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Survivors of clergy child sex abuse tell U.S. bishops of rejection, pain

Top Stories - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 5:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Luis A. Torres Jr. stood before a group of U.S. bishops during one of the most publicly watched of their fall annual meetings Nov. 12 in Baltimore and in doing so revealed to the world the reality that he has lived with since childhood: that he was abused by a priest.

"I'm not private anymore. Everyone knows," said Torres, a lawyer and member of the Lay Review Board of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, which examines policies for removing priests who have abused.

It was unclear but it seemed that the moment marked the first time he revealed the truth publicly. He also spoke of what he witnessed toward those who have come forward in the Catholic Church when they revealed what had happened to them at the hands of clergy.

"I witnessed a church that didn't understand or didn't seem to care, or worse, a church that was actively hostile to the children who had trusted and suffered under its care," he said. "A church that professed faith but acted shrewdly, a church that seemed to listen less to Christ's teachings and more to the advice of lawyers, a church that seemed less interested in those it had harmed."

He spoke of a church more concerned with the protection of assets than its people.

He told his story to the group of bishops gathered for prayer in a makeshift chapel at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Though his statements were livestreamed, no press was allowed in the chapel.

In the telling of his pain through sometimes deep breaths, Torres told the bishops: "You need to do better." He also told them that "the heart of the church is broken and you need to fix this now."

Torres' story was one of two experiences U.S. bishops heard from survivors of clergy child sex abuse, who still remain active in the church. The other account came from Teresa Pitt Green, who along with Torres, founded Spirit Fire Live, which says on its website that it is devoted to "healing and reconciliation in relationships with adults, families and parishes wounded by child abuse and trauma."

"My heart breaks for you," Pitt Green told the bishops, saying that "the Lord has cried more tears ... because of some of the decisions some of you have made. I don't know how you bear it."

Neither was accusatory in tone, rather their declarations were given calmly as reflections during a day of prayer for the bishops, in which a reflection was given after a Bible reading. While two other reflections addressed what the laity need from the bishops and how bishops can be ministers of healing, the victim statements painfully painted the landscape that has brought the Catholic Church in the United States to address the sex abuse crisis so urgently.

Pitt Green spoke of the manifestation of the wounds by those who've been abused: suicides, addictions, chronic mental illness, broken relationships.

"We are the damaged goods of our age," Pitt Green said.

Pitt Green said she had found a way back to the church and applauded measures that have been taken to curtail child sex abuse in Catholic churches, schools and institutions and thanked the bishops for expressing a desire to do something about it. But she also acknowledged the anger expressed by other victims and survivors, saying that "many who have been entrusted to your care are noisy and they're angry, and I understand."

Torres said he struggled with understanding and explaining even to himself what happened and the different manifestations of trauma as an adult.

"I admit, I don't understand, so I get why you may not understand it either. Abuse of a child is the closest that you can get to murder and still possibly have a breathing body before you," he said. "When a child has been abused, particularly by someone whom they trust, you have destroyed the child. You have mortally wounded the soul and the spirit of that child. This is particularly true where the abuse is by a priest."

The abuse causes a break in the child's connection to God, and robs him or her of innocence, trust, faith and love, he said.

"Truly, this is the devil's best work," he said. "It's as if the child had been shot. Sometimes the bullet catches the child right away and they fall immediately via drugs, crime, suicide or something else. For others the bullet may not reach its destination for many years."

He credited the Diocese of Brooklyn with his willingness to remain with the church because through its Victims Assistance Coordinator, it had demonstrated a "willingness to share my journey" and restoring faith, "where once I knew betrayal."

That betrayal was compounded when the church treated victims as liabilities, as dishonest, or as seeking money, he said.

"The pain of this ongoing betrayal is not restricted to victims but it's also experienced by the families of victims, by the larger church community and by priests," he said.

Torres spoke of the "dissonance" survivors experience when the people who encouraged them to follow the footsteps of Christ failed to follow that example.

"What would Jesus' response have been in the same situation?" he asked. "Would he have called his lawyers and denounced the victims? Or would he have turned over the tables in a fit of rage and declared that this was intolerable in his father's house."

He asked that survivors not be looked as liabilities or adversaries.

"We are your children, we are your brothers, and your sisters, we are your mothers and your fathers. Your words and actions have caused us further harm and pushed us away," Torres said. "Through silence, distrust and defensiveness, we bear the shame of a crime to which our only contributions were trust, faith and innocence.

"I'm not angry, I'm mostly angry at myself. And I don't know why. I know you experience a lot of our anger because it's out there," he continued. "But I am so sad and disappointed, and think this is what many people feel, victims, laypeople, priests, everyone."

In a news conference following the survivors' declarations, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he couldn't speak about the reaction of the bishops as a group but offered his personal reaction.

"When you hear someone speak like that, it hits you very hard," he said, but added that he found it "very moving."

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, of Burlington, Vermont, who was with Cardinal DiNardo at the news conference, said what the bishops had heard from survivors in the past was that no one listened to them, so they wanted to "be open and receptive and listen" and not necessarily issue a response but wanted to say "we believe you and we're listening to you."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Cardinal: Delay in vote on abuse response proposals a 'bump in the road'

Top Stories - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 3:48pm

IMAGE: REUTERS

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A Vatican-requested delay in adopting practices that are expected to boost accountability among U.S. bishops in their response to clergy sex abuse is a "bump in the road," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told reporters Nov. 12 that the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican requested that no vote be taken on the proposals during the bishops' fall general assembly.

The proposals include standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.

They are among steps developed by the USCCB Administrative Committee in September in response to the firestorm that has emerged since June over how the bishops handled reports of wayward priests.

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB.

"We have accepted it with disappointment," Cardinal DiNardo said of the congregation's request during a midday news conference.

"We have not lessened in any of our resolve for actions. We are going to work intensely on these items of action. We can't vote on them totally, but clarify them, get them more intensely canonically well, so that Rome will see that. We're going to keep pushing and moving until we get to a point where they become action," he said.

"We are ourselves not happy about this," he continued. "We are working very hard to move to action. We are just at a bump in the road."

The request from the Vatican congregation was outlined in a letter received the weekend before the assembly opened. It cited two reasons for seeking the delay, according to the cardinal.

He said the congregation wanted the bishops to wait until after the upcoming February meeting of the presidents of bishops' conferences from around the world called by Pope Francis to address clergy sex abuse and the need to ensure that the proposals are in line with canon law.

Under questioning, he clarified that the letter expressed the need for "further precision" of the proposals under canon law.

Citing the universal nature of the Catholic Church, he also said that the U.S. bishops cannot act unilaterally to enact standards unless they comply with canon law.

The cardinal stressed that he planned to press the need for the proposals to improve bishops' accountability when he represents the U.S. bishops at the February gathering.

Until Cardinal DiNardo announced that no vote would be taken on the proposals as the bishops opened their fall general assembly in Baltimore, none of the bishops were aware of the Vatican's concerns, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications,

"It has thrown us a little bit sideways because it was completely unexpected," Bishop Coyne said of the Vatican correspondence.

Nevertheless, he explained to reporters, the bishops "by nature are collegial" and "do not work in separate entities" when adopting standards under canon law.

Cardinal DiNardo said he did not know if the congregation's letters originated with Pope Francis. He said that during a meeting with the pope in October in Rome, the pontiff expressed interest in the direction the U.S. church was taking.

The cardinal repeated several times that the bishops were committed to implementing the proposals despite the setback. "The bishops are all of one mind on this," he said.

Acknowledging that some parishioners would be "quite angry" that no action was to be taken during the fall assembly, he said that it will show each bishop what it means to be a "local shepherd."

"You always want to keep giving people a sense of hope," Cardinal DiNardo added. "We need a living sense of hope right now and I think the church can grant it even through the shepherds but even through our good and wonderful people who are moving along."

The cardinal cited the history of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" as an example of how the church works. When the charter was proposed and was sent to the Vatican for review in 2002, it met with some "reticence," but that 16 years later "nowadays that is universal around the world."

"What I find within our Catholic faith sometimes it takes maybe a little longer than we would even like. But the net effect, because we are a universal church, is that you can get things done that are really fine," he said. "I'm hoping myself that what we are doing now, whatever it might be, with some of the he bumps in the road, that this will eventually work out. I don't think that's Pollyannaish."

