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Updated: 52 min 26 sec ago

Africa trip planted new seeds of hope, pope says at audience

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having gone to Africa as a pilgrim of peace and hope, Pope Francis said he hoped the seeds planted there by his visit would bear abundant fruit for everyone.

Following in the footsteps of evangelizing saints before him, the pope said he sought to bring with him "the leaven of Christ" and his Gospel, which is "the most powerful leaven of fraternity, justice and peace for all people."

Speaking to some 12,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 11, the pope recalled his fourth apostolic journey to Africa. He dedicated his general audience talk to a review of some of the highlights from his visit to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius Sept. 4-10.

The pope said he wanted to "sow the seeds of hope, peace and reconciliation" in Mozambique, which had experienced two devastating cyclones recently and 15 years of civil war.

While the church continues to guide the nation along the path of peace, the pope made special mention of the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, which had facilitated the mediation process that resulted in the nation's 1992 peace agreement.

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope said, "I would like to take a moment to thank" the lay community for their hard work in this peace process.

He said he also encouraged Mozambique's leaders to keep working together for the common good, and he noted how he saw that kind of cooperation in action at a hospital he visited that helps people, especially mothers and children, with HIV and AIDS.

"I saw that the patients were the most important thing" at the Sant'Egidio-run center, which was staffed by people of different religious beliefs, including the director of the hospital, who was Muslim, he said.

Everyone worked together, "united, like brothers and sisters," he said.

Reflecting on Madagascar, the pope noted how beautiful and rich in natural resources the country is, but that it is still marked by tremendous poverty.

He said he asked that the people there would be inspired by their "traditional spirit of solidarity" in order to overcome the obstacles they face and foster development that respect both the environment and social justice.

In fact, "one cannot build a city worthy of human dignity without faith and prayer," he said when he spoke to contemplative religious women.

Pope Francis said he wanted to visit Mauritius because it has become "a place of integration between different ethnicities and cultures."

Not only was interreligious dialogue well-established there, he said, there were strong bonds of friendship among the leaders of different religions.

"It would seem strange to us, but they have this friendship that is so natural," he said, explaining how touched he was to find a large bouquet of flowers sent to him by the grand imam "as a sign of fraternity."

He said he encouraged government leaders to stay committed to fostering harmony and to protecting democracy.

In his audience talk, the pope also explained why -- before and after every trip -- he always visits Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the basilica's Marian icon "Salus Populi Romani" (health of the Roman people).

He said he prays that she "accompany me on the trip, like a mother, tell me what I must do" and help "safeguard" everything he says and does.

 

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

'Just the facts,' pope tells reporters, commenting on news media

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:01pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MADAGASCAR (CNS) -- No one really knows what the future of the news media will be, but it will have no future if reporters and the public cannot distinguish between facts and fiction, Pope Francis said.

Honoring a request from the Spanish news agency EFE to contribute to its collection of views about the future of the media, Pope Francis responded publicly during his flight Sept. 10 from Madagascar to Rome.

When he was a boy, he said, his family did not have a television; instead they listened to the radio and read newspapers. Sometimes, depending on the government in power, they were "clandestine newspapers," distributed under cover of night.

"Compared to today's news industry, it all seems very precarious," he said. But today's media may look just as precarious when people in the future look back.

"What remains, however," he said, is the ability and responsibility of the news media "to inform the audience of an event and to distinguish these facts from narrative," fiction or opinion.

"It is extremely easy to move from the facts to narrative," he said, "and this damages the news industry. It's important to stick to the facts."

Pope Francis said the Catholic Church and its media are not exempt from that danger. "Within the church, when there is a fact, it goes around the corner, and then it gets adorned, it gets embellished. Everyone adds their own contribution, and not even in bad faith."

But "the mission of the journalist is to always stick to the facts: 'The facts are these. My interpretation is this. I was told this.' It distinguishes you from the storyteller."

And if a news report includes an account of something an individual or group believes is true, but the reporter has not witnessed, the reporter must inform readers or listeners, he said. "This is what being objective is all about, and this is one of the values that the news industry needs to retain."

Pope Francis also said journalists must remain human, humane and "constructive."

"The news industry cannot, for example, be used as an instrument of war, as this is inhumane, it destroys," the pope said. "Think back to the propaganda of the dictatorships of the past century. There were dictatorships that communicated well, that tried to sell you the moon. ... They were well structured, they communicated well. They encouraged war, destruction; they were not humane."

 

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

Ideological fixation, not 'loyal criticism,' feeds possibility of schism, pope says

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MADAGASCAR (CNS) -- Pope Francis told reporters he hoped and prayed the Catholic Church would not experience a new schism, but human freedom means people always have had and will have the "schism option."

"I pray that there not be schism, but I am not afraid," Pope Francis told reporters flying from Africa back to Rome with him Sept. 10.

Schisms have occurred throughout church history, he said, and one thing they all have in common is having such a focus on an ideology that they begin reading church doctrine through the lens of that fixation.

A schism is triggered when "an ideology, perhaps a correct one, infiltrates doctrine and it becomes 'doctrine' in quotation marks, at least for a time," he said.

As an example of ideology, the pope cited those who say, "The pope is too communist" because of his criticism of unbridled capitalism and its negative impact on the poor. "The social things I say are the same things John Paul II said. The very same. I copy him."

When ideology takes the place of doctrine, he said, there is the danger of a split in the Christian community.

Pope Francis said small groups of Catholics in the United States are not the only people who criticize him -- there are even people in the Roman Curia who do -- but he tries to learn from the criticism and to find a way to dialogue with critics who are open.

"Criticism always helps," Pope Francis said. "When one is criticized, the first thing to do is to reflect, "Is this true, not true, to what extent" is it valid?

"Sometimes you get angry," he said, but "there are always advantages" to be drawn from listening to critics.

During the inflight news conference, which was briefly interrupted because of turbulence, Pope Francis responded mainly to questions about issues that arose during his visit Sept. 4-10 to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. The topics included the contested U.S. military base, Diego Garcia, in the Chagos archipelago, and his teaching on ecology.

But the pope also was asked to respond more fully to an informal comment he made on the flight to Mozambique Sept. 4, when he said that it is "an honor when Americans attack me."

French writer Nicolas Seneze had given the pope a copy of his book, "Comment l'Amerique veut changer de pape," which can be translated as "how America wanted to change popes." Seneze's thesis is that a small group of wealthy U.S. Catholics is engaged in a concerted effort to cast doubt on this pontificate.

"The criticism is not coming just from America, but a bit from everywhere, including the Curia, but at least those who are doing it have the courage" to be public about it, the pope said on the flight back to Rome. What isn't acceptable is when one "smiles so much he shows you his teeth," and then lists criticisms "behind your back."

Criticism is healthy when it is open and when the person doing the critique is willing to listen to the other's reasoning and to dialogue. "This is real criticism," he said.

"Throwing a rock and then hiding your hand" is something else, the pope said. "This isn't useful. It only helps closed little groups who don't want to hear the response to their criticism."

On the other hand, he said, "loyal criticism" can include saying, "I don't like this about the pope" as long at the critic gives an explanation and is willing to hear a response.

Not waiting for or wanting a response "is to not love the church," he said. "It is to follow a set idea (like) changing the pope or changing his style or creating a schism."

He spoke about another ideology he calls "rigorist," which he told reporters is "the ideology of an antiseptic morality" that takes no account of the real lives of the faithful and the obligation of pastors to guide them away from sin and toward living the Gospel.

