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Updated: 7 min 39 sec ago

Pope puts founder of Rosary Crusade one step closer toward sainthood

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 9:27am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Family Theater Product

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton and St. John Paul II's mentor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.

The pope approved the decrees recognizing their heroic virtues during an audience Dec. 18 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

The pope also recognized the miracles needed for the beatification of: Jesuit Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Munoz of Spain; Father Jean-Baptiste Fouque of France; and Sister Maria Carmen Rendiles Martinez of Venezuela. He also recognized the martyrdom of Father Teodoro Illera del Olmo, a member of the Congregation of St. Peter in Chains, and 15 companions, who were killed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and 1937.

Father Peyton, known worldwide as "The Rosary Priest," was a Catholic media pioneer in the 1940s, using radio and later television to produce popular programs featuring Hollywood stars and other celebrities to promote family prayer.

His ministry produced more than 600 radio and television programs and 10,000 broadcasts. The priest also conducted rosary crusades for millions of people in dozens of countries. He had two especially famous mottos: "The family that prays together stays together" and "A world at prayer is a world at peace."

Father Peyton emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1928 when he was 19, with his heart set on becoming a millionaire after his dream of becoming a priest was thwarted when a seminary turned down his scholarship request.

He found a job as a sexton in the cathedral of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and he and his brother joined the seminary and were ordained in the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1941.

Father Peyton's first assignment was as chaplain in Albany, New York, where he launched a project to promote praying the rosary and family life. He had a special devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary after attributing his recovery from tuberculosis to her intercession.

He founded Holy Cross Family Ministries, which includes Family Rosary, Family Theater Productions, Father Peyton Family Institute and Family Rosary International.

Father Peyton died in 1992. After the pope's decree recognizing his heroic virtues, in general, a miracle is needed for his beatification and a second one for his canonization.

Cardinal Wyszynski was primate of Poland from 1949 until his death from cancer in 1981. He was Poland's youngest bishop when he was installed as archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno during the imposition of communist rule.

Despite Vatican misgivings, Cardinal Wyszynski signed the first church accord in 1950 with a communist government, which promised the church protection in return for encouraging "respect for state authorities.''

Although the accord was quickly violated, he defended the intentions behind it in posthumously published diaries, compiled while he was imprisoned without formal charges from 1953 to 1956 by Poland's ruling communists.

"I was of the opinion the modern world needed the martyrdom of work, not of blood,'' the cardinal wrote.

"It seemed possible, as well as indispensable, to establish several points in a 'modus vivendi' if the church was to avoid a new -- perhaps accelerated and drastic -- annihilation,'' he wrote.

In later years, Cardinal Wyszynski vigorously defended human rights and reminded Vatican diplomats they should secure local religious freedoms before signing top-level international agreements.

Acknowledged by Poland's ex-communists and anti-communists as one of their country's greatest modern leaders, Cardinal Wyszynski was credited by former President Lech Walesa with laying the groundwork for the rise of the Polish trade union, Solidarity, and the eventual fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Among his proteges was the future St. John Paul II. When then-Father Karol Wojtyla was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow, the cardinal presented him to a group of priests, saying "Habemus papam" ("We have a pope").

"In the light of later events, one could say those were prophetic words," the pope wrote.

Cardinal Wyszynski also told him at the 1978 conclave, "If they elect you, do not refuse it.''

The newly elected Pope John Paul told the cardinal there would have been "no Polish pope'' without his "faith, heroic hope and limitless confidence in the Mother of God.''

Among the other decrees Dec. 18, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of three priests, three religious women and one Italian laywoman.


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Welcome to the CNS news report for Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 8:20am

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Nativity scene and Christmas tree, like those displayed in St. Peter's Square, are visible reminders of God's benevolence and closeness to all men and women, Pope Francis said.

The traditional Christmas displays are "the signs of the heavenly Father's compassion, of his participation and closeness to humanity who experience not being abandoned in dark times, but instead visited and accompanied in their difficulties," the pope said.

"Every year, the Christmas Nativity scene and tree speak to us through their symbolic language. They make more visible what is captured in the experience of the birth of the Son of God," Pope Francis said Dec. 7 in a meeting with delegations from Poland and Italy, responsible respectively for the 2017 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

The centerpiece of the Vatican's Christmas holiday decorations is the towering 92-foot spruce tree.

Measuring nearly 33 feet in diameter, the tree was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk, Poland, and transported to the Vatican on a flatbed truck traveling over 1,240 miles across central Europe.

Thanking the members of the Polish delegation, the pope said the tree's soaring height "motivates us to reach out 'toward the highest gifts'" and to rise above the clouds to experience "how beautiful and joyful it is to be immersed in the light of Christ."

"The tree, which comes from Poland this year, is a sign of the faith of that people who, also with this gesture, wanted to express their fidelity to the see of Peter," the pope said.

The Nativity scene was donated by the Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine, located in southern Italy. Created in a traditional 18th-century Neapolitan style, it covers a surface of over 860 square feet and features 20 terracotta figures, some as tall as 6 feet.

The representation of the night of Jesus' birth, the pope said, is "inspired by the works of mercy" and is a reminder "that Jesus told us: 'Do to others what you would have them do to you.'"

"The crib is the evocative place where we contemplate Jesus who, taking upon himself human misery, invites us to do the same through act of mercy," Pope Francis said.

As it was last year, the Christmas tree was adorned with ornaments made by children receiving treatment at several Italian hospitals.

"These children, with their parents, participated in a ceramics recreational therapy program" organized by the Countess Lene Thune Foundation for young boys and girls suffering from oncological and hematological disorders, the Vatican said Oct. 25.

Additionally, children from the central Italian Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, which was devastated by earthquakes in 2016, also made ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Pope Francis thanked the children and told them their ornaments are a personal witness of Jesus "who made himself a child like you to tell you that he loves you."

After the Vatican's tree-lighting ceremony later that evening, he added, "pilgrims and visitors from around the world will be able to admire your work."

"Tonight, when the lights of the nativity scene are turned on and the Christmas tree lights up, even the wishes you have transmitted through your decorative works will be bright and seen by everyone," he said.

The tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Lord's Baptism Jan. 7, the Vatican said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

For 'Dreamers,' U.S. is the only home they know

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ruby Thomas, The Record

By Ruby Thomas and Jessica Able

SPRINGFIELD, Ky. (CNS) -- In response to Pope Francis' call for Catholics to "Share the Journey" of their lives with one another under a two-year program introduced in September, the following stories relate the experiences and hopes of young Catholic immigrants who worship at St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Kentucky.

For now, they are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but that program is set to end in March unless Congress passes the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act.

Yuliana Ortega, 15, is a student at Washington County High School. Ortega came to the U.S. from Jalisco, Mexico, when she was just a year old.

Ortega said she fears having to leave her friends and family in Springfield once the DACA program ends.

"I don't know anything about Mexico. I don't know where I would go to," she told The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Ortega, who juggles school and work at the restaurant her family manages, said she wished she wasn't judged because of her race. Following high school, she hopes to work one day as an interpreter.

"We have goals and things in our lives we want to reach," she said.

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Wendy Hernandez, 21, is an English language tutor for Washington County Schools. Hernandez, who came to the U.S. when she was 6 years old with her mother and two siblings. She said her mother fled Cuernavaca, Mexico, to escape physical abuse.

She considers the U.S., and Springfield, in particular, her home.

Since Hernandez learned of President Donald Trump's decision to cancel DACA, she has found her future to be uncertain.

"It's kind of scary because I don't know what is going to happen," she said. "My career, everything, is in their (lawmakers) hands."

Hernandez said there are several misconceptions concerning Dreamers, as DACA youth are sometimes called.

"We don't get all the benefits everyone believes we do. We have to work harder than others to be able to go to school or to get a job sometimes," she explained.

