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Updated: 28 min 48 sec ago

Response to sexual abuse crisis tops agenda for USCCB fall assembly

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 3:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The firestorm surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis and the way some bishops handled allegations of abuse against priests will be an important part of the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly.

The bishops have had to deal with seemingly endless revelations of allegations of abusive clergy since June, most of which referred to long-past incidents. New reports from media outlets also were expected as the Nov. 12-14 assembly in Baltimore approaches.

Bishops nationwide also are facing new challenges as several state attorneys general have opened investigations into the handling of abuse allegations. The investigations follow the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that linked more than 300 priests and church workers to abuse claims and identified more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period dating from 1947.

The USCCB has not directly addressed the investigations and has not offered any indication that it will advise bishops on how to respond.

Beyond the discussions of clergy sexual abuse and any further actions, the bishops were expected to accept a new pastoral letter on racism, vote on whether to approve a revised national directory for permanent deacons, consider 139 English translations of Latin hymn texts used in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and adopt a budget estimated at more than $23 million.

Security, always tight during the twice-a-year assemblies, is expected to be stricter than usual to prevent access to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel meeting site by protesters upset with the way the bishops have handled reports of abuse by clergy.

In preparing for the fall assembly, the bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

Committee members instructed the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

The Administrative Committee also initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

A USCCB spokesman said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president, was unavailable to discuss specific plans for the assembly because he and other conference leaders were in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The synod was to conclude Oct. 28.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, also declined to discuss the issue, saying in an Oct. 16 email to Catholic News Service that board members were continuing to draft recommendations that would be delivered to the bishops during the assembly.

In August, Cesareo told Catholic News Service that the bishops "have to put their trust in lay leadership and allow that lay leadership to develop the processes and oversight when these kinds of allegations occur, particularly holding bishops accountable."

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Communications, told Catholic News Service Oct. 19 that the bishops must "continue to press forward" in explaining how well the charter "is working and continues to work."

"It important that we as a conference have made incredible strides in protecting children to the point that one of the safest places for children to participate is the Catholic community in the United States," he said.

"But that message is not getting out there. Many people still believe that the abuse of children and the cover-up by church authorities is an ongoing issue and that the bishops haven't done enough to address the issue. That's contrary to the evidence in contrast to the number of reported abuses since 2002," Bishop Coyne said.

"We have to continually say the charter is working and doing its job."

Bishop Coyne also told CNS he would recommend that dioceses voluntarily open their clergy personnel files -- including those of bishops -- to investigators.

"We all do it and it's done," he said.

Meanwhile, work on the pastoral letter addressing racism was nearing its conclusion.

Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, has shepherded the final stages of work on the document since May when he stepped in for Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who resigned to undergo treatment for acute leukemia.

The proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," says that "despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation."

"Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," the proposed pastoral letter says.

The document examines the history of racism in the U.S. While acknowledging many other groups in the county have endured racism and discrimination in the past, it focuses on three groups: African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

The revised national directory for permanent deacons, if approved, would cover all U.S. Latin-rite dioceses and would give instruction on the formation, ministry and life of permanent deacons.

The Vatican approval, known as "recognitio," for the directory currently in use was set to expire in 2009. However, the bishops secured a pair of five-year extensions from the Vatican so the directory could be more closely scrutinized.

The proposed second edition of the directory has been approved by the bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and was reviewed by the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance and the Committee on Doctrine.

The 139 English translations of Latin hymn texts are part of a wider effort focusing on a new translation of the breviary agreed to by the bishops in 2012, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, wrote to the Administrative Committee in September.

"That plan directed ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) to prepare English translations of the 291 Latin hymns of the typical edition, some of which have never been put into contemporary English," Archbishop Gregory said.

Should the translations be approved in November, the remaining hymns likely will be presented to the full body in November 2019 or June 2020, he added.

The proposed 2019 budget for the USCCB reflects changes -- cuts more frequently than additions -- largely outside the bishops' control, yet will reflect a surplus.

The budget using the USCCB's unrestricted funds is projected at $23.09 million next year, with a surplus of $245,811. The unrestricted funds are spent on the general secretariat, administrative offices, pastoral ministries, politics and advocacy, communications, and "other funding relationships."

The USCCB's restricted funds -- contributions to national collections, funding for the National Religious Retirement Office and government contracts for the Office of Migration and Refugee Services -- show proposed expenditures of $162.6 million, with a surplus of $178,372.

When cuts come into play, the most telling line item is the MRS budget.

"MRS administration is decreasing $12.1 million due primarily to the reduction in the number of refugee arrivals and that directly impacts pass-through funding to the dioceses for local administration and direct assistance to clients," said a budget overview prepared by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, USCCB treasurer.

Federal awards and contracts are the chief source of MRS funds.

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Contributing to this report was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Scalabrini shelter in Guatemala swamped by Hondurans seeking safety

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 5:04pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luis Echeverria, Reuters

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Scalabrini migrant shelter in Guatemala City has served 1,700 Hondurans heading north as part of a caravan seeking to reach the U.S. border.

Carlos Lopez, a shelter official, told Catholic News Service the Scalabrini facility in Guatemala normally serves up to 80 guests at a time, but the number of migrants arriving from Honduras has forced the shelter to offer lodging in a nearby school.

Resources, he added, are strained and "staff are exhausted," having worked 48 hours nonstop. Rain is also making life miserable for migrants traveling mostly on foot and sometimes forced to sleep outside.

"We have a soccer field full of people, in the dining room, in every nook and cranny. They're on the bleachers, in the school gym," he said Oct. 18. "The problem now is feeding people and hygiene. ... We're experiencing chaos right now."

A caravan of Hondurans departed the city of San Pedro Sula Oct. 13, but its ranks swelled as it crossed into Guatemala. Lopez said no one was certain of the caravan's exact size, but he compared it to a "snowball going downhill" and estimated it at more than 5,000 participants.

"This is a humanitarian crisis. Here there are 75-year-old elderly women and 2-month-old babies," he said.

The caravan has captured the attention of Trump, who threatened to cut off assistance to Guatemala and Honduras -- $1.1 billion in 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington Office on Latin America -- if the caravan proceeded.

Guatemala issued a statement saying it would stop the caravan, even though Central American countries allow each other's citizens to cross borders freely.

Mexico sent two planeloads of federal police officers to its southern border Oct. 15 as the first migrants in the caravan arrived in the area. The country's foreign ministry said in a statement anyone with the proper papers could enter Mexico, while those planning to apply for asylum could do so. Anyone not meeting the entry requirements would be turned back, however.

In a tweet, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned Central American migrants to stay put, saying the road north poses risks and "if (migrants) cannot come to the U.S. legally, they should not come at all."

The northern triangle of Central America -- Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador -- is one of the most violent regions in the world, though murder rates have declined in recent years. Nicaragua has also experienced an outflow due to political unrest and attacks by police and paramilitaries on the opposition, though many of those migrants head to neighboring Costa Rica.

"Poverty, the lack of opportunities, violence and extortion due to gangs ... (people) can no longer live with such anxiety and, hence, are taking these actions," Lopez said.

In 2017, nearly 299,000 Central Americans were considered refugees or applied for asylum, according to the Jesuit Network with Migrants -- Central America and North America.

"The daily crisis of subsistence ... derived from the imposition of authoritarian political systems and economic models, which exclude, force people to flee their countries to have a dignified life and sometimes save their lives," the network said in a statement Oct. 17.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Synod about learning from Christ, not producing document, bishop says

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 2:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Anne Condodina

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The point of the Synod of Bishops on young people is not primarily to produce a document, but instead is to learn from Christ how to "bring God's mercy into the world," Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said in a homily at the synod.