"There are many schools of rigidity within the Catholic Church today which are not in schism, but are pseudo-schismatic Christian paths, which will not end well," he said.

On the question of the Diego Garcia military base, which is on territory in the Indian Ocean claimed by Mauritius and the United Kingdom, Pope Francis said the nations that belong to and support the United Nations and international courts have an obligation to accept their decisions. The U.N. General Assembly recently adopted a resolution calling on Britain, which leases the base to the U.S. military, to cede the territory to Mauritius.

"I don't know if this is true in this case," the pope said, but a common phenomenon has been that when a people wins its independence and colonizers are forced to leave, "there's always the temptation of taking something in their pockets," like recognizing a new government, but trying to maintain control over the extraction of natural resources.

"In the collective consciousness, there has been the idea that Africa is there to be exploited," the pope said. "We, humanity, must revolt against this."

Pollution, deforestation and desertification are all signs of that kind of attitude, he said.

Recognizing that the earth and its biodiversity are essential for life, Pope Francis said everyone must take action, beginning with small steps. For example, he added, the Vatican recently banned the sale of single-use plastic, such as water bottles, on its territory.

 

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

Memories of 9/11 attacks linger for former fire department chaplain

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 1:23pm

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Allyson Escobar

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- Msgr. John Delendick, a longtime New York Fire Department chaplain who is currently pastor of St. Jude Church in Brooklyn, remembers Sept. 11, 2001, vividly.

At the time of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Msgr. Delendick had just finished celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Church in Brooklyn where he was pastor. He jumped in his car and drove as close as he could get and then walked to the scene.

When he got to the twin towers, he ran into other fire department colleagues, including first deputy commissioner William Feehan, who was later killed in the collapse. He also gave absolution to a police officer who ran to him amid a dark cloud of debris and smoke, asking the priest to hear his confession.

He also recalls learning that his colleague and fellow fire chaplain, Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, was among the first known victims of the South Tower's collapse.

"That day, I don't even know the order of what all happened ' Someone just handed me (Father Judge's) helmet and told me he was killed," he told The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The hardest thing of that day, he said, was people asking him if he had seen their friends, fathers, brothers and sons -- firefighters and first responders at the scene -- and not knowing how to respond. It wasn't until after returning from ground zero that Father Delendick and many families would realize that their friends and loved ones had died.

Msgr. Delendick didn't get back to his parish until 2 a.m. Sept. 12.

As fire department chaplain, in between celebrating memorial Masses for the fallen, Msgr. Delendick would visit "the pile" at ground zero in the months that followed, accompanying families in their search for loved ones.

That first year after 9/11, he doesn't remember how many funerals and memorial Masses he said.

"It's just, you get so many of these funerals, and it just gets to you after a while. ' I love the job, but I also hate it," he said. Every year since the attacks, the New York Fire Department remembers and honors the heroes, especially those who have died years later from illnesses attributed to 9/11.

This Sept. 6 the department added the names of 22 firefighters and recovery workers to the New York Fire Department World Trade Center Memorial Wall inside its Brooklyn headquarters.

One victim of a 9/11 illness honored on the memorial wall was Lt. Timothy O'Neill, a Catholic who died in April after battling pancreatic cancer for two years. O'Neill worked for several months at ground zero during the cleanup efforts.

"My husband risked his life, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice 18 years later," said his widow, Paula O'Neill. "It was a complete shock because he never had any symptoms, but then one day he went for a CT scan. ' He always thought he would get sick after breathing in everything, sometimes without a mask. He just didn't really talk about it, and we never expected the severity of the cancer."

With the help of the federally funded September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, O'Neill was able to be receive treatment for his cancer from his Florida home.

"I still have firemen to this day calling, crying to me," Paula said.

At the Brooklyn ceremony, Father Joseph Hoffman, pastor of St. Barbara in Brooklyn, who also is a New York Fire Department chaplain, read a Bible passage which said: "The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces."

The priest said that working with the fire department is "like serving another parish" and he is honored to work with these men and women.

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Escobar is a reporter for The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

 

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

Florida senators ask Trump to waive visa requirements for some Bahamians

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, two Florida Republican senators have asked President Donald Trump to waive or suspend certain visa requirements for Bahamian citizens with relatives residing in the U.S.

Hurricane Dorian stalled over the northern Bahamas Sept. 1-3 as one of the strongest storms in Atlantic history. As of Sept. 10, the death toll was at least 50 and was expected to increase as search and rescue operations continued.

"It's important Customs and Border Protection and the Bahamian government work together to clarify the current rules regarding visas in the Bahamas," Sen. Rick Scott said in his statement. His letter was co-signed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

"As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport," Scott said.

He was referring to the hundreds of people who on Sept. 8 boarded a ferry in Freeport destined for Port Everglades in Florida, only to be told to get off the boat if they did not have entry visas for the U.S., according to news reports.

"Sen. Rubio and I continue to urge President Trump to waive some visa requirements for those in the Bahamas that have family in the United States. But until that happens, there needs to be clarity on the current rules," he added.

Florida, Scott noted, enjoys deep historical ties with the Bahamas, and, due to proximity, many Floridians have family in the Bahamas. Having prepared for and avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, Floridians are now eager to help family and friends in the Bahamas.

"I also encourage Customs and Border Protection to work with the Bahamian government to set up a temporary site at their ports of entry. Professionals should be on site to help the many Bahamians trying to leave destruction," Scott said.

He also offered proposals to help families in Bahamas recover, including a change in the U.S. Tax Code to incentivize charitable giving; continued deployment of U.S. Coast Guard and other U.S. entities in providing humanitarian assistance; and a redirect of foreign aid away from countries he said are adversaries of the U.S. to put that aid toward the Bahamas recovery efforts.

For his part, Rubio, who traveled to the Bahamas following the hurricane, urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to request the USS Comfort be repositioned to the Bahamas as soon as possible, as well as any assets needed from the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group.

In the letter, Rubio wrote that the Navy hospital ship with "its crew of trained medical staff, flight deck and ability to desalinate water, would be ideal in helping the Bahamian people."

It is critical that during this time of need for our neighbors, the United States uses all of our capabilities to continue to assist in the recovery efforts, he wrote. "This includes urgent efforts to save lives."

Regarding the situation with the ferry in Freeport, a Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Shevrin Jones, has pointed out that many people lack all the proper documents due to the storm.

Americans' kindness cannot end at just giving donations and relief supplies, he said. "It has to extend to us helping our neighbors in the Bahamas have a place to recover while their homes and lives are rebuilt," he tweeted. "The Bahamians just need a temporary place to regroup."

U.S. State Department guidelines state that most individuals traveling to the United States require a visa but that some individuals may travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program.

Bahamian citizens who meet certain requirements may apply for admission to the United States without a visa at one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities located at the Nassau or Freeport International airports, if they meet certain requirements, according to the State Department rules.

But those preclearance station hours of operation may change with short notes in emergency situations such as hurricane watches, the State Department states.

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Editor's Note: Hurricane relief donations to CRS can be sent here: https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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

Vatican calls for electoral reform, negotiations to resume in Nicaragua

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters

By

GENEVA (CNS) -- With increasing concerns worldwide about human rights violations in Nicaragua, a Vatican representative has called for an immediate return to negotiations and a rollout of reforms necessary to hold "free and transparent elections" there.

