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Nuns on the Bus 21-state tour stirs support for 'responsible programs'

Top Stories - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 3:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski

By Dennis Sadowski

CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Franciscan Sister Janice Cebula isn't one to turn down a chance to learn and be inspired.

So when Network, the Catholic social justice lobby, decided to take its Nuns on the Bus campaign on the road again beginning Oct. 8 to call attention to the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act and its impact on social services and local communities, she readily agreed to join one leg of the trip.

Sister Cebula, president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa, told a rally at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland Oct. 20 that she has not been disappointed since joining the Tax Justice Truth Tour five days earlier in Omaha, Nebraska.

"You meet a lot of people who understand that we are all sisters and brothers," she said to applause from about 100 people. "And they act like it. We saw a lot of on-the-ground, really innovative programs that are integrative in addressing the whole person."

But she said she feared some programs and families may be endangered by possible future cuts in federal spending in response to the tax law.

Beginning in Santa Monica, California, the tour was to wind through 21 states before ending near President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, Nov. 2.

Sister Simon Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, said the Palm Beach locale was chosen to demonstrate to the president and Congress that the tax cut law will add up to $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit in the next decade, and that planned cuts in federal spending on nonmilitary programs will harm the lives of low- and moderate-income people.

Sister Cebula told Catholic News Service she was particularly impressed after hearing from five women who are part of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Chopping for Change program. The women are nearing release from prison and under the program they are learning culinary and management skills at the Comeback Cafe at the Virgil E. Brown Center, headquarters of the Cuyahoga County government.

Chopping for Change is a partnership with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry. It is designed to train women with marketable skills for Northeast Ohio's burgeoning local food scene.

"Meeting these women here just confirmed why I'm on the bus," Sister Cebula said.

Tomika Daniel, 41, one of the women, manages the cafe and told CNS that she expects she will be able to find work when she is released from prison in June.

"With the support I'm getting, I don't have to walk with my head down," she said.

The two-year-old program has welcomed 89 women; 40 have been released from prison and gained employment. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry reported no recidivism among the women.

Andrew Genszler, president and CEO of the Lutheran agency, said it, like other nonprofits, depends on public money to operate programs that make a difference in people's lives. "We spend government money wisely. We spend government money efficiently and cutting government spending threatens the lives of people in need," he told the rally.

"We don't care if government is big. We don't care if government is small. We care that government works. And when it doesn't work, it's up to us as people of faith to remind the people in office of the implications of the decisions they make for people like us," Genszler said.

The bus tour was meant to call attention to the potential negative impact of the tax law on social programs, explained Sister Campbell, who planned to complete the entire 54-stop tour. She called for "reasonable revenue for responsible programs."

"The message is that this tax legislation gives away money to those at the top who don't need it. And now Congress is planning to take away services from everybody else," she said.

Congressional supporters of the tax law said that it would be a boon for business and generate new revenues for the federal government over the course of the next decade.

Maria Smith, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Cleveland, joined the rally, holding a sign with Network's signature call. She expressed concern for what she called the country's misplaced priorities toward increased military spending and decreased spending on vital human needs.

"I support a tax policy that supports social justice that makes us responsible for taking care of on another, that we are responsible social justice based-tax policy," Smith said.

During a stop at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Tucson, Arizona, Oct. 11, a crowd of 200 people greeted the bus. Each person was invited to sign a pledge card to contact local elected officials about their concern about the fallout of the tax cut bill and then to sign the bus in the parish parking lot.

"Then, it's no longer just about the Nuns on the Bus. It's everybody," Sister Campbell told those gathered.

Salvatorian Father William Remmel welcomed the 10 sisters on the bus, stoking the crowd when he said "systems need to be held accountable and that the tax reform law "isn't just bad politics, it's bad theology."

Earlier in the day, the nuns stopped at the office of Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, who was in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat. McSally supported the 2017 tax cut law and Sister Campbell said that in a meeting with a legislative aide it became clear that the congresswoman would not be changing her position in the future.

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Contributing to this story was Michael Brown, managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

 

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

U.S. cardinal: Abuse crisis discussed at synod, will top bishops' agenda

Top Stories - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 2:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the clerical sexual abuse crisis did not dominate discussions at the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said it was discussed, and everyone in the room clearly believed the crisis has to be dealt with.

Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke to Catholic News Service Oct. 22 as the synod was winding down and preparations for the U.S. bishops' November general meeting moved into high gear.

The agenda for the November meeting will include multiple items for dealing with the abuse crisis and, particularly, the issue of bishops' behavior and accountability, Cardinal DiNardo said.

One suggestion the bishops will examine, he said, is to draw up "a code of conduct for bishops," similar to those that most dioceses have for priests and for lay employees. Another would be to establish a "third-party reporting system" that would allow someone with an abuse complaint against a bishop to report him to someone not connected with his diocese or the bishops' conference.

"All of these involve issues that we are going to have to discern," the cardinal said. "We want to do something that will help intensify our commitment to change."

For any real change to take place, he said, the bishops must collaborate with each other and with lay experts.

Cardinal DiNardo said the bishops would begin their meeting Nov. 12 with some introductory business, but then would go directly into a day of prayer and fasting focused on the abuse crisis.

Many of the items that the bishops were due to consider at the November meeting, he said, will be postponed to devote more time to considering concrete steps to take in response to the abuse crisis. However, he said, they will vote on the proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism."

Cardinal DiNardo is a veteran of the Synod of Bishops. The gathering Oct. 3-28 on young people, the faith and vocational discernment was his third synod.

"One of the best parts of this synod is obvious: the young people," he said. The 34 synod observers under the age of 30 "are lively, they applaud sometimes. They take a great interest in the speakers. They have been a very, very important part of the language groups," where synod members, observers and experts make recommendations for the gathering's final document.

The young adults are serious about the church "listening to them, the church being attentive to them," he said. "They also are not opposed to the church's teaching necessarily at all. They want to be heard and listened to, but they also want to draw on the vast beauty and tradition of the church and do some listening of their own."

In his speech to the synod, Cardinal DiNardo asked that the final synod document include a reference to how following Jesus includes a willingness to embrace his life-giving cross.

Young people are not afraid of a challenge, the cardinal said. "They may not always 'get' things of the church, but they know who Jesus is and Jesus is not mediocre; he doesn't want you and me to be mediocre. He wants us to follow him to the cross and only then to glory."

Cardinal DiNardo said he was struck at the synod by the variety of young people and especially the variety of their experiences, including experiences of being persecuted for their Christian faith or the challenges of being part of a Christian minority.

"Young people are much more serious than I think we give them credit for," he said. And, hearing a young person's story of faith probably is the most effective way to evangelize other young people.

As for the Catholic Church's outreach to young people struggling with church teaching on sexuality or who are homosexual, Cardinal DiNardo said it is not a marginal issue in the lives of young people and it was not a marginal issue at the synod.

"A lot of us wanted to mention it and say, 'Yes, it's a real issue; we have to accompany people,'" he said, "but we can't forget the words of the Lord, 'Follow me,' and that requires sometimes for all of us a conversion of hearts."

 

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

Synod members 'share the journey' with migrants, refugees

Top Stories - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:24am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honduran Bishop Jose Antonio Canales of Danli said that, given what is going on in his country and throughout Central America, he had to walk in the "Share the Journey" campaign of Caritas Internationalis.