"We have come to sit at the feet of the 'Divine Physician' and learn from him how to become physicians of broken hearts, among youth, young adults, and all God's people," the bishop said Oct. 18.

Each day a different bishop is chosen to give a homily during midmorning prayer at the synod. Speaking on the feast of Saint Luke, Bishop Caggiano began by asking, "How can one heal a broken heart?"

"It is a question that no disciple of the Lord can avoid asking, since it was to heal broken hearts that our savior came among us," he said.

The young physician, Luke, was among the many doctors who sought to "remedy the brokenness of life" with their own skills and tools. But he learned that there was a better way to heal after the Holy Spirit inspired him: He unlocked the power of divine mercy, the bishop said.

God's mercy offered through the life and death of Jesus healed "hearts burdened by the frailty of disease and old age, hearts that struggle with doubts and fears, hearts that question whether I am either lovable or will ever be loved by anyone," he said.

"My friends, we cannot truly heal anyone on our own," Bishop Caggiano told synod members. "Only Christ brings authentic and lasting healing. Luke understood this and lived his life serving as a simple channel of Christ's mercy."

St. Luke also "gave voice to the poor, the Samaritan, the prodigal son and the women forgotten by society" in a world that had grown blind to the needs of the helpless, he said.

"His Gospel compels us to walk into the shadows of our modern world and become channels of Christ's mercy for those whom the world has left behind," Bishop Caggiano said.

"Let us bring God's mercy into the world, one broken heart at a time."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Report: Immigrant aid agencies urge end to family separation policies

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:47am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A report from two leading faith-based agencies serving immigrants entering the United States from Mexico and Central America called on the federal government to end a policy of separating children from their families and help families comply with immigration law.

The report details the collaboration in July between the U.S. bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to assist more than 1,200 families to reunite after children were separated from adults under the U.S. Department of Justice's "zero tolerance" policy.

The policy caused a crisis at the border in the spring and summer months this year as federal agents jailed adults crossing into the U.S. and placed the children who had accompanied them in detention centers, largely in Texas, Arizona and California.

The faith-based agencies mobilized in July to assist the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services reunify separated families and provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling and case management.

Dozens of Catholic Charities and Lutheran social service agencies throughout the country also were involved in the reunification effort.

Titled "Serving Separated and Reunited Families: Lessons Learned and the Way Forward to Promote Family Unity," the report outlines the agencies' response and offered a series of recommendations to the federal government, the U.S. Congress, foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations to better serve families traveling north to the U.S.

It said that while little is known about how the forced separation of children and adults will affect young people, initial reports from service providers "indicate that families are experiencing symptoms of trauma, including separation anxiety."

It also suggested alternatives to detention for asylum-seeking families, especially those who pose no threat to the country.

"Such alternatives are often preferable as they avoid inflicting unnecessary and long-lasting trauma on children and families. Additionally, detaining families that do not present a flight or safety risk is an unnecessary use of limited (Department of Homeland Security) resources," the report said.

Leaders of both organizations welcomed the report.

"I am proud of the response of USCCB/MRS, LIRS and our Catholic and Lutheran partners around country, including my brother bishops, to be able to work with the administration to provide support to those vulnerable families," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration, said in a statement accompanying the Oct. 17 release of the report.

"I believe the recommendations made are important and should be seriously considered in order to avoid pain and suffering in the future caused by the separation of families," he said.

In a separate statement, Kay Bellor, vice president of programs for LIRS, praised the agencies for stepping up quickly to aid families.

"As we have been for decades, communities of faith were there, poised and ready, to love and serve our neighbors in need," Bellor said. "It is our deep hope that the lessons learned from this time in our history will prevent the cruel separation of children from their parents from happening again."

As of Sept. 27, nearly 2,300 families had been reunited, according to the report. Some of the reunited families remained in detention facilities, some were reunited in their countries of origin, and some were released to allow them to travel to families and friends throughout the U.S.

The report showed that the flow of immigrants from Mexico had eased, but that refugees from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador shot upward in 2017 and 2018. It cited the growing violence from criminal gang and illegal drug networks in the three countries as reasons cited by immigrants for seeking to enter the U.S.

MRS and LIRS also called for:

-- Better coordination and data collection on immigrants throughout the government to allow for improved tracking of family reunification.

-- The release of families during "normal but extended business hours" from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. to allow families to be safely transported.

-- Reinstating family case management that had been discontinued in 2017 after just 18 months of operation in what originally was a five-year pilot program.

-- Improved training for care providers.

-- Expanding programs that address the causes of migration.

-- Increased coordination among aid agencies to better serve separated families.

MRS and LIRS also encouraged the U.S. government to "commit to immigration policies that are humane and uphold each individual's human dignity. Such policies should also ensure compliance with immigration requirements and be fair to the U.S. taxpayer."

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Editor's Note: The full report can be accessed online at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

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Copyright © 2018 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, meeting South Korean leader, says he's open to visiting North

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:36am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis, at a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said he is willing to visit North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had asked Moon to tell the pope of the invitation. According to Yonhap, the Korean news agency, Moon's press secretary told reporters the pope said he would accept "if an (official) invitation arrives and I can go.'"

Meeting the South Korean president Oct. 18, the pope praised Moon's efforts to promote peace in the Korean peninsula.

"Move forward without stopping. Do not be afraid," the pope told Moon according to Yonhap.

In a statement released after the meeting, the Vatican said Pope Francis and Moon discussed the church's role in promoting "dialogue and reconciliation between Koreans."

"Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development," the Vatican said.

Greeting Moon at the entrance to the library of the Apostolic Palace, the pope said, "Welcome! It is nice to see you."

"I come here as the (South) Korean head of state but I am also Catholic and my baptismal name is Timothy. And for me it is an honor to meet you," Moon replied.

The South Korean leader also thanked the pope for taking time to meet him despite his busy schedule during the Synod of Bishops.

According to the Vatican press pool, Pope Francis and Moon spoke privately for more than 30 minutes, assisted by a translator, Korean Father Han Hyun-taek.

After their private meeting, Moon presented the pope with a Korean artist's sculpture of Christ's face adorned with a crown of thorns. The thorns, Moon explained, "are the sufferings of the Korean people."

Among the gifts the pope gave Moon was a split medallion held together by an olive tree which he said was "a symbol of peace in the Korean Peninsula."

Before departing, Moon thanked the pope again for welcoming him and said, "You are not only the head of the Catholic Church, but also a teacher for humanity."

"I wish you well in your work for peace," the pope replied.

The evening before his meeting with the pope, President Moon attended a Mass for Peace in the Korean Peninsula presided by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Addressing those present after the Mass, President Moon said the historic signing of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration between North and South Korea as well as their commitment to ending the decades-long military confrontation were "blazing the trail for a noble endeavor that will secure the future of peace for the Korean Peninsula and the whole world."

"Right now, on the Korean Peninsula, historic and heartwarming changes are taking place," he said.

President Moon also thanked Pope Francis for blessing "our journey toward peace" and walking "together with us through his prayers."

"Our prayers today will turn into reality for sure," he added. "We will achieve peace and overcome division without fail."

In his homily during the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Parolin said that the peace offered by Christ to his disciples after his resurrection is the same peace offered to the hearts of men and women "who search for true life and full joy."

