You are here

Top Stories

Subscribe to Top Stories feed Top Stories
Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
Updated: 4 min 23 sec ago

Alaska thrift shop raises $1 million for a Catholic school

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 4:03pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ron Nicholl, Catholic Anchor

By Rashae Ophus Johnson

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) -- Of all the designer clothes, quirky conversation pieces and valuable antiques that have rotated through the thrift shop, Archangel Attic, maybe the greatest treasure to come from this modest Anchorage shop is the $1 million it has made for Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage.

Store manager Mary Manes initially was dubious last fall when her husband speculated that they'd probably raised over $1 million via the thrift shop, which along with the school is a ministry of St. Benedict Church in Anchorage.

"I said, 'Nah, no way!' So we looked into it and asked in the (parish) office, and realized how close we were to that goal," Manes said. "It's just amazing how much that little store generates."

"They projected that they would achieve $1 million in February, and they were right on target," said St. Benedict pastor Father Tom Lilly. "I was stunned. We get the cash bag each day with the proceeds of the day and lock it up to be deposited and that just quietly goes on without much notice."

Operated entirely by a cadre of devoted volunteers, including many retired grandmas, the nonprofit has no overhead except utilities and thus gives 100 percent of income to the school. Father Lilly recognized 30-some past and present volunteers at a special banquet in April to celebrate the $1 million milestone and extraordinary contribution to the parish school.

The small plain building belies the curiosities inside. It originated as St. Juliana Church in Spenard, which in the 1960s was transported to its current location, where it was renamed and served as St. Benedict Church until the parish outgrew it. When the new St. Benedict Church opened on the same property in 1979, the old church building was utilized for religious education and youth gatherings and eventually was converted to the Rummage Room, a thrift store that was eventually abandoned until the Manes looked into reviving it around 2006.

"Whatever was donated was put out for sale; you couldn't even move in there, it was so jam-packed," Manes said, adding that there were bins of clothes and dressers and baskets everywhere.

Manes, an experienced thrift store volunteer, disposed of damaged items, donated much of the clutter, acquired new flooring and shelving sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and started merchandising.

The former church's cry room is now the donation intake area; the old confessional is the business office; the sacristy stores out-of-season holiday items; and where the altar once stood is a display of assorted knickknacks. Customers occasionally point out the spot where they were married or their children were baptized.

For six years, Manes sustained Archangel Attic with limited volunteers and business hours, raising about $30,000 a year for the parish school.

Colleen Larson, then acting principal of Lumen Christi, said she could see the place was a gold mine, especially when the school's parents were constantly fundraising.

"I thought if I could just get in there and help out, what we could do with it," she said.

After filling in three years as Lumen Christi principal, Larson retired again and seized the opportunity to step up as Archangel Attic's volunteer coordinator and co-manager. With additional volunteers, they extended the hours to include more evenings and Saturdays. The annual proceeds surged accordingly, reaching over six figures in recent years.

"I really liked the parish, and it was something to do. I wanted to make money for the school and make some friends," she said. "It turned out to be a lot stronger mission."

Larson and Manes, like their core volunteer staff, are motivated to serve the marginalized of society whether to provide affordable clothing and household goods or lend a compassionate ear during trying times. For clothing, which always is in high demand, they offer an ongoing deal to fill an eight-gallon bag to the limit for $20. Specific needs are mysteriously fulfilled though a phenomenon the volunteers refer to as "declaring it" -- which is when customers say they are seeking a particular item that isn't in stock and it is inexplicably donated within about a week.

"Our volunteers just seem to have the spiritual side of this down," Larson reflected. "This ministry is like part of a divine plan; it always works out; it's just blessed."

- - -

Johnson writes for the Catholic Anchor, archdiocesan newspaper of Anchorage.

 

- - -

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.

Cardinal turns on the lights and raises ire of Italian politician

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 10:45am

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Back in Rome less than 24 hours after visiting refugees in camps in Greece, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski turned on some lights and found himself being threatened by Italy's deputy prime minister.

The cardinal, who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis, went at 10 p.m. May 11 to a state-owned building in Rome where more than 430 people -- including more than 100 children -- have set up housekeeping.

They have occupied the building since 2013, but on May 6 the electric company cut service, leaving the occupants without lights, without hot water and without functioning refrigerators.

Asked if it was true that he personally lifted a manhole cover and climbed down to reconnect the building to the power main, Cardinal Krajewski told the newspaper, Corriere della Sera, "It was a special situation. Desperate. I repeat I assume all the responsibility."

Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister of Italy, told a crowd at a rally May 12 that the occupants of the building owed the electric company 300,000 euros (about $337,000) and he would be sending the cardinal the bill.

"I'll pay it. No problem," the cardinal told the newspaper. "And if one arrives, I'll pay a fine as well."

The Vatican, through Cardinal Krajewski's office, had been assisting the residents for some time, regularly sending food and medicine as well as doctors.

"The absurd thing is that we are in the heart of Rome," Cardinal Krajewski told the paper. "These are families who don't have anywhere to go, people who struggle to survive."

The question people should be asking, he said, is not who will pay the electric bill, but why there are more than 400 people, including small children, living like that.

 

- - -

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

Pope discusses deaconesses, need for nuns to be servants not 'maids'

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 1:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media via Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told the heads of women's religious orders from around the world they need to send sisters on assignments that truly serve the church and those in need, and not agree to requests for "maids."

"You did not become a religious in order to become the maid of a priest," he said to some 850 superiors general in Rome for their plenary assembly.

There are many needed forms of service, whether they be in administration or caring for and performing domestic tasks for those in need, he said May 10 in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall.

But being "a maid, no," he said; "You must help here in this" because even if the church is trying to stop exploitation among its ranks, it is still the superior general who decides "yes" or "no" to these requests.

The pope's comments came during his meeting with those taking part in the May 6-10 plenary of the International Union of Superiors General, which represents more than 450,000 sisters in more than 100 countries. The gathering offered talks, workshops, reflections and discussion on a number of topics, including interreligious dialogue, cross-cultural experiences, caring for children and the planet, and the future of religious life.

The pope, who spoke off-the-cuff and answered people's questions, was seated behind a wooden table in the front of the hall next to Sister Carmen Sammut, superior general of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and the outgoing president of the UISG. Before reading her remarks, she joked that she never imagined she would ever be "sitting at the right hand of the father."

She thanked the pope for being a source of inspiration and helping the church fight the abuse of minors and vulnerable people.

"We are also grateful for your having faced the painful issue of abused religious," she said, noting that many forms of abuse occur worldwide, including cases of religious abusing their fellow sisters.

National conferences of religious orders "are facing this scourge with courage and determination," she said, listing a number of UISG initiatives to help congregations in raising awareness, training superiors and establishing protocols and codes of conduct.

The pope said he was very much aware of the abuse of religious, calling it "a serious and grave problem."

Some religious face not just sexual abuse, he said, but also the abuse of power and conscience.

"We have to fight against this," which must include the superiors general making sure they send their members where they will be in service, not servitude, the pope said.

Fighting abuse, he continued, has been a slow process, especially seeing how it is only now that people are understanding the problem with "lots of shame."

He said he understood some victims' groups were not satisfied with the outcome of a February summit at the Vatican on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, "but if we had hung (to death) 100 priest abusers in St. Peter's Square, everyone would have been happy, but the problem would not have been solved."

