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Updated: 55 min 42 sec ago

Gift of fidelity in marriage, priesthood is possible, pope says

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 10:21am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Unity and fidelity are indispensable cornerstones of Christian marriage, Pope Francis said.

Having two people generously come together as one and pledge lifelong faithful love must be not only "adequately explained to future newlyweds," these values also require the pastoral care of the church's ministers and members, the pope said, addressing members of the Roman Rota, a tribunal handling mostly marriage cases.

In fact, married couples who live their marriage "in generous unity and with faithful love" are "a precious pastoral help to the church" and offer everyone "an example of true love," he said Jan. 29 in an audience marking the inauguration of the Vatican court's judicial year.

These important role models teach in silence, he said, and unfortunately, "don't make headlines while scandals, separations and divorce make the news."

Today's increasingly secularized world, he said, "does not favor the growth of faith, resulting in the Catholic faithful struggling to give witness to a lifestyle according to the Gospel, including with regards to the sacrament of marriage."
 
That is why the church needs to find ways to offer adequate spiritual and pastoral support, he said.

"So that it may be a valid agreement, marriage requires that a full unity and harmony with the other be established in each future spouse so that, through the mutual exchange of their respective human, moral and spiritual riches -- almost like communicating vessels -- the two spouses become one," he said.

Unity and fidelity are not only the "two fundamental cornerstones" of marriage, but of the church of Christ itself, he said.

Pope Francis said couples need "triple preparation" that is "remote, proximate and permanent" so that they may grow in awareness of the values and commitments pertaining to marriage.

"Spouses who live in unity and fidelity reflect well the image and likeness of God," he said. "This is the good news: that fidelity is possible because it is a gift, in spouses as well as in priests."

"This is the news that should also make the faithful and loving evangelical ministry of bishops and priests stronger and more consoling," he said.

- - -

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.

Pakistan Supreme Court upholds blasphemy acquittal of Asia Bibi

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 9:41am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Punjab Governor House handout via EPA

By

ISLAMABAD (CNS) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of a Pakistani Catholic woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, is now free to leave Pakistan and is expected to join her family in Canada, where they were granted asylum, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa stood by the court's Oct. 31 verdict, which criticized the conflicting testimony against Bibi.

"You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?" he said according to media reports. "Such lies were told that one statement doesn't match with another."

Tehreek-e-Labbaaik, an extremist group, challenged the Oct. 31 acquittal. Protests erupted after the original acquittal, and the BBC reported that, after the Jan. 29 decision, Pakistan's electronic media were downplaying the story "in a concerted move to forestall public unrest."

The ordeal of Bibi, who worked as a farmhand, began in June 2009 when she was accused of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, after Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from a common water supply because she is a Christian.

Bibi was rescued from a mob by police, only to be sentenced to death in 2010 for violating Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which makes insulting Muhammad a capital offense.

No one has been executed under the law so far, but Christians who are falsely accused often are lynched or spend many years in prison.

 

- - -

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.

Pakistan Supreme Court upholds blasphemy acquittal of Asia Bibi

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 9:41am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Punjab Governor House handout via EPA

By

ISLAMABAD (CNS) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of a Pakistani Catholic woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, is now free to leave Pakistan and is expected to join her family in Canada, where they were granted asylum, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa stood by the court's Oct. 31 verdict, which criticized the conflicting testimony against Bibi.

"You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?" he said according to media reports. "Such lies were told that one statement doesn't match with another."

Tehreek-e-Labbaaik, an extremist group, challenged the Oct. 31 acquittal. Protests erupted after the original acquittal, and the BBC reported that, after the Jan. 29 decision, Pakistan's electronic media were downplaying the story "in a concerted move to forestall public unrest."

The ordeal of Bibi, who worked as a farmhand, began in June 2009 when she was accused of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, after Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from a common water supply because she is a Christian.

Bibi was rescued from a mob by police, only to be sentenced to death in 2010 for violating Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which makes insulting Muhammad a capital offense.

No one has been executed under the law so far, but Christians who are falsely accused often are lynched or spend many years in prison.

 

- - -

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.

Mexico offers visas to caravan members, but plan remains controversial

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters

By David Agren

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (CNS) -- At this normally bustling border crossing between Mexico and Guatemala, Central American migrants -- part of a caravan that set out Jan. 15 from San Pedro Sula, Honduras -- sat patiently on folding chairs in the shade. Mexican immigration officials distributed bottles of water, while members of the navy served meals of simple stew and slices of white bread.

When their names were read from a list, they proceeded to pick up one-year humanitarian visas, which allow them to freely travel through Mexico, work in the country and claim social benefits such as health care and education.

"I didn't know they'd give us a visa," said Josue Giron, 22, a welder from Honduras, who fled with the caravan after not being able make extortion payments.

"We didn't believe it," he added, pointing out that police in Honduras and border officials in Guatemala tried to stop the caravan's progress. "We thought it was a trick. No government has wanted to help us."

Mexico awaited the arrival of past caravans by deploying police and closing the border, prompting migrants to ford the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico and Guatemala.

This time, however, the new administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised humanitarian visas, which are supposed to be processed within five days. Applicants can also wait in shelters set up for them while their paperwork is processed.

More than 14,000 migrants have applied for the humanitarian visas, Mexico's National Immigration Institute tweeted Jan. 27. Long lines of applicants were still forming on the bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala, according to media photos.

In announcing the plan, Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said issuing humanitarian visas would allow for "orderly" migration and ensure migrants' rights were protected.

The issuing of humanitarian visas on the southern border comes as Mexico prepares to receive migrants applying for asylum in the United States.

Under the scheme known as "Remain in Mexico," migrants with asylum claims in U.S. courts will have to stay south of the border as their cases proceed. Mexican's foreign ministry objected to the plan but was going along with it.

Scalabrinian Father Pat Murphy panned the idea of returning asylum seekers to border towns, saying such places are often rife with violence, and migrants are targeted.

"It's a joke to say it's a safe country, and these people will be taken advantage of," said Father Murphy, director of a migrant shelter in Tijuana. "The government here couldn't take care of the last caravan in a decent way. It's a mystery to me what they think they're going to do with all these people arriving."

Some Catholics working with the Central Americans traveling through Mexico welcomed the issuing of humanitarian visas, however, even as they expressed misgivings over the formation of caravans -- something Father Murphy said gave many migrants "false hope" about crossing the border quickly.

"The treatment the government is giving to migrants is correct: welcome, registration, migratory status regularization and offers of work," Father Alejandro Solalinde, a well-known migrant defender, tweeted about the humanitarian visas. "They can travel securely to wherever they want and in the way they want to."

Father Solalinde has emerged as an unlikely critic of the caravans crossing the country. He previously told Catholic News Service that participants in past caravans -- which were accompanied by the migrant-advocacy organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras -- disregarded information offered to them on the difficulties of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The priest also counseled migrants that conditions were not favorable for trying to cross the border.

"There's no reason to 'caravanize' the flow of migrants," he said. "It would only help Trump."

U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted his displeasure with the caravans attempting to reach the U.S. border and accused governments in Mexico and Central America of doing nothing to stop them.

Polls show Mexicans have less support for welcoming caravans. In the Guatemalan border city of Tecun Uman, opposite Ciudad Hidalgo, a masked mob armed with sticks attacked migrants congregating in the town square Jan. 27, acting on threats spread via social media and messaging services.

Scalabrinian Father Fernando Cuevas, director of a Tecun Uman migrant shelter, said townspeople objected to some migrants occupying the town square, which diminished sales in local businesses.

The church there has been serving 600 meals twice a day to migrants and providing shelter to them as they wait to apply for visas in Mexico.

Despite the difficulties, caravans continue to form, which migration observers attribute to poverty, violence and drought in Central America. The caravans also offer perceptions of protection as migrants move in large numbers, along with a way to cut out the cost of hiring a smuggler.

"The people traveling in the caravan are the poorest migrants," said Carlos Lopez, an official with the Scalabrinian migrant shelter in Guatemala City. "They're the ones that can't pay for 'coyotes,'" as human smugglers are called.

Travelers in the most recent caravan do not seem dissuaded by the possible problems at the U.S. border.

Giron, the Honduran migrant from near San Pedro Sula, said he had to pay $12 a week to gangsters in a country where work was irregular and he was having a hard time making ends meet.

He hopes to work in northern Mexico, where factory work is abundant, and earn enough to pay a smuggler to help him cross into the United States.

"If they capture me," he said of crossing into the United States, "I'll claim asylum."

Others held out hope Trump would have a change of heart.

"If President Trump gives us the opportunity to work, that's what we'll do," said Orlando Moran, 53, a bricklayer from El Salvador. "I'm sure God will allow it."

 

- - -

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.

Mexico offers visas to caravan members, but plan remains controversial

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters

By David Agren

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (CNS) -- At this normally bustling border crossing between Mexico and Guatemala, Central American migrants -- part of a caravan that set out Jan. 15 from San Pedro Sula, Honduras -- sat patiently on folding chairs in the shade. Mexican immigration officials distributed bottles of water, while members of the navy served meals of simple stew and slices of white bread.

When their names were read from a list, they proceeded to pick up one-year humanitarian visas, which allow them to freely travel through Mexico, work in the country and claim social benefits such as health care and education.

"I didn't know they'd give us a visa," said Josue Giron, 22, a welder from Honduras, who fled with the caravan after not being able make extortion payments.

"We didn't believe it," he added, pointing out that police in Honduras and border officials in Guatemala tried to stop the caravan's progress. "We thought it was a trick. No government has wanted to help us."

Mexico awaited the arrival of past caravans by deploying police and closing the border, prompting migrants to ford the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico and Guatemala.

This time, however, the new administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised humanitarian visas, which are supposed to be processed within five days. Applicants can also wait in shelters set up for them while their paperwork is processed.

