You are here

Top Stories

Subscribe to Top Stories feed Top Stories
Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
Updated: 19 min 35 sec ago

At Capitol, faith-based organizations shine light on human trafficking

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 3:04pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At age 9, growing up in Cameroon, Evelyn Chumbow had dreams of coming to the United States, thinking she'd live like the characters in TV shows such as "The Cosbys" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," which she believed depicted life here.

When a relative offered her the opportunity to come to the U.S. through an arrangement with a family in her hometown, she was ready to embark on that life.

"I was just excited," she said. "I could never think that I'd come to the U.S. and become a victim of modern-day slavery or end up in foster care."

But that's exactly what happened and that's the experience she talked about June 26 to participants of a daylong human trafficking conference hosted on Capitol Hill by the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

Participants, who lobbied U.S. lawmakers after the conference for tougher legislation to combat the problem, learned about its complexities and its global dimensions:

-- An estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved.

-- Of those, 24.9 million are in forced labor (including sex trafficking).

-- 15.4 million are in a forced marriage.

Chumbow, who was 11 when she became a victim of forced labor, fit many of the characteristics of trafficking victims: 25% of those trafficked are children and over 70% of those trafficked are women and girls. Chumbow thought she was coming to the United States to be adopted by a family.

Instead, she was in a group of girls brought in under one passport and then sent off to become a domestic worker in a house in Maryland, where, at age 11, she cooked and cleaned and took care of other children, receiving no salary. The relative who had made the arrangement, she later found out, had sold her for $1,000 to the household where she suffered a variety of abuses.

Unknowingly, she had been brought to the country illegally and didn't know where to go and what to do about her situation. Eventually, she escaped, helped law enforcement convict her abuser and embarked on a long journey of healing, which now involves educating the public about human trafficking.

There's a lot of "separation" of different aspects of human trafficking, but to address the problem holistically, those working to eradicate it need to look at forced labor along with issues of immigration and sex trafficking, the topic which commands much of the attention in human trafficking advocacy, she said.  

"I'm a survivor of labor trafficking," Chumbow said, but there were different abuses taking place and she also was dealing with an immigration situation.

Human trafficking can affect any number of vulnerable individuals, such as incoming immigrants from the so-called "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, but also vulnerable people inside the United States, including those in tribal communities, said panelist Hilary Chester, associate director for the USCCB's Anti-Trafficking Program. She said legislation to combat the problem must take those and other factors into consideration. But enforcement, which would go a long way in solving the problem, is often lagging.

"Because there aren't good opportunities in their home communities or because there's a lot of criminality, there's a lot of impunity for the perpetrators in these communities," Chester said. "People are leaving, searching for other opportunities, which then puts them in front of exploitation."

Even those already living in the U.S. can face similar situations when they leave their support networks, their communities, which is exactly the situation that makes them more vulnerable, Chester said.

Conference organizers offered a wide range of human trafficking examples, which they said can involve modern-day slavery, as well as the exploitation of a person through force, fraud or coercion, which can include sex trafficking, forced labor, domestic servitude and any person under 18 involved in a commercial sex act.

Neha Misra, of the Washington-based Solidarity Center, said that even the popular image most people have about human trafficking can prove complicated.

"When people think about human trafficking, often they first think about sex, but they also think about criminal gangs and syndicates and that it's all underground, and it's not," she said. "It's all about the way we have set up our world economy, the greed that we can see, about how corporations run their businesses and how governments do not respect human rights and worker rights, and that is what makes people vulnerable. It's not just about criminal syndicates."

Most human trafficking around the world involves forced labor, said Misra, to produce items consumers buy on a regular basis.

For example, she said, a trafficker used a group of eight boys who had entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors in 2014 to clean cages and do other tasks for a poultry farm, one of the largest egg producers in the country. The boys had been living in squalid conditions outside Columbus, Ohio, and paid $2 a day for their work, which included debeaking hens. The company said it was unaware that the subcontractor who brought in the workers was a human trafficker, and the company was never prosecuted for the crime.

"The company said, 'Well, we didn't know,'" Misra said. "Those workers are in your workplace every day. How can you not know that? You didn't know that there was abuse in your supply chain? If they don't know, it's because they don't want to know."

Citizens can demand that government hold those companies accountable, Misra said, and consumers can go online to look for information about violations.

In "hubs" of human trafficking such as Detroit, faith-based groups such Sisters of the Good Shepherd have tackled part of the problem by offering services to female victims of human trafficking, including counseling, housing, career training, prevention programs and even educating the community about human trafficking through its Vista Maria center, formerly the House of the Good Shepherd.

Bailey, a 20-year-old who participated in one its programs, attended the conference and credited the help she received at the Vista Maria center with giving her a new outlook on life and now counts herself among one of the lucky survivors of human trafficking. The young woman, who did not give her last name, shared her story of abuse at a young age, her parents' addictions, which led to a struggle of her own with drugs.

For years, she was involved in a cycle of addiction, sexual exploitation and depression. Vista Maria helped her with housing, counseling and toward a career path as a welder, which has helped her financially stand on her own.

"I am here today to educate all of you that there isn't one kind of story for sex trafficking," she said. "Without long-term treatment, I would not be where I am today. It wasn't that long ago that I didn't want to live because of my depression. Today, my future is very promising. Please help us pass laws that support girls and women who have experienced sexual exploitation and help them have a future beyond trafficking."


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Pope meets Putin; two leaders talk about Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 1:38pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican July 4, and the two discussed the ongoing wars in Eastern Ukraine and in Syria, the Vatican said. Russia plays a major role in both conflicts.

At the end of the 55-minute private meeting, Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, issued a statement describing the discussions as "cordial."

The pope and president, he said, "expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations," which included the signing in Rome July 4 of a collaboration agreement between the Vatican's Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital and pediatric hospitals in Russia.

Pope Francis and Putin "then turned their attention to various questions of relevance to the life of the Catholic Church in Russia," Gisotti said, as well a discussion of "the ecological question and various themes relating to current international affairs, with particular reference to Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela," where Russia has been supportive of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

It was the third time Pope Francis and Putin have met at the Vatican. They met in November 2013 and again in June 2015. Putin arrived late for each of the meetings, including July 4 when he was an hour late.

When reporters entered the room after the two had met privately, Putin told the pope, "Thank you for the time you have dedicated to me."

"It was a very substantive, interesting discussion," he said.

In the traditional gift exchange, Pope Francis gave the Russian president a signed copy of his message for World Peace Day 2019 and an 18th-century etching of St. Peter's Square "so you don't forget Rome."

Putin gave the pope a large icon of Sts. Peter and Paul and a DVD of a Russian film about the artist Michelangelo.

After the meeting with the pope, Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister.

The ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, where Russian-back separatists have been battling government forces since 2014, had been expected to be a major topic of discussion.

On the eve of the meeting, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow told Vatican Radio Italia, "Even though we are not aware of the program of the meeting, I can imagine that themes dear to the Holy Father, such as peace and safeguarding our common home, are likely to be on the agenda of discussion."

The archbishop also indicated it was unlikely that the visit would result in a long-awaited invitation for the pope to visit Russia, a dream that was particularly close to the heart of St. John Paul II.

Although an invitation from the government is essential, he noted, the Vatican would not plan such a trip without a separate invitation from the Russian Orthodox Church "and it is not likely the Russian president will invite the pope on his own without the backing of the Orthodox Church."

While Vatican-Russian Orthodox relations have steadily improved and Pope Francis personally met with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in 2016, tensions continue, including over the Vatican's support for the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Pope Francis' meeting with Putin took place the day before the pope was to begin a two-day meeting with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, members of the church's permanent synod, its metropolitan archbishops and Vatican officials.

Announcing the meeting in May, the Vatican press office had said, "The Holy Father wishes to give a sign of his closeness to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church which carries out pastoral service both at home and in various places in the world."

The meeting, it said, would look at "the life and needs of Ukraine in order to identify the ways in which the Catholic Church, and in particular the Greek-Catholic Church, can increasingly dedicate herself to the preaching of the Gospel, to contribute to the support of those who suffer and to promote peace, in agreement, as far as possible, with the Catholic Church of the Latin rite and with other churches and Christian communities."

