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Pope, as 'grandfather,' urges Myanmar's young to love and serve

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 10:30pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Before ending his visit to Myanmar, Pope Francis turned to the nation's young Catholics, urging them to pursue lives of faith, hope and love.

Celebrating Mass Nov. 30 in Yangon's St. Mary's Cathedral, the pope asked the youths to serve their tiny church and their struggling nation with prayer, solidarity and a defense of human rights.

The cathedral was packed full of teenagers and young adults, many of whom were wearing traditional outfits. Despite their numbers, the atmosphere was hushed except for the chirping of birds in the trees outside the open windows.

Thousands of young people also filled the gardens surrounding the cathedral, hoping for a close-up encounter with the pope.

In his homily, Pope Francis, whose 81st birthday was less than three weeks away, said he wanted to speak to the young as a grandfather.

The Bible, he told them, "asks us to think about our place in God's plan" and to proclaim God's love and mercy.

"As messengers of this good news, you are ready to bring a word of hope to the church, to your own country, and to the wider world." he said. "You are ready to bring good news to your suffering brothers and sisters who need your prayers and your solidarity, but also your enthusiasm for human rights, for justice and for the growth of that love and peace which Jesus brings."

Pope Francis' grandfatherly advice to them was to find a place away from the noise and distractions of modern life where they could learn to listen to God in prayer. And he encouraged them to rely on the help of the saints, who were men and women who made mistakes but learned to trust in God's mercy.

"You know that Jesus is full of mercy," the pope told the young people. "So share with him all that you hold in your hearts: your fears and your worries, as well as your dreams and your hopes.

"Cultivate your interior life, as you would tend a garden or a field," the pope continued. "This takes time; it takes patience. But like a farmer who waits for the crops to grow, if you wait the Lord will make you bear much fruit, a fruit you can then share with others."

Finally, Pope Francis told them, be young and be bold.

"Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think," he said. "And don't worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between. The Gospel always grows from small beginnings. So make yourselves heard."

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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.

Miami archbishop: Fixing immigration system doesn't mean demonization

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said laws need to be changed to fix the country's broken immigration system, but in the process, immigrants should not be demonized.

"Fixing illegal immigration does not require the demonization of the so-called 'illegals,'" said Archbishop Wenski, addressing an audience at a Nov. 28 event in Miami sponsored by the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund.

"America has always been a land of promise and opportunity for those willing to work hard. We can provide for our national security and secure borders without making America, a nation of immigrants, less a land of promise or opportunity for immigrants."

His comments were posted on the Archdiocese of Miami's website.

Laws, he said, are "meant to benefit, not to enslave, mankind," and the laws in the country, regarding immigration, are too "antiquated" and "inadequate" to deal with the problem.

"Outdated laws, ill adapted to the increasing interdependence of our world and the globalization of labor, are bad laws," the archbishop said.

Proposed changes, or laws, should consider human dignity and the national interest, he said, otherwise, "bad laws will be replaced by worse ones."

He mentioned Rosa Parks, as well as "patriots" who participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773, as examples of those who opposed laws that didn't advance the common good. By refusing to sit in the back of the bus, Parks broke a law in 1955 requiring racial segregation on buses, and the Boston Tea Party participants protested taxation without representation.

Some laws, Archbishop Wenski said, can even legally sanction an underclass and such was the case of the Jim Crow laws that segregated parts of the U.S.

"Our nation should not tolerate the emergence of a new underclass in our society composed of undocumented workers," he said.

And restrictive legislation focused solely on enforcement will only make matters worse, he added, while saying that money spent on border enforcement for the last two decades hasn't stopped the problem, instead "illegal immigration increased because the labor market demanded willing and able workers."

Businesses that abuse and exploit immigrants rely on their labor, he said, "and, in doing so, help fuel the growth of the American economy." 

The preferable route is that they benefit from a reliable and legal work force, he said. Comprehensive immigration reform, he said, would legalize those already working in the U.S. without proper documentation, provide for industry's labor needs and allow border agents to chase after real criminals instead of chasing economic migrants

But some are too intent in calling attention to immigrants by name-calling and demonizing them, including labeling them "lawbreakers, equating them with terrorists intent on hurting us."

"However, these people, including DACA kids, only ask for the opportunity to become legal -- to come out of the shadows where they live in fear of a knock on their door in the dead of night or an immigration raid to their work place," he said, referencing youth brought to the U.S. illegally and who benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

In September, President Donald Trump rescinded DACA and called on Congress to pass a measure by March to preserve it. Many are calling for passage of the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, to do just that.

"In any case, these migrants are not so much 'breaking the law'; they are being 'broken by the law,'" Archbishop Wenski said.

Though some resent the Catholic bishops' advocacy on behalf of "illegals," he said, "we stand in a proud moral tradition."

"For this reason, we call upon the legislative branch of our government to seize the opportunity for a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system," he said, and called for a "fix for the Dreamers," as DACA recipients are popularly known, and for a solution for Haitians and Central Americans facing deportation as the Trump administration ends the Temporary Protected Status program, known as TPS.

TPS is granted temporarily to migrants who come from countries that have experienced disruptions such as natural disasters, civil wars or other threats.

That "would be a good place to start," said the archbishop.

"At least it could show that the sky won't come falling down if some enlightened legislation is passed. It could inspire Congress to go further toward a more comprehensive reform," he said.

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

Royal engagement announcement brings attention to Catholic school

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 2:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Toby Melville, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the news broke Nov. 27 of Meghan Markle's engagement to Prince Harry, reporters descended upon the Los Angeles Catholic school Markle attended: Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School.

"They've been scaling the walls," Callie Webb, communication director for the school, said with slight exaggeration, but maybe not too much, of the reporters calling and visiting the 112-year-old school with mission-style terra cotta roofs just a few miles from the landmark Hollywood sign.

For two days, Webb's phone was ringing off the hook and her email mailbox was flooded with requests from local newspapers and TV stations as well as national media and British tabloids about the school's famous fiancee -- the 1999 graduate who is not Catholic but attended the school from seventh grade (before the sixth grade was added) until graduation.

ABC's "20/20" spent a day on the campus -- with six of their vans parked on the school's ball field -- for an episode airing Dec. 1.

The attention, and the news itself, has been exciting for the school's 674 students, Webb said, pointing out that some of them had never even heard of Markle and others knew every detail about her 15-month romance with Prince Harry, her engagement, her TV career, activism and now discontinued lifestyle blog, The Tig.

The school, founded by Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1906, tried to put the engagement news in perspective, at least on social media. Its Nov. 27 tweet said: "Over 10,000 women of great heart and right conscience have graduated from Immaculate Heart, and we are proud to count actress and humanitarian @meghanmarkle among them. Today, we send her our very best wishes as she celebrates her engagement to His Royal Highness Prince Harry."

It posted a similar message that day on its Facebook account, but added that as a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, Markle campaigned for clean, safe drinking water. And as a UN Women's Advocate, she has spoken up for women's rights and gender equality.

"She's so inspirational to many of us, not just as an actress, but also as someone who is into philanthropy and altruism and giving back," the school's student body president Mia Speier told KABC, the Los Angeles ABC affiliate.

Webb said Speier's reaction, that she has now often repeated, about the school's connection to the royal engagement is: "She is a sister who walked our hallways and was already inspiring."

And that's pretty much how the school sees it.

"We've been proud of Meghan for a long time," said Webb of Markle's advocacy for gender equality and clean drinking water and her work with the United Nations as a women's advocate for political participation and leadership.

"That's very much in keeping with the goal of all our students," she told Catholic News Service Nov. 28, adding that it reflects the school's mission, which "encourages students to become women of great heart and right conscience through leadership, service and a lifelong commitment to Christian values."