Sister Sammut thanked the pope for having accepted UISG's request during its last plenary assembly in 2016 to establish an official commission to study the New Testament deaconesses and whether women could be admitted to the diaconate. The pope told reporters May 7 the commission did not reach a unanimous conclusion about whether deaconesses in the early church were "ordained" or formally "blessed."

The pontiff told the women religious that the commission, made up of men and women experts, could only agree up to a certain point, and that he was officially handing the report's unanimous findings on to Sister Sammut.

The pope said separate reports each commission member produced outlining their own different opinions and insights needed further study "because I cannot make a sacramental decree without a theological, historical foundation."

He further elaborated on the complex and difficult task of making sure developments and changes in the church remain faithful to God's will and revelation when he took questions from the audience.

"We cannot change revelation. It is true that revelation develops" because it is in "constant movement in order to make itself more clear," he said.

Human understanding of what is moral also changes and develops over time, he added. For example, the development of the Catholic Church teaching against capital punishment resulted in Pope Francis revising the Catechism of the Catholic Church to assert the death penalty was inadmissible and immoral.

That is not what the church taught 50 years ago, but does the new revision mean the church changed, he asked. "No. Moral awareness developed" and grew while the truth remains the same, he said.

That means whatever is proposed today -- whether in regard to moral teaching or women deacons -- it always has to be in harmony with revelation, he said.

"Regarding the diaconate, we have to see what was at the beginning of revelation. And if there was something, let it grow; if there was nothing, if the Lord did not want a sacramental ministry for women, it's not OK. That's why we turn to history," he said.

Dialogue and discernment are important parts of this process, he explained, because "we know what the truth is," but people need to discuss and decide how they are going to constantly grow in the truth in today's world.

"We need discernment," he said. "Nothing is black and white, not even gray. Everything is walking," moving over time and people need to walk along with it, but "on the right path" of revelation. "We cannot walk on any other path."

"We are Catholics. If someone wants to make another church, they're free to."

Before the hour-long meeting and question-and-answer session, the pope launched the latest campaign by Talitha Kum -- the UISG's worldwide network of consecrated persons fighting against human trafficking.

The campaign, "Nuns Healing Hearts," helps mark the 10th anniversary of the network's founding. It is one of more than a dozen networks that the superiors general have formed to educate and warn potential victims of trafficking, to work to combat the poverty that feeds the trade in human beings, and to rescue and provide shelter and rehabilitation for the victims.

 

- - -

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.

Cardinal visits refugees in Greek camps as political solutions falter

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 11:30am

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

MYTILENE, Greece (CNS) -- The Vatican and the Greek government agree on what should happen to the asylum-seekers in Greek camps: They should be welcomed by European communities and helped to build a new life on the continent.

Exactly how that should happen seems unclear, though.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, went to the Greek island of Lesbos May 8-9 to assure both refugees and residents that Pope Francis remembers them, to deliver financial donations to projects helping the refugees and to try to get something moving to help those currently in camps "live again, work and raise their families."

He met with the government official in charge of all the camps in Greece, the director of the Moria and Kara Tepe camps on Lesbos, the mayor of Lesbos and the commander of the Greek police for the North Aegean region, which includes Lesbos.

They all agree members of the European Union should be doing more to ease the burden on Greece and to alleviate the suffering of the 70,000 migrants and asylum-seekers still living in Greek camps. But, apparently, not much will happen before the European Parliament elections in late May.

The Greek government talks about "relocation schemes," which would transfer migrants and asylum-seekers to camps in other countries, but that would require EU negotiations and agreements that do not seem to be in the works.

Cardinal Krajewski, supported by the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and aided by the Community of Sant'Egidio, wants to see an immediate expansion of the "humanitarian corridors" project.

Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay community in Rome, and the Italian federation of Protestant churches, launched the project in February 2016 after securing from the Italian government guarantees for the issuing of humanitarian visas. The migrants and refugees taken into Italy -- and now France, Belgium and Luxembourg -- are fully supported by the church communities.

Ioannis Balpakakis, director of the "hotspot" or official migrant and refugee camp at Moria on Lesbos, said the camp and the informal tent settlement next to it were hosting 4,752 people on the day the cardinal visited. Eighty-two percent of the total were people from Afghanistan, 3.5 percent were from Congo and 2.5 percent were from Syria.

The whiteboard in his office showed no new arrivals that day or the day before. So far in 2019, there had been 2,783 arrivals. Twenty people had been deported, 48 recognized refugees were resettled by the International Organization for Migration and 2,975 had transferred to the Greek mainland.

Mario Kaleas, director of the Greek government's asylum service, which determines which of the new arrivals will be allowed to stay and which will be deported, met Cardinal Krajewski in the camp and told him that none of the migrants and refugees planned on Lesbos or even Greece being their final destination.

"They crossed the sea with big dreams, mostly to reach Germany" where they hear there are jobs, Kaleas said. But EU regulations require them to stay in the first EU country then enter -- Greece, in this case.

Sixty percent of those applying for asylum receive it after their initial application, he said. Those who are denied can appeal, but most of them must stay in a camp while they wait, which means some people are there for much more than the average nine months.

Andreas Gougoulis, the Greek government's secretary-general for migrant reception, told the cardinal, "As long as Europe is closed, our only choice is to expand the camps." Greece is hosting 70,000 asylum-seekers, and more continue to arrive.

Cardinal Krajewski kept telling every government official he met that the Catholic Church is willing to help. With a big grin, he even went so far as to tell the director of the Kara Tepe hospitality center, "We'll take them all."

The center is home to 1,300 people, mostly large families or families with a child who has special needs.

The cardinal told Spiros Galinos, mayor of Lesbos: "As the Catholic Church, we are ready to welcome these people. Someone just must open the gates."

When the crisis began in 2015 -- and brought 1.2 million people to Lesbos in less than a year -- "no one was ready," the mayor said. "No one had any idea what was about to happen. Lesbos paid tribute to Europe by standing up and bearing the whole weight of the crisis alone."

At that point, he said, the extreme political right party, with its xenophobia and anti-immigrant positions, had no influence at all "or at least their words were seeds that fell on barren ground. But now they are finding fertile ground."

Europe must help, he said. "Think of a weightlifter; he can lift only a certain amount over his head. You can't just keep adding weights."

Cardinal Krajewski told the mayor he prayed the people of Lesbos would "continue to live according to the Gospel, because Jesus would have done the same thing the people of Lesbos did" when thousands of exhausted refugees began arriving by boat.

"We must share the burden," the mayor said. "If we do that, it will not be a burden too heavy for anyone."

 

- - -

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.

Days of covering up abuse allegations are over, says Vatican adviser

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 1:28pm

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Robert Duncan

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' new norms on protecting minors and strengthening accountability are the latest steps in driving home the message that the days of keeping abuse allegations covered up or ignored are over, said the Vatican's top abuse investigator.

In the past, some people may have thought they were protecting the church by remaining silent, but that behavior was never acceptable, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters.

"The good of the church requires condemnation" to the proper authorities when it comes to abuse of minors and abuses of power, he said.

