You are here

Feed aggregator

Bishops adopt 'pastoral response' for Asian, Pacific Island Catholics

Top Stories - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 12:06pm

By Dennis Sadowski

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- A new document focused on guiding the American church in addressing the pastoral needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during their annual spring assembly.

Adopted 187-2 with two abstentions, "Encountering Christ in Harmony" is described as a "pastoral response" meant to provide support and to offer ideas for ministry to the nation's nearly 3 million Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, told the assembly a day before the vote that the document addresses the fastest growing minority community in the United States church and includes.

"Asian and Pacific Islanders are ready for pastoral engagement in the church's mission of evangelization," he said.

"Our approval of this document is indicative of an essential pastoral outreach to the mission of the church in the United States. It's a response to the call of Pope Francis to go to the peripheries to proclaim the Gospel," he added.

The document has been in the works for more than two years. It follows a report by a team of social scientists based on a nationwide questionnaire and online survey that asked the Asian and Pacific Island community about their pastoral needs and concerns.

It also serves as a follow-up to the USCCB's 2001 pastoral statement "Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith," which outlined the cultural, social and ethnic diversity in the Asian and Pacific Island communities and at the same time recognized and celebrated the gifts and values common to the communities.

"The goal of this response is to make Asian and Pacific Island Catholics feel at home, both in the church and in the United States, while being able to reserve the richness of the spiritual and cultural background that they bring as contributing members to the body of Christ," the document said.

The Asian and Pacific Island community is the fastest growing in the United States, according to document.

One of every five Asian and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. is Catholic. Filipinos comprise the largest segment of the community followed by Vietnamese, Chinese and Koreans.

By design, the document does not address members of the Eastern Catholic churches except for the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholics with roots in India.

Scalabrinian Sister Mryna Tordillo, assistant director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, told Catholic News Service that "Encountering Christ in Harmony" addresses four central concerns that surfaced in the responses: identity, generations, leadership and culture of encounter and dialogue.

The document is the product of collaboration between the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church and the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs.

Originally it was thought that "Encounter Christ in Harmony" would be a formal pastoral plan for ministry, but that as work continued, those involved decided to issue it as a pastoral response instead to guide dioceses and parishes in ministry to Asians and Pacific Islanders, Sister Myrna explained.

"The hope is that this document will assist dioceses, pastoral leaders, and other Catholic entities and Asian and Pacific Island Catholics in the pastoral care of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics wherever they are, and continue to welcome and integrate them," Sister Myrna said.

The 71-page document offers suggestions for action at the national, diocesan and parish levels.

"We the Catholic bishops of the United States, offer this pastoral response to assist diocesan and parish leaders and all the faithful in welcoming and integrating our Asian and Pacific Island brothers and sisters as they strive to live a faith-filled life in the Catholic Church," the document said in its introduction.

It acknowledged that the communities continue to confront "racial discrimination, stereotyping and the clash of values with mainstream United States culture."

Citing the call of Pope Francis to encounter Christ in one another, the document said "the cultural diversity of a community, therefore, is necessarily an integral factor in the encounter with the Gospel."

The document explained that harmony is a "very common theme in Asian and Pacific Island cultures, and therefore it makes sense that in the encounter with the Gospel, the Holy Spirit would transform this jewel of Asian and Pacific Island cultures and make it a blessing to the church."

Being Catholic is part of being Asian and Pacific Islander and it becomes important when ministering within these communities to "recognize how religion and culture are so intimately intertwined," the document said.

It also noted the challenges confronting Asians and Pacific Islanders, among them racism. It cited the Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as examples of racist actions. Because of these incidents, it said, for many Asian and Pacific Islanders, "the reality of being linguistically or physically different from the larger U.S. population is a constant reminder of their marginalized status."

It encourages the church at all levels to "include and invite" Asian and Pacific Islanders who may be geographically or socially isolated into ministry and church leadership. It also calls for active encouragement of religious vocations.

Suggestions for outreach include establishing resource centers, recognizing "local gifts." It encourages Asian and Pacific Islanders to seek opportunities to teach native languages and customs, share music at liturgies, decorate worship spaces or pastoral centers with native textiles and fabric and raise funds for national and international Catholic organizations that benefit the communities.

"Encountering Christ in Harmony" also acknowledges the importance of Marian devotions within the communities and urged the incorporation of Asian and Pacific Island traditional celebrations at parishes and within diocese.

Noting that family life is central to the communities, the pastoral response urges intergenerational dialogue to help the communities work through challenges posed by interfaith and intercultural marriages. It also calls for celebrating liturgies "with an ear to the youth," supporting young adult Catholic communities and planning ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural gatherings.

- - -

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

- - -

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.

Migration is about people, not numbers, pope says

Top Stories - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Migrants seeking a better life in other countries must not be viewed with suspicion but rather defended and protected, no matter their status, Pope Francis said.

International cooperation is needed "at every stage of migration," especially for countries where higher influx of migrants "often exceeds the resources of many states," the pope said June 14 in a message to participants of the Holy See-Mexico Conference on International Migration at the Casina Pio IV, a villa located in the Vatican Gardens.

"I would like to point out that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of people, each with his or her own history, culture, feelings and aspirations. These people, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of what migrant status they may have," he said in the message read by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister.

Among the attendees at the conference were Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State; Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexican secretary for foreign affairs; and Miguel Ruiz Cabanas, Mexican sub-secretary for foreign affairs.

Thanking participants for their work "on behalf of the needy and the marginalized in our society," the pope said the current challenges in confronting the migration crisis "demand a change in mindset."

"We must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society," he said.

He also called on the international community to defend the rights of migrant children and their families who are "victims of human trafficking rings and those displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution."

"All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of 'comfortable and silent complicity' that worsens their helplessness; they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion," he said.

In his address at the conference, Cardinal Parolin said that while most U.N. member states are continuing "paths of dialogue and negotiation" on the protection of migrants and refugees, the changing political climate "has made the issue more complex."

The steps taken so far, he added, can hopefully "reverse the logic of the globalization of indifference, replacing it with the globalization of solidarity that attends to the needs and the just expectations of people and know how to help those in the human family who find themselves in need and in situations of vulnerability."

However, the cardinal also said that people's rights to live in their land must also be protected to "avoid the flow of uncontrolled migration."

Among the concerns raised by Videgaray was the anti-migration efforts taken by the U.S. government, including the separation of families and the Trump administration's decision to abandon the U.N. Global Compact for Migration, an agreement that sought to improve the global flow of migration and refugees.

Although dismayed by the U.S. government's decision "to abandon the conversation," Videgaray said Mexico remained "undeterred" in its commitment to protect the rights and dignity of migrants.

He also expressed concerns regarding the separation of families, saying "there are 2,000 cases of children separated from their parents" in the United States.

"We understand the legal foundation of this action. However, we cannot agree to actions of this nature," he said.

After the conference's first session, Cardinal Parolin told journalists that the Vatican shared Mexico's concerns regarding policies that are "violations of rights of peoples and families."

"Unfortunately, the general atmosphere isn't the most positive, and that is why I insisted on a change of image regarding migration; from a solely negative image to a positive image."

Regarding the United States' decision to exit the Global Compact for Migration, Cardinal Parolin told journalists that "it wasn't good" and that "everyone must participate" in finding a solution to the migration crisis.

The issue of migration, he said, is a challenge that the international community cannot afford to ignore.

"It is a problem, or rather a global phenomenon, that needs everyone's participation. Nobody can turn their back," Cardinal Parolin said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

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.

