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Young people want to be heard, be part of leadership, report says

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 5:06pm

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Young people in the church want to be heard and be invited to be a part of church leadership, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in preparation for next year's Synod of Bishops on youth.

They are often at transition points in their lives, yet they don't know where to go for mentorship, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said Nov. 13.

He presented a summary of the responses gathered from dioceses and Catholic organizations to the bishops during their annual fall assembly in Baltimore.

The cardinal noted that pulling together the responses of young people from high school age to young adults is a challenge because of the group's broad diversity and many different needs.

He also said the report affirms a growing awareness of the challenges young people face today with economics, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse.

The cardinal pointed out that the survey responses indicate that church leaders have work to do to walk with young people and address challenges they face, but he also said there has been some positive growth in young people's faith, especially for those in high school and college.

We have "talented leaders out there doing incredible things with limited resources," Cardinal DiNardo said, adding that he is grateful for their enthusiasm and leadership.

The responses gathered by the USCCB will be sent to the Vatican which is gathering survey responses from young Catholics around the world.

The USCCB also is going to send three young adults to the pre-synod gathering next March in Rome. In announcing the meeting, the pope said: "The church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people."

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

Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops' conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood. It will also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and the arts.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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

Civility must guide debate on social challenges, USCCB president says

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Acknowledging wide divisions in the country over issues such as health care, immigration reform, taxes and abortion, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for civility to return to the public debate.

Contemporary challenges are great, but that they can be addressed without anger and with love Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in his first address as USCCB president during the bishops' fall general assembly.

"We are facing a time that seems more divided than ever," Cardinal DiNardo said. "Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our role continues to be witnessing the Gospel."

He explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in 1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and international needs at a time not unlike today.

He said the history of the American Catholic Church is full of examples of the work of "holy men and women" responding to social challenges. He particularly mentioned Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, who ministered alongside homeless and poor people in Detroit and who will be beatified Nov. 18.

"The history of Christianity is also the story of reconciliation. In 2017, we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Begun as a moment of painful division, it stands as a journey toward healing, from conflict to communion," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He continued, "Civility begins in the womb. If we cannot come to love and protect innocent life from the moment God creates it, how can we properly care for each other as we come of age? Or when we come to old age?"

The cardinal lamented that abortion continues despite the existence of alternatives to save the life of unborn children.

Cardinal DiNardo also laid out several policy stances for the country to pursue.

He said hospitals and health care workers "deserve conscience protections so they never have to participate in the taking of a human life."

The cardinal called for "good and affordable health care" for poor people and action to address the country's opioid abuse epidemic.

To applause, Cardinal DiNardo urged lawmakers to enact comprehensive immigration reform and protections for the country's 800,000 young adults who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

President Donald Trump in September called for an end to the program, handing off the solution to the immigration status of young adults brought to this country illegally as children to Congress and giving the lawmakers a six-month window to act.

Acknowledging that a country has the right to defend its borders, Cardinal DiNardo reminded the country's leaders that it should be done in a humane way.

"We join our Holy Father in declaring that a pro-life immigration policy is one that does not tear families apart, it protects families," he said.

Racism, too, has risen to become a major challenge for the country, the USCCB president said.

"In our towns and in our cities, as civility ebbs, we have seen bolder expressions of racism, with some taking pride in this grave sin. Sometimes it is shocking and violent, such as in Charlottesville (Virginia, in August). More often it is subtle and systematic. But racism always destroys lives and it has no place in the Christian heart," he said.

The cardinal called for a "bold national dialogue ... a frank and honest commitment to address the root causes of racism."

"Americans don't like to talk about it. Nonetheless, it is time to act. Our common humanity demands it of us. Jesus demands it of us," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He discussed the work of Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops' new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The committee will meet with people throughout the country to learn how the best can best respond "in ending this evil," he added.

Beyond such challenges, Cardinal DiNardo said, society has had to respond to a series of natural disasters including hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, wildfires in California and earthquakes in Mexico.

Such tragedies have brought the church in America together, he said, "and has reminded me of how wonderful the gifts of faith, hope and love truly are."

"We need to constantly put forward these virtues, especially in light of violence from what is a long and growing list of mass shootings in our schools, offices, churches and place of recreation," he explained.

"The time is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons, be they stockpiled on a continent or in a hotel room," the cardinal said.

Cardinal DiNardo said the love of Jesus is "stronger than all the challenges ahead."

"My brothers, let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely, going forth to be with our people in every circumstance of pastoral life. Drawing strength and wisdom from these past hundred years, let us sound our hands and voices joyfully. And let us always remind our people, and ourselves, that with God, all things are possible."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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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.

Couples need help forming, following their consciences, pope says

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 9:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marriage and family life are blessings for individuals and for society, but both are filled with difficult choices that Catholic couples must be helped to face prayerfully and in the light of their consciences, Pope Francis said.

Unfortunately, too many people today confuse a rightly formed conscience with personal preferences dominated by selfishness, the pope said in a video message to an Italian meeting on "Amoris Laetitia," his exhortation on the family.

"The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual" even when the individual's decisions impact his or her marriage and family life, the pope said.

Repeating a remark he had made to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis said, "There are those who even speak of 'egolatry,' that is, the true worship of the ego on whose altar everything, including the dearest affections, are sacrificed."

Confusing conscience with selfishness "is not harmless," the pope said. "This is a 'pollution' that corrodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions."

The conference sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference was focused on "conscience and norm" in Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation.

Diagnosing problems in the church's outreach to married couples and families, Pope Francis had written, "We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life."

"We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations," he wrote in "Amoris Laetitia." "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them."

In his message to the meeting Nov. 11 in Rome, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must strengthen its programs "to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations" and to help couples once they are married.

"Love between a man and a woman is obviously among the most generative human experiences; it is the leaven of a culture of encounter, and introduces to the present world an injection of sociality," he said.

Marriage and family life are "the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant," he said, but it does not do one any good to pretend that marriage and family life are free from situations requiring difficult choices.

"In the domestic reality, sometimes there are concrete knots to be addressed with prudent conscience on the part of each," he said. "It is important that spouses, parents, not be left alone, but accompanied in their commitment to applying the Gospel to the concreteness of life."