"The Holy See has been following with great attention the sociopolitical situation in Nicaragua and believes that the unsettled disputes should be solved as soon as possible," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

The Vatican recommended that all "political and social stakeholders" come together in a "renewed spirit of responsibility and reconciliation" in order to find a solution "that respects the truth, reestablishes justice and promotes the common good," he said in a speech Sept. 10 during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in Nicaragua.

"The Holy See strongly believes that it is essential to implement the agreements reached last March, to return immediately to open and mutually respectful negotiations and to realize, at the earliest, the electoral reforms for the holding of free and transparent elections with the presence of international observers," he said.

The meeting came the same day Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her report on Nicaragua, following a Human Rights Council resolution in March dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights in Nicaragua.

A major human rights crisis was triggered after police forces and pro-government groups cracked down on nationwide protests that began in April 2018 against a series of reforms mandated by President Daniel Ortega.

Some human rights groups have estimated the resulting violence led to the deaths of at least 300 people, the wounding of more than 2,000 people and the detention of hundreds more, who have been reportedly subjected to serious abuses such as torture and the denial of due process.

Even after major protests died down, human rights violations continued, according to the high commissioner's report, with the government banning public demonstrations by groups critical of the government and with the excessive use of force by police in ways that infringed on the freedom of expression and association.

The report said a number of nongovernmental organizations have lost their legal status, international monitors have been expelled, and media outlets have been shut down and journalists prosecuted under a new anti-terrorism law.

The government has also blocked the entry of medicine and food aid from Caritas the past year, a move the Nicaraguan bishops' conference has called an act of "irrational authoritarianism."

"We cannot remain in total silence, we cannot be silent," said Bishop Juan Mata Guevara of Esteli, Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the bishops' conference.

Caritas Nicaragua and other diocesan aid programs help the poorest and are in no way connected to commercial or business activity, Bishop Mata told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Sept. 9.

Instead, the government controls every request by Caritas Nicaragua "in an exaggerated manner" of excessive bureaucracy, resulting in the aid, sent mostly by the U.S., Germany and Canada, never making it into the country.

"This way of proceeding is an exercise of irrational authoritarianism," he said, adding, "This reflects how the regime does not see the needs of those who suffer."

 

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

Indianapolis Colts' chaplain focuses on players' lives and faith

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 5:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of Father Douglas Hunter

By John Shaughnessy

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- As the Catholic chaplain for the Indianapolis Colts, Father Douglas Hunter has access to the training facility, the team meetings and the sidelines during games. He's even there in the locker room when head coach Frank Reich talks to the players, including the times the Colts' leader has shared this constant message: "Get 1 percent better every day."

Father Hunter also stays in contact with Chris Ballard, the Colts' general manager and a fellow Catholic, in good times and in bad, such as the Sept. 8 season-opener, a 30-24 overtime road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Father Hunter, as keynote speaker at a 15th anniversary celebration dinner Aug. 27 of Catholic Radio Indy, said his choice to become a priest -- he was ordained in 2016 -- led to a phone call he never expected.

"About two years ago, I received a call from the now-late Father Glenn O'Connor. He said, 'the Colts are looking for a chaplain, and I think you would be great.' I said, 'Me?' He said, 'Yeah, you. They need a big guy over there, and you're the biggest one I found.'"

Father Hunter was honored by Father O'Connor's faith in him and drove to the Colts' complex for an interview with Ballard, not knowing at the time who Ballard was.

"It was not intimidating at all," Father Hunter recalled about that meeting. "We talked about faith more than we talked about football. I thought, 'I like this guy. This might work out.'

"I asked him, 'What's the first thing you want me to do?' He said, 'I want you to be present. Be present to the guys. It's going to take about a year for them to get to know who you are. It's going to take a year for them to trust you. The more you're present to them, the more they'll trust you and like you. They'll bring you in eventually.'"

Father Hunter met with Joe Reitz, a former offensive lineman for the Colts who is also Catholic, and who advised the priest just to be with the players and talk with them.

"So I started going to the training facility. I started going to the training camps. I'm there on the sidelines. After talking with Joe and then talking with Chris again, I start finding out who my Catholics are. There's a few here at Mass. There's a few more there. And then I start finding out other staff members who are Catholic. And I start inviting each and every single one of them to the liturgy that we have at the hotel" on the evenings before home games.

He recalled the time one of the Colts introduced himself, which led to a conversation in which Father Hunter focused on him as a person instead of as a football player.

"When others saw that I was talking and sitting with him, then others started coming by and started talking more and more and more. I found the best time to talk to these guys is at lunch time. One, I get a free meal. And two, we can talk," he said.

"Basically, it's exposing the faith to them but not imposing it upon them. When you do that, you're not as threatening," he added.

"I had one guy showing me how to throw a football. That gives us a chance to talk about the faith. And the more I talked to him, the more I realized this guy is Catholic. He's also introducing his girlfriend to the faith, which is wonderful because they're talking about marriage within the Catholic Church."

Father Hunter explained his approach to the players this way: "I know them by name, not by fame or fortune."

"Approaching them in their humanity," he told the audience: "I don't care what kind of car they drive, how much money they make or where they're from. I'm just treating them as Jesus would treat them."

He said sometimes when he finds out they're injured, he will call, text or write a note and put it in their mailbox, telling the players he is thinking about them and that they can call if they need anything.

He also encourages the players to be there for others and to share their commitment to their faith, reminding them they have a platform that no one else has.

"A lot of these guys are not as apt to sharing their faith publicly as many of us think they would. I tell them I see you have 50,000 people plus on social media. You could spread the word, or you could evangelize or show people how you're a disciple of Christ. They say, 'Oh, OK.' They try it, and they do it."

He told the audience that at one point, he struggled with his ministry, wondering what he was doing there, and just at that moment a player asked to speak with him.

It turned out the player wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith and showed an interest in participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. The player and the chaplain had a long talk as they walked together from the practice field. Their conversation ended with the player thanking Father Hunter for taking the time to talk.

Then at lunch, he talked with another player who told him about his life.

"We never talked football," Father Hunter said. "When I got to my car, I said, 'OK, Lord, I see how it is you're working through me. And I really appreciate that.'"

As he put it, the job really is "just being there for them. It's a ministry of presence, just showing them that Jesus loves them, that someone cares about them, that someone wants to actually know who they are on that personal level."

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Shaugnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

 

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

South African archbishop compares nation's xenophobia to Nazi Germany

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 2:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

By Mwansa Pintu

LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- Zambia's bishops urged South African leaders to do more to stop xenophobic attacks, and a South African archbishop warned of a rising tide of hatred and violence in the country.

"Xenophobia and its resultant chaos are not just criminal but cruel, barbaric and abominable," Zambia's bishops said in a Sept. 7 statement titled, "You were once foreigners in a foreign land."

At least 10 people were killed, two of them foreign nationals, in a wave of riots and xenophobic attacks that began in late August in Pretoria and spread to nearby Johannesburg.

"We are facing a rising tide of hatred and intolerance, no different to the rising tide of hatred in Nazi Germany," said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, noting that, "If we do not take urgent action to stop it, there will be nothing left."

Zambia's bishops said they were "deeply saddened" by the attacks.

"We fear that if this trend is not curtailed, it may lead to ... alienation of the citizens of South Africa from the rest of the continent," they said in a statement signed by Bishop George Lungu of Chipata, president of the Zambian bishops' conference.