More than 14,000 migrants have applied for the humanitarian visas, Mexico's National Immigration Institute tweeted Jan. 27. Long lines of applicants were still forming on the bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala, according to media photos.

In announcing the plan, Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said issuing humanitarian visas would allow for "orderly" migration and ensure migrants' rights were protected.

The issuing of humanitarian visas on the southern border comes as Mexico prepares to receive migrants applying for asylum in the United States.

Under the scheme known as "Remain in Mexico," migrants with asylum claims in U.S. courts will have to stay south of the border as their cases proceed. Mexican's foreign ministry objected to the plan but was going along with it.

Scalabrinian Father Pat Murphy panned the idea of returning asylum seekers to border towns, saying such places are often rife with violence, and migrants are targeted.

"It's a joke to say it's a safe country, and these people will be taken advantage of," said Father Murphy, director of a migrant shelter in Tijuana. "The government here couldn't take care of the last caravan in a decent way. It's a mystery to me what they think they're going to do with all these people arriving."

Some Catholics working with the Central Americans traveling through Mexico welcomed the issuing of humanitarian visas, however, even as they expressed misgivings over the formation of caravans -- something Father Murphy said gave many migrants "false hope" about crossing the border quickly.

"The treatment the government is giving to migrants is correct: welcome, registration, migratory status regularization and offers of work," Father Alejandro Solalinde, a well-known migrant defender, tweeted about the humanitarian visas. "They can travel securely to wherever they want and in the way they want to."

Father Solalinde has emerged as an unlikely critic of the caravans crossing the country. He previously told Catholic News Service that participants in past caravans -- which were accompanied by the migrant-advocacy organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras -- disregarded information offered to them on the difficulties of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The priest also counseled migrants that conditions were not favorable for trying to cross the border.

"There's no reason to 'caravanize' the flow of migrants," he said. "It would only help Trump."

U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted his displeasure with the caravans attempting to reach the U.S. border and accused governments in Mexico and Central America of doing nothing to stop them.

Polls show Mexicans have less support for welcoming caravans. In the Guatemalan border city of Tecun Uman, opposite Ciudad Hidalgo, a masked mob armed with sticks attacked migrants congregating in the town square Jan. 27, acting on threats spread via social media and messaging services.

Scalabrinian Father Fernando Cuevas, director of a Tecun Uman migrant shelter, said townspeople objected to some migrants occupying the town square, which diminished sales in local businesses.

The church there has been serving 600 meals twice a day to migrants and providing shelter to them as they wait to apply for visas in Mexico.

Despite the difficulties, caravans continue to form, which migration observers attribute to poverty, violence and drought in Central America. The caravans also offer perceptions of protection as migrants move in large numbers, along with a way to cut out the cost of hiring a smuggler.

"The people traveling in the caravan are the poorest migrants," said Carlos Lopez, an official with the Scalabrinian migrant shelter in Guatemala City. "They're the ones that can't pay for 'coyotes,'" as human smugglers are called.

Travelers in the most recent caravan do not seem dissuaded by the possible problems at the U.S. border.

Giron, the Honduran migrant from near San Pedro Sula, said he had to pay $12 a week to gangsters in a country where work was irregular and he was having a hard time making ends meet.

He hopes to work in northern Mexico, where factory work is abundant, and earn enough to pay a smuggler to help him cross into the United States.

"If they capture me," he said of crossing into the United States, "I'll claim asylum."

Others held out hope Trump would have a change of heart.

"If President Trump gives us the opportunity to work, that's what we'll do," said Orlando Moran, 53, a bricklayer from El Salvador. "I'm sure God will allow it."

 

- - -

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.

Mexico offers visas to caravan members, but plan remains controversial

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters

By David Agren

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (CNS) -- At this normally bustling border crossing between Mexico and Guatemala, Central American migrants -- part of a caravan that set out Jan. 15 from San Pedro Sula, Honduras -- sat patiently on folding chairs in the shade. Mexican immigration officials distributed bottles of water, while members of the navy served meals of simple stew and slices of white bread.

When their names were read from a list, they proceeded to pick up one-year humanitarian visas, which allow them to freely travel through Mexico, work in the country and claim social benefits such as health care and education.

"I didn't know they'd give us a visa," said Josue Giron, 22, a welder from Honduras, who fled with the caravan after not being able make extortion payments.

"We didn't believe it," he added, pointing out that police in Honduras and border officials in Guatemala tried to stop the caravan's progress. "We thought it was a trick. No government has wanted to help us."

Mexico awaited the arrival of past caravans by deploying police and closing the border, prompting migrants to ford the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico and Guatemala.

This time, however, the new administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised humanitarian visas, which are supposed to be processed within five days. Applicants can also wait in shelters set up for them while their paperwork is processed.

More than 14,000 migrants have applied for the humanitarian visas, Mexico's National Immigration Institute tweeted Jan. 27. Long lines of applicants were still forming on the bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala, according to media photos.

In announcing the plan, Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said issuing humanitarian visas would allow for "orderly" migration and ensure migrants' rights were protected.

The issuing of humanitarian visas on the southern border comes as Mexico prepares to receive migrants applying for asylum in the United States.

Under the scheme known as "Remain in Mexico," migrants with asylum claims in U.S. courts will have to stay south of the border as their cases proceed. Mexican's foreign ministry objected to the plan but was going along with it.

Scalabrinian Father Pat Murphy panned the idea of returning asylum seekers to border towns, saying such places are often rife with violence, and migrants are targeted.

"It's a joke to say it's a safe country, and these people will be taken advantage of," said Father Murphy, director of a migrant shelter in Tijuana. "The government here couldn't take care of the last caravan in a decent way. It's a mystery to me what they think they're going to do with all these people arriving."

Some Catholics working with the Central Americans traveling through Mexico welcomed the issuing of humanitarian visas, however, even as they expressed misgivings over the formation of caravans -- something Father Murphy said gave many migrants "false hope" about crossing the border quickly.

"The treatment the government is giving to migrants is correct: welcome, registration, migratory status regularization and offers of work," Father Alejandro Solalinde, a well-known migrant defender, tweeted about the humanitarian visas. "They can travel securely to wherever they want and in the way they want to."

Father Solalinde has emerged as an unlikely critic of the caravans crossing the country. He previously told Catholic News Service that participants in past caravans -- which were accompanied by the migrant-advocacy organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras -- disregarded information offered to them on the difficulties of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The priest also counseled migrants that conditions were not favorable for trying to cross the border.

"There's no reason to 'caravanize' the flow of migrants," he said. "It would only help Trump."

U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted his displeasure with the caravans attempting to reach the U.S. border and accused governments in Mexico and Central America of doing nothing to stop them.

Polls show Mexicans have less support for welcoming caravans. In the Guatemalan border city of Tecun Uman, opposite Ciudad Hidalgo, a masked mob armed with sticks attacked migrants congregating in the town square Jan. 27, acting on threats spread via social media and messaging services.

Scalabrinian Father Fernando Cuevas, director of a Tecun Uman migrant shelter, said townspeople objected to some migrants occupying the town square, which diminished sales in local businesses.

The church there has been serving 600 meals twice a day to migrants and providing shelter to them as they wait to apply for visas in Mexico.

Despite the difficulties, caravans continue to form, which migration observers attribute to poverty, violence and drought in Central America. The caravans also offer perceptions of protection as migrants move in large numbers, along with a way to cut out the cost of hiring a smuggler.

"The people traveling in the caravan are the poorest migrants," said Carlos Lopez, an official with the Scalabrinian migrant shelter in Guatemala City. "They're the ones that can't pay for 'coyotes,'" as human smugglers are called.

Travelers in the most recent caravan do not seem dissuaded by the possible problems at the U.S. border.

Giron, the Honduran migrant from near San Pedro Sula, said he had to pay $12 a week to gangsters in a country where work was irregular and he was having a hard time making ends meet.

He hopes to work in northern Mexico, where factory work is abundant, and earn enough to pay a smuggler to help him cross into the United States.

"If they capture me," he said of crossing into the United States, "I'll claim asylum."

Others held out hope Trump would have a change of heart.

"If President Trump gives us the opportunity to work, that's what we'll do," said Orlando Moran, 53, a bricklayer from El Salvador. "I'm sure God will allow it."

 

- - -

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.

Steinfels: Grand jury report needed thorough review, which no one had done

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 3:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Fordham University

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Upon first hearing in August of the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury about how Catholic clergy abused children and young people, veteran journalist Peter Steinfels was, like a lot other people -- shocked and appalled.

Soon, Steinfels told Catholic News Service, he wanted to learn more about the grand jurors' conclusion that the claims of "all" the victims were systematically brushed aside and covered up by church officials.

A former religion reporter at The New York Times and former editor of Commonweal magazine, Steinfels had little disagreement with most of the documentation on the abuse allegations.

Still, questions persisted in his mind. He wondered what prompted the grand jury to conclude that six of Pennsylvania's eight Catholic dioceses acted "in virtual lockstep" to cover up abuse allegations and dismiss alleged victims over the course of seven decades beginning in 1947.

He also was troubled by what he found to be incomplete work by journalists who covered the report's release.

"I saw that every journalist's report was based on the first 12-pages, the summary (of the report)," he said in a telephone interview from his New York apartment.

So Steinfels embarked on a weeks-long study of the report released during a high-profile media conference called by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro Aug. 14. Steinfels contrasted the massive report's conclusion on the church's response to cases of abuse with copies of the dioceses' own documents.

How those documents were released also bothered Steinfels. In one version of the grand jury's report, totaling 884 pages, only the allegations were included. A second version, at 1,356 pages, included more than 470 pages of diocesan documents.

In the end, Steinfels concluded that the grand jury report largely overlooked the church documents and "misrepresented" that "the church was dismissing the needs of victims suffering the abuse and the long-lasting effects of that."

He detailed his concerns in a 12,000-word essay posted Jan. 14 on the Commonweal website. It also appeared in the magazine's Jan. 25 print edition.

