb. 1 urge them not to destroy any documents in connection with the case.

The lawyers representing Sandmann and his family are Todd McMurtry of the Covington-based law firm Hemmer Defrank Wessels, and L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorney involved in high-profile defamation suits.

The list of letter recipients includes The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and National Public Radio along with the Kentucky dioceses of Covington and Lexington and the archdioceses of Louisville, Kentucky, and Baltimore. Only the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Lexington immediately responded to CNS about the letter.

McMurty confirmed that these dioceses and archdioceses were sent "a document preservation letter." In a Feb. 5 email to CNS, he said the letter "does not mean that a claim will be filed, but only that the Sandmann family is investigating potential claims."

Douglas Culp, spokesman for the Diocese of Lexington, and Sean Caine, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, confirmed Feb. 5 that the diocese and archdiocese had received the letter but both declined to comment about it.

The Baltimore Archdiocese tweeted about the incident Jan. 20, without naming the student or school, saying it "condemns the disrespect shown toward a Native American elder during the March for Life. Respect for life demands all are treated with dignity."

That tweet came after Covington Catholic High School and the Diocese of Covington issued a joint statement Jan. 19 saying they condemned the students' actions "toward Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general."

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini also issued a statement that same day saying the encounter did not represent her organization or "the vast majority of the marchers" and that the students' behavior is not welcome at the march and never will be.

The next day, March for Life said in a tweet had deleted its original tweet about the students "given recent developments."

The Baltimore Archdiocese similarly issued a retraction later Jan. 20, saying that school authorities and parents would get to the bottom of this complex situation. And on Jan. 23, an archdiocesan statement said "initial reports of that incident were at best incomplete. Those incomplete reports led many, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to speak out too hastily. We apologize for doing so."

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, a neighboring diocese to Covington, wrote in his Jan. 22 blog that he has received "many calls and email messages from people with many different viewpoints and seemingly opposite messages about the incidences involving Covington Catholic High School students at the March for Life."

He said many people have pointed out how he initially joined Covington Bishop Roger J. Foys in a blog post condemning the alleged actions, which he had since taken down.

The archbishop said he has sought to "act in solidarity with the bishop of Covington, who is in a position to have the best information about what transpired and who has pledged an independent investigation of the situation."

McMurtry, Sandmann's attorney, told the Lexington Herald Leader that he will be demanding retractions and apologies in addition to possible litigation and that not all the organizations who were sent letters will necessarily be sued.

"We want to change the conversation. We don't want this to happen again," he told the daily newspaper, adding: "There was a rush by the media to believe what it wanted to believe versus what actually happened."

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Contributing to this story was Jacob Comello in Washington.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

'Jesus walks with us, we'll walk with him,' USCCB president says

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 4:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At the last Mass of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo told hundreds of participants who were preparing to talk later to their representatives in Congress that "Jesus walks with us" when doing the social ministry of the church.

"Jesus walks with us, we'll walk with him," said Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, in his homily at the Feb. 5 Mass in Washington.

Cardinal DiNardo, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also tied in St. Agatha, whose feast day is celebrated Feb. 5, at different points in his homily.

He called St. Agatha "a great, great witness," which should serve as inspiration for Catholic Social Ministry Gathering participants preparing to head to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers. "Agatha and company represent a cloud of witnesses that you will be sent to today as you visit about Congress. Lots of clouds and witnesses," Cardinal DiNardo said. "We can only be encouraged, even when we face troubles and difficulties."

He noted St. Agatha also is the patron saint "of those who suffer sexual violence and abuse as she suffered in Sicily." St. Agatha, who had vowed as a teenager to remain a virgin, was raped, tortured and ultimately put to death for refusing to submit to the marriage demand of a Roman prefect. "That's something to keep in mind in the church," Cardinal DiNardo added.

The cardinal linked the church's social ministry with the day's Gospel reading from Mark, in which Jesus brings the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus back from the dead, but not before he heals a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for a dozen years.

"People are distraught and come to us, as they come to the Lord," Cardinal DiNardo said.

"Jairus, the head of the synagogue, a top-notch leader -- what would make him kneel down in front of the rabbi (Jesus)?" he asked. "People get that distraught over what happens to them personally. We in social ministry know that, right?"

Jesus' response to Jairus' plea was "OK, let's go," Cardinal DiNardo said. "All of a sudden, things get waylaid by the woman with a hemorrhage."

The woman, unnamed in the Gospel account, "(is) desperate. She's willing to be anonymous to let Jesus heal her," he added.

"Mark uses verbs 'to be healed,' 'to be' -- they are words that indicate salvation," Cardinal DiNardo said. "Where you start, Jesus will lead you around," and for those in social ministry, he added, "Jesus will take us more deeply into the catechesis of who he is."

Once Jesus gets to Jairus' house and expels those weeping and wailing over his daughter's death, he tells the girl to get up, and she does so immediately and starts walking around the room. "Jesus does come to you, and he'll move you and you will stand up and you will move around," Cardinal DiNardo said in his homily.

"All we have to do," he added, "is watch Jesus today and we see that."

In his archdiocese, he said, there are more prisons than in all other Texas dioceses combined. Now, though, "both the left wing and the right wing in Texas agree that something's got to be done" about imprisonment in Texas. He called this "a teachable moment."

As social ministers were preparing to make their Capitol Hill visits, he told them, "Yes, yes, yes -- there is something that can be done to change this (political) environment." There is trouble right now, he acknowledged, "but there's so still so much power because of the power of Jesus."

As in the day's Gospel, Cardinal DiNardo said, "God helps those who come after Jesus."

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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Copyright © 2019 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 memoriam -- Gaspar Romero, brother of St. Oscar Romero

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 2:03pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/RhinaGuidos

By Carlos Colorado

On Feb. 2, Santos Gaspar Romero Galdamez, 88, the younger brother of Salvadoran Archbishop St. Oscar Romero, died in San Salvador, El Salvador. Gaspar Romero was the last of eight children of Santos Romero and Guadalupe Galdamez, and one of only two who lived to see their martyred brother beatified and canonized. Since his wife died a few years ago, he is outlived by one last surviving Romero sibling (Tiberio), and his children and grandchildren.

During the final years of his life, Gaspar Romero devoted almost all his energy to promoting the memory of his saintly brother. It was not unusual to see him at commemorations in the crypt of the San Salvador cathedral, where his brother's remains are buried, or as a guest at celebrations by Salvadoran communities abroad or in remote hamlets in El Salvador -- especially his hometown, Ciudad Barrios. He was a beloved presence in those communities for his mild manners, friendliness and humility.

I had the pleasure of witnessing his openness and generosity firsthand. I met him for the first time in 2007. On that occasion, "Don Gaspar" (as all his Salvadoran friends call him) agreed to meet me at a donut shop in San Salvador. We talked for almost three hours, in a session in which we only consumed two orange Fantas, because we talked so much.

During that first interview, and in a visit three years later, when Don Gaspar took me to visit his hometown -- including to see the house where he and his brother grew up -- he opened a wide window to the saint's younger years. But he also allowed me to understand the martyrdom that the family underwent in the turbulent years when his brother was at the helm of El Salvador's premier see, and of course in the wake of his tragic murder.

