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Pope to honor fallen soldiers at American cemetery near Rome

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 11:22am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will commemorate all those who have died in war by celebrating Mass at an Italian cemetery where thousands of American soldiers killed during World War II are buried.

The Vatican announced Oct. 6 that the pope will celebrate the feast of All Souls' Day, Nov. 2, at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, 45 miles south of Rome.

The Mass will commemorate "all who have fallen in wars," the Vatican said.

More than 7,800 members of the U.S. military are buried at the 77-acre cemetery. Many of the soldiers died in 1943 during Operation Husky, the Allies' campaign to liberate the island of Sicily from the Axis powers.

The Allied victory led to the toppling of Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and weakened Nazi Germany's foothold in Europe.

After the Mass, Pope Francis will visit the Fosse Ardeatine monument, the site of a mass execution in which 300 Italian civilians were killed by Nazi troops in 1944.

Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI have each visited the memorial and paid their respects to those murdered in the massacre.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Keeping the garden green: Vatican uses essential oils on outdoor art

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 9:56am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Roughly half of the Vatican's 110 acres is devoted to gardens, and a major project is underway to keep them as "green" as possible.

It's not about watering the plants, although that was a big concern this year with a drought in Italy.

The Vatican Museums and the Vatican City governor's office -- which includes the gardeners -- are involved in a five-year project to develop ecologically friendly cleaning agents and techniques to clean, restore and maintain the 570 works of art on display outside. Those works include fountains, statutes and stone plaques.

The project involves art experts and biologists, including several dedicated to studying medicinal plants and essential oils extracted from plants.

At a daylong scientific conference at the Vatican Museums Oct. 3, the scientists and restorers presented their work. Showing a slide of a gardener wearing a hood, jumpsuit, mask and gloves, one researcher told the audience they want such a picture to be a thing of the past.

The artwork needs to be conserved, but without harming the plants, animals and birds who live in the gardens or the men and women who work there, researchers said.

For the Vatican, the project is not just about killing bacteria, removing fungus and algae, controlling rust and chipping off calcium deposits. The entire process is being meticulously documented -- from the original state of degradation to the formulae of substances applied and the long-term tracking of their effectiveness -- in the hopes of being able to offer other cities and institutions "green" methods for preserving outdoor art.

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

Pope pledges church commitment to fight child abuse online, offline

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 9:44am

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Acknowledging how often the Catholic Church failed to protect children from sexual abuse, Pope Francis pledged "to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity," including online.

"As all of us know, in recent years the church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children: Extremely grave facts have come to light, for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion," the pope said Oct. 6.

Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican participants from an international congress on protecting children in a digital world. Hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, the congress Oct. 3-6 was designed to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to better protect minors.

At the beginning of the audience, Muireann O'Carroll, a 16-year-old from Ireland, summarized the congress conclusions "on behalf of all children."

Participants appealed to governments, church leaders and tech companies to do everything possible to remove online images of children and young people being sexually abused, identify and help those children, and end cyberbullying and "sextortion," which is using sexual images to blackmail someone. They also asked people involved in health care to increase the training needed to know when a young patient is being abused and how to help them.

Pope Francis told the group that as a result of the "painful experiences" of seeing some of its clergy abuse children, but also as a result of "the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world."

The 80-year-old pope said that with the explosive growth of digital technology, "we are living in a new world that, when we were young, we could hardly have imagined."

"If, on the one hand, we are filled with real wonder and admiration at the new and impressive horizons opening up before us," he said, on the other hand its quick and widespread development has created new problems.

"We rightly wonder if we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp, and whether we are doing enough to keep them in check," Pope Francis told the group.

The "extremely troubling things on the net," he said, include "the spread of ever more extreme pornography, since habitual use raises the threshold of stimulation; the increasing phenomenon of sexting between young men and women who use social media; and the growth of online bullying, a true form of moral and physical attack on the dignity of other young people."

In addition, he said, there is the phenomena of sextortion and the solicitation online of minors for sexual purposes, "to say nothing of the grave and appalling crimes of online trafficking in persons, prostitution and even the commissioning and live viewing of acts of rape and violence against minors in other parts of the world."

"The net has its dark side -- the 'dark net' -- where evil finds ever new, effective and pervasive ways to act and to expand," the pope said. "The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net."

The problem is huge and global, the pope said, and no one should underestimate the harm children and young people face.

"Neurobiology, psychology and psychiatry have brought to light the profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children, the psychological problems that emerge as they grow older, the dependent behaviors and situations, and genuine enslavement that result from a steady diet of provocative or violent images," he noted.

"The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes," he said. "We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors."

While the internet has given people greater access to information and a vehicle for self-expression, it is not simply "a realm of unlimited freedom" without consequence, the pope said. The freedom of the internet "also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities," often with children as their victims.

"This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom," Pope Francis insisted. "It has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global."

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

Pope pledges church commitment to fight child abuse on- and offline

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 9:44am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Acknowledging how often the Catholic Church failed to protect children from sexual abuse, Pope Francis pledged "to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity," including online.

"As all of us know, in recent years the church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children: Extremely grave facts have come to light, for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion," the pope said Oct. 6.

Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican participants from an international congress on protecting children in a digital world. Hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, the congress Oct. 3-6 was designed to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to better protect minors.

At the beginning of the audience, Muiireann O'Carroll, a 16-year-old from Ireland, summarized the congress conclusions "on behalf of all children."

Participants appealed to governments, church leaders and tech companies to do everything possible to remove online images of children and young people being sexually abused, identify and help those children, and end cyberbullying and "sextortion," which is using sexual images to blackmail someone. They also asked people involved in health care to increase the training needed to know when a young patient is being abused and how to help them.

Pope Francis told the group that as a result of the "painful experiences" of seeing some of its clergy abuse children, but also as a result of "the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world."

The 80-year-old pope said that with the explosive growth of digital technology, "we are living in a new world that, when we were young, we could hardly have imagined."

"If, on the one hand, we are filled with real wonder and admiration at the new and impressive horizons opening up before us," he said, on the other hand its quick and widespread development has created new problems.