The 1.5-mile walk Caritas organized Oct. 21 from Rome's Trastevere neighborhood to the Vatican "is nothing when compared to what migrants are experiencing," said the bishop, who was in Rome for the Synod of Bishops while thousands of his fellow citizens were in a caravan heading toward Mexico and the United States to flee violence and poverty.

Joseph Moeono-Kolio from Samoa, one of the young adult observers at the synod, also joined the walk because "migrants and refugees are being forced from their homes. They don't want to leave, but they have to, and once they arrive, they aren't welcome."

Nicole Perez from the Philippines, another young synod observer, said that when she was a small child, her mother went to Japan to work. "She returned when I was 10. The feeling of parting from your loved ones, it hurts. We should make migrants and refugees feel they are not alone in that journey."

Caritas Internationalis launched the "Share the Journey" campaign in September 2017 to encourage every Catholic everywhere in the world to get to know at least one migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story. The campaign also is supporting solidarity walks around the world.

Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas, led the walk in Rome. Before leading a prayer and setting off toward the Vatican, he told reporters that in many places "there is fear" of migrants and refugees "because there is no personal encounter. It's natural to be afraid of what we don't know."

Although the journey to the Vatican was brief, he prayed that "every step we take this morning would be an act of solidarity with the millions of people on the move who do not know where their journey will end."

The group reached the Vatican in time to recite the Angelus prayer with Pope Francis, who greeted them after his midday address.

"I encourage this initiative of 'sharing the journey,' which is being promoted in many cities and can transform our relationship with migrants," the pope said.

Later, his Pontifex Twitter account shared the message: "Join Caritas and walk 1 million kilometers together with migrants and refugees. We are all on the Road to Emmaus being called to see the face of Christ."

Canadian Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, said he joined the walk because migration "is one of the main challenges facing the world and the church."

"There is so much resistance in so many countries," he said.

Before setting off for the Vatican, Dominican Sister Helen Alford, vice dean of Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas, told Catholic News Service: "We can solve the migration crisis. We have the means."

The first step, she said, is for Catholics to pressure their governments to sign the U.N. "Global Compacts" for refugees and for "safe, orderly and regular migration." An international conference for the adoption of the compacts will be held in Morocco in December.

Adopting and implementing the compacts, Sister Alford said, will make migration "legal, transparent and manageable," saving lives and disrupting the "business" of human traffickers and smugglers.

Then, she said, "we need to promote the formation of migrants, so they can be part of the solution." The University of St. Thomas, more commonly known as the Angelicum, will be starting such a program soon for migrants in Rome, she said.

 

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

Update: Response to sexual abuse crisis tops agenda for USCCB fall meeting

Top Stories - Sat, 10/20/2018 - 6:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The firestorm surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis and the way some bishops handled allegations of abuse against priests will be an important part of the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly.

The bishops have had to deal with seemingly endless revelations of allegations of abusive clergy since June, most of which referred to long-past incidents. New reports from media outlets also were expected as the Nov. 12-14 assembly in Baltimore approaches.

Bishops nationwide also are facing new challenges as several state attorneys general have opened investigations into the handling of abuse allegations. The investigations follow the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that linked more than 300 priests and church workers to abuse claims and identified more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period dating from 1947.

The USCCB has not directly addressed the investigations and has not offered any indication that it will advise bishops on how to respond.

Beyond the discussions of clergy sexual abuse and any further actions, the bishops were expected to vote on a new pastoral letter on racism, though the agenda for the meeting has not been finalized.

Security, always tight during the twice-a-year assemblies, is expected to be stricter than usual to prevent access to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel meeting site by protesters upset with the way the bishops have handled reports of abuse by clergy.

In preparing for the fall assembly, the bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

Committee members instructed the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

The Administrative Committee also initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

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

A USCCB spokesman said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president, was unavailable to discuss specific plans for the assembly because he and other conference leaders were in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The synod was to conclude Oct. 28.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, also declined to discuss the issue, saying in an Oct. 16 email to Catholic News Service that board members were continuing to draft recommendations that would be delivered to the bishops during the assembly.

In August, Cesareo told Catholic News Service that the bishops "have to put their trust in lay leadership and allow that lay leadership to develop the processes and oversight when these kinds of allegations occur, particularly holding bishops accountable."

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Communications, told Catholic News Service Oct. 19 that the bishops must "continue to press forward" in explaining how well the charter "is working and continues to work."

"It important that we as a conference have made incredible strides in protecting children to the point that one of the safest places for children to participate is the Catholic community in the United States," he said.

"But that message is not getting out there. Many people still believe that the abuse of children and the cover-up by church authorities is an ongoing issue and that the bishops haven't done enough to address the issue. That's contrary to the evidence in contrast to the number of reported abuses since 2002," Bishop Coyne said.

"We have to continually say the charter is working and doing its job."

Bishop Coyne also told CNS he would recommend that dioceses voluntarily open their clergy personnel files -- including those of bishops -- to investigators.

"We all do it and it's done," he said.

Meanwhile, work on the pastoral letter addressing racism was nearing its conclusion.

Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, has shepherded the final stages of work on the document since May when he stepped in for Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who resigned to undergo treatment for acute leukemia.

The proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," says that "despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation."

"Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," the proposed pastoral letter says.

The document examines the history of racism in the U.S. While acknowledging many other groups in the county have endured racism and discrimination in the past, it focuses on three groups: African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

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

Synod groups on sexuality: Church welcomes all, calls all to conversion

Top Stories - Sat, 10/20/2018 - 8:56am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No one is excluded from the love of God or from being welcomed into the Catholic Church, but God's love and the church's welcome also come with a call to conversion, said the English-language groups at the Synod of Bishops.

Young people need to know "the church's beautiful, yet challenging, vision, teaching and anthropology of the body, sexuality, love and life, marriage and chastity," said the English-A group.

"At the same time, we restate the church's opposition to discrimination against any person or group, and her insistence that God loves every young person, and so does the church," the group said in its report.

The reports, published by the Vatican Oct. 20, were the result of reflections in the small groups -- divided by language -- on the final chapter of the synod working document, which dealt with "pastoral and missionary conversion."

Most of the 14 working groups called for further local and national dialogue with young people on what they need from the Catholic Church and what they can offer the church. Most also called for a greater involvement of women in the life of the church, including in the training of priests, and many acknowledged how the sexual abuse scandal undermines the church's credibility.

None of the synod groups in any language used the term "LGBT," but many of them did refer to a need to help young people who struggle with church teaching on sexuality or, more explicitly, those who experience "same-sex attraction."

The English-B group said that it "discussed the issue of Catholics who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria," which refers to believing one's biological sex does not correspond to his or her true identity.

The group asked that the synod's final document include "a separate section for this issue and that the main objective of this be the pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church." The catechism teaches that homosexual activity is sinful, but that homosexual people must be respected and welcomed.

The English-D group said it, too, "spent a good deal of time reflecting on the motif of the church's stance of welcome and inclusivity. We fully and enthusiastically acknowledge that the church of Jesus Christ reaches out in love to absolutely everyone."

"No one, on account of gender, lifestyle or sexual orientation, should ever be made to feel unloved, uncared for," the group said. "However, as St. Thomas Aquinas specifies, love means 'willing the good of the other.' And this is why authentic love by no means excludes the call to conversion, to change of life."

The group also echoed a sentiment shared by other groups that through the synod, the speeches and the contributions of the young adults present "it became eminently clear that young people crave holiness of life and desire practical training that will help them walk the path of sanctity."