Due to the difference in ages between Gaspar and St. Romero (whom Gaspar always reverently called "Archbishop Romero," never just "Oscar"), Gaspar got to know his brother only when Oscar returned from the seminary in Rome, when Gaspar was 15 years old. Gaspar accompanied the young priest to his first parish assignment in a remote Salvadoran village called Anamoros. It was so isolated that there were no roads to get there, and the two brothers had to reach it on horseback. When they got there, they found it to be without running water or electricity.

At this place, which was completely disconnected from the world, the two brothers had to bathe and drink water from a river that ran through it. Submerged in the icy current at dawn, the younger brother confessed to the new pastor, "I don't much like it here." The young priest admitted, "Me either." But when Gaspar suggested that Father Romero ask to be moved to another parish, he responded that he had to obey, that he would stay there until the bishop ordered otherwise, and that he accepted and recognized his place and would give his total commitment to the endeavor.

Gaspar told me that the same obedience to his superiors -- the famous "thinking with the church" -- would be evident when St. Romero was named archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. At the time, the new archbishop revealed to his brother that he sensed that his new mission would entail "a great sacrifice." He had already been auxiliary bishop in San Salvador in the early '70s and had butted heads with the young urban clergy in the city. He preferred the tranquility of his countryside diocese, Santiago de Maria, which he told Gaspar had been the happiest years of his ecclesial career. However, the future martyr did not know the concept of seeking to get his way: "I must obey," he told his brother.

If St. Romero was going to have to make "a great sacrifice" in San Salvador, the family also had to share in his martyrdom, including Gaspar. When the archbishop began to denounce the military dictatorships for their grave human rights violations, he began to receive anonymous threats, and so did the family. One time, Gaspar received a particularly disturbing threat against his brother, which ominously stated that the archbishop would not survive that very day. Alarmed, Gaspar went to warn his brother, but found him serene, confiding that he regularly received threats of that nature.

Another time, Gaspar was demoted from his job with the state-run telephone company, where he was a section chief, but was suddenly and inexplicably made a janitor. Refusing to resign from the company, he chose to withstand the humiliation of his suppressed job function for several months, only requesting a meeting with his supervisor. "It's because of your brother," the supervisor told him.

Gaspar protested the injustice, recalling how the same supervisor had told him about an unfair episode when the supervisor had been held responsible because his brother had embezzled funds. The supervisor tried to distinguish the two cases: "That was totally different," he argued. Gaspar responded: "Yes, because your brother was a crook and my brother is not!"

When Gaspar told St. Romero what had happened, tears ran down the archbishop's cheeks, and Gaspar's eyes welled with tears when he told me the story. The archbishop knew his family was suffering under the circumstances, and it anguished him not to be able to do anything to alleviate their ordeal. He knew he was going to be killed, but he feared even more that others could become collateral damage in an attack against him.

St. Romero spoke clearly about the danger to his own life with his brother Gaspar.

"The day something happens to me, you will be the first to know," he told him.

"It was a prophecy," Gaspar told me, because on March 24, 1980, he was the first of the family to hear the news due to his connections at the telephone company.

When he told me these things, Gaspar used the words "the painful matter" to refer to the assassination, and he wept repeatedly discussing it. The martyrdom of the Romeros was not limited to mourning the unjust death of their loved one, because they were also forced to go along with relegating his name to oblivion to protect themselves. They had to get rid of photos of the archbishop and to not talk about him, almost having to deny him three times, St. Peter-like, during their dark night.

Even after they overcame suspicions about being collaborators, there came whispers that they received lucrative benefits due to their relationship with the saint: that they received royalties from the "Romero" movie starring Raul Julia; that the Vatican paid them a pension; that the state provided them stipends from the peace agreements. More recently, gang members tried to blackmail them, thinking the family received money from a U.S. trial against one of the co-conspirators in the killing.

The last few years brought a measure of vindication after the archbishop was beatified and canonized in 2015 and 2018, respectively. Gaspar was able to meet Queen Elizabeth and Pope Francis because of his saintly brother. But when I asked him if the balance of joy had countered the grief, he responded without hesitation: "I would prefer that they had not killed him."

In the final months of his life, Gaspar called for the Salvadoran government to prosecute the murder of his brother. It remains to be seen whether his call for justice will be acted upon.

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Follow Colorado on Twitter: @SuperMartyrio

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Copyright © 2019 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, on flight, talks about dialogue, war, abuse of women religious

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 12:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (CNS) -- Pope Francis told reporters he is more afraid of the consequences of not engaging in interreligious dialogue than he is of being manipulated by some Muslim leaders.

He told reporters flying back to Rome with him Feb. 5 from Abu Dhabi that people are always saying he's letting himself be used by someone, "including journalists, but it's part of the job."

"For me, there is only one great danger at this moment: destruction, war, hatred among us," the pope said, explaining why he and Egyptian Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, spent a year writing back and forth to finalize the document they signed Feb. 4 in Abu Dhabi on promoting "human fraternity" and Christian-Muslim understanding.

"If we believers aren't able to extend a hand, embrace and also pray, our faith will be defeated," the pope said. The Abu Dhabi "document is born of faith in God, who is father of all and father of peace."

Pope Francis spent about 35 minutes answering reporters' questions, although he insisted on responding first to questions related to the trip. That meant he put on hold until the end of the session a question about the clerical sexual abuse of women religious.

The women's supplement to the Vatican newspaper printed a story in its February issue on the abuse of women religious. Asked about it, Pope Francis said, "It's true, it's a problem," especially in some newer Catholic communities and congregations.

"There have been priests and even bishops who have done that," the pope said. "And I would guess that it still happens today, because it is not something that ends just because people know about it."

"We have been working on this for a while," Pope Francis said. "We have suspended some priests, sent them away for this, and -- I'm not sure if the whole process had been completed -- but we also have dissolved a few women's religious congregations," newer ones, where corruption and sexual abuse were found.

"Must more be done? Yes," he said.

The Catholic Church owes much to the "courage" of then-Pope Benedict XVI for beginning to tackle the problem, Pope Francis told reporters. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tried to investigate a congregation where women were allegedly being abused, he said, but the investigation was blocked.

Pope Francis did not provide more details, but said that as soon as Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, he called for the files he had compiled and began again.

The now-retired pope, he said, dissolved a congregation "because the slavery of women, including sexual slavery, had become part of it."

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said the dissolved congregation was the Sisters of Israel and St. John; he would not provide information about who initially blocked then-Cardinal Ratzinger's investigation.

Pope Francis also was asked about the war in Yemen and about the conditions that would be necessary before the Holy See would offer to mediate in the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela.

On the question of intervening in Venezuela, Pope Francis said he had been informed of the arrival by diplomatic pouch of a letter from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is trying to hold on to power in the country.

Asked if he was ready to mediate, Pope Francis said the Vatican would offer assistance only if both sides requested its help and if both sides showed a willingness to take steps toward resolving the crisis.

As for Yemen, where millions of people risk starvation because of four years of war, the pope said he raised the situation there with government officials from the United Arab Emirates, an active member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Houthi armed movement.

Declining to share details about his private conversations with UAE leaders about the war, the pope would say only that he found "goodwill for starting a peace process."