In 2016 Pope Francis asked Catholic throughout Europe to take up a special collection for people suffering from the war in Eastern Ukraine and he made a $5-million donation of his own. The ongoing "Pope for Ukraine" project continues to assist people in the warzone and those displaced by the fighting.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Gudziak: Celebrate America's blessings, pray for its 'spiritual' strength

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 5:56pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn


PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia reminded clergy, religious and the faithful what a blessing it is to be an American this Independence Day.

In a July 3 statement, he thanked the Lord for allowing his ancestors to immigrate to America, where they encountered opportunity, lived with dignity, and developed their God-given talents. Born in Syracuse, New York, he is the son of immigrant parents from Ukraine.

He then turned his prayer away from the past and looked to the present and future of America.

"Let's pray this Independence Day for the moral and spiritual strength of our country," Archbishop Gudziak said. "There are many challenges to the founding principles of our country. Let us pray that each of us can continue upholding the openness, the welcome, the generosity, the open-heartedness, the willingness to help, that this country stands for."

He prayed that this country continue to grow in its independence and freedom from generation to generation.

Finally, he invoked a blessing on all the priests, religious faithful, neighbors, friends and relatives of the Metropolitan Diocese.

"May we always be worth of the freedom you have given us, may we always be responsible, and may we always live in peace and joy," Archbishop Gudziak said. "God bless America! Glory to Jesus Christ."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Chicago woman's healing is miracle in Cardinal Newman's sainthood cause

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 10:20am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- A few prayers to Blessed John Henry Newman became a "constant dialogue" and then a desperate response to an emergency for Melissa Villalobos of Chicago.

Her healing, which saved her life and the life of her unborn child, was accepted as the miracle needed for the 19th-century British cardinal's canonization.

Pope Francis announced July 1 that he will declare Blessed John Henry Newman a saint Oct. 13. Coincidentally, the miracle accepted for his beatification in 2010 also involved someone from the United States: Deacon Jack Sullivan, 71, of Marshfield, Massachusetts, was healed of a several spinal condition in 2001.

Recounting her own story, Villalobos, 42, told Chicago Catholic that in 2011, "my husband brought home a couple of holy cards with Cardinal Newman's picture on them. I put one in the family room and one in our master bedroom."

"I would pass his picture in the house and I would say little prayers to him for whatever our family's needs were at the time -- the children, my husband, myself. I really started to develop a very constant dialogue with him," said Villalobos, a mother of seven.

Her prayers had a miraculous result in 2013 when she started bleeding during the first trimester of a pregnancy. At the time she had four children -- ages 6, 5, 3 and 1 -- and a previous pregnancy that had ended in miscarriage.

"When I went to the doctor, he did an ultrasound and he said the placenta had become partially detached from the uterine wall, so there was a hole in the placenta and that hole was allowing blood to escape," she said.

Villalobos also developed a subchorionic hematoma, which is a blood clot in the fetal membrane. It was two-and-a-half times the size of the baby.

The doctors recommended bed rest.

On Friday, May 10, 2013, Villalobos went to the emergency room because the bleeding was worse.

Again, the doctor recommended strict bed rest, which was difficult to imagine with four small children and a husband who had to work. The doctor also told the couple that a miscarriage was likely, but if the baby survived the pregnancy, she would likely be born prematurely because she would be small.

Added to the stress was the fact that Villalobos' husband, David, had to leave for a mandatory business trip.

"Wednesday morning I woke up in bed in a pool of blood. My husband was already in an airplane on his way to Atlanta," Villalobos said.

She put off calling 911 because she didn't know who would care for the kids if she was taken in an ambulance to the hospital.

She made them breakfast and told them to stay put before going upstairs.

"Now the bleeding was really bad because I had just gone up the stairs, which I really shouldn't have done. I kind of collapsed on the bathroom floor out of weakness and desperation."

Villalobos laid there thinking she should now call 911, but she realized she didn't have her cellphone. She also knew the force of yelling for her kids would cause more damage and bleeding.

She was hoping one of her children would wander into her room so she could ask them for her phone to call 911, but they didn't. She heard nothing from her children and the silence made her even more worried.

With thoughts of losing her unborn baby, worry for her children downstairs and wondering if she could die, Villalobos uttered her fateful prayer.

"Then I said, 'Please, Cardinal Newman, make the bleeding stop.' Those were my exact words. Just then, as soon as I finished the sentence, the bleeding stopped."

She got off the floor and verified there was no more bleeding and said, "'Thank you, Cardinal Newman. Thank you.' Just then the scent of roses filled the bathroom," Villalobos said. "The strongest scent of roses I've ever smelled."

"I thought to myself in that moment, 'Oh my goodness! My baby is OK. I'm OK. My four children are OK. We're all OK.' And I said, 'Thank you, Cardinal Newman,'" Villalobos said.

That afternoon Villalobos' cure was confirmed during a weekly ultrasound. The doctor told her everything was "perfect" and there was no more hole in the placenta.

"I was able to resume my full active life as a mom," she said.

Baby Gemma was born Dec. 27, 2013, after a full pregnancy, weighing 8 pounds 8 ounces. She had no medical problems.

Villalobos waited until after Gemma was born to report the healing to the promoters of Cardinal Newman's canonization. In fall 2014, representatives from Newman's cause visited Chicago and met with Villalobos and her husband.

Officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago conducted the local study of what was then just an alleged miracle and forwarded the case to the Vatican for another series of investigations. The outcome was revealed Feb. 13 when Pope Francis announced the miracle was accepted and that Cardinal Newman would be canonized.

"I was cured through Newman's intercession so that I could continue an ordinary life, if you will, but at the same time be completely devoted to him and especially God himself and our church," she said.

- - -

Duriga is editor of Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

ChristLife event provides evangelization training, spiritual inspiration

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 4:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rus VanWestervelt, Catholic Review

By Rus VanWestervelt

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (CNS) -- Simon Wong's 40-hour journey to the ChristLife National Training Conference began at his parish, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit -- in Penang, Malaysia.

"The 40 hours was a blessing," Wong said of multiple jet flights, spurred by a fellow parishioner who had just initiated ChristLife at their church. "I had a lot of time for myself, silent time so I can do my reflection. In the same time, it gave me the chance to do preparation work for our parish formation when I get back to Malaysia."

The three-day conference, held June 26-28 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Ellicott City, offered two tracks for attendees: core training for newcomers and a deeper track for those returning. Even though Wong's parish in Southeast Asia is using ChristLife, he is following the core training track.

"Because we have just started running the ChristLife program," he said, "I'm here to see the next steps and prepare for the future programs."

In his 10 years as a member of his parish formation team, Wong has seen a growing emphasis on evangelization.

"This year, being the missionary year declared by Pope Francis, I want to see what else I can do in a bigger way," he told the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Baltimore Archdiocese. "It's very urgent."

A little closer to home -- or North America, at least -- eight parishioners who are part of the Elgin Roman Catholic Family of St. Thomas, Ontario, decided to take the journey to learn more about bringing ChristLife into their five parishes.

Maureen Bedek, who assists the parish pastoral council and volunteers with the staff of all five parishes, watched ChristLife videos online and believes that it is exactly what the faith community has been looking for.

"We're trying to create an atmosphere and change the culture of our parishes so that we really understand the evangelization piece, and really understand the uniqueness of each of our parishes," said Bedek. "How do we bring everyone together with a new mission vision? How do we all step forward to make that happen?"

According to Pete Ascosi, who joined ChristLife in 2005 and now serves as its assistant director, about 190 people from at least two foreign countries, 17 states, 30 dioceses and 55 parishes gathered for this year's conference.

"The majority would be parish leaders who are looking to receive the training in the three courses of ChristLife, who want to have an immersion experience in the dynamics of the course content," Ascosi said, "There is definitely a mix of spiritual inspiration and training."

According to its website,, Baltimore-based ChristLife "equips Catholics for the essential work of evangelization so that all people might personally encounter Jesus Christ and be transformed into his missionary disciples."