She said she worries about being forced to return to a country she does not know. If she could speak to legislators, she would tell them to "get to know us."

"Get to know a little about us and see how we are trying to help our community. We have ambition and goals in our life for our future."

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Carlos Guzman, 26, is owner and operator of Longview Roofing in Lebanon, Kentucky. Guzman, said ending the DACA program would have a devastating ripple effect in his life.

Not only would he be taken away from his home, family and faith community, but he would be stripped of his livelihood, a business he has worked hard to build, he said.

"I think a lot of people don't realize we work hard to have a better future. We try our best to contribute to this country. We pay our taxes, we create jobs and we contribute to the economy," he said.

Guzman, who was brought to the U.S. from Sonora, Mexico, at 14, said people should not judge each other solely based on what others are saying.

"I'm sure every parent wants a better future for their children. Some may think it was probably wrong (for our parents) bringing us here, but what would you do for your child?" he said.

Guzman's parents decided to bring him and his three brothers to the U.S. to avoid the constant violence they faced.

"It's a big sacrifice because they left behind their parents and family. When family members die, it's hard for them not being able to go back," he said.

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Dora Lozano, 18, is a student at Elizabethtown Technical and Community College, where she is studying Spanish and special education. Lozano said she has no memories of her native Mexico City, which she left with her family for the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

"I'm scared to lose everything. This is all I know," she said.

If given the opportunity, Lozano said, she would ask legislators to try to understand the situation from her point of view.

"We didn't come here to harm anyone; we came here to have a better life. This program (DACA) helps us to reach our goals. We don't want it to be taken away."

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Juan Saucedo, 16, is a junior at Washington County High School and wants to become a diesel mechanic. He came to the U.S. from Aguas Calientes, Mexico, when he was 4 years old.

Saucedo applied for DACA status earlier in 2017 and was in the application process when the Trump administration announced the end of the program. He is unsure of the status of his application.

"Our future is in their hands, but there's nothing we can do," the teen said. "We have goals like everyone else. Just because we're Hispanic or a different race doesn't mean we don't have goals."

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Manuel Hernandez, 25, is a senior at Eastern Kentucky University where he is studying computer networking and security. He came to the U.S. with his two siblings, including sister Wendy, and their mother, when he was 13 years old.

Hernandez said he and other DACA youth contribute "to this country in many ways."

"We're students; we have jobs," he said. "This is our home; I don't think any of us want to go back."

He said it's difficult to fight against a narrative that depicts immigrants as ones who take jobs from others and demeans them.

"We're not just a stereotype. We don't steal jobs. We're not criminals. We're trying to contribute as much as possible."

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Thomas and Able are on the staff of The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Dreamer wants Congress to save DACA so she can minister at her parish

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:48pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jessica Able, The Record

By Ruby Thomas and Jessica Able

SPRINGFIELD, Ky. (CNS) -- Holding the Lectionary high, Mirna Lozano processed into St. Dominic Church in late October during the parish's first young adult Mass, which she organized with the help of her father, Rodrigo.

The father-daughter duo recently earned certification in youth ministry through the Archdiocese of Louisville's Office of Youth and Young Adults. They are looking forward to seeing youth ministry grow at the parish.

But Mirna's future in Springfield is uncertain. The 19-year-old native of Mexico was brought to the United States without proper documentation when she was 4 years old. The U.S. is the only home she knows.

For now, she's protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. President Donald Trump's decision to cancel the program -- which protects 800,000 young people from deportation -- leaves an uncertain future though.

What's more certain for Mirna and other young Hispanics is fear.

Trump called on lawmakers in Washington to pass a measure to preserve DACA. To that end, advocates around the country have rallied to urge passage of the DREAM Act -- the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- to provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries, but Congress has yet to act.

The young people who would benefit from the act's passage, known as "Dreamers," are afraid they will have to give up their lives in the U.S. and be forced to return to countries they barely remember.

Mirna, who hopes to be a teacher and youth minister, said she feels her future lies in the hands of the federal government. She has voluntarily registered under DACA.

"This is our country. This is all we know," she told The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Mirna, her father and a group of six other young people, including her younger sister Dora, shared their journeys after the Mass at St. Dominic.

Rodrigo Lozano said his family moved to the U.S. 15 years ago, trading the suffocating violence of Mexico City for the sleepy rural community of Springfield, 59 miles southeast of Louisville. Mirna was 4 and Dora only 3.

He said he came looking for a "better ... more peaceful life" for his family. "It's every parents' dream," he said.

Despite a tough economy in Mexico, he had managed to hold a decent job, but Mexico City had become inundated with violence, he said. After being assaulted at gunpoint several times, he felt he had no choice but to leave his homeland. Traveling to the U.S. without documents is a major decision because it's dangerous, he admitted.

The elder Lozano said he initially traveled north alone to prepare a life for his family. His wife and two daughters joined him about a year later.

When Rodrigo arrived, he did not speak English, had nowhere to live and no clothes to wear. But he found work on farms and sometimes cleaned streets.

"You don't care how much you're paid, you just want to work," he said.

As for regrets, Rodrigo has none.

Since moving to Springfield the family, including a son born in the U.S., have found a home in St. Dominic Church, where they are active parishioners.

Despite the looming threat of deportation, Mirna continues to look ahead. She and her father are proud of their youth ministry certificates and are forming a multi-ethnic youth group at the parish.

Mirna also is active in the community, helping other young people understand their options for higher education despite their legal status. Undocumented young people, even those protected by DACA, do not qualify for federal student aid.

She said he hopes to foster unity and a better understanding between Hispanics and the larger community in Springfield.

DACA is not just a political issue, she noted. It's about people "striving for a better life." She wants to help others understand that.

Mirna hopes that Congress will pass the DREAM Act and that there will be a path to legalization for the parents of Dreamers.

Since the president's decision in September to cancel DACA -- he gave Congress six months to act before formally ending the program -- Mirna has felt the Catholic Church's presence and support because it has helped her feel safe.

Father Pepper Elliott, pastor, who celebrates Mass in Spanish for the Hispanic community at St. Dominic Church, said it would be a tragedy to lose the Dreamers.

"They're just as much our young people as any other in our parish and they're just as close to our hearts," Father Elliott said.

He held up Mirna's leadership in organizing the young adult Mass. She graduated from Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Kentucky., where she was elected president of her senior class, he said.

Young Latinos such as Mirna have grown up in the community and some attended St. Dominic School, he explained, noting that many now are of college and working age, contributing to the community by holding jobs, paying taxes, rent and utilities, buying necessities, such as clothing and cars, and even helping create jobs.

On top of that, Father Elliott added, they add to the community through their family life and values.

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Thomas and Able are on the staff of The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

As pope turns 81, kids entertain with song, dance and 13-foot pizza

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:14am

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Celebrating his 81st birthday, Pope Francis blew out the candles on a 13-foot long pizza after being serenaded with song and dance by children and employees from a Vatican pediatric clinic.

A group of children receiving assistance from the Vatican's St. Martha Dispensary, a maternal and pediatric clinic, had given the pope a birthday party Dec. 17 marked with singing, dancing and a cake adorned with gold and white fondant decorations.

They also rolled out a large pizza with a single lit candle on it. The pope was joined with several children from the clinic and counted down before blowing out the candle.

"Eat the 4-meter pizza: Eat well, it will do you good and make you grow," the pope told the children.

The pope said their joy was a gift and is like "good earth that makes life grow with good fruits."

"Do not make children sad. When children see that there are problems at home, that their parents are fighting, they suffer," he said. "They must always grow with joy."

After meeting the children, Pope Francis greeted an estimated 25,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address.