A reporter asked the pope how he feels having the name Francis, traveling to promote peace and then being welcomed with a flyover of military jets and a 21-cannon salute, as happened in Abu Dhabi.

"I interpret all gestures of welcome as gestures of goodwill," he said. Every country designs the welcome ceremony according to its own traditions and culture. The UAE, he said, "wanted to do everything" to show him and the world how important they thought his visit was, and "they wanted to make me feel welcome."

While Pope Francis said his less than 48 hours in Abu Dhabi wasn't enough, he said he appreciated the openness of the country's Muslim leaders and their willingness to host the Human Fraternity meeting and the signing of the dialogue document.

Some Catholics may not appreciate the document and the respect it shows for Islam, but it is based on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, he said, and he had several theologians, including the "theologian of the papal household, a Dominican," read it to ensure it conformed to Catholic teaching.

"The document was written in the spirit of Vatican II," he said.

Asked why he did not speak more forcefully in public about the persecution of Christians and more strongly about how religious freedom involves more than freedom of worship, Pope Francis said he speaks about those things often, but the focus in Abu Dhabi was "more about unity and friendship."

"Freedom is a process," he said, one "which we must respect and accompany" as it expands in nations where there is goodwill and openness.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Creative cuisine lessons help whip up self-reliant seminarians

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 12:27pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Rutter

By Katie Rutter

ST. MEINRAD, Ind. (CNS) -- Familiar sounds of sizzling meat and clanging cutlery associated with food preparation offered a different kind of doctrine than one might expect in a third-floor classroom at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.

Inside, several seminarians stood around a large U-shaped countertop, chopping, stirring, seasoning and boiling.

Their instructor, Benedictine Father Julian Peters, watched the whole operation and occasionally stepped in to add an ingredient or test a consistency.

While most of the classes at this southern Indiana seminary focus on spiritual and intellectual formation, a one-day cooking class on Jan. 18 aimed to help these future-priests function as whole -- and wholesome -- human beings.

"It's a matter of stewardship, of being able to take care of ourselves," said Father Peters, "so that we can be healthy and happy and take care of others."

St. Meinrad Seminary is currently educating 120 men for the priesthood, hailing from 30 dioceses and nine religious communities.

During the two weeks between school semesters, known as the "January interterm," instructors tackle a variety of topics not covered in the regular curriculum.

Along with cooking, studies include pastoral councils, art, suicide prevention, hospice care, basic plumbing and mechanics.

"The basis of seminary formation, as Pope John Paul II reminded us, is human formation," said Benedictine Father Tobias Colgan, vice rector of the seminary.

"Not only in a person's own personal development and self-understanding, but also in the human skills that that person will need in service of the church and of the people that he will be ministering to," he told Catholic News Service.

St. Meinrad Seminary installed a large kitchen in one of the rooms for precisely this purpose. Eight burners, four ovens, two sinks and plenty of countertop space give the seminarians an opportunity to learn a skill that may have been overlooked.

A priest is frequently the sole occupant of a rectory, so he must be able to take care of himself, often while juggling many other obligations.

"They've got Mass and then they've got to go visit the hospital and then there's a sick call at a nursing home but then they've got pastoral counsel, finance -- they have all this stuff to do and it's very easy for them to put themselves last on the list," said seminarian Michael Bialorucki, who spent the summer serving at a parish in his home diocese of Toledo, Ohio.

"I've seen a lot of priests just get themselves McDonald's or Wendy's. It will eventually hurt their health," said Taesang Yun, a seminarian from Busan, South Korea.

The men in the cooking class are on track to be ordained as priests in 2020.

Father Peters said his goal, in the brief period of time set for the cooking class, is to give them tips on how to improvise in the kitchen, what ingredients to keep stocked and how to use tools, like a slow-cooker, to reduce the hands-on preparation time.

As the men together created a chicken soup, complete with dumplings, vegetables and a leftover rotisserie chicken, Father Peters also praised the "therapeutic value" of cooking in a priest's life.

"In our ministry, we don't see how things turn out," he said. "We baptize a baby but you don't know how their life always pans out. You receive the vows of a couple at marriage but then they transfer out of the parish or we get transferred."

When cooking, however, Father Peters said that, "you can see something through to completion, and there's that human sense of satisfaction that comes with that."

The seminarians eventually cooked two different types of soup, several seasoned roasts and bread smothered in a cheesy crab dip.

According to Father Colgan, the seminary has placed renewed emphasis on human formation in the wake of revelations related to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Men must be prepared -- spiritually, intellectually, mentally and physically -- for the unique demands of the priesthood.

In addition to the classes offered during the interterm, the school hosts 30 conferences throughout the year about other tangible topics.

Father Colgan said that the seminary staff also tries to discern and fill the individual needs of each student.

"We have 11 priests who live full-time in the seminary to model good human formation and to be able to gauge the human formation and the growth in human formation in the candidates," he said.

"I can testify that (with) this generation of seminarians, they're aware of the history, they're aware of the crisis but they're not deterred by it," Father Colgan said. "In effect, they're probably even more on fire to become their best selves so that in their turn they can be a solution."

While none claimed that a cooking class alone would resolve the clergy abuse crisis, both students and staff implied that a priest's knowledge of self-care was an important ingredient in the mix.

"The fact that we were called at this time of crisis, and that we are a formation at this time," said Daniel Velasco, a seminarian from the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, "it's an invitation to be part of the solution."

"We've taken (the crisis) as a challenge to say that we can be better, we can be healthier," Bialorucki said.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Community land trusts a possible answer for escalating housing costs

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 3:13pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory Scruggs, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Community land trusts are celebrating their 50th anniversary in the United States in 2019, and Catholic figures had a role in their development.

Based on a concept developed by Mahatma Gandhi in India, these kinds of land trusts were originally designed to allow black farmers to pool their resources to own the land they farmed rather than work as sharecroppers, according to Jason Webb, a senior specialist in community and capacity building at Grounded Solutions Network, a nonprofit firm that fosters community land trusts.

Speaking at a Feb. 3 workshop during the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, Webb said Americans traveled to India to study the "Gramdan" land movement there and thought, "If it can happen here, why can't it happen in the United States?"

A black Catholic priest, Father Albert J. McKnight, was one of the early supporters of the concept. So was John Lewis, once an activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee before he became a Democratic member of Congress from Georgia, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Marie Cirillo, a former nun who was "really thinking about folks in Tennessee that wanted to collectively owned land," Webb said, helped create a community land trust in Clairfield, Tennessee. Cirillo once said: "The community land trust model demonstrates how residents can empower themselves through a proper relationship with the land. Our Woodland Community Land Trust fulfills the needs of the landless poor."

Nor were land trusts just for the South. The Covenant Community Land Trust was established in 1978 in Bucksport, Maine. One of the driving forces was a Sister Lucy Poulin. Four years after the land trust was established, she said, "We're not talking about people who are accepted; we're talking about people who have never been accepted or had value in the larger community. And we're prejudiced in favor of these people -- that's the community of people that we want as our community."

Webb said the first residents of Covenant were members of a sewing cooperative that was created to provide people income after a mill was shuttered. "They sold their stuff by the roadside," he added.

"Sister Lucy was one of those people who said, 'I don't want to just talk about it. I want to do it,'" Webb said. "I'm inspired when I see a sister with a chainsaw making planks of wood."