"Because I am challenging these sweeping indiscriminate charges about all victims being brushed aside, church officials doing nothing except hiding things while priests were raping little boys and little girls, I'm not saying the opposite, that no victims were brushed aside, that all church officials and bishops did nothing," he told CNS Jan. 17.

For some time, before the grand jury report, Steinfels had "been dissatisfied with what I refer to as the dominant narrative of the sex abuse story which has emerged from the understandable needs of plaintiffs' lawyers seeking recompense for victims of sex abuse on the one hand and on the other hand the familiar and understandable needs of media to tell a story."

"The result of that is a focus just on negligent or even complicit bishops versus victims," he said.

Over the years, Steinfels said, he has come to realize that other factors affect the overarching travails of clergy sex abuse, among them seminary training; the work of treatment centers for clergy accused of abuse; changing cultural attitudes toward abuse; and even how law enforcement authorities responded to abuse reports.

The story of clergy abuse is incomplete without understanding the full picture, he explained.

After mulling the Pennsylvania report, Steinfels checked with friends familiar with grand jury proceedings, asking in particular about the strong language of the final investigative report, which is designed to present information rather than indict anyone for a crime. He said one person with whom he discussed the report remarked how "it stood out in his mind," calling it "shock and awe."

"I decided at that point I really had to look at it more extensively," Steinfels said.

There were times, Steinfels discovered, when the church did not respond in a compassionate manner to abuse victims' claims. But for the grand jurors to say there was a blanket policy to dismiss the victims in order to protect the reputation of clergy and the church is inaccurate, he said.

Of note, Steinfels said, was that the report did not place into context that church authorities had received a third or more of the alleged crimes documented in the report just since 2002, the year the U.S. bishops adopted the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" during a much-publicized meeting in Dallas. The charter mandates automatic removal from ministry when a priest or other church worker is accused of abuse.

The charter emerged following extensive media reports in Boston and elsewhere of clergy abuse and how some priests were moved to new assignments where abuse continued and secrecy in how church officials responded to abuse.

He also said the grand jury report did not mention how the count of 301 alleged abusers -- mostly priests but also other church workers -- contrasted with the total number of priests in ministry in the six dioceses over the 70 years examined.

To better understand the church's response to clergy abuse, Steinfels chose at random to review the details outlined in the report related to the Diocese of Erie. He determined that Bishop Michael E. Murphy (who served 1982-1990) and Bishop Donald W. Trautman (1990-2012) did not overlook abuse allegations and ignore the needs of abuse survivors to the extent charged by the grand jury.

"I found that since Bishop Murphy and particularly since 1990 under Bishop Trautman, there were probably some errors of judgment, but the whole thing not only contradicted the grand jury's sweeping report, it contradicted the existing narrative about this," Steinfels told CNS.

There was no effort to brush aside victims and no reassignment of clergy, Steinfels said.

At the end of his Commonweal article, Steinfels explained, he states "the fact that they (grand jurors) made these charges against every diocese, minimizing in my view the changes that came in with the Dallas charter."

Steinfels said the grand jury would have performed a greater service if it would have issued "a very fact-based, hard-hitting critical report of aspects of the church's response to credible (clergy abuse) allegations over a period of time and maybe some stronger positive things that would have been valuable for our knowledge of this whole question."

Steinfels offered suggestions on how the church and its leaders could possibly begin to address the complicated situation in which the church finds itself.

Clergy, including the bishops, can utilize their homily at Mass or a prayer service reflection to acknowledge and apologize for past sins regarding clergy sex abuse, Steinfels said.

"The pulpit is not a place for conveying information," he said. "But it could be a place ... of acknowledging and apologizing, an encouragement for people to want and to seek a more full view of this whole story," he said.

"On the side of victims, there is some kind of responsibility to try and get a fuller story to these people who are to some extent demoralized by this or they fall back on it (their experience) when they're struggling with questions of faith," Steinfels said.

The constraints facing bishops because of the history of abuse and the improper handling of cases by some in the hierarchy works to tarnish all the hierarchy, Steinfels said.

"That is a burden on them and their responsibility," he said.

Nevertheless, he said he believes bishops hold deep pastoral concerns focused on healing for the church and the importance of not revictimizing the victims when they speak about the church's response to clergy abuse.

Scholars, too, can perform a service for the church by examining the many elements of the sex abuse scandal that have yet to be explored to better understand how things got to be where they are today, Steinfels said.

Steinfels also said he understands how the bishops and concerned Catholics in general harbor "legitimate complaints about (news reporting) being so narrow and oversimplified."

Recognizing that journalists face extreme deadline pressure in today's fast-paced media environment, he said he understands that executive summaries of wide-ranging reports can help them tell a story as quickly as possible. At the same time, he told CNS, journalists have a responsibility to critically review the documents on which they report to assess their fairness, accuracy and completeness after their initial coverage.

"Generalizations about bishops are more than slightly dangerous. I'm sure there are bishops who will react very defensively and want to discount this as anti-Catholicism and media smears and so on. That is a concern I have," he continued.

"I think there are other bishops who feel the story has been badly and incompletely told," he added, "and I don't know exactly what they can do about it without making things worse."

Reaction to the essay expressed directly to Steinfels has been "very positive." He said he has received emails and calls thanking him for his analysis and expected more reaction to arrive as print subscribers begin to receive the magazine via mail.

"I said to a priest friend it's like the times when people come up to you to compliment you after a sermon," Steinfels said. "I've asked the millennials (on) the Commonweal staff to keep track of things on social media. They forwarded to me very few things of any substance that criticized (the essay)."

He also is waiting for reaction from Shapiro to the criticism he outlines. "I've been wondering if a few shoes have yet to drop," he said.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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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.

Steinfels: Grand jury report needed thorough review, which no one had done

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 3:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Fordham University

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Upon first hearing in August of the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury about how Catholic clergy abused children and young people, veteran journalist Peter Steinfels was, like a lot other people -- shocked and appalled.

Soon, Steinfels told Catholic News Service, he wanted to learn more about the grand jurors' conclusion that the claims of "all" the victims were systematically brushed aside and covered up by church officials.

A former religion reporter at The New York Times and former editor of Commonweal magazine, Steinfels had little disagreement with most of the documentation on the abuse allegations.

Still, questions persisted in his mind. He wondered what prompted the grand jury to conclude that six of Pennsylvania's eight Catholic dioceses acted "in virtual lockstep" to cover up abuse allegations and dismiss alleged victims over the course of seven decades beginning in 1947.

He also was troubled by what he found to be incomplete work by journalists who covered the report's release.

"I saw that every journalist's report was based on the first 12-pages, the summary (of the report)," he said in a telephone interview from his New York apartment.

So Steinfels embarked on a weeks-long study of the report released during a high-profile media conference called by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro Aug. 14. Steinfels contrasted the massive report's conclusion on the church's response to cases of abuse with copies of the dioceses' own documents.

How those documents were released also bothered Steinfels. In one version of the grand jury's report, totaling 884 pages, only the allegations were included. A second version, at 1,356 pages, included more than 470 pages of diocesan documents.

In the end, Steinfels concluded that the grand jury report largely overlooked the church documents and "misrepresented" that "the church was dismissing the needs of victims suffering the abuse and the long-lasting effects of that."

He detailed his concerns in a 12,000-word essay posted Jan. 14 on the Commonweal website. It also appeared in the magazine's Jan. 25 print edition.

"Because I am challenging these sweeping indiscriminate charges about all victims being brushed aside, church officials doing nothing except hiding things while priests were raping little boys and little girls, I'm not saying the opposite, that no victims were brushed aside, that all church officials and bishops did nothing," he told CNS Jan. 17.

For some time, before the grand jury report, Steinfels had "been dissatisfied with what I refer to as the dominant narrative of the sex abuse story which has emerged from the understandable needs of plaintiffs' lawyers seeking recompense for victims of sex abuse on the one hand and on the other hand the familiar and understandable needs of media to tell a story."

"The result of that is a focus just on negligent or even complicit bishops versus victims," he said.

Over the years, Steinfels said, he has come to realize that other factors affect the overarching travails of clergy sex abuse, among them seminary training; the work of treatment centers for clergy accused of abuse; changing cultural attitudes toward abuse; and even how law enforcement authorities responded to abuse reports.

The story of clergy abuse is incomplete without understanding the full picture, he explained.

After mulling the Pennsylvania report, Steinfels checked with friends familiar with grand jury proceedings, asking in particular about the strong language of the final investigative report, which is designed to present information rather than indict anyone for a crime. He said one person with whom he discussed the report remarked how "it stood out in his mind," calling it "shock and awe."

"I decided at that point I really had to look at it more extensively," Steinfels said.

There were times, Steinfels discovered, when the church did not respond in a compassionate manner to abuse victims' claims. But for the grand jurors to say there was a blanket policy to dismiss the victims in order to protect the reputation of clergy and the church is inaccurate, he said.

Of note, Steinfels said, was that the report did not place into context that church authorities had received a third or more of the alleged crimes documented in the report just since 2002, the year the U.S. bishops adopted the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" during a much-publicized meeting in Dallas. The charter mandates automatic removal from ministry when a priest or other church worker is accused of abuse.

The charter emerged following extensive media reports in Boston and elsewhere of clergy abuse and how some priests were moved to new assignments where abuse continued and secrecy in how church officials responded to abuse.

He also said the grand jury report did not mention how the count of 301 alleged abusers -- mostly priests but also other church workers -- contrasted with the total number of priests in ministry in the six dioceses over the 70 years examined.

To better understand the church's response to clergy abuse, Steinfels chose at random to review the details outlined in the report related to the Diocese of Erie. He determined that Bishop Michael E. Murphy (who served 1982-1990) and Bishop Donald W. Trautman (1990-2012) did not overlook abuse allegations and ignore the needs of abuse survivors to the extent charged by the grand jury.