"We rightly wonder if we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp, and whether we are doing enough to keep them in check," Pope Francis told the group.

The "extremely troubling things on the net," he said, include "the spread of ever more extreme pornography, since habitual use raises the threshold of stimulation; the increasing phenomenon of sexting between young men and women who use social media; and the growth of online bullying, a true form of moral and physical attack on the dignity of other young people."

In addition, he said, there is the phenomena of sextortion and the solicitation online of minors for sexual purposes, "to say nothing of the grave and appalling crimes of online trafficking in persons, prostitution and even the commissioning and live viewing of acts of rape and violence against minors in other parts of the world."

"The net has its dark side -- the 'dark net' -- where evil finds ever new, effective and pervasive ways to act and to expand," the pope said. "The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net."

The problem is huge and global, the pope said, and no one should underestimate the harm children and young people face.

"Neurobiology, psychology and psychiatry have brought to light the profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children, the psychological problems that emerge as they grow older, the dependent behaviors and situations, and genuine enslavement that result from a steady diet of provocative or violent images," he noted.

"The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes," he said. "We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors."

While the internet has given people greater access to information and a vehicle for self-expression, it is not simply "a realm of unlimited freedom" without consequence, the pope said. The freedom of the internet "also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities," often with children as their victims.

"This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom," Pope Francis insisted. "It has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global."

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

Eliminating any difference between sexes 'is not right,' pope says

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 12:10pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While societies must find a way to overcome the subjugation of women, pretending there are no differences between men and women or even using technology to change a person's sex is not the answer, Pope Francis said.

Using science "to radically eliminate any difference between the sexes, and, as a result, the covenant between man and woman, is not right," the pope said Oct. 5, opening the Pontifical Academy for Life's general assembly.

"The biological and psychological manipulation of sexual difference, which biomedical technology now presents as a simple matter of personal choice -- which it is not -- risks eliminating the source of energy that nourishes the covenant between man and woman and makes it creative and fruitful," the pope said.

Pope Francis offered several reflections for the academy's consideration of humanity's relationship with technology, particularly in a culture he described as egocentric and "obsessively centered on the sovereignty of man -- as a species and as individuals -- in relation to all of reality."

"This approach is not harmless: It forms a person who is always looking at himself in the mirror, who can't look others, or the world, in the eye," the pope said. "This approach has negative consequences for all one's affections and relationships in life."

Although real scientific and technological progress should "inspire more humane policies," the pope said that men, women and children today suffer "with bitterness and sorrow from the false promises of technocratic materialism."

Relationships are essential, he said, noting that God entrusted "creation and history to the covenant between man and woman," which is seen especially in marriage and the transmission of new life.

But the partnership between men and women goes beyond individual families, he said. "It is an invitation to become responsible for the world, in culture and politics, in the world of work and in the economy, and in the church as well."

Meeting new challenges "is not simply about equal opportunity or mutual recognition," he said. "Man and woman are called on not only to speak about love, but to speak to each other, with love, about what they must do to ensure that our lives together can be lived in the light of God's love for every creature.

"Speak to each other, ally with each other, because neither man nor woman can shoulder this responsibility without the other," he said.

And, in a culture where some people consider the transmission of new life "a degradation of woman or a threat to societal well-being," he said, the church is called to affirm new life "as a gift."

"Generating life gives us new life," he said, it "makes us richer."

Compassion for children and the elderly is also crucial, the pope said, because there are "areas of the soul and of human sensitivity that demand to be heard and acknowledged, guarded and appreciated, by individuals and by the community."

Pope Francis thanked the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life for their commitment to defending the "responsible accompaniment of human life from conception and throughout its years to its natural end" and engaging in dialogue with people and scholars with different views to "bring a more authentic wisdom about life to the attention of all peoples."

"Open and fruitful dialogue can and must be established with the many who are seeking the true meaning of life," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Service vs. selfishness: Pope preaches potential of 'noble' politics

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis had been lecturing about politics lately, reminding people that it is a noble calling, but one that may require a politician to compromise or set aside some of his or her goals for the good of their whole community, entire nation or even the world.

The pope's recent remarks about the role of politics in overcoming fear, in gathering people together and in serving the common good come at a time when "an often myopic particularism is multiplying," wrote Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Vian's editorial was published Oct. 2 after a weekend of speeches by Pope Francis explaining "healthy politics" and what the church means when it says being a politician can be a "noble" profession.

For Vian, and for many other observers, it was a reaction to the spreading "political particularism," or a politics focused on a small group of people and on defending not only their rights, but their privileges.

Meeting with Italian mayors Sept. 30 at the Vatican and with the citizens of Cesena, Italy, in their main square the next day, the pope spoke instead of politics as a concerted effort to ensure that as the rights and opportunities of one's constituents are protected and promoted, so are the rights and opportunities of all people and even future generations.

"In recent times, politics seems to have withdrawn in the face of the aggression and pervasiveness of other forms of power, such as financial or media power," the pope said in Cesena. "We must reaffirm the rights of healthy politics, its independence, its specific suitability for serving the public good, acting to diminish inequality and promote with concrete measures the good of the family and to form a solid framework of rights and obligations -- both -- to make it effective for all."

Giuseppe Casale, who teaches contemporary political thought at Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, said he believes Pope Francis and other church leaders see a "lethargy" in politics today with politicians "abdicating the faculty of making choices that are both courageous and responsible." Instead, they "ratify the approaches" dictated by the global economy and transnational finance.

John White, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America, said that just as individuals choose sides in politics, so do "interests with a stake in a political outcome that favors them. Those who lack power or are demonized, or both, become victims of this new, zero-sum politics."

Pope Francis' recent remarks about politics, he said, can be read as a response to "a coarsening of public dialogue in many countries, including the United States. American politics has become completely polarized in recent years, and that polarization has been deliberately exploited by Donald Trump."

Both with the Italian mayors and during his visit to Cesena and Bologna, Pope Francis highlighted treatment of migrants as a test of local governments' commitment to the true common good of the people in their cities and towns, urging civic leaders to open spaces where citizens and newcomers can meet, overcoming fear and working together for a better world for their children.