A community land trust features dual ownership, according to Webb. The land trust owns the land, but the resident owns the improvements to it -- that is, the house.

A community land trust can take advantage of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development programs to provide seed money to buy land and build housing. It also can help close the "wealth gap" between the asking price of a house and what the would-be buyer can afford, Webb said. This loan is forgiven if the homeowner stays in the dwelling for an agreed-upon minimum number of years. The forgiven loan adds to the homeowner's wealth should he or she decide to sell it back to the land trust.

Community land trusts can be single-family housing or apartments. Webb pointed to a community land trust in Burlington, Vermont, that sets aside a fixed number of units for renters with Section 8 housing vouchers.

Speaker Kenneth Demus said the Lexington, Kentucky, neighborhood in which he and four generations of his family before him lived was converted to a community land trust when the neighborhood was slated for demolition for a road project.

After residents mobilized and protested, a Lexington city official "stumbled on" the community land trust concept, said Demus, a Grounded Solutions Network resident ambassador. There was still one hitch: The neighborhood would be spared, but houses would still have to be torn down for the seven-year construction project.

The city agreed to give the new community land trust vacant land adjoining the neighborhood and erected temporary housing. Demus said when the road project was completed, new housing was built. Residents then had their choice of buying the new house or staying in the temporary house.

Over the course of the project: Demus' circumstances had changed: He had gotten divorced and was raising his four children as a single parent. He opted for a new house.

Since moving back to the old neighborhood, one of his daughters has had a child, "so now there's seven generations of my family" who have lived there, he said.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

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In response to global warming, the idea of personal sacrifice resurfaces

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 1:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/George Frey

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A major scientific report by 13 federal agencies that concludes that climate change poses dire economic consequences to the United States and already is affecting the well being of people serves as a warning that demands action to protect the earth, Catholics working on environmental concerns said.

Personal response can encompass the simple or the complex, but some action is required of everyone if the consequences foreseen in the 1,656-page report are to be avoided, they told Catholic News Service.

"We really have to wake up and get serious about tackling this issue, particularly reducing our energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. "We need to realize if we don't get really serious about this soon our children and grandchildren will seriously suffer."

The congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment, released Nov. 23 by the White House, projects that climate change will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year by 2090. It points to worsening health, reduced farm production, stressed natural areas, lost work and classroom hours, and widespread destruction of coastal and inland property if carbon emissions are not reined in.

Elderly and poor people, children and minority communities are the most vulnerable, said the report, which was developed by more than 200 scientists and environmental experts from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments, national laboratories, universities, research institutions and the private sector.

President Donald Trump dismissed the assessment, saying simply, "No, no, I don't believe it," in response to a reporter's question about the projected economic impact of global warming. He claimed Nov. 26, without citing evidence, the U.S. air and water are "the cleanest we've ever been and that's very important to me."

Trump's response falls in line with a series of policy changes during his administration. New regulations and laws in at least 49 areas related to the environment -- from vehicle mileage standards to emissions from coal-fired power plants -- have been enacted or proposed since 2017, according to Harvard Law School's Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker.

The massive federal report is a scientific assessment built on the findings of years of research and therefore does not offer policy solutions. It outlines regional impact in 10 regions of the country. Its 29 chapters cover topic such as human health, water, forests, transportation and land use.

"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," the report said. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future -- but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged the challenges posed by climate change in a 2001 statement, "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good."

The statement noted that climate change "is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures," but rather "about the future of God's creation and the one human family ... about the human stewardship of God's creation and our responsibility to those who come after us."

Some solutions are already known, said Marianist Sister Leanne Jablonski, a biologist who directs the Marianist Environmental Education Center in Dayton, Ohio. They include reducing waste, consuming less and keeping in mind the needs of others, she said.

"We have a long tradition as Catholics of responding in active mercy," she explained, citing multitudes of soup kitchens, the work of charitable agencies and the millions of dollars raised to aid people harmed by natural disasters. The climate requires similar response, she said, because things will only get worse if personal responsibility is ignored as global temperatures continue to rise.

After reviewing the report, Sister Jablonski and others contacted by CNS found themselves returning to Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." They said the encyclical offers guidelines for Catholic action and reflection.

The encyclical -- as well as the government's report -- serves to remind the human family that the focus is not what's best for an individual or one country, but what's best for the entire planet, said Father Michael Lasky, a Conventual Franciscan who serves as director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for the order's Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

He and others suggested that people keep in mind the Catholic tradition of sacrifice for the common good in their response to the consequences of a warming planet.

"The message in a nutshell is it's not that I'm rich and they are poor, it's that because I'm rich they're poor. That includes our planet. So the sacrifice comes in the sense of interconnectedness that is cited in this report as well as 'Laudato Si',' being integral as the reason for the sacrifice," he told CNS.

"We are brother and sister to one another. In that context, don't you sacrifice for the one you love, especially if the one you love is hurting? That means we have to live differently. We have to do a radical shift," Father Lasky said.

Laura Anderko, professor of nursing and health studies and Georgetown University, said people are beginning to see how a changing climate is affecting human life through warmer temperatures that affect people with asthma, more destructive wildfires and hurricanes that dump more water on coastal communities.

Greater incidents of illnesses known to result from the effects of high temperatures are being seen by health care professionals, said Anderko, who also is director of the Mid-Atlantic Center of Children's Health and the Environment.

"Even a few years ago people were not as receptive to seeing the connection, but these days they are," she said of rising incidences of asthma and other lung-related illnesses.

Anderko, too, pointed to the pope's encyclical as a guide for Catholics.

"I would encourage folks to reread 'Laudato Si','" she told CNS. "This report underscores what the pope said, with more scientific data, and we really need to be encouraged to not be fooled by those 30-second sound bites."

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Editor's Note: The Fourth National Climate Assessment can be found online at www.globalchange.gov. The USCCB statement on climate change is online at https://bit.ly/1LS26KN.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Update: Supreme Court asked to put Louisiana abortion law on hold

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 11:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily put on hold a state law restricting Louisiana abortion providers.

The law, which was set to take effect Feb. 4, requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles radius of their clinic.

Late Feb. 1, the court announced it would temporarily keep the state's law on hold until Feb. 7.

In a brief order, Justice Samuel Alito said the justices needed more time to review the documentation on arguments for and against the law, Louisiana's Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

It sounds familiar because three years ago the Supreme Court struck down similar legislation in Texas, saying the admitting-privileges requirement and other standards put on abortion clinics "provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an 'undue burden' on their constitutional right to do so."

If the court takes up the Louisiana law it could come up with an entirely different decision based on the makeup of the current court, now with two justices on the bench appointed by President Donald Trump: Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Both sides on the abortion debate will be playing close attention to what the court does: If it sticks to its own precedent or not.

In defending its requirement for abortion providers -- supported 2-1 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit -- the state of Louisiana says its law would not have the impact that similar legislation would have had in Texas, mainly because there is no evidence that an abortion clinic would close in Louisiana as the result of the law.

A Louisiana abortion provider, June Medical Services, which objects to the law, appealed to the full 5th Circuit in mid-January to rehear the case, but the judges voted 9-6 against doing so. Now the group plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but while it does, it has asked the court to stop the law from being enforced.