"I found that since Bishop Murphy and particularly since 1990 under Bishop Trautman, there were probably some errors of judgment, but the whole thing not only contradicted the grand jury's sweeping report, it contradicted the existing narrative about this," Steinfels told CNS.

There was no effort to brush aside victims and no reassignment of clergy, Steinfels said.

At the end of his Commonweal article, Steinfels explained, he states "the fact that they (grand jurors) made these charges against every diocese, minimizing in my view the changes that came in with the Dallas charter."

Steinfels said the grand jury would have performed a greater service if it would have issued "a very fact-based, hard-hitting critical report of aspects of the church's response to credible (clergy abuse) allegations over a period of time and maybe some stronger positive things that would have been valuable for our knowledge of this whole question."

Steinfels offered suggestions on how the church and its leaders could possibly begin to address the complicated situation in which the church finds itself.

Clergy, including the bishops, can utilize their homily at Mass or a prayer service reflection to acknowledge and apologize for past sins regarding clergy sex abuse, Steinfels said.

"The pulpit is not a place for conveying information," he said. "But it could be a place ... of acknowledging and apologizing, an encouragement for people to want and to seek a more full view of this whole story," he said.

"On the side of victims, there is some kind of responsibility to try and get a fuller story to these people who are to some extent demoralized by this or they fall back on it (their experience) when they're struggling with questions of faith," Steinfels said.

The constraints facing bishops because of the history of abuse and the improper handling of cases by some in the hierarchy works to tarnish all the hierarchy, Steinfels said.

"That is a burden on them and their responsibility," he said.

Nevertheless, he said he believes bishops hold deep pastoral concerns focused on healing for the church and the importance of not revictimizing the victims when they speak about the church's response to clergy abuse.

Scholars, too, can perform a service for the church by examining the many elements of the sex abuse scandal that have yet to be explored to better understand how things got to be where they are today, Steinfels said.

Steinfels also said he understands how the bishops and concerned Catholics in general harbor "legitimate complaints about (news reporting) being so narrow and oversimplified."

Recognizing that journalists face extreme deadline pressure in today's fast-paced media environment, he said he understands that executive summaries of wide-ranging reports can help them tell a story as quickly as possible. At the same time, he told CNS, journalists have a responsibility to critically review the documents on which they report to assess their fairness, accuracy and completeness after their initial coverage.

"Generalizations about bishops are more than slightly dangerous. I'm sure there are bishops who will react very defensively and want to discount this as anti-Catholicism and media smears and so on. That is a concern I have," he continued.

"I think there are other bishops who feel the story has been badly and incompletely told," he added, "and I don't know exactly what they can do about it without making things worse."

Reaction to the essay expressed directly to Steinfels has been "very positive." He said he has received emails and calls thanking him for his analysis and expected more reaction to arrive as print subscribers begin to receive the magazine via mail.

"I said to a priest friend it's like the times when people come up to you to compliment you after a sermon," Steinfels said. "I've asked the millennials (on) the Commonweal staff to keep track of things on social media. They forwarded to me very few things of any substance that criticized (the essay)."

He also is waiting for reaction from Shapiro to the criticism he outlines. "I've been wondering if a few shoes have yet to drop," he said.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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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.

Bishops must realize seriousness of abuse crisis, pope says

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 8:54am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PANAMA (CNS) -- The primary goal of the Vatican's February summit on clerical sexual abuse and child protection is to help bishops understand the urgency of the crisis, Pope Francis said.

During a news conference with journalists Jan. 27 on his flight to Rome from Panama, the pope said the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences have been called to the Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican to be "made aware of the tragedy" of those abused by members of the clergy.

"I regularly meet with people who have been abused. I remember one person -- 40 years old -- who was unable to pray," he said. "It is terrible, the suffering is terrible. So first, they (the bishops) need to be made aware of this."

The pope's international Council of Cardinals suggested the summit after realizing that some bishops did not know how to address or handle the crisis on their own, he said.

"We felt the responsibility of giving a 'catechesis' on this problem to the bishops' conferences," he said. "That is why we convoked the presidents" of the conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders.

The meeting, he said, will address "in a clear way" what protocols bishops need to follow when handling sexual abuse.

Asked about the expectations for the meeting, especially the expectations of Catholics who have grown frustrated with the repeated reports of abuse and cover-up by some bishops, the pope said people need to realize "the problem of abuse will continue."

"It is a human problem, a human problem (that is) everywhere," he said.

But if the church becomes more aware of the tragedy of sexual abuse, the pope said, it can help others face the crisis of abuse, especially in families "where shame leads to covering up everything."

Speaking with journalists for nearly an hour, the pope was asked whether he would consider a general acceptance of married men into the Latin-rite priesthood in a way similar to the practice of the Eastern Catholic churches.

"In the Eastern rite, they can do it. They make the choice between celibacy or marriage before they're ordained into the diaconate," he explained. "When it comes to the Latin rite, a phrase said by St. Paul VI comes to mind: 'I would rather give my life than change the law on celibacy.'"

The pope said he personally believes that "celibacy is gift to the church" and that while the prospect of married priests could one day be considered in remote areas that lack priests, he did not agree "with allowing optional celibacy."

"My decision is: no optional celibacy," the pope said. "I will not do this. I don't feel like I could stand before God with this decision."

Pope Francis also was asked about his response to the political crisis in Venezuela as well as the Vatican's seemingly neutral stance despite widespread belief that the election giving a second term to President Nicolas Maduro was rigged.

Earlier in the day, while visiting a Catholic-run hospice in Panama, the pope prayed for the people of Venezuela and expressed his hope that a "just and peaceful solution may be sought and achieved to overcome the crisis."

Although the United States and several European countries have recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state, the Vatican has not.

Pope Francis told journalists that while he fully supports the suffering people of Venezuela, picking a side in the crisis "would be pastoral imprudence on my part and would cause damage."

"That is why I had to be -- I don't like the word 'balanced' -- I must be a shepherd to all and if they need help, then they must come to an agreement and ask for it," he said.

The pope said that he thought carefully about his words to the people of the country because "I suffer for what is happening in Venezuela in this moment."

"What is it that scares me? Bloodshed," the pope said. "And that is why I ask for generosity from those who can help resolve the problem."

Pope Francis also addressed the issue of abortion, which was among the themes of the Via Crucis at World Youth Day Jan. 25.

During the 14th Station -- Jesus is laid in his tomb -- a young pilgrim read a reflection on all the tombs where those who have died violent deaths have been laid. "However," the reflection said, "there is one tomb that cries to heaven and denounces the terrible cruelty of humanity: it is the tomb that opens in the wombs of mothers who rip out innocent life."

Asked how the words could be in harmony with his calls for mercy, including for women who have had abortions, Pope Francis said that the "message of mercy is for everyone, including the human being that is gestating."

Forgiving women who have had abortions is not the problem, he said; rather it is learning to accompany women who have understood and regret what they have done.

People do not understand the trauma women go through after an abortion, the pope said. Often those who regret their abortions "feel the need to reconcile and rejoin their child."

"I tell them, 'Your child is in heaven, talk to him, sing them the lullaby you were never able to sing to them,'" Pope Francis said. "There, a path of reconciliation can be found between mother and child. Forgiveness with God is already there. God always forgives."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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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.

Bishops must realize seriousness of abuse crisis, pope says

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 8:54am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PANAMA (CNS) -- The primary goal of the Vatican's February summit on clerical sexual abuse and child protection is to help bishops understand the urgency of the crisis, Pope Francis said.

During a news conference with journalists Jan. 27 on his flight to Rome from Panama, the pope said the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences have been called to the Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican to be "made aware of the tragedy" of those abused by members of the clergy.

"I regularly meet with people who have been abused. I remember one person -- 40 years old -- who was unable to pray," he said. "It is terrible, the suffering is terrible. So first, they (the bishops) need to be made aware of this."

The pope's international Council of Cardinals suggested the summit after realizing that some bishops did not know how to address or handle the crisis on their own, he said.

"We felt the responsibility of giving a 'catechesis' on this problem to the bishops' conferences," he said. "That is why we convoked the presidents" of the conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders.

The meeting, he said, will address "in a clear way" what protocols bishops need to follow when handling sexual abuse.

Asked about the expectations for the meeting, especially the expectations of Catholics who have grown frustrated with the repeated reports of abuse and cover-up by some bishops, the pope said people need to realize "the problem of abuse will continue."

"It is a human problem, a human problem (that is) everywhere," he said.

But if the church becomes more aware of the tragedy of sexual abuse, the pope said, it can help others face the crisis of abuse, especially in families "where shame leads to covering up everything."

Speaking with journalists for nearly an hour, the pope was asked whether he would consider a general acceptance of married men into the Latin-rite priesthood in a way similar to the practice of the Eastern Catholic churches.

"In the Eastern rite, they can do it. They make the choice between celibacy or marriage before they're ordained into the diaconate," he explained. "When it comes to the Latin rite, a phrase said by St. Paul VI comes to mind: 'I would rather give my life than change the law on celibacy.'"

The pope said he personally believes that "celibacy is gift to the church" and that while the prospect of married priests could one day be considered in remote areas that lack priests, he did not agree "with allowing optional celibacy."

"My decision is: no optional celibacy," the pope said. "I will not do this. I don't feel like I could stand before God with this decision."

Pope Francis also was asked about his response to the political crisis in Venezuela as well as the Vatican's seemingly neutral stance despite widespread belief that the election giving a second term to President Nicolas Maduro was rigged.

Earlier in the day, while visiting a Catholic-run hospice in Panama, the pope prayed for the people of Venezuela and expressed his hope that a "just and peaceful solution may be sought and achieved to overcome the crisis."

Although the United States and several European countries have recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state, the Vatican has not.

Pope Francis told journalists that while he fully supports the suffering people of Venezuela, picking a side in the crisis "would be pastoral imprudence on my part and would cause damage."