The conference offered sessions on facilitating small groups in evangelization; reaching new people in surrounding communities; and going deeper in faith to be a better disciple.

Keynote speakers included Dave Nodar, who founded ChristLife in 1995; Andrew Comiskey, founder and director of Desert Stream/Living Water Ministries; Father Erik Arnold, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help until July 1, when he moved to St. John the Evangelist, Severna Park; and Ally Ascosi and Dianne Davis of ChristLife.

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Ascosi estimates that about 10 parishes are currently using the program "year after year to reach more people." Over the last decade, he said, more than 50 or 60 parishes in the archdiocese have offered ChristLife courses.

"We are continuing to move outward and to help Catholic churches incarnate the mission of evangelization in very practical ways," Ascosi said. "ChristLife gives parish leaders the opportunity to move from maintenance to mission."

Nodar delivered the opening keynote talk, which focused on going beyond the rhetoric of evangelization and examining what it takes to make missionary disciples, recognizing the many challenges Catholics face today.

"I want to present things that are logical and true to what the church teaches," Nodar said afterward. "It calls for real conversion in our thinking. We're in such a time of flux, and it is having a cultural impact on parishioners. We recognize people are going to be in a variety of places so we want to establish very clearly what the church has been teaching since Vatican II."

Nodar believes that his program provides that model for Catholics around the world.

"The founder of our church, the Lord himself, taught us to (evangelize)," said Nodar. "And the church since Vatican II has said, 'Yes, you need to do this.' We want to bring people together and say, 'Yeah, this is what the church wants you to do, and here are some practical ways to do it.'"

Many attendees nodded in agreement with Nodar, yet realize that it's not always easy for lifelong Catholics to embrace evangelization.

"We're recognizing what the pope is asking us to do and becoming more mission-oriented, which means something different than what the cradle Catholics were accustomed to and understood," said Bedek. "But this is where we need to head. This is the skill set we need to start developing and helping people journey to fulfill a different mission than what we were really comfortable with before."

Penny Rice, who joined Bedek in the journey from Ontario, is a lifelong Catholic who was encouraged to attend by her pastor.

"There is a gap between people who are 100 percent into evangelization, know the road, know the path they need to take, and us cradle Catholics who are not used to expressing our love of Jesus and being vocal and being obvious that we are Catholics," Rice said. "We pray in silence, we worship in silence, so we need to bring cradle Catholics along to know that there is a security in loving Jesus, and they can show that."

Peggy Clegg, who attends Little Flower Catholic Church in Indianapolis, is excited to evangelize to an entirely different population of non-Catholics.

"We have a school that's 50 percent non-Catholic, and we have a host of people there that we could evangelize to," Clegg said. "I'm hoping to find ways to get the parents in the school to learn more about the Catholic faith."

Ascosi sees ChristLife as the answer to the various challenges the attendees face in their home parishes and communities.

"More and more parishes are thinking about evangelization," he said, "because they are facing challenging realities such as aging populations, parish mergers and an increasingly secular culture. ChristLife is providing a Christ-centered, relational process to evangelize adults."

- - -

VanWestervelt writes for the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

'They put a gun to my head,' says Honduran mother of six

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 3:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Agren

By David Agren

TENOSIQUE, Mexico (CNS) -- Maribel -- a Garifuna woman from Honduras and mother of six children, ages 6 months to 16 years -- only wanted to work.

She baked coconut bread and sold it the streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, until a gang started demanding a cut -- roughly 20 percent of her earnings. After threats and violence and futile attempts at negotiating with the gang, she fell behind in her payments. Gangsters eventually showed up at her daughter's school to send a message of intimidation, forcing Maribel and her family to flee the country.

"I was being pursued," she said from a shelter run by the Franciscans in southern Mexico. "I'm scared they're going to come looking for me here," she added, noting that gang members were now threatening her sister in Honduras and asking about her whereabouts.

Maribel's plight highlights the despair and desperation of many migrants, who flee violence, poverty and, increasingly, drought and the early effects of climate change in Central America.

Mexico has sent members of its National Guard to stop migrants at its southern border, and stories of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in U.S. and Mexican migration detention centers have surfaced.

U.S. President Donald Trump -- who threated Mexico with tariffs on its exports if migration was not stopped -- has praised Mexico for its increased enforcement, telling reporters July 1: "Mexico is doing a lot right now. They have almost 20,000 soldiers between the two borders. ... And the numbers are way down for the last week."

But the migrants streaming out of Central America seem undeterred due to deteriorating conditions at home.

Few migrants grasp the geopolitics at play, focusing instead on seeking safety or escaping hunger at home. Staff at shelters in southern Mexico say the flow of migrants has remained high.

At La 72, the shelter in Tenosique, director Ramon Marquez reported receiving more than 10,000 guests so far in 2019, putting them on pace to break the record of 14,300 migrants welcomed in 2013.

Militarization, however, forces migrants to take paths less traveled to avoid police and soldiers, and this puts them more at risk, say shelter directors.

"Migrants don't come here because they want to. Migrants leave their country because they don't have any other alternative," said Franciscan Sister Diana Munoz Alba, a human rights lawyer and a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who works at a migrant shelter in Chiapas. "(There's) a paradox of risking their lives to save their lives, and this militarization (of Mexico) is not going to stop migration."

Maribel, whose name was changed for security reasons, fell victim to criminals shortly after crossing into Mexico from Guatemala in late May. Three hooded assailants spotted her and her family walking along a rural road and robbed them of their meager possessions.

"The threw us face down ... the kids face down. They were scared, crying," she recalled.

Maribel said she had never thought much about migrating, despite the difficulties of life in the Atlantida department on the Honduras' Atlantic Coast -- an area populated by Afro-Hondurans, who have been abandoning the country in droves.

After her husband suffered a disability in his construction job, Maribel started her own informal business, harvesting coconuts and baking coconut bread in Honduras.

She sold $60 of bread daily, but had to hand over 20 percent daily to the Calle 18 gang. There were other expenses, too, she said, such as the cost of sending her children to school, even though education is supposed to be free for children in Honduras.

In December, the gangs made greater demands, which she refused. As she worked one day, "They put a gun to my head and took all I had," Maribel said.

She eventually stopped paying. Then the gang came looking for her 16-year-old daughter. Maribel saved her money and left Honduras with her family.

Violence has sent thousands fleeing from Honduras. But observers say other factors are driving migration, including poverty and political factors. Migrants speak of the sorry state of services such as health and education.

"That's why we're looking to migrate, because the economy is so bad," said Elquin Castillo, 26, who left a fishing village with his pregnant wife, infant daughter and 20 relatives in June.

Javier Avila, 30, gave up after drought in southern Honduras wiped out his melon crop for the second consecutive season. He borrowed $82 to rent a small plot for his crop -- which was lost -- but could not find the funds to sow again in 2019.

"It used to be normal that it rained in the winter, but not any longer," he said from a migrant shelter.

Maribel expressed similar pessimism over Honduras. She was hoping to receive a document to travel freely through Mexico, though she was uncertain how much longer she would have to wait.

"I can't go back to Honduras," she said. "These gangs have people everywhere."


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Program works to heal Iraqi Christians suffering in mind, soul

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 12:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dalia Khamissy

By Doreen Abi Raad

BEIRUT (CNS) -- After enduring persecution, violence and uprooting, a group of Iraqi religious and laypeople are on the path to healing.

"They are suffering, in their minds and in their souls," said Melkite Father Gabriel Hachem, part of a team from Lebanon that conducted trauma healing sessions in Irbil, Iraq.

The world "cannot remain indifferent. We cannot stand by and do nothing," Father Hachem told Catholic News Service.

There is a "huge need" to verbalize, to share about their experiences. "They need to speak, to be supported, to be heard," he emphasized.

Eighteen people -- a mix of priests, nuns and laypeople -- participated in the mid-June program. Participants were Chaldean and Syriac Catholic, Syriac and Armenian Orthodox as well as evangelicals.

The Lebanese team providing the Middle East Council of Churches' program consisted of two Catholic priests, including Father Hachem, a nun and two lay psychologists.

The setting, at the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchal Seminary of St. Peter in Irbil, was "like an oasis" of peace, said Father Hachem, who serves as director of the council of churches' theological and ecumenical department.