The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy -- in which God promises the people of Israel that although they are "dispersed to the farthest corner of the heavens, even from there will the Lord, your God, gather you" -- reflects the prospects of peace between North and South Korea, he said.

"The wisdom of Scripture makes us understand that only those who have experienced the inscrutable mystery of the apparent absence of God in the face of suffering, oppression and hatred can fully understand what it means to hear the word peace resound again," the cardinal said.

The Vatican secretary of state said that although peace is built daily through a serious commitment to justice and solidarity as well as the protection of human rights and dignity, it is first and foremost a gift from God that "is not an abstract and distant idea but an experience lived concretely in the daily journey of life."

The peace that God offers, he added, "is not the fruit of a simple compromise" but involves "all the dimensions of life, even the mysterious ones of the cross and the inevitable sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage."

"Christian faith," Cardinal Parolin said, "teaches us that 'peace without the cross is not the peace of Jesus.'"

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2018 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.

'Every parish, rectory in hurricane zone' suffering, says church official

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 1:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- The physical impact of Hurricane Michael and the anticipated recovery period for parts of the Florida Panhandle appear to be on a scale of last year's Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the church's top emergency management specialist in Florida.

"The devastation is so large that we looking at couple of years at least in recovery," said Gabe Tischler, who is working full time on the Hurricane Michael response for the Tallahassee-based Florida Catholic Conference following the storm's Oct. 10 landfall.

The event brought near Category-5 strength winds when it came ashore at Mexico Beach, Florida, near Panama City in the Florida Gulf Coast.

"Every parish and rectory in the hurricane zone has suffered damage, and we are working to get RV units in place so the clergy can move out of the damaged rectories," said Tischler.

As a resident of Tallahassee, he had to evacuate his residence and is now working remotely coordinating relief and volunteer efforts from regional dioceses, private individuals and corporate donors and state and federal authorities along with Catholic Charities agencies.

Scarcity of lodging and housing -- both for residents and emergency responders pouring into the region -- are among the most daunting needs of the recovery efforts, he said, noting that emergency supply distribution centers have been set up or created at Catholic parishes in Florida Panhandle coastal towns of Panama City, Mexico Beach, Marianna, Apalachicola and Port St. Joe.

To date, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has distributed an estimated million pounds of goods to 8,000 recipients at a distribution site at St. Dominic Parish in Panama City, considered part of the storm's ground zero.

Portable toilets, satellite phones, portable laundry facilities and a communications vehicle are among the larger items arriving through private donors and church agencies. Cellphone communications has been nonexistent around the hardest-hit areas but that situation is expected to improve in the near future.

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in collaboration with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has put out an online call for volunteers, noting that two-thirds of that diocese was substantial impacted by Hurricane Michael.

The website notes that there is a need for at least 50 volunteers, seven days a week for the next few months at a Catholic Charities staging project at St. Dominic Church. Many of the volunteers are staying at their own cost at area hotels and church facilities in the Tallahassee area, organizers said.

In addition, Catholic Charities USA has deployed a small team to the region, with several staff operating a portable laundry facility in Marianna, and another team that will deliver supplies and power generators to Panama City. The Knights of Columbus and individual Charities agencies around the region have also been mobilized to collection donations and send volunteers, Tischler said.

"So many people have lost everything: homes, property and even their livelihood. The scenes of destruction are heart-wrenching, knowing that when we see a place where there once was a house, a family used to live there and are now homeless," Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee said in an Oct. 12 letter to the diocese.

A week after the storm came ashore, Hurricane Michael's death toll has risen to 29 across four Southern U.S. states. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump toured hurricane-ravaged areas of the Florida Gulf Coast Oct. 15.

In the Miami Archdiocese, Catholic Charities was sending an initial team of four logistics and fact-finding staff on Oct. 17 to spend several days there helping to establish the distribution site in St. Joe, according to Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities Miami.

The Miami team planned to be based at the St. John Neumann Retreat Center in Tallahassee through Oct. 21, when another Catholic Charities team from Central Florida was expected to relieve them the following week.

"Later on they may have some specific needs up there as far as case workers or clinical social workers but this first go-round is mostly about assessment," Routsis-Arroyo said, who is formerly Catholic Charities director for the Diocese of Venice in Southwest Florida, which experienced damages from last year's Hurricane Irma.

"You have a lot of shrimpers and rural poor in that area (of Port St. Joe), and that is where they asked us to help out. They do have two sites up and running: one in Mexico Beach, which is ground zero, and one in Panama City, which was destroyed also. We were asked to take the easternmost area (of impact)," Routsis-Arroyo added. A team from Catholic Charities Orlando is expected to assist in this area next week.

The Florida Catholic Conference's Tischler said needed items include food, water, baby and adult diapers, cash donations and on-site volunteers willing to fund their own house.

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Editor's Note: More information about recovery and volunteer efforts can be found online at https://bit.ly/2Cna8h2.

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

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Young migrants bring vitality, need support, synod members say

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Juan Medina, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Helping young migrants hold fast to their cultural and religious identity, especially in situations where they are a minority, was a recurring topic at the Synod of Bishops.

Blessed Sacrament Father Robert Stark, director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Diocese of Honolulu and regional coordinator for the Vatican's Migrant and Refugees Section, offered synod members very practical advice for assisting young people on the move.

First, he said Oct. 16, church workers must listen to young people thinking about leaving their homelands and inform them of the dangers. Second, the church should offer food, shelter and safety to young people in transit. And, when they arrive at their destination, the young should be helped with legal assistance and language classes.

"At each phase of their journey, young migrants pass through different dioceses but -- from beginning to end -- they can be in the same loving, caring church," Father Stark told the synod.

Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, representing the North African bishops' conference, told the synod that many of the dioceses of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are thriving today because of the young African Catholics who come to their countries for university studies or while awaiting an opportunity to migrate to Europe.

"These young people have given vitality and joy to our churches and have helped them maturity spiritually, becoming 'the church of encounter,' 'the church of welcome' and of listening," he said.

Christians are a miniscule minority in North Africa and must live their faith with "great discretion" among a Muslim majority that often considers them "infidels, unbelievers or worse."

But by allowing themselves "to be evangelized by their Muslim brothers, that is, to learn their culture and religion," he said, they learn the tolerance, friendship and cooperation that are essential to building a peaceful society.

"Our young people discover in this way that different religions are no longer an insurmountable obstacle but become a different path to the one God we all adore," Archbishop Antoniazzi said.

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, pleaded with his Latin-rite brothers to help migrants from the Eastern Catholic churches maintain their ties to their cultures and to preserve "their liturgical, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony."

For Lebanese Christians, he said, part of that culture has been and must continue to be "promoting interreligious dialogue, which is a dialogue of life, culture and destiny with the Muslims."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Indifference, hatred is the first step to murder, pope says

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hurling insults and being indifferent to other people's lives is the first step along the winding path that leads to killing them, at least figuratively, Pope Francis said.

By warning that "whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment," Jesus equates hatred with murder, the pope said Oct. 17 during his weekly general audience.

"Indifference kills. It's like telling someone, 'You're dead to me,' because you've killed them in your heart. Not loving is the first step to killing; and not killing is the first step to loving," he told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

Continuing his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, the pope reflected on Christ's explanation of the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shall not kill."

"Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift," Jesus said according to St. Matthew's Gospel.

Although Christians should have "an attitude of reconciliation with people who we have had problems with," Pope Francis said that sometimes, even while waiting for Mass to begin, "we gossip a bit and speak bad about others."