"That is why I had to be -- I don't like the word 'balanced' -- I must be a shepherd to all and if they need help, then they must come to an agreement and ask for it," he said.

The pope said that he thought carefully about his words to the people of the country because "I suffer for what is happening in Venezuela in this moment."

"What is it that scares me? Bloodshed," the pope said. "And that is why I ask for generosity from those who can help resolve the problem."

Pope Francis also addressed the issue of abortion, which was among the themes of the Via Crucis at World Youth Day Jan. 25.

During the 14th Station -- Jesus is laid in his tomb -- a young pilgrim read a reflection on all the tombs where those who have died violent deaths have been laid. "However," the reflection said, "there is one tomb that cries to heaven and denounces the terrible cruelty of humanity: it is the tomb that opens in the wombs of mothers who rip out innocent life."

Asked how the words could be in harmony with his calls for mercy, including for women who have had abortions, Pope Francis said that the "message of mercy is for everyone, including the human being that is gestating."

Forgiving women who have had abortions is not the problem, he said; rather it is learning to accompany women who have understood and regret what they have done.

People do not understand the trauma women go through after an abortion, the pope said. Often those who regret their abortions "feel the need to reconcile and rejoin their child."

"I tell them, 'Your child is in heaven, talk to him, sing them the lullaby you were never able to sing to them,'" Pope Francis said. "There, a path of reconciliation can be found between mother and child. Forgiveness with God is already there. God always forgives."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

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.

Bishops must realize seriousness of abuse crisis, pope says

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 7:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PANAMA (CNS) -- The primary goal of the Vatican's February summit on clerical sexual abuse and child protection is to help bishops understand the urgency of the crisis, Pope Francis said.

During a news conference with journalists Jan. 27 on his flight to Rome from Panama, the pope said the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences have been called to the Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican to be "made aware of the tragedy" of those abused by members of the clergy.

"I regularly meet with people who have been abused. I remember one person -- 40 years old -- who was unable to pray," he said. "It is terrible, the suffering is terrible. So, first, they (the bishops) need to be made aware of this."

The pope's international Council of Cardinals suggested the summit after realizing that some bishops did not know how to address or handle the crisis on their own, he said.

"We felt the responsibility of giving a 'catechesis' on this problem to the bishops' conferences," he said. "That is why we convoked the presidents" of the conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders.

The meeting, he said, will address "in a clear way" what protocols bishops need to follow when handling sexual abuse.

Asked about the expectations for the meeting, especially the expectations of Catholics who have grown frustrated with the repeated reports of abuse and cover-up by some bishops, the pope said people need to realize "the problem of abuse will continue."

"It is a human problem, a human problem (that is) everywhere," he said.

But if the church becomes more aware of the tragedy of sexual abuse, the pope said, it can help others face the crisis of abuse, especially in families "where shame leads to covering up everything."

Speaking with journalists for nearly an hour, the pope was asked whether he would consider a general acceptance of married men into the Latin-rite priesthood in a way similar to the practice of the Eastern Catholic churches.

"In the Eastern rite, they can do it. They make the choice between celibacy or marriage before they're ordained into the diaconate," he explained. "When it comes to the Latin rite, a phrase said by St. Paul VI comes to mind: 'I would rather give my life than change the law on celibacy.'"

The pope said he personally believes that "celibacy is gift to the church" and that while the prospect of married priests could one day be considered in remote areas that lack priests, he did not agree "with allowing optional celibacy."

"My decision is: no optional celibacy," the pope said. "I will not do this. I don't feel like I could stand before God with this decision."

Pope Francis also was asked about his response to the political crisis in Venezuela as well as the Vatican's seemingly neutral stance despite widespread belief that the election giving a second term to President Nicolas Maduro was rigged.

Earlier in the day, while visiting a Catholic-run hospice in Panama, the pope prayed for the people of Venezuela and expressed his hope that a "just and peaceful solution may be sought and achieved to overcome the crisis."

Although the United States and several European countries have recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state, the Vatican has not.

Pope Francis told journalists that while he fully supports the suffering people of Venezuela, picking a side in the crisis "would be pastoral imprudence on my part and would cause damage."

"That is why I had to be -- I don't like the word 'balanced' -- I must be a shepherd to all and if they need help, then they must come to an agreement and ask for it," he said.

The pope said that he thought carefully about his words to the people of the country because "I suffer for what is happening in Venezuela in this moment."

"What is it that scares me? Bloodshed," the pope said. "And that is why I ask for generosity from those who can help resolve the problem."

Pope Francis also addressed the issue of abortion, which was among the themes of the Via Crucis at World Youth Day Jan. 25.

During the 14th Station -- Jesus is laid in his tomb -- a young pilgrim read a reflection on all the tombs where those who have died violent deaths have been laid. "However," the reflection said, "there is one tomb that cries to heaven and denounces the terrible cruelty of humanity: it is the tomb that opens in the wombs of mothers who rip out innocent life."

Asked how the words could be in harmony with his calls for mercy, including for women who have had abortions, Pope Francis said that the "message of mercy is for everyone, including the human being that is gestating."

Forgiving women who have had abortions is not the problem, he said; rather it is learning to accompany women who have understood and regret what they have done.

People do not understand the trauma women go through after an abortion, the pope said. Often those who regret their abortions "feel the need to reconcile and rejoin their child."

"I tell them, 'Your child is in heaven, talk to him, sing them the lullaby you were never able to sing to them,'" Pope Francis said. "There, a path of reconciliation can be found between mother and child. Forgiveness with God is already there. God always forgives."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

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.

As World Youth Day closes, pope prompts volunteers to keep serving

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 8:59pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Just before leaving the physical and human warmth of Panama Jan. 27, Pope Francis stopped to thank the thousands of official volunteers, young and old, gathered at the capital city's Rommel Fernandez Stadium to tell them that they had just participated in an event similar to one that took place early in Christianity.  

In their case, they didn't just multiply food, he said.

"You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved, to give your best to making possible the miracle of the multiplication, not only of loaves, but also hope," he said, telling the volunteers to go out into the world and make that attitude contagious. "We need to multiply that hope."

Volunteers at Panama's World Youth Day showed it was possible to renounce one's interests in favor of others, the pope said.

"You made a commitment," he said. "Thank you."

On stage, before the pope spoke, Bartosz Placak of Poland offered his testimony in Spanish to those gathered at the stadium and said that while volunteering for World Youth Day in Panama, he had experienced a taste of what living in the early Christian communities must have been like: sharing food, homes, anything other people needed.

"In sharing, you create a small community and we return to the times of the first Christians ... we follow their example," he said.

Panamanian volunteer Stella Maris del Carmen told the story of how she had planned to attend the previous World Youth Day, an event she'd longed to attend since she was a child. She had saved enough money to go to Poland in 2016 and then her grandparents died. She canceled her plans and used the money she had saved to tend to her family.

The pope said he was touched by her story. By renouncing the trip for the family, "you honored your roots," the pope told her. "That's what makes you a woman, an adult." But then consider what happened because of that sacrifice, he said.

"The Lord had the gift of (World Youth Day) waiting for you in your homeland," he said. "The Lord likes to play those tricks. That's how God is."

What a person gives to others "the Lord returns" many times over, he said. And the world needs more such examples of surrender and love to provide a "balm in the lives of others," he said.

Panamanians certainly had heeded that counsel long before the event.

World Youth Day 2019 in Panama may not have been the largest, in terms of attendance. Event officials say some 113,000 registered as pilgrims to attend various events -- though it was obvious that many more who did not register filled up the venues.

What the event in Panama may -- or may not -- have lacked in numbers, it made up for in its treatment of young pilgrims. Priests, bishops, women religious and thousands of volunteers, young and old, officially and unofficially, seemed to devote more quality time to participants than in the past, said pilgrims such as Francisco Apenu Cofie of Ghana.

"It was more intimate," said Cofie, who attended World Youth Day in Poland and Brazil. Panama had a special touch, he said.

Those like Polish volunteer Placak said it was not always easy to help and admitted moments of weakness, but he said he learned powerful lessons along the way.

"I have received more than what I expected, and this is the mystery of the divine gifts. I am happy," he said.

Though the pope spent time with the volunteers who attended the ceremony at the stadium, there were thousands of other unofficial helpers, such as those who offered water to pilgrims passing through their neighborhoods, who sprayed them with water hoses to cool them off, and offered use of their facilities or couches to rest, but who did not attend the event.

"Thank you all, because in these days you have been attentive to even the smallest details, however ordinary and apparently insignificant, like offering someone a glass of water," the pope said to volunteers at the ceremony.

In giving to others, God blesses, the pope said,

"You have had a more lively and real experience of faith. You have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know," he said.

There were many moments when volunteers did not understand the pilgrims or vice versa but, by and large, most did not let that stop them from attempting to communicate with one another.

Panamanians outwardly celebrated pilgrims from various visiting countries, spontaneously shouting out the name of the nation as they spotted them carrying their respective flags on the streets of their city.

One of the gifts of Panama's World Youth Day, El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz told Catholic News Service, is that at a time when some in the world are embracing nationalism, the international Catholic festival for youth, in which 156 countries participated, delivered the opposite message. People from different countries, who spoke different languages and had different customs and practices, managed to unite around faith and serving others.

"World Youth Day says, 'We're one family of humanity,'" Bishop Seitz said. "Separating ourselves from others does not make us secure."

 

- - -

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.

As World Youth Day closes, pope prompts volunteers to keep serving

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 8:59pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Just before leaving the physical and human warmth of Panama Jan. 27, Pope Francis stopped to thank the thousands of official volunteers, young and old, gathered at the capital city's Rommel Fernandez Stadium to tell them that they had just participated in an event similar to one that took place early in Christianity.  

In their case, they didn't just multiply food, he said.

"You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved, to give your best to making possible the miracle of the multiplication, not only of loaves, but also hope," he said, telling the volunteers to go out into the world and make that attitude contagious. "We need to multiply that hope."