South Africa's leaders should not exacerbate the situation by turning a blind eye to the attacks or making inflammatory statements against African immigrants, they said. "What we are witnessing is a violation of the fundamental human rights" that everyone has, regardless of "religion, race, color, ethnicity and nationality."

While "respecting people's right to hold peaceful marches," Zambia's bishops urged "all Zambians to restrain themselves from any acts of violence or vengeance against South African nationals and their property or businesses."

In early September, students in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, protested outside the South African high commission and also targeted South African-owned shops. In Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and largest city, Lagos, South African-owned businesses were targeted by protesters, who started fires and looted properties. Football federations in Zambia and Madagascar announced that they will not be sending teams to play South Africa, and Air Tanzania has suspended flights to Johannesburg because of the violence.

Zambia's bishops urged South African leaders "to inculcate the spirit of ubuntu" (I am because we are and, because we are, I am) in young people "as this will help them appreciate the spirit of coexistence."

Archbishop Tlhagale, who heads the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference migrants and refugees office, noted reports that South African authorities did "very little to protect the victims" of the latest attacks.

"We received reports of police standing by idly in Pretoria while shops were looted and people attacked," he said.

"Let us be absolutely clear -- this is not an attempt by concerned South Africans to rid our cities of drug dealers" nor "the work of a few criminal elements," he said. "It is xenophobia, plain and simple."

Church teaching "is direct and uncompromising," Archbishop Tlhagale said, noting that God "isn't just concerned about the foreigners. He loves them."

"I appeal to all people of faith, and all people of good will, to speak out and take action," he said.

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Contributing to this story was Bronwen Dachs in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

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Pope appoints three cardinals to help lead synod on Amazon

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 10:13am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring/Tyler Orsburn

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis appointed three delegate presidents for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

The pope named as delegate presidents for the Oct. 6-27 assembly Cardinals Baltazar Porras Cardozo, 74, of Merida, Venezuela; Pedro Barreto Jimeno, 75, of Huancayo, Peru; and Joao Braz de Aviz, 72, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican announced the appointments Sept. 7.

Though Pope Francis, as pontiff, is president of the synod, the three cardinals will take turns presiding over the synod's daily sessions. The delegate presidents are also responsible for guiding the work of the synod and assigning special tasks to certain members, when necessary.

The special assembly on the Pan-Amazonian region will discuss the theme, "New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology."

The main objectives, the pope has said, are to find new ways for the evangelization of the people in the region, especially the indigenous, to respond to situations of injustice in the region and to look at "the cause of the crisis of the Amazonian forest, lung of fundamental importance for our planet."

 

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Text of pope's prayer for workers at Madagascar stone quarry

Sun, 09/08/2019 - 11:25am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (CNS) -- Here is the Vatican's English translation of Pope Francis' "Prayer for Workers," which he prayed Sept. 8 at the Mahatazana stone quarry:

God our Father, creator of heaven and earth,
we thank you for gathering us as brothers and sisters in this place.
Before this rock, split by human labor,
we pray to you for workers everywhere.

We pray for those who work with their hands
and with immense physical effort:
Soothe their wearied frames,
that they may tenderly caress their children
and join in their games.
Grant them unfailing spiritual strength and physical health,
lest they succumb beneath the burden of their labors.

Grant that the fruits of their work
may ensure a dignified life to their families.
May they come home at night to warmth, comfort and encouragement
and together, under your gaze,
find true joy.

May our families know that the joy of earning our daily bread
becomes perfect when that bread is shared.
May our children not be forced to work,
but receive schooling and continue their studies,
and may their teachers devote themselves fully to their task,
without needing other work to make a decent living.

God of justice, touch the hearts of owners and managers.
May they make every effort
to ensure that workers receive a just wage
and enjoy conditions respectful of their human dignity.

Father, in your mercy, take pity on those who lack work.
May unemployment -- the cause of such great misery --
disappear from our societies.
May all know the joy and dignity of earning their daily bread,
and bringing it home to support their loved ones.

Create among workers a spirit of authentic solidarity.
May they learn to be attentive to one another,
To encourage one another, to support those in difficulty
and to lift up those who have fallen.

Let their hearts not yield to hatred, resentment
or bitterness in the face of injustice.
May they keep alive their hope for a better world, and work to that end.

Together, may they constructively
defend their rights.
Grant that their voices and demands may be heard.

God our Father, you have made St. Joseph,
foster father of Jesus and courageous spouse of the Virgin Mary,
protector of workers throughout the world.
To him I entrust all those who labor here, at Akamasoa,
and all the workers of Madagascar,
especially those experiencing uncertainty and hardship.
May he keep them in the love of your Son
and sustain them in their livelihood and in their hope.

Amen.

 

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Hard work, tender hearts: Pope prays for Madagascar's working poor

Sun, 09/08/2019 - 11:03am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (CNS) -- Standing where the phrase "by the sweat of their brow" is a daily reality for hundreds of Madagascar's poor, Pope Francis prayed for those whose daily bread is earned by hard physical labor and for the unemployed longing to earn a living for their families.

"Before this rock, split by human labor, we pray to you for workers everywhere," the pope intoned Sept. 8 at the Mahatazana granite quarry on a hill above Antananarivo.

"We pray for those who work with their hands and with immense physical effort: soothe their wearied frames, that they may tenderly caress their children and join in their games," he continued in the prayer.

The pope had moved up to the quarry after visiting Akamasoa -- "The Community of Good Friends" -- which was founded by the Argentine Vincentian, Father Pedro Opeka, to provide work, housing, education and health care to some of the country's poorest people.

Instead of picking through garbage, which is what the families were doing before Father Opeka came along, now some earn a living breaking granite, while others are involved in construction or work for the community or its schools or clinics.

"This had been a place of exclusion, suffering, violence and death," Father Opeka told Pope Francis, whom he first met 50 years ago in Argentina. Thirty years ago, he continued, "divine providence created an 'oasis' of hope where children reacquired their dignity, young people went to school, and parents began working to prepare a future for their children."

Speaking in the Akamasoa auditorium, Pope Francis said the community and its various activities are a sign of the reality that God lives among the poor, and it is a "tangible sign" of his love for them.

Every corner of Akamasoa, all of its schools and clinics are "a song of hope that refutes and silences any suggestion that some things are 'inevitable,'" he said. "Let us say it forcefully: poverty is not inevitable."

"Never stop fighting the disastrous effects of poverty," he told the younger members of the community. "Never yield to the temptation of settling for an easy life or withdrawing into yourself."

Pope Francis made it clear that he did not believe the poor wanted pity and handouts but were ready and willing to do hard work and to cultivate discipline, honesty and respect for others.

Then he went to the quarry.

Hanitra Nirina Rasoananahary, 29, one of the quarry workers, told the pope, "our wages are meager, but we are happy to have work. We hope one day there will be more justice for the poor."

Telling the pope his visit "will help us get up every morning with more courage and strength," she also told him that chiseling, breaking and moving the stone by hand, "we have made a big hole in the mountain and in the middle of the quarry we erected an altar to thank God for giving us work."

Rasoananahary told the pope that Father Opeka and the Akamosoa community celebrate Mass in the quarry three times a year -- on the feasts of the Ascension, the Assumption and All Saints.

Standing on the hillside overlooking the dusty gray pit, Pope Francis prayed.

He asked God to protect those who work with their hands and those who desperately search for work. He prayed that parents would not be so exhausted from work that they neglected playing with their children.