The call for action resonated in at least one province of bishops. As the bishops were in the midst of their day of prayer and reflection on their response to abuse, the bishops of Missouri made public a letter and statement sent to the chairman of the USCCB Committee for the Children and Young People.

The letter and accompanying statement to Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, committee chairman, said that while the bishops support some of the proposed actions from the Administrative Committee, they hoped the USCCB would address the "abuse of power that is at the center of the sexual abuse scandal of our church."

Among several steps, the Missouri bishops called for abuse survivors to be at the center of the church's response to the crisis; strengthen the 2002 charter; have each bishop mandate that the charter apply to each religious order serving in their diocese; and better utilize the charisms of the laity.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Vatican asks USCCB to delay vote on sex abuse response proposals

Top Stories - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 9:53am

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- At the urging of the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will not vote on two proposals they were to discuss regarding their response to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, informed the bishops as they opened their fall general assembly Nov. 12 in Baltimore that the Vatican wanted the bishops to delay any vote until after a February meeting with the pope and presidents of the bishops' conferences around the world that will focus on addressing clergy abuse.

Affected are proposed standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.

Cardinal DiNardo said he was disappointed that no action would be taken during the assembly, but that he was hopeful that the delay "will improve our response to the crisis we face."

The assembly planned to move forward with discussion of both proposals from the bishop's Administrative Committee.

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

In response, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago suggested the general assembly move forward with its discussion of the two proposals. He also called for a special assembly in March to weigh and vote on the measures after being informed by the outcome of the February meeting in Rome.

"It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church," Cardinal Cupich said, adding that the February meeting was a "watershed moment" in church history.

"We need to be clear where we stand and tell our people where we stand," he said.

MORE TO COME

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Bishops must be blameless servants, not princes, pope says

Top Stories - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 9:20am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A bishop must be "blameless" and at the service of God, not of cliques, assets and power, especially if he is ever to "set right" what needs to be done for the church, Pope Francis said.

A bishop must always "correct himself and ask himself, 'Am I a steward of God or a businessman?'" the pope said in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Nov. 12, the feast of St. Josaphat, 17th-century bishop and martyr.

The pope's homily looked at the day's first reading from St. Paul's Letter to Titus (1:1-9) describing the qualities and role of a bishop.

The apostle underlines how a bishop must be a steward or "administrator of God, not of assets, power and cliques," the pope said.

Most of all, he said, a bishop must be "blameless," the same quality God asked of Abraham when he said, "walk in my presence and be blameless." It is a quality that is the cornerstone of every leader, he added.

According to the apostle, a bishop must not be licentious, rebellious, arrogant, irritable, a drunkard, greedy or obsessed with money. A bishop with even just one of these defects, the pope said, is "a calamity for the church."

A bishop must be hospitable, temperate, just and holy; he must have self-control, love the good and be faithful to the Word, to the true message as it was taught, the apostle says.

If this is what a bishop should be, the pope said, then "would it be wonderful to ask these questions at the beginning, when inquiries are made to elect bishops? To know whether one may keep going with other inquiries?"  

Above all, the pope said, a bishop "must be humble, meek and a servant, not a prince."

This is "the word of God" that comes from the time of St. Paul and isn't something recent from the Second Vatican Council, the pope added.

The church can only "set right" what needs corrected when it has bishops who have these qualities, he said.

What matters to God, he said, is a bishop's humility and his service, not how nice he is or how well he preaches.

 

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Religious groups made effort to drive their flocks to midterm voting

Top Stories - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 3:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Octavio Duran

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just before the polls opened on Election Day on the West Coast, the Franciscan friars of the Province of St. Barbara in California tweeted a photo of Brother Sam Nasada in a brown habit holding a sign, imploring others to vote, using a quote from Pope Francis: "Indifference is dangerous."

Religious groups such as the Franciscans in California were not the only ones urging voters to the polls during this year's Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Months before the election, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas used social media to encourage Americans to register to vote and on Nov. 6 provided polling information for different states online while encouraging those casting ballots to "Vote with Mercy."

It's hard to gauge just how much influence religious groups had on voter turnout, but many preliminary estimates released the day after the election said more than 113 million votes were cast -- the highest turnout for a midterm election since 1966, said a report from the U.S. Election Project.

During a Nov. 8 panel on "Religion and the 2018 Midterm Elections" sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Washington's Georgetown University, panelist Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church, said many religious groups were able to mobilize their flocks and form coalitions with other denominations around issues such as feeding the hungry, immigration and refugee resettlement. The latter has "rattled a lot of Christian groups," she said, since the Trump administration has moved to severely cut the refugee number.

Groups such as the Mercy sisters published guides about where they stood on issues such as racial justice, the economy, immigration and refugees, health care, gun violence prevention, global peacemaking and the environment. There's also the U.S. bishops' document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," which covers many of those same issues and aims to guide Catholics "in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy."

The Mercy sisters' voting guide "2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide: A Call to Holiness" asked potential voters to reflect on issues based on what the Gospel and church teachings say and what to consider when voting for a candidate or an issue.

Preliminary analysis on how religious groups voted in the midterm elections released Nov. 7 by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that while many Christian denominations backed Republicans by large margins, Catholic voters remained almost evenly split between the country's two major parties. Pew's preliminary data showed that, of Catholics voting in the midterms, 50 percent voted for Democrats and 49 percent voted for Republicans.

Panelists from the Berkley Center's religion and elections event said they were interested to see what a breakdown of the Catholic vote will show, which might reveal the influence of the Latino Catholic vote or a move by more White Catholics toward the Democratic Party in the midterms.

Some panelists cited figures from a 2016 election poll by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute that showed Catholics overall voted for then candidate Donald Trump 52 percent to 45. However, a breakdown of that vote showed that white Catholics voted 60 to 37 percent for Trump while Latino Catholics voted 67-26 for his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

E.J. Dionne, a columnist for The Washington Post, who is Catholic and has studied the relationship between religion and politics, also was on the panel.

"I am coming to the conclusion at this moment in history that religion does not matter at all, that religion is often given as a reason but it's actually a rationale ' people are voting their identities and dressing them up in the decent drapery of religion," he said during the panel.

Religion matters in voting, he said, but a person's sense of identity seems to play a more important part. He referenced the 2016 PRRI poll that show the difference between white Catholics and Latino voters in voting for and against Trump.

"A very substantial majority of Latino Catholics voted against Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton. That would suggest to us that there was not a particular Catholic thing going on there," Dionne said. "They were voting other aspects of their identity."

But he said Catholicism can exert a force on the views of people on both sides of the political spectrum.

"It makes conservatives more communitarian and it makes liberals think more about family issues, have qualms about abortion," he said. "I think it creates some tensions on both sides but I think Latino, White (Catholic) numbers suggest that those of us who are Catholics should not pretend that Catholicism is that decisive in people's views."

Panelist Clyde Wilcox, professor of government at the Georgetown University, said a more detailed view of the voters behind the numbers, which is not yet available, may show what could be happening for Catholics in the political landscape.

But he said that "gradually, what's happened over time is that whites are leaving the Catholic Church and Latinos have grown as a percentage but that's a slow growth. I don't know the data but this might represent a shift in white voters who are Catholic."

What this political season has shown is that religious groups made a major effort in organizing their flocks, by mobilizing people to vote for their values, forming coalitions with other denominations in areas where they agreed and participating in big and small events attended by religious leaders seeking to persuade religious voters on certain issues, Linder Blachly said. And some went beyond the grassroots efforts.

The Faith and Freedom coalition spent $18 million to mobilize the vote, Linder Blachly said, and had previously spent $10 million in the 2016 election. Most of it was spent on efforts to support the Republican Party.

"So, that's some real dollars and that's different," Linder Blachly said. "I haven't seen anything like that."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Is China's targeting of Catholics pushback from low-level party officials?

Top Stories - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 3:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPA

By Michael Sainsbury

BANGKOK (CNS) -- Although China and the Vatican signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in September, persecution of Chinese Catholics continues.

Some believe there is considerable pushback against the Vatican-China deal from inside China's United Front Work Department, the Communist Party-controlled religious bureaucracy, especially at a more localized level.