Listen to those in need, pope says in World Day of Poor message

Top Stories - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:28am

IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- How is it that God in heaven can hear the cries of the poor, but so many people watching or standing nearby either cannot or just do not care, Pope Francis asked.

People must make "a serious examination of conscience to understand whether we are really capable of listening to the poor," the pope said in a message for the World Day of the Poor.

The recently established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ's example and concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one's community, the pope said in the message dated June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor. The Vatican released the message to the public June 14.

The World Day of the Poor -- to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time -- will be celebrated Nov. 18 this year and will focus on a verse from Psalm 34, "This poor one cried out and the Lord heard."

"We can ask ourselves, how is it this cry, which reaches all the way to God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?" the pope asked in his message.

To become aware of people's suffering and know how best to respond with love, people must learn to be silent and listen, the pope said.

"If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them," he said.

That is often what happens when otherwise important and needed initiatives are carried out more as a way to please oneself "than to really acknowledge the cry of the poor," he said.

"We are so entrapped in a culture which forces us to look in the mirror" and unduly "pamper ourselves," he said. Such people come to believe their act of altruism is enough without having to feel any empathy or the need to sacrifice or "endanger" themselves directly.

Nobody seeks poverty or its many forms, which include marginalization, persecution and injustice, the pope said.

Poverty "is caused by selfishness, pride, greed and injustice. These are evils as old as humanity, but also sins in which the innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on the social level, which are dramatic," he said.

"God's answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation in order to heal the wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live life with dignity. God's answer is also an appeal in order that those who believe in him can do the same," he added.

The World Day of the Poor is meant to be a small contribution that the whole church can make so the poor may know their cries have not gone unheard, the pope said in his message.

"It is like a drop of water in the desert of poverty; and yet it can be a sign of sharing for those who are in need, that they might experience the active presence of a brother or a sister," he said.

This encounter is a call for personal involvement, not delegation to others, he said. And it is not cold, distant giving, but an act that requires "loving attentiveness" just like God offers everyone.

So many people in need are seeking the meaning of their existence and a response to their questions about "why they have fallen so far and how they can escape! They are waiting from someone to come up and say, 'Take heart; rise, he is calling you,'" the pope said.

Unfortunately, people are often repelled by, not drawn to the poor, he said. The cries of the poor are often met with rebuke and they are told, "to shut up and put up."

There is a real "phobia of the poor," who are seen not only as destitute, but also as carriers of "insecurity and instability," to be rejected and kept afar.

But this tendency to create a distance means people distance themselves from Jesus himself, "who does not reject the poor, but calls them to him and consoles them," he said.

Even though members of the Catholic Church who offer their care and assistance are motivated by their faith and the desire to share the Good News with others, he said bishops, priests, religious and lay Catholics should recognize that "in the immense world of poverty, our capacity for action is limited, weak and insufficient."

The church should cooperate with others so joint efforts can reach their objectives more effectively, he said.

The church should give freely with an attitude of humility, "without seeking the limelight," he said.

"In serving the poor, the last thing we need is a battle for first place," he said. The poor don't need heroes, but a love which knows how to remain hidden from worldly recognition, he said.

"The true protagonists are the Lord and the poor," and those who serve are mere instruments "in God's hands in order to make manifest his presence and salvation."

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told reporters the pope hopes the day will remind everyone in the church to turn their gaze to the poor, truly listen to their needs and respond directly with love in a way that aims to restore their dignity.

Local churches, associations and institutions are again asked to creative initiatives that foster moments of real encounter, friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.

The archbishop said the pope will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 18 with the poor and volunteers, and he will have lunch afterward with about 3,000 people in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall. Other volunteer groups and schools were also set to offer free meals in an atmosphere of "celebration and sharing," he added.

Medical tents and mobile clinics will again be set up in the square adjoining St. Peter's Square Nov. 12-18, with extended evening hours until midnight for some services, he said. Anyone in need can find general and specialist care, including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and ophthalmology.

 

- - -

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.

At meeting in Florida, U.S. bishops decry Sessions' asylum decision

Top Stories - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 12:07pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

By Dennis Sadowski

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops June 13 decried U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision that asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence cannot find protection in the United States.

"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," the bishops' statement said. They urged the nation's policymakers and courts "to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."

Sessions' decision "elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection," it said. "These vulnerable women will now face return to extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country."

The statement from the bishops came on the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale.

Just after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read the statement from the dais, and the bishops voiced their support.

Announced by Sessions at a June 11 news conference, the decision "negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeting domestic violence," it said. "Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors."

The attorney general reversed an immigration court's decision granting asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her husband. He said U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune," including violence someone suffers in another country or other reasons related to an individual's "social, economic, family or other personal circumstances."

In his remarks, Cardinal DiNardo also said he joined Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, "in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexican border as an implementation of the administration's zero tolerance policy."

"Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma," the cardinal said. "Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together.

"While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."

During the morning session, the U.S. bishops also heard a report from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

He talked about the need of church leaders to not just hear young people but to really listen to them, emphasizing that this is what Pope Francis often talks about it.

The nuncio talked about the encuentro process currently underway in the U.S., using it as a strong example of the church listening to the faithful

Regional encuentros are taking place all over the country. There delegates outline priorities that will shape Hispanic ministry for years to come. The regionals lead to the National Fifth Encuentro, or V Encuentro, to be held in Texas in September. Archbishop Pierre also talked about the church's upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.

"Young people need to be a priority of the church" today, the nuncio said, "not just for the future of the church. ' Young people express a desire of an intentional knowing encounter in Christ rather than a faith reduced to ' moralism."

"I believe many young people desire wholistic formation. They want the church to facilitate an encounter with Jesus," he said. Such an encounter "provokes the question 'What interests me in life' and leads to works of justice and mercy and to live life ' with great intensity while loving their neighbor."

"Young people want to engage in reality" but do not want to be on that journey alone, he added. "They are searching for a strong sense of belonging."

Also on the agenda for their first day were reports from Father David Whitestone, chair of the bishops' National Advisory Council, which is marking the 50th anniversary of its formation, and from Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

Other reports covered the V Encuentro and the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, which will take place at the Vatican in October.

The bishops also heard preliminary presentations on several action items they will be voting on, including:

-- Revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships the audits. The revisions are limited to Part 6 of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," the document that governs moral questions related to the delivery of health care.

-- A new document described as a "pastoral response" to the growing Asian and Pacific Island Catholic community in the United States. "Encountering Christ in Harmony" offers pastoral suggestions to address the concerns and needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

-- Revisions in language to clarify seven of the 17 articles in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults." The changes offer more specific language in several areas. Article 4 has been revised to protect the seal of the sacrament of reconciliation. Changes in Articles 6 and 12 specifically state that all people who have contact with minors rather than those in positions of trust "will abide by standard of behavior and appropriate boundaries." In all, seven changes have been proposed for a vote by the bishops.

- - -

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 of El Salvador warn against privatizing water

Top Stories - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- El Salvador's bishops urged lawmakers to discard any plans for privatizing water in the Central American country, saying the poor could not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity.

In a terse statement, issued June 12 and titled, "We will not allow the poor to die of thirst," the Salvadoran bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which said, "Access to potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition for the exercising of all other rights."

The bishops continued: "As pastors, we are witnesses to the outcry of our people, who ask for potable water in all homes and could not pay the costs if (water) is turned into a good, which is subject to market forces."

