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Congress urged to let houses of worship seek FEMA aid after disasters

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 5:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Lawmakers in Washington were urged to approve a bill introduced in Congress to ensure the fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters "by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

The chairmen of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty and their Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs called for support for the measure in identical letters sent to members of the House and Senate.

The bill is the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017, known as H.R. 2405 and S. 1823 in the House and Senate, respectively.

"The legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria," said the letter.

It was signed by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the religious liberty committee, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, chairman of the ecumenical committee.

A news release was issued Sept. 28 about the letters, which were dated Sept. 27.

"In the Trinity Lutheran Church case decided in June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against churches -- in a generally available government grant program -- just because they are churches," the two prelates wrote.

In a 7-2 decision in that case, the Supreme Court said a Lutheran preschool should not be excluded from a state grant program to refurbish its playground surface just because it is a religious entity.

Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski said the bill regarding FEMA aid and houses of worship "is not asking for special treatment, just equal treatment that conforms to constitutional protections."

"It should be noted that in the aftermath of a natural disaster, houses of worship often play an irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community," they wrote. "Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature."

H.R. 2405 was introduced in the House in May by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, and the companion measure, S. 1823, was introduced in the Senate Sept. 19 by Republican Sens. Roy Blount of Missouri and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both of Texas.

"The discriminatory policy of excluding houses of worship from disaster relief is not prescribed in any law," Smith said in a statement when the Senate version was introduced. "The previous administration simply refused to help them. We have an opportunity to change this through future federal disaster assistance programs."

President Donald Trump has indicated he supports the legislation.

The measures were first introduced in the House and Senate back in 2013, months after Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey, parts of New York state and other areas of the Northeast region. The House passed it in a 354-72 vote, but the Senate refused to take up the bill.

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

Safe journey: Vatican pushes for global compacts on migration, refugees

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:30am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While encouraging Catholics to reach out to migrants and refugees, the Vatican is reaching out to governments as they struggle to work out international policies and principles for dealing with the large number of people fleeing violence and poverty.

The involvement of the church and church agencies in the U.N. process for drafting the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees goes hand in hand with the much more personalized effort to encourage individual Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to that person's story.

Pope Francis launched Caritas Internationalis' "Share the Journey" campaign Sept. 27, inviting all Catholics to extend a hand of welcome to a migrant or refugee.

The pope himself oversees the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and he has approved specific "action points" or concrete proposals the Vatican wants to see incorporated into the global compacts.

The 20 points, drafted in consultation with several bishops' conferences and Catholic organizations working with refugees and migrants, are explained in separate notes. One, addressed to bishops and other pastoral leaders, aims to educate Catholics and build public support for policies to guarantee an appropriate welcome, protection, promotion and integration of migrants and refugees. The other is addressed more specifically to politicians and those involved in drafting the compacts.

In his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, a text released in August, Pope Francis mentioned several of the action points, including pleas to expand the pathways and processes for legal migration; to end the practice of putting unaccompanied minors in jail-like detention centers; and to halt "collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees."

Scalabrini Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary for migrants and refugees, said the action points "respond to the need for concreteness" in applying principles that, in many ways, already are enshrined in international law on human rights, human dignity, migration and the rights of refugees.

The specific suggestions, he said, are based on the "best practices" seen in many countries, particularly for protecting the most vulnerable migrants and refugees, such as unaccompanied minors.

The Vatican position recognizes "the right of every state to manage and control its borders," but it also insists nations live up to the obligations they accepted when becoming parties to international agreements on human rights, the protection of refugees and the rights of children.

The very specific suggestions include items like having countries "with significant labor migrant outflows" set up a system to provide potential migrants with information about their rights and obligations; working to develop a system to evaluate and recognize university and professional degrees earned in another country; and increasing development aid to poor countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

Lobbying and education go hand in hand for the Vatican, Father Baggio said, because "correct information is essential in this process," especially to counteract a series of false claims and presumptions about migrants that feed people's fears and move them away from the Christian obligations to welcome the stranger and help those in danger.

Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, a U.S. priest who is secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission, gave one example of where accurate information is needed.

"There is fear among some governments and local populations that refugees and migrants bring infectious diseases into host countries," he told Catholic News Service.

But "scientific epidemiological studies have demonstrated that this is not the case," he said. "There have been recent outbreaks of measles in Europe, for example, but public health experts maintain that these outbreaks are due to the fact that many Europeans have decided that their children should not be vaccinated against measles, while most refugees and migrants are vaccinated upon arrival in the host countries."

Asked what "Catholics in the pew" can or should do, Msgr. Vitillo said he hoped they would understand "the Gospel mandate to treat all with the same love and mercy that we ourselves receive from our heavenly Father" and, therefore, would "avoid all hateful or exclusionary treatment of refugees and migrants."

"I hope that 'Catholic in the pews' will develop an acute awareness of the blessings and gifts -- cultural, social, and spiritual -- that refugees and migrants bring to their host communities, just as many of our own ancestors were welcomed by host communities in the distant, and not-so-distant, past," he said.

And, finally, he said, "I hope that 'Catholics in the pews' will pray and act to effect peace in the world and to promote integral human development, so migration could become a choice, freely taken in orderly and regular fashion, with the promise of decent work with just pay and decent work conditions, rather than to be violently forced on people for their own survival or that of their families."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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

'Amoris Laetitia' is built on traditional Thomist morality, pope says

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 10:37am

IMAGE: CNS/La Civilta Cattolica

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Seeing, understanding and engaging with people's real lives does not "bastardize" theology, rather it is what is needed to guide people toward God, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Colombia.

"The theology of Jesus was the most real thing of all; it began with reality and rose up to the Father," he said during a private audience Sept. 10 in Cartagena, Colombia. The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript from the meeting Sept. 28. The journal provided its own translations of the original Spanish remarks.

Meeting privately with a group of Jesuits and laypeople associated with Jesuit-run institutions in Colombia, the pope told them, "I am here for you," not to make a speech, but to hear their questions or comments.

A Jesuit philosophy teacher asked what the pope hoped to see in philosophical and theological reflection today, not just in Colombia, but also in the Catholic Church in general.

Philosophy, like theology, the pope said, cannot be done in "a laboratory," but must be done "in life, in dialogue with reality."

Pope "Benedict XVI spoke of truth as an encounter, that is to say, no longer a classification, but a path," Pope Francis said. It always has to be done "in dialogue with reality because you cannot do philosophy with a logarithm table."

The same sort of dialogue, he said, applies to theology, which is not "to bastardize" theology or make it impure. Rather, "quite the opposite" is true. Jesus, who is "the greatest reality" of all, always started with people's real lives to lead them toward God.

"It began with a seed, a parable," a specific incident, and then Jesus would explain, he said; Jesus wanted to do a "deep," profound theology.

"To be a good theologian, in addition to studying, dedicating oneself, having sharp insight and grasping reality," one must reflect and pray "on one's knees," he said.

A man or a woman "who doesn't pray cannot be a theologian," he said. He or she may know every doctrine that ever existed and be a walking "Denzinger," the pope said, referring to the 19th-century "Handbook of Creeds and Definitions" by Heinrich Denzinger, "but they will not be doing theology."

It all comes down to "how you express who God is," how the Holy Spirit is manifested, the mystery and "the wounds of Christ," he said. "How you are teaching this encounter -- that is the grace."

The pope then said that he wanted to use the teacher's question as an opportunity address -- in justice and charity -- the "many comments" concerning the postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia."

Many of the commentaries, he said, are "respectable because they were made by children of God," but they are "wrong."

"In order to understand 'Amoris Laetitia,' you must read it from the beginning to the end," reading each chapter in order, reading what got said during the synods of bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015, and reflecting on all of it, he said.

To those who maintain that the morality underlying the document is not "a Catholic morality" or a morality that can be certain or sure, "I want to repeat clearly that the morality of 'Amoris Laetitia' is Thomist," that is, built on the moral philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, he said.