Sessions centered around different Scriptural themes, beginning with Jesus' inquiry before the high priest Annas, in which Jesus asked, "Why do you strike me?" This opening focus, Father Hachem explained, was to help the participants express the injustice they felt because of their persecution.

"Why have you forsaken me" from the Gospel of St. Matthew was the second theme, focusing on how the participants felt abandoned during the traumatic upheaval they experienced. That was followed by "Father forgive them, they know not what they do" from St. Luke's Gospel, to promote reconciliation and forgiveness in the hearts of the participants.

The program concluded with, "I Am the Resurrection and the Life" to help participants "stand up again," Father Hachem explained.

The aim was not only to heal the participants, but to equip them with the tools needed to also address the wounds of the faithful, as well as to build an ecumenical network among Iraqi pastors.

Individual spiritual counseling and group therapy and individual counseling with the psychologists complemented the sessions.

Psychologist Samar Sayhoun said that, after listening to the participants' stories of suffering, she was inspired by their faith and attachment to their church. In relaying what they had experienced, some participants spoke of the sounds of bombs, of seeing spattered blood and beheaded corpses, of losing family members.

"I was so touched by their strong faith, despite everything they went through. They rely on their community in the church to be able to support each other, at least emotionally, spiritually. But, of course, it's not easy for them," said Sayhoun, a Maronite Catholic.

Some expressed their grief at leaving all their life behind when they were uprooted in a single night by Islamic State.

"They don't even have one photograph from their past," Sayhoun said.

Sayhoun said she was especially moved by a 31-year-old lay participant who brought "so much joy" to the sessions, despite her ordeal of fleeing Mosul with her family because of terrorist threats, then being driven out of the Ninevah Plain by Islamic State in the summer of 2014.

"She loves to sing and dance, smile and laugh," the psychologist recounted.

That's why it was important for the pastors to talk about forgiveness, about having a new life, after such a dramatic trauma, Sayoun said. "This is the Resurrection."

Some religious shared how "so many Muslims are coming to them to hear about Christ and are converting to Christianity, of course without announcing it to their (Muslim) community," Sayhoun noted.

Sayhoun stressed that Iraqi Christians need more healing opportunities.

"They were so happy that people came to listen to them," she said, adding that they need interaction with people from outside, from abroad.

"Just to regain their dignity. Just being respected, being heard, being appreciated" means a lot to Christians in Iraq, Sayhoun emphasized.

At the conclusion of the program, funded by Protestant churches and organizations in Europe and the United States, Father Hachem received notice of a pledge to fund the program through 2019 and 2020.

That means the council of churches can carry out the trauma healing sessions in Syria, Egypt and "again and again" in Iraq, the priest said.

"For me, it was a sign of hope from the Holy Spirit," Father Hachem said.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Vatican to open tombs looking for young woman missing since 1983

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 11:17am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican City State tribunal has ordered the opening of two tombs in a small Vatican cemetery at the request of the family of Emanuela Orlandi, a young woman who disappeared in 1983.

Emanuela Orlandi, a Vatican City resident and the daughter of a Vatican employee, disappeared in Rome June 22, 1983, when she was 15.

In March, the family's lawyer revealed the family had been sent a letter with a photo of an angel above a tomb in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery, a medieval cemetery now reserved mainly for German-speaking priests and members of religious orders.

The letter said, "Look where the angel is pointing," according to Laura Sgro, the lawyer.

She filed a formal petition with the Vatican to investigate the matter and possibly open the tombs below the sculpture of the angel.

Italian news reports in March quoted Sgro as saying there was evidence that at least one of the tombs below the angel statue had been opened at some point, the statue is not the same age as the marble on top of the tombs and someone continues to leave flowers there.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican Press Office, said July 2 that the Vatican promoter of justice, Gian Piero Milano, and his assistant, Alessandro Diddi, ordered the opening of two tombs.

The decision was made in response to the request of Emanuela Orlandi's family, he said, and their questioning "the possible concealment of her cadaver in the small cemetery located within Vatican City State."

The tombs will be opened by police July 11 in the presence of the Orlandi family and family members of the people buried there, Gisotti said.

The decision comes after a court review of the long process of trying to determine what happened to Emanuela Orlandi, who was thought to have been kidnapped. But, Gisotti said, the Vatican court and police are looking only at the possibility that she was buried in the Vatican. Her disappearance in Rome is a matter that falls under the jurisdiction of Italian authorities.

Opening the tombs is just the first step for the Vatican, Gisotti said. The remains in the tombs will be inventoried and catalogued before tests are conducted on the age of the remains and their DNA.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

'Migrants are persons like us': Border bishops offer prayers after deaths

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 1:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic bishops from both sides of the border near McAllen, Texas, issued a joint statement expressing condolences to the families of migrant children and parents who recently drowned trying to cross the river into the United States.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, and Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcia, of the neighboring Diocese of Matamoros, Mexico, issued the statement in English and Spanish June 28, saying their respective border dioceses "express with much pain the sorrow of the whole community upon hearing of the parents and children that have recently lost their lives upon crossing the Rio Grande River, seeking a better life."

They mentioned, in particular, the deaths of 25-year-old Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria, a Salvadoran father and daughter whose bodies were photographed after they drowned in the river that flows across Texas and Mexico and forms part of the U.S-Mexico border.

"We offer our condolences to the families and loves ones of those who have died, and we recall that over the course of years countless persons have lost their lives in a similar manner, many whose names are known to God alone," the statement said.

The statements also mentioned the recent deaths of a mother in her 20s and her three children, whose bodies were found by authorities on federal land near the U.S. side of the river close to McAllen June 28. They have not been identified.

The border community of Brownsville, where Bishop Flores serves, held a vigil late Sunday to remember the deaths of the Salvadoran father and daughter, whose bodies were repatriated to El Salvador for burial the weekend of June 27-28.

"United to the families that suffer these sorrows, with whom we have been able personally to speak and pray, we ask God the Father for the eternal rest of their deceased loved ones, and we ask that he fill loved ones who remain with strength and hope in these difficult moments," the bishops said in their statement.

"Also, as we recognize the good that many persons do for our migrant brothers and sisters, we invite everyone, governments and society, to be ever aware that migrants are persons like us; with dignity and rights, with needs, sorrows and hopes," they said. "We must extend a hand to help them have a better future, following the teaching that Jesus has given us: 'Do unto others whatever you would have them do to you.'"


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Secrecy of confession must never be violated, Vatican says

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 7:00am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the light of "a worrying negative prejudice" against the Catholic Church, Pope Francis ordered the publication of a document affirming the absolute secrecy of everything said in confession and calling on priests to defend it at all costs, even at the cost of their lives.

The need for the absolute secrecy of confession "comes directly from revealed divine law and has its roots in the very nature of the sacrament to the point that no exception whatsoever can be admitted in the ecclesial sphere and even less in the civil one," a new Vatican document said.

The "note of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the importance of the internal forum and the inviolability of the sacramental seal" was approved by Pope Francis June 21 and published by the Vatican July 1.

The note was signed by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience.

Some recent challenges to the secret of confession have come from states trying to react to the Catholic Church's clerical sexual abuse crisis, the note acknowledged. The document did not mention any specific proposed legislation, such as that working its way through the California legislature or proposed in Australia in response to a government inquiry into the sex abuse crisis.

"The priest, in fact, comes to know of the sins of the penitent 'non ut homo sed ut Deus' -- not as a man, but as God -- to the point that he simply 'does not know' what was said in the confessional because he did not listen as a man, but precisely in the name of God," the Vatican document said.

"A confessor's defense of the sacramental seal, if necessary, even to the point of shedding blood," the note said, "is not only an obligatory act of allegiance to the penitent but is much more: it is a necessary witness -- a martyrdom -- to the unique and universal saving power of Christ and his church."

The new Vatican document also placed the question of secrecy in the larger context of a "cultural and moral 'involution'" that seems incapable of "recognizing and respecting" essential elements of human existence and life in the church.