The archbishop spoke to reporters about Pope Francis' latest apostolic letter, "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world") at a news conference at the Vatican May 9. The new document establishes and clarifies norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable when it comes to safeguarding minors as well as abuses carried out against adults with violence, threats or an abuse of authority.

The new norms are important, Archbishop Scicluna said, because they clearly tell people they have an obligation to report already existing crimes, negligence and inappropriate behavior to church authorities.

That obligation "has always been there, but experience shows us that either a closed-shop mentality or a misplaced interest in protecting the institution was hindering disclosure," he said.

The now universal law of mandating all clerics, as well as men and women religious, to report to the competent ecclesiastical authorities the abuses of which they become aware is important, he said, "because it makes disclosure the main policy of the church."

Procedures have already been in place when it comes to accusations of abuse of minors by priests, so the new norms address what to do when the accused is a bishop, cardinal, patriarch or religious superior and how accusations against leadership of abuse or misconduct must be reported.

For example, "if a priest uses force with an adult, it's the bishop who takes that case," he said. But "when a person in leadership is guilty of misconduct, the jurisdiction pertains to the Holy See," he said.

The new norms and clear procedures, particularly with their emphasis on having an impartial investigation of leaders, send the message that "no leadership is above the law."

"There is no immunity" from God's law and canon law, he added.

When asked if victims will be pleased with the new laws, the archbishop said, "Victims will be satisfied if the laws give rise to a new culture."

"I would never go to a person who has suffered, give them a piece of paper and say that we have fixed everything. People need concrete responses" and action, which is why "I am telling people, 'Help the pope so that his desire (to prevent abuse) becomes a reality in your dioceses.'"

The new norms will not fix everything, he added, but they do send "a very strong message that disclosure is the order of the day, and not silence."

It is also the first time "compliance with state laws" concerning the abuse of minors gets placed in the realm of the church's universal law, the archbishop said.

Even though the doctrinal congregation's circular letter in 2011 made it clear the church must obey civil laws regarding abuse and reporting, the new apostolic letter "ratifies in a universal law" that mandate to respect civil requirements.

"No form of loyalty to the church must keep citizens from obeying their nation," he said, "because in the past we have had very sad cases where people said, 'Let's not talk, we want to protect the church.'"

"This is a no-go," he said, "It is not acceptable" because the good of the church requires truth and transparency, which includes respecting civil law, he said, adding that he hoped people felt "empowered to go to the police" to denounce a crime.

Church and local authorities should be working together tirelessly to combat abuse against minors because it has always been a crime for society and the church, he said.

Another important part of the new law is it facilitates disclosure by mandating that all dioceses must establish within one year "stable and publicly accessible systems," which could include a specific office or "listening center," where people can report cases of sexual abuse or their cover-up.

National bishops' conferences should help dioceses figure out the best and most culturally appropriate ways to provide this form of outreach and service, if they have not done so already, he said.

The fact that there are still countries where the church does not provide a clear and permanent place or way to report abuse shows "this universal law was needed" and that having structures for disclosure is "no longer an option," it is a papally mandated law, Archbishop Scicluna said.

"If people have the right and the duty to denounce something illicit" in the case of abuse, "they also have the right to denounce if, after one year, nothing has been done" in regard to the new mandate, he said.

- - -

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

Encore: Women religious find a place of honor on Mother's Day

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 11:42am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Chaz Muth

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the elderly men and women at the Jeanne Jugan Residence for senior care pray the rosary with Sister Constance Veit, they see her as more than one of the caregivers at the facility.

Though this nun with the Little Sisters of the Poor is many years their junior, these seniors think of her as their spiritual mother, a term often used by popes when they refer to women religious.

More than one of those residents said they were going to honor Sister Constance May 12, just like they would any other mother on Mother's Day.

Pope Francis has called on women religious to "be mothers, as a figure of Mary ... and of mother church. It is impossible to understand Mary without her motherhood; it is impossible to understand the church apart from her motherhood and you are icons of Mary and the church."

Sister Constance has answered the pope's call and embraced the role of spiritual mother.

"Our motherhood is exercised by loving those whom God puts in our path, those to whom he confides to us to care for," she told Catholic News Service in a March interview. "In my case, we care for the elderly. I look at myself as a spiritual mother to the elderly, because I try to nurture them, to protect them from harm and to educate them spiritually."

Though most of the elderly who reside at Washington's Jeanne Jugan Residence arrive with a strong spiritual core, Sister Constance says part of her role is to enrich and further their understanding and love of God.

"The recognition of spiritual motherhood is a recognition of a supernatural order alongside the natural one," said Dominican Sister Maria Veritas Marks, a member of the Religious in Residence program at The Catholic University of America in Washington. "In this order, it is also possible to give persons' life, supernatural life, to help them share the divine life of grace. Consecrated religious women are called to this motherhood in a particular way through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience."

According to the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy's document "Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity," "the vocation to be a spiritual mother ... is largely unknown, scarcely understood and, consequently, rarely lived, notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life."

In his 1988 apostolic letter, "Mulieris Dignitatem" ("On the Dignity and Vocation of Women"), St. John Paul II said that for consecrated women who live according to the charism and rules of the various apostolic institutes, spiritual motherhood "can express itself as concern for people, especially the most needy: the sick, the handicapped, the abandoned, orphans, the elderly, children, young people, the imprisoned and, in general, people on the edges of society."

That apostolic letter continued by saying just as the motherhood of Mary extends to all, so is the spiritual motherhood of consecrated women characterized by "ongoing intercession, care and maternal solicitude for all souls."

Mary has been an inspiration to Sister Constance throughout her vocation as a Little Sister of the Poor, calling her the most beautiful ideal and model in motherhood.

"I've always appreciated the fact that Mother's Day occurs during the month of May, a month the church dedicates to Mary," she said. "I think it's a way of making a connection between our blessed mother and mothers, both physical mothers and spiritual mothers."

In her role as spiritual mother in a care facility for the elderly, Sister Constance believes her priority is to remind the seniors that they too continue to have a mission in this world and to help foster their purposefulness.

Another priority is to help them prepare for eternal life, Sister Constance said.

"For us, the ultimate of spiritual motherhood is being midwives of souls, as they prepare to leave this world," she said. "A physical mother brings children into the world at the beginning of their lives. We're there at the end of people's lives to help them to be born to eternal life with God forever. I think that's just a beautiful way of looking at it."

- - -

Follow Muth on Twitter: @chazmaniandevyl

- - -

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.

Cardinal DiNardo welcomes new papal norms on preventing clergy abuse

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 10:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New papal norms on preventing clergy sexual abuse are "a blessing that will empower the church everywhere to bring predators to justice, no matter what rank they hold in the church," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new juridical instrument "calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity," Cardinal DiNardo said May 9.

The new document, given "motu proprio," on the pope's own initiative, was titled "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"). Cardinal DiNardo praised it for leaving latitude for national bishops' conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances.

"It also permits the church the time and opportunity to bring spiritual healing," he said.

The document, which takes effect June 1, clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. It was meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. It establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers.

"Today, Pope Francis ordered a worldwide response to the evil of sexual abuse," Cardinal DiNardo said.