After reciting the Angelus prayer, the pope was about to greet several individual groups present in the square before the crowd burst into song, singing "Happy Birthday."

Touched by the gesture, the pope said: "Thank you. Thank you very much."

Celebrating the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Pope Francis invited Christians to prepare for Christ's coming through "constant joy, persevering prayer and continual thanksgiving."

"Joy, prayer and gratitude are the three attitudes that prepare us to live Christmas in an authentic way," the pope said before inviting the crowd to repeat the words: "Joy, prayer and gratitude."

Pope Francis also blessed the statues of baby Jesus that will be at the center of Nativity scenes in Rome schools, churches and homes.

Addressing the children who brought their figurines to the square, the pope said, "When you pray at home, in front of the creche with your family, let yourselves be drawn toward the tenderness of the child Jesus, who was born poor and fragile in our midst to give us his love. This is the true Christmas."

With Christmas also around the corner, the pope also met with members of the Italian branch of Catholic Action's children's section, parish-based groups of young people, ages 4-14, for his traditional pre-Christmas audience with them.

The pope said the Christmas season is a reminder of helping those in need who are the "image of the child Jesus who was turned away and who did not find a place to stay in the city of Bethlehem."

He called on them to ask themselves how they can better serve the suffering Christ in those who are cast aside by society.

"Here are your 'peripheries;' try to fix your goal on companions and people that no one sees, and dare to make the first step to meet them, to give them a bit of your time, a smile, a gesture of tenderness," the pope said.

"In this upcoming feast of holy Christmas, you are called to always make him known more and more among your friends, in the cities, in the parishes and in your families," he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Stories, tears flow freely for descendants of slaves Jesuits owned, sold

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 3:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Inside the parish hall of St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in New Orleans, the personal stories flowed as freely as the tears.

One by one, descendants of the 272 enslaved men, women and children sold as a group in 1838 to a Louisiana plantation by the Jesuits who ran Georgetown University in Washington partially to relieve the school's debts, described what it was like upon learning -- through the meticulous records kept and maintained for nearly 200 years by the Society of Jesus -- their hidden and bitter family story.

The sale of the 272 -- known as the GU272 - placed them on a plantation in Iberville Parish in the town of Maringouin, located between Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Others were placed on plantations in Ascension and Terrebonne parishes, which are like counties.

The first name on the slave manifest was Isaac Hawkins, who was 65 when he was sold from the Jesuits' plantation in southern Maryland.

On Dec. 9 at St. Gabriel, Myrtle Hawkins Pace, Isaac Hawkins' great-granddaughter, and her husband, Johnny Pace, described how their world was turned upside down when they received a telephone call in April from a cousin, who told her Georgetown University was renaming a building "Isaac Hawkins Hall" in honor of her ancestor.

They were living near San Francisco and had never had an inkling of Myrtle's ties to the 1838 sale.

"I was absolutely astonished," said Johnny Pace, "because here I am, married to Myrtle Hawkins, Isaac Hawkins' (III) first born, and when I met her, I met her father and met her grandfather and they both were Isaac Hawkins. I said, 'Wait a minute, this is astounding.' It's like having the sky drop in on you."

The gathering at St. Gabriel was one of two listening sessions organized by the GU272 Descendants Association and the Society of Jesus, which was represented by Jesuit Father Tim Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and Jesuit Father Bob Hussey, provincial of the Maryland Province.

Father Kesicki said the listening sessions with the Louisiana descendants of those who were enslaved were just the beginning of a lengthy dialogue process, "one of many visits moving forward."

He reiterated what he told a large group at Georgetown April 18, when several campus buildings were renamed to honor the memory of those who were sold south.

Referring to the penitential rite at Mass, Father Kesicki said: "As Jesuits, we have greatly sinned, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do. Father Hussey and I are here today because we are profoundly sorry."

"We share a history -- a history that is the history of slavery," Father Hussey added. "Jesuits in my province almost 200 years ago owned and sold enslaved people, and they were your ancestors, your family. It is hard for me to say that, but it is the truth, and we need to continue to face that truth."

Father Hussey said one of the purposes of the Jesuits' visit was to "extend the meaning and the grace and the conversation of those events" to a wider audience of descendants.

After meeting in New Orleans, they traveled to Maringouin, about 105 miles northwest of New Orleans. They also toured the Whitney Plantation, which gives an unvarnished account of the slaveholding economy in Louisiana in the 1800s.

"The history we share is painful," Father Hussey said. "It is painful to remember the denial of human dignity and the suffering of slavery, imagining what your ancestors must have known. It is painful for us as Jesuits to recognize that our brothers, in blindness, would treat people in a way so contrary to the values we profess. We are all deeply ashamed by that."

When the descendants took the floor, they described a variety of feelings and emotions. Linda H. Elwood said she found out about the slave sale only last year and wondered why it had not been made known more prominently.

"My mother is 92 years old and she just found out at 91," Elwood said. "I'm 76 and I was 75 when I found out, and we were terribly hurt by this. I think there should be a way made that our children could be taught more about black history so they can know what's going on in their lives, then and now."

Sandra Green Thomas, president of the GU272 Descendants Association, said the Jesuits must seek reconciliation through concrete acts beyond renaming buildings on the Georgetown campus or giving descendants the regular benefits that the children of any Georgetown alumni or professors would receive.

"You have a tremendous amount of resources that you could use to uplift and support," she said. "In Maringouin, they don't even have a high school. People live in poverty. There are things you could do to ameliorate this."

Walter Bonam, an associate with the New Orleans archdiocesan Office of Religious Education who moderated the discussion, said one of the sad ironies of the history of the GU272 is that the story is so well known now "because so many (of the descendants) have remained loyal to the Catholic Church that has not always been loyal to them, and it's through baptismal records, marriage records and things like that that many of their names have become known."

V.P. Franklin, editor of the Journal of African American History, said any eventual reconciliation has to include the idea of concrete reparations to descendants, particularly in educational benefits.

"So far it appears that the issue of reparations has been avoided by the people of Georgetown," Franklin said. "(The Jesuits) need to be thinking in terms of how they can be making restitution, monetary restitution, for what they gained, what they stole from these enslaved people, and make restitution to those people."

He said one idea would be to guarantee education for descendants -- at schools beyond Georgetown -- so that those students don't "graduate in debt."

Father Kesicki and Father Hussey said the Jesuits and the GU272 are working on a process for future dialogue and consensus.

"This is a long time coming, and it's a long road ahead," Father Kesicki said. "I hope that we don't wait until we've agreed on everything before we do anything."

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

In #MeToo movement Catholic Church can play role in discussion, healing

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 2:36pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The wave of accusations of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault from Hollywood to Capitol Hill and many places in between in recent months has been described as a revolution, a moment and a time for national reckoning.

The accused -- abruptly fired or resigned -- have issued apology statements or denied wrongdoing. Those who have come forward -- predominantly women, but also some men emboldened by the solidarity of the #MeToo movement -- were named "Silence Breakers" by Time magazine and honored as its 2017 Person of the Year.

"We're still at the bomb-throwing point of this revolution," the Time article points out, stressing that for true social change to happen, private conversations on this issue are essential.

And that's where some say the Catholic Church has something to offer both from its lessons learned -- and how it could do more -- to support victims and foster healing.

The U.S. Catholic Church -- tarnished by the clergy sexual abuse scandal that made headlines in 2002 - has taken steps in all of its dioceses to address and prevent the abuse of young people and will keep doing this forever, according to Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection.

As it continues its training, education, background checks and reporting, the church must similarly "face the reality of sexual harassment," said a Dec. 11 editorial in America magazine, pointing out that what the church went through with the abuse crisis shows "it is possible to begin turning even an organization as large and as old as the church toward primary concern for victims. "

But the church faces hurdles in just getting into this discussion, acknowledged Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School and consultor for the Pontifical Council of the Laity, noting that people can accept church teaching on global warming or refuges but its teachings on sexuality "is the thing that gets people mad."