"The Catholic Church has long emphasized the importance of social justice and solidarity, an emphasis that was lost during the culture wars that dominated the latter part of the 20th century," White said in a written interview with Catholic News Service. "Pope Francis has rightly called attention to the importance of social justice, solidarity and mercy in an age where immigrants are scapegoated, and politics has become all about the 'other' -- i.e., demonizing one's political opponents, including immigrants from various countries, among others."

The church has consistently focused on serving the common good as the central responsibility of politics. Although politicians must answer to their supporters, attention paid to people outside that group, especially people in vulnerable situations, is what makes the difference between service and selfishness.

While winning an election may mean "all politics is local," the church's definition of the common good definitely is not.

"The church has always taught the fundamental equality of human beings and this transcends borders," V. Bradley Lewis, who teaches political philosophy at The Catholic University of America, told CNS. "Since the time of St. John XXIII the church has talked not just about the common good of nations, but about the universal common good. This too is the business of statesmanship."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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

Bible reading is devoting time to a loved one, pope says

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 10:02am

By Matthew Fowler

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The importance of the Bible in the life of Christians can be seen in the number of faithful around the world who risk prison and persecution just to possess and read the Bible, Pope Francis said.

"Many of our brothers and sisters are in prison on account of the word, and many more have shed their blood as a testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ," Pope Francis said Oct. 5 during a meeting with members of the church relations committee of the United Bible Societies.

Addressing members of the group, which translates, prints and distributes Bibles around the world, Pope Francis said that just as "we devote time to those we love," Christians must devote time to reading the word of God, "who desires to talk to us and offer us words of life eternal."

"It is vital that the church today go out to proclaim the Gospel to all, in all places, on all occasions, without delay, reluctance or fear," the pope said. "We do so in obedience to the Lord's missionary mandate, certain of his presence among us until the end of the world."

The power to share the Gospel effectively comes only when Christians "nourish ourselves at the table of the word," he said.

Pope Francis told the representatives of the United Bible Societies, a nondenominational organization, that Christians should work together to spread God's word and should pray together that God's will for the unity of Christians will be accomplished.

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

Las Vegas Catholic shrine an initial place of refuge for shooting victims

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 3:10pm

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer -- a white stucco church just off the Las Vegas Strip and dwarfed by giant hotels, casinos and flashing neon lights -- has long been a spiritual oasis for tourists.

The church, with a statue of Jesus, his arms outstretched, near its entrance, became a different source of refuge after the deadly mass shooting took place Oct. 1 just across the street.

Its parking lot became an immediate place of shelter for concertgoers fleeing the barrage of bullets that showered down onto the country music festival.

And hours later, a member of the Metropolitan Police Department asked a diocesan official about using the church space -- allowing some of the concertgoers to go inside and the police to set up a command post in the parking lot.

Father Bob Stoeckig, vicar general of Las Vegas, said a chancery employee went to the church later in the morning after the shooting took place and found various personal items in the parking lot including shoes, bloodied pieces of clothing and some personal items that people dropped as they fled.

"Near the doors of the church itself he found a few bullets that we believe ricocheted from the concert venue. None hit the building itself," he said in an Oct. 3 email to Catholic News Service.

He also said the shrine had been closed Oct. 2 and 3 so it could be used as a site to aid the police in completing their investigation.

The shrine, which opened in 1993, can seat 2,200, making it the biggest church in the diocese. It is not a parish and is primarily there to provide a spiritual home away from home to Catholic tourists who come through the city.

A profile of the $3.2 million church in The New York Times a year after it opened said the shrine draws thousands of worshippers a week, 80 percent of them tourists, and unlike most churches, the congregants are invited to put casino chips in the collection plate.

The story said a church worker was designated to make a run every few weeks to cash in the chips at the casinos and a Franciscan friar who once had that role was called "the chip monk."

The church is flanked by palm trees and the 30-story pyramid of Luxor Hotel and Casino is just behind it.

One statue on the front of the church property is a bronze statue of Jesus sitting on a rock surrounded by statues of children with his arms out as if he is playing with them.

Msgr. Gregory Gordon, pastor of St. Anne Church, about three miles north of the Las Vegas Strip, said the statue has a particular message in these trying days after the shooting that took at least 59 lives and left more than 500 people wounded.

He said Jesus is looking to the west, near the site where the shooting took place.

The priest said that when he recently saw the statue, he prayed that Jesus would look after all the children and bless those of all ages, since those attending the country music festival, that became the target of the deadly shooting, encompassed all ages.

"The group crossed many generations," he said. "And they were enjoying a peaceful time that was interrupted at the last moment."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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

Pope announces pre-synod meeting to listen to youths' hopes, doubts

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:00am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has invited Christian and non-Christian young people from around the world to a meeting in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018.

Before concluding his weekly general audience, the pope said the March 19-24, 2018, pre-synod meeting will be an opportunity for the church to listen to the hopes and concerns of young men and women.

"Through this journey, the church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people," Pope Francis said Oct. 4.

The theme chosen by the pope for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018, is: "Young people, faith and vocational discernment."

The general secretariat of the synod said the initiative "will allow young people to express their expectations and desires as well as their uncertainties and concerns in the complex affairs of today's world."

Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops' conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood, the general secretariat said.

The gathering also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and arts, who "are involved in helping young people discern their choices in life."

"The pre-synod meeting will enrich the consultation phase, which began with the publication of the preparatory document and its questionnaire, along with the launch of an online website containing a specific questionnaire for young people," the synod office said in a statement.

Conclusions drawn from the meeting, the general secretariat added, will be given to members of the Synod of Bishops "to encourage their reflection and in-depth study."

Young people attending the meeting also will take part in the Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 25, coinciding with local celebrations of World Youth Day.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Pope: True Christians must remain hopeful, not 'whiny and angry'

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 10:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Real hope lies in the proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection, not just with one's words but also in deeds, Pope Francis said.