"The Holy Father said a 'continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the church.' Pope Francis was clear that this responsibility 'falls, above all, on the successors of the apostles.' As part of this responsibility, bishops also will be held accountable under the authority of this 'motu proprio,' which covers sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, sexual acts compelled through the abuse of authority, and any cover-up of such crimes."

The cardinal said Pope Francis "made clear that protection and healing must reach all of God's children. Following on the meeting just two months ago of all episcopal conference presidents, the 'motu proprio' shows Pope Francis expects swift and comprehensive progress. For the church in the United States, the task before us now is to establish whatever is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the 'motu proprio.' Our committees have already begun the work of preparing implementation measures for deliberation at the USCCB plenary assembly in June."

He noted the United States already had in place "the excellent foundation of the USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, and the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, all of which date back to 2002."

"By embracing the painful experience of survivors and working on these new protections, let us pray we continue to grow into a stronger church," he said.

The U.S. bishops had planned to vote on their response to the clergy sex abuse crisis proposals during their November meeting but, at the urging of the Vatican, they did not.

Cardinal DiNardo told the bishops that the Vatican wanted them to delay votes -- on proposed standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards -- until after a February meeting with the pope and presidents of the bishops' conferences around the world on addressing clergy abuse.

The Associated Press reported Jan. 1 it had obtained the letter written Nov. 11 by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to Cardinal DiNardo, asking that the votes be delayed.

"Considering the nature and scope of the documents being proposed by the (conference), I believe it would have been beneficial to have allowed for more time to consult with this and other congregations with competence over the ministry and discipline of bishops," Cardinal Ouellet wrote.

At the end of the February summit on protection of minors, the Vatican promised to take action, including how bishops and religious superiors should handle abuse allegations and how they should prepare the relevant documents for the doctrinal congregation when an accusation is found to be credible.

- - -

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

Pope issues new norms on mandatory abuse reporting, bishop accountability

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 8:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse.

The new juridical instrument is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. For this reason, the new document establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers.

The new document, given "motu proprio," on the pope's own initiative, was titled "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:14).

"The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful," the pope said in the document, released by the Vatican May 9. The norms go into effect June 1.

In order to stop all forms of abuse from ever happening again, not only is "a continuous and profound conversion of hearts" necessary, there must be "concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the church," he wrote.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said the new norms ascribe a new role to heads of dioceses by making them responsible for alerting the proper Vatican authorities of all forms of suspected abuse, including the possession, distribution or creation of pornography involving a minor.

He told Vatican News May 9 that the norms respond to Pope Francis' continued insistence for concrete and effective measures to ensure bishops and religious superiors have a very clear understanding of what their obligations are and what they should and should not do when it comes to safeguarding.

It also requires all priests and religious to report suspected abuse or cover-ups and encourages any lay person to report through a now-mandated reporting "system" or office in each diocese.

How the office or "system" works will be up to each diocese, but "the idea is that anyone who has suffered abuse can have recourse to the local church, while being assured they will be well received, protected from retaliation, and that their reports will be treated with the utmost seriousness," Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, told Vatican News.

The new norms now stipulate:

-- Procedures for the investigation of bishops, cardinals, patriarchs, religious superiors and all those who lead -- even temporarily -- a diocese or particular church, including personal prelatures and personal ordinariates.

-- Leaders will be held accountable not only with suspected cases of committing abuse themselves, but also accusations of having interfered with, covered up or failed to address abuse accusations they were aware of.
 
-- When the accused individual is a bishop, the metropolitan will receive a mandate from the Holy See to investigate or delegate a person in charge of the preliminary investigation. A status report must be sent to the Holy See every 30 days, and the investigation completed with 90 days with some exceptions. Vatican offices are also held to specific timeframes and prompt action.

-- By June 2020, every diocese in the world must create an office or "public, stable and easily accessible systems" for reporting suspected abuse against a minor or vulnerable person, failure of compliance of abuse guidelines by bishops or superiors, and cases of interference or cover-ups in either a civil or canonical investigation of suspected abuse.

-- All priests and religious that become aware of abuse or its cover-up must alert their bishop or religious superior promptly.

-- A minor is anyone under the age of 18 and a vulnerable person is "any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want to otherwise resist the offense."

-- The definition of child pornography as any representation of a minor, regardless of the media used, "involved in explicit sexual activities, whether real or simulated, and any representation of sexual organs of minors for primarily sexual purposes."

-- Bishops and religious superiors will be accountable not just for protecting minors against abuse but also for protecting seminarians, novices and members of religious orders from violence and sexual abuse stemming from an abuse of power. The norms apply to reports of "delicts against the sixth commandment" regarding clerics or members of religious orders and "forcing someone, by violence or threat or through abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts."

-- Those who report abuse cannot be subjected to pressure, retaliation and discrimination or told to keep silent. The seal of confession, however, remains inviolable and is not affected by the new norms.

-- Procedures for carrying out the preliminary investigation include the bishop immediately requesting from the Vatican that he or a delegate be assigned to begin the preliminary investigation. If he considers an accusation is unfounded, the papal nuncio is informed. The Vatican will have 30 days to respond to the request and the bishop sends a status report to the Vatican every 30 days.

-- When the investigation is complete, the bishop sends the results to the proper Vatican office, which then follows existing canon law.

-- The continued obligation to respect civil laws regarding mandatory reporting.

-- Those who reported suspected abuse or cover-up will be told of the outcome of the investigation if they request to be informed.

-- A fund can be set up by bishops' conferences, synods and church provinces to cover the costs of investigations.

The document is a follow-up to Pope Francis' 2016 document, "As a Loving Mother," on transparency and accountability of bishops and religious superiors.

The two documents together are meant to correct what had been a lack of or unclear procedures for investigating the way a bishop complies with already established norms against abuse and clearly expressing the consequences of noncompliance or cover-ups.

- - -

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.

Catholic officials call for prayer, action after Colorado shooting

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 3:02pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders are calling for prayer and action in response to the May 7 school shooting inside a charter school near Denver. One teenager died and eight other students were wounded.

"Action is needed to attempt to reduce the frequency of these heinous acts," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a May 8 statement he also called for prayers, urging Catholics around the country "to pray for the dead, injured and for the loved ones left behind and for healing in the community."

"This shooting reminds us yet again that something is fundamentally broken in our society when places of learning can become scenes of violence and disregard for human life," he said, adding that Americans should "deeply examine why these horrific occurrences of gun violence continue to take place in our communities."

The shooting took place at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a suburb of Denver located in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. The two shooters, teenagers who attend the K-12 school, are now in police custody.

Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old senior whose last day at school was to have been May 10, was killed in the classrom gunfire. His father, John Castillo, told reporters he son was a hero and he wants people to know about him.

A student who witnessed the shooting told NBC's "Today" show that Castillo "lunged" at one of the shooters to save others.

The public charter school -- which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math and has more than 1,850 students -- will be closed through May 10, and crisis counselors were scheduled to be available for students May 8 at nearby St. Andrew United Methodist Church.

Colorado Springs Bishop Michael J. Sheridan said in a May 8 statement that he was "deeply saddened and disturbed by the shootings that occurred" and said he echoed the reaction of Bishop Dewane.

He also urged Catholics to "pray and offer sacrifice for the students, teachers and families impacted by this tragedy, that through the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, they may find healing and consolation."