Webb also noted that Markle, 36, was exposed at an early age to helping others, something that was reinforced at school with community service projects. "Her upbringing meshed with the school's mission and philosophy," as she put it.

Markle was chosen as a Kairos retreat leader during her senior year and she took part in the school's theater productions -- long before her role as Rachel Zane in the television drama "Suits."

"She's gone from one stage to a bigger stage," Webb added, noting that in "whatever small way" the school contributed to her current achievements, it is proud.

Immaculate Heart makes no mention of the royal engagement on its website. Instead, the school news is about sports wins, charity drives, upcoming events and a 2007 graduate who is featured in 2018 edition of Forbes "30 Under 30" -- the magazine's list of 600 visionaries in 20 different industries.

Webb pointed out the school has plenty on tap right now with its Dec. 2 open house and ongoing visits from perspective freshmen during the school's "shadow" days, where they shadow current students on a school day. She knows the media focus on the school is likely to wane, for now, although it's been great publicity.

She also continually hopes to reinforce the message that Immaculate Heart is thrilled for Markle but not just for the wedding at England's Windsor Castle when the former student, described as a "classy girl" in the school's yearbook, will take on the title Duchess of Sussex.

"We always tell our students to dream big," she said, "but not necessarily about marrying a prince!"

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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.

Buddhists, Christians must reclaim values that lead to peace, pope says

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 7:48am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Christians and Buddhists are called by faith to overcome evil with goodness and violence with peace, Pope Francis said during a meeting with leaders of Myanmar's Buddhist community.

Quoting St. Francis of Assisi and Buddha, the pope insisted that in a land where the powerfully bonded pairing of religion and ethnicity have been used to prolong conflict, it was time for religious leaders to reclaim the greatest values and virtues of their faith traditions.

Pope Francis met Nov. 29 with members of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed group of senior Buddhist monks who oversee some 500,000 monks and novices in Myanmar, where close to 90 percent of the population follows Buddhism.

One of the strongest anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya currents of Myanmar society is led by Buddhist nationalists.

The meeting was hosted by the Buddhists at the Kaba Aye Pagoda and Center.

As is customary, Pope Francis took off his shoes before entering the hall and walked in his black socks to his place. The Buddhist committee members sat directly opposite Pope Francis and members of his entourage across a plush, bright blue rug.

The challenge of the Buddhist monks and of the Catholic clergy, the pope said, is to help their people see that patience, tolerance and respect for life are values essential to every relationship, whether with people of the same family or ethnic group or with fellow residents of a nation.

The approach, he said, is common to both faiths.

Pope Francis quoted Buddha: "Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth."

And then he pointed out how the "Prayer of St. Francis" has a similar teaching: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me bring pardon. ... Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there is sadness, joy."

"May that wisdom continue to inspire every effort to foster patience and understanding and to heal the wounds of conflict that, through the years, have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and religious convictions," he said.

The pope did use the word "Rohingya," whom the Myanmar government does not recognize as a separate ethnic group, but he insisted the meeting was an occasion "to affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman."

Faith, he said, not only should lead adherents to an experience of "the transcendent," but also should help them see "their interconnectedness with all people."

Bhaddanta Kumarabhivamsa, president of the committee, told the pope Buddhists believe all religions can, "in some way," bring peace and prosperity, otherwise they would cease to exist.

Religious leaders, he said, "must denounce any kind of expression that incites (people) to hatred, false propaganda, conflict and war with religious pretexts and condemn strongly those who support such activity."

Pope Francis ended his day with the Catholic bishops of Myanmar, urging them to "foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation."

As he had earlier in the trip, the pope again defined as an example of "ideological colonization" the idea that differences are a threat to peaceful coexistence.

"The unity we share and celebrate is born of diversity," he said. Unity in the church and in a nation "values people's differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth. It invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity."

As Myanmar continues its transition to democratic rule and tries to deal with the challenges of development and full equality for all its ethnic groups, Pope Francis told the bishops to make sure their voices are heard, "particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and most vulnerable."

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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.

Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 10:02pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Jesus' love "is like a spiritual GPS" that guides people past the everyday obstacles of fear and pride and allows them to find their way to a relationship with God and with their neighbors, Pope Francis said.

Christ's message of "forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable," the pope said Nov. 29, celebrating his first public Mass in Myanmar.

According to the Vatican, 150,000 people attended the Mass at the Kyaikkasan sports ground. Thousands of them had traveled hundreds of miles to be at the Mass, and many of them camped out on the sports field the night before the liturgy.

Pope Francis acknowledged the sacrifices made by the people as well as the struggles Catholics face as a tiny minority in Myanmar and as citizens of a country struggling to leave violence behind and transition from military to democratic rule.

"I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible," the pope said in his homily. "The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom" or to think that "healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus."

Pope Francis prayed that Catholics in Myanmar would "know the healing balm of the Father's mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory. In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community."

Father Francis Saw from St. John Cantonment Church in Yangon said he had 400 guests at his parish. "Many people came from the hill towns. I welcomed them and fed them and then they came here at 10 p.m." the night before the Mass.

"We are very happy and encouraged by the pope's visit," he said. "It is good for our country and for our church."

Some people had reserved seats close to the altar. "Every parish got some VIP tickets for those who are very involved in the parish, very poor or sick," said Noeli Anthony, a ticket-holder from the Myanmar Catholic community in Perth, Australia.

Salesian Father Albert "Sam" Saminedi, pastor of the Perth community, said the immigrants he ministers to "love their country" and "are very strong, very loud and full of faith." More than 100 of them traveled home to be with the pope.

The "VVIP" section at the sports field was reserved for government officials, diplomats and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions.

The Rev. U Chit Toe Win, chair of the Myin Thar Baptist Church and deputy chairman of an interfaith dialogue group in Yangon, sat with the Anglican, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim members of his group in the very front row.

Like any Baptist minister, Toe Win said, "I believe in Jesus first," but "these are my brothers. We are for unity."

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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.

Strong net neutrality protections called critical to faith community

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 2:45pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Communications has urged the Trump administration to keep current net neutrality rules in place because an open internet, he said, is critical to the nation's faith communities and how they interact with their members.

"Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet," said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont.

"Nonprofit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content," he said in a Nov. 28 statement.

The concept of an open internet has long been called "net neutrality," in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites. Neutrality means, for example, providers cannot prioritize one type of content over another, nor can they speed up, slow down or block users access to online content and services.

On Nov. 21, the current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced his proposal to roll back rules on neutrality put in place in 2015 by the Obama administration.

Bishop Coyne urged that the current rules remain in place. "Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members," he said.

These protections are "essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment," Bishop Coyne said.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that under his plan, "the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices."

Bishop Coyne said: "Robust internet protections are vital to enable our archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people -- particularly younger persons -- in our ministries."

The FCC is scheduled to vote on Pai's proposal at its monthly hearing Dec. 14. Observers predict the vote will fall along party lines. Chairman Pai is Republican as are Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Rielly. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel are Democrats.

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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.

U.S., Mexico Catholic bishops meet to renew their 'Alta-Baja' friendship

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 11:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Aida Bustos, Diocese of San Diego

By Aida Bustos

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Three archbishops and nine bishops representing at least 13 million Catholics from Sacramento to the Mexican coastal city of Ensenada have resurrected their "Alta-Baja" friendship, paving the way to potentially working together in the future.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez and Archbishop Francisco Moreno Barron of Tijuana, Mexico, had worked with their respective episcopal organizations for more than a year to coordinate a meeting of the two sides.