Rachel Morrison, counsel for Americans United for Life, a pro-life advocacy group in Washington, said that for the Supreme Court to put this law on hold while the case is being appealed, there must be a "reasonable probability" that the court will agree to take the case and ultimately find the law unconstitutional.

The request for the stay was presented to Justice Alito, the justice in charge of emergency requests from the 5th Circuit. Morrison said Alito could make the decision himself or refer it to the full court. She wrote on the group's website: "We expect that Justice Alito will ask all of the justices to weigh in and that the court's final decision regarding the emergency request will come out before February 4th."

After the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling that struck down required hospital admitting privileges, similar policies have been struck down or unenforced in Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Currently Missouri, North Dakota and Utah have such a law.

In the Texas case, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious groups submitted a joint friend-of-the-court brief in the case supporting the law.

In response to the court's decision to strike it, the USCCB's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities said the ruling "contradicts the consensus among medical groups that such measures protect women's lives."

The Texas bishops similarly said the Supreme Court's decision "puts women at grave risk" and said the purpose of the state regulations was to ensure women's safety, noting: "Their lives are just as precious as those of their children."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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TV film fare -- week of Feb. 17, 2019

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 10:45am

By John Mulderig

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is not easy living with cancer, but there is always some kind of victory that awaits each person on the horizon, Pope Francis told young oncology patients from Poland.

"Your journey in life is a bit difficult, dear children, because you have to get treated and overcome the disease or live with the disease. This is not easy," he told the children, their parents and health care specialists Nov. 30 at the Vatican.

But with the support of family, friends and others, "there is no difficulty in life that cannot be overcome," he told his young guests who were being treated at an oncology clinic in Wroclaw, Poland.

God has given everyone a guardian angel so that "he may help us in life," Pope Francis said.

"Become accustomed to talking to your angel so that he may take care of you, give you encouragement and always lead you to victory in life," the pope told them.

"Victory is different for each person; everyone prevails in his or her way, but prevailing is always the ideal, it is the horizon for moving forward. Do not get discouraged," he told them.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Following Jesus is a daily choice, pope tells religious at Vatican

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 10:17am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The choice to follow God in life is not just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but a decision that is made every day, Pope Francis said.

Christians truly encounter Jesus through concrete events in life that occur "every day; not every now and then," the pope said in his homily for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life.

"When we welcome (Jesus) as the Lord of life, the center of everything, the beating heart of everything, then he lives and relives in us," the pope said at the Mass Feb. 2 in St. Peter's Basilica.

The feast commemorates the 40th day after the birth of Jesus, when Mary and Joseph presented him to the Lord in the temple.

Thousands of consecrated men and women belonging to religious orders attended the Mass, which began with the traditional blessing of candles.

Beginning the celebration in the vestibule of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis blessed the candles and prayed that the Lord may guide all men and women "on the path of good" toward his son, "the light that has no end."

After the blessing, dozens of consecrated men and women processed down the main aisle, where thousands more were gathered, holding lighted candles that illuminated the darkened basilica.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which the young Mary and Joseph, along with baby Jesus, meet the elderly Simeon and Anna, an encounter between young and old that is not dissimilar to the experience of religious men and women.

"If we remember our fundamental encounter with the Lord, we realize that it did not arise as a private matter between us and God," the pope explained. "No, it blossomed in the believing people, alongside so many brothers and sisters, in precise times and places."

The vocation to consecrated life "blossoms and blooms in the church" when young people find their roots and give fruit when encouraged by the elders. However, when a person is isolated, he warned, that calling "withers."

God, he continued, also calls religious men and women to him through "concrete things," especially through the sacraments, daily prayer and closeness, "especially to those spiritually or physically most in need."

Pope Francis said consecrated life is a prophetic vision in the church that is needed in today's world that is "a call for everyone against mediocrity."

Consecrated life, he added, is not a path of survival in the face declining vocations but rather a new life. "It is a vision of what is important to embrace in order to have joy: Jesus."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Arabian Peninsula has ancient Christian heritage

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 3:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak

By Dale Gavlak

JUBAIL, Saudi Arabia (CNS) -- As Pope Francis embarks on the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, few may realize that the predominantly Muslim region carries an ancient Christian heritage.

Christians worshiping there today have their antecedents in churches and monasteries hailing from the earliest times of Christianity. St. Paul ministered in Arabia, as recorded in the New Testament.

When Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi, one of seven emirates composing the United Arab Emirates, he will be walking in the well-trod footsteps of Christians in centuries past.

The UAE boasts the historical Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island built about A.D. 600. The church there contained private cabins for monks and prayer rooms. Archaeologists found nearly 15 kinds of pottery and glassware, some of which was used in religious ceremonies, according to the UAE's former minister of state for tolerance, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi.

The archaeological finds at the monastery highlight the history of various religions and cultures that inhabited the island for thousands of years, said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture. He said the monastery reflects the richness of the country's history.

Another pre-Islamic Christian monastery and church were discovered at Marawah in southern UAE, dating from the seventh century. Both are thought to have been built by the Assyrian Church of the East, formerly known as the Nestorian Christians.

Although Islam is the state religion and the faith of almost all of the UAE's citizens, numerous modern-day churches exist, and Christians are permitted to practice their faith. However, there are no bells rung to call the faithful to prayer and no crosses can be visible from the street.

Yet, in neighboring Saudi Arabia, public worship of other faiths outside of Islam is prohibited, and Christianity can be practiced only in private homes. This huge country dominating the land mass of the Arabian Peninsula also hosted a number of Christian churches and bishoprics in centuries past.

One of the country's oldest churches dating back to the fourth century is in found near the eastern town of Jubail. It, too, originally belonged to the Assyrian Church of the East.

Discovered in 1986, the mudbrick structure was covered in sand when a dune buggy reportedly crashed into the structure and subsequent digging found the ancient worship place decorated with crosses.

Although there are only partial remains of some walls to ancient structure and the crosses have been covered over with cement, the Jubail church signifies an important part of the historic Christian presence in Arabia.

There are numerous other church ruins in Saudi Arabia, including one outside the capital, Riyadh, and in Jeddah. Archaeologists also discovered Christian monuments from the fifth and sixth centuries and inscriptions in Najran.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Arabian Peninsula has ancient Christian heritage

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 3:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak

By Dale Gavlak

JUBAIL, Saudi Arabia (CNS) -- As Pope Francis embarks on the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, few may realize that the predominantly Muslim region carries an ancient Christian heritage.

Christians worshiping there today have their antecedents in churches and monasteries hailing from the earliest times of Christianity. St. Paul ministered in Arabia, as recorded in the New Testament.

When Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi, one of seven emirates composing the United Arab Emirates, he will be walking in the well-trod footsteps of Christians in centuries past.

The UAE boasts the historical Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island built about A.D. 600. The church there contained private cabins for monks and prayer rooms. Archaeologists found nearly 15 kinds of pottery and glassware, some of which was used in religious ceremonies, according to the UAE's former minister of state for tolerance, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi.

The archaeological finds at the monastery highlight the history of various religions and cultures that inhabited the island for thousands of years, said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture. He said the monastery reflects the richness of the country's history.