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said in a May 8 statement that his "heart goes out for the student that was killed and the eight others who were injured in the tragic shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. Let us pray for them and their families in this time of sadness and grief."

"The heart of all Colorado is with the victims and their families," Gov. Jared Polis said in a May 7 statement.

The shooting took place a week after a gunman killed two students and wounded four others at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and nearly three weeks after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado, about seven miles from STEM School Highlands Ranch.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

- - -

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.

'Today God has answered their prayers': Pakistan releases Asia Bibi

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 11:13am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Asad Karim, Reuters

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Pakistani authorities freed Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman acquitted of blasphemy, and she has flown to Canada to join her family at a secret address.

Her release was confirmed May 8 by Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association, who has been in almost daily contact with Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband.

In a statement sent by email to Catholic News Service, Chowdhry, who is based in London, said a British diplomat confirmed early May 8 that Bibi had left her country.

"Ashiq has always remained hopeful of an imminent release from Pakistan, and we have both been shocked at how long it has taken," he said.

"Asia Bibi and Ashiq have remained resolute in their faith and have prayed daily for their release, and today God has answered their prayers," he added.

Chowdhry said Bibi was "unwell" after being held in isolation for nearly a decade.

"She must be treated with utmost care and receive appropriate medical care now she is free," he said.

"The Pakistani government must ensure Asia and her family are compensated for the loss to their freedom and the fragile safety they have had to suffer under their auspices," he continued. "Moreover, moves must be made to reform or abrogate the infamous blasphemy laws of Pakistan."

Bibi's release was subsequently confirmed by Saiful Malook, the lawyer who represented her in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

"She was reunited with her family in Canada more than five hours ago," he told ucanews.com May 8.

Bibi, a mother of five, was sentenced to hang for allegedly insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, under Section 295C of the Penal Code.

A farmhand, she was accused of blasphemy in June 2009 following a dispute with Muslim co-workers, who objected to her drinking from a common water supply because she is a Christian. Bibi has always denied the allegation.

For her own safety, she had been held in solitary confinement since November 2010, when she was convicted, and while she was incarcerated she saw sunlight for just two hours a month.

Both before and after her acquittal, Islamic extremists have been vocal in demanding that she be hanged.

Extremists also murdered two senior politicians who championed her cause. Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in 2011 and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, was gunned down two months later.

Bibi failed in her 2016 appeal against conviction at Pakistan's High Court, but in October 2018, she was exonerated by the Supreme Court.

Her release was initially held up by a petition to the Supreme Court submitted by Tehreek-e-Labbaik, an extremist group linked to the Taliban.

The petition was dismissed in January, yet Bibi's family was forced to wait three months before authorities released her.

Reports in the British media blamed the delay on the reluctance of the Pakistani army to agree to the release, amid the fear that she would be publicly critical of her treatment.

Paul Coleman of ADF International, a faith-based legal advocacy organization that advocated at the U.N. for Bibi's release, said he was delighted that she was free.

"Sadly, Asia Bibi's case is not an isolated incident but testifies to the plight that many Christians and other religious minorities experience in Pakistan today," he said.

"While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Pakistani constitution, many face severe persecution and denial of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly," he said.

"Blasphemy laws directly violate international law," he added. "All people have the right to freely choose, and live out, their faith. We, therefore, urge all governments to uphold this right by ceasing enforcement and initiating repeal of their blasphemy laws."

- - -

Coverage of international religious freedom issues by Catholic News Service is supported in part by Aid to the Church in Need-USA (www.acnusa.org).

- - -

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.

Catholic minorities can still change the world, pope says at audience

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 10:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Visiting the small Catholic communities in Bulgaria and North Macedonia offered an opportunity to encourage the faithful to remember God's miracle of being able to feed a multitude with just a few loaves and fishes, Pope Francis said.

He said the trip also gave him a chance to strengthen Christian unity with the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria and witness the extraordinary tenderness displayed by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata, who was born in Skopje, North Macedonia.

As is customary, Pope Francis reviewed his apostolic journey to the two southeast European nations May 5-7 during his first general audience after the trip.

Speaking to those gathered in St. Peter's Square May 8, the pope said he could feel "the strong spiritual presence of St. Mother Teresa" accompany him in North Macedonia.

"We see in this small yet strong woman," he said, "the image of the church in that land and in other peripheries of the world, a small community that, with the grace of Christ, becomes a welcoming home where many can find rest," he said.

The pope said he was struck by the way the sisters of the Missionary of Charity saw themselves as sisters and mothers of every person they ministered to with enormous tenderness.

"Many times, we Christians lose this dimension of tenderness," becoming too serious and "sour," he said.

An act of charity that lacks love and tenderness would be like tossing someone "a glass of vinegar. No. Charity is joyful, not sour," he said, and the missionaries are a beautiful example of how to welcome and serve others with tender love, he said.

He said he urged young people of all faiths to dream big and "get in the game" like their compatriot, St. Teresa.

He also praised the way the country welcomed and assisted so many migrants and refugees.

"Immigrants create problems for them, but they welcome them and love them, and the problems get resolved. This is a great thing about these people," who deserve an applause, he said.

The pope encouraged the nation's Catholic minority to never doubt the importance of their gifts before the big problems in the church and the world. They are like the tiny bit of yeast that can leaven so much bread because God's mystery and miracle is at work -- Jesus in the Eucharist is the "seed of new life for all of humanity."

Pope Francis said his visit to Bulgaria gave him great joy by taking one step further on the path of fraternity by meeting Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neophyte and members of the Holy Synod.

"In fact, our vocation and mission as Christians is to be a sign and instrument of unity, and we can be that with the help of the Holy Spirit, putting what unites us before what divided or still divides us."

The pope mentioned his moment of prayer before an image of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, two brothers who knew how to use their culture with creativity in proclaiming the Gospel.

"Today we also need such passionate and creative evangelizers so that the Gospel may reach all those who still do not know it and can irrigate anew those lands where ancient Christian roots have withered."

 

- - -

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

Pope says study on women deacons was inconclusive

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 5:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM NORTH MACEDONIA (CNS) -- The commission Pope Francis appointed to study the history and identity of women deacons did not reach a unanimous conclusion about whether deaconesses in the early church were "ordained" or formally "blessed," the pope said.

"What is fundamental is that there was no certainty that there was an ordination with the same form and same aim as the ordination of men," the pope told reporters flying with him from North Macedonia to Rome May 7.

Pope Francis spent just under half an hour on the short flight answering questions, including about the study of women deacons he commissioned in August 2013.

After the six men and six women scholars on the commission finished their work, he said, there was "some agreement," but not on the crucial question of whether women were ordained or solemnly blessed like abbesses are.

"Some say there are doubts," the pope said. "Well, then, let's study some more. I don't have a problem with that."

At a May 2016 meeting with the women's International Union of Superiors General, leaders of women's religious orders, one of them had asked the pope, "What prevents the church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter?"

The pope had told the sisters that his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the New Testament were not ordained like permanent deacons are. Mainly, he had said, it appeared that they assisted with the baptism by immersion of other women, with anointing women and with giving witness on behalf of women seeking a dissolution of their marriage because their husbands beat them.

However, the pope had promised to set up the commission, and two of the scholars said in January that they had completed their work. The pope did not tell reporters what steps, if any, would come next.