Too often, it said, "the judgment of public opinion" is invoked as the highest court, and people feel free to publish or broadcast anything with the excuse of letting the public be the judge without concern for a person's conscience, reputation and right to defend him- or herself.

"In such a context," the note said, "there seems to be confirmation of a certain worrying negative prejudice against the Catholic Church," both because of "the tensions that can be seen within the hierarchy and resulting from the recent scandals of abuse horribly perpetrated by some members of the clergy."

The prejudice, it said, "sometimes translates into an unjustifiable 'demand' that the church itself, in some matters, conform its own juridical system to the civil laws of the states in which it lives as the only possible 'guarantee of honesty and integrity.'"

The Catholic Church "always has safeguarded the sacramental seal with all its moral and juridical strength," the note said. "It is indispensable for the sanctity of the sacrament and for the freedom of conscience of the penitent."

When administering the sacrament of reconciliation, it said, a priest acts not as himself but "in the person of Christ." Not only is he not free to divulge anything about the confession to anyone, including the penitent outside the confessional, but he even is "obliged to suppress every involuntary memory of it."

A refusal to reveal what was said in a confession can never be described as complicity with or covering up evil, the note said, insisting that confession is "the one real antidote to evil" because it is the place where a person can abandon him- or herself to God and repent.

The document specified that when a penitent confesses to a sin that is a crime, the priest can never make turning him- or herself in a condition of being granted sacramental forgiveness, although sincere repentance and a resolution to not sin again are part of "the very structure" of the sacrament.

When the victim of a crime mentions it in confession, the document said, the confessor should instruct the person about his or her rights and about the practical steps the person can take with both civil and church authorities to report the crime.

"We must be watchful that the sacramental seal is never violated by anyone and that the necessary reserve connected to the exercise of church minister is always jealously safeguarded, having as its only purpose the truth and integral good of the person," the document said.

"Any political action of legislative initiative aimed at breaking the inviolability of the sacramental seal," it said, "would be an unacceptable offense against the liberty of the church, which does not receive its legitimacy from individual states, but from God."

The note from the Apostolic Penitentiary said the secrecy extends to communications between a person and his or her spiritual director when dealing with matters of conscience. In fact, it noted church practice that spiritual directors of seminarians, like their confessors, are not permitted to intervene in seminary staff discussions about whether a candidate should be ordained.

And, it said, the same kind of "professional secret" or confidentiality found in relations between some professionals and their clients or patients is valid also for church officials acting on behalf of the Vatican in certain cases, particularly when the case is covered under "pontifical secret."


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Give your lives for your flocks, pope tells archbishops

Sat, 06/29/2019 - 6:15am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Blessing bands of wool that archbishops will wear around their shoulders, Pope Francis said, "It is a sign that the shepherds do not live for themselves but for the sheep."

"It is a sign that, in order to possess life, we have to lose it, give it away," the pope said during his homily at Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.

The 30 archbishops receiving palliums included: Archbishops Wilton D. Gregory of Washington; Michael J. Byrnes of Agana, Guam; Peter A. Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia; Peter J. Hundt of St. John's, Newfoundland; and John Wilson of Southwark, England. A pallium also was blessed for Archbishop Michael Mulhall of Kingston, Ontario, who reportedly was unable to attend.

The palliums are a woolen band that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their Mass vestments.

Benedictine nuns at the Monastery of St. Cecilia in Rome use wool from lambs blessed by the pope each year on the Jan. 21 feast of St. Agnes to make the palliums, which are kept by St. Peter's tomb until the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

The palliums are about 3 inches wide and have a 14-inch strip hanging down the front and the back. The strips are finished with black silk, almost like the hooves of the sheep the archbishop is symbolically carrying over his shoulders.

"I love the imagery" of the pallium, Archbishop Byrnes told Catholic News Service. "Just the way it's shaped suggests carrying the lamb on your shoulders."

The 60-year-old archbishop was an auxiliary bishop in Detroit until he was sent to Guam amid turmoil surrounding sexual abuse allegations against the previous archbishop and concerns about his administration of the archdiocese. A Vatican court later found former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.

The pallium, given to archbishops by the pope, also is a sign of their unity with him as they minister to a portion of the Catholic "flock." So, Archbishop Byrnes said, it is a sign of his obedience to the pope, but also expresses "my obedience, of a sort, to the people of Guam," and the obligation to respond to and assist them.

The archbishop said that when he arrived in Agana there were six allegations of clerical sexual abuse and now there are more than 200.

When asked if there is a particular group in the archdiocese that he carries as lambs on his shoulders, he immediately responded, "the victim-survivors are in my daily prayer" and "those are the people I carry most in my heart."

Receiving the pallium, he said, "is a boost to me. It illustrates a change in our diocese," symbolically sealing a new start for the archdiocese.

Archbishop Gregory, speaking at a reception the afternoon before the Mass, said that receiving the pallium "is not simply an honor, it's a challenge and a responsibility, which I gladly accept at his (the pope's) invitation."

The archbishop said, "I look forward to caring for the flock in Washington to the best of my ability."

Archbishop Comensoli, who received the pallium at the end of his "ad limina" visit to the Vatican, told CNS, "The pallium, for me at least, is that sense of recognizing why I'm sent."

"It's an acknowledgment of what I am called to be, which is the shepherd of God's people in Melbourne," he said.

While Pope Francis continues to bless the palliums and give them to archbishops as his predecessors did, the pope also decided several years ago that the formal imposition of the woolen bands would be done by apostolic nuncios in the archbishops' archdioceses.

Archbishop Comensoli said celebrating at both the Vatican and in his archdiocese show two dimensions of the life of the church: "the church universal and the local."

The pope exercises his authority "as chief shepherd for the universal church" by giving the pallium to the archbishop, he said. When the formal imposition takes place in Melbourne Aug. 1, the first anniversary of Archbishop Comensoli's installation, it will be a sign that each Catholic there has a particular role in the local community and his is as bishop.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis focused on the figures of Sts. Peter and Paul and how Jesus chose them despite their failings and sins.

Both of them, he said, "made great mistakes: Peter denied the Lord, while Paul persecuted the church of God."

"We may wonder why the Lord chose not to give us two witnesses of utter integrity, with clean records and impeccable lives," he said. But there is a lesson there.

"The starting point of the Christian life is not our worthiness; in fact, the Lord was able to accomplish little with those who thought they were good and decent," the pope said. "Whenever we consider ourselves smarter or better than others, that is the beginning of the end."

"The Lord does not work miracles with those who consider themselves righteous, but with those who know themselves needy," he said. "He is not attracted by our goodness; that is not why he loves us. He loves us just as we are; he is looking for people who are not self-sufficient, but ready to open their hearts to him."


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Indianapolis archbishop, schools' head address issues at two high schools

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 3:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion

By John Shaughnessy and Natalie Hoefer

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Noting that he tries to be "Christ-centered" in every decision he makes, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis stressed two major points as he met with reporters June 27.

The news gathering was held to discuss the recent choices made by Cathedral High School and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School concerning expectations of teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and other leaders in Catholic schools.

Both choices by the two Indianapolis private schools involved teachers in same-sex marriages.

The schools' choices were made in relation to the archdiocese's requirement that all Catholic schools must state in their contracts that these "ministerial witnesses" must "convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church," including its teaching on the "dignity of marriage as one man and one woman."

Making his first point, the archbishop said, "I should tell you, I'm from a big family. I've got dear family members, dear friends with same-sex attraction. So it's as personal to me as it is to anyone. And they know I love them unconditionally. And they know I respect their dignity as a person."

The second point focused on the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage.

While stressing that "one's (sexual) orientation is not a sin," the archbishop said the issue involving the two schools "is about public witness of church teaching on the dignity of marriage as one man and one woman. That is our church teaching.

"In this particular case we're dealing with, those are ministers in our church. Teachers, guidance counselors, other leaders, leaders of the schools and other leaders in the archdiocese are bound to live out these principles," added the archbishop, who was joined at the news gathering by Gina Fleming, the archdiocese's superintendent of Catholic schools.

On June 20, Brebeuf announced its decision to continue the employment of a teacher in a same-sex marriage -- a choice that resulted in the archdiocese no longer considering the school as Catholic.