Their efforts culminated in an "Encuentro de los Obispos de Alta y Baja California" held recently in the San Diego Diocese.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops organized the participants north of the border, which included San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and seven bishops.

The conference's president, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, chaired the meeting, and its vice president, San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy, hosted the Oct. 30 event, which ended with a dinner.

The Tijuana Archdiocese coordinated the participation of its retired archbishop and the bishops of Ensenada and Mexicali.

The purpose of the six-hour meeting was for the leaders from one side of the border to meet their counterparts from the other, and see where the conversation took them. The bishops spoke candidly, often one elaborating on a point raised by one of their colleagues.

They shared what was occurring in their individual dioceses regarding issues of common interest, such as immigration; the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA; and "Laudato Si'," Pope Francis' call to protect the environment.

Regarding immigration, the California bishops described how the Trump administration's executive orders related to immigration had sowed fear in their dioceses as deportations increased.

For their part, the Baja California bishops said the deported migrants face bleak conditions in their communities, which lacked the resources to assist them.

By the end, the bishops committed to meeting next October, this time in Baja California, to explore ways they could work together to strengthen each other's ministry.

"This was the resurrection of Alta-Baja," said Archbishop Gomez, referring to the name of the group of bishops from both sides of the California-Mexico border that had met regularly until the early 2000s.

"Alta," which means "higher" in Spanish, and "Baja" California, or "lower," were once one territory. In the 19th century, the vast area was governed first by Spain and then by Mexico. Alta California became part of the United States in the Treaty of Hidalgo of 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War.

Archbishop Gomez noted that when Pope Francis visited Mexico last year, he urged the bishops there to step up their coordination with their U.S. counterparts, given that so many Latino Catholics live north of the border.

"I think it's important to find new ways to help our people to grow in their spirituality and to grow in their missionary spirit," Archbishop Gomez said.

Tijuana's Archbishop Moreno Barron said the most important outcome of the gathering was the opportunity to meet each other -- and to build from there.

"More than the words we exchanged were the attitudes we shared," he said. "We did not know each other but we saw each other as brothers in faith."

At the meeting, the Tijuana archbishop said he had recently attended a meeting of a group of bishops from the Texas-Mexico border, known as Tex-Mex. He expressed the hope that a bishop from that organization could join next year's meeting of the Alta-Baja bishops.

Archbishop Gomez participated in Tex-Mex during the five years he served in San Antonio. He's familiar with the benefits and challenges of working on cross-border projects.

He said that people on both sides of the border are faithful to the Catholic Church and share similar roots. "It's important to learn from each other and to work together."

The participants from California included Bishops Michael C. Barber of Oakland, Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Richard J. Garcia of Monterey, Armando X. Ochoa of Fresno and Auxiliary Bishops Alexander Salazar of Los Angeles and John P. Dolan of San Diego.

From Baja California, Bishops Jose Isidro Guerrero Macias of Mexicali and Rafael Valdez Torres of Ensenada participated, as did retired Tijuana Archbishop Rafael Romo Munoz.

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Bustos writes for The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

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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.

Respect the rights of all groups, pope tells Myanmar's leaders

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 8:20am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (CNS) -- The plight of the ethnic Muslim minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state was front and center in speeches by Pope Francis and Aung San Suu Kyi, but neither publicly used the word Rohingya.

After private meetings Nov. 28 with Myanmarese President Htin Kyaw and Suu Kyi, the state counselor and de facto head of government, the pope and Suu Kyi gave formal speeches to government officials and diplomats gathered at the convention center in Naypyitaw, the nation's capital.

Suu Kyi, leader of the process to bring democracy to Myanmar and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, publicly acknowledged, "Of the many challenges that our government has been facing, the situation in  Rakhine has most strongly captured the attention of the world. As we address long-standing issues -- social, economic and political -- that have eroded trust and understanding, harmony and cooperation between different communities in Rakhine, the support of our people and of good friends who only wish to see us succeed in our endeavors has been invaluable."

"The road to peace is not always smooth," she told the pope, "but it is the only way that will lead our people to their dream of a just and prosperous land that will be their refuge, their pride, their joy."

In his speech, Pope Francis was even less specific, although he repeatedly insisted that the rights of each member of society and each ethnic group must be respected. He praised the role of the United Nations and the international community in supporting peace efforts, presumably also in their condemnations of the discrimination and persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

"The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group -- none excluded -- to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good," Pope Francis said.

The pope said he wanted to visit the country to strengthen the small Catholic community and "to offer a word of encouragement to all those who are working to build a just, reconciled and inclusive social order."

Myanmar's "greatest treasure," he insisted, "is its people, who have suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and hostilities that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions."

Pope Francis praised Suu Kyi for convoking the "21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference," a series of meetings that began in 2016 between the government and militant groups from more than a dozen ethnic groups in Myanmar.

The Rohingya are not included in the peace process since the government does not consider them to be a Myanmar ethnic group, but rather foreigners.

Pope Francis insisted, "The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group -- none excluded -- to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good."

Religious communities must play a role in the process of reconciliation and integration, he said. "Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation building."

In addition to helping heal "the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict," he said all religions "can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer."

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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.

Uniformity is greater threat to culture than differences are, pope says

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 8:15am

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- In a small, informal meeting with a variety of religious leaders, Pope Francis went to the heart of his message for Myanmar: unity, not uniformity, is the secret to peace.

Representatives of the Baptist, Anglican, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as leaders from ecumenical organizations, briefly told the pope about their communities during the meeting Nov. 28 at the archbishop's residence in Yangon.

"The moment you spoke, a prayer came to mind. A prayer that we pray often, taken from the Book of Psalms: 'How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one,'" he said, quoting Psalm 133.

"United does not mean the same; unity is not uniformity, even within the same confession," he said. "Each one has its values, it riches and also its deficiencies."

Although the vast majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhist, the country's religious make up is varied. Myanmar also has some 135 recognized ethnic groups and in the struggle for recognition and political power, religion often has been used to further the cause or highlight differences.

"Let's not be afraid of differences," the pope told the leaders.

While the group meeting the pope included representatives of the country's Muslim community, there was no specific representation of the Rohingya Muslims, a group that has been subjected to severe restrictions and repression by the government. The Rohingya are not recognized as an ethnic group or as citizens. And the majority of the nation's people consider them a threat to peace and harmony.

One of the representatives, who was not identified, used the word "harmony" three times. Pope Francis said that in life, as in music, harmony comes from uniting differences, not eliminating them.

Today, the pope said, there is "a global trend toward uniformity, to doing everything the same," but "that is killing humanity, that is cultural colonization."

People of faith believe in a creator, a father, which also should mean recognizing other human beings as brothers and sisters, he said. "Let's be like brothers and sisters. And if we argue among ourselves, let it be like brothers and sisters -- they are reconciled immediately. They are always brothers and sisters again. I think that is only way peace is built."

The Vatican said Pope Francis also met separately with Sitagu Sayadaw, a Buddhist leader who has publicly supported the military's crackdown on the Rohingya minority.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the meeting was part of the pope's "effort to encourage peace and fraternal coexistence as the only way ahead."

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Filipino priests called to walk with fellow immigrant Catholics

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 1:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Cat

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Part reunion, part crash course in Catholic teaching and navigating the current political climate both in the U.S. and back home in the Philippines, and part celebration of all things Texas, a national assembly for Filipino priests brought faith and culture full circle in Houston.

Hosted by a local organizing committee, the National Assembly of Filipino Priests is held every three years by the National Association of Filipino Priests of the U.S. and Canada.

Despite concerns following Harvey, plans came together to have the assembly in Houston Nov. 7-10. It drew 330 Filipino priests and countless volunteers.