One of best and "most mature" theologians today who can explain the document, he told them, is Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.

"I want to say this so that you can help those who believe that morality is purely casuistic," he said, meaning a morality that changes according to particular cases and circumstances rather than one that determines a general approach that should guide the church's pastoral activity.

The pope had made a similar point during his meeting with Jesuits gathered in Rome for their general congregation in 2016. There he said, "In the field of morality, we must advance without falling into situationalism."

"St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure affirm that the general principle holds for all but -- they say it explicitly -- as one moves to the particular, the question becomes diversified and many nuances arise without changing the principle," he had said. It is a method that was used for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and "Amoris Laetitia," he added.

"It is evident that, in the field of morality, one must proceed with scientific rigor and with love for the church and discernment. There are certain points of morality on which only in prayer can one have sufficient light to continue reflecting theologically. And on this, allow me to repeat it, one must do 'theology on one's knees.' You cannot do theology without prayer. This is a key point and it must be done this way," he had told the Jesuits in Rome.

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

Priests must understand own weaknesses to really help flock, says bishop

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 2:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas was rector of Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago in the 1990s when then-Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was falsely accused of sexually abusing a minor seminarian during his previous tenure as archbishop of Cincinnati.

The agony of having to endure those humiliating charges -- the accuser later recanted, removed Cardinal Bernardin's name from his abuse lawsuit and reconciled with him -- changed Cardinal Bernardin forever, Bishop Kicanas told the Louisiana Priests' Convention in a keynote speech Sept. 21.

But he changed in a way that strengthened his reliance on God in everything he did, said the bishop, who heads the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, and is the former vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"When as priests we are in touch with our own weakness, only then can we enter the pain and brokenness of others," Bishop Kicanas said.

Cardinal Bernardin died in 1996 of pancreatic cancer.

"His name (was) on the headlines of every area newspaper," Bishop Kicanas said. "I remember getting a call from the cardinal two days after the allegation became public. He said that he was concerned about the seminarians. He worried what they might be thinking, how they might be feeling. He asked if he might come out to the seminary and say some words and maybe answer any of their questions."

Bishop Kicanas said Cardinal Bernardin visited Mundelein the following week and spoke directly with all the seminarians in a large, tiered room.

"As we entered the room, everything quieted down," Bishop Kicanas recalled. "You could hear a pin drop. The cardinal gave a brief comment, and then he asked if they had any questions. Well, no one said a word. Finally, one of the seminarians cautiously raised his hand and asked, 'What has it been like for you?'"

Bishop Kicanas said Cardinal Bernardin "paused for a seemingly interminable time" and finally said, "I was totally embarrassed, totally. Here I am, the cardinal archbishop of Chicago, accused of sexual misconduct with a minor, my name on the headline of every newspaper, even in my (family's) hometown in Italy. I was totally embarrassed.

"I went home that night all by myself," he continued. "I entered my home and walked up the darkened staircase to the second floor where my room was. I entered the room surrounded by all the honorary degrees and gifts that I had been given by so many. I prostrated myself on the ground as if I were naked."

Bishop Kicanas said Cardinal Bernardin told the seminarians that "at that moment of utter weakness, I experienced the Lord present in my life in a way I had never ever experienced before."

The "irony of the spiritual life," Bishop Kicanas said, is that when "we lose our life, we find it; and when we hold on to our lives, we lose it."

"That experience of utter weakness and the cardinal's later diagnosis of pancreatic cancer made him totally vulnerable," Bishop Kicanas said. "But something happened to him as a result of these two devastating experiences. He became so sensitive to the hurt of others."

At one of the healing services being conducted around the archdiocese before the cardinal died, Bishop Kicanas said, he was celebrating Mass for an African-American community when "right in the middle of Mass ... a woman came up the stairs of the dais."

"The priests concelebrating panicked and tried to get her to go back to her place," Bishop Kicanas said. "But the cardinal invited her to his chair and listened to her cry for help. His own encounter with weakness made him no longer merely an administrator, but now a pastor, a shepherd who like Christ felt compassion for the flock, harassed and helpless."

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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

Respect immigrants; they aren't the enemy, Caritas says

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 1:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Cathal McNaughton, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Politicians and community leaders must recognize the benefits of welcoming newcomers and not believe immigrants should be rejected automatically, said members of a panel launching the Caritas "Share the Journey" campaign.

Immigrants and refugees need to be respected and assisted, not treated like an enemy, they said during a Vatican news conference Sept. 27.

"If that person's creativity and talents are developed, they do not become a threat; they even contribute to the community," said Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis.

"And if a politician cares for his or her country, this is one way by which he or she could care for the country," the cardinal said. "Don't close the doors! You might be closing the doors to people who might enrich your society."

The two-year campaign, sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, the global network of national Catholic charities -- including the U.S. Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA -- aims to encourage all Catholics to organize or take part in events and opportunities that allow immigrants and refugees to share their stories with their host community.

"Whenever I meet a migrant, I am reminded of my grandfather, who migrated from China as a poor boy and came to the Philippines," the cardinal said.

Who would have thought that that poor boy would someday "produce a cardinal grandson?" he said.

"Why are you afraid?" the cardinal said, slamming his hand down, then immediately apologizing with a smile for the gesture.

"The migrant that you are rejecting might be contributing to that community," he stressed.

Oliviero Forti, head of Caritas Italy's migration office, said increasing hostility toward migrants and refugees was one of the reasons to launch the campaign.

"It is a campaign that is against no one," he said.

It's about sharing a journey and a message, especially with those who are having a hard time understanding or dealing with immigration "because our role is above all to speak with those today who are afraid, because fear is never without a reason," he said.

The first step, he said, is to engage in dialogue and explain the reasons why people feel forced to abandon their homelands. The campaign aims to help all people, including Catholics, "serenely" live the reality of migration, which must never "get out of control."

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, said she has seen people who were "100 percent against immigration" suddenly become "100 percent" more accepting after these personal encounters.

"It opens their minds" and lets them see that immigrants and refugees "are people like us," she said. That kind of direct contact, she said, also could help leaders formulate assistance and policies that are based on the actual lived experience and problems of immigrants and refugees, not on presumptions or prejudice.

Bekele Moges, head of Caritas Ethiopia, said people "are not really moving for the purposes of moving," but "there is something forcing us to move."

The "Share the Journey" campaign, he said, is about changing people's attitudes from wanting to put up walls to welcoming and protecting.

Immigrants and refugees "should not be seen as an enemy or as a threat. We have to be approached, we need to be talked to, dialogue -- that makes a difference," he said.

Yankuba Darboe, who works with young immigrants at Caritas centers in southern Italy, told Catholic News Service that the campaign is a "plea to the whole world" to not see immigrants "as criminals," but instead secure borders from militias and gangs that run human trafficking rings.

Darboe, a 21-year-old from Gambia, had been kidnapped and tortured by traffickers as he made his way into Libya looking for work. After escaping, he went to Italy and found Caritas, which helped him with his studies; he is now pursuing a university degree in biology.

Migration from Africa is often rooted in politics because leaders are not always acting in the best interest of their own people, Darboe said. Often they are trying "to secure a job for themselves" at whatever the cost.

Many countries in Africa "are not independent," he said, in the sense that their leaders are heavily influenced by Western interests "that invaded our culture," which results in adverse conditions or limited opportunities, and encourages people to leave Africa.

Ironically, he said, the Western leaders whose policies fuel African expatriation "are the same politicians giving a bad name to immigration" and the people landing on their shores.

"If a host country tries to make people understand that (immigration) is not a bad thing for a country, migration will be a different story for the host country," Darboe said. "Instead of judging someone you do not know, get to know him first, because interacting and learning about each other will change worlds; it makes life easier."