On June 23, Cathedral announced that it had rescinded the contract of a teacher in a same-sex marriage because of the contract's morality clause.

The archbishop noted that in both situations involving the teachers, the archdiocese only responded when the situations were brought to its attention.

According to CNN, the two high school employees had been married to each other since 2017. Their marriage, which the couple shared on social media, led a local Catholic to complain to the archdiocese, sources told the news network.

"This is not a witch hunt. We don't go looking for these situations," Archbishop Thompson told the reporters. "When they're brought to my attention though, it is my responsibility, my duty to oversee the living of the faith, especially of all ministerial witnesses.

"Our first desire is how do we help reconcile the person's situation with the church's teaching. When it comes to us that there's a public situation that's contrary to the church's teaching, that's when we address it," Archbishop Thompson continued. "We're trying to address how to reconcile it in order to go forward. There come moments however when you can only accompany people so far before some sad, hard decisions have to be made."

The archbishop was joined at the meeting with reporters inside SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral by Gina Fleming, the archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools

Below are some of the major points made by Archbishop Thompson and Fleming.

-- The influence of Pope Francis

Archbishop Thompson:

"I'd like to point out that Pope Francis uses that wonderful word, 'accompaniment.' He's given us some wonderful images to work with, and it's the wonderful tone of the church. But we have to understand accompaniment. Accompaniment implies movement. Pope Francis says you meet people where they are, but we don't leave them there. We have to accompany them.

"We walk them more fully toward Christ. But I think sometimes people hear accompaniment as, 'meet people where they are, and just accept them right there.' We're called to do more than that. Our society places great emphasis on tolerance. It's kind of like, 'live and let live.' But Jesus calls us to more than tolerance. Jesus calls us to love. And love is sacrificial.

"Jesus says we have to sacrifice our own lives, sacrifice our own well-being for the sake of the Gospel. So our goal is how do we lead people to Christ as best we can. These are difficult times. We're navigating through some very challenging times for our church and for our society."

-- Responsibility and reconciliation

Archbishop Thompson:

"First and foremost, it is my responsibility as archbishop to oversee Catholic identity throughout the archdiocese, of any entity. We engaged in a rather long relationship trying to accompany the schools toward reconciliation with these principles -- especially this public witness of ministerial witnesses. Job descriptions for our teachers, for our guidance counselors. That process has been going on for two years."

Fleming: "When someone is not living according to Church teaching, we do try to walk with them. We try to give them the information that they need in terms of the church teaching, and then also spiritual guidance and direction, as well as opportunities to rectify their personal situation."

-- Possible appeal by Brebeuf and whether Pope Francis would support the archbishop

Archbishop Thompson:

"I believe he does. Over the process of all this, I don't do this without a great deal of prayer, discernment, dialogue, seeking consultation. And not just consultation within the archdiocese but much broader than that. I love Pope Francis. The Holy Father has spoken some wonderful, beautiful words about accompaniment, dialogue, encounter, acceptance, but he hasn't changed the teachings on marriage. He hasn't changed one aspect of church teaching on marriage."

-- His reaction to the prayer vigil by members of the Cathedral High School family June 27

Archbishop Thompson:

"My understanding is they're gathering to pray today, like a human chain to pray. Prayer is always good. I pray for everyone. I pray for people who are sharing their disappointment with me. I pray for them. People who encourage me. I pray for them. I pray for every school. I pray for every student. I pray for every parent. I pray for everyone gathered today. As I ask everywhere I go, I hope they pray for me.

"I tell people we have to always be open to the Holy Spirit. I ask people to pray for me so I'm listening to the Spirit. I have to listen to the Holy Spirit, not just for me, because I have the ultimate responsibility of being the teacher of the faith, preserving the integrity of the faith here in central and southern Indiana. It's an awesome responsibility that I take very, very seriously. So I ask people to pray for me that I listen to the Holy Spirit, not just for me but the people I serve."

-- The basis of his decisions

Archbishop Thompson:

"Our decisions have to always be made, as I always try to say, to be Christ-centered. We don't make decisions based on finances. We don't make decisions based on being popular or what is easy. ...' How do we remain Christ-centered?"

-- Regarding "ministerial language" in church contracts


"It was actually four years ago under Archbishop (Joseph W.) Tobin when the ministerial language in contracts were first implemented in their current format."

"This language was intended for two purposes. One was to first affirm the role of ministers of the faith as vital ministers in church ministry. And the other was to ensure that we all had a common or shared language around our roles and responsibilities. So that was implemented in our archdiocesan schools four years ago."

-- Timeline of Brebeuf/Cathedral issue


"Two years ago, we began a conversation with all five of our private Catholic schools. The two that were struggling continued conversation with us."

"It was through much prayerful discernment over the course of that two years, and really, much conversation on what it truly means to be ministers of the faith and how we would uphold that in our Catholic schools that led to the schools to make their own decisions as to whether they would wish to retain that Catholic identity."


Help for students with same-sex attraction


"We know that we have students in our schools today who are struggling with their sexual identity, who are experiencing questions around their own sexual identity. We are doing research, we are holding conferences for teachers and school leaders to ensure that they understand what it means to walk beside these young people and to be there for them."

-- Status of Cathedral teacher who posted she was remarried with no annulment


"We are dealing with that. In fact, the school has already had a conversation with an individual, and to my understanding there's a choice to walk that path of accompaniment as well that has been accepted.

"That's our responsibility as ministers of the faith to accompany. We owe it to employees to walk beside them, and we take that role very seriously."

- - -

Editor's Note: A video of the news conference can be found on the Indianapolis Archdiocese's website, The archdiocese also posted an FAQ on some key facts about Catholic Church teaching about marriage, Catholic education and other issues at

- - -

Shaughnessy is assistant editor and Hoefer is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Amid tensions in China, Vatican tells clergy to follow their conscience

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 8:38am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has told bishops and priests in China that they must follow their own consciences in deciding whether to register with the government, and it urged Catholics in the country not to judge them for the choices they make.

The problem, the Vatican said, is that registration almost always requires the bishop or priest to accept "the principle of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the church in China," which could be read as a denial of one's bonds with the pope and the universal church.

Releasing the "pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China" June 28, the Vatican acknowledged that acceptance of the independence of the church in China comes despite "the commitment assumed by the Chinese authorities," in an agreement with the Vatican in September, to respect Catholic doctrine.

Deciding whether to register with the government, which is the only way to be able to minister openly, is a choice that is "far from simple," the guidelines said.

"All those involved -- the Holy See, bishops, priests, religious men and women and the lay faithful -- are called to discern the will of God with patience and humility on this part of the journey of the church in China, marked, as it is, by much hope but also by enduring difficulties."

The guidelines assured Chinese clergy that the Vatican "continues to dialogue with the Chinese authorities" to find "a formula that, while allowing for registration, would respect not only Chinese laws but also Catholic doctrine."

In the meantime, however, the guidelines said, "if a bishop or a priest decides to register civilly, but the text of the declaration required for the registration does not appear respectful of the Catholic faith, he will specify in writing, upon signing, that he acts without failing in his duty to remain faithful to the principles of Catholic doctrine."

"Where it is not possible to make such a clarification in writing, the applicant will do so at least orally and, if possible, in the presence of a witness," and then communicate that to his bishop, it said.

Registration, the Vatican said, has "the sole aim of fostering the good of the diocesan community and its growth in the spirit of unity," as well as allowing for evangelization and "the responsible management of the goods of the church."

The Vatican also said it "understands and respects the choice of those who, in conscience, decide that they are unable to register under the current conditions."

Commenting more generally on the registration requirement, the Vatican said the Chinese constitution "formally guarantees religious freedom" and the provisional agreement the Vatican and China signed in September recognizes the special role of unity with the pope in the Catholic faith.

Therefore, it said, the Vatican interprets the "independence" of the Catholic Church in China "not in an absolute sense," for example as independent of the pope and the wider church, "but rather relative to the political sphere, as happens everywhere in the world."