Volunteers at Panama's World Youth Day showed it was possible to renounce one's interests in favor of others, the pope said.

"You made a commitment," he said. "Thank you."

On stage, before the pope spoke, Bartosz Placak of Poland offered his testimony in Spanish to those gathered at the stadium and said that while volunteering for World Youth Day in Panama, he had experienced a taste of what living in the early Christian communities must have been like: sharing food, homes, anything other people needed.

"In sharing, you create a small community and we return to the times of the first Christians ... we follow their example," he said.

Panamanian volunteer Stella Maris del Carmen told the story of how she had planned to attend the previous World Youth Day, an event she'd longed to attend since she was a child. She had saved enough money to go to Poland in 2016 and then her grandparents died. She canceled her plans and used the money she had saved to tend to her family.

The pope said he was touched by her story. By renouncing the trip for the family, "you honored your roots," the pope told her. "That's what makes you a woman, an adult." But then consider what happened because of that sacrifice, he said.

"The Lord had the gift of (World Youth Day) waiting for you in your homeland," he said. "The Lord likes to play those tricks. That's how God is."

What a person gives to others "the Lord returns" many times over, he said. And the world needs more such examples of surrender and love to provide a "balm in the lives of others," he said.

Panamanians certainly had heeded that counsel long before the event.

World Youth Day 2019 in Panama may not have been the largest, in terms of attendance. Event officials say some 113,000 registered as pilgrims to attend various events -- though it was obvious that many more who did not register filled up the venues.

What the event in Panama may -- or may not -- have lacked in numbers, it made up for in its treatment of young pilgrims. Priests, bishops, women religious and thousands of volunteers, young and old, officially and unofficially, seemed to devote more quality time to participants than in the past, said pilgrims such as Francisco Apenu Cofie of Ghana.

"It was more intimate," said Cofie, who attended World Youth Day in Poland and Brazil. Panama had a special touch, he said.

Those like Polish volunteer Placak said it was not always easy to help and admitted moments of weakness, but he said he learned powerful lessons along the way.

"I have received more than what I expected, and this is the mystery of the divine gifts. I am happy," he said.

Though the pope spent time with the volunteers who attended the ceremony at the stadium, there were thousands of other unofficial helpers, such as those who offered water to pilgrims passing through their neighborhoods, who sprayed them with water hoses to cool them off, and offered use of their facilities or couches to rest, but who did not attend the event.

"Thank you all, because in these days you have been attentive to even the smallest details, however ordinary and apparently insignificant, like offering someone a glass of water," the pope said to volunteers at the ceremony.

In giving to others, God blesses, the pope said,

"You have had a more lively and real experience of faith. You have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know," he said.

There were many moments when volunteers did not understand the pilgrims or vice versa but, by and large, most did not let that stop them from attempting to communicate with one another.

Panamanians outwardly celebrated pilgrims from various visiting countries, spontaneously shouting out the name of the nation as they spotted them carrying their respective flags on the streets of their city.

One of the gifts of Panama's World Youth Day, El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz told Catholic News Service, is that at a time when some in the world are embracing nationalism, the international Catholic festival for youth, in which 156 countries participated, delivered the opposite message. People from different countries, who spoke different languages and had different customs and practices, managed to unite around faith and serving others.

"World Youth Day says, 'We're one family of humanity,'" Bishop Seitz said. "Separating ourselves from others does not make us secure."

 

- - -

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.

As World Youth Day closes, pope prompts volunteers to keep serving

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 8:59pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Just before leaving the physical and human warmth of Panama Jan. 27, Pope Francis stopped to thank the thousands of official volunteers, young and old, gathered at the capital city's Rommel Fernandez Stadium to tell them that they had just participated in an event similar to one that took place early in Christianity.  

In their case, they didn't just multiply food, he said.

"You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved, to give your best to making possible the miracle of the multiplication, not only of loaves, but also hope," he said, telling the volunteers to go out into the world and make that attitude contagious. "We need to multiply that hope."

Volunteers at Panama's World Youth Day showed it was possible to renounce one's interests in favor of others, the pope said.

"You made a commitment," he said. "Thank you."

On stage, before the pope spoke, Bartosz Placak of Poland offered his testimony in Spanish to those gathered at the stadium and said that while volunteering for World Youth Day in Panama, he had experienced a taste of what living in the early Christian communities must have been like: sharing food, homes, anything other people needed.

"In sharing, you create a small community and we return to the times of the first Christians ... we follow their example," he said.

Panamanian volunteer Stella Maris del Carmen told the story of how she had planned to attend the previous World Youth Day, an event she'd longed to attend since she was a child. She had saved enough money to go to Poland in 2016 and then her grandparents died. She canceled her plans and used the money she had saved to tend to her family.

The pope said he was touched by her story. By renouncing the trip for the family, "you honored your roots," the pope told her. "That's what makes you a woman, an adult." But then consider what happened because of that sacrifice, he said.

"The Lord had the gift of (World Youth Day) waiting for you in your homeland," he said. "The Lord likes to play those tricks. That's how God is."

What a person gives to others "the Lord returns" many times over, he said. And the world needs more such examples of surrender and love to provide a "balm in the lives of others," he said.

Panamanians certainly had heeded that counsel long before the event.

World Youth Day 2019 in Panama may not have been the largest, in terms of attendance. Event officials say some 113,000 registered as pilgrims to attend various events -- though it was obvious that many more who did not register filled up the venues.

What the event in Panama may -- or may not -- have lacked in numbers, it made up for in its treatment of young pilgrims. Priests, bishops, women religious and thousands of volunteers, young and old, officially and unofficially, seemed to devote more quality time to participants than in the past, said pilgrims such as Francisco Apenu Cofie of Ghana.

"It was more intimate," said Cofie, who attended World Youth Day in Poland and Brazil. Panama had a special touch, he said.

Those like Polish volunteer Placak said it was not always easy to help and admitted moments of weakness, but he said he learned powerful lessons along the way.

"I have received more than what I expected, and this is the mystery of the divine gifts. I am happy," he said.

Though the pope spent time with the volunteers who attended the ceremony at the stadium, there were thousands of other unofficial helpers, such as those who offered water to pilgrims passing through their neighborhoods, who sprayed them with water hoses to cool them off, and offered use of their facilities or couches to rest, but who did not attend the event.

"Thank you all, because in these days you have been attentive to even the smallest details, however ordinary and apparently insignificant, like offering someone a glass of water," the pope said to volunteers at the ceremony.

In giving to others, God blesses, the pope said,

"You have had a more lively and real experience of faith. You have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know," he said.

There were many moments when volunteers did not understand the pilgrims or vice versa but, by and large, most did not let that stop them from attempting to communicate with one another.

Panamanians outwardly celebrated pilgrims from various visiting countries, spontaneously shouting out the name of the nation as they spotted them carrying their respective flags on the streets of their city.

One of the gifts of Panama's World Youth Day, El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz told Catholic News Service, is that at a time when some in the world are embracing nationalism, the international Catholic festival for youth, in which 156 countries participated, delivered the opposite message. People from different countries, who spoke different languages and had different customs and practices, managed to unite around faith and serving others.

"World Youth Day says, 'We're one family of humanity,'" Bishop Seitz said. "Separating ourselves from others does not make us secure."

 

- - -

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 calls for peace in Venezuela, denounces Philippine church bombing

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 12:39pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed that a peaceful solution may be found in Venezuela as uncertainty and political instability grip the country.

After praying the Angelus Jan. 27 with residents and workers at the Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, a hospice for HIV/AIDS patients, the pope said he is "united with the people of Venezuela in these days."

"In front of the grave situation (Venezuela) is going through, I ask the Lord that a just and peaceful solution may be sought and achieved to overcome the crisis," he said.

More than two dozen have died following mass demonstrations against newly sworn in incumbent President Nicolas Maduro.

Following Maduro's inauguration, which many alleged was illegal due to vote rigging, many world leaders officially recognized Juan Guaido, president of the opposition-led legislature, as president. However, Maduro has refused to bow out.

"Respecting human rights and particularly hoping for the good of all the inhabitants of the country, I invite you to pray, placing this intercession under the protection of Our Lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela," the pope said.

Pope Francis also denounced the Jan. 27 bombing of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines. Two bombs blasted the cathedral during Sunday Mass, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more.

Entrusting the victims of the attack to Jesus and Mary, the pope reiterated "my strongest condemnation for this episode of violence that once again strikes this Christian community."

"I raise my prayers for the dead and wounded. May the Lord, prince of peace, convert the hearts of the violent and give the inhabitants of that region a peaceful coexistence," he said.

The pope also said he offered the final Mass of World Youth Day for the souls of the 10 victims of the Jan. 17 suicide bomb attack at a police academy in Bogota, Colombia.

Visibly moved, the pope asked the residents of the HIV/AIDS hospice to join him in remembering those who died in the attack by saying "present" as he read the names of the victims.

"May they be present before God," the pope said.

Also present at hourlong meeting with the pope were young people from the John Paul II Center, a hospice for people addicted to drugs and alcohol, as well as Hogar San Jose, a house for the poor run by the Missionaries of Charity and the Kkottongnae religious congregation, and the Malambo House, an orphanage for young girls.

Residents and staff cheered "Vive Jesus el Senor" ("Long live, Jesus the Lord") as the pope arrived at the Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano.

Sister Lourdes Reis, a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and director of Malambo House, held a bouquet of roses as she and Father Domingo Escobar, director of Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, welcomed Pope Francis.

Seated in front of a banner depicting the Good Samaritan tending to the wounds of a bruised man, a young boy welcomed the pope through song. Wearing a Franciscan friars costume, the young boy serenaded Pope Francis with his rendition of St. Francis' peace prayer.

"Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon," the boy sang as the pope looked on.

Thanking the directors and pastoral workers, the pope said the help provided at the centers was "a sign of the new life that the Lord wants to give us."