"This can't be done!" he exclaimed. "Let's think about the gravity of insults, the gravity of despising someone, the seriousness of hatred. Jesus places them along the lines of murder."

By expanding on the definition of murder, the pope explained, Jesus emphasized that every person, carrying within them the image of God, "possesses a hidden self that is no less important than their physical being," and both easily can be destroyed.

"To offend the innocence of a child, an inappropriate phrase is enough," he said. "To hurt a woman, a gesture of coldness is enough. To break a young man's heart, it is enough to deny him trust. To annihilate a man, it is enough to ignore him."

Through his life and death, Christ taught that forgiveness and mercy are "the love we cannot do without."

In Jesus, Pope Francis said, "in his love which is stronger than death and through the power of the Spirit that the Father gives us, we can accept this (commandment) -- 'Thou shall not kill' -- as the most important and essential appeal: the call to love."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Lack of progress fighting hunger is shameful, pope says

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 10:12am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Farooq Khan, EPA

By Anne Condodina

ROME (CNS) -- At a time of technological and scientific progress, "we ought to feel shame" for not having advanced in "humanity and solidarity" enough to feed the world's poor, Pope Francis said.

"Neither can we console ourselves simply for having faced emergencies and desperate situations of those most in need. We are all called to go further. We can and we must do better for the helpless," the pope said in a message to world leaders attending a meeting of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

The World Food Day ceremony Oct. 16 marks the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of world hunger.

The theme for 2018 is "Our actions are our future: A zero hunger world by 2030 is possible." The 2030 agenda seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Local programs are just as important as global commitments to ending hunger, Pope Francis said in his message.

"Global indicators are of no use if our commitment does not correspond to reality on the ground," the pope said. "This must be done in the context of suitable institutional, social and economic support that offers fruitful initiatives and solutions so that the poor do not feel overlooked again."

According to the FAO 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, world hunger is on the rise again, and over 820 million people are suffering chronic undernourishment.

The pope called for policies of cooperation for development that are oriented toward meeting the real needs of the people: "The struggle against hunger urgently demands generous financing, the abolition of trade barriers and, above all, greater resilience in the face of climate change, economic crises and warfare," he said.

While one can dream of a future without hunger, the pope said it is only reasonable to do so "when we engage in tangible processes, vital relations, effective plans and real commitments."

The poor expect real help from world leaders, he wrote, "not mere propositions or agreements."

However, it not only requires political decision-making and effective planning, but also a more proactive and sustainable long-term vision from world leaders, Pope Francis said.

"We overlook the structural aspects that shroud the tragedy of hunger: extreme inequality, poor distribution of the world's resources, consequences of climate change and the interminable and bloody conflicts which ravage many regions," he said.

"Some may say that we still have 12 years ahead in which to carry this out" to meet the 2030 goal, the pope acknowledged. But "the poor cannot wait. Their devastating circumstances do not allow this."

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Catholic leaders welcome PEPFAR reauthorization in Congress

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 3:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic leaders applauded congressional committees for reauthorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, opening the door for final passage of a bill to keep the program in place for another five years.

Citing how the 15-year-old program has saved millions of lives around the world and prevented millions of new infections, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said in a statement Oct. 15 the program ensures U.S. leadership in the campaign against HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Funds under the program, known as PEPFAR, support numerous services such as providing free antiretroviral medicines for eligible patients, support for families devastated by AIDS, after-school programs for children whose parents died from the disease and their caregivers, transportation for health services and counseling.

Callahan and Archbishop Broglio said the program is worthwhile even though they hold "principled concerns" about some aspects of PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS through which funds are funneled that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Therefore, they said, church agencies do not implement or advocate for them.

CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, has received funding under PEPFAR since 2004. PEPFAR was supported by the USCCB after its staff worked to ensure that conscience protections were included in the law authorizing the program.

PEPFAR "is one of the most successful global health programs in history demonstrating U.S. leadership in saving lives and safeguarding human dignity of the most vulnerable people," the leaders said.

The number of deaths caused by AIDS and other serious diseases each year has been reduced by one-third since 2002 in countries where the Global Fund invests. The program also has supported 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers over the years.

"Saving lives and protecting the future of vulnerable children is a proud U.S. legacy thanks to the U.S. Congress," the statement said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the reauthorization Sept. 27 while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the measure Oct. 3.

A final vote on the bill in both houses of Congress is expected this fall.

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Baltimore Archdiocese, Catholic Charities help launch Parish ID in city

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:33pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review

By Paul McMullen

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- This generation of immigrants to Baltimore will continue to find a haven in the Catholic Church.

That was the message Oct. 10 from the steps of Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, where Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Archbishop William E. Lori and Catholic pastors who minister to those from foreign countries attended the announcement of the establishment of a Parish ID program.

The program's priority is "focused on helping residents to feel comfortable interacting with the Baltimore City Police Department," according to BUILD, or Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, which helped organize the initiative.

Even though the enforcement of immigration laws falls primarily under federal jurisdiction rather than municipal jurisdiction, many the city's immigrants who are living in the U.S. without legal documents remain hesitant to report crimes committed against them, for fear of their own arrest, and possible deportation and separation from their families.

"No one should be a victim because they're afraid of calling police," said Pugh, who backed the initiative at a town hall in June.

With the support of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Charities of Baltimore, through the Esperanza Center, residents will be able to obtain a non-government-issued ID that shows their photo and home address.

"The full weight of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is behind this effort," said Archbishop Lori, head of the Baltimore Archdiocese.

The program will be launched at Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, followed by St. Matthew in Northwood and then other parishes that serve immigrant communities.

According to BUILD, city residents who have been members of its affiliate churches for three months are eligible for a Parish ID. It requires an existing identification, such as a passport; proof of address, such as a utility bill; a notarized statement from another person who can verify one's identity; and attendance at a half-day orientation.

Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said that the card was being introduced to command staff Oct. 11, and department-wide in the next two weeks. BUILD said the IDs will only be recognized in the city.

While some logistics remain to be worked out, priests such as Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski and Father Joseph Muth, who are the respective pastors of those faith communities, will play a substantial role in the roll-out.

"The best example I can think of, I call 911 to report a break in, my house has been robbed," Father Lewandowski said. "I call the police, how do they know I live there? How do I identify myself? If I'm an immigrant, I can show them my passport, but that just says I come from another country.

"I show them my Parish ID, (it shows) there are people there who know me and can verify my identity. If someone is stopped by the police, it says people know me."

Several speakers alluded to the hope that the program could help drive down crime in a city coming off the deadliest year in its history.

"We are sending a clear message, that people have a right to be safe," the archbishop said. "People have a right to live in a city where they see each other as neighbors and friends, rather than strangers and enemies."

"With the security offered by this ID, people will stop looking over their shoulders and stop hiding in their homes and parishes," he added. "This ID provides one avenue to freedom from fear. The ID card is a way of developing trust ' and creating safer streets and homes."

Asked what qualifies him to vouch for his people, Father Lewandowski said, "I know probably 1,500 people in this parish alone, probably 800 at St. Patrick and probably 400 more at Our Lady of Fatima."

Father Muth can speak for Rebecca Kitana, a native of Kenya and member of the Immigration Outreach Service Center, based at St. Matthew Church. The parish is both her spiritual home and her literal one, as she resides in its convent through the auspices of Asylee Women's Enterprise.