"To affirm that for the Catholic identity there can be no separation from the successor of Peter does not mean making the local church an alien body in the society and the culture of the country in which she lives and works," the Vatican said.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Update: Bishop tries to help migrants at international bridge in El Paso

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 6:49pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Agren

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop Mark J. Seitz of the U.S. border Diocese of El Paso, Texas, walked and prayed with a group of migrants at the Lerdo International Bridge in El Paso June 27 as they sought asylum in the U.S.

Cameras surrounded him, as some individuals nearby held large posters with the faces of children who have recently died on the border.

The El Paso bishop then accompanied migrants to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, where they met with leaders of the Diocese of Ciudad Juarez and visited Casa del Migrante, a diocesan migrant shelter. He issued a statement, which he provided June 27 to Catholic News Service.

"As a Catholic and Christian leader on the border, I am often called to be a doctor of the soul," he said, delivering the statement in English and Spanish. "Standing here at the U.S.-Mexico border, how do we begin to diagnose the soul of our country?

"A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juarez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city. ... This government and this society are not well."

He said that in the U.S., we'd like to think that prejudice and intolerance are problems of the past, but the present shows that's not the case.

"We have found a new acceptable group to treat as less than human, to look down upon and to fear. And should they speak another language or are brown or black ... well, it is that much more easy to stigmatize them."

Bishop Seitz spoke with and prayed with Father Javier Calvillo, director of the Casa del Migrante shelter, which receives immigrants turned away on the Mexico side. Migrants turned away have to stay on the other side until U.S. courts can hear their asylum case, as part of the "Remain in Mexico" policy implemented by the Trump administration.

The El Paso bishop accompanied immigrants from Honduras, including families with cognitive disabilities, said Dylan Corbett, executive director of El Paso's Hope Border Institute.

"Why can't we put ourselves in their shoes?" Bishop Seitz asked in his statement. "Because we have decided they are not our neighbors, we have decided that they are aliens and illegals. We think these parents simply have no right to save their children from violence or malnutrition.

"They have no right to a job or to support their families. They have no right to reunite with family," he continued. "For this heartsick government and society, these people should have stayed home, given into hopelessness and watched helplessly as their children suffer."

The bishop participated in the event during a week that has seen much outrage in the country -- and the world -- after the publication of photos of a father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River trying to cross the border into the U.S. and reports of deplorable conditions in immigration centers where children are detained.

"Would we rather they die on the banks of the Rio Grande than trouble us with their presence?" he asked. "But we have not suffered the mistreatment meted out to them by those who represent our country. We haven't really felt their hunger and cold. And it is not our children who will be denied food, water and tenderness tonight. We Americans need our hearts checked. Our hearts have grown too cold and too hard and that bodes ill for the health of our nation.

"In the America of today, is there no more Golden Rule? Have we forgotten the lessons of Scripture? Have we forgotten the commandment to love? Have we forgotten God? But here on the border, he knocks," Bishop Seitz said. "In the struggle for hope and freedom and family, he knocks. In the lives of Jakelin and Felipe and Oscar and Valeria, he knocks. In our neighbors here today, he knocks. He knocks. He knocks. He knocks."

Before he began his walk on the bridge, he told Catholic News Service in a phone interview June 27 that wanted to call attention "to what's being done in the shadows" every day, as people seeking refuge are forced into dangerous places such as Ciudad Juarez.

"What's problematic is the way we're treating people fleeing for their lives," he told CNS. " We force them back into dangerous places with limited resources, where they're going to have to stay a year or more."

He said he was not scared to undertake the action on the bridge because he has seen the effects of the policies as centers in El Paso are seeing fewer people trying to cross at ports of entry, legally asking for asylum, but essentially denied the opportunity because of the long wait and are instead taking dangerous paths, such as the one that 25-year-old Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez took with his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, and one that led to their deaths.  

"They're taking more and more dangerous paths," he said. "We've already witnessed the death of nine people last week, or so, in attempts to cross. That's so awful. How can we sit back and say 'that situation is too bad, that's the way it is,' We can't. We have to try and do something and shine a light ... on this inappropriate system that is really causing the death of people who are in the first place, simply fleeing for their lives."


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Supreme Court stops citizenship question in census, for now

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 12:51pm

IMAGE: NS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court, for now, blocked the Trump administration's added citizenship question to the 2020 census, sending the case back to a lower court.

A 5-4 ruling handed down June 27, which was written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined in part by the other justices, said the administration's reason for adding the citizenship question "seems to have been contrived."

The case is not completely closed because the government still has the chance to offer more acceptable reasons for the added question, but it is against time because census forms were to be printed in early July.

The census case hit a potential twist in late May, a month after oral arguments, when newly submitted evidence from the files of a deceased Republican strategist put the citizenship question in another light: as a means to create an advantage for whites and Republicans in future elections.

Then in late June, a federal appeals court in Maryland allowed a lower court to study the background of these files.

The government had asked the Supreme Court to rule on the census dispute by the end of June, so that it can finalize the census questionnaire and get the forms printed in time for distribution next year.

During oral arguments about the added census question in April, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: "There's no doubt people will respond less" to the census questionnaire with a citizenship question, a point which she said "has been proven in study after study."

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said citizenship questions were common in other countries and had been on the U.S. forms over the years.

Both Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito said the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add a citizenship question -- for the first time since 1950 to improve compliance with the Voting Rights Act -- seemed reasonable. But Justice Elena Kagan said Ross' reason for adding this question seemed "contrived."

In its defense, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the information it would provide would help enforce the Voting Rights Act. When asked about the question leading to potentially less participation, he said: "There is always going to be a trade-off."

Lawyers for New York, immigrant advocacy groups and the House of Representatives stressed that the question would prevent noncitizens from filling out the census and have a negative financial and political impact on communities with large immigrant populations.

A similar argument was raised in a friend-of-the-court brief opposed to the citizenship question filed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens in New York. The brief stressed that the added question would cause a "net differential undercount of people who live in noncitizen and Hispanic households" and would result in a "drastic and unwarranted reduction in funding in states and cities with large populations of such persons" and also would impact social service agencies.

In a statement in late April by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration, stressed the importance of an accurate census count.

"The Catholic Church and other service providers rely on the national census to provide an accurate count in order to effectively serve those in need," said Bishop Dewane.

Bishop Vasquez said all people should be counted in the census, regardless of their citizenship and he said "proposed questions regarding immigration status will obstruct accurate census estimates and ultimately harm immigrant families and the communities they live in."

By one government estimate, about 6.5 million people might decide not to participate in the census with the added citizenship question.

The census is rooted in the text of the Constitution, which requires an "actual enumeration" of the population every 10 years. It determines federal funding for roads and schools, congressional districting and number of congressional representatives.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Calming consciences: Pope gives seafarer chaplains special powers

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 11:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis gave priests who minister to seafarers special permission to grant absolution for sins that usually would require the intervention of a bishop or the Vatican itself.

"I want to say something about peace in one's heart," the pope said June 27 during a meeting with chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea working at European ports.

"Many seafarers come or will come to priest chaplains with problems on their conscience that make them suffer a lot because they have never had a chance to deal with them," the pope said, departing from his prepared text.

"In these situations, far from home, from their countries, in these situations that we have described, perhaps a dialogue with the chaplain will open a horizon of hope," the pope said.

"Be merciful. Be merciful," Pope Francis told the chaplains.

"To help you with this mercy," he said, "I concede to all seafarer chaplains the same permissions that I gave to the 'missionaries of mercy' so that you can help many hearts find interior peace."

The "missionaries of mercy" were priests chosen by the Vatican for the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy to preach about God's mercy and, especially, to encourage Catholics to rediscover the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation.

In a permission later extended to all priests, Pope Francis granted them the power to absolve penitents who regretted having an abortion or playing a role in someone's decision to have an abortion. He also authorized them to lift some penalties imposed by canon law.

Through the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea, the Catholic Church gives support and solace to a group of workers facing constant danger and frequent exploitation, Pope Francis told the group.

While sailors and fishermen deliver the goods people rely on every day, they face the seafaring dangers of storms and piracy, long periods of time away from their families and working conditions that are often harsh and low-paying, the pope told chaplains and volunteers working at ports across Europe.