"It is easy to confirm the faith of some of our brothers and sisters when we see it at work in anointing wounds, renewing hope and encouraging faith," he said. "Nor are those we might call the 'primary beneficiaries' of your homes the only ones to be reborn; here the church and the faith are also born and continually recreated through love."

Reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, the pope said Jesus calls on all people to "move from our fixed ways of doing things and our priorities" and take a moment to stop to care for one's neighbor.

The man left battered and bruised on the road, he noted, was nearly killed not just by the brutality of bandits "but also by the indifference of a priest and a Levite who could not be bothered to come to his aid."

Indifference "can also wound and kill. Some for a few miserable coins, others for fear of becoming unclean."

Pope Francis said places like the Good Samaritan Home and Hogar San Jose were signs "of God's concrete mercy and tender love, a living sign of the good news of the resurrection that even now is at work in our lives."

"To be here is to touch the maternal face of the church, which is capable of prophesying and creating a home, creating community," he said.

Before praying the Angelus, the pope entrusted the patients and volunteers to Mary, asking that, through her intercession, Christians may discover "who our neighbors are, and to help us go out quickly to meet them, to give them a home, an embrace, where care and fraternal love meet."

"I encourage you now to place beneath her mantle all your concerns and needs, all your sorrows and hurts," he said, "so that, as a Good Samaritan, she will come to us and aid us by her maternal love and with her smile, the smile of a mother."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

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 calls for peace in Venezuela, denounces Philippine church bombing

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 12:39pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed that a peaceful solution may be found in Venezuela as uncertainty and political instability grip the country.

After praying the Angelus Jan. 27 with residents and workers at the Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, a hospice for HIV/AIDS patients, the pope said he is "united with the people of Venezuela in these days."

"In front of the grave situation (Venezuela) is going through, I ask the Lord that a just and peaceful solution may be sought and achieved to overcome the crisis," he said.

More than two dozen have died following mass demonstrations against newly sworn in incumbent President Nicolas Maduro.

Following Maduro's inauguration, which many alleged was illegal due to vote rigging, many world leaders officially recognized Juan Guaido, president of the opposition-led legislature, as president. However, Maduro has refused to bow out.

"Respecting human rights and particularly hoping for the good of all the inhabitants of the country, I invite you to pray, placing this intercession under the protection of Our Lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela," the pope said.

Pope Francis also denounced the Jan. 27 bombing of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines. Two bombs blasted the cathedral during Sunday Mass, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more.

Entrusting the victims of the attack to Jesus and Mary, the pope reiterated "my strongest condemnation for this episode of violence that once again strikes this Christian community."

"I raise my prayers for the dead and wounded. May the Lord, prince of peace, convert the hearts of the violent and give the inhabitants of that region a peaceful coexistence," he said.

The pope also said he offered the final Mass of World Youth Day for the souls of the 10 victims of the Jan. 17 suicide bomb attack at a police academy in Bogota, Colombia.

Visibly moved, the pope asked the residents of the HIV/AIDS hospice to join him in remembering those who died in the attack by saying "present" as he read the names of the victims.

"May they be present before God," the pope said.

Also present at hourlong meeting with the pope were young people from the John Paul II Center, a hospice for people addicted to drugs and alcohol, as well as Hogar San Jose, a house for the poor run by the Missionaries of Charity and the Kkottongnae religious congregation, and the Malambo House, an orphanage for young girls.

Residents and staff cheered "Vive Jesus el Senor" ("Long live, Jesus the Lord") as the pope arrived at the Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano.

Sister Lourdes Reis, a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and director of Malambo House, held a bouquet of roses as she and Father Domingo Escobar, director of Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, welcomed Pope Francis.

Seated in front of a banner depicting the Good Samaritan tending to the wounds of a bruised man, a young boy welcomed the pope through song. Wearing a Franciscan friars costume, the young boy serenaded Pope Francis with his rendition of St. Francis' peace prayer.

"Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon," the boy sang as the pope looked on.

Thanking the directors and pastoral workers, the pope said the help provided at the centers was "a sign of the new life that the Lord wants to give us."

"It is easy to confirm the faith of some of our brothers and sisters when we see it at work in anointing wounds, renewing hope and encouraging faith," he said. "Nor are those we might call the 'primary beneficiaries' of your homes the only ones to be reborn; here the church and the faith are also born and continually recreated through love."

Reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, the pope said Jesus calls on all people to "move from our fixed ways of doing things and our priorities" and take a moment to stop to care for one's neighbor.

The man left battered and bruised on the road, he noted, was nearly killed not just by the brutality of bandits "but also by the indifference of a priest and a Levite who could not be bothered to come to his aid."

Indifference "can also wound and kill. Some for a few miserable coins, others for fear of becoming unclean."

Pope Francis said places like the Good Samaritan Home and Hogar San Jose were signs "of God's concrete mercy and tender love, a living sign of the good news of the resurrection that even now is at work in our lives."

"To be here is to touch the maternal face of the church, which is capable of prophesying and creating a home, creating community," he said.

Before praying the Angelus, the pope entrusted the patients and volunteers to Mary, asking that, through her intercession, Christians may discover "who our neighbors are, and to help us go out quickly to meet them, to give them a home, an embrace, where care and fraternal love meet."

"I encourage you now to place beneath her mantle all your concerns and needs, all your sorrows and hurts," he said, "so that, as a Good Samaritan, she will come to us and aid us by her maternal love and with her smile, the smile of a mother."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

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 calls for peace in Venezuela, denounces Philippine church bombing

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 12:39pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed that a peaceful solution may be found in Venezuela as uncertainty and political instability grip the country.

After praying the Angelus Jan. 27 with residents and workers at the Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, a hospice for HIV/AIDS patients, the pope said he is "united with the people of Venezuela in these days."

"In front of the grave situation (Venezuela) is going through, I ask the Lord that a just and peaceful solution may be sought and achieved to overcome the crisis," he said.

More than two dozen have died following mass demonstrations against newly sworn in incumbent President Nicolas Maduro.

Following Maduro's inauguration, which many alleged was illegal due to vote rigging, many world leaders officially recognized Juan Guaido, president of the opposition-led legislature, as president. However, Maduro has refused to bow out.

"Respecting human rights and particularly hoping for the good of all the inhabitants of the country, I invite you to pray, placing this intercession under the protection of Our Lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela," the pope said.

Pope Francis also denounced the Jan. 27 bombing of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines. Two bombs blasted the cathedral during Sunday Mass, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more.

Entrusting the victims of the attack to Jesus and Mary, the pope reiterated "my strongest condemnation for this episode of violence that once again strikes this Christian community."

"I raise my prayers for the dead and wounded. May the Lord, prince of peace, convert the hearts of the violent and give the inhabitants of that region a peaceful coexistence," he said.

The pope also said he offered the final Mass of World Youth Day for the souls of the 10 victims of the Jan. 17 suicide bomb attack at a police academy in Bogota, Colombia.

Visibly moved, the pope asked the residents of the HIV/AIDS hospice to join him in remembering those who died in the attack by saying "present" as he read the names of the victims.

"May they be present before God," the pope said.

Also present at hourlong meeting with the pope were young people from the John Paul II Center, a hospice for people addicted to drugs and alcohol, as well as Hogar San Jose, a house for the poor run by the Missionaries of Charity and the Kkottongnae religious congregation, and the Malambo House, an orphanage for young girls.

Residents and staff cheered "Vive Jesus el Senor" ("Long live, Jesus the Lord") as the pope arrived at the Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano.

Sister Lourdes Reis, a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and director of Malambo House, held a bouquet of roses as she and Father Domingo Escobar, director of Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, welcomed Pope Francis.

Seated in front of a banner depicting the Good Samaritan tending to the wounds of a bruised man, a young boy welcomed the pope through song. Wearing a Franciscan friars costume, the young boy serenaded Pope Francis with his rendition of St. Francis' peace prayer.

"Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon," the boy sang as the pope looked on.

Thanking the directors and pastoral workers, the pope said the help provided at the centers was "a sign of the new life that the Lord wants to give us."

"It is easy to confirm the faith of some of our brothers and sisters when we see it at work in anointing wounds, renewing hope and encouraging faith," he said. "Nor are those we might call the 'primary beneficiaries' of your homes the only ones to be reborn; here the church and the faith are also born and continually recreated through love."

Reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, the pope said Jesus calls on all people to "move from our fixed ways of doing things and our priorities" and take a moment to stop to care for one's neighbor.

The man left battered and bruised on the road, he noted, was nearly killed not just by the brutality of bandits "but also by the indifference of a priest and a Levite who could not be bothered to come to his aid."

Indifference "can also wound and kill. Some for a few miserable coins, others for fear of becoming unclean."

Pope Francis said places like the Good Samaritan Home and Hogar San Jose were signs "of God's concrete mercy and tender love, a living sign of the good news of the resurrection that even now is at work in our lives."

"To be here is to touch the maternal face of the church, which is capable of prophesying and creating a home, creating community," he said.

Before praying the Angelus, the pope entrusted the patients and volunteers to Mary, asking that, through her intercession, Christians may discover "who our neighbors are, and to help us go out quickly to meet them, to give them a home, an embrace, where care and fraternal love meet."

"I encourage you now to place beneath her mantle all your concerns and needs, all your sorrows and hurts," he said, "so that, as a Good Samaritan, she will come to us and aid us by her maternal love and with her smile, the smile of a mother."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

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.

Panama shows solidarity with pilgrims along route to World Youth Day vigil

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 11:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- As thousands of pilgrims streamed through the neighborhood of Las Acacias en route to the World Day Youth vigil, those from Nicaragua and Venezuela received special cheers and applause as they carried the flags of their respective countries.

"Venezuela without Maduro!" someone yelled in the crowd as the pilgrims carried the flag of the South American nation.

"Thank you, Panama!" they yelled back.

Venezuela is facing political upheaval, including some attempts at deposing President Nicolas Maduro, and a spiraling political and economic crisis.