Christians are called to be witnesses of the resurrection through "their way of welcoming, smiling and loving" instead of just "repeating memorized lines," the pope said Oct. 4 during his weekly general audience.

"Look," he said, "that's what a real Christian is like, not whiny and angry, but convinced by the power of the Resurrection that no evil is infinite, no night is without end, no person is permanently in error, no hatred is stronger than love."

Arriving later than usual, Pope Francis was quickly ushered around St. Peter's Square to greet the estimated 15,000 pilgrims, stopping only once to greet a crying child.

The pope continued his series of audience talks on Christian hope, reflecting on a reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, which describes the astonishment and disbelief of the disciples upon being visited by the risen Christ.

Christians are not "prophets of doom" but rather missionaries of hope who are tasked with proclaiming Jesus' death and resurrection, which is "the nucleus of Christian faith," Pope Francis said.

"If the Gospels ended at Jesus' burial, the history of this prophet would be added to the many biographies of heroic people who have given their lives for an ideal," the pope said. "The Gospel would then be an edifying and consoling book, but it would not be a proclamation of hope."

Instead, he continued, Jesus' resurrection is not only "beautiful news that is brought to everyone," but rather a powerful event that "transforms us by the power of the Holy Spirit."

However, at times proclaiming hope may come at the price of one's own life, as it did for the disciples, the pope said.

Recalling the lives of countless Christian martyrs who "did not abandon their people when the time of persecution came," Pope Francis said their witness and sacrifice proved that "injustice is not the final word in life."

"Let us think of our brothers and sisters of the Middle East who give witness to hope and offer their lives for this witness," the pope said. "These are true Christians. They carry heaven in their hearts."

"Those who have had the grace to embrace the resurrection of Jesus," he said, "can still hope in the unexpected."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Do not let hate, violence 'have the last word,' says Las Vegas bishop

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 3:10pm

By

LAS VEGAS (CNS) -- At an emotional interfaith prayer service at Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas Bishop Joseph A. Pepe told those filling the pews Oct. 2 that "in the face of tragedy we need each other."

"And in the face of violence, we stand together because we cannot let hate and violence have the last word," he said in his remarks at the evening service.

"We gather from all faiths and walks of life. We pray and sing and listen to the word of God to remind ourselves that amidst this tragedy, God is with us," Bishop Pepe said. "God cries with our tears."

He quoted the evening Scripture passage from Chapter 29 of the Book of Jeremiah: "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope."

"We come together in unity across our religious traditions, across race, across gender to stand with each other as living signs of that hope," Bishop Pepe said.

The service at the cathedral brought people together as they were still trying to fathom what had occurred barely 24 hours earlier: A crazed gunman, later identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, showered a crowd of about 22,000 attending a country music festival in a venue on the Las Vegas Strip the evening of Oct. 1.

From his perch in a room high on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino resort hotel, he fired off hundreds of rounds of bullets down on the crowd below, ultimately leaving at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured. It is the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Once police had located the shooter, SWAT team members burst into the room to find Paddock dead from self-inflicted gun wounds.

"I am struck by the signs of goodness even in the face of violence. I think about the first responders who risked their own lives to save the lives of others," Bishop Pepe said in his remarks at the cathedral. "I think of the emergency medical personnel and hospital staff members who answered the call for well-being and a future by using their skills to save lives. And, I am reminded that the many individuals, who rendered aid, gave rides and helped each other.

"They are living reminders of the good Samaritan and God who calls us all from fear to care," he added.

He said the prayers that evening "for healing and unity in our community of Las Vegas," reminded him of all the places in the world where people suffer violence every day.

"We must find ways to work together to bring about healing in our world so that none of God's children have to suffer what we have suffered," the bishop said.

"We stand together tonight to witness that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God, and as God's children, they have their fundamental human dignity," Bishop Pepe continued. "In all that we do, we need to remember that as our starting place."

He urged people to be "a countersign" in an "increasingly polarized" world. "Where there is hatred and violence we must be the sign of love and of peace," he said. "Where there is division and uncivil speech, we must stand together as a sign of unity. And where we stand in a world of despair, we must stand together as a sign of hope."

Scripture provides the summary for a religious life, he said: "Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul and love your neighbor as yourself."

"How will we do that?" Bishop Pepe asked. "It begins by gathering together in unity, prayer and love. And it continues in the actions of our everyday lives, not allowing ourselves to remain silent in the face of hate, not consenting by our apathy to the persecution of others, but working to know one another, to care for each other, and to show by our actions that we love each other."

Among civic leaders at the cathedral service was Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission, who praised the police for their quick response and commended the outpouring of support from the community.

"Las Vegas will never be quite the same as a result of this," Sisolak said. But "we'll be back," he added.

Sisolak started a GoFundMe online drive to raise money for the shooting victims and by midday Oct. 3, contributions had reached more than $3 million. His original goal was $500,000.

Other examples of community support included people lining up for hours to donate blood for hospitals treating the shooting victims. By the evening of Oct. 2, the blood bank capacity had been reached. Two resort hotels offered free rooms to people arriving in town to help family members affected by the shooting; Southwest Airlines was offering some free flights.

A Catholic church right next to the concert venue, the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, was used "as a staging area and an initial place of refuge," Father Bob Stoeckig, vicar general of the Diocese of Las Vegas, told Catholic News Service in an email Oct. 1. He added that "there were bullets near the doors" of the shrine, which is a popular place for tourists to attend Mass. There were no reports of damage to the shrine.

In Washington, President Donald Trump said Oct. 1 called the massacre in Las Vegas an "act of pure evil." He mourned the victims and prayed for them and their family members, saying of those who lost loved ones, "We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss."

"In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness," said the president, who was to visit Las Vegas Oct. 4. "The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope."

In Las Vegas, at an evening news conference with various civic leaders, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson said Oct. 2 the city and the state of Nevada will get through the violence and death wrought by a crazed gunman "with faith in God and the American and Nevadan spirit we have."