With papal encyclicals such as "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"), she said the "church was onto something" when it spoke of what would happen when sex was separated from love and responsibility, stressing that if "sex is robbed of its full meaning, it is bound to hurt someone."

And that's what the country is seeing now. As she points out: "We are not talking about women complaining that men stomped on their feet or slapped them really hard, it's sex," which explains the "depth of humiliation and anger" these women feel who have come forward.

"This is not a moment for triumphalism. I don't see anyone in the church taking that approach," Alvare said. "What I do see is people saying: 'Let's look at what's happening, let's name what we're seeing and think about how to fix it.'"

"We're part of that solution," she added, noting that the experience of the church reaching out its hand and saying: 'We're here if you're suffering,' is very powerful."

Part of the church's role can't help but stem from lessons learned in the abuse crisis.

As Deacon Nojadera said: "Clergy sexual abuse should not have happened, but it is part of our history and our landscape" and the church is "healthier and holier" for taking stock of what went wrong and learning to "listen intently" to victims, something he said it didn't do initially.

He also knows the current abuse allegations go beyond the worlds of entertainment and politics and are closer to home with people coming forward in recent months under the tagline #ChurchToo to share their experiences of abuse in church environments of all faiths. These victims have often expressed the added pain of being told they did something to bring about the abuse.

He said the Catholic Church needs to help all who have been abused, not just address wrongs of its own past. When he gives talks around the country, people often pull him aside to talk about spousal abuse, domestic violence and bullying.

He told Catholic News Service that the church's policies, adopted across the board in 2002 in its "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" put protocols in place for anytime someone calls a parish or diocesan office seeking help with ongoing or previous abuse or assault. For starters, they are offered resources and contact numbers to report the problem.

Dawn Eden Goldstein, an author who has written about finding healing after abuse, said some dioceses and parishes need to do more.

She said if someone contacts a parish priest to say they have suffered abuse, they should not be immediately given a list of local therapists which they could find on their own, or books with "vague platitudes." Instead, she said, victims need clear spiritual guidance and reading recommendations tailored to their specific needs. Most of all, Goldstein said, "they need someone to listen to them with an open heart and say: 'I'm very sorry to hear what was done to you. It wasn't your fault.'"

In short, there needs to be more collaboration, to connect those who've suffered with spiritual care and with priests who are specifically able to help. Victims also need community, she said, pointing out the importance of Catholic outreach groups like the Maria Goretti Network, https://mgoretti.org.

Goldstein, who goes by the pen name Dawn Eden and is an assistant professor of dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, speaks from experience. She was sexually abused as a child and when she became a Catholic as an adult, she said, she was "carrying all of this misplaced guilt," imagining that she should have done something to stop it.

Part of her own path to healing came from the examples of the saints, which she writes about in her book: "My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints."

She told CNS that the saints model a path forward for the country's current crisis because they were "bold and courageous in speaking the truth and speaking when they saw people being abused and oppressed in any way."

They also practiced mercy and justice and didn't see a conflict between the two.

For example, St. Maria Goretti -- an 11-year-old Italian girl stabbed in 1902 while resisting a sexual assault -- forgave her assailant on her death bed, but she also gave a detailed description of what happened to her to the police.

As Goldstein sees it, St. Maria Goretti, canonized in 1950, is the "model we need to follow" because she shows those who suffer "that to forgive is in no way to excuse the abuser."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Cancer deters comedian McDonald's NCYC gig, but not her faith or humor

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 11:46am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion

By Natalie Hoefer

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a new letter to members of Congress, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, outlined a sweeping package of changes in pending tax reform legislation to ensure the final bill is "morally acceptable."

Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, also addressed positive aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which members of both houses of Congress continued to hash out Dec. 6 to reconcile their respective measures for a final bill.

A vote on a final version was expected in the House of Representatives and the Senate before Christmas.

Bishop Dewane in his Dec. 6 letter reminded Congress that the country has long followed tax policy "that is good for workers, families who welcome life, families who are struggling to reach -- or stay in -- the middle class, and the very poor, (and) has been part of our tax code for years."

"Any modification to these important priorities of our nation should only be made with a clear understanding and concern for the people who may least be able to bear the negative consequences of new policy. For the sake of all people -- but especially those persons we ought, in justice, to prioritize -- Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets key moral concerns," he said.

The letter called for a reversal of the bill's plan to gradually increase taxes on taxpayers in the lowest income brackets while maintaining tax cuts for higher earners, including the most wealthy.

"No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for families struggling to meet their daily needs in order to finance cuts for millionaires and billionaires. The final proposal must be amended to avoid this outcome," Bishop Dewane wrote.

He also called for restoring the personal exemption, which has been eliminated in both chambers' version of the reform package. Even with the doubling the standard deduction as included in the legislation, families with more than three children would be penalized, leaving them financially worse off, he said.

While lauding the elimination of the marriage penalty under the child tax credit for low-income working families, Bishop Dewane called for removing the bill's requirement that taxpayers provide Social Security numbers to claim the credit. Such a requirement would harm immigrant families, he said.

Bishop Dewane urged lawmakers to pass a final bill that does not include a Senate provision that eliminates the Affordable Care Act individual mandate requiring people to purchase of health insurance or face a penalty. He said dropping the mandate would lead to millions of people becoming uninsured and that the issue would better be addressed in broader comprehensive approach to health care policy.

The letter welcomed the legislation's bid to double the standard deduction, saying it should be retained. He called the plan "a positive change that will help some families, including many facing economic challenges, avoid tax liability."

However, other provisions of the House and Senate bills were cited in the letter for their negative impact on low-income taxpayers. The letter called for:

-- Retaining the deduction for medical expenses; the deduction is included in the Senate bill, but not the House version.

-- Retaining the adoption assistance incentive for employers; the provision was eliminated in the House bill, but remained in the Senate.

-- Ensuring that employer incentives for paid family and medical leave do not end in 2019.

-- Adopting an "above-the-line" charitable deduction that would be available to all taxpayers, whether they itemize on tax returns or not to encourage charitable giving.

-- Restoring provisions that were cut in the House bill that assist working families such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a credit for people who retire on disability, and deductions for tuition and student loans, state and local taxes, employee business expenses and moving expenses; restoring other provisions cut in the Senate bill including deductions for union dues and expenses, clothing and uniforms and work-related education.

-- Retaining the housing credit and housing bonds that support development of low-income housing and calling for additional measures so that both the credit and bonds are not significantly devalued because of the lower corporate tax rate, restricting such projects.

-- Adding a plan for the creation of "opportunity zones" for struggling communities.

-- Leaving in place the current alternative minimum tax and estate tax "to ensure that the risks taken in tax reform fall on those who stand to benefit most rather than on those who struggle on the margins of society."

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The full text of the letter can be found online at http://bit.ly/2BGkVPX.

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Follow Dennis Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Chaplain says 40 years with bowl-bound Badgers 'a wonderful experience'

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 2:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Father Nate Wills

By Mary C. Uhler

MADISON, Wis. (CNS) -- When the Wisconsin Badgers' football team travels to the Orange Bowl to play Miami Dec. 30, the players will take a 12-1 record with them -- one of the best in team history.

Accompanying them will be Msgr. Michael Burke -- better known as "Father Mike" to the coaches and players. He has been the team's chaplain for 40 years.

He began working with the team when he was on the faculty of Madison's Holy Name Seminary. The Badgers used the seminary fields and facilities for their summer training camp for many years.

Father Mike was a faculty member, rector, and vocation director during the years from 1977 until the closing of the seminary in 1995.