The English-C group, like many others, noted that while the synod can provide general suggestions for listening to young people and involving them in the life of the church, individual parishes and dioceses will need to find specific ways to put those suggestions into practice.

"We suggest that episcopal conferences be strongly invited to take up the results of the synod and engage in a similar process of reflection in their own milieus, even including non-bishops in the deliberations, as this synod has done," the group said.

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

Smith dinner's tone lighthearted, but abuse crisis not ignored in remarks

Top Stories - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 3:57pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In the current toxic environment where political rivals describe each other as "evil" and "enemies," it is imperative to remember that in America, "our political opponents are not evil, they are just our opponents," according to Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was the keynote speaker at the 73rd annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Oct. 18 at the New York Hilton.

Haley distinguished the heated rhetoric from the "true evil" she has witnessed in South Sudan, Syria and North Korea since she arrived at the United Nations in 2016.

The Al Smith dinner honors the memory of the former governor of New York, who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States. Proceeds from the $3,000-a-plate event help needy children in the greater New York area. The foundation distributed $3.4 million in grants after last year's dinner.

The event drew 700 guests to the traditionally festive gathering of political, religious and philanthropic New Yorkers. Among those sharing the three-tiered dais were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Jeff Glor, anchor of the "CBS Evening News."

Comedian Jim Gaffigan was the dinner's master of ceremonies. He poked fun at the presumed wealth of the guests, whom he described as a "distinguished diverse group of rich, super-rich and Michael Bloomberg."

Bloomberg, the billionaire former three-term mayor of New York, also was seated on the dais. Gaffigan said wearing a white bow tie and tails and looking at the sea of diners in formal attire made him feel "like I'm in an ugly episode of Downton Abbey."

He introduced Haley as "the next president of the United States," in a nod to widespread speculation that the Oct. 9 announcement she will leave her U.N. post at the end of the year signifies her intention to run for the presidency. Haley, the Republican former governor of South Carolina, has denied that she will challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.

She made light of the unexpected news of her departure. Haley said she asked Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the event's host, if there was anything she could do to boost attendance at the dinner. "He said, "Why don't you resign as U.S. ambassador?'" she said.

Haley joked that as a member of Trump's Cabinet, "it's a thrill to be out to dinner without being harassed."

She said Trump, who spoke at the 2016 dinner with then-opponent Hillary Clinton, offered her advice about her speech. "He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N."

Haley said she learned a lot during her tenure at the U.N. Despite the serious disagreements and differences among the 193 member nations, "at one point, every single one of them was paying Paul Manafort," she laughed.

Haley said her parents emigrated from India "legally, but I keep them at an undisclosed location, just in case." She said when Trump heard she was an Indian American, "he asked if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren."

Despite the lighthearted tone of the event, the clergy sex abuse scandal and its fallout hung in the air and were addressed head-on by the speakers. In his invocation, Cardinal Dolan, the dinner's host, asked God's mercy "on a church we have also blushed at" for its response to the issue.

Haley said sexual abuse is not limited to the Catholic family and the church "recognizes its deep responsibility to address this moral failing."

"It would be tragic to allow the abuse scandal to blind anyone to the amazing good works the Catholic church does every single day," Haley said. "In the last two years, I have been to some very dark places where human suffering is on a level hard for most Americans to imagine."

She described a South American border area where church organizations are the sole providers of food and a refugee camp in central Africa where the church is on the forefront of those seeking change.

"Just about everywhere I've been, I've come across the Catholic Church doing incredible work that lifts up millions of desperate people. It is serving God's will," she said.

Gaffigan said 1928, the year Al Smith ran for president, "was a tough year to be a Catholic," as was 2018. Introducing himself, Gaffigan said, to applause, "Unlike many Catholics in America who were raised Catholic, I am still Catholic and I still go to church every Sunday. Mostly, I'm afraid to tell my wife I don't want to go."

Gaffigan and his wife are both from large Catholic families. "She is one of nine and they do everything together," he said. A movie outing at Christmas included 30 people. "That's not a group, it's a flash mob. People thought we were from a church. To put in in perspective, Jesus only walked around with 12."

The comedian said he and his wife "have recreated the chaos of our childhoods" by raising a young family of five in Manhattan. He said the real reason he accepted Cardinal Dolan's invitation to emcee the dinner was the optimistic hope that the cardinal would "write some recommendations" for his children.

During the dinner, Lowell C. McAdam, chairman and former chief executive officer of Verizon Communications, received the Happy Warrior Award. The distinction recalls the nickname given to Al Smith by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1924 Democratic Convention. The award recognizes someone who epitomizes Gov. Smith's character, grace and leadership by making a positive impact on others.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn offered the benediction.

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

Response to sexual abuse crisis tops agenda for USCCB fall assembly

Top Stories - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 3:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The firestorm surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis and the way some bishops handled allegations of abuse against priests will be an important part of the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly.

The bishops have had to deal with seemingly endless revelations of allegations of abusive clergy since June, most of which referred to long-past incidents. New reports from media outlets also were expected as the Nov. 12-14 assembly in Baltimore approaches.

Bishops nationwide also are facing new challenges as several state attorneys general have opened investigations into the handling of abuse allegations. The investigations follow the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that linked more than 300 priests and church workers to abuse claims and identified more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period dating from 1947.

The USCCB has not directly addressed the investigations and has not offered any indication that it will advise bishops on how to respond.

Beyond the discussions of clergy sexual abuse and any further actions, the bishops were expected to accept a new pastoral letter on racism, vote on whether to approve a revised national directory for permanent deacons, consider 139 English translations of Latin hymn texts used in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and adopt a budget estimated at more than $23 million.

Security, always tight during the twice-a-year assemblies, is expected to be stricter than usual to prevent access to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel meeting site by protesters upset with the way the bishops have handled reports of abuse by clergy.

In preparing for the fall assembly, the bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

Committee members instructed the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

The Administrative Committee also initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

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

A USCCB spokesman said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president, was unavailable to discuss specific plans for the assembly because he and other conference leaders were in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The synod was to conclude Oct. 28.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, also declined to discuss the issue, saying in an Oct. 16 email to Catholic News Service that board members were continuing to draft recommendations that would be delivered to the bishops during the assembly.

In August, Cesareo told Catholic News Service that the bishops "have to put their trust in lay leadership and allow that lay leadership to develop the processes and oversight when these kinds of allegations occur, particularly holding bishops accountable."

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Communications, told Catholic News Service Oct. 19 that the bishops must "continue to press forward" in explaining how well the charter "is working and continues to work."

"It important that we as a conference have made incredible strides in protecting children to the point that one of the safest places for children to participate is the Catholic community in the United States," he said.

"But that message is not getting out there. Many people still believe that the abuse of children and the cover-up by church authorities is an ongoing issue and that the bishops haven't done enough to address the issue. That's contrary to the evidence in contrast to the number of reported abuses since 2002," Bishop Coyne said.

"We have to continually say the charter is working and doing its job."

Bishop Coyne also told CNS he would recommend that dioceses voluntarily open their clergy personnel files -- including those of bishops -- to investigators.

"We all do it and it's done," he said.

Meanwhile, work on the pastoral letter addressing racism was nearing its conclusion.

Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, has shepherded the final stages of work on the document since May when he stepped in for Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who resigned to undergo treatment for acute leukemia.

The proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," says that "despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation."

"Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," the proposed pastoral letter says.

The document examines the history of racism in the U.S. While acknowledging many other groups in the county have endured racism and discrimination in the past, it focuses on three groups: African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

The revised national directory for permanent deacons, if approved, would cover all U.S. Latin-rite dioceses and would give instruction on the formation, ministry and life of permanent deacons.