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Rev. King's words on nonviolence need to be lived today, speakers say

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 5:15pm

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s support of nonviolence to bring about social change applies as much to today's society as it did when Rev. King put his philosophy to paper 60 years ago, said speakers at an Oct. 2 news conference at the memorial dedicated to the civil rights figure in Washington.

That the news conference was scheduled in advance of, and held the day after, the Las Vegas shooting spree that killed 58 people and injured more than 500 only underscored the importance of Rev. King's message, according to the speakers.

"It's hard to find something in times like these that doesn't sound like cliches," said Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. "As a society, we need to stop making excuses and commit to nonviolence."

He added, "Pope Francis speaks of the earth as our common home. So it is. And so it is with our society. ... It is so easy to speak of human dignity," he noted, "but do we believe it selectively -- applying it to some people but not to others?"

Bishop Murry, who is African-American, acknowledged he has been the target of racism and segregation. One of the more frustrating episodes for him, he told Catholic News Service, was when a white airline passenger called for a flight attendant because he did not want to sit next to Bishop Murry.

Rev. King's essay, "Nonviolence and Racial Justice," appeared in the Feb. 6, 1957, issue of the Christian Century, a theological journal. It laid out his principles for acting nonviolently to seek change.

In his essay, Rev. King wrote: "How is the struggle against the forces of injustice to be waged? There are two possible answers. One is resort to the all too prevalent method of physical violence and corroding hatred. The danger of this method is its futility. Violence solves no social problems; it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Through the vistas of time a voice still cries to every potential Peter, 'Put up your sword!' The shores of history are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that failed to follow this command."

One of the points Rev. King made about nonviolent resistance as an alternative is that it "does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding."

"The nonviolent resister," he said, "must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness."

"Things looked bleak, and the violence was real, but Rev. King held that high ground. And people rallied to him," said Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, which sponsored the news conference. "He understood that there were two non-negotiable principles in our democracy: first, that all are created equal and are entitled to the equal protection of our nation's laws; second, that in our democracy, there can be no place for political violence."

The United States has many challenges, including renewed racism by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, he said, noting that from its founding in 1882, the Knights as an organization "has long assisted the cause of racial equality."

Anderson added, "Today, as then, we stand united in the principle that all are created equal, and we reiterate the words of Pope Francis last month calling for 'the rejection of all violence in political life.' We believe the way of nonviolence is as relevant today as ever."

"Dr. King is still the beacon of the way forward," said Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, in remarks delivered by Bishop Edwin C. Bass, president of the denomination's Urban Initiatives. Bishop Blake added that 2018, the 50th anniversary of Rev. King's assassination, should be seen as "the year of Martin Luther King Jr.," with programs and conferences to renew the commitment to nonviolence.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers, founder and director of the Boston-based W.J. Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, called this moment "a biblical opportunity to be salt and light in the midst of this political darkness. ... We have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable."

Rev. Rivers cautioned the change would not be instantaneous: "I'm not optimistic, yes, but I'm full of faith."

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Catholic Energies looks to help church organizations go green

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski

By Dennis Sadowski

CINCINNATI (CNS) -- Entering her classroom at St. Teresa of Avila School in Cincinnati to prepare for the start of the new academic year, art teacher Cheryl Cannon saw things in a new light.

Brighter colors. Fewer shadows. A cheerier environment.

The new LED lights are great, she thought.

"The kids can see what they're doing now," Cannon told Catholic News Service on the first day of classes Aug. 17.

Throughout the school -- from the front office, to the halls and into the classrooms -- the new light-emitting diode bulbs gained the approval of teachers, students and staff.

Replacing bulbs across the campus of St. Teresa of Avila Parish is part of an overall effort to reduce energy consumption, in part under the Catholic Energies program developed by the Catholic Climate Covenant.

Bill Thoman, parish property manager, said the parish wanted to be part of the program in response to Pope Francis' call to care for God's creation in his 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

"That really plays into (the idea), 'Look, guys, this is not something we're making up. We need to take a couple steps back and really look at what we're doing to poor Mother Earth. We're beating her up,'" Thoman said of the parish's long involvement in reducing energy consumption, using clean energy, boosting recycling and encouraging responsibility and sustainability in the use of natural resources.

The parish continued to install energy-efficient LED lightbulbs in buildings throughout the fall. Other steps across parish grounds have seen the installation of suspended, or dropped, ceilings in the school so that less space in the rooms must be heated and cooled; the remodeling of school computer labs, adding central air conditioning as needed; and the installation of high-efficiency boilers for the heating system.

With the cost of LED lights substantially dropping during the past two years, they have become a worthwhile option for building owners.

Thoman said the conversion isn't inexpensive, but that it's a good investment because the money spent will be recovered in a few years through lower energy costs. The parish has undertaken fundraisers to pay for some of the upgrades and secured private financing for others.

Catholic Energies was developed to complement the Catholic Climate Covenant's education and advocacy work. Dan Last, Catholic Energies chief operating office, said the program emerged in 2016 from hundreds of conversations with pastors, parish staff members and organizational leaders about the need for practical steps on behalf of the environment.

Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations operate an estimated 70,000 buildings, most of which use energy inefficiently, wasting about $1 billion a year, Last told CNS. Reducing energy usage by 25 percent in those buildings would save $630 million and 8.7 billion tons of coal, according to an estimate he prepared.

"Forty percent of energy use is wasted. The obvious place to go for maximum impact is to reduce energy consumption in facilities where people spend the most time. Then there are environmental benefits, less waste, less carbon, especially as most energy is produced by carbon sources," said Last, who has worked in energy conservation for eight years.

Along the way, Catholic campuses can be a model of energy efficiency, he added.

The program involves working with local utility companies and energy providers to benchmark energy use, assess buildings and utilize programs an incentives to realize immediate savings. An organization wishing to take the next step and retrofit equipment, windows and lighting can enter a financing arrangement under which the money saved on energy bills is used pay back any borrowed money.

The program also will help entities determine how best to install solar panels or boost the use of energy from renewable sources, such as wind and biomass, which means getting energy from burning wood and other organic matter.

Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, said the program was developed in response to the pope's encyclical and offers people a chance to find ways in their lives "to live more simply and in keeping with the resources of a finite planet."

"People would rather do something positive than just hear negative news all the time. I think that's particularly true with climate change," Misleh told CNS. "People want to be able to do something about it and we're providing the opportunity at the parish and school levels, and perhaps at universities and hospitals, to do something about it."

The companies working under the program have been vetted by Catholic Energies, allowing building operators to know that the work will be done by certified contractors, Misleh added.

"We feel they're (parishes) probably being inundated with proposals. We've done a lot of the legwork ahead of time, he said.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati was chosen to pilot the program because of its broad commitment to energy conservation. After initial success, the program is ready to be rolled out nationwide.

Archdiocesan offices in downtown Cincinnati were remodeled in 2016 and 2017 with energy efficiency and lower energy costs in mind. Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocese's social action office, told CNS Pope Francis inspired church leaders to step up to do as much as possible to protect the environment.

"Fundamentally this is truly an effort to bring our values and teachings into life, to put our commitments to what our teaching is on caring for our creation," Stieritz said.

"Everybody has a right to the good, the gift of the Earth because God made it. It has an inherent dignity and we have a responsibility to protect it," he explained.

Catholic Energies was introduced to parish representatives in November. Seventy of 210 parishes attended that initial meeting. While four parishes are involved with Catholic Energies in some way, Last expressed hope that others will join as the program introduces new financing packages.

St. John Fisher Church in suburban Newtown is another parish with ties to the program. Jenifer Tiettmeyer, parish business manager, said the parish agreed with the program's concept and joined the effort but secured its own financing for its improvements.

The parish recently installed a $40,000 heating, ventilating and air conditioning unit, replacing one that had been used since the 1970s, Tiettmeyer told CNS. LED lights have been installed in parish offices and the church, with 266 lights, was next for the conversion in the fall, she said.

Tiettmeyer projected savings on energy consumption to be enough to recover the cost of the updates in about three years.

"Any time we save money on something while maintaining quality," she said, "it's a good thing."

Last said Catholic Energies focuses on developing market-based solutions that can have benefits for Catholic organizations.

"What if a school was able to spend less on utilities and spend more on education?" he asked.

"These projects work. They save energy. They save money."

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Editor's Note: More information on Catholic Energies can be found online at https://catholicenergies.org.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Diplomat's recall not unusual, but justice must be served, says expert

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:26pm

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- The recall of a Vatican diplomat suspected by U.S. authorities of having a connection with child pornography reflects normal international protocol, but the suspect must be put on trial and receive punishment if found guilty, said a key organizer of a world congress on child protection.

"Due process has to be followed. If there is a case and if the person is found guilty, then he or she needs to be punished, whoever that is," said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection, which is hosting a world congress on protecting minors from online abuse, violence and exploitation.

The Oct. 3-6 congress in Rome came on the heels of the recall of Italian Msgr. Carlo Capella from the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

The Vatican said it opened an investigation, which involved international collaboration. Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 for the monsignor's arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Panelists introducing the congress during a news conference Oct. 2 said its goals were to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to protect children from abuse in a "digital era."

The panel was asked by Catholic News Service what the Vatican should do to show itself as a leader in child protection, particularly when it comes to possible crimes that involve multiple jurisdictions and when it reportedly invoked the official's diplomatic immunity in order to conduct its own investigation.

Father Zollner said, "I am pretty well convinced that this follows the normal way of diplomatic and interstate relationships" and that the allegations were being handled similarly to the way the United States or other nations would handle them in similar circumstances.

However, he added, justice must be served and anybody "who commits a crime needs to be punished. Period."

 

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USCCB president, pope call for prayers after 'unspeakable terror'

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:21am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Suns

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The nation has experienced "yet another night filled with unspeakable terror" and "we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

In Las Vegas, a gunman now identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, was perched high on the 32nd floor of a hotel and from his room unleashed a shower of bullets late Oct. 1 on an outdoor country music festival taking place below. The crowd at the event numbered more than 22,000.

He killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 400, making it by all accounts "the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said in an Oct. 2 statement.

"My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas," he said.

"At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering," Cardinal DiNardo said. "In the end, the only response is to do good -- for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light. May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."

In a telegram to Las Vegas Bishop Joseph A. Pepe, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said Pope Francis was "deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas" and "sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy."

"He commends the efforts of the police and emergency service personnel, and offers the promise of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God," the cardinal said.

The barrage of shots came from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino complex on the Las Vegas Strip. Once police officers determined where the gunshots were coming from, they stormed the room and killed the suspect, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

The suspect later identified as Paddock was from Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. USA Today reported police had blocked off the road to Paddock's home, which they planned to search. News reports also said law enforcement believed the suspect was a "lone wolf" in planning and carrying out the attack.

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Politicians must help people overcome fear of migrants, pope says

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 10:13am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Politics as service to the common good and the need to create spaces where citizens and migrants can meet and overcome fear were topics Pope Francis repeatedly returned to Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Arriving in Bologna mid-morning Oct. 1, Pope Francis went directly to the "Regional Hub," a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. He was given, and wore, a yellow ID bracelet with his name and a number, just like the migrants and refugees there wear.

Just four days after he kicked off Caritas Internationalis' "Share the Journey" campaign to encourage Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story, Pope Francis told the 1,000 people at the hub, "Many people don't know you and they're afraid."

The fear "makes them feel they have the right to judge and to do so harshly and coldly, thinking they see clearly," the pope said. "But it's not true. One sees well only up close, which gives mercy."

"From far away, we can say and think anything, like easily happens when they write terrible phrases and insults on the internet," the pope said.

But, he told them, "if we look at our neighbor without mercy, we run the risk of God looking at us without mercy."

Pope Francis, after shaking hands with each of the migrants and refugees, said he saw "only a great desire for friendship and assistance."

The integration of newcomers begins with knowing one another, he said. "Contact with the other leads to discovering the 'secret' that each person carries and also the gift that he or she represents."

"Each of you has your own story," he said, and "this story is something sacred. We must respect it, accept it and welcome it, and help you move forward."