El Salvador's legislature is starting debate on a national water law. The legislation is proving controversial because some lawmakers favor increased private-sector participation in water management.

The bishops' conference preferred that public oversight of water resources be maintained.

"If a law is approved that grants a private entity the right to decide over distribution of water in the nation, denying the state this function, we would be facing an absolutely undemocratic law, which lacks legitimacy," the bishops said.

"An unjust law that violates the rights of the people cannot be admitted."

- - -

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.

Biggest danger in life is fear, settling for less, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 9:23am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worst enemies in a young person's life aren't the problems they may face, Pope Francis said.

The biggest dangers are being unwilling to find a way to adapt, mediocrity by settling for the status quo, and fear, he said at his general audience in St. Peter's Square June 13.

"It is necessary to ask the heavenly father for the gift of healthy restlessness for today's young people, the ability to not settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity end up?" he said.

As the pope spoke to the crowd of 15,000 people, he was flanked on either side by 10 children wearing bright yellow baseball caps. He had invited them to temporarily leave behind their parish group pilgrimage in the square and follow him to the platform in front of the basilica to be part of his VIP entourage for the morning.

The pope said he was beginning a new series of audience talks on the Ten Commandments and how Jesus leads people from the law to its fulfillment.

He asked people to reflect on the reading from the Gospel of Mark and Jesus' response to a young, wealthy man who asked what was needed to inherit eternal life. This question reflects the burning human desire for a full and dignified life, the pope said, but the challenge is "how to get there? What path to take?"

Unfortunately, the pope said, some people believe this restlessness, this desire to live a better life is too dangerous and should be tamped down.

"I would like to say, especially to young people, our worst enemy is not concrete problems" no matter how serious or tragic they may be.

"The biggest danger in life is a bad spirit of adapting that is not meekness or humility, but is mediocrity, pusillanimity," that is, cowardice or fear, and making the excuse for doing nothing by saying, "that's just the way I am."

"Where will humanity end up with young people who are tame (and) not restless?" he asked.

Referring to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's insistence that it is better to live fully than to just get by, the pope asked the crowd whether a kid who is "mediocre has a future or not." The pope agreed with their answer, "No. He just sits there. He doesn't grow" and mature.

Reaching maturity, he said, is coming to realize and accept one's limits, and it is also seeing what is lacking in one's life, just as Jesus said the rich young man: "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

This invitation to leave behind everything and follow the Lord, is "not a proposal of poverty, but of riches," the real treasure of everlasting life, he said.

If told to choose between having "the original" or just a copy, who would choose just a copy, the pope asked.

"Here's the challenge: to find the original, not the copy. Jesus doesn't offer substitutes, but offers real life, real love, real wealth," he said.

It is difficult to see why young people would choose then to follow those Christians who are not choosing "the original, if they see us putting up with half measures. It is terrible to encounter Christians (who only go) halfway, dwarf Christians who only grow a certain height and have a tiny, closed heart," he said.

Young people need the example of Christians who invite them to grow, "to go beyond" and look for more.

"We have to start from reality," with the way things are, "in order to take that leap into what is lacking. We have to scrutinize the ordinary in order to open ourselves up to the extraordinary."

- - -

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.

Catholic groups condemn ruling that limits some asylum seekers

Top Stories - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 5:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence need not apply for protection in the United States, said the country's top law enforcement official at a June 11 news conference explaining why he reversed an immigration court's decision that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her husband.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that while a person may suffer threats of violence in another country, "for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances," U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune."

Various organizations, including some Catholic groups, quickly condemned the attorney general's ruling.

"No longer will the United States of America welcome and protect our vulnerable and abused brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution and brutality," said Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Couch said in a statement that Sessions' decision was "inherently hostile and cruel."

"I believe that the American people are a hopeful and welcoming people, but our government is out of sync with our values. The soul of our nation is being tested," he said.

Last year, in remarks posted on the Department of Justice's website Oct. 12, 2017, Sessions insinuated that an influx of people was entering the country on false asylum grounds, and said there was "rampant abuse and fraud."

Sessions made clear in June that violent threats were not enough to be granted asylum, even if a country's authorities could not help victims.

The ruling could affect adults and children coming from what's known as the Northern Triangle -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- a region plagued by gang violence, drug trafficking and other social ailments causing people to flee because authorities cannot control the violence nor guarantee safety.

"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes -- such as domestic violence or gang violence -- or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim," Sessions said in the decision.

Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., said Sessions' ruling "sets a dangerous precedent for other victims of violence, including those who are targeted for their religious beliefs."

Asylum law, she said, "has long recognized that persecution can occur at the hands of entities that a national government is 'unable or unwilling to control' including by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Tamil Tigers."

But that's exactly what Sessions says in the ruling, she pointed out, when he says that "claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors will not qualify for asylum."

- - -

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.

'Tag' movie based on three-decade chase game of Catholic school friends

Top Stories - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 3:24pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Father Sean Raftis

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A group of Catholic high school friends has kept in touch -- literally -- since graduating more than 30 years ago from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington.

The way they've stayed connected -- through essentially continuing a version of tag they started in high school -- has received mixed reaction from people over the years, but that all changed five years ago when The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article about them.

The piece gave the group almost instant notoriety, as it was followed up by an ESPN segment and a slew of other interviews. The group of 10, who call themselves the "tag brothers," hired an agent and started talking about movie potential.

Fast forward years later and now, they're "it" -- to use a tag expression -- because the story of the elaborate ways they've sneaked up on each other, sometimes in disguise, for one month of the year -- as per their signed agreement -- is now on the big screen in the movie "Tag," which releases nationally June 15.

The movie takes the story of this group and runs with it, so to speak, with a fictionalized account. The original 10 friends -- nine graduated in 1983 and one in 1984 -- includes one priest, Father Sean Raftis, pastor of St. Richard's in Columbia Falls, Montana. At a reunion, the group was talking about their competitive high school tag and came up with a plan to continue it long distance every February.

In the movie, the group is made up of five friends who have been together since elementary school played by Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress. Like real life, the movie tags occur at unlikely places including a funeral home and the hospital delivery room.

The tag game, like what kids play at recess, involves tagging someone and making them "it" until they tag someone else. This grown-up version isn't so much running around as it is sneaking up on people who live in different states and have careers, families or ministries. The last person tagged at the end of February is "it" for the year.

The Wall Street Journal story that made this group famous points out that "players get tagged at work and in bed. They form alliances and fly around the country. Wives are enlisted as spies and assistants are ordered to bar players from the office."

The story highlighted one of the tags in the 1990s that involved Father Raftis hiding in the trunk of a Honda Accord waiting for Joe Tombari, who lived in California at the time but now teaches math and physics at Gonzaga Prep where the game began.

Mike Konesky, another tagger, drove the car over to Tombari's with the idea of showing him new golf clubs in his trunk. When the trunk opened, the priest reached his hand out to tag Tombari but didn't realize he actually reached his friend's wife who was shocked to see a hand reach out of the trunk, fell backward and hurt her knee.

When everyone attended to Tombari's wife, Tombari, of course, was tagged.

In a June 10 interview with Father Raftis from Montana days after he returned from the premiere of "Tag" in Los Angeles, the priest told Catholic News Service that the 15 minutes or so he was in the trunk felt like hours. He also felt bad that it involved an injury.