Another pre-Islamic Christian monastery and church were discovered at Marawah in southern UAE, dating from the seventh century. Both are thought to have been built by the Assyrian Church of the East, formerly known as the Nestorian Christians.

Although Islam is the state religion and the faith of almost all of the UAE's citizens, numerous modern-day churches exist, and Christians are permitted to practice their faith. However, there are no bells rung to call the faithful to prayer and no crosses can be visible from the street.

Yet, in neighboring Saudi Arabia, public worship of other faiths outside of Islam is prohibited, and Christianity can be practiced only in private homes. This huge country dominating the land mass of the Arabian Peninsula also hosted a number of Christian churches and bishoprics in centuries past.

One of the country's oldest churches dating back to the fourth century is in found near the eastern town of Jubail. It, too, originally belonged to the Assyrian Church of the East.

Discovered in 1986, the mudbrick structure was covered in sand when a dune buggy reportedly crashed into the structure and subsequent digging found the ancient worship place decorated with crosses.

Although there are only partial remains of some walls to ancient structure and the crosses have been covered over with cement, the Jubail church signifies an important part of the historic Christian presence in Arabia.

There are numerous other church ruins in Saudi Arabia, including one outside the capital, Riyadh, and in Jeddah. Archaeologists also discovered Christian monuments from the fifth and sixth centuries and inscriptions in Najran.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Church must take clerical abuse of women seriously, editor says

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- To hear the voices of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Michigan in Washington, the best bet was to listen to them sing at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse outside the White House late Nov. 28.

Ahead of the ceremony, the sisters had turned down all media requests for interviews about their planned performance, according to their publicist, Monica Fitzgibbons.

Because they had received so many interview requests, she said, they didn't want to appear as if they're playing favorites by OKing one media outlet while turning down another.

For those who were unable to attend the evening event in person, a one-hour special of highlights culled from the ceremony will be shown Dec. 2 on both the Ovation and Reelz cable channels at 10 p.m. EST.

After being introduced as our "very own caroling angels," the 14 sisters assembled in Washington sang the Christmas classic "Carol of the Bells."

What they had planned to sing was being kept a secret until the day of the ceremony, Fitzgibbons told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 27 telephone interview from Naples, Florida, home to the DeMontfort Music record label, which releases the nuns' music.

The order hit the top spot on the Billboard classical music charts a year ago with their third album, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: Christmas With the Dominican Sisters of Mary." In fact, it was that CD that won them a spot to perform during the ceremony.

"I've been in the music business for a long time, and the promoter was a friend of a friend," Fitzgibbons said. "They had the Christmas album out. ... This is put on by the National Parks (Service), so I submitted it that way." It was so long ago, she admitted, "I just forgot about it."

"They're not Beyonce, they're just kind of doing this and want to put Christ in Christmas," Fitzgibbons added. "Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas music?"

Asked how they got from their motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to the nation's capital, Fitzgibbons replied, "The National Parks flew them in. ... They're 'Nuns on the Plane.' They had no choice. That's what was offered to them. They live in poverty, so it was the National Parks that arranged for their transportation."

Although teaching is the order's charism, the Dominican Sisters of Mary have issued two other chart-topping CDs, "Mater Eucharistiae" and "Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations and Music." They also have published three journals, "Advent Journal, Mother of Life," "And the Word Became Flesh" and "Life of Christ Lectio Divina Journal."

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Editor's Note: More about the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, can be found online at www.sistersofmary.org.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Church must take clerical abuse of women seriously, editor says

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has been too slow coming to terms with the sexual abuse of women -- particularly women religious -- by priests, said the editor of the Vatican newspaper's women's magazine.

Although scandalous, the delay in recognizing the problem is not surprising for an "ecclesiastical institution with centuries of culture focused on women as dangerous and temptresses," wrote Lucetta Scaraffia, editor of the "Woman-Church-World" supplement to L'Osservatore Romano.

While the Catholic Church has made progress in recognizing the sexual abuse of children as a crime, Scaraffia wrote, when dealing with the abuse of women "the subject is more complex" and goes to the heart of Pope Francis' analysis of the abuse crisis as having much to do with an abuse of power.

Even when the sexual abuse of a woman by a priest is condemned, it often is presented as "sexual transgression freely committed by both parties," she wrote in the magazine's February edition.

If people took seriously Pope Francis' point about abuse and its coverup being the result of clericalism and the abuse of power in the church, Scaraffia said, the sexual abuse of women religious by priests "could finally be recognized for what it is, an act of exploitation."

"The differences in power, the difficulty in reporting it out of fear -- well founded -- of retaliation, not only against herself but also against the order she belongs to, explains the silence that has covered this exploitation for years," she wrote.

Scaraffia pointed to "precise and detailed" reports of clerical abuse of women religious written in the 1990s by senior members of women's orders, particularly Sister Marie McDonald of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and Medical Missionary Sister Maura O'Donohue.

After some media coverage of the report, she said, "silence fell on their statements and, as is well known, silence gives security to the abusers."

"If we continue to close our eyes to this scandal -- made even more serious by the fact that the abuse of women could lead to procreation and, therefore, is at the origin of the scandal of imposed abortion or of children not recognized by the priests -- the oppression of women in the church will never change," she said.

But, Scaraffia wrote, finally "the veil is being lifted" on the truth of the abuse of women in the church. It must be faced "with necessary tact, but also with the courage Pope Francis asks of us."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Church must take clerical abuse of women seriously, editor says

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has been too slow coming to terms with the sexual abuse of women -- particularly women religious -- by priests, said the editor of the Vatican newspaper's women's magazine.

Although scandalous, the delay in recognizing the problem is not surprising for an "ecclesiastical institution with centuries of culture focused on women as dangerous and temptresses," wrote Lucetta Scaraffia, editor of the "Woman-Church-World" supplement to L'Osservatore Romano.

While the Catholic Church has made progress in recognizing the sexual abuse of children as a crime, Scaraffia wrote, when dealing with the abuse of women "the subject is more complex" and goes to the heart of Pope Francis' analysis of the abuse crisis as having much to do with an abuse of power.

Even when the sexual abuse of a woman by a priest is condemned, it often is presented as "sexual transgression freely committed by both parties," she wrote in the magazine's February edition.

If people took seriously Pope Francis' point about abuse and its coverup being the result of clericalism and the abuse of power in the church, Scaraffia said, the sexual abuse of women religious by priests "could finally be recognized for what it is, an act of exploitation."

"The differences in power, the difficulty in reporting it out of fear -- well founded -- of retaliation, not only against herself but also against the order she belongs to, explains the silence that has covered this exploitation for years," she wrote.

Scaraffia pointed to "precise and detailed" reports of clerical abuse of women religious written in the 1990s by senior members of women's orders, particularly Sister Marie McDonald of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and Medical Missionary Sister Maura O'Donohue.

After some media coverage of the report, she said, "silence fell on their statements and, as is well known, silence gives security to the abusers."

"If we continue to close our eyes to this scandal -- made even more serious by the fact that the abuse of women could lead to procreation and, therefore, is at the origin of the scandal of imposed abortion or of children not recognized by the priests -- the oppression of women in the church will never change," she said.