Conscience, he said, always has God's desire for the human person as its ultimate reference point.

"In the very depths of each one of us, there is a place wherein the 'Mystery' reveals itself, and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story," he said. "Conscience, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is this 'most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.'"

Each Christian, the pope said, must be "vigilant so that in this kind of tabernacle there is no lack of divine grace, which illuminates and strengthens married love and the parental mission."

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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.

Global cooperation needed in response to climate change, pope says

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 9:03am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Global problems associated with climate change demand global cooperation, Pope Francis told a group of heads of state from the Pacific Islands.

The planet Earth, when viewed from space, is a world without borders, he said, and "it reminds us of the need for a global outlook, international cooperation and solidarity, and a shared strategy" when it comes to caring for the environment.

Such a shared approach "can prevent us from remaining indifferent in the face of grave problems such as the deterioration of the environment and of the health of the oceans, which is itself linked to the human and social deterioration experienced by humanity today," he said.

The pope spoke Nov. 11 during an audience with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, an organization of 18 member nations, whose aim is to increase regional cooperation and its voice on the world stage.

The meeting also came as world leaders were meeting for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Nov. 6-15. There, governments were looking at how they could better meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to control global temperature increases by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Baron Waqa, the incoming chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and president of Nauru, told the pope that their island nations "are at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. The devastating impacts of cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years have resulted in enormous losses for our smaller island economies, which have taken decades to build."

Waqa praised the pope's leadership in promoting the recognition that those who least contribute to greenhouse gas emissions often bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, and for his insistence on the inclusion of everyone in discussions and solutions.

The pope said he shared their concern and lamented the causes that "have led to this environmental decay," which, "sadly, many of them are due to shortsighted human activity connected with certain ways of exploiting natural and human resources."

"It is my hope that the efforts of COP-23, and those yet to come, will always keep in mind the greater picture of that 'Earth without borders,'" the pope said.

"Not only geographic and territorial distances, but also distances in time are dissolved by the realization that everything in the world is intimately connected," he said.

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At home and abroad: Bishops' conferences show collegiality, solidarity

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 2:56pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The role of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other bishops' conferences around the world is "catholic" -- working together to promote the church's mission, but also "to support peacebuilding and human development throughout the world," said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Parolin responded to written questions from Catholic News Service Nov. 10, just before he was scheduled to travel to the United States. He was to preside and give the homily at a Mass Nov. 12 in Baltimore marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The U.S. bishops' conference began in 1917 as the National Catholic War Council to coordinate a common Catholic response to the need for military chaplains and relief efforts once the U.S. entered World War I.

"Although primarily concerned with coordinating the church's pastoral activity in a specific area, bishops' conferences are naturally concerned for the welfare of the entire church by virtue of the communion that unites bishops, and their particular churches, with one another and with the pope as the successor of Peter," the cardinal said.

"This collegial spirit has always marked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which began as a practical means of providing relief to those suffering the effects of the First World War," he said. "Today, the conference continues to be 'catholic,' not only in its concern for the missions and the needs of our fellow Christians, especially those suffering persecution, but also, more generally, in its efforts to support peacebuilding and human development throughout the world."

The 62-year-old Italian cardinal, a career Vatican diplomat, is Pope Francis' top aide both for internal church matters as well as for relations with governments and international organizations. He also serves on the nine-member Council of Cardinals that advises the pope on church governance and the reform of the Roman Curia.

Asked about the state of U.S.-Vatican relations, particularly given the strong differences of opinion between Pope Francis and the Trump administration on issues like immigration and climate change, Cardinal Parolin responded, "It is not the first time a pope and a president have held differing views!"

In 2003, he recalled, St. John Paul II strongly sought to dissuade the United States under President George W. Bush and its allies from waging a war in Iraq, "which he qualified as an 'adventure of no return.' The conflict unfortunately occurred with dire consequences right up to the present."

"What is important, however, is that although there can be differences, as in any healthy relationship, this does not undermine or compromise the bonds which unite us," the cardinal said.

The U.S.-Vatican diplomatic relationship, he added, is "strong and solid," and he looks forward to working with Callista Gingrich, the new ambassador to the Holy See.

In its diplomatic relations, he said, "the Holy See is an advocate of the common good and does not seek to promote particular interests or to oblige governments to follow its views. The values we defend are based on the Gospel and natural law; they are the values of the universal church."

Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops share those values, the cardinal said, and while Pope Francis speaks on a global stage, the U.S. bishops do so nationally "to safeguard the common good and promote fundamental moral values. Doing that is a requirement of our faith."

As for the renewed importance Pope Francis has given to bishops' conferences, citing their teaching in his own major documents, Cardinal Parolin said that flowed naturally from the Argentine pope's own experience on his national bishops' conference and, especially, on the Latin America bishops' council, CELAM.

Pope Francis' vision "is essentially missionary, aimed at a renewal of ecclesial life at every level for the sake of a more incisive presentation of the Gospel message," the cardinal said. "So it is natural that the Holy Father should place a high value on the work of national conferences in discerning the needs of the local churches and responding to important moral and social issues affecting their area."

The pope also has called for greater collegiality and synodality in the Catholic Church, encouraging bishops to discuss matters openly, frankly and prayerfully in order to address modern problems, concerns and challenges.

The bishops' conferences have an important role in that, the cardinal said. "Within an ecclesiology of communion, they can serve to build solidarity and enhance communication among the particular churches, while at the same time building communion and Catholic unity on the level of the universal church."

Pope Francis, he said, "is convinced of the importance of initiating processes, making sure that all voices are heard, and exercising a farsighted discernment. We see this in his approach to the Synod of Bishops, and we see it in his approach to episcopal conferences and their working."

In 1998, St. John Paul issued an apostolic letter, "Apostolos Suos" on the theological and juridical nature of bishops' conferences. To many observers, it indicated a caution against conferences growing too large and appearing to usurp the authority of an individual bishop in his own diocese.

"Episcopal conferences have an essentially pastoral responsibility," Cardinal Parolin said. "Needless to say, this activity must be carried out prudently and in a spirit of communion, both with the bishop members of the conference and with the larger church. I believe that time and experience are helping to clarify how this is best to be done in practice."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.