"Many officials at a local level feel they need to change in their old ways to deal with religions. This means a more difficult job and less power," said Francesco Sisci, a longtime Italian media correspondent in Beijing and now a senior researcher at Beijing's Renmin University.

"So, they are not happy," he told Catholic News Service. "So, they are sloppy or try to sabotage Beijing. If they undermine the agreement, they can recover some of their previous power. It is a proof of Beijing's determination in the agreement that problems are only scattered in a very few places and are not very widespread."

The latest controversy for Catholics is the detention of at least four priests: Fathers Zhang Guilin and Wang Zhong from the Diocese of Xiwanzi and Fathers Su Guipeng and Zhao He from the Diocese of Xuanhua. The men were detained during October and November; both dioceses are in Hebei province.

Their sin appears to be a refusal to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the government-sanctioned organization that works to control church leaders. A number of publications have reported the detained bishops have been subject to detention house arrest and indoctrination classes.

As well, the cross from the bell tower and the spires of a church in Shangcai County in central Henan province were destroyed; the church was sealed, reported Asia News, a Rome-based missionary news agency.

The campaign to "sinicize" religion has been officially underway since the annual meeting of the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee in October 2017. Then new rules and regulations on religion were introduced in February and March. The State Administration for Religion Affairs, which oversaw the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the government-sponsored bishops' conference, was disbanded, and its activities and staff were put under the direct control of United Front Work Department. This is the arm of the party responsible for policy on religions, and it answers directly to top party leaders.

Many people hoped the deal with the Holy See would see an end to the string of cross removals, church demolitions and the detention of clerics.

"What is happening actually is an application of the new regulations about registrations of priests and churches" implemented earlier this year, Sisci told CNS.

Lawrence C. Reardon, associate professor of political science, University of New Hampshire, noted that the current campaign is not focused just on Catholics, but is indicative of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's continuing campaign to control all religion.

"The lower levels have been given the green light and are continuing to tighten controls over Islamic, Protestant and Catholic official and unofficial communities," he said. While the Buddhist and Daoist communities seem unaffected, he said, the United Front Work Department is going after "commercial activities."

"I think the center does always have the capacity to control their organizations in the periphery, so you get some overly zealous cadre going after 'miscreants' in order to ensure that UFWD won't target them as being too lax," he said.

"The top has told them to tighten the screws, and the provincial/local levels are adding more 'torque' to ensure compliance and keep Beijing away," he said.

"The impression I have is that the UFWD is very happy to add more 'torque,' as they fear religious revival coming from abroad and from within."

The Sept. 22 deal between the Vatican and Beijing allowed the pope's veto over Beijing's candidates for bishops for the first time since 1951. Seven previously illicit bishops -- and one who is dead -- were forgiven and recognized by the pope.

One surprise about the provisional agreement was the lack of any decision by Beijing on the fate of 30 Vatican-appointed bishops who never registered with the patriotic association. The Vatican has said discussion on the official status of these underground bishops continues.

In the past, many of them have vowed not to join the patriotic association. But many are getting old, and while there is no official list, Sisci believes there may be "just a handful" who are below age 75, the age at which canon law mandates bishops submit their resignation to the pope. The pope does not have to accept the resignation.

Reardon said that while the Vatican has not forgotten about these bishops, "it is trying to find a way to finesse a just resolution of their cases."

He said this was always going to be "a step-by-step process, and the two sides have just gone through the initial phase ... who knows how long this will take? I'm assuming the Vatican is looking for a comprehensive solution so that the mainland church can undergo reconciliation and reunification."

Michel Chambon, a researcher at Indiana's Hanover College, is not so sure.

"I doubt that the state will do much about the underground bishops -- at least officially, " he said.

"I would be surprised if any official 'reconciliation/recognition' occurs. Still, the state might turn a blind eye to their work, as it has done in the past, to let continue their pastoral work, as long as they keep a low profile."

Ucanews.com reported Nov. 9 that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, flew to Rome in late October and handed a seven-page letter to Pope Francis, appealing for him to pay attention to the crisis facing the so-called underground church in China. He told ucanews.com that, because some parts of the provisional agreement on bishops had not been made public, Catholics practicing their faith clandestinely did not know what they should do when government officials told them they must join the patriotic association because of the deal.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Archival find at Catholic U. leads to Kristallnacht remembrance

Top Stories - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 5:02pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy Trudy Isenberg

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jews worldwide will remember the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

In a direct German translation, it means "Crystal Night," but it is more commonly thought of as "Night of Broken Glass," as Nazis and their sympathizers rampaged through Nazi Germany -- which by this time had absorbed Austria and the Sudetenland -- the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938.

More than 7,000 Jewish-owned stores and businesses were damaged, more than 250 synagogues destroyed, more than 3,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps, and nearly 100 more killed during the rampages, which shocked the world.

It was an open question, though, as to how American Catholics felt about Kristallnacht, which some had likened to a pogrom in which Jews are forcibly exiled. Father Charles Coughlin, the "radio priest" during the Depression, had been for years salting anti-Semitic commentary into his weekly broadcasts, which reached tens of millions of people, despite the grumblings of several U.S. bishops who wanted him off the air.

But it was the discovery in The Catholic University of America's archives in 2004 of an old, scratched record, labeled only "Catholic Protest Against Nazis -- Nov. 16, 1938," that set the wheels in motion for a long-overdue reconsideration of Catholic attitudes toward anti-Semitism in general, and Kristallnacht in particular.

The record, which was unplayable with the university's own equipment, had to be sent elsewhere to be digitized. What it contained was a half-hour program featuring Catholic bishops from across the nation, and former New York Gov. Al Smith, who became the first Catholic presidential nominee of a major political party in 1928, roundly condemning the Nazis' actions and expressing solidarity with Jews under the Nazis' rule.

Based on the discovery of that disc, Catholic University is hosting its own Kristallnacht remembrance Nov. 16, the 80th anniversary of that broadcast.

The free event will feature performances by faculty and students of musical selections by Jewish composers, and a composition written by Catholic University music professor Joseph Santo, "Malachey Elyon" ("Messengers of the Most High"), which incorporates texts from the broadcast.

Speakers will include university president John Garvey; Zion Evrony, former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican and a visiting Catholic University professor; CUA education archivist Maria Mazzenga on her research of the recording; and Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of CUA's School of Music, Drama and Art.

After determining the record's content, "I contacted the folks at the (United States) Holocaust (Memorial) Museum," said Mazzenga in a Nov. 6 telephone interview with Catholic News Service. "This was something huge," she added. "It's changed the literature on Catholic responses to the Holocaust -- distinctly Catholic responses."

Further fruits from the recording netted a front-page New York Times article on the broadcast the day after it aired on both NBC and CBS -- a joint presentation unusual even then for competing networks.

Mazzenga also was able to track down five legal-size pages featuring the full transcript of the broadcast distributed by CNS' predecessor, National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service. "NCWC did a great job publicizing" the events of the time, she said. Mazzenga later edited a book and contributed an essay in a series of academic papers presented at a Holocaust Museum workshop inspired by the discovery.

A little further digging in the CUA archives found correspondence that spanned nearly a year between Irving Sherman, head of the Atlas Publishing and Novelty Co. of New York City, and Catholic figures who spoke on the broadcast.

In a Nov. 25, 1938, letter to Cardinal Dennis Dougherty of Philadelphia, Sherman wrote: "I, and I believe millions of others, cannot believe in your sincerity to teach democracy while you have a Father Coughlin openly preaching hate against his fellowmen," with the "e" printed by hand over the typed "a."

Father Charles Edward Coughlin was a Canadian-American priest based in Detroit who used radio to reach a mass audience. During the 1930s, an estimated 30 million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts. He eventually was forced off the air in 1939 because of his pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Sherman received a reply from Cardinal Dougherty, but it must have been unsatisfactory, for the businessman wrote back to the prelate: "With the Catholic Church and it strong organization, there should be no difficulty in squelching Father Coughlin at all. Instead of being humble and fully admitting that he did not tell the truth in regards to his accusations against the Jews, International Bankers, etc., he now shouts it further."

Later, in a missive to Catholic University rector Father Joseph Corrigan -- later a bishop -- Sherman complained about the "so called man of God Father Coughlin."