In their addresses, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, encouraged the Filipino priests to stand for and support fellow immigrants, both Filipino and non-Filipino alike.

Other speakers included Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz of Galveston-Houston; Archbishops Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans; Bishops Larry Silva of Honolulu, Joseph N. Perry of Chicago and Robert W. McElroy of San Diego; and the first Filipino bishop in the U.S., Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City. Many of the prelates also celebrated Masses throughout the conference.

Father Eurel Manzano, pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, said Cardinal Mahony addressed "squarely a reality that's very much in the front of the consciences of many Filipino Catholics," especially those tangled in the U.S. legal system.

Father Manzano, who served on the association's national leadership council as vice president, also said the conference worked during the gathering's downtime, offering the visiting priests a chance to reconnect many family and friends who may live in Houston, or simply to visit with former seminary classmates or town mates.

With the support of the USCCB, priests should be unafraid to listen to the Gospel and the voice of Jesus and "have to be unafraid to present in positive ways, the immigration teachings of the church," Cardinal Mahony said. "We really have to be leaders among our people and in our communities."

In September, the future for 22,000 young Filipinos in this country without legal documents blurred after the Trump administration announced the scrapping of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, known as DAPA. President Donald Trump said Congress would have to act to keep the programs.

The Filipino group represents a small portion of the 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. as children who have been protected by DACA since President Barack Obama created the program by executive order in 2012. They along with their parents and countless family members have been hoping for a path to citizenship.

On Sept. 12, the USCCB urged Congress to pass legislation "as a prompt, humane and durable solution to this problem of greatest urgency" and asked the Trump administration to "show mercy and compassion for those seeking refuge, and to advance the American value of freedom through providing safe harbor to those fleeing tyranny and religious persecution."

Even with the Oct. 5 deadline to apply for DACA renewals now passed, Cardinal Mahony in his remarks Nov. 8 echoed the USCCB statement and encouraged the Filipino priests to support and find better ways to communicate the value of immigrants to our communities.

By 2013, the Philippines was the fourth-largest country of origin of immigrants in the U.S., accounting for at least 1.8 million people, or 4.5 percent of the immigrant population, according to the Migration Policy Institute. That population is the third-largest foreign-born immigrant group from Asia, after India and China, with most Filipino immigrants residing in the U.S.

"It's a very pastoral dimension of our ministry as priests to accompany those who may be in situations where. ... They just don't know where to turn," Father Manzano said. "And so the church should rightly be a resource for those who might need help."

During his homily at Mass Nov. 9, Cardinal DiNardo told the Filipino priests that they must accompany the faithful in all things, especially in hard times, using the dimensions of the priesthood as "stewards, contemplative heralds of sacramental life."

Reflecting on the teachings of the early Church fathers, he also reminded the priests that they must have the support of God's holy people, the faithful, to be close to Christ.

The people of God hold priests up to the wounded side of Christ, he said, so that the blood and water of baptism and the Eucharist are given especially to priests. Priests won't stay there, he continued, if they "don't have the prayers and the cooperation and energy of God's holy people. ' Many priests think they can do it on their own, but the waters flow for all."

Priests, he said, "need, desire and want the cooperation, zeal and energy of the people to be equal to the zeal of Christ."

"I am grateful to you disciples, Filipino disciples of the Lord, brother priests," Cardinal DiNardo said. "I, with ... other bishops in this country, would not be able to do our ministry as well without your collaboration."

The next National Assembly of Filipino Priests of the U.S. and Canada will be held in New Jersey and New York in 2020.

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Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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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, USCCB president pray for victims of Egyptian mosque attack

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 9:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohamed Soliman, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis led pilgrims in prayer for the victims of a bombing at a mosque in Egypt's northern Sinai region.

Addressing thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said he received news of the attack with "great sorrow."

"May God deliver us from these tragedies and sustain the efforts of all those who work for peace, harmony and coexistence," the pope said after reciting the Angelus on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 26.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was among other Catholic leaders who condemned the attack, calling it a "monstrous terrorist attack on innocent people at prayer."

The Nov. 24 attack took place at the Al-Rawdah Mosque in Bir al-Abd.

More than 300 people, including two dozen children, were killed when at least 40 attackers detonated a bomb, then gunned down worshippers as they fled. More than 120 others were wounded in what is being described as the deadliest modern-day attack in Egypt's history.

The Egyptian prosecutor's office said it believed the attack was coordinated by Islamic State militants and was targeting Muslims who practice Sufism, or Islamic mysticism.

Remembering the victims and the wounded, Pope Francis called on Christians to pray for those who were "so severely affected" by the attack that occurred during prayers at the mosque.

"Those people, in that moment, prayed. We, too, in silence, pray for them," he said.

Following news of the bombing, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope was "profoundly grieved" by the loss of life and condemned the attack as a "wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer."

Pope Francis, Cardinal Parolin wrote, "joins all people of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred will learn to renounce the way of violence that leads to such great suffering, and embrace the way of peace."

In Washington the day of the attack, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said: "Terrorist acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and the fact this attack took place at a mosque, a place of worship, is especially offensive to God."

"The Catholic Church in the United States mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy, and assures them of our prayerful solidarity," Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement.

"We join with all those of goodwill in prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings -- these acts of grave evil -- will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the dignity of each and every person," he said.

In a televised address, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the attack was "an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region."

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Contributing to this story was Julie Asher in Washington.

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Follow Arocho and Asher on Twitter: @arochoju and @JLAsher.


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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 meets generals after brief welcome by children in Myanmar

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 7:57am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Greeted by two dozen children wearing traditional attire and by the nation's bishops, Pope Francis arrived in Myanmar Nov. 27 for a four-day visit.

The arrival ceremony at the Yangon airport was brief and led by an envoy of the president, because the formal welcome was scheduled for the next day in Naypyitaw, which has been the capital since 2005.

However, Pope Francis had a "courtesy visit" with the leaders of the nation's powerful military. The pope and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who was accompanied by three other generals and a lieutenant colonel, met that first evening in the Yangon archbishop's residence, where the pope is staying.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the meeting lasted 15 minutes. After discussions about "the great responsibility authorities in the country have at this moment of transition," the two exchanged gifts.

The pope gave the general a medal commemorating his visit to Myanmar and the general gave the pope "a harp in the shape of a boat and an ornate rice bowl," Burke said.

Pope Francis had been scheduled to meet the general Nov. 30, his last morning in Myanmar. Although the country is transitioning from military rule to democracy, the general has the power to name a portion of the legislators and to nominate some government ministers. Although described by Burke as a "courtesy visit" and not an official welcome, the visit seemed to go against the usual protocol, which would dictate that the pope's first meetings with authorities would be with the head of state and head of government.

Burke did not say whether Pope Francis had mentioned in any way the plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar's Rakhine state, who are treated as foreigners in the country. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has been criticized by human rights groups for what has been described as disproportionately harsh measures against the entire Rohingya community following attacks on security posts by small groups of Rohingya militants.

The pope arrived in Myanmar after a more than 10-hour, overnight flight from Rome. The children in costumes, representing only a portion of Myanmar's ethnic groups, were joined by another 100 schoolchildren wearing white slacks and white T-shirts with the logo of the papal visit.

Banners and billboards along the road from the airport into the city proclaimed: "A heartiest welcome to the Holy Father, Pope Francis."

Because the flight took off late at night, Pope Francis spent less time with reporters than he usually does. He made no comment about his hopes for the trip, only mentioning that he was told it was very warm in Yangon and he hoped the reporters would not suffer too much.

As is customary, the pope sent telegrams to the heads of state of all 13 nations he flew over on the way, including Italy.