He prayed that poor children would be able to go to school and that teachers would receive a living wage so they would not have to seek second jobs.

He prayed for "authentic solidarity" among workers and that they would encourage one another and support one another and work together to "constructively defend their rights."

The pope also prayed for owners and managers, that they would pay their workers a just wage and ensure them dignified working conditions.

 

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Solidarity, not poverty, is God's plan, pope says in Madagascar

Sun, 09/08/2019 - 5:44am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (CNS) -- God's plan for humanity involves community, mutual support, sharing and caring for each other and for the earth, Pope Francis said.

"As we look around us, how many men and women, young people and children are suffering and in utter need. This is not part of God's plan," he said Sept. 8, celebrating Mass on a dusty, red dirt field on the outskirts of Antananarivo.

Madagascar is one of the world's 10 poorest countries. According to the World Bank, 75% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day.

Close to 1 million people gathered on the Soamandrakizay field for the pope's Mass, according to local organizers. Many had spent the night, sleeping on straw mats or plastic tarps and bundled up against a windy winter chill.

At the beginning of his homily, the pope acknowledged the sacrifice people made to get to the Mass site and, especially, the discomfort endured by those who camped out.

Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina, a Catholic, and his wife, Mialy, sat near the front of the crowd as Pope Francis preached about the Gospel call to solidarity and the joy that comes from putting faith before power or possessions.

He urged the nation's people "to make your beautiful country a place where the Gospel becomes life and where life is for the greater glory of God."

The Sunday Gospel reading from Luke included the line: "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

Pope Francis said Jesus was explaining that "bonds of blood or membership in a particular group, clan or particular culture" have no bearing on who is blessed, whose dignity should be honored or who, finally, will enter heaven.

"When 'family' becomes the decisive criterion for what we consider right and good," he said, "we end up justifying and even 'consecrating' practices that lead to the culture of privilege and exclusion: favoritism, patronage and, as a consequence, corruption."

The Gospel passage also condemns any ideology that would "abuse the name of God or of religion to justify acts of violence, segregation and even murder, exile, terrorism and marginalization."

Jesus' teaching emphasized that "one of the worst forms of enslavement" is "living only for oneself," the pope said. People who focus only on themselves might feel safe for a while, but they end up "becoming bitter, grumbling, without life."

What God wants, he said, is for people to extend a helping hand to others and to let them know that they are loved by God and have a dignity that cannot be taken away and should not be attacked.

The Gospel calls Christians to work for social justice, Pope Francis said. "Together we can resist all those forms of idolatry that make us think only of the deceptive securities of power, career, money and of the search for human glory."

 

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Change the world, don't just gripe about it, pope tells young people

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 1:54pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (CNS) -- Following Jesus means growing in friendship with him and with one's brothers and sisters, never being content with the way things are, but not just griping about them either, Pope Francis told young people.

Jesus calls his disciples "to be on the move, acting, committed, certain that the Lord is supporting and accompanying them," he told the teens and young adults from across Madagascar.

Tens of thousands of people of all ages were gathered for the vigil on the wide-open diocesan field at Soamandrakizay Sept. 7; the older folks came because the pope was scheduled to celebrate Mass there the next morning.

With straw mats and plastic tarps, blankets or sleeping bags, jugs of water and bags of food, it seemed that everyone was planning to spend the night.

Trinitarian Sister Jeannine Raivomanana, a young sister who was with three others from her order, said, "Since Pope Francis is coming here, we will stay."

Mihaje Andrianera, 20, was there with her 18-year-old sister, Fara. "When I heard the pope was coming, I knew it was an opportunity. I mean, I just had to be here."

Fara added, "This is the only time in our lives we will see him."

The pope arrived as the winter sun was setting; the young people kept singing and dancing as Pope Francis toured the crowd in the popemobile.

Speaking in Italian, with a priest translating into Malagasy, the pope told the young people he knew that, deep down, they all were searching for a happiness that no one could take from them.

Sometimes, he said, it will be tempting to give up hopes and dreams for a meaningful life and for a more just world, "especially when you lack the bare necessities to make it from day to day or to pursue your studies, or when you realize that without a job, stability and social injustice, your future is blocked."

Jesus calls each person to move forward and to find ways to make a contribution to improving society, he said.

However, the pope said, "The Lord is not looking for lone adventurers. He gives us a mission, yes, but he does not send us out alone to the frontlines."

"It is impossible to be a missionary disciple all by ourselves," he said. "Certainly, we can accomplish great things on our own, but together we can dream of and undertake things undreamt of!"

Pope Francis also urged the young people to remember how much God loves them and how he calls them to love others, including those society scorns.

God "does not call us by our sins, our errors, our faults, our limits, but by our name; each of us is precious in his eyes," he said.

"The devil also knows our names," the pope said, but he tends to call people by a label based on their "sins and errors; in this way, he makes us feel that however much we do, nothing can ever change, everything will remain the same. The Lord will have none of that. The Lord always reminds us how precious we are in his eyes, and he entrusts us with a mission."

Pope Francis asked the young people of Madagascar to respond to God's call like Mary did, by saying "yes" and setting off. "It is the 'yes' of all those willing to commit themselves and take risks, ready to stake everything, with no guarantee except the sure conviction of knowing they are bearers of a promise."

 

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Update: Help the poor, protect the environment, pope says in Madagascar

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 7:31am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (CNS) -- In Madagascar, where the destruction of the environment and the suffering of the poor are inextricably bound, Pope Francis urged government officials to promote development projects that protect nature.

The crisis facing the island nation in the Indian Ocean is "both social and environmental," the pope said Sept. 7 as he met President Andry Rajoelina, other government officials, diplomats serving in Madagascar and representatives of major aid and development agencies.

Immediately after making their speeches, the pope and president went outside the Ceremony Building and planted a baobab tree, a symbol of the island.

Although rich in natural resources, Madagascar is consistently ranked as one of the world's 10 poorest countries. According to the World Bank, 75% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day.

The country also is challenged by a frightening rate of deforestation as prized rosewood trees are cut down illegally and exported, mainly to China, and as other forest lands are cleared by poor farmers trying to eke out a living.

Phil Boyle, British ambassador to Madagascar, told reporters that perhaps as much as 500,000 acres of forests are lost each year. Without serious measures to stop the destruction of the forests and to begin planting trees, "then possibly the most unique habitat on earth will be lost."

Pope Francis told the politicians and ambassadors, "We cannot speak of integral development without showing consideration and care for our common home," which means that a way must be found to preserve natural resources, while also investing in education, health care and job creation.

"We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental," he said, quoting "Laudato Si'," his encyclical on "integral ecology."

The pope was plainspoken in his speech, pointing out how "the last forests are menaced by forest fires, poaching (and) the unrestricted cutting down of valuable woodlands. Plant and animal biodiversity is endangered by contraband and illegal exportation," which benefit the rich and powerful.

At the same time, he acknowledged how, for the poor, "a number of activities harmful to the environment at present ensure their survival. So," he said, "it is important to create jobs and activities that generate income, while protecting the environment and helping people to emerge from poverty."

"In a word," he said, "there can be no true ecological approach or effective efforts to safeguard the environment without the attainment of a social justice capable of respecting the right to the common destination of earth's goods, not only of present generations, but also of those yet to come."

After fulfilling the required protocol obligations with the government leaders, Pope Francis went to a Discalced Carmelite monastery to meet about 100 nuns representing the island's contemplative communities.