A decade or so later after this tag, Tombari and Konesky went to Montana to nab Father Raftis at church. The two sat in the front row and when the priest saw them he ended up mentioning the game in his homily, stressing the importance of friendship. His friends waited until Mass was over to tag him and then they went out for coffee and doughnuts with parishioners after.

The best tag Father Raftis remembers was when his friend since first grade, Mark Mengert, dressed up like Gonzaga's mascot, except in the high school's costume, and tagged Brian Dennehy with a note while he was attending a Gonzaga University basketball game with his wife, all while the real mascot looked over and raised his arms in confusion and security questioned the fake mascot.

All of this sneaking around, at its core, is about friendship and staying connected, said Father Raftis, adding that our whole faith is based on friendship with the communion of saints and angels.

The movie, he said, "gets the friendship thing right." He notes that it has an age-appropriate R rating for language but the "overwhelming arc of the movie is on the beauty of friendship and staying friends."

The movie has not yet been rated by CNS. The end features a clip of the original group. But this moment of fame isn't stopping them. Father Raftis said they plan to keep playing "indefinitely, as long as we can."

All of the tag brothers attended the movie's premiere in Los Angeles June 7 and they joined several members of the cast the night before at a dinner at Renner's home.

This has all been pretty surreal for the Montana priest, who was surprised to see "Tag" on billboards and bus advertisements in Los Angeles. When there was initial talk about a movie about the group, he said he thought it would be for DVD release or on the Hallmark Channel, which is fine, he added.

The movie openings, including one June 12 in Spokane where the original tagging began, is providing a rare chance for the group of tag brothers to be together.

And that's where the movie comes full circle because, as he put it, the point is: "Get a hold of someone you haven't been in touch with for a long time and rekindle the friendship."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

- - -

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.

Church praised for proactive response on abuse but warned of complacency

Top Stories - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr, Clarion Herald

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Despite groundbreaking steps the U.S. Catholic Church has taken to prevent the sexual abuse of minors in the past 16 years, a potential "complacency" in following safety protocols could pose a challenge to those hard-won advances.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, shared that view with diocesan safe environment and victims' assistance coordinators attending the Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

The 13-member lay board advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on safe environment protocols for children in Catholic parishes, schools and organizations.

In his talk June 6, Cesareo that because a large percentage of abuse claims deal with incidents that happened many years and even decades ago, the issue may appear now to be less urgent.

"The church has responded very concretely to this question and very proactively, but one of the issues now is that because it is now historical -- you have newly ordained priests who were children when this broke out -- the urgency of it is not there," he said. "You have bishops who are new. They weren't there in 2002. The urgency is not there."

Cesareo, who is president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he was pleased the church has shifted its conversation about sexual abuse of minors "from a legalistic approach to a more pastoral approach, which is very helpful in the process of healing and reconciliation and also in getting the church to understand the real pain that victims have felt and have experienced through the abuse."

But, he said, because the church has done such a good job dealing with sexual abuse in the past 16 years, "there is this notion that this is a problem in the past, 'we've dealt with it, we don't have to put as much attention on it, we have the policies in place.'"

"That's where the complacency comes in," Cesareo said. "It's like a hospital. You have the protocols in place and then suddenly someone dies in the operating room. All the protocols were followed, so why did this happen?

"We need to create a culture whereby the church is doing the same thing. Why did this happen? How do we prevent it? How do we strengthen what we're already doing? That's where the complacency issue is becoming problematic."

Cesareo cited encouraging statistics from the most recent audit of how individual dioceses are performing under the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People": outreach and support was provided to 1,905 victims/survivors; training on abuse prevention and safe environment was provided to more than 4.1 million children and more than 56,000 priests, deacons and candidates for ordination; and background checks have been administered to 97 to 99 percent of all adults serving in ministry with children.

"That's no small feat," Cesareo told the conference. "Yet, we are not finished. We can never be finished."

While some dioceses are going "above and beyond" the charter's guidelines, Cesareo said, "a number have fallen into a pattern of complacency regarding victim/survivor assistance and child protection efforts."

He said some dioceses had not completed background checks in a timely fashion and some had kept poor records, "which could potentially lead to unscreened individuals interacting with children."

Cesareo said accurate parish and school audits are vital in assessing compliance with the charter and also with diocesan policies. He suggested that individual diocesan review boards, which are called on to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, should meet regularly -- at least annually and ideally four times a year -- even if no allegations have come forward.

Bishops can learn a lot by meeting regularly with the experts on the local review boards, Cesareo said.

"It is the belief of the (National Review Board) that diocesan review boards mitigate the risk that allegations will be mishandled and that possible offenders remain in ministry," Cesareo said.

No other organization in the U.S. has done a better job than the Catholic Church has in setting up safeguards to protect children, he said.

"Absolutely and without any doubt, even though we don't get the credit," Cesareo said. "That is clarified, No. 1, by the charter; No. 2, by the audit process that's in place; No. 3, by the policies and procedures that are in place. All the background checks, all the training that has taken place. There's no other organization that's doing what we're doing.

"Catholics in the pew should feel very confident that their children are safe in our schools and in our parishes, that the church is doing everything it can to ensure that kind of culture of safety and healing and that we are being proactive and not forgetting that this has to be always at the forefront of everything we do within the church."

The 13th annual conference, held June 3-6, drew more than 150 people from across the U.S. working in areas of safe environment, victims' assistance and pastoral care.

- - -

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

- - -

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: Papal diplomat says U.S.-North Korea summit brings hope for peace

Top Stories - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 11:50am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea are "truly historic" and bring hope for the start of a new era of peace, said Pope Francis' ambassador to Korea.

A "very important" new page has been turned, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican News June 12.

"It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good," he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met on Singapore's Sentosa Island for the historic summit June 12. It was the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Afterward, Trump said Kim would work to end North Korea's nuclear program. Trump promised to end joint military exercises with South Korea.

After the summit, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, South Korea, and apostolic administrator of Pyeongyang, North Korea, celebrated Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral to pray for prompt execution of the summit agreement.

"When I heard the news that there was a meaningful agreement between the two summits in their first meeting, I deeply thanked God to remember our prayers for reconciliation and union of the Korean people," Cardinal Yeom said in his homily. "I sincerely wish that the agreement can be promptly executed to achieve the common good not only for Korean people but for all people on the globe."

He also added prayers for the believers in North Korea to have the freedom of religion and be able to lead humane lives as soon as possible.

Archbishop Xuereb told Vatican News the rhetoric has gone from unleashing "fire and fury" against North Korea to more moderate language "that speaks of peace, of relations based on understanding, therefore, we are truly full of hope and confidence."

"You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment," the papal nuncio said.

"The Holy See wants to support whatever possible initiative that promotes dialogue and reconciliation" while also taking advantage of being able to take the Gospel message to everyone, he said.

Pope Francis led thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in prayer June 10, expressing hopes the summit would lead to lasting peace.

"May the talks," he said, "contribute to the development of a positive path that assures a future of peace for the Korean peninsula and the whole world."

 

- - -

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

Pope leads prayers for U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore

Top Stories - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: REUTERS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Leading thousands of people in prayer, Pope Francis said he hoped the upcoming summit between the United States and North Korea would lead to lasting peace.

After praying the Angelus with an estimated 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square June 10, the pope said he wanted to convey "a special thought to the beloved Korean people," and he asked the crowd to pray the "Hail Mary" so that "Our Lady, Queen of Korea, may accompany these talks."