Father Corrigan wrote back: "Those who would stigmatize the Catholic Church for such conduct of one individual come very close themselves to the standard of judgment which they deplore when applied to themselves. It would be a wrong, and it truly is, to condemn Jews for the culpable actions of some Jews. How, then, can it be right to blame the Catholic Church for the attitude of one member?

"I have written you to this extent, my dear Mr. Sherman, in the hope that you will understand the difficulties of our position."

Thus began a fairly fruitful exchange between the two. In a letter to Father Corrigan dated Sept. 15, 1939 -- two weeks after World War II began in Europe -- Sherman sounded hopeful. "Our mayor is now taking evidence so as to prosecute the speakers who incite to riot and I think that now that Russia and Germany have aligned themselves together, these conditions of which I complain of may be eliminated."

He added that fellow members of the Jewish War Veterans of America were planning to sue Father Coughlin for his on-air remarks. It took another year, but Father Coughlin was forced off the air. The priest was silenced by the Vatican in 1942.

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Archbishop Gomez: 'Pray hard' for all affected by California shooting

Top Stories - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 11:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Nelson, EPA

By

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- After a shooting spree late Nov. 7 at a country-music bar in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles from the heart of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles asked people to "pray hard" for the victims and their families.

Thirteen people, including the suspected gunman and a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, died in shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill on what was college night, with lessons on country two-step dancing.

The bar is popular with students at nearby California Lutheran University, and also attracts students from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Moorpark College in Moorpark and California State University-Channel Islands in Camarillo.

"Like many of you, I woke this morning to news of the horrible violence last night at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks," Archbishop Gomez said in his Nov. 8 statement.

"Let us pray hard for all the families, for those who were murdered and those who were injured, and in a special way for the heroic officer, Sgt. Ron Helus, who lost his life defending people in the attack. May God grant perpetual light to those who have died and may he bring comfort to their loved ones and peace to our community."

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Nov. 8 that the suspected gunman, Ian David Long, had legally purchased the weapon used in the shooting. It came less than two weeks after a gunman murdered 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, which was the largest mass murder in the United States since 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last Feb. 14.

According to the Associated Press, after Helus was shot multiple times and dragged outside the bar by his partner -- he died early Nov. 8 at a nearby hospital -- scores of police assembled outside and burst in later to find Long and 11 others dead. Long had been wearing a black hood during the spree.

 

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Pope recognizes martyrdom of U.S. Christian Brother

Top Stories - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 9:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Christian Brothers of the Midwest

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of De La Salle Christian Brother James Miller, who was born in Wisconsin and was shot to death in Guatemala in 1982.

The recognition of the martyrdom of Brother James, or Brother Santiago as he also was known, clears the way for his beatification; the date and location of the ceremony were not immediately announced.

Publishing news about a variety of sainthood causes Nov. 8, the Vatican said Pope Francis had recognized as "blessed" a 15th-century Augustinian brother, Michael Giedrojc.

The recognition amounted to the "equivalent beatification" of Brother Giedrojc, who was born in Lithuania and died in Krakow. With the pope recognizing that over the course of centuries the brother has been venerated by thousands of Catholics, the normal process leading to beatification is not needed.

Brother Miller, the U.S. martyr, was born Sept. 21, 1944, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He met the Christian Brothers at Pacelli High School there and, at the age of 15, entered the order's juniorate in Missouri. After the novitiate, he taught Spanish, English and religion at Cretin High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, for three years. He also was in charge of school maintenance and served as the football coach.

Some websites refer to him as "Brother Fix-it" and an icon featured on the website of the Christian Brothers of the Midwest shows him wearing overalls.

In 1969, he was sent to Nicaragua, where he taught and helped build schools. According to the De La Salle Brother's website, "His religious superiors ordered him to leave Nicaragua in July 1979 during the time of the Sandinista revolution. It was feared that since he worked for the Somoza government, he might be at risk."

Returning to the United States, he again taught at Cretin High School. But in January 1981, he was sent to Guatemala, where he taught at a secondary school in Huehuetenango and at a center that helped young indigenous people learn job and leadership skills.

While on a ladder making repairs to the building on the afternoon of Feb. 13, 1982, he was shot several times by three hooded men and died instantly. No one was ever arrested for his murder. Funeral services were held in Guatemala and in St. Paul before he was buried in Polonia, Wisconsin.

In other decrees published Nov. 8, Pope Francis recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of Edvige Carboni and Benedetta Bianchi Porro, meaning both Italian laywomen can be beatified. Carboni died in 1952; Porro died in 1964.

The pope also recognized the martyrdom of more victims of the Spanish civil war: Angel Cuartas Cristobal and eight of his classmates at the seminary in Oviedo, who were killed between 1934 and 1937; and Mariano Mullerat Soldevila, a physician, husband and father killed in 1936.

In 10 other causes for canonization, Pope Francis signed decrees recognizing that the candidates for sainthood lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way, which is the first step toward beatification. The decrees included the cause of Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar of Lucena, Philippines, founder of the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus. The bishop died in 1978.

 

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People unwilling to be challenged by God's mercy will grumble, pope says

Top Stories - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 9:18am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sin of grumbling and complaining is often triggered by a desire to avoid being challenged or upset by seeing Christ's unexpected mercy at work, Pope Francis said.

The way Christ gave witness was "something new for that era," the pope said, because it was thought that being with sinners "made you impure, like touching a leper."

That is why the "doctors of the law," scribes and Pharisees stayed far away from those who sinned and why they complained about Jesus' unusual ways, the pope said Nov. 8 in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

They would read but never understand what God meant by "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," the pope said. But Jesus gives concrete witness to this mercy by the way he interacts with people, ending old practices and taking risks.

The pope's homily looked at the day's Gospel reading of the parable of the lost sheep, according to St. Luke.

When sinners drew close to Jesus to listen to him, the Pharisees and scribes "began to complain, saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"

The scribes didn't say, "Oh look! This man seems good because he is trying to convert sinners," the pope said. Instead they start making negative comments to undercut Jesus' witness.

Rather than engaging in dialogue or "trying to resolve a conflicted situation, they secretly grumble, always in whispers because they have no courage to speak frankly," he said.

This negative reaction to the way someone gives witness or to "a person that I don't like" exists on all levels: in families, between individuals, in parishes and dioceses, even in nations and politics, he said.

"This is terrible -- when a government is not honest, and it tries to smear its adversaries with complaining, whether it be defamation, calumny," the pope said. Dictatorships, for example, take control of media outlets and, through them, "begin to grumble, to belittle all those who are a danger to the government."

Jesus, however, reacts to complaining not by condemning the scribes but by using the very same method they always employed against him -- by asking a question, the pope said. In the Gospel story Jesus asks, "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the 99 in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?"

The Pharisees and doctors of the law, Pope Francis said, figure it makes more sense to let the one go in order to keep the larger number safe.

"This is why they don't go speak with sinners, they don't visit tax collectors, they don't go because (they think), 'Better not get tarnished by these people, it's a risk.'"

"They are incapable of forgiving, of being merciful, of receiving," the pope said. "They choose the opposite of Jesus," who does seek out the one sheep and when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

That is the other thing the doctors of the law don't understand -- the joy and celebration of the Gospel, the pope said.

Giving witness to God's mercy attracts many people and "makes the church grow," the pope said. But it also provokes or irritates others, who start to grumble, using their complaints like a shield "so that this witness does not harm me."

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Catholic agencies closely monitor giving after clergy sex abuse shock

Top Stories - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mark Blinch, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Leaders and fundraisers at Catholic organizations are cautiously monitoring the level of donations and gifts as the end-of-the-year giving season approaches, hoping that the clergy sexual abuse scandal won't negatively affect their bottom line.

While most of the professionals contacted by Catholic News Service said it is too early yet to see what effect, if any, the abuse crisis may have on giving, some are taking steps to reassure donors that money contributed to vital ministries is not going for settlements to abuse victims or payments to attorneys.

The crisis is just one factor that concerns the leaders. There's also the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. It's effect on giving remains a question mark. "People remain confused about it," said Franciscan Sister Georgette Lehmuth, president and CEO of the National Catholic Development Conference.

"The main thing is no one knows. It's way too early," Patrick Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told CNS.

Beyond that, some organizations have offered the expertise of their members to individual dioceses and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in areas of communications and finances as the bishops prepare to publicly address the abuse crisis during their fall general assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.