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Pope sends letter to blind Colombian veteran he met

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 9:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of the Colombian Navy

By Manuel Rueda

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter to a Colombian soldier who lost his sight during the country's civil war.

The pope met Edwin Restrepo, a retired marine, during his September visit to Colombia. On Nov. 9, Restrepo received the letter, in which the pope thanked him for his sacrifice during Colombia's armed conflict. The pope also told the veteran he was still holding on to his "touching" gift.

When Pope Francis visited a Colombian airbase in September, he greeted soldiers and police officers maimed during the war. When the pope walked by Restrepo and shook his hand, the marine bent his head forward, asked for the pope's blessing and asked him to take his military cap. Their conversation lasted only a minute.

"He gave me a rosary," Restrepo recalled. "So I told him I wanted to give him something that represents our military forces, and there was nothing better I could think of than my cap."

In his letter, Pope Francis said he held on to the cap during his trip to Colombia because it reminded him of the "sacrifice" and "patriotism" of Colombian soldiers who have fought in the country's recently finished war with Marxist guerrillas. The pope told Restrepo that he now keeps the hat above an altar in his small office in Rome. He provided a picture of the hat and the altar.

"I often pray there," the pope said in his letter. "And every time I do, I pray for you, and for your fallen and injured colleagues."

Restrepo lost his left leg, part of his right hand and his sight in 2004, when he stepped on a land mine during a patrol in rural Colombia. He was only 19 at the time and was completing compulsory military service.

The former marine said he was taken aback with the pope's gesture, especially because he never told the pontiff his name. Pope Francis was able to track Restrepo down though with the help of Colombian church officials.

"I never expected this," Restrepo told Catholic News Service. "I think it is one of the most beautiful gestures that I've experienced."

Restrepo said he will frame the letter and place it in his small studio, along with the rosary that the pope gave him. Though he lost his sight, Restrepo now reads in Braille and is completing a law degree.

"I want to keep helping the members of our military," he said. "There are many who haven't received proper pensions, and I want to litigate on their behalf."

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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.

Mass and lunch: Pope to lead celebration of World Day of the Poor

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 9:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/jason Szenes, EPA

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church's first World Day of the Poor Nov. 19 by celebrating a morning Mass with people in need and those who assist them. After Mass, he will offer lunch to 500 people in the Vatican audience hall.

As the Year of Mercy was ending in November 2016, Pope Francis told people he wanted to set one day aside each year to underline everyone's responsibility "to care for the true riches, which are the poor."

The result was the World Day of the Poor, which is to be marked annually on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time on the church's liturgical calendar.

An admonition from St. John Chrysostom "remains ever timely," Pope Francis said in a message for the 2017 celebration. He quoted the fifth-century theologian: "If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the eucharistic Christ with silk vestments and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness."

The pope chose "Love not in word, but in deed" as the theme for 2017.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is coordinating the celebration and issued a resource book -- available online at www.pcpne.va -- that includes Scripture meditations, sample prayer services and suggestions for parishes and dioceses.

An obvious starting place, the council said, is to reach out "to places such as soup kitchens, shelters, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, treatment centers, etc., so that the words of the pope could arrive to everyone at the same time on this day."

Every parish and Catholic group, it said, should organize at least one practical initiative, such as "taking groceries to a needy family, offering a meal for the poor, purchasing equipment for elderly persons who are not self-sufficient, donating a vehicle to a family, or making a contribution to the Caritas fund for families."

One of the primary goals of the day, the council said, is to help Catholics answer the question, "Who are 'the poor' today, and where are they around me, in the area in which I live?" and then to find ways to share and create relationships with them.

The resource book also offered 18 "saints and blesseds of charity of the 20th and 21st centuries" as examples. The list is led by St. Teresa of Kolkata, but also includes Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador and U.S. St. Katharine Drexel and Blessed Stanley Rother.

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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.

Peace, dialogue held hostage by nuclear weapons threat, pope says

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 9:00am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The existence of nuclear weapons creates a false sense of security that holds international relations hostage and stifles peaceful coexistence, Pope Francis said.

"The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned," the pope told participants at a conference on nuclear disarmament hosted by the Vatican.

For years, popes and Catholic leaders had said the policy of nuclear deterrence could be morally acceptable as long as real work was underway on a complete ban of the weapons. In condemning possession of the weapons, Pope Francis seemed to indicate that deterrence is no longer acceptable.

Nuclear weapons "exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race," he said Nov. 10.

The conference, sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, brought together 11 Nobel laureates, top officials from the United Nations and NATO, diplomats from around the world and experts in nuclear weapons and the disarmament process. They were joined by scholars, activists and representatives of bishops' conferences, including Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace.

Several speakers, including Masako Wada, one of the last survivors of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, were to discuss the suffering wrought by nuclear arms.

Pope Francis told the group that the "essential" witness of survivors of the bombings in Japan as well as those suffering the effects of nuclear weapons testing are prophetic voices that serve "as a warning, above all for coming generations."

In his speech, the pope said that when it comes to the ideal of a nuclear-free world, a "certain pessimism" exists and brings with it "considerable expense" as nations modernize their nuclear arsenals.

"As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and health care projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place," he said.

Pope Francis said the existence of weapons whose use would result in the destruction of humanity "are senseless even from a tactical standpoint."

What is more, he said, there is the growing danger that the weapons or weapon technology could fall into the wrong hands.

"The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare," he said.

With the ongoing tensions surrounding North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the Vatican conference came at a time Pope Francis described as one of "instability and conflict."

But despite the troubling global scenario, he continued, initiatives such as the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, provide a dose of "healthy realism" that "continues to shine a light of hope in our unruly world."

The treaty, which would enter into force 90 days after at least 50 countries both sign and ratify it, bans efforts to develop, produce, test, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Although as of Sept. 20 the treaty had been signed by more than 40 countries, including the Holy See, the United States and other countries possessing nuclear weapons did not take part in the negotiations and do not plan to sign it.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis urged the international community "to reject the culture of waste" and place care for people suffering "painful disparities "over "selfish and contingent interests."

Progress, he said, "that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression, contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals."

At a pre-conference event in Rome Nov. 9, Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, professor of ethics and global human development at Georgetown University, and Carole Sargent, director of the university's Office of Scholarly Publications, outlined what they saw as major progress in 2017 toward a ban on nuclear weapons.