He remembers the training camps well. "The team was usually at the seminary for over three weeks," he recalled in an interview with the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison. "They were locked in and had to stay there the entire time. They certainly got focused, since there were no distractions."

Father Mike believes he was the first team chaplain in the Big Ten Conference. Now, all but three of the schools' teams have chaplains.

Throughout his years as chaplain for the University of Wisconsin-Madison team, Father Mike has offered encouragement and support to the coaches and players of all faiths.

He has performed 104 weddings of players and of coaches and countless baptisms. "They still stay connected with me," he said. "They send lots of pictures."

"Football is very intense," Father Mike observed. "The players have to balance going to school, practicing, and keeping their head straight when they're 18 years old. Many of them have issues with their families."

He said the current head coach, Paul Chryst, and the assistant coaches let Father Mike know if players have personal problems. "It could be a father who's in jail or someone in the family has cancer. I can be there to offer support."

Father Mike said his work with the team is really another parish. "It's very rewarding," he said. "They keep me young."

Father Mike retired in July as pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, where he served since 1996. Since retirement, Chryst told him, "We'll keep you busy."

The priest's encouragement of players "has happened thousands of times," Chryst told the Catholic Herald. "Father Mike really helps our team."

Father Mike prays with players of all faiths before the Badgers' games, including in position groups.

During the games, he stands on the sidelines with the players and coaches. He wears a clerical collar, and recently at the Wisconsin-Iowa game, he got hit and knocked down by an Iowa player.

He said the Iowa player noticed his collar and said, "Sorry, Father," and helped him up.

Father Mike said he has been impressed by the spirituality of the Badgers' players and coaches. He said the players' parents have noticed the change in their children, with many of them going to church more frequently.

The coaches and players also put their faith into action. This became evident this year when Wisconsin played Florida Atlantic University when Hurricane Irma hit their state.

The Florida Atlantic coaches and players ended up staying in Madison from game day on Saturday until the following Wednesday.

Wisconsin's athletic director, Barry Alvarez, and his wife, Cindy, along with Chryst's wife, Robin, and the wives of other coaches, made the Florida Atlantic crew welcome, as did Father Mike himself, who was out every day meeting with the visitors.

"It was impressive to see how we all helped the Florida Atlantic people. Many of them were worried about their families back home. Some of them wrote me thank-you notes when they got back," said Father Mike. "It was a win-win situation all around."

Asked to comment on the Badgers' best football season ever, Father Mike said, "This year, they are so focused. They are a determined group, care for each other, and work together. I've never seen a coaching staff and players who work so well together."

He believes a lot of the success is due to the strong spirituality among the coaches and players, starting with Chryst, who is Catholic himself and attributes much of his success as a coach to the influence of his father, the late George Chryst, who died 25 years ago.

Ordained a priest in 1974, Father Mike said he has been happy. "I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to do what God wanted me to do. I've been blessed with wonderful parents, brothers, sisters and friends. I've made so many wonderful friends over the years."

He retired in July but said he's busier than ever, ministering at a Catholic high school as well as at a Catholic-run nursing facility and a hospice. And he still makes time to serve as chaplain of the Badger football team.

"It's been a wonderful experience," he emphasized.

The Badgers' coaches and players thinks he's "the greatest" and hope he stays around for many more years.

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Uhler is editor of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Natural disasters prompt church to raise millions for aid, recovery

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 11:22am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and Mexico City, recovery was slow and deep pain remained from a string of natural disasters as 2017 ended.

Hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes from August through December caused widespread destruction and claimed hundreds of lives. Rebuilding in the affected areas will take years to complete.

Catholic agencies responded with emergency aid and undertook fundraising campaigns to help people of different walks of life who lost homes and livelihoods.

Perhaps no other place was harder hit than Puerto Rico, which was slammed in September by Hurricane Maria, the 10th most intense Atlantic storm on record. Electrical power was at 70 percent capacity and many communities continued to have no access to clean water in mid-December.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago visited the island in early December at the behest of Pope Francis. He toured the island with representatives of Catholic Extension, the papal society that has supported the church in Puerto Rico for decades.

He found once-bustling town centers and business districts shuttered in cities large and small, signaling a massive loss of income and livelihood. Collapsed buildings, flooded homes and roofless structures offered testimony to the severity of the storm.

The official death toll in Puerto Rico stands at 64. However, data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that at least 985 additional people died in the 40 days after the hurricane, which is a higher death toll than in 2016, a year without such severe storms.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Harvey, swamped southern Texas and southwestern Louisiana as it ambled offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for days in late August, dumping more than 50 inches of rain on some communities. Catholic parishes and schools were among entities affected by flooding. The storm was the first major hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2005 and caused nearly $200 billion in damage.

Then came the back-to-back storms in the Caribbean: first Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria. With winds topping 160 miles an hour, both storms devastated entire islands. Irma also caused flooding throughout Florida.

Beyond Puerto Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Turks and Caicos were battered by the storms.

About the same time, earthquakes of magnitudes 8.1, 7.1 and 6.1 jolted Mexico Sept. 7, Sept. 19 and Sept. 23, resulting in 474 deaths and more than 6,300 injuries.

The temblors were followed in October and December by wildfires in California, driven by hot winds and fueled by hundreds of thousands of acres of dry timber, a consequence of a dry summer.

The most recent round of fires near Los Angeles followed by two months more than a dozen wind-whipped blazes in California wine country that destroyed thousands of homes in urban neighborhoods, causing 24 deaths and leaving hundreds of families homeless.

In response to the disasters, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Relief Services mobilized to raise funds to assist with emergency relief and long-term recovery.

The USCCB collected $38.5 million for hurricane relief and another $1.3 million for Mexican earthquake relief. Catholic Charities USA raised $24 million for disaster assistance. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also was on the scene in various locales coordinating its response through parish and diocesan councils.

Other donors included Catholic Extension, which provided $400,000 in immediate support to the church in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes, and the Knights of Columbus, which pledged $1.4 million for church repairs in Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization earlier provided $100,000 to the Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Caritas Mexico by the end of October had raised $900,000 for earthquake emergency aid. Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency and a partner in the church's Caritas Internationalis network, was on the ground providing disaster assistance.

The U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions made an emergency grant of $50,000 to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California, to help with its response to the fires. In addition, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began collecting funds even as wildfires raged in early December for families, parishes and schools affected by the fires in Los Angeles and Ventura countries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2017 was the seventh most active hurricane season on record dating to 1851 and the most active season since 2005.

Alan Betts, a Vermont-based climate scientist who has studied global weather and climate for more than 40 years, outlined his concerns about future weather patterns during a Nov. 2 Catholic Climate Covenant webinar.

Betts long ago concluded that earth is warming and that humans cause it because of their penchant for burning fossil fuels in large quantities.

During the webinar and a September presentation at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, Betts explained that a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor. More humidity in the atmosphere means a higher potential for downpours.

At the same time, the oceans are a storehouse for excessive heat. The Climate Special Report released by 13 federal agencies Nov. 3 found that the oceans have absorbed 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas warming since the mid-20th century, leading to altered global and regional climate.

The warmer the oceans, the more intense the hurricanes, Betts said.

The Catholic Climate Covenant and the Global Catholic Climate Covenant continued efforts throughout the year to call on people to advocate for action to cut carbon emissions, a leading cause of climate change.

In other climate-related actions, hundreds of Catholics from across the country joined the two organizations during the April 29 People's Climate March in Washington.

In sweltering heat -- the temperature reached 91 degrees at nearby National Airport, tying a record set in 1974 for the date -- an estimated 200,000 people walked from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to protest President Donald Trump's environmental agenda.

The Trump administration has begun the process of dismantling environmental regulations and rolling back the Clean Power Plan regulating carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants in the name of creating jobs and boosting the U.S. economy. Trump also followed through on a campaign pledge to begin the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

The U.S. bishops issued several statements throughout the year calling on the president to remain in the accord and keep the Clean Power Plan in place.