"Do you know what you are?" the pope asked them. "You are fighters for hope!"

Too many of their peers never made it to Europe's shores because they died in the desert or in the sea, he said. "People don't remember them, but God knows their names and welcomes them to him. Let's all take a moment of silence, remembering them and praying for them."

Pope Francis had begun his Sunday early, arriving shortly after 8 a.m. in Cesena to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Pope Pius VI.

Meeting the public in the main square of the city of 97,000 people, Pope Francis focused on the obligations of both citizens and politicians in working together for the common good.

Cities and nations need "good politics," which is a form of governance not enslaved to "individual ambitions or the highhandedness of factions," he said. Authentic politics promotes collaboration and requires a balance of courage and prudence.

It "increases people's involvement, their progressive inclusion," he said, and it "does not leave any category at the margins" nor does it "sack and pollute natural resources -- these, in fact, are not a bottomless well but a gift given by God for us to use with respect and intelligence."

The social teaching of the Catholic Church sees politics, when motivated by concern for the common good, to be "a noble form of charity," he said.

Being a good politician means carrying a cross, he said, "because many times he or she must set aside personal ideas and take up the initiatives of others, harmonizing and combining them so that it really will be the common good that is promoted."

A good politician, he said, must be morally upright, patient and strong enough to live with the fact that very little will be perfect.

"And when the politician errs," he said, he or she should be strong enough to say, "'I made a mistake, forgive me.' And go forward. This is noble."

The pope had spoken about politics and immigration the previous day as well, meeting at the Vatican with mayors and other members of Italy's national association of municipalities.

Pope Francis urged them to oppose "one-way streets of exasperated individualism" and "the dead ends of corruption," as well as cities that move at two speeds: the express lanes of the rich and privileged and the barely passable alleys of "the poor and unemployed, large families, immigrants and those who have no one to count on."

Cities should not be raising walls or towers, he said, but enlarging public squares, giving each person space and helping them "open to communion with others."

"I understand the discomfort many of your citizens feel with the massive arrival of migrants and refugees," the pope told the mayors, many of whom lead cities and towns that have welcomed hundreds of people.

The fear, he said, "finds its explanation in an innate fear of the 'stranger,' a fear aggravated by the wounds of the economic crisis," but also by a lack of careful preparation for welcoming so many people throughout the country.

"This discomfort," the pope said, "can be overcome by offering spaces for personal encounter and mutual knowledge. So welcome all those initiatives that promote the culture of encounter, the exchange of artistic and cultural riches and knowledge about the homes and communities of origin of the new arrivals."

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Congressman Scalise credits power of prayer for his shooting recovery

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 1:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/TV handout via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Three and a half months after he was shot during an early morning baseball practice, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, received thunderous applause and standing ovations from the House floor Sept. 28 where he attributed his recovery to the power of prayer.

"I'm definitely a living example that miracles really do happen," he told his colleagues after acknowledging: "You have no idea how good it feels to be back here at work at the people's house."

The congressman, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, Louisiana, along with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, said the past few months have been challenging for him and his family, but he said the outpouring of love, warmth and prayer gave them the "strength to get through all of this."

"It starts with God," he said, noting that right after he was shot on the Alexandria, Virginia, baseball field and couldn't move, he "just started to pray."

"I will tell you, it gave me an unbelievable sense of calm knowing that at that point it was in God's hands," he said. He also recounted how he prayed for specific things and many of those prayers were answered, which gave him "renewed faith and understanding that the power of prayer is something that you just cannot underestimate."

Scalise and fellow Republican House members along with staffers and others were practicing June 14 for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, which is played for charity, when James Hodgkinson from Illinois, who was targeting the group, opened fire. He wounded Scalise and four others, including Capitol police officers on Scalise's protective detail, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist. The gunman died at a local hospital from gunshot wounds.

Scalise's shot fractured bones, injured internal organs and caused severe bleeding that required multiple surgeries.

The congressman thanked the Capitol Police, especially the officers on his security detail, David Bailey and Crystal Griner. He also thanked the doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center who gave him "a second chance at life."

He thanked his wife and the many people who reached out with prayers and support, including colleagues from both parties and world leaders.

Scalise said many people have asked whether the shooting changed him.

"Yes, it changed me, but not in ways you might think," he said on the House floor, noting that the experience strengthened his faith in God and his belief in the goodness of people, since he witnessed "how much compassion there is out there."

A big takeaway for him was the reaction of world leaders, which he attributed not just to their personal concern for him.

"Sure, they cared about my well-being," he said, but he also is convinced they saw the shooting as an attack on U.S. political leaders as a whole.

"They count on us to be successful," Scalise said, reminding his colleagues to rise above the challenges of the day because "all around the world, people are counting on us."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Faith groups ask government to reconsider historically low refugee cap

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 1:00pm

IMAGE: REUTERS

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic bishops and other faith groups are objecting to reports that the Trump administration will limit the number of refugees the United States accepts to 45,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.

It would be the lowest admission level for persons fleeing persecution that the U.S. has accepted since the executive branch was allowed to set the caps in 1980 under the Refugee Act, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.

"We are disturbed and deeply disappointed by the proposed presidential determination number of 45,000," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.

"While the Catholic bishops, Catholic Charities, and Catholic communities across the country join in welcoming all of those refugees to American communities with joy and open arms, we are gravely concerned for the tens of thousands of extremely vulnerable refugees left behind by this decision," he said in a Sept. 29 statement.

"As I have stated before, this decision has very severe human consequences -- people with faces, names, children and families are suffering and cannot safely or humanely remain where they are until the war and persecution in their countries of origin gets resolved," Bishop Vasquez said.

"These people include at-risk women and children; frightened youth; the elderly; those whose lives are threatened because of their religion, ethnicity or race; and refugees seeking family reunification with loved ones in the United States," he added.

David Robinson, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service, called the 45,000 figure a "shamefully low number."

Robinson said in a Sept. 27 statement that setting such a low goal "is a retreat from global leadership and undermines both our interests and our values. Our faith calls us to be compassionate, and this unprecedented policy is in direct opposition to the belief that we should welcome the stranger, especially the victims of war, terror and oppression."