One effort to prevent a drop off in donations has been initiated by Catholic Charities USA. Dominican Sister Donna Markham, the organization's president and CEO, sent a letter to all donors Oct. 31 expressing concern about calls to withhold donations to any Catholic institution.

"This concerns me deeply," Sister Markham wrote. "I am very worried about the consequent impact this will have on many children and families living in poverty or on the edges of poverty right now."

The letter continues, explaining that Catholic Charities agencies annually serve 10 million people nationwide with emergency food, health care and other services. "Catholic Charities donations do not fund the bishops to the dioceses and cannot be used for that purpose," the letter said.

In an interview, Sister Markham said, "Anybody who is working in Catholic organizations right now is being hit by the fallout from the abuse crisis. We have been faced with some of our significant donors saying, 'No more money to Catholic Charities until the bishops straighten out this mess.'"

She said any impact will be known only after the holidays. "But people are calling us daily saying, 'Take me off your mailing list,'" she said.

"The issue here is that if anyone is really concerned or worried that somehow their donation will be misdirected and be used to fund the abuse situation, I think they need to be clear that we are not allowed to do that," Sister Markham added.

It's the devotion to mission that Sister Lehmuth holds up as key to helping the Catholic organizations weather any potential loss in donations.

She said her organization has urged development professionals at Catholic entities to "remind people how your money is being used."

"Don't wait until the end of the year," Sister Lehmuth said. "Keep reminding them what good your money is doing. And remind them of the good that the church is doing too."

Donations to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association have remained stable in recent years, but the organization is continuing to press how it is helping Christian communities in troubled areas of the world, according to Michael J. L. LaCivita, director of communications.

He said Catholic organizations are facing "a perfect storm" in the abuse crisis, the tax cut law and partisan political rancor in the U.S. that has caused people to carefully weigh where to send their money.

CNEWA has received letters from donors expressing anger about the bishops' failure to maintain moral authority over the church, LaCivita told CNS. He described the letters as "well thought out," offering carefully crafted words that express people's moral outrage.

"But the correspondence doesn't hold us responsible," LaCivita said, even though some writers have voiced concern that funds could be used for abuse legal settlements because bishops serve as the organization's trustees.

"People want answers and they want to have their anger heard," he added.

At The Catholic University of America, fundraising has continued to meet annual goals, said Scott Rembold, vice president for university advancement.

"We're not hearing a lot of people holding the university accountable for the crisis," Rembold told CNS, saying about 125 people had contacted the school since June when reports surfaced that Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick had allegedly abused seminarians years ago. Of those, about two dozen said they were not going to donate specifically because of the reports, he said.

The crisis has caused the university to put on hold a plan to build a residence for priests taking graduate level courses. Rembold said the project called for a new wing to be added to Hurley Hall with a kitchen and chapel.

Because bishops were involved in raising money for the effort, university officials and the bishops on the board of trustees jointly felt it was best to put the project aside and that it could be reviewed in the future, Rembold said.

In a different path, two organizations have reached out to the bishops offering expertise and action steps to address the anger and concerns that people have.

Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, or FADICA, convened a working group to address the abuse crisis. Alexia Kelly, the organization's president and CEO, told CNS that members generated "ideas and questions and recommendations and opportunities for action either together or independently."

"Our members really feel they have a responsibility as donors and philanthropists not to perpetuate practices or lack of practices that may enable or perpetuate abuse," she explained.

FADICA members will convene in February for the organization's annual meeting to discuss its recommendations to the USCCB.

Donors want to ensure, Kelly said, "that adequate safeguarding practices and policies are in place in all the ministries they support inside or outside of the church, and they would continue to explore ways they as philanthropists can support a comprehensive culture of safety in all levels of the church."

Meanwhile, at the Leadership Roundtable, lay Catholic professionals from various fields have stepped up to offer their expertise to assist the bishops as they addressed the sex abuse crisis.

The organization formed after the 2002 sex abuse crisis emerged with the goal of providing dioceses with lay experts who could help institute best practices in offices and ministries to ensure trust.

Kim Smolik, Leadership Roundtable's CEO, said the organization has received calls from more than 50 dioceses seeking assistance since the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that examined a 70-year period, beginning in 1947, in six Catholic dioceses. The report said that in that time span there were claims that 300 priests and other church workers had abused about 1,000 minors. It also claimed the church covered up abuse allegations and brushed aside victims.

Roundtable participants are stressing to dioceses that communication is key, Smolik explained, adding that donors are unlikely to withdraw their gifts, but that they want to know that the church is addressing the root causes of the current scandal.

"Laypeople are looking for the church to be responsive and repentant and say what has gone wrong. They are looking for a plan forward, looking for the plan to be implemented and they are looking to be communicated with all along the way," Smolik said.

"Laypeople want to be part of the solution."

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People unable to give have become slaves to possessions, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 9:12am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Life is for loving, not amassing possessions, Pope Francis said.

In fact, the true meaning and purpose of wealth is to use it to lovingly serve others and promote human dignity, he said Nov. 7 during his weekly general audience.

The world is rich enough in resources to provide for the basic needs of everybody, the pope said. "And yet, many people live in scandalous poverty and resources -- used without discernment -- keep deteriorating. But there is just one world! There is one humanity."

"The riches of the world today are in the hands of a minority, of the few, and poverty -- indeed, extreme poverty, and suffering -- are for the many," he told those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, focusing on the command, "You shall not steal," which reflects respect for other people's property.

However, he said, Christians should also read the commandment in the light of faith and the church's social doctrine, which emphasizes the understanding that the goods of creation are destined for the whole human race.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the "primordial" universal destination of goods does not detract from people's right to private property, he said. However, the need to promote the common good also requires understanding and properly using private property.

"No one is the absolute master over resources," he said, which reflects the "positive and wider meaning of the commandment, 'Do not steal.'"

Owners are really administrators or stewards of goods, which are not to be regarded "as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself," the pope said, citing the catechism.

Being in possession of material goods brings with it much responsibility, the pope said.

If hunger exists in the world, the pope said, it is because the needs of the economic market come first, for instance, when keeping prices up means demanding that food be destroyed or thrown away.

What is lacking, he said, is "a free and farsighted business sense that assures adequate production and fair planning, which ensures fair distribution."  

The pope underlined the importance of viewing possessions and wealth from the Christian perspective of gift and generosity, saying "what I truly possess is what I know how to give."

"If I know how to give, I am open, I am rich," not only in possessions but in generosity, knowing it is a duty to give so everyone can have a share, he said. "In fact, if I am unable to give something it is because that thing owns me, I am a slave, the thing has power over me."

The devil always enters people's lives "through the pockets" with money, the pope added. "First comes the love for money, the scramble to own, then comes vanity" and bragging about one's wealth, he said, "ending with pride, arrogance. This is how the devil operates in us."

Instead, ownership must be an opportunity to multiply those goods "with creativity and use them with generosity and that way grow in charity and freedom," he said.

While the world breathlessly seeks to have more and more, God -- rich in mercy -- redeemed the world by making himself poor, paying a priceless ransom on the cross, he said.

"What makes us rich are not goods, but is love," the pope said. "Life is not a time for owning things but for loving."

For Christians, the full sense of "Do not steal" means loving with what one owns, taking advantage of one's means as a way to love others as best one can, the pope said. "This way your life becomes good and ownership truly becomes a gift."

 

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Daughter's murder becomes chance for restorative justice for her killer

Top Stories - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 3:02pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- What could have been another senseless murder in a society with too many of them already was transformed into restorative justice for the killer and healing for the victim's parents.

Kate Grosmaire and her husband, Andy, then in deacon formation, had been to Palm Sunday Mass at their parish in Pensacola, Florida, in 2010 and returned home to work in their garden. They heard the doorbell ring -- an unusual occurrence in their neighborhood, Kate recalled in a Nov. 5 presentation sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which advocates for restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.

At the door was a victim's assistance coordinator and a county sheriff's deputy with the grim news: "Your daughter's been shot." Ann Grosmaire was just 19 years old. Kate said their first impulse was to get in touch with her boyfriend, Conor McBride, to tell him the news. Then came the gut punch: "Conor's the one who shot her."