The work of grass-roots movements and organizations, including the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize, has been particularly important, Father Christiansen said. And not to be ignored are hundreds of Catholic women religious who have engaged in major protests, but also dedicated lobbying efforts. Sargent has been researching the grassroots involvement of women religious, especially in Japan, the United States and Great Britain.

The Vatican conference, Father Christiansen said, could be a major push in getting the new U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons "supported around the world."

Speaking to journalists before the start of the conference, Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, commented on tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, and the threat of nuclear war.

In August, Trump threatened to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" in response to North Korea's announcement that it had created a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile. Kim responded to Trump's "fire and fury" talk by saying his country was preparing to fire missiles into the waters around Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean with two military bases.

When asked for his response on the possibility of a U.S.-North Korea nuclear conflict, ElBaradei had few words.

"I go to pray," he said.

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden 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.

Tax reform bill called 'unacceptable,' some provisions 'unconscionable'

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 4:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 "is unacceptable" as currently written and it "contains many fundamental structural flaws that must be corrected," said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a Nov. 9 letter to U.S. House members, the three bishops called for amendments to the current draft of the tax reform bill "for the sake of families" and "for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience."

Quoting St. John XXIII's 1961 social encyclical, "Mater et Magistra," they said that "decisions about taxation involve fundamental concerns of 'justice and equity,' with the goal of taxes and public spending 'becoming an instrument of development and solidarity.'"

Because tax-policy is "so far-reaching," Congress also must provide "ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects," they wrote.

Signing the three-page letter were Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman, Committee on Education.

"Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill," the bishops wrote. "However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy. This is simply unconscionable."

The Nov. 9 letter referenced Bishop Dewane's Oct. 25 letter to House members in which he offered moral guidelines for lawmakers to consider in any tax reform proposal. The guidelines focused on the country's responsibilities to care for the poor; form and strengthen families; develop a progressive tax code; raise adequate revenues for the sake of the common good; avoid cuts to poverty programs to finance any tax cuts; and incentivize charitable giving.

According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, households with income between $20,000 and $40,000 per year will see their taxes raised in 2023, 2025, and again in 2027. Taxes also will increase on average taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 in 2025.

Average taxpayers who make over $1 million "experience dramatic tax cuts for the same periods," the bishops wrote.

The federal poverty line is $12,228 for one person and $24,339 for a two-parent family, the bishops noted, adding that nearly one in three Americans live in a family with income below 200 percent of the poverty line.

"No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for those living in poverty to help pay for benefits to wealthy citizens, the bishops said.

They also said that the "Unified Tax Reform Framework" released Sept. 27, upon which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is based, "promised that any new tax code would be 'at least' as progressive as the present code. This plan breaks that promise."

The committee chairmen described as positive the tax measure's provisions in the areas of education -- "expanded access to schools of choice is a positive step" -- and modest increases to child tax credits.

But at the same time, the bill places "new and unreasonable burdens on families," and must be changed, the bishops said. They criticized elimination of among other things: the adoption tax credit and adoption assistance program exclusion; the personal exemption, which they said "will harm many larger families"; the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction; and incentives to employees and employers dependent care assistance or child care.

The bishops' letter also cautioned that the deficit could "be used as an argument to further restrict or end programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty."

They called for fixes to the bill's "disincentives" for charitable giving and for affordable housing and community revitalization development projects.

"Because tax policy is far-reaching, Congress must provide ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects," the bishops said. "The current timetable does not provide adequate time for that discussion.

"In many ways, this legislation is unacceptable in its present form and requires amendment," the wrote. "It must be changed for the sake of families -- the bedrock of our country -- and for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience."

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Texas shooting a reminder to some that churches should be more secure

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 1:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Nov. 5 deadly shootings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left many people wondering how something so horrific could happen in a place of worship.

It also called to mind other shootings or attacks in recent years in sacred spaces, including the nine people killed in 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the murder of a priest in northern France during Mass last year, and violent acts at synagogues and mosques.

On the same day as the Texas church shooting when 26 people were killed and more than 20 were wounded, another shooting already had taken place in the parking lot of a Catholic church in Fresno, California. After a 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Alphonsus Church, a man shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend in a car. The woman died from the gunshot wound and the man died from his wounds later at the hospital. The shooter fled the scene and took his own life.

Father Dominic Rajappa, the parish priest who had been greeting people after Mass when the shots were fired, told a local television reporter the church decided not to cancel other Masses that morning and prayed for the victims during each Mass.

Carl Chinn, a church security consultant in Colorado Springs, Colorado, keeps tabs on attacks at places of worship and says incidents of violence have increased on religious properties in recent years.

He speaks from experience, not just research. In 1996, he was taken hostage with three others when he was a building engineer for Focus on the Family, a Christian multimedia organization in Colorado Springs. No one was injured, but the experience changed his life and brought him to his current ministry, as he describes it.

Chinn also was part of a response team at New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 2007 when a man killed two people and injured three others when he started shooting outside the church after a Sunday service.

Chin has written a book on church security and gives seminars around the country about it. He said Catholics sometimes attend, but not too often, and he said the idea of implementing church security measures seems to be the decision of individual church leadership. More often than not, he said, "they have not grasped the need for it or made it a priority."

He advises churches to put together volunteer security teams to focus, almost like federal air marshals, on keeping an eye out for anything unusual, or anything "dlg," which is security lingo for "don't look good."

He also urges churches to keep their security plan simple -- "not something that would fill up a three-ring binder." The security team can be the "eye and ears" of the church -- armed if they can be -- and properly trained.

When Chinn spoke with Catholic News Service Nov. 8, he was in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church, the crime scene still marked with yellow police tape. He spent the past two days there talking with people who wonder what went wrong and how to move on.

Jimmy Meeks, who runs a church security ministry called Sheepdog Seminars, based in Fort Worth, Texas, also was spending a few days in Sutherland Springs on the ground talking with people.

He told CNS the difficult thing for many people to grasp is why God didn't protect them since they were at the church to pray. One woman he spoke to said she lost her faith after her aunt and uncle were killed in the church that day.

Meeks said church leaders should protect their congregations. He has been getting nonstop calls about how to do this since the Texas shooting, but he also knows interest in such measures will decrease in a few weeks.