In his message to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Pope Francis said he was making the trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh Nov. 27-Dec. 2 as a "pilgrim of peace, to encourage the small but fervent Catholic communities and to meet believers of different religions."

The majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhist, while the majority of Bangladeshis are Muslim. Pope Francis had meetings with religious leaders scheduled in both countries.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Update: Build peace by welcoming migrants, refugees, pope says in message

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 6:16am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Exploiting a fear of migrants and refugees for political gain increases the possibility of violence and discrimination and does nothing to build a culture of peace, Pope Francis said in his message for World Peace Day 2018.

"Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being," the pope said in the message, which was released by the Vatican Nov. 24.

The pope chose "Migrants and refugees: Men and women in search of peace" as the theme for the celebration Jan. 1, 2018. The message is delivered by Vatican nuncios to heads of state and government around the world.

Presenting the message to the media, Father Bruno Marie Duffe, secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said, "It is clear peace begins with saving lives and taking care of people who are trying to escape wars, discrimination, persecution, poverty and climate disasters."

As work continues on the U.N. Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Pope Francis urged the international community not to surrender "to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference."

Countries at the U.N. General Assembly voted in September 2016 to develop the compacts; after meetings around the world, a draft of each compact is scheduled to be released in February and a final vote is scheduled for September 2018.

In his message, which was signed Nov. 13, the feast of St. Frances Cabrini, patron of migrants, Pope Francis said thinking about peace naturally meant thinking about "those who most keenly suffer its absence."

International organizations estimate there are some 250 million international migrants around the globe and that about 22.5 million of them are refugees, who have fled war, violence or persecution.

In their search for a place where they can live in peace, the pope said, many are "willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal."

Pope Francis acknowledged the right and obligation of countries to protect their borders and wisely allocate their resources, including those dedicated to resettling migrants and refugees. But the pope also insisted that basic human decency requires sheltering those whose dignity is at risk.

Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told reporters the "prudence" Pope Francis is calling for involves discernment and wise direction. He compared it to the responsibility parents exercise in running a household.

"Prudent parents respond and allocate resources wisely," he told reporters. "If resources are inadequate, they adjust goals. They obviously do not expel members who seem overly needy. What kind of family would do that? And yet that is what the human family sometimes seems to do to asylum seekers and refugees."

In the message, the pope also said that welcoming migrants and refugees actually contributes to peace and benefits host countries.

Migrants and refugees "do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them," he said.

When people in need are welcomed and valued, "seeds of peace" begin to sprout, the pope said. "Our cities, often divided and polarized by conflicts regarding the presence of migrants and refugees, will thus turn into workshops of peace."

As he said in a message released earlier for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, coordinated plans for "welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating" newcomers are essential for helping asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking find the peace they seek.

"'Welcoming' calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people toward countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights," Pope Francis said in the peace day message.

Countries have a moral obligation as well as a legal obligation under international law to protect those fleeing from real danger, he said. And no one should forget the very high and very real risk of exploitation faced by migrating women and children.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a Vatican diplomat, told reporters that to reach the goal of peaceful coexistence "relations among nations must change and be based on: solidarity; dialogue instead of force, which explodes in conflict; policies of collaboration; and the participation of everyone in the benefits of technology, access to markets" and other factors that allow them to live a dignified life.

"Peace flourishes where there is less inequality and injustice," the archbishop said. "And when there is less inequality and injustice, there is also less migration and people can exercise their right of not having to migrate."

Pope Francis prayed that the global compacts would be "inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process. Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference."

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Sister shares heartbreaking story to lead youths closer to God

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 3:18pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion

By John Shaughnessy

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- It wasn't the story that the 20,000 Catholic youths were expecting to hear from a religious sister.

And the audience of young people inside Lucas Oil Stadium on the morning of Nov. 17 became more quiet and riveted as Sister Miriam James Heidland shared the hard, heartbreaking chapters of her life story.

She told participants at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis that she was sexually assaulted when she was 11. She began drinking alcohol on her 12th birthday. She was raped when she was 13 and she was an alcoholic by the age of 21.

"I woke up one morning when I was 21, and I remembered two things," recalled Sister Miriam, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. "Number one, I remembered what I had done the night before, and it was awful. Secondly, I remember something that was so much deeper in the area of shame.

"I remembered I had promised myself that I wasn't going to do that anymore. At that moment, I realized I couldn't stop, that I was sick. I crawled up in a ball on the floor of my room in college, and I just wished for death. And I didn't know what to do."

God did, she told the crowd of young people.

"He started sending people into my life to speak the truth to me," she said as walked across the stage set up in the middle of the stadium floor.

One of the people God sent to her was a priest who challenged her to change her life.

"He would say, 'You're called for more. What are you doing with your life? I know you want more. You have a great destiny for your life. Have you thought about saying 'yes' to it?'

"That man loved Christ, and he let Christ try to re-form him to the core of his being. And one of the reasons I'm here before you is because of the power of one person who said 'yes' to Christ. And how often do you and I think we can't make a difference? But your 'yes' matters. Your life matters. When you say 'yes,' the world is changed."

So has the life of Sister Miriam.

"I've been sober for many years now, through a lot of people's love for me and a lot of grace," she said, adding that wherever young people in the audience are today: "It's not the end of the story. Jesus is already waiting for you. He's waiting for you in the areas that are incredibly painful for you. He's waiting for you in the areas of your deepest dreams and your deepest desires."

She also told the story of two choices that continue to define her life.

"My biological parents were high school students, 17 years old, obviously not married," she said.  "To this day, I've never seen her face, but I have a deep intuition that at one point my mother thought of aborting me, but she didn't. And I stand here before you today because a scared 17-year-old girl said 'yes' to life and to the child in her womb."

Then there was the choice of the couple who became her mother and father when they adopted her.

"One of the first pictures my parents have of me was at Christmas time. My mom put me under the Christmas tree and said I was the gift to the family that year."

She told the audience that God also offers people the gift of his love.

"We don't understand his heart for us. We don't understand his love for us," she said, emphasizing that "God longs to heal you because you are made for more. He looks at you, and he just loves you."

"God has no other ulterior motive," she told the youths, "than for you to share in his own beautiful life."

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

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Thanksgiving: A unique holiday for a uniquely diverse nation

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:49am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters

By Lou Baldwin

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- What does Thanksgiving really mean to you? Is it just a really big dinner, or is there something more about it that maybe you've forgotten?

It is unique among American holidays in that it is both civic and religious in its origins. It is unlike Christmas and Easter which are, strictly speaking, religious holy days that were adopted by the general culture as holidays, or Independence Day which is completely civic.

There is a bit of controversy as to where the holiday began. New Englanders say it was started as a harvest feast attended by both settlers and Native Americans in thanksgiving for the Plymouth colony's first harvest. Virginians point to celebrations a bit earlier in Berkley Hundred and Jamestown.

In both cases there was reason to be thankful and not just for food but for being alive. Within a year of their arrival half of the New England colonists were dead as were three quarters of the original Virginia colonists, either from starvation or disease.

Of all American holidays, Thanksgiving is a celebration of immigrants because it traces back to our immigrant forefathers and foremothers who at great sacrifice laid the foundation of a new nation.

The tradition continues as recent immigrants also pause to thank God for his blessings and enjoy a feast usually including that peculiar American fowl, a turkey.

Lan-Huong Lam, a member of the Vietnamese community at South Philadelphia's St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, has been in America for 10 years. Although her family still celebrates traditional Vietnamese holidays, especially for the New Year, they also have embraced Thanksgiving in a way that is strikingly American.

"My family will come to my father's house this year, (and) next year we will all go to my uncle's house," she told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

And yes, they will have dishes such as turkey and mashed potatoes, but along with that they will have traditional Vietnamese foods for those members who prefer them.