But, Scaraffia wrote, finally "the veil is being lifted" on the truth of the abuse of women in the church. It must be faced "with necessary tact, but also with the courage Pope Francis asks of us."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

English bishop says miracle of U.S. woman could make Newman a saint

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:39am

IMAGE: CNS/Catholic Church of England and Wales

By Carol Glatz

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Catholic bishops have expressed hope that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Henry Newman in 2019 after Vatican medics said the inexplicable healing of a U.S. mother was a miracle attributable to his intercession.

The cardinal was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England, after the miraculous healing of Boston Deacon Jack Sullivan.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said the English and Welsh bishops were informed during their "ad limina" visit to Rome in September that the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Newman had been found.

"I understand that the medical board responsible for assessing a second miracle has now delivered a positive assessment to the congregation," he told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 29 email.

The archbishop said members of the congregation will meet early next year "to consider the medical board's assessment and to make its own recommendation" to Pope Francis, who will make the final decision and possibly set a date for the canonization ceremony.

Archbishop Longley said: "It is wonderful news that the process for canonization is now moving closer toward its conclusion, and I pray that we may witness the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman within the coming year."

He said the canonization would be a "great joy," especially for the Catholics of Birmingham, the city where Blessed Newman founded his oratory.

"I am sure that Pope Benedict XVI, who came to our city to beatify Cardinal Newman, will be joining us as we continue to pray for Blessed John Henry's canonization in the near future," he said.

The second healing miracle involved a young law graduate from the Archdiocese of Chicago who faced life-threatening complications during her pregnancy but suddenly recovered when she prayed to Blessed Newman to help.

It was reported in the British media in early 2016 that a file on the healing had been passed from the archdiocese to the Vatican.

The news that the second miracle had been approved in Rome was revealed by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a weekly newsletter in mid-November.

He told the people of his diocese that developments in the cardinal's cause meant that it "looks now as if Newman might be canonized, all being well, later next year."

In a Nov. 29 telephone interview with CNS, Bishop Egan described the progress of the cause as a "wonderful thing."

He said it would be "great" if it (the canonization) was in October next year because that was the month of Blessed Newman's conversion to the Catholic faith.

"It shows that it is possible to be an Englishman and holy," he said.

"It is an inspiration for anyone from England," he added. "I hope and pray that one day he will be made a doctor of the church, because there is so much in his teaching that is really rich."

Before he became a Catholic in the 19th century, Blessed Newman was an Anglican theologian who founded the Oxford Movement to try to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots.

Despite a life marked by controversy, he was renowned for his exemplary virtue and for his reputation as a brilliant thinker, and Pope Leo XIII rewarded him with a cardinal's red hat.

He died in Birmingham in 1890, and more than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession.

Scholars believe he was years ahead of his time in his views of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

 

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Endure hard times by remembering God's love, his promise, pope says

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a Christian does not mean life will be just a big endless party, Pope Francis said.

There will be good times and bad as well as moments of isolation, anguish or confusion, the pope said in his homily Feb. 1 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Being a Christian, he said, means having encountered Jesus, feeling his love and choosing to believe in his hope and promise.

The pope's homily focused on the day's first reading from the Book of Hebrews, in which the author urges his readers to "not throw away your confidence" and reminds them that perseverance and endurance are needed "to do the will of God and receive what he has promised."

Pope Francis said: "Christian life is not a carnival, it is not a party and nonstop happiness. Christian life has its really beautiful and terrible moments," moments when things seem fine and moments that are bleak and where nothing makes sense.

The day's reading explains what is needed to endure and overcome these difficult moments: memory and hope, the pope said.

One needs to remember those "happy days of encounter with the Lord" and those moments of love, he said, and find consolation in the Lord's promise.

Christian martyrs from today and throughout history possessed this courageous perseverance, he said.

"So many men and women are suffering for the faith, but they remember their first encounter with God, they have hope and they move forward," he said.

This is what is needed in times of persecution and "when the devil attacks us with temptation," he said.

"Always look to the Lord," he said. Persevere with one's own cross, remember God's love and go on with hope, ready to receive what he has promised.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Endure hard times by remembering God's love, his promise, pope says

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a Christian does not mean life will be just a big endless party, Pope Francis said.

There will be good times and bad as well as moments of isolation, anguish or confusion, the pope said in his homily Feb. 1 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Being a Christian, he said, means having encountered Jesus, feeling his love and choosing to believe in his hope and promise.

The pope's homily focused on the day's first reading from the Book of Hebrews, in which the author urges his readers to "not throw away your confidence" and reminds them that perseverance and endurance are needed "to do the will of God and receive what he has promised."

Pope Francis said: "Christian life is not a carnival, it is not a party and nonstop happiness. Christian life has its really beautiful and terrible moments," moments when things seem fine and moments that are bleak and where nothing makes sense.

The day's reading explains what is needed to endure and overcome these difficult moments: memory and hope, the pope said.

One needs to remember those "happy days of encounter with the Lord" and those moments of love, he said, and find consolation in the Lord's promise.

Christian martyrs from today and throughout history possessed this courageous perseverance, he said.

"So many men and women are suffering for the faith, but they remember their first encounter with God, they have hope and they move forward," he said.

This is what is needed in times of persecution and "when the devil attacks us with temptation," he said.

"Always look to the Lord," he said. Persevere with one's own cross, remember God's love and go on with hope, ready to receive what he has promised.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Texas dioceses name clergy with credible allegations of sex abuse

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 8:39am

IMAGE: CNS

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- In a step to restore trust in the Catholic Church, dioceses in Texas released their lists of priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been determined.

The 15 dioceses disclosed Jan. 31 the names of 278 individual clerics who have such credible allegations in Texas. The statewide disclosure removed duplication of clerics who appear on multiple diocesan lists.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, which made public its list in 2007, has continued to update its disclosure on its website. It identifies 15 priests, one permanent deacon and one religious brother.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio repeatedly called the release "the just and right thing to do," and that it is a "move forward in building a healthier community, a healthier society."

The lists were compiled separately by each individual diocese. Many dioceses worked in cooperation with diocesan lay review boards, with some also working with independent consultants.

The release includes the Galveston-Houston and San Antonio archdioceses and the Austin, Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler and Victoria dioceses. The oldest diocese is Galveston-Houston, established in 1847, with San Antonio founded next in 1874. Since 1950 nine additional dioceses have been established, resulting in a total of 15 dioceses. Laredo is the most recent to be established, that being in 2000.

Each diocese worked with the general understanding that a "credible allegation" is one that, after reviewing reasonably available and relevant information, and in consultation with diocesan lay review boards and/or other professionals, the diocese has reason to believe is true.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, extended his "deepest regret for the harm that has been done," a sentiment echoed by bishops interviewed by the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

"In multiple incidents over the years, the church and her ministers failed to protect the most vulnerable souls entrusted to our care," Cardinal DiNardo said. "There is no excuse for the actions of those credibly accused of such sins against the human person."

While each diocese prepared its list independently, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the goal of releasing the lists on the same day was significant and was done in consideration of all those affected by the abuse including abuse survivors, family members, friends and parishioners.

"When survivors see these names, it hurts them," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

He emphasized how each diocese remains committed to supporting and working with survivors and others affected by clergy abuse through a victim assistance coordinator. The church offers psychological and pastoral services through the coordinators to aid in the healing process, he said.