"May the talks that will take place in the next few days in Singapore contribute to the development of a positive path that assures a future of peace for the Korean peninsula and the whole world," Pope Francis said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump were to meet on Singapore's Sentosa Island for the historic summit June 12. It was to be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Before leading the crowds in praying for the summit, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus confronts "two types of misunderstandings" from the scribes and his relatives.

By accusing Jesus of being possessed and using the power of the "prince of demons" to cast out demons, the scribes fell into a great sin of "denying and blaspheming God's love that is present and works in Jesus," he said.

Blasphemy, the pope said, "is a sin against the Holy Spirit and the only unforgivable sin because it comes from a closure of the heart to God's mercy that acts in Jesus."

Pope Francis told Christians they should go to confession immediately when they are tempted to speak ill of another person because "this attitude destroys families, friendships, the community and even society."

"Here there is a truly mortal poison: the premeditated malice one uses to destroy the good reputation of the other. May God free us from this terrible temptation," he said.

Another misunderstanding described in the Gospel reading, the pope continued, comes from Jesus' family who believed his "new itinerant lifestyle seemed like madness."

In the Gospel, after Jesus was told that his mother and his brothers and sisters were asking for him, he responds, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus' response, the pope explained, is not a lack of respect toward his mother but instead it is "the greatest recognition, because she is precisely the perfect disciple who obeyed God's will in everything."

Pope Francis said that Christ's answer also showed that Christians are united not by family bonds but by their "faith in Jesus."

"Welcoming Jesus' words makes us brothers and sisters, it makes us members of Jesus' family," the pope said. "Speaking ill of others, destroying other people's reputations, makes us part of the devil's family."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

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.

Robert Kennedy's Catholicism was part of his personal life and politics

Top Stories - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 3:16pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Recollections and tributes to Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination have mainly highlighted his charisma and determined advocacy for social and racial justice.

But underlying these tributes to the former attorney general, U.S. senator, Democratic presidential candidate and father of 11, also is an unmistakable connection to his Catholic faith.

Inevitable references to Kennedy's faith come up when mentioning his Irish Catholic family or his funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, but there also are plenty of anecdotes in biographies mentioning that he was an altar server or wore a St. Christopher medal. And then there are his speeches, which often echo Catholic social teaching without coming right out and saying it.

A Newsweek tribute to Kennedy describes one of his speeches as "typically peppered with erudition and an almost ecclesiastic, Catholic compassion."

That particular speech asked what reason people have for existing "unless we've made some other contribution to somebody else to improve their own lives?"

Historians and biographers alike have not shied away from Kennedy's Catholicism, often saying he was the most Catholic of the Kennedy brothers and that he wasn't afraid to express his faith.

Larry Tye, author of "Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon" in 2016, said Kennedy's faith helped him as he grieved the 1963 assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, noting that he kept a missal beside him in the car and thumbed through it to prayers he found consoling.

And instead of just attending Sunday Mass, Tye said, Kennedy was "in the pew nearly every day. His faith helped him internalize the assassination in a way that, over time, freed his spirit."

Peter Edelman, a Georgetown University law professor who was a legislative aide to Kennedy from 1964 until his death, can attest to this.

He described Kennedy as "assiduous in his practice of his Catholicism" and said his "values and work were certainly based significantly in his faith."

When asked to explain this more, he told Catholic News Service that when he and Kennedy were in New York City, Kennedy often stopped for a few minutes to go into a church to pray while Edelman said he stayed outside because he is Jewish.

"Robert was the Kennedy who took his Catholicism most seriously. He attended Mass regularly, and prayed with his family before meals and bed," said Jerald Podair, a history and American studies professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Podair, who is currently writing a book about the politics of the 1960s and its links to the rise of President Donald Trump, said Kennedy always wore a St. Christopher medal too, but he said his Catholicism was not limited to his personal life but also showed up in his politics.

As he put it in an email to CNS, Kennedy viewed his faith "as a summons to heal the world, making it a more equal and just place. An example was his strong support for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers movement, one that itself was steeped in Catholic liturgy and morals."

Podair said Kennedy was drawn to the farmworkers' cause -- when few other mainstream politicians were -- "largely because of its links to Catholicism." He noted that when Kennedy sat with Chavez as he took Communion at an outdoor Mass after the end of his March 1968 hunger strike, it was a public expression of Kennedy's firmly believed Catholic view that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

The historian also said it was no coincidence that when Kennedy lay dying on the floor of the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel after he was shot, a rosary was placed on him by the Mexican-American busboy who had just shaken his hand.

"It meant that he would die as he had lived," Podair said.

That hotel is long gone, but today in its place is a school and memorial bearing Kennedy's words, which read in part: "Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, it sends out a tiny ripple of hope."

The book, "Robert Kennedy: His Life," written by Evan Thomas in 2002, described Kennedy as a "a romantic Catholic who believed that it was possible to create the kingdom of heaven on earth," and notes that although Kennedy at times may have lost the certainty of his faith, he never lost the hope.

He also said Kennedy was an altar server when he was growing up and who would even serve that role as an adult if he saw there was no altar server at Mass.

The basics of Catholicism -- prayers, Mass and crosses or saint statues in the house -- were part of Kennedy's life with Ethel and their children as well, ranging in age from 16- to not-yet-born when he died.

In a 2008 interview with the Boston Globe, Kennedy's daughter Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child, who was 8 when her father died, said faith was central to her upbringing -- especially prayers before and after meals, an out loud Bible reading and Sunday Mass.

Kerry Kennedy, who established the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in New York, said her faith was influenced by both of her parents, noting that her father thought about being a priest and her mother considered being a nun.

In a June 6 tweet the day of a 50th anniversary memorial service for her father at Arlington National Cemetery, Kerry Kennedy said: "I miss my father every day, but I am strengthened to know the causes he believed in are still championed by brave activists today. His legacy and work are timeless."

That service, which included numerous tributes and people quoting Kennedy's own words, began fittingly with an opening invocation by a priest echoing the hope Kennedy so often expressed.

"We are gathered here in a spirit not of mourning, but of hope," said Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor of America magazine.

He also added: "Bobby Kennedy still lives in millions of hearts that seek a newer world."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

- - -

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.

Space station crew members give pope custom-made blue flight suit

Top Stories - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If Pope Francis ever plans an apostolic trip to space, he's all set after receiving a custom-made blue flight suit with patches of the Argentine flag, his papal coat of arms and a pair of angel wings with his crew name, Jorge M. Bergoglio.

The outfit also came with add-on white mantle, or short cape, just so there would be no mistaking he was still the pope.

The gifts were presented to the pope June 8 by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli and four other astronauts, who returned from the International Space Station in two groups, one in December and one in February.

The delegation from the Expedition 53 Mission also included Commander Randy Bresnik from Fort Knox, Kentucky; Joe Acaba from Inglewood, California; Mark Vande Hei from Falls Church, Virginia; Sergey Ryazanskiy from Moscow; and some of their family members.

They had requested an audience with the pope during their post-flight tour of Italy, so they could meet him face-to-face after speaking with him via satellite last October, Bresnik told Catholic News Service.

Recalling that conversation from space, Bresnik, who is a Baptist, said, "It was interesting seeing the Catholics on our crew, the Eastern Orthodox crew members, to see everybody energized by talking with the pope, with what he represents."

It was wonderful to have been able to tell the pope during the link-up what it was like to see "God's creation from his perspective and how beautiful and fragile it is," Bresnik said.

The view of earth from space also shows a world without borders, he said. "There aren't any clashes. You just see this little tiny atmosphere that is the difference between life and death on this planet."