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Follow Dennis Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: Helping refugees means converting hearts hardened against them

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 9:17am

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- With so much suffering, poverty and exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar.

"Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such a decision they had to close their hearts," he said during a private audience Nov. 29 in the chapel of the archbishop's house in Yangon.

"Our missionary work must also reach those hearts that are closed to the reception of others," he told 31 Jesuits from different parts of Asia and Australia, who are based in Myanmar.

The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript Dec. 14 from the private meeting in Myanmar and the pope's private meeting Dec. 1 at the apostolic nunciature in Dhaka with Jesuits based in Bangladesh.

In both meetings, the pope listened to and answered their comments, concerns and questions, and the journal provided an English translation of the original Spanish remarks.

A Jesuit's mission is to be close to the people, especially those who are suffering and forgotten because "to see them is to see Christ suffering and crucified," he said in his meeting in Myanmar.

His approach, he said, is to try to visit these places and to "speak clearly, especially with countries that have closed their borders."

"It is a serious issue," he said, commenting on how that evening, they all would be sitting down to a full meal, including dessert, while many refugees will "have a piece of bread for dinner."

He recalled visiting the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, and how the children he was greeting were torn between shaking his hand and reaching for candy that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was pulling out of his pockets.

"With one hand, they greeted me with the other, they grabbed the candy. I thought maybe it was the only sweet they had eaten for days."

The situation of many of the refugees and stories they have told him have "helped me to cry a lot before God," he said, particularly when a Muslim man recounted how terrorists slit the throat of his Christian wife right before his eyes when she refused to take off the cross she wore.

"These things must be seen and must be told," he said, because news of what is happening does not reach most people, and "we are obliged to report and make public these human tragedies that some try to silence."

The Jesuits he met in Bangladesh thanked him for talking about the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority being pushed from Myanmar's Rakhine state and seeking refuge in Bangladesh.

"Jesus Christ today is called Rohingya," as these people are their brothers and sisters, the pope told the Jesuits.

Just as St. Peter Claver ministered in the 17th century to slaves subjected to horrible conditions, such shameful conditions people endure still persist, he said.

"Today, there is much discussion about how to save the banks. The problem is the salvation of the banks. But who saves the dignity of men and women today?"

"Nobody cares about people in ruins any longer. The devil manages to do this in today's world. If we had a little sense of reality, this should scandalize us."

"The impudence of our world is such that the only solution is to pray and ask for the grace of tears," he said.

Meeting the Rohingya refugees that same day at the archbishop's residence in Dhaka, he added, made him feel ashamed. "I felt ashamed of myself, for the whole world!"

When asked "why such attention" for the small Catholic community in Bangladesh when he elevated their archbishop in Dhaka to the rank of cardinal, Pope Francis said that in naming cardinals, he looks to the "small churches, those that grow in the peripheries, at the edges."

It's not meant to give them "consolation," but is "to launch a clear message: the small churches that grow in the periphery and are without ancient Catholic traditions today must speak to the universal church, to the whole church. I clearly feel that they have something to teach us."

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Editors: The full text in English can be found online at: https://laciviltacattolica.com/church-life/at-the-crossroads-of-history-pope-francis-conversations-with-the-jesuits-in-myanmar-and-bangladesh/

 

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Hold the phone: Vatican says Pope Francis doesn't use WhatsApp

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 11:17am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the thought of receiving a blessing by text from Pope Francis could have millions of mobile users glued to their smartphones, the Vatican spokesman said that isn't his style.

The spokesman, Greg Burke, issued a statement on Twitter Dec. 13 saying that Pope Francis doesn't use the instant messaging platform WhatsApp.

Reports of "the Holy Father using WhatsApp are false," Burke tweeted. "He does not send messages or blessings through this medium."

The Pope Francis Foundation, a Catholic organization in Corrientes, Argentina, announced Dec. 12 the launch of "Wabot-Papa Francisco," a chatbot that allows users to contact the pope and keep up-to-date with his schedule, reported the Argentine newspaper, La Nacion.

The foundation said the chatbot would respond to users queries through "texts, images, video, audio and documents," La Nacion reported.

"You can also have a simulated chat with His Holiness. Wabot technology allows the entire Catholic community or people of any other faith to interact with the pope," the foundation said.

The pope, the organization added, "is a technological man, he believes that technology can help many people and understands that it is the future of communications."

In his message for the 50th World Communications Day Jan. 24, 2016, Pope Francis acknowledged that emails, text messages, social networks and chats can be "fully human forms of communication."

However, he added, "it is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal."

Despite his favorable attitude toward new forms of communication, the pope has also admitted that he is "a dinosaur" when it comes to technology.

During a Google Hangout conversation sponsored by Scholas Occurrentes in 2015, a young girl from Spain asked the pope if he liked to take photos and upload them to a computer.

"Do you want me to tell you the truth?" the pope asked. "I'm a disaster with machines. I don't know how to work a computer. What a shame!"

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Sunday has lost its sense as day of rest, renewal in Christ, pope says

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 8:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just like a plant needs sun and nourishment to survive, every Christian needs the light of Sunday and the sustenance of the Eucharist to truly live, Pope Francis said.

"How can we carry out the Gospel without drawing the energy needed to do it, one Sunday after another, from the limitless source of the Eucharist," he said Dec. 13 during his weekly general audience.

"We don't go to Mass to give something to God, but to receive from him that which we truly need," the pope said. Sunday Mass is the time and place Christians receive the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, follow his commandment to love others and be credible witnesses in the world.

The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, which was decorated with a large Christmas tree and a life-sized Nativity scene. A number of people in the audience hall handed the pope -- who turns 81 Dec. 17 -- Christmas cards, notes and a chocolate cake.

In his catechesis, the pope responded to the question of why it is so important to go to Mass on Sundays and why it is not enough just to live a moral life, loving others.

Sunday Mass is not simply an obligation, he said. "We Christians need to take part in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his presence alive in us and among us, can we put into practice his commandment and, in this way, be his credible witnesses."

"Just like a plant needs the sun and nourishment to live, every Christian needs the Sunday Eucharist to truly live," he said in summarized remarks to Arabic speakers.

"What kind of Sunday is it for a Christian if an encounter with the Lord is missing?" he asked in his main talk.

Unfortunately, in many secularized countries, the Christian meaning of the day has been lost and is no longer "illuminated by the Eucharist" or lived as a joyous feast in communion with other parishioners and in solidarity with others, he said.

Also often missing is the importance of Sunday as a day of rest, which is a sign of the dignity of living as children of God, not slaves, he said.

"Without Christ, we are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of daily life with all its worries and the fear of tomorrow. The Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to live today with confidence and courage and to move forward with hope," he said.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: Guadalupe feast shows Mary's closeness to those on margins

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:10pm

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which mirrored that of the indigenous people of the time, is a sign of Mary's closeness to those who are marginalized, Pope Francis said.

Like St. Juan Diego, who felt of no importance at being chosen by Mary because of his indigenous heritage, marginalized people in today's world are often made to feel worthless by conditions imposed upon them, the pope said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"Among them are the indigenous and Afro-American communities, who often are not treated with dignity and equality of conditions; many women who are excluded because of their sex, race, or socioeconomic situation; young people who receive a poor education and have no opportunities to advance in their studies or to enter into the labor market so as to move ahead and establish a family; many poor people, unemployed, migrants, displaced, landless peasants, who seek to survive on the informal market; boys and girls subjected to child prostitution, often linked to sex tourism," he said, quoting a 2007 Latin American bishops' council document he helped write.