The Vatican approval, known as "recognitio," for the directory currently in use was set to expire in 2009. However, the bishops secured a pair of five-year extensions from the Vatican so the directory could be more closely scrutinized.

The proposed second edition of the directory has been approved by the bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and was reviewed by the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance and the Committee on Doctrine.

The 139 English translations of Latin hymn texts are part of a wider effort focusing on a new translation of the breviary agreed to by the bishops in 2012, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, wrote to the Administrative Committee in September.

"That plan directed ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) to prepare English translations of the 291 Latin hymns of the typical edition, some of which have never been put into contemporary English," Archbishop Gregory said.

Should the translations be approved in November, the remaining hymns likely will be presented to the full body in November 2019 or June 2020, he added.

The proposed 2019 budget for the USCCB reflects changes -- cuts more frequently than additions -- largely outside the bishops' control, yet will reflect a surplus.

The budget using the USCCB's unrestricted funds is projected at $23.09 million next year, with a surplus of $245,811. The unrestricted funds are spent on the general secretariat, administrative offices, pastoral ministries, politics and advocacy, communications, and "other funding relationships."

The USCCB's restricted funds -- contributions to national collections, funding for the National Religious Retirement Office and government contracts for the Office of Migration and Refugee Services -- show proposed expenditures of $162.6 million, with a surplus of $178,372.

When cuts come into play, the most telling line item is the MRS budget.

"MRS administration is decreasing $12.1 million due primarily to the reduction in the number of refugee arrivals and that directly impacts pass-through funding to the dioceses for local administration and direct assistance to clients," said a budget overview prepared by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, USCCB treasurer.

Federal awards and contracts are the chief source of MRS funds.

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Contributing to this report was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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

Scalabrini shelter in Guatemala swamped by Hondurans seeking safety

Top Stories - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 5:04pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luis Echeverria, Reuters

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Scalabrini migrant shelter in Guatemala City has served 1,700 Hondurans heading north as part of a caravan seeking to reach the U.S. border.

Carlos Lopez, a shelter official, told Catholic News Service the Scalabrini facility in Guatemala normally serves up to 80 guests at a time, but the number of migrants arriving from Honduras has forced the shelter to offer lodging in a nearby school.

Resources, he added, are strained and "staff are exhausted," having worked 48 hours nonstop. Rain is also making life miserable for migrants traveling mostly on foot and sometimes forced to sleep outside.

"We have a soccer field full of people, in the dining room, in every nook and cranny. They're on the bleachers, in the school gym," he said Oct. 18. "The problem now is feeding people and hygiene. ... We're experiencing chaos right now."

A caravan of Hondurans departed the city of San Pedro Sula Oct. 13, but its ranks swelled as it crossed into Guatemala. Lopez said no one was certain of the caravan's exact size, but he compared it to a "snowball going downhill" and estimated it at more than 5,000 participants.

"This is a humanitarian crisis. Here there are 75-year-old elderly women and 2-month-old babies," he said.

The caravan has captured the attention of Trump, who threatened to cut off assistance to Guatemala and Honduras -- $1.1 billion in 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington Office on Latin America -- if the caravan proceeded.

Guatemala issued a statement saying it would stop the caravan, even though Central American countries allow each other's citizens to cross borders freely.

Mexico sent two planeloads of federal police officers to its southern border Oct. 15 as the first migrants in the caravan arrived in the area. The country's foreign ministry said in a statement anyone with the proper papers could enter Mexico, while those planning to apply for asylum could do so. Anyone not meeting the entry requirements would be turned back, however.

In a tweet, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned Central American migrants to stay put, saying the road north poses risks and "if (migrants) cannot come to the U.S. legally, they should not come at all."

The northern triangle of Central America -- Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador -- is one of the most violent regions in the world, though murder rates have declined in recent years. Nicaragua has also experienced an outflow due to political unrest and attacks by police and paramilitaries on the opposition, though many of those migrants head to neighboring Costa Rica.

"Poverty, the lack of opportunities, violence and extortion due to gangs ... (people) can no longer live with such anxiety and, hence, are taking these actions," Lopez said.

In 2017, nearly 299,000 Central Americans were considered refugees or applied for asylum, according to the Jesuit Network with Migrants -- Central America and North America.

"The daily crisis of subsistence ... derived from the imposition of authoritarian political systems and economic models, which exclude, force people to flee their countries to have a dignified life and sometimes save their lives," the network said in a statement Oct. 17.

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Synod about learning from Christ, not producing document, bishop says

Top Stories - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 2:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Anne Condodina

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The point of the Synod of Bishops on young people is not primarily to produce a document, but instead is to learn from Christ how to "bring God's mercy into the world," Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said in a homily at the synod.

"We have come to sit at the feet of the 'Divine Physician' and learn from him how to become physicians of broken hearts, among youth, young adults, and all God's people," the bishop said Oct. 18.

Each day a different bishop is chosen to give a homily during midmorning prayer at the synod. Speaking on the feast of Saint Luke, Bishop Caggiano began by asking, "How can one heal a broken heart?"

"It is a question that no disciple of the Lord can avoid asking, since it was to heal broken hearts that our savior came among us," he said.

The young physician, Luke, was among the many doctors who sought to "remedy the brokenness of life" with their own skills and tools. But he learned that there was a better way to heal after the Holy Spirit inspired him: He unlocked the power of divine mercy, the bishop said.

God's mercy offered through the life and death of Jesus healed "hearts burdened by the frailty of disease and old age, hearts that struggle with doubts and fears, hearts that question whether I am either lovable or will ever be loved by anyone," he said.

"My friends, we cannot truly heal anyone on our own," Bishop Caggiano told synod members. "Only Christ brings authentic and lasting healing. Luke understood this and lived his life serving as a simple channel of Christ's mercy."

St. Luke also "gave voice to the poor, the Samaritan, the prodigal son and the women forgotten by society" in a world that had grown blind to the needs of the helpless, he said.

"His Gospel compels us to walk into the shadows of our modern world and become channels of Christ's mercy for those whom the world has left behind," Bishop Caggiano said.

"Let us bring God's mercy into the world, one broken heart at a time."

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Report: Immigrant aid agencies urge end to family separation policies

Top Stories - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:47am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A report from two leading faith-based agencies serving immigrants entering the United States from Mexico and Central America called on the federal government to end a policy of separating children from their families and help families comply with immigration law.

The report details the collaboration in July between the U.S. bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to assist more than 1,200 families to reunite after children were separated from adults under the U.S. Department of Justice's "zero tolerance" policy.

The policy caused a crisis at the border in the spring and summer months this year as federal agents jailed adults crossing into the U.S. and placed the children who had accompanied them in detention centers, largely in Texas, Arizona and California.

The faith-based agencies mobilized in July to assist the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services reunify separated families and provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling and case management.

Dozens of Catholic Charities and Lutheran social service agencies throughout the country also were involved in the reunification effort.

Titled "Serving Separated and Reunited Families: Lessons Learned and the Way Forward to Promote Family Unity," the report outlines the agencies' response and offered a series of recommendations to the federal government, the U.S. Congress, foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations to better serve families traveling north to the U.S.

It said that while little is known about how the forced separation of children and adults will affect young people, initial reports from service providers "indicate that families are experiencing symptoms of trauma, including separation anxiety."