What followed was a Holy Week unlike any the Grosmaires or their parish had ever experienced. Ann lay in a hospital in grave condition while her parents grieved. "It's a miracle she's alive," one doctor had told them. "We didn't see the miracle," Kate said, although in hindsight, noted Andy, now a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, "we got to say our goodbyes to her."

Unexpected moments of grace took place. "I saw a spontaneous rosary outside" the hospital, Deacon Grosmaire remembered. Realizing they needed cat litter, the Grosmaires told someone and by the time they returned home one night, 40 pounds of it had been put on their front porch. Another day, four clergy stopped by to visit, one after the other, none of them acting in concert with each other.

Most surprising of all: Everyone in jail gets to select four people who can visit them. Conor McBride put Kate Grosmaire's name on his list.

Kate, who was part of her parish's healing ministry, was preparing to tell McBride that she loved him and forgave him. "What do you want me to tell him for you?" she asked her husband. Deacon Grosmaire said he had "heard" Ann telling him, "Forgive him, forgive him" -- an instruction he was prepared to brush off like so many favors teenagers seek from their parents.

Later, though, Deacon Grosmaire saw a vision of Jesus next to Ann in the bed, which he interpreted as a sign that Ann was going to be with Jesus in heaven. He relented. "Tell him I love him, too," Deacon Grosmaire told his wife.

When the respirator keeping Ann alive was turned off -- on Good Friday, at 3 p.m. -- the next stage began.

The Grosmaires said the state's attorney explained to them that "we wouldn't have to do anything," Kate said, as the judge would offer a jury a choice of first- or second-degree murder. The attorney, Paul Campbell, said until the case reached the court, his office had "flexibility," including filing manslaughter charges that could net a five-year prison sentence.

Although Campbell offered that as a hypothetical outcome, the Grosmaires seized on the possibility, but didn't know how to articulate it until an Episcopalian minister pointed to restorative justice as a possibility. "You Catholics are all about restorative justice," he told them.

Restorative justice asks three basic questions, according to Caitlin Morneau, director of restorative justice for the Catholic Mobilizing Network: "What harm was done? Who was harmed? How can we as a community work to repair the harm as best as possible?"

It took a lot of doing, but the Grosmaires persuaded Campbell to conduct a restorative justice circle in which McBride, his parents, the Grosmaires, the state's attorney and the judge would all participate to come up with a sentence acceptable to all, another tenet of restorative justice. The Grosmaires insisted McBride not be brought to the circle in shackles, as was jail policy -- a request allowed by the jail.

It took time to prepare all the participants; it was 14 months after the shooting before the circle was convened. "It was the first time restorative justice was ever tried in Florida for a capital crime -- and maybe in the whole nation," Kate Grosmaire said.

It was then that the Grosmaires heard the circumstances behind the shooting.

Ann and McBride, himself only 20, had been arguing as of late. That morning was another fight. "It blew up into a breakup fight," Deacon Grosmaire said. "Conor said he couldn't go on like this, so he went back into the house to get his father's shotgun. He was going to shoot himself." Ann, who had gotten into her car, "followed him back into the house," he added. McBride turned and fired one shot through one of Ann's eyes. "He was immediately sorry for what he did and called the police."

Hearing the story was "the one time I physically hurt," Deacon Grosmaire told Catholic News Service after the talk at the St. John Paul II Shrine.

In the circle, Deacon Grosmaire said Michael McBride, Conor's father, made a revelation of his own: "It's my fault. I've been angry for five years (after a brother of Conor's had died), and I made Conor angry, too."

"Paul Campbell said he would never have thought about talking to the McBrides at all," said Kate Grosmaire, who, two years ago, put their family story into words in the book "Forgiving My Daughter's Killer: A True Story of Loss, Faith and Unexpected Grace."

What, the judge asked, would be a just sentence? Kate suggested five to 10 years in prison, plus 10 years of probation. Deacon Grosmaire suggested 10-15 years plus 10 of probation. The McBrides said, "We agree with them." "I don't know how they could," the deacon said, "because we couldn't agree with each other."

Campbell recommended, and the judge accepted, a prison term of 20 years and 10 years' probation, plus other conditions stipulated by the Grosmaires: taking anger management classes (McBride did so); talking about relationship violence (McBride made a public service announcement on the subject); and McBride committing to work on the issues closest to their daughter Ann's heart that she would have pursued had she lived.

"We didn't push for a lighter sentence," Kate Grosmaire said. "We wanted to push for a more meaningful sentence."

Deacon Grosmaire told CNS there is "both" the feeling of pain of having to relive Ann's murder with each talk and a feeling of release when talking about it. The couple underwent counseling; "more than 90 percent of couples divorce after a child dies," he said.

There is room for more restorative justice efforts, Deacon Grosmaire added. With Florida's tendency to put more prisons in its rural panhandle to create more jobs in the region, he said, "we've got more prisoners than Catholics" in the diocese, where Catholics number 65,211.

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National Review Board chairman seeks fix to address charter 'loophole'

Top Stories - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 2:06pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The National Review Board chairman called for changes to the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" to "make it a less ambiguous document" because despite nearly every diocese meeting its standards in third-party audits, some bishops are facing scrutiny about their handling of reports of wayward priests.

Francesco Cesareo, the board's chairman since 2013, told Catholic News Service Nov. 5 that board members have raised concerns for "a long time ... that the audit instrument may not be getting at information that we need to get."

He also expressed "frustration" that new questions have surfaced about how some bishops responded to clergy sex abuse, especially after pledging openness and transparency after the 2002 crisis exploded.

"This is much more of a crisis of a failure of leadership," he said.

"It is frustrating because on the one hand, you know that the church has put in place all of these policies and procedures, which have definitely made a difference. All of these allegations are historic. (There are) very few new ones," he said.

"What's frustrating is that there's been this collapse in leadership," Cesareo continued. "That's the real frustrating part. There hasn't been a recognition to the level of responsibility that needs to be taken on the part of leadership to address this in a way that minimizes this from possibly happening in the same way again."

Cesareo's concerns came in response to a report published Nov. 4 by The Boston Globe and The Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers that examined ways it said the U.S. bishops have failed to police themselves even since their 2002 gathering in Dallas about clergy sex abuse when they adopted the charter.

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the charter. It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Under the charter, each diocese and eparchy undergo an annual audit to ensure compliance with it. Each audit report includes recommendations for corrective action where shortcomings are discovered.

Cesareo described a section of the charter that outlines the audit process as "ambiguous in some ways" because at times the auditing firm must make judgments "when things are not exactly clear." The charter also allows bishops to respond that they are "doing minimally what the audit requires" when questions are raised, he said.

"There's clearly a loophole," he said.

"It points out that they (bishops) need to come up with a new instrument that is going to get at information that we're currently not getting," he added. "We need to go back to the charter and revisit it again to make it a less ambiguous document so there's some clarity in terms of what must and must not be done in terms of compliance."

StoneBridge Business Partners is the current company conducting the audits of dioceses and eparchies. The auditing firm based in Rochester, New York, has been doing them since 2011 and is under contract to conduct audits through 2019. The USCCB is seeking applications from firms to conduct the audit for the next three-year cycle beginning in 2020.

Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he will outline the National Review Board's concerns during a report at the bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.

Cesareo pointed to another ambiguity in the charter: the requirement for a diocesan review board to meet regularly.

"Well, what does that mean?" Cesareo asked. "In some dioceses that means only when there's an allegation. That may not be for several years. And if the review board is not meeting, then the bishop is not getting the information he needs."

Cesareo also would like to see the charter revised to include a requirement that all sex abuse allegations go before a diocesan review board.

"If the bishop himself or his gatekeeper can decide which allegations can go to the review board and which don't, that's another way that a bishop can protect a perpetrator priest," he said.

Cesareo recommended making the charter more "prescriptive to include bishops" and called for revising the statement on episcopal commitment "with something that has teeth in it."

The commitment statement, found at the end of the charter, includes a paragraph that obliges bishops and eparchs to "apply the requirements of the charter also to ourselves, respecting always church law as it applies to bishops."

It also commits a bishop or eparch who is accused of sexual abuse of a minor to inform the apostolic nuncio in Washington. Likewise, it calls for any bishop who becomes aware of sexual abuse of a minor by a fellow bishop to notify the nuncio.