He doesn't get calls from Catholics. And as he put it: "They very seldom show up" at his seminars.

But that doesn't mean Catholics aren't thinking about church safety.

Mary Tichy, associate director for the Conference for Catholic facility management in St. Louis, said in a Nov. 9 email that the group's upcoming conference in April will include an education track on security. She also said she is aware of the security measures in place at some Catholic churches and diocesan offices.

A Nov. 6 story in the Chicago Tribune said that in the past year, hundreds of congregations have joined a coalition called Secure Church Chicago, a regional working group of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergy and volunteers who want to take a proactive, professional and pastoral approach to church safety.

The article ran a photo of a former Chicago police officer who is the public safety director for St Peter's Catholic Church in Chicago. It also quoted the church's pastor, Franciscan Father Kurt Hartrich, as saying he doesn't know what more he can do to keep his parishioners safe since "they already have to cross two thresholds and pass muster with security guards before they can enter the worship space."

The Boston Archdiocese said in a Nov. 6 statement that it is "committed to seeing that our parishes, schools and ministries take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of parishioners, staff, volunteers and visitors. This is especially relevant considering recent tragic events and the current environment in which we live."

It said parishes and schools "work with their local safety and security advisory committees, staff, volunteers and local responders to be prepared and vigilant" and do this "in consultation with the Archdiocesan Office of Risk Management."

"We are welcoming communities of faith committed to being of service to the mission of the church while recognizing the challenges our entire society faces in these turbulent times," the statement added. "We continue to pray for all impacted by the tragedy in Sutherland Springs."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Pope recognizes martyrdom of sister killed in Somalia in 2006

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 9:13am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Di Renzo, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis formally recognized the martyrdom of an Italian Consolata sister murdered in Somalia in 2006 and the martyrdom of a 25-year-old priest in Hungary in 1957.

The Vatican announced the pope's decisions Nov. 9, along with news that he had declared Pope John Paul I "venerable" and had advanced five other sainthood causes.

In the case of the two martyrs, the pope's recognition clears the way for their beatification, the step before canonization.

Consolata Sister Leonella Sgorbati and her bodyguard were gunned down as they left the children's hospital where she worked in Mogadishu. Their deaths in September 2006 came amid rising tensions in the Muslim world over a speech then-Pope Benedict XVI had given in Regensburg, Germany, quoting a Christian emperor's criticism of Islam.

Most Islamic leaders in Somalia condemned the killing, emphasizing that Sister Sgorbati was dedicating her efforts to the Somali people. She was 65 at the time, had worked in Africa for 35 years and had been in Somalia since 2001.

The Hungarian priest whose martyrdom was recognized by Pope Francis was Father Janos Brenner, who was born in Szombathely in 1931. He had been a Cistercian novice, but when the communist government banned religious orders in 1950, he entered a diocesan seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1955.

Although the diocesan priesthood was not banned, the communist authorities did not like his ministry, especially with young people. In December 1957, just two weeks before his 26th birthday, he received a late-night call to visit a sick person. On the path outside the village, he was stabbed 32 times and died before a doctor could arrive. Although it was never proven, it was believed that communist officials were ultimately responsible for his death.

Another decree signed by the pope recognized the heroic virtues of Bernard of Baden, a 15th-century German nobleman. Although he often is referred to as "Blessed Bernard," his cause for sainthood had not previously followed all the formal procedures.

The other decrees signed by the pope recognized the heroic virtues of:

-- Franciscan Father Gregorio Fioravanti, the Italian founder of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. He died in 1894.

-- Venezuela-born Jesuit Father Tomas Morales Perez, who founded the Cruzadas de Santa Maria secular institute and the Militantes de Santa Maria movement for young people. He died in Spain in 1994.

-- Italian Capuchin Brother Marcellino da Capradosso, a friar who died in 1909.

-- U.S.-born Teresa Fardella De Blasi, an Italian mother and widow, who founded the Poor Daughters of the Crowned Virgin and who was able to realize her dream of becoming a nun only shortly before her death in 1957.

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Pope puts John Paul I on path to sainthood, declares him 'venerable'

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 4:55am

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis recognized that Pope John Paul I, who served only 33 days as pope, lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.

The Vatican announced Pope Francis' decision Nov. 9. It marks the first major step on the path to sainthood for the pope who died in 1978 at the age of 65, shocking the world and a church that had just mourned the death of Blessed Paul VI.

Pope Francis would have to recognize a miracle attributed to the late pope's intercession in order for him to be beatified, the next step toward sainthood. A second miracle would be needed for canonization.

Stefania Falasca, vice postulator of Pope John Paul's sainthood cause, said one "presumed extraordinary healing" had already been investigated by a diocese and a second possibility is being studied, but the Vatican does not begin its investigations until a sainthood candidate is declared venerable.

Although his was one of the shortest papacies in history, Pope John Paul left a lasting impression on the church that fondly remembers him as "the smiling pope."

"He smiled for only 33 days," read the front page of the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, while the Catholic Telegraph of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati reported: "Saddened church seeking another Pope John Paul."

The surprise of his death after just over a month in office opened a floodgate of rumors and conspiracy theories, running the gamut from murder to culpable neglect. The Vatican doctor insisted then, as the Vatican continues to insist, that Pope John Paul died of a heart attack.

His papal motto, "Humilitas" ("Humility") not only emphasized a Christian virtue but also reflected his down-to-earth personality and humble beginnings.

"The Lord recommended it so much: Be humble. Even if you have done great things, say: 'We are useless servants.' On the contrary, the tendency in all of us is rather the opposite: to show off. Lowly, lowly: This is the Christian virtue which concerns us," he said Sept. 6, 1978.

Born Albino Luciani in the small Italian mountain town of Canale D'Agordo Oct. 17, 1912, the future pope and his two brothers and one sister lived in poverty and sometimes went to bed hungry.

His father, a bricklayer by trade, would often travel to Switzerland and Germany in search of work.

During a general audience Sept. 13, 1978, the pope told pilgrims he was sickly as a child and his mother would take him "from one doctor to another" and watch over him "whole nights." He also said he had been hospitalized eight times and operated on four times throughout his life.