The limit comes at a time when one in every 113 people in the world is facing displacement from their home country because of conflicts, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. Last year, the agency said 65 million people around the world suffered that type of displacement.

"With historically high numbers of innocent people fleeing violence worldwide, the United States response cannot be to welcome a historically low number of refugees into our country," Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, said Sept. 27.

Bishop Vasquez said the U.S. Catholic bishops are urging the Trump administration "to welcome and resettle every one of the refugees eventually authorized" for fiscal year 2018. "Looking ahead, we strongly urge the administration next year to return to the level of resettling at least 75,000 refugees annually to the United States," he added. "We can and must do better."

Other faith groups, including the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the second-largest refugee resettlement agency in the U.S., said it was "profoundly disappointed" at the reduction.

When the Refugee Act of 1980 went into effect, the U.S. set the cap at over 231,000 refugees. Though it has declined steadily since then, the country has accepted between 70,000 to 80,000 displaced persons each year for almost two decades. President Barack Obama set the cap for fiscal year 2017 at 110,000 during his last year in the White House.

In his first executive order as president, Donald Trump, set the cap at 50,000 and said any more than that "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States."

Just as they did then, many faith communities still disagree with the president.

"Churches and communities, employers and mayors are heartsick at the administration's callous and tragic decision to deny welcome to refugees most in need," said Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

"We are not afraid of our new neighbors and are not fooled by cruel and false claims that refugees are a threat to our safety," she said Sept. 27. "The American legacy of welcoming refugees has made us stronger and better, and the government's own research proves that refugees bring economic benefit to our country through their hard work."

In his statement, Bishop Vasquez noted that "each refugee that comes to the United States is admitted through an extensive vetting system. Many of these refugees already have family in the United States, and most begin working immediately to rebuild their lives; in turn contributing to the strength and richness of our society.

"God has blessed our country with bounty and precious liberty," he continued, "and so we have great capacity to welcome those in such desperate need, while ensuring our nation's security."

Bishop Vasquez noted that on Sept. 27, when the Trump administration released its recommendation for the 45,000-cap on refugees, that same day Pope Francis "exhorted us to 'reach out, open your arms to migrants and refugees, share the journey.'"

At the Vatican, the pope launched the two-year "Share the Journey" campaign of Catholic charities around the world to promote encounters between people on the move and people living in the countries they are leaving, passing through or arriving in.

"We urge the administration to move past this period of intensified scrutiny and skepticism of the U.S. refugee program, which serves as an international model," Bishop Vasquez said. "This is a moment of opportunity to restore America's historic leadership as a refuge for those fleeing persecution."

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Vatican diplomat also wanted in Canada on child porn charges

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 12:15pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An arrest warrant has been issued in Canada for Msgr. Carlo Capella, the Vatican diplomat recalled from service in Washington in late August, who already was the subject of a Vatican criminal investigation involving child pornography.

Police in Windsor, Ontario, issued a statement Sept. 28 saying, "A Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Carlo Capella, a 50-year-old male, for the charges of: access(ing) child pornography, possess(ing) child pornography and distribut(ing) child pornography."

"Investigators believe that the offenses occurred while the suspect was visiting a place of worship in Windsor," the statement said. "Investigators have determined that the suspect has returned to his residence in Italy."

Msgr. Capella had worked since the summer of 2016 at the Vatican nunciature in Washington. Prior to that, he worked on the Italy desk at the Vatican Secretariat of State. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1993 for the Archdiocese of Milan.

Although the Vatican has not publicly confirmed Msgr. Capella's identity, it did not object when many news outlets identified him as the Vatican diplomat recalled from Washington.

The Vatican press office said Sept. 15 that the Vatican was notified Aug. 21 by the U.S. Department of State "of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington."

"The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City," the press office said.

The Associated Press reported that the State Department confirmed it had asked the Vatican to lift the official's diplomatic immunity. It said that request was denied.

The Vatican promoter of justice, the chief prosecutor for Vatican City State, "opened an investigation and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case," the Vatican said.

The Vatican press office declined to comment on the Windsor police statement.

The statement said that "in February of 2017, the Windsor Police Service Internet Child Exploitation Unit received information that originated from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Child Exploitation Coordination Center indicating that a suspect in the city of Windsor had allegedly uploaded child pornography using a social networking website."

The Windsor police launched an investigation and "were granted judicial permission to review records related to the involved internet service provider address," the statement said. The investigation "determined that the alleged offenses occurred between Dec. 24-27, 2016," at a Windsor church.

Canada's CBC News quoted a spokesman for the Diocese of London, which includes Windsor, confirming "that it was asked to, and did, assist in an investigation around suspicions involving Msgr. Capella's possible violations of child pornography laws by using a computer address at a local church."

Nelson Couto, diocesan spokesman, said that at the request of police, the diocese would not comment further.

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

Pope's communications day theme: Truth in age of 'fake news'

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 10:04am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Given the strong divisions sparked and fueled by "fake news," Pope Francis is highlighting the importance of truth in his message for World Communications Day.

The message will call for studying the causes and consequences of baseless information and will promote "professional journalism," which always seeks the truth and therefore peace and understanding in the world, the Vatican Secretariat for Communication said, announcing the theme.

"'The truth will set you free': Fake news and journalism for peace" will be the theme of the church's celebration of World Communications Day 2018. The day's theme is announced every year on Sept. 29, the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

The theme Pope Francis chose "relates to so-called 'fake news' -- namely baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarization of opinions," the announcement said. "It involves an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behavior."

With so many key players in the world of social media, internet and politics beginning to face the phenomenon, it said, "the church, too, wishes to offer a contribution."

The pope's message for the day will propose "a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media," and it will try to help "promote professional journalism, which always seeks the truth, and therefore a journalism of peace that promotes understanding between people."

Most dioceses will celebrate World Communications Day 2018 on May 13, the Sunday before Pentecost. The Vatican will release the pope's message for the observance Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

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