Cesareo told CNS that the audit concerns have been discussed jointly in meetings among three members of the review board and the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. He said it was too early for recommendations to be presented to the bishops at their Baltimore assembly.

The assembly is an opportunity for the bishops to begin restoring trust among the faithful by taking steps to demonstrate that they are serious about addressing sex abuse within the church, whether cases are decades old or new, Cesareo said.

"We do have to recognize that there are many bishops who understand that change has to take place," he said. "I think they will be a driving force not only next week in Baltimore but going forward."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Pope focuses on 'good politics' for 2019 World Peace Day message

Top Stories - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world will not have peace without people having mutual trust and respecting each other's word, the Vatican said as it announced Pope Francis' 2019 World Peace Day message would focus on "good politics."

"Good politics is at the service of peace" will be the theme for the Jan. 1 commemoration and for the message Pope Francis will write for the occasion, said a Vatican communique published Nov. 6, the day midterm elections were being held in the United States to determine the political makeup of Congress for the next two years as well as a number of posts for state governors and city mayors.

The pope's full message for World Peace Day, traditionally released by the Vatican in mid-December, is sent, through Vatican diplomats, to the leaders of nations around the world.

The Vatican said Pope Francis' message will underline how political responsibility belongs to all citizens, especially those given the mandate "to protect and to govern."

"This mission consists in safeguarding law and in encouraging dialogue among stakeholders in society, between generations and among cultures," the Vatican said.

"There is no peace without mutual trust. And the first condition for trust is respecting one's word," it said.

Political involvement is one of the loftiest expressions of charity, it said, and it brings with it a concern for "the future of life and the planet, of the young and the least, in their thirst of fulfillment."

When people's rights are respected, then they will start to feel their own "duty to respect the rights of others," the Vatican note said.

The rights and responsibilities of each person help foster people's awareness of belonging to the same community with others and with God, it added.

"We are thus called to bring and proclaim peace as the good news of a future where every living being will be respected in its dignity and rights."

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Serving country, aiding soldiers second nature for Medal of Honor winner

Top Stories - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Zoey Maraist

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- When describing life-altering decisions and brave moments of selflessness, former Army Staff Sgt. and Medal of Honor recipient Ronald Shurer speaks succinctly and matter-of-factly, as if his actions were the most natural thing in the world.

Why did he enlist after 9/11? It didn't seem right not to, he replied.

Why did he become a medic? To take care of the troops.

What was going through his mind during a mission gone wrong in Afghanistan? His first and only prayer was that his wife and infant son, Cameron, would be OK if he died. And for the next several hours, he focused on one thing at a time while caring for the soldiers being shot all around him. Service is second nature for him.

Shurer was born on the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor -- Dec. 7, 1978, in Fairbanks, Alaska. His parents met in the Air Force, and his father continued to serve while Shurer was growing up. After graduating from Washington State University, Shurer applied to join the Marines but was rejected due to an old injury.

"Boy, that was a bad mistake. But they made up for it, right?" President Donald Trump noted during a ceremony Oct. 1 at the White House to award Shurer the Medal of Honor for actions he took while serving in 2008 in Afghanistan.

Shurer was studying economics in graduate school when terrorists hijacked four planes and killed thousands of Americans on 9/11. The attack on American soil, reminiscent of the Japanese assault he learned about as a child, inspired Shurer to reapply to the military. In 2002, he was accepted into the U.S. Army. He later became a Green Beret.

Why join the Special Forces? "It seemed liked another challenge, another way to push, to do a little bit more," he told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese.

Shurer and his wife, Miranda, met online in 2004. They married a year and half after they began dating, weeks before he deployed to Afghanistan. It was during his second tour, in April 2008, that the harrowing battle occurred.

"It started just like every other mission," said Shurer. Their job that day was to capture or kill targets of Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, or HIG, a large faction of the anti-coalition militia that operated in the Shok Valley of eastern Afghanistan.

"Everybody (got) up really early; we'd usually go out with 100 Afghan commandos and our team, roughly about a dozen Americans. We got up on helicopters, flew 30, 45 minutes. The helicopters flew away and it was very cold, very quiet. We were in a little river valley just looking up at the mountains."

The lead team of their group was working its way up the mountain when they were attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Shurer moved from the rear to the front and began to treat the injured, returning fire when he could.

"I was 100 percent convinced I was going to die. It was six and a half hours of being shot at," he said. "It was just a series of moments ' trying to figure out which one of the wounded guys needs the most care. What's the best thing I could be doing right now?"

One bullet went through his team sergeant's arm and hit Shurer on the helmet.

"It felt like I got hit in the head with a baseball bat," he said. He was so covered in other's people's blood he wasn't sure if he was hurt. But his friend Dillon said he was all right and he continued providing life-saving medical care. When he returned to base later that night, he discovered a bullet had grazed his arm.

Many of the men were so injured they couldn't walk down the mountain. So Shurer and others wrapped nylon tubing under the arms of the wounded and lowered them down a cliff.

"All that time, bombs are still going off," he said. Eventually, all the men and the bodies of an Afghan interpreter whom Shurer knew as CK and an Afghan commander were loaded onto the helicopters. "We weren't leaving them," said Shurer.

About a month later, Shurer returned to the States. Today, he is a Secret Service special agent. "It seemed like a good way to continue to serve. I like the mission," he said.

In 2011, he and his wife had a second son, Tyler Edris, whose middle name is the real name of the Afghan interpreter who was killed in action. "(CK's) dream was to come to America and to join the Army," said Shurer. "It was important to (Miranda and I) that a little piece of him did make it over here."

Shurer said his Catholic faith plays an important role in his life and in his family's life, especially since he was diagnosed with lung cancer last March.

Since the diagnosis they have spent a lot of time with Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of the Church of Nativity in Burke, "just processing all this," he said. "He's an important part of our family."

Shurer is undergoing chemotherapy but is able to work on the operations side of guarding the president. "Now I make sure someone else is always protecting him," he said.

Being chosen as a Medal of Honor recipient came as a complete shock to the unassuming veteran. Shortly after the battle, he and several of his teammates were awarded the Silver Star, the third highest award for valor in combat.

At the White House ceremony for the Medal of Honor, Trump put the blue ribbon and golden star around his neck in front of his family, teammates and members of the armed services.

"Cameron, Tyler, we stand in awe of you father's courage," said Trump in his remarks. "He's the best dad and role model two boys could ever ask for."

As Shurer stood to applause, he looked stoically around the room, and then gave a quick smile and wink to the boys in the front row.

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Maraist is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

 

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Peacemaking begins at home by saying 'no' to rivalry, pope says at Mass

Top Stories - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- World peace must begin in individuals' hearts and in their families by saying "no" to pride and rivalry, Pope Francis said.

"When we read news about wars -- think about the starvation of children in Yemen, which is a fruit of war -- 'it's far away, poor babies,' but why don't they have anything to eat?" the pope asked during his homily Nov. 5 during Mass in the chapel of his residence.

The Mass was celebrated just days after news media reported the death of 7-year-old Amal Hussain, a Yemeni girl, whose photo by Tyler Hicks in the New York Times in mid-October brought renewed attention to the devasting impact the war in Yemen is having on innocent civilians.

"The same war that we make in our homes, in our institutions" by engaging in rivalry and gossip grows exponentially and leads to real wars that kill people, the pope said at his morning Mass.

"So," he said, "peace must begin there: in the family, in the parish, in institutions, at the workplace by always seeking unanimity and agreement and not one's own interests."

In the day's Gospel story from St. Luke, Jesus tells a leading Pharisee that when he hosts a banquet he should not invite his friends and relatives, who will feel obliged to repay him, but invite the poor and needy; "Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you."

Jesus' point, the pope said, is to avoid acting only out of one's self interest and choosing friends only based on the benefits they can bring.

Thinking only of how a relationship can be a benefit is a form of selfishness, he said, while Jesus preached the exact opposite: gratuity, which "broadens one's horizons because it is universal."

In fact, he said: "Jesus came to us not to collect things or form an army. No, no. He came to serve us, to give us everything freely."

In the day's first reading, the pope said, St. Paul advised the Philippians to be "of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart," because choosing one's friends based on what one can gain always divides a community.

"Rivalry and vainglory," or excessive pride, are the two things that always run counter to harmony and agreement in a family or community, the pope said.