Although the flight was only 90 minutes and he took only four questions, Pope Francis wanted to share with reporters two moments he described as particularly "touching" during the May 5-7 trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The first, he said, was giving first Communion to 245 children in Rakovski, Bulgaria, May 6, which made him think back to his own first Communion.

And, he said, he was moved seeing Missionaries of Charity in Skopje, North Macedonia, where St. Teresa of Kolkata was born, and noticing the meekness and tenderness of the sisters with the poor.

"Today we are used to insulting each other, aren't we? One politician insults the other; a neighbor insults the other. Even in families people insult each other," he said. "I don't know if I can say there is a 'culture of insult,' but insults are a weapon always at hand."

Instead, he said, people should be inspired by the way the Missionaries of Charity treat each person as if he or she were Jesus.

In the context of the trip's focus on ecumenism and especially Catholic-Orthodox relations in the two predominantly Orthodox nations, Pope Francis told reporters that while formal relations can be tense at times, "I can truly say the patriarchs I've encountered are men of God."

Catholics and Orthodox, he said, cannot claim to believe in and adore "the Holy Trinity without uniting hands as brothers and sisters."

Confirming that the reporter asking the question was Croatian, Pope Francis also mentioned the ongoing Catholic-Serbian Orthodox tensions over the sainthood cause of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. Cardinal Stepinac remains a national hero for Croats, but not for many Serbian Orthodox and some Jewish groups, who have accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer.

"He was a virtuous man and for this reason, the church beatified him," Pope Francis said. "But at a certain point in the canonization process, there were points that hadn't been clarified, historical points. And, I who must sign the decree of canonization, with my responsibility, I prayed, I reflected, I asked for advice, and I saw that I needed to ask for help from (Serbian Orthodox Patriarch) Irinej."

Together the Vatican and the patriarch set up a commission to study Blessed Stepinac because "for Irinej and for me, the only concern was for the truth," the pope said. "What good is a decree of sainthood if the truth is not clear?"

The commission ended its work in mid-2017, "but now other points are being studied," the pope said.

Another journalist asked the 82-year-old pope the source of the strength and stamina needed for his trips abroad.

"First of all, I have to tell you that I don't go to witches," the pope said, laughing. "I don't know, really. It's a gift from God. When I am in a country I forget everything else. ... I'm just there."

"I don't get tired during the trips, but I do afterward," he said. "I ask the Lord to help me be faithful, to serve him in the work that these trips are, so that the trips aren't tourism -- I ask that."

"But also, I don't do much work, you know," he said, smiling.

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

- - -

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.

Tolkien fan gets to direct a movie on his life

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 4:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fox Searchlight

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dome Karukoski shared one critical, albeit sad, boyhood link with J.R.R. Tolkien: being fatherless.

Karukoski, then 12 years old, grew enamored of Tolkien's books. "I was bullied, without a father. I was alone, and those stories, they became friends to me," he recalled. "I've been a fan of Tolkien for 30 years," Karukoski added. "It's always touching on a very personal level: finding a friend, and finding friends in need of friends."

Karukoski directed the new movie "Tolkien," which chronicles Tolkien's adolescence through his time as a family man prior to the astonishing literary success he enjoyed with "The Hobbit" and many future works, including "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion."

But to be a Tolkien fan requires reading. A lot of reading. Tolkien, a Catholic, was prolific; between books he even translated the Book of Jonah for the Jerusalem Bible in 1966. After his death in 1973, Tolkien's children permitted the posthumous release of unpublished manuscripts and alternative versions of previously published works.

"I've read almost all the books, most of them twice," Karukoski told Catholic News Service during a May 6 telephone interview from New York, where he was promoting "Tolkien," although he confesses he hasn't read his entire output -- yet. "There's one on my night table. It will be a lifelong process, understanding his work more thoroughly every time you read it. Rereading books, the books that he was writing at that time (in which the movie is set), I found other layers in those books. They were layers I hadn't seen before."

He added, "When I was young, 'Lord of the Rings' was my favorite book. Now it's 'The Silmarillion.'"

In making the movie, "we tried to be very true" to Tolkien's Catholicism," Karukoski said. "We actually had more scenes with Father Francis (Colm Meaney) with young Tolkien," although they didn't make the final cut. He added he filmed a scene intercutting the reception of Communion with the death on World War I battlefields -- Tolkien served in the British army but bouts of trench fever kept him away from the front -- and "people felt it was boring," he said.

"Religion is so internal, it's difficult to visualize. It's like watching an encyclopedia," Karukoski added. At one point in "Tolkien," the title character "says he's a bad Catholic. How do you portray that?" he mused. "One way is showing he's looking to have (an) answer and he cites Christ. And looking for an answer, and he doesn't get one. I wonder how many people get that" from watching the movie.

It's also important to note, Karukoski told CNS, that "The Lord of the Rings," perhaps Tolkien's most profoundly Catholic epic, "comes 20 years after the film's time."

Although Tolkien himself was annoyed that the young adults of the 1960s who fancied themselves part of an anti-war counterculture embraced his works, "the film itself is quite anti-war, and in that is a pacifist declaration," he noted. "In these times of 2019, it still feels that war is an option."

Disabusing the notion that war is a positive thing in "Tolkien" is "vital that the film shows that," Karukoski said. Tolkien and his friends "wanted to change the world with art: the poet, composer, painter. All these beautiful souls that would have flourished, their world is gone because of war." Tolkien himself, he added, had his personal problem with his son, Michael, going to World War II, because Tolkien had lost so many friends in World War I.

Moviemaking is hard enough, and for Karukoski it's tougher when the subjects are real-life figures. "People expect more fantasy or they expect less fantasy. There were people who expected more of a Catholic priest figure: 'You are whitewashing Catholicism. The priest should be the voice.' People want to see more religion. People want to see more change. The only way to do a film is to do it as true to yourself. Tolkien meant so much to me when I was 12 or 13. What I can satisfy is my own appreciation of him."

While "by turns lyrical and moving," "Tolkien" "may not be the biography that every fan ... is looking for," said John Mulderig, CNS assistant director of media reviews, in his critique. With Meaney's Father Francis character the only on-screen link between Tolkien and his faith, he added, "this may leave Catholic moviegoers feeling somewhat cheated, though it's not clear how strong a hold religion had on Tolkien in these early stages of his life."

"Tolkien" received a classification of A-II -- adults and adolescents -- for some harsh combat violence, a few gruesome images and a bit of slightly bawdy humor.

 

- - -

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

Update: Pope Francis called Jean Vanier to thank him before his death

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 4:06pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jean Vanier Association

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM NORTH MACEDONIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis told reporters May 7 he had been kept informed about Jean Vanier's failing health and had phoned him a week before his death.

"He listened to me, but he could barely speak. I wanted to express my gratitude for his witness," Pope Francis said May 7, the day Vanier died in Paris.

"He was a man who was able to read the Christian call in the mystery of death, of the cross, of illness, the mystery of those who are despised and discarded," the pope said.

But, also, Pope Francis said, Vanier stood up for those "who risk being condemned to death even before being born."

"Simply put, I want to thank him and thank God for having given us this man with such a great witness," the pope said.