It also suggested alternatives to detention for asylum-seeking families, especially those who pose no threat to the country.

"Such alternatives are often preferable as they avoid inflicting unnecessary and long-lasting trauma on children and families. Additionally, detaining families that do not present a flight or safety risk is an unnecessary use of limited (Department of Homeland Security) resources," the report said.

Leaders of both organizations welcomed the report.

"I am proud of the response of USCCB/MRS, LIRS and our Catholic and Lutheran partners around country, including my brother bishops, to be able to work with the administration to provide support to those vulnerable families," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration, said in a statement accompanying the Oct. 17 release of the report.

"I believe the recommendations made are important and should be seriously considered in order to avoid pain and suffering in the future caused by the separation of families," he said.

In a separate statement, Kay Bellor, vice president of programs for LIRS, praised the agencies for stepping up quickly to aid families.

"As we have been for decades, communities of faith were there, poised and ready, to love and serve our neighbors in need," Bellor said. "It is our deep hope that the lessons learned from this time in our history will prevent the cruel separation of children from their parents from happening again."

As of Sept. 27, nearly 2,300 families had been reunited, according to the report. Some of the reunited families remained in detention facilities, some were reunited in their countries of origin, and some were released to allow them to travel to families and friends throughout the U.S.

The report showed that the flow of immigrants from Mexico had eased, but that refugees from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador shot upward in 2017 and 2018. It cited the growing violence from criminal gang and illegal drug networks in the three countries as reasons cited by immigrants for seeking to enter the U.S.

MRS and LIRS also called for:

-- Better coordination and data collection on immigrants throughout the government to allow for improved tracking of family reunification.

-- The release of families during "normal but extended business hours" from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. to allow families to be safely transported.

-- Reinstating family case management that had been discontinued in 2017 after just 18 months of operation in what originally was a five-year pilot program.

-- Improved training for care providers.

-- Expanding programs that address the causes of migration.

-- Increased coordination among aid agencies to better serve separated families.

MRS and LIRS also encouraged the U.S. government to "commit to immigration policies that are humane and uphold each individual's human dignity. Such policies should also ensure compliance with immigration requirements and be fair to the U.S. taxpayer."

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Editor's Note: The full report can be accessed online at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

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Pope, meeting South Korean leader, says he's open to visiting North

Top Stories - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:36am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis, at a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said he is willing to visit North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had asked Moon to tell the pope of the invitation. According to Yonhap, the Korean news agency, Moon's press secretary told reporters the pope said he would accept "if an (official) invitation arrives and I can go.'"

Meeting the South Korean president Oct. 18, the pope praised Moon's efforts to promote peace in the Korean peninsula.

"Move forward without stopping. Do not be afraid," the pope told Moon according to Yonhap.

In a statement released after the meeting, the Vatican said Pope Francis and Moon discussed the church's role in promoting "dialogue and reconciliation between Koreans."

"Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development," the Vatican said.

Greeting Moon at the entrance to the library of the Apostolic Palace, the pope said, "Welcome! It is nice to see you."

"I come here as the (South) Korean head of state but I am also Catholic and my baptismal name is Timothy. And for me it is an honor to meet you," Moon replied.

The South Korean leader also thanked the pope for taking time to meet him despite his busy schedule during the Synod of Bishops.

According to the Vatican press pool, Pope Francis and Moon spoke privately for more than 30 minutes, assisted by a translator, Korean Father Han Hyun-taek.

After their private meeting, Moon presented the pope with a Korean artist's sculpture of Christ's face adorned with a crown of thorns. The thorns, Moon explained, "are the sufferings of the Korean people."

Among the gifts the pope gave Moon was a split medallion held together by an olive tree which he said was "a symbol of peace in the Korean Peninsula."

Before departing, Moon thanked the pope again for welcoming him and said, "You are not only the head of the Catholic Church, but also a teacher for humanity."

"I wish you well in your work for peace," the pope replied.

The evening before his meeting with the pope, President Moon attended a Mass for Peace in the Korean Peninsula presided by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Addressing those present after the Mass, President Moon said the historic signing of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration between North and South Korea as well as their commitment to ending the decades-long military confrontation were "blazing the trail for a noble endeavor that will secure the future of peace for the Korean Peninsula and the whole world."

"Right now, on the Korean Peninsula, historic and heartwarming changes are taking place," he said.

President Moon also thanked Pope Francis for blessing "our journey toward peace" and walking "together with us through his prayers."

"Our prayers today will turn into reality for sure," he added. "We will achieve peace and overcome division without fail."

In his homily during the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Parolin said that the peace offered by Christ to his disciples after his resurrection is the same peace offered to the hearts of men and women "who search for true life and full joy."

The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy -- in which God promises the people of Israel that although they are "dispersed to the farthest corner of the heavens, even from there will the Lord, your God, gather you" -- reflects the prospects of peace between North and South Korea, he said.

"The wisdom of Scripture makes us understand that only those who have experienced the inscrutable mystery of the apparent absence of God in the face of suffering, oppression and hatred can fully understand what it means to hear the word peace resound again," the cardinal said.

The Vatican secretary of state said that although peace is built daily through a serious commitment to justice and solidarity as well as the protection of human rights and dignity, it is first and foremost a gift from God that "is not an abstract and distant idea but an experience lived concretely in the daily journey of life."

The peace that God offers, he added, "is not the fruit of a simple compromise" but involves "all the dimensions of life, even the mysterious ones of the cross and the inevitable sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage."

"Christian faith," Cardinal Parolin said, "teaches us that 'peace without the cross is not the peace of Jesus.'"

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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'Every parish, rectory in hurricane zone' suffering, says church official

Top Stories - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 1:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- The physical impact of Hurricane Michael and the anticipated recovery period for parts of the Florida Panhandle appear to be on a scale of last year's Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the church's top emergency management specialist in Florida.

"The devastation is so large that we looking at couple of years at least in recovery," said Gabe Tischler, who is working full time on the Hurricane Michael response for the Tallahassee-based Florida Catholic Conference following the storm's Oct. 10 landfall.

The event brought near Category-5 strength winds when it came ashore at Mexico Beach, Florida, near Panama City in the Florida Gulf Coast.

"Every parish and rectory in the hurricane zone has suffered damage, and we are working to get RV units in place so the clergy can move out of the damaged rectories," said Tischler.

As a resident of Tallahassee, he had to evacuate his residence and is now working remotely coordinating relief and volunteer efforts from regional dioceses, private individuals and corporate donors and state and federal authorities along with Catholic Charities agencies.

Scarcity of lodging and housing -- both for residents and emergency responders pouring into the region -- are among the most daunting needs of the recovery efforts, he said, noting that emergency supply distribution centers have been set up or created at Catholic parishes in Florida Panhandle coastal towns of Panama City, Mexico Beach, Marianna, Apalachicola and Port St. Joe.

To date, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has distributed an estimated million pounds of goods to 8,000 recipients at a distribution site at St. Dominic Parish in Panama City, considered part of the storm's ground zero.

Portable toilets, satellite phones, portable laundry facilities and a communications vehicle are among the larger items arriving through private donors and church agencies. Cellphone communications has been nonexistent around the hardest-hit areas but that situation is expected to improve in the near future.

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in collaboration with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has put out an online call for volunteers, noting that two-thirds of that diocese was substantial impacted by Hurricane Michael.

The website notes that there is a need for at least 50 volunteers, seven days a week for the next few months at a Catholic Charities staging project at St. Dominic Church. Many of the volunteers are staying at their own cost at area hotels and church facilities in the Tallahassee area, organizers said.