"Without sailors, the global economy would come to a standstill; and without fishermen, many parts of the world would starve," the pope said.

Isolation and distance are not the only hardships seafarers face, he said. They also risk the "shameful experiences of abuse and injustice," including human trafficking and forced labor.

"At other times, they are not paid their rightful salary or are left behind in distant ports," he said. "In addition to threats from nature -- storms and hurricanes -- they must face human threats, such as piracy or terrorist attacks."

Too often, he said, "they cross the world's oceans and seas, landing in ports where they are not always welcome."

But the Apostleship of the Sea and its Stella Maris centers at some 300 ports worldwide bring human kindness, material support and the Gospel, Pope Francis said.

"With compassion and discretion, you give them a chance to pour out their hearts," he said. "This is the first and most precious service that you provide, above all to those who have few similar opportunities."

"Listening can then lead to action," both for spiritual healing as well as for defending the rights of workers who often are invisible to the larger society, the pope said.

The presence of chaplains and volunteers at ports around the world is "a sign of God's fatherhood and the fact that, in his eyes, we are all children, brothers and sisters to one another."


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Indifference, apathy at heart of hunger crisis, pope says

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If the world is to succeed in eradicating the scourge of hunger, it must first fight against the indifference, apathy and broken promises that allow the crisis to continue, Pope Francis said.

Addressing participants in the 41st session of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization conference June 27, the pope said that despite the progress that has been made to alleviate hunger and food insecurity, "the goal of zero hunger worldwide remains a great challenge."

"The origin of this tragedy lies above all in a failure of compassion, the lack of interest on the part of many and a scant social and political will to honor international obligations," he said.

While the lack of food and safe drinking water may seem like a problem exclusive to "the most poor and vulnerable countries," he said, it is an issue that concerns everyone.

Humanity, he added, is called "to hear their desperate cry and to find ways of enabling them to remain alive and see their most basic rights respected."

Among the ways to achieve this is to reduce the waste of food and water by raising "awareness of the problem and a greater sense of social responsibility," especially with young people who "will then pass on this witness to those yet to come."

He also said that "there is an evident link between environmental instability, food insecurity and migratory movements" and called for agricultural developments in vulnerable regions to strengthen "the resilience and sustainability of the land."

"The increased numbers of refugees throughout the world in recent years has shown us that one country's problem is a problem of the entire human family," the pope said.

Pope Francis highlighted the importance of organizations like the FAO which, along with the support of governments, businesses and civil society, can coordinate and take decisive action so that everyone, especially in poor countries, can access basic goods.

"Joint efforts by all will realize the goals and commitments already undertaken, through programs and policies capable of helping local populations to grow in a sense of responsibility for their countries, communities and, ultimately, their own lives," the pope said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Pope saddened by drowning of migrant father, daughter at U.S. border

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 10:20am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis was saddened after seeing photos of the lifeless bodies of a migrant father and his daughter who drowned near the U.S. border with Mexico, the Vatican said.

In response to journalists' questions June 26, Alessandro Gisotti, interim Vatican spokesman, said the pope saw "with immense sadness" the photos of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, lying face down in the shallow waters of the Rio Grande.

"The pope is profoundly saddened by their death and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery," Gisotti said.

In an interview with Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Martinez's wife, Tania, said she and her husband decided to cross the Rio Grande June 23 after waiting for two months for a response to their asylum request from the United States.

Hoping to cross the river into Brownsville, Texas, Martinez first crossed with his daughter and left her along the bank while returning back to help his wife cross. However, upon being left alone, Valeria was frightened and jumped into the river.

Rushing to save her, Martinez and his daughter were instead dragged by the current. Tania was rescued by a person nearby, she told La Jornada.

Twelve hours later, firefighters from Matamoros, Mexico, found the two bodies, both facedown, with Valeria's lifeless arm clutching her father's neck.

The image sparked outrage against the Trump administration due to squalid conditions at migrant facilities as well as increasingly harsher policies against immigrants, many of whom are from Central America, fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty and corruption.

During his weekly general audience earlier in the day, the pope called on Christians to be more welcoming of others.

While greeting Spanish-speaking pilgrims, he praised Mexico, which has seen an increased influx of Central American migrants, "because they are so welcoming, so welcoming to migrants."

"May God repay you," he said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Christian community a place of welcome, solidarity, pope says

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 10:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To be part of a Christian community is to belong to a group of believers who shun selfishness and give witness to God's love by loving and caring for one another, Pope Francis said.

While modern society places more importance on "one's own interests regardless of or even to the detriment of others," true Christians "ban individualism in order to encourage sharing and solidarity," the pope said June 26 during his weekly general audience.

"There is no place for selfishness in the soul of a Christian," he said. "If your heart is selfish, you are not a Christian; you are a worldly person who looks only for your own benefit, your own profit."

Prior to taking part in the final audience before his summer break, to avoid the scorching Rome heat the pope met indoors with pilgrims who are sick or have a disability.

Outside, continuing his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, the pope reflected on the first Christian community in Jerusalem, which was comprised of people who "felt their hearts pierced by the joyful announcement" of Christ's salvation for all men and women.

St. Luke's account of this community, he said, provides a glimpse of the "communion of love" that existed and was fortified by listening to the apostolic teaching, sharing their goods with one another, taking part in the Eucharist and prayer.

"These are the attitudes of a Christian; the four signs of a good Christian," he said.

The grace that comes from baptism, he added, makes "rivalries between young and old, men and women, rich and poor" disappear.

"Baptismal grace reveals the intimate bond between brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to share, to identify with others and to give according to each one's needs," the pope said. "This is a way of listening to the cry of the poor -- which is very pleasing to God -- and of giving him back what belongs to him."

Pope Francis concluded his talk by asking the faithful to pray so that Christians may emulate the first community and establish a "genuine covenant with God" so that they would become an attractive force that fascinates and "conquers the hearts of many."

The pope prayed that the Holy Spirit would "make our communities places in which to welcome and practice new life, works of solidarity and communion; places where liturgies are an encounter with God, which becomes communion with our brothers and sisters; places that are open doors to the heavenly Jerusalem."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Cardinal Burke cuts ties with institute, citing its alignment with Bannon

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 4:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marcia per la Vita


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke has resigned from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, saying it has become "more and more identified with the political program" of Steve Bannon.

In a letter posted on his Twitter feed, Cardinal Burke said June 25 he had urged the institute to return to its original purpose of promoting the respect of human dignity but "it has not done so," so he was terminating his relationship, including being the institute's honorary president. Eleven other cardinals make up the institute's advisory board and Bannon, former chief strategist at the White House, is a patron and member of the board of trustees.

"I have been made aware of a June 24 LifeSiteNews online article -- now removed -- entitled 'Steve Bannon hints at making film exposing homosexuality in the Vatican,' in which the insinuation is made that somehow, through my association with Mr. Benjamin Harnwell of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, I was involved in a meeting between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Frederic Martel, author of the book, 'In the Closet of the Vatican,' to promote a film version of Mr. Martel's book," Cardinal Burke said in his letter.

"LifeSiteNews made no contact with me to verify my possible involvement," he said. "Given the overall content of the article and given several statements made by Mr. Bannon in the article, I must make the following clear:

"I do not, in any way, agree with Mr. Bannon's assessment of the book in question," Cardinal Burke said. "Furthermore, I am not at all of the mind that the book should be made into a film. I disagree completely with a number of Mr. Bannon's statements regarding the doctrine and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Above all, I find objectionable his statement calling into question the church's discipline of perpetual continence for the clergy, in accord with the example and desire of Christ ..." he said.

Cardinal Burke said he had never worked with Bannon but had met with him "on occasion to discuss Catholic social teaching regarding certain political questions."

"In meeting with him, as in meeting with other political leaders, I have tried to fulfill my mission as a priest to teach the faith and morals for the common good," he said.

In early June, the Italian ministry for culture revoked a license it granted to the Dignitatis Humanae Institute to manage a state-owned historic monument south of Rome, citing irregularities in the bidding process and a breach of contract. The former Carthusian monastery of Trisulti was being used as the headquarters of the institute.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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


The Catholic Voice

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

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

Comment Here