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

Vatican official condemns discrimination against women

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 10:45am

By Matthew Fowler

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The need to recognize women as having equal worth as men and allow them to fully exercise their human rights is increasingly urgent due to the "resurgence of divisions in today's world," a top Vatican official told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"An increased fragmentation of social relations in our multicultural societies, with spontaneous acts and words of racism and xenophobia, social and racial discrimination, and political exploitation of differences, is evident in everyday experiences," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

During a Sept. 25 speech regarding the impact of racial discrimination and intolerance on the human rights of women, the archbishop explained that women are "too often undervalued" and vulnerable to discrimination, not only when they are part of an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority, but for simply being women.

He said that women provide "an irreplaceable value in political, economic and social life," and he emphasized the need to eliminate any form of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance toward women.

He told the council that recognizing the equal dignity and fundamental rights of all people is not enough. Legislation should be coupled with education -- at school and in homes -- for shaping minds and forming consciences that recognize differences as a richness and reject all forms of racism, he said.

He also called on government agencies, the media and others to avoid stereotyping minorities, saying they "must join the rest of society in upholding human dignity."

"To overcome the moral bankruptcy of prejudice, it is essential to put in place a real solidarity at the social, national and international level, founded on the recognition of everyone as having equal human worth," the archbishop said.

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

Share hope with those seeking better lives, pope says

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 10:07am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The same hope that moves people to seek a better life for themselves and their loved ones also moves the hearts of men and women to welcome migrants and refugees with open arms, Pope Francis said.

"Those who come to our land and we who go toward their heart to understand them, to understand their culture and language" embark on a shared journey that "without hope cannot be done," the pope said Sept. 27 at his weekly general audience.

"Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to share the journey! Do not be afraid to share hope," he said.

During the audience, Pope Francis launched the "Share the Journey" campaign, an initiative sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies.

The campaign encourages Catholics to understand, get to know and welcome refugees and migrants.

Continuing his series of audience talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on the enemies of hope who, like the Greek myth of Pandora's box, "unleash so many misfortunes throughout the world's history."

However, he said, few people remember that at the end of the story, the final item unleashed from the box is hope, which is what "sustains life, protects it, cares for it and makes it grow."

"If humankind had not cultivated hope, if they had not been sustained by this virtue, they would have remained in the caves and would not leave their mark in world history," the pope said. Hope "is the most divine thing that exists in the human heart."

While the poor tend to be "the bearers of hope," he said, there are others, especially young men and women, who may have the "misfortune" of having everything, but who are not taught the "virtue of waiting and patience."

"They are destined to the worst punishment: that of not desiring anything," he said. "To close the door to desires, to dreams -- they look young, but instead autumn has already fallen in their hearts. They are the youths of autumn."

This emptiness of the soul, he added, is an obstacle to hope and leads Christians to fall into the temptation that ancient monks would call "the midday devil."

"This temptation surprises us when we least expect it: the days become dull and boring," and nothing seems worthy of one's fatigue, he said. "This attitude is called sloth; it erodes life from within until it becomes an empty shell."

Pope Francis urged Christians to keep hope alive and fight against desperation through Jesus "who can open wide the doors" and "look beyond the horizon.

"If Jesus conquered the world, he is able to conquer within us all that stands in the way of goodness," the pope said. "If God is with us, no one can rob us of the virtue we absolutely need to live. No one will rob us of hope."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

'Share the journey,' embrace migrants, refugees, pope says

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 6:30am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christ calls believers to welcome migrants and refugees "with arms wide open, ready to give a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace," Pope Francis said, launching the "Share the Journey" campaign of Catholic charities around the world.

Christians' embrace of people fleeing war or poverty should be "a bit like the colonnade of St. Peter's Square, which represents the mother church who embraces all in sharing a common journey," the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience Sept. 27.

With hundreds of refugees and migrants present in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said the Catholic charities' staff and volunteers who assist them are "a sign of a church that seeks to be open, inclusive and welcoming."

"Share the Journey" is a two-year campaign sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, the global network of national Catholic charities -- including the U.S. Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA -- to promote encounters between people on the move and people living in the countries they are leaving, passing through or arriving in.

Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, told Catholic News Service, "'Share the Journey' is not just a title or a label for a program -- it is that, but more than that, it is a lifestyle," an affirmation that everyone wants and needs someone to share his or her journey through life.

"There are specific moments in the life of a person, a family or the whole human family when we need to be reminded of this fundamental truth that we have been given each other so that we would have someone to share our journeys with," he said, the day before the campaign launched.

"A small gesture like extending one's arm to somebody else -- it means a lot," he said. "I reach out and if a person feels alone and isolated, my reaching out is a gesture of solidarity. If I reach out and that person is wounded, it could be a sign of healing. If I reach out and the person is lost, it could mean an offer of guidance. If I reach out and person feels like nobody cares, then it will be a sign of welcome."

In his ministry in the Philippines and traveling around the world for Caritas, Cardinal Tagle said he has come to realize that "we don't need to do great, extraordinary, extravagant things to make a difference in the lives of people."

Rather, he said, "small gestures, ordinary gestures, when done with sincerity, with the light of human understanding, with the fire of love can do extraordinary things."

The cardinal said it is important for himself and for all Christians to look not only at the gestures of care and love they extend to others, but to recognize how "I have been assured and encouraged by little gestures that people have extended to me with sincerity and love."

Those gestures, he said, "wow, they make my day, they make my journeys more pleasant and bearable."

One key point of the "Share the Journey" campaign, Cardinal Tagle said, is to help Catholics and others take positive steps to get to know the truth about the current refugee crisis and to actually meet a migrant or refugee in person.

"Fear comes first from the unknown," he said. "Many people who are against migration or receiving migrants have not even met a real migrant or a real refugee, have not even touched the hand of someone forced to flee a war, have not even smelled the misery of these people. So we wonder, 'What are you afraid of? Where is this fear coming from?'"

Cardinal Tagle said his hope is that when Catholics meet a migrant or refugee, they can say, "'She's a sister.' 'She could be my mother.' 'She could be my neighbor.'"

Lasting impressions can come from the experience of meeting, talking to and sharing even a moment of the journey with a migrant or refugee, the cardinal said.

For him, the refugee who stays in his mind, heart and prayers is "a teenager, a young boy who we encountered in the refugee camp in Idomeni, in Greece," in late 2015. He was from Syria and he was alone after his parents urged him to escape the country.

"You know, whenever I think of this boy, I feel anxious, but I pray for him," the cardinal said. "And you just hope there are men and women of good will who will see in him a son, a brother, a neighbor and will share his journey."

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, joined Cardinal Tagle for the audience with Pope Francis.

"'Share the Journey' is the opportunity for all of us as church, as the people of God, to walk with and be part of that journey that the immigrants are going through," she told CNS. It is an opportunity to tell migrants and refugees they are not alone. "We are saying, 'We are with you and we want you to know that we will always be with you and care for you.'"

The experience of sharing the journey of migrants and refugees can build up both the church and the local community, she said, speaking especially from the experience of running a center for migrants and refugees at Sacred Heart parish in McAllen, Texas, on the border with Mexico.

Families who "had gone through so much pain and suffering through all their journey" suddenly come to a place where they are welcomed and the expressions on their faces change, she said. The encounter enables them to "experience the presence of God among us just by, at that moment in their journey, finding somebody who cares."

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Catholic groups decry end of special immigration status for Sudan

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 5:37pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In mid-September, the Trump administration announced the end of a special immigration status for nationals from the Northern African nation of Sudan, prompting outcry from Catholic groups who say they worry about the conditions the migrants will face upon their return.

The administration said that on Nov. 2, 2018, it would end what's known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Sudanese nationals who are now protected from deportation and have a work permit under that program. TPS is granted temporarily to migrants who come from countries that have experienced disruptions such as natural disasters, civil wars or other threats. Because of those unsafe conditions, they are unable to return.

In the case of Sudan, the country experienced armed conflict from the 1980s until 2005. Many fled to various parts of the world and the U.S. has about 1,000 with the special status.