Despite his weak health and poverty, his father encouraged him to enter the minor seminary. He did so, but would return to his hometown in the summers and often was seen working in the fields in his black cassock.

He was ordained a priest in 1935 and was appointed bishop of Vittorio Veneto in December 1958 by St. John XXIII. More than 10 years later, he was named patriarch of Venice by Blessed Paul VI and was created a cardinal in 1973.

During his time as patriarch of Venice, then-Cardinal Luciani was known for his dedication to the poor and the disabled.

In February 1976, he called on all priests in his diocese to sell gold and silver objects for the Don Orione Day Center for people with disabilities. Leading by example, he started the fund drive by putting up for auction a pectoral cross and gold chain -- given to him by St. John XXIII -- that had once belonged to Pope Pius XII.

His contribution, he wrote, "is a small thing compared to the use it will have. Perhaps it is worth something if it helps people understand that the real treasures of the church are the poor."

After Blessed Paul VI's death, his name was hardly at the top of anyone's list of potential popes, least of all his own.

When asked if he might be elected pope, he quoted a Venetian proverb: "You don't make gnocchi out of this dough."

His surprise election, nevertheless, did not sway him from continuing his humble manner of living, such as rejecting the use of the traditional papal tiara and preferring to call his first Mass as pope the "inauguration" of his papal ministry rather than a coronation.

His humility also was reflected in the 19 speeches and talks he gave as pope, especially the four Wednesday general audience talks before his untimely death.

"Let us try to improve the church by becoming better ourselves," he said Sept. 13, 1978. "Each of us and the whole church could recite the prayer I am accustomed to reciting: 'Lord, take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become as you want me to be.'"

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden in Rome.

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'Spiritual but not religious': What does it mean? Survey offers clues

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:32pm

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's almost reached the level of cliche in American society: You ask someone why they don't go to church, and they reply, "Oh, I'm spiritual but not religious."

But what does that mean? A survey conducted jointly by the Public Religion Research Institute and Florida State University does not provide hard-and-fast answers, but it offers clues.

Without asking respondents directly whether they considered themselves spiritual but not religious -- or at any other spot on the spirituality-religiosity spectrum -- the survey tried to tease out what made them different from their fellow Americans.

"We tried eight different measures to get a spiritual analysis," said Dan Cox, PRRI research director. "Three (measures) really held together: They felt particularly connected to the world around them, they felt a part of something larger than the just themselves, and they found a larger purpose in life."

To determine whether survey respondents were religious, "we took a more conventional approach: frequency of worship attendance and salience -- how important people said religion was in their life," Cox said.

Despite the near-ubiquity of the "spiritual but not religious" comment, this group was the smallest of the four designations, at 18 percent. Those who are neither spiritual nor religious constitute 31 percent, those who are both spiritual and religious make up 29 percent, and those who are not spiritual but religious account for 22 percent.

"We didn't really look at the actual practices," Cox told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 8 telephone interview, although that may be part of a future survey involving the same respondents. "We looked at yoga and meditation. The spiritual folks are more likely to meditate but not to participate in yoga. Those are the only two behaviors that we looked at."

One intent of the study was to "look at what difference, if any, that spirituality makes in people's behavior and life satisfaction. According to our definition of spirituality, it has a discernible impact," Cox said. "How they treat other people, pro-social behaviors, holding the door open for someone, letting others cut in line."

Among the not religious but spiritual group, 62 percent said they had listened to someone talk about a problem in the past week; 49 percent reported they were moved, touched or inspired while watching television in the last week -- double that of the 24 percent of nonspiritual Americans; and 72 percent said the statement "if I had to list everything I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list" describes them either exactly or very well.

"No activity is a greater source of inspiration than listening to music," the survey report said. "Roughly seven in 10 (71 percent) spiritual Americans -- including 69 percent of the spiritual but not religious -- say they have been touched, moved or inspired within the last week while listening to a song or piece of music."

"Spirituality is obviously a concept that can be difficult to pin down. The GSS -- the General Social Survey (by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago) -- is a large data set. And it asks, 'Do you consider yourself a religious person, do you consider yourself a spiritual person?' That's not the approach that we took," Cox said.

The Pew Research Center, he added, also asks respondents to identify themselves as spiritual or religious or not, and comes up with a higher percentage than did PRRI. Therefore, the 18 percent figure can't be compared to a number arrived by a different survey using different measuring methods.

"Are they growing, are they shrinking? We don't know," Cox said. One thing is for sure, he noted: "Interest in spirituality is increasing. There's some signs of that."

"Most Americans who are spiritual but not religious still identify with a religious tradition," said the survey report, released Nov. 6.

Among Catholics, who made up 18 percent of the 2,016 subjects in the phone and online interview pool this spring, 32 percent are both spiritual and religious, 31 percent are not spiritual but religious, 22 percent are neither spiritual nor religious, and 15 percent are spiritual but not religious.

When split according to religious affiliation, unaffiliated respondents were highest in being neither spiritual nor religious (65 percent) and being spiritual but not religious (29 percent, with non-Christians at 28 percent), and lowest on being both spiritual and religious (1 percent). 

Black Protestants were highest at being not spiritual but religious (39 percent) and lowest at being neither spiritual nor religious (8 percent) and being spiritual but not religious (tied at 5 percent with white evangelicals). White evangelicals were highest at being both spiritual and religious at 54 percent, and non-Christians were lowest at being not spiritual but religious, at 9 percent.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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St. Frances Cabrini is modern model for handling migration, pope says

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 11:56am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- St. Frances Cabrini, the missionary to Italian immigrants in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, "teaches us the path to handling the epochal phenomenon of migration by joining charity and justice," Pope Francis said.

The nun, who died Dec. 22, 1917, in Chicago, "understood that modernity would be marked by these enormous migrations and by human beings who were uprooted, in a crisis of identity, often desperate and lacking the resources needed" to make a new life in a new land, the pope said.

Pope Francis wrote about the nun, the first U.S. citizen to become a saint, in the preface to a new Italian biography of her. Lucetta Scaraffia, a historian and frequent contributor to the Vatican newspaper, wrote the book, "Tra Terra e Cielo" ("Between Earth and Heaven").

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published the pope's preface Nov. 8.