In addition, Catholic Charities USA has deployed a small team to the region, with several staff operating a portable laundry facility in Marianna, and another team that will deliver supplies and power generators to Panama City. The Knights of Columbus and individual Charities agencies around the region have also been mobilized to collection donations and send volunteers, Tischler said.

"So many people have lost everything: homes, property and even their livelihood. The scenes of destruction are heart-wrenching, knowing that when we see a place where there once was a house, a family used to live there and are now homeless," Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee said in an Oct. 12 letter to the diocese.

A week after the storm came ashore, Hurricane Michael's death toll has risen to 29 across four Southern U.S. states. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump toured hurricane-ravaged areas of the Florida Gulf Coast Oct. 15.

In the Miami Archdiocese, Catholic Charities was sending an initial team of four logistics and fact-finding staff on Oct. 17 to spend several days there helping to establish the distribution site in St. Joe, according to Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities Miami.

The Miami team planned to be based at the St. John Neumann Retreat Center in Tallahassee through Oct. 21, when another Catholic Charities team from Central Florida was expected to relieve them the following week.

"Later on they may have some specific needs up there as far as case workers or clinical social workers but this first go-round is mostly about assessment," Routsis-Arroyo said, who is formerly Catholic Charities director for the Diocese of Venice in Southwest Florida, which experienced damages from last year's Hurricane Irma.

"You have a lot of shrimpers and rural poor in that area (of Port St. Joe), and that is where they asked us to help out. They do have two sites up and running: one in Mexico Beach, which is ground zero, and one in Panama City, which was destroyed also. We were asked to take the easternmost area (of impact)," Routsis-Arroyo added. A team from Catholic Charities Orlando is expected to assist in this area next week.

The Florida Catholic Conference's Tischler said needed items include food, water, baby and adult diapers, cash donations and on-site volunteers willing to fund their own house.

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Editor's Note: More information about recovery and volunteer efforts can be found online at https://bit.ly/2Cna8h2.

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Young migrants bring vitality, need support, synod members say

Top Stories - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Juan Medina, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Helping young migrants hold fast to their cultural and religious identity, especially in situations where they are a minority, was a recurring topic at the Synod of Bishops.

Blessed Sacrament Father Robert Stark, director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Diocese of Honolulu and regional coordinator for the Vatican's Migrant and Refugees Section, offered synod members very practical advice for assisting young people on the move.

First, he said Oct. 16, church workers must listen to young people thinking about leaving their homelands and inform them of the dangers. Second, the church should offer food, shelter and safety to young people in transit. And, when they arrive at their destination, the young should be helped with legal assistance and language classes.

"At each phase of their journey, young migrants pass through different dioceses but -- from beginning to end -- they can be in the same loving, caring church," Father Stark told the synod.

Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, representing the North African bishops' conference, told the synod that many of the dioceses of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are thriving today because of the young African Catholics who come to their countries for university studies or while awaiting an opportunity to migrate to Europe.

"These young people have given vitality and joy to our churches and have helped them maturity spiritually, becoming 'the church of encounter,' 'the church of welcome' and of listening," he said.

Christians are a miniscule minority in North Africa and must live their faith with "great discretion" among a Muslim majority that often considers them "infidels, unbelievers or worse."

But by allowing themselves "to be evangelized by their Muslim brothers, that is, to learn their culture and religion," he said, they learn the tolerance, friendship and cooperation that are essential to building a peaceful society.

"Our young people discover in this way that different religions are no longer an insurmountable obstacle but become a different path to the one God we all adore," Archbishop Antoniazzi said.

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, pleaded with his Latin-rite brothers to help migrants from the Eastern Catholic churches maintain their ties to their cultures and to preserve "their liturgical, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony."

For Lebanese Christians, he said, part of that culture has been and must continue to be "promoting interreligious dialogue, which is a dialogue of life, culture and destiny with the Muslims."

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Indifference, hatred is the first step to murder, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hurling insults and being indifferent to other people's lives is the first step along the winding path that leads to killing them, at least figuratively, Pope Francis said.

By warning that "whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment," Jesus equates hatred with murder, the pope said Oct. 17 during his weekly general audience.

"Indifference kills. It's like telling someone, 'You're dead to me,' because you've killed them in your heart. Not loving is the first step to killing; and not killing is the first step to loving," he told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

Continuing his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, the pope reflected on Christ's explanation of the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shall not kill."

"Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift," Jesus said according to St. Matthew's Gospel.

Although Christians should have "an attitude of reconciliation with people who we have had problems with," Pope Francis said that sometimes, even while waiting for Mass to begin, "we gossip a bit and speak bad about others."

"This can't be done!" he exclaimed. "Let's think about the gravity of insults, the gravity of despising someone, the seriousness of hatred. Jesus places them along the lines of murder."

By expanding on the definition of murder, the pope explained, Jesus emphasized that every person, carrying within them the image of God, "possesses a hidden self that is no less important than their physical being," and both easily can be destroyed.

"To offend the innocence of a child, an inappropriate phrase is enough," he said. "To hurt a woman, a gesture of coldness is enough. To break a young man's heart, it is enough to deny him trust. To annihilate a man, it is enough to ignore him."

Through his life and death, Christ taught that forgiveness and mercy are "the love we cannot do without."

In Jesus, Pope Francis said, "in his love which is stronger than death and through the power of the Spirit that the Father gives us, we can accept this (commandment) -- 'Thou shall not kill' -- as the most important and essential appeal: the call to love."

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

Lack of progress fighting hunger is shameful, pope says

Top Stories - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 10:12am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Farooq Khan, EPA

By Anne Condodina

ROME (CNS) -- At a time of technological and scientific progress, "we ought to feel shame" for not having advanced in "humanity and solidarity" enough to feed the world's poor, Pope Francis said.

"Neither can we console ourselves simply for having faced emergencies and desperate situations of those most in need. We are all called to go further. We can and we must do better for the helpless," the pope said in a message to world leaders attending a meeting of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

The World Food Day ceremony Oct. 16 marks the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of world hunger.

The theme for 2018 is "Our actions are our future: A zero hunger world by 2030 is possible." The 2030 agenda seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Local programs are just as important as global commitments to ending hunger, Pope Francis said in his message.

"Global indicators are of no use if our commitment does not correspond to reality on the ground," the pope said. "This must be done in the context of suitable institutional, social and economic support that offers fruitful initiatives and solutions so that the poor do not feel overlooked again."

According to the FAO 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, world hunger is on the rise again, and over 820 million people are suffering chronic undernourishment.

The pope called for policies of cooperation for development that are oriented toward meeting the real needs of the people: "The struggle against hunger urgently demands generous financing, the abolition of trade barriers and, above all, greater resilience in the face of climate change, economic crises and warfare," he said.

While one can dream of a future without hunger, the pope said it is only reasonable to do so "when we engage in tangible processes, vital relations, effective plans and real commitments."

The poor expect real help from world leaders, he wrote, "not mere propositions or agreements."

However, it not only requires political decision-making and effective planning, but also a more proactive and sustainable long-term vision from world leaders, Pope Francis said.

"We overlook the structural aspects that shroud the tragedy of hunger: extreme inequality, poor distribution of the world's resources, consequences of climate change and the interminable and bloody conflicts which ravage many regions," he said.

"Some may say that we still have 12 years ahead in which to carry this out" to meet the 2030 goal, the pope acknowledged. But "the poor cannot wait. Their devastating circumstances do not allow this."