"It touches people in their soul, I think. I think nobody comes back without a sense of a higher being. Most come back thinking, 'Hey, God did an amazing job," Bresnik said.

When asked if he was surprised so many crew members were people of faith and ask how faith fit into their work in the field of science, he said, "it seems the more we learn about science, the more it strengthens your faith because it shows what we don't know and how complex it is."

Bresnik's son Wyatt, 12, showed reporters his Bible; his father had taken it to space, and Wyatt had the pope sign it during their private audience.

Acaba told CNS he believes the international cooperation necessary on the International Space Station can help humanity in its pursuit of peace.

"There's always politics going on" back on earth, "but the space station is important to a lot of countries so we all learn to work together to keep that project going," he said. "I think if we can do that for the space station that is an example of what we can do for other things we find to be important."

- - -

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

Synod working document seeks 'new paths' of evangelization in Amazon

Top Stories - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 8:33am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must discover new ways to provide the Eucharist and pastoral support to the people of the Amazon, especially indigenous people threatened by forced displacement and exploitation, a new document said.

The Vatican released the preparatory document for the special Synod of Bishops on the Amazon June 8. The synod gathering in October 2019 will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

The connection between care for the environment and the pastoral care of the people who live in the region is highlighted throughout the document, because, it said, "protecting indigenous peoples and their lands represents a fundamental ethical imperative and a basic commitment to human rights."

"Moreover," it continued, "it is a moral imperative for the church, consistent with the approach to integral ecology called for by 'Laudato Si'."

The document ended with 30 questions about how the church should respond to specific challenges in the region such as injustice, violence and discrimination, particularly against the area's indigenous people. Responses to the questions will provide material for the synod's working document.

The questions also sought to identify solutions for a variety of pastoral challenges, particularly the region's shortage of priests, which means the "impossibility of celebrating the Eucharist frequently in all places."

Rich in biodiversity, natural resources and cultures, the Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, covering more than 2.1 million square miles in South America. The rainforest includes territory in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana and French Guiana.

The region has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

The document's preamble states that "new paths for evangelization must be designed for and with the people of God" who live in the Amazon, an area that is in "deep crisis" due to "prolonged human intervention in which a 'culture of waste' and an extractivist mentality prevail."

Using the method of "see, judge and act," the document began with a description of how the region's rich biodiversity, which provides food and resources for the indigenous population, "is being threatened by expansive economic interests."

Those threats include logging, contamination of rivers and lakes due to toxins, oil spills and mining, as well as drug trafficking.

The destruction of the land and pollution of the rivers have forced many people to move. The indigenous people who are forcibly dislocated, the document said, often are met with "an attitude of xenophobia and criminalization" that leads to their exploitation. Women are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked for "sexual and commercial exploitation," it said.

The preparatory document's section on promoting "pastoral and ecological conversion" highlighted the need to proclaim the Gospel and to "accompany and share the pain of the Amazonian people and to collaborate in healing their wounds."

"Today the cry of the Amazonia to the Creator is similar to the cry of God's people in Egypt," the document said. "It is a cry of slavery and abandonment, which clamors for freedom and God's care."

By focusing on the indigenous people and the care for their land, the church is "strengthened in its opposition to the globalization of indifference and to the unifying logic promoted by the media and by an economic model that often refuses to respect the Amazonian peoples or their territories," the document's third section said.

It also emphasized "relaunching the work of the church" in the Amazon region "in order to transform the church's precariously thin presence" through new ministries that respond "to the objectives of a church with an Amazonian face and a church with a native face."

This includes, it said, fostering "indigenous and local-born clergy" as well as ministerial roles for women in the church.

"Along these lines, it is necessary to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian church," the document said.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists June 8 that although the church has "a magisterium and a discipline that is already established" restricting priestly ordination to men only, the synod offers a space to freely discuss other ministerial roles for women.

"The emphasis on women -- that they should have a space in the church -- doesn't come from" the preparatory document, Cardinal Baldisseri said. "We can listen to the pope who said that there must be space for women in the church at all levels."

The document does not mention the possibility of allowing married "viri probati" -- men of proven virtue -- to become priests, a question that Pope Francis has expressed a willingness to study.

"We have to study whether 'viri probati' are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in remote communities, for example," the pope said in a March 2017 interview with German newspaper Die Zeit.

Cardinal Baldisseri told journalists that the synod preparatory document leaves room for discussion on finding solutions to the lack of priests in the area but does not center on "viri probati" as the only answer to the problem.

"I understand the interest but there are many ministries," the cardinal said. "It isn't that those that already exist are definite. The church can also have other ministries. Ministries is an ample word that ranges from the ministry of acolyte to the priesthood."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

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.

Church in Congo suspends sacraments during Ebola outbreak

Top Stories - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 12:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kenny Katombe, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Congo said emergency measures will remain indefinitely in place in parishes at risk of Ebola, and urged effective action against the disease by the government of President Joseph Kabila.

"Although Masses are continuing, sacraments such as baptism and confirmation have had to be suspended," said Msgr. Jean-Marie Bomengola, secretary of the church's Social Communications Commission.

"Since we can't foresee how the disease will develop, we can't set out any timescale. But the crisis needs real containment measures, and we're counting on the government to provide them," he said.

Health care workers toiled to head off a feared epidemic in the Equateur province in northwest Congo, where at least 25 people have died of the almost-always fatal disease.

Msgr. Bomengola told Catholic News Service June 7 that at least 1,000 people had been vaccinated and that measures were in place to prevent "any personal contact" among Catholics.

"All precautions are being taken to ensure people don't come too close. It's a highly abnormal situation," he said.

"The church provides a key framework for communication and cooperation, and is at the very center of events, mobilizing preventive initiatives and providing transport and medical care," he added.

UNICEF said June 5 that nearly 300,000 people had been screened since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed May 8 by the World Health Organization.

Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, co-adjutor archbishop of Kinshasa who previously served in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, where the outbreak occurred, decided to suspend administering sacraments to protect churchgoers from contracting the disease.

He said the ban would extend to anointing the sick, exchanging the sign of peace and other acts involving physical contact, adding that a June 3 ordination Mass also had been canceled.

The archbishop added that clergy would dispense Communion to hands rather than mouths and would ensure sacred objects were disinfected before and after every Mass.

The Ebola outbreak coincides with political tension in Congo over preparations for long-postponed December elections as well as violence by armed groups in several provinces.

Msgr. Bomengola told CNS Ebola had "made everything more difficult for the population," adding that there were fears the disease could spread down the Congo River from the trading hub of Mbandaka to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million.

"We're trying to instill a calm hope for better things, to maintain the faith and prevent despair," he said.

"But we also rely on the government to take every effective step to end insecurity and stop this disease. Despite all the anger and hostility around us, normal life has to continue."

- - -

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.

After raid, Ohio bishop says immigration system contributes to suffering

Top Stories - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 11:31am

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The bishop of Cleveland said a recent immigration raid at an Ohio gardening and landscape company "makes clear that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and the separation of families."

In a June 6 statement from the Diocese of Cleveland, Bishop Nelson J. Perez said he felt "a great sadness" for the families affected by the raid and whose lives have been disrupted.

According to news reports, about 200 agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, surrounded two locations of Corso's Flower and Garden Center and arrested more than 100 workers in north-central Ohio June 5. A Washington Post story June 6 said that "families of the arrested workers gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk, Ohio, seeking answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones."