"Anyone who comes to our door is given a safe place," Kitana said of the outreach center, which has assisted immigrants from more than 140 countries. "At the IOSC, we know that many immigrants will benefit from the Parish ID. There are people who are living in fear.

"I personally know a woman who is scared to leave her house, because she is afraid that she will come into contact with police, be detained and force to leave behind her child. An ID like this will make people less afraid, and more fully engaged."

Father Muth noted the history of Baltimore, and the church.

"We're an immigrant church, in an immigrant city," Father Muth said. "The city was built, and the church was built, by and for immigrants of many generations. Now we're taking this step for the next generation, to keep them protected with ID cards that acknowledge their place in the community."

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McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Superiors general see no reason why women shouldn't have vote at synod

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:17pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although bishops should increase the majority of voting members at a Synod of Bishops, the fact that the body is only consultative means women should be included as full members just as priests and religious brothers are, said three priests who are voting members.

The superiors general of the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Conventual Franciscans -- all priests who are voting members of the synod -- spoke to reporters at a Vatican briefing Oct. 15.

When the men's Union of Superiors General chose two religious brothers to be among their 10 voting delegates at the Synod of Bishops, they consciously made the choice to emphasize that men's religious orders include both priests and laymen, the minister general of the Conventual Franciscans said.

"Obviously it wasn't an accident" that two brothers were elected, Father Marco Tasca, the minister general, told Catholic News Service after the briefing. "Consecrated life is made up of priests and laypeople, so it is only right that there also be lay superiors general at the synod."

When the superiors elected a brother to the 2015 synod, he said, "there were some doubts about whether or not the synod office would accept him, but the pope intervened and said, 'Let him come.' Case closed.

"This time we didn't ask," Father Tasca said.

Now, he said, that choice "should raise the question of the presence of the sisters, the women. That is the great challenge."

The men's USG and the women's International Union of Superiors General are now asking that question together, Father Tasca said. "We had a meeting last week -- a small group of superiors from both -- and we asked, 'How can we move on this together?'"

The two organizations of superiors, which hold a joint meeting each November, will get together again, he said, to try to move the question forward. "I think the correct path is to present this together, not 'we men' or 'we women' like children, but together."

While rules for the Synod of Bishops provide for the men's union of superiors to elect 10 voting members for the synod, there is no such provision for the women's union of superiors. However, the pope does appoint women religious as observers or experts to the synods.

Several questions at the synod briefing Oct. 15 regarded the presence of women and their lack of a vote.

"It's a Synod of Bishops," said Father Bruno Cadore, master of the Dominican order. But, he said, the synod rules allow for "representatives" of religious life to participate, and they should be both men and women. "You know," he said, "that 80 percent of consecrated people in the church are women?"

Because the synod "is not a deliberative body, so it is not tied to priestly ordination, I think in the future there will be a Synod of Bishops that says, 'We want the participation of those who collaborate with us in pastoral work and, for this reason, we will invite representatives of consecrated life,' knowing that -- as I said -- 80 percent of them are women. This should happen."

In fact, he said, with this synod focused on "young people, the faith and vocational discernment," it would have made sense to have more women religious participating, given their work in the field of education, faith formation and vocational promotion.

Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, said he agreed with Father Cadore that "it is a Synod of Bishops," but he also said he sees an effort by Pope Francis to "deepen the synodality of the church" and strengthen the vision of the church as "the people of God" by ensuring that men and women are treated equally and have an equal voice.

"I think this will help us move forward," Father Sosa said.

The repeated questions about women's participation and an international petition calling on the pope to give women a vote at the synod signify "discomfort, which is a sign that something's wrong," he said. "So one must listen and move forward."

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El Salvador celebrates its first saint, whose legacy continues

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 1:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By David Agren

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- Near the end of his homily at a Mass just prior to St. Oscar Romero's canonization, Jesuit Father Jose Maria Tojeira yelled to the crowd outside the Metropolitan Cathedral: "Viva Monsenor Romero!" (Long live Bishop Romero!)

The overflow crowed lustily yelled back, "Que Viva!" (Long live!)

"We're not venerating a body," Father Tojeira said, "rather someone who is alive, together with God and in the hearts of all Christians that want to continue with the reality of the Gospel."

During the Oct. 14 at the Vatican -- very early morning in El Salvador -- Salvadorans gathered in the square outside the cathedral to watch the ceremony on big screens; others watched in their parishes.

St. Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980. His legacy of showing a preference for the poor and promoting peace lives on in his native El Salvador, where, even in death, he plays an outsized role in the country's public life and occupies a special place in its collective consciousness -- for devotees and detractors alike.

He becomes El Salvador's first saint. But his current role in the country transcends religion. He also has assumed the status of national hero, whose words -- spoken in homilies -- sound prophetic and seem apt almost four decades after his death.

"He still is the most venerated and respected leader of the last 100 years, certainly the last 50 years," said Rick Jones, youth and migration adviser for Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador.

"He's still the sign post of what people are looking for in terms of some voice that talks about reconciliation, justice and hope for nonviolent transformation."

St. Romero's slaying came as the country was on the cusp of civil war, which roared through the 1980s. His canonization comes as the country convulses with violence, much of it attributed to gangs preying on populations living in barrios under their control.

As archbishop of San Salvador, the national capital, St. Romero accompanied the poor at a time when some two-thirds of the population lived in poverty. He also voiced people's demands for better wages and criticisms of the "oligarchy"  -- as the elites were caustically called -- at a time when his critics considered such talk "communist." He also called for a suspension of U.S. military assistance.

The poverty and inequality St. Romero spoke out against are still rife in 2018. Many Salvadorans also still flee the country to escape the violence and indignities, causing his words to resonate with younger generations and even some evangelicals and atheists.

"What he said is still valid. His words still carry enormous weight," said Douglas Martinez, a vendor in San Salvador. "He was practically a prophet on this earth."

Canonization was never certain for St. Romero, though some in the country have long considered him a saint.

"For me and for many people in the country -- a good number of people with a social commitment -- Bishop Romero has been a saint since his martyrdom, and now it's going to be the formal act," said Gabina Dubon, coordinator of the transformational social ministry in Caritas El Salvador.

"In that time there was no freedom of expression. He became a voice for those without a voice, a defender of life, dignity, solidarity and the common good."

St. Romero served only three years as archbishop of San Salvador, yet he left a legacy via his homilies, which were broadcast across the country.

Participants in a procession to the cathedral carried signs with quotes culled from those homilies. "There's no more diabolical sin than taking bread from the hungry," read one sign. "It's necessary to call injustice by its name," read another.

The celebrations carried political overtones for some. A U.N. truth commission named Roberto d'Aubuisson, an ex-army officer and founder of the conservative ARENA alliance, as the intellectual author of the murder. He died of cancer in 1992.

Father Neftali Ruiz carried a banner castigating ARENA, but saying of Romero, "The people made him a saint."

Father Ruiz stood outside the same cathedral where tens of thousands of Salvadorans mourned St. Romero at his funeral. Snipers opened fire on the funeral, killing at least 40 people.

Only one Salvadoran bishop attended the funeral: Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas, who was named St. Romero's successor in San Salvador.

"He always defended Romero," Father Tojeira said of Archbishop Rivera, "but speaking in confidence ... he would say, 'A bishop like Romero arrives every 500 years.'"

The St. Romero canonization showed how time had changed in the country and church though, in an interview, Father Tojeira quipped of St. Romero's critics, "They used to say 'communist.' They now have a little more civilized discourse but continue being similar."