Though the administration says it is safe to return, the U.S. Department of State warns against travel to the country because of "risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime." However, it said the current TPS holders from Sudan need to start making arrangements to return or adjust their immigration status in a different way.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, said in a statement after the announcement that it was "shocked by the administration's decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Sudan and send TPS holders back to the beleaguered country next year."

"This is a cruel and inhumane decision," said Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC's executive director. "There is absolutely no need to send people who are living peacefully, raising their children and contributing to the American economy and society back to a country where their lives could immediately be put at risk."

While ending TPS for Sudan, the administration extended the same immigration protection for nationals from South Sudan through May 2019, but the country openly remains in civil war.

The Washington-based Franciscan Action Network in a statement said that it praised the administration's extension for South Sudanese migrants, "but strongly disagreed with termination of TPS for Sudan."

The group's executive director, Patrick Carolan, asked whether Acting Secretary Elaine Duke of the Department of Homeland Security had visited Sudan "or merely reviewed conditions on paper?" to speak about the conditions in the country.

The Franciscan Action Network also expressed worry about other groups of migrants who currently have protections under TPS but who could soon face similar situations.

"Currently, there are 435,000 TPS holders in the U.S. from 10 countries, people who are living peacefully, raising families and working, thus contributing to the U.S. economy," the network said in a statement. "Soon the administration will be making decisions on whether or not to extend TPS for Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Syria. FAN urges the administration to extend TPS for Sudan and other countries as long as life threatening conditions prevail."

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Vatican diplomat calls on U.N. to pursue peace in world's trouble spots

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 2:01pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy State Department

By

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- A Vatican official called on the world's governments to strive more actively to prevent wars, protect human dignity and the environment and work toward a nuclear-free world.

During an address to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 25, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, also described the right to life and freedom of religion as pillars of peace and development, allowing human rights to flow from them.

He addressed the drug trade, trafficking in persons and the importance of protecting innocent people from violence and war in his wide-ranging speech that echoed numerous concerns raised by Pope Francis during his pontificate.

"Putting people always first means protecting, at every stage and in every circumstance, the dignity of the person and its human rights and fundamental freedoms," Archbishop Gallagher said. He called such protections "the common foundation of peace and security and integral human development."

"These two human rights are indivisible from those other rights and fundamental freedoms relating to a dignified spiritual, material and intellectual life for each citizen and for their families, among others, the right to food, the right to water, the right for housing, the right to safe environment and the right to work," he said.

Calling the U.N.'s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris agreement on climate change two signs of hope for the world, Archbishop Gallagher also urged the world's governments to do more to implement the legal and political commitments contained in them.

Implementing the agreements, he said, "could be a way of focusing all countries and international organizations on working together for peace, leaving aside the dangerous game of exchanging threats."

All nations have a duty to prevent war and violent conflicts that harm innocent civilians, the archbishop continued. He said the prevention of violence requires faith that negotiations to ease tensions can be fruitful.

"An environment of trust is urgently needed. All countries should take a decisive and urgent step back from the present escalation of military preparations. The largest countries and those who have a stronger tradition of respecting human rights should be the first to perform generous actions of pacification. All the diplomatic and political means of mediation should be engaged to avoid the unspeakable," Archbishop Gallagher stressed.

He called for a renewed emphasis by all governments on the importance of protecting populations from "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."

The war in Yemen is of particular concern and the "tragedy from the war in Syria continues to grow every day," the archbishop said. He also said political divisions and instability in Venezuela as well as tensions in the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, Ukraine, South Sudan and Central African Republic pose threats to the well-being of citizens in those countries in calling on the world to seek peaceful alternatives to war and violence.

"Our common humanity impels us all, as Pope Francis has proposed, to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate those who flee from such adverse conditions," Archbishop Gallagher told the General Assembly delegates. "These four actions are based on the proposition that migrants, in spite of many real or imagined challenges, are a good for society, and on the principle of solidarity with those in need."

He said the Holy See will work to ensure that the four actions will be included in the global compact for refugees the U.N. will consider in September 2018.

Archbishop Gallagher cited the need to more fully address the "evil" of human trafficking and the heinous nature of the drug trade in many countries around the world.

Human trafficking involves "the utter loss of respect for human dignity and the total indifference to the sufferings of fellow human beings. Modern slavery happens when 'people are treated like objects,' he explained. The archbishop called for a stronger focus on efforts to end human trafficking, saying "putting people first" ought to be the primary concern of the U.N.

In addition, Archbishop Gallagher called for an end to the arms trade -- licit and illicit -- around the world. "The proliferation of arms, including weapons of mass destruction, among terrorist groups and other nonstate actors has become a real danger," he said.

He did not leave nuclear powers untouched, saying that these countries must lead the effort toward disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, and arms control.

"The proliferation of weapons simply aggravates situations of conflict and results in unimaginable human suffering and material costs, profoundly undermining development, human rights and the search for lasting peace," the diplomat said. "Without greater international and regional cooperation, especially among weapons-producing states, to control and limit strictly the production and movement of weapons, a world free of wars and violent conflicts will surely remain an illusion."

Archbishop Gallagher noted that the Holy See has signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons approved by the U.N. in July. He said that while much remains to be done for the treaty to take effect, "the Holy See believes that it is one more blow on the anvil toward the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: 'They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.'"

The following day, Archbishop Gallagher met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington.

During a photo opportunity, Tillerson was asked about U.S. relations with North Korea.

"We're going to continue to pursue our diplomatic efforts and hope that's the way we'll solve this," Tillerson replied.

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Share the Journey campaign urges Catholics to connect with migrants

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:10pm

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A prayer here, a share on social media there, a voice of support in a letter to the editor, even a get-to-know-others potluck.

Supporting refugees and migrants can take many forms, and Pope Francis is hoping Catholics around the world will act over the next two years to encounter people on the move.

In the U.S., the church's leading organizations have developed a series of activities, including prayers, that families, parishes, schools and individuals can undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope is set to open Sept. 27 at the Vatican.

Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies. It is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees and migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homeland.

In addition to Pope Francis' formal announcement at his weekly general audience, key church representatives, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, were to conduct a media conference the same day.

U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.

The effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social teaching on refugees and migrants, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS.

"Catholic social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing their stories and understanding their needs," she said.

Much of the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants and refugees, the struggles they face and why they chose to seek a better life elsewhere, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic Catholic educational engagement at CRS, which is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

"The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter. That's what the church is calling us to. That's what the pope is calling us to," she said.

The coalition of Catholic organizations has developed a toolkit in English and Spanish that includes prayers, suggestions for activities for families, prayer groups, classrooms and clergy, and utilizing social media with references to #sharejourney.

"We're giving people clear direct ideas, not just in their neighborhood but to mobilize communities. To create an environment or an opportunity for action is critical especially at this time," Witte said.

Mark Priceman, communications for the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 22 million people are on the move around the world, making the Christian community's awareness and response to their situation critical.

The number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. was capped at 50,000 by President Donald Trump for fiscal year 2017, which was to end Sept. 30. It is less than half of the ceiling of 110,000 set by President Barack Obama. A presidential determination on the number of refugees to be accepted for fiscal year 2018 was due by Sept. 30.

Since 1996, the number of refugees admitted has fluctuated between 70,000 and 90,000 annually. The number of refugees to be accepted each year is determined by the president under the Refugee Act, which was signed into law in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. The act amended earlier law, created a permanent and systematic procedure to admit refugees, and established a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies.

Share the Journey looks to mobilize people quickly. Soon after the opening, the campaign is calling for a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees Oct. 7-13.

Special prayers at Masses, prayer vigils, simulation exercises, school announcements, lesson plans and speaking events are among the activities suggested as ways to learn about people on the move.

Similar activities will be taking place worldwide throughout the campaign, Rosenhauer said.