On Facebook, the immigrant advocacy group Hola Ohio posted photos June 6 of some of the children who had a parent or both parents taken in the raid and who had gathered at St. Paul. In the Facebook post, Veronica Dahlberg, the organization's executive director, said families were "distraught, crying, frightened, missing loved ones and at a loss for what to do." Via Twitter, she said some children remained in day care after the raid.

In the statement from the Cleveland Diocese, Bishop Perez said he offered "prayers, and ask the prayers of all people of goodwill, that the families affected will not be separated in the days and weeks to follow."

He said the bishops of the Catholic Church have a duty to point out the moral consequences of a broken system.

"The church is advocating for comprehensive and compassionate reform of our immigration system so that persons are able to obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families," he said. "Since this is a responsibility of our Congress, I would encourage you to speak with your legislators advocating for reform of our present system."

- - -

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.

Maryland parishioners urged to help one another in flood aftermath

Top Stories - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 1:28pm

By Christopher Gunty

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (CNS) -- In the immediate aftermath of the flood that washed through Main Street and other parts of historic Ellicott City May 27, St. Paul Church, perched on the hill above the floodwaters, was able to serve folks in little ways.

The church acted as a way station for those trying to get home, and coordinated transportation for some who could not get to their vehicles. Seven inches of rain fell in one afternoon on the town and nearby Catonsville.

The first couple of days, the parish had limited electricity and no running water, according to the pastor, Father Warren Tanghe. Over the next several days, it served as a base of operations for Baltimore Gas and Electric power crews.

Just six days after the flood, and on the day when some Main Street business owners and residents were allowed brief access to their properties, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated Mass June 2 for the vigil of the feast of Corpus Christi at St. Paul.

He told a story of how, early in his priesthood, he stopped to visit a woman who was dying. Though he expected to stay for only a short while, when she asked him to stay -- as she did not expect to live much longer -- he stayed with her until she passed away.

In prayer before the Blessed Sacrament the next day, he said, he could imagine the Lord telling him that as the Lord stays with his people, the young priest should do the same.

"It was this early lesson in my priesthood that prompted me to come here today as you cope with the aftermath of severe flooding, a severe hardship coming so soon after the last catastrophic flood in 2016," the archbishop said in his homily. "A number of you, I know, were able to view your flood-damaged properties today and you face difficult questions and decisions as you look to the future."

He acknowledged that a number of people from inside and outside the close-knit community are pitching in to help.

"I came today just to be with you, to pray with you, to offer you a word of love and encouragement, and in this difficult time, to remind you of the abiding presence of the Lord in our midst. For this is what the feast of Corpus Christi is all about -- the true eucharistic presence of Jesus body, blood, soul and divinity," Archbishop Lori said.

"A principal message of today's feast might be summed up this way: As Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist, so we need to be present to those in need," he added.

He said the presence of loved ones can be a comfort in times of tragedy, even if they cannot change the situation. "We also rely on the friendship and love of those who know us well, who know our strengths and weakness, who understand how we react to the curveballs that life inevitably hurls at us in one form or another.

"Jesus is present to us in the same way. Pope Francis often reminds us that the Lord knows us, loves us and cares about us," the archbishop said.

Reflecting on the day's readings about the Eucharist and Christ's sacrifice for us, Archbishop Lori called on the parishioners in Ellicott City similarly to sacrifice themselves for others.

"As we experience the depths of the Lord's love for us, do we not also hear the Lord saying to you and me: 'Love one another as I have loved you'?" he asked. "In reaching out to your friends and neighbors who are enduring this difficult plight, you give evidence that the Christ whom you receive lives in you, speaks with your voice and serves the needs of others with your hands."

The archbishop encouraged the people to allow the eucharistic presence of Jesus to make them more present to one another and give themselves to one another, even in the most trying of times.

"That is the key to rebuilding not merely our town but indeed our very lives," he said.

The archbishop also acknowledged the help of first responders and rescue workers and prayed for Eddison Hermond, a National Guardsman who died after being swept away by flood waters while aiding a shop owner.

After the Mass, Father Tanghe noted that rather than providing shelter and other immediate assistance now, the parish was focused on helping people deal with the grief they are feeling.

"It's not quite a despair," he said, "but a sense of defeat."

Two years ago, people readily said they would rebuild, with an almost fervent spirit. This time, that's not so much the case.

He said his homily the next day would begin and end with hope.

He said that in confession, sometimes he hears words of despair. "One has to acknowledge that. One can't explain why these things happen."

Father Tanghe said he thinks in many ways the impact from this flood will be more extensive than in 2016. He thinks the parish will be called on to help people who have been displaced find longer-term housing.

"People are asking whether they want to rebuild," the pastor said. A lot of that hinges on developing a solid plan to mitigate the potential for flooding in the future, he added.

- - -

Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

- - -

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.

Gossip destroys Holy Spirit's gift of peace, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 9:58am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Peace is a gift that can easily be destroyed through petty gossip and speaking ill of others, Pope Francis said.

People who receive and give the sign of peace "should be men and women of peace" and not ruin "the peace made by the Holy Spirit with your tongue," the pope said June 6 during his weekly general audience.

"Gossip is not a work of the Holy Spirit, it is not a work of the unity of the church. Gossip destroys the work of God. Please stop gossiping," the pope said.

Continuing his series of audience talks on confirmation, Pope Francis spoke about the gift of the Holy Spirit that Christians receive in the sacrament.

When a person is anointed with oil, that gift "enters us and bears fruit so that we can then give it to others," the pope explained. The gift is not meant to be tucked away and stored "as if the soul was a warehouse."

While it usually is the bishop, who is a successor of the apostles and guarantor of the unity of the church, that confers the sacrament of confirmation upon person, his role does not exclude the bishop from the Christian duty of charity and love.  

"Some may think that in the church there are masters -- the pope, the bishops, the priests -- and then the workers who are something else," he said. "No, the church is everyone. And we all have the responsibility of sanctifying one another, of caring for others. The church is 'us.' Everyone has their job in the church, but we are all the church."

During the sacrament of confirmation, he continued, the bishop tells the candidate, "Peace be with you," which is "a gesture that expresses the ecclesial communion with the bishop and with all the faithful."

However, that gift can be lost if Christians start saying mean things about each other once they leave Mass.

"Gossip is war," the pope said. "Poor Holy Spirit! (Imagine) the work he has with us with our habit of gossiping!"

Pope Francis urged the faithful to preach the Gospel with deeds and words "that edify and not with words of gossip that destroy."

Like the parable of the talents, he added, the Holy Spirit's gift is a seed that bears fruit when it is shared with others and not "when it is buried because of selfish fears."

"When we have the seed in hand, it isn't meant to be stored in a closet, it is meant to be sown. All life must be sown so that it bears fruit and multiply. We must give the gift of the Spirit back to the community," the pope said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

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.

Panel looks at how Catholic social teaching can address polarization

Top Stories - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 3:19pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sister Teresa Maya grew up hearing her "abuela" say, "People understand each other by speaking to one another."

In her grandmother's wisdom, she said, lies a way to address the polarization that seems to affect every aspect of U.S. society today.

Fostering "encuentros," or encounters, on the personal level and people "really being interested in the other side of the story" would go a long way to encourage folks with different opinions to dialogue about all manner of issues with civility, she told an audience at Georgetown University June 4.

Sister Maya, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word from San Antonio, is president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. She was one of four speakers at the public session of a June 4-6 invitation-only conference on "Though Many, One: Overcoming Polarization Through Catholic Social Thought."