Celebrations of the canonization occurred in dioceses across El Salvador -- even in San Vicente, where priests would bless army helicopters during the civil war. Father Ruiz recalled being expelled from the minor seminary there in 2000 for refusing to stop displaying an image of St. Romero.

Today, images of St. Romero grace everything from postage stamps to murals to the walls of the presidential palace to political ads, as the ruling party attempts to capitalize on his popularity and incorruptible reputation.

That politicians try to appropriate St. Romero's image bothers some devotees as crime, corruption and poverty persist at alarmingly high levels. St. Romero also criticized both sides of the political spectrum.

"(Politicians) don't practice what he preached," said Elsy Cornejo, who was selling CDs of St. Romero's homilies. "He spoke of peace and accompanying the poor."

With the murder rate in El Salvador ranking among the highest in the world and gangs preying on poor barrio dwellers with crimes such as extortion and the forced recruitment of teenagers, Cornejo added, "We're also practicing very little of what he preached."

Church observers expressed hope St. Romero's canonization could bring unity to a country with polarized politics and offer a possibility of improvement.

"He presents a figure for reconciliation," Jones said, "and a different way to move forward other than ... just the left or the right."

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St. Romero's brothers rejoice at his canonization

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 11:44am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By Melissa Vida

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Before the sun rose in Rome Oct. 14, 88-year-old Gaspar Romero and his brother, 93-year-old Tiberio Romero were at the head of the line of thousands of people waiting to get into St. Peter's Square.

The two were at the Vatican for the canonization of their brother, St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in 1980.

In the glow of the lights under the colonnade surrounding St. Peter's Square, the Romero brothers and other family members waited with a group of priests from El Salvador.

"Thanks to this event, our country has become known in the whole world," Gaspar Romero told Catholic News Service. "So many people in the world were waiting for this."

While standing in line, he shared an anecdote of the honors his brother received throughout the years.

"The biggest honor was when Queen Elizabeth of England contacted me," he said, explaining it happened under atypical circumstances. "I had seen in the papers that the Westminster Abbey was preparing a statue (of Archbishop Romero in 1998), and so I wrote a thank-you note to them."

A few days later, the British ambassador visited Gaspar Romero at his home and invited him to meet the queen. "For me that was something unexpected, unexplainable and unasked for," he said with a chuckle.

The Anglican Church, while not formally canonizing St. Romero, honored him and nine others as "martyrs of the 20th century" and erected their statues in Westminster Abbey. Lord Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, led an official delegation of the Anglican Communion at the canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square.

Although he had kept a low profile in the wake of his brother's death, Gaspar Romero recently has begun to share his experience publicly.

"I feel proud as a brother and as a family member," he said, "but also as part of the (Salvadoran) people because over there, they love him a lot."

The younger Romero said his trip to Rome made him realize just how much people from around the globe share that sentiment.

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For Catholics, St. Oscar Romero's canonization a dream come true

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 10:34am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Melissa Vida and Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- For many pilgrims from El Salvador and for many Catholics who focus on the tie between faith and justice, waiting for the canonization of St. Oscar Romero was an exercise in patience.

The declaration of the sainthood of the Salvadoran archbishop, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980, teaches men and women that "holiness is first and foremost a gift" that doesn't come quickly, said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines.

"In Oscar Romero, we saw how he struggled, how he took the painful path of reconciling his previous understanding of the Gospel and the performance of the church's mission with the openness that Vatican II presented," the cardinal told Catholic News Service after celebrating a vigil Mass Oct. 13.

"In a world where everyone is in a hurry, in a rush, and we want things perfect, well, he seems to be telling us, 'Take it easy, be patient!' And if you have to suffer through your own internal revolution of change out of love, then it's worth going through it," he told CNS.

The Mass preceded a conference and a concert sponsored by Caritas Internationalis celebrating the Oct. 14 canonizations of both St. Romero and St. Paul VI.

Cardinal Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, presided at the vigil Mass along with Cardinals Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador.

Holding back tears, Cardinal Tagle said in his homily that true Christians give witness not to an ethic or a law, but "a person, Jesus who loved me, who gave his life for us and I experienced this love, this charity!"

"And when I live by that love, my life becomes a testimony to the gift I have received," he added. "And death does not become the annihilation of life, but death becomes the apex of life. When we love, we live. But when we love, we also die. But it is in dying that we live."

Cardinal Rodriguez said St. Romero's canonization wasn't just a reason for El Salvador to celebrate but for all Central America and that "it also is a reason to hope."

St. Romero "simply took up his cross," the cardinal said, "and it was a heavy cross because (it was) the cross of his brothers (bishops) who didn't support him -- because there were very few who supported him -- and even in the midst of that, he knew how to go forward until he triumphed."

For Manuel Roberto Lopez, El Salvador's ambassador to the Holy See, there is only one word that comes to mind as a Salvadoran witnessing the beloved archbishop's canonization: a blessing.

"That's the word that comes to mind because I feel that it is a blessing that comes from heaven not only for Salvadorans, it's for all Latin America, for the whole world," Lopez told CNS.

"I hope the Salvadoran people, especially young people, understand this message and they can truly live out the teachings of Romero because, if not, his blood will be shed for nothing," he said. "St. Romero is waiting for that fruit from us."

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator for St. Romero's sainthood cause, said he believed the canonization of the Salvadoran archbishop and of St. Paul VI marks a turning point for the Catholic Church.

"For me, this is not only a beautiful celebration," Archbishop Paglia told CNS Oct. 13. The canonizations mark "a new step for the church."

"There will be three people, two who are in heaven and one on earth: Paul VI, Romero and Pope Francis, who all admire each other," the archbishop said. "This tryptic is explosive, and for me, the message is very clear: This is a church that has chosen to blend with history and with the preference of the poor."

"What the cardinals and priests who opposed (St. Romero's canonization) don't understand is that (St. Romero's) faith was not theoretical, it was a faith blended with current times, charity, justice and the forces of a changing world," Archbishop Paglia said.

Before sunrise Oct. 14 thousands of pilgrims stood in line to enter St. Peter's Square for the canonization Mass; many of them were wearing white and blue scarves and hats, the colors of El Salvador's flag.

"We have been waiting since midnight and we haven't slept because we want to be among those privileged to be here for the 6 million Salvadorans who wanted to come," Jose Antonio Garcia Garcia, a Salvadoran pilgrim living in Rome, told CNS.

"It is a historic event, a transcendental day," Liliana Emeldy Reyes, another pilgrim who traveled from El Salvador, told CNS.

As St. Romero is known for defending the poor and the victims of El Salvador's military repression in the 1970s, some viewed his legacy as politicized. Reyes told CNS she was among those who had a negative opinion of him until a few years ago.

"Many people would say that he was polarizing and that he wasn't a universal person but only fighting for the left," Reyes told CNS. She changed her mind when she met pilgrims who traveled to El Salvador for his beatification in 2015. "Now I know that he is a just man," she said.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Saints risk all for love of Jesus, pope says at canonization Mass

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 7:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Carrying Pope Paul VI's pastoral staff and wearing the blood-stained belt of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, Pope Francis formally recognized them, and five others, as saints of the Catholic Church.

Thousands of pilgrims from the new saints' home countries -- Italy, El Salvador, Spain and Germany -- were joined by tens of thousands of others Oct. 14 in St. Peter's Square to celebrate the universal recognition of the holiness of men and women they already knew were saints.

Carolina Escamilla, who traveled from San Salvador for canonization, said she was "super happy" to be in Rome. "I don't think there are words to describe all that we feel after such a long-awaited and long-desired moment like the 'official' canonization, because Archbishop Romero was already a saint when he was alive."