"It is a reflection of the Holy Father's leadership, but it's also a reflection of the commitment of leaders around the church around the world," she explained.

Nearly three dozen cardinals, archbishops and bishops as of Sept. 25 have pledged to participate in the campaign, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami addressed the concepts of the Share the Journey campaign in an op-ed column Aug. 28 in the Sun Sentinel in Broward County, Florida.

"'Share the Journey' invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye," he wrote. "As Pope Francis says, 'Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but to stop. And don't just say, 'What a shame, poor people,' but to allow ourselves to be moved by pity.'"

The campaign will take advantage of specially designated days throughout the year to raise awareness, including the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12; Lent; the church's observance of National Migration Week in January; World Refugee Day June 20 and the September 2018 United Nations meeting to consider two global compacts on refugees and migration.

There also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S. Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and refugees and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance to address the factors that cause people to flee.

Together with Catholics worldwide, the U.S. organizers said they hope the campaign will begin to ease the burdens under which migrants and refugees live.

"We're mobilizing the worldwide Catholic Church to serve," Witte said. "There are so many networks that the Catholic Church already has that we can infuse an opportunity allow them to live their baptismal call and to stand up for the most vulnerable."

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Editor's Note: More information and a toolkit on Share the Journey is available online at www.sharejourney.org. Learn more about the international campaign at journey.caritas.org.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Religious minorities need protection, says top Vatican official

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 10:17am

By Matt Fowler

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The "revolting reality" of recent wars shows just how urgent it is that the international community act to protect religious minorities in situations of conflict, a top Vatican official told the U.N. General Assembly.

"As all of us have seen, in the last several years in various blood-drenched parts of the world, war and conflict often provide the backdrop for religious minorities to be targeted," which shows the need to focus on safeguarding religious minorities in these situations, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, said Sept. 22 during a U.N. session devoted to a discussion of protecting religious minorities in situations of conflict.

Although every recognized faith group experiences some form of oppression globally, Christians remain the most persecuted, the archbishop said, citing findings from a number of extensively researched reports. The studies have shown that anti-Semitic attacks have also increased, most notably in Europe, while Muslims continue to face persecution from fundamentalists, he added.

"Thirty-eight of the world's 196 countries showed unmistakable evidence of significant religious freedom violations, with 23 amounting to outright persecution," said Archbishop Gallagher. "When we survey the world situation, we see that persecution of religious minorities is not a phenomenon isolated to one region."

Archbishop Gallagher listed some strategies that are essential for stopping the persecution of religious minorities. They included:

-- Blocking the flow of money and weapons to those who intend to target and harm religious minorities. "Stopping atrocities not only involves addressing the hatred and cancers of the heart that spawn violence, but also removing the instruments by which that hatred actually carries out that violence," he said.

-- Dialogue between religious followers to overcome the assumption that interreligious conflicts are unavoidable. "There is an urgent need for effective interreligious dialogue as an antidote to fundamentalism," he said. That dialogue must aim "to overcome the cynical assumption that conflicts among religious believers are inevitable, and to challenge the narrow-minded interpretation of religious texts that demonize and dehumanize those of different beliefs," Archbishop Gallagher said.

-- Confronting and condemning the abuse of religion to justify terrorism and the killing of innocent people in the name of God. "Social, political and economic issues that demagogues can exploit to incite violence must also be tackled," he said.

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Martyred priest 'always served those most in need,' says Guatemalan

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Steve Sisney, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

By Tony Gutierrez

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- Wearing a red and black traditional Guatemalan shirt that had belonged to martyred U.S. priest Father Stanley Rother, Ronald Arteaga traveled from his village of Santiago Atitlan to witness the Sept. 23 beatification of the pastor he knew as "Padre Aplas."

Even though Arteaga was only 10 when now-Blessed Rother was martyred in 1981, he remembers "he was always with the people of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, and more than that, he identified with our indigenous population."

The sleeves on Arteaga's shirt had to be rolled up because, as he recalled, Blessed Rother was a tall man.

"He learned to speak Tz'utujil, the language of my people, and he always served the people most in need," Arteaga said.

When Blessed Rother was killed, Arteaga recalled, it "broke the hearts of the entire village," but "we had hope that he would receive this honor and thanks be to God that this day has arrived!"

An estimated 20,000 packed the Cox Convention Center from across the country and throughout the world to witness the beatification of the native Oklahoman who would become the first U.S.-born martyr. Ordained for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in 1963, Blessed Rother went to the archdiocesan mission in Santiago Atitlan. He was gunned down in his rectory by three masked men in 1981.

Pope Francis recognized the priest's martyrdom last December, making him the first martyr born in the United States and clearing the way for his beatification.

"We're amazed at the size of the crowd and delighted so many people are interested in celebrating his life," said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City during a media availability. "He's a local hero whose reputation goes far beyond Oklahoma."

Father Don Wolf, a cousin of Blessed Rother, made an appeal for continued support of the missions the martyr served in Santiago Atitlan and Cerro de Oro.

"For the people of his parish in Santiago Atitlan and Cerro de Oro and all of us here in Oklahoma, he has led our eyes unwaveringly to the kingdom of God," Father Wolf said.

It was for Father Wolf's ordination in May 1981 that Blessed Rother made his last visit to the United States, which Father Wolf said is a distinction that links his priesthood to his cousin's.

"At ordination they invoke the saints ... at my ordination we had one," Father Wolf said. "It's an enormous inspiration and an enormous challenge -- the kind of service his priesthood embodied is the kind of service that I strive to."

Francisco "Chico" Chavajay, program coordinator for Unbound Project in Guatemala, was only 1 when Blessed Rother was killed, but grew up in San Pedro, which is near Santiago Atitlan, knowing who "Padre Alpas" was and the impact he had on the community.

"My family benefited from the hospital he founded because one of my sisters went to the hospital when I was 8 years old, and we didn't have access to a closer hospital," Chavajay recalled. "If it wasn't for his work, it would probably have been a different story for my sister."

Chavajay now works for Unbound, an U.S.-based organization founded in 1981 by five lay Catholics, including one who had worked with Blessed Rother in Guatemala. Unbound works with children and the elderly in poor and marginalized communities throughout the world. In Guatemala, Chavajay is responsible for serving more than 60,000 families.

"For us, he's like an angel we have in heaven to support this cause," Chavajay said. "We feel that Padre Aplas' hand and prayers in heaven are helping guide us in this life to continue bringing the Gospel and salvation to our brothers and sisters in need."

Seminarians Estevan Wetzel and Ian Wintering from the Diocese of Phoenix traveled to the ordination with a group of fellow seminarians attending St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. They were introduced to Blessed Rother's story through their Oklahoma brothers.

"His ordinary 'yeses' came with a great faith that at the end allowed him to receive a martyr's crown," Wetzel said.

Seminarians from Phoenix typically complete their Spanish immersion program in Antigua, Guatemala, which is near the Santiago Atitlan mission. Wintering hopes to visit Blessed Rother's shrine when he studies there next summer. He said he pulls inspiration from the slain priest's "humility and simplicity."

"I know how broken I am, and how humble he was," Wintering reflected. "I seek his intercession because being a 'nobody' priest, he rose to glory by following God's will, and I hope to do that in my own nothingness."

Sister Gabina Colo, local superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist in Houston, brought her community to the beatification.

"He was a missionary in Guatemala -- he gave his whole life to the people of Guatemala," Sister Gabina said. "Since we're from Guatemala, it encourages us to be missionaries here in the United States, so we can follow his example."

Father Guillermo Trevino traveled from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, for the beatification. Serving in an area that relies heavily on agriculture, Father Trevino was impressed at Blessed Rother's "ordinariness." The future martyr was raised on his family's farm about three miles from Okarche.

"The thing is he was so ordinary, but he had great gifts. In Guatemala he'd be working the farm," said Father Trevino, finding inspiration in his example. In particular, he pointed to a line the late priest uttered that illustrates the devotion he had to his flock: "The shepherd cannot run." "Can I do this?" Father Trevino has asked himself.