The archbishop recognized Pope Francis' call for accompaniment, or walking with those within and outside of the church, especially clergy abuse survivors.

"We need to let other voices help us, and that is accompaniment. It needs to be something alive, it is not just a check mark. We need to hear the voices and see how we can better serve the people," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

"Accompaniment doesn't end with listening. We must embrace the recommendations ... and always be open about the relationship with victims and survivors. We must be vigilant and work toward a change in the culture and in the dominant culture," he said.

Cardinal DiNardo agreed, saying it was his "sincere hope" that the list would be "a step forward to healing for those who have suffered in the wake of such actions."

"We humbly pledge to accompany them on that journey to wholeness and pray that God may bring them an awareness of his loving compassion," he said.

There are more than 8.5 million Catholics in Texas, and more than 1,320 parishes in the 15 dioceses.

The list includes religious order and diocesan priests. All dioceses will separately list deacons who have been named in credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor, with some disclosed Jan. 31 and others pledging to do so later this year.

"Our hope is that acknowledging our past and demonstrating our accountability can bring healing and hope to deep wounds," Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria said.

The dioceses used 1950 as the starting point for its lists to be consistent with the 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York that surveyed the nature and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons. The study covered the period of 1950 to 2002.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was founded in 2012 and has its chancery in Houston, joined the 15 dioceses in the release of credibly accused clergy. While it had not received any allegations of clergy abuse of a minor, the ordinariate said in a statement it would publicly disclose names should any credible allegations be received.

Several dioceses are participating in spiritual events to pray and act toward the healing of clergy abuse survivors.

In San Antonio, priests and deacons will lead a special prayer at every Mass in its 139 parishes the weekend of Feb. 2-3 for the "healing of the wounds of sexual abuse." Priests and deacons will renew their commitments to God and the church during the prayer.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso prepared to celebrate a Mass of Atonement Jan. 31 in St. Patrick Cathedral. In Austin, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez earlier called for a Year of Reparation that began All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. As a prelude, every parish in the diocese celebrated a Mass of Reparation Oct. 8.

An archdiocesan-wide praying of the rosary occurred Jan. 31 in Galveston-Houston for healing in the church and victims of clergy abuse. Father Richard McNeillie, director of vocations, led the rosary as it was livestreamed online.

In addition, numerous parishes have held prayer services, town hall meetings and other gatherings throughout Texas and across the nation in an effort to confront the abuse crisis with prayer and action.

The Jan. 31 release comes weeks before Pope Francis convenes a gathering of leaders of the world's bishops' conferences Feb. 21-24 at the Vatican, which Cardinal DiNardo, as USCCB president, will attend.

- - -

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

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Texas dioceses name clergy with credible allegations of sex abuse

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 3:15pm

IMAGE: CNS

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- In a step to restore trust in the Catholic Church, dioceses in Texas released their lists of priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been determined.

The 15 dioceses disclosed Jan. 31 the names of 278 individual clerics who have such credible allegations in Texas. The statewide disclosure removed duplication of clerics who appear on multiple diocesan lists and non-clergy, such as religious brothers.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, which made public its list in 2007, has continued to update its disclosure on its website. It identifies 15 priests, one permanent deacon and one religious brother.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio repeatedly called the release "the just and right thing to do," and that it is a "move forward in building a healthier community, a healthier society."

The lists were compiled separately by each individual diocese. Many dioceses worked in cooperation with diocesan lay review boards, with some also working with independent consultants.

The release includes the Galveston-Houston and San Antonio archdioceses and the Austin, Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler and Victoria dioceses. The oldest diocese is Galveston-Houston, established in 1847, with San Antonio founded next in 1874. Since 1950 nine additional dioceses have been established, resulting in a total of 15 dioceses. Laredo is the most recent to be established, that being in 2000.

Each diocese worked with the general understanding that a "credible allegation" is one that, after reviewing reasonably available and relevant information, and in consultation with diocesan lay review boards and/or other professionals, the diocese has reason to believe is true.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, extended his "deepest regret for the harm that has been done," a sentiment echoed by bishops interviewed by the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

"In multiple incidents over the years, the church and her ministers failed to protect the most vulnerable souls entrusted to our care," Cardinal DiNardo said. "There is no excuse for the actions of those credibly accused of such sins against the human person."

While each diocese prepared its list independently, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the goal of releasing the lists on the same day was significant and was done in consideration of all those affected by the abuse including abuse survivors, family members, friends and parishioners.

"When survivors see these names, it hurts them," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

He emphasized how each diocese remains committed to supporting and working with survivors and others affected by clergy abuse through a victim assistance coordinator. The church offers psychological and pastoral services through the coordinators to aid in the healing process, he said.

The archbishop recognized Pope Francis' call for accompaniment, or walking with those within and outside of the church, especially clergy abuse survivors.

"We need to let other voices help us, and that is accompaniment. It needs to be something alive, it is not just a check mark. We need to hear the voices and see how we can better serve the people," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

"Accompaniment doesn't end with listening. We must embrace the recommendations ... and always be open about the relationship with victims and survivors. We must be vigilant and work toward a change in the culture and in the dominant culture," he said.

Cardinal DiNardo agreed, saying it was his "sincere hope" that the list would be "a step forward to healing for those who have suffered in the wake of such actions."

"We humbly pledge to accompany them on that journey to wholeness and pray that God may bring them an awareness of his loving compassion," he said.

There are more than 8.5 million Catholics in Texas, and more than 1,320 parishes in the 15 dioceses.

The list includes religious order and diocesan priests. All dioceses will separately list deacons who have been named in credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor, with some disclosed Jan. 31 and others pledging to do so later this year.

"Our hope is that acknowledging our past and demonstrating our accountability can bring healing and hope to deep wounds," Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria said.

The dioceses used 1950 as the starting point for its lists to be consistent with the 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York that surveyed the nature and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons. The study covered the period of 1950 to 2002.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was founded in 2012 and has its chancery in Houston, joined the 15 dioceses in the release of credibly accused clergy. While it had not received any allegations of clergy abuse of a minor, the ordinariate said in a statement it would publicly disclose names should any credible allegations be received.

Several dioceses are participating in spiritual events to pray and act toward the healing of clergy abuse survivors.

In San Antonio, priests and deacons will lead a special prayer at every Mass in its 139 parishes the weekend of Feb. 2-3 for the "healing of the wounds of sexual abuse." Priests and deacons will renew their commitments to God and the church during the prayer.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso prepared to celebrate a Mass of Atonement Jan. 31 in St. Patrick Cathedral. In Austin, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez earlier called for a Year of Reparation that began All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. As a prelude, every parish in the diocese celebrated a Mass of Reparation Oct. 8.

An archdiocesan-wide praying of the rosary occurred Jan. 31 in Galveston-Houston for healing in the church and victims of clergy abuse. Father Richard McNeillie, director of vocations, led the rosary as it was livestreamed online.

In addition, numerous parishes have held prayer services, town hall meetings and other gatherings throughout Texas and across the nation in an effort to confront the abuse crisis with prayer and action.

The Jan. 31 release comes weeks before Pope Francis convenes a gathering of leaders of the world's bishops' conferences Feb. 21-24 at the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president and formerly bishop of San Antonio, will attend the meeting.

- - -

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

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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