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Catholic leaders welcome PEPFAR reauthorization in Congress

Top Stories - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 3:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic leaders applauded congressional committees for reauthorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, opening the door for final passage of a bill to keep the program in place for another five years.

Citing how the 15-year-old program has saved millions of lives around the world and prevented millions of new infections, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said in a statement Oct. 15 the program ensures U.S. leadership in the campaign against HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Funds under the program, known as PEPFAR, support numerous services such as providing free antiretroviral medicines for eligible patients, support for families devastated by AIDS, after-school programs for children whose parents died from the disease and their caregivers, transportation for health services and counseling.

Callahan and Archbishop Broglio said the program is worthwhile even though they hold "principled concerns" about some aspects of PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS through which funds are funneled that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Therefore, they said, church agencies do not implement or advocate for them.

CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, has received funding under PEPFAR since 2004. PEPFAR was supported by the USCCB after its staff worked to ensure that conscience protections were included in the law authorizing the program.

PEPFAR "is one of the most successful global health programs in history demonstrating U.S. leadership in saving lives and safeguarding human dignity of the most vulnerable people," the leaders said.

The number of deaths caused by AIDS and other serious diseases each year has been reduced by one-third since 2002 in countries where the Global Fund invests. The program also has supported 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers over the years.

"Saving lives and protecting the future of vulnerable children is a proud U.S. legacy thanks to the U.S. Congress," the statement said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the reauthorization Sept. 27 while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the measure Oct. 3.

A final vote on the bill in both houses of Congress is expected this fall.

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Baltimore Archdiocese, Catholic Charities help launch Parish ID in city

Top Stories - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:33pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review

By Paul McMullen

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- This generation of immigrants to Baltimore will continue to find a haven in the Catholic Church.

That was the message Oct. 10 from the steps of Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, where Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Archbishop William E. Lori and Catholic pastors who minister to those from foreign countries attended the announcement of the establishment of a Parish ID program.

The program's priority is "focused on helping residents to feel comfortable interacting with the Baltimore City Police Department," according to BUILD, or Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, which helped organize the initiative.

Even though the enforcement of immigration laws falls primarily under federal jurisdiction rather than municipal jurisdiction, many the city's immigrants who are living in the U.S. without legal documents remain hesitant to report crimes committed against them, for fear of their own arrest, and possible deportation and separation from their families.

"No one should be a victim because they're afraid of calling police," said Pugh, who backed the initiative at a town hall in June.

With the support of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Charities of Baltimore, through the Esperanza Center, residents will be able to obtain a non-government-issued ID that shows their photo and home address.

"The full weight of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is behind this effort," said Archbishop Lori, head of the Baltimore Archdiocese.

The program will be launched at Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, followed by St. Matthew in Northwood and then other parishes that serve immigrant communities.

According to BUILD, city residents who have been members of its affiliate churches for three months are eligible for a Parish ID. It requires an existing identification, such as a passport; proof of address, such as a utility bill; a notarized statement from another person who can verify one's identity; and attendance at a half-day orientation.

Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said that the card was being introduced to command staff Oct. 11, and department-wide in the next two weeks. BUILD said the IDs will only be recognized in the city.

While some logistics remain to be worked out, priests such as Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski and Father Joseph Muth, who are the respective pastors of those faith communities, will play a substantial role in the roll-out.

"The best example I can think of, I call 911 to report a break in, my house has been robbed," Father Lewandowski said. "I call the police, how do they know I live there? How do I identify myself? If I'm an immigrant, I can show them my passport, but that just says I come from another country.

"I show them my Parish ID, (it shows) there are people there who know me and can verify my identity. If someone is stopped by the police, it says people know me."

Several speakers alluded to the hope that the program could help drive down crime in a city coming off the deadliest year in its history.

"We are sending a clear message, that people have a right to be safe," the archbishop said. "People have a right to live in a city where they see each other as neighbors and friends, rather than strangers and enemies."

"With the security offered by this ID, people will stop looking over their shoulders and stop hiding in their homes and parishes," he added. "This ID provides one avenue to freedom from fear. The ID card is a way of developing trust ' and creating safer streets and homes."

Asked what qualifies him to vouch for his people, Father Lewandowski said, "I know probably 1,500 people in this parish alone, probably 800 at St. Patrick and probably 400 more at Our Lady of Fatima."

Father Muth can speak for Rebecca Kitana, a native of Kenya and member of the Immigration Outreach Service Center, based at St. Matthew Church. The parish is both her spiritual home and her literal one, as she resides in its convent through the auspices of Asylee Women's Enterprise.

"Anyone who comes to our door is given a safe place," Kitana said of the outreach center, which has assisted immigrants from more than 140 countries. "At the IOSC, we know that many immigrants will benefit from the Parish ID. There are people who are living in fear.

"I personally know a woman who is scared to leave her house, because she is afraid that she will come into contact with police, be detained and force to leave behind her child. An ID like this will make people less afraid, and more fully engaged."

Father Muth noted the history of Baltimore, and the church.

"We're an immigrant church, in an immigrant city," Father Muth said. "The city was built, and the church was built, by and for immigrants of many generations. Now we're taking this step for the next generation, to keep them protected with ID cards that acknowledge their place in the community."

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McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Superiors general see no reason why women shouldn't have vote at synod

Top Stories - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:17pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although bishops should increase the majority of voting members at a Synod of Bishops, the fact that the body is only consultative means women should be included as full members just as priests and religious brothers are, said three priests who are voting members.

The superiors general of the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Conventual Franciscans -- all priests who are voting members of the synod -- spoke to reporters at a Vatican briefing Oct. 15.

When the men's Union of Superiors General chose two religious brothers to be among their 10 voting delegates at the Synod of Bishops, they consciously made the choice to emphasize that men's religious orders include both priests and laymen, the minister general of the Conventual Franciscans said.

"Obviously it wasn't an accident" that two brothers were elected, Father Marco Tasca, the minister general, told Catholic News Service after the briefing. "Consecrated life is made up of priests and laypeople, so it is only right that there also be lay superiors general at the synod."

When the superiors elected a brother to the 2015 synod, he said, "there were some doubts about whether or not the synod office would accept him, but the pope intervened and said, 'Let him come.' Case closed.

"This time we didn't ask," Father Tasca said.

Now, he said, that choice "should raise the question of the presence of the sisters, the women. That is the great challenge."

The men's USG and the women's International Union of Superiors General are now asking that question together, Father Tasca said. "We had a meeting last week -- a small group of superiors from both -- and we asked, 'How can we move on this together?'"

The two organizations of superiors, which hold a joint meeting each November, will get together again, he said, to try to move the question forward. "I think the correct path is to present this together, not 'we men' or 'we women' like children, but together."

While rules for the Synod of Bishops provide for the men's union of superiors to elect 10 voting members for the synod, there is no such provision for the women's union of superiors. However, the pope does appoint women religious as observers or experts to the synods.

Several questions at the synod briefing Oct. 15 regarded the presence of women and their lack of a vote.

"It's a Synod of Bishops," said Father Bruno Cadore, master of the Dominican order. But, he said, the synod rules allow for "representatives" of religious life to participate, and they should be both men and women. "You know," he said, "that 80 percent of consecrated people in the church are women?"

Because the synod "is not a deliberative body, so it is not tied to priestly ordination, I think in the future there will be a Synod of Bishops that says, 'We want the participation of those who collaborate with us in pastoral work and, for this reason, we will invite representatives of consecrated life,' knowing that -- as I said -- 80 percent of them are women. This should happen."