The death of Vanier, whose ministry helped improve the lives of developmentally disabled people in dozens of countries, drew prayers and words of condolence from church leaders around the world.

Vanier, who died of thyroid cancer early May 7 at the age of 90, founded L'Arche in 1964, allowing people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them to share their lives while living in community in an atmosphere of compassion.

In Paris, Archbishop Michel Aupetit said he had recently visited Vanier in Jeanne Garnier hospital in the French capital.

"He was bright and joyful, all abandoned in the hands of God, like a child who will return to the Father's house," Archbishop Aupetit said in a statement from the Paris Archdiocese. "His life was consecrated to testify of the beauty of every man in this world and first of the most wounded. I share the sorrow and the hope of his relatives, and I fondly bless all the members of the Ark and Faith and Light."

The president of the French bishops' conference also paid tribute to Vanier, saying he "has been touched by human fragility."

Bishop Georges Pontier of Marseille credited Vanier for developing L'Arche communities, which "radiate ... a joy, a friendship and a human depth that we need so much. These are places of hope."

"Let us entrust to the mercy and tenderness of God the one who has just left and pray also for all the members of the communities of the Ark, as well as the faith and light communities marked by this death," the bishop added in his statement.

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins said Vanier "taught us to value the dignity of every individual."

"In a world that increasingly pushes us to gauge success and worth by what we own or who we know, he reminded us that authentic love, friendship and community are what we really need," the cardinal said.

"May his example of peace and gentle care live on through those he inspired for years to come," he added in a statement. "We give thanks to God for his life."

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Vanier "lived a life dedicated to the simple but inviolable belief that each of us is created in God's image and that every single life is sacred and deserving of respect, protection and, most of all, love."

Anderson presented Vanier with the Gaudium et Spes Award, the highest honor of the Knights of Columbus, in 2005, just hours after the death of St. John Paul II.

Anderson described Vanier as a friend and philosopher who was also a man of action.

"We must now continue his mission. We must rededicate our lives to the service and protection of others. We must love as Jean loved," he said.

Bishops from England and Wales, meeting in Spain for a "study week," heard of Vanier's death "with deep emotion," said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

"For over half a century, he has inspired an entirely new appreciation of the gift of people with learning disabilities and revealed the most profound heart of human community," Cardinal Nichols said in a statement. "We pray for him and his beloved L'Arche communities at this moment of loss. May he rest in peace."

Halfway around the world, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, president of the Australian bishops' conference, tweeted that "Going down to the bedrock of human dignity, #JeanVanier rose above all the ideological dogfights ... the world feels a bit smaller, colder and darker without him. RIP... as he surely will."

Hundreds of other tributes were tweeted from people who had met Vanier, participated in one of the communities emerging from L'Arche or Faith and Light or joined the retreats he led.

L'Arche ("the ark" in French) stresses the dignity and value of human life. L'Arche communities, numbering more than 100, exist in at least 37 countries.

Vanier also co-founded Faith and Light, an international organization of small groups that support and celebrate people with developmental disabilities and their families.

L'Arche International leader Stephan Posner said Vanier "left an extraordinary legacy."

"His community of Trosly, the communities of L'Arche, Faith and Light, many other movements, and countless thousands of people have cherished his words and benefited from his vision," Posner said in a statement.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Dennis Sadowski.

- - -

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.

Georgia governor signs heartbeat bill restricting state abortions

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 1:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

By

ATLANTA (CNS) -- Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation May 7 to ban abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks.

The bill's signing comes after weeks of protests and amid outcry for legal action against it.

"We will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life," the governor said about expected legal challenges to the new law.

If it is not blocked in court, the law would take effect at the beginning of next year. Current state law allows abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy.

The legislation makes exceptions to save the life of the mother and in the case of rape and incest if a police report is filed. It also makes exceptions to allow abortions when a fetus has serious medical issues.

According to The Associated Press, Republican Rep. Ed Setzler, the bill's author, said the legislation was one of "common sense" to "balance the difficult circumstances women find themselves in with the basic right to life of a child."

In response, Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan said: "there's nothing balanced about it: It's an all-out abortion ban" and added that she was worried the new law would push obstetricians away from practicing in Georgia.

Similar heartbeat bans have been signed into law in Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio. A federal judge has temporarily blocked this law in Kentucky.

The Georgia legislation also prompted a response from Hollywood long before it was signed into law.

A group of 50 celebrities, led by activist actress Alyssa Milano, signed a letter in late March declaring a boycott of the state's film industry if the bill passed. Ashley Bratcher, lead actress in the pro-life movie "Unplanned" and native Georgian, responded in an open letter to Milano saying: "In Georgia, we care just as much about being pro-life as being pro-film. We don't believe in putting a price tag on human life."

The pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony List applauded the actions of the Legislature in the face of high-profile pressure. President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement that "Georgia lawmakers courageously stood up to Hollywood bullies by sending this compassionate bill to Gov. Kemp for his signature. ... The beating heart of a vulnerable unborn child should awaken the conscience of our nation to the violence of abortion."

 

- - -

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

Pope draws lessons from Mother Teresa in city of her birth

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 7:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (CNS) -- Pope Francis went to the tiny Balkan nation of North Macedonia to pay tribute to a tiny saint who accomplished big things: St. Teresa of Kolkata.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Ganxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in Skopje Aug. 26, 1910, so after paying the obligatory formal visit to North Macedonia's president, Pope Francis went May 7 to the memorial and museum built on the site of the church where she was baptized. The church was later destroyed in an earthquake.

"Moved by the love of God," the pope told the president, Mother Teresa "made love of neighbor the supreme law of her life."

At the memorial, Pope Francis did not speak about the saintly founder of the Missionaries of Charity, but after praying silently before her relics, he praised God for the gift of her life and prayed for her intercession for North Macedonia.

Pope Francis also prayed that God would give Christians the grace "to become signs of love and hope in our own day when so many are poor, abandoned, marginalized and migrants."

Among the guests present at the memorial were dozens of Missionaries of Charity, about 100 of the people they serve in Skopje, and two of Mother Teresa's cousins, the Vatican said.

Celebrating Mass in the nearby Macedonia Square on a brisk spring morning, Pope Francis drew people's attention to human hungers -- the hunger for bread, but also the hunger for truth, for God and for love.

"How well Mother Teresa knew all this and desired to build her life on the twin pillars of Jesus incarnate in the Eucharist and Jesus incarnate in the poor," he said. "Love received and love given" marked her journey from Skopje to India and kept her going.

Too many people, he said, "have become accustomed to eating the stale bread of disinformation," and so they end up being prisoners of a worldview that makes them either indifferent to others or downright hostile.

Christians must never be afraid to tell God that they are hungry "for an experience of fraternity in which indifference, disparagement and contempt will not fill our tables or take pride of place in our homes," he said. "We are hungry, Lord, for encounters where your word can raise hope, awaken tenderness and sensitize the heart by opening paths of transformation and conversion."

MORE TO COME

 

- - -

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.

Early evacuation in India spares more than 1 million from deadly cyclone

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 3:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/R. Narendra, Reuters

By

NEW DELHI (CNS) -- A powerful cyclone ripped through eastern India and sideswiped Bangladesh, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 30 deaths.