Reyna Mota, who is a member of the Dominican Republic community that worships at St. Leo Church in Philadelphia, really buys into the true meaning of Thanksgiving as a way to give thanks to God and celebrate our blessings.

While she and her husband are immigrants, "our kids were born here," she said. Like many other Americans new or old, she and her husband and children were hitting the road to travel to Salisbury, Maryland, for an extended family get-together.

The traditional turkey, cranberry sauce and all the fixings will be on the table as well as chicken because turkey is not something their family is used to. Of course, one of the desserts will be flan, a staple in Central America.

If a number of the relatives prefer chicken it had better be more than one bird because "we will have about 30 people there," Mota said.

Samuel Abu, a Liberian native who works for Philadelphia's archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in West Philadelphia and he has 12 years in the U.S.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in Liberia also, probably because the country was founded by former American slaves who returned to Africa after the Civil War. But it is just a day off there, with no special traditions. He was surprised when he came to the U.S. and found what a big deal it is here.

"When we came here we didn't like turkey," he confessed, and his family would go out to eat. Now he and his wife have four kids and they all love turkey.

Abu's wife loves to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner, and in that tradition the whole family gathers around the table for the feast. But in his household they don't do stuffing and they eat the turkey in gravy as in a stew.

Another dish they favor which most Americans would not connect with Thanksgiving is the root vegetable that is much more familiar in the tropics than the potato: cassava.

But whatever they eat or don't eat, "We are thankful to God that we are able to live this life and pray for the families who are not able to do this, especially my father and my mother," Abu said. "We thank God for our jobs and our children and the opportunity to own our home."

Hari Chan, who has been in America for 15 years, is a member of the Indonesian community that worships at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. On Thanksgiving his family will probably gather for Mass in the chapel at their parish.

Then the Indonesian community members will all get together at the adjacent Aquinas Center for a potluck meal. It will include turkey of course, but also Indonesian favorites.

While they don't have Thanksgiving in Indonesia there are other holidays, mostly Muslim, because most Indonesians are Muslim. But just as in America where non-Christians celebrate Christmas, "there we celebrate the Muslim holidays too," Chan said.

Maguy Jean Baptiste is part of the Haitian community at St. Cyril Parish in East Lansdowne and she has made America her home for 10 years. People do eat turkey in Haiti Jan. 1, which is both New Year's Day and Independence Day, she said.

As in so many American households on Thanksgiving Day, her sons will watch football, something that is not played in Haiti.

It will be a big meal because not just her husband and their five kids but also her sister's family with four kids will gather around the table. As an extra she always invites someone from the neighborhood who is alone for the holiday.

As part of the festivities the family members will draw names for gifts for the Pollyanna at Christmas. Also the family will take up a collection to send back to Haiti to help their struggling families there.

Maria Alvin, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Southampton, was born in Portugal but her family came to America when she was 7, and now she is married with a family of her own.

"My parents are still alive and we will all get together at my house," she said. "There will be about 12 people." It will be a traditional turkey dinner, but since her dad still doesn't like turkey, she will probably prepare a chicken and maybe some pork.

"Thanksgiving means freedom, the family all getting together, being thankful for what you have," she said.

A member of the French-speaking community at St. Cyprian Parish in Philadelphia named Dosse came to America 13 years ago from Togo. He and his wife have three kids, all born in the USA

In Togo the main holidays are Christmas and New Year's Day, but other than that there are no holidays with a long weekend. Dosse and his family will celebrate the same way many other people here do.

Most important, he told CatholicPhilly.com, "Thanksgiving is the time to thank God for everything, for his support in our lives."

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Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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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 adds meetings, including with general, to Myanmar itinerary

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 10:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lynn Bo Bo, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Accepting suggestions by Myanmar's cardinal, Pope Francis has added two private meetings to the schedule for his visit to the country: one with religious leaders and the other with the commander of the military, who wields great political power in the country.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Pope Francis will meet Nov. 28 with representatives of various religions present in Myanmar and Nov. 30 with Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. Burke also said the public Mass in Yangon Nov. 29 will begin an hour earlier than originally scheduled because of the heat.

About 90 percent of Myanmar's population follows Theravada Buddhism, and Pope Francis already had a meeting scheduled with the Sangha supreme council, which oversees the Buddhist monks throughout the country. But Myanmar also is home to Muslims, Hindus and followers of other Buddhist traditions, as well as Baptists, who far outnumber Catholics in the country.

The military in Myanmar, and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in particular, have been harshly criticized by the international community for their campaign against the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority. The military claims the crackdown is a response to violence, but the United Nations has said the crackdown is hugely disproportionate and amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, who suggested the pope meet with the general, has publicly said he urged Pope Francis not to use the word "Rohingya" for fear of inciting Buddhist nationalists and the military. Burke told reporters they would have to listen to the pope's speeches to see if he accepted that suggestion as well.

Representatives of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh will meet Pope Francis Dec. 1 in Dhaka during an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace, Burke said.

Below is the revised schedule for Pope Francis' visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh. Time listed are local with Eastern Standard Time in parentheses.

Sunday, Nov. 26 (Rome)

-- 9:40 p.m. (3:40 p.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport.

Monday, Nov. 27 (Yangon)

-- 1:30 p.m. (2 a.m.) Arrival at Yangon International Airport.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 (Yangon, Naypyitaw, Yangon)

--10 a.m. (10:30 p.m. Nov. 28) Private meeting at the archbishop's residence with religious leaders.

-- Mass in private.

-- 2 p.m. (2:30 a.m.) Departure by plane for Naypyitaw.

-- 3:10 p.m. (3:40 a.m.) Arrival at Naypyitaw airport.

-- 3:50 p.m. (4:20 a.m.) Welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace.

-- 4 p.m. (4:30 a.m.) Courtesy visit to Htin Kyaw, president of the republic, at the presidential palace.

-- 4:30 p.m. (5 a.m.) Meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and foreign minister, the country's de facto leader.

-- 5:15 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the city's international convention center. Speech by pope.

-- 6:20 p.m. (6:50 a.m.) Departure by plane for Yangon.

-- 7:25 p.m. (7:55 a.m.) Arrival at Yangon airport, transfer to archbishop's residence.

Wednesday, Nov. 29 (Yangon)

-- 8:30 a.m. (9 p.m. Nov. 28) Mass at Kyaikkasan sports ground. Homily by pope.

-- 4:15 p.m. (4:45 a.m.) Meeting with the Sangha supreme council of Buddhist monks at the Kaba Aye pagoda. Speech by pope.

-- 5:15 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Meeting with the bishops of Myanmar at St. Mary's Cathedral. Speech by pope.

Thursday, Nov. 30 (Yangon, Dhaka)

-- Meeting (time unspecified) with military commander, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, in the archbishop's residence.

-- 10:15 a.m. (10:45 p.m. Nov. 29) Mass with young people in St. Mary's Cathedral. Homily by pope.

-- 12:45 p.m. (1:15 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Yangon International Airport.

-- 1:05 p.m. (1:35 a.m.) Departure by plane for Dhaka, Bangladesh.

-- 3 p.m. (4 a.m.) Arrival at Dhaka's international airport. Welcoming ceremony.

-- 4 p.m. (5 a.m.) Visit to national martyrs' memorial in town of Savar.

-- 4:45 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Pay homage to the late-Sheik Mujibur Rahman, known as "father of the nation," at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

-- 5:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m.) Courtesy visit to President Abdul Hamid at the presidential palace.

-- 6 p.m. (7 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the presidential palace. Speech by pope.

Friday, Dec. 1 (Dhaka)

-- 10 a.m. (11 p.m. Nov. 30) Mass and ordination of priests in Suhrawardy Udyan park. Homily by pope.