Dolores Mendoza Cervantes knew Padre Aplas in Santiago Atitlan. Her father, Juan Mendoza Lacan, helped him to translate the Bible into Tz'utujil, and was himself killed less than a year later on June 22, 1982. Dolores came to the U.S. at 16 because she had threats on her own life, but pointed out as a result of their efforts, "all the newer generations can read the language."

She now lives in Danube, California, with her husband, Robert Cervantes. They said the government at the time considered teaching the Tz'utujil to read a threat.

"Father Stanley and my father-in-law were brave enough to stand up to them," Robert said. "They knew they were going to be killed someday, but that didn't stop them from translating the Bible into Tz'utujil."

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Gutierrez is editor of The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.

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Worst sin is doubting God waits for all sinners to convert, pope says

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worst sin of all is not trusting in God's infinite love and not believing that God is always waiting for his sinning children to return to him, Pope Francis said.

"He is always at the door, waiting for me to open it just a tiny bit to let him in, and to not be afraid" of past sins getting in the way of conversion, the pope said in a homily Sept. 24.

The pope celebrated Mass in the Vatican garden's grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes for the Gendarme Corps of Vatican City State, as the Vatican police force is formally known. The Mass came ahead of the Sept. 29 feast day of the security service's patron saint, St. Michael the Archangel.

Pope Francis told the police officers that the purpose of life is to seek the Lord and to convert, but one must realize it is God who takes the first step to encounter people.

"Our God doesn't tire of going out to look for us, of letting us see that he loves us" even though everyone is a sinner, he said.

God goes out into the world, sending his son among sinners, and calls out "Come!" the pope said. Even if people respond, "But it's so late" and there are so many sins, "for God it is never late. Never, ever! This is his logic of conversion."

"He respects every person's freedom, but he is there, waiting for us to open the door just a little," the pope said.

"The worst of sins, I think, is not understanding that he is always there waiting for me, not having faith in this love, distrusting God's love," he said.

Later in the day, reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square, the pope underlined the same theme based on the day's Gospel reading of the parable in which Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who goes out from dawn to day's end looking for laborers for his vineyard. And those who started late in the day receive the same equal pay as those who began early and did more work.

It is difficult for people to understand God's logic, the pope said, because he is generous and offers salvation freely -- not because of merit or because the person worked for it -- but because it is a gift.

"It's about letting oneself be amazed and won over by the thinking and ways of God," which, "fortunately for us" do not correspond to human ways and logic, he said.

"Human thinking is often marked by selfishness and personal profit, and our narrow and twisting paths are not commensurate to the wide and straight roads of the Lord," the pope said.

"He uses mercy," the pope said, "he forgives broadly, he is full of generosity and goodness which he pours over each one of us, he opens to everyone the limitless territories of his love and grace," which are the only thing that can fill the human heart with the fullness of joy.

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Group issues what it calls 'filial correction' of pope's teaching

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:08am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Several dozen priests, scholars and writers have published what they described as a "filial correction" of some of Pope Francis' teachings about marriage -- particularly about access to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

The best-known name among the signatories is Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the traditionalist Priestly Society of St. Pius X, a group still involved in talks with the Vatican aimed at regularizing its status within the Catholic Church.

The letter originally was signed by 40 people and delivered to Pope Francis in August; the writers said they did not receive a response, so they released it publicly Sept. 24, launching a website as well: www.correctiofilialis.org.

The Vatican press office had no comment about the letter.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, former head of the Vatican's top court, and German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, did not sign the letter. Along with two other cardinals who are now deceased, they publicly released in September 2016 a critical set of questions, known as "dubia," that they had sent to Pope Francis about his teaching on the family.

As recently as August, Cardinal Burke spoke in an interview about issuing a "formal correction" of Pope Francis if he refused to respond to the "dubia." The correction, he said, would be a declaration of church teaching, rather than a set of questions.

The new letter accuses Pope Francis of "the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation 'Amoris Laetitia' and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness."

"Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love") is the document Pope Francis released in 2016 reflecting on the discussions and conclusions of the meetings in 2014 and 2015 of the Synod of Bishops on the family.

In the document, Pope Francis affirmed church teaching that the sacrament of marriage is the bond of one man and one woman united for life and open to having children.

However, the document also encouraged parishes and priests to reach out to couples whose marriages have failed, reminding them that they have not been excommunicated.

In "Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis asked pastors: to accompany those who have remarried civilly; to check if their sacramental marriage was valid or if they could receive a decree of nullity; and to lead them in a process of discernment about their responsibility for the breakup and about their current situation in light of church teaching. The document seemed to open the possibility -- in certain cases and after the discernment process -- of allowing them to receive absolution and Communion even without promising to abstain from sexual relations with their new partner.

The "filial correction" lists what its authors see as seven "false and heretical propositions" in "Amoris Laetitia," including: a belief that God's grace does not give a believer the strength to meet "the objective demands of divine law"; that divorced and civilly remarried persons "are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin"; that a person can break divine law and not be in a state of sin; that a person can decide in good conscience that sexual relations are morally permissible or even good with someone other than the person they married sacramentally; and that "our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried."

The letter asked the pope to publicly reject the seven propositions.

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Blessed Rother 'an authentic light' for church and world, says cardinal

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 2:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

By

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- The martyrdom of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother "fills us with sadness but also gives us joy to see the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of faith," Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

He is "an authentic light for the church and the world," the cardinal said in his homily during the U.S. priest's beatification Mass. "He didn't hate but loved. He didn't destroy but built up. This is the invitation that Blessed Stanley Rother extends to us today to be like him as witnesses and missionaries of the Gospel. Society needs this source of good."

The cardinal was the main celebrant of the beatification Mass, joined by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and his predecessor, retired Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, who formally opened the Rother sainthood cause 10 years ago.

More than 17,000 people packed the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City for the beatification of Father Rother, murdered in 1981 as he served the faithful at a mission in Guatemala sponsored by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The evening before a prayer service was held at St. Benedict Parish in Broken Arrow.

Before the Mass began, the congregation was shown a documentary made about his life and ministry titled "The Shepherd Cannot Run: Father Rother's Story." Then Cardinal Amato, Archbishop Coakley, Archbishop Beltran and about 50 other U.S. bishops, over 200 priests and about 200 deacons processed in for the start of the beatification ceremony.

Archbishop Coakley welcomed Catholics "from near and far" who traveled to Oklahoma "to celebrate the life and witness of Father Rother. He acknowledged the ecumenical, interfaith and civic leaders in attendance and those joining the celebration by watching live coverage of it on the internet, TV and radio.

Before Cardinal Amato read the apostolic letter declaring Father Rother "blessed," Archbishop Beltran gave some remarks, saying that little did Father Rother know that his growing-up years on his family's farm near Okarche "would mold him into the kind of man who would make great strides when he volunteered to go to Guatemala."

"He struggled in seminary," the archbishop remarked, referring to the difficulty the priest had with learning Latin. He was nearly expelled because he had such a hard time, but he went on to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in 1963. Once in Guatemala to serve in Santiago Atitlan, he learned Tz'utujil, the language of the many Mayan descendants who were his parishioners. He helped translate the Bible into Tz'utujil.

He worked side by side with the people "teaching them many of the agricultural practices he learned in Okarche," Archbishop Beltran said.

The mission was about 10 years old when Father Rother arrived, with a staff of 10, but the number of missionaries dwindled as Guatemala's civil war, which began in 1960 and lasted until 1996, intensified. Eventually, Father Rother's name appeared on a death list and he returned home.

"His ways were very quiet and unassuming but eventually he began to receive death threats," the archbishop continued. "He made infrequent visits (back to Oklahoma). On his last visit (in 1981) he felt the need to return to his people no matter what the consequences."

Friends recalled him saying, "The shepherd cannot run. I want to be with my people." Within three days of his return, three men entered his rectory in the dead of night and murdered him.