In families and even in parishes, he said, gossip often is born of rivalry because people think the easiest way to grow in importance in the eyes of others is to "diminish someone else through gossip."

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Landscape for those with disabilities changed since bishops' statement

Top Stories - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 4:34pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the 40 years since the U.S. bishops approved their "Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons With Disabilities" in 1978, the landscape for persons with disabilities has changed both within the church and within society, and largely for the better.

"Some things have changed in the 40 years. If anything, disability is seen as part of a normal life. It's ordinary, not exceptional," said Jan Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, who has been part of the organization since its founding in 1982.

Disability, she noted, is "part of the living process. People are born with disabilities, or have an accident, and (there's) aging. With the design (accommodations) and the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and all, people recognize that it's a part of life and not unusual."

That makes the bishops' statement "still as relevant and important as when it was issued in 1978," she said.

"Our role was to get it implemented around the country. Pastoral workers and families were pushing for it," Benton told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 31 telephone interview.

Persons with disabilities "have a life within the church and they were very important to the church," she added. "Way back then, the bishops were saying things that they're saying now, that everyone has gifts to bring to the church community. The community is lacking if people are missing. My favorite quote is, 'There can be no separate church for people with disabilities.'"

The ADA played an important role in furthering the bishops' statement, Benton said: "We influenced the ADA, but the ADA built a consciousness in people: 'Well, if I can go to a restaurant and go shopping, then I should be able to worship in my faith community.'"

Today, there is "even more emphasis on the giftedness that people bring to the table. ... Everybody needs the grace of the sacraments. There's even less of an emphasis on inclusion and a recognition of belonging," Benton told CNS. "You hear the word 'belonging' a lot in secular and Catholic circles," she added, because Catholics with disabilities belong "by virtue of their baptism. If you believe that, then you think differently in how you minister, how you set things up in the church."

Benton said, "There's more an emphasis on relationship than there is on programming. When people come to church, they want to be appreciated for who they are, and make friends."

One change is apparent even with the document itself. When first issued, it was titled "Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Handicapped Persons," and the word "handicapped" was used again in 1988 in a 10th-anniversary reflection by the bishops on the original text.

Benton said Loyola Press is now in the sixth year of presenting an award to parishes that have exemplary practices for those with disabilities, with past awards going to parishes in the Archdioceses of Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota.

However, a parish need not win an award to make all of its members feel included.

At the twice-yearly "Special Needs Mass" at Jesus the Divine Word Parish in Huntingtown, Maryland, in the Archdiocese of Washington, "we try to highlight the gifts of our special needs community. We invite them to be involved in whatever ministry they would like. They respond well," said Father John Dakes, the pastor. "We try to make sure they (liturgical ministers) are all from the special needs community."

The parish also has an "Everyone Belongs" ministry to foster inclusiveness in parish life, he added. Faith formation for those with special needs also is offered.

Father Dakes told CNS the effort has started slowly. "Families feel constrained by pressure or something to keep their kids at home. They don't want to cause distraction, they don't want to cause tension," he said. But it won't deter him because "anything worthwhile is worth continuing doing," the priest added. "I've been involved in this ministry in four parishes, three of which I've begun myself. In each it's taken off," including one that became its own nonprofit organization.

In Redford Township, Michigan, which hugs Detroit's northwest border, the former grade school at Our Lady of Loretto Church has become the home for the West Detroit Catholic Deaf community, which sponsors a weekly Mass with a deaf priest celebrating most Sundays.

Communication can be a problem, said Michelle Kulpa, community president. "We're both using different languages. Sign language is a foreign tongue, if you will, because most hearing folks don't really understand," she told CNS in a Nov. 1 telephone interview with the aid of an interpreter. "We don't really communicate too deeply unless we have access to an interpreter. If we have an interpreter, we can carry out some pretty nice communications.

"I can actually speak fairly well and sign, so I can communicate with people with my voice and read lips. I can't actually hear them speaking. So, I'm kind of like the liaison between the deaf world and the hearing world."

Kulpa said their usual priest, Oblate Father Michael Depcik, heads to a northeast suburb, Roseville, to celebrate a second Mass for deaf Catholics nearby. That Mass is live-streamed to allow those who cannot attend in person to still participate.

"My goal, if it's at all possible, is maybe suggest something for Pope Francis, to suggest for the cardinals that they go ahead and encourage the members so they watch the deaf Mass that we are providing. Then after they watch, they can get Communion," Kulpa said. "It makes things so much easier and meaningful."

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Follow Mark on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

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All Souls feast is time to remember, to hope, pope says

Top Stories - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 1:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- The Mass for the feast of All Souls is "realistic, concrete" in calling Catholics to remember the people and events of their past, to consider how they live today and to hope for eternal life with God and their loved ones who preceded them, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating an outdoor Mass Nov. 2, the feast of All Souls, in Rome's Laurentino cemetery, the pope said remembering "those who walked before us" is not only about the beloved dead, but also about remembering that each person has a history, a family and is part of something larger than themselves.

"Remembering is what strengthens a people because they feel rooted," they have an identity and history, he said. "Memory reminds us that we are not alone. We are part of a people."

With hundreds of people gathered at the windy cemetery where their loved ones are buried, Pope Francis pointed to the tombstones and the mausoleum behind the crowd, noting that they represent "the many people who have shared part of our journey."

"It is not easy to remember," the pope said. "Often we tire at the thought of looking back, of asking 'What happened in my life, my family, my people,' but today is a day for remembering."

Obviously, the feast day is more difficult for some people, including a weeping young couple the pope met before Mass when he visited the children's section of the cemetery and the "Garden of Angels," an adjoining section for the unborn; parents who have experienced a miscarriage can opt to have their children buried there rather than having a hospital dispose of the remains.

Pope Francis walked slowly between the small tombstones decorated with stuffed animals, pinwheels and balloons, and he left flowers on several of the graves.

But, the pope said in his homily, the feast day is also "a day of hope," and the day's second reading from the Book of Revelation "describes what awaits us: a new heaven and a new earth."

The image of the new, heavenly Jerusalem, he said, tells believers that "beauty awaits us."

Faith gives sure "hope that we will meet again, hope that we will arrive where there is that love that created us, where love awaits us, the love of the Father."

The feast of All Souls also includes a call to follow God's path in order to live eternally with him. That path, the pope said, is outlined in the Beatitudes in St. Matthew's Gospel.

"These beatitudes -- meekness, poverty in spirit, justice, mercy, pureness of heart -- are lights that accompany us so that we do not take the wrong path," the pope said.

"Let us ask the Lord today," he said, "to give us the grace to never lose or hide the memory" of loved ones, the grace to continue to hope and the grace "to understand what are the lights that can accompany us on the journey so that we do not err and so we can arrive where they await us with such love."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

'Sand Nativity' scene to display in St. Peter's Square

Top Stories - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jesolo Tourism Office

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although sand castles and sculptures usually conjure up images of hot summers on the beach, the Vatican will unveil a massive Nativity scene made entirely of sand during the cold Roman winter.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, the Nativity scene displayed in St. Peter's Square will feature a 52-foot wide sand sculpture from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.

The intricate sculpture, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, will be unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7.

Bas-relief sand sculptures, like the one that will be featured in St. Peter's Square, are a tradition in Jesolo which, since 1998, has been the home of an annual sand sculpture festival.

At the helm of the sculpture project, dubbed the "Sand Nativity," is U.S. sculptor Rich Varano from New Smyrna Beach, Florida. According to the city's website for the Nativity scene, Varano is an accomplished sand sculptor with over 40 years' experience and has organized various international sand sculpture festivals, including the annual event in Jesolo.

Varano is joined by 11 artists from around the world, including Damon Farmer from Kentucky and Canadian artist David Ducharme, who are assisting in creating the massive "Sand Nativity" before its December unveiling.

Jesolo mayor Valerio Zogga presented sketch designs of the project in December 2017 to Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice. The process of creating the sculptures involves compressing sand and water into blocks that are then sculpted to life-size figures.

Unlike the sand castles vacationers often see disintegrate by a single touch or the occasional passing wave, the compression allows for a more durable sculpture that is able to withstand light rain.

The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Lord's Baptism Jan. 13, L'Osservatore Romano reported.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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