Processing into the basilica dressed in white, the symbol of purity, Pope Francis made his way to a replica of St. Juan Diego's tilma, which bears the image of Mary, who appeared to the indigenous saint in 1531. The pope stood before the image, bowing reverently and censing it three times.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the reading from St. Luke's Gospel, in which the angel appears to Mary, informing her that she is with child.

"And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God," the angel said.

Elizabeth's sterility, the pope said, was considered at the time "a divine punishment for her or her husband's sin" and a sign of shame and guilt "for a sin she did not commit ... (she was) made to feel small for being unable to fulfill what was expected of her."

However, in Elizabeth -- who was the first to recognize the child in Mary's womb -- Christians can find a woman who is "fruitful and amazed" upon experiencing in her life "the fulfillment of a promise made by God."

"In her, we understand that God's dream is not nor will be sterile or to stigmatize or fill his children with shame, but rather bring forth through and from them a song of blessing," he said.

This fruitfulness can also be seen in St. Juan Diego, who was chosen by Mary to bear on his "tilma the image of the Virgin."

Mary, shown "with dark-skin and mestizo appearance," reflected a "mother capable of taking on the traits of her children to make them feel a part of her blessing," the pope said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, he added, remains a symbol of the wealth and cultural diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean that must not only be cultivated, but also defended from every attempt to impose a way of thinking that "makes everything we inherited from our elders invalid or sterile."

"In short, our fruitfulness requires us to defend our people from an ideological colonization that cancels out the richest thing about them, whether they be indigenous, Afro-American, mestizo, farmer, or suburban," the pope said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to look to Mary and learn from her, to become a church with a "mestizo appearance, an indigenous appearance" that takes the form of the little ones.

It is "the appearance of a person who is poor, unemployed, of a boy or girl, old or young, so that no one may feel sterile and infertile, so that no one feels ashamed or worthless," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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Blessed Oscar Romero continues to inspire listeners through radio

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Melissa Vida

By Melissa Vida

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- In San Salvador's traffic jams or at work, people turn on Radio YSAX to listen to Blessed Oscar Romero's homilies, just as they did over 30 years ago.

"I listen to this radio station in Romero's honor, because it is the one he used," Karen Larin, a radio listener, told Catholic News Service. "Hearing his voice is great; it's as if he were here, talking with us."

From the 1970s until his assassination in March 1980, Blessed Romero used the radio station YSAX to inform Salvadorans and the international community of the horrors of El Salvador's civil war. In a time when public media was self-censoring, Radio YSAX served as a spiritual guide as well as a news broadcast.

"Oscar Romero collected notes from his listeners and then disclosed when and where human rights were being violated," Father Edwin Henriquez, director of the radio, told Catholic News Service.

"Without the radio, there would be no Archbishop Romero," Father Henriquez said. "We wouldn't know the truth of what was happening at the time, and he wouldn't have been able to tell the world about the crimes committed against humanity here."

Reopened in 2015, the station has set itself one purpose: to keep Blessed Romero alive. Every weekday, at 1 p.m., the late archbishop's voice reverberates again through the speakers and draws radio listeners from all over the world. When the radio is cut for a few days, people from as far as Europe and Australia call to know what happened.

"This radio station gives us hope," Larin said. "Romero represents a father's love to us, but he was also a father who defended us, because he denounced the abuse of power." Larin said Blessed Romero helped his followers reconnect with a concrete, nearby God.

In developing countries, the radio as a means of communication remains influential. With only 20 percent of the country's households having internet access and more than 10 percent of the population being illiterate, the radio has a broad outreach in El Salvador. It answers the need for real-time information and reliable, interactive hosts.

For Estephanie Castillo, volunteer at YSAX, the radio is also a relevant tool to evangelize and raise awareness on everyday issues.

"Through the radio, we can transmit fundamental values to build a caring and just society," she said.

Radio YSAX speaks to people of all ages. Hearing Blessed Romero's voice reassures older generations, who recognize him and identify with the historical context of his speech.

"But the radio program also speaks to the youth," Larin said, "because they learn about (Blessed Romero) and our past, and that gives hope for our country."

Most radio volunteers are millennials.

"Our youth needs to bring the light of Jesus and remind others that there is still hope," Castillo said. Quoting Blessed Romero, she said, "We need to see the truth with open eyes and with our feet grounded, but with our hearts full of the Gospel and of God to look for solutions of justice."

For the listeners, Blessed Romero's message of faith and social justice is still valid in 2017. Yesterday's state-enforced violence and guerrillas became today's gang barbarism. As Father Henriquez recalled, Blessed Romero did not give in to political correctness when condemning such abuses.

"Romero did not seek applause nor praise and, indeed, some naysayers disliked him because the message of Jesus always has social consequences," Father Henriquez said. "It's not that we meddle with economics or politics, but we seek to touch people's hearts ... and that transforms society."

And El Salvador is in dire need of social change. Still hurt and polarized by the civil war that took place in the 1980s, the country suffers from the rocketing unemployment rates and the highest homicide rate in the world. Gang members extort, rob and kill civilians.

"The violence we have known during the war has been transformed, the culture of death is still prevalent and our youth is suffering the most," Father Henriquez said.

In this postwar context, Blessed Romero remains a beacon of hope.

"In my own personal hardship, I feel like he accompanies me and helps me," Castillo said.

"Romero continues to speak to us in the midst of violence, impunity and corruption: We should pay attention to him," Larin said. "Oscar Romero is alive."

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Washington Archdiocese considers next step in lawsuit over transit ad

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:27pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Washington was weighing its options after a federal judge denied a request for an emergency injunction over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's advertising guidelines.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson Dec. 8 denied the archdiocese's request that WMATA be required to post an ad promoting its annual "Find the Perfect Gift" initiative for the Advent season.

Transit authority officials had denied the ad based on 2015 policies that ban ads "that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief."

"We are disappointed that the federal court denied our emergency request for an injunction to run our 'Find the Perfect Gift' Advent campaign," Ed McFadden, the archdiocese's secretary for communications, said in a statement Dec. 9.

"While this preliminary ruling that there should be no room made for us on WMATA buses is disappointing, we will continue in the coming days to pursue and defend our right to share the important message of Christmas in the public square," the statement said.

Berman found that while buses are controlled by a government agency, the authority's rules likely are legal and reasonable because WMATA's restrictions are not based on whether the agency opposes the advertiser's particular views.

The archdiocese contended WMATA's policy that "prohibits all noncommercial advertising, including any speech that purportedly promotes a religion, religious practice or belief," is a violation of the free speech and free exercise of religion clauses of the First Amendment and a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The WMATA's prohibition, the archdiocese contends, "violates the free speech rights of the archdiocese because the prohibition creates an unreasonable and disproportionate burden on the exercise of the archdiocese's speech without any legitimate justification."

The archdiocese has in previous years advertised on WMATA's public buses. Up until 2015, the archdiocese purchased WMATA space for ads that, according to the lawsuit, "were explicitly religious in character."

"These advertisements included a campaign highlighting the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation during the liturgical season of Lent. This campaign, 'The Light Is on for You,' was remarkably successful for the archdiocese -- and lucrative for WMATA -- with advertisements on the backs of 85 buses throughout the metropolitan area."

The rejected ads highlight the archdiocese's annual "Find the Perfect Gift" campaign, which refers viewers to the FindThePerfectGift.org website that includes Mass schedules, reflections on the meaning of Advent and Christmas, religious holiday traditions and opportunities for charitable service. The image is a silhouette of shepherds and sheep standing on a hill.

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Christian vocation is to serve life, health, pope says in message

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/John E. Kozar, CNEWA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's care for the sick, especially through Catholic-run hospitals, is an antidote to "the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise," Pope Francis said.

In his message for World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, the pope urged Catholics individually and as a community to continue to provide loving care for the sick.