"His saintly life has become well known beyond boundaries of Oklahoma and Guatemala and the faith of those familiar with his life has been greatly strengthened. How grateful we are to almighty God this day for the beatification of Father Rother."

Cardinal Amato followed the archbishop by reading the formal letter about the priest's beatification. When he concluded, a huge colorful banner was unfurled above the altar with a likeness of Blessed Rother and an image of his Guatemalan mission and the coat of arms of the Oklahoma archdiocesan coat of arms at the bottom.

His feast day will be celebrated July 28, the day when he was fatally shot in the head by masked men.

Relics of Blessed Rother, including a piece from one of his rub bones, were brought to the altar in a golden reliquary and set on a small table to left of the main altar. Cardinal Amato venerated the relics and using censer

Rother family members then came up to the altar to greet the cardinal: his sister, Sister Marita Rother, a member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, who lives at her community's motherhouse in Wichita, Kansas; and his brother Tom and his wife, Marti, who live on the farm where the martyred priest and his siblings grew up, located three miles from the center of Okarche.

In his remarks, Archbishop Coakley said that on behalf of the local church in Oklahoma "and in communion with my brother bishops in the United States and Guatemala," he felt "profound gratitude" for the opportunity to help celebrate the beatification of a native son.

"We are grateful for your (Pope Francis) recognition of the heroic witness of this good shepherd (who) remained with his people. He gave his life in solidarity with so many suffering individuals and family who endured persecution for the sake of the Gospel. We pray the church will experience a new Pentecost and an abundance of vocations to the priesthood inspired by the witness and aided by the intercession of Blessed Stanley Rother."

He thanked Archbishop Beltran for formally opening the Rother cause, as well as the postulator, Andrea Ambrosi of Rome, who attended the Mass, and the many men and women who worked diligently over many years to advance the cause and "make known holiness and heroism of this ordinary priest."

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Agencies, host countries tackling needs of growing number of refugees

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 5:16pm

By Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Humanitarian organizations and host countries struggle to develop new ways to address both immediate and long-term needs of an unprecedented number of people who have fled conflict situations around the globe, according to panelists at a Sept. 21 aid agency forum in New York.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates more than 65 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their homes by the end of 2016 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. This is an increase of 300,000 from the previous year. The record high number includes more than 40 million people displaced within their own countries.

Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, said the "average refugee" can expect to spend up to 25 years in that situation and the countries that host refugees are predominantly low- and middle-income nations.

Speaking at the Church Center of the United Nations, with the iconic international complex clearly visible through the huge windows behind them, panelists described recent efforts to institute systemic reforms while responding to challenging day-to-day needs of a growing displaced population.

Education is a life-saving intervention, like food, water and shelter, and it is critical to get displaced children back in school as soon as possible, Giulia McPherson said. She is the director of advocacy and operations for Jesuit Refugee Services/USA.

McPherson said one in four children globally are affected by crisis and conflict, and refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than others their age. They also experience learning gaps caused by losing two to four years of schooling.

Education must be an integral part of developing a plan to receive refugees in a host country, McPherson said. In the experience of JRS, recruitment of teachers from the refugee community and investment in teacher training and materials produce good outcomes for students, as does helping refugees to establish parent-teacher associations and student organizations, she said.

Ideally, displaced students use the curriculum of the country where they are hosted, not where they originated. This prepares them for possible inclusion in the national educational system if they cannot or do not return home, McPherson said.

Speakers said involving both refugees and members of the host community is critical to the safety and success of displaced persons.

"Social connections and acceptance are key components of a refugee's integration process and should be prioritized in programming and policy development," said Jennifer Poidatz, vice president for humanitarian response for CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency based in Baltimore.

Discrimination, restrictive policies and the real or perceived competition for finite resources must be addressed, she said.

"We need to understand and respond to the concerns of the host community, combat stereotypes, and promote awareness. As social acceptance increases, so does a willingness to share resources and information, such as employment opportunities," Poidatz said.

CRS has used puppetry in films and workshops to create a dialogue within the host population and help build relationships in tense situations. Film, theater and puppetry are methodologies to tell refugee stories and break down stereotypes, she said.

The agency's programs target vulnerable displaced people and support host communities, Poidatz said. Aid workers need different competencies for various situations, and must try to understand cultural norms and recognize and address trauma.

In a refugee situation in Greece, Poidatz said, CRS brought members of its national staff from Afghanistan and Balkan countries to interpret the language and share the cultural context of people arriving in Greece from those countries.

Brooke Lauten, humanitarian policy and protection adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said nongovernmental organizations are making strides to ensure that refugees and internally displaced people are actively involved in planning programs from which they benefit. In the past, they were not consulted about their needs and wants, she said.

In addition to prioritizing the protection of refugees and promoting better opportunities, Lauten said attention must be paid to the details of how programs are implemented. Winning an increase in work permits is not helpful if there are no jobs. People cannot be resettled in third countries if their "onward movement" is blocked.

Ultimately, political commitment on a regional scale supports safety and mobility and helps to "avoid a crisis level of need," she said.

Lauten said a 2016 initiative by the government of Kenya to send refugees home to neighboring Somalia was postponed after international organizations protested because Somalia was enduring a drought.

Richard Corbridge, director of international programs for War Child in Canada, said displaced people need access to justice and the rule of law to ensure their safety. Refugee women and girls are especially vulnerable and are more affected by violence than any other population, he said. Dialogue and mediation are peacebuilding tools that War Child has used to foster mutual understanding, particularly among youths.

O'Keefe noted the Sept. 27 launch by Pope Francis of Share the Journey, a two-year global campaign led by Caritas Internationalis to raise the status of refugees around the world by strengthening bonds between migrants and communities.

"The refugee advocacy and service community has come together incredibly strongly for this," he said. "The refugees among us are not the problem. They are fleeing the people we should be afraid of."

"Welcoming the Stranger: Making Lives Better for Refugees in Host Countries" was co-sponsored by Caritas Internationalis and Catholic Relief Services as a side event to the 72nd session of the U.N. General Assembly. It drew on documents and agreements from the U.N. World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 and the UNHCR Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016.

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Bishops: Amend repeal bill to protect poor, keep ban on abortion coverage

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 9:21am

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The latest version of a Republican measure in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act must be amended to protect poor and vulnerable Americans, said the chairmen of four U.S. bishops' committees.

"As you consider the Graham-Cassidy legislation as a possible replacement for the Affordable Care Act, we urge you to think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people and amend the legislation while retaining its positive features," the bishops said in a letter to all senators released Sept. 22.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have co-sponsored the legislation.

"Without significant improvement, this bill does not meet the moral criteria for health care reform outlined in our previous letters and must be changed," they said. That criteria includes respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive.

The bishops criticized the measure's Medicaid "per capita cap" because it puts an "insufferable burden" on poor and vulnerable Americans. They did praise the bill for correcting "a serious flaw" in the ACA by ensuring "no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it." They called on senators to amend the bill to address it flaws but retain the pro-life provisions.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would repeal the ACA and replace it with block grants for the states to spend as they see fit. The block grants' size, though, would shrink over time and disappear altogether in 2027. The Senate is working under a Sept. 30 deadline to pass the bill.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; 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.

"The Graham-Cassidy bill includes a Medicaid 'per capita cap' that was part of previous bills, which have been rejected," the bishops wrote. "The Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program, which supports the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people.

"The Senate should only proceed with a full report concerning just how many people will be impacted," they said. "Our nation must not attempt to address its fiscal concerns by placing an insufferable health care burden on the backs of the poor."

The bishops said the proposal does "correct a serious flaw" flaw in the ACA by making sure "no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it."

"This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions which would finally address grave moral problems in our current health care system," they said. "We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion."

But they took the bill to task for giving block grants to states "in place of premium tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies and the Medicaid expansion," saying that arrangement will only harm the poor.