The pope gave the sisters a copy of his prepared text, then spoke extemporaneously about the importance of love and concern within religious communities, pointing particularly to the life of St. Therese of Lisieux as a model.

But then he began speaking about how the grill that separates cloistered nuns from the outside world does not always protect them either from "worldliness" or from those who want to harm them.

"Always transparency!" the pope said, telling the sisters that if they are troubled by someone who wants to "disturb your tranquility," including if it is their spiritual director, they should tell their superior. The pope was not more specific.

"Please, dear sisters, if you hear of something strange happening, tell someone immediately. Immediately," Pope Francis said.

 

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Update: Catholic organizations in Florida marshaling aid for Dorian victims

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 4:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marco Bello, Reuters

By

MIAMI (CNS) -- In the wake of Hurricane Dorian's brutal blasting of the Bahamas, Catholic organizations in Florida continued to raise funds to aid victims there.

The best aid from individual Catholics is monetary donations. Money can be used to buy supplies in bulk and get them delivered promptly, and to reboot the local economy, enabling communities to start getting back on their feet. Money also ensures the items sent are actually the items needed -- not just immediately after the disaster but months later, when recovery is ongoing.

"It's the agencies that are on the ground providing the help, they really know what is needed. So it's best to give them the resources so they can purchase locally what is needed. It helps to get businesses back up and running locally," Peter Routsis-Arroyo, director of the Archdiocese of Miami's Catholic Charities, told the Florida Catholic, Miami's archdiocesan newspaper.

Arroyo noted the "tremendous amount of manpower" and agency funds required to organize, pack and ship donated items. "If we had just turned that money over to them, there's none of those costs involved in that," he said.

Not to mention that some items may only be needed the first few days.

"Maybe they need MREs (meals ready to eat) for the first two days, but that's it," he said. Other needs will arise as reconstruction begins, Arroyo added.

The Catholic Church has a distinct advantage, though, when disaster strikes anywhere: an interconnected network of churches and agencies with deep roots and deep knowledge of the affected communities.

The Miami Archdiocese has many links to the Archdiocese of Nassau. Priests from Miami's Metropolitan Tribunal helped Nassau set up its tribunal a decade ago. For years, representatives from the Bahamas Women's Auxiliary have joined members of the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women at their annual convention -- sometimes bringing Nassau Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder with them.

"We've been in constant contact with Archbishop Pinder," Routsis-Arroyo said, adding that what he's dealing with "is overwhelming."

"He sends us a list of what he needs and it's easier for us to collect monies, purchase in bulk, not have to pay taxes or anything. And then we have friends of the agency who will ship it for free to him. And then he knows how to get it to whoever he knows on his end," Routsis-Arroyo said.

Those "friends" include shipping companies and wealthy individuals who offer to cover the costs or deliver the goods free of charge.

Normally, relief work in a foreign country is done by the U.S. bishops' overseas agency, Catholic Relief Services. But Routsis-Arroyo explained that CRS doesn't have any offices in the Bahamas "so they work with the archbishop and the local Caritas," which is part of the international network of agencies under the umbrella of Caritas Internationalis

When Dorian slammed into the Bahamas, Knights of Columbus of Florida went into action.

The first order of business: texting with a fellow Knight of Columbus by the name of Patrick Pinder.

"We are in touch with Archbishop Pinder of Nassau by text," said Ronald Winn, a resident of Pensacola and state disaster response chairman for the Knights of Columbus.

The Knights' Florida Council has had a long relationship with the Knights in the Bahamas, which is considered part of the Florida jurisdiction. When Dorian hit the Bahamas, the texts between the archbishop and the Knights in Florida were traded back and forth.

Winn was prepared to respond to the bishop and his people. Since, July 1, the Knights have stepped up service efforts with their new Disaster Response Program. Once Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas, the organization developed a fundraising campaign posting information about it on their state and supreme council websites.

"Things change day by day. ... We are waiting until the airports are safe and in good working order to receive aircraft safely," Winn told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of West Palm Beach. He added that some Knights have offered to navigate their own boats to the Bahamas to deliver items.

The Knights' disaster response program arose following the destruction Hurricane Harvey wrought in Houston in 2017.

Florida State Deputy Scott O'Connor of Pembroke Pines in the Archdiocese of Miami said in a statement, "We have a much more defined program with people and contacts, and we are also working directly with Catholic Charities because they already have an infrastructure in place."

The Boca Raton-based Cross Catholic Outreach, is providing immediate assistance to the Bahamas with shipments of food, medicines and other critical resources. Cross Catholic Outreach has already shipped over 540,000 meals to help affected families and children.

To get resources in quickly and distributed effectively, Cross Catholic Outreach is working with Catholic Charities of Miami and Archbishop Pinder of Nassau. The first shipments will include scientifically formulated meals designed to do more than satisfy hunger.

"It's important to address hunger with nutrient-rich meals," said a statement by Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach. "The food we are shipping is created for situations like this, and it will go a long way in keeping people healthy as they face the stresses and hardships ahead."

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Hurricane relief donations to CRS can be sent here: https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

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Contributing to this story were Ana Rodriguez-Soto in Miami and Linda Reeves in Boynton Beach.

 

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Bahamian Catholic school administrator describes current desperation

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 1:26pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Halliwell, Royal Navy handout via Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- An interim parish administrator and assistant principal of the St. Francis de Sales Parish and School in Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, Bahamas, said his school was in ruins and the island is in a desperate state following Hurricane Dorian.

Situated in central Abaco and just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, St. Francis de Sales Parish and School were in a highly impacted region of Abaco Islands after Dorian dealt its punishing winds and storm surge to this part of the Bahamas Sept. 1-3.

"The whole school is totally gone and the Catholic Church was damaged, especially the roof and one side of the wall is off; it was serving as a shelter," said Elmer Bongon, an educator on the island for the past 18 years who has also been serving as an interim parish administrator at the parish following the death of the pastor earlier this year.

Farther up the road, St. Mary and Andrew Catholic Church in Treasure Cay is "totally gone, it was under 4 feet of water," said Bongon, who retrieved the official baptismal and other parish records from both churches before the hurricane.

He said in a phone interview Sept. 5 that he was looking for a way to take the church records, and his wife and two children, to Nassau as early as Sept. 7.

He said he planned to deliver the records to the Nassau Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder, and then find a temporary living situation for himself and his wife and children, who have been having a hard time since the storm.

Sept. 2 was to have been the first day of school at St. Francis de Sales with an estimated 340 children enrolled, but many of those families had already evacuated.

"The students are scattered: Some are missing, many are in Nassau and I am sure our sister schools will accommodate some of them in Nassau, but I don't know yet what the plan is," he said. "I have my two kids of my own in the school, but I don't know where they will go."

The newly homeless storm survivors -- including residents of two shantytowns of mostly undocumented persons -- are increasingly desperate and looking for sustenance, with the threat of looting and robbery a possible danger to anyone driving through the area unescorted following the hurricane, he said.

"My kids are suffering post-traumatic stress," he said, noting that the family stayed in their apartment during the hurricane and were trapped afterward because they were surrounded by water.

"We couldn't do anything but keep on praying for two days," Bongon said.

Now they are packing their belongings, which are mostly wet after storm water leaked in through the ceiling during Dorian; they have no power or water and only enough food for another day or so.

"Right now, " he said, "we just need to get out of here, and shutter everything up and leave."