Each of the new saints lived lives marked by pain and criticism -- including from within the church -- but all of them dedicated themselves with passionate love to following Jesus and caring for the weak and the poor, Pope Francis said in his homily.

The new saints are: Paul VI, who led the last sessions of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation; Romero, who defended the poor, called for justice and was assassinated in 1980; Vincenzo Romano, an Italian priest who died in 1831; Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, a Spanish nun who ministered in Mexico and Bolivia and died in 1943; Catherine Kasper, the 19th-century German founder of a religious order; Francesco Spinelli, a 19th-century priest and founder of a religious order; and Nunzio Sulprizio, a layman who died in Naples in 1836 at the age of 19.

"All these saints, in different contexts," put the Gospel "into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind," Pope Francis said in his homily.

The pope, who has spoken often about being personally inspired by both St. Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero, prayed that every Christian would follow the new saints' examples by shunning an attachment to money, wealth and power, and instead following Jesus and sharing his love with others.

And he prayed the new saints would inspire the whole church to set aside "structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world."

Among those in St. Peter's Square for the Mass was Rossi Bonilla, a Salvadoran now living in Barcelona. "I'm really emotional, also because I did my Communion with Monsignor Romero when I was eight years old," she told Catholic News Service.

"He was so important for the neediest; he was really with the people and kept strong when the repression started," Bonilla said. "The struggle continues for the people, and so here we are!"

Claudia Lombardi, 24, came to the canonization from Brescia, Italy -- St. Paul VI's hometown. Her local saint, she said, "brought great fresh air" to the church with the Second Vatican Council and "has something to say to us today," particularly with his 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" on human life and married love, especially its teaching about "the conception of life, the protection of life always."

In his homily, Pope Francis said that "Jesus is radical."

"He gives all and he asks all; he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart," the pope said. "Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange?"

Jesus, he said, "is not content with a 'percentage of love.' We cannot love him 20 or 50 or 60 percent. It is either all or nothing" because "our heart is like a magnet -- it lets itself be attracted by love, but it can cling to one master only and it must choose: either it will love God or it will love the world's treasure; either it will live for love or it will live for itself."

"A leap forward in love," he said, is what would enable individual Christians and the whole church to escape "complacency and self-indulgence."

Without passionate love, he said, "we find joy in some fleeting pleasure, we close ourselves off in useless gossip, we settle into the monotony of a Christian life without momentum where a little narcissism covers over the sadness of remaining unfulfilled."

The day's Gospel reading recounted the story of the rich young man who said he followed all the commandments and precepts of Jewish law, but he asks Jesus what more he must do to have eternal life.

"Jesus' answer catches him off guard," the pope said. "The Lord looks upon him and loves him. Jesus changes the perspective from commandments observed in order to obtain a reward, to a free and total love."

In effect, he said, Jesus is telling the young man that not doing evil is not enough, nor is it enough to give a little charity or say a few prayers. Following Jesus means giving him absolute first place in one's life. "He asks you to leave behind what weighs down your heart, to empty yourself of goods in order to make room for him, the only good."

"Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?" the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter's Square, including the 267 members of the Synod of Bishops and the 34 young people who are observers at the gathering.

"A heart unburdened by possessions, that freely loves the Lord, always spreads joy, that joy for which there is so much need today," Pope Francis said. "Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way."

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Contributing to this story were Carol Glatz, Junno Arocho Esteves and Melissa Vida.

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Young people want leaders who are fathers, not Pharisees, observer says

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 2:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must be a place of justice and mercy, and its members must be catalysts for change, some young observers said at the Synod of Bishops Oct. 11.

"In order to teach justice and mercy to our young people, the church must first be a place of justice and mercy for our young people," said Joseph Moeono-Kolio from Samoa, who was representing the Caritas Internationalis Youth Forum and young people from the Pacific Islands.

He asked the synod what young people could to do about uprooting injustice from the world "when we can't do it within our own churches?"

The problem of clerical sexual abuse and corruption are present in his region, he said, but "reporting it or even speaking of it here is professional and cultural suicide."

"Young people are tired of Pharisees, we need fathers," he said.

Moeono-Kolio used an analogy for how he would like to see young people and elders live and work together. When his ancestors would sail from island to island, he said, strong young people were put in charge of paddling while the elders onboard were in charge of reading the stars in the sky and the ocean currents in order to guide the boat to their common destination.

Whether it is the Pacific Ocean or today's sea of challenges, he said, "until we start paddling together by way of listening and equipping our young people with the tools to navigate the inevitable storms, our canoe will only float into irrelevance."

"But if you, our elders, set the right course and steer this canoe in the right direction, we the young faithful are ready to help you power it through the challenges" and bring the light of faith to the ends of the world, he said.

Nicole Anne Perez, who is a catechist in the Philippines, voiced her concerns to the synod about how Catholics in youth ministry can be catalysts of change and find solace, guidance and love in a region with so many huge problems.

The breakdown of families, parents focused more on money than their children, predators taking advantage of children's poverty for sexual exploitation, inauthentic online relationships and casual sex all leave "ordinary" people wondering what they can do to solve these problems, she said.

Her answer, she explained, is found in Jesus telling the Pharisee that the greatest commandment of all is love -- loving God and loving one's neighbor as oneself.

Perez said she looks inside herself to make sure she is being "a spark of light in the dark," spreading that spark to others and leading other people to "the true light."

"Let us be Jesus to others, letting them see the source of true light in our own lives and relationships," she said.

Chaldean Catholic Safa al Abbia, a 26-year-old dentist from Iraq, urged the synod participants to pray for Iraq and support its Christians and churches.

He said he understands the importance of talking about the more common themes at the synod -- the family, sexuality and social media -- but the main challenge for young people in Iraq is "peace and stability and their right to live in dignity."

Young people are struggling to remain faithful as witnesses to Jesus and hold onto their traditions, values and liturgy, he said. But they have grown up seeing many of their brothers and sisters martyred and their churches bombed.

"I will never forget the face of my friends after the Mass when they said, 'See you next week,' and I never saw them again because they were burned under the fire of the bombed car" near their church one year.

Young people also are leaving the country because of diminishing opportunities in employment and education as well as a breakdown in values and the law, he said. As a result, "Iraqi youth are questioning the impact of being Iraqis on their life, the role of God and the role of the church in spite of all the good effort of the church in assisting."

Al Abbia told Pope Francis that he had a message for him from young people, "They hope one day to see you in Iraq."

Henriette Camara, a member of the Catholic scouts in Guinea, told the synod that the scout movement "is deeply permeated with Gospel values" and it helps young people deepen their faith and love for Christ and the church.

Catholic scouts can help those young people who have given up on life or are headed down errant paths, she said, because "we are young optimists who face life's daily problems with stamina, courage and wisdom."

Mantantu Vita, who works in youth ministry at the Congo bishops' conference, told the synod the ministry's aim is to guide young people in all aspects of their lives so they can become responsible adults.

To be someone who accompanies, she said, isn't about trying to attract young people to entertain them, keep them busy or help them "kill their free time."

It is being someone who is a true guide, leading them toward Jesus, whom they greatly need, she said.

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New documentary reveals rare interview of Blessed Oscar Romero

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 12:00pm

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A new documentary about Blessed Oscar Romero, featuring a rare interview with him, revealed the martyred archbishop's thoughts regarding accusations that he became too progressive.

Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez shared an excerpt of the interview with journalists during a briefing Oct. 11 at the Vatican press office.

"We had never heard this before because it was dubbed in German. We waited 40 years to find out what Archbishop Romero said," Cardinal Rosa Chavez said.

The cardinal, who directed the documentary "Oscar Romero: A Shepherd According to the Heart of Christ," explained that in 1979 a Swiss television crew visited the future saint and asked to follow him for one week.

Blessed Romero's response to a question regarding the fact that he "changed from a conservative bishop to a progressive bishop," he said, is a question "that has caused so much debate" and is now answered by the slain archbishop himself.

"I don't think there has been a substantial change," Archbishop Romero said in the interview. "It is more of an evolution in accordance with the circumstances. My goal as a priest has always been to be faithful to the vocation, to the service of the church and the people."

Although the Salvadoran archbishop did not view his support of the poor and the oppressed as support for a political ideology, rumors abounded both in the halls of El Salvador's right-wing government and in the corridors of the Vatican.

Cardinal Rosa Chavez told journalists that the same year the documentary was filmed, Blessed Romero met with the newly elected pope, St. John Paul II.

The meeting, the cardinal said, was "disconcerting for Romero" because the pope scolded him for his lack of harmony with the Salvadoran bishops. At the time, several reports from the Salvadoran bishops' conference were sent to the Pope John Paul accusing Romero of causing division.

In his diary entry following the meeting, Blessed Romero said that he was "worried to see how much the negative reports of my pastoral work had influenced the pope."

However, Cardinal Rosa Chavez explained, after Blessed Romero's martyrdom, St. John Paul realized the inaccuracy of the reports. The pope even visited the slain archbishop's tomb in 1983 against the wishes of the Salvadoran government and local church leaders.

"The pope went to the Blessed Sacrament and then to Romero's tomb where he prostrated in prayer; I was very close to him and the pope said, 'Romero is a saint,'" the cardinal recalled.

The documentary featured footage of the Salvadoran archbishop visiting El Paisnal, the hometown of Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande and the church where he was buried alongside two local farmers who were killed with him.

Father Grande, a close friend of Blessed Romero, was known as a champion of the poor and the oppressed at a time when El Salvador was on the threshold of a civil war, a war that eventually killed over 70,000 people.

Father Grande's death in 1977 at the hands of El Salvador's notorious death squads is believed to have been the inspiration for Archbishop Romero to take up the mantle of defending the poor.

In his interview with Swiss television, Blessed Romero said that there "has never been such a violent circumstance as it was for me when I arrived at the archdiocese. When I arrived, they were expelling priests and the month after my arrival, they killed Father Rutilio Grande."

Standing in the church where his dear friend was laid to rest, Archbishop Romero prayed, "May the blood so sorrowfully shed of this dear brother, Father Rutilio, together with his two farmer friends -- Nelson Rutilio (Lemus) and Manuel (Solorzano) -- signify a fruitful wellspring that continues to bear fruit."

Blessed Romero told the Swiss journalist that it was not only Father Grande's death that pushed him to become more outspoken, but also "the need to defend the church that is so persecuted to the point of murdering priests."

Both reasons, he said, "push me toward a more powerful ministry in defense of the rights of the church and the rights of men and women."

Asked if he was scared that he would be killed like his friends, Blessed Romero admitted that while he did have a "prudent concern" about threats to his life, he did not experience a "fear that inhibits me, that prevents me from working."

"I feel that while I walk along fulfilling my duty, while I go around freely being a shepherd to the communities, God is with me," he said. "And if something happens to me, then I am prepared for everything."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Devil destroys overtly or slyly by pretending to be a friend, pope says

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 10:12am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The devil is more dangerous when he is polite and friendly, persuading people to be "lukewarm" and worldly, than when he shows his true face and blatantly pushes people to sin, Pope Francis said.

The vocation or "nature of the devil is to destroy" what God has created, the pope said Oct. 12 in his homily during morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

When the devil is unable to destroy something directly, through conflict or vices, he looks for another, sneakier way to attack because he is "slier than a fox," the pope said.

The battle between good and evil is being fought even inside each person, "perhaps unbeknownst to us, but we are in battle," he said.

"We Christians, Catholics, we go to Mass, pray," admit to having some flaws and recognize a few "little sins, but all seems to be in order," the pope said.

That is when the devil puts on a friendly face, "he goes and looks for a nice-looking clique, knocks on the door, 'Hello? May I come in?' He rings the doorbell," Pope Francis said, reflecting on the day's Gospel reading (Lk 11:15-26). The passage talks about an unclean spirit that is cast from his "home" and then "brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself" to move back in and make the person's situation worse than before.

"These well-mannered demons are worse than the first because you don't realize that you have them there at home," inside oneself, he said.

These demons, "don't make noise, they make friends, they persuade you," convincing people that it is OK to become mediocre, "lukewarm" and worldly.

"So often I ask myself, which is worse in a person's life," the devil trapping people into obvious sin, which leads them to feel ashamed, or a well-mannered devil who "is at your table, lives with you and all seems normal, but he makes insinuations and possesses you with the worldly spirit?" he asked.

Therefore, the pope said, people need to be calmly vigilant against falling into "spiritual mediocrity," which "corrupts us from within."

People must ask themselves: "What is happening in my heart? Why am I so mediocre? Why am I so lukewarm? How many polite ones live at home without paying rent?"

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Pope accepts Cardinal Wuerl's resignation as archbishop of Washington

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 7:13am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl as archbishop of Washington but did not name a successor.

When the pope's decision was announced Oct. 12, the Archdiocese of Washington released a letter from Pope Francis to the cardinal, making clear his support for Cardinal Wuerl's ministry and leadership, but also praising the cardinal for putting the good of the church first.

"You have sufficient elements to 'justify' your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes," the pope wrote. "However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you."

Cardinal Wuerl had been facing pressure to resign after an Aug. 14 grand jury report detailing sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses painted a mixed picture of how he handled some of the cases when he was bishop in Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006.

The 77-year-old cardinal, the sixth archbishop of Washington, had submitted his resignation, as is mandatory, to the pope when he turned 75, but it had not been accepted.

In early September, Cardinal Wuerl told priests of the archdiocese that he would meet with Pope Francis and ask him to accept his resignation "so that this archdiocesan church we all love can move forward" and can experience "a new beginning."

The Vatican announcement that the pope accepted his resignation came more than two months after the announcement that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of retired Washington Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick from the College of Cardinals. Archbishop McCarrick faces credible allegations of sexual abuse, including two that involved minors; Pope Francis ordered him to maintain "a life of prayer and penance" while awaiting a trial or other canonical process on the charges.

Cardinal Wuerl has said until the Archdiocese of New York began investigating the claims that Archbishop McCarrick abused a minor, he was never informed of such accusations or even the rumors of Archbishop McCarrick's sexual harassment of seminarians.

In a letter Aug. 30 to the priests of the archdiocese, Cardinal Wuerl apologized for not being as close to his priests as he could or should have been in the wake of all the abuse-related scandals.

Cardinal Wuerl asked the priests "for prayers for me, for forgiveness for my errors in judgment, for my inadequacies and also for your acceptance of my contrition for any suffering I have caused, as well as the grace to find, with you, ways of healing, ways of offering fruitful guidance in this darkness."

"Would you please," he told the priests, "let the faithful you serve know of my love, my commitment to do whatever is necessary to right what is wrong and my sincere solidarity with you and them."

MORE TO COME

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