-- 3:20 p.m. (4:20 a.m.) Visit with the country's prime minister at the apostolic nunciature.

-- 4 p.m. (5 a.m.) Visit the city's cathedral.

-- 4:15 p.m. (5:15 a.m.) Meeting with Bangladesh's bishops at a residence for elderly priests. Speech by pope.

-- 5 p.m. (6 a.m.) Interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop's residence. Speech by pope.

Saturday, Dec. 2 (Dhaka, Rome)

-- 10 a.m. (11 p.m. Dec. 1) Private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the capital's Tejgaon neighborhood.

-- 10:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m. Dec. 1) Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices at the Church of the Holy Rosary. Speech by pope.

-- 11:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m.) Visit the parish cemetery and historic Church of the Holy Rosary.

-- 3:20 p.m. (4:20 a.m.) Meeting with young people at Notre Dame College. Speech by pope.

-- 4:45 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Dhaka International Airport.

-- 5:05 p.m. (6:05 a.m.) Departure by plane for Rome.

-- 11 p.m. (5 p.m.) Arrival at Rome's Fiumicino airport.

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At Mass, Jesus seeks to bring others with him to salvation, pope says

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 9:16am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If people really understood that participating at Mass is witnessing Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, then maybe they would stop taking pictures, talking, making comments and acting as if it were some kind of show, Pope Francis said.

"This is Mass: to enter into Jesus' passion, death, resurrection and ascension. When we go to Mass, it is as if we were going to Calvary, it's the same," the pope said Nov. 22 during his weekly general audience.

If people realize that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and is letting himself be broken and pouring out his love and mercy for everyone, "would we allow ourselves to chitchat, take pictures, to be on show? No," the pope said.

"For sure we would be silent, in mourning and also in joy for being saved," he said.

The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on what Mass really is and why it is so important.

The Mass, as a "memorial," is more than just remembering an event from the past, the pope said. It is making that event present and alive in a way that transforms those who participate.

The Eucharist is the focal point of God's saving act, he said; it is Jesus making himself present in the bread, "broken for us, pouring out all of his mercy and love on us like he did on the cross, in that way, renewing our hearts, our lives and the way we relate to him and our brothers and sisters."

"Every celebration of the Eucharist is a beam of that sun that never sets, which is the risen Jesus Christ. To take part in Mass, especially on Sundays, means entering into the victory of the resurrection, being illuminated by his light, warmed by his heat," he said. Mass is "the triumph of Jesus."

As Jesus goes from death to eternal life during the Mass celebration, he is seeking also to "carry us with him" toward eternal life, Pope Francis said.

By spilling his blood, the pope continued, "he frees us from death and the fear of death. He frees us not only from the domination of physical death but also spiritual death -- evil and sin," which pollute one's life, making it lose its beauty, vitality and meaning.

"In the Eucharist, (Jesus) wants to transmit his paschal, victorious love," the pope said. "If we receive it with faith, we too can truly love God and our neighbor, we can love like he loved us, giving life."

When people experience the power of Christ's love within them, then they can give themselves freely and fully to others, even their enemies, without fear, he said.

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

To experience one of the holiest Christian sites, head to Washington

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:26am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rebecca Hale, National

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the nation's capital, a $15 museum ticket and pair of 3-D glasses is the passport Christian pilgrims and others need to experience what may be the holiest site in Christianity.

Employing state-of-the-art technology, the National Geographic Museum in Washington Nov. 15 opened an exhibit that virtually transports visitors to the streets of Jerusalem and through the doors of a small church that protects what is believed to be the site of Christ's burial and, to Christians, the site of his resurrection.

"We put you in the Old City, we talk to you a little about the walls of the city, how they move over time and where the Gospels say that the Crucifixion took place, and try to give you the context," said Kathryn Keane, vice president of exhibitions for National Geographic during a Nov. 9 interview with Catholic News Service.

After an introductory video explaining some of the tumultuous history surrounding the tomb of Christ site, where structures above have been built and torn down repeatedly over the centuries, visitors walk toward a set where a virtual guide projected on a wall welcomes them to a courtyard just outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. 

It's a visual appetizer to get them ready for the experience of, not just entering via 3-D through its doors, but also of flying over it and witnessing, from a bird's eye view, a time-lapse of the structure's physical history.

"We're not only taking you in the church the way it looks today but we also go up above the church and we take you back through time," said Keane. "It's a bit of a time machine and we show you all the evolutions of the building, from the time that it was, under (Roman emperor) Hadrian, a pagan temple."

"This is not what I would consider a traditional exhibit. It's more an experience than it is an exhibit," said National Geographic archaeologist Fred Hiebert, whose unique experience inside the church led to "Tomb of Christ: The Church of Holy Sepulchre Experience," which runs at the Washington museum until August 2018.

Last year, Hiebert witnessed various stages of a nine-month-long, $3 million restoration of the small shrine within the Holy Sepulcher that protects the tomb of Christ. The shrine often is referred to as the Edicule, Latin for "little house." During the process, the three religious groups with jurisdiction over the structure, and who had agreed on its restoration -- the Armenians, the Franciscans and the Greek Orthodox -- agreed to also allow restorers to put a moisture barrier around the the tomb itself.

The tomb likely had not been opened in centuries and, at some point, marble slabs were placed on top, perhaps to keep pilgrims from taking home parts of it. It has been venerated since the time of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor who, in the fourth century, sent a team in search of the holy burial site. Soon after, they identified a quarry as that place and Constantine's mother, Helena, had a shrine built around it.

The exhibit explains how the effects of weather, earthquakes and also great numbers of pilgrims, many of whom light candles that contribute to a buildup of soot, had brought the structure to the brink of collapse.

It also explains the dilemma religious leaders faced when they learned that by injecting liquid mortar into the shrine to reinforce it, it presented the possibility that it would seep into the tomb itself -- defeating the purpose of protecting the most important part. They had to swiftly decide to shut down the shrine to allow the team to protect the tomb -- and that meant briefly opening it.

"They said, 'Do it, but don't take more than 60 hours to do it,'" said Hiebert.

When restorers temporarily shut down the site, Hiebert and other members of the National Geographic team were present to witness the opening of the tomb, which exposed the original limestone bed and the walls of the cave, which Christians believe witnessed Christ returning to life.

"To think that we, we were some of the few people who were locked in that church, got to see what people for hundreds and hundreds of years of Christianity hope to see, and we had a chance to see that ... if there's anything that drove me to do a virtual exhibit, it was that guilt," Hiebert said to an audience gathered at the museum on the opening night of the exhibit. "We have to tell the world about this."

The National Geographic team scanned the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the smaller structure inside, the Edicule, in such detail, that visitors who stop by the exhibit can don a VR, or virtual reality, headset and enter the tiny shrine, navigate the small passage way that leads to the tomb, a space that accommodates no more than three or four people, and see an exact visual representation of the tomb, without the real-life inconveniences.

"As tourist, you get maybe 15 seconds in the tomb and then they move you out," explained National Geographic engineer Corey Jaskolski at the opening night event. "Part of capturing this and being able to share it with the world through the National Geographic Museum is that we can let people spend as long as they want in the tomb. You can go in there and have your own personal experience and be able to see it in all its glory without the interruptions and bustle of the crowd around."

The exhibit explains some of the technology the restoration team from the National Technical University of Athens used, as well as what National Geographic used to scan the images that made the visual aspect of the exhibit possible.

"We can tell a story about great science and there's a certain great aspect of faith to it, too," said Hiebert.

Keane said the project is an intersection of history, architecture, science, technology and faith.

"All of these things aren't at odds with each other," she said.