St. Frances Cabrini wanted to be a missionary in China, but Pope Leo XIII asked her to go instead to the United States to care for Italian immigrants. "Frances obeyed," Pope Francis wrote, "and a world was thrown open before her: that of hundreds of thousands of human beings who sought work and bread far from their homelands, risking long voyages that were often dangerous in lands that were unknown and hostile."

Sister Cabrini set up "large, beautiful and lasting" schools, hospitals, orphanages and centers for welcoming and assisting refugees, the pope said. When the large wave of Italian immigration ended, she and her sisters focused on whatever group of newcomers needed their help most.

But she "knew that it wasn't enough to help them materially, teach them the language of their new country and cure them when they were sick," the pope wrote; she also knew that their self-respect and identity needed support and that the roots of both were found often in their faith.

"Insertion into a new country meant accepting its rules and laws" and being treated with dignity, the pope said. "These objectives are still valid today" and include "the recognition of and respect for one's religious roots and those of others."

The very concrete, but all-encompassing outreach of St. Frances Cabrini, he said, is why it was "precisely a woman who became the patron of migrants."

She demonstrated what Pope Francis called "feminine qualities -- warmth, welcome, concreteness in meeting the needs of others, gracious care of the weak -- along with a holistic vision of the changes that were taking place in the world."

"She was a woman who knew how to unite great charity with a prophetic spirit that understood modernity in its less positive aspects, those aspects that involved the earth's poor whom intellectuals and politicians did not want to see," he said.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Stop taking smartphone snapshots during Mass, pope says

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 9:06am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Mass is not a show, but a beautiful, transformative encounter with the true loving presence of Christ, Pope Francis said.

That is why people need to focus their hearts on God, not focus their smartphones for pictures during Mass, he said.

When the priest celebrating Mass says, "Let us lift up our hearts," he is not saying, "lift up our cellphones and take a picture. No. It's an awful thing" to do, the pope said Nov. 8 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"It makes me so sad when I celebrate (Mass) in the square or in the basilica and I see so many cellphones in the air. And not just by the lay faithful, some priests and bishops, too," he said.

"Please, Mass is not a show. It is going to encounter the Passion, the resurrection of the Lord," he said to applause.

The pope's remarks were part of a new series of audience talks on the Mass. The series, he said, should help people understand the true value and significance of the liturgy as an essential part of growing closer to God.

A major theme highlighted by the Second Vatican Council was that the liturgical formation of the lay faithful is "indispensable for a true renewal," Pope Francis said. "And this is precisely the aim of this catechetical series that we begin today -- to grow in understanding the great gift God gave us in the Eucharist."

"The Second Vatican Council was strongly driven by the desire to lead Christians to an understanding of the grandeur of the faith and the beauty of the encounter with Christ," he said. That is why, "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an appropriate renewal of the liturgy" was necessary.

The Eucharist is a wonderful way Jesus Christ makes himself truly present in people's lives, the pope said.

To take part in the Mass is to relive the Lord's passion and redemptive death, where, on the altar, he is present and offers himself for the salvation of the world, Pope Francis said.

"The Lord is there with us and present," he said. "But so many times we go, we look around, we chitchat with each other while the priest celebrates the Eucharist."

If the president or any other famous or important person were to show up, he said, it would be a given "that we all would be near him, we would want to greet him. But think about it, when you go to Mass, the Lord is there and you, you are distracted, (your mind) wanders. Yet, it is the Lord!"

People should reflect on this, he said, and if they complain, "'Oh father, Mass is boring.' What are you saying? The Lord is boring? 'No, not the Mass, but the priest.' Ah, well, may the priest be converted," but just never forget that the Lord is always there.

Catholics need to learn or rediscover many of the basics about the Mass and how the sacraments allow people to "see and touch" Christ's body and wounds so as to be able to recognize him, just as the apostle St. Thomas did.

He said the series would include answering the following questions:

-- Why make the sign of the cross at the beginning of Mass? Why is it important to teach children how to make the sign of the cross properly and what does it mean?

-- What are the Mass readings for and why are they included in the Mass?

-- What does is mean for people to participate in the Lord's sacrifice and come to his table?

-- What are people seeking? Is it the overflowing fount of living water for eternal life?

-- Do people understand the importance of praise and thanksgiving with the Eucharist and that receiving it "makes us one body in Christ"?

 

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Nation's leaders urged to 'engage in real debate' on curbing gun violence

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 1:35pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The nation's leaders "must engage in a real debate about needed measures to save lives and make our communities safer," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee.

Such debate is essential because "violence in our society will not be solved by a single piece of legislation, and many factors contribute to what we see going on all around us," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

His Nov. 7 statement was issued in response to "recent and horrific attacks" in the country, referring to the mass shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 people dead and 20 others wounded, and the Oct. 1 the mass shooting in Las Vegas during an outdoor concert that left 58 people dead and hundreds of others injured.

"For many years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been urging our leaders to explore and adopt reasonable policies to help curb gun violence," Bishop Dewane said.

The Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs gun massacres "remind us of how much damage can be caused when weapons -- particularly weapons designed to inflict extreme levels of bloodshed -- too easily find their way into the hands of those who would wish to use them to harm others," he said.

Bishop Dewane said the USCCB continues to urge a total ban on assault weapons, "which we supported when the ban passed in 1994 and when Congress failed to renew it in 2004."

Other efforts the bishops support include measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as universal background checks for all gun purchases; limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; and a federal law to criminalize gun trafficking.

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

Pope, global leaders discuss concern for climate change, migration

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:18am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis met with Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general, and former Irish President Mary Robinson to discuss shared concerns about peace, human rights and climate change.

"Pope Francis has shown great moral leadership on the crucial issues of our time. His assertion of the values of peace and human dignity resonates with people of all faiths and those of none," Annan said in a written statement released after the Nov. 6 meeting in the pope's residence.

Annan and Robinson made the private visit Nov. 6 together with Lakhdar Brahimi and Ricardo Lagos as members of "The Elders," an independent group of global leaders who use their experience and influence to support peace and human rights.

The four representatives met with the pope "to express their appreciation and support for his work on global peace, refugees and migration, and climate change," according to The Elders' website.

The organization is "proud to stand in solidarity with him today and in the future as we work for justice and universal human rights," Annan, chair of The Elders, said in his statement.