The church marks the day each year on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and Pope Francis' message for 2018 had a strong Marian focus, emphasizing the church's maternal mission to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of all people.

"May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health," he prayed.

The church's motherly concern for the sick has been clear throughout its history and continues today, the pope said. "In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the center of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values."

Perhaps more heroically, he said, "in countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease."

"The image of the church as a 'field hospital' that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population," he noted.

In rich and poor countries alike, he said, the church focuses on caring for the sick even when a cure is not possible.

Pope Francis urged Catholic health care institutions and individual doctors, nurses and staff members to remember the church's tradition of generous care for the sick and renew their commitment to continuing that kind of loving service.

But especially on the World Day of the Sick, he said, "we cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives. The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies."

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'Crowning jewel' of national shrine -- Trinity Dome Mosaic -- dedicated

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:39am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The overflowing congregation at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception hardly needed reminding to raise their "eyes to the heavens" during a dedication of the Trinity Dome Mosaic Dec. 8.

Before Mass began, all eyes were already on the newly completed gold dome above the front central section of the Upper Church.

When it was blessed during Mass, incense rose above the congregation and bright lights were turned on to give a better view of the newly finished dome that includes the words of the Nicene Creed encircling the base and a depiction of the Holy Trinity, Mary, the four Evangelists, angels and more than a dozen saints connected to the United States or the shrine.

During the blessing and before and after Mass, phones and cameras were held aloft to capture the completed work more than two years in the making. But it would take more than a few pictures to capture the details in this majestic work of art described as the "crowning jewel" of the national shrine during introductory remarks by Msgr. Walter Rossi, the rector.

The dome mosaic is composed of more than 14 million pieces of Venetian glass covering more than 18,300 square feet of the dome's surface. Its completion marks the final step in finishing the work of the Upper Church that began in 1955.

The dome was dedicated, fittingly, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, reflecting the basilica's namesake. The dedication Mass was celebrated by Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, who was named by Pope Francis to be his special envoy at the dedication Mass.

Other cardinals concelebrating the Mass included Cardinals Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington and Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia, along with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They were joined by more than two dozen bishops and 90 priests.

Cardinal Wuerl pointed out in his homily that the mosaic tiles in the dome are symbolic of the living body of Christ regularly filling the pews of the shrine and reflecting the church's diversity.

He urged the congregation of families, women religious, students and people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds who filled the pews, the side chapels and stood in the back at the dedication Mass to always look to this "great majestic dome mindful of our prayer to Mary" and ask for her intercession.

He said Mary is the model of "what our faith should be" because she believed that nothing was impossible with God.

The cardinal said he remembered coming to the shrine when he was a student at The Catholic University of America in the 1960s when the walls were simply brick except for the mosaic image of the Risen Christ at the front of the church.

He also noted that the completion of the dome finishes a work that began nearly 100 years ago when the shrine's cornerstone was placed in 1920.

As construction began on the National Shrine, as it was then called, Catholics across the country were invited to contribute however they could. Some donated pieces of gold jewelry and even precious stones, the cardinal said, which were fashioned into what came to be known as the "first chalice of the National Shrine" and was used at the Dec. 8 mosaic dedication.

When Pope Francis was at the shrine in 2015 to celebrate Mass and canonize St. Junipero Serra, he also blessed a piece of the mosaic: the words for the beginning and end of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one God" and "Amen."

At the end of the dedication Mass, Msgr. Rossi thanked the artists and workers, some of whom were seated at the front of the church, for their work on the mosaic, which was done in Italy and shipped in 30,000 sections weighing 24 tons. He pointed out that no one was injured and no damages occurred in the installation.

He also thanked the many donors who contributed to the dome work and gave to the shrine's one-time national collection for the project on Mother's Day.

"This crowning jewel of Mary's shrine is really your work, your gift to the Blessed Mother," he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Vatican renews call for peace, negotiated solution on Jerusalem

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 9:02am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Debbie Hill

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following days of violence and backlash after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Vatican appealed for "wisdom and prudence" to prevail.

The Holy See "reiterates its own conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace and guarantee the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders," the Vatican said in a Dec. 10 statement.

President Trump announced his decision Dec. 6 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.

The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East, including a four-day protest in the Palestinian territories, Reuters reported. An Israeli security guard in Jerusalem, the report said, was in critical condition after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the city's bus station.

Pope Francis expressed his "sorrow for the clashes in recent days" and called for world leaders to renew their commitment for peace in the Holy Land, the Vatican said.

The pope "raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land," the Vatican said.

Trump's decision also drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States' long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made similar promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital during their presidential campaigns. However, once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Arab League, a regional organization consisting of 22 Arabic-speaking member states, held an emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 9 to discuss Trump's announcement, calling it "dangerous and unacceptable."

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital goes "against international law and raises questions over American efforts to support peace," said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League's secretary-general.

Just hours before Trump had announced his decision, Pope Francis urged respect for "the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations."

In his appeal, Pope Francis said, "Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace."

The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"The Holy See is attentive to these concerns and, recalling the heartfelt words of Pope Francis, reiterates its well-known position concerning the singular character of the Holy City and the essential need for respecting the status quo, in conformity with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land," said the Vatican's Dec. 10 statement.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Update: Fundraising starts to aid victims of Southern California fires

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 3:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/David McNew, Reuters

By

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has started a fund for victims of the wildfires that have raced through the archdiocese and were threatening to spread to locations in the nearby Orange and San Diego dioceses.

"Friends, as the wildfires continue, the needs of our neighbors continue to increase," said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles on the archdiocesan webpage that hosts the fundraising campaign, https://tinyurl.com/yaa4qlu2.

"In this season of giving, let us open our heart to our brothers and sisters in need," he added. "Let us keep praying for an end to the fires and let us keep praying for the safety of our police, fire and emergency workers -- and all those who are in harm's way."

In a Dec. 8 statement from Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked prayers for all those in danger, "both those whose homes are in the fire's path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk."

The wildfires, which have stubbornly resisted most efforts to be reined in by firefighters, have hit Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in the archdiocese.

This is the second set of wildfires to have hit California this fall. Wildfires burned thousands of acres in the Sonoma and Napa areas in the northern part of the state in October, killing 31, scorching more than 128,000 acres and causing an estimated $3 billion-$6 billion in damage.

The Southern California series of wildfires had passed the 150,000-acre mark within four days of their starting Dec. 4. As of the morning of Dec. 8 local time, no fatalities had been reported despite the density of population in the region.

Four counties have already declared a state of emergency.

Archbishop Gomez on Dec. 5 called for prayers for the well-being of families, firefighters and rescue workers "facing devastating fires and high winds" in the wildfires.

"May God keep them all safe and put an end to these fires!" the archbishop said in a message sent via social media channels and posted on the archdiocesan news site, angelusnews.com.

On Twitter, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron said the fires in Ventura County, which is in his pastoral region, had alone forced 30,000 people to evacuate.

"Join me in praying for all the evacuees, firefighters, officials, and everyone helping to subdue the flames," he tweeted. About 1,000 firefighters were working to contain the wind-driven flames.

Called the Thomas Fire, it is the biggest of the wildfires being stoked by dry conditions and high winds. Among the evacuees in Ventura County were students and faculty at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula.

In a message posted on its website and on Twitter, the Catholic college expressed "deep gratitude for the prayers of its many friends and for the heroic firefighters who battled all of Monday night (Dec. 4) to protect the Santa Paula campus."

The college canceled classes for the rest of the week as roads had been closed and power was out in some communities. "The college is hopeful that it will reopen in time for final exams next week," the college said in a Dec. 5 statement.

Students from California who had transportation were considering returning home for the time being; others planned to remain at the homes of local friends and faculty.

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