 

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Update: Pope leaves Mozambique urging reconciliation, care for one another

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 8:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

MAPUTO, Mozambique (CNS) -- When Jesus told his disciples to love one another and pray for their enemies, he meant it -- even disciples in a nation like Mozambique, where political tensions have led to violence, war and death, Pope Francis said.

The pope ended his visit to Mozambique Sept. 6 with a visit to a health center founded to care for people living with HIV/AIDS and with a Mass nearby in Maputo's Zimpeto Stadium, where a late winter rain fell intermittently.

Bernadete Silva Fungalane came to the Mass from the Diocese of Pemba, in the northern Cabo Delgado province, where outbreaks of violent killings and pillaging have terrorized the population for the past few years.

Wearing a headwrap and a skirt made of blue fabric with the pope's image, she told Catholic News Service that the pope "can help stop the violence, first of all because he unites people. His words about reconciliation are very important for our people."

Before the recitation of the rosary began 90 minutes before the pope's arrival, Silva Fungalane said, she knew in her heart that she would receive a blessing being at Mass and "all Mozambique will be blessed."

In his homily, Pope Francis insisted Jesus' message about love and turning the other cheek was not simply a lovely platitude, but a call to courage and strength and trust in God alone.

Jesus "is talking about specific enemies, real enemies, the kind he described" in the beatitudes: "those who hate us, exclude us, revile us and defame us," the pope said.

Pope Francis said he knows people are frightened of renewed violence, and he made special mention of Cabo Delgado.

A true and long-lasting peace, he said, can be achieved only through reconciliation, which requires meeting with, speaking to, trying to understand and praying for those who had been enemies.

"Jesus wants to end forever that common practice of being Christians yet living under the law of retaliation," the pope said. "We cannot look to the future, or build a nation, an equitable society, on the basis of violence. I cannot follow Jesus if I live my life by the rule of 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for tooth.'"

Pope Francis also used the occasion to condemn corruption, especially because it has kept so many Mozambicans in absolute poverty, despite the country's natural resources. The pope did not mention specifics, but Mozambicans are still paying the price for a massive loan and bribery scheme that was revealed in 2016 and led to the suspension of international development funding.

With general elections scheduled for Oct. 15, the pope told people to look for those who show "concern for others, acknowledging and appreciating them as our brothers and sisters, even to the point of identifying with their lives and their pain."

Before arriving at the stadium, Pope Francis paid a visit to the Zimpeto DREAM Center, a medical clinic sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, but now fully staffed by Mozambican doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians. Sant'Egidio, a lay movement, helped mediate the Mozambique peace talks in the early 1990s and, when the AIDS pandemic began, the community mobilized to help.

Some 20 percent of Mozambican adults are HIV positive and, in 2002 when the first DREAM Center opened, mother-to-baby transmission of the virus was commonplace. Sant'Egidio decided to start there, giving the women antiretroviral drugs at no cost, as well as providing them and their families with food assistance. The program boasts of more than 100,000 babies being born virus free.

Pope Francis met several of those newborns, offering a big smile to the proud mothers and gently stroking the chubby cheeks of the babies.

In a brief speech, the pope praised the program for listening to the needs of those suffering before designing the program and for always treating the patients with dignity. It was essential, he said, that someone hear "the silent, almost inaudible, cry of countless women, so many of them living in shame, marginalized and judged by all."

Now those same women have formed an association where they support one another and go into their communities to educate other women about HIV/AIDS and accompany those being tested for the virus.

After the Mass, Pope Francis traveled to Madagascar, the second stop on his three-nation Africa visit. He also was scheduled to visit Mauritius before returning to the Vatican Sept. 10.

 

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Death toll in Bahamas likely higher than reported, local resident says

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 4:48pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dante Carrer, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- The Bahamanian government's estimated death toll from Hurricane Dorian is likely to rise if and when members of the Haitian immigrant community are accounted for and when search and rescue operations begin in earnest, said an attorney in the Bahamas.

Geoffrey Farquharson, who lives in Nassau where he practices private law, said two settlements of Haitians in Great Abaco Islands' Marsh Harbor area, locally called "Pigeon Peas" and "The Mud," were reportedly washed away by Hurricane Dorian. The death count from the storm as of Sept. 5 is 23.

"Those settlements were built illegally on waste ground because nobody had good use for that land and when the hurricane came it was obliterated -- many there were completed off the grid persons living in the shadows with no passport or papers," Farquharson said in a Sept. 5 phone interview.

"The authorities are restrained by some protocols, one of which is notification of next of kin, and when these people die it is much more difficult to identify them. They don't want people to find out from television that family members who lived in those two Haitian immigration settlements may have died," said Farquharson, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Nassau.

He said church and charitable agencies could play a vital role during the recovery by looking after undocumented Haitians and other persons living in the Bahamas who are now likely homeless and fearful of their situation.

"What I am particularly worried about is that the attitude here toward them has been hardening in recent years and we will have to do something in our church to meet the persons in that community and invite them to come get aid anonymously and with security," he said.

Farquharson, who rode out the storm at his home in Nassau, has spotty cellphone and electrical power -- two conditions that existed throughout the Bahamas even before Hurricane Dorian. He has also been in touch with clients and colleagues throughout the area and believes that the government's estimate of 75,000 persons needing immediate support of food, water and shelter is a highly conservative figure.

"These are destitute hurricane refugees with no stoves, no homes, groceries and no means of providing for themselves," Farquharson said. "The most critical need at the moment is water purification pellets and purification machinery. After that, the most urgent need is for food on an ongoing basis and temporary shelter for about a year.

The National Hurricane Center describes Dorian as one of the strongest storms in the Atlantic's history and estimates that a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas, and power outages will last for weeks to possibly months, making most of the area uninhabitable for that time period.

The storm's sustained wind speeds maxed out at 185 mph on Sept. 1 when the storm first made landfall.

Meanwhile, Dorian has been pushing its way up the Southeastern U.S. coast, menacing Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

"The brightest thing that can happen for us would be for the governor of Florida to redirect the hurricane resources from Florida to the Bahamas," Farquharson said.

On the spiritual side, he said that since observing Hurricane Katrina's impact on the city of New Orleans, he has been dedicated to praying to Our Lady of Prompt Succor for his own storm protection and he especially did this throughout Hurricane Dorian.

"I really believe in prayer, and I pray to her in times of devastation for urgent help," Farquharson said. "It is a prayer that I have been praying since this hurricane came and I ask people to pray that prayer for us."

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Editors: Donations to CRS can be sent here https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

 

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Update: Bishop Malone will not resign, calls recent case 'convoluted'

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 12:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

BUFFALO, N.Y. (CNS) -- Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo said the majority of priests and parishioners in the diocese supported him and he would not resign over his handling of a situation involving two priests' relationship with a seminarian.

"I'm here because I feel an obligation as the one who was sent here to lead this diocese, to carry on, and once again, if I thought the majority of Catholic people in particular were calling for my resignation, that would be a different story," Bishop Malone said during Sept. 4 news conference in Buffalo.

"But I don't feel that. I go out to parishes and schools all the time for visits. I am always well received when I go ... I do feel enough support, honestly to continue on," he told reporters gathered at the rectory of St. Joseph's Cathedral.

Bishop Malone called the news conference to discuss a letter from Father Ryszard Biernat to a seminarian, Matthew Bojanowski, and allegations by Bojanowski that another priest, Father Jeffrey Nowak, harassed him.