"While flexibility can be good at times, these block grants will result in billions of dollars in reductions for those in health care poverty," they said. "States already face significant deficits each budget cycle, and these block grants mean dollars intended for low income individuals and families will suddenly face competition from many other state priorities."

The country "can ill afford to put access to health care for those most in need in jeopardy this way" because, the bishops continued, "the costs to our communities, including public and private organizations at all levels, will be too high."

"Decisions about the health of our citizens -- a concern fundamental to each of us -- should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms," they said.

"The far-reaching implications of Congress' actions are too significant for that kind of governance," the committee chairmen said.

They told senators that "the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist."

"Your constituents, especially those with no voice of their own in this process, deserve no less," they concluded.

Earlier this year, as Senate Republicans drafted and debated an ACA repeal measure, the U.S. bishops in letters and statements repeatedly urged Congress to craft a bill meeting the moral criteria of respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive.

When the Senate failed to get enough votes to pass what was being called a "skinny" repeal to remove parts of the Affordable Care Act in the early hours of July 28, Bishop Dewane in a statement said the "task of reforming the health care system still remains."

The nation's health care system under the ACA "is not financially sustainable" and "lacks full Hyde protections and conscience rights," he said at the time. He also noted the health care system "is inaccessible to many immigrants," he said in a statement.

The U.S. bishops have advocated for universal and affordable health care for decades and they supported the general goal of the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, but the bishops ultimately opposed the law because it expanded the federal role in abortion and failed to expand health care protections to immigrants.

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'They killed a man but created a saint,' prelate says of slain priest

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:32pm

By Maria Wiering

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn was rector of Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, when he got a call in 1979 from an old friend from the seminary, asking if he could visit for a week.

That friend was Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a missionary in a rural part of Guatemala.

He picked up Father Rother from Dulles International Airport near Washington and was appalled by the horrific situation the priest described in Guatemala. Members of his congregation had disappeared and were presumed dead, victims of a civil war between the government and guerrilla groups.

"If they asked for a few more cents for picking coffee beans, they were considered communists, and a truck would come into the village that night, stop at the home of the man or woman who asked for a few more cents, take them out to the country, torture them, kill them, and then throw their bodies into a well to poison that well," said Archbishop Flynn, who headed the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1995 to 2008.

Father Rother described the situation "with a passion," Archbishop Flynn recalled. "It was haunting him. He said, 'If I speak, they'll kill me, but if keep silent, what kind of a shepherd would I be?'"

The friends shared meals together that week, but Father Rother spent his days praying at the seminary's historic Lourdes grotto, a place he had loved while he and Archbishop Flynn were seminarians at "the Mount." At the end of the week, he told then-Father Flynn, "I know what I must do. I must go back and speak."

"But," Archbishop Flynn recalled, "he also said this: 'They're not going to take me out and kill me somewhere in the country and then throw my body into a well.' He said, 'I'll put up a fight like they've never seen before.'"

Archbishop Flynn took Father Rother to the airport and said goodbye. He knew it would be the last time he would see him alive. Two years later, in 1981, Archbishop Flynn opened a newspaper to read that an American priest had been killed in Guatemala. He didn't have to read further to know it was Father Rother.

Archbishop Flynn was to be among others who knew the priest gathering in Oklahoma City's Cox Convention Center Sept. 23 for Father Rother's beatification. In December 2016, Pope Francis officially recognized Father Rother as a martyr, making him the first U.S.-born martyr recognized by the Catholic Church. Also attending will be members of the Rother family, including distant cousins from Minnesota.

Father Rother grew up on a farm near Okarche, Oklahoma. He was a farm boy with a knack for fixing things. After high school, he left home for seminary in Texas, but he was asked to leave after struggling with Latin. Undeterred, he transferred to the Emmitsburg seminary, where he met Archbishop Flynn, who was three classes ahead of him. Archbishop Flynn noted his friend's deep prayer life.

"We could be downstairs in recreation, laughing and carrying on, and then the bell would ring to go up to chapel for night prayer and Stanley seemed to me to go right into prayer, which I found enviable," Archbishop Flynn recalled in a recent interview with The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Minnesota archdiocese.

The two were in the seminary around the time that Pope John XXIII encouraged U.S. bishops to form partnerships between their dioceses and those in Latin America. The then-Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa paired with the Diocese of Solola, Guatemala. In 1968, Father Rother was asked to minister there in Santiago Atitlan, a mission established by Franciscans. The Mayan people there had been without a priest for nearly a century.

People who knew Father Rother weren't surprised that he returned again and again to Guatemala after the violence began, even with many opportunities to stay in the U.S. The Christmas before he died, he famously wrote to his archbishop, "A shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger."

On July 28, 1981, three men burst into the parish rectory, demanding Father Rother. He was hiding, but when the men threatened the life of one of his protectors, he emerged. He was ultimately gunned down in his rectory, his knuckles raw from the fight, his spattered blood staining the wall. The Guatemalans left the stains, and to this day, visitors -- many of them pilgrims -- can see the aftermath of what the gunmen did to their priest. The fatal bullet remains lodged in the wall.

In 1999, Archbishop Flynn traveled to Father Rother's church in Santiago Atitlan, visited the room where he was shot to death and celebrated Mass in the parish church. Father Rother's body returned to Oklahoma, but the missionary's heart was left behind with the Guatemalans, who have since enshrined it as a relic.

Archbishop Flynn also prays for his friend's intercession, keeping his photograph on his altar for Mass. He feels that he had a graced opportunity to be with Father Rother that summer while he was discerning his impending death.

"I'll always remember sitting in the room where he was martyred, and sitting there and looking at his blood all over the wall, splattered, and experiencing anger in my heart with the people who did that to him -- this gentle, gentle shepherd," he said, "and then realizing what he would have said -- something that Christ said, 'They don't even know what they're doing,' and they probably didn't. ... They killed a man, but they created a saint."

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Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Mercy can scandalize those who don't see their own sin, pope says

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:40pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Celebrating the feast of St. Matthew, the anniversary of the day when as a 17-year-old he said he was overwhelmed by God's mercy, Pope Francis said it was interesting how many Catholics today seem to be scandalized when God shows mercy to someone.

In his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Sept. 21, Pope Francis looked in depth at the day's short Gospel story of the calling of St. Matthew.

The story, the pope said, has three parts: "the encounter, the celebration and the scandal."

Jesus sees Matthew, a tax collector -- "one of those who made the people of Israel pay taxes to give to the Romans, a traitor to his country" -- and calls him to follow. Jesus looks at him "lovingly, mercifully" and "the resistance of that man who wanted money, who was a slave to money, falls."

"That man knew he was a sinner," the pope said. "He was liked by no one and even despised." But it was "precisely that awareness of being a sinner that opened the door to Jesus' mercy. He left everything and followed."

"The first condition for being saved is knowing you are in danger," he said. "The first condition for being healed is feeling sick."

In the Gospel story, Matthew celebrates by inviting Jesus for a meal. Pope Francis said it reminded him of what Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Luke, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance."

But, the pope said, the Pharisees saw Jesus with Matthew and were scandalized that he would eat with tax collectors and sinners.

The Pharisees were people who continually repeated, "The law says this, doctrine says that," the pope said. "But they forgot the first commandment of love and were closed in a cage of sacrifices, (saying), 'We make our sacrifices to God, we keep the Sabbath, we do all we should and so we'll be saved.'"

But, the pope said, "God saves us, Jesus Christ saves us and these men did not understand. They felt secure; they thought salvation came from them."

In the same way today, he said, "we often hear faithful Catholics who see mercy at work and ask, 'Why?'"

There are "many, many, always, even in the church today," the pope said. "They say, 'No, no you can't, it's all clear, they are sinners, we must send them away.'"

But, Pope Francis said, Jesus himself answered them when he said, "I have come not to call the just, but sinners." So, "if you want to be called by Jesus, recognize you are a sinner."

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