Authorities said the evacuation of 1.2 million people from more than 10,000 villages prior to Cyclone Fani's landfall May 3 prevented a larger death toll and minimized injuries, ucanews.com reported.

The immense storm killed at least 29 people in India -- mostly in Odisha, a poor coastal state -- and at least five are reported dead from the storm in neighboring Bangladesh.

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, India, commended the government's actions, saying the evacuations "reduced the death toll significantly."

Calling Fani the worst cyclone to hit the area in two decades, the archbishop told ucanews.com that winds had destroyed thatched houses and downed trees, utility poles and telecommunication networks.

Father Purushottam Nayak, archdiocesan spokesman, said many parish churches, church-run schools and convents sustained serious damage.

He said the archbishop's house and a convent in Bhubaneswar, about 37 miles north of the city of Puri along India's northeastern coast where the storm came ashore, also were damaged.

State officials told Indian media that a massive relief effort is underway and that teams of emergency workers are working to restore basic services including electricity, water and mobile phone connectivity.

"We have been living in the dark since May 3. We have no electricity, proper drinking water or other basic facilities," Archbishop Barwa said May 6. Archdiocesan staff "are unable to contact our parishes, religious houses because all telecommunication lines have been destroyed," he added.

"I cannot even send people to affected areas because all road and rail traffic is disrupted," he said.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, was working with Caritas India to assess which areas needed the most assistance. The agency was focusing on Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Bhubaneshwar to identify needs and gaps in assistance.

In neighboring Bangladesh, authorities evacuated 1.6 million people to cyclone shelters and allocated supplies before the storm hit.

The storm battered villages in southern coastal regions, said Sumon Malakar, a development worker based at Shyamnagar.

"Many people have lost their homes as the storm smashed river embankments and the flooding then inundated their villages," Malakar told ucanews.com.

Caritas Khulna has been assisting those affected by the storm, said Jibon. Das, regional director for the church's charitable agency.

"Caritas volunteers warned and led people to 245 cyclone shelters set up by Caritas before the storm struck," Das said.

"We have distributed dry food to some 600 families," he added. "An assessment of damages is being done, and rehabilitation projects will start once the reporting is complete and funding received."

- - -

Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/early-evacuation-spares-many-from-deadly-cyclone-fani/85120

 

- - -

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

Pope names relator general, special secretaries for Amazon synod

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 11:26am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has chosen Brazil's Cardinal Claudio Hummes to serve as relator general of next year's Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

The nomination of the 84-year-old retired Archbishop of Sao Paulo was announced at the Vatican on May 4. The relator is responsible for providing a comprehensive outline of the synod's theme at the beginning of the meeting and for summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.

Scheduled for Oct. 6-27, the synod will focus on "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

Cardinal Hummes currently serves as president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, a Catholic organization founded by Caritas Internationalis that "promotes the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon."

The Vatican also announced that Pope Francis had chosen two special secretaries for the synod.

The secretaries who will assist at the synod are Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, the apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, and Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

When he announced the synod in 2017, Pope Francis said it would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

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

After offering instruction, pope gives first Communion to 245 children

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 6:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

RAKOVSKI, Bulgaria (CNS) -- In the Catholic heart of Bulgaria, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for 245 children receiving their first Communion and thanked them for helping him, their parents and grandparents remember their own first Communion.

"Today you have made it possible for us to relive that joy and to celebrate Jesus, present in the bread of life," the pope told the children May 6 in Rakovski's Church of the Sacred Heart.

While only about 1 percent of Bulgaria's population is Catholic, in Rakovski the vast majority of the city's 27,000 people are Catholic.

"Jesus is alive and here with us; that is why we can encounter him today in the Eucharist," the pope said. "We do not see him with our physical eyes, but we do see him with the eyes of faith."

After he read his prepared homily, Pope Francis focused on the first communicants, dressed in white robes and seated in the front rows.

"Are you happy to receive your first Communion?" he asked them. "Yes," the braver ones said out loud. "Are you sure?" the pope asked. "Yes!" they all shouted.

"In the homily I said something I want you to remember forever," the pope told the children. "I spoke of the ID card of a Christian. I said our ID card is this: God is our father. Jesus is our brother. The church is our family, and we are brothers and sisters. Our law is love."

To drive the points home, Pope Francis had the children repeat each line after him -- or rather, after the translator who was telling the children in Bulgarian what the pope had said in Italian.

At one point, either to test the translator or the children, the pope said, "We are enemies." When it was about to be repeated, he said, "Are we enemies?" Of course, they shouted, "No."

After the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, the pope had more words for the children. "Now you will receive Jesus," he told them. "Do not let yourselves be distracted; think only of Jesus. Come to the altar to receive Jesus in silence; silence your hearts."

The pope, dipping the consecrated host in the consecrated wine, personally gave Communion to each of the children, while other priests brought the Eucharist to another 500 people inside the church and an estimated 10,000 people gathered on the church grounds for the Mass.

The Vatican press office said it was the first time on a papal trip that Pope Francis had administered first Communion.

MORE TO COME

 

- - -

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.

Roses and the cross: Pope meets refugees in Bulgaria

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 4:59am

By Cindy Wooden

SOFIA, Bulgaria (CNS) -- Twelve boys and girls wearing white T-shirts and dark pants sang for Pope Francis at a refugee center on the outskirts of Sofia.

Their songs were cheerful and the drawings they gave the pope were chock full of smiles and hearts, but their parents' letters to Pope Francis contained appeals for help. Ismael Taha Saber, a 42-year-old father of six from Mosul, Iraq, was one of those who wrote to the pope for help finding a permanent home elsewhere after being in Bulgaria for three years.

In their hair, the little girls wore red roses, a flower for which Bulgaria is famous. But none of the 50 refugees the pope met May 6 had intended to make Bulgaria their permanent home.

And some Bulgarians don't want them in the country either.

The country, one of the poorest in the European Union by any measure, was literally overwhelmed with refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq and other countries in 2015-16 when there was a crackdown on the Mediterranean Sea route to Western Europe.

After the children sang for Pope Francis at the Vrazhdebna refugee center, the pope thanked them and told the parents that their children "carry joy in your journey, a journey that can bring suffering, the suffering of leaving a country and trying to integrate in another."

"Today the world of migrants and refugees is a kind of cross, the cross of humanity. It's a cross many people are suffering," the pope told them.

The Council of Europe said there were 154,000 migrants in Bulgaria at the end of 2017 -- about 2.2 percent of the population, which is declining because of the number of Bulgarians moving abroad in search of work.

Political tension over the presence of migrants and refugees led the Bulgarian government to refuse in December to sign the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a nonbinding cooperation agreement strongly supported by Pope Francis.

According to Caritas Sofia, the archdiocesan Catholic charity, some 2,500 people sought asylum in Bulgaria in 2018, almost half of them in the last three months of the year, indicating a new wave of migration.

Caritas Sofia, with assistance from the U.S. Catholic Relief Services and UNICEF, runs language and art classes for the children and their parents. They also operate St. Anna Integration Center, which includes an employment service and provides assistance so families can access health care, documents and schooling for their children.

Silsila Mahbub, a Caritas volunteer, told the pope, "All of us men and women are children of God, independently of race or religious confession. We Catholics want them to experience, in a concrete way, the love of God."

 

- - -

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.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

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

Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved.
This information may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Comment Here