Annan told Vatican Radio it was important for them to visit the pope because they hold a number of interests and values in common, and they wanted to "discuss how we can work together, how we can pool our efforts on some of these issues."

Robinson, who is also a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights and a U.N. envoy on climate change, told Vatican Radio that they spoke about climate change and other issues where "the pope has given leadership. We felt there was a great deal of common ground between us."

Other issues they discussed, Annan told the radio, were migration, nuclear weapons, the mediation of conflicts and "the importance of giving women a voice and respecting their role."

"I hope this will be the first of many meetings," he said.

They expressed their appreciation for what the pope has been doing, Robinson said, and how he, like The Elders, is "trying to be a voice for the voiceless" and the marginalized.

"I think he could be a future 'Elder,'" Annan told the radio, to which Robinson remarked, "I think he's a Super Elder."

Former South African President Nelson Mandela formally launched The Elders 10 years ago after British entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel presented their idea of taking the traditional practice of looking to one's village elders for guidance and conflict resolution and applying it to today's "global village."

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Salvation is free, not a 'pay to save' deal with God, pope says

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:10am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When it comes to salvation, God does not seek any form of compensation and offers it freely to those in need of his love, Pope Francis said.

A Christian who complains of not receiving a reward for going to Mass every Sunday and fulfilling certain obligations "doesn't understand the gratuity of salvation," the pope said Nov. 7 in his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"He thinks salvation is the fruit of 'I pay and you save me. I pay with this, with this, with this.' No, salvation is free and if you do not enter in this dynamic of gratuity, you don't understand anything," he said.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which Jesus recounts the parable of the banquet of a rich man who, after having his invitation spurned by his guests, invites "the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame" to enjoy his feast.

Those who rejected the rich man's invitation, the pope said, were "consumed by their own interests" and did not understand the generosity of the invitation.

"If the gratuitousness of God's invitation isn't understood, nothing is understood. God's initiative is always free. But what must you pay to go to this banquet?" the pope asked. "The entry ticket is to be sick, to be poor, to be a sinner. These things allow you to enter, this is the entry ticket: to be needy in both body and soul. It's for those in need of care, healing, in need of love," he said.

God asks for nothing in return but "love and faithfulness," the pope said. "Salvation isn't bought; you simply enter the banquet."

Pope Francis said those who decline to accept the invitation are consumed by other things that provide a certain sense of security, but they "have lost something much greater and more beautiful: they have lost the ability to feel loved."

"When you lose the ability to feel loved, there is no hope, you have lost everything," he said. "This calls to mind what is written on the gates of hell in Dante's Inferno: 'Abandon all hope,' you have lost everything."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope offers prayers for victims of Texas shooting

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 8:17am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sergio Flores, Reuters

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling the mass shooting in a Texas Baptist church Nov. 5 an "act of senseless violence," Pope Francis asked the local Catholic archbishop to convey his condolences to the families of the victims and to the injured.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, also sent assurances of the pope's prayers in a message to Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. The Vatican released the text of the message Nov. 7.

The shooting during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left at least 26 people dead and at least 20 others injured.

"Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of senseless violence perpetrated at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs," Cardinal Parolin wrote, "the Holy Father asks you kindly to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the wounded, to the members of the congregation, and to the entire local community."

Pope Francis also prayed that the Lord would "console all who mourn" and "grant them the spiritual strength that triumphs over violence and hatred by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love."

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'Victims' charter' is next step in fighting trafficking, academy says

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:27am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After 7-year-old Rani Hong was stolen from her mother in a small village in India and sold into slavery, her captors kept her in a cage to teach her to submit completely to her "master."

"This is what the industry of human trafficking does," she said; it is an industry of buying and selling human beings for forced labor, prostitution, exploitation and even harvesting organs. The International Labor Organization estimates human trafficking grosses $150 billion a year and is rapidly growing, with profits beginning to match those made in the illegal drug and arms trades.

Human beings are highly lucrative, Hong said, because a drug sold on the street can only be used once, while a person can be used and sold over and over again. One human rights group estimates traffickers can make $100,000 a year for each woman working as a sex slave, representing a return on investment of up to 1,000 percent.

Hong and others spoke to reporters at the Vatican Nov. 6 during a conference on ways to better assist victims of trafficking in terms of legal assistance, compensation and resettlement. The Nov. 4-6 gathering was organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and Global Alliance for Legal Aid, a U.S.-based association of jurists providing legal aid to the poor in developing countries.

Hong eventually found freedom, she said, but it came only after she became so sick and weak that her owner sold her to an international adoption agency. She ended up with her adoptive mother in Canada and then the United States. While her adoptive mother helped her, the trauma of her past hindered her future -- leading her to not easily trust or communicate with people, she said.

Today, along with her husband, who, as a child ended up shipwrecked on a remote island for two years after escaping forced inscription in Vietnam, she leads the nonprofit Tronie Foundation to serve survivors and help them join the fight against trafficking.

The success stories and tragedies of victims and survivors offer the next clue in an effective fight against traffickers and in helping those who get caught in their snares, said Margaret Archer, president of the pontifical academy.

In the process of criminalizing, tracking down and penalizing traffickers over the years, "victims got almost left out except as numbers" and their true needs overlooked, Archer said.

The three-day meeting at the Vatican, she said, was meant to come up with a "victims' charter," that is, very concrete proposals gleaned from victims and their advocates to act as a sort of framework for prevention, healing and resettlement.

This is why survivors were part of the conference, Archer wrote in the conference booklet, to "pinpoint what we did that deterred their progress toward the life they sought and what we did -- besides providing bed and board -- that was experienced by them as life-enhancing."

When it comes to rescuing and helping resettle victims of trafficking, she said, "there's a lot of rhetoric about empowerment, giving voice ... which don't really get (survivors) very far in paying the rent, buying the food, finding schools for the children." One idea, she said, is mobilize the power of Catholic parishes around the world in helping those who have been trafficked.

Hong said no country is immune to human trafficking and educating the public is critical for bringing awareness and stemming demand for forced labor.

"Slavery was never abolished. It's found new forms in new places" and everyone can play a part in stopping this crime, said John McEldowney, a professor of law at the University of Warwick, England.

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