Likewise, Nicaraguans carrying their flag received loud cheers as they went by. The Catholic Church in that country has been trying to broker peace after a proposal to change the social security system in 2018 unleashed pent-up frustration over the administration of President Daniel Ortega.

The political situations of Nicaragua and Venezuela have been difficult to avoid at World Youth Day. Groups of young pilgrims from both nations spontaneously chanted cheers of "Libertad, Libertad!" ("freedom, freedom!"), an expression for which they could be jailed or physically hurt in their home countries.

But the solidarity of the Panamanians was not limited to the political realm.

Residents of Las Acacias neighborhood, which curls around to the venue where the pope joined young people for the Jan. 26 vigil and the Jan. 27 closing Mass, turned out in full force, with banners and water hoses to cool off the pilgrims. Some offered the use of their living rooms, patios and even restrooms for the young Catholics streaming through.

"This is a great blessing to have them here, to have so many of them praying the rosary, singing for us as they go by," said Elba de Aguero, a resident of Las Acacias.

She showed off a cache of presents some of the pilgrims had dropped off: prayer cards of St. Oscar Romero, stickers from Brazil, a refrigerator magnet from Dubai.

Residents Diego de Gracia and Mauricio Nieto helped hoist a banner on a traffic island in the neighborhood that said: "Welcome, pilgrims." They cheered the groups marching through, shaking hands and offering high-fives.

"They have brought us so much life, harmony and peace," Nieto told Catholic News Service Jan. 26. "They're a blessing."

While in some countries the thought of tourists coming through leads people to close the doors or leave town altogether, Panamanians welcomed the religious pilgrims. They took to the streets and city parks to teach pilgrims traditional dances, how to use the subway system, and some even physically carried overheated pilgrims who were not used to the heat and humidity into places such as beauty salons to recover.

"We are all brothers and sisters in Christ," said de Aguero, "why shouldn't we help?"

A local mosque provided free water to pilgrims en route to an opening event for the pope, and other religious groups -- including Hindus -- also pitched in to help.

Elizabeth Kaeufer, 18, of Akureyri, Iceland, said the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland was wonderful, but there was something about the warmth of people in Panama.

She said she loved the shows of expression, the spontaneous dancing and singing on the streets, the feeling that there are no strangers. On Panama City's metro, Latin American pilgrims broke out in song, with guitars and other instruments, en route to the vigil.

"You feel like you're a part of something huge," Kaeufer said, "something, a feeling that's the same for so many people."

For U.S. pilgrims Sebastian Martin, 18, and Jessica Martinez, 24, of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, that feeling was about something more personal.

"I want to stay true to who I am" as a Christian, said Martin, a college freshman, and that was his reason for attending the event.

For Martinez, a teacher, coming to Panama brought her into contact with a wider world of languages and people with different customs and practices but who share her faith. She said attending World Youth Day was about forming a deeper relationship with God -- a unique, hard-to-describe feeling she finds while among her peers.

"I want to grow my faith in God," she said.

 

- - -

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.

Panama shows solidarity with pilgrims along route to World Youth Day vigil

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 11:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- As thousands of pilgrims streamed through the neighborhood of Las Acacias en route to the World Day Youth vigil, those from Nicaragua and Venezuela received special cheers and applause as they carried the flags of their respective countries.

"Venezuela without Maduro!" someone yelled in the crowd as the pilgrims carried the flag of the South American nation.

"Thank you, Panama!" they yelled back.

Venezuela is facing political upheaval, including some attempts at deposing President Nicolas Maduro, and a spiraling political and economic crisis.

Likewise, Nicaraguans carrying their flag received loud cheers as they went by. The Catholic Church in that country has been trying to broker peace after a proposal to change the social security system in 2018 unleashed pent-up frustration over the administration of President Daniel Ortega.

The political situations of Nicaragua and Venezuela have been difficult to avoid at World Youth Day. Groups of young pilgrims from both nations spontaneously chanted cheers of "Libertad, Libertad!" ("freedom, freedom!"), an expression for which they could be jailed or physically hurt in their home countries.

But the solidarity of the Panamanians was not limited to the political realm.

Residents of Las Acacias neighborhood, which curls around to the venue where the pope joined young people for the Jan. 26 vigil and the Jan. 27 closing Mass, turned out in full force, with banners and water hoses to cool off the pilgrims. Some offered the use of their living rooms, patios and even restrooms for the young Catholics streaming through.

"This is a great blessing to have them here, to have so many of them praying the rosary, singing for us as they go by," said Elba de Aguero, a resident of Las Acacias.

She showed off a cache of presents some of the pilgrims had dropped off: prayer cards of St. Oscar Romero, stickers from Brazil, a refrigerator magnet from Dubai.

Residents Diego de Gracia and Mauricio Nieto helped hoist a banner on a traffic island in the neighborhood that said: "Welcome, pilgrims." They cheered the groups marching through, shaking hands and offering high-fives.

"They have brought us so much life, harmony and peace," Nieto told Catholic News Service Jan. 26. "They're a blessing."

While in some countries the thought of tourists coming through leads people to close the doors or leave town altogether, Panamanians welcomed the religious pilgrims. They took to the streets and city parks to teach pilgrims traditional dances, how to use the subway system, and some even physically carried overheated pilgrims who were not used to the heat and humidity into places such as beauty salons to recover.

"We are all brothers and sisters in Christ," said de Aguero, "why shouldn't we help?"

A local mosque provided free water to pilgrims en route to an opening event for the pope, and other religious groups -- including Hindus -- also pitched in to help.

Elizabeth Kaeufer, 18, of Akureyri, Iceland, said the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland was wonderful, but there was something about the warmth of people in Panama.

She said she loved the shows of expression, the spontaneous dancing and singing on the streets, the feeling that there are no strangers. On Panama City's metro, Latin American pilgrims broke out in song, with guitars and other instruments, en route to the vigil.

"You feel like you're a part of something huge," Kaeufer said, "something, a feeling that's the same for so many people."

For U.S. pilgrims Sebastian Martin, 18, and Jessica Martinez, 24, of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, that feeling was about something more personal.

"I want to stay true to who I am" as a Christian, said Martin, a college freshman, and that was his reason for attending the event.

For Martinez, a teacher, coming to Panama brought her into contact with a wider world of languages and people with different customs and practices but who share her faith. She said attending World Youth Day was about forming a deeper relationship with God -- a unique, hard-to-describe feeling she finds while among her peers.

"I want to grow my faith in God," she said.

 

- - -

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.

Panama shows solidarity with pilgrims along route to World Youth Day vigil

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 11:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- As thousands of pilgrims streamed through the neighborhood of Las Acacias en route to the World Day Youth vigil, those from Nicaragua and Venezuela received special cheers and applause as they carried the flags of their respective countries.

"Venezuela without Maduro!" someone yelled in the crowd as the pilgrims carried the flag of the South American nation.

"Thank you, Panama!" they yelled back.

Venezuela is facing political upheaval, including some attempts at deposing President Nicolas Maduro, and a spiraling political and economic crisis.

Likewise, Nicaraguans carrying their flag received loud cheers as they went by. The Catholic Church in that country has been trying to broker peace after a proposal to change the social security system in 2018 unleashed pent-up frustration over the administration of President Daniel Ortega.

The political situations of Nicaragua and Venezuela have been difficult to avoid at World Youth Day. Groups of young pilgrims from both nations spontaneously chanted cheers of "Libertad, Libertad!" ("freedom, freedom!"), an expression for which they could be jailed or physically hurt in their home countries.

But the solidarity of the Panamanians was not limited to the political realm.

Residents of Las Acacias neighborhood, which curls around to the venue where the pope joined young people for the Jan. 26 vigil and the Jan. 27 closing Mass, turned out in full force, with banners and water hoses to cool off the pilgrims. Some offered the use of their living rooms, patios and even restrooms for the young Catholics streaming through.

"This is a great blessing to have them here, to have so many of them praying the rosary, singing for us as they go by," said Elba de Aguero, a resident of Las Acacias.

She showed off a cache of presents some of the pilgrims had dropped off: prayer cards of St. Oscar Romero, stickers from Brazil, a refrigerator magnet from Dubai.

Residents Diego de Gracia and Mauricio Nieto helped hoist a banner on a traffic island in the neighborhood that said: "Welcome, pilgrims." They cheered the groups marching through, shaking hands and offering high-fives.

"They have brought us so much life, harmony and peace," Nieto told Catholic News Service Jan. 26. "They're a blessing."

While in some countries the thought of tourists coming through leads people to close the doors or leave town altogether, Panamanians welcomed the religious pilgrims. They took to the streets and city parks to teach pilgrims traditional dances, how to use the subway system, and some even physically carried overheated pilgrims who were not used to the heat and humidity into places such as beauty salons to recover.

"We are all brothers and sisters in Christ," said de Aguero, "why shouldn't we help?"

A local mosque provided free water to pilgrims en route to an opening event for the pope, and other religious groups -- including Hindus -- also pitched in to help.

Elizabeth Kaeufer, 18, of Akureyri, Iceland, said the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland was wonderful, but there was something about the warmth of people in Panama.

She said she loved the shows of expression, the spontaneous dancing and singing on the streets, the feeling that there are no strangers. On Panama City's metro, Latin American pilgrims broke out in song, with guitars and other instruments, en route to the vigil.

"You feel like you're a part of something huge," Kaeufer said, "something, a feeling that's the same for so many people."

For U.S. pilgrims Sebastian Martin, 18, and Jessica Martinez, 24, of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, that feeling was about something more personal.

"I want to stay true to who I am" as a Christian, said Martin, a college freshman, and that was his reason for attending the event.

For Martinez, a teacher, coming to Panama brought her into contact with a wider world of languages and people with different customs and practices but who share her faith. She said attending World Youth Day was about forming a deeper relationship with God -- a unique, hard-to-describe feeling she finds while among her peers.

"I want to grow my faith in God," she said.

 

- - -

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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