Father Biernat began a leave of absence from his position as the bishop's priest secretary Aug. 14. He had been in his position since 2013.

In a recording obtained from Father Biernat by WKBW-TV, Bishop Malone is heard saying that he feared having to resign over what he called a "love triangle" involving priests and a seminarian.

Bishop Malone also expressed concern to Biernat that "this could be the end for me as bishop" if the news media learned about the situation involving the three men and called the situation he was facing "a true crisis."

The television station posted a transcript of the recording on its website.

The beleaguered bishop has faced questions about how he has handled allegations of abuse against diocesan priests for more than a year.

Bojanowski, who has withdrawn from Christ the King Seminary in suburban Aurora, said he first notified Bishop Malone in November 2018 of the allegation against Father Nowak. The diocese announced in an Aug. 28 statement that Father Nowak had been placed on administrative leave.

During the news conference, Bishop Malone said he thought the conversation with Father Biernat was confidential and expressed concern that the recording was made public.

The bishop also defended his handling of what he described as "a very complex, convoluted matter."

He said Father Nowak had not been accused of engaging in sexual contact with an adult or child and that the diocese was unaware of any activity that endangered parishioners or the public. He said he placed Father Nowak on leave when the priest refused to seek a behavioral assessment at St. Luke Institute, which serves priests, deacons and consecrated religious.

The situation involving the two priests and the former seminarian has its roots in a July 2016 letter from Father Biernat to Bojanowski in which he discusses his love for the student. Father Nowak photographed the letter without Father Bojanowski's permission, the Buffalo News reported.

Bishop Malone explained that the two priests had been friends and that Father Nowak had mentored Bojanowski as he discerned a vocation to the priesthood. After Bojanowski met Biernat, he began spending more time with him.

"Matthew's relationship with Father Nowak cooled you might say, and this was disturbing to Father Nowak," the bishop explained. "Father Nowak secretly photographed the letter he found in Matthew's apartment in Boston, when he was there. This was several years ago."

The bishop called the content of the letter "a bit concerning" and said he "suggested that Father Ryszard should go on a personal leave of absence."

The newspaper said the letter suggested that Father Biernat and Bojanowski were involved in a romantic relationship. However, Bishop Malone said he was "not aware at this time of an allegations of sexual impropriety between Father Ryszard and Matthew."

Attorney Barry N. Covert, representing Father Biernat and Bojanowski, told the newspaper that Bishop Malone was trying to distract people from his failure to remove Father Nowak in a timely manner.

"There's not love triangle," Covert said. "That's a complete deflection."

 

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Update: Pope in Mozambique talks peace, politics and young people's dreams

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 8:29am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

MAPUTO, Mozambique (CNS) -- With a courtesy and solemnity seldom seen at a gathering of opposing political leaders, Mozambican politicians came together a month before their general election to welcome Pope Francis and pledge to work for peace and the common good.

The elections Oct. 15 will see the current president, Filipe Nyusi, leader of the Frelimo party, run against Ossufo Momade, leader of the opposition Renamo party, and against Daviz Simango, president of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique.

In the southern Africa country, party politics has not been simply a matter of policy arguments; Frelimo and Renamo were the main opponents in the Mozambican civil war, which raged from 1977 to 1992. Tensions rose again after contested elections in 2013 and grew so sharp that violence flared again. Nyusi and Momade signed a new peace accord Aug. 1.

Welcoming Pope Francis to Palacio da Ponta Vermelha, the presidential residence, Sept. 5, Nyusi had both his opponents stand for a round of applause as he pledged their intention to strive to be political leaders who work for the common good and not self-interest.

Pope Francis told the political leaders, as well as other civic leaders and ambassadors serving in Mozambique, that making peace takes more courage, strength and effort than waging war does, but that Mozambique's own recent history shows how education, health care and the local economy all benefit from peace.

First, though, the pope publicly expressed his solidarity with all the Mozambicans still far from recovering from the cyclones Idai and Kenneth in March and April.

Both the pope and president said the nation still needs the promised international aid to help rebuild, but both also said Mozambicans' reaction to the disasters showed how much solidarity, unity and sacrifice the nation's people have.

The people of Mozambique have learned firsthand that peace requires "strenuous, constant and unremitting effort," the pope said. "It demands that we continue -- with determination but without fanaticism, with courage but without exaltation, with tenacity but in an intelligent way -- to promote peace and reconciliation, not the violence that brings only destruction."

Peace is a necessary requirement if the nation's leaders are to fulfill their mission of serving the people, he said. "May you not desist as long as there are children and young people without schooling, families that are homeless, unemployed workers, farmers without land to cultivate."

And, touching a theme expected to be repeated throughout his trip Sept. 4-10 to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius, Pope Francis urged special care of the natural environment.

"The protection of the land is also the protection of life," Pope Francis told the leaders.

Apparently referring to the practices of multinational companies, the pope said governments and citizens must beware of "a tendency toward plundering and pillaging driven by a greed generally not cultivated by the inhabitants of these lands, nor motivated by the common good of your people."

"A culture of peace implies a productive, sustainable and inclusive development, where all Mozambicans can feel that this land is theirs," he said.

Myrta Kaulard, the U.N. resident coordinator in Mozambique told reporters, "It's definitely a good day for peace and reconciliation," and that, even without strong words, the country would benefit from Pope Francis' presence.

She also said she was counting on the pope to bring a strong message on climate change, but it was even more important that the pope's visit showed the world that Mozambique matters. "This, after all, is a quite remote country."

The themes of peace, reconciliation and care for creation took center stage again at the pope's next event: an interreligious meeting with about 4,000 young people from Mozambique.

The young people -- Christians, Muslims and Hindus -- started things off. They welcomed the pope to Maputo's Maxaquene Pavilion with hands clasped, chanting over and over: "Reconciliation."

Pope Francis, joining the spirit of the gathering, mostly followed his prepared text, but had the young people repeat several phrases as a chant, including "don't give up" and "always together."

At a gathering that began with songs and dances, the pope told the young people that "a shared and celebrated joy that reconciles is the best antidote to all those who want to create dissension, division and conflict." Then he added, "Be attentive! They want to divide you!"

The pope grabbed the young people's attention -- and generated a roar of approval -- by using as an example soccer great Eusebio da Silva, a Mozambican who played in Portugal in the 1960s and '70s. He came from a poor family, but had big dreams and pursued them, the pope said. And, he fulfilled his dream by always being part of a team.

Extending the sports metaphor to the social and economic life of many nations, Pope Francis said, "Much suffering has been and still is caused because some people feel entitled to determine who can 'play' and who should sit 'on the bench.' Such people spend their lives dividing and separating."

The pope told them that to build the nation they want and deserve they must act "by staying together despite everything that can divide you, by always looking for a chance to realize your dreams for a better country. But always together."

Pope Francis also reminded the young people that, despite their religious differences, all of their faiths teach that God loves the people he created and that, in his eyes, each one has enormous worth.

The young people's clapping, shouting and ululating stopped when the pope asked each of them to consider in silence how much God loves them. They bowed their heads.

"This love of God is simple, silent and discreet," the pope said after he, the young people and the country's bishops lifted their heads again. "It does not overpower us or force itself on us; it is not strident or flashy."

"I know that you believe in this love that makes reconciliation possible," he said. "And because you believe in this love, I am certain that you are hopeful and that you will not fail to walk joyfully in the ways of peace."

 

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