The exhibit displays the document that Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Franciscan leaders signed in 2016, which made the restoration possible, while also noting in a timeline that the groups had agreed in principle in 1959 that the "little house" needed the renovations.

Hiebert applauded the cooperation among the religious groups as a "brave" and said of their ability to agree, "That happens once in a lifetime with these guys."

The project shows, Hiebert said, that there can be cooperation among different groups in the Middle East.

"Having reviewed the history of the (Holy Sepulcher) church, and realizing that it's a contested space, in a contested area ' here was a project that was bringing people together to do something that was positive," he said. "That is a metaphor for optimism in the Middle East. In a place as difficult as Jerusalem, as complex as the Middle East, it's still possible to do an optimistic idealistic project."

Archaeologist Hiebert said the exhibit, as well as a TV show about the restoration of the tomb of Christ that National Geographic documented, will debut Dec. 3 on its cable channel. The December cover story of National Geographic magazine also focuses on archaeology and what it reveals about the life of Christ. It shows that science and faith can go hand in hand, Hiebert said.

"When we look back on the history of exploration and even the history of National Geographic, we realize that this idea that science is divorced from faith is not true," he said. "It seemed to me natural that National Geographic would be in a position of, here's a site, which is sacred and historic, and we're about to embark on an epic adventure."

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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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.

War and greed: Rome events shed light on conflict in South Sudan, Congo

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 8:50am

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Akena, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has made no secret of what he thinks is the motivating force behind the wars and conflicts underway across the globe.

"The powerful, some of the powerful, profit from the production of arms and they sell arms to this country which is against that one, and then they sell them to the one that goes against this one. It is the industry of death! And they profit," Pope Francis told thousands of students meeting at the Vatican in 2015.

"An elderly priest that I met years ago used to say this: The devil enters through the pocketbook, through greed. This is why they don't want peace!" he said.

The wars in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the many conflicts where this is evident, said Sister Yudith Pereira Rico, associate executive director of Solidarity With South Sudan.

At a Vatican news conference Nov. 16 announcing a prayer service for peace in the two suffering African nations, Sister Pereira said multinational corporations and the international community have a vested interest in allowing the wars to continue in both countries.

"While people are trying to survive this situation, multinationals are exploiting primary resources," she said. "The international community is giving a huge amount of help and (making) immense efforts but, at the same time, they are still selling weapons. So there is a duplicity in this attitude. This has to be known."

Solidarity With South Sudan is an international network of religious congregations that was formed to train primary school teachers, health-care workers, pastoral agents and sustainable farmers from all ethnic groups in the country with the hope they would learn tolerance and reconciliation along the way.

A member of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Sister Pereira has worked for nearly two decades in countries throughout the African continent, including South Sudan.

"The people of South Sudan are suffering an armed conflict and a silent genocide that rarely appears in the media and surpasses the imagination" even though it began in early 2013, Sister Pereira said.

Military grade weaponry, however, is not the only thing used to wage war. In Congo, the violation and exploitation of women also is used as a weapon of war.

Franciscan Sister Sheila Kinsey, coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the international unions of women's and men's religious orders, said she spent eight years working on behalf of victims of domestic violence and abuse in the United States prior to helping victims of sexual violence in Congo.

The difference between working on sexual abuse there and in the United States "was that in the Congo, it was used as a weapon of war and such atrocities were committed to really humiliate a country. So we knew that that dimension had to be addressed," she said.

The people, especially women and children, also are innocent victims of greedy corporations and countries that plunder land and resources, she said, explaining that civilians "don't have adequate employment or the benefit of the resources that are from their own country."

One civilian told her, "You know, we have all these weapons but we don't have any industry that makes weapons. Where are they coming from?" Sister Kinsey said.

Michel Roy, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, said that while the main causes of the conflict in both countries are political in nature, multinational companies are profiting from "the favorable conditions" of a weakened state in order to exploit the country's wealth, particularly from the diamond mines in the southern Congolese province of Kasai.

Multinational companies, he said at the news conference, "think destroying in order to receive is the solution. It isn't, but that's the reality."

Congolese politicians, Roy added, also receive kickbacks and "are under the orders of these companies" to keep the conflict alive so they can continue to exploit the country's vast diamond industry.

"There are also regional interests so that the Congo remains this way, that it doesn't become strong," he said. "A big country with these kinds of resources can become an important country in Africa, like South Africa, like Nigeria."

The Vatican prayer service will be followed in January by a roundtable discussion primarily focused on building peace in South Sudan and Congo, Sister Pereira told Catholic News Service. But it also will be an opportunity to shed a light on the exploitation of innocent civilians.

"Of course one way (to build peace) is what we have been saying: to stop selling weapons, stop multinationals from working in war (zones)," she said.

The support given by Pope Francis, who was scheduled to preside over the Nov. 23 prayer service for peace, Sister Pereira added, is a source of hope for the innocent victims caught in the crosshairs of conflict because it tells them that others are with them.

"They need a future and they need to see that other people are also talking about this," she said. "For them, it is important that people outside in Europe -- in Italy, wherever -- are meeting together for them. They can be resilient, they can have strength because they have that support."

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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.

Protection urged for nation's 'vulnerable,' especially migrants, refugees

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 5:29pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the nation made preparations to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed gratitude for "the gift of immigrants and refugees to the country," but also appealed for their protection.

"As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in a statement Nov. 20, a week after the U.S. bishops opened their annual fall assembly.

The longest and most passionate discussion on the first day of the fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 13 focused on immigrants, on how to help them but also how to drive home the point that they, too, are our brothers and sisters and should not be demonized.

Cardinal DiNardo said his Thanksgiving Day statement was prompted by the bishops urging he "speak out on their behalf."

He referenced that floor discussion, noting that he and his brother bishops "were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this (nation's) great abundance -- the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed and especially migrants and refugees."

The bishops "expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm -- and urgency to act -- in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago," he said.

Those policies, Cardinal DiNardo said, include the deportation of "Dreamers," the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. These are "young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation," he said.

President Donald Trump in September ended the Obama-era program and directed Congress to pass a legislative solution.

Cardinal DiNardo also described "the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them."

The Trump administration in early November announced an end to TPS for 2,500 Nicaraguans who have been living in the United States for nearly 20 years. A decision on TPS for 57,000 Hondurans has been delayed for six months, and decisions are due in several weeks from the Department of Homeland Security on that status for people from El Salvador and Haiti.

Cardinal DiNardo also lamented that the number of refugees the country will admit over the next year has been capped at 45,000.

He called it "an unprecedented reduction in the number of people we will welcome this year into our country who seek refuge from the ravages of war and religious persecution in their countries of origin."

"One common feature of all these developments is their tendency to tear apart the family, the fundamental building block of our, or any, society," Cardinal DiNardo said. "These threats to so many vulnerable immigrant and refugee families must end now.

"My brothers have urged me to speak out on their behalf to urge the immediate passage -- and signature -- of legislation that would alleviate these immediate threats to these families," he said.

Policies that threaten immigrant and refugee families also are "symptoms of an immigration system that is profoundly broken and requires comprehensive reform."

"This is a longer-term goal, one that the bishops have advocated for decades to achieve, and one that must never be overlooked," he continued. "Only by complete reform will we have the hope of achieving the common goals of welcoming the most vulnerable, ensuring due process and humane treatment, protecting national security, and respecting the rule of law. We are committed to such reforms and will continue to call for them."

He repeated his gratitude "for the gift and contributions of immigrants and refugees to our great nation" and prayed "that next year, families now under threat will not be broken and dispersed, but instead will be united in joy around their tables, giving thanks for all the blessings our nation has to offer. Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!"

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