Organizers said the conference was meant to be a starting point to bring about Pope Francis' vision of the church responding to human hurts and social challenges by living out the joy of the Gospel.

Joining Sister Maya on the panel were Helen Alvare, professor of law at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, Virginia; Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich; and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Moderator John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown, asked the audience to "check your impulses" at the door as far as trying to decide which panelists were "conservative" or "liberal."

He asked them to consider who among the speakers "has stood up for the dignity and lives of the unborn" and for women, the vulnerable, immigrants, the poor and families and "against violence in our communities."

"It's really a trick question. Every one of these people has stood up for" all those groups, said Carr.

He asked the speakers what they see as "the major cause or cost of polarization" in the country and how the principles of Catholic social thought could help everyone work for the common good.

"The fear of the other has poisoned our souls. ... We've allowed it to divide us," said Sister Maya, who noted that as an immigrant herself, from Mexico, she brings "a migrant's view to this conversation."

She grew up with a deep fascination of the American idea that all people are created equal, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are human rights that cannot be taken away. In entering religious life, she said, she was convinced Jesus held the clues to create a world where these truths would hold for all.

She still believes in this "narrative of human rights" but said it "is threatened because we live in a polarized society."

"We stay in our bubbles, with people we know," feeding our fears, when "we must realize we breathe the same air," she said. "Unless you can get to know the other, it can justify the most terrible thing. ' The antidote to fear is hope."

Archbishop Gomez said Pope Francis talks a lot about how his pontificate is "not only a change of era" but how this is "an era of change. Everything is changing."

The "simple and most obvious thing" contributing to polarization is "the internet," he said. It is making talking to each other more difficult. Secularization also a major factor, he said.

"We are used to a Christian culture," the archbishop said. "We assume that's the way it is, but the whole country is becoming more and more secular." He also took issue with the prevailing notion that faith and science are incompatible.

"This nation is saying, 'We trust science more than we trust faith,' like there's a contradiction between science and faith, and that's not real," the archbishop said.

Against this backdrop, it is "important to understand who we are, who God is, how we can relate to God," he continued. Catholics are called "to become missionary disciples, to go out of our comfort (zone) and be united as a people and bring the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ to our people. Everything is based on God's plan for humanity, for each one of us."

In addressing current social realities, he said, U.S. Catholics can learn from the church's approach in Latin America. He noted that Pope Francis, being Latin American, follows this "see-judge-act" method of discernment: Seeing what current social realities are, judging them in light of the church's social teaching, then acting to make those realities more just.

Cardinal Cupich also talked about fear as a major factor causing polarization, describing "merchants of fear" actively working in society today.

If you watch kids of different backgrounds playing together, you see "they are not afraid" of one another, the cardinal said. "We are taught to be afraid and we have to own that."

The cost of polarization, he said, "is the division we face in our nation. We are not just separated by ideas but into groups. That's the difference between partisanship and polarization. Partisans used to be able to get things done, to reach across the aisle. But we are polarized, we have our own sources of information."

Such division leads to lawmakers not getting anything done legislatively and people dehumanizing "the other" through rhetoric that is anti-immigrant and racist, he added.

"I think we often refuse to credit different 'gifts'" people bring to the discussion on issues, and so fail to learn from one another, said Alvare. Society being so materialistic also sharply divides people, which is coupled with the fact people are short on time and patience, she added.

"The shortage of time is very much related to economic life," Alvare added. "We don't have time to be patient with people" and listen to other views.

She described receiving violent hate mail in reaction to comments she has made on the human costs of the sexual revolution and how poor women especially are suffering the consequences of this revolution.

Alvare said sharp disagreement is good but people also need to have good facts and sources, and they must pay attention to "tone, tone, tone" when they talk to one another, she said.

"If you feel dizzy and out of whack" in this polarized society, she said, "Catholic social teaching insights would help account for what we're feeling and also (help us) find a way forward."

On moving forward, Sister Maya said that will not happen until the country has an honest conversation about "the unresolved issue of racism," which she said is "at the heart of U.S. polarization."

She also said these times call for "contemplative dialogue," and people need to learn tools to listen deeply for common ground, respect silence and employ an "economy of words." Sister Maya also said lessons on how to dialogue can be learned from how LCWR leaders before her and church officials in Rome, during the Vatican probe of the leadership organization eventually could find common ground and reach an understanding and respect for each side's views.

To move forward on the immigration issue, Archbishop Gomez said "what we all need to see" is that "immigrants are people -- men and women, children, boys and girls." Talk about the nation's legal principles is one thing, he said, "but we must "see these people are just like us" and are coming here "for a better life."

Carr asked if Pope Francis is bringing a new kind of leadership to applying Catholic social thought to today's realities or whether he is continuing the leadership of his predecessors.

Cardinal Cupich replied with a quote he said he has often heard that "captures the continuity": "John Paul II told us what to do, Benedict said why we should do it and Pope Francis says, 'Do it.' ' Pope Francis is ' really an activist pope wanting to make the church a field hospital."

- - -

Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

- - -

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

Pope prays for victims of Guatemala volcano disaster

Top Stories - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Luis Rolando Sanchez, CRS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent condolences to Guatemala after a horrific volcanic eruption left more than 60 people dead.

In a June 5 telegram addressed to Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin, apostolic nuncio of Guatemala, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope was "profoundly grieved upon learning the sad news of the violent eruption of the 'Volcan de Fuego' ('Volcano of Fire')."

The June 3 eruption buried entire towns in a thick blanket of ash and debris, causing hundreds to flee the toxic fumes. Although the death toll was at 69 people June 5, authorities believed many more may still be buried under the volcanic rubble.

According to the Vatican newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano," Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Studies said only 17 victims had been identified as of June 5. Scientists will have to rely on DNA to identify victims disfigured by burning embers and hot lava.

Firefighters and volunteers were forced to use wooden planks to walk around after the soles of their shoes were melting because of the intense heat, CNN reported June 5.

Pope Francis offered "prayers for the eternal rest of the deceased and for all who suffer the consequences of that natural disaster."

Cardinal Parolin said Pope Francis hoped that families mourning the loss of their loved ones may be consoled and expressed "his spiritual closeness to the wounded and those who work tirelessly in helping the victims."

Meanwhile, Catholic agencies and parishes quickly responded after the eruption by providing shelter and emergency supplies.

"People here in Escuintla have lost everything, family members, homes, crops, their animals," Luis Rolando Sanchez, Catholic Relief Services' emergency coordinator for Latin America, said in a message to agency staff in Baltimore.

He said residents from the affected communities had "lined up all day" June 4 at shelters and collections centers for food and basic needs. "Many of them were missing family members," he said.

"More help will be needed in coming days, especially once we know the extent of the impact," Sanchez continued. "At one of the shelters, the number of people had doubled by Monday night (June 4) and the number of deaths is increasing. Affected communities face the drama of losing family.

"I talked to a woman with three daughters, one of them a newborn barely 27 days old. They, along with her three nieces, survived. Her sister and husband were buried in the eruption. There will be many orphans and widows," Sanchez said.

CRS continued to work with government and local responders as well as Caritas Guatemala, he added.

The agency is accepting donations for the emergency through an online site: https://support.crs.org/donate/guatemala-volcano?utm_source=how-to-help&utm_medium=earned-media&utm_campaign=guatemala-volcano.

- - -

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.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

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

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

Comment Here