In fact, he said, with this synod focused on "young people, the faith and vocational discernment," it would have made sense to have more women religious participating, given their work in the field of education, faith formation and vocational promotion.

Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, said he agreed with Father Cadore that "it is a Synod of Bishops," but he also said he sees an effort by Pope Francis to "deepen the synodality of the church" and strengthen the vision of the church as "the people of God" by ensuring that men and women are treated equally and have an equal voice.

"I think this will help us move forward," Father Sosa said.

The repeated questions about women's participation and an international petition calling on the pope to give women a vote at the synod signify "discomfort, which is a sign that something's wrong," he said. "So one must listen and move forward."

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El Salvador celebrates its first saint, whose legacy continues

Top Stories - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 1:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By David Agren

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- Near the end of his homily at a Mass just prior to St. Oscar Romero's canonization, Jesuit Father Jose Maria Tojeira yelled to the crowd outside the Metropolitan Cathedral: "Viva Monsenor Romero!" (Long live Bishop Romero!)

The overflow crowed lustily yelled back, "Que Viva!" (Long live!)

"We're not venerating a body," Father Tojeira said, "rather someone who is alive, together with God and in the hearts of all Christians that want to continue with the reality of the Gospel."

During the Oct. 14 at the Vatican -- very early morning in El Salvador -- Salvadorans gathered in the square outside the cathedral to watch the ceremony on big screens; others watched in their parishes.

St. Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980. His legacy of showing a preference for the poor and promoting peace lives on in his native El Salvador, where, even in death, he plays an outsized role in the country's public life and occupies a special place in its collective consciousness -- for devotees and detractors alike.

He becomes El Salvador's first saint. But his current role in the country transcends religion. He also has assumed the status of national hero, whose words -- spoken in homilies -- sound prophetic and seem apt almost four decades after his death.

"He still is the most venerated and respected leader of the last 100 years, certainly the last 50 years," said Rick Jones, youth and migration adviser for Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador.

"He's still the sign post of what people are looking for in terms of some voice that talks about reconciliation, justice and hope for nonviolent transformation."

St. Romero's slaying came as the country was on the cusp of civil war, which roared through the 1980s. His canonization comes as the country convulses with violence, much of it attributed to gangs preying on populations living in barrios under their control.

As archbishop of San Salvador, the national capital, St. Romero accompanied the poor at a time when some two-thirds of the population lived in poverty. He also voiced people's demands for better wages and criticisms of the "oligarchy"  -- as the elites were caustically called -- at a time when his critics considered such talk "communist." He also called for a suspension of U.S. military assistance.

The poverty and inequality St. Romero spoke out against are still rife in 2018. Many Salvadorans also still flee the country to escape the violence and indignities, causing his words to resonate with younger generations and even some evangelicals and atheists.

"What he said is still valid. His words still carry enormous weight," said Douglas Martinez, a vendor in San Salvador. "He was practically a prophet on this earth."

Canonization was never certain for St. Romero, though some in the country have long considered him a saint.

"For me and for many people in the country -- a good number of people with a social commitment -- Bishop Romero has been a saint since his martyrdom, and now it's going to be the formal act," said Gabina Dubon, coordinator of the transformational social ministry in Caritas El Salvador.

"In that time there was no freedom of expression. He became a voice for those without a voice, a defender of life, dignity, solidarity and the common good."

St. Romero served only three years as archbishop of San Salvador, yet he left a legacy via his homilies, which were broadcast across the country.

Participants in a procession to the cathedral carried signs with quotes culled from those homilies. "There's no more diabolical sin than taking bread from the hungry," read one sign. "It's necessary to call injustice by its name," read another.

The celebrations carried political overtones for some. A U.N. truth commission named Roberto d'Aubuisson, an ex-army officer and founder of the conservative ARENA alliance, as the intellectual author of the murder. He died of cancer in 1992.

Father Neftali Ruiz carried a banner castigating ARENA, but saying of Romero, "The people made him a saint."

Father Ruiz stood outside the same cathedral where tens of thousands of Salvadorans mourned St. Romero at his funeral. Snipers opened fire on the funeral, killing at least 40 people.

Only one Salvadoran bishop attended the funeral: Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas, who was named St. Romero's successor in San Salvador.

"He always defended Romero," Father Tojeira said of Archbishop Rivera, "but speaking in confidence ... he would say, 'A bishop like Romero arrives every 500 years.'"

The St. Romero canonization showed how time had changed in the country and church though, in an interview, Father Tojeira quipped of St. Romero's critics, "They used to say 'communist.' They now have a little more civilized discourse but continue being similar."

Celebrations of the canonization occurred in dioceses across El Salvador -- even in San Vicente, where priests would bless army helicopters during the civil war. Father Ruiz recalled being expelled from the minor seminary there in 2000 for refusing to stop displaying an image of St. Romero.

Today, images of St. Romero grace everything from postage stamps to murals to the walls of the presidential palace to political ads, as the ruling party attempts to capitalize on his popularity and incorruptible reputation.

That politicians try to appropriate St. Romero's image bothers some devotees as crime, corruption and poverty persist at alarmingly high levels. St. Romero also criticized both sides of the political spectrum.

"(Politicians) don't practice what he preached," said Elsy Cornejo, who was selling CDs of St. Romero's homilies. "He spoke of peace and accompanying the poor."

With the murder rate in El Salvador ranking among the highest in the world and gangs preying on poor barrio dwellers with crimes such as extortion and the forced recruitment of teenagers, Cornejo added, "We're also practicing very little of what he preached."

Church observers expressed hope St. Romero's canonization could bring unity to a country with polarized politics and offer a possibility of improvement.

"He presents a figure for reconciliation," Jones said, "and a different way to move forward other than ... just the left or the right."

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

St. Romero's brothers rejoice at his canonization

Top Stories - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 11:44am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By Melissa Vida

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Before the sun rose in Rome Oct. 14, 88-year-old Gaspar Romero and his brother, 93-year-old Tiberio Romero were at the head of the line of thousands of people waiting to get into St. Peter's Square.

The two were at the Vatican for the canonization of their brother, St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in 1980.

In the glow of the lights under the colonnade surrounding St. Peter's Square, the Romero brothers and other family members waited with a group of priests from El Salvador.

"Thanks to this event, our country has become known in the whole world," Gaspar Romero told Catholic News Service. "So many people in the world were waiting for this."

While standing in line, he shared an anecdote of the honors his brother received throughout the years.

"The biggest honor was when Queen Elizabeth of England contacted me," he said, explaining it happened under atypical circumstances. "I had seen in the papers that the Westminster Abbey was preparing a statue (of Archbishop Romero in 1998), and so I wrote a thank-you note to them."

A few days later, the British ambassador visited Gaspar Romero at his home and invited him to meet the queen. "For me that was something unexpected, unexplainable and unasked for," he said with a chuckle.

The Anglican Church, while not formally canonizing St. Romero, honored him and nine others as "martyrs of the 20th century" and erected their statues in Westminster Abbey. Lord Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, led an official delegation of the Anglican Communion at the canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square.

Although he had kept a low profile in the wake of his brother's death, Gaspar Romero recently has begun to share his experience publicly.

"I feel proud as a brother and as a family member," he said, "but also as part of the (Salvadoran) people because over there, they love him a lot."

The younger Romero said his trip to Rome made him realize just how much people from around the globe share that sentiment.

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